I’m a science fiction singer-songwriter. Or maybe a weird-fiction singer-songwriter. I’d say the latter, but the phrase ‘weird fiction’ is a bit less well known so sci-fi seems a better bet. A line I used to use was “I’m what you get if early Genesis started writing songs with Nick Cave after watching too many episodes of Doctor Who”.
Occasionally I’m a live act, both acoustic and in the last year or so as a full band. But I do have a full-time job – I work for a social mobility charity in London – that means gigging is pretty hard to do. I just don’t have the time, and my main mission over the last few years has been to catch-up with my songwriting and get all my best songs recorded and released. Sunday mornings are a great time for recording, far less conducive to gigging. People don’t want to come see you play on a Sunday morning.
I’ve been accused of being a prog rock artist. I like that, but I’m not sure how useful it is because if you listen to my stuff expecting it to sound like 1970’s progressive rock, I think you’ll be disappointed. The main influences for me are David Bowie, Radiohead, Mansun, lots of heavy metal bands, various bits of folk, Meat Loaf, the musical Sweeney Todd and my sort-of-classical composition training. I know that might sound an odd mix, but the two main threads are story telling songs and nerdy clever musician stuff like funny chords and time signatures. I always think I’m trying to write music for two people. One of them likes a singalong chorus that tells a story, the other likes clever-clever musician stuff. And the two don’t necessarily like the same things, so you have to write things so the one who likes singalong choruses doesn’t notice the funny time signatures at the same time as the one who likes the funny time signatures doesn’t care they’re listening to a singalong rock song. And both of them are me.
Does that all make sense? Possibly not. But it is still true.
Who originally inspired you musically to pick up an instrument and who inspires you now?
Mine is a musical family. My mum was a music teacher in local schools, including my primary school (though she took ten years out to raise me and my siblings). My dad and brother play guitar, my sister the bassoon. So, there hasn’t been a time when I didn’t make music. I remember sitting at the piano pre-school age learning the basics. I played violin for a few years in primary school, which I think might have been the tail-end of free individual instrumental lessons in my neck of the woods before they were cut. I then took up guitar at about the age of ten. I also sang in my mum’s choir at primary school.
In my teens I got into rock music, heavy metal and 90s grunge. I wanted to be Eddie Vedder, or maybe Thom Yorke, or maybe James Hetfield. I started writing my own songs and started a band with some mates. It was called Nothing Sacred – awful emo stuff. We did one little TV appearance inappropriately on Nickleodeon – I’m not quite sure why they had us on. We were about fifteen and they asked for acts and our bass player sent them a tape cos he thought it would be funny that they heard this dodgy rock band in amongst the wannabe pop stars: but they said yes and we ended up playing on TV while 70’s disco sensation Leo Sayer rocked out on a beanbag. Looking back, it was a bit odd.
I went off to college, then uni, studied music – mostly composition – and played in a songwriting duo called Comrade Robot. Then in 2010 I started releasing music solo, and by my second album – 2012, so about 16 years into songwriting – I started to find my voice and figure out who I really am as a songwriter.
Who inspires me now? Recent artists that I’ve wanted to steal ideas from include Paul Mosley, Richard Dawson, Matt Blick and there’s always David Bowie and King Crimson, obviously.
To the uninitiated what is Steampunk, how did you discover it and what fascinates you about the scene?
Steampunk is not a kind of music. It’s a genre of science fiction that takes inspiration from Jules Verne style of science fiction but seen through a retro lens – Verne and HG Wells were writing contemporary sci-fi as it were. The name is a play on cyberpunk, which is Blade Runner style gritty near future sci-fi. The ‘punk’ bit in both alludes to the American use of the term as in ‘you dirty punk’ not to punk music directly.
My first few albums told steampunk stories. So, the music itself isn’t steampunk – and despite what a lot of silly people on the internet sometimes say there’s no such thing as a steampunk style of music – but the lyrics are.
I have an ambivalent attitude to the scene. The people are lovely, the events can be fun, but it isn’t a music centred scene. They prefer cabaret style stuff where the audience can get involved, and except on rare occasions I’ve never really felt my music fits with what the audience wants in a live setting. Prog audiences where people are really into their music and want to listen to every note suit my music much better.
At the very end of ‘Fit the Fourth’, my last album, I looped in a little hint of the opening of my first album ‘Spinning the Compass’ as if to say. “that’s finished, the loop is closed, no more steampunk stuff”. All the releases since have not been steampunk at all.
Your first album, ‘Spinning The Compass’ featured just you, and most releases since have been the same. Is it that you don’t like other musicians, or they don’t like working with you?
I can’t stand them. Preening, egotistical idiots, all of them. Don’t get me started on singers. They’re the worst of the lot.
No, not really. Partly it’s personality as I’m naturally a bit of a loner. Partly its practicality. I mentioned the lack of time, well, organising people takes a lot of time. If I’m to get the work of recording all these songs recorded, I need to be efficient and that usually means doing things myself. Having said that since ‘Fit the Fourth’ I’ve had other people collaborating musically on most releases, with ‘Demon’ my latest album as the most collaborative. You can get some great results by just asking good musicians to record what they think fits.
I’m a solo artist for a good reason – I have no interest in compromising on what these songs should sound like. This is my project, my vision, what I want to say with the popular song format. I have no desire to share that with someone else or to work at someone else’s pace. I’ll have other people play for me, but it’ll definitely be me with the final say so.
What was Murder and Parliament?
Murder and Parliament is a name I gave to an instrumental project that was a sort of heavy metal-ish, post-rock, weird ambient music. I had a load of music that had originally been written for classical instruments back at uni, but never realised. I decided to rearrange a lot of it for rock band, add a load of drums and make an album of it. It worked pretty well. I like the mix of heavy metal instrumentation and scored out part-writing. There are also some great additions from Alun Vaughan on bass and Chrissie Caulfield on violin.
It isn’t finished either. I’m slowly bringing together ideas for Murder and Parliament’s second album. I’m not sure when it will be ready, certainly not in the next 9 months, but hopefully before the end of 2020 there’ll be another Murder and Parliament album.
Unusually for a “serious” musician, you also release a lot of singles and EP’s. Why is that and where do you see the value?
I take offence at being called a serious musician! Well, not really, but seriousness is too easy, I have no interest in it. I want to be an entertaining musician, a fun musician. I sincerely believe that in art the most difficult thing to do consistently and well is being fun. I want my music to be fun.
Is it unusual to do lots of ‘non-album’ releases? These days I think the artist that only releases one album every two years is behaving pretty strangely. That’s not how the audience listens. Why not pay attention to the audience a bit more? People these days listen to a lot of audio – whole albums and playlists on a commute, hours of podcasts just when mowing the lawn or washing the dishes. And they move on to new stuff quickly. That’s where culture is, so why not give people what they want? I’ve got a tiny group of fans, but they do like my music, so why not give them stuff to listen to.
And besides, I have the ideas and the songs. If I have two songs that fit together but will probably never belong on an album, why not release them digitally? Same with the EPs. I had a load of acoustic murder ballads last year. They weren’t long enough to be an album on their own, but there were enough to make an EP, so I did. As I said, I want to get all my good songs recorded. Lots of releases are necessary!
How did you first meet up with the Great Elephant, and was curry involved?
There are two versions of this story, the public one and the real one. I’ll ask you please to print the ‘public’ one, but I’ll tell you the real one too. Just whatever you do, don’t print the real one.
Here’s the public version: David Elephant from Bad Elephant music stumbled across my third album, ‘Three Rows of Teeth’, online. He liked it, played it on his podcast and we got to chatting online. He offered to put out my fourth album ‘Fit the Fourth’, and I said yes. Really easy. David’s great to work with.
So that’s what you can print. Please don’t print what actually happened, which was this: He showed up at my house. Him, in a suit, with trunk and tusks, and these two thugs behind him, one with a Yorkshire accent the other sounding German. They muscled their way into my house, trashed my studio and made it very, very clear that if I didn’t do what they said I would be physically hurt. Then they made me sign this contract. It was three hundred pages long, they didn’t let me read any of it, and they made me sign it in my own blood.
I’m scared, Kev. Scared. And so is every other BEM artist. Except Simon Godfrey, because he’s an idiot.
Have you any desire to work with any other artists on BEM? I have always thought a joint effort with Matt Deacon could produce interesting offspring.
Yeah, in principle. I’ve co-written and performed on a song with Mike Kershaw and added some guitar to Shineback’s last album, but apart from that I haven’t done much. I’d be well up for working with Matt Deacon, though I’m a little scared of his obsession with hot sauce. That’s kinda weird.
Talk us through Demon, song by song, and what you were trying to achieve in each case.
I have actually recorded a video for each song explaining what they’re about. I’ve done guitar tabs and stuff as well. But they’re only for people on my mailing list. The album is autobiographical, just not in the lyrics. Each song alludes in some way to family, or places I’ve lived.
“Wizards of this Town” is about drunk wizards trying to fix their town through magic. It has odd drunken verses and a big singalong indie rock chorus. Definitely one of my most accessible songs. People really seem to like it. It’s inspired by the area I was working in at the time, having just left teaching to move into educational charity.
“Modern World” is the second track. It’s the longest track on the album and it’s a Frankenstein song – I stitched together disparate parts. There’s a 90’s indie rock style section, an off-beat prog rock section, and a musique concrete section that one reviewer confusedly said was “just noises”. Which is true, but then, that’s all music is! This song is there as a bit of a potted musical biography, and also as a challenge. It says – this album mixes ‘normal’ rock with a little bit of weird. You better be ready.
“Weather Balloons and Falling Stars” is the third in my tentacle trilogy. It’s an upbeat, rocky love song to tentacles. It’s also tying into older albums.
“West Wind” is the most prog song on the album. It has folky acoustic guitar, stringsy mellotron sounds and all the time signatures. Well, three of them. It is also a sequel to a song written by the other half of my songwriting duo from years back, Comrade Robot.
The middle section of the album breaks from the rock band set up. We have “Patterns of Light”, a short acoustic song that includes my sister’s bassoon and lots of vocal harmonies. Then “Cutting Up All Of Our Dreams”. For this song I sent my mum a score of what I would be singing and asked her to arrange her singers around it. This was the result. The song fades into some scary spoken word stuff courtesy of my brother in law, Joel.
This middle section with a spoken word bit is supposed to be an allusion to the middle of “Ok Computer” by Radiohead and “Six” by Mansun, both of which have a spoken word thing in the middle.
We then go back to the rock band format, with “Drop Dead’s Punching Above His Weight Again”, a song about a serial killer. This is a big homage to David Bowie and has great lead guitar from Gareth Cole who has been playing guitar a lot for me in the last two years or so. He’s also on last year’s EP ‘Spirit Box’.
“Tinfoil King” was written very quickly for February Album Writing Month. It uses crossword-clue lyrics to say humanity is rubbish. Some days it’s my favourite song on the album.
And finally, “Demon”. “Demon” has been around for a while; Comrade Robot recorded a version. I always wanted to do the big loud rock version, so here it is. It’s about various things, including a drunken night out with Pete, the other half of that duo, so the first and last songs have that theme of drunkenness in them. It also has great drumming in the middle where I told Michael Cairns to play an inappropriate, slightly sloppy jazz solo. He obliged. It’s great.
That last song is a reminder of my early twenties, being slightly glum and unsure about what to do with life.
And that’s the album. I’m dead proud of it.
So what’s next for Tom Slatter, and where can we hear more of your music?
As to what’s next – I have literally no idea. In the short term I’m focusing on telling people about ‘Demon’ and doing some online gigs because that’s a bit more practical than touring for me at the moment.
Beyond that, this is pretty uncharted territory. For the first time in at least a decade I don’t have any songs ‘in the bank’ that I definitely want to record. There’s maybe one piece of unfinished business – an ep I released a few years ago that i don’t think was recorded well enough, that I might redo – and then I’ve got no more ideas.
That means I need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what the next version of me sounds like. Which is kind of exciting? I’ve no idea what I’ll write next.
It has been a while since the man behind The Bob Lazar Story, Matt Deacon, and myself caught up for a beer. So, given that there is a new album out, it seemed like a good time to have another chat.
Given you live in Christchurch, New Zealand, and drummer Chris Jago lives Los Angeles, how did the original band get together and then how did Chris get roped into it?
After studying Audio Engineering circa 2005 I recorded “(sic)”, on my own, apart from two songs Simon Fox played drums on. He and I were both teaching at the same music shop in Chch and he is a brilliant drummer. Studio time was hard to come by then, but we were able to get into the studio at MAINZ (Music And Audio Institute NZ) and one of my pals engineered the drum recording. The rest of that album was programmed drums by myself, which were OK but not real enough.
So I roped Simon into another three tracks on the next release – The Silence of Perez de Cuellar – and used an online service for another two. I had recorded bass parts myself but then met Mike Fudakowski at a high school I was also teaching at. He’s a magnificent bass player and liked the tunes so he replaced my parts with good ones. I pretended to like Dungeons & Dragons to curry favour with him. He knew Kev Roberts, a drummer who was Head Of Music at a school near me. Fud suggested we approach Kev to put a small live band together as we could use the school as rehearsal space too. Kev was the only Dixie Dregs fan I had ever met in NZ so seemed a good fit.
We worked on four songs I had written for Space Roots and recorded them in Kev’s classroom. Around this time we also played a few gigs in Chch and Lyttelton which was fun but was an awful lot of rehearsing. Kev also recruited a great keyboard player for us – Nathan Peters, who played all the gigs we did.
As Fud and myself both had young kids (not with each other), gigs weren’t a priority. At this time I also re-connected with Chris Jago via FB. I had met Chris at Music College in Liverpool in 1993 and we played together a few times in college ensembles and then I used to occasionally sub for the guitarist of the covers band he was in. But this was a time before email had arrived, so we lost contact when I moved to NZ in 1997. He popped up on my Facebook around 2009 and I convinced him to play on about three songs on Space Roots. I also used the online service again, so Space Roots ended up having three drummers on it. But it was a nightmare putting the album together as me and the fam packed up and moved back to Liverpool for a year and my PC crapped itself. So it was a four–year process putting Space Roots together. It’s a miracle it was even released, to be honest.
I found the process of working with Chris to be very satisfying. I really wanted a bit more cohesion for future releases, as Space Roots was a bit all over the place sonically, so I got Chris on board for the next release – Ghost Of Foodstool. This EP/mini-album felt like a fresh start, after the craziness of putting Space Roots together. Chris can be very busy – he’s often playing in musicals in the States, as well as doing various other sessions. He also got the Neil Diamond gig a couple of years back. Unfortunately, Neil had to retire through poor health though, so that was short–lived. But given the quality of his playing, I’m always prepared to wait until Chris is available to do some recording.
How does your Trans-Pacific writing collaboration work?
I write the music bits with the aid of the drummer app in Logic, then send Chris these demo files both with and without the programmed drums. Then I chart them out in a simple(!) way and Chris interprets it how he feels. I might then tweak a couple of bits or add some more stuff in as his parts usually spark some different ideas. I see it as a total collaboration and love getting his parts back. He engineers and mixes all the drums at his home studio – Shabby Road Studios, and frankly does an incredible job. We’ll have the occasional Skype conversation where we’ll secretly marvel at each other’s completely different versions of Scouse accents, but we usually just stick to back and forths on messenger. We share a dropbox where files get exchanged and working song names get more convoluted i.e apr17100bpm1_2nomaster etc.
It has worked out well so far. I think I’m quite easy to work with, very accommodating. I’ve only ever asked Chris to tweak something maybe twice. If he does something I wasn’t prepared for, i tend to just incorporate it, make it work for me. I can definitely cause steam to escape from his ears though. Occasionally my charts haven’t quite matched up to the demo recordings. I used to write charts for him by hand, but for Vanquisher I used Sibelius to produce much neater charts. It was way more accurate too, as it was just a case of loading a midi file of the Logic projects into Sibelius and it would spit out a lovely looking chart.
You have previously described your band as “purveyors of tritonal wankery, and offer an oasis of ProgMathsyFusion to soothe your weary earholes.” What do you mean and how would you describe yourselves in terms of other artists?
Tritonal wankery came about as I wrote a lot of riffs with Tritonal jumps in them at the time. If anyone ever gets a package from me in the post, it usually has a sticker on it that says “Purveyor of Tritonal wankery“. ProgMathsyFusion is a description that covers a lot of musical ground. Definitely, Prog moments, although I’m not a massive fan of Classic Prog. I like Mathsy music full of odd timings like Zappa. The modern iteration of Math Rock is completely different and not my thing. And there are bits of fusion spread about, but not endless wanky solos.
I find when I have to describe the sound of The Bob Lazar Story, I usually just write “for fans of Zappa, Keneally, Cardiacs, GG.” A diverse group. No one sounds like Zappa, but he’s a massive influence. As is Mike Keneally. I came to Cardiacs quite late on, only about five years ago, but they were a musical epiphany for me. Super complicated yet direct and in your face. Amazing melodies and ensemble playing. It turns out that Tim Quy who was percussionist for Cardiacs, was a fan of ours before I had even heard of them, which blew my mind. I’d say apart from Zappa, nothing has ever floored me as much as Cardiacs tunes have. Absolutely mesmeriszng.
Although we get lumped into the Prog genre, which is all good with me, I’ve only listened to a tiny bit of Yes, never heard ELP before and I’ve tasted a tiny smattering of Jethro Tull. I like a few Gentle Giant songs. I grew up listening to Metal then went down a small jazz road for a bit before someone played me some Zappa. I can take or leave all his comedy stuff, but the super tight, busy ensemble work is what I’m really into. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) could be my favorite song of all time. But how do we classify that? I do love classic Gabriel era Genesis though. Foxtrot is a perfect album. I know that one well, plus The Lamb stuff. But that’s about it for me and Prog. I think I prefer music that defies categorization. Mr. Bungle would be a prime example – California is a real masterpiece. I listen to a lot of French stuff lately – Poil, Hardcore Anal Hydrogen, Ni. All crazy stuff. Progressive in the sense that they do stuff that is very different, very original. Lost Crowns, who are also with BEM, really tickle my fancy too. They play all the notes, seemingly all at the same time, but pull it off spectacularly. I guess they might fall into the Psychedelic category, who knows? So all these bands are definitely influences for sure. However, I think TBLS sound like TBLS.
What is your obsession with Foodstool?
I used to have a stool in my music room that I would bring into the lounge to eat my dinner off. It became affectionately known as Foodstool. The first album had The Progressive Adventures of Foodstool on it, and as a fan of conceptual continuity from my Zappa-love, I thought it would be great to include Foodstoolon every subsequent release. I have no intention of ever stopping. Foodstool was stolen from our garage while we were in the UK. I’m lucky I had a photo of it. I traced this photo and coloured it white for the front cover of Ghost Of Foodstool. You can also get Foodstool t–shirts from our merch page. I’m toying with the idea of FoodstoolHot Sauce. But who would want a food product with the word stool in it? Not every idea is a great one.
Why name the band after Bob Lazar, what fascinates you about him? Does he know there is a band carrying his name?
I’ve been fascinated with the topic of UFOs since I was a kid, and when Bob went public with his story in about 1989, I heard about it even though there was no internet back then, and the topic was essentially an opportunity for ignorant folk to chime into serious conversations with “Little Green Men” asides and overall snarkiness. Even Roswell wasn’t known about much back then. I actually released an album in 2004 under my real name with songs that turned out to be prototypes for subsequent releases. However, I thought it would appear like I was some sort of singer–songwriter so decided on a name change. Not sure why I thought this would be a good idea. Maybe I thought I could draw in the UFO crowd as potential fans. I was definitely playing the long game, and now I feel this is finally paying off, as Bob Lazar is back in the mainstream news again. There is currently a doco on Netflix about him, and he went on Joe Rogan’s podcast recently. My Twitter followers went up 25% in a month (as of writing, we are up to 525!) and I get tagged in many conversations on Twitter as a lot of people assume I am Bob Lazar. (@boblazarstory) (525!)
Bob did get in touch once to enquire about our name. I sent him a download code. He likes the music. A few years back he said they were making a film about him and he would try and get some of our tunes in it. I never took him seriously. At least I think it was him. He’s a very intriguing character, and if it was all bullshit, you’d have to wonder what was in it for him. He hasn’t benefitted financially from it. He keeps a super low profile but is still harassed by the alphabet soup agencies. If true, his story could be one of the most important ever told.
The Bob Lazar Story has been a band, then a duo, and this time Mike Fudakowski has again become involved. Why did he leave and then come back?
Fud was heavily involved in an 8 year long Dungeons and Dragons campaign and couldn’t be disturbed. He escaped with his life, just, and I brought him back on board for a few tunes. Also, during recording Self Loathing Joe and Baritonia, I was super busy with being a Postie and was getting burnt out due to stress and whatnot, so I found it easier to just get on with the music side of things myself.
Please explain the rationale behind the rather eclectic song titles on the new album ‘Vanquisher’
When I was back in college, I couldn’t think of names for tunes, they were just numbered. How fucking pretentious, right? I sometimes ask friends and fans for suggestions. My pal KD (stan) Baxter came up with In The Woods With Tony Iommi for the last album, and he’s come up with Hooves & Broken Biscuits for this one, although I’ll bet he will claim not to remember. Song titles are fun, particularly when there are no lyrics to suggest anything. I will break a couple down for you.
Pongville – I play cards every week with some mates. This is a reference to a rule in the game. I thought, if I do this, then they might buy the album.
Eleven – I can’t stand Stranger Things. Plus, it’s in 11/4
Goodbye Victor Tripaldi – An admin from the Progressive Rock Fanatics page on FB was being verbally abused by a guy, so banned him, and followed it up with “Goodbye Victor Tripaldi”. I suggested it would be a great name for a band. Got over 20 likes for that, wow. So hopefully, once I post this song to the page, someone might buy the album.
Two For The Rest – this is an oft-repeated phrase at the Port of Lyttelton where I work as a cargo handler. If the ship has finished loading, they sometimes opt to keep two guys on the wharf and send the other four home. Hopefully, when some of my wharfie mates see this title, they might buy the album.
Operation Full Klinger – I left my old job through redundancy. I had a long term plan of convincing my bosses I was crazy so they would have to pay me to leave. It worked better than I thought it would, as life imitated art and I actually went a bit crazy for a while. Just at the right time, as we were going through a round of redundancies. I had told a couple of workmates of my plan at the time and dubbed it Operation Full Klinger. Hopefully, they will remember this and might buy the album. There seems to be a pattern here.
Project Top Secret & Eyes Only – This is for UFO buffs. Hopefully, they might buy the album.
Tony!! – Self-evident really
If the cover art of the last album, ‘Baritonia’, was the coffee stain of the mug from ‘Self-Loathing Joe’, what is the meaning behind the artwork this time?
Once again, conceptual continuity comes into play. The coffee stain is actually on the white stool from Ghost Of Foodstool, so it goes back even further. The link to this new album appears when you take the disc out of the tray in the digipak. I have taken the coffee stain and reversed it on top of itself, creating a striking portrait of myself.
The chili pepper on the front of Vanquisher is that shape for a reason that will only be revealed on the next release. I can say no more. Apart from telling you that I’m mildly obsessed with hot sauce. Going further back, the flying saucer from the first album “(sic)” appears inside the booklet of The Silence of Perez de Cuellar (another UFO story, google it). Space Roots is the outlier here. No connections to previous or subsequent releases. Although every release has the little chicken with the speech bubble somewhere in it.
How did you become involved with the Great Elephant?
About three years ago, BEM kept on popping up on my feed, signing bands left, right and center. I wanted some of that juicy action. So I sent David Elephant an email with a link to the Bandcamp page and said: “I think I want to be on your label.” He got back to me the next day and promised me the moon on a stick. And here we are. The Bob Lazar Story might very well be the smallest act on their impressive roster, and David has probably regretted his impulsive behavior ever since. BUT HERE WE ARE.
I love that BEM has a roster of really quite diverse and sometimes very unusual artists.
There are some very like-minded musicians on BEM, can you see yourself playing with any of them?
Like I just said, we are probably the smallest act on the roster, so I’m reluctant to suggest collaborations, in case it’s seen as a ploy to boost our profile at the expense of theirs. But if anyone were to ask me, I would most likely be into it. Unless it was Tom Slatter. He’s weird.
Simon Godfrey literally shits music, he’s so prolific. As is Tom Slatter. He’s obsessed with Steampunk, whatever that is. I like the direction We Are Kin have moved in, more synthy, less guitars. I like that The Fierce And The Dead do their own thing and don’t worry about not having a vocalist. Their continued success is encouraging for other instrumental acts out there. I can see myself playing with any and all of these people. I can also see them looking at me, and asking themselves “who is that?”.
The album is out, are you going to be performing anywhere in the near future or do you just see this as a studio project?
No plans to gig. Rehearsing is an issue, as is scheduling. I’m a shift worker and essentially on call every day until I have worked six shifts in a two-week cycle. These six shifts often get stretched out over the two weeks, so it’s hard to plan things. Plus, Chris lives in LA, which makes it tricky. I’m happy just recording tunes, even though I have enjoyed playing in the past. As I mentioned earlier, rehearsing takes a good while with these kinds of tunes, so an extraordinary amount of commitment would be required from all parties concerned.
What is next for TBLS?
I have an EP of totally batshit stuff in the works. Vanquisher has turned out to be a slightly mellower affair in parts, so I left some more, shall we say, crazy tunes out so as not to mess with the flow. I shall be developing these ones and then I’ll try to convince Chris that it’s a good idea for him to play on them. Besides that, I shall continue to badger people into listening. It’s hard work these days. Spotify and streaming, in general, makes it hard for anyone to make any money doing this kind of thing. Praise the lord for Bad Elephants.
To say that Michael Gregory Jackson is a well-known guitarist who has influenced many others is something of an understatement. Pat Metheny said, *”I have always considered him to be one of the most significantly original guitarists of our generation,” while another guitar icon, Bill Frisell, noted, “I first heard Michael Gregory Jackson in 1975 when I moved to Boston. He blew my mind and influenced me a lot. I believe he’s one of the unsung innovators.” And legendary music critic Robert Palmer wrote of Jackson in Rolling Stone, “By the time he was twenty-one he was already the most original jazz guitarist to emerge since the Sixties.” Here he has been joined by Niels Praestholm (bass), Simon Spang-Hanssen (alto & soprano saxophones) and Matias Wolf Andreason (drums), and between them, they created an album based on jazz but moving in many different directions. Jackson states his influences are Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Son House, Igor Stravinsky, and John Coltrane in equal amounts, not a mix of musicians one would normally put together. Jackson isn’t content with playing “just” guitar, and there are times when it is blues harmonica which is adding the most important dynamics to a section. For the most part, he is happy for Spang-Hanssen to take the lead role, just sitting behind him and then adding touches and solos when the time is right. Praestholm is the person who keeps it all tied together, while Andreason switches between keeping the perfect beat and creating dramatic percussion rhythms which takes the music into new directions. This is fresh, exciting, sometimes built around repeated melodies (such as on “Blue Blue”), while at others it is avant garde and extreme. Far easier to listen to than many albums which attempt to stretch boundaries, it is full of light and joyfulness which is palpable. This is also available through Bandcamp, so why not have a listen and then decide for yourself. 8/10 Kev Rowland
It has been many years since I came across Lost World Band and their debut album ’Trajectories’. The three founder members all met at the Moscow Conservatory, and Andrey Didorenko (guitars, violins, vocals) and Vassily Soloviev (flute) are still there while original keyboard player Alexander Akimov has taken on the production role. Their last album (‘Of Things and Beings’) was just the duo alongside drummer Konstantin Shtirlitz who had joined in time for the previous album ‘Solar Power’. However, it does feel that the guys have become a band at last, as the trio have been joined by Yuliya Basis (keyboards) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (bass). All the songs are still by Andy, but what has really amazed me is the way the band have taken all their complex musicality and made it incredibly commercial. There is a groove running all the way through this, and songs such as “Running In The Sun” cry out for major radio airplay as it is full of hooks, as well as complex layers and musicality. The vocals are smooth, the harmonies spot on, the violin and flute just so in the background, while the bass drives along, the drums are all over the place, and when the electric violin comes in to take a solo it is short, sweet, and full of edgy power.
Here we have a Russian band who have moved so far away from their debut to be almost unrecognizable, yet still, use flute and violin as key instruments to keep their music rooted to the past. The album itself starts with an instrumental, and as the keyboards and guitars swap chords, the violin and bass are off and running and we are being thrown headlong into a rushing progressive number where it feels like everyone is in flight, the harmonies switching and swirling as different musicians take the lead and everyone is charging to the same destination. The first time I played this I actually stopped what I was doing to check that I had loaded the right album as this is both dramatic and melodic, joyous and dramatic, strident yet harmonious. They have expanded in many directions in this album, which may mean that some listeners won’t be completely satisfied with everything they hear as there are so many different styles at play. Me, I think it’s glorious and easily their most complete, accessible and incredible album to date. Lost World Band are back with a bang, and this should be searched out by all progheads. 10/10 Kev Rowland
The Last Detail were a band I had heard of, but never come across before this. Some of the members of the band had been in Ywis, whose album was later reissued in the Nineties, and then after this some of them formed Timelock before Ywis became active again following the success of the reissue. I can pretty much guarantee that isn’t exactly how it happened, but as I only have the download and not the album itself, which is a limited edition which contains a 16-page, full-colour booklet with bio, info, etc, I can only apologise. Between 1987 and 1991 they released two cassette albums (both on the bonus disc) and one full length CD and various tracks on a couple of compilation albums. To commemorate 35 years ‘FREIA’, the label has decided to remaster all the band’s official recordings and re-release the music on one double album in a limited edition of 300 copies. The result is a double disc set with 41 songs, more than 2 ½ hours of music.
It must be said the first time I played this mammoth offering I wasn’t that impressed. Some of the songs are duplicated, and it all felt quite amateurish in some ways. But, I persevered and the more I listened to it the more I was taken back in time to the early days of neo-prog. With a singer who sounded somewhat like Michael Sadler, and a strong use of keyboards it is obvious to Saga they were looking for influences, but they also had much in common with early Galahad, but lacking the finesse and substance of other bands of the time such as IQ and Pendragon. I am somewhat surprised the fledgling Simm Info didn’t get involved with the band, seeing as they were attempting capture many of the top Dutch and British acts back then, but all power to Freia for finally making this available again. True, for someone like me who hadn’t heard them at the time then this is more interesting from a historical aspect than a musical one, but for those who enjoyed the band at the time then this is absolutely essential. It will be interesting to see if Freia continue releasing a magazine called True Music Guide, where each issue focuses on just a single release. There are plenty more gems to be unearthed from this time. For fans of early neo-prog. 7/10 Kev Rowland