Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Interview with Pendragon

Guitar Noise: Writing songs that are seven minutes long and more takes a great deal of inspiration. Where do you get your inspiration from?
 Pendragon: Song writing is in many ways a gift. Many songwriters would tell you that perhaps many of their best songs, lyrics, and melodies were ideas that ‘just popped in there’. Ideas that came out of nowhere. Peter (Gee) would say that inspiration is ultimately from God. But whatever your own view, many ideas do just appear in your head! In another sense though, songwriting is a craft which has to be worked at and honed over days and weeks and sometimes, years! Sometimes a ‘nothing’ idea can be turned into a great piece or song, just by adding a vocal or one instrument! All four of us get our inspiration from life, from events that have happened to us, from world events, and from travelling to different places and culture.
GN:When writing a concept album, it is obvious that the songs are written specifically for the album. Do you write songs at other times (on the road, on vacation, etc)?
P: Some of the best ideas come when you are not especially thinking about writing music. We are often inspired by visiting different countries and different people. Look at The World album cd booklet, and you’ll see that each song Nick wrote in a different physical location or country. Much of that particular album was inspired by Nick’s holiday in the USA. On the road can often be a good time to write. Words for lyrics come to you, and we can jam ideas in sound checks etc.
GN: When recording an album, do you use songs that were specifically written for the album or do you use songs that have been written at other times, perhaps years earlier?
P: Usually, the majority is current, quite fresh material. But often there is at least one song or idea that has been around for a lot longer. Take The World album. All the songs were written over about a two year period, apart from The Last Waltz, which was a song Nick and Peter demoed back in about 1986 which was reworked. Clive always uses most of the material he has written, and has used ideas in Shadowland and Arena from his two earliest bands “Sleepwalker” and “The Cast”.
GN: The Masquerade Overture has been hailed one of the greatest albums of all time by the fans of the band and reviewers at such sites as The Dutch Progressive Rock Page ( While preparing the next album, does this add extra pressure or do you just see it as the next album?
P: It does add extra pressure. You try and tell yourself that it doesn’t, but it does! Nick obviously feels this pressure more than anyone else as the main songwriter. But every album is hard to write. And because most of the Pendragon albums have always done better with each album, it doesn’t get any easier! If you leave a longer gap between albums, this also adds to the pressure, both financially, and because people tend to forget about you more!
GN: Pendragon being a Progressive band, does it happen that you write songs that are not Progressive?
P: We would generally say that it took us up to The World album to really find our true writing style. Kowtow was almost there, but still developing in a way, as we were still trying to secure a major record contract and single releases with Kowtow. It was done as an album demo initially for EMI Records. They turned it down!!
Nick’s writing style is really now the Pendragon sound, but he does write more instrumental stuff as well. Clive writes mainly progressive and some classical. Peter and Fudge write a mixture of progressive, rock and groove stuff.
GN: Does improvisation play an important role in your songwriting techniques?
P: Not really in Pendragon any more. Occasionally we might get something we like at a sound check, or during rehearsals. But we usually spend most of the time trying to relearn our existing songs on the cds!! Clive with Arena has written more stuff through improvisation, I think.
GN: Do you look for different methods of writing your songs?
P: We try to do something different for every album. Not every album will be a concept album, with several main themes being repeated in different arrangements. Some songs will be verse chorus, some will be through composed, which means that no ideas or themes repeat at all. The song just goes on evolving until it is finished! Sometimes you start with words and no music, sometimes with just a melody on one instrument, sometimes you have all the music written before you write any lyrics.
Every album is different. So, yes we’re always looking for new arrangements and song writing methods.
GN: A common question among the visitors to Guitarnoise: How do you resolve the issue of lack of inspiration?
P: There is no easy answer, unfortunately!! It depends on the particular songwriter’s approach. Clive is very good at working through songs and arrangements until they are either finished, or filed away to be looked at at a later date. Both Nick and Peter tend to just have a break from the song idea and go back to it on another day when they feel more inspired. You usually cannot force inspiration to come.
Its either there or its not. If its not, then it may be best to come back to it. However, sometimes, by reworking the song, and stripping it back down to its bones, or by adding just one part to it, or sometimes even by an accident, inspiration and new life can suddenly come to the song!
GN: Do you ever see yourself, at some time in the future, not writing songs?
P: No, not really. Either music is in you, or its not. If its in your heart then there’s a part of you that will always want to express that through writing songs or by jamming or improvising with other musicians. I think though, often as songwriters get older their output can diminish. In some ways songwriting can seem more difficult.
GN: If there were no more market for your material, would you consider trying some other style or would you keep writing the way you do?
P: I think to write the best music you have to be ‘true to yourself’. In other words, to write what naturally comes out of you, rather than always trying to adapt it to what the commercial marketplace demands.
Pendragon spent the first ten years compromising between trying to write commercial music and progressive music at the same time. Once we stopped worrying about what people wanted from us, our style came naturally. Its hard to say. I think everyone wants popularity, but I think the four of us would always want to write good emotional melodic music.
GN: Have you ever written for other people? If so, what are your thoughts on the subject?
P: Clive has written for other artists, like Tracy Hitchings and Oliver Wakeman, so he has the most experience out of the four of us. He has also done some film soundtrack music. Nick has written one or two bits and pieces for others, but not really much.
GN: What are your thoughts on co‑writing?
P: It depends very much on the particular band situation. There seem to be two main styles which work well. One is for 2 or 3 people to co-write together. Clive does this with Mick Pointer and John the guitarist in Arena very well. He coordinates between the three of them. In Pendragon, it is very much the other style, where you have one strong writer and one strong direction. Because Nick is the main writer and lyricist, it gives the band’s music a very strong and distinct identity and direction. Clive can put his songwriting energies into Arena and his solo projects, Peter into his solo albums, and Fudge is also starting to write a solo album.
Co-writing can be exciting as long as the egos are dealt with and you all know exactly where you stand within the writing partnership.
GN: Are there any techniques, methods, etc, that help you that you would like to share with the visitors to Guitar Noise?
P: We would say the most important thing is to be yourself. Write what comes out naturally. Go for good rhythms and strong melodies. Try not to use any corny lyrics, and go for a good strong vocal melody. Try to make the song build and develop, so that even if it is a verse chorus song, the instruments change throughout it in what they are doing. Try to put your own identity into the song, so that you sound recognisable and not too bland! But take heart, because it can take time to develop your own style. But it will come. Songwriting tends to improve over the years.

Questionnaire 2: The Independent Artists

GN: What was your original reason for going independent?
P: We couldn’t get a major record deal in the last half of the nineteen eighties. We had two independent deals, one with Elusive Records who put out an EP Fly High Fall Far, which is now on The Rest Of’ CD, and The Jewel, our first album release. The second deal was with Awareness Records, who put out 9:15 Live and a single, Red Shoes!
Both deals fizzled out when our singles didn’t take off, and our album sales were not big enough to keep the record companies’ interest!!
We were always chasing that elusive major record contract, but never quite got it. The closest we got was to demo the whole of what was the Kowtow album for EMI Records, only to find that the man who might have signed us up was leaving the company!! So, we either faced giving up as a band, or starting to put our own releases out, because no one else would sign us!!
GN: When you decided to go independent, start your own label, record your own albums, what were the problems you encountered for which you were surprised?
P: You find yourself on a very steep learning curve! Our first problem was money! We were already in debt by several thousand pounds, but we managed to find a very kind and trusting bank manager, who was a Marillion fan too, to lend us 5 thousand pounds to get started!!
The next problem was finding and setting up distribution deals in all the main countries. We managed to find a guy at Pinnacle, our UK distribution company, who likes progressive/melodic rock music, and he gave us a chance! We concentrated initially on getting releases in our strongest countries, Holland, France, Germany and the UK.
Getting cds made and booklets produced can be a real nightmare too, because something can always go wrong, and being the artist as well as the label, you know exactly how perfect you want everything to be!
GN: Writing songs, recording albums, touring, running a record label, promoting, dealing with the day‑to‑day realities of management must be a full‑time job. How do you cope with all this?
P: Well, for the first couple of years, Nick more or less ran everything by himself, doing a bread round from 5 o’clock in the morning, and then starting work in the office at ten. So he had to be in bed by about 9 o’clock at night! The rest of us struggled to earn money just to help keep ourselves afloat. Fudge did all kinds of things, Clive was trying to earn his money by setting up a recording studio, Thin Ice.
And Peter was working in various different office temping jobs. Fortunately, after we did our fist release Kowtow, after a while Nick was able to give up the bread round and work full time running the company!! It all consumed most of our time.
GN: Would you be willing to sacrifice the absolute control you now have over your material in exchange for a lucrative contract with a major label?
P: It would really depend on the company and the contract in question. Everyone wants to be successful, and sell lots of albums, but we’re not really bothered about being ‘famous’ or anything. Sometimes it can be a real hindrance. We do our own thing, are true to ourselves musically, and can earn just enough to live on and to keep producing albums and touring. If we found a company who were genuine and liked this kind of music enough, then it might be a possibility. But we haven’t found such a company yet!!
GN: Do the pressures you face ever make you feel like just stopping?
P: Yes!!! But not so much these days. When you have no deal, no money, no house, no recognition, and you’re travelling around the country in the back of a van which keeps breaking down, and have to come in from a gig and go straight out to a day job too ‑ or you have to keep changing jobs to suit the music ‑ then you seriously think about giving up!!!
Our lowest points have been in the very early 80s before we met Marillion, and in the very late 80s when we couldn’t get any kind of major or minor deal. But the funny thing is, all the years of struggling make any kind of minor success much more worth while. You appreciate it so much more because you’ve all struggled together. We often make the quote about ourselves ‑ ‘Pendragon, the band who refused to give up’!!
We’ve been through all the ego thing and a lot of struggling, and I’m sure there’s more to come. But now, we’re just 4 good friends who enjoy working together.
GN: What would be your advice to someone who wants to embark on the independent adventure?
P: I would say, be realistic. It’s a risk. For all the small companies that start, probably half of them fail. You need to get some financial backing. You need to aim for a specific market. Don’t try to appeal to everyone, because then you may not appeal to any one in particular.
You need to find a band or artist to build your label around, who is going to have a degree of success. You can branch out later. The band needs to build up a sales base. We were fortunate, in that we did hundreds of club gigs in the UK before the rock circuit began to die.
And the 2 real breakthroughs for us were playing at the Marquee Club in London, first as a support, and then as a headline, and then supporting Marillion on a concert hall tour. Everyone needs an element of providence, or good fortune, and this exposure gave us enough sales to build a label on.
GN: Is there a measure of respect and support among independent artists?
P: Yes, I think so, because you know how hard it is yourself, you appreciate how hard it is for others. Not every small label survives.
Any of us can go under at any time. So there is a lot of mutual respect.
GN: What problems do you face when dealing with distributors?
P: Getting them to pay!!!! Getting them to pay before you go under!! Building a friendship with them, and building their confidence in your abilities as a business, and your ability to sell and market your own product. Knowing what deals to do, how much people can afford themselves, helping each other out. Language barriers can be a problem sometimes too! But trust, friendship, fairness and building confidence are the most important things. And when dealers send cds back rather than paying their bill can be difficult, if you had relied on that money!!
GN: Booking agents you approach may not know of you due to the fact that you are independent. Has this ever caused problems with booking?
P: Yes. Because of the size of Pendragon, we have to be realistic. If we wanted to do a concert hall tour in the UK, we wouldn’t be able to find anyone to promote it, because we wouldn’t fill up the venues enough. So you have to book gigs in each country according to your popularity in that particular place. For example, in many places we would play club size gigs, but in Holland for example, we have been able to play venues of up to two thousand people. Our name is known enough to usually get club, or sometimes college gigs. But obviously we don’t have the power that big companies have to book gigs.
GN: The fans respond positively to your music. Does this make the adventure worthwhile?
P: Ultimately, this is what keeps us going. I’m sure if there weren’t people there to buy the cds and come to the gigs, then we would give up!!! The people are everything in terms of appreciation. Everyone needs encouragement in order to keep going and to keep believing that what you are doing is right. Even if there were no people interested though, because music is in our blood, I’m sure we would make a few cds just for ourselves, because we like the music. And we would still play live, if not with each other, then at least in various other live situations.
GN: Do you personally feel that there is really a chance for the independents to make a significant mark on the whole recording industry and perhaps change it?
P: I think the independents already have made quite a big mark on the record industry. If bands can’t get any kind of deal then they either have to do it themselves, or perhaps give up and split up! We are lucky in that home recording has become so good quality and so cheap now that it is possible to make cds on a tight budget. I think there are other options now for bands who can’t get major deals, whereas before there weren’t in the same way. The industry has widened out.
There are many many more small labels and this has made it easier to get deals with distribution companies, because they recognize the small labels now, whereas before they didn’t. From an individual point of view too, we never made a penny out of our deals signed to other people. We only ended up in debt. It was only when we went independent and set up our own company that, after the risk, we finally saw some money back.
It will never be big sales, big money, or as secure, but it can be very satisfying!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pendragon - Pure (New Album)

I can't re-tell about their previous since I don't have it, but I can say that from Masquerade Overture to Pure, it's definitely a new band. On this one Pendragon takes a bit more than just Genesis and Pink Floyd as their main influences, you can hear some Prog-Metal/Heavy Prog in the majority of the songs, rather than the semi-soft sound of the 90's with a lot of melody and stunning Moog solos. Pendragon of the 90's here is almost gone, except for Nick's stunning guitar solos, the rest is history:

The album launches with Indigo, a 13 minute song divided brutally in two halfs; the first half being dark and heavy, dominated by Nick's powerful guitar, Clive's keys are barely present and doesn't showcase's his talent; the second half is compromised by a soft rythm, very Floydish, lead mainly by Nick's guitar solo. I really don't think the passage from heavy to soft here is very well achieved, seems like 2 completely different songs, which it would have been better if they were seperated. Still, a powerful, though unexpected, intro for this album.

The next song is Eraserhead. Another song that is quite unexpected from them, from the semi-frantic intro with the un-typical Moog(for Pendragon) to the typical Pendragon chorus with Nick's nice voice. The song has a lot variation, once again, ending with some odd keyboard chords, but soon to Nick's unforgettable guitar.

-From the first 2 songs, you can't expect the typical Pendragon. You hear a much more fierceful band, exploring new territories as the ones mentioned before.-

The album continues with the three part epic, Comatose. Part 1 and 2 embraces all of the characteristics mentioned before. Some very heavy riffing and odd sounds performed by Clive. Part 3 is a bit more typical Pendragon, but you can definitely hear a different climax, the climax you heard on The Window of Life or Masquerade Overture is gone forever(well at least in this album). In general, it's a quite good performed and thought epic, it's just a bit of nostalgia of their old sound that makes it feel a bit weak for me.

For more oddities, you have The Freak Show. A heavy pop song. Besides the metal-ish opener, the song is quite simple compared to the rest of the songs of the album, once again the keyboards have a minor role on the song. Overall, a catchy heavy song.

The album ends with the romantic, semi-depressing(not a bad thing), It's Only Me. The song develops from the soft melody of Nick's guitar and Clive's piano, to a bit more powerful but still gentle on vocals, with Nick's fantastic guitar solo giving a special touch to the song. A nice ending to the album.

You may think that I don't like bands to change of style or that I'm close-minded, I must say that I like very much when bands change of style even more when they're stuck and don't know what to do, other than repeat old formulas. But in this case, the change of direction is quite radical and unexpected, still it creates a heck-of a album with some stunning compositions as the epic or Indigo. In the end a well crafted album, but with some misses like the focus on Nick's guitar, or having some experimentations which could have been omitted or done it better, also Clive's role in this album is almost null, which in Pendragon's case the keyboards have a very important role.

Pendragon - Breaking the Spell ( Live )

Pendragon - Breaking the Spell ( Live ), from Believe Tour 200. Enjoy!

The Masquerade Overture

This album is widely regarded as Pendragon's best ever album. I am not an expert on this band so I do not know. But I will now express my opinion on this album and this album alone.

The opening title track promises a symphonic prog album, but the rest does not quite deliver on this promise.... We are talking symphonic neo prog, the PENDRAGON way. The second track As Good As Gold is as far as I am aware of their best ever track. It is catchy neo prog and just neo prog. Maybe the best neo prog out there. Paintbox is a rather dull track and best forgotten. The Pursuit Of Excellense is a short hymn, badly let down by Mr. Barrett's vocals. ENYA does this better than you, Mr Barrett. The next track is the excellent Guardian Of My Soul.... or is it Guardian Of Genesis Legacy ? This track comes across as a mix of neo-prog and GENESIS like symphonic prog. The track is excellent and my comments is meant in a complimentary way. This is PENDRAGON at their best. The next track is also a long track called The Shadow. It starts out as a ballad and develops into a symphonic tune at the end. Excellent. The closing track Masters Of Illusion is also very good with some good keys and vocals.

I am not a fan of neo-prog, but I really like this album. This is an album which largely bridge the gap between neo prog and symphonic prog. The artwork also underlines this. As a symphonic prog fan, this is an album close to my heart.

Nick Barret interview

Believe - Cover art

Just before the new Pendragon album, Believe, was released I had an interview with Pendragon's driving force Nick Barrett. It had taken quite some time to release a new album so of course that was discussed.

By coincidence another subject became a very prominent part of the interview: On the day of the interview I found out Nick had been replying on the DPRP forum because of a discussion on the Believe promo. So the first question in this interview was like handed to me, it had to be asked.

Dries: There was some fuzz on our forum over someone copying the promo of Believe. Once everything was sorted out it appeared it was just a joke amongst friends. You replied on the forum, what made you reply?

Nick: Having been away for 4 years things have changed, The (computer) culture is really different now, and I try to explain to people that putting albums together is very hard and it's expensive work and when you see people just kind of throwing it around: "yeah, I'll do you copy" It kind of takes the joy out of doing it, it's disrespectful to do that.

I want people to know this, the computer culture has become so strong now that people almost don't care, I think it is ok if people say: "we've copied it we've heard it we've downloaded it, we will buy the album", I have had e-mails like that. Well ok, but there are people out there who won't buy the album. And you have to look at records sales 10 years ago and record sales now. It's pitiful. You can ask any record label or band of this sort of ilk. Bands that have been managing to survive 25, 30 years now finding it, for the first time, harder than ever. They still have to put out a lot of money for the production of the album, artwork, engineers costs, production and studio costs and their probably getting a third of the sales and maybe even less in some cases. It means that bands like Pendragon, IQ, Arena are all getting a harder time selling records than they've had before. These are not kind of big bands with big major labels, they're small bands.

But I have always thought that progressive prog fans were more willing to pay for their albums than let say the average mainstream music lover. But still you see that you and other bands are getting less income?

Yeah unfortunately it's true, music has become cheapened because mainstream music has set a price that is trying to undercut everything else because of downloading. So they say: "If we have to compete with downloading the real item will have to be cheaper" Which is some cases is ok I have now problem with that but is also means that smaller bands have got to cut the costs, just look at the Camel web site, their CD's are very cheap for what they are. A lot of bands have got to really cut back on this. It's surprises me that people want the special version and then they want the special extra version and then they want the extra special version with the 2 CD's and the DVD and then they want the special special version with the 2 CD's, the DVD and the free leather jacket and the car. It's gone ridiculous, people forget about the album. We sort of did this, we gave the DVD's away free with the CD's, or at least the amount that we charge them is just for the production, of actually making the DVD. I sometimes feel that maybe it's gone too far, they've become more of a thing to collect than a piece of emotional music. I am noticing this, having been away for four years, I am noticing this quite a lot.

A lot has changed. For instance Don Henley states artists are no longer artists but something the record companies call content providers.

That's right. But, I hate to say this, I am even hearing it from some bands and musicians, they've almost become as robotic as the people that kind of sell this stuff or upload or download it. This whole culture has swept the world in such a severe way that people almost go like: "do I really need something with, dare I say: emotions". It's very scary because In some ways we are losing our humanness by having this kind of throw away thing with music, well it does not really matter about the music because next week there will be something else.

I just think people that like "our kind of music" are not like that, they want their music to mean something and they want it to not expire right away.

Nick Barrett - 2005

I really hope so: that's one of the last hopes for the musical scene. I know that people who have downloaded the stuff say they will buy the albums. I have yet to see how this is going to translate with our new album when it has been released. You know when you put your heart and soul into something and you wait for that day to be released that's not like how it is anymore. It's already available and people can't wait. This is the same thing with children. It's like with my son he wanted a motor cross bike but I made him wait before he had it, he did not just have it. This is the culture nowadays, the have everything on credit, they want it now now now and it's even gone as far as music. One thing I read on your site's forum was this one guy talking about an album he had downloaded and he did not like so he thought why should he buy it anyway. This is kind of a funny amazing way of thinking, if you buy an oil painting from an art gallery you can't take it back after a week because you changed your mind. It's a piece of art it's not a set of drinking glasses (laughs), "They don't go with my kitchen I want to take them back". Music is a bit of a risk anyway, anything artistic is a risk. if they want it to be a 100% safe they should not buy music, they should buy sets of knives and forks, you can take those back. It's a weird way of thinking I am not really in tune with. If I buy an album I want that album because of the music on it, I probably have heard it before I buy it.

In the same message on our forum mentioned above you write a sentence: " I have longed and dreamt of getting the band back together properly for the last 9 years" Could you please explain what you mean by that?

When we did the Masquerade we were touring regularly and we were really doing some things we wanted to do for the whole of our life: playing tours in countries we never imagined we would go to, we were playing in South America, we were playing in Chili, Argentina, it is incredible, releasing albums, build up a good following. After that because of the problems with my marriage the whole lot just fell apart and it was impossible to keep it together but even then the band has always been there and we managed to get Not Of This world released. Same kind of problems: the problems that people don't really realise like find the money to put albums out, every band is different a lot of bands have good jobs they don't do music for all times so they can afford to use their own money to making albums. There is a lot of variations but we were not in that position. I don't want to put out something for the sake of putting it out, I want it to be as good as it can be. So after Not Of This World there was another lay-off for four years with all kinds of problems. I tried to sell my house, financial problems, personal problems and it just took a long time. So I feel the last nine years were not spend doing music they were spend trying to just hold things together. And I really wanted to get back and make albums regularly, go on tour regularly again and get back to doing what it was we do.

I spoke to Andy Latimer (Camel) about this. A long time ago there was a period of time after Stationary Traveler they didn't make an album for 7 years. Not one album. And if you say to him why not. He would say "I don't know the problems with setting up the production company, move to America, take over your life". You need to be ready to do it and I think Pendragon are - We're ready. I am more settled now and have time to do music.

So your main occupation is still music?

yeah, it's a bit like the Camel thing you question yourself so much you need to kind of be reborn, it is like a death, you are reborn in a different way. With this album we are reborn in a different way. It's always been like that with Pendragon years and years we were just not been able to hold it together in the way would have liked, but never got away from the music and then we come back and everything has come together and people are enthusiastic to the music and the whole kind of image of the band has come back with something something new to say in the music. You come to a point you realise music is the most important thing in your life.

I have been doing other things in the time we were away. Not business more hobby things I enjoyed to do. But music is my real job it is were my passion is.

Clive Nolan is very prolific. At a certain point it was almost like if Clive Nolan is not on it, it is not progressive rock (at the time of Strangers On A Train etc.) Is there a reason you only stick to Pendragon?

There's many different reasons. It comes back to differences in life style. Clive when he started doing music he really had a hard time to get somebody to release one of his albums with his music. It wasn't until Willibrod from SI magazine released the Strangers On A Train album that things really started to happen with Clive. So you got to bear in mind that he had years and years of music ready. I knew Clive when he was in a band called Sleepwalker, I reckon personally that Sleepwalker was one of the best progressive rock bands around with really good songs and only a few people have heard of them. This was early in the 1980's all the way through 91, 92 so when he finally got and find an outlet for what he was doing suddenly he realised he couldn't stop (laughs) he had so many albums inside him it was like turning a tab on it just flooded out. Suddenly he had an outlet and a record company and someone to release albums.

Is it hard for you to have him "stay put" in Pendragon?

Oh no, it is really easy. We came to a understanding, well it somehow came to be that with all the projects, Pendragon was as much of a part of him. So he made time to do it. I think he kind of enjoys Pendragon because there is a bit less responsibilities for him. You know in Arena he writes the music it is very much his sort of thing together with Mick (Pointer). Because of that he feels of course more pressured. We have known each other for so long, when he comes to Pendragon it is perhaps more of a relaxed atmosphere. All he has to do is play the music and he does not have to worry about what is going to happen. So, that's the trade off, it works out quite well.

On the web site their are some notes on Believe and it appears the content matter of this album are the result of a lot of thinking. There is something about alien intervention. There is something on how you 'live and learn', the song Learning Curve. Was it started because of the problems in your marriage? Did you reach some sort of conclusion?

Well I don't know people are looking for some kind of Neal Morse awakening through religion. That's not really the case, I think sometimes you have to go away from what you are doing and experience almost the opposite of what you were doing sometimes. Obviously some of the material of Not Of This World was based on the problems with my marriage. After that I have been doing a lot of thinking and soul seeking and did some physical things, I started surfing again which I used to love when I was 12 year old and I started to get back into dirt bike riding as well. That's on the physical side. I started to become more and more interested in spirituality, well I was already interested, and my mum suggested to me a guy called David Icke, who's written these books about the structure of this world, and because of what my mum has told me over the many years, that she believes in aliens, she's always telling me, this stuff, spiritual things. There is this spiritual church in England that you can go to, I have been there a couple of times with her and I really enjoys this kind of area, there's a great passion about spiritual things and ghosts and positive and negative energy and this kind of thing. I started to read this David Icke's books and thought "crikey, this guy is really mad," well he does sound that. But when you start to think about it a lot more you think, "well, he might have a point." You know a lot of things we take for granted might actually be set up. Or a lot of thing like the conspiracy theories, well this all was kind of new to me, one end of this is a very spiritual side a positive and a negative energy invading or day to day life, which I am really convinced it does. And on the other side of the coin are this very conspiracy based ideas that the government had done certain things to people, history has done things I never knew, because of the way we were taught. It's like the beginning of our new album, the first lyric is "and do you believe Darwin's theory of evolution". That line is there because I did hear, or I read it in the David Icke's book. Darwin, towards the end of his life did not believe his own theories. And these are things you were never taught at school, we just took it for granted, the theory of evolution. Maybe there is another answer, there might be another point of view. And that's were the whole idea came from.

You spoke of Neal Morse and his sudden change of life, I see that Peter Gee also did some work on gospel albums, is it something you discuss? We had a big discussion on our forum on Neal Morse. Most of it was about if you should or should not write lyrics like that or if you should or should not comment on them.

I find it really strange, I can't understand people who say "you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that." It is kind of musical nazism, fascism, really I think you should be able to sing pretty much of everything. Music has a very strong spiritual kind of aspect to it, I think. So if someone wants to sing about their Christian believes: let em! I don't see the problem, if people don't like it, don't buy it.

Strange thing is that we don't have arguments about lyrics in death metal.

Personally I think we have some kind of responsibility to bring some kind of light into this world. I have no problem with Neal Morse doing that, on a personal matter. But even if I didn't: does it matter if someone is singing about going shopping or when their singing about their christian believes. That's part of music isn't it? If you want to have a chairman ruled country, where you can say this or can't write about that go on and live in China.

You were on ProgAID sometime ago. And it got good attention inside prog circles but next to that nothing really happened, it did not get picked up on radio or tv. Doesn't that annoy you?

Well, I don't know. It is very difficult for a radio station to sit there and say: "we have got another tsunami record" but I don't know. It doesn't really bother me. It is of course nice if it does well but it is important that people do some kind of effort towards contributing to it. It is obviously better if everyone went there with a spade and a shovel and literally build some houses. But you know people are thinking: "what can we do?". Well we can raise some money and then it does not really matter if it's 200 quid or 2 million quid, 200 quid at least you have done something. 2 million quid is made up of lot's of 200 quids. And it is a long way to go to get that, I don't know what they made on prog aid, but if they made say a few 1000 pounds that's virtually a house. If you turn around to all the people involved was it worth all the effort to do this, you have to turn around and say:"yes". We made some money that helped and if it's part of what helped then it has been worth it.

What I mean: if Britney Spears says something about it, it might become world news.

I hear what you're saying, but it is impossible to answer, I can't judge if someone that's really famous should or shouldn't do it. Of course it has impact if someone like that gets involved. Everyone does the bit he or she can do. I wasn't really disappointed it did not become a hit single, I never thought it would be. I just thought if it will do something it is fantastic. If we raise a couple of thousands quit: brilliant. It is more than I could raise on my own for it. And I know some of the other guys felt the same.

I was at an IQ concert during their 20th anniversary tour. During this concert Peter Nicholls asked: "who of you will be in a place called Hardenberg tomorrow?" Hardenberg is a small town in the northeast of the Netherlands, so I thought: "they have been doing music for 20 years and still they go to Hardenberg to perform for no more than 500 people. How can you keep doing that?"

That's an incredibly interesting question, very relevant. most of the bands that do this have, over the 20 years, developed a reason for doing it. You kind of do after 20 years (laughs). You ask yourself why, and if you don't come up with a good answer chances are you might pack it in. My take on it is that there are a few different reasons, when you look at the alternatives of what kind of lifestyle is out there and then you look at the opportunity to play music to people, who will know your music and love it and it will mean something to them, deeply mean something to them, not just kind of go along and think yeah, good band. If you have 200 people doing that about something you've created, when you are actually playing there, it doesn't matter if it's 200 or (we're back to the progaid argument, aren't we) 2 million. Performing a concert is pretty much the same. Obviously if you're playing to a lot of people you feel like: we really made it big, this is fantastic, huge and everything. But the bigger, large more prestigious concerts we've done have not been the more enjoyable ones, because there's more at stake. Like when we played the music center, Vredenburg on the Window Of Life tour it was an extremely stressed out day. It is a big challenge, it's nice to have a bit of a challenge but it doesn't have the feeling like you walk on stage you pick up your instruments and you play your hearts out. There is a slight lack of stress because of that, that is actually what I find enjoyable about doing music: walking on stage and playing something that your into, is an incredible feeling whether it is 200 people or 20.000 people, it is still good. The bigger it is, though, I have historically found it is less enjoyable, but I don't know I have never played Wembley stadium. So maybe if they stick me in Wembley stadium I would say: this is good, you can't tell. You also could think like: I could have been a plumber nobody will then turn to you and say ooh, I really like your work. You get that side of things as well. Being a musician is an interesting life, it has it's ups and downs but as Rod Stewart said:"never a dull moment".

I just realised that The Jewel was released 20 years ago, so shouldn't you be doing a anniversary tour?

We have actually been looking into that, talking about it on our web site. I nearly chopped my finger off (on the braking disc of a motor cycle) so we had to delay that for a while plus I tried to get all the original members of Pendragon back together for a great big show, not sure what we will do. We were gonna play in a small local place and have a little party, or maybe do it at London or go to Poland and shoot a DVD. Because it is pretty historical, these guys like Nigel Harris and Rick Carter will not be there all the time to do a concert. It would be a great thing if we would do that and play some of the old material. Whether it is this year, probably not because we have so much to do with this new album, so we'll have to make it a 21st anniversary. I hope we will get away with it.

Hopefully you like the album. It is always absolutely terrifying, you are not really sure how it is going to end up. I am surprised because the first review I read of it was on prog archives and this guy just hated it. Some of my friends were like: "yeah it is good but they did not really say anything else so I thought crikey we have baked a real turkey". And then other people really, really liked it, it is a little bit different, well I didn't realise it was this different I didn't think it was this different. But some people say it is.

Mostly that is a good thing.

Yeah. It is like our distributor in Canada said: it is like different levels. There is a level that is completely new but I can still hear Pendragon.

Fish wrote a song about that, waiting for your album to be released: Pipeline.

One of the songs on our next album is called Feeding Frenzy, like chunks of blooded water and fish heads. these sharks just go mad at it and chew it to bits.

Is there anything we did not cover and you would like tell to our readers?

I would like to say to people: Please respect our wishes about downloading or burning the album because if this culture continues in such a run-a-way fashion, you will be seeing a lot less of the bands that you like. It has already become quite difficult for quite a lot of bands. I suppose in some way, as bands, we have got to try and work with this way of going. We are very fortunate that in the progressive rock area people are at least passionate about the music they like and that's it. We could be in some other awful area of music that you grow out of in 2 years. But with this, it is kind of a passion. I really do hope that people who like prog maintain that passion and keep it and don't let it get cheapened by downloading and not really caring . There is a lot of effort that has gone into these album. I kind of say the fans and the audience have got to make some effort as well. We're all in this together. Playing a gig is about the band and the audience. We're all there, we're all doing it. So it is in everyone's interest to try and make sure it carries on. Otherwise all the progressive rock bands will become Dinosaurs (laughs) and we will all be extinct as the British press so loves calling us.


Clive Nolan

Clive Nolan (born 30 June 1961[1]) is a British musician, composer and producer who has played a prominent role in the recent development of progressive rock. He has been the regular keyboard player in Pendragon (1986 - current), Shadowland (1992 - current), Strangers on a Train (1993 - 1994) and Arena (1995 - current), as well as writing lyrics for Arena and producing or co-producing several other bands' albums. In an interview he claimed that the only reason he can manage so many projects at once is that he has no life outside music.[citation needed]

In 1999 Nolan teamed up with Oliver Wakeman to create the all-new progressive rock album Jabberwocky. This album was released under Verglas label. A vast array of artists was involved in this project, including Peter Banks (Yes), Peter Gee (Pendragon), Ian Salmon (Shadowland, Janison Edge) on guitar and Tracy Hitchings (Quasar, Gandalf, Strangers on a Train, Landmarq) vocals. Rick Wakeman narrates the piece. Some vocal parts are performed by Michelle Young.

[edit] Recent career

In 1998, he played synth solos on Ayreon's album Into the Electric Castle; and again in 2000 on Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer (on the song "2084", sung by Lana Lane) and Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator (on the song "Into the Black Hole", which was sung by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, with backing vocals by Lane).

In 2002, Nolan created a musical adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, also featuring Tracy Hitchings on vocals, with Karl Groom (Shadowland), Arjen Lucassen and Peter Banks on guitars, Peter Gee and John Jowitt (IQ) on Bass and Tony Fernández on drums. Vocalists playing characters in the story include Robert Powell as Doctor John Watson, Bob Catley as Sir Henry Baskerville, Michelle Young as Mrs Laura Lyons, and Ashley Holt as Doctor James Mortimer.

In 2003 Nolan wrote lyrics for Edge of Sanity's "Crimson II".

In 2004, Nolan also sang backing vocals for Dragonforce's second album Sonic Firestorm. There is also a video of Clive Nolan playing a keyboard solo on Dragonforce's official website.

Nolan has performed a number of concerts with Nick Barrett, Pendragon's lead singer, as Nolan & Barrett, playing what they describe as stripped-down versions of songs by Nolan's bands using only acoustic guitar, electric piano and vocals. One of such concerts was released on DVD as A Rush of Adrenaline (2006).

Nolan is currently working with Polish singer Agnieszka Swita in the project "Caamora". The two have released EPs Closer (2006), Walk On Water (2007), Embrace (2008), and a double-CD and DVD rock opera She (2008), a musical version of the 19th-century novel She.

Nolan collaborated with Dragonforce again on their 2008 release Ultra Beatdown, wherein he performed additional keyboards and backing vocals.

Nolan has recently announced that Shadowland has been reformed for a European tour that will take place during 2009 to promote a "best of" compilation album and record a live DVD.

Pendragon Bio

PENDRAGON were formed in Stroud, England in 1978. Originally known as ZEUS PENDRAGON it was decided fairly early on to drop the "ZEUS" as co-founder Julian Baker felt it was too wordy to fit on a t-shirt! There were several line up changes in the early days, members included Julian Baker (co-founder/guitar) Nigel Harris (drums) Stan Cox (bass) Robert Dalby (bass) John Barney Barnfield (keys) Rik Carter (keys). The one constant key element was Nick Barrett. The line up then remained the same for almost 20 years, featuring : Nick Barrett (guitar/lead vocal) Clive Nolan (keys) Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums), until 2006 when PENDRAGON and Fudge Smith parted ways. Todate there have been 21 releases from PENDRAGON who set up their own label "TOFF RECORDS" in the late 1980's following the release of "The Jewel" and "KowTow" (as well as a couple of mini albums). "The Masquerade Overture" is probably their most acclaimed work todate. Although a recent change of direction with "Believe" has seen opinions somewhat split, it is definitely a remarkable album and maybe showing a move away from classic Neo-Prog.(Sursa)