Yesterday I had the immense pleasure and privilege of talking by phone with Steve Hackett as he prepares for his 2018 Tour de Force. Over the course of 30 minutes, Steve was genial, gracious and forthcoming. He talked about life on a prog rock cruise, his busy agenda for this year, the musicians he works with, his take on where progressive music might be heading, and much more. Steve’s words (slightly edited for clarity and organized by topic) follow!
About this year’s Cruise to the Edge:
“Absolutely marvelous. I think this was our fourth Cruise, as was the case for many of the acts, and I think everyone said this time they felt that it was the best of the lot, because so many people knew each other, familiar faces. They have a boatload of about 3,000 people. In the end, when you’ve done this thing before, people just keep coming back, and saying, ‘Oh, hi, Steve.’ ‘Hi, Fred.’ All that is just wonderful, it’s mind-boggling, it’s like a sort of brotherhood on the briny, on the high seas. It’s wonderful that these cruises have become such a success. I get to hook up with all sorts of extraordinary pals, such as the guys from Marillion and all the Yes guys, of course, and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, and so many. So there’s a great camaraderie amongst everybody, so we all got time to hang out together, see each other’s shows, and it’s become a great tradition.”
About sitting in and collaborations:
“I sat in with Dave Kerzner on the Cruise, I’ve played on a couple of albums of his. In a way, I think there’s this thing about helping each other out, as I say, this brotherhood feeling. And he’s tremendously hard working, he’s done so many things recently, and it’s great. He often says, ‘Ooh, I’ve got such and such, do you feel like using that?’ in his studio. Between all of us, we’ve got a ton of contacts and we help each other. It’s a great time in rock & roll, it’s very much everyone’s feeding everyone else, it’s really very good.”
“We played a version of this thing called ‘Stranded,’ which was on his first album. It was a poolside thing where we did that at night, but it really took off. I’m hoping we see a film of it at some point.” [Here’s Steve’s solo from the end of ‘Stranded,” as played on Cruise to the Edge 2018. Thanks to Dave Kerzner, guitarist extraordinaire Fernando Perdomo, and Fernando’s friend Cyndi for supplying the video!]
“I think perhaps it’s a case of having been in the industry for a certain amount of time, where the people remember me via Genesis or GTR or solo stuff, or whatever it happens to be. Over and above that, I’ve worked with a tremendous amount of artists, showing up, doing the solos. Not always guitar – sometimes it’s harmonica or other strange things that I get asked to do, and if I can fit it into the schedule, I like doing it. I’ve worked with all sorts of artists. It hasn’t always been rock; sometimes it’s been other stuff – Evelyn Glennie, which is avant-garde stuff, a Hungarian band called Djabe. I do stuff with them and meet musicians all over the world.”
Dave Kerzner’s fine second album Static wound up on multiple Progarchists’ Best of 2017 lists (including my honorable mentions). In addition, Kerzner took Static on the road to great reviews — including my raving about his two sets at Progtoberfest III.
Yesterday, Kerzner announced the Kickstarter project for the next logical step: Static Live. Recorded and filmed at the 2017 ProgStock festival in New Jersey, Static Live will be available in multiple formats, as explained on Kerzner’s Facebook page:
- Static Live 1CD: just the album Static live (Static is a full CD)
- Static Live Extended 2CD: 2nd CD has songs from New World featuring Francis Dunnery plus some Genesis, Kevin Gilbert, SOC and Pink Floyd covers.
- Blu-Ray: All of Static Live plus the New World songs with Francis and maybe the SOC songs but probably not the other covers unless I’m able to get “sync rights” from the publishers of those songs. I’ll explain how that works in an update.
For the Kickstarter project, the audio will be available as physical CDs or downloads (mp3, FLAC and HiRes 24/96 in FLAC or WAV). The video will be available as a BluRay with 5.1 surround sound. As you travel further up the 20+ (!) pledge levels, you can add audio downloads and/or BluRays of Kerzner’s band live at the 2017 RoS Fest and live in Miami in 2015, as well as items from his back catalog (New World, New World Live and Static itself).
Kerzner admits that he’s had to learn from previous Kickstarter campaigns where release dates were pushed back multiple times; with all these live shows already in the can, his goal is to finish “mixing, editing and post production, manufacturing and shipping” by May 2018. In less than 24 hours, he’s already raised nearly $6000 of his $10K goal; anything above that amount will go toward further touring in Europe and the U.S. The Static Live Kickstarter project ends on February 14. So, I’m off to sell some old CDs …
(P.S. No official word, but I wouldn’t be surprised if audio and video purchase options for Static Live turn up on Kerzner’s Bandcamp page once backers get their copies.)
— Rick Krueger
Here we are again, folks. We find ourselves at the end of another great year for prog. Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to some amazing artists this year, including John Wetton, but we at least have their music by which to remember them.
I know I’ve been a bit quiet here at Progarchy lately due to beginning graduate school this fall. Hopefully things settle down going forward, and I’ll be able to contribute more. For now, here are my favorite albums from 2017 in vaguely ascending order.
Continued from Part I: https://progarchy.com/2017/12/05/birzers-best-of-2017-part-i/
No. 5. Cosmograf, HAY MAN DREAMS. I’m pretty much a shoo-in for purchasing every thing Robin Armstrong—master of all things chronometry—does. I love the angst and the seriousness he brings to each and every note and lyric. Spirited without being gushy, and thoughtful without being pedantic. I also love how entrepreneurial he is in his approach to music—finding the best musician to fit each part he’s written. Whatever Armstrong does, he always achieves something serious and meaningful. The HAY-MAN DREAMS is no different. As with everything Armstrong does, there is gravitas.
This year has seen a bonanza of quality progressive music. I have probably listened to more great albums this calendar go-round then in any recent year. This list is, of course, totally subjective and based on my own predispositions towards symphonic, orchestral, and melody-hooked prog. There was such a plethora of wonderfully creative work in 2017 that I am increasing the list from the usual Top Ten or Top Twenty to a whopping 40 best.
And though ## 40 – – 21 are being categorized as only “honorable mentions” they still deserve your attention. All of the following releases are so good that on any given day (just not today) they might well “crack the ceiling” and wind up on my official TOP TWENTY (coming later this week). And now, in descending order from number 40 to number 21 are this years:
40) SACRED APE/Sacred Ape
10. KXM- Scatterbrain
If you’re missing King’s X, then this one will satisfy your craving. Ray Luzier (KoRn) is on drums, George Lynch (Dokken & Lynch Mob) is on guitar, and Doug Pinnock (King’s X) is on bass and vocals. This is their second album, and it is much more varied in its music styles than their debut. I never was into Dokken, but George Lynch’s guitar work is killer -especially on “Breakout”.
9. Big Big Train – Grimspound
I give Grimspound the edge over its sister album, The Second Brightest Star. What a great collection of tributes and vignettes of everything that is good about Great Britain. Using small details to convey big ideas is really difficult, but BBT are masters and make it look easy.
Let me just state from the outset that I love that Chris had the gumption to post his favorites albums of the year already. We’re not even in December, Chris! Love it.
So, just as an experiment, I checked my player’s settings and calculated the albums I listened to the most. While I can’t claim this to be a fair statement of what I think the best of the year was–after all, some albums, such as Glass Hammer’s UNTOLD TALES. It’s only had a month to compete against some albums that have had 11 months. Still, it’s a marker.
Additionally, because my player calculates the number of plays for the year total, it registers all albums in my collections, not just those that came out in 2017. So, by the number, folks, by the numbers—the ten most played albums in the Birzer house for the last 11 months.
No. 10 most played of 2017:
by Rick Krueger
The sun shone warmly again on the south side of Chicago as Progtoberfest III kicked off its second day. Taking in the view as I exited the ‘L’, it was amusing and welcoming to see a familiar screaming face painted on the exterior of Reggie’s:
Hoping to get Alphonso Johnson’s and Chester Thompson’s autographs in the VIP Lounge the night before, I’d struck up a delightful conversation with members of the North Carolina Genesis tribute band ABACAB. In 2016, festival organizer Kevin Pollack had given them “homework” for this year: to play all of Genesis’ live album Seconds Out on the 40th anniversary of its release. You could tell the band was nervous (they focus on 1980s Genesis to get bookings, so they had to learn half the album in the past year) but also absolutely thrilled to bring it to the Rock Club stage. And on Saturday afternoon, they nailed it, to the joy of an enthusiastic, supportive crowd and rave reviews from other acts. They’re already planning to return to Reggie’s in April as a headliner, and for Progtoberfest IV next October. Check out why below:
by Rick Krueger
On Friday, October 20, hundreds of dedicated proggers converged on Chicago from around the country — and even from across the globe. The location: Reggie’s Rock Club & Music Joint on the Near South Side, only two blocks away from the former Chess Records, the birthplace of great discs by Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and countless others.
Reggie’s has two main rooms, both dedicated to Progtoberfest this weekend. The Rock Club is designed for concerts, with a raised stage, a main floor, an upper level mezzanine —and a wire fence decor motif throughout. The Music Joint has a tinier stage tucked into the back of a narrow bar and grill. This weekend, merch tables were crammed into every inch remaining on the main floor, and patrons less interested in the music (or needing a break from the density of the sound) took advantage of Friday and Saturday’s warm weather to eat and drink at sidewalk tables. An upstairs space that held a record store until recently was turned into the VIP/Meet and Greet lounge for the duration.
Due to the usual complications of traveling to and around Chicago as the weekend starts, I got to my spot in the Rock Club just as Schooltree was taking the stage. With only an hour on the schedule, they powered through highlights of their Heterotopia album, condensing the narrative to zoom in on its main character Suzi. The set left no doubt that Lainey Schooltree is a major talent; her songwriting chops, keyboard skills and vocal versatility all came through loud and clear, grabbing and holding the audience’s attention. The rest of the band bopped along brilliantly too, with the ebullient energy of Peter Danilchuk on organ and synth leading the way.
The crowd for Schooltree was solid, but hometown heroes District 97 were the first group to pack the place, filling both seats and standing room on the main floor. The band took no prisoners, blasting right into riff-heavy highlights from their three albums that showed off every player’s monster chops. Soaring above the din, Leslie Hunt pulled in the crowd with her astonishing vocal power and range. New songs were mixed in that sent the audience head-banging and prog-pogoing with abandon.