Author Archives: bradbirzer

Happy Birthday to Progarchy Editor, Carl!

happy birthday carl.001

Puppet Peart!

Thanks to Father Simon and James Brandon for sharing this with me.  Amazing.

Ozric Tentacles: Mad Fish!

11 May 2015

For over thirty years, OZRIC TENTACLES has pursued their defiantly independent, free-thinking and fundamentally groovy path through contemporary music. They were the rock band that joyously united the free festival crowd and the rave scene back in the late eighties and early nineties, and through successive passing trends and the abatement of the mainstream music business have fearlessly let their freak flag fly, shrugged off the urge to compromise and stuck to their core values. Consequently, the result is pure music, made for love and joy, and the ecstatic reward that comes from habitually pushing their boundaries to create beauty to the limit of their current human capabilities. It’s with great pleasure, therefore, that we announce the release of an all-new DOUBLE CD and vinyl album set, Technicians of The Sacred, to be released on the Madfish label in North America on Tuesday, May 26th 2015.

Technicians of The Sacred is a superb sojourn to the world of Ozrics. Richly layered, evocatively ambient, and ethereal musical landscapes, seamlessly morphing through beatific freeform dub trips, incredible rave grooves, and psychedelic progressive rock, create a heady, kaleidoscopic mixture of tones and textures. The aim is not just to make truly unique and culturally diverse music, but also to harmoniously unite all in attendance, and create portals for astral travel. Many fans and listeners report feelings of euphoria, an immediate connection to nature as well as others around them, and intense feelings that they have journeyed to other dimensions or met with other-worldly beings. It’s an open exploration of music and the soul.

“T.O.T.S.” will be their first double since the classic “Erpland” over 20 years ago. The aesthetics of the album is heavily themed in Mayan Astrology. Technicians of the Sacred is a characteristic trait of the “tone“ in each member’s “dreamspell” (Mayan astrological symbol). “Many years ago in a tent just prior to performing at Glastonbury Festival, we were given our Mayan Astrology reading”, says the Ozrics Ed Wynne, smiling as usual. “The man doing the readings was getting more and more excited the further he went, he said he was going to tell us something that would change our lives forever. He proceeded to reveal that we are actually Galactic Activation Portals sent to channel messages of love to the world. Upon hearing this statement we questioned, “Now that we know this, should we be doing something different with our lives?” He paused for a moment, then laughed, and as the crowd roared said, “Hurry up then, the audience is waiting to hear you!”

Technicians Of The Sacred tracklisting
1.            The High Pass [08:23]
2.            Butterfly Garden [05:04]
3.            Far Memory [07:10]
4.            Changa Masala[06:04]
5.            Zingbong [08:26]
6.            Switchback [10:11]

1.            Epiphlioy [11:49]
2.            The Unusual Village [06:20]
3.            Smiling Potion [07:12]
4.            Rubbing Shoulders With The Absolute [08:36]
5.            Zenlike Creature [09:54]


In support of this epic 90+ minute offering, the band will kick off their tour dates through Europe and the UK on April 25th with their first performance in Warsaw. Another first on the tour will be Belgrade, Serbia. The tour will continue through May, before arriving stateside in June for a run of festivals and club performances.
With Special Guest: MantisMash

Sat, 25 Poland Warsaw,  Serotonina – Progresja
Tue, 28 Czech Republic, Prague 7, Cross Club
Wed, 29 Hungary, Budapest, Akvarium Klub
Thu, 30 Serbia, Belgrade, Club Drugstore

Fri, 1 Croatia, Zagreb, Mochvara
Sat, 2 Slovenia, Kranj, Trainstation Squat
Sun, 3 Italy, Pordenone, Il Deposito Giordani
Tue, 5 Italy, Rome, Planet Live Club
Weds, 6 Italy Bologna-  Locomotiv Club
Thu, 7 Netherlands, Arnhem, Luxor Live
Fri, 8 Netherlands, Leeuwarden, Romein
Sat, 9 Netherlands, Alkmaar, Podium Victorie
Tue, 12 UK, London, O2 Islington Academy
Wed, 13 UK, Southampton, Talking Heads
Fri, 15 UK, Bristol, Bierkeller
Sat, 16 UK, Norwich – The Waterfront
Sun, 17 UK, Glasgow, O2 ABC 2
Mon, 18 UK, Newcastle, O2 Academy
Tue, 19 UK, Liverpool, O2 Academy
Wed, 20 UK, Birmingham, O2 Academy 2
Fri, 22 UK, Manchester – Manchester Club Academy
Sun, 24 UK, Oxford, O2 Academy 2
Fri, 29th  USA – Infrasound Festival – Black River Falls, WI (
Sat 30th– USA -Infrasound Festival – Black River Falls, WI (

Thurs 4th – USA- Family Roots Festival – Glouster, OH (
Fri  5th – USA- Family Roots Festival – Glouster, OH (
Sat 13th – USA – Ardmore Music Hall – Philadelphia, PA (
Sun 14th– USA – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY(

More dates to be announced

RochaNews: Alex Lifeson to Guest on Renman


Tune in live Wednesday, April 22 to join the conversation!

LOS ANGELES – Renman Music & Business, the music industry mentoring website founded by longtime industry veteran, Steve Rennie (aka “Renman”), will broadcast another episode of its Renman Live web show next week, Wednesday, April 22, with special guest, legendary Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson. The show will air live starting at 5:00 p.m. PDT / 8:00 p.m. EDT on the Renman MB YouTube channel at: Head over to Renman Music & Business at: for more info and to submit questions in advance. Viewers can also ask questions live on air by calling the Renman Live hotline: 1-310-469-9067 during the show.

“People ask me all the time how you learn the music biz,” said Rennie. “Simple. Hang out with smart people.

“On my web show, Renman Live, I’ve been lucky to have had some of the smartest, most talented people in the music biz join me to share their stories, insights and advice with aspiring artists and music pros who are dreaming of doing something big on their own and need some inspiration and direction. If you are interested in the music biz, watching an episode of Renman Live is the next best thing to sitting on the couch with me and my guests.”

Guests who have appeared on Renman Live include Nate Reuss (FUN.), Pretty Lights, Brandon Boyd (Incubus), Andy Biersack (Black Veil Brides), Grouplove, Paul Tollett (Founder, Coachella), Charles Attal (Promoter, Lollapalooza), Kevin Lyman (Founder, Warped Tour), Troy Carter (Manager, John Mayer), Richard Griffiths (Manager, One Direction), Pat Magnarella (Manager, Green Day), Tom Corson (President, RCA), Mike Caren (President A&R, Warner Bros), Aaron Bay-Schuck (A&R Exec, Bruno Mars), Jeff Castelaz (President, Elektra Records) and many more.

Over the last 36 years, Renman Music & Business mastermind, Steve Rennie, has become one of the most successful and respected professionals in today’s music business. He has amassed a broad swath of experience as a concert promoter (Sr. VP Avalon Attractions now Live Nation 1984-1990), record company executive (Sr. VP GM Epic Records 1994-1998), internet entrepreneur (ArtistDirect 1998-2000) and artist manager (Incubus 1998-2014). Now, he is dedicating himself to mentoring this next generation of artists and music pros who will shape the music industry of the future.

In 2012, Rennie founded Renman Music & Business:, an online education portal for the music industry featuring a YouTube channel: with over 500 video clips with tips from industry pros, a web show, Renman Live, which has livestreamed over 100 episodes so far, and more.

Earlier this year, Rennie launched Renman U, an online course designed to be “an insider’s guide to today’s music business,” at: Once enrolled, Renman U students receive an interactive set of online video lessons designed to teach aspiring artists and music business professionals what it takes to succeed in the music industry. Course lessons are based on Rennie’s more than 36 years of experience at the highest levels in the business, and include quizzes, written exams and more.

Rennie recently spoke with about his Renman U program. Check out the interview at:

An introductory Renman U video can be seen on YouTube at:, while a free demo is available at:

Keep up with Renman Music & Business on the new Renman MB app for iOS: and Android: and online at:


Official Announcement from Radiant: Chris Thompson

Here’s the official press



April 15, 2014-Nashville. As of today, Chris Thompson is taking the helm at Radiant Records, the progressive rock independent label founded by Neal and Cherie Morse. Thompson will be responsible for overseeing Radiant’s current releases and distribution, and further expansion of the label.

Radiant currently serves as the in-house label for several of Morse’s artistic endeavors: his acclaimed solo work, and the Prog Award winning super-group Transatlantic. Radiant also serves as the label for Neal’s inspired worship albums. Additionally, Radiant sells releases by other leading progressive artists, as well as being the exclusive outlet for products from Morse’s #1-charting super-group, Flying Colors.

In addition to being a label, Radiant has a publishing arm, Big Hatter Music. There is also an in-house recording studio available for Radiant artists, and outside clients. Its high-end capabilities allow to also serve as the primary recording facility for Morse’s solo work, Transatlantic, and Flying Colors.

Radiant has direct label deals with other labels for some of Morse’s work, and serves as a primary label. Its North American distributor is Sony/RED through Metal Blade Records. In Europe, the distributor is Sony through New Century Media. In the digital realm, Radiant is a direct iTunes label.

“Chris’s dedication and service to people, combined with his knowledge and work ethic, are unsurpassed,” says Morse. “We are very excited that he is taking over the reins of Radiant Records and allowing me more time to focus on my calling in music.”

“I couldn’t be more excited by the chance to lead Radiant,” Thompson offers. “The only limit on our future is us-we plan on doing some amazing things to serve those who love the music. In addition to current mission, we will nurture and record new artists, leverage our iTunes label status to establish Radiant as digital distributor, and further expand into the global marketplace.”


Press Contact: Heather Thompson

Cosmographic! Happy Birthday, Robin.

Robin Armstrong, Master of the Cosmograf.

Robin Armstrong, Master of the Cosmograf.

An Exclusive Interview: Chris Thompson, President of Radiant Records

The new president of Radiant Records, Chris Thompson.

The new president of Radiant Records, Chris Thompson.

For those of you who have been with us since the very beginning of this website, you know how much we love and value Chris Thompson.  Even before we started the site, we contacted Chris at Radiant to make sure we could get some cds to review.  Chris, rather gloriously, answered not only positively, but with great enthusiasm.  It’s no exaggeration to state that his response gave us the confidence to launch

As just announced, Chris is the newly-appointed president of Radiant Records, arguably the premier American label for prog and art rock.

A few years ago, named Chris its overall “prog-guy” of that year.  In personal relations, he’s as kind and as intelligent as you might imagine.  In his professional demeanor, he’s totally. . . well, professional.

Today, to celebrate his new position as president of Radiant, we had a chance to talk with Chris about his role and the role of Radiant in the coming years.


Progarchy: Chris, thanks so much for taking your valuable time to talk with us. Can you tell us about your new position at Radiant?  What will you’ll be doing as President?

Chris:  Hey, Brad.  This new position has been created to allow me to focus on growing Radiant Records on a global level.  Also, with my focus being on the business side of the label, it will allow Neal much needed time to focus more on the music and creative side.

Progarchy: Can you give us hints as to where you’re going to take Radiant?

Chris:  With increased exposure in international markets and growing Progressive fan base in North America, signing new artists, and working to become a digital download hub for Progressive Rock, our desire is to take Radiant to the next level. With a state of the art recording studio, Radiant Studios, and the many relationships in manufacturing and distribution, we have a lot of room to grow and expand our organization.

Progarchy: Sounds perfect.  Can you give us a bit about your own background?

Chris:  My background is purchasing and estimating, as well as with anything organizational. Having worked with Neal in every area of touring (i.e. merch, lighting, tour management, booking, logistics), I have pretty well done it all. With my experience in marketing and merchandising, I will be able to assist Neal with product design and manufacturing, as well as other artists that we sign to the Radiant label. I have 20+ years in management and customer service, and I strive to offer better service than you can get anywhere else. Nothing less.

Progarchy: Finally, how would you assess the current and future states of rock music?

Chris:  Progressive Rock has held true, demanding high quality music and creative artwork and packaging. As the world is leaning toward mp3’s and a jpeg of a cover, our Progressive fans still love everything about the music and the artists that make it.  Radiant’s fans and customers are the best there are, and we are dedicated to bringing them the best music, the best products, the best shows, and the best customer service we can.

Progarchy:  Thanks so much, Chris.  You’re definitely the future of the genre, and it’s great to have you in this new position.  Congratulations!


Radiant Record’s Weekly Feature: IZZ

Greetings from the Radiant Team!


It’s time for our Weekly Featured Product! This week, our featured item is, Everlasting Instant, the new studio album from American progressive rock group, IZZEverlasting Instant, released April 7, 2015, serves as the final installment of a three-part series of albums that began with The Darkened Room (TDR) in 2009 and continued with Crush of Night in 2012. Everlasting Instant concludes this epic thematic arc with a fresh palette of sounds. From the syncopated rhythms and unpredictable meter changes of “Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV,” to the through-composed nature of “Keep Away,” to the uplifting drama of “Sincerest Life,” the fearlessly modern sound of IZZ continues to surprise at every turn. A must-have addition to every prog collection! Purchase yours here today!



Everlasting Instant


Playing around with Peart book cover ideas

Vital Signs Cover 1.001

Testing for Echo: Rush’s Odd but Brilliant 1996 Masterpiece

While I’ve mentioned this in passing, i’ve yet to announce formally that I’m writing a book on the words and ideas of Neil Peart.  So, if you’ll permit me, I’ll do it here.

I’m writing a book on Neil Peart.

There.  Done.  Announced.

And, I’m having a blast, not surprisingly.  The book will come out this fall (2015) from WordFire Press under the editorial expertise of Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

At the moment, the place-holder title is The Neil Peart Generation.  I’m hoping to come up with something better.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt–a raw, unedited version of my section on Peart and Rush in 1996-1997, just before all of the tragedies hit.  I hope you enjoy.  This is about 2,000 words of the ca. 40,000 word book.  At least as I see it now.–Brad


Neil Peart, ca. 1987.

Neil Peart, ca. 1987.

Rush 1.3.5

Test for Echo, the band’s sixteenth studio album, is an anomaly and a beautiful transition from the first full stage of Rush (1.0) to the final stage of Rush (2.0).  Arriving a full three years after Counterparts, Rush fandom had never had to wait so long for a new album from the band.  “During that time,” Peart notes in the official tourbook, “Geddy and his wife produced a baby girl, Alex produced a solo album [Victor], and I produced a tribute to the big-band music of Buddy Rich.  We worked; we traveled; we lived our lives; and it was fine.”[1]  The title of the album even reflects the time away from one another and from their fans.  “Test for Echo,” Peart explains, was a means of Rush both asking and assuring its fan base that neither was alone.  “Everybody needs an ‘echo,’ some affirmation to know they’re not alone.”[2]

Test for Echo possessed neither the overall hardness of the 1993 album nor the denseness of a Power Windows (1985).  Neither, however, was it as light and sleek as Presto (1989) had been.  Instead, it sounds like almost nothing Rush had done before, and yet, it sounds almost like nothing Rush did after.  In the context of the history Rush, “Test for Echo” is, to be sure, its own creature.  Certainly, Lifeson had never played such a strong and assertive role in the creation of an album as he did with this one.  Peter Collins, English producer of Power Windows (1985), Hold Your Fire (1987), and Counterparts, returned to produce this album, keeping his view on the overall structure of the full album, with Clif Norrell (Catherine Wheel) serving as recording engineer and Andy Wallace (Faith No More) as mixing engineer.[3]  While Test for Echo contains driving songs, it also contains a lot of whimsy and humor.  Lee explains why the album needed both as to best reflect the meaning of the album as a whole:

“It’s about the numbing process that happens when we are exposed to great tragedies and then we’re exposed to moments of hilarity,” said singer-bassist Geddy Lee, whose band returns Tuesday to Target Center in Minneapolis. “I feel that that’s the condition of contemporary man now – when we read the paper or when we watch TV, we’re not sure if we’re supposed to laugh.”[4]

Despite being the most “progressive” album the band had produced in a decade or so, Test for Echo also has a relaxed, comfortable feel to it, something rarely found on a Rush album.  Strangely, the band, especially Lee and Lifeson, felt real tension with one another during the recording of the album.  There were, according to Lifeson, even a few explosions at and with one another.  Lee remembers the process of making the album with little fondness.

Test for Echo was a strange record in a sense. It doesn’t really have a defined direction. I kind of felt like we were a bit burnt creatively. It was a creative low time for us.[5]

Peart, however, downplays the tensions, at least in his remembrances, and, instead, focuses on the new drumming technique he had learned from Freddy Gruber between this album and Counterparts.  “I could feel I had brought my playing to a whole new level, both technically and musically. ”[6]  Indeed, by the following summer, Peart was so enthusiastic about the album and the tour that he claimed “we’re already planning our next studio album.”[7]  In an interview with Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times, Peart thought the band had reached its peak.  “Over the years, we learned how to write, how to play and how to arrange and now we have a full toolbox.  Time and experience. . . [in original] there’s no substitute for that.”  With previous albums, the drummer claims, he “struggled to find new ways of challenging” himself.  With Test for Echo, however, he believes he “came in with so much,” he had to “edit” himself.[8]

After three years of the three members of the band being apart, though, it took more than a bit of time and patience for the band to come back together as a whole.  As mentioned above, Lee expressed frustration for the beginning of the project.  “Neil was being Mr. Aloof a little bit.  So we kind of circled each other and we talked.”[9]

Whatever the tension, the end result is a thing of wonder.  Beginning with an airy atmosphere and almost pleading guitar, the opening track, the title track, resolves into a progressive grunge.  The lyrics express shock at a world that has become completely commodified in the images the media presents to the world.  The result, vertigo.

Don’t touch that dial

We’re in denial

Lyrically, the song compliments “Show Don’t Tell,” from Presto.  Yet, unlike that deeply personal and self-judgmental song, this one asks how all of what was once private is now public?

As if Peart has to respond to the intrusion and commercialized weaponization of mass media, he offers a statement of integrity in the following song, “Driven.”  Unlike earlier Rush songs that deal with similar themes, Driven leaves lingering questions.  Can a person be so driven that he finds himself “driven to the edge of a deep dark hole”?  Yet, Peart (and the listener) avoids the abyss, determined not to linger in any one place too long.  “And I go riding on,” the song concludes.  “Driven” offers Rush at its best: great lyrics; a perfectly progressive rhythm; and Lifeson’s tastefully-grungy guitar sound.  Lee considers it a “quintessential Rush song.”[10]

It’s worth noting that the video Rush produced for this song is possibly the most interesting video the band ever made.  Visually, it anticipates the grime of the Matrix, but it also combines elements of Blade Runner and The Road Warrior.  Armed with measures of the bizarre and carnival-esque, it is pure punk dystopia.

The third song, “Half the World,” enters a heavy candy-pop-rock world of music.  Lyrically, however, Peart continues to express shock at the state of the world, a world divided by so many things.  Some trivial, some major.  Taking the lyrics literally, the listener cannot help but believe the world will always remain divided.  The ultimate division: those who lie and steal; and those who live honorably.

The fourth song, “The Color of Right,” offers a more positive take on similar notions, noting that right (and righteousness, properly understood) can transcend all differences in this world.  This is Peart at his Platonic and Aristotelian best.

Track five, “Time and Motion,” returns the listener to the style of the first two tracks of the album, offering nothing less than a mini-prog gem.  As the title indicates, the song plays with the modernist ideas of time and movement, similar to Permanent Waves’ Natural Science.

Time and motion

Flesh and blood and fire

Lives connect in webs of gold and razor wire

Everything is connected to everything else in this world, and, yet, this can mean we’re each attached to both the good and the ill.  Thus, man must be:

Superman in Supernature

Needs all the comfort he can find

Spontaneous motion

And the long-enduring kind

“Totem” looks, rather whimsically and mockingly, at all types of religions, meshing Christianity with Hinduism with a variety of pagan practices.  The song ends, ominously, with “Sweet chariot, swing low, coming for me.”

“Dog Years,” the seventh track, again revealing Rush’s rather humorous side and considers exactly what the title claims: the life of a dog, complete with fleas, sniffs, and howls.  That this song appears after totem is not accidental.  Both explore irrationality and instinct.  Peart, however, considered the song a “feast” at the time of its release, arguing at length about its own depths.

Well, no. As always I try to weave it in on several levels, so certainly the listener is welcome to take it just as a piece of throwaway foolishness. That’s certainly in there. Even the story of its writing is kind of amusing, because it was right when we got together for the first time, the three of us, after quite a long break apart. We did a little celebrating the first night and the following day I was a bit the worse for wear, and a little dull-witted, and I thought, “Gee, I don’t think I’m going to get much done today, but I’m a professional, I’d better try.” So I sat down all muzzy-headed like that and started trying to stitch words together – that’s what I was there for, after all. “Dog Years” is what came out of that kind of mentality, and born of observations over the years too, of looking at my dog thinking, “What’s going through his brain?” and I would think, “Just a low-level zzzzz static.” “Food. Walk.” The basic elemental things. When I look at my dog that’s how I see his brainwaves moving. Other elements in there of dog behavior, and I’ve had this discussion with other dog owners too: “What do you think your dog is really thinking about?” I say, “I don’t think he’s thinking about too much.” That was certainly woven into it as well.[11]

A heavy track that would not appear out of place on Counterparts, “Virtuality” considers the reality and unreality of the world wide web, connecting all things intangibly, one to another.

“Resist” is a deeply personal anthem, a restatement of Peartian principles of individualism, but done so in a very acoustic, singer-song writer friendly way.  Inspired by the dark romantic, Oscar Wilde, Resist never crosses the line into melodrama.[12]  Rather, it successfully embraces a bardic feel.  “I can learn to close my eyes/to anything bug injustice.”  Combining humor with a progressive rhythm, “Limbo,” offers an instrumental Rush version of the “Monster Mash,” complete with Frankenstein sound effects. Interestingly enough, it’s also a play on and against a more infamous Rush, Rush Limbaugh–Rush Limbo.[13]

“Carve Away That Stone,” finishes the album on an uplifiting note, rewriting the tragic Greek myth of Sisyphus.  In the traditional story, the gods punish Sisyphus for his deceit, making him roll a stone up a mountain, only to have it roll back down, forcing Sisyphus to start all over again, endlessly.  In the ancient version, the gods punish Sisyphus not just for his deceit but also for his hubris, that is, his very challenge of and to the power of the gods.  Peart’s extremely Stoic lyrics call for the good person to accept the fate of the gods, and to push the stone with all his best effort and integrity, thus showing to the gods and all of humanity that man can indeed best them.  The song ends with the wry note: “If you could just move yours/I could get working on my own.”  In other words, every man, woman, and child shares the fate of Sisyphus in this world.  Accept it and move on.


[1] Peart, The Test for Echo Tour Book: Official Guidebook and User’s Manual (1996).

[2] Peart, Test for Echo Tour Book.

[3] Peart, Test for Echo Tour Book.

[4] Lee quoted in Jim Abbott, “Echo Has More than One Meaning,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 27, 1996.

[5] Lee quoted in Vinay Meon, Rush: An Oral History, Uncensored (Stardispatches, 2012, iBooks).  At the time of the album release, Lifeson felt great about it.  See his interview with Steven Batten, “Testing for Echo: Rush Return After Two Years in Hiding,” Northeast Ohio Scene (October 31-November 6, 1996).  Lifeson especially liked the “aggressiveness” of his guitar.  Peart thought that the tension came from Lifeson, as he had the experience of producing Victor on his own and wanted to assert much of what he’d learned from that.  See Alan Sculley, “Rushing Back Into the Spotlight,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 5, 1997.

[6] Peart, Traveling Music, 34.

[7] Peart quoted in Betsy Powell, “Peart is a Different Drummer,” Toronto Star, June 30, 1997, pg. E4.

[8] Peart quoted in Eric Deggans, “Rush Recharged,” St. Petersburg Times, December 6, 1996, pg. 18.

[9] Lee interview, “Text for Echo World Premier, WKSC-FM (Chicago), September 5, 1996.

[10] Lee interview, “Text for Echo World Premier, WKSC-FM (Chicago), September 5, 1996.

[11] Peart interview, “Test for Echo World Premier,” WKSC-FM, September 5, 1996.

[12] Peart, Test for Echo Tour Book.

[13] Paul Verna, “After a 3-Year Break, Trio Regroups for New Atlantic Set,” Billboard (August 3, 1996).


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,084 other followers

%d bloggers like this: