Category Archives: Interviews

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!

Interview with Atte Kemppainen of Dai Kaht

Finnish band Dai Kaht recently released a self-titled album, Dai Kaht, where they combine various progressive rock subgenres, including Zeuhl. Atte Kemppainen discusses the new recording with Progressive Rock Central.

 

Dai Kaht – Dai Kaht

 

How and when was Dai Kaht formed?

I would say it all finally came together in 2013 when our drummer Osmo Saarinen joined our ranks. Myself having no musical training meant it was rather difficult to find the right connections in Kajaani, especially with my outlandish ideas of epic progressive rock.

I had been playing bass for a number of years at this point and, through a couple of jam sessions, found some fitting people to form a sort of prototype band. You could say my music was largely Pink Floyd influenced at this point, but this was about to change radically.

One day a friend linked me a prog medley performed by Tatsuya Yoshida’s “Ruins”. I was kinda familiar with Ruins because of my interest in avant-garde music, but this medley happened to have a clip of “De Futura”.

I looked into this song and there it was Magma!

Getting past the relentless and extremely heavy “De Futura” (which, as an introductory piece, doesn’t capture the essence of Magma very well, in my opinion), I got into the funky rhythms and lightning-fast bass lines of the “Attahk” album. Then came along the revolutionary “Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh”. This is where i felt it got deep.

At first, I found the long pieces challenging and rather cumbersome. I remember picking up my bass and playing along M.D.K just to try and understand the intense energy these ritual-like songs were emitting. Finally, when listening to the “Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogy” in chronological order, I found the essence in “Ẁurdah Ïtah”. It was like a breath of life; there was an incredible positive energy surging through my veins! The Trilogy was complete and i was ready for Magma to reveal its secrets!

Magma pretty much changed my whole perception of musical expression. I had gained something that would stay with me for the rest of my life! In this ecstasy, Dai Kaht was born.

 

Alemaahr Kempah (Atte Kemppainen) – Dai Kaht

 

What does Dai Kaht mean?

Dai Kaht roughly translates as “Great Planet”, a story about the survival of humanity in the age of celestial colonization. The setting of our first album is the space journey towards humanity’s new home planet.

The basic dynamics of the story are woven around the three main characters: “Gnyynlaggör” “Addurrenn” and “Kadett Mozamï”. These characters can be seen as basic archetypes found in almost every story. “Gnyynlaggör”, the chaotic and self centered brute; “Addurrenn”, the lawful righteous saint; and “Kadett Mozamï”, the neutral avatar for the “reader” (listener).

The story takes place on the spaceship “Doover Üouh”, which translates to “Father 5”.

I feel i shouldn’t describe the story in too much detail at this point, because there is a lot to cover, but i can safely say that the main point of the story is the human instinct to survive.

I have considered writing chapters of the Dai Kaht story and publishing them online.

 

 

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

Organic sound, strong melodies, tight rhythm section, non traditional song structures, expressive operatic vocals and shamanistic chanting.

The Dai Kaht story was originally created only for inspirational purposes in order for me to create music out of this world, but in reality, we combine a lot of stuff from different earthbound musical genres.

The overall ideal is honest self expression and total commitment (especially when performing live).

 

Dai Kaht

 

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Genre-wise: Prog Rock, Zeuhl, Jazz fusion, Traditional, Classical… The main aesthetic I strive for is that of 70s prog rock. Somehow, the sounds of that era feel nice and organic, with just the right balance of electric and acoustic.

As far as “Prog Bands” go, you have the classic stuff like: King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Camel, Gentle Giant and Pink Floyd.

On the realm of “Zeuhl”, there are the vastly important acts like: Magma, Zao, Dün, Offering, Weidorje and Koenjihyakkei.

I also draw a lot of inspiration from traditional music such as: Arabic Oud, Indonesian Gamelan, Tuvan throat singing, Shamanic music, Military March music… Basically, all I find interesting or just fascinatingly peculiar.

 

Dai Kaht

 

Just like Magma, you created your own language. How did you come up with a new language and why?

In the very beginning I intended to make instrumental music, but at some point I started chanting and scat singing along. Even without specific lyrics, the addition of the human voice seemed to breathe life into the compositions.

Christian Vander’s “Kobaian language”, of course, served as huge influence. The reason why i didn’t simply sing in “Kobaian” was because I didn’t know how to use it properly. In a way, I felt that by bending these sounds I was tainting something sacred and beautiful.

So the solution for me was to make something of my own, so i started combining words from different languages. The idea was to have the words invoke certain feelings just by hearing them. Whether the feeling was love, hate, lust or just common nausea, the sounds had to express that. This language became known as the “Kolöniel”, the so called common tongue of the age of celestial colonization.

I find it little difficult to talk about the language issue because it makes me feel slightly arrogant. However, I sincerely feel that I created it out of respect and admiration for Magma and Christian Vander.

 

Dai Kaht

 

What’s the current Dai Kaht lineup?

In 2014 our original guitarist Lauri Antikainen moved to another city to pursue musical studies so he was replaced by Ville Sirviö. I had collaborated with Ville in a King Crimson cover band “Project Crimson King” as the singer, so we were definitely speaking the same musical language.

In the beginning, I wanted Dai Kaht to have a couple of more singers, a keyboard player and all sort of stuff, but with Lauri, the so-called “rock band”-format really started working. I think this choice made us a little more distinctive among Zeuhl bands, plus the practical benefits of having a compact group are nice.

Here’s the lineup we are looking at these days:

Atte Kemppainen: vocals, bass

Osmo Saarinen: drums, vocals

Ville Sirviö: lead guitar

Tommi Ruotsalainen: rhythm guitar

 

Willargh Shirow (Ville Sirviö)

 

How are you promoting your music?

Apart from selling our albums on our gigs, we are on Facebook and Youtube.

Our debut album is also available at Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and many more music streaming services. And if we’re lucky, word gets around…

How’s the current progressive rock scene in Finland?

I might not be the best person to ask this because I don’t follow the scene too closely.

There are a couple of bands that basically support the prog rock scene in Finland.

Ultimately, I would like to hear honest and daring music without losing the quality of the compositions.

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

Well i play bass in a cumbia/afro rock cover band called Rahat tai Henki and I would love to sing with Project Crimson King again someday.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes, hopefully we can soon start working on the second Dai Kaht album!

Interview with Bjørn Klakegg of Norwegian Progressive Band Needlepoint

Norwegian progressive rock band Needlepoint released a superb, masterfully recorded album titled Aimless Mary in 2015. We talked to guitarist, vocalist, composer and lyricist Bjørn Klakegg about his band.

How and when was Needlepoint formed?

I had a meeting with Thomas Strønen that resulted in a DAT-tape with a lot of improvisation on it. Some years later I asked him if we should start a band, and then he suggested Nikolai Eilertsen as the bass player. Our first recording was as a trio; some of the tunes based on Thomas and me improvising.

Next album David Wallumrød joined us, and then, on our third and last album, Aimless Mary, Olaf Olsen is playing drums.

What does the band name Needlepoint mean?

In the end, Needlepoint is just a name! But there is a story about how I ended up with that name. A little desperate, after a long search, I turned to my own last name to try to find something within it. “Klakegg” means “the frozen peak of a mountain”, and it led me towards the word “point”. This has to do with focus, and to me, in music, honesty towards who you really want to be as a musician is maybe the most important focus you can have….but I have to repeat…it’s only a name…..When I later found out that Needlepoint also meant embroidery, I had to laugh a little bit, before I thought: That’s cool! Embroidery is art too!

 

 

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

Maybe melodies? I always just improvise them…as my way of composing…singing strange English words on the go…just trying to let the song go astray without me guiding it! I never give myself a goal in those moments of improvising songs…sometimes, I mean, very often they are very boring…and when they work out, I almost always use the whole improvised melody…

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

In the old days, before jazz took me away from it: ELP was my favorite band!! Then I started to listen to Keith Jarrett a lot…loved the album he made with Gary Burton. And I loved, of course, Wes Montgomery, Mahavishnu, then Pat Metheny. And I always loved Joni Mitchell….Paul Simon. Nowadays, as I have started to sing myself, I listen mostly to vocal music. Townes van Zandt, Ry Cooder and many more…

The band has been around since 2010. Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

Our first record is an instrumental. “The Woods Are Not What They Seem” is an album with a lot of improvisation in it, and me having dug up all my fuzz-boxes from the past! I never thought of prog rock when we made it. I guess that record maybe is more likely to be called “jazz rock.”

In the second album, “Outside The Screen”, David Wallumrød joined us in the end of the recording process. My “career” as a singer also started at the end of this process! The album was meant to be another instrumental, but since I almost only listened to vocal music, it was sort of strange not to have vocal elements in my music at all. So I started to sing! For me to start singing was a huge step, and Nikolai was a part of this process. Then I started to make space for vocal melodies into our recorded music, I wrote my first lyrics, not a very common way of making an album, but it worked out.

When we started to record Aimless Mary, this time, all the melodies were ready. The lyrics too. We went to my place in Sweden, on the countryside, stayed there and recorded a week. Wonderful days!

 

 

Your sound has elements of psychedelia, especially the organ. What musical instruments do you use?

Me personally? Only guitar, but I have invented a lot of things to go with the guitar: A fishing reel mounted on the guitar, fingerrests for each finger as a slide, a vibe arm pickup picking up one string at a time. Difficult to explain…but all the things I’ve made are meant to make my music better…not meant for fun, even though it may look strange!! I also built a cello-guitar, but I don’t use it so much any longer.

And what effects do you use?

My regular effects, that never leaves my pedalboard are: A klon, a Moog Drive, a Tube Zipper (Electro Harmonix) an old shin-ei fuzz…from now on a Fairfield drive and a Fairfield Echo. And the beautiful quite new cassette-tape delay made by T-Rex….

How’s the current progressive music scene in Norway?

I don’t know so much about it. But I know there are young bands influenced by. I really didn’t know that progressive music was what I was playing until the response of Aimless Mary. I kind of left the back door of the jazz scene and suddenly some of my old influence seeped into my music…starting to sing had something to do with it…the cooperation with Nikolai also was turning our music towards progressive rock… and I had to smile when at last I found myself in magazines with a lot of tattooed guys with big muscles!!

Needlepoint – Aimless Mary

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

To be honest; the musicians I play with are such great, musical musicians, so I wouldn’t change them with anyone! But Ry Cooder could join us….but then I would sit down and listen to him!

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes! I’m working with a new Needlepoint-album. I have many new songs, but still some work to do before recording it.

I also have another group with three young guys. We are rehearsing new songs, a little more quiet than Needlepoint…more towards pop! No, not really. Just more quiet. Maybe this band would be more suitable for Ry Cooder to sit in with. We’ll try to make an album in the end of this year I hope…the same with Needlepoint.

Discography

The Woods Are Not What They Seem (BJK Music, 2010)
Outside The Screen (BJK Music, 2012)
Aimless Mary (BJK Music, 2015)

Interview with Progressive Music Band iNFiNiEN

Philadelphia-based band iNFiNiEN has released Light at the Endless Tunnel, one of the most exciting progressive music albums in recent months. Their remarkable mix of progressive rock, fusion and world music attracted our attention so here is more about the band.

 

iNFiNiEN – Light at the Endless Tunnel

 How and when was iNFiNiEN formed?

In the fall of 2004, we were roommates and we jammed, which led to us writing songs. Our first gig was at a benefit concert at the World Café live in December 2004. We played our only two songs we had at the time.

What does the band name iNFiNiEN mean?

iNFiNiEN is a made up term from the book “An American Mystic” by Michael Gurian. The full-term was “Homo Infinien” which, in the context of the book, is representative the next evolutionary step of humans.

iNFiNiEN – Photo by Adam Hribar

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

Polyrhythms, jazz harmony, progressive song structures, thoughtful and socially-conscious lyrics, driving bass grooves, exotic tonalities

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Farmers Market, Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, John Coltrane, Meshuggah, Sun Ra, Ali Farka Toure, John McLaughlin, Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Jaco Pastorius, and many, many more (too many to name)

How long has the band been around?

12.5 years

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

We discovered our own sound by jamming together. We recorded our jams and arranged our favorite parts into songs. As we went along, we were aiming to evoke visual impressions in the listeners. Our intention was to go beyond genre. There was also a psychedelic influence, without question. ; )

Your sound has elements of progressive rock, world music, jazz and beyond. How do audiences react to your music?

We’ve been very pleasantly surprised that the majority of our live audiences have viewed it as a breath of fresh air. People have given us a lot of positive support. Some find it “too complicated”, but for the most part, audiences really appreciate our approach.

iNFiNiEN – Photo by Adam Hribar

 

Despite all the media outlets available, most of the music that is played currently by mass media is pop or hip hop. How do you get your music out there?

When playing live, we try to associate with bands who are similar (sometimes hard to find). Online we try and reach out to the progressive and indie music communities or anyone who we think would appreciate it. Since it’s only the four of us trying to get PR for the band, our total reach is pretty limited.

What musical instruments do you use?

Our live set up is drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard. On recordings, we’ve used oud, saz, sitar, bulbul tarang, tabla, organ, exotic percussion sounds, and some Moog.

And what effects do you use?

Guitar: whammy, ambient delays, and reverb
Bass: volume swell, chorus pedal, octaver
Keyboard: sounds including clav, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, some pads, etc.

 

 

How’s the current progressive music scene in your area?

The Tri-state area’s progressive scene is pretty vital. And we’ve been lucky to play with such bands as Consider the Source, Kayodot, Reign of Kindo, Tea Club, Out of the Beard Space, and many others.

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

We don’t have a good answer for this question. On a related note our guitarist Matt Hollenberg has actually been playing music for John Zorn, one of his heroes and main influences, for the last two years in the organ trio Simulacrum with John Medeski and Kenny Grohowski.

 

iNFiNiEN – Photo by Adam Hribar

 

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

We have some things in the works. Stay tuned.

 

 

Discography:

How To Accept (2006)
iNFiNiEN (2009)
Light at the Endless Tunnel

Interview with Gayle Ellett of Djam Karet

The seminal act Djam Karet is one of the most veteran bands in the American progressive music scene. For years, Djam Karet has been crossing the boundaries between progressive rock, electronic music and other genres. We talked to guitarist Gayle Ellett about the band’s background and upcoming projects.

How and when was Djam Karet formed?

GE: We formed back in 1984, in Claremont California. Chuck and I went to the same college, and Henry and Mike lived in town. Chuck was already playing in a band with Mike and Henry called Happy Cancer. And sometimes Chuck and Mike played in a little band I had as well. So we all knew each other (and Claremont is a small town).

Djam Karet

What does Djam Karet mean?

GE: It is an Indonesian word meaning “elastic time” and it refers to how your sense of time changes. We spent all of the first few years only playing entirely improvised music, filled with really long jams of an hour or more. But they always SEEMED like they were only maybe 20 minutes long! Being in the moment, like that, made it hard to judge the time. Chuck found that phrase while reading a book by Harlan Ellison.

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

GE: I personally feel that the essential element of our music is that the other guys in the band better do EXACTLY WHAT I SAY … or I’m gonna smack them upside the head with my guitar! And I have a REALLY heavy guitar too! Just kidding!! (and badly as well)

Actually, we are an instrumental group that focuses on playing the type of music we ourselves want to hear. The band is quite indulgent that way. We are really free to make music anyway we see fit, and to change it up from album to album.

Our music often has a strong sense of groove, and texture and rhythm. Its not all about soloing (even though we have a TON of solos in our music). It’s more about trying to create great evolving compositions that move and grow, with the band as our vehicle, and the studio as our home. Basically, I aspire to someday be the peer of my idols. And Djam Karet is one way in which I try to achieve that goal.

Djam Karet in 1985

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

GE: When I was 8 years old, and I first heard the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s album it completely floored me! I thought “WOW! Music can be as real or impactful as a movie or TV. Music can really take you on a visual journey.” And the creators of such works are like Gods, creating new worlds of wonder. I thought, and still do, that there is nothing better you can do, then to create music!

And I am also really influenced by the music of my teenage-years, the 1970’s. Groups like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, ELP, Gentle Giant, and the Southern Rock bands like the Allman Brothers, Lynard Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and then later groups like Soft Machine, National Health, Gong, Hatfield, and the darker groups like Present, Magma, Art Zoyd, Weidorje, and Universe Zero.

The band has been around for many years. Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

GE: For many years … all of our rehearsals and gigs were totally improvised. No pre-determined anything, just tune up and play. And our first release “No Commercial Potential” was improvised in-studio to tape. We recorded about 9 jams, and put the 3 best ones on that release. Later, we bought some cool keyboards to use for textures and weird sounds, and as we began to incorporate them into our music, we slowly added more structure to accommodate them.

Then, slowly over time, our music became more structured. The albums “Still No Commercial Potential”, and also “The Trip”, are totally improvised as well. But many of our albums have quite a lot of organized structure to them. We often make each new album a bit different, to keep our interest high. So it all varies from record to record. Some are much more electronic, some are rather hard rock.

 

Djam Karet – The Trip

 

What musical instruments do you use?

GE: Our band is basically two guitars, and bass and drums. But we also use a TON of classic keyboards, and other exotic effects. In Djam Karet I mostly play guitars and keyboards, and some Greek bouzouki. I also record a lot of nature sounds from outside my house and various other locations around town, and then incorporate them into our music.

 

Chuck and Gayle at Crescendo Festival

 

And what effects do you use?

GE: Generally, when I record my guitars I don’t use any effects. I just plug it in, and use the tube amps, and the way I play it, to get my tones. I do occasionally like analog delays and SmallStone chorus pedals, and for jamming with friends, I’ve been loving my Strymon Deco pedal. In the recording studio, for mixing, I’ve been loving the SoundToys EchoBoy and Decapitator. They’re great.

 

Djam Karet studio in Claremont

 

recording studio

 

What’s the current Djam Karet lineup?

GE: Everyone that was ever in the band, is still in the band! That includes the four founding members: Chuck Oken jr, Henry Osborne, Mike Henderson, and myself. And also Aaron Kenyon and Mike Murray.

All six of us play (to varying degrees) on the new album: Sonic Celluloid.

 

Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson

 

bassist Henry J. Osborne

 

Mike Henderson and Aaron Kenyon at Crescendo

 

Mike Murray at Crescendo

 

Tell us about the upcoming album Sonic Celluloid.

GE: Even though Sonic Celluloid is an instrumental album, it is all about how sound can be like cinema, how music can be like a movie. Many people have told us that listening to our music, is like seeing “mini-movies in your mind.” And on Sonic Celluloid, we really focused in on this cinematic aspect of our sound. Not “soundtrack-type” music, but music as film. Hence the title.

 

Djam Karet – Sonic Celluloid

 

On this release, everyone contributed as much or as little as they wanted, with the huge bulk of the work being done mostly by me and Chuck. Chuck wrote the foundational synth chords and sequences that form the backbone of much of the music, by utilizing his giant collection of modular synths and sequencers. And I then wrote all of the melodies and played all of the guitar solos, and Minimoog & Mellotron & Rhodes and Hammond, and mixed and produced it.

With Sonic Celluloid, we’ve created a sound that has more melodic sections, more classic keyboards, and more acoustic instruments, then any of our previous albums. And its also the best produced and best sounding record we’ve done so far. It’s also very “accessible”, and it’s gonna be a fan-favorite, for sure. So we are all REALLY happy with it!

 

Chuck’s modular synthesizer

 

The band runs a label called Firepool Records that releases recordings by Djam Karet and other artists. How do you select the artists and which are the most recent recordings?

GE: Basically, it’s Chuck and I picking projects we like, that are usually by friends we know. We did the three Herd Of Instinct albums, the Spoke Of Shadows CD, an improvised album by my side-band Hillmen, and an album by Chuck Oken jr, and Mike Henderson.

 

Spoke of Shadows – Spoke of Shadows

 

Do you have any upcoming albums on Firepool?

GE: I think we might be releasing the newest Herd Of Instinct album, due out in 2017. I play on it some, and the great Mark Cook oversees all of the compositions and details. He’s awesome! Other than that, I am not sure, we’ll see what happens!

How’s the current progressive rock scene in your area?

GE: I have no idea, really. We live a very isolated life, and we don’t interact with many other Rock bands here in LA. Actually, we end up doing more stuff with other Electronic musicians. And Los Angeles is a horrid place for live music. Yes, there are a million bars, but most of them never ever have live music. It’s a pay-to-play city. It’s really weird. Yes, all famous bands come through our big metropolis, and you can go see them at a huge venue. But the city itself is not very pro-live music (in my view, at least).

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

GE: I don’t really know. I am a huge fan of Brian Eno. I love Bill Laswell’s work. And Daniel Lanois. Who knows?

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

GE: There is another Djam Karet album currently in the works. It is partially done, but still has a long, long way to go towards completion, and probably won’t be ready until Late 2018. It will be even more acoustic, with more ethnic instruments, then any of our previous albums.

And also some of the guys in the band have their own musical side-projects coming up, to be announced soon.

So stay tuned!!! It’s gonna be fun year!

Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about our music!! We greatly appreciate it!

 

 

 

Discography:

No Commercial Potential…And Still Getting the Ladies (1985)
The Ritual Continues (1987)
Reflections from the Firepool (Cuneiform, 1989)
Burning the Hard City (1991)
Suspension & Displacement (Cuneiform, 1991)
Collaborator (1994)
The Devouring (Cuneiform, 1997)
Still No Commercial Potential (1998)
Live at Orion (Cuneiform, 1999)
Ascension (2001)
New Dark Age (Cuneiform,, 2001)
A Night for Baku (Cuneiform, 2003)
Live At NEARfest 2001 (2004)
Recollection Harvest (Cuneiform, 2005)
The Heavy Soul Sessions (2010)
The Trip (2013)
Regenerator 3017 (2014)
Swamp of Dreams (2015)
Sonic Celluloid (2017)

official website: www.DjamKaret.com

Interview with Italian progressive Rock Artist Marco Ragni

Italian multi-instrumentalist Marco Ragni recently released a superb new album titled “Land of Blue Echoes.” Ragni is deeply inspired by psychedelic and progressive rock. He talks to Progressive Rock Central about his music and career.

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

Marco Ragni – The main element of my music is emotion. I always try to write and play what is in my heart… Then I love so much to create a landscape as a painter while describes your imagination in a painting. I’m an impressionist! I love to melting acoustic and electric elements. My music is passionate as me.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

My main musical influences are: Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, PFM, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Steven Wilson, Motorpsycho, David Crosby, The Beatles, Gentle Giant, Ozric Tentacles and all the progressive and psychedelic scene of sixties and seventies.. I listen to this music since I was a child.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

My first recordings was funny and totally experimental!! I used a four analogical tracks with cassette… I’ve composed a lot of psychedelic songs. My evolution was both from the point of view of the recordings and the composition. I studied a lot, especially, how to compose a song, how to record a song and how to mixing a song. I tried to use my knowledge to get what I was trying musically. Sometimes I will have succeeded!

Marco Ragni - Land of Blue Echoes
Marco Ragni – Land of Blue Echoes

Unlike other Italian ­artists, you sing in English. Why English and not Italian?

Because I wanted to be international and ’cause I always loved English as the language used in music. Sometimes I write in my language for example as “Canto d’amore” of my last album “Land of Blue Echoes” but usually I love English. Maybe one day I’ll record an entire album in Italian language.. What do you think about it?…

From my point of view, Italy has one of the finest and most original progressive rock scenes in the world. Why do you think Italy produces so many first-class artists?

I don’t know really, but I think Italians have a great taste that comes from our “culture of beauty” and from the Opera. We have many great Conservatories (Schools of music) and people are very creative and crazy! I think it’s because we need to express in music all that is beautiful around us, but there’s also a magical way that I can’t understand…

Marco Ragni
Marco Ragni

What instruments do you use?

Mainly I use guitars (especially acoustic 6 and 12 strings) and keyboards. I love so much mellotron and bass and sometimes I play bouzouki (a typical Greek or Irish instrument, I use Greek), lap steel guitar and ukulele (baritone). Rarely play the flute..

What effects do you use?

I’m a slave of delays, reverbs and phasers! All from Boss. I love so much to use a “backward delay”, a must for all the lovers of psychedelic music of 60s. It sounds like the Beatles’ Tomorrow never knows” or Hendrix’s “1983” or “Axis bold as love” for example . I use this delay to create a backward guitar, especially when I play lead. It’s funny!

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

I would like to have David Gilmour, Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson or Jonathan Wilson… But I think would be cool to have any musician of the psychedelic period.. It’s a dream, my dream. I’m trying to have one in my next album.. By the way, an EP called “California” is coming out (early October) and I’m also working on a new album. A concept prog rock Opera with a single 50-minute suite.. See ya soon folks!!

Discography:

In My Eyes (Crow Records, 2010), this first studio album was remastered with bonus tracks.

Live at the house of thunder, with the Velvet Cactus Band (Crow Records, 2011)

1969 (Crow Records, 2011)

Lilac Days (Crow Records, 2012)

Psychedelicious (Crow Records, 2013)

On Air – Live Unplugged (Crow Records, 2013)

Mother from the sun (Melodic Revolution Records, 2014)

Hidden Sun (Melodic Revolution Records, 2015), contains alternate takes and demo versions taken from the “Mother from the sun” recording sessions

The trip goes on – live 2015 (Melodic Revolution Records, 2015)

The unconventional and unusual journey through the 21st schizophrenic century and beyond, EP (Melodic Revolution Records, 2016)

Land of Blue Echoes (Melodic Revolution Records, 2016)

Official website: www.marcoragni.com

Interview with Italian Progressive Music Band Syndone

Progressive Rock Central talks with Italian composer and keyboard master Nik Comoglio, founder of Syndone, one of Europe’s finest progressive rock bands.

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

NC – The most important thing is the interaction between rock and classic. Syndone has always tried to merge this two components of music as best as it can, so that a real “Symphonic Rock Sound” could born. By my experience I’ve noticed that people likes more when this two genres are well defined in the album. So when there is “classical” it should be “very clean”; when there is “rock” it should be much dirty. This formula works better than a studied melt like we did in “La Bella è la Bestia”.

Then the other important element goes through the composition and the orchestration. Syndone is trying to rejuvenate and improve the progressive style using a clear defined musical score in which the “obbligato parts” are strictly the base for the whole sound. I think that, in Eros & Thanatos, the orchestra has been very important to drive our music towards a real symphonic rock album.

Last thing: the vintage keyboards! The sound of the old synthesizers recorded with new microphones and new recording techniques have helped us to create and define a huge new sound even without electric guitar.

Syndone
Syndone

AR – Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

NC – My musical influences come mainly from Jazz and Classical music. When I was a kid I always listened to my father’s old jazz LPs… then I progressed to the classical and the contemporary music discovering Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Ravel, Webern, Berg, Berio and so on; from there I moved towards progressive and rock music. Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Gentle Giant, PFM, ELP, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Queen… I grew up with them! They opened my mind to the melodic texture while jazz and classical drove me to learn the harmony and the unconventional music signatures.

AR – Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

NC – We must go back to 1989. We were in the middle of the “New Prog” revival. I had a phone call from Beppe Crovella of Arti & Mestieri who asked me if I had some progressive material to recording. After a brief meeting with him I put together some ideas which were good at that time. Then a band was needed so I asked for a drummer and a bass man in order to form a “live trio line up”. We went to Electromantic Studio and in around a week (after a quick rehearsal) we made the album “Spleen” (1990). After two years in 1992 we recorded “Inca” always released by Electromantic.

 

Syndone - Spleen
Syndone – Spleen

 

After “Inca” we disbanded for some personal reasons as it happens in the most of the split groups but, first of all, for several problems and big arguments connected with the production of that period.

 

Syndone - Inca
Syndone – Inca

 

My music evolution began as an autodidact when I was fifteen; then, years later, I progressed studying piano and composition with Maestro Azio Corghi. I loved to analyze Bach and Mozart’s masterpieces scores and the opera of the most composers of early 1900s as well. My first gig was at the age of seventeen in a rock cover band.

AR – Your most recent albums are all concept albums. How do you come up with these ideas?

NC – It’s Rik’s [Riccardo Ruggeri] job mainly… He creates the lyrics and the album’s concept theme. I generally give him the rough basic line of a tune (in midi files) during the preproduction, letting the music inspires him to a new song or an idea of a new song. So that’s it! He always writes the lyrics very close to the impressions that my music evokes in me; this is the way we’ve been working together from Melapesante… we never changed because it works!

 

 

AR – In my opinion, Italy has one of the finest and most original progressive rock scenes in the world. Why do you think Italy produces so many first-class artists?

That’s true! Italy have had a lot of great progressive bands, especially in the “age d’or” (around the mid of ‘70ies) in which to be a progster meant to be an innovator, to be among the vanguard. Anyway, in Italy there has always been a big classical musical background among musicians (especially inherent to melody) coming naturally from the opera, from melodrama and from popular music. I think that this ancient kind of melodic music have influenced through the years the most part of Italian musicians who late have dedicated themselves to jazz, pop and progressive music.

AR – What keyboards and other instruments do you use?

NC – I generally use vintage keyboards: Roland Juno 60, 106, Jx8P; Wurlitzer and Rhodes electric pianos; Hohner Clavinet D6; Hammond A100/M102; Minimoog model D (or the new Voyager); Oberheim Matrix 1000; and in last album (Eros & Thanatos) a new Dave Smith Prophet 8. I like the huge sound!

 

 

AR – And what effects do you use?

NC – I never let the sound of my keyboards clean. Generally I love make my sound and “to dirty” it with effects like phasers, distortion and fuzz pedals. Even the amplifiers are important for the final sound… I have an old Marshall JCM 800 combo and a vintage Fender Twin.

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

NC – Speaking for myself, more than a band to work with I would prefer a single artist to work with and to create something new… I always would love to work with David Byrne of the Talking Heads.

AR – Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

NC – Not for the moment… we just came out with a new album (that’s Eros & Thanatos) which took two years of work. Now we are looking to the promo gigs.

 

Syndone - Eros & Thanatos
Syndone – Eros & Thanatos

 

Discography:

Spleen (Vinyl Magic Records, 1992)
Inca (Vinyl Magic Records, 1993)
Melapesante (Electromantic Music, 2010)
La Bella è la Bestia – The Beauty Is The Beast (AMS, 2012)
Odysséas (AMS, 2014)
Eros & Thanatos (Fading Records, 2016)