What are your names?
Craig West: Lead vocals, bass, guitar, production (and the one doing this interview)
Brian Holmes: Keyboards
Ken Coulter: Drums
Rob Coleman: electric guitar
Jake Rendell: Backing vocals, acoustic guitar
What’s the bands name?
How did you come up with the Bands name?
A good friend of ours is a singer and songwriter named Chris Belsito. I used to play guitar in his band, and he had a demo of a song that he never did anything with called Machines Dream – about a computer left alone for so long it became sentient. Chris never intended to do anything with the song, but I remembered liking it and always thought it was a cool title. When we were kicking band names around I offered it up. I still have a copy of the original demo.
How old are you?
What is your genre of music?
Give us a little bio about the band and you guys as individuals.
We came together as friends jamming just for fun, and the jams became songs, which became our first album. So we’re almost an accident if you want to think of it that way.
How long have you been doing music?
Since I was 4 years old in piano lessons I guess. Music has always been there as far back as I can remember.
How long have you been working together as a band?
What made you go in to music?
It’s just something that’s always been there; externally and internally. I never pursued music with the goal of fame or money. Participating in the creation of music is just something that makes me happy and fulfilled.
Are you signed?
To Progressive Gears; a small label based in Northern Ireland.
Your brand new single ‘Heavy Water’ is great – what’s the story behind it?
The new album is called Black Science, and the loose theme of the album is how technology and invention have a capacity fo good, and unfortunately evil. Heavy Water is about Hiroshima; specifically I was thinking about two moments – what the guys in the Enola Gay might have been thinking before dropping the bomb, and someone looking for the remains of their home the day after. I had watched a documentary on Hiroshima, specifically pertaining to what it was like following the dropping of the bomb, and the haunting piano arpeggio made me think of that documentary, and it went from there.
You are releasing your forthcoming Album ‘Black Science’ in the Summer of 2016 – can you tell us more about it?
Six or seven songs, between 5 and 10 minutes in length each. It’s not a concept album, but it does have a loose theme of the potential for evil that technology and invention bring with them, specifically when looking back at the 20th Century. Examples include paper money and inflation being man-made and leading to a lot of suffering; the splitting of the atom as we talked about in Heavy Water, perpetual war for profit, mass media which can be used to educate, but often winds up being used for dumbing-down or manipulating populations, and I suppose some of the darker moments of the 20th century as a result of all that. On a more personal level, these are things that trouble me and so they wind up becoming the material for lyrics and themes.
Musically, all the music came from the band free-jamming, so this is our first truly collaborative record. I think you can hear the personalities of each member come through really clearly. The lyrics are mostly written by me, with a contribution from Eugene (our manager) and Chris Belsito who I mentioned earlier.
It’s progressive rock that probably steers more towards the Pink Floyd or Marillion side of the genre with songs being the focus, rather than the ELP or Dream Theater side where the musicianship is the focus.
Tell us more about any of your new music you have planned.
Right now the focus is just Black Science. Right now I’m finishing the album up in the studio, and we are all working on ways to let it loose in the world.
Will you be doing any gigs or a Tour?
I wish we could say we were, but we live in a remote geographic location (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada) and it’s very difficult for us to mount tours. Toronto is a seven hour drive from where we live, and Montreal is about 14 hours for example, so touring is difficult for us. We played Toronto last October, and hopefully we’ll find a way of making a few live appearances, though any kind of a full tour is extremely unlikely. SIDE NOTE: If any fabulously wealthy fans of progressive rock are reading this and feel like underwriting a tour, we’re easy to find.
You are working with Progressive Gears – how did that come about?
The owner is a friend of ours, and our manager. He had been a strong advocate as a manager and a great supporter of the band, so when he decided to expand his operations to being an independent label, we felt it made sense both from a business and personal standpoint to go with him.
Do you play any instruments?
Guitar, bass, I sing, and I record and produce our music which involves using computers as musical instruments quite a bit.
Who are your influences?
They’re all over the map. My favourite progressive bands have always been the ones who focused on songs and atmosphere – groups like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull from the 70s, and then in the more recent era bands like Marillion, Porcupine Tree, and Riverside. Outside of progressive music, I’m a huge Who fan, especially their stuff from the 70s, a big fan of NWOBHM specifically Iron Maiden, and the American hardcore punk scene, specifically Husker Du. I love The Waterboys and their ‘big music’ era from the 80s. In terms of songwriters, looking at that list I can extract Roger Waters, Pete Townshend, Mike Scott, and Bob Mould as big influences. A couple years ago I went on a big Cat Stevens bender, and most recently I’ve been getting into some of the more complicated corners of progressive rock and have been listening to a lot of King Crimson. When I was a kid it was The Beatles, Queen and The Who. Like a lot of people, I like a lot of different music.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
I don’t seek it. Things kind of get stuck in my head, whether thats a lyric, a melody, a chord progression or a theme for a group of songs. I’ll go for a walk or a drive and ideas just come, and the ones that recur usually become the embryos of songs.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
I hope I’m in the same place. Happy to be alive, proud to be a father, excited to have a great band, and taken aback that there is this connection to people all over the world through music.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
I have a four year old daughter who is the light of my life, a dog who is my constant companion, a family I love, a day job that I go to and I’m (very slowly) learning to play the cello – and after the child has been chased around, the dog walked, work is done, and progressive albums are made, I tend to fall down and sleep. Boring right? I’m probably supposed to say that I pilot airships, have a dubious narcotic habit, and fight crime, but I’m pretty boring. Everyone in the band has similar stories. We all juggle lives and music, reality and passion, and we all have dogs. I do try and find the time to enjoy documentaries, and have a shameless love of science fiction.
If you could collaborate with one UK Artist who would it be?
Steve Rothery from Marillion. He’s a brilliant guitarist and composer and has a sense of atmosphere that it would be awesome to work baselines under.
If you could collaborate with one USA Artist who would it be?
Mike Portnoy, because of his boundless enthusiasm for all things musical, and as a bass player it would be fun to play with a drummer of that calibre.
SIDE NOTE: Mr. Rothery and Mr. Portnoy if you are reading this – power trio. Think Rush. Just sayin’
Where is your dream venue or festival to perform in UK?
Can I say Royal Albert Hall? Everyone probably says Royal Albert. Boring answer. I’ve always wanted to play the Friar’s in Aylesbury actually, so let’s say that. Some good proghistory there.
Where is your dream venue or festival to perform in USA?
Anywhere in San Francisco, New Orleans or New Yorkbecause I’ve always wanted to visit those cities. Or First Avenue in Minneapolis, again for the great music history.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene?
Sea And Sand by The Who.
If you could get one of your songs on a TV show, which would it be?
I think Heavy Water would make for excellent soundtrack music, and so would Unarmed At Sea from our first album.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
Embrace the music inside your head, and don’t let anyone convince you to change it. Even if it’s something as dreaded as … progressive rock (shudder!)
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
A tuner, water, remembering to stretch my hands before playing, spare strings if it’s an acoustic gig,
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?