We’ve all had the experience of mishearing song lyrics, sometimes spending years or decades with our strange, faulty interpretations. The best examples are well-known, and sometimes humorous, like Jimi Hendrix singing “‘Scuse me, while I kiss this guy”. Occasionally, the meaning of an entire song can be misconstrued; according to Bryan Adams, the title of the song “Summer of ’69” is a reference to the sexual position, information which, given the overall innocent and nostalgic vibe of the song, I choose to regard as disingenuous.
The song I’ve been most wrong about, though, also happens to be one of my all-time favorites—it earned that position even when I had a fuzzy idea (at best) of its content, and has maintained its rank even after the true nature of that content was made clear. Or at least, clearer.
One of the casualties of the digital revolution in music was a little thing called liner notes, and where a freshly pressed 1996 store-bought CD of Sing to God by the band Cardiacs might have provided song lyrics to puzzle over during those first exploratory listens, I discovered the band about 10 years later, via internet download— if I recall correctly, the album in question wasn’t even in print at the time. Listening to music mostly via iPod while walking or driving made finding a copy of the lyrics less of a priority; the thought only occurred to me in inconvenient places, and any mental note—”I really should look up these lyrics one of these days”—was promptly forgotten upon arrival at whatever destination.
Black Sabbath‘s eponymous 1970 debut might well be the ultimate Yer Metal is Olde entry. Besides being unquestionably metal, it’s also as Olde as Yer Metal can possibly get. Because, despite what a small minority of Coven and/or Blue Cheer fans might say, the release of Black Sabbath marks the birth of heavy metal itself as both a sound and a fully-formed aesthetic. (Some argue High Tide‘s 1969 debut, Sea Shanties is the actual birth of metal, and there is a wicked guitar tone on that album.) Infamously recorded in a single day, the album is more or less a live performance by a young band that was just starting to discover its own power.
If you doubt this album’s influence, just take a listen to the opening title track. That initial three-note riff — you’re hearing it in your head right now — informed everything that would follow, from Judas Priest to Metallica to the entire “doom” subgenre. Vocalist John “Ozzy” Osbourne then enters with an anguished vocal counterpoint, which completely separates this track from any blues or jazz that preceded it. The faster section of this song could be considered a precursor to NWoBHM and eventually thrash metal, although Sabbath would pioneer that more thoroughly with songs like “Symptom Of The Universe” later on. I don’t even need to mention that the song literally mentions Satan by name, decades before black metal bands were casually name-checking the big red guy.
The rest of the album, while not quite as terrifying, is still a fascinating listen. …
Back in March, something cool showed up online: an official Porcupine Tree Bandcamp page. Today, Bandcamp spilled the beans to the world by featuring Porcupine Tree on their Daily blog. (Though the snarky tone of the listicle left something to be desired — as is all too often the case. Oh well, all publicity is good publicity, right?).
So what’s on Bandcamp for your listening and downloading pleasure?
Back on March 20, Bandcamp waived its share of all sales, in order to support artists whose livelihoods were effected by the COVID-19 pandemic (especially because of cancelled live shows and tours). The results were astonishing: $4,300,000 in sales of downloads, CDs, LPs and merch, 15 times a normal Friday’s take.
On May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month), we’re waiving our revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp, from midnight to midnight PDT on each day.
(Over 150 artists and labels are offering discounts, exclusive items, merch bundles, and more this Friday.)
It may sound simple, but the best way to help artists is with your direct financial support, and we hope you’ll join us through the coming months as we work to support artists in this challenging time.
And, in case you’re wondering, there’s tons of recorded goodness available at Bandcamp from these Progarchy-favored artists:
Pattern Seeking Animals will be releasing their sophomore album Prehensile Tales, May 15th on InsideOutMusic. The band consists of current and former Spock’s Beard members Ted Leonard (Guitar and Vocals), Jimmy Keegan (Drums), Dave Meros (bass) and Spock’s long-time contributing songwriter John Boegehold (Keys and Producer). I had fun speaking with Ted and Dave about the new album, as well as their side-projects and how they’ve been keeping occupied during quarantine life.
Congrats on the new album. I’m really digging it, It’s quite different than the debut. I like the first one, but I definitely like this one better. It has more interesting ideas and sounds.
DAVE – I think that’s the general consensus with us too.
TED-For me, I don’t know, actually. There are certain songs I really connect with, but there’s definitely a broader sound palette on this one for sure, which a lot of reviewers have pointed out as well. There’s also a lot of real instrumentation which sounds more authentic. It’s a bigger sound. It’s a bigger band than we are.
What’s your favorite track on the new album?
TED-“Soon But Not Today”- It’s between that and “Lifeboat”.
DAVE-It’s kind hard to pick one on this album for me, but mine is kind of a tie between “Lifeboat” and “Why Don’t We Run”. I really like that song for some reason.
TED-That one appeals to me too. It’s super different. I played it for my daughter and she thought it was really cool, and I’ve played it for my boss who’s a super prog-head and he said“That was different.” Haha. Like many of the songs on this album, it incorporates so many feels and in this case, it’s like a spaghetti western, instead of being filmed it Italy, it was filmed in South Korea.
Did you record this album, in the same fashion as the first, or was there a different technique or anything unusual for these sessions?
DAVE-It was pretty much the same, except for John writing all of it this time. We’re all up here in our little man-caves recording our parts.
TED-Everything’s isolated except for Jimmy, but that’s the same as the first album. The only instrument these days that really require a great sounding room is drums. So he records it at Rich’s (Mouser) studio.
“Here in My Autumn” is the first single from Prehensile Tales:
RoSfest 2020 in May was supposed to be Pattern Seeking Animals’ debut live performance.Since RoSfest 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic, how is PSA coping with the cancellation or changing their plans?
TED-Yeah, we were bummed about that, but of course no one’s making plans. Obviously we’d like to perform for people in a live scenario. It’s going to be a fun line-up, especially with the two guys we have in mind to fill out the roster. We have Dennis Atlas, who we would bring on as the primary keyboardist, because John’s not going to come out and play live with us, and then we would require someone who can wear many hats, and that would Walter Eno. He’s a local scene dude who’s a really good guitar player, keyboardist, he plays some sax, and he apparently can sing very well too.
What’s the main reason John can’t perform live with you guys?
TED-It’s just not in his interest.
DAVE-Yeah, he doesn’t want to and he would have to develop a whole rig. He’s never played keyboards in a band live before, so that’s a whole different animal. You have to get all your patches all organized and split keyboards- I don’t blame him.
TED-Yeah, I have nightmares about that sometimes. I’ve actually had real nightmares about someone sticking an instrument in my hands, repeatedly it’s Ed Platt from Enchant.He says “You know what key it’s in, just go out there and play it!”And I’m like “I don’t fuckin’ know this song!” Haha, yup just a weird dream I have.But I’ve lived the nightmare of having to become a keyboardist- a better keyboardist than I am- very quickly. I’m glad it happened- it gave me a broader understanding. It’s a little easier to find my way around, if I have to.
I was super impressed when you did the keys for Transatlantic on the ship (Progressive Nation at Sea 2014).
TED-Yeah, that was fun! That was a crash course! I’ve always been able to play chords and single-note parts, I know my scales and I know chordal theory well enough, but when Neal called me up and said “You’re gonna play this part and that part”, and I was like “Wait a minute- that’s a piano part!My left hand doesn’t even touch this instrument!”
I know not much is happening as far as plans go right now, but is there anything you guys are hoping to get started with once the dust settles?
DAVE-Nothing finite, but we’re always fielding offers.
TED-Yeah, nothing specific, but we’d like to get in on some festivals, maybe get in on the cruise, if there ever is a cruise again. Of course we would entertain the idea of touring if we could find a way that was financially feasible. I think the only way to do that is to pair up with a band that makes for a good bill.
What’s going on in Spock’s Beard world?
TED-So much! Haha
DAVE-It’s kind of the same thing. Just seeing what comes up. We do have the cruise booked for 2021.
TED- There’s that, and we just played a couple shows in San Pedro, but that was just a keep-the-wheel-greased gig. But that was fun.
Ted, what’s going on with Enchant these days?
TED-Enchant’s supposed to be writing right now, and they were writing on a weekly basis as a group,I live further away from them now, so I can’t really be a part of the group writing. But usually I’ll get demos which will or will not already have vocals on them. Or if we’re going to take a song of mine, it’s usually submitted as a completed piece, then they just sort of embellish or whatever. I can’t even say usually when you’re talking abut a band whose most recent album came out like 4 years ago, and the prior one was 10 years before that.
Dave, still working with Iron Butterfly?
DAVE-That’s another one of those handful-of-gigs-per-year bands. We have stuff booked in July which I’m hoping works- fingers crossed.We might all still be locked up in our houses then, who knows.
Is there a musician you haven’t got a chance to work with, but would like to?
Haha… and who might that be?
TED-Sure, yeah! Most of them are dead. I would love to lure Casey McPherson out of the band [Flying Colors], and let me take over that spot. Haha, I was going to start with saying I love anytime I get to do anything with Neal Morse, and I would love to do something with Steve Morse someday. Anybody from Kansas, past or present. I would love to sing on something that Kerry Livgren wrote. There are a ton of guitarists I’d love to have on one of my future solo albums. Or just someone to be the guitarist, and I’ll just do my thing.One of those guys is James Santiago who’s been a friend of mine since we were in our twenties and I just always wanted to have him be in a band with me. We did a Jellyfish video a few years ago. I’ve always fantasized about having that guy in a band. A lot of people know who he is because he’s been part of the build process for certain popular Line 6 products, but they haven’t gotten to hear how good he is as a guitar player. I would like to make a band for the sole purpose of getting that guy some visibility. Plus he’s the coolest guy in the world.
DAVE-You know, I always say “no” to that kind of question and the reason is I can pick Peter Gabriel or Jimmy Hendrix or any of those guys; there are hundreds of them. But if I played with them, it wouldn’t be the same and I would probably end up being really embarrassed. So I’d rather not, haha.
TED-Yeah, it’d be like when you’re talking about someone’s bass player you probably esteem as better than yourself, like Peter Gabriel’s, it’s kind hard to want to fill some of those shoes. That would be like me wanting to play with the members of Queensrÿche– yeah no, I’m not going to do that.
DAVE-Yeah, and let’s say you get to play with Jimmy Hendrix and it turns out he’s just tripping on acid or something and it’s just really weird just to be there- your whole mystique about him would be gone then. It just wouldn’t be the same. Never meet your idols, I guess.
TED-Same reason I’ll never have sex with a porn star, haha
Dave, have you met an idol you were disappointed in meeting?
DAVE-Actually the ones I’ve met have been really nice. I’ve never met anyone who blew me off… oh wait! I actually I did! One of my big bass idols is Percy Jones, and on the last cruise when Brand X was playing and I was all tongue tied like you get with your idols, he just kinda blew me off-that was really depressing, giving me a look like “oh no, here’s another asshole telling me I’m great- just let me go back stage and have a beer… come on!” you know?But then I met him later that night, had a cocktail with him and talked to him for quite a while and he was super nice.
What have you been doing differently these days because of the pandemic stay- at -home orders? You guys picking up any new activities or skills?
DAVE-I got some work actually. There’s this guy I play for, and he just records stuff all the time, so I have another album from him to record, so I have that, which is really good timing. And I’ve been working on my basses and building a speaker cabinet. I’m kind of a hermit anyway, so my life hasn’t really changed that much.
TED-I work from home, so in many ways, it hasn’t changed much for me either, apart from the fact that I’m never home alone anymore. My wife just finished her masters-she was seeing a bunch of clients, but she obviously hasn’t been able to see them now, but she has some physiology clients that get on the phone with her to do FaceTime, but a lot of them aren’t comfortable with that… yeah she’s been home a lot. All that means is… yeah… my life has… improved.
DAVEHaha…I know what that means.
What made you want to become a musician? Was there a moment in time that lead you there or a musician that influenced you to say “I wanna do that”? (Listen to soundclip below)
I’m on a Rush kick right now. I’ve been trying to listen to an album a day.What is your favorite Rush album?
TED-You’re gonna hate me.
TED-Just by having said that, what would you guess?
Probably something in the late 80’s, early 90’s? Roll the Bones?
Nice! Actually, the very first Rush album I ever heard. So I actually like that album quite a bit!
TED-Yeah, that was the first one I ever owned, but I listened to rock radio growing up, so I heard everything prior to that, that was a release. But when “Show Me Don’t Tell Me” came out, and I heard it, I just remember going “OK, I gotta get that album.”
DAVE-The only album I’m familiar with, front to back, is 2112. All the rest of them I just heard bits and pieces from, which is really weird, because I really like Rush, but I’ve never been a person to buy all of their records. So I’d say 2112, that’s the only one I owned and used to play all the time.
TED-I wasn’t familiar with the deeper cuts until I joined Enchant, and those guys were Rush freaks, so it was almost like required reading. The original drummer of Enchant, Paul Craddick, was especially a die-hard fan. Personally it was hard for me to get into Rush. If we talk through a list of bands that I’ve liked over the years, the one commonality is usually the lead singer. Not only do they have to strike my ears as something I like, a lot of time they have to be someone I can sing along with, otherwise it just loses my interest- part of being a lead singer, I guess.It was always hard for me to get into Jon Anderson, which I know, that’s heresy, but his voice is unapproachable. Trevor Rabin is right in my wheel house, but Jon Anderson, not so much. I was more into the arena rock growing up, buying Triumph albums. Rik Emmett, has the same kind of voice as Geddy, but I think he’s technically a better singer, personally.
The last interview I did for PSA, I asked John and Jimmy what was their favorite food, so I’d like to get your answers for that as well.
DAVE-Man, that is a hard choice for me.
TED-Dave really likes cock.
DAVE-I like cock prepared anyway. Anyway you prepare a nice cock, I’m there.
Wrapped in Bacon?
DAVE-Wrapped in bacon for sure!
TED-Everything is good wrapped in bacon!
TED-There’s a street near me, and apparently it’s a guy’s name, but it’s called Dick Cook Lane. Every time I drive by it, a whole scenario goes off in my head.
DAVE-I have a hard time decided between three- Indian food, Thai food, and Mexican food. They all tie for my #1 spot.For Mexican, I’ll eat anything. For Thai food, I always gravitate toward the spicy mint noodles. For Indian food, I really like Saag Paneer.
TED- Before Spock’s Beard, I would have said something completely different, but everyone would be going out on a night off or whatever, and we ended up at an Indian food in England,which is the best place to get Indian food. And I didn’t want to be a dick or anything, so I said, ok I’ll go, and it was the best thing I ever tasted. So I’ve been on an Indian kick for a few years now. We made Chicken Tikka Masala at home a few times. It’s quite a process, but I love pretty much anything Indian. And with Thai, I hated curry as a kid, but now I just can’t get enough of it.
Thank you so much for meeting up with me! Congrats on the album! It’s really great!
Anything you’d like the Progarchy readers to know about about it?
TED-It’s definitely going to be a step in a different direction. It has a big appeal for prog fans; it has a lot of prog moments, but also doesn’t shy away from non-prog moments. I think it will attract the mature prog fan. Not the ones that say, “If it’s not prog, I can’t like it”.If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap! hehe. It has appeal for all the masses, including the North Koreans.
DAVE-It’s very melodic. Like John said with the first release, you’re never more than like 30 seconds away from some kind of a hook.If you’re into musical rather than shredding, this is for you.
Pre-order Prehensile Tales on CD, Vinyl, or Digital at this link!
Nevertheless, they’re persisting — and well they should. Dreaming City is another fine, fine Glass Hammer album; its thrilling musical voyages mesh marvelously with an unexpectedly apropos narrative, and the result is surprisingly suited for these unprecedented times.
The big news here (and the big hook for me) is how Dreaming City’s concept channels a very specific vibe — the vintage fantasy paperbacks that glutted newsstands and drugstores in prog rock’s golden era. No, not the thick multi-part epics that sprouted like kudzu after The Lord of the Rings’ mass market breakout — I’m talking about the 200-pagers (frequently mash-ups of short stories) that leaned toward the grittier “sword and sorcery” end of the genre. Steve Babb’s story steers directly for the classic archetypes of Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga and Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales: an alienated adventurer battling beastly creatures and fiendish wizards, racing against time to save a damsel in distress from a horrific fate — and armed with a mystical sword, no less. Books like these were a major thrill of my middle school years (and still provide the occasional pleasurable re-read) , so I’m delighted by Babb’s tapping into them for inspiration here.
The varied musical palette pairs perfectly with the ups and downs of the story; especially compared to the winning, poppy sheen of 2018’s Chronomonaut, Dreaming City is a moodier, more ferocious beast. The core team of Babb (bass, keys, lead and backing vocals) Schendel (keys, guitars and backing vocals) and Aaron Raulston (drums) rock hard from the start, summoning the ghosts of synth-heavy Rush (the title track, “Cold Star”) and Hydra-era Toto (“Terminus”) but giving each multi-sectioned tune an up-to-date spin. The menacing drone of “The Lurker Beneath,” the monstrously heavy “Pagarna” and the Floydian soundscape “At the Threshold of Dreams” downshift into the spacious mid-tempo reveries “This Lonely World” and “October Ballad” (the latter featuring yet another standout Susie Bogdanowicz vocal). Ramping up via the tangerine-dreamy “The Tower” and the menacing doom-synth crescendo of “A Desperate Man”, the stage seems set for a stereotypical final confrontation. But the riff-go-round of “The Key” doesn’t just upend musical expectations (check out Barry Serroff’s stunning flute work), it serves up a deft, unlooked-for plot twist, leaving the protagonist bereft in a way you’d least expect.
And that’s where the final, towering epic “The Watchman on the Wall” builds from. Musically, it pulls off another nifty Rush tribute — kicking off as a long-lost Moving Pictures outtake, but somehow winding up in 2112/A Farewell to Kings territory before its big finish. Lyrically, it’s a classic Glass Hammer closer, retconning the hero’s adventure into an ongoing spiritual quest: heading into an uncertain future, but ready to “Find hope in the morning/Even in the dark of night”.
There are plenty of other cool moments to enjoy on Dreaming City — guest shots from vocalists Reese Boyd, John Beagley and Joe Logan, guitar work by Brian Brewer and James Byron Schoen, Schendel’s delightfully spindly organ and synth solos. All these details slot into a powerful portrait of determination and hope in the face of adversity and devastation. That’s what makes Glass Hammer’s latest not just another winning album, but — just maybe — a work of art to inspire everyone with ears to hear during this strange season.