I'll never forget the first time I heard a
song from Spock's Beard. I was just stunned
that music of that complexity was still being made. And from an unknown band yet? And the playing was so tight. They became one of my favorites right off.
Here we are years later and Spock's Beard have just released their 10th Studio CD and in my opinion is their best to date. Here's my interview with founding member and guitarist Alan Morse.
Jerry Lucky: I have to say; from the first note off the new album (Edge of the In-Between) I was hooked. This is the best you guys have sounded in a long time. How was recording “X” different from the last few CD’s? Or was it different?
Alan Morse: It wasn’t really much different, except that it was a bit more “virtual” – most of us weren’t around for a lot of the recording & mixing, Rich sent out mp3 files for everybody to listen to & they’d comment. I think we also intentionally made this one a bit more Prog, in part because of feedback from fans on our previous CDs.
JL: My own feeling (and this is just me) was that each of the post-Neal albums had some fine moments but each was inconsistent in it’s own way…none are as consistent as X. I mean there isn’t a dull moment anywhere on the new disc. Does that have to do with the material you were working with or was it the mood of the band or something else?
AM: Mostly the material. As I said, we tried to keep this one more focused, less eclectic. I suppose that has something to do with your reaction.
JL: I said in my review that I thought the new disc “X” is hands-down the best thing the band has done. How do you and the others feel about it? Where does it sit in your discography?
AM: Most people seem to think it is the best one we’ve done in a long time. I’m quite gratified by that.
JL: A lot was written about Neal’s departure. At the time it was a pretty big deal. Now with some distance from that event, what effect did that have on the band?
AM: Frankly, I’m a little tired of talking about that. Can we move on?
JL: I assume that the band isn’t a full-time gig. So when you guys aren’t together as Spock’s Beard what does everyone do to pay the bills?
AM: I have an electronics company, www.dynametric.com, and an online toy store, www.heirloomwoodentoys.com, that I run with my wife. Nick’s with Cirque du Soleil now, and the other guys are hustling gigs!
JL: In an average year how much time do you spend on the road? And is that something that you enjoy?
AM: We spend about 2-3 weeks a year touring. I wish we could do more, but it’s difficult with everyone’s schedules and other obligations. I really like touring, even though at our level it’s pretty hard, low budget.
JL: Do you get invited to perform at many prog festivals? They’ve been springing up everywhere. Has that been a good thing for you providing a circuit of venues to perform in?
AM: We don’t get too many invites that I know of. I’d like to, but with Nick’s schedule, it’s pretty hard to do that kind of thing. I hope we get a chance to one of these days!
JL: Do you recall your first prog moment…when you heard something that made you say….NOW that’s what I want to play?
AM: Yeah, I saw Yes open for Black Sabbath and Grand Funk Railroad! That was a real eye opener, opened up a lot of possibilities. Then seeing Gentle Giant in a small club in LA was just stunning.
JL: When you came together way-back-when, did you see yourselves where you are now? Had you planned for super-stardom success, with everyone rolling in dough?
AM: We really didn’t expect it to go anywhere. We didn’t think anybody liked this kind of music anymore. We just decided to do it anyway, for fun. We were really surprised to find there were people out there who were into this stuff!
JL: Let’s talk about how a song comes together. Is there a standard Spock’s Beard approach or is it different every time? Maybe provide some examples.
AM: These days, pretty much one or two of us write & demo up something, and if the rest of us like it enough, it’s on the record. The demos are usually pretty close to the finished product, with some notable exceptions. That’s kind of a problem with demos, you tend to get used to hearing it that way, and it’s hard to change.
JL: After many years with Radiant Records, then Metal Blade, then InsideOut, the new disc is kind-of back where you started…no label…independently financed and produced. Tell us what happened?
AM: Well, our contract ran out with IO, so we decided to just go it alone. But then Mascot came along after it was all done with a really nice offer, so we took it. It was great how many fans stepped up to help finance the thing, really gratifying. And surprising, at least to me. Thanks everybody!
JL: The idea of calling on fan-financial seed money is quite novel. I’m guessing you consider it a successful process?
AM: Yeah, it really worked out surprisingly well, other than some glitches with PayPal. We might do it again, but now with our relationship with Mascot, we’ll probably stay with them if they want to continue.
JL: Do you have a favourite Spock’s Beard composition? What makes it so?
AM: I like “The Light”, partly because it was the first one, plus it’s really awesome. Then I like “Perfect Day” and “Go the Way You Go.” Those are the first that come to mind, but there are a lot of other cool ones. I sort of forget, until I get reminded and go “Oh yeah, that was pretty cool!”
JL: If you meet someone who has no idea what progressive rock music is all about and they’ve never heard of the band…what song of yours would you play for them as an introduction? And why that one?
AM: Probably “The Light.” It’s really cool and flows really well. Has a lot of cool parts and gives a really good idea of what prog – and SB – are all about.
JL: Desert Island Disc question…your “lost” on an island and you can only have 5 discs with you…which ones would they be and why those ones?
Aladdin Sane - Mick Ronson rules, Anything by Charlie Parker -
Bird lives!, Sgt. Pepper - Do I have to explain this one?, The Hi-Lo’s happen to folk songs - My favourite by my uncle’s jazz vocal
group. Really amazing.,