73 Days At Sea
(Esoteric Antenna)


Having worked as an engineer for Pink Floyd on various band-related projects, singer-songwriter Andy Jackson returns in 2016 with a new solo album entitled 73 Days At Sea. Featuring Andy's own blistering Gilmour-esque guitars and swirling synth keyboards, the album even sounds like Pink Floyd, especially during their dark, neo-prog Animals period. Jackson is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and vocalist and he puts his background as a studio wiz to good use on an elegant sounding, multilayered album that evokes Floyd and other prog legends such as Van der Graaf Generator. From VDGG, sax legend David Jackson appears as guest artist on a track as does vocalist Anne-Marie Helder from the band Panic room. That said, 73 Days At Sea is Andy Jackson’s baby all the way. Commenting on the album title in the CD liner notes, Andy states, “I resolved that I would write a suite of songs concerning the sea, maybe one of three suites making up an album. Eventually, it became clear that the entire album was to be the ‘sea suite’, albeit that direct mention was sometimes fleeting.” If you miss the sound of Pink Floyd following the latter 1970s, give a listen to Andy Jackson and his 73 Days At Sea. In addition to the CD, packaged with eye-popping art and lyrics booklet, the deluxe edition of 73 Days At Sea includes an accompanying DVD with the album mixed in hi-res stereo and surround sound. presents an interview with
Andy Jackson

: How would you compare 73 Days At Sea with your earlier albums – musically, compositionally and sound-wise - and how many albums have you recorded and released so far?

Andy Jackson: I always try to move forward, I think I achieved that with 73 Days At Sea. It is more nuanced musically and lyrically than my previous work. I looked at songs by others, Brian Wilson being an example, that I thought were wonderful, and tried to work out what made them special to me, and to learn from that. Every song has as its base a musical and chordal structure that is more sophisticated than anything I’ve done before.

Lyrics had been something new for me on Signal To Noise, and there’s no doubt that I found more of a vein of inspiration, and better methodology, on this one. I found good ways to separate the creative and structural processes, so the different parts of my brain could work unencumbered by differing requirements.

How many albums I've done? Depends when you start counting, there are a couple of early ones that I did that didn’t really get much of a release... I tried to do it myself!. They were also collaborations. In some ways I think of 73 Days At Sea as my second, after Signal To Noise.

mwe3: You play a wide range of instruments and you recorded much of 73 Days At Sea on your own. What guitars are you playing on the CD and what guitars are your favorites and are certain guitars better to get the soaring guitar solos that you play so well? Also, what are your favourite keyboards?

Andy Jackson: I have the terrible affliction of GAS – gear acquisition syndrome – that many fellow guitarists will know so well! They come in – they go out. This time my main one was a PRS all mahogany model with P90 pickups. P90s are pretty much what I always use. To be honest, it wouldn’t have sounded a lot different if I’d used any of my other similar guitars... I just like that one in terms of the way it feels to play. Most of the particulars of the sound is from the combination of pedals. I use a few in a row, none of them doing too much, to get the sound. I’m also a big fan, and user of, Hiwatt amps, the same as David Gilmour uses... there’s nothing quite like them. Ironically, one guitar that I own I didn’t really use is a Gilmour signature Strat that he gave me, just not my thing!

Keyboards are all samples, I use the Steinberg Halion set, it has pretty decent Hammond and mellotron in it. Those are pretty much all I used, with a little bit of electric piano. I’d love to have the real things, but I just don’t have the room to fit them in! Add to that the fact that actually I’m a pretty lousy keyboard player and using midi keyboards enables me to edit my bad playing. Some of the sounds that people might think of as keyboards are processed guitar loops or messed up ‘ambient’ sounds, and there’s a bunch of really good slowed down door creaks on “The Gyre” which I really like.

mwe3: How do you compare recording all on your own compared to working with a full band and how did you enlist the help of Anne-Marie Helder and David Jackson who join you on the 73 Days At Sea album?

Andy Jackson: Bands or solo, there are good things and bad things about both. With a band you can get a symbiosis that is greater than the individual parts, but also for each individual you don’t get to express exactly what you want. The opposite is true of working on your own, you get to do exactly what you want, but you’ve only got one set of ideas, so sometimes it limits the possibilities.

With both Anne-Marie and David, it was simply a matter of asking them... they were both happy to do it. The reasons for asking each were rather different. With Anne-Marie, it was a need first. The story in “Drownings” meant that I needed a female voice for one part. I knew Anne-Marie’s work with Panic Room - they are on Esoteric too, and thought she would be perfect. With David, I have always loved his playing, Pawn Hearts was the first “serious” album I bought. I was listening to some old Van der Graaf and thought it’d be great to get him to play on the album. It had to be David, if he wasn’t going to do it, I wasn’t going to ask any one else. I didn’t want a sax player, I wanted David Jackson.

mwe3: What got you interested in music, being a musician and a sound engineer, in the first place? Who were your big musical influences? Being involved a lot in the studio side of music what producers or recording engineers had a big impact on your studio approach? I think England is renowned for their genius producers, engineers and studios.

Andy Jackson: Same as anyone working in music really, just a love of it. I had been playing guitar, not particularly well, for a while, and always had dreams of being a musician. When I was finishing up at school, I was scheduled to go to university, to study Material Sciences. I really didn’t fancy it. A friend of mine suggested getting into recording, and it was a ‘lightbulb moment’. Fortunately, I did manage to find an opening, and got myself into a great position in a new studio in London that was the hot new place in town.

Musical influences were the whole mid ‘70s prog/ art rock scene: Zappa, King Crimson, Soft Machine, Van der Graaf and of course Pink Floyd. That sort of music is still my main love, as is pretty evident from my albums.

Difficult to say who I’d regard as influences in the studio. Really I’ve found my own way. You always learn new techniques on the way, although to be honest, most of it is actually pretty old, going right back to guys like Alan Blumlein, who invented stereo! I’m my own toughest task master, very critical of my own work. I think most good engineers are like that. I think you learn something, or at least have the opportunity, from everything you do.

mwe3: How did you become involved with Esoteric Antenna records? It’s just brilliant to see and hear how devoted Mark Powell and his entire label are to releasing new music and reissuing classic albums.

Andy Jackson: I have Tim Bowness to thank for that. He is a musician, who I’ve done some mastering for, and also runs Burning Shed, which is an online shop that specializes in this sort of music. I was talking to him about my album, with the assumption that I’d self release, and it was him that put me in touch with Mark & Vicky. They’re great to deal with and are genuine fans of the music.

mwe3: In your eyes and ears, what's the difference between the original CD of 73 Days and the hi-res / surround sound DVD audio mix version of the
73 Days At Sea album? Do you find people are embracing the DVD audio as well as the CD? What are your favorite CD and DVD audio players that you use to demo the different mixes and do you collect vintage audio gear?

Andy Jackson: Well the DVD has two streams on it, a hi-res stereo and a surround mix. Fairly self-evident difference compared to the CD, the hi-res is just that much better, certainly to my ears. The surround is obviously a fundamentally different beast, and is something that has become a bit of a specialty for me, I’ve been doing a lot of surround in my professional work with Floyd and David. I love it!! There is a small but dedicated set of surround fans. The last album was released as a 2 disc set, with and without the DVD, but most people bought the 2 disc set anyway, so this time we decided just to do that one. My player is a Cambridge Audio, although really it is well before that stage that I’m auditioning mixes, from the original files... normal procedure really. I have plenty of nice valve gear for my recording equipment, but all the home hi-fi stuff is current, always centered around ATC speakers.

mwe3: What are some of your plans for 2016 and beyond? Are you planning to work with any other artists?

Andy Jackson: 2016 is well underway, and I’m well underway with my next project, which I can’t really talk about. Let me just say it’s a whole heap of archive recordings for a well known band who I’m associated with!

As for my own music, when I get the time I’ll start on my next project. Going back to the question earlier of solo versus band, I want to explore a particular dynamic I have in mind. I’ve often thought that in recording or rehearsing situations I’ve been in, either working with others or as part of a band, sometimes someone will play something that I think is great, and that everything else should be built around that thing, to let it be the most important thing.

Too often I see that idea lost, buried under other people’s opinions or lack of vision. As, with my own music, I am in the position of being able to make all the choices, I have the opportunity to absolutely follow my vision. I’m going to try a methodology of working with other people, such as David Jackson and giving them the chance to be the defining element on something... by being ‘first’. Hopefully this way I can get an album that is made of extraordinary things.


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