I, (Lonely) Robot: Progarchy Talks to John Mitchell

John Mitchell is a busy man.  It was less than a year ago that another one of his projects,Lonely Robot 2 Frost*, was getting ready to drop another album.  And before that, John was busy with another one of his bands, Arena.  To put the parenthesis on then and now … before that he was busy with the first Lonely Robot album, and now we have seen the release for the latest one, The Big Dream (Tad Wert’s excellent review can be found here).  We caught up with John recently, and he generously gave his time to discuss his career, the concept behind the Lonely Robot project, and the creative process, and how to stay busy.

Progarchy: You are in Lonely Robot, Kino, Arena, Frost*, It Bites … (did I miss any?), while your Arena bandmate Clive Nolan is also associated with Pendragon, Shadowland, Caamora, Strangers on a Train, Neo, and Casino.  Are you two having a contest to see who can be in the most bands?

John Mitchell: I can’t remember – it seems like I’m busy enough already! That is indeed a humorous question – and yes, you are absolutely right.  If I don’t win, heads are going to roll!  The honest answer though is that these things don’t run concurrently, they don’t run in parallel, they run in series.  I think if we are going to run a contest, it needs to be the most things done concurrently, and I don’t really win that at all.  Clive Nolan has won, so there we go!

Progarchy: This is your way of keeping busy, I assume.

John Mitchell: Yes, well it looks good on paper.  I have at some point or other have been involved in that many musical projects.  I hasten to not use the word ‘project’.  When I started these things, I didn’t think of them as projects. ‘Project’ to me denotes something that has a finite end, like a table.  A table, once it’s made, that’s the end of the project.  When I went into these things, with the good grace of the Lord, to make a band, and to try to engage that band and do multiple albums with it, so I never really saw it as a project.  Kino I never really thought it to be a one-off thing, but I didn’t realize quite how busy everybody was.  The things I’ve been involved in, they reach a natural conclusion, and they get parked and that’s it.  So I’m really not that busy, just doing a few things these days.

Continue reading “I, (Lonely) Robot: Progarchy Talks to John Mitchell”

2016 – A Year of Joy and Sadness

To say 2016 was a turbulent year would be an understatement.  For good and bad, the events of 2016 are going to ripple for years, if not decades to come.

Fortunately, one area in which 2016 was not a turning point was in the trend of excellent prog releases, which kept coming without any letup from 2015 … or 2014 … or 2013 … you get the picture.  Like those years, 2016 saw a bumper crop of excellent releases, and in a few cases, saw bands hitting new highs.  Truly, this was one area where we can be unequivocally thankful for what 2016 brought.

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Still Abiding:  Progarchy Talks Again with The Duda (Mariusz, that is)

It would be an understatement to say that this has been an eventful year for Mariusz Duda and Riverside.  As the year began, they were riding high on the success of “Love,

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Fear, and The Time Machine,” and it seemed things couldn’t be going better.  But life doesn’t always cooperate, and February saw the tragic gut-punch of losing Piotr Grudzinski, which left Riverside’s future indeterminate for a time.

Duda himself, as I found out in the interview, lost his father some time after that.

It’s a lot to take, but some how Duda and Riverside soldier onward, as their recent announcement to continue as a three-piece attests.  I was fortunate enough to be connected to Duda for another conversation (my first one can be found here), as we discussed what he and the band have been through and where they are going from here.

Progarchy: Well, it has been an eventful year for you guys … how are you holding up?

Mariusz Duda: Thank you so much, every day better and better.  You know, time flies, and time also heals our wounds a bit.  This year for me, personally, has not been good because I lost my father in May.  So if you just imagine three months after Piotr’s death, I had a death in my family. Piotr was also my family.  Anyway, this year was not so happy, and I just needed time to recover.  But now I feel better and I have the strength to talk about Riverside and some other stuff, both in the past in the future.

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Progarchy’s* Interview* with Jem* Godfrey* of Frost*. Seriously.*

On May 27th of this year, Frost* returned from an eight-year hiatus to release their latestFrost 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?

Continue reading “Progarchy’s* Interview* with Jem* Godfrey* of Frost*. Seriously.*”

Bassworks: My Top 10 Chris Squire Bass Performances

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.

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Check Your [headspace]: Progarchy Talks to Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman

We recently had the chance to talk to two of the principles of the band [headspace] – 1280x895Damian 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.headspace all that you fear

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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!