Rock Impressions

INTERVIEW WITH AKACIA, replayed by Steve Stortz (italian version)
by Giancarlo Bolther

The new album This Fading Time is quite different, songs are shorter and I_ve found it more searching and experimental, can you tell me more about it, please?
We were trying to do an album with a live feel to it after the heavy orchestration of The Brass Serpent. Most of the tracks were recorded live in our practice studio and we did very little overdubbing. The songs seem shorter in comparison to our first two albums, but they are still much longer than the average pop song. I think the searching feel has a lot to do with our own inner searchings and our meditation on some of the problems of life and the fading glory of our world.

The artwork reminds one of 9/11, and so does the album's title; what is the message that you want to give?
The cover does tie in very well with the song "In the Air," which is why we chose that work. The events of 9/11 were a shock to us and it is only now, five years later, that Mike Tenenbaum felt ready to put his feelings into song. But tragedy in this world is not without meaning.

What do you believe about this period, are you optimistic or do you fear the future?
The Bible clearly shows that things get much worse before they get better. It's foolish and impossible to predict when the end times will be, but obviously we are getting closer every day. America stands to be overthrown as a world power if we lose our faith in God, and that will be a troubling time for us. Even so, the Spirit will move in other lands where hearts are more receptive to the Gospel. History shows that nations rise and fall, so fear for our country does not necessarily mean that we are pessimistic.

The cover was painted by the legendary Paul Whitehead, how did you get in touch with him?
Our label, Musea, suggested using one of his pieces for our cover, so we approached his agent through his website. It is an honor to use a design from the same artist who created the legendary Genesis album covers.
5. You have got a seventies sound, how much tradition and how much modernity went into your music? The seventies sound is definitely our goal. We were all raised on Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and the other greats of the genre. That is the basis for much of the style, although we do listen to Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree and the modern progressive bands.

How are the responses?
We have gotten a wide range of responses, as one might expect. We enjoyed some success at with our first two albums and airplay in several countries. We were especially flattered when reviewer S. T. Karnick picked An Other Life as the best debut album of 2003.

In your opinion, what are the differencies between your studio records?
An Other Life grew out of our early practice sessions. We used music that Mike had already in mind but needed the progressive touch. Once we saw some positive response and read some criticism of our music, we embarked on the more ambitious project of The Brass Serpent which is really more of a concept album. The third album brought us back to a more organic songwriting style where the music grew out of practices together.

If I_m right there is a new keyboard player, what can you tell me about her?
Tricia Lee is an outstanding bass player who also plays improvisational keyboard pieces. She lent her talents to the third album and her keyboard playing had a big impact on the direction that our songs took. She has been a friend of Mike Tenenbaum for a long time and they have been in other bands together.

Did you play on tour after the realization of the cd? (If yes) What is that caracterizes your live performances?
We have played The Brass Serpent several times, once opening for Neal Morse during his last tour. We have not planned a tour to support This Fading Time because we began immediately with work on more music.

What do you think about the actual progressive scene?
The new ways of sharing music and reaching fans is allowing progressive bands to flourish like never before. The best music will eventually rise to the top and gain its proper following. It's a great time to be a musician.

According to you what developments will there be for progressive music in the next few years?
Prog fans will probably be able to access progressive music stations on satellite and through the internet. After mainstream bands get through with their infatuation with progressive music, it will be turned back over to the musicians who love the genre.

A lot of old school prog fans hate Dream Theater and the new prog in general, but others say that there will be no young people to listen to old Genesis and King Crimson without the Dream Theater_s popularity, what_s your opinion about?
There's no question that bands like Genesis and King Crimson can draw their own fans without the assistance of modern bands. The hope is that if bands make unique contributions, there won't have to be this incessant comparison of every new album to Foxtrot or Close To The Edge or Starless And Bible Black.

Everybody links prog music to English seventies bands and we know very little about the American prog bands (Kansas, Starcastle, Pavlov's Dog, Happy the Man...), can you tell us more about the '70 prog scene in the USA?
We're still discovering the full breadth of the American prog scene of the '70s. A lot of the best music is hard to find and can be expensive too.

You spread religious messages with your lyrics, usually there are very few artists that mix christian lyrics with prog music, (I know Neal Morse, Kerry Livgren-Proto Kaw, Saviour Machine), how did you get the idea to play "prog christian music"?
We're all Christians in the band and since music is a spiritual medium, we want our music to convey the spiritual message about Christianity. If you look up the CPR compilations, you'll see there's more of a Christian representation in progressive music than you may assume ( The Christian music industry is very limited in the type of sound that they are willing to market, so we figured we would try to reach the progressive fans directly without going through strictly Christian channels.

Can you tell me more about the CPR project and its aim?
There are two aims. First, we want the Christian music fan to gain exposure to progressive music, which is not available through most of the popular Christian radio stations and record labels. Second, we want progressive fans to have a taste of the music that people of the Christian faith have been making.

Could you tell us which were the ways Jesus has changed your life?
As Savior, He has given us a chance to live our lives free from the debilitating guilt of our sins. As Lord, He has given us a command to go out in the world and tell everyone about Him. He has been very good to each of us throughout our Christian lives, providing for our needs and directing our steps. Without him, we would be living our lives for ourselves, rationalizing our own selfish behavior and suffering the consequences of unforgiven sin.

How hard it was to manage an artistic career with your belief?
It can be tough in the progressive world. Christian music labels want nothing to do with progressive music and some prog fans complain that they don't want to hear about Christianity in our lyrics. We're never going to be rich and famous, but that's not our mission.

It seems that the interest for spiritual belief is increasing, do you feel the same?
That's a tricky subject. There always seems to be increasing interest in "spiritual" matters, but that is not really the same as interest in Christianity. Most of the increased interest is in areas that are traditionally labeled "occult" like astrology, New Age beliefs and so on. Just because you're feeling "spiritual" does not mean you're getting close to God.

All of us have had some hard times in their life, but Jesus teaches us how to face these moments; can you tell us about yours, please?
Some of us in the band have struggled with finances, but with prayer and faith all our needs have been provided for. Poor health has been an issue also and God has provided healing and peace. Twice God provided exactly the right solution to an issue of child care for one of us.

What do you think about the attitude that links hard rock and heavy metal with evil contents?
Christian history is full of stories about music that was rejected based on its form rather than its content. Ultimately, content is what matters. There are some heavy metal songs more glorifying to God than some of the hymns sung in church. Naturally, since heavy metal has attracted musicians anxious to sing about evil, there is a stereotype about that music. However, bands like Bride, Messiah Prophet, Vengeance Rising, Deliverance and Bloodgood have created powerful Christian music.

In your opinion can the lyrics really influence the young listeners?
Yes. You would be surprised how often lyrics come to mind when people are trying to take a decision. Lyrics can also reinforce attitudes about lifestyle choices, attitudes towards authority and the meaning of life. Aristotle wrote that when the modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state change with them.

What kind of feedback are you getting back from the messages in your albums?
Some detest the Christian message. Some put up with it but want us to tone it down. Some ignore it. Some are encouraged by it. We pray that some are hearing it for the first time and are eager to find out more about it.

Are there some critics that have hurt you in some ways?
No, everyone is entitled to his own opinion and not everyone is going to enjoy our music. We take criticism as an opportunity to improve. The only thing we won't compromise on is our message.

A lot of people think that following Jesus is like losing freedom, what is your answer to that?
The Bible says that without Jesus, we are slaves to sin. In other words, we sin whether we want to or not. We sin even after it stops feeling good. We cannot quit even when we are tired of it. It is the human condition to be a servant to good or to evil and we would rather be slaves to Christ than to our sinful nature.

Do you have a word of hope to end this interview?
Jesus knows you and what you need and he wants to do great things for you and for the Kingdom of Heaven. Let Him. Seek and ye shall find!


Reviews (in italian): An Other Life; The Brass Serpent;
This Fading Time

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