Interview with Graham Bacher of Protean Collective

Protean Collective

Prog metal act Protean Collective is one of those bands for me whose name I’ve been seeing around the web but never gave them a proper listen, until few weeks ago. I was contacted by the group’s publicist, who was very ambitious about the four-piece’s most recent, third studio album “Collapse,” and who insisted that I should check the Boston-based group out.

And so I listened… With four releases under their belt (one of them being an EP) since 2010, it’s quite easy to notice that these three guys and a girl know their craft. It can be said that each of the ten songs on “Collapse” is a gem per se; the album was released last year but the group is still promoting it, with the release of a playthrough video which was launched a few weeks ago.

I talked with guitarist and singer Graham Bacher about this new album — which, by the way, was mixed and mastered at Fascination Street Studios by André Alvinzi and Jens Bogren, respectively.

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 as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

Well, I first started playing violin when I was about 6, and played acoustic and electric violin through my teens, but as time went on, I got much more into the sounds and textures of the guitar. It felt like an instrument that I was more free to experiment with and really be creative.

I’d say the first bands that really got me excited about playing music were the 90’s bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, the Smashing Pumpkins — and then in high school I started discovering bands like Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Rush, and Pain of Salvation who really turned music from a hobby to a kind of obsession. Those are all bands that have been huge influences on me as a musician. Of course, while we do have a lot of common musical interests, I think everyone in the band has a pretty wide array of influences.

Graham Bacher

How did you go about forming Protean Collective? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

Matt [Zappa, drums], Steph [Goyer, guitars], and I all became good friends in our first year of college but never really played together. Sometime late in our first year there, we all got in a room together to jam, and I think it was a kind of amazing moment, where we all realized that we had some really special musical chemistry together. I’m not really sure who was the most influential — I think it was just something we were all really excited about and we really worked together on it.

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

We always have been this way, and probably always will be to some degree, but everything was very fluid in the beginning. Someone might come in with a riff or a beat or a melody and we’d just play off it until we were all excited about it. I think later on, on the last two albums, there are a few songs that we’ve gone into thinking that we were going to go for a particular feel or effect on the listener, but writing for us has always been a very collaborative process. In the beginning, I think the improvisational nature was very apparent, with more meandering song structures; over time, I think we’ve gotten more direct and concise with our writing, but the collaboration is always an integral part of what we do.

How would you describe Protean Collective’s music on your own?

First I would grimace because I’m absolutely terrible at answering that question. I don’t feel like I’m emotionally separated enough from the music to really have perspective on it, so I’d LOVE to hear how you’d describe it.

But ultimately, what we try to do is create powerful music that meshes the aggressive energy of metal with powerful melodies and a great deal of dynamic depth. When we use progressive elements in our music, it’s to create a certain effect on the listener. I hope that each song it’s it’s own journey.

Protean Collective - Collapse

Your most recent full-length album, “Collapse” (2017), is a follow-up to 2010’s debut full-length “Divided” and 2014’s “The Red and the Grey.” Have you felt any pressure while working on “Collapse” because of that in terms of coming up with something that’s sort of expected to be better than the first two efforts?

It absolutely was for me, because “The Red and the Grey” is an album I was very proud of. We put a lot of time, energy, and love into making that record be the best album we could put out, and I think it was the first musical project for me that, after the lengthy process of writing, tracking, mixing, and mastering, I was still excited to listen to. For me personally, it was written during a very challenging time mentally, so I think it felt especially meaningful.

At the same time, since we were self producing, that took some of the pressure off, just because we were free to make sure that we had something we were really proud of and happy with before releasing it into the world — and in the end, I have to say I absolutely couldn’t be happier with how “Collapse” turned out.

What has changed for Protean Collective when it comes to writing new music — “Collapse” in particular?

Well, as I alluded to earlier, the general process has really stayed the same, but I think with Collapse in particular, we were really leaning towards creating more focused, powerful songs than ever before. So I’m not sure the process itself has changed so much as I just think we’ve grown a lot as writers and maybe what we’re trying to accomplish with each song has changed. I think and hope that our writing will always continue to evolve as we continue to write.

What would you say is the most important segment for the structures of your songs?

To me, it’s got to be the choruses. There are a lot of structures and moving pieces that go through our songs, but the choruses are where I feel like it all comes together into a unified message that connects all the pieces together into a coherent construct.

How do you see the modern progressive metal scene?

I think this is an absolutely amazing time to be a musician. I think now, with the ability nearly anyone can have to record professional sounding music, there are an unprecedented number of people who are free to create music in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 15 years ago. There are so many amazing musicians out there creating so much amazing music that it’s absolutely inspiring to see. There’s so much variety of music out there that really, I’m not sure if there’s any one real sound I could even nail down as defining a modern progressive metal sound, but I think there’s a tremendous amount of people out there who are trying to do something new and make music that is their own, and I love it.

Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?

I don’t think so in particular. We’re about making music we feel strongly about, and that’s the focus.

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Protean Collective?

I’m not, personally. Matt also plays in an amazing band called Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.

What comes next for Protean Collective?

More shows! We’re hoping to get out there and share what we have with as much of the world as possible. Right now we’re very much in the mode of getting “Collapse” out there to as many listeners as we can. This is an album that I’m really passionate about, and I really just want to get to share it with as many people as we possibly can.

Thank you for the time and for listening!

 

Visit Protean Collective on Bandcamp, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Protean Collective is:

Graham Bacher – vocals, guitars
Dan Ehramjian – bass
Steph Goyer – guitars
Matt Zappa – drums, percussion

Psst! Looking for a Good New Rock Memoir?

Well, look no further, bunkie!  Check out these upcoming publications:

kramer hard way

Out August 14 (hey, that’s tomorrow!):

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities by Wayne Kramer.

“The first memoir by Wayne Kramer, legendary guitarist and cofounder of quintessential Detroit proto-punk legends The MC5.”   More info about Kramer’s MC50: Kick Out the Jams – The 50th Anniversary Tour (which I’m seeing in September) here.

 

Out September 18:lukather memoir

The Gospel According to Luke by Steve Lukather

“The outrageous and often hilarious autobiography of legendary session musician and lead guitarist and singer of Toto.”  Check out more about the current bizarre synchronicity between Toto, Weezer and Stranger Things here. (I’ll be at Toto’s Grand Rapids show in a couple of weeks; look for a review to follow.  Hoping for advance copies on sale at the merch booth …)

 

Out October 23: daltrey memoir

Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey

“The frontman of one of the greatest bands of all time tells the story of his rise from nothing to rock ‘n’ roll megastar, and his wild journey as the voice of The Who.”  Given that Pete Townshend’s Who I Am has been out for a while, I’m looking forward to Daltrey’s take.

 

And, out November 13:tweedy memoir

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy

“The singer, guitarist, and songwriter, best known for this work with Wilco, opens up about his past, his songs, the music, and the people that have inspired him.”  I’m a huge Wilco fan; Tweedy is one of the few remaining rockers I know who takes the idea of music as the basis for community seriously.  Very interested in what he’ll be putting down here.

Any other rock books coming soon you’d like Progarchy fans to know about?  Leave the info in the comments!

— Rick Krueger

Glass Hammer reveals CHRONOMONAUT!

Glass Hammer Chronomonaut
The cover from the latest album–a thing of intense beauty.
Straight from Steve “the Mighty” Babb!
Glass Hammer Set To Release “Chronomonaut” Concept Album
Glass Hammer have been teasing a concept album based on “the ultimate prog fan”, and now it’s official.
Fans will no doubt recognize the name “Tom” from 2000’s Chronometree release and videos on Glass Hammer’s social media sites show that Tom has recently resurfaced to promote his own music. Bassist Steve Babb explains, “While Chronometree documented Tom’s prog-rock influenced alien-encounter in 1979, our new album Chromomonaut tells the stranger story of all that happened later; from Tom’s failed early eighties prog-rock band, The Elf King, to his most recent musings on nostalgia and the glory days of progressive rock.”
“We wanted to create a truly immersive album experience,” says Babb.  “So we’ve been releasing videos of Tom and giving him a virtual life on the internet. He has recently interacted with other fans on prog forums and on his own social media pages. Tom’s attempts at restarting his old band have even been the source of articles on Progarchy.com. There was just something about him that fans really related to back in 2000 when Chronometree proved to be the turning point in Glass Hammer’s career. People liked that Tom took his music so seriously – he reminds us of ourselves, prog-fans and prog musicians alike. Tom loves his album collections, maybe too much. But then so do we.”
Bandmates Fred Schendel, Susie Bogdanowicz and Aaron Raulston are all on board for this release. Guest appearances include Discipline’s Matthew Parmenter and Chris Herin.
“Chronomonaut” will be released on Friday, October 12th. Pre-ordering for autographed copies will begin one month ahead of the release on September 12th at the band’s website.
Youtube Teaser Link: https://youtu.be/UuWJFWwYxKs
Band website: www.glasshammer.com
                                           
***
This Friday, look for a feature length article on Glass Hammer at The American Conservative by yours truly.

Big Big Train’s True Founder: Tom Bombadil

Since his first appearance in English literature, in 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil has intrigued readers to no end.  Could he be an angelic vala gone native, an Adam without sin, or merely an enigma?

With the Bodleian’s new exhibit on J.R.R. Tolkien, some vital and compelling evidence has surfaced.  Vala gone native, Adam without sin, and enigma, Bombadil is also the founder of the greatest British progressive rock band of all time, Big Big Train.

Look closely at the Hildebrant Brothers’ depiction of Tom.  You, too, will be amazed.

39077920_1815178288518354_1047249031199195136_o
Photoshop by Brad Birzer (but, really, by Martin Teraud).

The evidence, of course, had always been there, but most refused to see it.  Here’s the most telling passage from The Fellowship of the Ring.

He then told them many remarkable stories, sometimes half as if speaking to himself, sometimes looking at them suddenly with a bright blue eye under his deep brows. Often his voice would turn to song, and he would get out of his chair and dance about. He told them tales of bees and flowers, the ways of trees, and the strange creatures of the Forest, about the evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles.

If this isn’t proof, nothing is.

To be perfectly Franck

Franck Carducci“Where have all the great showmen gone?” I opined in Prog magazine earlier this year. In other words, who are the artistes that are taking that step beyond playing to offer a performance that also offers theatre, circus – and even a touch of Vaudeville?

The artiste who inspired this question has just been on vacation in New York – and I cannot think of a better place for him to experience a whiff of the greasepaint lingering close by on Broadway.

Before he goes to the Crescendo Festival in France on 21st August then plays further dates in France and the Netherlands next month to wow more audiences, ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a huge cheer for Franck Carducci, the Superstar Mad Hatter, whose musical stock is slowly but surely rising as he continues to conquer Europe in his own inimitable but never understated way.

Frenchman Franck has spent his career drawing on a range of musical and literary influences that now shape his music and, more importantly, his show.  A prog muso friend summed it up perfectly when he remarked at a recent show at how well Franck and his trusty band of musical adventurers have managed to devise a big show from relatively small but nevertheless dramatic components.

And there’s the secret of their success. There is no huge Roger Waters “everything but the kitchen sink” theatricals involved. Instead, there are cleverly designed costumes and a couple of randomly unusual instruments involved in their concert set pieces. The rest is down to an innate talent that blends elements of psychedelia, classic rock, prog and even six-part harmonies into a finely tuned and utterly compelling two hours.

Having first encountered Franck a couple of years ago in Southampton, his cheery, warm, friendly demeanour and total belief in what he does were both refreshing and highly contagious.

His influences include classical literature and history (he is big on the Ancient Greeks), classic rock, (one of his ambitions is to support Alice Cooper) as well as the prog classics, especially Genesis. In fact, one of his most memorable moments was supporting Steve Hackett, who told him not to give up on his dream then guested on his second album Torn Apart in 2015.

More significant breakthroughs came  last year, firstly when he and the band were greeted to a standing ovation at the legendary Loreley prog festival in Germany. This was quickly followed up in the United Kingdom, when, after the Saturday night headliners at the British prog festival, Summers End,  elected to go on early evening, several of us “in the know” implored everyone to stay to watch Franck and company.

The magnificent performance they subsequently delivered nearly blew the roof off the modest Drill Hall in Chepstow and prompted my Prog piece.  Further endorsement of their burgeoning popularity came earlier this year when they were voted Classic Rock Society’s Overseas Act of the Year.

So what’s the alchemy here? Well, Franck is primarily the band’s bassist and singer, but his onstage persona is that of Master of Ceremonies – with a twist.  His opening number, Superstar, sets the tone as he arrives on stage in shades, cowboy hat and outrageously hairy waistcoat, having to use his personal “security” man to fend off the advances of an amorous lady admirer.

The admirer is one of the many roles assumed by the very talented and beautiful Mary Reynaud.  She is traditionally the band’s support act as well as being an integral part of the show, especially her seductive dancing seldom seen elsewhere in prog. Her solo work – just her and her trusty acoustic guitar – demonstrates her  song writing skills and unique voice which is sweet and powerful in equal measure.

Included in the line-up is Franck’s long time friend and collaborator, guitarist Christophe Obadia, who is one of prog’s more eccentric personalities, acting as a great foil for Steve Marsala, who is the quieter and more sensible of the band’s guitarists.

Keyboard player and Franck’s “security guard”, Olivier Castan and drummer Antonino Reina (“he comes from Sicily”) complete the line-up.

The show simply could not work if there was not a great affection and empathy between the members of the all-star cast. For example, a mutual love of classic rock riffs sees Obadia and Marsala trading licks on some of the legends such as Smoke on the Water and Sweet Child of Mine.

The music is pure rock, fantastically infused with psychedelia and some delicious curios, for example, the use of a theremin without which Good Vibrations would never have vibrated. Mary’s invocation of its extraordinary sounds involves provocatively using certain parts of her body while Obadia’s oscillations are more shock horror than X rated!

Theremin

Obadia oscillates

As well as her belly dancing solo on stage, Mary also has very differing starring roles in two of their most memorable songs. The recently introduced beautiful, bluesy ballad, The Angel, is a show stopper, Mary arriving on stage in her angel wings, lit by LED lights, which, when she spins, whirls into extraordinary patterns of colour.

Angel Mary

The Angel Mary

Then there is Alice’s Eerie Dream, and where to start with this epic? As Franck in his Mad Hatter attire explains, this is the true story of Alice in Wonderland, when her adventures caused her to become a lady of the night.  It’s a long and compelling tale, Mary becoming Alice in her fabulous corseted dress and mask,  trying to seduce the band members in turn. But it is left to Obadia to finally fend her off, using the throaty strains of an enormous didgeridoo. Yes, you did read that correctly!

As well as classic rock, the band can also stun with their vocal dexterity in the brilliant six-part harmony of On The Road To Nowhere with just Franck strumming acoustic guitar as occasional accompaniment.

Their love of prog classics stretches to them delivering their own interpretations, Pink Floyd’s Eclipse giving a chance for audiences to exercise their vocal chords and more recently, they have introduced their own interpretation of Supertramp’s School with other members of the band taking their lead on vocals.

Well, that’s being perfectly Franck. He’s an entertainer, a showman, a musician, an actor and above all, a real star. Franck Carducci 1

Photographs by Martin Reijman

 

 

 

Tears for Fears Tour 2019 – Fan Travel Info — Tears and Kooks International (Tears for Fears Travel Fans)

We hope this basic info will provide you with a reasonable hotel you can stay in while you travel plus links to the venue so you can explore and be ready for each show. Remember to take care of your travel documents such as passport and passport card. Keep your passport card with you at […]

via Tears for Fears Tour 2019 – Fan Travel Info — Tears and Kooks International (Tears for Fears Travel Fans)