On the full moon, Sunday 4 June, Peter Gabriel released the sixth track from his forthcoming album i/o. This month the song is Road to Joy and the first version to be heard is the Bright-Side Mix, by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent.
Written by Peter Gabriel and produced by Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno, Road to Joy features Soweto Gospel Choir, a string arrangement from John Metcalfe and contributions from a number of Gabriel’s current touring band; long-time collaborators Tony Levin (bass), David Rhodes (guitar) and Manu Katché (drums) as well as two newer members Don E (bass keys), ‘he did the funkiest bass line that you can imagine’ and Josh Shpak (trumpet), ‘beautiful playing, a super musical guy.’ The song was recorded at Real World Studios, Bath, The Beehive and British Grove, London and High Seas Studios, South Africa.
‘I'm working on a project which is partly a story focused around the brain and how we perceive things and this song connects to that. It deals with near-death experience and locked-in syndrome situations where people are unable to communicate or to move. It's an amazingly frustrating condition. There have been some great books and films about this subject, but at this point in our story the people looking after our hero manage to find a way to wake him up. So, it’s a lyric about coming back into your senses, back to life, back into the world.’
The song is one of the last tracks to emerge for the i/o record, but it has some DNA from an earlier project; ‘It was actually very late in the record that we got to this. There had been a song that musically I'd started, I think, around the OVO project called Pukka. It was very different to this, but it was actually the starting point for coming back to this song. I just felt there was a good groove there, and I wanted something else with rhythm and so we tried a few things when I was working with Brian Eno. The excitement and energy in the song was something that I was getting off on. I felt we didn't have enough of that for this record.’
As with previous full moon releases, Road to Joy comes with an artist of the month, and for this June release that artist is Ai Weiwei and his work ‘Middle Finger in Pink’.
‘I'm a big fan of Ai Weiwei, both as an artist, as a designer and as a human rights campaigner. He's an incredibly brave man and regularly risks the wrath of the Chinese government. But his work is exceptional, often political and quite extraordinary.
When I was hustling him, I think he had absolutely no idea who I was, so it was an uphill battle at first, but he was open to talking and we got to know each other and hang out a little bit.
I was delighted when he agreed to being a part of the i/o project and generously sent us three designs. He has this middle finger image that he uses a lot in his work, and it is often directed to those in power.
He's definitely been at the root end of power, as his father was before him. So that's an important symbol for him and I guess in the context of the story I am now working on, death is the dominant power, and the hero is coming back to life and raising his finger to death.’
Just like the previous full moon releases, Road to Joy will come with differing mix approaches from Mark ‘Spike’ Stent (Bright-Side Mix), released on 4 June. Tchad Blake (Dark-Side Mix) and Hans-Martin Buff’s Atmos mix (In-Side Mix), released later in the month.