Jerry Lucky: Fans are able to read the details about the band’s formation on your MySpace page, but can you share with us the short story of how Supernal Endgame came together and maybe tell us something that’s not in the official bio?
John: Well, Rob and I actually met in high school and quickly discovered that we were both musicians and excited about the same bands. We immediately formed a band with other schoolmates.
Rob: This was back in the late 70s. We called ourselves “Ignition.” Thinking back, our logo probably should’ve involved a set of keys dangling from a steering column, but I think we had something “cooler” in mind – “3 … 2 … 1 … ignition!” – that sort of thing.
John: It’s funny, but early on – even as kids – we both just kind of assumed that we would always be in each other’s musical lives.
Rob: Weird, but true.
John: A unique musical kinship and friendship was forged … and here we still are. There have been several years where we have lived in separate states, yet we have always stayed in touch and collaborated on various projects.
JL: So when did you guys hook up with Dan – how did that happen?
John: Dan entered the picture in 1993 in a band we all played in …
Dan: I had just finished playing in another band with a friend of mine, who had recently met John. I got a copy of a cassette tape from him and he told me, “Hey these guys want to put something together.” I listened to that tape until it wouldn’t play anymore and thought, “Yep, I need to work with these guys.” Not only are they great musically, but they are just great guys to work with, period.
John: Then about eight years ago, Rob and I reconnected with Dan because we both felt that he was a perfect fit musically and personality-wise for what we wanted to do with this band.
JL: What was your overall motivation in forming a band? I’m guessing you all have day jobs so rock super-stardom probably wasn’t the primary goal?
Rob: You know, if we had gotten this kind of an opportunity back in the ‘80s, I’m not sure how well we would’ve handled it. It may well turn out to have been providential that things have fallen together when they have and the way they have. We’re a bit more level-headed than we were back then, and we all have more of a “big picture” perspective on the music business … and on the business of making music together as a team.
John: True. We’re way past the rock star dream. We create music simply because we must, regardless of whether anyone else ever hears it. It’s just a part of who we are. We formed this band because we love creating and playing music together. Now we obviously want others to hear it and enjoy it – that’s why we’ve been very happy to sign on with ProgRock Records. But you don’t make progressive rock to become rich and famous, that’s for sure. And when you add our faith-based lyrical content to the equation, you have an album that is more of an honest statement of whom we are and where we’re coming from rather than an attempt to be “the next big thing.”
Dan: I don’t know what you guys are talkin’ about. Who wants a day job? It’s always been about the super-stardom. Didn’t we talk about this?
Rob: It appears that our “dark secret” is out … [grins]
JL: OK, so how did you settle on the name Supernal Endgame?
John: We actually went by the name “Touch the Sky” for a while – a reference to our lyrical content which was meant to be songs specifically directed toward the Divine. As ideas for future projects emerged that did not specifically fit that theme, it made more sense to change the name of the band and call the project “Touch the Sky” instead. And so “Touch the Sky” will be issued in two volumes, the first of which was just released.
At that point I personally wanted to call the band “Endgame,” but it turned out that that name was taken. “Endgame” was a reference to what life is ultimately all about – to what is the “endgame” or “strategy” or “point” of all that happens to us in our lives. We added “supernal” as a reference to the divine source and perspective of where all of human history is heading. In the end, the name choice came down to “Cosmic Endgame” or “Supernal Endgame” and we ended up going with the latter.
Dan: I just thought it was kinda catchy.
JL: There are any number of musical directions you could have taken with your music. What drew you to the progressive rock genre?
John: “Touch the Sky” wasn’t initially intended to be a progressive project, but that style kept creeping in and we finally decided to just let it go where it wanted to go. Prog is a part of our musical DNA since we grew up with it and have always enjoyed music that reaches beyond the restrictions of the four minute prefab formula.
Rob: I’m a fan of all kinds of prog, but in my playing I tend to favor more of a groove-oriented approach. I love the style of players like Dave Weckl and Rod Morgenstein.
But believe it or not (and people – mainly John – look at me funny when I tell them this), but I actually have an idea … a concept for an extreme prog-metal album that I would like to tackle at some point. One of the obstacles to this is that at this point in my life I often feel like I’m a little too set in my ways to tackle the learning curve and master the double-bass drum thing.
Not that I want to “rest on my laurels” (such as they are), or shy away from learning new techniques, but when I hear people like the embarrassingly innovative Gene Hoglan – not to mention the “olde masters” like Neal Peart, Terry Bozzio, and more recently Mike Portnoy – when I hear what these guys are doing with double-pedal technique, as a guy with a family and a calling that doesn’t always involve music, I’m fairly intimidated by what it would require for me time-wise to rewire my playing in that direction. But anything’s possible – you never know …
Dan: I have a very eclectic musical taste (we all do). Everything from
classical to jazz to rock, folk and chicken pickin’ … I think what I like about progressive rock is that you can actually blend
many different genres of music together to create something that is extremely eclectic and has something to offer everyone. For
instance on “Still Believe,” there is a breakdown where you get the violin, somewhat reminiscent of
JL: Thinking back … was there a “prog moment” in your musical history that prompted you to say, “yeah, that’s the kind of music I want to make”?
Rob: There were many, I’m sure. One for me was seeing Rush perform “The Spirit of Radio” live at the Texas Jam in – I think it was 1979, and “Permanent Waves” had not even been released yet, so this was the first time I’d heard the song. It was for me a perfect fusion of AOR and out-of-the-box prog, and to this day it’s one of my favorites. Also, seeing Pat Travers perform earlier that same day really captured my imagination for groove-oriented prog. “Go For What You Know” is still a huge influence, particularly on my drumming style. But I could go on and on about this question …
remember when I started identifying with a bunch of prog bands while growing up. Rush and
Dan: When I was a kid
our neighbor worked at the
JL: Are there artists or bands that you would say really inspired you in some fashion?
Rob: Well, I’ve already named quite a number of mine, so …
John: I have tons of them. I’ve always gravitated toward bands that emphasized song craft
and hooks. I’ve also preferred artsy or progressive arrangements. As I said,
Dan: OK, here is a plug: David Mallett. He is a folk singer and songwriter from back home in
JL: On the CD Touch the Sky you have some input from people like Roine Stolt and Randy George. How did you come to enlist the musical input from your guest musicians?
John: The wonderful world of the internet! I met Roine on the Flower Kings Yahoo discussion group as he is a regular contributor there. After a couple years, as we were nearing the end of recording “Touch the Sky,” I got the idea to ask him to play on a tune. We caught him at just the right time as he was preparing to record some tracks of his own and was set up for it. He just happened to have a couple of days in which to do it (which is rare, since he is constantly working on some project).
I met Randy on the ‘net as well. I just asked him outright to play on a few songs. We hired him to do it, of course, but he has been a friend to us as well, giving us helpful advice on the biz.
Dan: Of course, if Al Gore had not invented the internet, none of this would’ve been possible. Thanks Al!
JL: Let’s talk about the lyrical content, because it’s decidedly spiritual in nature and – based on what I’ve read – intentionally so … I’m interested in why you chose that approach?
John: Well, the prog world has a way of attracting spiritual people – whether they be Christians or new agers or whatever. Rob, Dan and I are all followers of Jesus Christ, and we wanted to express our gratitude to Him in our music. Although we may write on non-religious subjects on future releases, we are in no way shy about our faith, and because of the importance it holds in our lives, it will always just naturally be a component of our message.
The lyrics on this project are actually (for the most part) directed toward God Himself, as opposed to speaking to the listener “about” Him. The way I see it, when someone does something for you, it’s kind of rude to not thank them for it. Touch the Sky is an expression of our gratitude to God for all He has done for us. Even if I wasn’t sure that God existed, I would probably thank Him just in case He does exist. I see no need to compartmentalize my life into sacred vs. secular categories. And at this point in our lives, we all feel that life is too short to worry about what others think of us.
Dan: My only contribution to this CD – other than playing – was the “Gossamer Strings” composition. It’s a totally instrumental piece, and yet it’s still worship. I agree with John – we will always give thanks to God wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
Rob: That’s “just how we roll” …
JL: You’ve identified the compositions on “Touch the Sky Vol. I” as “worship music,” but is there a specific theme or concept running through the songs?
John: I would say that the worship theme is a loose concept governing all the songs. If pressed, I might add that the themes of grace and mercy are predominant. But I would stop short of calling it a concept album.
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Supernal Endgame is a band that has been
around in a variety of permutations for some time,
but it is now that they've chosen to make their mark...and they've chosen to do it in the progressive rock genre...not an easy task, but when you read how balanced and down to earth these guys are I think you'll agree they're up to the task. Here's my interview with John Eargle, Rob Price and Dan Pomeroy.