Jerry Lucky: Hi Fred…So I understand you’ve been playing music for 30 some years…so let’s start off with a little history…how did you come to start playing music and what were your early inspirations?
Fred Lessing: I started playing the flute when I was still a child, and as a teen the guitar. That was back in Germany. Later in Portugal, in 1981 or so, I played the flute in a rock band, and later the guitar, and soon we played my own songs, some of which were prog, some weren’t, and some were crap. I wasn’t only inspired by prog though, my idols ranged from Neil Young to Renaissance, from Mozart to Klaatu. And of course The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
JL: Describe for us what the music scene was like in Portugal at the time.
FL: Like in most European countries, new wave was the big thing, Police-style music with national lyrics. Lots of attitude, poor musicianship.
JL: Was there a moment where you heard something that prompted you to start playing progressive rock music?
FL: Klaatu’s Hope album, definitely. And Queen II. If any of that is prog.
JL: Was prog very popular in Portugal?
FL: If you don’t count Marillion and Pink Floyd: no, not a bit. I remember our drummer asking me once, ‘Why on earth do you write music like that? Whoever is going to listen to that?’
JL: So then bring us up to date…with Daymoon…how did that come together?
FL: I started having dreams of grandeur, i.e., recording an album, when I was perhaps only 15 or so, and I always wanted to call the band ‘Daymoon’. So after my first band in Portugal disbanded, and after playing exclusively baroque music – flute and recorder – for some 15 years, I found out about computer recording. So I started recording all the stuff I’d been writing since my teen years, under the ‘Daymoon’ moniker. Three albums, with the occasional guest musician. Nothing professional, and hardly any prog. The 4th album though, ‘Chronicles’, my musical autobiography, was a more serious attempt, and I put a lot of effort into it, but it still lacked proper production, as well as a human drummer. All that happened with Fabric of Space Divine. And the next album, All Tomorrows, featured an actual band, which eventually also played on and helped finalising Fabric.
JL: Some might think Daymoon is more of a solo project…is that the case?
FL: In musical terms, yes, that is true – all music so far has been written by myself. However, since our debut album, All Tomorrows, some of the arrangements were made by members of the full band line-up, with whom we perform on stage. The band’s changed quite a bit since then as making prog in Portugal means investing a lot of time, effort and money, and not everyone can fit all that into their lives. The current live band features only four core musicians, and three other musicians who perform live only when the stage and all other conditions are right. However, album-wise we’re still seven of us, and our next album will feature music composed or co-composed by other band members.
JL: You’ve had three CD’s released…I know musicians hate this but how would you describe the music of Daymoon?
FL: Eclectic, I guess. With a strong focus on lyrics. What’s been released so far is strictly my own, personal taste, so in a way it’s a bit like meetingme in person: inconsistent, but hopefully mildly interesting. I can cook, though, and stand on my head when challenged.
JL: The new disc, Fabric of Space Divine has a certain spiritual nature about it…perhaps describe the themes you’ve written about.
FL: On Fabric, I focus on the idea of evolution on Earth and beyond it. If any race of beings in the universe manages not to get wiped out, or wipe itself out, but keeps evolving, and if you accept that an increasing capacity to manipulate one’s environment is one possible path for evolution, and given a lot of time, then I don’t see why evolution shouldn’t result in a being spanning all of space-time, with the capacity to manipulate everything there is. Such a being would be God, spanning all of space, and all of time. I’m not religious, but I could believe in such a God. Of course it’s all humbug, I know, but good science fiction yarn, I hope. Perhaps evolution really favours simple, basic creatures rather than complexity and intelligence. Fabric takes a monotheistic view, but perhaps there could be multiple beings in the end rather than just one – polytheism?
Our next album – half of which is my own – will talk a lot about spiritualism. As you perhaps know, my wife, for whom I did All Tomorrows, died of cancer, and losing the person you love faces you with a myriad of questions, as it seems impossible that a person can be gone completely, switched off like a movie that’s over, or demolished like an old car. In the end, after a long painful process, I found no reason at all to believe in a soul or afterlife, and I’ll talk about that at length on our third album.
JL: There’s a lot of variety, musically, what was the story behind the music of Ice Prospector? It’s not prog but’s really a catchy song.
FL: Thanks J In fact, we’re planning to shoot a music video for that, as well love the song too. I wrote it back in 1998, while dreaming underneath a cork oak by a little creek, in summer in southern Portugal. I was thinking about being on the moon, and wanting to go back to Earth for a holiday. And, well, when I was a teen, I played some live music with Christoph Reimann, a friend of mine from Berlin. Rockabilly and rock’n’roll, and quite a bit of Beach Boys too. That’s what I wanted, but with a holiday feeling to it J The classical guitar solo was mildly inspired by Brian May’s solo on the track ‘Who Needs You‘. The backing vocals were recorded by my daughter Joana when she was still a child. Alter, when I wrote Fabric, I fitted in nicely as a stepping stone into mankind’s future, especially because the track before it has slightly sad undertones, and the one after it is a bit, well, sarcastic and dark-ish. Two of our former band members, the bassist and the lead guitarist, both threatened to leave the band if we ever played Ice Prospector live. We do now ;-)
JL: What’s the reaction been to your music…from critics? From fans?
FL: Almost all reviews have been really good, but also a few bad. And I understand those who don’t like our music – if you like such and such a style, you will like a few of ours songs, and dislike the rest. Same thing if you like another style of music. So most people end up liking some bits. Same thing even with our fans. As I said above, so far Daymoon has been my personal taste, regardless of any possible audience. Let’s see what the band will do on our third album. I for one will not yield to critics or fans – if I want to please people at large, I cook. Or stand on my head.
JL: Do you do much touring or get out in front of fans to play live?
FL: We’ve performed live several times before my wife died in early 2012, with a concept-type show based on the different ideas of Love depicted on All Tomorrows. After Inês’s death, I simply couldn’t go on and fell into a very deep hole. But things have changed, I’m back in life as we know it, and we’re getting ready now to play live again, although it might be several months until then.
JL: I’m always interested in how the internet has impacted bands…I probably wouldn’t have heard of the band had you not contacted me by email…so how has the internet helped or hurt?
FL: It certainly helped me recording the initial versions of the two latest albums, and will continue doing so by allowing band members to record some of the stuff at their homes. In terms of reviews, it’s helped immensely, and it’s extremely useful for getting info out to our fans and friends. Prog streaming services like Progstreaming.com and the new Progify are doing a brilliant job at expanding our audience. But while it helps, it’s also the greatest obstacle of all – thousands of people listen to our music on services like Spotify and so forth, but sales are ridiculously bad. And as far as I can see, this is happening across the board, to all bands. Still, the most amazing and beautiful contribution was for my deceased wife – the Internet allowed her to live a little longer and with less pain, thanks to donations from fans and friends all over the world. Especially Roine Stolt and Andy Tillison helped immensely by asking their fans on their mailing lists and Facebook pages to donate. In the end, Ines died shortly after, but we were given the most beautiful Christmas of all times. And while until then, both she and I had been misanthropes at heart, and both of us ended up loving humanity. Inês died, but I still love and thank all those people!
JL: Lastly then…if you were stuck on a deserted island…and could only have 5 discs with you…which ones would they be and why those particular ones?
FL: Hard to say as my tastes are wildly varied. All-time favourites: J.S. Bach ‘Goldberg Variations’, Klaatu ‘Hope’, Mozart ‘The Magical Flute’, Rickie Lee Jones ‘Flying Cowboys’. Four albums, no prog. The fifth album would have to be a rotating album, as I’d still need to take albums by The Flower Kings, Cecila Bartoli, The Tangent, Jan Garbarek, Anima Mundi, Efterklang, Echolyn, Zip Tang, Beethoven, Elbow, Rabih Abou-Kahlil, some Bollywood stuff, and so on.
JL: Thanks for taking the time to chat. All the best.
FL: Thankyou for caring J