When RoSfest founder George Roldan approached me to consider taking on the task of leading RoSfest into a new era, I was deeply humbled and excited. I had been both a long-time patron of the festival and a core benefactor since the reorganization as a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to enhancing people’s lives through access to great music and the support of musicians. As a musician, scientist, and entrepreneur, I hope to utilize my skill set to both maintain the incredible tradition and quality of RoSfest and to lead the organization to greater future glories. The Board that we have organized represents a wonderful group of highly experienced, talented, dedicated, and selfless individuals whose only desire is to see RoSfest continue and grow. We will be expanding our search for charitable contributions and will aggressively seek grant monies to provide a stable financial foundation for future performances. RoSfest is reborn and music lovers everywhere will benefit. John Blangero (Sun King Rising, Harlequin Reborn)
I’m thrilled to say the future of RoSfest looks bright, some may call this the rebirth of one of the top music festivals in the USA if not the world. I would call this the next step in the evolution of greatness we hope to continue to build on the time-honored traditions laid out by our dear friend and founder George Roldan, as well as his wife Beth and the RoSfest staff. I am part of what I would consider an elite team of musicians and music industry professionals who are not only my colleagues but friends sharing one vision; to continue to grow a festival that is as much about the people who attend as it is the musicians who pour their heart and soul into their art. Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I am passionate about music and dedicated to the people that create and support it. It will be my privilege to respect what RoSfest is and will continue to become, and what it means to those who embrace it. We will continue to bring you the same quality festival that you’ve all come to expect, love, and enjoy over the past 17 years. Nick Katona (Melodic Revolution Records, PeacockSunrise Records, Power of Prog, ReZonatZ)
I am so out of this world excited to be a part of this team for RoSfest. So it seems only fitting to honor the past, the present, and the future of this amazing festival, with this opening… “Prog, the final frontier. These are the voyages of team RoSfest, the Musicians, and Prog Fans everywhere. Our mission is to explore new Prog Bands, to seek out new Prog music, and to boldly go where no Prog has gone before!” Rebecca Avelar (MRR Music Group)
So, RoSFest lives to see another day and I get to be a part of making those days happen. It’s going to be a pretty steep path and an arduous task to take over from where George left off; one need only consider the fact that it’s taking 6 of us to even attempt to do what he did almost single-handedly (not forgetting the help of his wonderful wife, Beth, and support from his Crew). But keeping the RoSFest torch burning is something we all feel ardently about and we will do our very best to keep bringing you a quality event and occasion to momentarily be part of something which goes beyond our common love of music. The RoSFest 6 are a dedicated and close-knit team that will be putting their very different and individual skills together to ensure RoSFest continues for many years to come. We look forward to seeing many old and new faces along the way! As the French might say, Le festival est mort, Vive le festival! Octavia Brown (2Days of Prog+ 1, RoSfest)
In this post-Covid world, where the live music scene has been hit hard due to global lockdowns, very few festivals have escaped unscathed. Fortunately, with the help of a base of loyal devotees and a vision to the future by founder George Roldan, RoSfest will get a chance to rise from the ashes of the wreckage, and return to the standard of excellence people expect from one of the world’s most beloved progressive music festivals. I am honored to join such a devoted team of creative friends, each bringing a unique experience to the table in order to meet the new challenges that we face as concert events gradually reopen. It is a new era for RoSfest, and an exciting future awaits. Following George’s fearless example, let the tradition continue! Lisa Wetton (Edison’s Children, United Progressive Fraternity)
As the new Board member on the ground in Sarasota, I will be responsible for a lot of the day-to-day local legwork that is required throughout the year to organize and run a successful festival. My background in entertainment management and business will come in handy! I have always loved attending RoSfest and helping musicians achieve their dreams. I am honored and excited to be working with the excellent people here, and I am thrilled to be part of the ROSfest future! Tony Anzalone (Music Manager Sun King Rising, Harlequin Reborn)
RoSfest (The Rites of Spring Festival) made its debut in 2004 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania until 2007, and then moved to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania for 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the festival moved to the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and in 2019, the festival moved to its current location at the Sarasota Opera House in Sarasota, Florida.
2019, the festival moved to the Sarasota Opera House in Sarasota, Florida. The festival is known for importing some fantastic talent from around the world including Flor de Loto (PE), Anglagård (Sweden), Spock’s Beard (US), Riverside (Poland) IQ (UK), Magic Pie (Norway), Unified Past (US), Pain of Salvation (Sweden), Lazuli (France), RPWL (Germany), Ambrosia (US), Kinetic Element (US), The Flower Kings (Sweden), Evership (US), among others.
December 26, 2020, George Roldan announced on the official RoSfest Facebook page that; “The Rites of Spring Festival says “Goodbye, for now,” the COVID -19 pandemic had made continuing the festival unsustainable. However, on February 1, 2021, George Roldan posted another announcement stating that RoSfest would continue under new management. New event dates have yet to be announced.
Change We Must, to Live Again! In the words of Jon Anderson, “Change we must, to live again”, we find hope, resolution, and a renewed sense of excitement. With these lyrics in mind, it is my great pleasure to announce that with the change, RoSfest will continue to produce one of the best progressive rock festivals in the world located in tropical Sarasota, Florida, but under new leadership and board of directors to further support and grow this endeavor.
The Rites of Spring Festival has been a treasure in the progressive rock world for the last 17 years and it has been my pride and privilege to create, produce, host, and share the experience with you, our RoSfest audience! New to producing RoSfest, but not to the world of progressive rock, our new leadership team have been supportive members of our festival’s family for years. I feel honored to be able to pass the torch to such a dedicated group of musical masters.
Please give a warm RoSfest welcome to our new leadership team and read below for more detail about their background and accomplishments; John Blangero, Nick Katona, Tony Anzalone, Rebecca Avelar, Octavia Brown, and Lisa Wetton.
The team will follow up with information regarding everything RoSfest as the information becomes available. I will continue to support the festival as a consultant and remain its biggest fan. As I’ve previously mentioned, it has been an honor to interact with such accomplished and inspiring musicians and music lovers in the progressive rock community. Long Live RoSfest! George Roldan
John Blangero A scientist, musician, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. John is well known as one of the world’s leading biomedical researchers with a focus on complex disease genetics. As a singer/songwriter, he recently released his first solo album under the moniker of Sun King Rising on Peacock Sunrise Records and fronts the progressive rock band, Harlequin Reborn. He also is a co-founder and Board member of 4TellX, an Austin-based predictive analytics company.
Nick Katona Is an iconic figure in progressive rock music circles as the President of the Melodic Revolution Music Group which includes record labels, Melodic Revolution Records, and PeacockSunrise Records. He has experience developing and managing small festivals as the owner and operator of an independent music store. As a music promoter, he also owns and operates Power of Prog and ReZonatZ, both internet music blog publications, and has worked as an internet DJ since 2011.
Tony Anzalone Has a BBA in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has served in a variety of administrative and management roles in private industry. He has been active in the music business since the 80’s when he managed his first band. Currently, he is the manager of rock acts, Sun King Rising and Harlequin Reborn. He is also an administrator and officer in the World Prog Project. Tony now lives in Sarasota, Florida, and will take on much of the local leg work and financial management associated with RoSfest.
Rebecca Avelar Is currently the Director of Marketing and Promotions for the MRR Music Group and is Street Team Manager for House of Prog and Power of Prog. She has extensive experience in accounting and human resource management.
Octavia Brown Better-known for her close involvement with Italy’s 2Day Prog + 1 Festival, has already been a member of the RoSfest crew making her a familiar face to many prior RoSfest attendees. Based in Italy, she works as a freelance translator (recent works include the English version of Mario Giametti’s ‘Genesis – 1967 to 1975: The Peter Gabriel Years ‘) while spending most of her free time…. Hang on, what free time?
Lisa Wetton Is a Syracuse transplant, Lisa Wetton routed herself firmly into the progressive music scene after co-founding Smokewind Music, an agency that specialized in world and progressive music bookings, and which has recently transitioned into audio and visual production. In 2015, she retired from practicing medicine and moved to the U.K. to be closer to her beloved husband, the late music icon, John Wetton. She currently spends her days drinking tea, making compost, and getting paid to hit things. Her most recent work has been with Edison’s Children, United Progressive Fraternity, and Southern Empire.
The Rites of Spring festival or RoSfest is an annual progressive rock music festival taking place at the end of April or in early May.
Established in 2004, the festival was first held at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania until 2007, and then moved to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania for 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the festival moved to the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and in 2019, the festival moved to its current location at the Sarasota Opera House in Sarasota, Florida.
On December 26, 2020, co-founder George Roldan announced on the official RoSfest Facebook page that RoSfest would end its 16-year run as of 2020. Increasingly expensive production and travel costs, combined with tighter visa restrictions for international artists traveling to the United States, plus financial losses resulting from the cancellation of the 2020 festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic had made continuing the festival unsustainable.
However, on February 1, 2021, Roldan posted another announcement stating that RoSfest would continue under a new organization. New event dates have yet to be announced. From Wikipedia
The festival is known for importing some fantastic talent from around the world including Flor de Loto (PE), Anglagård (Sweden), Spock’s Beard (US), Riverside (Poland) IQ (UK), Magic Pie (Norway), Unified Past (US), Pain of Salvation (Sweden), Lazuli (France), RPWL (Germany), Ambrosia (US), Kinetic Element (US), The Flower Kings (Sweden), Evership (US), among others.
Recap of March 22nd, 2020 Article Coronavirus (Covid-19) Strikes a Chord with Musicians (Part 1) We are living in unprecedented times and crossing over uncharted waters, it’s a new world; one we may have to get accustomed to for the foreseeable future.
(Covid-19) is attacking the social and economic fabric globally and does not discriminate against race, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or anything else for that matter. It has ravaged and even closed down most trades and no industry has been spared, from restaurants to schools, airlines, supply chains, and the entertainment industry.
According to Worldometeras of today June 8th, 2020 215 Countries and Territories around the world have reported a total of over eleven million (11,425,240) people confirmed Infected, 534,491 Deaths with 6,473,428 that have recovered.
According to the World Health Organization Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus. The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell.
Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
The Coronavirus epidemic has devastated almost every industry in the world, and one of the hardest hit is the entertainment industry including performers, producers, stagehands promoters, musicians and the list goes on, some of these people do not have a second job, they rely solely on recording, tours, music and merch sales to pay the bills.
Millions of people in the entertainment industry have/had multiple jobs just to make a living. A number of these folks got hit with job displacement twice as hard since many worked in the food industry for the flexible hours. Just trying to make ends meet. As we all know most restaurants have closed, reopened, and have closed their doors again with the 2nd wave, a small percentage remain open with a skeleton crew offering curbside service or delivery service.
It is bad enough so many need more than one job to live. For musicians, it is almost a guarantee that a second job will be needed outside of music to sustain a living. Due to layoffs and closers of businesses these musicians are dealing with the same issues as the few full-time musicians, loss of most if not all income. Most musicians lack one of the most basic and fundamental needs: insurance! Many musicians have turned to online gigs and teaching to make a few dollars. Here’s what a few industry professionals and a few more musicians have to say in part two of our interview Coronavirus (COVID-19) Continues to Strike a Chord.
Rick Herbert ( Ace High Printing, Musician ) USA
Interview conducted July 2020
Q) Hello Rick, how are you doing? A) Hey Nick! Hanging in there, these last few months have been a wild ride.
Q) You own and operate Ace High Printing one of the best Florida based printing companies, how long has the company been around, and what kind of printing do you specialize in? A) Yeah man, I’ve been printing a long time for a lot of incredible people. I first opened the doors to Ace High in July of 2004, so this marks our 16th year in business. We specialize in Wide Format Printing (Vinyl Stickers, Banners, Amp Scrims, Custom Kick Drum Covers, Signs, Vehicle Wraps, and Buttons), Digital Printing (Business Cards, Flyers, Brochures, Posters, Artist Prints) and Screen Printing (T-Shirts and Apparel).
Q) Has your company always focused on the entertainment industry A) From day one, Ace High has always been a part of the music industry. As a matter of fact, I only started this company because I couldn’t find a good local merch company for the band I was in at the time. I had been working at a local sign shop and started making my own merch. I decided if I was having such a hard time finding a reliable company, other musicians and artists must be as well. That’s when Ace High was born. Over the last 16 years, we’ve worked with tons of venues, bands just getting their start, huge musicians/labels, and everything in between. We’ve sponsored showcases and events, and we’ve even shipped merch to over 20 different countries.
Q) What are some of the most popular products that you make for the musicians and the industry? A) It’s a total toss-up between Stickers and the Custom Kick Drum Covers for sure. Everyone loves stickers – and are full color, glossy and weatherproof, but I’d have to say we have almost as many kick cover orders coming in these days.
Q) Over the years you have also offered services for commercial business, how is that different if at all to the products that you manufacture for the entertainment industry? A) The commercial side isn’t much different. I’ve found that just like musicians, businesses also need stickers, labels, banners, things like that. The biggest difference would be the Signage and Vehicle Wraps. We do a ton of sign work for local and sometimes not so local companies for their storefronts. We’ve been known to wrap all kinds of vehicles as well. One of my favorite “corporate” projects was for the MLB Network. Anytime you catch a baseball game on TV and see the huge MLB Network logos on the walls in the outfield, you’re looking at something we printed. They contracted us to do all the MLB Logos years ago, it was a blast.
Q) How has the COVID-19 Epidemic affected your business? A) COVID-19 has been a real pain in the ass. haha, I think everyone is feeling that these days. Luckily, print shops were deemed “essential” and I was allowed to keep the doors open through all of this, but getting material in has been tough – a lot of the manufacturing plants had to close. Shipping times have slowed a bit as well – just because the carriers are taking more care with sanitizing. I’ve taken a pretty big hit business-wise for sure… Without the musicians able to work and venues unable to open, no one is really buying merch at the moment, which is completely understandable.
Q) The COVID-19 Epidemics seems to have been very tough on everyone including the music industry, what type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A) It has been tough – we ended up switching gears a bit in the business plan. We’ve been working with a lot more restaurants and things like that. You know, they all need those “We’re Open for Takeout” banners, they need stickers/labels for the to-go containers, all the businesses needed the “Wear a Mask” signs… so we’ve been printing a lot that type of stuff. We’ve also just been giving out all kinds of discounts and package deals to anyone that needs them. Times are tough for everyone, and I’m just here to help as much as possible.
Q) You, yourself are a musician has this epidemic given you a moment of pause and encouraged you to write and record some new music? A) Actually yeah. I hate to say that I’ve had a little extra time on my hands, but it’s true. And since the whole social distancing and closing of bars/venues, I’ve been able to spend a little more time just sitting down playing and writing. That’s been an upside to this whole situation – I feel like I’m finally laying down those songs I’ve had in my head for so long.
Q) How has this affected you on a personal level? A) Personally, it hasn’t been bad at all. Over the last few years, as the business has grown, I’ve pretty much been working non-stop. Haven’t had a ton of time to go out, play shows, or do much of anything. And since I was fortunate enough to be able to remain open through this, I’ve just kept on working like usual. If anything it’s given me a chance to use my companies abilities to help people in a rough time – that really makes me feel good.
Q) Do you see us getting back to normal anytime soon? A) I think the bigger question is, what is “normal” going to look like when this is all over? I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to exactly the way things were, and that might be ok. But I have a feeling all this will settle down a bit in the next few months. Or directly after the election. But that’s for a whole different discussion about conspiracy theories. haha.
Q) What can people do to help support local businesses like yours? A) Honestly, right now keeping money local is key. I’d say try to shop as locally as possible instead of heading to the big box/chain stores. There are going to be a number of businesses that don’t make it through this, and that really sucks. The more you can utilize the services you have in your own city, the better chance we all have of making it.
Q) Please give us a WORD that you rely on and gives you hope? A) Perseverance. I think we all personally, and as a country, have always done a decent job of adapting and overcoming trying times. This is just one more fight, one more hurdle, one more historical obstacle that we WILL get through and persevere.
Q:Hello, Ace how are you doing? A: Feeling grateful and blessed, Nick, but a bit confused, too.
You work for a company called SST Studios and Rentals. Can you tell us how long you have been with SST and what do you do? A: SST is a music industry complex in Weehawken, NJ, right across the river from Midtown Manhattan. We are one of the leading backline companies in the U.S. and our rehearsal soundstage is one the best in the city. We also have a state-of-the-art 48-channel recording studio with a rare analog Focusrite console.
The owner, John Hanti, grew up near my hometown, Warren, Ohio. We played in different teen bands in the 60s on the same circuit. He tells me we once met at a teen club when we shared the bill, but I don’t remember it. I had been out of the business for 26 years when he heard some of my new songs on a Yahoo discussion group. He looked me up and called me on August 30, 2007 to offer me a long-term production/writing development deal. I took the deal.
In late September 2012, Hanti was critically injured in an auto accident. A month later, Superstorm Sandy destroyed the studio, along with the successful production company we had built together. I lost everything I owned to that storm. We both endured five challenging years of recovery, but recover we did. By March this year, SST had become the hottest studio and rehearsal spot in the New York area
I had worked in advertising as a creative director during those long years away from the music business, so I am today SST’s Marketing Director.
How long has the company been around and what’s special about it? A: Hanti founded SST (which stands for “studios, systems, and transport”) in 1982 in response to the Second British Invasion. He had established a formidable reputation in Manhattan and built a substantial inventory of stage gear and vans. British bands like the Smiths, Police, and Motorhead needed both to tour the States, and Hanti provided them. That’s how it started.
Q:Who are some of SST clients? A: Beyonce’ and Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, J-Lo, Bruno Mars, Camila Cabelo, Blue Oyster Cult, and the Rolling Stones to name just a few. For Backline, our clients include LiveNation and iHeart. Multiple Grammy winner, H.E.R., was in the studio in March when we were forced to shut down.
Q:What are some of the services that you offer to your clients? A: The backline is our bread and butter, but the artists come for our soundstage and our studio, IIWII Recording. We also have a storage building where many stars store their own gear when they are not on the road and the adjoining Willow Building houses project studios for several top Hip Hop artists and producers.
How has the COVID-19 Epidemic affected SST? A: Drastically. Our entire business is based on tour support services. There are no tours right now and there will be no tours at all in 2020. Hanti had the foresight to have a Cyclorama constructed on one wall of the soundstage, so we were able to open again in mid-June for music video shoots and live-streaming, in-studio concerts. We are re-purposing the studio now as a live streaming/video concert venue.
Q:The COVID-19 Epidemics seems to have been very tough on everyone including the music industry, what type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A: The biggest challenge for John Hanti has been to keep his people employed. We’re down to three right now. If another shutdown doesn’t stop our progress, I believe we can attract enough in-house business to bring everyone back on board and survive 2020. That is a big IF, though, the way things are going.
Q: You, yourself are a musician has this epidemic given you a moment of pause and encouraged you to write and record some new music A: This is why I feel so blessed and grateful. The shutdown forced Hanti to lay everybody off for a while. Thankfully, In January, a recording artist named John Blangero, aka, Sun King Rising, with whom I had become friends, asked me to produce his album for PeacockSunrise Records. He had the budget to do it right and the project has sustained me. Now that the album is in the can (that’s an old school term if you don’t know), I have been additionally blessed to work on the cover design and promotion. Also, Hanti and I had been writing a book together about the business. The album project has injected new energy into my spirit and renewed momentum to finish the book proposal and shop for an agent.
Q:How has this affected you on a personal level? A: I think I am a bit shell-shocked, as most of us are. I have chosen to focus on the positives and ignore the negatives, only because I was already in such a good space when this came down. Had I not had the album and the continuing faith of both John Blangero and John Hanti, I may not have felt quite so optimistic. Looking to the future…well…I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Q:Do you see us getting back to normal anytime soon? A: Our industry? No, I do not. I’m afraid we won’t be back to anything close to normal until next summer.
Q:What can people do to help support local businesses like SST? A: SST doesn’t do business with the public, so that is not really an appliable question. As an artist myself, though, I can only hope that fans will channel their dollars from the concerts they would have spent them on to supporting artists like Sun King Rising, who are still making records. The stars will survive this crisis. The independent bands and performers for whom live music and indie records are a livelihood may not…not without fan support.
Q:Please give us a WORD that you rely on and gives you hope? A:“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “Jeremiah 29:11 ‘Nuff said,
Q: Hello Tom, how are you doing? A: Thanks for asking…it’s certainly a question we are all asking our friends and loved ones much more often these days. I’m doing well, all things considered, and I hope you and everyone reading this are also doing well!
Q: You are the founder and music director of ProgStock Music Festival one of the best new music festivals on the east coast of the US, When and where did you launch the first one? A: I’m deeply grateful for that very favorable description…I hope we can continue to live up to it! We launched ProgStock in October 2017 at the beautiful and historic Union County Performing Arts Center’s Mainstage Theater in the very arts-friendly city of Rahway, New Jersey. As you know, we are an annual volunteer-run event whose mission is to shine light on one of the most exciting and creative genres of rock music, Progressive Rock. To date, we’ve produced three editions of ProgStock, in October of 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Q: How has the COVID-19 Epidemic affected ProgStock and other live performances around the world? A: That’s a really tough question to ponder, emotionally…because the impact has been nothing short of devastating. Live music performances heavily depend upon the “in-person experience” for both musicians and fans, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made that nearly impossible for the time being. Performances of all kinds have understandably been indefinitely postponed or canceled, for everyone’s safety.
Q: This has been very tough on everyone including the music industry, what type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A: So many challenges…it’s hard to describe all of them. The main one is that we are “frozen” and unable to predict when conditions will allow for a safe and secure environment to have a festival or any kind of live performance. The musicians and others involved with musical performance production have seen their entire lives ripped apart by this pandemic…the damage is deep and pervasive. In spite of all this upheaval, we at ProgStock, along with many others in the music industry, are doing our part to support musicians and fans by organizing live performances over streaming services. As we learn more about what can be done safely (especially for the musicians involved), we will try our best to help keep Progressive Rock alive during this incredibly difficult time. Stay tuned as we will be announcing some exciting things very soon!
Q: How has this affected you on a personal level? A: Frankly, I’m depressed…but I remain hopeful. I also know that I have been very fortunate, in many ways, and that many others have been overwhelmed by the pandemic and its effects on themselves, their loved ones, and society in general. There have been some hardships for me, and some friends and family members have run into health problems, sure. But, putting that aside, I’ve come to realize how important it is to remember that we are a society, a collection of people who all want to experience our lives as safely, securely, and happily as we can. And that means giving a bit more consideration to others when making my own choices…within reason, of course, but always with good and proper intentions, and without judging others for having real concerns about their own safety and security. If that leads to minor inconveniences for me at times, so be it. I’d certainly want the same in return if I needed it!
Q: Do you see us getting back to normal anytime soon? A: Not soon enough, certainly. Living with this pandemic has been hard for everyone, and nearly impossible for many. Everyone has had to “hit pause” on their lives, and for some folks, that’s been catastrophic. Returning to “normal” might not be possible at all, because we’ll need to adjust what we think “normal” is. However, I am hopeful that we will be able to return to a more “familiar” way of life sometime within the next 9-12 months. At first, we’ll need some medical breakthroughs to give us the edge we need to stay ahead of the virus (both it’s spread and its disease process). Then it will require some very necessary “healing time” so that our psyches can recover from the damage they’ve taken…as we’ve experienced (to varying degrees) after previous tragedies that we’ve endured. Getting back to enjoying a musical event with friends old and new, feeling that incredible exhilaration and excitement without fear…we will absolutely achieve that again, I have no doubt. Eventually.
Q: Please give us a word that you rely on and gives you hope. A: Science. Plain, and simple. We are an extraordinarily intelligent species, and I’m convinced that we will innovate our way out of this worldwide crisis and be better prepared for future situations like this.
Q: What can people do to help support music festivals for future events? A: Here are my “top 5” things that people can do to support music festivals in the future: 1) embrace their efforts to present streaming options when you cannot attend in-person, and buy their tickets and merchandise as soon as you can when they are made available; 2) donate your time and effort in order to help them cut costs if you are willing and able to do so; 3) spread the word about them to other potential fans to help increase their audiences; 4) if you are fortunate enough to be able, please consider making financial donations to the ones that need them; and 5) try to keep the safety, security, and dignity of your fellow festival attendees in mind by treating everyone kindly, respectfully, and tolerantly. Above all else, please try to be as patient as you can with musicians, event organizers, and fellow fans as all of us try to navigate the new “landscape” of the music industry…because there’s never been a better reason to remember that we are all in this together!
Chris Topham ( Plane Groovy Records ) United Kingdom
Q: Hello Chris, how are you doing? Very well thanks; we live fairly remotely so no huge change here apart from not seeing our pals.
Q: How long have you been in the music business? A: Since November 2011
Q: What exactly do you do? A: I run Plane Groovy Records, a vinyl-only record label.
Q: Who are some of your clients? A: Mainly current Prog bands such as Big Big Train, I am the Manic Whale, Unitopia, A Formal Horse, Thieves’ Kitchen, This Winter Machine, Peter Jones, Francis Dunnery, and many more.
Q: How has the Coronavirus affected you and your artists? A: The artists have been hugely hampered by the lockdown; no touring, no rehearsals, and in many cases no day job to fall back on either because of furlough.
Q: This has been very tough on everyone including the music industry, what are you doing to overcome these challenging times? A: I’m just drifting on through, to be honest; we’re still putting albums out.
Q: What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A: One thing which we’ve put on hold is the Plane Groovy Investors project, which among other benefits offers colored vinyl versions of some releases to those who have signed up. I thought it unfair to put any kind of pressure onto our Investors, not wanting them to feel that they had to put money into this when times could be quite tough. We’ll be restarting that again very soon though, with an album from Comedy of Errors, “Disobey”.
Q: How has this affected you on a personal level? Honestly, it hasn’t been too bad – apart from not seeing my Mum and my son as much as I’d like to.
Q: Do you see us getting back to normal anytime soon? A: Normal? No. Workable yes, but I think life is going to be very strange for a good while yet.
Please give us a word that you rely on and gives you hope? Positivity.
Anne Leighton ( Leighton Media * Music Services * Motivation ) USA
Q: Hello Anne, how long have you been in the music business? A: Around 40-45 years.
Q: What exactly do you do? A: I write and do music services. My core work is publicity, social media, organization, management, project development, goal setting, copywriting, rapping, songwriting, poetry. I am available to tutor English (writing), Civics, and History on Skype. I’m, also, a crackerjack proofreader and editor.
Q: Who are some of your clients? A: Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius, Phoebe Legere, Sharon Katz & the Peace Train, John Hall & Jonell Mosser, Ian Anderson, Leslie Mandoki, Katy Moffatt, the Yardbirds, and me.
Q: How has the Coronavirus affected you and your artists? A: Most of what I do is tour press, and nobody is touring. We all need to reinvent how we earn money, plus keep working on our art, and love the people and animals we live with. We’re doing more Internet work together with people, and seeing what else businesses need when it comes to music services.
Q: This has been very tough on everyone including the music industry, what are you doing to overcome these challenging times? A: 1) I’m paying attention to what is included in the reopening phases for the next few years. It’s important to analyze that progress to see if the loosening of restrictions is healthy. That is important so I know who to reach out to for work for my artists and me!
2) Pitching my artists, and their songs for music services, concerts, workshops in non-music venues. I have rich connections in North America, South Africa, and the UK that are responsible and available for work. They also have great songs. Also, looking for funding for songs on relevant topics.
3) Accepting the fact that we might not have big live concerts for a few years, so I’m letting the world know I’m available to publicize empowerment people, social media influences, as well as releases of music in prog rock, Americana, jazz, folk, singer-songwriter, classic rock, diehard musician, blues, fusion, jam bands.
4) I’m giving myself a schedule where I have to be ready by 11 am, and in bed by 2:30 AM. Sleep is essential. I take naps. Writing my gratitude’s, creating peace. Speaking up to people that could learn to be less disrespectful. Learning more diplomacy! Meditation a few times a day, exercising, eating healthy, making phone calls, going out to the park, wearing protective gear—you know the mask and the gloves!
Q: What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? The worst is finding out friends died. Three of them were magical spirits that understood me and vice versa. All were in the music world.
I miss hanging out with people and physical touch. In the past, I hugged people every day!
Finances are the least of my concerns because all of us are capable of living on less money than we do. Budgeting through rough times is something every college kid learns. I did it once, I can do it again.
Q: We are seeing a second wave of people getting ill and dying, do you think it’s because we reopened too soon or that there are a fraction of people that don’t care or may even believe COVID-19 is not real? A: Combination. I think some people either have no concept of self-discipline or just don’t want to live.
Q: How has this affected you on a personal level? A: I’m working on my serenity. Loving myself, and focusing on my writing aspirations. I’m writing a spoken word album about evolving through rough times. Looking for funding for the project and aiming to produce a rap song this summer. Then another song in the fall. If I get more funding, I’ll produce the whole thing by the end of the year. I’d love to place two-column ideas in paying outlets—one on bullying, and the other would be poetry and prose of some of the more obscure classic rock and contemporary acts that have that sound.
Q: Do you see us getting back to normal anytime soon? A: New normal. You’re normal.
Q: Please give us a word that you rely on and gives you hope A: The word? I’m gonna give you a phrase: Honor yourself with kindness.
Q:Hello Aaron, how are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? A: I arrived in Europe to play a two-month solo tour on the same day that the U.S. government restricted flights & entry from Europe & asked Americans to come home. I hung around there for two weeks, hoping that I might still end up playing some of my gigs once the virus situation cleared. In the meantime, as I waited, I started playing online live-streaming gigs. Eventually the timelines for life to “return to normal” kept being extended. So I headed back to the States, lest I be locked out indefinitely.
Q:What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A: It was a forced opportunity to re-assess my career, start playing online gigs and look for new chances to get the music heard – and to make money with the music. That’s scary, and in “normal” circumstances, we tend to avoid scary. The silver lining here is that I had to take a fresh look at my music career, see what was and wasn’t working, and make educated guesses on what would work in a post-COVID-19 world.
Q:Are you working on a new release? A: I am! I’m working on a long-distance collaborative song with artist friends in three other countries, all recording separately in our various quarantine situations.>Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform?I started playing 3x a week live stream concerts as soon as my European tour gigs were put on hold. That will continue indefinitely – I’m guessing I’ll have to suspend them once my touring resumes. Touring’s too much work to be doing much else.
Q:Are you offering your fans any incentives to help support your music? A: I’ve had a Patreon account for five years now, the incentives are in there: I release exclusive songs & remixes, I write custom songs for people, etc. It’s so much more helpful to have support via a patronage model than it is to get a one-time tip in the PayPal “hat” during a live-streaming gig. In the patronage model, it’s ongoing: a commitment to supporting your songs for the long-haul.
Q:How has this affected you on a personal level? A: The uncertainty has created a slow creeping anxiety for me I suspect that most everyone on the planet is feeling that right now. I’ve been combating the anxiety with exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi.
Q:Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? A: I will! What will that look like? Well, what will the world look like? Nobody knows. But I’m a musician, that’s what I do all day, that’s where I receive my income. So I’ll adjust accordingly to whatever new reality we are handed…or that we create!
Q:How are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? A: Actually in my/our family’s case, because of our son’s health issues, there isn’t much of a change in terms of our daily attention to hygiene. The only thing that’s perhaps different is the fact that we have ramped up our attention to detail in light of the current situation.
Q:What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A: As I mentioned, there really are no new challenges per se. But it has given me the opportunity to focus on time with the family, which comes at a premium when you’re “work” keeps you away from home for long periods of time.
Q:Are you working on a new release? Personally? A: All the time. But yes, there is a new release from the band being worked on as we speak.
Q:Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? A: I’m considering putting a little something together with Seren, but I’ll make sure I give everyone a fair warning.
Q:Are you offering your fans any incentives to help support your music? A: I don’t think we, as artists, need any more support that we’re already getting. Plus, the idea that we’re being hit harder at a time like this isn’t necessarily true, especially recording artists who have the luxury of receiving compensation in the form of residuals and royalties. As big or small as some of those payments may be, it’s 100% more than a large portion of the workforce is getting.
Q:How has this affected you on a personal level? A: I find that the present situation merely serves to underline my concern for humanity. It’s times like these that always tend to bring out the best as well as, unfortunately, the worst in people. But ultimately I have faith that we will collectively do the right thing.
Q:Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? A: Dust or no dust, I personally will never stop creating and performing. Besides, there’s a wealth of content out there right now for someone like myself who draws on human behavior as a source of inspiration.
Q:: Hello Tori how are you adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic? A: Here in Barcelona, we’ve been under quarantine for a bit over a week already. It’s been pretty non-stop, canceling, and reorganizing literally everything. I got back from several shows in Madrid just before we all were placed on lockdown, so I had time to go to the store and prepare. Since then, I’ve been working from home — which isn’t unusual, I always do — but the kind of work is different. Instead of booking live concerts, the focus has been on other ways of reaching our community of fans. On a personal level, I’ve also been checking in with friends and family a lot, I want to make sure everyone is ok mentally as well as physically, as this is a scary time for everyone. The virus is bad enough, but the chaos that’s been a result of the general panic seems like it will have heavy economic repercussions, especially for people who freelance or who own small businesses.
Q:Are you planning on performing via a live streaming platform? A: I’ve done two concerts from my balcony here in Barcelona, to try to uplift my neighbors. Last weekend was impromptu and very last minute, as it was the day after the quarantine was announced and we’d had a show canceled for that very night. I just plugged in my amp and mic and started playing, and people starting poking their heads out of their windows and applauding. Both times the reaction was really heartwarming, it was so beautiful to see people out on their balconies or in their windows or on their rooftops, enjoying life for a moment in the midst of all this madness. The original idea was just to give something back to my community, so I honestly didn’t think of doing a live stream. But thanks to my mom’s suggestion I decided to also stream the performance on Instagram and Facebook, which turned out to be a great thing, as people all over the world tuned in and I think the gesture made people happy. So I’ll keep playing every Saturday until the quarantine is lifted. It’s important that people have a little hope in times of darkness, and music brings a community together in a way that is special.
Q:What type of challenges or opportunities has this presented to you? A: There are a number of challenges, of course. I make my living playing shows, so with 99% of all concerts canceled through June — possibly beyond — I am extremely concerned in terms of my financial future. I’ve had concerts canceled in multiple countries, and two major projects put on hold. This doesn’t just affect me, there’s my band, my sound tech, my publicist — none of these people will be working during this time, and I care about all of them personally, not just professionally. Most of them have little kids and they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills. However, there’s nothing I or anyone can do except to keep moving forward day by day, and hope that things will get better and that our community will continue to support music and culture as much as they can. There are also opportunities, in that the balcony concert I mentioned has received a lot of unexpected attention in the national press here in Spain as well as online, and it’s connected me to many new people.
I am the secretary of the Musicians Union of Catalunya (Sindicat de Musics Activists de Catalunya), we working to raise awareness of how this situation is affecting working artists via social media campaigns and by proposing meetings with government officials as well as other unions (our sister union in Madrid and the soundtechs union, for example). One huge problem facing musicians where I live is that there are a number of politically influential organizations, associations, and unions that have a vertical structure, not a horizontal one. What that means is that the persons or entities responsible for hiring and firing employees and/or freelance workers are a part of the same union or organization that is meant to defend everyone’s interest. (It’s like being in a workers’ union with your boss — there’s no way to defend your interests.) So our union runs into conflicts with groups like this all the time, which claim to represent the “music industry.” This is not the same thing as representing musicians’ professional interests. Musicians are already in a bad spot in Spain because of of spotty enforcement of labor laws, blatantly illegal and abusive contracts, pay-to-play situations, problems being paid performance royalties…. the list goes on and on. The current situation has made it much worse,
Q:Are you working on a new release? A: We released our last album not quite a year ago, the double live album Wait No More, so we’re still in the promotion phase for that record. But I’m always working on ideas in my head for the future, I have scraps of new songs here and there that will definitely turn into something!
Q:Are you offering your fans any incentives to help support your music? A: Speaking of new albums, I’m putting together a compilation album called Amor en Tiempos de Cuarentena (Love in a Time of Quarantine), featuring various artists from my community that has been affected by the pandemic. The album will be paid for by crowdfunding and will support not only me but also 9 other artists. The crowdfunding link will go live this coming week. I hope that my audience and theirs will respond, and we will all get through this together. The streaming concerts are given as a gift to our communities, but we also have to remember that artists make their living from their music. I’m trying to remind people of this in a positive, proactive way, so they’ll be excited to support the music they love — hence the compilation album. I am also encouraging my people to buy albums in general (mine, sure, but if not mine, someone’s — specifically independent artists) instead of just listening to Spotify. We really need the support of our communities now more than ever. I believe that my fans will be there, during and after this crazy time.
And if you missed the final #BalconyConcert, a playlist of videos from all 9 concerts — all 10, if you count the bonus second set from the final show this past weekend — are on YouTube, with more videos to come. Huge thanks toLas Telenotícias de TV3, Radio4, El Periódico, Radio Primavera Sound, El Punt Avui, ScannerFm, Ruta66, Radio Gràcia, Rock On Magazine, and the other members of the press as well as friends and fans who all helped to spread the word about both the compilation album and the balcony concerts.
The balcony concerts may have ended when the quarantine was lifted, but that doesn’t mean the concerts are over! On Saturday, May 30th Tori will present a very special online concert the trio, accompanied by El Rubio on guitar and Javi García on cajón. More information is here.
Q:How has this affected you on a personal level? A: My work and my personal life are pretty much intertwined, as it is for many musicians out there I’m sure. It’s a stressful moment. But one positive thing that always comes out of a crisis is that we end up appreciating the people who love even more, and discovering that yes, we can face down a situation like this one and carry on. I feel both of those things, in spite of the challenges in my day to day and my concerns about the future.
Q:Will you continue creating and performing now and after the dust settles? A: During and after the storm — of course! If musicians didn’t make music just because they weren’t making any money I think new music would have stopped happening long ago, working in this industry has always been a tough gig. The only issue is that I’m actually so busy with canceling, rescheduling, the compilation disc, and so on, that I’ve been working more this past week than I have since the album release — I haven’t had time to stop and write a song yet! But as they’ve just extended the quarantine here for 15 more days, I have a feeling I’ll find the time. I hope so. At the end of the day, all this — the production of the albums, the promotion, the social media, the interviews — all started because I used to feel happiest sitting at home and writing songs in my bedroom. It’s important not to forget why I (or anyone) got into this crazy biz in the first place.
Since this interview was conducted in March Tori has finished “Love in a Time of Quarantine” On 21 May 2020. A: The crowdfunding campaign for Love in a Time of Quarantine has ended at 146% of its initial goal. Thank you from the bottom of our quarantined hearts to everyone who supported the project. This album will not be available in stores, or online. It won’t be available on Spotify, YouTube, or other streaming platforms. Its truly limited edition. The digital download version was sent out last night, and the physical albums will be shipped by the end of the month. The show must go on — and with your help, it did! Click here to learn more about the compilation album and check out the incredible artists who are a part of it.
This Pandemic is far from over, the numbers of cases keep rising. The only thing for certain is that we need to continue to be vigilant, wear a mask in public, stay out of cramped spaces with lots of people, and bad ventaliation, don’t gather in large groups. These are the things we know that we can do, what we don’t know is how long this will last and when and if there will be a vaccine or a cure.
On a final note, please support your musicians by purchasing music directly or Bandcamp if possible and please support your community by shopping local.
PoP: Thank you for sitting down with us here at Power of Prog.
John: Thank you. It is a privilege!
PoP: Tell us a little about yourself, your musical training?
John: I started taking piano lessons when I was five years old but stopped at around ten years of age. My teacher, a wonderful elderly woman, would only let me play classical music and hymns…but it introduced me to some gospel-type playing. I then did not play much until I was about 14 when I got into my first rock band. At that point, I returned to the piano and taught myself all about chords so that I could start to write music. In college, I took a few music theory courses and I continue to learn to this day.
PoP: How long have you been a professional musician, and who or what inspired you to become a musician?
John: My first inspiration to get into a band came from artists like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Humble Pie, Deep Purple, and many others. My first paid gig was when I was 15 in a band named Anxiety’s Moment. It was a good introduction because most of the band were at least 4 years older and experienced. I fronted that band as lead vocalist but didn’t play keyboards. We did a lot of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. After that I started to get into prog-rock bands like King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, and ELP, which led me and my close friend, guitarist Ron Dominicis, to start bands that largely did original material. That culminated in the formation of a band named Harlequin (currently renamed Harlequin Reborn) that booked out of Pittsburgh and played the Pennsylvania/Ohio/West Virginia market. That band was a combination of prog and glam with a lot of theatrics. I gave up on music for quite a while to get my Ph.D. and become an active biomedical research scientist. After a twenty-year hiatus, I started playing with other musicians in blues bands in San Antonio where I rediscovered my love of the piano, songwriting and playing live.
PoP: You are working on your debut album with your band Sun King Rising an Americana Rock band, can you tell us a bit about the album? For example who is on the album?
John: Sun King Rising is just what I call my solo non-prog project versus being a full-blown band, although it is likely that I will put a band together around it. This album is really focused on my love of more organic rock music like that of Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, early Elton John, Dan Penn, and a host of others. It reflects my love of southern rock and country soul. The album is calledDelta Tales because it focuses on southern themes and I live in the Texas delta of the Rio Grande Valley. I have a lot of great musicians on this album. Steve Acker, from the great 70s band LAW, is producing. He also plays guitar and provides background vocals. Without Steve, this album would not be getting done as fast or be as good as we think it is. My cousin, Steve Schuffert, is playing lead guitar on the album. He is an amazing musician who spent a lot of time in Nashville as a session musician as well as producing quite a few albums as a solo artist or as part of his blues band. David Granati of the Granati Brothers is also playing some guitar, as well as doing some of the engineering. The drummers include George Perilli who played extensively with Michael McDonald, John Sferra of the incredible band, Glass Harp,Andy Taravella of the ADD Band, and Mark Francis who is my drummer from Harlequin Reborn. The bass players include Jeff Bremer, Bambo Kino, and Eddie Costa (also of Harlequin Reborn). Hermie Granati, also of the Granati Brothers, provides some additional very soulful keys. Jacob Wynne wrote the horn charts and provides the talents of the fantastic Cold City Horns. Katherine O’Neill also plays some pretty violin parts on it. Most of these players are from the Pittsburgh and Northeast Ohio area where I grew up. There are also some fabulous back-up vocals by great singers such as Shawn Mayer of Nashville.
PoP: Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?
John: I’ve written most of the songs on the album. Steve Acker is contributing an additional two songs and Steve and I have co-written another. While not a concept album, Delta Tales is thematically coherent. It is about the southern experience. The songs reflect vignettes of love found, love lost, family, faith, historical burden, betrayal, sin, and redemption set in a southern cultural landscape. The root subjects are pretty universal.
PoP: What makes a song stand the test of time such as The Beatles’ Let It Be?
John: The song needs to have a great hook and it needs to connect to the listener emotionally. Most of the great classics have these features. Take the songs of the truly great songwriter, Jimmy Webb. A song like Wichita Lineman paints a picture that draws the listener in and then imprints it in memory with an awesome melody. The true greats of Americana songwriting like Randy Newman and Leon Russell have this ability. They are literate, melodic, harmonically interesting, and classically memorable. Their songs are strongly evocative, loaded with atmosphere, and can mean different things to different people.
PoP: What is the creative process like?
John: It varies quite a bit. Usually, a song comes to me when I’m sitting at my Yamaha grand piano and playing, which I try to do for at least an hour a day. I’ll develop a chord progression and a melody. Sometimes, I’ll already have a lyrical theme in mind or even a title. I keep a document filled with phrases that I come up with that I can incorporate in songs. The Sun King Rising songs tend to be simpler and shorter, of course, than what I write for Harlequin Reborn.
PoP: Where do you sing besides the studio or a live performance?
John: I sing in the car a lot when I’m working out phrasing! Also, I’ve been known to go out to do competitive karaoke.
PoP: What instruments do you play?
John: I mainly think of myself as a singer/songwriter but the piano is my number one instrument that I connect with the most strongly. I’m not bad at playing Hammond organ either. I play both on the SKR album. Of course, I play lots of other keyboards in HR including various synths and my prize mellotron.
PoP: What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into as a musician?
John: Ha! Luckily, I’ve not been in much trouble at all.
PoP: What was the most memorable time in your music career?
John: It probably has been working on the Delta Tales album. It has been a truly wonderful experience to work with such great musicians. The first Harlequin Reborn reunion show in 2015 also was awesome.
PoP:` How about a track by track break down?
John: Sure. We are still working out the exact list and running order of songs. Because we want to put it out on vinyl also, we have some physical constraints that remain to be worked out. Beneath the Southern Sun is a new song that I wrote for the album that is a real rocker and features a jaw-dropping guitar solo by Steve Schuffert. It is a song about a fictional southern family’s history. Let There Be Light is a song with a hope-filled message that I probably wrote 10+ years ago. It is also up-tempo and has a pretty good hook in it. Milkweed and Thistle is one of my favorites. It’s a new song about loss but still rocks and probably has my favorite lyric on the album. It has the flavor of an early Elton John song when he was in his more country period. Horns play an important role in several songs since I am a big fan of those powerful horn sections heard so often on southern soul records. Love Turns Grey is a Leon Russell-Esque funky song that has some awesome horn lines in it. In a State of Grace is a mid-tempo rocker that also has a good horn section in it. There is also an amazing cover version of an old R&B song, The Snake, with a huge horn and background vocal sound that is like something that Joe Cocker and Leon Russell could have put together on their Mad Dogsand Englishmen tour! Down the Delta Road is a poignant southern love song with a cool violin part by Katie O’Neil. Evangeline is a newer song I wrote with Steve Acker. It is a beautiful southern ballad of lost love with only piano and strings backing it. Steve also has contributed two other songs on the album including a remake of his wonderful song Take It Down that he originally recorded with LAW. He also wrote The Lions of Gettysburg which is a song about the Civil War with an awesome hook in the chorus.
PoP: Let’s say I asked you to describe your musical style as if you were a painter. How would you describe your music pallet using vivid colors?
John: For the Sun King Rising, I’d use the colors of earth, sea, and sky to depict the cotton and cane fields of the southern delta country. Maybe they can be painted in an expressionist style so you can sense the heat, humidity, and the smells of the soil and wetlands. Figuratively, I’d want to show the southern human textures of toil, honor, hospitality, and grace infused with religious references that still dominate the southern cultural environment.
PoP: How long has this project been around and when do you plan to release it?
John: Some of my songs on it are as old as fifteen years but several are very recent having being written specifically for the album. The album will be released on PeacockSunrise Records hopefully in the summer of 2020. The vinyl may be a problem due to a worldwide shortage, but we will also be releasing it digitally and on CD.
PoP: You are also in a progressive rock band, Harlequin Reborn, a band that is as different as night and day from the Sun King Rising. Can you tell us about this project?
John: Harlequin Reborn is my symphonic prog rock band that has been resurrected, or reborn. It allows me to write more complex and longer pieces. I also tend to sing quite differently in HR. Basically, I suppress my southern twang! HR songs are harmonically more complex and let me write more literary lyrics that can be more abstract. HR songs generally start from a concept and then I find the music within myself that fits the story. HR also functions as a live act with a significant stage show, although we haven’t played in the past two years. We had to cancel a gig recently because of the untimely death of our incredible keyboard player and my close friend, Tom Dyer.
PoP: Are you working on a release for Harlequin Reborn?
John: We have worked on a release since 2015 but have abandoned our original idea to initially put out a live album. We scrapped that and are now well into a studio album. It will be called Scenes From the Harlequinade. I will return to the studio to finish it up after we wrap up all the final bits of the Sun King Rising project. We have not signed with a record company yet but are in initial talks.
PoP: Are you planning a tour or select shows with either of the bands?
John: We are just now working on some initial plans to do a couple of select gigs for Sun King Rising. SKR is substantially easier to organize for live performances than HR which is really limited to large stages due to the theatrics. Luckily, we do have a complete production company (led by my production manager, Jeff Schuffert, and our front-of-house genius Pat Benigas) that can handle quite a range of venues. Anything more than a short tour would be hard due to the burdens of day jobs etc. We would also be very interested in any festival work that may come our way once we are out of the plague season!
PoP: What process is more magical, playing live and sharing your music or creating the magic of music?
John: For me, it is the creative process. Writing the song, arranging it, and searching for that golden artistic spark is extremely satisfying.
PoP: If you could put together a band of your idols (past or present) for a one-time album and tour, who would be a part of it and why?
John: Leon would be playing the piano that is for sure. Maybe add Booker T on the organ! I’d like to have Ray Charles backup singers also! There are tons of great rhythm sections that I’d be happy with. On guitar, I’d want my cousin, Steve Schuffert, because he is as good as anyone I have ever heard.
PoP: What ten albums should be in every seriously good music collection?
John: I can’t do it. There are way too many. It changes daily for me! From a SKR perspective, I would have to include albums by BobDylan, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Randy Newman, Jimmy Web, Carole King, Laura Nyro, John Hiatt, William Topley, and Al Green.
PoP: What’s the last album you listened to?
John: The last three according to my Amazon music account are: Music for Piano, Voice and Chamber Ensemble from The Thomas De Hartmann Project, All in the Downs by the remarkable William Topley, and the Italian prog band Saint Just’s eponymous album, a little known gem from 1973.
PoP: What makes you happy and what ticks you off?
John: People being kind and thoughtful to one another makes me happy. A beautiful work of art or a great book also make me happy. Being with my friends, hearing live music, and playing music make me happy. Traveling the world makes me happy. Debussy’s harmonies make me happy. A fine champagne definitely makes me happy. Ignorance and greed tick me off. People who abuse children or animals enrage me. Bad drivers upset me. And bands who wear shorts and tennis shoes on stage (unless you are a drummer and then I’ll probably hide you behind tinted plexiglass)! Not being able to tell the band from the audience is a real drag for me, although I realize it is idiosyncratically shallow of me to reveal such sartorial contempt.
PoP: What does success mean to you, not as a musician, but as a person?
John: Success is reflected in the kindness and charity that you show others in need. I have been very fortunate in life. I try to help others, especially musicians when I can.
PoP: How has the music landscape changed since you have become a professional musician?
John: There are nowhere near as many live venues for young musicians to hone their performance skills and they don’t pay nearly as well as they once did. However, the ability to have high-quality recording technology in the home has benefited musicians by giving them greater access to audiences. The sheer amount of new music that is now available due to this technological egalitarianism is daunting, however.
PoP: If you could put one thing back into Pandoras Box what would it be?
John: The advent of software-based autotuning tools that have led people who should not be singing to put out records that are fit only for the demons of Gehenna to listen to.
PoP: Do you see value in streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube for example?
I don’t use Spotify but I often go first to YouTube when I’m checking out a new band or trying to find an old song. I like Bandcamp because they have an incredible variety of great music available and it is “close” to the source of the music, the musicians themselves.
PoP: If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be? And who would be your warm-up act?
John: My goal is to play in Europe, especially the UK and Italy. I am friends with lots of musicians, so I’d probably choose somebody local who complements whatever act I was touring. If it was a prog show, there is no doubt that I would want my good friends in This Winter Machine to play on the bill, although I think it more likely that we’d be warming up for them!
PoP: What influences your songwriting?
John: My mood, a painting that I see, or a nice lyrical phrase all can stimulate the process.
PoP: What is the best advice you’ve been given professionally?
John: Frankly, it was to go to graduate school because the likelihood of having a career in music was vanishingly small. Also, in my early years, someone suggested that I learn as much music theory as possible because it would greatly expand my musical palette. They were correct!
PoP: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
John: Make sure you get a good education that can provide you with the necessary expertise and a skill set that can help you have a sustainable career even if the ultimate focus is not music. Music will always be there to inspire.
PoP: Have you ever thought about being something other than a musician? Oh, wait you do… you have a Ph.D. in Genetics. That’s some pretty heavy stuff, tell us a little about it?
John: Ha! I am a professor of Human Genetics at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. I am a biomedical research scientist working in the area of the genetics of common complex diseases like heart disease, diabetes, psychiatric diseases, neurological diseases, and infectious diseases to name a few. My group does a wide variety of things including genome sequencing, stem cell biology, and the development of mathematical and statistical models to enhance discoveries relevant for advancing human health. I am far better known in science than I am in music! I’ve published about 700 peer-reviewed papers in the biomedical literature and have been fortunate to have been asked to give talks in more than 40 countries and all continents except Antarctica (still waiting for that invitation!). It has been a wonderful career that I have been very fortunate to have experienced. I also co-own a predictive data analytics company, 4TellX, that is based in Austin and that primarily works in the education space by helping school districts better understand and utilize their data to tailor education appropriate for individual students.
PoP: Dare I ask your thoughts on the current situation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? How do you see this affecting the musician and the people of our planet in general?
John: It has certainly been an eye-opener to see how the planet can almost come to a stop due to an extremely simple organism. It has already been devastating to musicians who require live engagements to sustain their lives. In general, I think it is very scary for people and there is a lot of disinformation that would be less impactful if we did a better job at teaching the importance of scientific process and knowledge. I grieve for places like Italy that have been hit so hard. As a scientist, I am confident that we can quickly minimize the loss of life with existing treatments and then develop a vaccine that will reduce the potential for future outbreaks. I also have developed a project in the last few weeks for identifying human genetic variations that are contributing to the different responses that we see amongst individuals who are infected.
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?
John: I think it has been pretty wide-ranging! Thank you very much for the stimulating questions and this opportunity to introduce myself to your audience.
It is with great pleasure that today September 15th, 2019 we release our first recording “Nowhere Wolf” by Austin, Texas psychedelic rockers Sheverb. “Nowhere Wolf” is the b-side and the first of two tracks from their upcoming 7″ record due out September 29th, 2019.
PeacockSunrise Records (PSR) is a new chapter and an offshoot label of Melodic Revolution Records. PSR was launched on December 5, 2018; born out of the necessity to explore and release music from new territories, styles, and cultures from around the globe.
We hope that you will join us and embrace our new journey as we continue to present some of the world’s best up and coming artists. PSR has many releases in the works, including a solo album by Allison VonBuelow the voice of Scarlet Hollow; debut full-length release by bassist and composer Joe Macre (formerly of Crack the Sky): Joe Mac’s American Garage, and an exciting new outfit hailing from Port Isabel, Texas – Sun King Rising.
Please help us today as we celebrate our first release “Nowhere Wolf” by Sheverb. We hope that you enjoy this release as much as we do and that you will share this music by telling your friends, family, and co-workers.
Love and respect to all, Nick Katona
You can listen to and purchase “Nowhere Wolf” (HERE)
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