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Danny. Photo: Vali Ohm.
Danny. Photo: Vali Ohm.
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Fragile Earth: the new album by Vali Ohm

Laurence Rose

10th October 2014

Three thousand light years is a long way from Earth - but Vali Ohm have made the journey in quick time. It's the distance between their latest album, Fragile Earth, and their previous space-rock album 3000 Light Years, a homage to the sounds of the 1970s. Vali Ohm's Danny Jackson charted the journey with Laurence Rose.

Fragile Earth is the first full album I have written that is dedicated to nothing but environmental and animal welfare issues.

When Vali Ohm front-man Danny Jackson isn't in the studio, he's often to be found on the banks of the River Beam in Dagenham - surveying water voles as a volunteer for the Essex Wildlife Trust.

Or else he'll be hard at the day job as an electrician, probably somewhere in London's expansion zone along the Thames Gateway.

Danny explained to me how the three strands of his life knitted together and resulted in Fragile Earth.

"As an electrician I'm always working on some new build project, often on Greenfield sites. I've started thinking about all this green space that is getting used up, and all the water, energy and other resources that are need to fuel London's expansion."

Time by the river

The time Danny spends by the river reinforces his appreciation of green havens, and that's what inspired him to look more deeply into environmental issues:

"It wasn't a sudden conversion, but looking back there are several things that fired my interest over the years. Every year I would chat to Greenpeace workers at Glastonbury and get a feel for what they were about."

Then in 2000 Danny decided, aged 30, that he should get some more qualifications. "I took A levels in Chemistry and Biology. It was mainly to prove to myself I wasn't stupid, but it had the effect of really opening my eyes to the fragility of our existence and the environment we live in.

"I have in the past written the odd track here and there about being in tune with the earth and all that live on it. But Fragile Earth is the first full album I have written that is dedicated to nothing but environmental and animal welfare issues."

Now Vali Ohm are looking to switch record labels. "It has taken me a year and a half to write, record, mix and master, as I work full time as an electrician. I need to get this album and its messages heard by the masses, so I'm looking for a label that will help me spread the word."

After several albums as a member of various brit-pop and indie bands Fragile Earth is his second solo album. As Vali Ohm he chooses like-minded musicians to work with Hawkwind's Nik Turner played on 3000 Light Years. For Fragile Earth he is joined by Paul Antonio, bass, Andrew Crook, drums, and Chris Hollis, engineers and guitar.

A more commercial route

He has also taken his music down a more commercial route. "I've found a style that I think is true to what I've always done but with wider appeal." For purely commercial reasons? "No, it's because I want more people to hear about these things."

He became passionate as he began to talk about the issues he has researched for the album, from the state of the oceans to the decline of the honey bee. "I've resisted the temptation to write only about the big, scary subjects", he says.

One of the tracks, Honey Bee is "a happy little song, but still gets the problems of pesticides and bees across. Beautiful Day is another happy one about how lovely the world is, so it's about what's at stake."

Other tracks tackle tough subjects head on. Break the Chains rails against the caging and exploitation of bears in Asia, where their bile is still a highly prized traditional medicine.

He has allowed the organisation Animals Asia free use of the track, and made similar offers to Sea Shepherd, for use of an eponymous track about the oceans, and bee conservation groups.

I asked how the complexity of life on Earth and the reasons for its fragility can be summed up in a few short tracks.

"The biggest challenge has been turning all that complex science into songs that will appeal. I don't think I've dumbed anything down but at the end of the day I'm a songwriter with a message, and I need people to listen, not to turn off."



Listen: Vali Ohm on Soundcloud.

Laurence Rose works for the RSPB and edits Natural Light, a website devoted to arts and artists inspired by nature.

Twitter: @Laurence_R_RSPB.



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