LEPROUS Drummer BAARD KOLSTAD Talks “Pitfalls,” Band’s Position on the Scene, Rendezvous Point & More

LEPROUS Drummer BAARD KOLSTAD Talks “Pitfalls,” Band’s Position on the Scene, Rendezvous Point & More

Leprous and Rendezvous Point drummer Baard Kolstad did an interview before the Leprous show in Istanbul on February 13th where he talks about the group’s latest effort Pitfalls, the Prog scene, the upcoming edition of the Prognosis Festival in Eindhoven, and more. The full video interview, as well as a few excerpts, can be seen below.

Asked to comment about the new Leprous album being arguably the most dynamic release the band put out to date, Baard said: “We’ve always been suckers for dynamic and whatever is making the right vibe; it that’s to play soft or if it’s to have everything soft but the drums extremely hard. It’s difficult to point out exactly what’s going on when we make very variated album as that, but of course there were some barriers or not barriers, but it was like new Leprous kind of stuff happening. For instance from my point of view as a drummer, when I heard demos for ‘By My Throne’—it’s just like, ‘okay, that’s a new kind of Leprous, let’s make this sound like us and try to put that into the Leprous setting.’”

About whether or not Leprous defy progressive rock and metal conventions with Pitfalls, Kolstad commented: “When I’m searching new music I’m not going only for progressive bands, I’m going for all kinds of music. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but of course we have a background we love, like Opeth and Tool and Dream Theater—not the others but I love Dream Theater—bands like that, Meshuggah. But that’s tools again—not the band Tool—but tools for us to use in composition and musicianship. We don’t try to care much about expectations, but I guess like the way we write or like Einar writes, the way we play will naturally be for people that only play stoner rock. We will always be a prog band, but for the proggers we will probably not be a prog band. And for a pop group we will definitely be proggy or weird or something like that. We kind of don’t belong anywhere.

During the interview Baard also talks about the expectations fans usually have from bands in terms of the sound and musical direction, Leprous’ 20th anniversary next year, the current Rendezvous Point tour with Anathema, drum clinics, his tips for aspiring drummers, and more. Watch the full interview below.

Sounding the Bardic Depths

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’ … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born.

— C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The Bardic Depths is a rare creation; the method of its making embodies what it portrays.  It’s a distinctive take on the concept album, sparked from ongoing collaboration by two devoted lovers of progressive rock, with stellar contributions from some of the music’s current leading lights.   (Oh, and fleeting spoken-word cameos from others, including yours truly — so yeah, objectivity is out the window here.)

Lyricist Brad Birzer and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Bandana have been self-releasing enjoyable albums for a few years now,  launching impressionist volleys of lyrical prose (usually in a dystopian sci-fi framework) via arching, chantlike melodies, poised atop appealingly thick ambient pads and amiably chugging pop grooves.  When Birzer pitched the life, times and friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as an album concept, Bandana loved it — but as the music took shape, he realized that contributors who could kick things up a level were needed for the album to take wing.

Enter the Passengers — that astonishingly amiable Facebook group of fans brought together by their love of Big Big Train.  Having seen BBT live (and made numerous musical friends in the process), Bandana modestly reached out for help.  And, as the video below reveals, one thing led to another:

Continue reading “Sounding the Bardic Depths”

Pat Metheny, From This Place

Well there’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground

— Bruce Springsteen, “The Promised Land”

The cover image for Pat Metheny’s From This Place — Springsteen’s twister touching down under lowering clouds above a reversed title — suggests that the guitarist’s first collection of new music in six years might be a dystopic downer, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls re-purposed for resistance in a tensely partisan time.  It’s true that Metheny writes from a distinct viewpoint here; but first and foremost he’s writing and playing from his musical and personal core, giving everything he has to connect with listeners of any and every outlook.  And this album communicates like mad.  It may end up being one of the best records released this year — state of the art jazz composed and performed at the highest level, a unified work of formidable emotional range and intelligence: instantly accessible, inescapably substantial — and above all, incredibly moving.

On his website, Metheny writes extensively about the process that led to From This Place: touring his back catalog with an international trio of virtuosos (Gwilym Simcock on piano, Linda May Han Oh on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums); the decision to record brand new tunes without rehearsal (a strategy by Miles Davis with his 1960s quintet); another snap decision to leave space for orchestrations (by Alan Broadbent and Gil Goldstein), incorporating both Metheny’s composed motifs and the quartet’s improvised inspirations; orchestral overdubs with conductor Joel McNeely and the cream of West Coast pros on a Hollywood soundstage (evoking CTI Records’ lush 1970s aesthetic); topped with guest shots from percussionist Luis Conte, harmonica player/Metheny alum Gregoire Maret and vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello on the hymnic title track.

All well and good, but process and preparation can only go so far.  Where the rubber meets the road is the playing — Metheny’s gutsy, creamy-toned melodicism, Simcock’s rhapsodic comping and vivacious solos, Oh’s fertile, bubbling foundational work and Sanchez’s pungent, earthy rhythmic concoctions.  These four are at the peak of their abilities throughout the session, primed to deliver their best.  It’s jaw-dropping stuff: interplay verging on telepathy, exhilarating ebb and flow both between individual players and as a unit, the space they leave for each other and the sumptuous orchestral backing all come together in awe-inspiring, high-intensity takes on 10 new tunes.  Whether scaling edifices of endlessly unrolling melody (“You Are” and “Pathmaker”), math-rocking through intricate uptempo bebop/Latin fusions (“Everything Explained” and “Sixty-Six”) or settling into hushed balladry (“The Past in Us” and “Love May Take Awhile”), they impress and astonish, as individuals and as a unit.  It’s hard to believe there’s a better jazz quartet active right now; this is a band I want to see and hear live as soon as possible.

But in the meantime, whither Metheny’s point of view?

Continue reading “Pat Metheny, From This Place”

Fernando Perdomo, Out to Sea 3

2019 was a breakout year for Fernando Perdomo.  As one of the first-call Los Angeles sessioneers assembled for the music documentary Echo in the Canyon, he’s been seen and heard on screens large and small around the world, backing up modern pop icons like Jakob Dylan, Beck, and Fiona Apple with his bracing guitar work and unmistakable stage presence.

Thankfully, Perdomo (who first surfaced in these precincts as Dave Kerzner’s lead guitarist and production sidekick) still loves his old-school prog rock, as the latest installment in his series of instrumental Out to Sea albums attests.  While the original Out to Sea focused on tributes to his musical heroes and OtS 2 served up dazzling miniatures of dizzying rhythmic and sonic variety, Out to Sea 3: The Storm turns out to be that delight of prog fans everywhere — a concept album!

After a theme song that pushes out from acoustic shores into the electric surf, “Wonder” showcases Perdomo’s inexhaustible gift for melody and his slick multi-instrumental chops. These two tracks are majestic cruises over the bounding main, with wave on wave of soaring guitar, shimmering keyboards, and loosely grooving drums, all played by Fernando himself.   “Cycles” features more tasty electric soloing over a simple, hypnotic bass lick; then Perdomo’s acoustic guitar gently weeps as “The Storm” hits:

From there on, the music and the implied storyline just keep getting wilder, as Perdomo throws himself into the deep.  “The Great Known” swings in 7/4, with a Beatlesque bridge sandwiched in the middle; “Frenzy” dives into exhilarating power riffage; “The Tambourines of Malmo” keep time to asymmetrical surf music, with a Latin American side trip tossed in.  The spindly wah-wah funk of “The UFO Club” slams hard into “Doom Is Often Loud” (which, with Morse code riffing, ominous Mellotron pads and a slinky John Bonham groove, totally delivers on its title’s promise), which in turn sets up the skewed chromatic waltz of “The Crab”.  Is the story all just a nightmare or a landlubber’s yarn, as the beautiful, mostly acoustic closer “Dawn” implies?  No matter what you conclude, the musical voyage Perdomo takes his listeners on here is a worthwhile trip — heady, hearty, heavy and tons of fun.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous Out to Sea albums, you’ll find OtS3: The Storm a worthy successor — indeed, a fitting conclusion to the story so far; if you haven’t heard them, I think it’s the perfect introduction to the series.  Either way, Fernando Perdomo’s widescreen compositional vision and instrumental prowess are on full display here, and the results are completely delightful.

Out to Sea 3 is released March 6; downloads and CDs are now available to preorder on Bandcamp.

perdomo ots 3 cover

— Rick Krueger

Interview with HEYOKA’s MIRROR

Calgary, Canada-based progressive metal act Heyoka’s Mirror has recently returned with the release of a new, instrumental single “Asylum” which is a grand taster for the group’s upcoming full-length album.

Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites? Please tell us something more about your early life.

Andrew: Omar and I started playing music around the same age. We were 14 and 16. I discovered Dream Theater when I was 14 years old and that’s when I started taking singing and theory lessons. I spent my teenage years listening to bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Transatlantic. 

Omar: Yup, started playing around 16. As a young kid, I was a huge GNR and Metallica fan and always wanted to play like those guys! Then when I picked up the guitar and started learning, I was introduced to music from guys like Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, DREAM THEATER (greatest band!), Paul Gilbert, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and the list goes on and on! 

How did you go about starting Heyoka’s Mirror? Who was the most influential when the project started its musical journey?

Andrew: I met Omar in the spring of 2015. I had just moved into Calgary and I was looking for a guitar player for a solo project I had. We met and decided to have a writing session a week after our meeting. That’s when Heyoka’s Mirror started. 

Omar: Just like Andrew said. I was contacted by him through social media, we met and had a quick discussion about the kind of music we both wanted to do and that was it. I remember we discussed how melody is a very important aspect of the kind of music we want to create. 

In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

Andrew: We always write a story first. Once the story is complete, then we start writing the music according to the events in the tale. 

Omar: Story always comes first and then we start creating the music for it. A lot of it just happens bouncing ideas, talking about the story and then trying to communicate those feelings and emotions through our music. 

How would you describe Heyoka’s Mirror music on your own?

Omar: I would say it is a blend of a lot of different styles of music. Our songs and certain parts within them can sound like hard rock, pop, jazz, metal, blues, blues rock. To us, whatever feels right for the story, belongs in the song. Let’s go with Progressive Rock/Metal 🙂

What is the most important thing for the structure of your songs? Is it a riff, a melody line?

Omar: We like to write a story before we write the music. If there is no story, what is the music about? For the album coming up, the whole album is one story (concept album). We go part by part, song by song to create the music for it, while keeping the story in mind and where it is going. For recording, all the drums, vocals and bass are recorded in the studio. Andrew and I record our parts(keys, 8 string guitars, rhythm and lead guitars) at home. 

The most important thing for the structure of the song? I think there are a few things.

Melody is important! Riffs that are heavy and high energy in certain situations. We also like to avoid sounding mechanical. We want the music to be full of life and character! 

Recommend us some good prog metal acts coming from your area.

Andrew: Oh, there are some really good ones! Illuminated Minerva, Metavore, Subsume, and my favorite one… Nok Novum! Those guys are amazing! 

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Heyoka’s Mirror?

Andrew: Not really, I help here and there as a session player, but not really as a full time member.

Omar: No. I play golf in my free time. Golf is the best!

What are your long-term plans for Heyoka’s Mirror?

Andrew: First things first… we need a drummer! Our album was completed with the help of session drummers, but we need someone who would like to join the family. Once we have a drummer, we would like to start going out on little tours. Start expanding. We want Heyoka’s Mirror to eventually get big enough so we can tour around the world (every musician’s dreams pretty much). We would love to play with big bands, play festivals. We just want to get OUT THERE!

“Asylum” is out now; get it from Bandcamp. Follow Heyoka’s Mirror on Facebook.

KATATONIA’s ANDERS NYSTRÖM on Band’s Comeback: “Our Hunger and Passion Came Back Pretty Quick”

Photo credits: Ester Segarra

KATATONIA’s guitarist Anders Nyström and singer Jonas Renkse talked before the recent show in Izmir, Turkey about their return, the upcoming album City Burials which is out on April 24 via Peaceville Records, among other topics. Watch the full interview below.

Asked about KATATONIA’s return a year after they announced the hiatus, Nyström commented: “The break was something that we really needed to do. We’ve been going for a band since early ‘90s, non stop. With everything you need to step back and sometimes put things into perspective and re-evaluate yourself and everything around you. We needed to do that. Also to try to see where we want to go and also to gain the motivation to continue. It was not a set plan that we need a year. I think our hunger and passion came back pretty quick. It kind of happened to be the anniversary of ‘The Night is the New Day’ album and we felt that it was like a perfect slow comeback thing; nothing too dramatic and it would just make a lot of sense trying things out again and celebrate that album. It actually made things very exciting again. Stepping into that, that way.

KATATONIA returns on April 24 with the release of their 11th studio album City Burials; pre-order it here. The band will play a fan voted by request set at the Prognosis Festival in Eindhoven on March 20.

Watch the interview with Anders and Jonas below.