Blake Carpenter Opens Up About The Past, Present & the Woods

Hello, Blake thank you for doing this interview as Power of Prog has been following your music career for some time.

PoP:
Tell us, who is Blake Carpenter

Blake: 
I am me Haha, no, I am just a person who lives for music or should I say lives because of music. Music is the heartbeat that keeps me and us alive.

PoP:
How long have you been a professional musician, and what professional training have you had if any 

Blake: 
Been creating original music for about 35 years, been pro (making pennies for playing) since the early ’90s. I have a few lessons on guitar under my belt but that is about it, I hate class.

PoP:
What was the defining moment in your life that sparked the eternal flames to become a musician, and was it, anyone, we might know 

Blake: 
When I was 4ish a neighbor in the apartments me and my mom lived in had a son in Vietnam, he had KISS albums and his mom would listen to them, me and my mom were there one day and she played Destroyer and I was hooked, I started singing then.

PoP:
When did you release your first album and what was it called. 

Blake:
My first album was in a project called Naked At Birth with another guitarist, we were an acoustic duo and it was released on cassette in 1991

PoP:
How was the experience of recording the first album vs. the new album Jack: A Different Tale 

Blake: 
Oh my, the first album was in a basement studio in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and with friends in tow, all I had to do was show up and sing. The last album, Jack, was all done in my small makeshift studio or in the drummers house (recording the drums) and I had to mix and master it all and I am not sure I did it the same justice as I did with The Road To Avalon as I was and still am very disappointed about what happened with The Minstrel’s Ghost (TMG)

PoP:
How many albums have you released thus far and which one are you the proudest of 

Blake: 
Altogether I have one album out there, one with Naked At Birth, one with my band OGMA from the early 2000s, three Minstrel’s Ghost albums, one Voice of the Enslaved album one with Coalition, one with Jack Potter, one with The Petri Lindström Project and two with Corvus Stone. I would say I am most proud of The Road To Avalon as it is probably the best produced.

PoP:
Why is The Road To Avalon so special to you

Blake:  
Again because The Road To Avalon is the best produced but also it is a story I love.

PoP:
What’s the difference between fronting your own projects or fronting someone else’s

Blake:
Fronting someone else’s project can be a blessing and a nightmare. A blessing since all I need to do is sing and perhaps write a few words, a nightmare because I may have to write a few words LOL

PoP:
Name all the bands and projects and release that you have been part of till now

Blake:
Naked At Birth, OGMA, The Minstrel’s Ghost, Corvus Stone, Coalition, Jack Potter, The Petri Lidström Project and oh yeah, Telergy, that was a very short speaking bit but really friggin cool album to be a part of.

PoP:
What influence your song writing 

Blake:
Anything really, love, hate, war, politics, magical things, it just depends I guess on where my head is when I put pen to paper.

PoP:
What is the story behind your latest release Jack: A Different Tale 

Blake: 
It is a play on Jack the Ripper with a fictional back story about his growing up. I wrote it largely with my own childhood in mind but that is for another day.

PoP:
Who are the musicians on the new album Jack: A Different Tale and what rol do they play 

Blake: 
Troy James Martin on bass and vox on News, Mike Troupe on drums and vox on Born, Jartse Tuominen on lead guitar and myself on all other vox, keys and guitars.

PoP:
We understand that Jack will be the final releases by TMG, is this true and why have you decided to close this chapter in your life 

Blake: 
The end of TMG is not something I wanted but something that happened. We had a live band thing happening it was going great but as is often the case things went sour and after so much work that I put into it I was crushed emotionally, it let Jack sit for almost 3 years before I finished it and once I did I felt like I needed to let TMG go, at least for a while and definitely what it was, if the ghost is reborn it will be something completely different from what it was.

PoP:
What’s been the most challenging obstacle for you as a musician 

Blake:
Releasing a physical product, I can never make enough cash to do it or do it right. The Road To Avalon was a fluke and caused some issues personally to get it done.

PoP:
You often use many different musicians on your releases, how do you choose an artist to be on a particular album or song 

Blake: 
Honestly, if they want to be on it and have the sound that fits then they are welcome, that is it. I am not a snob, you don’t have to be a virtuoso to play with me, I sure as hell am not one.

PoP:
Name 10 albums that should be part of any serious record collection

Blake Answers: 
1 XANADU – Soundtrack
2 STYX –  Paradise Theater
3 Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
4 The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come
5 Loreena McKennitt – The Visit
6 INXS – KICK
7 KISS – ALIVE
8 David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars 
9 The Cure – Disintegration
10 Any Vangelis album

PoP:
What was the last album you listened to 

Blake:
OmniaPagan Folk

PoP:
Word has it you love and collect vinyl, what’s your Holy Grail, the one LP that you have always wanted 

Blake: 
I have Xanadu and KISS Alive, I would just like to get all the rest of the KISS albums on vinyl, I only have 9.

PoP:
It’s been said that vinyl has a warmer sound, I don’t subscribe to that. So my question to you is, how would you describe listening experience between Vinyl and Digital including CDs, and Downloads 

Blake: 
Everyone has different thoughts on that, music is music, as long as I can listen to it and it is clear. I like the feel of vinyl, the size of the art and the smell. I also love cassettes and I am building that collection. CD’s I can take or leave.

PoP:
Describe what success means to you, not as a musician but as a person 

Blake: 
Success is what you make of your life and what you leave behind. In the end, are you proud of what you have achieved should be your last question to yourself

PoP:
If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would be your warm up act 

Blake: 
Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado and I would be just fine warming up for U2, Stevie Nicks a close second, U2 is probably the best show ever put on at Red Rocks and was my introduction to the venue and Stevie Nicks concert there was awesome too.

PoP:
You are known as a multi-instrumentalist, what instruments do you play, and which one gives you the most joy 

Blake: 
I play guitar, mandolin, bass, keyboards, tin whistle, recorder, harmonica, bodhran, djembe, I have a set of bagpipes but need to get em cleaned up and reeds put in, and I would love a bouzouki but I guess voice is my main and can give me the most joy cause I do not need anything but myself to play it.

PoP:
You are working on the 2nd Voice of the Enslaved (VotE) release, what can you tell us about this project and release

Blake: 
If I can get it done (all my studio computers have shit the bed) it will be anti nuclear anything cause that shit is the end of all.

PoP:
What musicians will be involved in the new VotE album 

Blake: 
Petri Lindström will be filling the bass position again, I will be doing drums, keys, and voice and I am still not sure about guitars.

PoP:
How has the music landscape changed since you have become a professional musician 

Blake: 
As far as I am concerned it has gotten tougher, not easier as some would lead you to believe. Although a musician no longer needs a label the competition and cost have increased 1000 fold.

PoP:
Did MTV kill the radio star, or is it the ease that anyone can obtain music on the internet in a matter of a moment or two 

Blake Answers: 
MTV made radio stars, without MTV nearly every band from the ’80s would have never made it the way they did

PoP:
What advice would you give to the next generation of future musicians 

Blake Answers: 
Don’t, hahaha, just kidding. Work hard play hard and know that it is gonna suck for a long time before it doesn’t suck so much

PoP:
Where can people buy your music 

Blake Answers: 
Melodic Revolution Records and maybe some other places used.

PoP:
Do you have a mailing list where fans and voyeurs of information can sign up too 

Blake: 
If you go to blakecarpenter.com there is a sign-up form there for my newsletter, it will cover any project I am working on and other stuff too.

PoP:
In closing I want to thank you for taking time to do this interview with us, do you have anything that you would like people to know that we did not talk about 

Blake:
Well, thanks for the interview, it was a pleasure. I can say I am working on a couple of other projects besides VotE. One will be a solo BLAKE thing and the other is something called Max Nova which may or may not go out as a BLAKE thing, till then….get out into the woods to listen to and smell life

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Marco Ragni Speaks to Power of Prog about Life and Music

Good Day Marco and thank you for doing this interview with us here at Power of Prog.

Marco:
Hi, it’s a huge pleasure for me, I’m a big fan of Power of Prog!

POP:
Tell us a little about your self, your musical training and what enticed you to become a musician?

Marco:
I am a man full of passions, I am curious and I always like to learn new things. Music has always been inside me since I was a child. I started playing a keyboard at 6 or 7, a Christmas present from my parents. It was one of the most beautiful gifts ever received, much better than any toy! I am self-taught and it often happens that I compose songs without even knowing what I’m doing. My instinct and musical ear guide me, always. I could not live without music. It would be a very sad world.

Pop:
How long have you been a professional musician, and how many albums have you released as a solo artist?

Marco:
I have been a professional musician for about 25 years. But it’s about 43 years I play! I’ve released 6 albums, 6 Ep and a couple of collections and live albums.

Pop:
Let’s say I asked you to describe your musical style, how would you describe it if you were a sandwich maker?

Marco:
This is a funny question! Well, a sandwich with some soft ingredient, a couple crunchy and something spicy. Multigrain bread with pumpkin seeds, salad, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, a little chili, and Fried Eggplant, with avocado sauce. So, a Psychedelic/Prog sandwich!

Pop:
Tell us about your latest release “Oceans of Thought“?

Marco:
There is a complex story behind “Oceans of Thought“. Initially, I recorded many psychedelic songs in Barret / early Pink Floyd / Nick Drake style and the idea was to write a concept album entitled “The Merchant of Eternal Youth“. But then I had some personal problems that had a great influence on the new compositions and even the lyrics I wrote had a different taste, harder. So I changed the title, the project, and the cover. This album talks about the difficulties that life sometimes brings us, but also talks about how to try to overcome them. It’s a record that I care a lot about because it talks a lot about me.

Pop:
Who are the musicians on the new album “Oceans of Thought” and what role do they play?

Marco:
Great musicians have played there, from Norwegian guitarist Bjørn Riis founder of the band Airbag and Marius Halleland from Wobbler. Then the great Peter Matuchniak on lead guitar and Jeff Mack and Maurizio Antonini the beating heart of this record. The precious woodwinds arrangements by Dave Newhouse and the beautiful voice of JoJo Razor and last but not the least, Charlie Cawood playing Sitar and Dulcimer.

Pop:
You often bring in many musicians for your releases, how do you choose an artist to be on a particular album or song?

Marco:
I always choose a musician based on the sound I want. And last but not least talent. It is a great fortune for me to have collaborated with such high-level musicians. Sometimes it happens that I let them do everything they feel they are playing. I let them be inspired by my stories and melodies.

POP:
What ten albums influenced you as a person and why?

Marco:
I could say 10 albums of Pink Floyd! They have matured in me the taste for melody and Psychedelia. But surely the Grateful Dead‘s Axomoxoa, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of The Beatles are very important, If I Could Only Remember My Name by David Crosby, Are You Experienced by Hendrix and Goodbye and Hello by Tim Buckley and Porcupine Tree’s The Sky Moves Sideways. What remains are Pink Floyd albums and in particular Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall. They have been part of my whole life, almost every day! Maybe it’s more than ten but actually, I should have talked about at least 50!

Pop:
What was the last album you listened to?

Marco:
Porcupine TreeStupid Dream Just now!

Pop:
Describe what success means to you, not as a musician, but as a person?

Marco:
Success for me means being happy to do what you do, have a woman who loves you and friends who appreciate you for who you are.

Pop:
How has the music landscape changed since you have become a professional musician?

Marco:
It has changed especially with regards to technology. How people listen to music. Has also changed the way of recording and producing an album. Now it’s easier than it used to be, but maybe a little poetry has been lost.

Pop:
Do you see value in streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube for example?

Marco:
They are a good way to make yourself known a little more. The downside is that fewer albums are sold.

Pop:
If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would be your warm-up act?

Marco:
I would like to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London and have Porcupine Tree as a warm-up!

Pop:
What influences your songwriting?

Marco:
A lot of things. The weather for example. I prefer to compose when it is raining or cold. And then all the things that happen to me in life. From personal relationships to everyday problems.

Pop:
You are a multi-instrumentalist, what all instruments do you play and which one gives you the most joy?

Marco:
I play guitars, keyboards, bass, flute, mandolin, bouzouki, and lap steel. All the instruments give me joy. It gives me the joy to play. But my favorite is an acoustic guitar. Almost all my songs start from there.

Pop:
How would you describe your profession outside of music?

Marco:
I am a freelance singer for commercials, I do graphic work for various companies and I also work for a company that deals with environmental conservation.

Pop:
What advice would you give to the next generation of future musicians?

Marco:
Be passionate and curious.

Pop:
In closing I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Do you have anything that you would like people to know that we did not talk about?

Marco:
Thanks to you. I really think I said it all but if you’re interested I tell you that I love having breakfast with oat milk, honey, and almond cereals and listening to soul music!

More Information about Marco Ragi can be found on the net:
Official Website
Facebook 
Soundcloud
YouTube

Marco Ragni spoke to the Un-qualifiedKritic
for this in-depth interview series The Human Element


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