Anyone wondering about the background behind The Vicar will probably enjoy this – an updated version of David Singleton’s bio :
A very English maverick, Singleton delights in the story of a speech he delivered recently at a Cambridge reunion – and the fact that this unexpected honour had less to do with his contribution to Philosophy than fond memories of the single “Lazy Bugger” he released as an undergraduate.
Ever unconventional, his first home was a hand-built 38 ft boat. And his next musical release – recorded in the studio he founded, The Mobile – was the infamous “Record that could Change every Time You Played it” (vinyl single due for re-issue on Record Store Day 2015). On some playings, a guitar solo may appear. On others, not. Sometimes, a telephone voice may sing. Other times, not. Such variable play music has now, of course, become a staple of computer games.
That record, along with his production work on ‘Show of Hands’, ‘Sunday all over the World’, ‘Frame by Frame’ and ‘The Great Deceiver’ was the start of a long-enduring partnership with Robert Fripp. In 1992. they co-founded the label DGM, which they still jointly own, and which has been at the forefront of new attitudes to copyright and artist rights. Under the name TonProb, Singleton and Fripp have produced the majority of the releases for the label, as well as a handful of outside artists. The label has released over 100 albums and hundreds of online concerts by King Crimson and other artists.
In 1999, Singleton co-founded, almost by accident, BootlegTV – a company dedicated to promoting online recordings & films of live concerts, and raised $15 million in the dragon’s den of Vulture Capital. The vision for the company has proved enduring, but the timing was too early : its better known successor, Youtube, was not founded until some 3 years after the company’s demise. BootlegTV’s legacy can, however, still be seen in the concert series sold by bands as diverse as Pearl Jam and Phish, and also in DGMLive, the online site set up to make all King Crimson concerts available to the public.
Since 2000, Singleton’s primary artistic focus has been The Vicar. The idea for ‘The Vicar Chronicles’ presented itself when he asked Fripp the simple question “Why has no-one written whodunits about the music industry?” – and received the equally simple reply “Because you haven’t written them yet.” Singleton has resolutely applied his vision of a single coherent multimedia future, personally creating every item from Novels to Videobooks, Graphic novels to Audiobooks, Songbooks to Online media. This has necessitated a long arduous gestation period : The Vicar Chronicles appeared first as part of an online diary in 2000, then as videoblogs in 2007 and finally as novels in 2013.
Over the same period, the musical production work of The Vicar has taken shape, first on some King Crimson and Fripp titles and then more prominently as the producer of ‘Where’s The Money Mr Blair?’, the School Aid single released in 2005. Designed to raise money to save the local Primary School, the song can claim a measure of success in shaming the Blair government into giving the school the money it needed – a ‘shaming technique’ again successfully employed by The Vicar in his 2013 ‘Fart For Your Rights’ campaign. This time it featured not a song, but a video of The Vicar’s assistant, Punk Sanderson, standing outside the offices of Universal music, displaying placards with each of DGM’s long-standing grievances to the accompaniment of a ‘Universal Symphony’ of breaking wind. Unsurprisingly, the video quickly went viral within the UMG building. As Fripp had resolved to fold King Crimson until the resolution of this dispute, it is pleasing to think that we might have the sound The Vicar and Punk publicly breaking wind to thank for the reformation of the band.
The Vicar’s first album, Songbook#1, was also released in 2013. Although failing to achieve much mainstream publicity, it garnered excellent niche reviews as ‘an exquisite collection of songs’ with its ‘definitive pop arrangements’ making it ‘one of the most intriguing and innovative records of our time’. It featured guest vocal appearances from Lewis Taylor and Andy Yorke, amongst others, as well as an enviable cast of well-known instrumentalists. Many reviewers commented on the complete absence of drums, prompting a predictable response from The Vicar who, in 2014, released an iTunes App with the world’s largest collection of Drummer Jokes.
2015 sees The Vicar taking on another entertainment behemoth, the ‘X Factor’, with his own light-hearted competitor, The V-Factor – one that seeks to move the limelight from the singer to the song:
‘Ask not what the song can do for you, but what you can do for the song – vocal pyrotechnics, big hair and celebrity not allowed’.
Singers can download the backing tracks from The Vicar’s Songbook #1 and add their own vocals. There is a complimentary #IamTheVicar instagram campaign where fans can photograph themselves obscuring their faces and appear on the cover of future Vicar releases. It is all underpinned by the belief behind the entire Vicar project – that music and music alone should take centre stage without the current obsession with personality and celebrity, nor with the damaging thieving hand of the mainstream music business.
If nothing else, it all promises to make another good story for The Vicar Chronicles.
Singleton has been lucky enough to work with artists as diverse as The Amsterdam Metropole Orchestra, Bill Bruford, The California Guitar Trio, Brian Eno, Europa String Choir, Robert Fripp, John Paul Jones, King Crimson, Bill Nelson, The Orb, David Sylvian, Lewis Taylor and Andy Yorke. He looks forward excitedly to all new collaborations, even if some of them are with drummers.