Review – I Am The Manic Whale – Things Unseen – by John Wenlock-Smith

I Am The Manic Whale deliver their third studio album with ‘Things Unseen’. The project is the brainchild of bassist and singer Michael Whiteman who hails from Woodley, Reading.

The band’s name actually being an anagram of his own name, Michael is joined in this endeavour by Ben Hartley on drums, David Addis on guitars and John Murphy on keyboards, all of whom have been on each previous Manic Whale album and this lends a continuity to the group’s overall cohesion and sound.

The album is a mixture of styles and sounds but, to these ears, there seems to be substantially more guitar this time around, the music is vibrant and lively, sprightly even, in parts covering various topics including urban myths, fantasy literature, ecology, celebrity and fame, a child’s smile, lego modelling, carefree days and finally the power ,brilliance and longevity of the Intercity 125 Train!

This music will take you on a journey that is very rewarding indeed, this group have skill and talent aplenty. Their music is positive and hopeful, along with being thought provoking and at times challenging. The musicianship is exemplary and fluid, this is an album that really grows on you, especially if you allow it time to percolate in your brain. I have found myself singing the chorus to The Deplorable Word to myself whilst boiling the kettle in recent days, so it definitely gets into your mind if you allow it to!

This time around both John and David have contributed songs for the album, Billionaire and Into The Blue respectively, with the remainder by Michael and, on the epic lengthy track Celebrity, his wife Esther.

Let’s investigate his fine album and see what treasures it contains shall we?

The album kicks off with John’s song Billionaire which opens with a gentle sounding piano melody and with Michael singing in a style that is very reminiscent of 10CC, no less. Around 1’17”, John switches up to what sounds like a sampled organ sound and the song shifts gear a bit with the introduction of drums and a graceful, fluid guitar line from David. The song is a good and interesting one to open proceedings with.

Next track, The Deplorable Word, has more than just a whiff of early 80’s Rush to it, especially in the guitar work from David Addis. The song is based on a chapter in the book The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis (he of Narnia fame), the song speaking of the evil queen Jadis and how she once ruled the land of Chand, killing its inhabitants so that she would not be beaten in battle.

This song is highly attractive as it has a lot of pace to it with especially fine guitar and keyboards throughout, although we are not told what the word was, just its effects. It is very strong with a terrific chorus that is effective and memorable. It also has some great bass runs, shimmering keyboards and some funky guitar from David, all wrapped in some highly effective drum patterns from Ben. This one is definitely a highlight of the album, hugely impressive, and will be brilliant in a live situation.

The David Addis penned Into The Blue is an ecological protest song that concerns itself with how we are abusing the earth (or were until Covid 19 came along, during which we have seen some major changes and a balance returning?). The track opens in a style that is reminiscent of Scarborough Fair with its flutes and gentle acoustic elements. David fires off a staggering guitar riff before reverting to a more acoustic trend again. The song has an important message and has great interplay between David’s guitar and John’s keyboards all with strong support from Michael and Ben.       

The next song is the album’s lengthy epic Celebrity. Split into five sections beginning with Identity Crisis, this tells the tale of a wannabe who seeks fame and fortune despite his sheer lack of talent, sound familiar? Obviously this whole song is a critical swipe at the notion of fame for fame’s sake or being famous but not for any particular talent or ability. Yes, it’s taking a shot at reality TV and the “stars” that the genre throws up regularly. Think X-Factor, Love Island and The Only Way is Essex etc, car crash TV at its finest but TV that people actually watch regardless.

This is followed by Cultural Vampire (Who Am I) which deals with how one looks and the steps someone will take to be noticed. Part 3 is called Freak Show and is about getting onto those type of TV shows, the next part is called Heart and Soul and is where our hero (I use the term loosely) fails spectacularly to make any real impression and has his hopes dashed on the rocks of reality.

This leads him to part 5 in which he has an Epiphany where he realises that there are few shortcuts to success and that he has to go the hard way and actually become good and competent at something and be able to offer something that people actually want and value. The song has some very subtle piano lines and, at the sixteen minute mark, has a superb guitar solo from David, merging in to the melody that John is playing with a melodic synth line, before a further guitar line leads to song to a fine conclusion. This whole song is a very sharp and well observed critique of the fame game.

Smile is a sweet and simple song that is about a child’s smile and the effect and satisfaction that it brings. Simple but ultimately very profound, this is a song born out of the love of a parent for their child and is a very real and emotionally moving song. The next piece, Build It Up, is a joyous track that concerns itself with a certain Danish toy that is used to build things with and that allows free creative imagination to conjure up all kinds of edifices. Michael is obviously well versed in the world of Lego constructions and the subsequent destruction and rebuilding that such play entails. Well, if not him, his children certainly are and somehow this song really captures those emotions fully.

The penultimate song is the sweet and wistful number Halcyon Days, this song encapsulates so much of both days that have gone by and also of a long hot summer all seen through the eyes of a child. With terrific wordplay and imagery that evokes the setting richly, this song is another triumph for the band and leads us nicely into the last and most impressive song from I Am TheManic Whale

The final track, Valenta Scream, is all about with the technological wonder that was the original Intercity 125 Diesel train that powered through the English countryside for nearly 40 years and was an icon of the rails. These trains were highly recognisable and well known for the scream of the Valenta engines that powered it through the decades.

As a rail enthusiast Michael sings of this innovative train with great fondness and was very familiar with its history. The song is a real stormer and it is a fitting close to the album, ending the record on a high note making this new release simply magnificent.

‘Things Unseen’ is chock full of superb songs with impressive attention to detail and fabulous music, all beautifully played, recorded and performed. This is a release to treasure, absorb and appreciate, Michael and the team really delivering something incredibly special and I urge you to check out this fantastic album for yourself.   

Released 24th April 2020

Order the album from bandcamp here:

https://iamthemanicwhale.bandcamp.com/album/things-unseen

     

     

Haken launch video for ‘Invasion’/ third single from ‘Virus’

Progressive rockers Haken are pleased to launch the video for their new single ‘Invasion’, the third track taken from their forthcoming new album ‘Virus’. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the label and bands control, the release date for the album has had to be postponed to the 19th June 2020.

The band comment: “Lyrically, Invasion deals with themes including but not limited to anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. We thought that the discussion of a “Virus of the mind” tied in well to the psychological themes touched upon in the sister record ‘Vector’ and lent itself to the character development of Virus’s manic protagonist.” 

The new video for ‘Invasion’ was created by Crystal Spotlight, who also produced the video for ‘Canary Yellow’. Watch it now here: 

Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’. 

Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.

Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.

Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

The track-listing is as follows:

1.     Prosthetic

2.     Invasion

3.     Carousel

4.     The Strain

5.     Canary Yellow

6.     Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower

7.     Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment

8.     Messiah Complex iii: Marigold

9.     Messiah Complex iv: The Sect

10.  Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex

11.  Only Stars

‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”.

HAKEN are:

Ross Jennings

Richard Henshall

Charlie Griffiths

Diego Tejeida

Conner Green

Ray Hearne

FROST* – release first track from forthcoming “Others – EP”

With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time, mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music. After announcing the 32 minutes long “Others – EP”, now the time is nigh to reveal a brand-new track ‘Exhibit A’.

 Jem Godfrey states: “It’s good to be back with a cheerful song for these cheerful times! This is about being careful what you wish for when playing the fame game”.

Completed already back in 2019, Jem has the following to say about the “Others – EP”:

“Others” is a 6 track EP containing 6 songs that were written at the time of the “Falling Satellites” album. Initially the idea was that “Falling Satellites” would be a double album, but it felt more focused and concise as a single album by the time we’d finished making it, so these half completed songs were put to one side. Now finished and mixed, they are ready to see the light of day! 

The EP will be released digitally on June 5th, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year. 

Pre-order the digital EP here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/OthersEP  

Furthermore, FROST* are putting finishing touches to their highly anticipated new studio album which is tentatively scheduled for a September release through InsideOutMusic.

LONG DISTANCE CALLING – explore the relationship between humans and AI in video for ‘Voices’

LONG DISTANCE CALLING, Germany’s most internationally successful instrumental rock act, recently announced the release of their seventh studio album ‘How Do We Want To Live?’ for the 26th June 2020. 

Today they launch the striking new video for the track ‘Voices’, a short film exploring the relationship between a human and AI. The video was created by AVA Studios and you can watch it now here:

The band comments: “This the video for our new single “VOICES”. 

The song has a very meditative vibe and sounds like a soundtrack by LDC.

As some of you might know „How Do We Want to Live?“ is a thoughtful and thematic record and it deals with the coexistence of humans and machines. 

So we are very proud to present you this short movie. 

We think it’s by far the best LDC video to date and it traces the layered story of a relationship between a human and an AI!

Please watch this video carefully, share it with you friends and let us know your thoughts and comments! 

A little warning at the end: the video contents some explicit parts and therefore it’s NOT for children!

Peace & Love from LDC!”

Watch the video for the album’s first single ‘Hazard’ here:

The band comments on the new album:  

“We are all going through crazy times right now and we were thinking about postponing this news for a couple of months. But we have the feeling that our new album, “How Do We Want To Live?”, is a great companion for the current situation and our lives. We started recordings back in February and finished it during the lockdown. This alone makes it a special chapter for us, but we also expanded our musical cosmos without neglecting our well known trademarks.  

The album deals with the coexistence of man and machine, shining light on some currently (frightening) relevant aspects. We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved and we say thank you to everyone involved on this journey. Many of you have already asked how you can support us. We have a pretty simple answer: get the new album! We put a lot of love and effort into this baby and can´t wait to finally share it with you. Stay healthy! Peace LDC”

‘How Do We Want To Live?’ sees the band forging a sharply defined & artistically tight exploration of the relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence, and the state of digital progress. Comprised of 10 tracks which contain all the classic LDC-trademarks whilst also bringing something completely fresh and unexpected to the table with their ambitious use of electronic sounds, a perfect symbiosis between man and machine.

‘How Do We Want To Live?’ will be available as a Limited Edition CD, Gatefold Black 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. A limited deluxe box-set will also be released, containing a special coloured edition of the album, an exclusive 7inch featuring two remixes, a beautiful poster featuring the albums stunning artwork by Max Löffler, and 4 individually signed art-cards all contained in a lift-off box. Pre-order now here https://longdistancecalling.lnk.to/HowDoWeWantToLive

The full track-listing is as follows:

1.     Curiosity (Part 1)

2.     Curiosity (Part 2)

3.     Hazard

4.     Voices

5.    Fail/Opportunity

6.    Immunity

7.     Sharing Thoughts

8.     Beyond Your Limits

9.     True/Negative

10.  Ashes

The track ‘Beyond Your Limits’ continues the band´s tradition of having one track with a vocalist, and features the talents of Eric A. Pulverich of the band Kyles Tolone. As the band comments: “We got to know him over our producer Arne Neurand. We were instantly fascinated by his voice and we wanted to show the quality of his voice and melodies.”

It was recently announced that the band have been nominated for the GEMA Musikautorenpreis 2020. This is an integral part of the German music landscape and unique in its focus on music writers. GEMA has been honoring composers and lyricists for their musical work in this way for 12 years, and is representative of the great diversity and the enormous range of fascinating works across genres.

LONG DISTANCE CALLING will return to the ‘Seats & Sounds’ format for a German tour in September 2020. 

08.09.20 Hamburg kleine Elbphilharmonie – SOLD OUT

09.09.20 Hannover Pavillon

10.09.20 Bochum Christuskirche

11.09.20 Dresden Alter Schlachthof

12.09.20 Leipzig Parkbühne

13.09.20 Berlin Passionskirche

15.09.20 Köln E-Werk

16.09.20 Frankfurt Jahrhunderthalle Club

17.09.20 Mannheim Capitol

18.09.20 München St. Matthäus

19.09.20 Stuttgart Mozartsaal

Interview with Richard Henshall of Haken

Haken Press photos, Wansdworth

In the run up to the release of Haken’s sixth studio album, ‘Virus’, I got the chance to have a chat with guitarist Richard Henshall about the album’s creation and gestation, the band’s career to date and about how he is coping with the lockdown:

Progradar: It’s nice to put a voice to someone who I have followed on social media for quite a while, before we get onto the interview proper, how are you coping with the lockdown:

Richard: It’s a bit of a surreal situation to be in to be honest, we were on tour with Devin Townsend. It was right in the middle of the tour and we woke up to a message that the tour’s over, cancelled.

Donald Trump had done a speech the night before saying that all flights into the U.S. had been cancelled and there was a chance that all flights out would be too. We realised that we were going to have to do something about this, suddenly the tour is cancelled and we’re going to have to go home the next day. I’ve been at home ever since really…

Progradar: I have noticed that you have been doing guitar lessons online via Skype…?

Richard: Yes, as we’re not going to be touring for a long time by the looks of it, I’ve been doing a bunch of Skype lessons, I did one this morning actually and the signal was terrible which made it really awkward. Generally, though, they have been going really well.

I’ve just been trying to engage with the fans as much as possible, talking through Haken songs, playing through some compositional ideas and just discussing music, which has been fun.

We’ve also been doing some Twitch Q&A’s sessions which we’ve never done before. We saw that a lot of other bands had been doing this so we thought we ought to jump on the wagon and see what it’s all about. It’s a streaming platform, basically, that allows us just to chat to people.

We’ve been talking through the song Prosthetic and we actually had the guy who did the video, Vicente (Cordero) on there with us talking through how he made the video which was good fun.

Progradar: I’ve just had the promotional email come through about the new video for Canary Yellow.

Richard: Yes, we’ve been chipping away at the video for a while actually. it was done by Crystal Spotlight, they’re a Uk based company and they really went to town on the video. It’s an animation, which we have done before, and I think they spent countless hours on this and it really came across well.

Progradar: In the video that Ross (Jennings) has done in the run up to the release of ‘Virus’ he says that it is loosely connected to your previous album ‘Vector’, having listened to the album 3 or 4 times already, I feel the artwork is connected and there is more of a similarity between the two. You say ‘Virus’ is more eclectic, do you feel there are similarities between the two and they follow on?

Richard: Well they were always supposed to be a double album. In fact, when we were writing ‘Vector’, we knew we were going to be writing another album which was going to be connected. We had the name ‘Virus’, which is looking back in hindsight, a bit unfortunate.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, the only time we’ve ever had a pandemic in my lifetime is the same time as we are releasing an album called ‘Virus’. It’s bad timing but we had the title in mind and in place for the last two years.

I’d say the music on the album is more eclectic. There’s influences from the likes of Radiohead and Elbow on there but there’s also the heavier stuff we do on there which is Fear Factory-esque and there’s Dream Theater, a big influence over the years. So that’s all still in there but I feel like we’ve got a broader range on this album, maybe more so than ever before.

I think with ‘Vector’, the album was generally geared towards the heavier side of our sound and it kind of stuck with that for the most part. On every song there’s at least one or two heavy moments or some songs are just heavy throughout whereas on this album, ‘Virus’, there are some songs that are completely straying away from that.

Progradar: This isn’t a question I’d written down but I’d like to ask you if you thought ‘Vector’ had split your audience a bit? There’s a few people I know who were fans of albums like ‘Aquarius’ and ‘The Mountain’ who have said it was a bit heavy for them.

Richard: I reckon so, it’s always a bit of a risk when you try something new in a band , or anything that you do. There’s bound to be people who aren’t really engaging with the music or are into what you’re doing. Especially if they’re into the previous stuff which is sounding different to the stuff we’re working on now.

I guess it’s important for people to keep an open mind as much as possible, you can always listen back to our old stuff and, with the new stuff, you can hear how we’ve evolved and the similarities between the two different sounds.

Hopefully people can see that but, for me, when I’m writing stuff I actually prefer it if you get a love or hate reaction from it. I feel that that’s a good sign of something that’s got depth or value. If some people are going to hate it then, fair enough.

Progradar: I feel that Haken has progressed (in the proper sense of the word) quite a lot from ‘Aquarius’ right through to ‘Virus’, would you agree?

Richard: Yes, a lot of people always say to us, how do you categorise the music, what are you? Are you a metal band, are you a prog band? I always say that we are a progressive band. If you are progressive then your sound should evolve, you should be exploring new sounds and fully celebrating all all of your influences as much as possible.

I feel that, across the band, we have a whole bunch of inspirations and influences between us, now that we are all writing together the music is, as a result, very eclectic. There’s a bit of all all of us in there, all of our influences, I love stuff like Tigran Hamasyan and then also Elbow.

There’s a UK band called Everything, Everything, they’re like an indie-rock band but they also have these progressive influences but they like a pop/indie kind of sound. I like stuff like that as well as all the heavier stuff. Across the band, though, there is so much variety to what we listen to, it really does amount to the diverse sound that we’ve got.

Progradar: To my ears, you’re a very technical prog metal sounding band now whereas ‘Aquarius’ was very similar to early Dream Theater, it sounded a lot like ‘Images & Words’ did to me when it first came out. As you’ve carried on, your sound has got a lot more precise and technical, would you agree with that and is that down to influences or just a natural progression?

Richard: We weren’t really expecting the reaction we got to ‘Aquarius’, we sent out our demo (‘Enter the 5th Dimension’) and got a bunch of responses but no one was really up for signing us apart from Sensory Records. A guy called Ken Golden runs it and he was the first guy who showed any real interest in our sound and he offered us an advance to make an album.

At that point I decided to just go for it and dedicate all my time to writing an album so I locked myself away and didn’t leave the house for about eight months or so and we were all really happy with the result we got.

I don’t why people latched onto it, I guess there were a lot of contrasting influences on the album, a lot of quirky, almost circus-like, passages among some heavy riffage and there’s a lot of juxtaposition.

Maybe that’s what made it stand out to people but we’ve really developed, I feel, as writers over the years and I feel our sound is a lot more concise now than what it was back then. The writing process would’ve been more reckless and there’s arguably less logical thought into it maybe? It was just like throw the ideas in and see where this song ends up.There’s more logic to it now and it’s definitely more concise, I feel.

Progradar: I got the same buzz from ‘Aquarius’ that i got the first time I listened to ‘Images & Words’ and ‘Awake’ from Dream Theater, I had to listen to the album again straight away to register what I’d just heard, I thought it was amazing.

Richard: I had the same sort of reaction the first time i listened to ‘Awake’, Metallica were my favourite band at the time and Kirk Hammett was the best guitarist in the world but a friend asked me if I’d heard Dream Theater or John Petrucci, which I hadn’t (and I thought he couldn’t be better than Kirk Hammett!).

So the next day I went out and bought ‘Awake’, I was sitting down (I think I was actually with Ross at the time) and was like 15 or something and I put on the album and listened through it and I got to Erotomania, the guitar playing just melted my brain and opened me up to a whole new way of thinking when it came to playing guitar and writing music. They were a massive influence on us as a band, definitely.

Progradar: Has the continued success of the band surprised you or, when you first picked up a guitar and got together with Ross and the rest of the band, is this where you expected to be?

Richard: It’s always extremely humbling and surprising to get any recognition from anything. The more you do it, the more you take it for granted but I still do appreciate every kind word that we receive from people when they hear an album or a song, especially on this album that we’re about to release.

We’ve released two songs already and the feedback has been crazy, we’ve never had such a positive response from singles we’ve released. I think it’s important to never be complacent and take things for granted but I think the band started to gain a lot of momentum around the time we released ‘The Mountain’, our first album with InsideOut Records.

They just pushed us into a whole bunch of new markets and I reckon that’s the album that most people heard first from us and it was like a special album for us and for a lot of our fans as well.

Progradar: I bought ‘Vector’ on vinyl and I’ve ordered ‘Virus’ and I even managed to find ‘Aquarius’ on Amazon the other day, I think most fans would say that it’s been an amazing journey following your from ‘Aquarius’ to where you are now.

Richard: Yes, it’s really exciting, I just love writing music and since ‘Affinity’ we’ve been writing together and we’re really honing that skill of writing as a band. I really enjoy it and it’s almost like an adventure, every album we write you discover more about yourself and your bandmates and there’s new colours and moods to get out there. The whole process is massively enjoyable for me so I’m looking forward to taking it further.

Progradar: Obviously, you can’t play live at the moment but, in an ideal world do you prefer creating music or getting out there, giving it life and playing it live?

Richard: I feel that my natural habitat is sat in front of a computer or with an instrument and writing music, that’s where I feel most relaxed and the most at home. I was quite young when I first started playing music, I was six or so when I was playing the piano but then I started guitar at the age of ten.

When I was first heavily into practising I was all focused around being proficient at my instrument but as I grew older I got more passionate about the compositional side of things. For me that’s the biggest passion in music and it’s stuck with me.

I do love playing live as well and they kind of go hand in hand really. We wouldn’t be able to continue writing music if we didn’t go out there and support the music in a live context. We do get a buzz out of playing live, seeing people come to our shows and sing along to the lyrics and do air guitar to our solos!

Progradar: What I love about your music, and you even get it on the last album and the new one, is you always get an excellent chorus that you can sing along to, there’s always something in your music that has that connection with whoever is listening to it. Whether you’re at a concert, in the car or listening to it at home, there’s always something there.

Richard: That’s always been our primary focus when it comes to writing, getting that big chorus. There needs to be a sense of balance in the song so the verses, for the most part, will generally be more stripped down and held back and the the chorus’s have this kind of explosive feeling.

The hooks and melody lines are always a strong part for us, we’re always spending the most part making sure we’ve got the best possible line for the chorus because that’s going to be the part that people sing along to and they latch on to.

When it came to ‘Virus’ we had the album pretty much mapped out in terms of the structures and the instrumentation, the rhythm and the guitar parts etc. but when it came to the Devin (Townsend) tour we went on in Europe, we had a whole month together. We were sitting in the bus for quite a long time each day because we were the support band and we had a lot of free time.

We used that time to map out all of the vocal parts and get lyrical ideas down. That was a really cool experience for us because we’re usually in different parts of the world working independently in our studios. For this whole month we were together, passing the microphone around, singing into the Logic Projects and just coming out with the some of the best lines that we wanted to at that point. I feel that it has really paid off on this album especially.

Captured at SECC on 09December, 2019 by Max Taylor Grant

Progradar: Is that something that you would like to do for the next album, get together to write like that again?

Richard: I 100% think we should because it’s a perfect time to do it. A few of us live in London so we will meet up and jam through certain sections and ideas to see where that goes but we’ve never all really been together in a structured manner like every day for a month.

We were waking up on the bus and just working on it all day, playing a show and just going back there after and working until the early hours of the morning, literally every day. It was amazing, we actually made a makeshift studio in the bus and we were able to record demo ideas.

The whole process was very fluent, it was like a team bonding experience or something.

Progradar: It’s definitely not what everyone would think was the rock and roll lifestyle on tour!

Richard: We are far removed from what people would think of as a rock band, we’ll drink a cup of tea, read a book and go to bed usually after a show!

Progradar: Talking abut creating music, for the first couple of albums was it yourself who did the majority of the writing?

Richard: I used to do the lion’s share of it back in the day and I would map it out using midi and on ‘The Mountain’ I mapped it out using midi and some sample libraries and demos from stuff. We took the midi songs and we learned the parts, for the first two albums and ‘The Mountain’, for the most part, we took them to a rehearsal space.

Luckily Ray (Hearne) was studying at The Guildhall for those three of four years so he had a free rehearsal space that we could use. We just went there during the writing process and played through the songs and gave them a sense of life. We made it sound like a real band rather than a computer playing it.

During that process the arrangements were tweaked a bit, we moved a verse here, moved a chorus there. After a few months we would be happy with the arrangements and take it to the studio and take it from there.

I feel like the whole process over the years has definitely been refined a great deal. When we recorded ‘Aquarius’ we didn’t even demo any real instruments, we were just using these midi demos. We went to the studio and we were just playing along with Ray as he was recording the drums for the final album which is something we just wouldn’t do now.

We spend so much time making these structured demos, almost like the real thing to be honest. Ray will record to these demos which are practically exactly as they’re going to be on the finished album.

Progradar: Do the ideas for the songs come from everyone in the band?

Richard: Yes, that’s the beauty of it, we’re all working together and it’s really paid off. I feel that the music’s gone off in a new direction and it definitely feels fresher than it was maybe ten years ago. We have evolved so much and that’s because we are all throwing it in there and it’s like a unified vision which has been great fun.

The way we do it is by using an online file sharing space and we all use the same programs (logic audio). One person may come up with an idea which could be just two or three minutes or it could be a more structured, fleshed out idea. They will then upload the project to the file sharing space and someone may say they have some ideas that could work with it. They’ll download it and work on it and re-upload it.

We just go back and forth, sharing a bunch of ideas in tandem until we have a bunch of finished arrangements that we’re happy with.

Progradar: It sounds a really good way to do it and the way the band and the music has developed, it’s obviously working for you guys?

Richard: I feel it’s really working out for us, the key is being able to compromise and to be open and prepared to let go of stuff. I always found it so hard when I was working on an idea for a year or so and then presented it to the band they were not really interested in it.

I’d be like, “What?!, I just spent a whole year on this, we’ve got to use it!”, sometimes you’ve just got to be open and willing to compromise or even throw stuff in the bin. It’s got to please everyone in the band, we’re all going to play it live. We’ve all got to meet in the middle somewhere.

Sometimes, though, it’s important not to compromise, I guess. I know it’s a contradiction but you’ve get to let that one guy just go with a vision and see where it goes and not dilute it too much. For the most part it’s all about working together and finding a unified vision that works for everyone.

Captured at SECC on 09December,2019 by Max Taylor Grant

Progradar: I’m now going to put you on the spot with this question, what is your favourite Haken album? Or is that like asking which one is your favourite child?

Richard: That’s a tricky one! I think for me, as I mentioned earlier, ‘The Mountain’ is a really special album. The message in the album resonates with a lot of people, it’s generally about the struggles that we all go through in every aspect of life.

We used it as a way of expressing the struggles of being musicians. It’s not that easy to make a success of yourselves when it’s such a saturated market, especially if you’re a prog band, generally the market is a bit niche anyway. It’s also about the general struggles in life. I guess that’s why it resonated with people, because everyone has struggles and they can relate to that whole concept.

Musically it really hits the spot with me but that album also broke us through to a new market. We were with a new label, signing to InsideOut was always one of the things that we’d aimed to do, one of those boxes that we had to tick. It was a massive deal for us so it’s always been a special album.

I know this is a very typical thing to say but the ‘Virus’ album, I really do have a great feeling about it. There’s something about the album which feels very complete and well balanced, I feel that, right now, it’s my favourite album that we’ve done. I know that’s obviously what I have to say but I genuinely do believe it.

I feel that the songs have come a really long way. Some of the ideas that we had on the album were songs that we were going to work on for ‘Vector’. We’ve been working on them for a really long time and given them enough time and attention to really grow into something special, I can’t wait to get it out there!

Progradar: Just to go on a bit of a tangent, can we talk about your solo album (‘The Cocoon’)? How did it come about? To me it has its roots in Haken but has gone off in a much more chilled and laid back direction.

Richard: That came about about at around the time we came together as a band in Haken and decided to work and write together. It was around the time of the ‘Affinity’ album and the ‘Restoration’ EP, it naturally freed up a lot of time for me.

I decided to work on some other projects, I actually formed a band with Dan Briggs called the Nova Collective and that was a lot of fun. I had wanted to work on the solo album but that went on the back burner for a bit then revisited it after Nova Collective.

I was just chiselling away at these ideas over the course of three years or so. Obviously I was busy with Haken and that was always going to be my main focus so i was doing it in my spare time between tours and albums.

Because it was over three years, the result is a real mix of sounds, a lot of jazz influences from the likes of Avishai Cohen and Tigran Hamasyan, there’s weird polyrhythmic atonal stuff in there but then there’s post-rock, ambient moments like Sigur Rós.

I threw everything in there, I didn’t want to hold back or focus it towards one particular sound. I just wanted to express all of my influences and celebrate as much of the music I love as possible. I ended up writing two albums worth of material and decided to have ‘The Cocoon’ as the first album and then I’ve got a bunch of songs that I’m going to work on and release as a follow up.

Progradar: I was going to ask if you were going to do another solo album…

Richard: I was going to follow up ‘The Cocoon’ with another album but I’ve actually been working on some ideas for a few months, especially the last couple of months while I’ve been stuck indoors with all this free time. It’s got more like an electronic influence in there so I’m hoping to get that done this year and see where that takes me .

Maybe I’ll release a single every few months and then release the album after a few singles or something? After that I’ll release the follow up to ‘The Cocoon’.

Progradar: Regarding the artwork, did Sevcan (Richard’s wife) offer to do that or is it something you asked her to do?

Richard: This album that I’m talking about right now is a joint project so Sevcan had this art exhibition that she was going to host and it was called The Wood Wide Web. It’s a really cool idea, an idea in which trees can communicate with each other through this big network of roots and funghi under the ground. They feed each other nutrients and they’re all connected and we can’t see it.

They’ve used it as a parallel to the world wide web, they’ve used that as a metaphor and I thought it would be really cool to write some music to go with what she was working on. All the songs are based around these different ideas within this overarching concept.

Progradar: Is there an intention to do any of your solo material live?

Richard: To be honest, I would love to do it some day but the whole idea of it is very daunting. I feel comfortable and happy just hiding behind my guitar and not having to front anything. The idea of having to stand at the front of the stage and chat to people, and the idea of singing live, is just the worse thing!

If I made this next album and instrumental album, it would be a lot easier! I love the idea of it (playing the album live) but it’s the whole logistical side of touring as well, which is a massive ball-ache (sic). It requires a lot of attention to detail, time and investment.

Progradar: Here’s a money saving idea for you then, the next time Haken go on tour as a headliner, you could just be the support act?

Richard: That would be cool, I’m totally open to that. Maybe one day because I’d love to take it to the stage, I feel that the songs would really take on another dimension and also it would be great to get Matt (Lynch, drums) to play as well.

Obviously Conner (Green, Haken bassist) is doing a lot of stuff with Haken but he plays a lot of shows but Matt doesn’t play as much as he should do. He’s one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever heard and he should be playing more live, it would great to get out there on stage with him and just play some music!

Progradar: Looking forward, ‘Virus’ is released on the 5th of June, have you been working behind the scenes and looking at, when lockdown ends, taking the album on the road and playing it live?

Richard: We had plans to do some touring this year but that’s all up in the air at the moment, unfortunately. I guess it’s the same for all bands, we just don’t know how it’s going to pan out. I feel that, even if governments allow it, I just don’t see that most people will be up for doing that, being thrown into a room with five hundred sweaty people. Maybe we could play bigger venues with fewer people in?

Progradar: I know ‘Virus’ hasn’t even been released yet but, have you already started out with any ideas for the next album?

Richard: We haven’t begun penning down anything for the next album yet. The reason that ‘Virus’ and ‘Vector’ were so closely released was because they were always supposed to be together. We want to give a bit of space for the album to breathe.

Its’ worrying because the first thing that you would always do is to go and tour an album. We’re going to release this and the realities are that we are going to be sitting on it for at least six or seven months until we actually get to play it live.

Progradar: Have you and the record company had any discussion about what you can do to promote the album without taking it live?

Richard: As I said, we’ve been doing this Q&A thing on Twitch so that’s a way of keeping in contact with the fans, engaging with people and letting them know we’re still alive, which is important. We can use that as a way of doing masterclasses or talk throughs of the songs, or even getting to the stage where we can play the songs and stream it.

We actually took the middle section of the song Architect from ‘Affinity’ and we turned it into like a free acoustic jazz song lasting three or four minutes and we’re all about doing stuff like that for the next three or four months as there’s no chance of playing live.

Although, having said that, I was speaking to the booking agent and he mentioned that there’s this new thing that’s possibly going to happen in Europe. It’s like a car cinema where there’s people roll up in their cars and then watch the show inside their car. I don’t know if it would take off but, if it did, we’re open to stuff like that.

Progradar; We briefly touched on this at the start, did you and the record company have any discussions about changing the album title in view of the current situation?

Richard: The worst timing to release an album, we had the title for the last two years and we’d been hinting at it in the lyrics of ‘Vector’ and in the booklet as well. By the time the pandemic actually hit we’d already got the artwork done and the masters were pretty much in place.

The video was done for the song, everything was already in place, it was just too late by that point to change things without causing a massive hiccup. We just went with it and we just hope that people understand that they are two entirely separate things, it’s the worst possible thing to think that people get the impression we’re trying to capitalise on things.

Progradar: I’m positive that the majority of people would realise that and would know that an album is years in the making, it’s not an overnight decision.

Progradar: And here’s a nice easy question for your final one, recommend me one album, it could just be the one you’ve listened to most recently, apart from ‘Virus’, obviously…

Richard: I’m going to try and link it into the recent tour we’ve done. We’ve just played with Devin Townsend in Europe and America, which is a massive deal for us, all being huge fans of his for years.

When I was a teenager, there was one album that really inspired me as a writer and as a guitar player as well. That was ‘Terria’, which was one of his earliest albums and the layers in that album are amazing, you can hear dogs howling in the background. The depths and the layers of his music have always hit the spot for me so I’ll go with that one!

Progradar: He’s an artists that always seems to be reinventing himself, he never stands still.

Richard: He’s amazing, when you listen to ‘Terria’ and then you listen to ‘Ziltoid’, which is very much a comical thrash metal album, they’re totally different. Then you’ve got his latest album which is just totally mind blowing, the fact that he’s still releasing stuff like that after so many years. He’s never complacent and is always exploring new ideas, which is very inspirational.

Progradar: All that is left is to thank you for your time and, hopefully, we can catch up at a live gig in the future.

Richard: Thank you and it definitely would be great to see you at one of our gigs!

‘Virus’ is released through InsideOut on 19th June 2020.

pre-order virus from the link below:

https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

FROST* – announce release of “Others – EP” on June 5, 2020

With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time, mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music.

Completed already back in 2019, FROST* now announce the release of the stunning 32 minutes long “Others – EP”. Jem Godfrey states:

“Others” is a 6 track EP containing 6 songs that were written at the time of the “Falling Satellites” album. Initially the idea was that “Falling Satellites” would be a double album, but it felt more focused and concise as a single album by the time we’d finished making it, so these half completed songs were put to one side. Now finished and mixed, they are ready to see the light of day!”

The EP will be released digitally on June 5, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year. 

A first track from the “Others – EP” will be released on May 22! 

The track-list is below:

1. Fathers

2. Clouda

3. Exhibit A

4. Fathom

5. Eat

6. Drown

Furthermore, FROST* are putting finishing touches to their highly anticipated new studio album which is tentatively scheduled for a September release through InsideOutMusic.

Review – PsychoYogi – Dangerous Devices

“The music is challenging, though accessible. Containing an abundance of unusual time signatures and rich chord structures for your musical imagination, with lyrics that question western social values.”

That’s how PsychoYogi describe their music and it is an astute description but, for the layman I choose to say that it is the most madcap, leftfield music I’ve heard in a long while. It is music that doesn’t belong in any category and that ploughs its own resolute furrow.

Imagine if Hatfield and the North arrived in a time machine, met up with Billy Bottle and the Multiple, The Cardiacs and Gong and decided to jam (I know, just humour me here please!) and then Henry Cow stole the time machine and gatecrashed the party.

That’s ‘Dangerous Devices’ in a nutshell. Sounds like utter mayhem and chaos doesn’t it? But, what you get is something that, by rights, I shouldn’t like but I do! It’s madcap, infused with lashings of gentle humour and fills you with not a little joy before exiting stage left after a mere thirty-seven minutes running time.

There’s a feel of mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun to this album and I think that comes from Chris Ramsing and his very precise elocution on the vocals that give it a not insubstantial air of bon viveur and slight aloofness. The music is an utter joy to listen to with Chris’s stylish guitar and the jazz infused bass of Izzy Stylish (yep, he is!) giving a classy touch to songs like the irrepressible title track Dangerous Devices, Masterplan and my personal favourite, Sooner Than Now.

That particular song also sees the wonderful brass of Toby Nowell (Trumpet, Soprano and Alto Sax) and John Macnaughton (Tenor and Alto Sax) given free rein to add a touch of mysticism to the album. Their undoubted skills are on show throughout this unique recording and really enforce the English eccentricity that is at its core.

Holding everything together is Justin Casey (Drums and Percussion) who adds the glue that holds everything together with his excellence behind the kit but these musicians are all masters of their particular dark arts.

So lend your ears to brilliant compositions like Master Plan, Common As Muck, Shadows and the peculiar charms of Words Unspoken and enjoy a journey through the unparalleled bewitchery that PsychoYogi create, you will not experience anything else quite like it.

Released 11th April 2020.

Order ‘Dangerous Devices’ from bandcamp here:

https://psychoyogi.bandcamp.com/album/dangerous-devices

YES Announces Re-scheduled UK dates for The Album Series 2021 Tour

YES announce re-scheduled UK dates, due to the coronavirus pandemic, for The Album Series 2021 Tour. The tour was originally scheduled to kick off this month in Liverpool – it will now begin on 16th May 2021 in Manchester. The show will feature their 1974 Relayer album in its entirety together with a selection of other classic YES favourites. YES recently announced re-scheduled European dates and are looking forward to returning to live shows.

“Many things have changed in the world these past few months. My appreciation for the freedoms we’ve enjoyed in the past has grown along with my gratitude for all the people caring for humanity throughout the world.”

“I can’t wait to be on stage again in front of real audiences playing ‘YES’ music. I’m hoping we can bring some joy and positivity back into our lives.

“Please take care and stay safe, we want to see our many fans and friends again in 2021!” Sincerely, Alan White.

The tour line-up features Steve Howe (guitars), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Jay Schellen (additional drums and percussion).

The show will comprise two sets by the band with full production and a high definition video wall. The first will feature favourite classic tracks from YES’extensive catalogue. The second will feature Relayer, the seventh studio album by YES, and one of the band’s most distinctive. 

Relayer marked a slight change in direction as Patrick Moraz replaced Rick Wakeman on keyboards bringing an edgier, avant-garde feel to the album. This was perfect for the opening track Gates Of Delirium, almost 22 minutes in length, with its battle scene featuring the keyboard of Moraz and Steve Howe’s guitar. The battle gives way to the beautiful closing ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.

The album continues with Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment heavily influenced by Moraz’s style and To Be Over, a calm and gentle conclusion to the album, based on a melody by Steve Howe.

Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer continued YES’ success reaching number 4 in the UK album chart and number 5 in the US Billboard chart.

Re-Scheduled UK Dates for 2021 THE ALBUM SERIES RELAYER Tour are:
MAY

Sun 16th May Manchester Bridgewater Hall
Mon 17th May Birmingham Symphony Hall
Wed 19th May York Barbican
Thurs 20th May Gateshead Sage
Sat 22nd May Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Sun 23rd May Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Mon 24th May London Royal Albert Hall

Fri 28th May Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 

All tickets remain valid for the re-scheduled shows. For full details and to book tickets for all shows Please go to bookingsdirect.com or yesworld.com for all dates. Meet & Greets with the band are also available through yesworld.com

About YES

Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals (1970 –1981, 1990–1992, 1995–present)
Alan White: drums, percussion (1972 – present)
Geoff Downes: keyboards (1980–1981, 2011–present) 
Jon Davison: lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2012–present) 
Billy Sherwood: guitar, backing vocals ((1994, 1997–2000), bass guitar, backing vocals (2015–present)

Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history. Their 1970s albums The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Yessongs (a triple live album set), Tales From Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Going For The One were ground-breaking in musical style and content. Their music also became synonymous with artist Roger Dean whose distinctive YES logo design and artwork adorned the lavish gatefold presentation sleeves of many YES albums.

With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125.

LONELY ROBOT – announce new album ‘Feelings Are Good’

Lonely Robot, the project masterminded by producer, guitarist and singer/songwriter John Mitchell (Kino, Frost*, Arena, It Bites), is set to release its fourth album ‘Feelings Are Good’ on July 17th, 2020, a fresh start following the conclusion of the ‘The Astronaut Trilogy’.
 
John comments: “‘Feelings Are Good’ is a bit of a departure from the first three Lonely Robot albums or ‘The Astronaut Trilogy’ as it has now lovingly become known.  On ‘Feelings Are Good’, I wanted to explore more personal themes and the songs are very much about individual experiences and narratives that I believe had been the cornerstones, good and bad, to my life. The long tall and short of it is that we’re back on planet Earth, and I have a personal lyrical axe to grind!”
 
‘Feelings Are Good’ will be available as a Limited Edition CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP+CD and as Digital Album in both 16 & 24 bit versions (all including 2 bonus tracks). The artwork is once again by Paul Tippett / Vitamin P (Black Star Riders, Frost*), and John says of the cover: “The artwork is meant to be a little disturbing. The closed eyes and taped over mouth are supposed to represent how people are very guarded with their emotions and what better way of emoting them than through the windows to the soul and the smile?”
 
The full track-listing is as follows:
1.Feelings Are Good
2.Into The Lo-Fi
3.Spiders
4.Crystalline
5.Life Is A Sine Wave
6.Armour For My Heart
7.Suburbia
8.The Silent Life
9.Keeping People As Pets
10.Army Of One
11.Grief Is The Price Of Love
12.The Silent Life (Orchestral Version)
13.Crystalline (Orchestral Version)
 
Lonely Robot will hit the road in December 2020 for some select headline dates, and you can find a list of those below:
Dec 13th  Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
Dec 16th  Riff, Bochum, GER
Dec 17th  Das Rind, Rüsselsheim, GER
Dec 18th  Muziekgieterij, Maastricht, NL
Dec 20th  De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, NL
 
During the campaign for their acclaimed previous album ‘Under Stars’, a full animated film was created by Crystal Spotlight and screened at two very special cinema events in the UK. Now the full visual accompaniment is available to stream, and you can watch it now here: https://youtu.be/slyM9ZUzr6U
 
John comments: “It has always been an ambition of mine to have a full length visual accompaniment alongside an album of music I have written. With Under Stars and the help of Miles at Crystal Spotlight, this dream was finally realised last year. I’m very proud of the results and I’d like to thank Miles for all his hard work and patience in bringing this to fruition. I hope you enjoy it.”
 
John Mitchell is a man with a rich musical heritage and history – from musician and vocalist, to songwriter and producer. With bands like Arena, Frost*, Kino, It Bites and Lonely Robot, to name but a few, Mitchell has left his mark on the current progressive rock scene and has been involved in dozens of recordings. He is also a respected producer & mixer, running Outhouse Studios in the UK and working with artists as diverse as You Me At Six, Enter Shikari, Alter Bridge, Asia, Don Broco, Funeral For A Friend, McFly & much more.

The Prog Report to host All-Star ‘Prog From Home’ concert featuring Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess, Steve Hackett, Neal Morse and more.

Prog Rock news outlet The Prog Report is pleased to announce an All-Star event featuring some of the biggest names in the Progressive Rock.  The event titled ‘Prog From Home’ will premiere on The Prog Report YouTube channel on Saturday, May 9th at 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7pm UK / 8pm CET.

Prog Report YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/c/progreportpage

The virtual concert will feature curated at-home performances by 
Mike Portnoy (Sons of Apollo/Neal Morse Band), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Steve Hackett, Neal Morse, Michael Sadler (Saga), Ray Wilson (ex-Genesis), Nick Barrett (Pendragon), Oliver Wakeman, Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train), Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief), Casey McPherson (Flying Colors), Haken, Enchant, Magenta, The Reign of Kindo, John Wesley (ex-Porcupine Tree), Paul Beilatowicz (Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy), John Mitchell (Lonely Robot), Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band), Novena, Moron Police, Dave Kerzner & Fernando Perdomo, Randy McStine & Adam Holzman, The Fierce and the Dead, Randy and Pamela George, Dani Rabin (Marbin).  Also included are some guest performers and presenters.

The show is in support and celebration of doctors, nurses, first responders and all health-care workers.
***
The Prog Report is one of the premiere destinations for progressive rock news, interviews, reviews, and more. The Prog Report podcast is ranked as one of the Top Ranked Music Commentary podcasts on Apple, with various programming including Prog Report Top 5, Artist and album profiles, and interviews with the biggest artists in Prog.  Launched in 2013, The Prog Report has a worldwide audience with an extremely passionate social media following.