Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with Steve Hillage about Love From the Planet Gong Boxed Set

A new boxed set titled Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 will be available on September 27, 2019. From that we’ve listened to so far, the remastered versions are outstanding. We spoke with progressive music and electric guitar innovator Steve Hillage, who was a member of Gong during the early 1970s.

Steve Hillage

Q. The original Gong is described as a Franco-British or international band. How did the French, British, Australian and Fijian musicians meet each other?

Daevid Allen always used to refer these magical meetings a “by chance and by trance”. But the basic story is that Daevid, as a young aspiring poet and musician, left Australia in the early 60s and wanted to come to London and Paris, which he saw as epicenters of the Beatnik movement. After various adventures he eventually formed a band with some other quirky and experimental musicians, based in Canterbury, UK. They became the Soft Machine, and they quickly developed into one of the two (along with the Pink Floyd) top psychedelic bands in the UK in the heady years of 1966 and 67.

Later, in 67, after an extended tour in France, where they became highly acclaimed in the French underground arts scene, the Soft Machine returned to the UK but Daevid was stopped at the UK border and was refused entry, having an incorrect visa. He stayed on in France and formed an initial experimental collective, also with Gilli Smyth who was living in France, and later met up with French saxophone and flute player Didier Malherbe who was to become a hugely important part in what eventually became Gong.

The band’s first official gig was in October 1969, which makes this year the 50th Anniversary! Gong went through various line-up changes, and after the recording the Flying Teapot album went into a state of dissolution, with an entirely new line-up formed, initially without Daevid and Gilli. Starting with myself, Tim Blake and Didier we were approached by an amazing drummer Pierre Moerlen, from a classical percussion background. Daevid met a bass player, Mike Howlett, who was born in Fiji and had been in bands in Australia, and he recommended him to us. And so was born the so called “classic” line-up that recorded the Angel’s Egg and You albums, as featured on this box set.

Q. What spoken language did you use to communicate?

French and English, often mixed together in what we call “Franglais”…

Gong in 1974

Q. Gong became a breeding ground for various musicians who moved on to make progressive rock, jazz-rock, electronic music and other musical forms. How was the music making process and was there a lot of experimentation in terms of music and musical instruments?

I can only really speak of the period 1973-75, when I was in the band, in particular on the Angel’s Egg and You albums. We had a fantastic mixture of musical personalities with different styles and we succeeded in making a whole that was definitely greater than the sum of the parts, but with a strong Gong sonic identity. We used to jam a lot and developed shared skills in going on musical journeys. It was a wonderful time, but it was a combustible mix as we each had strong personalities and it became difficult to sustain for more than a couple of intense years.

Q. What did you enjoy the most during those early Gong years?

Creativity, fun and psychedelic adventures. And we had a lot of laughs too.

Q. Tell us about your favorite performance venues in the 1970s.

Hard to say, but one club we played at several times, in central France, was the Club Arc En Ciel (in translation “The Rainbow Club”). This was a very free place with a great crowd and we loved playing there. Luckily, we got the Manor Mobile studio to come down and record a whole show there in 1973, and we have included it in the new box set.

Cover of Gong;s Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75

Q. The new boxed set “Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75” includes the first original albums. Are these reissue remasters and was there any remixing as well? Were any original members of Gong involved in the process?

The key thing about this box set release is that we, the surviving members of the 1973-75 line-up, have been able to examine all the master tapes in the Virgin Records archive, and most importantly we have for the very first time a CD release of the Flying Teapot album from the original masters used for the original vinyl release.

We had access to all the multi-tracks, but we weren’t particularly interested in making new mixes. We just wanted to make the original mixes from the original masters sound great. And here we have the second key thing, in that the original engineer from the Manor Studios, who engineered these albums and was our co-producer, was Simon Heyworth, who is now a noted mastering engineer! So we got Simon to master or re-master everything, which goes right back to the roots of the sound we were making then, and making it sound good and pristine for now! Also Simon is experienced in 5.1 surround sound, and after some searching we located the original tapes of the quad mixes of the You album, that he was involved in at the time, and these have also been re-mastered for contemporary digital surround.

Gong boxed set – Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75

Q. The boxed set also contains a lot of other material. Tell us about the bonus tracks and previously unreleased material contained in this anthology.

Some of the album bonus tracks have been released before but some, including various different mixes of the title track of Flying Teapot, and the Shamal alternative mixes, have never been released before. Apart from the Bataclan live show, which was only partially released before, all the other live gig recordings have been mixed from multi-track by our former bass player Mike Howlett, and only some tracks from these shows have ever been out before. And, like the studio albums, the bonus tracks, radio recordings, and live show recordings have all had the meticulous mastering attention of Simon Heyworth.

We feel we’ve extracted all the best stuff from the Virgin tape archives. There’s nothing really left now – it’s all here – with Love from the Planet Gong!

Q. Gong continued with newer musicians after Daevid Allen died. A new upcoming tour was announced featuring yourself. What is the line-up and what songs will you perform live?

Gong’s story has continued right up to the present day. It was Daevid’s adamant dying wish that the final line-up he had assembled should carry on as Gong. They’ve now released two successful and brilliantly received new albums since Daevid passed away and they are a brilliant band with their own sound, but one that is still fully imbued with the unique vibrations of Daevid and Gong. So they continue to fulfill Daevid’s wish, and also I’ve collaborated on some of their recordings and have played a number of shows guesting with them.

When I was offered the perfect opportunity to play some Steve Hillage Band shows earlier this year, the obvious choice was to invite the guys from the current Gong line-up to play with me as the Steve Hillage Band. It worked out great, and now we have a substantial UK and Europe tour coming up in November. On this tour the Gong guys will also play their own Gong set, featuring high energy Gong classics and tracks from their acclaimed new album The Universe Also Collapses. The Steve Hillage Band set features tracks from my 70s albums Green, Fish Rising, L and Motivation Radio. We see our November/December tour as a great way to celebrate the release of this box set and Gong’s 50th anniversary!

Q In addition to the boxed set and the live concerts, are there any activities planned, such as new studio or live albums?

There are all kind of thing on the front burner, the back burner, the side burner. We move forward “by chance and by trance”…..

More about Gong.

Interview with Annie Haslam of Renaissance

Singer Annie Haslam has one of the most recognizable voices in the progressive rock world. She joined progressive symphonic rock group Renaissance during its early stage and has carried the torch for many years. Annie currently leads Renaissance and the band is geting ready to tour the United States. She talked to Progressive Rock central about her career and the upcoming tour.

What are your fondest musical memories?

Performing at Carnegie Hall in 1975, the Albert Hall in 1977, meeting my favorite singer I used to listen to before I started singing professionally ‘Joan Baez’, and I was also thrilled that she knew of me too!

Also meeting Paul McCartney at De Lane Lea studios in 1977 when I was recording my solo album ‘Annie in Wonderland‘ produced by Roy Wood.

Annie Haslam – Annie in Wonderland

Roy and I were listening back to ‘If I Loved You’, and I had just finished my final vocal track. Paul was at the studios with Linda and Denny Laine, they were mixing ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound‘.

Paul was taking a break and heard my vocals floating down the corridor from studio 3! When he came in he said how beautiful my singing was and that it made his hair on his arms stand up ! Wow!
Hhe stayed and chatted for about an hour, a magical experience!

Performing in 2017 with orchestra again, 40 years almost to the day that we last played with an orchestra… it was a huge amount of work to put it all together and something we had been trying to accomplish again for many years. We have a DVD from the Keswick Theatre show, Glenside, PA called ‘A Symphonic Journey‘, a very proud time!

Renaissance – A Symphonic Journey

Did you have any formal music studies?

Yes I did, I went to Sybil Knight who had been an opera singer, because of that I learned to sing from my diaphragm and not just from the throat, that is when I discovered my 5 octaves!

What was the first tune you learned?

When I was very young, I learned a song called “Diana” by Paul Anka… when friends came to the house (in Bolton, Lancashire), my Dad used to say “Our Anne, come on let’s hear you sing Diana… I was always mortified and dreaded those words that I knew were coming. I was only 10 and would only sing standing behind the door to the kitchen so no one could see me!

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

First, the strong beautiful and memorable melodies, carried along by the piano as lead instrument, thought provoking and unique interesting lyrics and my 5 octave voice. All of these elements enhanced by lush and powerful orchestral arrangements.

Renaissance was one of the pioneers of the progressive rock genre. How did the confluence of rock and symphonic music come together in your case? Were there other influences?

The original band was formed by Keith Relf and Jim Mc Carty of the Yardbirds. They were the ones who created the sound of the band. We took it to another level with the addition of more classical influences and writing our own pieces in a more classical vein and, of course, taking it to the ultimate level by performing with orchestras; in particular, The New York Philharmonic (Carnegie Hall) and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Royal Albert Hall).

Renaissance

The British and American mainstream music media were very hostile towards progressive rock. How did they treat Renaissance and why do you think there was such animosity towards progressive rock?

I am not aware that there was hostility. I remember being treated very well, with maybe a few reviewers that couldn’t quite get a hold of the longer passages that came along with this genre…we were very fortunate here in the USA with WNEW in New York City (Alison Steele) and WMMR in Philadelphia (Ed Sciaky) playing a huge role in breaking the band in this country.

Many of the progressive rock pioneers kept the band name but changed genre in the late 1970s and early 1980s, switching from progressive rock to radio friendly AOR and pop. Did Renaissance get any pressure from record labels and radio stations to change its format to shorter catchy songs?

We certainly did, and I was against it, but the times were changing, and after Northern Lights was a hit, it was plain to see that we were capable of writing pop songs… but we took it to the extreme, and sadly lost out uniqueness. We never caught up again until Michael Dunford and I reformed Renaissance in 2009 using some of my solo band musicians… from which we have grown from strength to strength. Sadly Michael passed away in 2012.

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your latest recordings?

We were not involved in the first Renaissance album..Kings and Queens, a fabulous album. When I went for the audition in 1971 I learned all the songs on that and was asked to sing Island, which got me the job and which we orchestrated for the first time and included it in our 2017 ‘A Symphonic Journey‘ DVD.

renaissance – Prologue

Our albums from Prologue on evolved naturally from one album to the next; it was like we were all growing together in the same direction. The music was outstanding between 1972 through 1979, and stands out as being some of the best… After we made the foopah of taking the wrong direction in the mid-early 80s, finally years later when we reformed, Michael and I vowed we would go back to our roots, and we did with a glorious album called ‘Grandine il Vento (2012).

Renaissance – Grandine il Vento

Tell us a little about your upcoming tour and the musicians you are currently working with.

Our upcoming tour will be on the US east coast it will be our 50th Anniversary Tour, with 10 concerts, 5 will be with our very own ‘The Renaissance Chamber Orchestra.’

Founding member of the Yardbirds and Renaissance Jim McCarty will be making a special appearance at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania on October 12th and will be filmed for a blue-ray DVD. Band members are: Annie Haslam on lead vocals; Rave Tesar on keyboards; Mark Lambert on guitars and vocals; Leo Traversa on bass guitar and vocals; Geoffrey Langley on keyboards and vocals; and Frank Pagano on drums, percussion and vocals.

Renaissance in 2019

Your tours seem to focus on the northeastern region of the United States, what some call the progressive rock corridor. Do you have plans to tour in other parts of the United States or elsewhere?

We would love to perform in other parts of the US but it is too expensive to take 9 people on the road… our hearts are willing but the promoters cannot pay enough to make it happen.

We have been able to go overseas in the past few years, though, and since we reformed in 2009 we have been to Japan, South Korea, England, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Israel, Portugal and Brazil… in fact we are going back to Brazil next March (2020). So excited about that!

Mainstream media does not provide an outlet for progressive music. In what ways are you promoting your music?

We promote through live shows of course, some internet radio stations and there is streaming of many types… seems like the internet world in unending.

Of course there are still FM radio stations still playing our music, but most of them are commercial now and the DJ’s have less ability to choose their own choice of music.

If you could gather any additional musicians, or bands, to collaborate with, whom would that be?

At this point in time, I would just love to keep performing with Renaissance accompanied by orchestra, it’s just way it should be!

Personally, I would like to finish off a writing/recording project with Steve Howe that we started back in 1997. We wrote some beautiful songs together over in the UK and our blend of his unique style of guitar work and my voice were a match made in heaven.. that’s my wish (smiles).

Aside from the tour, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

After the Fall tour I will be going over to the UK in January to edit the DVD, looking forward to that very much. Then, we will be touring in Brazil next March, 2020. We were there in 2017, quite an amazing experience as the fans had been waiting over 45 years to see the band! So we know they will be unforgettable shows.

headline photo: Annie Haslam – Photo by Ebet Roberts

Interview with Rising Norwegian Band Jordsjø

Norwegian progressive rock band Jordsjø has released one of the finest albums so far this year. Nattfiolen is progressive symphonic rock at its best. Although there are Anglagard influences, the music is not as gloomy. Additionally, Jordsjø takes the music forward with electronic music influences.

Jordsjø – Nattfiolen

Progressive Rock Central talked to multi-instrumentalist and band leader Håkon Oftung.

What are your fondest musical memories?

Probably when I played in a band for the first time, jamming out, having fun, fighting and playing weird gigs.

Did you have any formal music studies?

Yes, both the drummer Kristian Frøland and I went on to study jazz music in our early twenties.

What was the first tune you learned?

Easy piano pieces, my mother taught me piano from I was five years old. When I got eight or nine, we started fighting and arguing too much, so she sent me to the public music school instead!

Describe your first instrument.

J&D was the brand. It was a Stratocaster-type guitar which worked fine. Sold it to a friend in school later when I got a real strat. He gave me the opportunity to buy it back sometime, but I don’t know where it is now. Probably no big loss.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Strong melodies, dynamics and never to put virtuosity before musicality.

Mainstream media ignores progressive music. How did you come into contact with progressive rock?

Through the articles in Pro/Gres/Siv from the Norwegian metal magazine “Scream Magazine”. They wrote about well known and some hidden gems of Prog rock in the 70s.

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your new recording?

The first tapes was never intended to be released the way it was. I just had a lot of fun making demos and making 70s prog for the first time. So it has gotten a lot more serious the last two years. I’ve become better at recording and producing the songs. I also think we’ve found our sound on the latest album, at least the way I want it to go.

We’ll develop it even further on the next one. More acoustic elements and more fuzz when needed. I think it has more spiritual jazz in it as well, that’s definitely something I want to have more of.

Jordsjø – Jordsjø , the first CD, a compilation of the first cassettes

Your first CD is listed as a compilation of various cassettes. Did you actually release physical cassettes? Why?

Yes, Jordsjø I, II, Songs from the Northern Wastelands and Jord was all released first on tape. I copied them in my living room, which took many hours of dubbing and drinking beer. I’m a devoted collector of music, mainly vinyl records and I couldn’t bear the thought that the music should only be available on the Internet, I wanted it to exist physically.

Jordsjø

Where do you see yourself as a musician five years from now?

Definitely teaching and doing some freelance gigging, as I do now. Hopefully still doing some gigs here and there with my friends in Black Magic, Tusmørke and Wobbler. And Jordsjø gone completely crazy, writing Jazz Masses, ballets and poetry and playing gigs only in Finnmark, under Aurora B.

Judging by the number of promos we are receiving from Norway, there seems to be a progressive rock thriving scene. Do you play live at venues or festivals?

Not so much, usually we make some co-gigs with friends or play at small venues. We did a gig in Rome last year, though, that was pretty cool! So we want to do it, but at the same time we play best with our friends in the audience and clubs where 14 people in the crowd feels like a success.

As mentioned earlier, mainstream media doesn’t provide an outlet for progressive music. In what ways are you promoting your music?

Karisma Records has done some work to promote us since we signed a CD deal with them last year. In the end, I think good music will get out to people. I didn’t do any particular promotion work for the tapes, but somehow people got into it anyway. And I played a lot of gigs with Tusmørke the last years which has helped a lot. I’ve met many new people who are into much of the same music as us, so the word got spread.

What guitars, keyboards and other instruments do you use?

Fender Stratocaster, a cheap Mexican one with a nice surf green finish, Gibson Les Paul, Danelectro 12-string, Gretsch 6120, all through a Marshall 1974x or a Fender Princeton, Taylor, Alhambra and Levin acoustic guitars, Yamaha marching band flute, Hammond M100 through a Leslie 145, Clavinet D6, Mellotron m4000d, Arp pro soloist, Korg Ms-20, Eminent Solina String Ensemble, my grandparents old piano, Steinway Grand Piano, Elka Rhapsody 490, Klemt Echolette NG51 and Roland Space Echo, Slingerland drum kit from the 60s with four toms, Bonham size!

And what effects do you use to develop your sounds?

Just some reverb and echo.

If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

I love the voice of Andreas Prestmo from Wobbler, the guitar playing of Reine Fiske, the keyboards of Ståle Storløkken. If Lindsay Cooper was alive, I definitely would’ve wanted her to play Bassoon. Sinikka Langeland on kantele, Tone Hulbækmo on vocals and harp, Christian Meaas Svendsen of Nakama on acoustic bass. And a bunch of hippies on various percussion and flutes.

Aside from the new album Nattfiolen, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes, the Black Magic album is finishing this year, I hope, and a record from a new project called Elds Mark, mellow, dark, spiritual folk/jazz/prog-stuff. And new Jordsjø material is always in the making.

Interview with World Class Fusion Drummer Dali Mraz

Czech drummer Dali Mraz has released a spectacular new album titled Level 25. Mraz delivers a set of masterful creative drumming performances accompanied by world class collaborators from various European countries and the USA.

Level 25 is a beautifully-packaged wonderland of jazz-rock fusion, progressive rock and classical influences. The masterfully-crafted instrumentation is classic fusion: drums, electric bass, keyboards and guitars, along with some outstanding vocals. Thankfully, there is no smooth jazz saxophone anywhere to be seen.

Musical influences range from Return to Forever, Joe Zawinul and Alan Holdsworth to funk and cinematic symphonic rock.

The list of musicians onLevel 25 is truly impressive: Scott Kinsey (Tribal Tech) on keyboards; Marius Pop on guitar; Anton Davidyants (Virgil Donati) on bass; Martin Miller on guitar; Federico Malaman on bass; Romain Labaye (Scott Henderson) on bass; Junior Braguinha (Virgil Donati) on bass; Lawrence Lina (Sideburn) on guitar; Mike Gotthard (Electric Shock) on guitar; Kolta Gergely (European Mantra) on bass; Veronika Stalder on vocals; Gyöngyösi Gábor on keyboards; Maria Nagyova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Diana Minarovicova (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; Terezia Jarosová (Ludove Mladistva) on vocals; ato Ivan on bass; Dano Soltis on vibraphone; Elis on vocals; Gergo Borlai on bass; and Valeriy Stepanov on keyboards.

Dali Mraz

What are your fondest musical memories?

I like to remember any creative process that I had. The moment, when you turn into a child and let your fantasies go. I experience every each creative process like these differently and that’s what is beautiful about the whole thing. Besides, all of this is written down in the music as a memory. When I listen to various moments from the recording process, I remember moods and even fragrances.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

My music comes a lot from classical pieces. I choose elements, that I like and try to put them together in all ways. The most of the parts that I write are composed behind the piano. It is a royal instrument for me and that’s why the composed parts project into all instruments, even the drums.

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your new recording?

In my case, there were two different worlds walking besides each its own line. The drums as an amusement and unlimited toy store, where I could play as many notes as I wanted and where I wanted. And a classical and film music, where I had to capture very subtle emotions and a basic line, almost inaudible. When I was 23 I started to fuse those worlds and finally put them together on Level 25.

Dali Mraz with Drumeo team

You used a crowd funding tool to fund Level 25. How was the experience and how did you attract people to fund it?

I tried it because I was in need to finish the album to its end. I was putting a lot of finances to it and I had to ask people for help when I was short on resources. Thanks to those that had helped me I could finish the album. I was surprised with their interest and with the fact, that we had gained more than 100% of the needed money. It was an honor to me, that DRUMEO had supported me with another amount of money, which had helped a lot.

Of course I asked for lesser amount of money on Indiegogo, than I really needed, to produce the album, because I was worrying that I couldn’t reach it. But it happened and different people from different countries supported me. We have sent the album to more than 40 countries on all continents after releasing.

Dali Mraz – Level 25

The album contains high-energy fusion featuring electric guitar and keyboards (which are ones we prefer). Are these the solo instruments you like the most?

As I mentioned before I spend a lot of times behind the piano/keyboard because of the possibilities which are almost endless.

Musicians who appear on Dali Mraz’s Level 25

Your album features quite a few excellent musicians from central Europe. Tell us a little about the guests and their background.

I knew some of them as we played together, some of them as friends and some of them became my friends on the internet before we met in person. I tried to put the list of guests together so the result is a really colorful fusion of cultures and to follow a specific concept of the album. We were tuning the details of the album for the whole three years and the number of letters and messages, that we have sent to each other is huge. I would like to record the next album in the studio.

How’s the fusion and progressive rock scene in the Czech Republic and nearby countries?

I guess it’s growing. Fusion doesn’t have tradition here and will take some time till people will start going to such concerts. However, the fact that my music comes out of classical stuff, which has tradition here, could make it easier for me.

Dali Mraz

Drum kits vary a lot. What drum set do you normally play and what’s your favorite configuration?

I like to use 22″ bassdrum + 2 rack toms + 2 floor toms + 1 gong drum + snare drum of course. If I play my own music, it is better to have a bigger set, to be able to express all the colors and orchestrations. Of course you can play it on a small kit too, but bigger kit means more colorful, in this case.

What is your advice to improve the hands technique?

Hands are a hard time. I tell everyone who asks me to set a workout exercise ideally for an hour and practice every day, just on a snare drum with a towel or a shirt on it.

What is your advice to improve the feet’s technique?

A lot of patience and a similar approach as with hands. I work with these problems a lot and I prepare a new app, which will have various workouts for drummers. It should be released at the end on June.

What is your advice to improve more speed on the drum kit?

If the player realizes that some of the exercises on the kit are almost identical with sports training, it is a key to mastering it. It is good to look for the inspiration out of music business in certain disciplines of the drums.

Dali Mraz

Who are your 10 favorite drummers and why?

Ronald Brunner – He can always surprise me.
Buddy Rich – He managed to fascinate the crowds and he made the drum set dominant in the big band.
Todd Sucherman – His precise play and the insight of all the notes, that he uses to play with bands, is incredible.
Thomas Pridgen – His directness.
Keith Carlock – His sound and flow.
Steve Gadd- His life journey and willingful playing.
Billy Cobham – His story and approach.
Gene Krupa – His ideas and motives.
Bernard “Pretty” Purdie – You gotta love him.
Virgil Donati – He was a big influence to me with his perception of music and approach to the instrument.

Mainstream media normally ignores progressive music. How do you promote your music?

The whole team and musicians who contribute on the music promotes it on our websites and the music slowly spreads into more fusion and mainly prog communities and that really makes us happy. We do what we love and we are gracious for every feedback. It’s not a mainstream thing, but it’s our happiness. That’s why we put so much energy to it.

If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

There’s a whole bunch of musicians, that I would like to connect with and continue in collaborations. Currently we are working on a video with MohiniDey and I prepare two more projects, so I think that the guests will be a surprise.

Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes. I prepare three projects. Two musical and one educational. They will have premiere soon and we want to start to work with vocalists a push our music further again. We look forward to that a lot.

To purchase the album and learn more about Dali Mraz, go to www.dalimraz.com

Interview with Icelandic Band Lucy in Blue

Rising Icelandic act Lucy in Blue has released a superb new album titled “In Flight.” The band delivers an exquisite set of songs deeply influenced by psychedelia and progressive rock, especially early 1970s Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Camel and Gentle Giant. It’s beautifully-crafted material with timeless soaring guitars, mesmerizing keyboards, soft vocals, creative bass lines, psychedelic effects and multi-faceted drums.

Lucy in Blue – In Flight

Lucy in Blue was founded in 2013. The young band released its self-titled debut album on Bandcamp in 2016. The lineup includes Arnaldur Ingi Jónsson on keyboards and vocals; Kolbeinn Þórsson on drums; Matthías Hlífar Mogensen on bass and vocals; and Steinþór Bjarni Gíslason on guitar and vocals.

How did you come up with the band title Lucy in Blue?

When Naldo and Matti had just met and started jamming, they were also taking a physics class together. Both of them had a hard time with the mathematical concepts in the class and their focus always seemed to be on music so it looked like they would fail the class. But nearing the end of term they had their final chance to save their grade by doing a group presentation. An exchange student from South Africa called Lucy was the third member of their group. When Lucy discovered their musical aptitude and lack of mathematical grace she offered to write the whole presentation by herself on the condition that the boys in the band played for her while she wrote. Steini and Kolli were eventually persuaded to do so, even though they had to play through the night.

The band struggled to keep playing after midnight, but Lucy provided them with caffeinated drinks from her home country, packaged in blue. All the while Lucy wrote and, in an absent way, commented harshly on their playing ability. Improving as band at a staggering rate after that gruesome night (even though Naldo and Matti flunked their physics class) they decided to name the band Lucy in Blue, even though they never heard from the South African girl again.

Lucy in Blue

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Earth, wind and fire.

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your new recording, In Flight?

Those years are all a haze, so we can‘t really comment on that.

Tell us a little about the band members and their background.

Naldo started playing music quite young, starting with the baritone horn in a brass band in school. He slowly shifted all his focus to the piano, and keyboards eventually, studying both classical music and jazz, while always strumming a bit on the guitar at home and now in his solo project, Dread Lightly.

Kolli started playing the drums at the age of 10 and soon started to grow steadily as a musician as his interest in the craft enveloped him, playing along with everything from Metallica to Frank Zappa. At the age of 15 he started learning jazz drumming and a bit of classical percussion which led him to meet Naldo, and they played in a pop group for a few months before Lucy got together.

Steini has been playing guitar since the age of 7. He went on to take guitar lessons for for a few years, studying popular music. He took a big jump in skill when he discovered the world of thrash metal. He and Matthías had gone to school together in the small town of Hveragerði and had played together on a few occasions and was yearning for something new when Matti contacted him.

Matti grew up around a lot of musicians as his father was in one of the biggest pop groups of Iceland at that time. He started to play music when he got his first bass on his 10th birthday but the real interest started when he was a teenager and started listening to the rock bands of the 1970s. After finishing elementary education in Hveragerði he went to Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð, a school renowned for drawing in all the creative and strange kind of people. There he met Naldo on his first day and soon they started to share their favorite bands with each other. For the past couple of years he has played every kind of music with a large amount of professional musicians and the obsession of analog synthesizers has become a big part of his sound resulting in a empty wallet and a electronic solo project named Endlessly.

After Matti, Steini and Naldo had jammed once or twice Matti came to see Unmusical Smooch Depot, the pop group Kolli and Naldo were in, play an off-venue Iceland Airwaves gig. He persuaded Kolli to try jamming with them and what followed were 30 minute jam sessions over Em and A and an eager enthusiasm for jamming out psychedelic tunes. Matti introduced them to the magic of Pink Floyd and Trúbrot and eventually the boys discovered the exciting world of prog.

Lucy in Blue

What guitars, keyboards and other instruments do you use?

In the keyboard section we have a Nord Stage 2, Hammond XK-3c, Prophet REV2 and a Moog Sub 37, in addition to an everchanging synth collection in the hands of Matti.

Kolli uses Gretsch drums, zildjian cymbals and a 6.5 x 14” Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum.

The bass rig includes a Rickenbacker 4003s, FBT amflifier and a TC Electronic RS212 and Steini plays a Modified 60th anniversary Fender Stratocaster through a Farfisa/FBT stereo amplifer rig.

And what effects do you use to develop your progressive and psychedelic sounds?

Lots of delay and pathos.

Lucy in Blue

How’s the progressive rock scene in Iceland in terms of bands and venues?

Iceland has a wealth of progressive rock bands, like Trúbrot, EIK and Icecross, but they were only persistently active during the 70‘s, but we‘ve had access to all the main venues of the rock scene downtown, mostly playing with metal bands. A lot of the metal bands are quite progressive, though, and the metal scene is blisteringly vibrant so it‘s not a bad crowd at all.

Mainstream media ignores progressive music. How do you promote your music?

Unsuccessfully, through mainstream media.

If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

The heavenly vocals of Árstíðir or Graduale Nobili could be a welcome addition to our sound at some point. And of course, if time is on our side, we hope to someday work with Megas.

Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

After the release of In Flight we plan to release some more albums, as well as singles. And we all have our Sally on the side, although we haven‘t released much individually except for Heift, the raw and seething black metal lovechild of Kolli, Matti and Alli from Auðn.

Interview with Transylvanian Band Yesterdays

Yesterdays, a progressive rock band based in Transylvania, Romania, recently released Senki Madara, a fascinating recording where Hungarian traditional music meets with state of the art symphonic progressive rock.

Yesterdays – Senki Madara

The band talked to Progressive Rock Central in December 2018:

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

I think is important to listen many styles of good music. For us, classical music, jazz, fusion and traditional music are the ingredients and this helps keeping the sound and the ideas fresh. Prog is just the final form, we communicate on this “language” best.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

We grew up listening to The Beatles, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, but from the classical side renaissance music is essential for us, the usage of polyphonic vocals are very important to us.Of course Debussy, Ravel, Bartók and Stravinsky are also our favorites. Later we got to love Pat Metheny, Chick Corea’s works from the seventies and of course Hungarian bands like East and Faxni, and also some obscure folk/jazz bands like Makám and Kolinda.

Stephanie Semeniuc (vocals) – Yesterdays

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years?

We started Yesterdays at a young age, so we were experimenting with prog, even bossa nova. Now after more than 12 years we are still experimenting, but everything got more conscious. You know, we love prog because here we can do musically everything we want. We are not part of any big label, so we don’t have to deal with compromises, which is a fantastic thing.


Fehér Róbert Benjamin (guitars, backing vocals) – Yesterdays

Tell us a little about the band members and the background.

The main “old” elements of Yesterdays are still present, me on guitars and keys, Enyedi Zsolt on keyboards, synths, Kósa Dávid percussion, we were present on all the 3 albums. Kecskeméti Gábor, flute virtuoso, got involved with our second album and since then he is also with us. While Zsolt and I are the main progheads, Dávid is more a funky guy, Gábor comes from the jazzy, bossa-nova fields, he is an amazing fusion guy with perfect pitch! Stephanie Semeniuc is the lead singer on the new album, she also has classical training, but she comes from jazz and funk, she’s a pro, handles prog very easily. Our drummer is Szűcs József, who plays with us for years now.

Enyedi Zsolt (keyboards) – Yesterdays

What’s the connection between progressive rock and Hungarian folk music?

Well, you can find connections everywhere. Hungarian folk music is such a rich and ancient source, it’s been “used” by Bartók a lot. It has beautiful melodies, texts, deep meanings, sums up the Hungarian traditions and history. Progressive rock is such a nice and forgiving style with integrating the “old” into the “new”. Just look at the classical renditions by Nice, ELP or Gryphon’s and Gentle Giant’s renaissance connections. We did the same thing with Hungarian folk music and it felt very natural. I think one can feel it by listening to the Senki madara album, it’s been only 1 and a half months since the release date and we are almost sold out. It feels good!

 


Bogáti-Bokor Ákos (guitars, keyboards) – Yesterdays

Although you are a Hungarian band, you are based in Romania. What’s the reason for this?

Yes, it’s correct. Transylvania, where we are living now was part of Hungary for a few hundred years. The 20th Century brought changes with the World Wars, so Transylvania is now part of Romania. Our grandparents were born in “Hungarian times”, we were born in “Romanian times”, so right now we live in Romania as Hungarian minorities along with many others. It’s a historical thing. Our roots belong here, our past, our traditions tie us to this land, we are at home here.

Kecskeméti Gábor (flute) – Yesterdays

What musical instruments do you use?

Yesterdays is s symphonic prog band, so we are using all those instruments and samples from the seventies which made this sound unique. Many types of acoustic guitars, electrics, steel guitars, distorted bass, fretless bass, mellotrons, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, piano, flutes and many many vocals.

Kósa Dávid (percussion, vocals) – Yesterdays

Do you have plans to continue the great fusion of progressive rock and Hungarian music?

Of course, although this album started out as an experiment, looking at the current success and positive responses we decided to play as many shows as possible in 2019 with a minimal setup (voice, guitars and flute, in a trio line-up), but of course you can expect many sound-wizard things as well. We are planning to shoot a DVD with this material in the Summer of 2019. But near this, a brand new concept album is in the making, my long-time dream, a classical story from literature…

Szűcs József (drums) – Yesterdays

How’s the progressive rock scene in Hungary and Romania?

Right now it’s not in a good shape… the classic bands like Solaris are doing a few comeback shows every now and then, but that’s all. Barbaro is over, After Crying isn’t active as far as I know. In Romania it’s the same. Yesterdays is the only active prog band in Romania (it’s safe to say).

If you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

We have many special friendships with Flamborough Head (played with them 3 times in the past), with Paidarion (from Finland) and with Argos (+Yacobs). In 2019 we’ll play a few shows with Argos in Germany.

As for recordings, we have many wishes to play with Patrick Moraz, Pálvölgyi Géza (East), maybe Dan Andrei Aldea (from Romanian band Sfinx), just to name a few, but Canadian singer/songwriter Marie-Pierre Arthur got under our skin with her recent album, she got near the progressive rock territory… it would be nice to collaborate with her (she is also involved in the recent Harmonium tribute in Canada… check her out!)

Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes, we are working on a new single/song right now and in 2019 hopefully will bring our first DVD/live CD, and in the meanwhile we’ll keep on working on the 4th album, hopefully it won’t take this long as the 3rd…

Discography:

Holdfénykert (Rockszerviz Records, 2006), re-released enhanced and remastered in 2008 (Musea Records)
Colours Caffé (2011)
Senki Madara (2018)

website: www.yesterdaysband.eu

Interview with The Tangent’s Andy Tillison

Keyboardist, composer and vocalist Andy Tillison leads The Tangent, a British progressive rock band that is known for its superb symphonic progressive rock. The Tangent is also known for its innovation by incorporation other genres into the mix, in true progressive music fashion.

The Tangent was formed in 2002 by Andy Tillison and Sam Baine (Parallel or 90 Degrees) along with guitarist Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Kaipa, Transatlantic, The Sea Within), bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Kaipa, Karmakanic), drummer Zoltan Csörsz (The Flower Kings), saxophonist David Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator and multi-instrumentalist Guy Manning (Parallel or 90 Degrees).

The Tangent’s debut album The Music That Died Alone

 

Throughout its history, The Tangent’s lineup has changed although one of its constants is that it features some of the best guitarists in the European progressive rock scene: Roine Stolt, Jakko Jakszyk and Luke Machin.

The Tangent has a new album titled ‘Proxy’ scheduled for release on November 16th, 2018. Andy Tillison talked to Progressive Rock Central about his career and the new album:

When did you fall in love with music?

Probably in the womb. My mother loved music, listened to it a lot, she sang beautifully and she played the piano. It was something I guess I was born loving and so I cannot really say “how” I fell in love with it. Because I cannot remember that moment.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

The most important element is that of story telling. All the music that I listened to when I was very young either was intended to tell a story – and if it didn’t then I made one up for it if I liked it enough. Between the ages of 5 and 12 I listened exclusively to “classical” music – this being usually orchestral music by Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Holst, Prokoviev, Stravinsky and Elgar. I found stories easy to follow or make up for that music. And the other most important element is to make my music about now, and the world we live in, not the world that Beethoven lived in.

 

Andy Tillison

 

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Certainly many of those classical composers mentioned above of course, plus the great progressive rock bands like Yes, Spock’s Beard, Flower Kings, Van Der Graaf Generator and ELP. There’s so many I love and not enough time to write them all down. I love jazz fusion music; Chick Corea is a hero.

I adore the lyrics and songwriting of Peter Hammill and Joni Mitchell. I am wowed by the energy of punk rock and consider it to be much more a part of my life than “metal” which I sometimes find rather boring and bland.

I love the great disco and funk bands like Earth Wind & Fire and Tower Of Power and the amazing songwriting of the Motown house writers like Levi Stubbs and Barratt Strong… and I am a huge fan of what is called The Canterbury Scene – Britain’s secret jazz fusion/progressive rock hybrid that has played a major role in my own musical development

Like a good wine, The Tangent’s sound has become finer, more complex in terms of arrangements and instrumental skill. How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years?

I think it’s that we have always sought to look further than the obvious. The band’s first album was very much a homage to the original prog bands of the 70s. As we moved on, it wasn’t going to work for me if that’s what we continued to do, we had to gently steer ourselves and our fans into different areas. And of course we have all developed as musicians, we’ve kept our musicians “on the move” with people coming and adding something, then going and allowing something else to develop – and frequently returning to the band to add something to the pot for a second time.

Above all, because we write about the world now, not the world in 1973, and not about “Middle Earth” but about the real one, The World, life itself and human progress/regression is a wildcard that helps direct our music. For example our big Brexit piece “A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road” would never have been written without the Brexit vote happening in 2016. Our evolution as a musical force is as reliant on the society in which we operate as it is on our past influences.

 

 

One of the most interesting facets of the best progressive rock acts is the fact that they incorporate elements like folk music, jazz, Early Music, electronic music, etc. You seem to enjoy doing this. Some of your pieces have moment s where you transition to funk, Santana-like Latin rock or other genres. What other genres are you attracted to?

I mentioned a few already. I’m not really attracted to much “folk” to be honest (although that is a huge word with many different meanings). I see The Tangent very much as an Electric/Electronic band and have never sought to go down the traditional acoustic route. I always found the British folk content of bands like Tull rather irritating to be honest, despite loving a great deal of what that band did. I am however interested in much (as you observed) Funk – and am more and more interested in music from the Dance scene of the last 30 years – House, Techno, Trance, Drum & Bass, Jungle, Trip Hop and Dubstep. A lot of these forms have exceedingly interesting use of synthesizers and other keyboards and some of these artists (Skrillex, Floating Points for example) use them in ways that are interesting and offer more possibilities.

Something that immediately stands out is that you seek some of the finest guitar players (as well as other instrumentalists) around like Luke Machin. How do you connect with them?

I do like to have a great guitar player onboard. And Luke is certainly at the top of that tree. If you are asking “how do I get such good guitarists” – I think the answer is pretty simple. I give them something they want to play, something they will enjoy playing, and on top of that I let them explore what they want to do with it – and then I actually use nearly everything they do on the recordings. I don’t sit there editing them out or making huge changes to what they performed.

This is the same for all the musicians in the band. I want this to happen. I want to have input from everyone. I could play all the instruments myself anyway, but where is the fun in that?

How much input do the other band members provide to your musical concepts?

Quite a lot to the way the music feels and sounds. Conceptually the albums are usually out of my head, but the musicians often help me reformulate the ideas as the pieces develop. Their playing can introduce different emotions than the ones originally intended. A piece that once rocked loudly can suddenly develop a funkier or jazzier feel depending on what the drummer and bassist came up with. That can make me re-examine the way the lyrics are delivered. This means that maybe things might become less serious, more humorous, or maybe the other way around.

Some of your recent concept albums music are inspired by technology. What’s your concern about the internet and social media?

The main album about tech was Comm, and in 2012 it was a cautionary tale about where the internet could have been heading at the time. It predicted millions of people only interested in themselves, it predicted people talking about things they knew nothing about and it predicted that a hugely connected world could end up as lonely and isolated and alienating as anytime in history. It predicted that power/politics could use the general spirit of ignorance that the Social Media era of the Internet provides to hugely damaging effect. It’s 2018. Was I right?

 

The Tangent – Comm

 

You also seem to have strong political concerns. How do you see the current British and international situation?

I am obviously a firmly liberal character. I believe strongly in equality for all, all sexes (and I recognize more than 2), all races, all religions and all nationalities. I believe in freedom of speech (free speech but not cheap speech). I am anti-war of all types, anti weapons development, pro-choice, when it comes to religion I firmly believe in everyone’s right to believe in, or not believe in any God they wish. I firmly disagree with any human authority that claims to be the governance of that belief.

Having beliefs like this, it is impossibly difficult to find anything to like about the rise of the right wing’s power despite believing they have a right to speak. I think that Brexit is a very very sad thing for progressively minded people. To leave the wonderful culture of Europe behind and alienate ourselves from our very close neighbors and friends is frankly, the most stupid and ignorant, self aggrandizing and self-centered decision my wonderful country has ever made. That decision has been made on the whims of billionaire press barons whipping up hatred and discontent among people they do not either know or remotely care about.

The USA, of course, is going through a similar equally horrible phase and although I am not sufficiently qualified to comment. I detest nationalistic and jingoistic thought processes. You can either love your country or you can have pride in your country. Those who follow Christian religions may remember (from Ephesians) that of Faith and Hope and Love, well love is the greatest of the three. They will also remember that pride is one of seven deadly sins. I love my country with all my heart, and at present I have about as much pride in it as I have in my socks.

Tell us a little about the upcoming 2018 album Proxy. What’s the concept behind this recording?

Proxy is not a concept album but a collection of songs that loosely belong together. The title track “Proxy” refers to the wars where, (like in Syria) fighting is officially being carried out by the government and rebels… but we all know that it’s really much bigger powers that are behind the fighting. The word “Proxy” then gets used later in the album to refer to the fact that I often use my music to say how I feel and project my personality into the world, instead of projecting myself. On that song the theme is of regret for a missed opportunity in life. And another song on the album deals with another missed opportunity. Linked songs, no overall concept.

The musical concept was as always to produce a Progressive Rock Record for today, our mantra… our reason to exist here in 2018. There are bits of it that are dutifully bound to the older music – parts that will recall ELP, Van der Graaf Generator and Yes.. but there are parts of the album that are nothing like those bands… but in our opinion every bit as “prog”. We wanted it to be a live, direct and simple production that feels more like the early Yes, early Spock than like something like Genesis.

 

The Tangent – Proxy

 

Who plays on Proxy?

Andy Tillison – Vocals, Lyrics, Keyboards, Composer; Jonas Reingold (Flower Kings, Karmakanic, Steve Hackett Band) on bass guitar; Theo Travis (Soft Machine, Travis-Fripp) on saxophone and flute;
Luke Machin (Maschine, Francis Dunnery Band) on guitar; Steve Roberts (ex Magenta, Godsticks) on drums, with special guest Göran Edman (Karmakanic/Malmsteen) on vocals.

Your work clearly demonstrates you are one of the finest progressive rock keyboard players in Europe. What keyboards did you begin with and which do you use now?

I don’t know about “finest players,” etc. but thanks very much anyway. I started playing with an old Farfisa organ and a Yamaha CS30 synthesizer back in 1977. Back then I used the synth for electronica style music and the organ for the punky new-wave stuff I was into at the time. Now I have a fair few machines, not as many as most keys players… I have a Hammond T1 Organ and Leslie (Tony Banks used this combination in Gabriel era Genesis). I use a GEM promega 2 electric piano which deals with all my pianos, electric and “grand piano” sounds, and I have 2 hardware synthesizers, a Studiologic Sledge Polysynth which is fantastic, and an Arturia Matrixbrute Monosynth which is the best synth I have ever played.

How did your keyboard sounds evolve throughout the years?

I’m not really sure how they evolved, but I will say that I hate using sounds that other people have devised. I prefer to wipe the presets from memory and make my own sounds. There are people who buy tremendously powerful synthesizers and only use the presets. This is like buying a Land Rover and using it only to go to the shops. I spend a lot of time making sounds on my synths and it’s an important part of the creation process for me – it can inspire a whole song, even if the sound I made is in the background, it can start the whole thing.

 

 

Do you still have some of your early keyboards?

I still have my Roland VK7 organ which I’ve now had for 25 years, but like most prog musicians, you get broke and you have to sell a keyboard to pay the electricity bill. I sold my Minimoog about 6 years ago. It was a sad day but what I have now is way way better. So no regrets. The most important item I have is my computer. It can make any sound I want, any time.

Which is your favorite keyboard instrument?

The Hammond Organ B or C3. Nothing else comes close.

Progressive rock fans love mellotron. They always want more mellotron. What’s your feeling about the mellotron?

Great sound. Beautiful sound, unique and instantly recognizable. Awful technology these days, and mellotrons are fortunately now much easier to use because the digital recreations are 100 percent correct. Because they use exactly the same recordings they did before. There are people who would then say “ah but a real one sounds better”. However, they are wrong. Not wrong “in my opinion” they are just wrong and overtainted by nostalgia. There is one piece of real mellotron on a Tangent album. If anyone can tell me which track it is in and the exact time at which it appears – I will eat my hat. And by the way, they only get one choice. Ever. Anyone who buys a mellotron is wasting money for nostalgia alone, as they could get every single exact sound, click, buzz and effect on modern equivalents. Exactly the same. But… I love mellotrons.

 

Andy Tillison

 

What sound effects do you use?

The first 3 Tangent albums used zero sound effects. No TVs, traffic, birds, city noises, radio voices, nothing at all. All the sounds on those albums were made by musical instruments or voices. Since then we have used occasional sound effects, and the odd analogue sequence, but overall, the Tangent have never programmed any of our music. It’s all played with hands – even when it’s electronic drums, they were played by hands and feet. We don’t use loops of other musicians. If we use a loop, we made the loop. Simple.

Although we’ve already discussed that you surround yourself with superb musicians, if you could gather any additional musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

I’d like to work with Neal Morse. I’d like to work with Peter Hammill. I’d like to be in the same room as Joni Mitchell, but I don’t know if I’d dare speak.

Aside from the new album, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

I still make Dedicated Electronica music in the style of people like Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze/Vangelis etc… but naturally with other more diverse elements like jazz and techno. The most recent of these albums is by my new project Kalman Filter and it’s called “Exo-Oceans” It’s available from Bad Elephant music.

Discography:

The Music That Died Alone (Inside Out Music, 2003)
The World That We Drive Through (Inside Out Music, 2004)
Pyramids And Stars ‎(Progjam, 2005)
A Place In The Queue (Inside Out Music, 2006)
Going Off On (One Inside Out Music, 2007)
Not As Good As The Book (Inside Out Music, 2008)
Down and Out in Paris and London (Inside Out Music, 2009)
Comm (Inside Out Music, 2011)
Le Sacre Du Travail (Inside Out Music, 2013)
L’Étagère Du Travail – The Shelf Of Work ‎ (The Tangent, 2013)
A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone – Volume Two (Inside Out Music, 2015)
The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery (Inside Out Music, 2017)

Official website: www.thetangent.org

Interview with Multifaceted Musician Dave Kerzner

Dave Kerzner – Photo by Hal Feldman

 

American keyboardist, composer, vocalist and producer Dave Kerzner released an excellent album titled Static in 2017. Buy Static. Dave Kerzner discusses his background and latest work with Progressive Rock Central.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

DK: I like to write melodic music that takes you on a journey and moves you emotionally. My style is to combine nostalgic and vintage production and songwriting elements in new ways to express my personal lyrical and musical messages with themes people can relate to. I want to keep certain qualities of albums I like going in new ways and expand the available material out there for people to dig into as deeply or as casually as they want.

 

Dave Kerzner – Photo by Joel Barrios

 

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

DK: As a keyboardist, one of my main influences is Tony Banks of Genesis. Vocally I’d say Peter Gabriel and David Gilmour are up there. Lyrically perhaps Roger Waters in the 70s with Pink Floyd or Sting with The Police. I have many musical influences that range from Dvorak to Led Zeppelin to The Beatles to Yes to King Crimson and the list goes on. I’m very eclectic in how I mix the flavors of my influences in my music. Sometimes I’m so transparent about it I’m essentially tipping the hat to them quite overtly. But, I enjoy doing that because I feel my songs always still have their own flavors and unique qualities or messages to offer as well.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

DK: Well, my very first recordings were done with two cassette decks with one playing while I played some keyboard parts and recorded it onto the next one until it went back and forth sounding as noisy as you can imagine but still fascinating to me. That led to me getting a proper high quality 4 track studio set up. I played “producer” with my High School band mates and recorded songs with them in our garage band studios while other kids were vandalizing the neighborhood. I did study music in school and even one Summer at a band camp! That was fun but I’ve always been one to resist knowing too much theory otherwise I might rely too much on rules and techniques as opposed to exploring and discovering for myself by ear which is how I like to create music. I’ve been that way since I was 12 years old and the main thing that has changed over the years is honing the craft of songwriting and production. The more you do it the better you get at it and it took me quite a few years before I could write lyrics to the standard of lyrics I liked from my favorite artists. Kevin Gilbert who I used to play with in the 90s was a big influence and boost on my lyric writing standards.

How does your solo work differ from your Sound of Contact band efforts?

DK: In Sound of Contact, my role was keyboard player, songwriter and co-producer. A similar role to say Tony Banks in Genesis. For my solo work, I feel a bit more free as the lead singer, songwriter and sole lyricist to stretch out and do a wider range of styles from album to album. This is why Static differs from New World and why future solo albums may as well. But, now that Sound of Contact has fallen apart as of late, I’m planning to launch a new band project where I can continue that role in a keyboard-based space rock band context.

I have a lot more music to write in that style and I think releasing both my musical contributions from the abandoned SOC album and new music in that vein would be best done in a new project that I can help see through to the end instead of depending on others. So, in a way, it looks like it’ll mostly be “solo work” for me moving forward in a sense and at the same time I like to collaborate within that so it’s not really only just me “solo”. An album may be released under my name or a band name but if I’ve learned anything in the music business over the years it’s that every ship needs a captain. I’m happy to be the captain of the ship or I’m happy to be on a boat with a great captain I can trust. I don’t know how else a band or project can work without one of those two things in place. Good captains are hard to come by so I’m constantly learning how to be the best one I can be.

What’s the concept behind your latest album, Static?

DK: Static is a concept album about the chaos and clutter in our minds and in modern society. Each song deals with a different sub story or commentary about people’s personalities and social situations we may find ourselves in. The subjects range from jealousy to narcissism to thrill seeking to righteousness and more. It’s a very honest album about the state of things today and the underlying positive message is that we need to cope with it and find a way to be happy amidst the ‘static interference’ that abounds.

 

Dave Kerzner – Static

 

How did you connect with the musicians that participate on Static?

DK: Most of the musicians on the album are the people who perform with me live as the “Dave Kerzner Band”. This family of talented multi-instrumentalists includes Fernando Perdomo, Derek Cintron, Randy McStine and Matt Dorsey of Sound of Contact as well as the amazing vocalists from Pink Floyd, Durga and Lorelei McBroom. In addition to this core DKB line up, I’ve called upon former band mate Nick D’Virgilio and one of my heroes Steve Hackett of Genesis as well as other special guests like Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree. These are musicians I’ve worked with before and enjoy working together on new music.

Static is an indie production. How are you marketing and promoting the album?

DK: I usually start off the indie funding of my album with a Kickstarter campaign because it’s an opportunity to get the budget to pay the musicians, engineers and studios to recording, mix, master and press up the initial CDs, bonus material and extra swag for the more hardcore fans to enjoy. Then I will sell the album on iTunes and the popular digital platforms with various distributors around the world carrying the CD. But, for Static, I teamed up with an amazing group of people in the industry such as the managers of one of my favorite bands, Yes, who set things up with Cherry Red Records and Billy James of Glass Onyon PR. I’m also doing select live performances at festivals such as Cruise To The Edge, Prog Dreams in the Netherlands, ProgStock and Progtoberfest in the US and more. In addition to that, I’m making music videos and I’m pretty active on social media.

Static features artwork by graphic designer Ed Unitsky. What attracted you to his artwork?

DK: I’ve always admired Ed’s talents and we’ve been talking about working together for awhile. Since I designed the cover of my first solo album “New World” and had a big hand in designing the cover of SOC’s “Dimensionaut”, I needed someone I could be very hands on with in terms of requesting what I wanted in the artwork so it reflected the themes of the songs on the album. Ed was so accommodating to my particular needs and really worked with me to get what I was after. The end result is a true collaboration of both his style and ideas and my concepts of having people walk around a carnival city with TV set heads. He brought that vision to life for me and at the same time he made it his own. I think it makes a huge difference that he’s a fan of the music and is fueled by his passion. He really wanted to do it and didn’t stop until we got this result which is a fun album cover to look at especially in open gatefold. Lots of little hidden gems in there.

 

Dave Kerzner – Photo by Joel Barrios

 

As a keyboardist, what’s your favorite keyboard?

DK: The one that I find most practical and use the most is the Nord Stage. I helped design some of the sounds for the Nord Sample Library and that’s how I ended up getting into using them. I also love the rare Nord Wave. But, at heart, I’m a vintage keyboard guy so I love the Yamaha CP70, Mellotron, Hammond B3, Wurlitzer EP, Minimoog, Arp ProSoloist, Arp 2600, Prophect 5… and the list goes on. Can’t name just one! haha.

 

Dave Kerzner – Photo by Joel Barrios

 

Aside from Sound of contact, you also participate in other projects. Tell us about Mantra Vega and Sonic Elements.

DK: Mantra Vega was a one off band experiment with former Mostly Autumn front woman Heather Findlay. I call it an experiment because it started off with me potentially producing her solo album and then, because I was writing most of the music and she was writing most of the lyrics, we decided to give it a band name. However, by the time we got to the end of making the album and she wanted to tour it just made more sense for her to play that music with her solo band there in the UK. I still work with various people from Mantra Vega though like Stuart Fletcher and Alex Cromarty.

With Sonic Elements, I have an outlet for doing these sort of “fantasy band/tribute albums” where, through my sound development company Sonic Reality, I’ve recorded drummers like Neil Peart of Rush and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and have created sample libraries for musicians to be able to use their playing and sounds in their music. Sonic Elements is putting those libraries to use in music context and having some fun playing say Rush or Pink Floyd songs with the actual drummer on drums and special guests celebrating that music with a twist here and there.

I’ve gotten people like Rik Emmett of Triumph to sing a Rush song or Billy Sherwood of Yes to sing a Pink Floyd song or Alan Parsons to engineer parts of it and all sorts of different combinations of musicians, engineers and singers doing different “elements” in it. This is essentially a fun side project for me as a producer and while I haven’t released too much yet from it I planned to release a lot of it this year so that’s something fans of that music and the players involved can look forward to. With Sonic Elements I really go overboard on the special guests as it’s the ideal platform to do that with.

You founded a sound production company called Sonic Reality. What kind of work do you do there?

DK: We record the sound of instruments and musicians, digitize them and make them available as “sample libraries” and “virtual instruments” in software for musicians to use in their own compositions and productions. Sonic Reality sounds have been part of keyboard instruments from Clavia to Roland to Yamaha to Alesis and many others for years. They’ve also been a big part of IK Multimedia’s virtual instrument line SampleTank and many others.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

DK: If we’re talking about unfulfilled fantasies here, I’d love to work with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp or David Gilmour. I’d also love to produce albums for certain classic bands and help them make a record as great as some of their legacy albums. That would be fun. But, floating back down to Earth, I’d say if I could gather any musicians it would be the people I already work with. They’re amazing.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

DK: Yes, I will soon be announcing my new project that will be the vehicle for my Sound of Contact songs live and in the studio, both the ones released and unreleased, as well as future keyboard-based space prog music. I’m also co-producing the McBroom Sisters album and a I have a few other projects in the works this year. I like to keep myself busy! A rolling stone gathers no moss.

Interview with Finnish Keyboardist and Composer Juha Kujanpää

Finnish musician and composer Juha Kujanpää recently released an album titled Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa (To Where My Wings Will Take Me), where he continues his brilliant combinations of progressive rock with jazz, classical and folk music.

Juha Kujanpää talks about his music with Progressive Rock Central’s Angel Romero.

On your latest album, Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa, you collaborate with members of Frigg and other Finnish folk musicians. How did you come in contact with these artists?

Juha Kujanpää: The Finnish folk music scene is relatively small, everybody knows each other. The violinists in my ensemble, Esko Järvelä, Alina Järvelä and Tommi Asplund are playing with Frigg, but also with many other ensembles.

I’m playing piano in trio Karuna with Esko Järvelä and accordionist Teija Niku (who also plays on all of my three albums). With Karuna, we released our second album “Whirlwind” last year, and it also contains several compositions of mine.

I’ve been also touring as a guest musician with Esko and Tommi with another great Finnish ethno band, Tsuumi Sound System.

 

Juha Kujanpää – Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me, album cover by Teemu Raudaskoski.

 

Tell us about the recording process in terms of location, rehearsing, and other details.

Many of the musicians were rather busy with other bands and projects – sometimes it was little bit tricky to get to whole ensemble to rehearse together at the same time. But we did some practicing with the rock band, and then with the violin section alone.

The recording sessions took place in two separate studios in Helsinki, plus I did some overdubbing myself at my own studio space. Most of the tunes were recorded in two parts, drums-bass-guitar-keys first, violins afterwards.

How did this experience affect you?

The sound engineer and the musicians were the same as in two previous albums of mine, so I pretty much knew what to expect, everything went rather smoothly.

There are some tricky things to consider when combining rock and Nordic folk music – the way of groove, in these genres is a little bit different, and it takes some adjusting to get everybody to think about the rhythm in the same way. But I’m very lucky to work with top-level musicians, which are able to adjust their playing easily as needed.

 

Juha Kujanpää Ensemble – Photo by Kujanpää

 

Will you be doing more collaborations with folk musicians from Finland and other musical traditions?

Personally, I’m not actually thinking of doing collaborations. I believe that the folk music influences on the new album are simply part of my musical language. When I’m composing, I don’t necessary have any specific musical genre in my mind. Then again, I’m sure I’ll be working with folk musicians, jazz musicians and classical musicians in the coming years.

Nowadays, the borders of these genres are more often blurred, and I believe that’s also where new and original music is often born. The younger generation of folk musicians is more familiar with playing music between different genres such as jazz and classical.

 

 

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Melody. A friend of mine had a theory that the reason I became interested in folk music is the importance of melody. If you think of Nordic folk music, the melody is pretty much everything: you have to be able to play a tune with a single violin.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

I began listening to music relatively late, when I was about 13-14 years old. The first albums that opened my ears were progressive rock: Keith Emerson, Mike Oldfield, Pekka Pohjola, Gentle Giant. I also used to listen to jazz a lot, Keith Jarrett has always been one of the greatest for me. There are many innovative jazz musicians I appreciate: Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Bill Frisell, Ahmad Jamal, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Chick Corea.

I “found” Nordic folk music later, first groups like JPP, Väsen, Forsmark Tre, musicians like Timo Alakotila and Maria Kalaniemi. Later I’ve been happy to get to know some of these musicians, also work with some of them. Nowadays I’ve been intrigued by some minimalist or classical composers, like Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly. But back to the question: it seems impossible to pick one or two!

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

As a teenager I used to compose music on computer, Commodore Amiga. Tracker-style sequencer, 8-bit samples. Only much later I’ve realized how important the experience was for me, in many ways: I learned about making tunes, got some feedback from friends who listened to my music, made friends who were also making music on the same platform.

At the same time I was taking piano lessons and also played in some bands. Rock, pop and jazz music. At some point I was practicing jazz piano quite a lot and I thought my goal was to become a jazz musician. Later things changed, I started to work more with folk musicians, got more interested in that direction. Nowadays it’s hard for me to decide how to categorize myself as a musician, I’m somewhere in-between the genres.

 

Juha Kujanpää – Photo by Kujanpää

What keyboards and other instruments do you use?

My main instrument is the piano, and I usually prefer acoustic instruments over digital or sampled pianos. But there are situations where it’s more practical to use electric keyboards.

For live playing I’ve been very happy with Nord keyboards by Clavia for the last years. I’m using Nord Stage and Nord Electro. I do have a pile of old analog keyboards, but I use them mainly in studio.

Playing some old quirky instruments can be also a source of inspiration and some unexpected musical ideas! I also play reed organ, an acoustic instrument used in Finnish folk music.

 

Juha Kujanpää

 

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

I’d love to collaborate with any new musicians to get and share some fresh ideas. That’s one of the things in music I love – to be in the process of creating something new – something you are not sure which direction it’s going to take.

Here’s a wise quote from a John Zorn interview I recently read: “You can ask someone to do something that maybe they can’t do. Or, they’ll do it differently than how you would have done it, but you’ve got to learn to accept their spin. That’s the secret of a Duke Ellington concept, where you give something to someone and they transform it through their personal filter. And when you find someone whose filter interacts with yours in a very creative, helpful way, then you’ve got a member of the group.”

What music are you currently listening to?

Currently, it might be Arvo Pärt, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Nico Muhly. But ask me next week, and it might be something very different. Basically, I’m always trying to listen to some new music to open my ears, something I haven’t heard before.

What new projects are you working on?

I’m in the middle of composing new material, but it’s too early to say anything about it yet – I’m often a little bit reluctant to tell about things that haven’t been finished. I’m also composing tunes for a children music album I’ll be also playing on. This autumn I’ve been performing quite a lot live with different groups, bands and an improvisation theater ensemble.

 

 

 

 

Discography:

Tales and Travels – Kivenpyörittäjä (2013)
Goldwing – Kultasiipi (Eclipse Music, 2015)
Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa – To Where My Wings Will Take Me (Eclipse Music, 2017)

websites:

www.juhakujanpaa.com
www.karunatrio.net

Interview with Acclaimed Norwegian Band Wobbler

Norwegian act Wobbler is one of the greatest progressive symphonic rock bands that came out of northern Europe in recent years. Wobbler recently released a superb album titled From Silence to Somewhere. The current lineup includes Lars Fredrik Frøislie on keyboards; Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass; Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums and percussion; Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo on vocals and guitar; and Geir Marius Bergom Halleland on lead guitar. Two members of Wobbler discussed with us the new recording and their background.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Andreas: The sound of Wobbler is not a constant one, but there are some elements that probably could be called essential. We’re very fond of vintage gear, because we think it sounds better and more «natural». It’s not always a perfect sound in terms of modern hi-fi standards, but it is an honest and soulful sound, almost with an otherworldly presence.

When a sound is very slick or perfect with no flaws, it becomes artificial and flat in our opinion. We try our best to create some magical moods and moments within our songs, and the right gear helps us achieve that.

Another essential element is the way we think about progressive music. We will never make a difficult song or structure just for the sake of pushing the envelope in terms of doing something completely new. We strive to create compositions that touches both the brain and the heart.

Seven different parts piled on top of each other does not necessarily make a good song. If we manage to make music that speaks directly to the listeners, that bypasses genres and analytical examination, then I believe we have done something right. And the song may be complex, but not for the sake of it. It has to fit with the greater whole. Our aesthetics are rooted in the golden age of prog, but we’re no strangers to incorporating newer elements if it suits the music. And we love a good melody.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Lars: Mainly progressive rock from the golden age 1969-1974. British bands such as King Crimson, ELP, Genesis, Yes, Egg, Hatfield and the North, Gentle Giant. Loads of Italian bands: PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Marxophone, Museo Rosenbach, Il balletto di bronzo, etc. Also baroque music, classical, jazz, 60s psychedelia and pop, 90s black metal and folk can be traced.

When it comes to sound, I’m fond of the sound of early 70s, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd to name a few.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

Lars: Hinterland (2005): we were very young, and this was probably the first time most of us had ever been in a real studio. The process was long and filled with pain and ups and downs. I did a remix of Hinterland which was released last year, which I’m quite proud of. Finally got the sound we aimed for.

 

Wobbler – Hinterland

 

Afterglow (2009): We had almost broken up as a band, and i started recording the old songs we made when we were in our teens. Like a document. Also the painting of the front cover is from the same period (late 90s), so Afterglow seemed like a appropriate title for the album. It’s quite short (30-something minutes), but it’s so full of ideas and stuff, that it would have been too much info for the ear to have it longer – at least in my opinion. Anyway, the album made us hang in there as a band, even though it was recorded in a very primitive manner on my parents farm. Didn’t really have that good recording equipment, just a few ok preamps and half decent microphones.

I did a remix of that one as well a few years back, and it really helped to send the signal thru my analog TG1 limiter and germanium eq. Basically the same equipment as they had in Abbey Road in the early 70s.

 

wobbler – Afterglow

 

Rites at Dawn (2011): With Andreas on vocals everything finally got together in my opinion. Such a great vocalist and he also writes lyrics and is full of ideas. He came in rather late in the recording process, but his vocals is like it had always been there.

 

Wobbler – Rites at Dawn

 

From Silence to Somewhere (2017): After Morten, the guitarist, left the band in 2011, we went into a sort of depression or something. I think that’s why it took so long before this one came out. When Geir Marius joined the band on guitar, everything became easier, and now we have a steady line up, and everything is going great.

 

Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere

 

When it comes to instrument philosophy I try to keep it as old school as possible. I avoid modern equipment as much as i can. What you hear on the albums are the real deal – only vintage analog keys, etc.

Making a living from progressive rock is not easy, more like a passion. Are you full-time musicians or do you have daytime jobs?

Lars: I was a full-time musician (mainly in the studio) for a few years, but I hated having music as a job. It killed the thrill, and it became a …umm.. job, instead of a hobby. If you have to think about money and stuff it’s no fun. So now I’m working as an curator/art historian in the City of Oslo’s art collection, and it’s great to combine the two passions.

You can easily grow tired of something if you only do one thing, at least that’s how it is for me. So in the evening and weekends it’s all about music. Just for fun as well as an outlet for whatever is on my mind. Music can be therapeutic (of course if you’re stuck on a piece it’s hell).

Andreas: For all of us music is a passion, and not a job. But after almost 20 years of playing in a band you think and feel like a full time musician all the time.

For me it’s a part of who I am as a person, how I express myself and interpret the world around me. It’s like an ongoing and never ending journey. If it gets too focused around the coin and paying the bills, I loose sight of the creative track and start doing things for the wrong reasons. But I believe that doing other stuff than just music can be a good thing and actually enhance the moments you work with your creativity. Gurdijeff and his ideas about «The Work» is interesting in this context.

 

 

On your new album From Silence to Somewhere you use mellotron, synths and other keyboard sounds. Are these real vintage instruments or emulators?

Lars: Yes. No emulation.

Where did you find the keyboards and how do you maintain them?

Lars: it took ages and a lot of work and money. Much of it is from ebay and such, before the instruments became way too expensive like they are today. Many of the instruments I maintain myself if it’s an easy fix, but for the more tricky stuff I hire technicians (like for the cembalo, Hammond organ, mellotron, chamberlin and some of the synths). Also I take very good care of them in a stable climate, with an annual maintenance plan. Also it’s very important to just use them. I’ve sold everything i don’t use, simply because if you don’t use an old keyboard it will wither and die.

What other musical instruments do you use?

Lars: lots of old string instruments, like the Marxopone, Tremoloa, autoharp, etc.

Andreas: Apart from the vast array of keyboards, we also use recorders, glockenspiel, different percussion, bass clarinet, steel flute, crumhorn and more conventional instruments like Rickenbacker 4001, Fender Jazzbass, Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul Standard, Gibson Firebird, Gibson SG double neck and different acoustic guitars.

On the amp side we summon the power of Sunno, Sound City, Music Man, WEM, Fender Twin, Vox AC15 and such.

 

 

And what effects do you use?

Lars: Roland Space echo re 201 and 150, vox and snarling dog wah wah, various vintage fuzz pedals and an old flanger.

How’s the current progressive rock scene in Norway?

Lars: right now it’s quite exciting, with bands like Tusmørke, Jordsjø, Weserbergland, Alwanzatar, Arabs in Aspic, Suburban Savages and of course good old White Willow. We played at a progfestival in Bergen, west in Norway, and there were lots of exciting young bands, so i think the prog-scene in Norway is up and coming.

Andreas: The progressive scene in Norway is thriving and a lot of new bands are emerging. more and more people are attending concerts and supporting the scene. During the last couple of years several Norwegian contemporary jazz acts has even released albums inspired by classic progressive rock. It raises the awareness of the progressive music to a greater audience, which is a good thing.

Your neighbors in Sweden had an association dedicated to the promotion of progressive rock. Is there something similar in Norway?

Lars: Yes, there are several small prog-societies around. In Stavanger, up north, Larvik, Hurum, etc.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

Andreas: I think it would be interesting to collaborate with some Norwegian folk musicians. People like Hallvard T. Bjørgum, Kirsten Bråten Berg and the like. They are bearers of an old tradition of Norwegian folk music and masters at what they do. Also it would be exciting to work with a classical composer and a choir sometime.

Do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Andreas: It’s been six years since our last release, so naturally the focus now is on the new album. We very much look forward to release it, but also to share it from the stage as we plan several concerts in the near future. The last weekend of September we’ll do a show in a church in Oslo with Tusmørke, Jordsjø and Alwanzatar. That’ll be fun.

We’re also playing in Chicago in October and then some gigs in Norway before Christmas. We have more planned for early next year, so it’s looking good!