Mike Shipway first got involved in making music in the late 1970’s, playing guitar (very badly) in a series of punk bands in the Swindon area. He eventually settled into a pop/rock band playing original and cover material around the west country, but by the mid 1980’s decided that playing live was just too time consuming. Following this, he was able to spend a lot more time in the studio writing and recording material, which led him to design and sell the ‘AI’ sampler for the ZX Spectrum, probably the first time he really got into using technology in a big way in recording. This was quickly replaced with synthesizers and bigger samplers so that by the end of the 1980’s Mike had created his first album length set of instrumental electronic music.
The early 1990’s saw the acceptance of his first album by label ‘Surreal to Real’, but only after he agreed to play it live at the ‘UK Electronica’ festival in Sheffield, 1990. This was followed by 2 more albums for ‘Surreal’, and a live schedule that saw one performance a year until 1996…. when due to his day job in IT, he was needed on a project in California and did not return until 1998! During this time, the ‘Surreal’ label ceased trading so Mike started looking for something new.
As a complete change from the structured arrangements of music he had previously composed or covered, he decided to try recording lengthy Electronic Music (EM) pieces, improvised with Steve Smith, a long time collaborator in his musical adventures. These sessions went so well that they decided to form a duo, which they named VoLt, and look for interest from record labels. The Dutch based Groove label released their first album and have since released 4 more CD’s, while expecting them to play live occasionally – and they are averaging approximately one concert a year (again!) with the latest CD being a live album.
As well as Mike's writing/recording activities with bands, he has also written and recorded jingles for local radio for both DJ’s and advertisers. One of the most interesting areas however, is working with other local musicians and singers and producing their work. He finds the production stage one of the most interesting in the whole process and enjoys taking a track with just voice and guitar from Dave James and arranging it, sometimes with a full band or orchestral production. One of his current projects is a set of film-style orchestral music for a gaming site on the Internet, proving that his eclectic interests, from punk to folk, are always being expanded!
Daring to go beyond the spirit of adventure, a review of Mike's new CD, Voyage To Venus.
Nowadays it seems that any music with the slightest hint of a synthesizer is labelled ‘electronic’. It is often a misnomer and cause for consternation amongst disciples of ‘full-fat’ electronic music.
There is no doubt, however, that the work of Michael Shipway deserves this moniker. Mister Shipway composes bona fide electronic music and is one half of the much-admired duo, ‘VoLt’.
Michael's trio of solo albums – ‘Into Battle’, followed by ‘Beneath Folly’ and then ‘Spirit Of Adventure’ – were released in the nineties to critical acclaim. They conjured-up melodies, rhythms and atmospheric sounds that helped define the zeitgeist of late-twentieth-century electronic music. All three thoroughly deserved their plaudits from the cognoscenti. They were going to be a hard act to follow, even a decade and a half on.
Michael has now finally ventured beyond ‘Spirit Of Adventure’ with ‘Voyage To Venus’, an album inspired by the BBC's 1990 serialization of Dan Dare. I am delighted to report that "Voyage to Venus" is a very worthy successor to his previous works.
With a heady mix of mellifluous, melancholy melodies, exceptionally elegant sequencing, sumptuous sounds and timely, well-chosen dialogue from the BBC broadcasts, Dan Dare’s escapades are set to a magnificent and appropriately futuristic soundscape. I hear shades of ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’ -¬ one of Mike Oldfield’s most epic albums. I also hear a touch of the melodic majesty of Ian Boddy. And I hear soupçons of Tangerine Dream's ‘Tangram’ and ‘Stratosfear’. But most of all, I hear Michael Shipway at his sublime best.
This opus bears comparison with the most revered electronic music – particularly the album’s elegiac yet uplifting tracks, ‘Mekonta’ and ‘Silicon Mass’. ‘Turning Blue’ and ‘Kargaz’ are not far behind, either. So enthralling and intoxicating are these compositions that they can send shivers down the spine and leave one feeling emotionally drained.
A few years ago I lived opposite the house in Epsom, Surrey that was once the home and studio of Dan Dare creator, Frank Hampson. If Frank was alive today, I feel confident that he’d approve of this musical homage to his creation. I also feel confident that fans of Michael’s previous albums will approve whole-heartedly and that this masterpiece will further enhance his status as one of the nation’s finest exponents of (authentic) electronic music.