WITH THIRTEEN OF EVERYTHING (italian
by Giancarlo Bolther
far are you happy about the recording process and the final mix of
Mick: Yes, very much. Of course, there are always things
that we notice later when we listen to the CD that we would like to
have been different, but nothing that most listeners would ever notice.
I think it's impossible to make a CD that you think is perfect! It
did take us a very long time to record and mix - almost 18 months
(and that was just the drums ?). If there's one thing I'd like to
change next time it would be to do it faster! I think next time we
may use a commercial studio to record the drums, or just replace Ted
with a machine. :-) ?
Ted: That joke deserves a rim-shot, but Mick would enjoy no such spontaneous
interaction with a machine. ? It did take a long time to complete
the album, but much of that was down-time where no work was being
done due to people’s schedules (we all have full-time day jobs
and families). Yes, we are pretty happy with the final result, with
slight reservations. We did it all ourselves, and it was a learning
process. We learned from making our original demo CD in 2002, and
felt that we could greatly improve upon it for the final recording.
We definitely accomplished that, and it sounds pretty good, but of
course it is still not as good as it would have been in a professional
studio. But we weighed the pros and cons and convenience, control,
and cost were big factors. We mixed by committee; passing mixes around
until we felt we had it tweaked just right. Even after it’s
final, there are always things you would like to go back and adjust,
but you have to stop at some point. Some professionally recorded albums
I hear sound like they’ve had all the life processed out of
them. So, at the expense of not being pristine, I think the upside
is that the album retains a character and feeling that is good.
How much tradition and how much modernity are there in this
Mick: I think there are some of both, coming from the different
writers. In particular, the two songs written by Patrick (original
keyboardist). He was not a long-time "prog head" like the
rest of us, so he brought some new angles, even though he was consciously
trying to "write prog" (at least for Bird in Hand). I guess
my own writing is probably the most "traditional prog" in
the band, but we'll keep trying to avoid just producing "recycled
prog" - which is a contradiction of course.
Ted: It’s difficult to answer this question, since there was
no real conscious decision or discussion to include a certain amount
of tradition, or a certain amount of modernity. We did not even start
out by planning to be a prog band, but since that was our common love,
it sort of went in that direction. I think we just did what came naturally,
and wrote the sorts of things that we ourselves would like to hear.
How do you go about the composition process?
Mick: The majority of it comes from one individual having an idea,
usually fairly well developed, and then it gets passed around. We
like to try different approaches to composition - some individual
ideas, some group ideas. We used to call Patrick "Iron Fist",
since he had rather fixed ideas, but hearing the songs he wrote, that's
not necessarily a bad thing.
Ted: It can happen a number of different ways as Mick said. Some music
is completed by one writer from beginning to end, and then the band
learns it individually, then arranges it during rehearsal when it
often undergoes some changes due to the group input and feedback,
and lyrics added if need be (Bird In Hand for example). Some songs
start as partial ideas or riffs, which we jam with and spontaneously
add some new ideas, until something clicks, and we can then have more
to work with and arrange it into something that sounds more like a
song (Flying East came together in that way). Some songs start out
as short ideas, then someone else in the band will pick up the thread
and add something else to follow it (That’s how Late for Dinner
How are the responses going?
Mick: We are really pleased. When we started out, for myself at least,
I was just interested in playing music - If one or two people got
to hear it and it made a difference to them, that would be a bonus,
so the way the CD has sold and all the great reviews have been very,
Ted: As Mick said, this very gratifying just to know that people like
it. The CD sold pretty well right out of the box. I attribute that
to the demo CD of 2002, which we passed out like candy to create awareness
and get feedback. Some of the feedback to that demo CD came in the
form of published reviews, so even if someone hadn’t heard the
music on the demo (which was only available through us), they may
have read a review, or just heard about us through word-of-mouth.
This worked out nicely so when the official album came out, we were
not a completely unknown entity, and so the album started selling
immediately. Since then, we’ve had 4 or 5 voluntary listener
postings (Amazon, Prog Archives, and Musea’s forum) in addition
to about 10 or more official reviews so far from prog music sites
and magazines, which we plan to list on our website soon. All of them
have been positive, with a few having small reservations about one
thing or another, and some have been extremely positive.
How did you get in touch with Musea and are you happy with
what they are doing to promote the album?
Ted: In 2002 (the year we recorded the demo CD) we were handing out
copies at Nearfest and I made sure that I gave Musea, as well as some
other labels, a copy. In the spring of 2003, I followed up with a
letter to Musea reminding them that we had given them a demo CD at
Nearfest the prior year, and included another copy, along with some
press clippings of reviews, which we had received for the demo CD
up to that time. Then, in September 2003, we received an email from
Musea with an offer to release it. We were excited about the offer,
but we did not want to release the existing demo CD as the final official
product since we felt that it was not good enough for mass distribution
and sales. So, we told them that we had planned to re-record the songs
with more attention to detail and sound quality, plus we had another
30 minutes of music we wanted to add. They were flexible and simply
said that was fine, and to let them know when the new recording was
complete. So that was very supportive of them to be so patient. Even
though it took us another year and a half before we finally completed
the recording and sent them the final mix for their review, they were
still very enthusiastic about it, and true to their word, they released
it. As far as promotion, Musea is a non-profit company, and not as
high profile as some newer prog labels. But they have been doing this
a long time and presumably know how to run their business. I can’t
say exactly what they do behind the scenes, but they earmark 100 CD’s
for promotional purposes. They don’t typically take out big
advertisements, but we are not in a position at the moment to hit
the road for a support tour either, and we all have other commitments
(jobs, family), and do not expect that this is going to replace our
day-jobs, so I think it’s a good match for us to be on Musea
right now. So far we have done our own print advertising in a couple
of the major progressive rock publications as well as in the programs
printed for Nearfest and Prog Day. It is not a large expense, and
it goes directly to the right audience, so it’s worthwhile.
And so far, we have sent out about 25 or more promo CDs of the new
album ourselves to festival organizers, prog websites, individual
reviewers, and radio shows. We constantly receive requests for such
promos, but we simply cannot afford to send one to everyone who asks,
so we have to choose wisely.
How hard is to play prog music in Texas, which is the land
of southern boogie rock and country as well?
Mick: It's not easy. We keep thinking that there are prog fans just
waiting to come out of the woodwork, but it's nothing like as popular
as in the Northeast U.S. We've had good responses when we've played
here in Austin, and there are one or two other bands, but it does
get overshadowed by blues and country music down here. It's sometimes
surprising though, the types of people who really like the CD here
locally, people you would never imagine, and they come up and say
"I was into Yes in the '70s" and stuff like that. Still,
in the interest of mega-stardom, our next album will include a 27-minute
Country Blues concept piece, about man’s relationship with his
pick-up truck. ?
Ted: To be fair, our town Austin is very different from the rest of
Texas. Austin has a very eclectic music scene. Country style music
here is not what you might hear elsewhere. I don’t even like
the term “Country” or “Southern”, because
I associate it with music that I loathe, but there is good music here
that some people might call country, but it’s not the soul-less
kind that comes out of Nashville that you hear on typical “country”
radio. Anyway, blues based rock is more common in Austin (as epitomized
by our town’s musical legend, Stevie Ray Vaughn), but there
is also plenty of other music going on here – even electronic
and avant-garde stuff. But there is no prog “scene” that
is visible here. There are definitely prog fans here, but most traditional
(older) fans are ignorant that there is a huge new prog scene that
began to grow in the 90’s. Yes and Jethro Tull play here fairly
regularly, and have good attendance. But most of the audience is probably
unaware, and perhaps uninterested, in new bands exploring this territory.
Then there are the young people who are becoming aware of prog (or
related complex musical forms) only from being exposed to new young
bands such as Mars Volta or Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (both of whom
play here quite regularly). Those fans are not necessarily going to
become fans of classic symphonic prog, but if they are truly into
music, and favor more complex or longer thematic explorations, then
they may find their way to those albums as well. But there are prog
fans here. We do run across people who are amazed to learn there is
a band in town that plays this music, and they are grateful…
or they would be if we would actually play live! It was difficult
getting the few gigs we have done so far, and lately it has been difficult
just getting the members of the band together with any frequency to
stay in practice or work on new material. So the real battle is not
against a tide of country music or southern rock or blues, but rather
just the fact that there’s no “scene” here that
we fit into, and most people are sheep who follow a scene or trend
so they can feel “hip”. Also, it’s difficult getting
a gig in this so-called “live music capital of the world”
because the competition for gigs is fierce, and we don’t have
an identity that is easily understood. One place we played a few times
categorized us as a “jam band” (!) only because that was
the closed comparison they could relate us to.
Does the long jamming attitude of southern music influence
Mick: No! I've never really listened to much of that stuff, and I
grew up with the Beatles and various British bands of the 70's, some
of whom we'd all rather forget.
Ted: No. We do like to “jam” but mainly in a creative
way, by taking turns playing spontaneous things to see how the others
will follow, or react and see where it leads. Simply playing a groove
or chord sequence endlessly without reason, or dramatic purpose, while
people simply trade solos bores me.
In your opinion what kind of music are you creating? How can
you describe your music?
Mick: For myself I hope that it is varied, unpredictable, melodic,
Ted: I hate putting labels on music. Even though we all love many
bands known as progressive rock, and our music appeals to prog fans,
we didn’t start out trying to fill that niche. But we’re
grateful for the prog audience, because the true progressive rock
school-of-thought allows such a variety of styles that you can sound
completely unique, and be accepted, even lauded for it. I would agree
with the goals Mick stated – we are trying to put across dynamics,
with melody and emotion above all, while keeping the underlying mechanics
interesting. But we aren’t consciously trying to please a certain
audience, only ourselves, which I believe makes for the most honest,
and best music.
You are great players, but your music is also very emotional
and intense, in your opinion how much weight do you give to technical
ability aspects and how much importance is technical ability?
Mick: I really don't think that the technical ability is particularly
important, for me it's all about the power of the music. Sometimes
the more simple parts of a song have the greatest impact.
Ted: I agree. I mean, you do have to have a degree of competency,
but only to the extent that you are able to play what you want to
hear. History has shown us that many of the most creative groundbreaking
styles or techniques were born out of inabilities which were overcome
by creatively doing it a different way. We know that there are plenty
of musicians who can certainly play circles around us. But we are
comfortable with our capabilities, and while we try to stretch them,
we play to our strengths as they are, which can sometimes be technical
but often involve other things such as arrangement decisions, tonality,
dynamics, and creativity.
Your band’s name is very curious, what does it mean?
Mick: It's a reference to the Thirteen ways of enlightenment, as foretold
by the prophet Ted.
Ted: Come forward brothers, so that I might whisper in your ear the
13 wisdoms … naahhh! … That would take too long. Suffice
it to say, it was simply a compromise between two alternate ideas
that we combined together. We liked the fact that it sounded amusing,
yet also mysterious and ambiguous, and yet did not sound pretentious.
So, it does not really have any meaning at all – but maybe that
makes it even more profound?
What is it that characterizes your live exhibitions?
Mick: We like to make the live shows fun, and actually think about
ways to draw people in to the stories behind the songs. Since we all
play instruments and don't have a "lead singer" it's important
to make the shows interesting. We try to think of way to involve the
audience and make it fun, usually at Ted's expense (he IS an easy
Ted: Mick asks all the little children to come sit down in front,
while he tells a story. Then in a sudden flash of light, the children’s
eyebrows are singed off with pyrotechnics and the show begins. ? Actually,
Mick is pretty good at chatting with the audience and seems comfortable
with it. He even introduced some theatrics into a couple of songs,
“Late for Dinner” in particular. I even don some headgear
for part of Sleepdance. And we’ve been known to share a few
spontaneous jibes back and forth for amusement – I don’t
know why I’m often on the receiving end, but I think it’s
just an expression of love.
Which are your favourite bands actually and what are your
inspirations from the past?
Mick: Certainly Genesis, Yes and all the other classic prog bands
from the 70's. More recently Spock's Beard, Marillion. But I also
like some more obscure, less proggy people.
Ted: I could go on and on… so I will… okay, just a little.
Me personally: Inspirations/favorites from the past: From the early-mid
70’s: Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant,
Bowie, Roxy Music, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, U.K. Happy the Man. From
the late 70’s/early 80’s: Bowie again, Bill Nelson, Ultravox,
Magazine, Japan, Thomas Dolby, XTC. My favorites from the 90’s
were Catherine Wheel, Curve, House of Love, and Dada. Thad and Joe
aren’t here to answer, but I know that Thad typically mentions
ELP, Dream Theater, and both prog & jazz genres in general, and
Joe typically mentions Genesis, XTC and The Beatles (and The Beatles
are tops for me as well).
What do you think about the actual symphonic and progressive
Mick: Most of it passes me by!
Ted: I assume you meant symphonic metal and progressive metal? I’ve
of course heard progressive metal, but didn’t know there was
a splinter genre of symphonic metal. Personally, I am wary of anything
with the term “metal”. I used to love the original Black
Sabbath back in their day, and today I often listen to Killing Joke
when I want a loud cathartic experience, so I do appreciate the heavy
guitar sound in certain situations. But I find that most music that
is tagged with the word “metal” (even prog metal) to be
too clichéd and bombastic for my tastes.
In your country there wasn’t a specific prog scene,
some great bands like Happy the Man or the Muffins, but we know very
few about, can you tell us more about the American prog bands from
Mick: I grew up in England, so my past included all those great British
prog bands, many of whom I saw several times. One interesting kind
of aberration though, is the popularity of Gentle Giant here in the
US - they were never that prominent in the UK, even though they are
Ted: I grew up right in the middle of the U.S. in the state of Oklahoma,
which was pretty conservative overall. But I was drawn to the more
exotic music from overseas, namely the British invasion from the Beatles
to Jethro Tull (my first two favorite bands). Probably the most well
known U.S. band that is considered “prog” is Kansas. Oddly
enough, though their home state was next door to mine, I never heard
of them until they started to hit it big just before “Carry
On Wayward Son” became a hit in the states. I really got into
them at that point for a while. I remember noticing that a certain
phrase in “Song for America” was basically a re-write
of a phrase from Genesis’ “Firth of Fifth”, so I
knew they were 2nd tier. But still I enjoyed them, and they certainly
put their own stamp of Americana in their music. Though there are
still several of their songs I would enjoy today, a lot of their stuff
hasn’t aged as well for me. I haven’t listened to them
in a long while. During that time I also explored Styx (some would
not consider them prog, but they had their moments on earlier albums),
but I found them lacking in depth (which was typical of most US so-called
prog bands in my opinion). It wasn’t until 1978 that another
musician friend I played with gave me a cassette of an album he said
featured a guitarist he used to go to school with – I didn’t
expect much, but that album was Happy the Man’s “Crafty
Hands” and it blew me away. Now that band (and particularly
that album) are still one of my all time favorites today. They are
the best and most unique US prog band in my opinion. It was only a
few months after the formative beginnings of Thirteen of Everything
that the Happy the Man reunion drew me to Nearfest for the first time
in 2000. There were some more obscure US prog bands from the past
that were uncovered and re-issued on CD later, but none stand out
for me, or I may just be unaware of some of them because the British
and European bands were so much better!
Sometimes I feel that the new prog bands of today are too
much oriented in technical exhibitions and not enough in giving good
emotions to the listeners, what's your opinion about?
Mick: I think there's a mix, it's difficult to generalize. Certainly
for myself the emotional impact is everything, and technical exhibitions
are not interesting. I can remember like it was yesterday, when I
was 14 years old, lying on the floor at home with the speakers from
the stereo on the ground about 6 inches either side of my head, lights
out, and Steve Hackett's guitar line that is so subtle, yet so perfect
on The Carpet Crawl on Second's Out. I felt like I could just float
away on that sound and never come down. So that's the kind of impact
I like to hear in music. I think we all get a little jaded as we get
older and it becomes more difficult to find new music that really
affects us that way, but it can happen. And it's REALLY cool when
that music happens to come from a band that you're in!
Ted: I would agree. The melodic themes and the arrangement and development
of those themes should come first. As far as musicianship - from both
a listening and playing standpoint - rather than exhibitions of virtuosity,
I personally prefer ensemble arrangements with syncopated polyrhythmic
elements, where all the elements work together as one, and occasionally
allow one instrument to shine through at the right moment. This in
itself can be technically challenging to pull off, but should not
be a self-serving exhibition, but more in service of making the music
exciting or interesting. And I find it more enjoyable to work together
toward that cohesion of elements, rather than to have solo exhibitions,
and personally I find it more interesting to listen to such arrangements
as well. But, you should never lose sight of the melodic content,
emotion and thematic development. So we hope that we’ve accomplished
a good balance.
A lot of old school prog fans hate Dream Theater and the new
prog, but would there be young people listening to old Genesis and
King Crimson again without the Dream Theater’s popularity?
Mick: I actually like a lot of Dream Theatre's music, and compared
to most of what's out there, I'm not about to slag them off! More
power to them. They're also great players to watch - I particularly
enjoy watching Mike Portnoy, he has that effortless power and precision
that characterizes great drummers.
Ted: I know Thad likes Dream Theater, but what I’ve heard leaves
me cold. It doesn’t matter to me that they are great players
if the music doesn’t do anything for me. However, if they draw
in metal fans, who then discover that they can enjoy more complex
themes, and even (gasp!) tolerate keyboards, and if that in turn opens
them up to more subtle and melodic music such as Genesis, King Crimson,
etc. then that’s a good thing. But I don’t dislike “new
prog” in general. There is much to like. I’m always checking
out CDs by new bands and have many favorites from recent years.
The same people who likes seventies prog artists says that
today prog music must be called "regressive" music, because
there is nothing really new…
Mick: Yes, this can be true, although one visit to Nearfest should
set you straight. I think it's something that we should be aware of
- it's too easy to recycle previous bands material. I think in the
future we'll find ways, at least within this band, to bring new, fresh
Ted: Yes, a lot of it is derivative of what has gone before –
some of which I can’t help but enjoy as a guilty pleasure on
occasion, and some of which makes me cringe because it is so blatantly
derivative. I suppose some might level that criticism at our music,
but we’ve tried to stay away from overt comparisons other than
a passing unintentional reference to certain styles. And we will probably
move a bit further away from that in the future.
Have you listened to some of the new bands and are there some
that you like?
Mick: Yeah, we get to Nearfest every year and there are always some
good surprises. They're not young and new but Kenso blew everyone
away last year. White Willow seem to produce some consistently good
CDs, but there's so much out there! I found a "random CD"
I really liked last year from our Musea pals – an album called
Skymind by a French band called Taal.
Ted: As far as the resurgence of later “prog” bands, my
favorites are Thinking Plague, Deus Ex Machina, Echolyn, Miriodor,
Landberk, Anekdoten, Anglagard, Univers Zero, … I tend to like
the dark symphonic angular stuff. Thad isn’t here, but he likes
the jazz style of Medeski, Martin & Wood, and while attending
the last few Nearfests, I recall Thad being impressed with the Japanese
bands, Gerard and Kenso. And if Joe were here, he would no doubt express
his enthusiasm for Porcupine Tree (which we also like very much),
and he was quite impressed by Miriodor’s Nearfest performance.
In your opinion, is music a way to escape from reality or is it a
way to think about what is happening in the world?
Mick: Well both of course, but probably mainly an escape, or an exploration
of some unchanging aspect life. There are a few good songs that are
"political" or are about current issues, but they sometimes
don't hold up over time.
Ted: Agree – It can be one or the other, or both at once. Now
that I think about it, I would say that music is the escape, and lyrics
are the opportunity to examine the human condition or make reference
What are your future projects and what direction will your
next album have?
Mick: It'll be a country/blues concept album about living in Texas,
drinking Tequila and being left by "my girl". Or not.
Ted: I vote for “not”! Mick has actually already written
a couple of new opuses, and Thad, Joe and I are tinkering around on
various ideas that have yet to fully take shape. It will be a while
yet before we know what sort of direction it will lead, or what new
sound may develop. But we do plan to record another album eventually,
and hopefully will be more active playing live in the future.
Reviews (in italian):