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 guitaristBjørn 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 Tree – Stupid 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!
Melodic Revolution Records Featured Album For April 2018 Babal | The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues
Label – Melodic Revolution Records Release Year – 2018 Country – United Kingdom Genre – Art/psych rockers tinged with folk,tribal,goth,jazz to make a challenging brew of musical/theatrical/mime/visual madness that allows for absurd social comment and hellish edgy grooves 🙂
Band Members Karen Langley – Vocals Rob Williams – Guitars/Synthesis/Ebow Jon Sharp – Drums
Guest Musicians Paul Smith – Double Bass – (Stolen Breath,He’s Got The Bends) Zoie Green – Keyboards – (He’s Got The Bends, The Great Overwhelm) Craig High – Clavino – (He’s Got The Bends) Ben Baisom – Bass – (The Great Overwhelm, Amanda, Monkey On My Banck,Partakers)
Track Listing Teeth Of The Universe Amanda He’s Got The Bends The Crooked Path Stolen Breath Monkey On My Back The Foot High Guy Partakers Volunteers The Great Overwhelm Skating On The Pond Blockpave Me Over
“This highway leads to the shadowy tip of reality: you’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable…Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. . . Next stop The Twilight Zone.” ― Rod Serling
Throughout my various journey’s and pilgrimages into the world of progressive rock I have ran into many characters. Some characters have been very uplifting and positive with both music and lyrical material. Other characters have taken me into some very intelligent and thought provoking areas of the mind. Meanwhile other characters have taken me into areas where I had to stop and ask, “WTF, did I just experinece?” This is as if I had found the Twilight Zone of Progressive Rock.
This is the case with Melodic Revolution Records latest sign Babal. You are truly introduced to some very mind altering characters on their recent effort The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues. Babal are a heavy progressive rock version of bands such as Siouxsie And The Banshees, meets The Cure, The Church with a twist of Concrete Blonde on the Gothic end of their vast spectrum. On the psychedelic end of the spectrum it is more what would of been found on the corners of Haight and Ashbury in middle to late 1960’s San Francisco with bands like Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin & Big Brother And The Holding Company, The Byrds, Fever Tree, Mama’s and The Papa’s, etc … On the progressive rock end bands that come to mind are Yes, King Crimson, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, even the more eclectic appearance and sounds of early Peter Gabriel era Genesis. A full cacophony and cornucopia of various sounds that Babal have fashioned into their own unique world of eclectic psychedelic progressive rock.
The band themselves went very under the radar to me until I was able to obtain a copy of The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues. The album is made up of 12 songs. Each song carries a different side to the personality of the band. It may require a few spins however, if the listener remains objective and open minded they will start to pick up on the many personalities that make up the character of the band as a collective. Let’s explore the 12 various and melodious personalities that make up the very character of Babal’s The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues.
Teeth Of The Universe opens up with a heavy progressive funk element which is somewhat reminiscent of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic with a little Gothic sprinkle of Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting album.There is a huge big top heavy drum layer that sets up the rhythm section to come with ease. There is a equal balance between the funk elements and the progressive rock rhythm sections. The rhythm sections are more rooted within more chord progressions found in psychedelic rock. Rob Williams certainly has a atmospheric approach with the lead guitars. Soon the dark, deep and sensual Gothic voice comes in who is owned by the ever talented Karen Langley. This is a sure fire roller coaster of various psychedelic chord progressions married to traditional progressive time signatures. There is also some great soulful backing vocals that add a accented flavour to the lead vocals.
Amanda opens up with a perfect union of bass guitar and synth’s. The open has a EDM vibe that is transcribed to a more progressive/psychedelic rock pallet. This has a very groove laden rhythm section. The vocals are semi spoken word, semi melodic as Karen Langley gives the listener the illusion of two separate and distinct characters in between her lead and backing vocals. The lyrical content is very thought provoking.
He’s Got The Bends starts out with a heavy psychedelic chord progression that is running in harmony with a more Indian Classical Music/ Oriental music passage. The beautiful vocals and articulate yet bizarre storytelling certainly add to the album. The listener starts to see a very unpredictable yet highly interesting pattern the band continually presents in the album. The Double Bass and the Clavino certainly add a whole otherworldly dimension to the bands sound and presentation. Babal are certainly not shy with experimentation whatsoever.
The Crooked Path begins with a psychedelic and unorthodox chant from Karen Langley. You start to see the true depth of both her talent and her uncanny ability to experiment with the music of Babal. Rob Williams – Guitars/Synth’s and Jon Sharp – Drums certainly allow the music space to breathe to open up such experimentation. This track is the perfect example to that. The band are as articulate in the instrumental side of the melody as Karen is with her lyrics and storytelling. The track takes a more fuzzy stoner distorted fade out effect towards its conclusion.
Stolen Breath starts out like it has some very early pre-alternative vibe that came out of the sound of late 1970’s CBGB’s in New York. Rob Williams has a very serious depth with his synth orchestrations. Stolen Breath really opens the listener to this very fact. The vocal harmonies between the lead and backing vocals are tracked very well that it sounds like Karen has a mini choir following her in harmony to her lead vocal. Jon Sharp has a uncanny ability to use the cymbals to create atmospheres in the backdrop on the song and making those atmospheres more melodic at times rather that a rhythmic section sound.
Monkey On My Back opens up with a very heavy and traditional progressive rock chord progression passage. The brilliant brainstorms this band has allow for another beautiful articulate spoken word section in the lead vocals meanwhile playing in perfect harmony to the melodic backing vocals. This track is a straight away jam band style track. It has straight away drum textures along with a sick guitar rhythm section along with a nice thunderous bass line. Rob Williams executes some serious guitar solos towards the end.
The Foot High Guy starts out almost like a soundtrack to a television show of suspense or horror depending how you hear it. It is a very dark and brooding chord progression that is soon met with some seriously dark lyrical content in perfect harmony to the instrumental portion. There is a lot of consistency here allowing the listener to become enveloped in both the dark instrumental and the dark lyrical content. The lead vocals remain very soulful as well.
Partakers starts out much like a cosmic space rock style chord progression. The beginning comes much in the tradition of bands like Oresund Space Collectivemeets Buckethead. The bass/rhythm section certainly anchors this track and allows the guitars and vocals to open the listener up to yet another perspective of the bands very eclectic sound. The lyrical content remains absolute Genius in this song. The synth’s are very wonderfully orchestrated much like a horned section in this one as well.
Volunteers opens up with a very deep bass synth backed atmosphere. Soon the guitar and drums lend to the very eclectic rhythm section. The band seem to have a very great talent to make a song sound very different from the other songs as to not have the entire album sound like the same thing all the way through it. The lyrical content continues its articulate consistency on this track as well. In a way this track reminds me very much of Concrete Blonde’s Ghost Of A Texas Ladies Man.
The Great Overwhelm opens up with screeching high end lead guitars that are anchored by a very straight up bass/drum rhythm section. The very amount of rhythm on this going forward is insane. The synth’s are once again both use as a horned section and a sound effect section. Despite its title The Great Overwhelm allows a lot of space for the listener to digest what they are hearing at that moment. The heavy Gothic influence remains this deep into the album as well.
Skating On The Pond opens up as a very somber synth driven track. The synth takes on the very character of a traditional Hammond Organ that has been well associated with progressive rock since its inception. The beautiful vocal layers and harmony totally take the track to levels that are very Avant Garde meets Psychedelic. The lyrical content continues to be very heavily thought provoking.
Blockpave Me Over opens up with a strange yet interesting spoken word section. Soon the track takes on the very character of a deep bass/drum driven rhythm section. The synth’s come in to create layers upon layers of atmospheres. Those atmospheres are perfectly complimented by equally interesting guitar solos.
This album was certainly a treat to the ears. The way every track has its own character and basically forces the listener to take notice of every nuance about it is short of stunning. Where some albums start to lose the listener half way through them, Babal’s The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues hooks you and never let’s the listeners attention go. I especially like a band that refuses to be pigeonholed into one sound as well. Babal take many elements out of many genres to make their own distinctive sound that is only Babal. This is certainly a discovery I have been waiting to see on the Melodic Revolution Records label. I give Babal’s The Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues a 5/5for sheer experimental brilliance.
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