Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there … brought to you by two of the best father-son themed songs ever, courtesy of the Drive-By Truckers.
On May 27th of this year, Frost* returned from an eight-year hiatus to release their latest album, Falling Satellites (Progarchy review here). In conjunction with this release, Frost* … ‘s mastermind, Jem Godfrey, was willing to sit down with us for a chat (where do you put the apostrophe with the asterisk already there??). We discussed the new album, mused philosophically about life, talked more about his the formation of Frost* and his activities outside of the band … and asterisks. Those pesky asterisks.
Progarchy: What would you say is different in a musical sense relative to the two previous Frost* albums?
JG: We have a different bass player and drummer from the previous recorded album we did. I think that in and of itself adds a whole new sound to the band, because they are playing in a different sort of way than JJ [John Jowitt] and Andy [Edwards] did. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that John Mitchell was very keen on not doing classic John Mitchell on this, he was really up for taking his rule book and throwing it out the window, and that was brilliant. He was trying out new, different sort of effects and putting his guitar through all kinds of plug-ins and interesting sort of sounds, trying different guitars, so he was really up for experimenting. I think kind of also just that it’s eight years later that our sound palette is slightly different as technology has sort of moved on. So you know it’s the same band but it’s definitely sort of moved on, I think.
Progarchy: Now with John (Mitchell), you say he threw out his rule book, so how would he define his rule book?
JG: Well, he has got two settings, loud and quiet normally. He’s not normally one for heavily effecting his guitars, but he got some Valhalla plug-ins and stuff, and was running it through his laptop and doing all sorts of non-John things this time out, and it really worked.
Progarchy: So I guess his classic John Mitchell sound is what you hear more on Arena or Lonely Robot then?
JG: Yeah, I think so. There are a couple of bits where it’s obviously him doing that sound, because you have to have a bit of that in there, but he was very up for trying different things. There are a couple of bits in there that you wouldn’t know it’s guitar, but it’s actually guitar, he’s gone quite experimental in some places.
Progarchy: And what about you, how would you say your sound palette has changed?
JG: I’ve got sort of a lead sound I’ve developed over the years which has sort of become my signature sound, and which I didn’t really mean to do that back in the day. There are a couple of times I sort of “wheel it out.” I sort of liken it to how Tony Banks does his Pro Soloist … it’s quite nice to get a sound in there that you recognize. But again, I’m not wedded to any particular synth, I just use whatever is around at the time and put it through effects.
Progarchy: You also mentioned something about using a Chapman Railboard on this album, can you elaborate on that?
JG: It’s a kind of Chapman Stick, sort of a Tony Levin classic 10-string guitar thing. It’s basically one of those but it’s made out of solid aluminum, so it’s basically a single machined piece of metal. It looks like a Stick, but it’s a metal Stick. It’s got different tones, it’s quite tubular, it’s really nice. It’s really good for arpeggio stuff. You can hear it on Numbers and Closer to the Sun, there’s a lot of Railboard on those two tracks.
Progarchy: Can you delve into the concept behind this album a bit more?
Bass legend Chris Squire may be gone, but he is most definitely not forgotten. During the time we were lucky enough to have him in this life, Squire produced some of the most innovative and interesting bass work of any genre of music. Not content to simply keep time along with the drums, Squire put the bass guitar square in the center of the melodic discourse of Yes music, with a unique picked sound that was thick yet trebly.
Compiling a list like this is no easy task when you are dealing with the level of talent that Squire possessed. While there are a few in the list that I knew would be on here, paring it down to just ten was a difficult task. Of course, any list like this is going to be subjective and your mileage may vary. These, however, are my 10 favorite Squire performances.
We recently had the chance to talk to two of the principles of the band [headspace] – Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman. Their most recent album, All That You Fear Is Gone, has been released to rave reviews, including Brad’s review right here at Progarchy. Needless to say, we are fans. To throw in my own two cents, I find the album to be both musically adventurous and conceptually fascinating, and particularly the urging of standing as an individual against the pressures to conform to society at large. Anyway, they can shed more light on their work than can I, so let’s get to it:
Progarchy: Your current album is a second one of a trilogy. Could you go back, starting with your previous album, and walk us through the trilogy, including the third album?
Damian Wilson: The first album is based on an individual not coping with the group, the second is the group not coping with the individual. Both albums reflect on each other, they are tilted mirrors to be completed when the final album is placed on top. A trilogy infinitely reflecting inwardly upon itself, symbolic by form and purpose. To some 3 is one, to others just a number.
Progarchy: Can you shed some light on the lyrics in the current album? In particular, we’d love to hear your thoughts on “Secular Souls” and “Semaphore”, and other tracks on the album you’d like to discuss?
Damian Wilson: Secular soul simplified is the glorification of the individual. Semaphore is about choices and the responsibility of those choices.
I like to think that the songs speak for themselves once you have listened to them a dozen times, reflected and considered where they run within the trilogy. Then listened to again consecutively within the three albums and that perspective.
Progarchy: When can listeners expect the third album to be released?
Adam Wakeman: When it’s finished! it wont be for a couple of years realistically.
Progarchy: Can you shed some light on how [headspace] came together, and what your role in that was?
Adam Wakeman: I’d been on a lot of really long tours, and thought it would be great to have a band with my best pals in, who are also fantastic musicians. Ironically, we probably see less of each other now than we did before we had the band! I’ve worked with Damian a lot in the past and always thought he’s the best front man and vocalist. The rest just fell into place with Lee and Rich Brook (and now Adam Falkner) and Pete Rinaldi.
Progarchy: How do you see [headspace] fitting into the current prog movement?
Adam Wakeman: I don’t really worry too much about where it fits in. We love the way we write music and how it all comes together – the fact that people like it is a real bonus and an honour for us. As soon as you start to write for a particular movement or genre, you’re taking away a % of it’s genuine-ness in my opinion. Taking away those boundaries gives a truer album in my opinion.
Progarchy: You obviously grew up in a musical household, but you seem to have taken a different path from your father and even your brother. How did that come about?
Adam Wakeman: I didn’t really chose a particular path, I just made sure I didn’t turn down any experiences, even if they were out of my comfort zone. That way, you become more employable and able to earn a living 12 months a year, not just 4 months a year which can happen if you are just focused on one genre, or one band. I was also conscious about getting out of my dads shadow which was why I didn’t go down the YES route. It also stops me from getting bored!
Progarchy: So how did you end up touring with Black Sabbath?
Adam Wakeman: I met Sharon Osbourne at a show I was playing with Annie Lennox and 6 months later her office called and asked if I was available to tour with Ozzy. I was away with Travis touring at the time so was unable to do it, but they asked again the following year and it worked out with my schedule which was great. Then, they asked me to do Sabbath too when Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill got back together in 2004 I think it was.
Progarchy: Ok, one final question related to some family ties (and asked humorously, with tongue firmly in cheek) – does your dad ever give you the whole “back in my day” spiel about prog, music in general, and so forth? If so, how do you respond to him? 🙂
Adam Wakeman: He never really says that sort of thing funnily enough, unless you press him with questions! He’s very much a ‘look forward not back’ kind of guy, and in this industry, if you don’t do that you’re already dead in the water.
Progarchy would like to take this opportunity to thank Adam and Damian for their time in talking to us, and to wish them the best of luck on their upcoming tour. Thanks, guys!
Recently, I had the good fortune of talking with Jaime Gomez Arellano, drummer and producer for the UK prog band Messenger. The band’s second album (first for Inside Out), Threnodies, is due out on April 22nd. Among the topics Gomez (as he likes to be called) and I discussed were the history of Messenger, their influences, and the many (metaphorical) hats he wears as the band’s drummer and producer as well as his role in producing for other bands.
Progarchy: You guys are still relatively new on the scene. Can you provide us with an introduction to your band and a short history?
JGA: Messenger started when our lead singer Kahled, he had some ideas for songs that he wanted to record. Since I’m a record producer and we knew each other through friends he came to my studio record some songs. The songs kind of developed as well as we worked together. Then we got Barnaby, the 2nd guitarist/singer involved and we came up with an album. By the time we mixed it I realized that we should do something with this, so I started sending it out to labels. Svart in Finland really liked it so they release our first album. And soon after that we realized we needed some other players, so we asked our friends James and Dan to join us on bass, guitar, and keyboards. So that’s how it began, really.
Progarchy: How would you describe your music to those unfamiliar with your band?
JGA: I would say Messenger is a kind of a combination of rock and psychedelic rock. Kind of heavily influenced by bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, as well as more modern bands like Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. It’s always a really hard question to describe yourself.
Progarchy: This is your second album, you did another one previously. Can you briefly describe the first album and then how the music has progressed and changed on the second album?
JGA: Sure. The first album was just us kind of getting together and working on some songs Kahled had and then writing some songs together in the studio. So the first album I would say is a little bit more funky than the new one, kind of a bit more gentle. I guess the difference with the second album is that we wrote the entire album together as a five piece band instead of as a three piece band. There were no songs before that [i.e. prior to the second album] we just literally locked ourselves up in my studio in London for three months and wrote, recorded, mixed, and mastered the album in that time. So that’s literally the result of all five of us working together. I think it’s a lot more varied, it’s a bit like an evolution of the first album, it’s a bit more rocking, and it’s quite different from the first album in places but still sounds like Messenger.
Progarchy: So how did that affect you then, bringing in two new guys to the writing process?
JGA: It was great actually, because they are both very talented guys who happen to be great friends. So Dan is an amazing bass player with lots of experience and good at putting songs together. Dan, the keyboard/guitar player is good at coming up with riffs. I’m the drummer in the band but I’m also the producer and I do most of the arrangements, and Dan is really easy to work with, because I can’t play guitar but I can sort of “soft play” something and he’ll just make it sound like a riff. So for me having Dan in the band it’s great for me to convey ideas. So that’s the main difference, it was literally the five of us in my studio every day, just writing and recording. We actually wrote the album in about 3 weeks. There was one demo that was kind of knocking around, but outside of that, we wrote everything at the studio.
Progarchy: Is there an unifying concept underlying the music of the new album?
I’d say there is a concept as well, more in terms of the lyrics. The lyrics which Khaled mainly wrote, I personally think he’s very good with words. We were all a little influenced by what happened in Paris at the Bataclan venue, and kind of the climate of the world at the moment, and therefore the album title Threnodies. I think lyrically there was a main subject Khaled took on board, religion and spirituality and all these things. Obviously were very saddened to hear about that. Luckily we didn’t have any close friends that lost people at that show, but we have friends of friends that lost people, and it was pretty shocking to see something like that could happen in a city like Paris.
Progarchy: Reading about Messenger, it appears that the musical influences and backgrounds of the various musicians covers an extremely wide swath, from heavy metal, punk, progressive rock, and ambient music. Is that an advantage/disadvantage or both to the creative process in Messenger, and how so?
JGA: I really genuinely think it’s a positive thing, and I think that’s one of those things that makes a band have more of a sound. The one thing we all do like in the band, we all love our prog basically, our 70’s prog. I don’t like and super technical stuff, I really do not like that, and not many of us in the band like that kind of stuff. I’ve been hugely into death and black metal in my entire life. I also play in a kind of classic rock/heavy metal band called Mirror that is signed to metal blade. And, I listen to a lot of death and black metal, but also listen to a lot of contemporary classical music, and I really love the 70’s stuff, the 70’s psychedelia. Khaled, the lead singer, he’s really into 70’s psychedelia. Bands that we all really love are bands like Magma, we love Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the classics, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple. I really like Krautrock bands like Can, I’m a massive fan of Can. Dan he’s really into hip-hop and 70’s R&B, kind of fusion stuff. Barnaby is really into Americana and singer-songwriter kind of stuff. So it’s a real mix of a lot of things really and I think that makes it special because we are not afraid of mixing things up. If it feels right, we just go with it. It’s a bit of a mess in a cool way. I like to tell people, you know, like the saying “you are what you eat” so, we are obviously influenced by all these different things. These days it’s hard to be 100% original because so much of the good music has already been done. I guess what makes Messenger sound a little bit different is the mix of things. We also use a lot of different guitar tunings, and that contributes to our sound as well. I think we have about six or seven different guitar tunings on the songs that we have.
Progarchy: You are not only the drummer for the band, but the producer as well. What do you bring to the creative process from that role (and can you describe the role of a producer in more general terms)?
JGA: I think the role of the record producer has changed a little bit with time. The classic kind of record producer is the guy who is there with the band, going through the songs, suggesting arrangements, suggesting different parts for the songs, melodies, and also recording and deciding how things should sound. That’s kind of what I do, as well as obviously the first part. I sit with the guys, I listen to any riffs or ideas they have, [e.g.] “I like that chord, but could you make it a little more minor?” or “I like this, but could be maybe change the time signature, instead of playing it in 4/4 could be play it in 6/8 and maybe play it a bit faster?” I just kind of gel the songs together. I also write a couple of the bits, actual riffs. My other really big part of the job is the overall sound of the album, [e.g.] “which drum kit am I going to use for this song”? and “which guitar tone is going to work better for this part, should we use a Fender Strat or shall we use a Gibson Les Paul, should we use a Hiwatt amp or a Marshall amp?”, all these things, just kind of finding the right sound basically. My day job is to do that with all the bands [that record in his studio].
Progarchy: You also have the role as the band’s general manager – can you describe for our readers what that entails?
JGA: I have to spend a lot of time on my email every day. Obviously I negotiate the deals with the record labels. Everyday kind of general maintenance of the band, talking to the label and see what’s going on with the PR department, organizing the artwork for the album and sending it to the label, the videos which actually Khaled the singer in our band does. It’s just coordinating everything, getting tours for the band, shows, it’s a little bit everything?
Progarchy: So what’s next for the band after this album?
JGA: Well, our new album will be out on April 22. We are actually going on tour with the Von Hetzen Brothers. Then I’m looking to book other dates in Europe for the summer. WE’ve got a few festivals already lined up. We signed a three album deal with Inside Out, so onward and upwards, just keep going! This is our first album with Inside Out, so we’ll just keep going anyway.
Progarchy: So maybe I’ll get to interview you when the next album comes out?
JGA: That’d be cool!
Progarchy: Well, thank you for your time and best of luck with your new album and tour.
JGA: Thank you very much.