24 January 2011

Stratovarius promo card giveaway winners

The winners of the Stratovarius Elysium promo download cards are as follows:

Partha M.
Carlos Gómez

I still have 2 available promo download cards available...if interested, drop a reply to this post and I'll take the first two replies!

Thanks for taking part...I hope to have more giveaways in the future!

21 January 2011

(More than) 10 Questions with...John and Dave of Shadow Circus

I’m not sure how to introduce this interview.

And for me, that’s saying something.  Because I am rarely at a loss for words.

Shadow Circus is a band out of NJ.  I got their self-released debut album Welcome to the Freakshow a few years back, and thought it enjoyable, but it kinda fell out of my rotation not long after picking it up.  There was promise there, but…it didn’t seem quite all gelled for me.

How times have changed. 

Whispers and Screams, the band’s second album, blows that debut out of the water so much that not even dental records will help identify it.  From the 30-plus minute ‘Project Blue’ suite, based off Stephen King’s mammoth novel The Stand, through individual tracks like ‘Willoughby’ or ‘…Then in July, the Thunder Came,’ the new Shadow Circus release was proof positive that this was a band that had grown a massive amount in an incredibly short period of time.  Hell, even I was blown away by how far the band had grown from their first release…it was like listening to two different bands entirely.

John Fontana and David Bobick were amazingly kind enough to answer a few questions for me (and by proxy, you).  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please turn your attention to the centre ring…Dave Bobick and John Fontana!

1 When did you first discover an interest in/a love of music?

Dave Bobick:
Well, my Mom says that I used to be able to just walk up to a piano and just start plucking out melodies to songs and that was when I was 5 years old or so but to be honest, what really fueled it was simply one date and one record…1977: KISS: Alive II. That was pretty much it for me. That band and that album has influenced pretty much every facet of my life. To playing guitar. To singing and even eventually Musical theater. What a major deal that was for a 12 year old kid.

John Fontana: I think that I started taking music seriously when I was about 10 years old, and decided that my favorite album was The Steve Miller Band's Book of Dreams. Which, come to think of it, had many of the elements that drew me to prog - the harmony vocals, Moogs and Hammonds - I guess those were the first sounds that really grabbed me. I remember that Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" sounded very profound to me at an early age. I was listening to classical for my studies in school, so I was quick to pick up on classical influences in rock. And it must have been Heart's "Magic Man" where I first had my face melted by that incredible Moog solo, so that was an important moment.

2 What bands or artists were your biggest early influences?

Early on it was Zeppelin, Yes, ELP, Rush, Pink Floyd.

Dave: KISS…hands down. To this very day.

3 How did Shadow Circus come together?

After I had taken a hiatus from music for a few years, I got back into it, and I really wanted to play prog. So, I created some demos of songs to use on the audition circuit. When I played the songs for Dave and our original drummer, Corey, they expressed an interest in recording the material as a band. So, instead of auditioning, I finished writing the first album's worth of music, and Shadow Circus was formed.

Dave: With blood, sweat and many, many, MANY tears!!! LOL…LOL…Ok, kidding aside…for me it was one thing…”Find Your Way.” To use a quote from the great Dennis DeYoung of Styx…”This was the song that got this whole train a rollin’.” I heard John play the main theme from Find Your Way and I was just absolutely blown away. First by the fact that I couldn’t get over that he actually had this in him, second by just how haunting and beautiful the theme was. I couldn’t let that get away or into the hands of another band.

4 What is the Shadow Circus creative process like?
John: I usually start by taking some time to revisit the piano and guitar on somewhat of an academic level, sitting down to learn pieces of music, exercises, and listen to different genres to challenge myself. As I wrote this last album I listened to a lot of Celtic music, and let that influence shine through on things like Horsemen Ride, and more subliminally in other places. I'll improvise until I find some melodies and changes that interest me, and keep going until I feel like the components of a bigger piece are in place. Then I'll demo a whole song, usually fairly complete, and Dave comes in to get vocal ideas, and it takes further shape with the band at that point in the studio. From the first album to the second, it became a much more collaborative process, where many things changed dramatically as the whole band had input, and I think it will keep going in that direction.

5 Your first album, Welcome to the Freak Room, featured tracks influenced by Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.  How did you decide to use their works as the basis for songs?

The Ray Bradbury reference comes from Something Wicked This Way Comes, of which Dave and I are both big fans. The carnival that comes to a small midwestern town to wreak havoc seemed like such a cool kind of identity for the band, so that inspired our name, and consequently the song "Shadow Circus" itself. Then, for "Journey of Everyman", Dave was able to connect the musical peaks and valleys of what I had already written to the storyline of The Talisman, and so that inspired the lyrics.

Dave: Well, I am a huge Stephen King fan. John is a huge Ray Bradbury fan and it just seems to be that everything they write is perfect fodder for lyrics for a band like ours. I always love the dark and macabre. Again…huge KISS fan…Huge Alice Cooper fan.  It’s Shadow Circus. On our newest CD, Whispers and Screams, an entire “side” of the album is dedicated to Stephen King’s The Stand. Referring to the Epic "Project Blue". We also draw inspiration from The Twilight Zone on the song "Willoughby". And we have some other interesting literary references planned for the future!

6 Whispers and Screams is the band's second album, and it had a pretty long gestation.  How would you say it differs from your first release?

I would say this one is a bit more diverse. Eclectic if you will. It also leans towards being a bit heavier as well which I happen to like. The heavier aspects of the music is something I would like to see more of on the next CD…while still keeping the melodic side of things in the forefront.

John: Welcome to the Freakroom was written very much before the entire band was in place, so the band formed around the music that was already there. A lot of what you hear on that album are actual tracks from the demos. It was recorded relatively quickly. Whispers and Screams was produced over a challenging time in our lives. Dave was going through his kidney transplant - which was wonderfully successful, by the way - but I think that scenario gave us a sense of importance to making the effort worthwhile. It was much more collaborative, and everyone involved really challenged themselves creatively, technically, and emotionally. We allowed more time for the production to take shape, which let us absorb the effects of repeated listens. This led to some of the most important developments, as it can take a while to disassociate yourself from something you created enough to hear it objectively.

The question as to whether what we were doing would be accepted by a prog audience was raised many times - we took some risks by bringing in elements of blues and gospel. We knew that not everyone would embrace it as readily as they might otherwise, but we connected with the music on such an emotional level that we ultimately decided it was more important to make an honest album that reflected us, rather than attempt to guess what people would like. And now we're very happy we did that, as the response to it has been very positive.

7 How hard was it to 'adapt' Stephen King's novel The Stand for the epic 'Project Blue'?

Well, it started with some musical themes that I had been developing for some time. When Dave heard the melodies that are now in "The Big Fire", he said, "Oh! That's a song for Trashcan Man!". I told him that the melody was part of a much longer piece, and together we listened to it and connected the various moods with the characters and events of the story. It probably took almost a year to get everything in "Project Blue" to its final state.

Dave: To be honest, it was a very weird time for me. I was gearing up for a major Kidney transplant the week after Labor Day 2008. September 11th 2008 to be exact and we had wanted to finish vocals before the surgery because it might have had to be months before I could use stomach muscles to sing again. BUT…that did not work out for various reasons. So we didn’t even have lyrics to any of Project Blue at the time of my surgery. So like a week and a half into my recovery, I started writing down ideas which grew into Captain Trips. I had Deep Purple running through my head and all of a sudden, 10 minutes later I was at John’s office with the lyrics and melody pretty much done for Captain Trips. I then…veeeeery gently mind you….sang him the idea and he flipped!! After that, everything just flowed like water and it was all but done. I knew the story so well, that putting all the pieces in the correct order was easy. Deciding which songs would go with which lyrics was a bit tough but John adapted pretty quickly and within a couple of days the whole thing was done.

8 What is it about King's fiction that you find such a fruitful field to harvest for inspiration?

We have these elements in our music, such as the dark, atmospheric things, then there are the heavier parts and a certain whimsical ingredient that is a fun part of Shadow Circus. And Stephen King seems to work with a similar array of moods. There's also that certain "funny but dark" vibe that connects so well with our sound. Also note that the two pieces we have been inspired by - namely The Talisman and The Stand, are more like fantasy epics for King compared to his other works, so I think those particular pieces work well for an American Prog band, as with those stories, he was approaching it like an American version of Tolkien. Symphonic prog has so many parallels to fantasy fiction.

Dave: Well, like I said before, his stories are such fantastic fodder for lyrics for a band like ours. His stories are so descriptive and colorful with such great characters.

9 How would you say the band has changed or evolved since forming?

It started as just a studio project. We never imagined it would ever be music that would be performed on stage. We always had the desire to grow into a live band, but not the means. That quickly changed in recent months, with the band becoming very active. I think the natural evolution now will be to have the advantage of playing songs live before recording, which, I think, will help tremendously.

Dave: I’d have to say it’s evolved in many ways. It’s certainly evolved personnel-wise. After 4 years of running with this, we have finally hit upon the magic combination with Gino, Felipe and Andy. It’s also evolved musically too. I’d say John has explored and gone down many new roads musically…more melodic roads…heavier roads…with so many unexplored roads ahead. I’d say it’s very exciting!!!

10 How much opportunity does Shadow Circus have to perform in concert? (NB: this interview was done prior to their tour in October 2010...sadly, real life issues kept me from posting it in a timely manner...forgive, forgive...)

LOL…LOL…if you would have asked me that a year ago, I’d have said none. Today with this band and this CD, the opportunities are endless in my opinion. We’ve already done one festival and we have our own show we are doing at The Triad Theater in NYC on October 16th. Then after that we have 3 shows lined up opening for The Watch in Philly, Boston and Baltimore followed by some very exciting possibilities for the Winter and early spring which I won’t go into detail with until they are finalized. But again, I’d say the possibilities are now endless!!!

John: As of recently, quite a lot! It was really a matter of getting the right lineup that could be available to play live, and now that we have that, the biggest challenge is finding ways to travel to everywhere we want to play.

11 Do you find your material easy to translate to stage, or are there challenges?

I am very guilty of using a lot of overdubs on the albums, so of course you have to pick and choose what layers to cut and what to keep. For the most part, I think very little is missed in the translation - especially thanks to our keyboard player, Felipe, who has a laptop rig that can handle almost anything. And whatever might be missing from the layers of overdubs is made up for by the intensity of the performance. It's also a big plus that both Felipe, and our drummer, Gino, are great singers, and can handle the background vocals, which were all done by Dave on the recordings.

Dave: Vocally, it’s not hard to translate into a live atmosphere. They are very colorful and emotional lyrics and I can express those colors and emotions very well on stage. Musically, I’d say it’s very challenging which is why it took us a while to be able to play out. You need the right caliber of musician to be able to pull this stuff off live and I really think we may have found it in Felipe, Gino and Andy. Felipe especially. He has the arduous task of recreating the myriad of keyboard parts and sound live. Hence the reason he is the right dude for the job. We dig Felipe a lot!!! He’s extremely talented and he rocks!!!

12 What was it like for you to play Progday, the longest running US progressive music festival?

Well I tell ya. We did a dress rehearsal the Wednesday before and I was a bit nervous but once we got up on stage in NC, It was a piece of cake. Loved every minute of it. I think we pulled it off with flying colors. That was THEE first gig this band has played!!!

John: It was fantastic! It was our first live experience with this lineup, so I was a bit nervous, but we really couldn't have expected it to have turned out better than it did. What a great crowd, we felt such a warm welcome. I think now we may be spoiled, and will probably now wish that every gig we play would be like Progday.

13 Would you say that performance was a high point for the band?  Are there any other moments that stand out for you?

I would definitely say that ProgDay was a highlight for me. It was a good show. In terms of other quality, stand out moments in Shadow Circus history, I would say when we went into the studio to record the Bass and Drums for Whispers & Screams. I love the studio environment. It’s just a LOT of fun. That really stands out for me.

John: It certainly is a high-point. The first high-point had to be when Dave reacted to hearing the music I was writing for the first time - he is a sharp critic of music - and his positive response erased any doubt I might have had about pursuing this. As a band that is only beginning to surface in the live scene, our other high points are low-key compared to Progday - creating each album was certainly a wonderful experience. But the biggest moments for me are always when our music has a positive effect - whether on a crowd or an individual - the feeling I get when someone gets really excited by the music is priceless.

14 What's next for the band?  Shows, new album, et cetera?

Well, again, we have some shows coming up in October. One at The Triad in NYC and then we are opening for a band called The Watch out of Italy. We are playing 3 dates with them and needless to say, we are very excited about that. Those are in Baltimore, Philly and Boston ON Halloween. I think that show will be the stand out for us. Beyond that, we are starting to gear up for the next Shadow Circus CD and some possible shows in the winter that are not yet finalized.

15 How has the shift to a more connected, digital world changed how you look at the art of creating an album?

I think that I will always want to create an album as I would have in the absence of the internet, but the real difference is in the marketing and distribution. The most important thing now that any artist can do is have a one-on-one relationship with their audience. We have an extremely active Facebook group, which is a blast! Our fans there rock, it's become a really cool community!

16 How much as downloading impacted the band, either positively or negatively?

The internet giveth, and the internet taketh away! Without it, there's no way a band like us would ever stand a chance with major labels being the gatekeepers of what people will listen to. It's only because of the internet that a genre like prog can find a community. The challenge is, of course, how to monetize what we do, and the only way to do that is to keep doing more, and work hard at doing it even better. If it's good enough, people will pick up on it and spread the word. The mistake that most bands make now is, they think that because they publish an album, people should just buy it. But anyone can put out an album today and have worldwide distribution in a few mouse clicks. The trick isn't making a CD, it's getting noticed. You have to look at putting out an album now the way you looked at a first gig twenty years ago. You didn't expect any pay, you struggled to get noticed, because there were a thousand other people doing the same thing. So, it's easier to get out there, harder to get noticed, but at least everyone has a fair chance. But, you have to look at a CD more like a promo item than your main source of income.

Dave: Aaaaah, well…for a band like us at the stage that we are at, getting the music into the hands of the fans is the most important thing. If no one knows about you, you will never be able to sell CD’s or play out live. SO…for Shadow Circus, if 5000 people download our CD for free, then that means that 5000 people know we exist. I think people make too much over downloading. People are going to do it. You cannot stop it anymore so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. You have to find a way to use downloading as a friend not as a foe. A publicity tool if you will. I want to sell CD’s but I really, really want people to know we exist. You can’t have one without the other. Try to find a way to use it to your advantage.

17 Are there any bands you listen to today that excite you the same way the music you grew up with did?

Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, and surprisingly enough, Green Day. Those guys make me feel like I'm experiencing The Who for the first time!

Dave: GREEN DAY!!!! Green Day just rules. They are a band for the people. They are audience interactive. They put on a phenomenal show and bring the house down every time they play. There are some other solid bands out there like Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold…they have great stage presence and there music is good but nothing like that of Queen, Kiss, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Styx, etc…

18 As we wrap things up, are there any final words you'd like to share with our readers today?

Yeah, keep an eye out for Shadow Circus…we will be on your radar soon!!!!

John:  With so much music out there coming from so many artists, it seems many people breeze through listening to a hundred CDs every year. The abundance of music may be cheapening the experience a bit. Try to take the time to listen to music, spend some time with it, savor it, let it become a part of your routine for a little while. Especially with a genre like prog, there's a lot of great stuff out there, but if you overdose on too many things, you never get to enjoy the finer points of any of them. And for the artists, especially in regards to the resentment towards downloading - you have to accept it and move on. Creating music and making a living on it is no harder than it ever was. It still means you have to bust your ass, be dedicated, and do more than simply publish music. There are a thousand new ways of interacting with your fans. Be imaginative, there is more at a musician's disposal now to become known than there ever has been.

Find out more at:

19 January 2011

CD REVIEW: Robin Taylor - Two-Pack Part 1 (2010 Marvel of Beauty Records)

I’ve covered Danish multi-instrumentalist Robin Taylor quite a few times here on BPB…mostly because he’s so bloody prolific!  Every time I turn around he has a new album or project under way…it can get pretty exhausting keeping up with him.

Robin’s newest release is a 2-disc set titled Two-Pack, interestingly enough.  More interesting is the fact that each disc features very different line ups and styles, is packaged individually in little sleeves, and is smaller than your average CD…they’re both mini-CDs, EPs really, with about 22 minutes of music on each.

Today we’ll be listening to and looking at the first disc in the set.

Disc 1 features Robin Taylor teamed up with Jacob Mygind or Carsten Sindvald on sax.  Taylor handles all the guitars and basses, while monster drummer Klaus Thrane keeps the beat.  Louise Nipper adds voice on one track, continuing a collaboration that stretches back years.

Things open up with the appropriately titled ‘Heavy Friends.’  A wall of individual almost skronking instruments sets things off on a very wild and improvisational footing, sounding as much like the conclusion of a piece as an opener.  The song grooves heavily, with sax bleating over a pounding, insistent rhythm.  Taylor’s bass and guitar mesh very well together, and it’s a bit difficult to take the very structured style in the context of a TFU release, since I associate that moniker with Taylor’s more improvisational side.  This is a heck of an opening track, however, heavy as the title implies and with a lot of meat on its bones.  It feels far grander than its relatively short length would imply.

‘The Ghost of Goran’ carries things on, and at nearly 10 minutes is one of Taylor’s longest tracks on any of his releases (that I currently own, anyway).  It’s much more laid back, with Sindvald’s sax the major vocal point.  His soprano sax playing is lyrical and beautiful, while his tenor playing offers up similar fluidness.  The opening 4+ minutes are subtle and ballad-like, but the song quickly builds in intensity after Sindvald switches to tenor.  Suddenly we’re listening to a piece every bit as intense and heavy as opener ‘Heavy Friends,’ and while I’d like to come up with comparisons for you, there just aren’t any.  The music is individual, sounding really like no other band, and it’s all the stronger for it.

This first disc closes up with another shorter piece, the 7-minute ‘Stoned Mushroom.’  Slightly jazzier, Taylor’s keyboards lay down some nice foundations for his guitar and bass playing, with Mygind’s tenor sax sounding boozy and sleazy over top.  This is the kind of song I could hear being played in a rock and jazz club, smoke leaving a haze as the band hits the groove and takes it as far as they can go.  While definitely a rock song, there’s enough jazz in here to add flavour and spice to the mix.  A breakdown at 4:30 leads to a sort of coda of the main theme…the false stop is a nice touch, lending a faux bonus track feel to the coda.

While you can’t buy this CD on its own, it serves as a nice taste of this particular line up, and meshes well with the second half of Two-Pack, which we’ll be taking a look at very soon!

Track Listing:
Heavy Friends 5:13
The Ghost of Goran 9:56
Stoned Mushroom 7:19

Robin Taylor – electric guitar, keyboards, basses, percussion
Jacob Mygind – tenor sax (1, 3)
Carsten Sindvald – soprano and tenor sax (2)
Klaus Thrane – drums
Louise Nipper – voice (2)

17 January 2011

Bill's Prog Blog 2011 Stratovarius Giveaway!!!!

Finnish melodic metal troupe STRATOVARIUS are set to unleash their thirteenth studio album, Elysium. Recorded at 5-By-5 Studios in Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki, Finland, the nine-track full-length will be released in the US and Canada January 18, 2011 via Armoury Records and features stunning cover art by Gyula Havancsák.

Timo Kotipelto - Vocals
Matias Kupiainen - Guitars
Lauri Porra - Bass
Jörg Michael - Drums
Jens Johansson - Keyboards


Bill's Prog Blog has 5 free download cards (this is a business card sized card, looks like a gift card,with an individual and unique code on the back) that will allow you to download a track from this album absolutely free.  I am giving them away to you, my readers.  

It's easy...here's all you have to do!

1) Reply to this post!
2) Provide me some way to contact you via e-mail...you can obscure your address with spaces if necessary to keep crawlers from getting it.
3) Tell me what Elysium is.

I'll pick 5 winners from all correct answers and mail out the cards to you.  Winners will be announced on Saturday this week!

Get to it!!!!

15 January 2011

CD GUEST REVIEW: Half Past Four - Rabbit in the Vestibule

(Today's CD review is written by good friend Jeff Gutenberg...expect more reviews from him soon!)

This quirky quintet hails from the wilds of Canada, home of such prog-rock legends as Rush and Saga, but sounds nothing like either of those bands. Instead, vocalist Kyree Vibrant, guitarist Constantin Necresov, keyboardist Igor Kurtzman, bassist  Dmitry Lesov and drummer Ann Brody mine the perhaps somewhat more obscure but no less rewarding territory plumbed by the likes of Frank Zappa, Echolyn and Finneus Gauge.

The aptly named Ms. Vibrant’s vocal range seems practically limitless, and she brings a variety of emotional colors to these songs, always finding just the right tone and attitude for each lyric, whether cool and jazzy, as on “Johnny” or urgent and heartbreaking, as on the eight-minute epic “Biel,” and all points in between. She’s playful and fun on “The Ballad of Dwayne’s Plane,” with its Zappa-like humor, sultry and languorous on “Southern Boogie” (which is not a boogie tune at all!), dreamy and ethereal on “Underwater,” feisty and energetic on “Bamboo,”  another Zappa-esque bit of off-kilter whimsy. She’s a real find, and one of the great pleasures to be found in listening to this band.

Of course, this is a prog band, and that means the other people in the band can’t exactly be chopped liver either. Indeed, Mr. Necresov and Mr. Kurtzman solo with controlled abandon all over the album; the former is not a fret-burning speed demon, more of a tasty, melodic player, and his style fits in very well with Kurtzman’s more frenetic approach. Kurtzman, however, is not just a fine soloist on the synthesizer, but he’s also very adept at using electric and acoustic pianos for tones and shading. As for the rhythm section, Mr. Lesov is a supple, supportive bassist who slips his lines in and around everything else that’s going on, while Ms. Brody’s drumming is never less than superb, navigating through tricky time and tempo changes with ease, while propelling the music ever forward.

The standout tracks on an album full of standouts include the aforementioned epic “Biel,” which pulls out all the stops with chanted vocals, acoustic guitars, and fantastic guitar and synth solos, ending dramatically with a lone snare drum plaintively echoing into space; the moody, evocative instrumental “Lullaby,” which features lots of dynamic light and shade, and another terrific synth solo; the album’s other epic, “Poisoned Tune,” vies with “Biel” for the honor of being the album’s best overall track, with yet another great vocal performance (and a dark, haunting lyric that makes reference to ‘the poisoned tune within’), scintillating guitar/keyboard interplay, and an almost Gentle Giant-ish kind of feel. And the disc’s other instrumental, “Salome,” is a marvelous piece of Middle Eastern jazz, complete with a wonderful saxophone solo, really dexterous drumming, and perhaps the best guitar solo on the album.

Rabbit in the Vestibule is a very rewarding listen on all levels, offering something a little different – a little humor, a lot of energy, and a great deal of thoughtful composition and arrangement. If you’re looking for prog that doesn’t revolve in the endless Yes/Genesis orbit, and you enjoy the sound of a female voice out front, you really can’t do much better than Half Past Four. Four stars - highly recommended.

Track Listing:

Missing Sevenths 2:38
Johnny 2:55
Poisoned Tune 7:53
Southern Boogie 4:15
Twelve Little Words  5:18
Underwater 4:58
Lullaby 4:21
Strangest Dream 6:30
Biel 8:15
The Ballad of Dwayne’s Plane 4:53
Salome 2:46
Bamboo 2:41
Rabbit 6:09


Kyree Vibrant – vocals
Constantin Necresov – guitars
Igor Kurtzman – keyboards
Dmitry Lesov – bass
Ann Brody – drums & percussion


12 January 2011

(More than) 10 Questions with...Effloresce

I sometimes find musicians and bands in the weirdest ways.

Much like my finding Relocator via the Mike Portnoy forum, Effloresce came to my attention via band member Dave Mola’s user pic on that forum.  I recognised it as an album cover, thought it looked pretty cool, and filed the info away for future searching.  When I found out he was in the band, well…you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Dave quickly made sure to set me up with a copy of the band’s debut EP, which I reviewed here quite some time ago.  We also agreed that an interview with the band would be a very cool thing.  Unfortunately, some personal issues have delayed me in getting this interview up.  No longer, I say!  The band’s voices must be heard, and heard they shall be!

Curious what an audience thinks of a female vocalist who does extreme metal vocals?  Intrigued by a band that writes some serious and heavy progressive metal but whose members are the furthest thing from stodgy and stuck in the mud?  Well then, you came to the right place!  Sit down, read on, and pop in the EP that I just KNOW you bought right after reading my review…right?

1. Starting things off...when did you first discover how much music meant to you?

I think making music is something that can set you apart from the rest of your age group when you’re a young person. So the first reason to pick up a guitar and play was to do something different, starting from there, the main goal was to set oneself apart from the rest of the other young people my age who had also started to discover that music made them more interesting by trying to play better than the rest – and that without taking lessons, for my parents didn’t want to pay for yet another expensive hobby. From there, I realized that music was not just something for me to identify with but I started writing my own stuff, which opened up the dimension of musical self-expression for me. Still, there’s so much to discover and I think the point when I found out that MAKING music means anything to me has been only recently when I looked back on my ‘career’ and found that I could have quit, having made so many disappointing and disillusioning experiences in various bands but still kept going and finally, I’ve found a bunch of people who really seem to have the same musical and personal attitude.

Nicki: I was about seven or eight years old when my dad and I watched MTV every Saturday and I saw this guy with his funny moustache.  It was Freddie Mercury from Queen of course and I loved his voice right away. The music was cool also and I especially liked the video clip to "I Want to Break Free". That‘s why I started to sing with a hairbrush in my hand in front of a mirror and never wanted to do anything else henceforth.

Dave: Hmmm, I remember lying on my bed and listening to Hendrix for hours and hours as a teenager. I think that was the time when I realized that music is able to carry you through "difficult" times and to make you feel in certain ways. I think that opened my eyes, ears and heart.

Rene: When I was 6 years old I visited a music school, in which we could play around with every instrument and also played theatre. Since then music was always around in my life. But it wasn’t until 2002 when I found dedication and discipline for learning bass, chords, music theory and all that stuff.  I would say that was the start of a life long journey of a lot of self-teaching, drinking beer, discovering friendship and living  rock 'n' roll and thus creating something special out of it.

2. Who were your first influences as a musician?

Probably my two drum teachers. I had jazz guy teaching me, who looked like Gavin Harrison and showed me a lot of Steve Gadd stuff. After two years I got a long haired rock 'n roll dude as a teacher, who introduced me to Dream Theater and Portnoy. That's when the whole progressive thing started for me. That mixture of that jazz influence and prog drumming was always very interesting for me, although I don't listen to any jazz stuff at home.

Nicki: As mentioned Queen and especially Freddie Mercury were the very first influences I remember.

Dave: My dad got me into a lot of great music quite early. I remember listening to Pink Floyd, Queen, Dire Straits and Eric Clapton at the age of maybe six or seven. When I was ten, Metallica’s Black Album was released, which introduced me to the world of metal. Henceforward I wanted to learn to play guitar.

Tim: I would have to say John Petrucci is a major influence. His sound, his technique and his versatility are amazing. Plus, I think he’s probably a nice guy. Still, there are so many good musicians in all styles out there that it’s hard to name any. I admire blues musicians like Clapton or Jeff Healey, I admire classic rock guys like Rhoads and Van Halen, I dig guys like Loomis, Chris Broderick or Michael Romeo who have a more classical or neo-classical edge to them…I admire anyone who has the ability to sound unique and the versatility to adapt to different styles.

3. How did Effloresce first come together?

In late 2005 I joined a band called Falling Nature, in which Tobi was already playing drums for a while. After some shows in 2006 Falling Nature fell apart, but both of us wanted to continue making music together - that was the moment Effloresce actually was born. We started jammin’ with different people and writing some fragments that later even have been recorded for a (not so serious) all instrumental Online-Demo called "Chinese Demo: crazy!". This is how everything started. However, we really became a band when Nicki joined us in March 2008. We used, improved and messed around with some ideas that have already been floating around for a while, and started adding vocals to what slowly became “songs”. Still looking for musicians we kept on writing material throughout 2008 and the first months of 2009 before we finally met René and Tim, who joined us in summer/fall of 2009. By that time the EP was already recorded and eventually released on December 18th. That was a quick tour through Effloresce-History.

Tobi: Some guy from the States apparently got wind of that demo title and named an album after it, only that it’s written a bit differently. He didn’t buy our EP though.

4. Effloresce has been around for a very short time, yet has already released a 30-minute EP. How easy was it to come up with the songs you chose for the release?

The songs on the EP had already existed for a while; we just didn't have a proper opportunity to record them until we hit the studio in August 2009.  So, while the current line-up is not very old, the ideas for these songs date back to when the idea of Effloresce was born in late 2006. In fact, "Sear" is the first song we ever wrote when we started, which also was recorded for this instrumental demo Dave was talking about in the previous question.

And coming up with these songs wasn't easy for us at all, since none of us had ever actually written a song. It was a long process bringing these songs to life with trial & error being two perpetual band members. We're actually still in the learning process.

5. What is the band's creative process like?

That‘s not easy to answer, honestly. I think we‘re still searching for that "magic formula". Until now we start with a small idea like a riff or a chord progression and connect it with other small ideas that already float around or just cross our minds. And it builds from there and gets bigger and bigger until we‘re happy with it. A lot of trial and error and quite time-consuming, but it works.

Nicki: Once the basic structure of a song is somewhat fixed I start working on vocal melodies, growl-spots and finally the lyrics.

6. Are there any tracks on the release that you'd say were more difficult to bring to fruition than others?

Definitely "Birds of Prey". It consists of parts we wrote in the beginning of the band’s history; and it was dismantled, rearranged and puzzled back together so often that we lost count at some point. "Sear" was only challenging because it was our first song ever, while "Sunset..." went pretty smooth. But Birds was really like giving birth to an elephant.

Dave: Yeah, that was really a tough one. I remember that we dumped half finished versions of the song several times and started over again, but finally we're very very happy with the outcome and it was worth the trouble after all.

7. How would you say the general reaction to your debut EP has been?

There have been various reactions so far. The majority of reviewers are respectful, take their time and get a picture of what we sound like, what we are like. This usually results in positive reviews fortunately.  However, there have been strange reviews from people who apparently didn‘t even read our band info before writing confusing stuff about constantly repeating choruses, guys growling and stuff like that. Ridiculous sometimes... but the vast majority is very positive so far and motivates us to keep on walking the path that we‘re on already.

8. What would you say you bring to the band that differs from your band mates?

I’m the least skilled, so there you go.

Additionally, René and I are the only ones with short hair.

Dave: I probably can handle more vodka than my band mates, but we have to work that out once. Just to be sure.

Nicki: Most of the time I’m the one wearing the dresses.  And boobs.

Tobi: I’m the only one who plays drums in the band.

René: While learning an instrument you listen to many different styles and genres. You'll develop your own style and sound. Starting off as a metal fan I found my love for rock n roll in my first cover band, and I always try to look for new influences.  But in the end I would say I'm more the sub-bass pulse and try to give the guys the groove they can rely on. Some things just don’t necessarily stand out from the songs, but once you take it away the songs aren’t the same. Like the bass.

9. How do people react the first time Nicki unleashes her growl?

Haha, funny question. Yeah, those reactions are quite similar every time. Most people in the audience look around searching for the "cookie monster". As soon as they realize that it‘s me growling jaws hit the ground and eyes pop out here and there. Quite funny to watch, really.

10. If you had the opportunity to cover any song in the band, either for a release or in concert, what would you want to cover and why?

At our very first concert we actually did a live cover version of Porcupine Tree's "Blackest Eyes". The simple reason was that we only had four complete songs, which we thought might be not enough (although we almost filled three-quarters of an hour with that). We chose that song simply because it's a classic, it's fun to play and we all love Porcupine Tree. So I guess it was our tribute to them. But I doubt we will ever record a cover, it was just a less-than-ideal solution.

Dave: We also played Opeth’s “Windowpane” just for fun some time ago. That was basically our tune to check out potential co-musicians. Just to have something to play together, you know? Personally I’d love to do a Metal-version of some Camel songs once in the future. But dunno if that will ever happen. And I’d never say never concerning recording cover tunes, but our focus clearly lies on writing and recording our own material, that’s the priority.

11. How much opportunity does the band have to play out live?

Well, with the kind of music we make it‘s really difficult getting live-shows. Long complex songs with female vocals are too exotic and unpopular around here. But we already played some shows, and most of the people enjoyed our performance. So, we‘re optimistic for the future.

Dave: Yeah, plus: The Prog-scene here in Germany is really small. The local clubs book kiddie-punk-bands instead and don‘t really care for musicality. If you try to arrange a (prog-)concert yourself you have to deal with chaotic and counterproductive club-owners, small crowds, bands from afar (who at least want to be reimbursed for gas) and so on. Not easy...

12. How much would you say downloading has affected the band's sales?

I’m not into that torrent-stuff and downloading at all, but I’ve looked for some illegal Effloresce-Files and came up with nothing actually. So I think downloading isn’t much of a problem for us now. That may change of course when more people get into our music and realize how cool we are.

13. What's next for Effloresce?

Effloresce is currently writing stuff to gather enough material for a full-length album. We have already completed writing three more songs other than the ones on the SoF-EP and a fourth one is in the making. We don’t know when we’ll have the opportunity to enter a studio to record our complete material, but we’ll see. So if anyone knows a studio, contact us! :-)

14. Will there continue to be flute and mellotron on your future releases?

Definitely, yeah. There will be mellow parts with flute in some of our new songs, too. Actually I‘m writing melodies for one at the moment.

Dave: As for the mellotrons (and organs): We‘ll also keep those in our sound mixture, because I think they can really spice up some parts and add beautiful layers and atmosphere when used properly.

15. Reading the band's website, it seems humour is an important aspect of what the band is. Having said that, do you think the vuvuzela has any place in melodic death metal?

Definitely. After the World Cup this year we all know that this instrument is one of the most favoured around, and we hope that more bands will incorporate it into their sound. Especially Death- and Black Metal bands. We are actually thinking of releasing a special edition of the Shades of Fate EP, with a Vuvuzela drowning out all the other instruments for the entire 30 minutes. That would be quite an improvement to our current sound.

16. Are there any bands or performers you are currently enjoying listening to when you're relaxing?

Tarja Turunen‘s new album is my favorite at the moment. Both Blackfield records are classics of relaxing music as well.

Dave: I’ve been listening to Tommy Emmanuel and piano works by Frederic Chopin lately. Very nice music to chill to.

Rene: At the moment that's defenitively Alter Bridge, Slash, Grand Funk
Railroad, Tower of Power, a lot of John Mayer and everything that goes straight into your ear.

Tobi: I’m a huge Anathema fan. Additionally, stuff like Blackfield, Loreena McKennit or Karl Sanders’ solo project.

Tim: I personally prefer the Damnation record by Opeth or very old Pink Floyd (the Meddle album). Or an Australian band called Vanishing Point, because they have a very pleasing sound. Antimatter is another band that would probably rather get me depressed than relaxed, but whatever….

17. As we wrap things up, are there any final thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?

Yes. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t play with scissors. Don’t try this at home.

Keep on supporting Bill and his Prog BLOG, people! And don't forget to buy our CD! Thanks a lot for the interesting questions!

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