Category Archives: Interviews

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)

Interview with Emerging Fusion Violinist Sergio Poli

Argentine violin virtuoso Sergio Poli recently released a jazz-rock fusion album titled Luna de Hielo. He talked to Progressive Rock Central about the new album and his musical background.

When did you start learning to play music?

I come from a family of musicians, starting from my grandfather and my father who were bassists. Basically, a classical orchestra background but also with some forays into tango and, in the case of my grandfather, jazz. So practically naturally I found myself taking violin lessons at 7. I think I didn’t choose it; it was rather a suggestion by my father (I already had an older brother who played the cello). But what I do remember is that it was love at first sight. That as soon as I took my first steps, I knew that it would be the instrument that would accompany me all my life.

How many violins do you play?

I have a very old violin, from the early nineteenth century, which is what I use to sound “acoustic”, and I usually use two more, one with a Barcus Berry brand bridge (with microphone) installed, and an electric 5-string manufactured in Argentina by Urbanstrings. I also use a bow by Italy-based Argentine luthier Carlos Roberts and one made out of carbon.

Sergio Poli
Sergio Poli

What effects do you use?

Compressor, overdrive, wah wah, chorus, phase, octaver, delay, reverb, loop station. I hope I don’t forget one, haha!

Your latest album is titled Luna de Hielo (Moon Ice). What’s the story behind the title?

Just like I’m keeping things loose to use when composing (it could be a melodic gesture, a rhythm, a succession of chords), say, like a notepad of ideas that I reach for when I need them, sometimes I do the same with ideas for titles of songs. In some cases the musical pieces are born with the title already defined, in others it’s not.

There is an old tale in the book Misteriosa Buenos Aires by Argentine writer Manuel Mujica Lainez, “La escalera de mármol”, (The marble staircase) where the character is the alleged son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, who didn’t die in 1795, and instead the legend says he came to Argentina’s shores. In that story there is an image that struck me very hard, the author says something like the king’s son went to the marble staircase and “the dauphine’s dogs howl at the ice moon”. That’s all; I really liked that image of an icy moon in a clear sky.

Sergio Poli Ensamble - Luna de Hielo
Sergio Poli Ensamble – Luna de Hielo

Which musicians did you work with to carry out the project?

Basically the ensemble with which we have been playing for several years: Pablo Murgier Pazdera on keyboards, Maxi Abal on guitars, Jonatan Schenone on bass, Daniel Viera on drums and Potolo Abrego on percussion.

If anyone is interested in buying the album, where can they purchase it?

It is available in digital format on iTunes, Amazon, and several other online shopping platforms, and also on Spotify. As far as the physical disk, you can get it at some record stores in Argentina.

Argentina has produced very high level fusion musicians. How is the scene now?

If by fusion we understand a wide net, there are many composers and groups carrying out absolutely new projects, some closer to folk rhythms, such as Aca Seca Trio or Cuarto Elemento; some more linked to tango, like the Diego Schissi quintet; or something closer to jazz or the River Plate feel, like what Juan Pollo Raffo is doing. And this is just a quick list; the outlook is encouraging.

If you could bring together musicians or your ideal groups, who would call?

If we talk about fusion, let’s go to the obvious, those groups that marked directions in the 70s, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever. Not to mention the father of contemporary violin named Jean-Luc Ponty.

What music are you listening to now?

I am very disorganized with my listening. These days I’m listening a lot to Radiohead’s new album, or a band that I love which is Primus. But as I said, I go back and forth all the time to what I listen to, and I can listen to both the tango scene as well as Italian opera. Do not forget it was my first love, and I worked 30 years in the Orchestra of the Teatro Argentino de La Plata.

What do you like to do during your free time?

Read and listen to music. Traveling with my family.

Sergio Poli
Sergio Poli

What country or countries would you like to visit?

I played twice in Spain but I’d like to go with more time to explore a little more; a country that has fascinated me. And I don’t know Germany, England, France or Italy, to name a few.

If someone traveled to La Plata, what sites you recommend to go sightseeing, to eat or listen to music?

There is substantial cultural activity in La Plata and it is a city full of cultural centers and bars where music is made.

“Ciudad Vieja” is a traditional place with over ten years making good music. Fine cuisine, and above all, very good sound. In Ciudad Vieja is where we recorded the CD live Ice Moon.

“La Mulata, bar y arte” is another option.

There is a bar called “Rey Lagarto” (Lizard King) in which every Thursday they develop the “Ciclomovil Jazz” in La Plata. Another place with an exceptional scene.
And there is an underground rock joint called “Pura Vida”, which is now going through some building code problems with the city. It is a place that accommodates all expressions more or less linked to rock. Hopefully soon they’ll again operate at full capacity.

What other projects do you have?

I have the Sergio Poli Quinteto de Cuerdas (Sergio Poli String Quintet), which I define as “popular music in academic format” because with a classical format we perform a wide repertoire that ranges from tango to rock, along with Egberto Gismonti, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, etc.

Discography:

Los Salieris de Django (2002) with Cordal Swing.
Grappelliana (2005) with Cordal Swing.
Señales de Humo (2007)
Y en eso estamos (2009)
Canícula Metrópolis (2012)
Luna de Hielo (2016)

Interview with Progressive Rock Musician Nad Sylvan

Vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Nad Sylvan is currently one of the finest singers in the international progressive rock scene. In addition to his recent work with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, Nad recently released a superb solo album titled “Courting The Widow” that was one of the finest progressive rock albums of 2015.

Nad talks to Progressive Rock Central in this exclusive interview:

Can you give our readers a brief history on how you started your musical career?

I sought to myself to the piano when I was about 5. Started to compose maybe a year later. I joined various bands in my teen years and after a while drifted into progressive rock with stacks of keyboards and mikes around me. Apparently I never got out!

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

Melody, harmony and rhythm. Arrangements that supports the lyrical content.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

I know people think it’s generally Genesis, but it’s so much more than that. Everything that rocked in the 1970s plus lots of soul music.

Nad Sylvan
Nad Sylvan

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

I recorded a single when I was 19, a total Genesis rip off. But that’s fine, I think I was excused being so young and with such high ideals. Two years later that band, which was called Avenue, broke up. I drifted into fusion, jazz rock and so on in the early 80s and formed my own band. We never played any gigs, but I learned a lot during that time.

In 1984 I joined a band that became “One By One”, a funk rock band in the same kind of musical hybrid style as Prince, Scritti Politti and etc. We made it as far as being the supporting act to Lionel Ritchie in 1987. I went solo after that and recorded a couple of unsuccessful solo albums until I met Bonamici in 2003. We formed “Unifaun”, recorded an album, which is now my musical platform. That’s when I started to get some kind of recognition. In 2008 Roine Stolt contacted me, we made three albums and in 2012 I heard from Steve Hackett.

What’s the concept behind your latest album, Courting the Widow?

Death and the sea.

Along with Italy, Sweden has produced some of the finest progressive rock groups in recent years. Why do you think Sweden generates so much talent?

It wasn’t always like that. I think the Internet opened up so many possibilities for everybody, let alone for myself, and the Swedes were very quick to latch onto this new digital world.

There seems to be a dark theme in the lyrics of many Nordic progressive rock artists. Why do you think so many acts have this gloomy side? Would the music be different if it was composed in sunnier and warmer places like Tenerife or the Costa del Sol?

I think you just came up with the best answer yourself.

Although you are known as a vocalist, you also play various musical instruments and you do it quite well. Tell us about your musical training.

I taught myself everything I know. Singing is my key element, second comes piano and keyboards. The rest I do on my recordings such as guitars, takes an awful lot of time for me to get it right.

Your most recent solo album features a lot of beautiful mellotron-sounding work. What does the mellotron represent to you?

Fragile moods.

Nad Sylvan
Nad Sylvan

How did you connect with guitarist Roine Stolt?

He got in touch with me after he’d heard Unifaun back in 2008.

And how did you link up with Steve Hackett?

Same thing there four years later. But I was also recommended through Win Voelklein who promotes the Night of the Prog festival in Germany, where I have performed three times now.

How do audiences react to your versions of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis songs?

Nowadays they are alright with it. They have allowed me to grow into the role.
It wasn’t easy at first.

On April 19, 2016 you’ll be performing as part of the Steve Hackett band in Durham, North Carolina which is where we are based. What material will the band be presenting there?

The same show we did in the autumn. 50% Hackett solo stuff, 50% Genesis.

In addition to your solo work, you are currently involved in other projects like Agents of Mercy. What’s the focus of Agents of Mercy?

I am currently not involved in anything but Hackett and my solo career. Agents of Mercy has not released anything since 2011 (The Black Forest), and we haven’t played together since 2012.

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

Basically the people that play on my album “Courting The Widow“. Especially Nick Beggs and Doane Perry. But also Jonas Reingold is a fabulous player and a good friend.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

I am working on a follow up album to “The Widow” right now. That will take me at least a year.

Discography:

The Life Of A Housewife (1997)
Sylvanite (2003)
Unifaun (2008)
The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight (2009), with Agents of Mercy
The Power Of Two (2010), with Agents of Mercy and Karmakanic
Dramarama (2010), with Agents of Mercy
The Black Forest (2011), with Agents of Mercy
Genesis Revisited II (2012), with Steve Hackett
Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith (2013), with Steve Hackett
Genesis Revisited: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2014), with Steve Hackett
Courting The Widow (2015)

Official website: www.nadsylvan.com

Interview with Virtuoso Guitarist Jane Getter

Jazz-rock guitarist and composer Jane Getter has attracted a lot of attention with her new album On. Getter fuses, rock, jazz and other elements, delivering a fabulous progressive rock mix. Getter talks to Progressive rock Central about and her background.

Can you give our readers a brief history on how you got involved with music?

My first instrument was piano which I started at around age 7 or 8. I then switched to guitar after spying on my sister’s guitar lessons. My parents finally gave in and gave me lessons. I stopped for a few years and then picked it up again in high school. It was in college that I became very serious about playing, and practiced 6 hours a day at one point. I chose to make it my career then.

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

I have a very eclectic taste in music, from rock to classical, world to gospel, metal to blues, funk and R&B, etc. It all comes together in my writing and playing.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

My influences have changed over the years: Crosby Stills and Nash, Led Zeppelin, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Alan Holdsworth, John Coltrane, more recently King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, Animals As Leaders, Opeth, Periphery.

 

Jane Getter
Jane Getter

 

Are there any specific guitarists that inspired you to play guitar?

Bonnie Raitt, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and then a friend of mine took me to see Joe Pass play solo and I was totally blown away and said “I want to do that”. Others are Wes Montgomery, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Robben Ford.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

I started out playing folk and blues on acoustic guitar. I then started playing jazz on a hollow body guitar and did that for a number of years. Then I started getting into jazz-rock fusion and got my first solid body guitar. From there it’s been a gradual evolution into where I am today.

My first recording which never got released was a straight ahead jazz record (all originals) called “The Weaver”. Then in 1998, my first album came out on Lipstick Records called “Jane”. It’s a jazz-rock and funk fusion record with a couple of smooth jazz songs. “See Jane Run” is a straight up jazz-rock fusion album. “Three” combines jazz-rock and prog rock.

 

 

Jane Getter - Jane
Jane Getter – Jane

 

Jane Getter - See Jane Run
Jane Getter – See Jane Run

 

Jane Getter - Three
Jane Getter – Three

 

What’s the concept behind On, your new album?

My style has been evolving over the years and I feel ON to be my strongest work yet. My eclectic taste in music always enters into my writing and I feel this album is more focused than my previous work. The music for this album is what I am hearing and digging now.

 

Jane Getter Premonition - On
Jane Getter Premonition – On

 

You have brought together some of the finest jazz-rock fusion musicians. How did you connect with the current members of your band?

Adam Holzman is my husband and he’s played in my band and co-produced with me since my first album “Jane”. I’d been a fan of Chad Wackerman’s since I heard the Allan Holdsworth records he’s on and we had done some shows together in LA [Los Angeles] a few times before the recording happened. Bryan Beller is the perfect player for this music and he and Adam had done a project together previously.

Alex Skolnick and I play in another project together and he brought the perfect combination of metal, rock and jazz to this project that I wanted. I had been a fan of Corey Glover ever since I first heard him in Living Colour and I was so thrilled to have him on this record. Theo Travis and Adam have worked together in Steven Wilson’s band and he was perfect for what I wanted also.

 

Jane Getter Premonition
Jane Getter Premonition

 

What guitar types and models are you playing now?

My main guitar is made by Peekamoose Custom Guitars, which is a small guitar shop out of New York. It’s their model 1 made specifically for me – a Strat-style with humbuckers. I also play a 1971 Fender telecaster, a custom Strat from when I was with Fender about 10 years ago. The acoustics I’m using now are: Yamaha AC3R, 1972 Martin D28, 1982 Ovation nylon string.

Do you keep most of your previous guitars?

I have a few that I keep because I love but haven’t been using much lately, especially my 1953 Gibson ES175.

Is there an all-time favorite guitar?

I love them all, but my Peekamoose has become my favorite now.

What guitar effects do you use?

For distortion, mostly my Fuchs amp distortion, but also a Maxon overdrive, Seymour Duncan Dirty Deed, 805 Overdrive, Lava Box, Rocktron Metal Planet Jam Delay Lama, Boss Digital Delay, Tone Concepts Distillery, Vox Wah Wah, Korg Volume Pedal, TC Electronics stereo chorus, flanger, sometimes the MXR Dynacomp compressor.

 

 

Do you play any other musical instruments?

I play a little bass, drums and keyboards.

What music are you currently listening to?

Animals As Leaders, Periphery, John McLaughlin, Steven Wilson, Opeth, Alan Holdsworth, Marvin Sapp, Oumou Sangare, Nine Inch Nails

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

I would love to collaborate with Herbie Hancock, Steven Wilson, Mikael Ackerfeldt, Jeff Beck.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

Right now I’m mainly focused on getting my new project Jane Getter Premonition out to the world. I still play in a few other projects like the three guitar project with Alex Skolnick and Bruce Arnold, called Skolnick, Getter, Arnold – previously called Eclectic Electric Guitar Trio. Jane Getter Premonition is my main thing at the moment.

Interview with Chronotope Project

Dawn Treader by Chronotope Project is one of the best electronic music releases of 2015. Progressive Rock Central talks to multi-instrumentalist and composer Jeffrey Ericson Allen, the artist behind the project.

Why did you name your current endeavor Chronotope Project?

The term “chronotope” was coined by the Russian philologist Mikhail Bakhtin, from the Greek words for time (chronos) and space (topos), and refers to their confluence in works of art and literature. It felt like an ideal descriptor for the music I compose, which has strong reference points to spiritual, literary and mythological/ archetypal memes. There is an additional sense of the transcendence of space and time, an endeavor to discover and express the universal which lies behind particulars.

Chronotope Project studio
Chronotope Project studio

What drew you to music?

I’ve been a musician all of my life, starting at the age of eight, when I began cello studies with my grandfather. When I was young, there was always music playing in my family home, mostly classical. I longed to know where it came from, what it was, how I could be a part of it. I cannot remember a time when my head was not filled with melodies, rhythms, and musical gestures. Although I am also dedicated to language, philosophy and literature, music begins where words fail, emotionally moving, intellectually stimulating, connecting directly with the body. Music is my lifetime lover, an unfailingly inspiring muse, the water in which I swim.

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

My style, while still falling roughly into the ambient or space music genre, might more accurately be described as “contemplative art music.” Form figures more prominently in my work than in the generally more diffuse, stream-of-consciousness pieces of my fellow ambient composers (not a criticism–I love much of this type of music as a listener). You can find many classical forms present in my work: theme and variation, passacaglia, rondo, sonata. Increasingly, I have been tightening up on form and relying less on pure texture or ambience.

In my current phase of creative work, I am making pieces with relatively complex, almost orchestral textures. As to elements, there is frequently an underlying sequenced ostinato figure, an element of “fire,” scintillation or almost molecular quickening. This lends some suggestion of the Berlin School style to the work.

The “earth” element (besides its selective appearance in acoustic and sampled percussion) is established with a foundation in the bass, presented either with a layered drone or a bass line suggesting the underlying harmonic progression. This may be felt as a slowly undulating shift or oscillation between stable and unstable tones of the tonic.

Harmonic sonorities floating over these bass tones, painted with various layered pads, are frequently colored with suspended fourth or unresolved seventh and ninth chords. These kinds of harmonies evoke mystery, and a feeling of searching or longing in the composition.

My melodic lines commonly develop in very long, slow phrases, with substantial “breathing” between them. A second or third line often plays in counterpoint, weaving common melodic motifs in dialogue with the central melodic voice. These constitute, together, what I think of as the “water” or emotional element to the piece.

The element of air or ether appears with the atmospheric textures that surround and permeate all of these other layers. These textures vary from natural soundscapes, such as wind and water, to more abstract synthetic ambient sounds that identify the work in the ambient electronic genre.

Jeffrey Allen
Jeffrey Allen

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Individual composers who have been deeply influential include Erik Satie, Klaus Schulze, Brian Eno, Robert Rich, Maurice Ravel, Arvo Pärt, Ralph Towner, and J.S. Bach. Various world music traditions have also informed much of my music making, including Indian raga, traditional Japanese music, West African rhythms, and Balinese gamelan, to name a few. Over the years, I have made a fairly considerable study of musical scales and modes as they appear both in Western and non-Western musics, and these inform a good deal of my compositions.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

An early acoustic /electronic album was “Vanish into Blue” (1992). This eclectic album bridged new acoustic, world and space music styles, and featured acoustic cello, sax, tabla, and silver flute as well as an array of electronic instruments. It was featured several times on Hearts of Space and received very favorable reviews. I composed for, arranged and recorded two albums with the acoustic ensemble Confluence, “Sanctuary: Romances for Guitar and Cello,” and “Amber Moon.”

While these albums also involved a certain amount of synthesizer sweetening, they were primarily acoustic. I played cello, recorders and keyboards on these albums. I also gained some facility with production techniques and mixing, as I was the primary recording engineer on these projects.

An acoustic / electronic CD of music I composed for the mask drama The Descent of Inanna appeared in 1998. This was an exploration into mythological / archetypal imagery that has become a persistent theme throughout my later work.

As Chronotope Project, I released four albums prior to signing with Spotted Peccary Music: “Solar Winds,” “Chrysalis,” “Event Horizon” and “Dharma Rain.” All of these recordings are available through CD Baby and Bandcamp, and continue to receive periodic airplay.

These albums have traced a progression from more traditional space music to the more eclectic and classically inspired style of the present, involving increasingly subtle use of texture, more counterpoint and other classical forms and procedures, and a more unified personal style.

Do you ever take your music to the stage or is Chronotope Project a studio concept?

At this point in time, Chronotope Project is strictly a studio-oriented proposition. Given the number of simultaneous tracks involved, I would be hard-pressed to recreate any of my compositions on stage. I won’t discount the possibility of another incarnation of my work that more readily permits of live performance, but for the moment, no real-time presentations are being offered.

 

Chronotope Project - Dawn Treader (Spotted Peccary Music, 2015)
Chronotope Project – Dawn Treader (Spotted Peccary Music, 2015)

 

You play acoustic and electronic music instruments. What instruments do you play and which do you like best?

Cello is my primary instrument, and will always be my first love in music. Ironically, it has played–thus far–a fairly limited role in Chronotope Project. I have a beautiful 1917 Steinway grand piano, which I love to play, and study regularly with a teacher. I also have a nice collection of flutes, recorders and Irish whistles, which do figure prominently in recent recorded works, as well as a Japanese thirteen string koto, the long zither which appears on one track (“Basho’s Journey”) on “Dawn Treader.”

I play a variety of hand percussion instruments, including djembe, frame drum, dumbek and the very versatile hybrid acoustic / electronic Korg Wavedrum.

Bells,Tibetan bowls, zils and chimes are also an important part of my acoustic toolkit, as I prize their crystalline tone and quality. I have been making increased use of the 24-stringed harpejji, an instrument akin to the lap steel guitar, played primarily by tapping on its frets. That instrument figures prominently in several releases to come.

Continuum and harpejji
Continuum and harpejji

What type of keyboards did you use at the beginning of your career?

My first electronic keyboards, acquired in the early 80s, were a Sequential Circuits Six-Trak, an Arp 2600 analog synthesizer, and a little later, a Korg T1 workstation (the only one of these vintage instruments I retain). I learned something from each of them, including elementary sound design, and each afforded me many hours of exploration and discovery. The Arp, in particular, required me to learn the basics of analog synthesis, as sounds are built up by connecting various modules with patch cords and adjusting knobs and sliders.

When digital synthesizers supplanted analog synths, something was gained and something lost, and the current renaissance in modular analog synthesis reflects a recognition of the remarkable versatility of these instruments.

When I have more cash on hand, I plan to put together my own modular rig. It’s tremendous fun, and appeals to my nerdy side, but the primarily, it’s the rich palette of analog sound that appeals to me now.

What keyboards are you currently using? Do you still have some of your earlier keyboards?

My flagship synthesizer is the Haken Continuum Fingerboard, which features a soft neoprene continuous-pitch playing surface and lends the possibility of much expressiveness to synthesizer performances. It is prominently featured on all of my recordings as Chronotope Project. But these days, most of my “keyboards” are virtual instruments, of which I have a great many. I do keep the Korg T1 mostly for its lovely weighted action, as well as a Yamaha S90ES, which also has a good feel, and many useful sounds as well. A Roland JV-1010 sound module provides a large variety of sounds and samples, and until just recently, I used an Oberheim Matrix-1000 for analog fattening.

And what type of effects or other electronic devices do you use?

All of my effects, too numerous to mention, are virtual now–no outboard reverbs, delays or compressors are in my rig. I do enjoy using a Korg “Kaosilator Pro” as a midi controller for various purposes, and employ a number of iPad apps as well.

How do you see the progressive electronic music scene in the United States?

It’s a mixed bag–both in terms of quality of work and diversity of style–and with the wide availability of outstanding production platforms and instruments, the various genres involved (IDM, ambient, electronic art music, etc.) are likely to diverge to the point at which the only thing they share is some of the means of production. It’s very hard to get perspective on something that is changing so rapidly, but it is an exciting time to be involved in electronic music.

Commercial radio and the mainstream music press ignore most electronic music except for electronic pop. How do you seek exposure for your music?

There are a number of outstanding radio programs and podcasts (such as Hearts of Space, Echoes, Star’s End, StillStream, Ultima Thule, and Galactic Travels) that feature ambient and electronic art music, several of which are widely syndicated and have large numbers of dedicated listeners. Exposure on these programs has widened my audience considerably.

Spotted Peccary Music, to which I have signed for at least six records, has a dedicated promotional team that makes and maintains contacts with radio producers, distributors and media, and does an excellent job of launching new projects and placing CDs in distribution.

At my end, the promotional work is more focused on social media and keeping my listeners informed through newsletters, and in many cases, personal letters.

Promoting this kind of music is not always easy or straightforward, but the listeners of this genre are highly motivated and do much on their own accord to stay informed. I communicate directly and personally with many individual listeners, and while this is more time-consuming than a “mass-media” approach, I value this correspondence very highly, and consider many of my listeners to be friends, not just faceless “fans.”

I would rather that my music connect very deeply with a few listeners than to have a huge fan base of casual listeners. Fortunately, this type of music cultivates very intelligent, immersive listening, and I have been richly rewarded for the time I have taken to address single listeners.

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

Brian Eno to produce. Robert Rich as a collaborative composer. Steve Roach for sound design and analog sweetening. Ralph Towner to teach me his harmonic language. The ghost of Erik Satie for spiritual advisor and drinking buddy.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

My next album with Spotted Peccary Music is entitled “Passages.” This one is ready for mastering, and will be released sometime this year.

Other forthcoming titles with SPM are “Ovum,” “The Gateless Gate” and “The Cloud of Unknowning.” Substantial work has been done on all of these projects, to be released in roughly that order.

I am also planning a piano-based album, based on the musical language of Erik Satie, that will also feature cello and some electronic sweetening. This recording will be acoustic-oriented, and possibly appear on another label, depending on how well it may or may not fit into the Spotted Peccary array of genres.

Artist Website: http://www.chronotope-project.com

Interview with Italian Bassist and Composer Fabio Zuffanti

Fabio Zuffanti
Fabio Zuffanti

 

Fabio Zuffanti is a multi-faceted Italian progressive rock musician who has been involved in some of the most interesting projects in recent years. His latest work is a superb album titled La Curva Di Lesmo. Fabio discusses this new recording with Progressive rock Central.

You recently released an album titled La Curva Di Lesmo. What’s the concept behind this album?

Well, actually there’s no real concept behind the album. Also you can find in the songs some recurrent themes such as the personal search of themselves, the fear of death, certain turbid and sensual moods…. All topics that fascinates Stefano very much. He is the author of all the Lyrics.

How did connect with Stefano Agnini to create La Curva Di Lesmo?

Stefano Agnini and Fabio Zuffanti - La Curva Di Lesmo (AMS Records, 2015)
Stefano Agnini and Fabio Zuffanti – La Curva Di Lesmo (AMS Records, 2015)

I know Stefano from some years and I admire his great skill writing lyrics and music with his band, la Coscienza Di Zeno. In 2014 Stefano send me one of his song (“La posa dei morti”) and asked me what I thought about it. I liked it very much and I sent it to my record label, AMS records. Then Matthias, the owner of the label, proposed to me and Stefano to join forces and do an album together. And so we did!

How has your music evolved throughout the years?

My music evolves according to my life experiences and my musical listens. I believe that I’m learning more and more to condense all that into my music, in a personal way and with a recognizable touch.

You have been a member of various essential Italian progressive rock groups like Hostsonaten, La Maschera di Cera, and Finisterre. How do you differentiate what you play in your different band and solo projects?

The solo projects allow me more freedom because it’s just me to decide, in the band sometimes there’s differences of views and competition. Despite what I really love to work in both situations that I find very stimulating.

It seems like Italy is experiencing a new golden age in the area of progressive rock with excellent musicians and bands. Why do you think this is happening now?

In Italy in the last 20 years many prog bands were born. This is because in my country this kind of music has always been much loved. Then, in the years, in a very very slow way, more and more people and even the media seem to notice this great movement and I hope that things can grow ever more!

You seem to be a big fan of vintage keyboard sounds and other musical instruments. Is it hard to find these instruments now?

Sometimes, but I always had the fortune to know very skilled keyboardists, with a great passion for vintage instruments (and owners of beautiful instruments).

Throughout your career you have released numerous albums for various labels. Are you in control of all your material?

Finisterre's second album, In Limine
Finisterre’s second album, In Limine

Apart for the first two Finisterre album, all the other material is owned by me together with the record label with which I work from years with great satisfaction, AMS Records.

Your bass style is very diverse. What bass players have inspired you?

I’m not a “technical” bass player with a great knowledge of the notes and scores. I’m very instinctive, sometimes dirty and rough, sometimes more refined. My masters are bass players that are not usually seen as masters of the instrument; Roger Waters, Adam Clayton, Mike Rutherford, Steve Harris and similar.

What musical instruments are you currently using? And what effects do you use?

I use a BB415 Yamaha bass and a Roland PK5 midi bass pedals. No effects, all the different sounds comes from my hands 🙂

Do you still play your earlier basses?

No, I gifted or sold my previous basses. I do not like to have much instruments, if I get attached to one bass I bring it along with me for a long time.

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

Probably Steven Wilson for a great similarity of musical views and tastes.

What’s next as far as new recordings or other projects?

In the spring of 2016 the new Hostsonaten, “Cupid & Psyche”,will be published. It’s a work for group and orchestra made together with keyboardist/arranger Luca Scherani. At this moment I’m working on the pre-production of my next solo album and producing some new bands.

Interview with Fusion Trailblazer John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin

 

Celebrated guitarist John McLaughlin will be touring North America to present his new album, an outstanding jazz-rock fusion album titled Black Light. McLaughlin continues to push boundaries, incorporating Indian music, flamenco, electronica and other elements. He joins us in this exclusive interview.

 

John McLaughlin - Black Light
John McLaughlin – Black Light

 

Angel Romero – Your new album Black Light combines jazz-rock fusion with Indian, flamenco and other styles. Where did the inspiration for this album come from?

John McLaughlin – I have been actively studying music for 65 years. My mother was a classical violinist, and I began with classical music on piano. From the age of 11 years, I was exposed during the following five years, to the Mississippi Blues players, Indian classical music, Flamenco music and of course Jazz. It is clear that all of these different forms of music had a powerful impact on me.

During my teenage years, I studied all of the great blues players, and my studies then led me to Flamenco music, and then I was ‘captured’ by Miles Davis and his conception of Jazz. It was only later I began to study North and South Indian musical theory.

All of these influences continue to impact on me today. In my recordings such as “Black Light”, I am not trying to make ‘fusion’ music, I AM fusion music because my whole life is about my love of all these different forms of music, and they reveal themselves without me trying to reveal them.

 

 

AR – There is one piece titled “El Hombre que sabia” that has a strong flamenco flavor. Is this dedicated to the late Paco de Lucia?

Of course, you are right. Already in 2013, Paco and I were planning a duo recording for 2014.

‘El Hombre que Sabía’ is one of the pieces we were to record together. Since he died last February, we will never go to the studio again, so I decided to record this piece as a homage to him and his memory.

AR – Now that Paco has passed away, are you considering working with another Spanish flamenco guitarist? There are quite a few great ones out there.

Through working with Paco, I got to know many great Flamenco musicians. There is one particular guitarist I admire very much, his name is Vincente Amigo, and we have played together on a number of occasions. Another great guitarist is Juan Manuel Cañizares, and I used to skip school to hitch-hike to Manchester to see Pepe Martinez, and, of course, I got to know Tomatito through Paco and El Camarón, but Paco and I have such a long history going back almost 40 years, it’s particularly difficult for me to find someone to replace him.

It’s the same with ‘Mandolin’ Shrinivas, who played mandolin in the Shakti group, he died last year at the age of 45, and after playing with him for 14 years, it is very difficult to find someone to replace him. Perhaps in time.

 

John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin

 

AR – You’ve been a mentor to many musicians. What have you learned from your band members?

I learn continuously from the band members. They are great musicians. My personal philosophy is that if I am not learning every day, then I am dead. They inspire me every time we play together, and on the inspiration they change me. I have to say that I am learning every day, not just from musicians, but from painters, poets, especially the poetry of ‘Chan’ which became ‘Zen’ in Japan.

AR – While some of other jazz fusion pioneers sold out to smooth jazz, you’ve always delivered forward thinking recordings where music is the priority versus FM airplay. What motivates you to keep playing and recording?

Passion. If there is no passion in the music, the music becomes flat, just like ‘smooth jazz’. I really do not like smooth jazz. To me it is not jazz. Passion in music is like having gas in your car. If you have no gas, the car stops. Passion is very closely connected to Love. I am in love with music in general, and great Jazz in particular. You should remember I grew up listening to Miles and Coltrane, and Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. Their music is passionate, and mine also.

AR – What are some unusual reactions you got during your live performances?

There have been performances where we have seen people getting up from their seat and dancing, probably because our music has much rhythm in it. Basically people know exactly what’s happening in the music and react spontaneously to the movements in the music, either by clapping, by cheering or even shouting.

AR – In a previous interview, we asked you about your guitars. What guitars are you using now?

For some years my guitars have been made by the great American luthier Paul Reed Smith. If you look inside the cover of “Black Light” you will see a photo of my current guitar which is truly a work of art. It is without doubt, the most beautiful electric guitar I’ve ever seen, and the inlay work on the fingerboard is magnificent. The synth guitar work on the album is also played on a PRS guitar equipped with a Fishman ‘Triple Play’ midi adapter. The acoustic guitar is a Wechter guitar which I played in concert and recordings with Paco and with the Guitar Trio with Al Di Meola.

 

 

AR – What new projects are you working on?

I have just finished mixing a recording of Paco and me made in 1987 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. I’m very happy this recording is finally being released after 28 years because it is a real document. It was a great night and the audience was totally wonderful.

Another project I’m working on at this time is a new East-West collaboration with singer Shankar Mahadevan, whom you may know has been singing in the Shakti group for many years. I’m very excited about this project because it is a completely new approach to the fusion of Indian classical and western classical music integrated with improvisation from both Shankar’s voice, and myself on acoustic guitar. This recording will hopefully be ready to be released next year.