Monday, May 31, 2010

Roye Albrighton of Nektar in no man's land

Nick: First of all, I would like to thank you for agreeing to do this interview for our up-and-coming blogzine, it’s a pleasure for us having you, Mr. Albrighton as an interviewee.

Roye: My pleasure entirely, thank you for the invitation.

Nick: So, let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

Roye: My first venture into the world of the guitar came at the age of 10 when my brother who is 10 years older than myself brought home an old Spanish guitar with one remaining string on it. I was fascinated by this instrument and took it from there really. I found out how to re-string it and spent most of my teens in our back kitchen area learning to play it. Back in those days, pop music was much the same as now and I used to look for something different which is when I found the American blues artists. As a teenager I would walk into town and look for anyone who would play together with me… This was pretty easy really as the guitar was making a big breakthrough in the UK thanks to likes of the Shadows, etc etc. My home town was Coventry which was the UK’s motor city and there was an abundance of pubs and clubs that had live music every night, so finding somewhere to play was not difficult. As a learning musician my ears were open to everything and I used to love the guitar bands like “the Ventures” and “Spotniks”.

Nick: How did you go about forming Nektar back in 1969? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

Roye: I was in Hamburg in the late 60’s playing with my outfit called “The Peeps” in the Top Ten club on the Reeperbahn and during the day there was not a lot to do until the clubs opened at night. It’s then that I walked past the Star club and heard a drummer practicing. On further investigations I got to know Ron Howden who was that drummer and we then jammed together for the next week until my band had to leave for Sweden. I told Ron that if they ever needed a guitarist/singer just give me a call and sure enough 3 months later I got a telex asking to come over… This was then the start of Nektar.
Many bands have influenced Nektar it would be difficult to list them all but I think it’s safe to say that Beatles and Hendrix played a large part.

Nick: Have the fact that Nektar was formed in Hamburg pushed the band as one of the carriers of Krautrock? I know that scene was characteristic of German bands, and you guys played music that was similar to theirs.

Roye: Nektar were in a kind of “no mans land” back in the 70’s. We were all Brits playing our own brand of music living in Germany and when we came up with the name for the band we decided to substitute the “c” for a “k” in the spelling just to make it look a little edgier. Unknowing to us this is the way that it is spelt in German, and so from that moment on we were branded a Krautrock band. If critics found similarities in our music to that of the krautrock movement, it was purely by accident.

Nick: How did it look back in time to create music for Nektar? Did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

Roye: Most of the material that was on the first two albums were taken from extensive hours of jamming and rehearsals… It was really only on “Remember the Future” that we made a conscious effort to put together an album that was to fit the purpose.

Nick: Would you tell us what equipment/gear you guys used back in the 70’s? We are all witnesses of the constant growth of technology, how do you see it now, speaking of instruments/gear/stuff?

Roye: The guitar rig I used for several years at the start of Nektar was really what was left over from other bands. It consisted of a Selmer PA amp, a pair of 4x10 PA columns (which had 2 blown speakers in each) and a echo unit by Schaller that made more noise than sound. “Taff” Freeman had an old Hammond M3 and a Hiwatt amp and 4x12 and Mo Moore had a Triumph bass combo. Ron I believe had a Ludwig kit. Nektar’s equipment evolved into the equivalent of moving house every day and by the time we got our first hit  (Remember the Future) we had accumulated a ridiculous amount of gear that we would take on the road. I am a big leslie guitar fan and would carry around two full size leslie 122’s loaded with JBL drivers. By the time we did the (recycled) tour in the USA we were making use of two 40 foot tractor/trailer units. After leaving Nektar in ’76 I went through the whole multi rack scenario including the use of the synth guitar that is until one day just before a show the whole lot broke down. So I gritted my teeth and played straight into the amp. From that day on I never used a rack again and to this day only very few effect pedals. I realized on that night that the true sound of the guitar was hidden from me for years.

Nick: How would you describe Nektar’s music on your own? Some would say that genre labels are ok, but do you agree? If today there’s a debate about progressive rock music, I believe that majority would say it’s about mellotrons, flutes, and time changes, while the other side says it’s too vague to judge.

Roye: It’s difficult to place any kind of tag on Nektar music simply because it’s always evolving into something else from album to album. The term “progressive rock” is a fairly new description and I don’t think that Nektar’s music fits into this category. I can understand the uninitiated wanting to place many bands into this arena but for me the mellotron/timechange/flute thing is nonsense. I was always led to believe the word “progressive… or… progression”  meant moving from one to the next which is what music does. It moves onto the next section. Strange that people think otherwise.

Nick: Nektar was on a 20 years long hiatus, since your last album in 1980 “Man in the Moon”. What happened for all those years? You have released your first solo album in 2002, followed by reunion of Nektar. Would you tell us something more about this?

Roye: Since Man in the moon I was involved with several different projects, but mainly my own. I was deep into the synth guitar for a while but as previously explained that came to an abrupt end after the release of The Follies of Rupert Treacle. Between the mid 80’s and the reunion show I just took stock of everything and of course my illness played a great part in the void. The actual reunion show was a blast, after coming together of the original band after such a long period of time and having very little time to was amazing how it all came together.

Nick: “The Prodigal Son” was Nektar’s first album after the aforementioned hiatus. Are you satisfied how this album has been received?

Roye: No offence to the drummer who appeared on that album but I wish that Ron had been with me on the recording. The production was ok but could have been a lot better had we not have been under pressure of a budget. I would love to rerecord that album again with some adjustments to the arrangements and of course with Ron and use of a bass player.

Nick: “A Tab in the Ocean” is probably one of the best releases of Nektar so far, as many critics consider this album being essential for the genre. This album, together with other albums from seventies, has been remastered by Dream Nebula. Why did you decide to remaster these albums?

Roye: It was decided to remaster because of the weak levels on the originals. Since then I have taken one of those originals and boosted the final levels myself to today’s expected levels and found there to be very little difference at all to the Nebula remasters.

Nick:  I believe your manager is Mark Powell, who’s is also Caravan’s manager. Sorry if this isn’t true, but as a fan of Caravan, I would like to ask do you have an idea what’s going on with them? I know that you have had it in mind to do a co-headline tour with them in 2004.

Roye: We did actually do a combined tour with Caravan under the wing of Mr. Powell, and you are right he is no longer associated with Nektar since 2004. I believe that Caravan have disbanded.

Nick:  I remember a sentence in some review for “Evolution” where reviewer wrote something like “how’s it possible that bunch of oldies make such a good album”. In my country we have a proverb which says “No hit without old man”. My opinion is that this album showed that Nektar has much more to say, what has been proved to be true on Evolution’s follow-up “Book of Days”. How do you see it now?

Roye: I guess it works the other way around too “how can such young guys make such bad music”. I think your countries proverb is about right. There is no substitute for experience. Nektar’s brand of music changes all the time and I think that it is the “no borders” attitude that keeps the writing fresh and sounding actual.

Nick:  2009 brought us the live album “Fortyfied” with which you celebrated the band’s 40th anniversary. So, how does it feel, being involved in something for 40 years? It’s like a lifetime. Do you agree?

Eoye: Several lifetimes I would say, although it only feels like yesterday when we all congregated in that cellar and came up with “Journey to the center of the eye”. 40 years is a milestone in a band’s history and you can count the bands who celebrate this on one hand. And they all seem to be right now.

Nick:  What are your next plans for Nektar? Any new albums? Maybe a solo album or another project?

Roye: I am in the process of finishing writing the next Nektar album which has the working title of “Juggernaut”. Hopefully this will see the stores in early 2011. I really do want to make a new solo CD, but this time without synth guitar. In fact without synths at all.

Nick:  Do you have any message for the visitors of our website?

Roye: Thanks for taking the time to read this and please keep on supporting live music. It’s what keeps us going.

Nick:  Thank you very much for this interview. Best wishes.

Roye: My pleasure.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Epignosis, the ProgArchives Reviewer-Musician.

Prog Sphere's special collaborator Jorge has contributed this interview with ProgArchives legend Epignosis. E-Pig (as he is amusingly called), is the only PA reviewer that I know of that has also created his own prog music. There may be more, but I am not aware of them. Anyway, Robert was kind enough to agree to this interview. So enjoy!

Jorge: Good day Robert! For those who haven't heard of you, tell us about yourself.

Robert: I was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1983. I share a birthday with Billy Ray Cyrus, Tim Burton, Elvis Costello, Gene Simmons, and Regis Philbin (good thing I don’t sound like all of these people together). I’m a husband and a father of two children, which so far has been one of my most enriching roles. I’ve played music for twelve years now, but I’m relatively new to recording the things I come up with. I’m still a progressive rock neophyte, really, since I’ve only been listening to it for ten years and I’m still exploring some of the “classic” artists of prog. Aside from music, I love to cook, play games, read and write books, and I’ve acted on stage from time to time. I used to be a teacher at an alternative education facility for people (in my case, young men) who made poor choices and were not welcome in public school again until they completed our program. That was the best job I ever had, but unfortunately due to severe budget cuts our school’s contract was not renewed. I now do various work for kgb (the Knowledge Generation Bureau, not the Russian secret police!), including quality control and marketing. That has proven to be a very fun and liberating line of work, and it allows me to concentrate on making music in the morning, as that seems to be the part of the day when I am most creative. Also, I’ve never ridden on a plane before (but I have ridden an elephant, a camel, a train, and a tank).

Jorge: How did you get into the music business? When did you go from being a fan to becoming an artist?

Robert: Girls and Dad. I grew up listening to country and classic rock (Boston and The Eagles were favorites in my home). My dad and my late grandpa played guitar, even playing in a band together for many years. At a very young age I would sit at the bar and sip Shirley Temples and listen to the music and flirt with the women. When I was 12, my dad asked me if I was interested in learning how to play the guitar. I said that I wasn’t, and he told me that girls liked guys who played the guitar. I told my old man that he was out of touch and didn’t know a thing about girls these days. He left it at that. When I was 14, I was bored, and I snuck into my father’s room and took his 1950s Sears Silvertone acoustic, put on a Johnny Cash record, and just tried to see if I could play “Folsom Prison Blues.” I did not play “Folsom Prison Blues” that day. I didn’t play anything that day, nor did I play anything for many days to come. And my fingertips hurt! However, I found some dusty old Mel Bay guitar instruction books, and I began learning the chords. When I was 16, we got the Internet. I met a lot of people through chat rooms and various other virtual avenues. I wound up meeting a young girl who chatted with me for a bit before telling me, “My sister loves guys who play the guitar, and she’s your age. You should talk to her.” When I was 19, this sister and I got hitched. I reckon Dad was right. Since then, I’ve played mostly in country bands. Country music is fun and easy to play. I made some good money having a great time. However, as a teen, I was involved in a 5-or-6-person band called Soulfire, and we played (among many other things) my earliest “complex” songs. We also did plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Collective Soul, Eddie Money, and Pink Floyd covers. Some of us once did “Comfortably Numb” in a church talent show. Now that was interesting.

Jorge: Where did you get the name 'epignosis'? It reminds me of a similar word in Spanish... Do you like the nickname "e-Pig" that people have bestowed upon you?

Robert: My real name is a commonplace one (even in music), so it was important that I chose a moniker to distinguish myself from others. After trying on several in my head, I decided on “Epignosis.” Epignosis is a compound Greek word. “Epi” is a Greek preposition meaning “toward,” and “gnosis” is, of course, knowledge. The concept embodied in this word is moving toward a perfect knowledge of something (or someone) even if perfect knowledge can never be attained. For example, I may know my wife well now, but the more I spend time with her and listen to her, the deeper I know and appreciate her.

e-Pig...”electronic bacon?” Wish that were possible! Let’s just say that I don’t hate that nickname, but I’m not proclaiming it from the rooftops either!

Jorge: What are your top 3 bands/artists motivations/inspirations and why?

Robert: My three favorites are:

1. Kansas - This was the band that made me crave deeper music, both compositionally and lyrically. My first experience with Kansas was listening to my dad play “Dust in the Wind” on his guitar, and I honestly believed for a long time that Kansas was just another country band (I had heard “Carry On Wayward Son” on the radio many times of course, but I never knew it was Kansas- go figure). I wound up buying a Kansas compilation album at a used CD store on the basis of “Dust in the Wind” alone. It had “The Wall” and “Song for America” on it though. The first time I heard “Miracles Out of Nowhere,” I was riding through the great hills of West Virginia. Later on, I would hear “The Pinnacle” for the first time on a snowcapped mountain in that same state. Each of my first listens of their greatest pieces seemed to take place amidst some breathtaking scenery. So many people sadly dismiss Kansas as a pop “AOR” band because of a few FM hits (which, to be honest, are miles better than what the radio typically churns out). They are so busy staring at the “dust,” that they miss the many luminous jewels. Every Kansas album had a few blues or pop songs (most of which I happen to love), but those first six albums were drenched in brilliant songwriting. My second favorite album of all time, however, is the oft-overlooked reunion Somewhere to Elsewhere, which combines a modern production with complex yet heartfelt songs.

2. Yes - While Kansas ushered me into a progressive rock, Yes expanded my consciousness of music. I only knew “Roundabout,” “Your Move / I’ve Seen All Good People,” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” when I went to Raleigh, North Carolina to see Kansas open for Yes on Yes’s Masterworks Tour. Kansas was, as I expected, amazing, but then Yes took the stage. I had no idea what to expect. These guys played eight songs in two hours. Eight. I was completely irritated and ready to leave, to be honest. “When will these guys quit and go on to the next one?” I huffed. Yet after the show, as we lined up behind all the other cars to go back from whence we came, we couldn’t help talking about both bands, and how interesting Yes was (none of us really knew much about them). We were so involved in our conversation and the music of that evening that my friend, who was driving, made a wrong turn and we wound up almost to Winston Salem. The next morning, I could not shake some lines and melodies from my head: “I get up, I get down,” and “I still remember the talks by the water, the proud sons and daughters that knew the knowledge of the land.” I had to obtain these songs, and I did. And I love them. Tales from Topographic Oceans is the greatest album ever.

3. Echolyn - Echolyn crafts some of the most heartfelt and creative stuff I’ve ever heard. Mei is a mind-blowing masterpiece- I know no other way to describe it. Cowboy Poems Free touches me in many ways, as it is a collection of portraits from 20th century. America - it resonates with me so much, because I see so many young people ignoring the “cowboy poems” of older folks in favor of sugary water, so to speak. Recently I was on a train, and they assigned a man named Joe who was born in 1922 to sit next to me for a while. We rode in silence most of the way, occasionally making small talk, but eventually we got to talking about ourselves, and he told me about how he worked as a young man on a Nebraskan farm, and how he only ever saw snow fall sideways (he laughed as he said that), and also how he was drafted in 1942 and served in the South Pacific during World War I. As he told me his war stories, he became grimmer, and said, becoming distant as though staring into the past, that those are things he can never forget. At any rate, I am awestruck by Echolyn’s vocal arrangements, powerful lyrics, and musical fortitude. And they sound like they have so much fun doing it. If I got my choice of bands to jam with, I’d love picking a few with this crew.

As far as non-musical inspirations are concerned, I write about the Bible and about history mainly. I have written love songs, but those are songs only my wife has heard. This may seem to be a narrow scope, but I find that the Bible and history in general are limitless sources of inspiration, and frankly it is what interests me most when it comes to lyrics (as opposed to space travel and/or sex).

Jorge: As far as I know you write, play all instruments, sing, record, mix, produce and release your own records, is that correct? How hard is to be an independent artist in the prog scene?

Robert: I’m not sure I’d consider myself a part of any “scene,” so to speak. I just make some homegrown music and put it out there for folks’ enjoyment. But if I take what you ask to mean how difficult is it to be an independent progressive rock artist, I don’t see it as hard at all, really. I have absolutely no one to answer to. I write when I feel like it, I record when I feel like it, and I do as I please with all of it (so long as my children cooperate!). I absolutely love being independent and not having the stress that comes with the alternatives.
My situation is not without limitations, however. Having multiple people in a group offers diversity in songwriting and playing styles, which helps keep the music fresh, and this is challenge since I do everything myself. My recording abilities have always been at the mercy of my financial allowances, which are never generous- my “studio” evolved over several years. Also, I am no doubt missing out on some measure of expertise that could polish my music (although, as I’ve said before, I’m not altogether sure I’d want my music “polished”). Still, I am very happy with the way things are, at least for now.

Jorge: Do you or have you ever toured or played live shows?

Robert: At this stage (no pun intended), not really. I have played in churches, but that’s about the extent of it. It isn’t that I’m opposed to it, of course- I would love to play this stuff live with a full band. However, I have two very young children, a wife, and steady work that keeps food on the table. I love dreams, but dreaming about electricity doesn’t make the room any brighter. That said, I have a real itch to find some people interested in (and willing to commit to) doing this material in front of people, so hopefully that will be a reality someday.

Jorge: I guess as a ProgArchives active collaborator/reviewer you often find/listen to obscure stuff, what's the latest great musical discovery you have made?

Robert: I’ll name a few recent discoveries, if that’s all right:

1. Pictorial Wand. Face of Our Fathers is astounding. Every track has something exciting and memorable. I love the tone of the instruments, and I think the vocal department (with both male and female) is especially amazing. People need to check this one out.

2. Children of Nova. Complexity of Light combines the bombast of symphonic rock with the hyperactivity of The Mars Volta, and the singer even sounds similar to Cedric Bixler-Zavala - brilliant work.

3. Osada Vida. Uninvited Dreams is not an album I have reviewed or even own at this time. However, I have heard the music from it many times on the DJ Tony show at (he broadcasts on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 12 EST, playing some great new prog tunes). At any rate, this is fascinating music, and I intend on order and review the album.

4. Shadow Circus. Whispers & Screams is a complex and hard-rocking record that is a musical rendition of Stephen King’s The Stand. There are so many fantastic instrumental moments, as well as catchy vocal melodies.

Jorge: I really like Your first album, 'Still the Waters' it is very calm, ambient, and minimalistic yet technical and progressive. Tell us about the recording, which i know was a long process.

Robert: Long indeed. All five songs were conceived in very different ways. The title song evolved from my tinkering with some new recording software that was geared toward techno music, so I tried actually making up techno. I know that’s pretty impossible to hear given the final product, but I still have the original files somewhere - maybe I can release it as a bonus track on the 25th anniversary edition of Still the Waters!

I wrote “A Pearl in a Field” almost entirely during a weekend while my wife was away at a conference.

“Move” began as my attempt to learn King Crimson’s Fallen Angel by ear. Not long after I started trying to play it, the chords of that “Move” starting taking shape.

One way I write new music is by placing my fingers at random on the fret board or on the keys, playing, and just seeing what it sounds like. If I like it, I start to build around it. “An Everlasting Kingdom” happened that way. I was sitting in my living room, just fooling around, and those initial chords came out. I must have played it a hundred times that evening just so I would not forget it! However, quite a bit of that song (like the entire second half) came from bits and pieces I had written at least a year or more before, and it all worked together well, I felt.

The monster, “No Shadow of Turning,” took forever and a day to write and record. As with the previously mentioned song, it was built from various sections I had written throughout the years. Recording it was hard because for some reason, my program decided it had had enough of my nonsense and for a while it crashed every time I opened the files to this song to work on it. However, it is my favorite of the five pieces, I believe.

I think the two major reasons the album took so long to record are financial limitations and the fact that this was continually a learning experience. I was figuring out how to do it while acquiring the equipment at the same time, and I know the album shows that. I don’t mind. It is what it is supposed to be, and I’m glad about it. 

Jorge: Where can we find/buy Still the Waters and the upcoming new album? 
Robert: Still the Waters can be downloaded for 10 USD here:

Since the next album will be in CD format, I plan on using a more conventional method (perhaps CDBaby), but I am undecided about that as yet.

Jorge: Do you sometimes look back at the album and wish you had done a particular detail differently?

Robert: Oh sure. It was never my intent to make a masterpiece, as it were - but after almost four years you have to say, “Okay, enough’s enough- here it is.” This is as much a finished product as it was a learning experience for me. Listening back, I often think, “If only the bass were more prominent here,” or “I could have sang this part better than that.”

In terms of composition, though, no - I would not do a single thing differently. While my execution / production may be questionable in many places (and people are welcome to say so all they want - I won’t argue with them), the composition itself is where my heart is, and I would not have put the album out there if I felt the need to rearrange anything.

Each piece is exactly how I wanted it to be.

Having said that, if I do get the opportunity to perform these songs before a live audience, it would thrill me to rearrange and do something different with some of them.

Jorge: What’s the harder part for you to write, the lyrics or the music?

Robert: The lyrics are much harder than the music for me. The music is easy because I am not bound by connotations and phonemes, syllables and meaning. Making music usually happens naturally and freely, and even when I have to “work” on a composition, there are numerous possibilities. Writing words for me involves forcing them to fit the melody, which isn’t always easy to do gracefully. Then making them say what you want them to say without being obvious or “too literal...” it’s difficult. And I’m a wordy mess anyway, as you can probably tell by now.

I mentioned earlier that I sometimes begin writing music through placing random notes together and seeing what happens. I work that way with my lyrics. I begin singing gibberish over the music until my gibberish takes form and becomes clear words. Those words then get sorted out into phrases, and then sensible lines. Eventually a song is made.

Once in a while though, like the music will sometimes do, the lyrics just fall onto the page, and no silly exercise is necessary. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Jorge: What music were you listening to while you wrote 'Still the waters'?

Robert: Well, because I worked on the album for almost four years, there was plenty. My top three that I mentioned earlier got a lot of plays during that time, as did Genesis, Jethro Tull, Porcupine Tree, Miles Davis, Rush, The Mars Volta, and Spock’s Beard. But I listened to so much stuff, and not just prog of course. I love Peter Frampton, especially his album Now, and I indulged in quite a bit of Alice in Chains as well as this amazing Celtic rock band I’ve listen to since I was eleven called Seven Nations.

Jorge: Does the album have some religious meaning?

The Bible is my primary source of inspiration, and all five songs are rooted in very specific passages.

“Still the Waters” compares Jesus’s calming of the sea in Matthew 8:23-27 with the first words in the Bible (Genesis 1:1-2). This is significant because the Bible uses water throughout to describe salvation (such as Moses leading Israel through the Red Sea, or the ritual of Christian baptism).

“A Pearl in a Field,” with its sparse lyrics (only four lines), quite simply fuses the two parables of Jesus in Matthew 13:44-46.

“Move” is a song that combines several Old Testament typological portraits of Christ and essentially describes salvation.

“An Everlasting Kingdom” has lyrics based on the first chapter of Ezekiel, in which the prophet describes his terrifying vision of God. The chorus, however, is based on Psalm 145:13.

“No Shadow of Turning,” shows God's enduring faithfulness - that He is not like us. God does not waver in His love for us, nor does he forgive sinners begrudgingly. What's more is that God will not lose any He has called to Himself. It is a requirement of God's character that He not lose a single one He has saved. The title comes from James 1:17.

As an aside, I’ve seen a lot of people complain about progressive rock with Christian lyrics as being “preachy,” and I’ve never quite understood that. Plenty of lyricists of various spiritual paths write religious lyrics and are not dismissed as “preachy.” I guess if lyrics have any concrete meaning then people get offended. None of my lyrics tell the listener what to do. My words aren’t meant to convert people - they are meant to celebrate Jesus, lament sin, and pay heed to the Bible.

Jorge: I read reviews at ProgArchives that some reviewers claim that other reviewers are biased toward your album because you are a long time collaborator, what can you tell me about this?

Robert: It’s no question that I have made several wonderful friends - people I would call friends despite having never met them face to face - on Prog Archives during my time as a member. It’s also no question that many of them have listened to my work and have written a review of it. I’m sure I have more reviews because I am a collaborator and an active participant in the forum. I interact with people on Prog Archives on a daily basis, so it should be no surprise that my album received a large quantity of reviews (for a new artist).

The question is, did those who reviewed my album highly do so to spare my feelings, curry favor with me, or perhaps “increase” my chances of “success” (whatever that is)?

Knowing them as well as I do, I can only tell you that these are not the kind of people who bite their tongues or hold back their true feelings. For example, we have varying political and religious views, and many of us have engaged in heated debates about such topics on the forum. No, I can tell you these are genuine people giving their earnest opinions, and I’m grateful for how such a diverse, opinionated people have received my work, and especially thankful for all the critiques.

The accusation should really read like this: “There’s no way in hell these reviewers could actually like Still the Waters as much as they say they do, because Still the Waters is a lousy album.” Which I guess is fine - sometimes I think the same way about albums like Pawn Hearts or ELP’s debut, to be honest. However, I know one extremely important, mysterious truth when it comes to discussing music, and I’ll share it with everyone, so pay attention. Are you ready? Here it is: People have different tastes.

Unfortunately, some people take the charts here extremely seriously, and will rate albums with five stars or one star, as though there’s no in between, doing so just to see their favorite bands “pull out ahead” and “eliminate the competition.” That’s extremely disingenuous and there’s plenty of it going around. But it’s one of the hazards of letting anyone make an account and submit ratings - of course, I feel that the pros far outweigh the cons at Prog Archives, because I love the diversity of opinion and how everyone is welcome to give theirs.

And you know what? I sold the most downloads the week after my album got its first one star review. So there!

The bottom line is this: No one has gained anything by giving my album five stars, and no one has lost anything by giving it one. If some people sleep better at night rating my album one way or another for the sake of manipulating “the score” (silly concept, that), then let them sleep better. Their ratings won’t change one note of the music.

Jorge: We have heard that you have a new album coming up, can you tell us about it?

Robert: My second album is called Refulgence. While it maintains the sound and feel of Still the Waters, it represents two little challenges I have made for myself. The first is to write more concise pieces. The second is to rock harder. I am very comfortable with my acoustic guitar and a long winding road of a song, so to speak - this time around I want to leave that place of comfort, for at least a little while, and let it rip! Of course, the softer side won’t be abandoned either.

Expect more female vocals from Tasha. Her involvement on Still the Waters occurred as a last -minute addition. I love her voice, and she’ll be handling a fair portion of the lead singing (much to the relief of my critics, I daresay!).

Jorge: Was it produced under similar circumstances as 'Still the Waters'?

Robert: Well, it’s not produced yet! Not fully, anyway. I’m about halfway through. As far as recording it goes, I am pretty much using the same equipment and programs that I used for Still the Waters, but during the making of Refulgence, I have the benefit of the criticism and experience I’ve gained.

The album will also be released as a physical CD. I used a downloadable format for my debut, but it’s been a real headache for a lot of reasons and folks seem to prefer a tangible product (I know I do). And I now have the financial wherewithal to make that a reality.

Jorge: Are you into sports? Soccer fan? Any favorite team for the upcoming FIFA world cup 2010? :D

Robert: Whichever team Pele’s playing for these days, that team will definitely win.

Jorge: Something else you'd like to add?

Robert: I’m also currently working on another project, a collaborative effort with two others and I’m really excited about it. Knowing the music I make, imagine me working with an avant-prog drummer and keyboardist in addition to a metalhead, shredder. This will be something amazing or a complete disaster. Or maybe an amazing disaster. I can’t wait to find out!

Jorge: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview :)

Robert: My pleasure.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Flor de Loto - The Kings of Andean Folk Metal

I recently spoke with Alejandro Jarrin (the bassist) of Peruvian Prog Fusion band Flor de Loto about their music creation process, their influences, and a little bit about Rush. If you haven't heard of Flor de Loto you will be excused for now, because the Peruvian prog scene is pretty out of the way for most people, but you must certainly check them out posthaste! One of the best new bands of the past few years, to be sure.

Dan: Hello Alejandro, would you mind introducing yourself? Please feel free to give an introduction for any members who couldn’t make it to the interview as well.

Alejandro: I´m Alejandro Jarrín, bass player of the progressive rock band from Perú "Flor de Loto". The other members are: Alonso Herrera (guitar and vocals), Jorge Puccini (drums) and Junior Pacora (wind instruments and backing vocals)

Dan: “Flor de Loto” means something like “lotus flower” in English. The lotus is a symbol used by many cultures to represent a lot of different things, but it is generally used to represent beauty. Do you feel this symbol is used to represent the beauty of your music? I find it fitting, personally.

Alejandro: Well, hehe, to be honest, the name Flor de Loto was suggested by the father of a former drummer we have back in the year 2000. We liked the name. Nevertheless, i think the name suits perfect with the tipe of music we make because all the fusion elements we add to it. The artist for the 3 albums is Andrea Lertora. When we first released or first album "Flor de Loto" we wanted the artwork represent the songs in it, so when we contacted Andrea we show her the master of the album and said to her: just feel free to paint all the stuff our music makes you feel. We did not have to watch any preview until all the art was finished. The result, for us, was amazing... So we decided to keep working with her for the albums to come.

Dan: I think you guys made the right choice.

Alejandro: Yeah, she is an amazing artist

Dan: Let’s talk a little bit about each album, starting with the first. “Flor de Loto”, which was released in 2005, is the only one of the three that is entirely instrumental, and it’s also possibly the most experimental of all of them, even if only by a little. Why did you guys make the choices you did?

Alejandro: Alonso and i started to play together back in 1998. We just hang out at a drummer friend of mine´s house and jam for hours. Most of the songs of our first album are a result of those jam sessions. Then in the year 2001 when we recruited Jorge to play drums and Rafael Valenzuela to play wind instruments we decided that it was time to record the songs. We worked with a Peruvian producer called... Lalo Williams who helped us give form to all that jam based songs. At the middle of the recording process, Rafael decided to live the band due to music differences, so we called Johnny Perez to replace him. This was a very important change in the band because Johnny came from a folkloric music background and was very interested in fusing Peruvian folk music with rock. That is when the band... Decided to make that kind of fusion. We liked how the songs were without lyrics so that´s why we decided to make that first album completley instrumental.

Dan: While you always made sure to add a lot of Andean influences to your music, Madre Tierra, especially on tracks such as “El Charango Perdido” seems to have these more overtly presented than the other albums. You also decided to add vocals to this album, but not that many. Same question as before, why was this album made the way it was?

Alejandro: To make the second album we decided to make more "developed" songs instead of jam based songs, so each one of us started to compose songs on their own and then showing them to the rest of the band. Johnny´s folkloric backgrounds were a big influence on us for the making of the songs, that´s why "Madre Tierra" has a lot of fusion. Also, Alonso started to work with his voice and wrote the song "Desapareciendo". We liked the result so we decided to add some singed songs to the second album. Also for the production of "Madre Tierra" we worked again with Lalo Williams.

Dan: Mundos Bizarros, the third album, has more vocals than the one before, but it also has many more “metal” influences than the two previous albums. I hear distinct power metal chords and much more heavy guitar work than on the other albums. It also seems like flute was pushed a little farther back in favor of more guitar compared to the previous albums, which might have to do with the fact that you guys got a new flautist. Same question as the last two, why was this album done this way?

Alejandro: The songs of "Mundos Bizarros" were written by Alonso and I. We both have a lot of Metal influences. Alonso is fan of bands like Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, almost all 80´s hair metal bands :D. I listen a lot to Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Riverside, etc.. Also, for this thrird album we worked with 2 producers, Rodolfo Cáceres, who also listen to a lot of Metal, and Julio Caipo who is... one of the best guitar players in Perú and fan of classic Progressive Rock. That´s why this album is stronger and with less fusion that the previous 2 albums. For this album we have Juniro Pacora playing the wind instruments, who have a totally diferent stile that Johnny.

Dan: Unfortunately the extent of my Spanish is only enough for me to know how to ask to use the bathroom. That said, I would love to know what some of your lyrics are about. Would you mind telling me what a few of your lyrical songs are about?

Alejandro: Yes. The lyrics were written by Alonso. They are very introspective, talking about the inner conflicts all the people have to deal with, the "Bizzare worlds" that we all have inside us.

Dan: You guys create very eclectic music that blends ancient Andean folk with modern heavy metal and various other elements. How would you describe your music? Do you think the ProgArchives tag: “Prog Folk” is adequate? Honestly I find that tag to be very vague and in need of review, as it doesn’t make much sense to me to put bands like Jethro Tull and Flor de Loto in the same label, unless the label is “bands that make awesome music”. Do you guys consider Flor de Loto to be “prog rock”?

Alejandro: Los Jaivas for South America is like Yes or Genesis for England. There are a "Cult" band for the progressive and fusion music lovers. Of course there are a big influences in our music, but i would´t say there are our mayor influence. There is a classic rock fusion band from Peru Called El Polen that is also a Cult band down here. Sadly, their singer died today :(

Dan: I will make sure to check them out. I recently discovered a few bands from down there like Los Jaivas, Flor de Loto, and Supay, so I'm hungering for more.

Alejandro: Cool, you should hear Fragil, is the most known progressive rock band from Peru.

Dan: I'll check them both out :) What other sorts of music do you guys listen? Do guys listen to much “prog rock”? I can hear influences from bands like Rush and Jethro Tull in your music, but that might just be a coincidence (especially Rush). That said, there’s a flute section in Nubes Obscuras that sounds like it could have been played by Ian Anderson.

Alejandro: Junior has a lot of jazz and latin music background, he began playing rock music with us. Jorge and i listen to a lot of progressive music form the 70´s, in fact wen i first met Jorge it was playing Rush with some other musitian friends. Alonso is a huge Metal fan just like me. He also has a lot of Flokloric latinamerican music background because of his father that sings that king of music... I also listen to some world music like Dead can Dance and Kitaro.

Dan: Do you guys have plans for a fourth album yet?

Alejandro: Yes but maybe for 2012. We are planning to record a live album this year although, to be released 2011.

Dan: How about other projects? Do you guys have anything in the works? Solo albums, other bands?

Alejandro: Alonso plays in a Black Sabbath tribute band. Junior, who is a session musitian, plays with several Latin folk music and jazz bands.

Dan: I think we're just about done, so I must ask the question I ask everyone I interview, just for fun: do you like dogs?

Alejandro: Yes.

Dan: Do you have a dog? :D

Alejandro: No, I use to have but i live in an apartment now so it´s kind of difiicult. Jorge has 2 dogs, Homero and ??? i forgot the other dog´s name.

Dan: A shame that you can't :( Just to conclude: is there anything you would like to add that I might have forgotten to ask?

Alejandro: Well, we have played at international progressive rock festivals like Rio Art Rock festival (Brasil), Baja Prog (mexico) and Crescendo (France). This year we are going to play at the Crescendo festival version in the French Guyane. We would love to play at some prog festivals un th US ilke the Nearfest, progday and Prog in the Park, maybe in the future.

Dan: I would love to see Flor de Loto at NearFest someday. I live sort of near where NEARFest does their show, but I've never been to one yet.

Alejandro: shame on you. I would love to have a festival like that near the city i live.

Dan: Well, I had intented to go last year, because Van Der Graaf Generator and Beardfish were playing, and they're two of my favorite bands, but I had already gotten tickets to see BF open for Dream Theater at Prog Nation, and I had tickets to see VDGG separately. So I figured I wouldn't spend the money, since I'm poor :P

Alejandro: He, he. Well, if you were at prog nation you are forgiven.

Dan: Ah, fair enough. Unfortunately Pain of Salvation and Beardfish had to drop out, but the show was excellent anyway.

Alejandro: I was in DT´s concert in Lima last March. Absolutely amazing!!!!

Dan: One of my friends is studying in Santiago, and I tried to get him to see DT as they passed through Chile, but he didn't get the chance. They're so great live. I'm thinking of seeing them again, since they're gonna be near me when they tour with Iron Maiden. Tell Alonso that I saw Iron Maiden twice on their gigantic world tour. I assume that's him wearing the Iron Maiden shirt in a lot of the band's photos. I have the same shirt :P

Alejandro: Yeah. We saw Iron Maiden in Lima last year, and we opened a Paul Dianno concert last year in Lima.

Dan: That's pretty cool. Maybe you guys will be able to open for Iron Maiden themselves soon.

Alejandro: Let´s hope so. We would like to open for Rush if they come to Peru someday.

Dan: Well, they're starting a tour soon, so let's hope they extend it down to South America!

Alejandro: Crossing my fingers.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Argos - The Canterbury Spaceship

Germans inspired by the Canterbury Scene? Interesting, right? I had an opportunity to talk to (well, exchanging emails is a form of talking, no?) Thomas Klarmann and Robert Gozon, founders of this German progressive rock act. We spoke about their beginnings, other projects, Canterbury... Enjoy!

Nick: Hey Thomas, thanks for the interview. I understand that Argos started as a solo project you began in 2005. Would you tell us where you got the idea to start the band?

Thomas: Five years ago I realized  that the music I favored personally was mainly from bands or artists that embraced all kinds of different musical areas to create their own sound. Stackridge, Hatfield and the North, Caravan, Fruupp, Gentle Giant or Bo Hansson are some of my heroes from the past that worked with that formula. With Argos I wanted to create original music like them, that could still surprise the listener by going from jazzy chord voicings to Beatles harmonies or electronic soundscapes in the blink of an eye ;-) So that was the task i set myself right from the start.

Nick: I am not sure, but somehow the name Argos sounds like it has something to do with ancient Greek mythology. Would you tell something more about this? Why did you use this name for your project?

Thomas: Around the time I started to write the first songs for the debut album, I saw an old Italian science fiction B Movie from Mario Bava called "Planet of the Vampires". One of the spaceships in this movie was called Argos. It stuck with me and so by chance I had found the name of our band without delving into Greek mythology but finding it in an Italian B Movie instead ;-). Another movie of Bava was called "Black Sabbath" so... guess what happened ;-) Later I found out that ARGOS is also the name of a big Retailer in the UK. This knowledge inspired me to think up the quirky songtitle "total mess retail" and some lyrics for a little tune I had written for our new album ;-)

Nick: Robert started a project called Superdrama at almost the same time Argos began. Please tell us something more about this project.

Robert: Around 2004 I met Robert, a drummer and lyricist who was willing to play progressive rock music - we started gathering a band and soon met Thomas, who joined us on bass. Finding a guitarist was a little bit more difficult. First we only had covers: Firth of Fifth, Starless (King Crimson) and Dead of Night (UK) - after a few months we began to write our own material. Playing in a band is great fun, but as we all have jobs (and families!), we're sometimes not as involved as we could be! Well, at the moment of this interview we're about to finish an album that should be out before the end of the year.

Nick: Argos’ first self titled album has been published in 2009 and this album is sort of homage to the Canterbury scene, and there is even a suite called “Canterbury Souls”. Would you tell us a bit more about this record?

Thomas: I have to tell you, that I am the only member of ARGOS, who had any knowledge of the Canterbury scene when we did the first album. So I guess the whole Canterbury influence comes exclusively from my side. Robert on the other hand is a big fan of Peter Hammill’s work, both as a solo artist and with Van der Graaf Generator. He also favours the music of XTC, Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan to name just a few. Of course we both like Gabriel era Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes and the Beatles, which served as an inspiration for the other two suites on the first album. Ulf joined us after we had recorded demos of all the songs on ARGOS. He finally made the music we had written come alive with his amazing drumming skills.

Nick: In a recent interview with Andy Tillison of The Tangent we asked him a question that we’d like to ask you as well: Do you see the Canterbury Scene as something of a cult phenomenon? What’s your opinion about it? Also what are your favorite albums of it?

Thomas: In my opinion the British Canterbury scene, much like the German Krautrock scene produced very original music by consciously excluding some of the Anglo-American influences like Blues, Soul or Rock and Roll and found some inspiration in Modern Classic Music, Modal Jazz and Avantgarde Music instead. The big difference between Canterbury and Krautrock for me is the essentially "english" melodic and harmonic playfullness on one hand and the "teutonic" kind of tribal monotony and "spaciness"on the other hand. I personally always had a soft spot for the vocal style of Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair and Syd Barrett and loved Dave Stewart’s jazzy voicings combined with his “antifusion" melodiy lines on the keyboards when he played with Hatfield and National Health. You don’t hear to much of that essential english style in today’s charts anymore. Its mostly back to Soul and Rhythm’n’Blues with Amy Whinehouse, Duffy etc. So maybe today the Canterbury style has become a sort of dated cult phenomenon.
Canterbury album favorites are: all Hatfield and National Health albums. The first three Caravan albums. And every album that features Richard Sinclair. He is my favorite singer and a great bass player too :-) I also like to mention the fantastic organ solo of Dave Stewart at the end of "Halfway between heaven and earth”. For me this is the quintessential Canterbury organ solo. Just perfect :-)))

Nick: “Circles” is your second album, released under the label Musea. In my opinion you served much more mature music this time, covering each element, starting from music itself to production. Was it easier to make this album, after your first one which opened the door for Argos? How long did the recording process take? Give us some technical details about this record.

Robert: I really can't tell you much about the technical aspects, but to me it felt easier and more natural to make this record, because we started to feel like a band for the first time - some songs took quite a while to finish, Thomas and I had some older material which we worked out and arranged for the album and I think we can both say that we're absolutely happy to have both Ulf and Rico playing great stuff on this one! They are exceptional musicians and add a lot the music. I'm especially proud of the longer tracks we made - my influences are more classical prog like Genesis and, not to forget, Van der Graaf Generator and you can hear this on Circles, I think. We put a lot of effort in producing the vocals and working out harmonies, etc. this time which was great fun too!

Thomas: I like to add that Rico our new guitar player was also heavily involved in the mixing and production process of "Circles". He has great "ears" and this forced me to work harder on the details during the final mixing. I personally learned a lot from him and the "mistakes" I made on our debut ;-)

Nick: I consider Argos to be a band influenced strongly by 70’s prog rock, especially the Canterbury Scene, as we could ascertain from above. But what do you guys listen to and where do you draw inspiration for your music from?

Robert: Apart from the obvious influences I do like Steely Dan very much, and other artists from the 70s or 80s like Joni Mitchell or even the Pet Shop Boys - what I find fascinating is their approach to consider music as as Gesamtkunstwerk, more in the realm of classical composers or architects, the way I see it. Pink Floyd worked so, too. German music is not that interesting, I'm afraid. What I'd like to mention is the band Blumfeld, especially for the lyrics.

Thomas: I like to listen to ECM Jazz: Eberhard Weber, Terry Rypdal, Ralph Towner, Bennie Maupin etc. Pekka Pohjola and Bo Hansson, who sadly have passed away far too soon are among my favourite composers of imaginary music. Jaga Jazzist, Motorpsycho, The Decemberists, Paatos, the Flaming Lips, Air and Elephant9 are some of the more contemporary bands I enjoy listening to.

Nick: How do you see today’s progressive rock scene? Do you think the internet has helped make new musicians more available to the public, or do you think new technology has suppressed the charm of old bands? Certainly, I have divided opinions on this.

Robert: It's difficult: what counts in the end is the quality of the music, although that doesn't necessarily translate to the sales figures, obviously! Some older bands are artistically dead; I have to say, whereas others remain very active and are still able to produce great music. Neo-Prog, in general, is not an option, I'm afraid. IQ of course is and exception: beautiful melodies, a very strong singer and a wonderful live band. When it comes to innovation I would say that after 1978 most bands began either to copy the classical styles of Yes, Genesis, etc. or put things together differently (new influences from Jazz, Folk, Heavy Metal) like Motorpsycho or Dream Theater.

Nick: Have you been promoting Argos’ music live? Do you get any offers to play live? If you ask me, it’s bad that a band like yours doesn’t do gigs.

Robert: Two of us live in Mainz, the others up in the far north of Gemany. Playing live? It's possible, but unlikely, I would say. Unless the demand would be overwhelming... (hahaha).

Thomas: We are all used to play music live with our other bands (Superdrama, Mutabor,...) The main problem is the distance of 700 km between Mainz and Greifswald, which obviously makes it hard for us to meet and rehearse. But… (like Robert just mentioned) if we are invited to play on a special prog event and don’t have to pay for playing there (Cheers to Andy Tillison from a 50 year old bass player with two progbands ;-)), it would certainly be much fun to perform the ARGOS songs live.

Nick: You took participation on The Flower Kings tribute album with the song “Cosmic Circus/Babylon”. It’s nice choice, as “Adam & Eve” is one of my favorite TFK albums. Please tell us a bit more about this.

Thomas: Robert had the idea of covering "Cosmic Circus" and to include "Babylon" as an instrumental middle eight. When we worked out the arrangement for the Babylon section, we composed some new parts and thereby added some unexpected musical twist and turns to the original composition of Thomas Bodin which was much fun to do.

Nick: What are your all-time favorite albums?

Thomas: There are a few albums which still manage to unfold a certain  magic for me   after listening to them for so many times. Here’s an uncompleted list:

Caravan: In the Land of Grey and Pink
Pulsar: Halloween
Hatfield and the North: The Rotters Club
England: Gardenshed
Fruupp: Modern Masquerades
PFM: Per un Amico
Eberhard Weber: Silent Feet
Bo Hansson: Lord of the Rings, Attic Thoughts
Refugee: Refugee

Nick: What comes next for Argos?

Robert: A great third album, possibly with a long track (I can reveal this, can't I?). We do have some ideas, but we haven't really started working yet.

Nick: I’m off my questions, so if there’s anything you would like to say, the next few lines are yours.

Thomas: It was a pleasure to answer your questions, Nick. Thank you for giving us this great opportunity to talk about our band, influences, plans and the ARGOS music. I also would like to say a big: THANK YOU to all the dedicated progfans and personal friends, who have helped to promote the two ARGOS albums. You know who you are :-)

Nick: Thank you for the interview, guys. Hope to hear you more from you soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dan Britton: The Maestro of Many Projects

I recently sat down for a live interview with Mr. Dan Britton of Birds and Buildings and Deluge Grander fame. The two of us talked about Italian Prog, Opeth, the five or so albums he is apparently working on at the moment, and much more. Be warned, Mr. Britton and I diverged from the topic at hand a few times to talk about stuff that had very little to do with the actual interview. I still find that stuff interesting, though!

Dan Thaler: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’d like to start with you telling us something about yourself. Whatever you want, really.

Dan Britton: I am watching a movie called One False Move and listening to The Enid's 'Anarchy on 45'

Dan Thaler: The Enid are pretty good, unfortunately I can't get into much of what they've done beyond In the Region of Summer Stars besides a few albums from that era. Too ambient for me I suppose.

Dan Britton: Yes.. me too! When I read about the Enid, I think "I'm gonna love this band" and when I listen to them, I think "myeh....".

Dan Thaler: You’ve been in quite a few bands over the years. I’m going to start with the first one that I know of, Cerebus Effect. I’m sure a lot less people have heard of this one than have heard of the others. What would you like to tell us about it? I like the music that CE made, which was sort of dark and heavy jazzy material, but the band didn’t last very long.

Dan Britton: Well, they were a band for 3 or 5 years before I ever joined. Their formula was basically: Odd time signatures that everyone sync's up on, and the guitarist and bassist think of their own notes. So, if you know much about music theory, any *two* notes can sound ok together, but when I joined, eager to play actual chords and melodies, it got sloppy unless we actually talked things out. The guitarist and bassist didn't really like talking things out, and I understand why, because discussing musical composition in detail can be tedious. So we were lucky to make the one album, but after that, I think we all knew that it wasn't going to work. I think the album is ok, but it's definitely not my proudest achievement.

Dan Thaler: Deluge Grander is #2, which formed while you were still in CE, but before it disbanded, from what I understand. DG is very different from CE. This time you’ve got very grand and epic symphonic prog. I hesitate to describe it because I find that, in general, your music is difficult to describe, so I just leave it at “symphonic prog”. How would YOU describe Deluge Grander?

Dan Britton: Symphonic prog is sufficient, IMO. The thing about Deluge Grander is that Patrick the drummer and Dave the guitarist don't have much in common as far as what they like to listen to. Patrick likes mostly heavy and complex stuff, and Dave likes Phish and jam-band stuff, though they're both into other stuff too. So part of the challenge with Deluge Grander is for me to write stuff that they will each enjoy, since people are generally most likely to play well on something they like. So I guess that means if you cross Phish with Spastic Ink, you get symphonic prog!

Dan Thaler: Honestly I feel like "Symphonic prog" is one of those things that's hard to define, yet "you know it when you see it"

Dan Britton: Well, there are some obvious superficial things like mellotrons, lead analog-sounding synthesizers, and an obsession with 7/8 that characterize it. But generally, I think it's attention to composition rather than improvisation that differentiate symphonic prog from prog in general.

Dan Thaler: Are there any plans for a third Deluge Grander album at any point in the future?

Dan Britton: Why yes....but it's complicated. We are tentatively planning on releasing FOUR different albums, but pressed only in VINYL format, and probably in limited editions of 200 or less, possibly with hand-made artwork for each individual copy... And then we'll take some of the material from these four albums, and make TWO CDs, possibly with nice packaging as well. And then we'll take the very best of everything and make ONE super-incredibly-good album, and maybe release it for free (and in CD form too). So it's a ridiculously complicated scheme, and it might not work out at all, but those are the plans. I've got plenty of sketches for the material on those four vinyl albums already.

Dan Thaler: That does seem pretty overwhelming! I definitely wasn't expecting something on such a grand scale.

Dan Britton: Yep, one of the hardest things is deciding what order to release the stuff. I think we'll try the first record, and see how it goes. If only three people in the whole world are willing to pay $50 or whatever we charge for it, we might just drop the whole plan altogether.

Dan Thaler: How do you see the first two albums compared to each other?

Dan Britton: I think the second one is more "classical" than the first, and also a bit more "unified" in that there is an idea or philosophy that unifies the music and the artwork.

Dan Thaler: What would you say that theme is?

Dan Britton: Well, I don't want to give too much away, but it's about ostensibly divergent paradigms (modernity vs. the Luddites, for example) unifying, to everyone's surprise.

Dan Thaler: Sort of like trying to identify what "good" is, in an aesthetic sense, perhaps? "The form of the good"? I dunno, that just came to mind, since it’s the title of the album and all.

Dan Britton: In a way, yes. Of course, there's nothing too specific I'm trying to get across, since there aren't any lyrics or anything. "Art Rock" in a very literal sense I suppose.

Dan Thaler: Birds & Buildings, the final project I know of, is probably my favorite of the three, which might be because I’m a huge fan of jazz. Tell me about this project. The music is similar to that of DG’s, but darker and, as I said before, jazzier.

Dan Britton: Yep. Malcolm the drummer is more of a DC-punk kind of drummer, but he's got an absolutely incredible mind for drumming. Brian the sax player is pretty much "Mr. Jazz" and doesn't really like "prog" very much, and he's never heard David Jackson or Mel Collins or Ian McDonald, which everyone compares him to. So those two guys and their reactions to the stuff I write determine how Birds and Buildings turn out.

Dan Thaler: Make sure to play some VDGG for him immediately! (one of my favorite bands)

Dan Britton: Well, Brian sadly doesn't really like prog all that much. And Malcolm HATES VDGG. (I like them of course)

Dan Thaler: You did an interesting thing with the cover art of this album, that is, taking it from a section of Genesis album’s cover art which had actually taken its artwork from a painting titled The Garden of Earthly Delights. Is there any particular reason you did this? Personally I find the idea of a small section of a painting that had already been taken from a larger painting to be pretty funny.

Dan Britton: Yes, but I really wish I had used a better version of the artwork. The CD cover looks pretty blurry. I really like all the old Hieronymus Bosch art. In fact, a few months after I joined Cerebus Effect, I tried to convince them to change the name of the band to "Hieronmyus." That portion of TGOED has birds in it, and what looks like a building of some kind, so it seemed like a good choice.

Dan Thaler: I read on B&B’s myspace that there’s going to be a new album out soon, but I haven’t seen any more word on that. Would you like to tell us something about “Multipurpose Trap”? How’s it looking so far?

Dan Britton: I have actually been working on it quite a lot over the past week. It does move further in the "jazz" direction, and I think it also sounds a bit more American (and less European) in general. The first album is pretty tough to follow, but I think this one will at least be executed a little better (recording quality, etc.), even though there might not be as much intensity as there was on the first album.

Dan Thaler: Is there a tentative release date in mind?

Dan Britton: Hopefully before the end of 2010.

Dan Thaler: You say you like to create music based on the tastes of the individual members of the band. That seems like an interesting way to go about the creation process that seems to inevitably bring forth something eclectic. Do you see this process as unusual, or do you think other bands work in similar ways?

Dan Britton: Well, I'm the main composer for these bands, and I think most composers in bands know that people play better when they're playing music they like. So I don't think it's too different from bands where one guy does most of the writing. But I'm not sure.

Dan Thaler: I heard somewhere that you were starting another project, but I can’t remember where, and I can’t remember what. Am I crazy, or are you actually starting another project?

Dan Britton: Well, there's a group/project called "All Over Everywhere" that is about to release it's first album in a few months. This stuff is less proggy, but still pretty densely arranged at times. Then there's Elevator Machine Room with Chris Mack of Iluvatar/Oblivion Sun/Puppet Show fame. He and his wife just had their second kid, so we haven't rehearsed in a while, but we have enough material for an album, which I think will be a very good one.

Dan Thaler: I mentioned the artwork of B&B, but I’m also curious about the artwork of Deluge Grander. The covers both look very distinct and surreal. I would imagine they were done in the style of an early Genesis album cover, since I know you’re a fan. Am I right? Also, who painted (I assume they were painted) them?

Dan Britton: Well the first cover we nicked from Thomas Cole, who died many years ago. Unfortunately, just after it was released I found out that a metal band called Candlemass had used the same cover! Kezia Terracciano did the art for the second DG album. She also did the picture for "Inaugural Bash" and "The Solitude of Miranda" on the first DG album, and all the inner art for Bantam to Behemoth. She lives in Italy, and I've never met her. But I suspect that any similarity to Genesis' album covers is purely coincidental. Though I admit I do love those old Whitehead sleeves. Forgot to mention... I actually gave Kezia some very detailed instructions for all this artwork. If you look at the art in BAB BTB and DG TFOTG, you'll see some clues for what are two complicated little puzzles of art.

Dan Thaler: I'll make sure to scrutinize them very carefully later.

Dan Thaler: While your bands all sound very different, I happen to think there’s a common thread that combines elements of Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, and various other “First Wave Prog” bands with touches of Marillion, Porcupine Tree, and other things. Just kidding, I actually read recently that you hate it when reviewers do nothing but compare music to those that are generally “held sacred”. Well, I personally completely agree with you, but I would love to know some of your influences anyway.

Dan Britton: I think my main "influences" are Genesis (the chord sequences), Magma (the intensity of repetition and occasional dissonance), and Gentle Giant (the complexity). Now there's a lot of other music I like, but those three probably did affect how I write music. I am trying to branch out, though, and I think this new All Over Everywhere album will be regarded as a big change. And there is some stuff on the forthcoming second Birds and Buildings album that's almost like rap or techno music. Though not in a bad way, I hope.

Dan Thaler: Would you say that there are any particular prog “movements” you’re a fan of such as the Italian Progressive Rock Scene or the Canterbury Scene? I mention those because I'm a huge fan of both the former a bit moreso than the latter.

Dan Britton: Oh, yes, I am heavily into the Italian prog stuff... And now it's to the point of "completing the collection"... I haven't really liked the last 10 or 20 Italian prog CDs I've bought, yet I keep buying them because I guess I just like the whole vibe. While I like the Canterbury scene in general, the music doesn't have the same impact on me as most 1970's prog.


Dan Thaler: Have you listened to Latte e Miele? they're one the bands I've been listening to the most recently. Their third album is definitely my favorite, especially because of "Pavana".

Dan Britton: Yes! I actually like their first and third albums more than Papillon. I'm curious about the new Marco Polo one, but a lot of the 1970's reunion acts don't seem to have the same magic as they did in the 1970's. There are a couple of really nice laid-back poppish tunes on Side One of Aquile E Scoiatelli as well. They almost remind me of a proto-Porcupine Tree in a way. Actually DG almost played an "Italian prog" medley at Progday. But I'm the only one in the band who really likes that stuff, so we didn't do it.

Dan Thaler: I would recommend you try "Marco Polo". It isn't very similar to their other albums, interestingly, but it's still very good. Almost reminds me of Banco with a different singer.

Dan Britton: Unfortunately it's always sold for $19-30 on CD…

Dan Thaler: Yeah, imports... Still, didn't stop me. What was DG going to play in the medley?

Dan Britton: IIRC it was the opening piano bit from LDF, then a couple of Semiramis riffs, a 5/4 bit from BdB's YS (and I was going to actually sing in Italian), then a portion of a track by Modry Efekt (not Italian, but one of my favorite groups), then a bit from the last track on Reale Accademica di Musica's album, then the ending of Zarathustra.

Dan Thaler: Nothing of the "big three", eh?

Dan Britton: That's correct. It just seems more fun to do the less prolific bands, since that's what was so special about Italy.

Dan Thaler: Fair enough, though Banco is still my favorite!

Dan Britton: I actually like their late-1970's work much more than the first three albums.

Dan Thaler: I can't say I like them more, but I do really enjoy Cando Di Primavera, Di Terra, etc. Anyway, we digressed a bit, I hope you don't mind.

Dan Britton: Not at all, still on topic though, right? My influences and all…

Dan Thaler: Of course.

Dan Britton: So is there any Italian prog you find overrated?

Dan Thaler: I would say Chocolate Kings by PFM.

Dan Britton: Because for me there's one big one...

Dan Thaler: But tell me yours.

Dan Britton: For me it's Osanna's Palepoli. Chocolate Kings is ok if you get past the vocals.

Dan Thaler: Honestly I didn't know it was rated incredibly highly. Yes, the vocals are the problem, but the musicality is still top-notch. I agree about Palepoli, but I love the album Osanna released last year with Dave Jackson.

Dan Britton: And isn't it funny that apparently PFM thought Lanzetti would help them break English and American radio with that warbly voice?! I actually think Mussida, Premoli, and di Cioccio are all great singers already.

Dan Thaler: Maybe they figured since he sounds sort of like Peter Gabriel. I agree, I never had a problem with the singing.

Dan Britton: You know, that's one thing I don't hear, though everyone seems to say it. He sounds like Family's Roger Chapman, not PG. To me, at least.

Dan Thaler: I've always thought he sounded like PG to me, but I don't like either of them, personally.

Dan Britton: Really, you don't like PG's singing?

Dan Thaler: I don't like Genesis in general, actually.

Dan Britton: Shock, gasp, disbelief!

Dan Thaler: I have a feeling the blog is going to get a lot of hatemail from ProgArchives now. Well, I'll also say that I dislike Yes and Pink Floyd!

Dan Britton: Well, you know it's actually refreshing to hear that for once.

Dan Thaler: Though I love VDGG, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, and King Crimson.

Dan Britton: I was about to say "Are you sure you like prog at all?" You seem to gravitate towards the more obscure stuff.

Dan Thaler: I get that a lot.

Dan Britton: It does make it more fun to like a band when no one knows about them.

Dan Thaler: I suppose so. I dunno, I used to enjoy Genesis and Yes slightly, but they never did much for me. It's hard to call Jethro Tull obscure anyway, they're probably the most popular band that could be considered "prog".

Dan Britton: Well Pink Floyd is probably more popular, though less prog.

Dan Thaler: Yeah, I didn't think about that. I honestly never even consider them to be a prog band.


Dan Thaler: If you could work with any of your contemporaries, who would it be? Andy Tillison? Roine Stolt? My colleague says he’s seen you say that you’d like to work with Mikael Akerfeldt.

Dan Britton: Well, yeah, but I doubt anyone as successful as those guys would want to work with me! I actually met Roine Stolt for a minute or two after DG opened up for Karmakanic/Agents of Mercy at Orion last year. Sometimes, admiring someone else's music doesn't necessarily mean a collaboration would be artistically successful or even enjoyable. The best way to collaborate is to actually compose and arrange something collectively, several hours a day, for at least a few weeks, and that is extremely difficult to organize when the rewards for a job well done are so small.

Dan Thaler: Tell us about the types of keyboards/pianos you use. Do you have a “rig” or just a big bunch of random keyboards? By the way, you had better not say you have a Hammond organ, because if you do, I would like to know why you haven’t based at least one entire album’s worth of material around it. Since it’s the greatest instrument ever made, you know (to paraphrase Arjen Lucassen).

Dan Britton: I just have two 88-key keyboards (a Yamaha T120 and an Alesis Fusion), both manufactured post-2000, so not at all vintage. I do have a Univox analog synth from 1974 that I actually found by the side of the road one day, covered in snow. And it works!

Dan Thaler: Seems strange that someone would throw it away...

Dan Britton: Yes. It was very weird to find that. And it was as I was recording parts for the first Deluge Grander album, so it couldn't have come at a more serendipitous time.

Dan Thaler: You seem to be a fan of these sort of “downtuned”, eerie vocals, as they’re in a lot of your albums. It almost reminds me of the vocals on Camel’s Mirage, how they only pop in for a few lines of quick verse amongst the long instrumental sections. They even sound a bit similar. I think this comparison to “old prog” is justified, by the way.

Dan Britton: Actually, funny you mention that. For the second Birds and Buildings album, I'm planning to have singing on every single song, but not by me, and not for more than about 1 minute per track. I don't know why people seem to think if there are going to be vox on a song; they have to stay around for a few minutes. For this music (the new BAB stuff), there are only a few small portions of each track where vocals would work at all, so it makes sense to just put them in when they work, but not feel obligated to have them when they're not helping.


Dan Thaler: My colleague Nick wants me to ask you what your favorite Opeth song/album is.

Dan Britton: The first two tracks on Ghost Reveries knock me out every time I hear them.

Dan Thaler: The Lotus Eater on Watershed does that to me. That keyboard section, it's like "a jazzy Canterburyesque riff in death metal!?"

Dan Britton: I'm actually not a big fan of the first 3 or 4 Opeth albums. It amazes me when some people say they like those albums more than the recent stuff.

Dan Thaler: Honestly I like most of them equally except for Damnation and Blackwater Park. I find both of those to be boring. Well, Watershed is my favorite, but after that the rest are mostly equal to me.

Dan Britton: Really, Blackwater Park boring?

Dan Thaler: I don't know what it is either, something about it seems... off... The Damnation thing is weird too, because I usually can't stand death metal. So it's weird that their least heavy album is my least favorite.

Dan Britton: I wonder if you're just a subconscious contrarian. Because I'm like that sometimes.

Dan Thaler: Oh, I think I am.

Dan Britton: I'm telling you, you'd like old Genesis... But just pretend no one else has ever heard them :-)

Dan Thaler: I've listened to old Genesis :P Quite a lot. I can't stand any album but Selling England by the Pound, and even on that album, I can't stand the vocals.

Dan Britton: That's amazing. So are there any vocalists you like? Banco's guy, I suppose?

Dan Thaler: Banco's guy is ok, but I prefer the keyboard sections in that band. I really love Hammill, Ian Anderson, Rikard of Beardfish, Andy Tillison. Akerfeldt is pretty good too. But I listen to a lot of jazz, which is instrumental of course.

Dan Britton: I guess you just prefer instrumental music in general.

Dan Thaler: Al Di Meola, Bo Hansson (listening to him right now), all that good stuff…

Dan Britton: Do you know Kenso?

Dan Thaler: I've heard of them. Japanese jazz fusion?

Dan Britton: Sort of... you might really like their second album, called "II". Most of the rest of their stuff is a bit safe, but that album, especially the first song "Sora na Hikaru" (or something like that) is incredible. That track is probably my favorite instrumental piece ever.

Dan Thaler: I'll definitely check them out. They're actually on my list of bands to check out. I'll bump them up now that you've mentioned them.

Dan Britton: Have you ever heard Woody Herman's version of "Freedom Jazz Dance"? (Don't laugh)

Dan Thaler: I can't say I have.

Dan Britton: It's actually unbelievably good. People laugh at the mention of Woody Herman's name, but he actually did some fun and intense stuff in the early 1970's.

Dan Thaler: His name sort of rings a bell, though I'm not sure who he is. I'm listening to it on Youtube, it's very good. I actually have Miles Smiles by Miles Davis, which has this track.

Dan Britton: He's a clarinet player who was big in the 1940's, then one of his managers committed tax fraud, and poor old Woody spent most of the rest of his life playing and recording to pay off the money he owed the IRS.

Dan Thaler: This track sounds like it could have been made by Weather Report in the 70's.

Dan Britton: IMO Miles Davis' music was good mostly because of the other people on it.

Dan Thaler: You could say his talent was picking good musicians then :P IMO what he inspired was more important than what he recorded. The era of jazz fusion, for example, there would probably be no Return to Forever or Mahavishnu Orchestra if not for him or Weather Report, for that matter.

Dan Britton: Sort of a visionary kind of guy....but a bit overrated and overrevered in general.

Dan Thaler: Yes, Davis is a good example of one who is both over and underrated simultaneously.

Dan Britton: Well, I think McLaughlin and Shorter and Jaco would have still made good music, more or less similar to what they did, regardless of Miles Davis.


Dan Thaler: What are your plans for your record label, Emkog? Do you think you’ll use it to release albums by other bands?

Dan Britton: It will probably just be a label for stuff I'm involved with.

Dan Thaler: Last serious question. I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten to ask that I will remember tomorrow, but for now I think I’m done! Is there anything you’d like to add?

Dan Britton: No, I guess that's it. If you think of anything else, I'd be happy to respond by email. Thanks for the interview!

Dan Thaler: Of course! I have one last question though, but it has nothing to do with anything.

Dan Britton: Ok, let's hear it.

Dan Thaler: I ask this to everyone I interview because I love dogs. Do you have a dog?

Dan Britton: Nope, sorry. But I'm not anti-dog.