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Hi Dave, how are you doing?
Oh, we’re doing great, this is the second day of the tour and it’s great to be playing with The Flower Kings again.
We did a tour with them really early on in the mid-90s and…this is the 25th anniversary of our record label, InsideOut, and we were in the beginning of the record label, so this is like a reunion.
You anticipated my next question: this is the tour to celebrate 25 years of InsideOut, how did the tour come to be? Were you already planning a tour and decided to "brand" it as an InsideOut celebration, or was it planned as a celebration from the get-go?
Well, we have an album that came out in the Spring and we hadn’t done a tour for that yet and our record label president said, “You want to be on tour, maybe we can tie it in with our 25th anniversary” and we thought that that was a good idea.
The Flower Kings haven’t been doing anything lately but Thomas [Waber, president of InsideOut Records] thought that would be a great pairing, so we called Reine, Reine put it back together and here we are, braving the Scandinavian weather.
In your latest album you had Nick D'Virgilio on drums but he’s not here on tour with you; will he keep playing for you in your future studio albums?
We just do things one day to the next, we don’t really have a future plan, so we’ll have to see what happens and when we even do an album, you know, we’re all getting a little older, I might be dead by this time next year [laughs].
Progressive music is always been about finding new paths, new sounds, surprising the listener, the progression that names the genre. Spock's Beard pretty much did this album after album, is it something you find hard to do when you write music, not to repeat yourselves?
No, actually, we kinda change it up from album to album and it’s not really a conscious decision to do that, it’s just what happens.
Maybe we should be a little more consistent, I think the band has a sound but we experiment a lot within that general sound, every album sounds different than the one before.
When you write music is it about making "Spock's Beard music", Prog music, or are they one and the same? Do you ever write a song and then discard it because it's not Prog enough, or not Spock’s Beard enough?
Yeah, we have that issue every time, from the beginning.
There’s always a lot of material that’s written, then we send demos around and we decide what is Spock’s Beard and what is not, and then everything that sounds like it might be good for Spock’s Beard we record it, and then sometimes there’s still too much and we have to decide.
Like, this time we had a bonus disc, the bonus disc had, what? 4 songs, 5 songs? It had a lot of music on it and that was all the stuff that was determined to be, “Okay, that’s good but it’s not really Spock’s Beard”.
So we put it on a bonus disc, and some people end up liking the bonus disc the best.
I asked this last question because I think people today are very attached to labels, many are like, "is this Prog?" "what genre is this?", or even "they are not as Prog as they used to be, so they are bad". First of all, do you agree that this is happening? And do you think this has a positive or negative effect on the music?
Well, I think putting labels on things so strictly is always not very good, and it happens a lot.
I don’t know how to answer this without sounding angry [laughs], ‘cause I’m not really angry about it, I think that if it’s a good song, it’s a good song, it shouldn’t be, “It’s not long enough for me”, “It’s not Prog enough for me”.
It’s turning into a trend that I see is damaging, when everything has to be more complex, faster, more dense, where does that lead to? It just leads to what happened in the 70s to Prog, there was just too much, and everyone got tired of it.
I’m a big fan of Pop music, melody…it doesn’t matter if a song is simple, I think that should be the general rule, if you like a band it doesn’t have to conform to a strict set of rules.
I think it's fair to say that there is a certain cyclicity in music with some genres coming back to popularity periodically, and today seems to me like a good moment for Prog music. Do you think that's true, from where you stand?
Yeah, there’s definitely been a resurgence of Prog starting when we started with The Flower Kings, InsideOut, back 25 years ago; now it’s really expanded, there’s hundreds of bands, new albums coming out almost every day seems like, some bands are really successful in the genre, the quality of musicianship is outstanding, it’s never been better, the players now are mind-blowing.
When you started you were, together with some other bands, at the forefront of a new era and style of Prog Rock; do you feel like the genre kept progressing, or did it become stale?
It’s changed, definitely, and it’s gotten a little bit harder edged, a little bit darker, I think that’s a sign of the times, that’s the way people are feeling now.
You know, it’s more the harder Rock Prog now that seems to be the most popular.
In the 90s it was a little bit more the positive image, the positive message, the major key, that’s what we did at the time, and The Flower Kings also, and now it’s kinda evolved into the harder edged thing, those are the bands that are attracting the bigger crowds and selling the most albums.
It’s evolved into that.
What bands were the most influential to Spock's Beard when you started? And do you still look up to them as an influence?
Oh yeah, anyone from my age, I’m a pretty ancient guy, I think even the younger kids still listen to the 60s and 70s music, and all the bands that were doing music back then, of course bands like The Beatles and [The Rolling] Stones, all of those bands back then, and then the beginnings of Prog Rock, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, King Crimson.
Yeah, those bands are all…I mean, even R&B and Motown and stuff, they are all equally inspiring for me, personally.
We started the interview by saying this is InsideOut's 25th anniversary, but Spock's Beard have been around for about the same time. If you think about it, essential Prog bands like the ones you just mentioned had been around for about this number of years when you first started. Do you think people look up to you today like you looked up to them when you started?
Yeah, I think there is some of that, of course it’s not nearly as big as with them, we never achieved the status of any of these band, but we are…it’s a strange phenomenon with Spock’s Beard, it’s like everyone knows of us, some people say that they’re really inspired by us, but we’ve never really sold the million records…we’re like the biggest smallest band, or something.
But people have told us a number of times that we have had an influence on them.
Talking about the kind of crowds that you gather, have they changed over the years? I mean, if you go to see Iron Maiden you can see people of every age, from young kids to their grandparents, while with some other bands the crowd are mostly older. How is it like for you?
We have mainly middle-aged guys, but some other kids also.
There’s one of my good friends, from Germany, who’s an excellent musician now, he started listening to us when he was 14 years old and he came with his dad to a show.
There are kids who have heard of us because their parents were playing our music but…yeah, our crowd is still in the same demographic, but we have a few younger people coming too.
It feels a bit strange, like, a few years ago I went to see the PFM and after the show some people went to meet the band and they were asking them to sing tickets from when they had seen the band in the 70s, and I wasn’t even born back then... why do you think this happens?
Every band has their most popular period, and then there’s a period when no one wants to have anything to do with you anymore, and if you can wait a few more years, it’s like a 20 years cycle, then all of a sudden people that are getting older want to see you again, it’s like nostalgia.
All those bands then can make a resurgence, PFM has come back really strong, they’re drawing really big crowds now and they’re really popular again.
Your instrumental songs are always grand and beautiful, I'm thinking of songs like Kamikaze, Skeletons at the Feast and Box of Spiders, have you ever thought of writing an instrumental album?
No, we never thought about that but…Al thought about that [points at Alan Morse]…
[Dave] …he did an instrumental album, but with Spock’s Beard as a band I don’t think we’ll ever do an instrumental album.
Maybe as a solo project…you know, we got a singer and we like vocal-based…
[Ryo] I like instrumental albums!
This tour is fairly short and it won't touch quite a few European countries; are you planning to extend it, or to come back, anyway, to play in other places in Europe?
What I always tell people is, where we get decent offers we go, we don’t really choose where we play.
We decide when we want to do a tour, and then our booking agency will send hundreds of queries out and say, “Spock’s Beard is gonna be touring in October, November, whatever”, and then he receives the offers.
We have to look at the expenses and make it work, so we take the offers that allow us to do that, it’s just like putting a puzzle together, sometimes we don’t get any offers from Italy, Greece, Spain, sometimes we do, we’ve been to Italy a couple of times, not a lot of times but it’s great when we do, the audience are great, the food is great!
Yeah, it’s strange that Prog is not that big there today if you think that so many great bands came out of Italy in the 70s…
[Ryo] I used to listen to I Pooh.
How different are the crowds of the concerts you play here in Europe and back home in the States?
Well, to be honest we don’t play too much in the States anymore, we couldn’t make it work financially, we were losing a lot of money.
Now what we usually do when we play in the States is festivals, so there’s a lot of Prog bands and they draw the same type of audience every time, that’s kind of what we experience there.
It’s similar to the types of audience that we draw here, usually if we try to do the same kind of tour in the States it’s the same kind of audience but they’re much smaller.
[Alan] They are very small people [laughs].
[Dave] They’re dwarves [laughs].
It must be weird to play for them, with the stage being so high.
[Dave] At least we don’t have to worry of them jumping on stage [laughs].
This was my last question, thank you for your time.
Well, thank you! We appreciate any publicity we can get.
Interview by Davide Sciaky