Euro-Rock Press Magazine Interview
Nobuhisa Nakanishi interviews EO; August 2004

 

NN:
Please give us a brief introduction of each member including when and how he or she picked up the instrument he plays, if he or she had musical education or is self-taught, major musical influences when he or she was young, and musical career before Eccentric Orbit.

Madeleine: I started playing saxophone when I was 12 years old in the school band. I went to college to continue studying the instrument and graduated in 1989 with a degree in music education. While in college I played in wind ensemble, marching band, saxophone quartet, and briefly in a show band. Growing up, my biggest influence was Paul Desmond of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. To this day, I still think he's the best player I've ever heard. I had put music aside for many years before joining Eccentric Orbit and was glad to get back into it.

Derek also has a formal music background with a 4-year degree in Music Production & Engineering from Berklee College of Music. After graduation he kept up music through various jobs including sequencing for a website called Music Playground. Derek did not have a Prog background going into Eccentric Orbit but his tastes included bands like Puddle of Mudd and Steeley Dan plus a great variety of others.

Mark: I studied percussion with Fred Buda and Arthur Press from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I studied Jazz and free Jazz with Bob Gullotti from the Fringe. I have written two books on Progressive Rock: The Progressive Beat and Progbeat, both available from mandmmusic.com. My early influences were Return to Forever with Lenny White, Mahavishnu Orchestra with Billy Cobham, Bill Bruford's solo albums and Brian Eno. When I found Prog I listened to everything. I still listen to a wide variety of music. I still like finding new music. I have played many styles of music. My Prog recordings have been with Pye Fyte "The Gathering of the Krums" , Prog in USA and A Triggering Myth's "Between Cages."

Bill: I picked up bass when I was about 15 and guitar about a year later, so I’ve been playing for about 25 years. I am largely self taught, but I did have about 6 years of jazz guitar lessons where I learned some theory and enhanced my playing. My best learning experience was playing in a Progressive Rock group in the mid 1980’s with a guy named Chris Devine who was a classically trained violinist and multi-instrumentalist. Chris recently played with Richie Balckmore and Blackmore’s Night on their album Fires at Midnight.

I am a total Progressive Rock fanatic, so my main influences primarily stem from hearing bands that play in this style and also some Fusion groups like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jean Luc Ponty, etc. Progressive Rock is truly my passion and my reason for playing music. If I didn’t write and play Progressive Rock, I’m not sure I’d be all that interested in music, though from time to time I enjoy still enjoy playing a bit of jazz as a diversion.

NN: When was Eccentric Orbit formed? Where? What was the turning point?

Bill: I started writing the music that wound up being Eccentric Orbit in about 1997 or 1998. By 2000, I had most of the album complete but needed other players to really make it happen. I met Mark Cella and a friend of his who played keyboards at NEARFest in 2000. I sent them a demo tape of my material and we decided to work together when they heard it. While working on finalizing the music, I realized there was probably too much for one keyboard player to handle, so I suggested adding my wife, Madeleine, to play some additional keyboards and the wind-controller to trigger some synth parts. The original keyboard player left due to other commitments leading to our asking Derek to join in 2002, but it still took us almost two years to finish up the album.

NN: When the band was formed, what kind of music did you want to create? Was it prog-rock oriented from the start?

Bill: The project was definitely Prog-Rock oriented from the start. Actually, my original intent was to write some music that was fun to play on bass. I had another project at the time in which I played primarily guitar and I really wanted to get back to bass. I found that by eliminating the guitar, I could focus on other aspects of composition and it really opened up some musical avenues to me. My secondary goal was to make instrumental Progressive Rock that was as compelling as vocal-oriented music.

NN: Who is the leader of the band? Is it Bill? How do you compose music? How about arrangements? Is each tune presented to the other members as a crude idea or in a completely arranged form?

Bill: As the composer, I suppose I am the leader, but all the band members play important roles. I do most of my composing in MIDI and present semi- finished and arranged pieces to the group. They then take those basic parts and expand on them as necessary. Solos are mostly the creation of the player, though I worked with Madeleine a bit on her solos as she is not really used to doing improvisation as a classical player.

NN: Please give your comments on each tune. The song titles are all based on old sci-fi movies. Please include your comments on the movies that affected each composition.

Bill: Actually, only Forbidden Planet is based on a sci-fi movie. The other songs got their titles because they were evocative of space and science- fiction, in a very old school, 1950’s way. The first song to be titled was Sputnik, which I named for the bristling Clavinet in the beginning that reminded me of radio antennae. Attack of the Martians got it’s name because it came out so over the top and silly. Star Power and The Enemy of my Enemy" were titles that just seemed to fit the music and the space/sci-fi motif of the other pieces.

Forbidden Planet is the only song I wrote with a specific idea in mind. It basically tells the story of the 1950’s sci-fi film which is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" (thus the name of the final movement). Despite being a bit dated, Forbidden Planet is a fantastic and extremely sophisticated film that has Freudian overtones in both it’s use of the Id or unconscious and the Oedipal overtones of the father/daughter relationship. The music hopefully captures some of the melancholy and menace of that situation.

NN: In the compositions, mellotron samples are often used. Who/what band is the major influence on the band? Do you like vintage keyboards? Who decides the instrumentation?

Bill: I do love the sounds of the vintage keyboards and it was mostly my choice to use them for this album. I’m open to digital synths if used creatively, and I have no reservations about using samples (Mellotrons are too hard to maintain and move to make them practical for my purposes).

NN: Madeleine plays wind-controlled synthesizers & keyboards. Please explain more about her gear, and how they are used in the album.

Madeleine: I primarily use a Yamaha WX5 midi wind-controller and a KORG MS2000R analog synth modeler. I also use an EMU Vintage Keys unit more sparingly and some computer-based Mellotron samples. As a saxophone player, the WX5 was a comfortable switch for me. Sound programming was new to me, but the MS2000R is very well-designed and easy to work with, so I was able to learn quickly.

I recorded almost all my parts using the WX5, and virtually all my lead sounds plus some of the sound effects were programmed in the MS2000R. I can't say enough good things about the MS2000R. It's a very rich-sounding unit and it's very easy and fun to use. We've received a lot of compliments on the sounds, so I guess other people like the MS2000R too.

NN: Derek plays the keyboards. Please explain the composition of his gears. His preferences to specific keyboards.

Madeleine: Derek primarily used a Nord Electro. The sounds were perfect and the action was also excellent. All of the vintage electric piano and organ sounds were generated by this board. We also made use of the EMU Vintage Key for some of Derek's synth leads. Eccentric Orbit puts a very high priority on good sounds. We spent a lot of hours choosing, designing, creating, and tweaking sounds to get just what we wanted to hear.

NN: Please tell us what gears do Mark and Bill use.

Bill: I use Tobias basses. I have both a four-string Growler and a five-string fretless.

Mark: I play an Eames custom made drumset built in 1986 to my specifications. I added a 13 and 14 inch floor tom to the set. These are unusual sizes but they are very clear and punchy. I use a mix of Zyldjian annd Sabian cymbals.


NN: The band sound appears to be influenced by the prog-rock in the 70's. Please give specific names of the influences and pick up the best work of each of them.

Bill: That would take 20 pages to be complete as there is so much phenomenal Prog Rock out there, both from the 1970’s and today. We all tend to like the big Prog names like Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Genesis, Gentle Giant (both Madeleine and I played on both Gentle Giant tribute albums) and most all the other bands that play in this classic Progressive style.

NN: Are you a studio band or a live band? Do you play gigs? If yes, please tell us about how you play live music on stage. Any fond memories about live performances?

Bill: At this time we are only a studio band, but we hope to play some live dates in the near future. The music was composed specifically for live application so very little would need to be rearranged.

NN: Please tell us about the music scene in Massachusetts. Is there any other prog scene or at least prog bands in the state? Please explain.

Bill: Massachusetts has a small but active Prog Rock scene. The center of activity is the New England Art Rock Society (www.newears.com) which books gigs and hosts listening parties where people can share their favorite Prog artists. NewEARS has hosted bands such as Spock’s Beard, Flower Kings, Echolyn, Red Masque, Dreadnaught, and many other fine groups that might never have played in New England without their support. Eccentric Orbit very much hopes to play for NewEARS in the future.

NN: What is your next plan? Will there be any follow-up tour? How about the second album? Is there any material or plan? How about unreleased materials?

Bill: I have three songs completed for a second album, plus lot’s of other ideas in the works. Unfortunately, we all work full-time and it is hard to find time for creative pursuits like music. At the end of the Summer we will assess what our next step will be. Certainly recording more music will be in the plan, and we’d like to do some gigs if time permits rehearsals.

NN: Please give your fans in Japan a message.

Bill: I enjoy many fine Japanese groups like Ars Nova, Kenso, Pochakaite Malko, Igzit-Nine, Bi Kyo Ran, and others. We hope our music appeals to the Japanese audience as much as these fine Japanese groups appeal to us and encourage any fans of the group to contact us.

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