Nucleus Interview
Sergio Vilar interviews Bill Noland; August 2004

SV: I would like us to speak some the past. Could you be some details of Eccentric Orbit origins?

BN: Eccentric Orbit started off as a project that would give me the opportunity to play more bass guitar. After I left my last semi-professional band in 1989 and went to pursue my master's degree, I bought my first sequencing keyboard (an Ensoniq VFXSD). From 1990 to 1997 I was working on a project in which I was playing mostly guitar, using the VFX to sequence the other parts like drums, keys, and bass. The music was vocal-oriented Prog, but with more of an '80s rock feel (Asia or '80s Rush comes to mind). As my primary instrument is bass, I wanted to play more bass and decided to write some instrumental music that I could sequence and have fun playing along with my bass.

The first three songs I put down in roughly 1998 were "Enemy of My Enemy," "Sputnik," and about two-thirds of "Star Power." I immediately realized that I was onto something and that this music was much more interesting to me than the project I had been working on. By the Summer of 2000 I had finished "Star Power" and had most of "Attack of the Martians" finished.

I actually met Mark Cella at NearFest 2000. He was behind the booth of his business, M&M Music, which I realized was from Massachusetts. I told him I was a bass player/composer looking for a keyboard player and drummer to do some new music. I didn't realize that Mark was a drummer and that he was at NearFest with Bruce Alger, keyboard player from the '80s pop-prog band Blind Owl. Mark asked me to sent them a demo of my stuff which I did when I got home and the nucleus of the band was formed.

In the Fall of 2000, work began on recording the drums. By September of 2001 I had finished "Forbidden Planet" and drum recording was complete. It had become clear during the drum recording process that the music was complex and would require a lot of a single keyboard player. I suggested adding my wife, Madeleine, to the band as she could play some keyboards, but could handle many parts on a MIDI wind controller as she is a classically trained Saxophone player. Bruce and Mark liked the idea so she joined the band.

Unfortunately, Bruce left shortly thereafter as there were too many things going on in his life so we had to find another keyboard player. Madeleine and I knew Derek from when we worked at Berklee College of Music from 1993 to 1996 and he was interested in the gig. With busy schedules and the delay finding a replacement keyboard player, progress on the album was slow and wasn't completed until January 2004, finally being released in late February.

SV: If we wanted to look for a relating one for the sound of the band, which would they name?

BN: Reading different reviews of the record I notice that people hear many different elements. My primary influences writing the initial songs were ELP and King Crimson. My goal was to meld the compositional approach of KC with the sound of ELP. I'm not sure I was really successful at achieving this, but I'm pleased with the results and the music has its own sound which is perhaps more important. I still jokingly describe Eccentric Orbit's music as "ELP meets KC at a b-grade sci-fi movie."

Le Orme, Anekdoten, Banco, and Area were other strong influences. My distorted bass sound actually came from hearing Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls On Parade" and "People of the Sun." While I don't like all their music, there are elements of their style that really excite me; the bass and guitar sound definitely being two of those elements.

SV: Do we speak of "Attack Of The Martians"... is the album that you wanted to make exactly? How do you feel regarding him?

BN: Honestly, I am thankful the project has seen the light of day and been released. There were many times we came very close to dropping the whole thing. All four of us work other jobs and have full-time lives outside the band. It is very hard to make challenging music that is of a quality to stand up against the many excellent releases that are coming out these days.

That being said, from a compositional and performance perspective I am absolutely thrilled with the album, it is exactly the album I wanted to make and is very much what I heard in my head. With more financial resources we may have spent a bit more time with the mixing/mastering, but I'm still quite pleased with the results. Nick Joyce really helped make this project a reality. Without his help at the end the album would never have been finished.

SV: What can you be about the title of the disk and of the songs that integrate it?

BN: The space-theme actually evolved very naturally from hearing the first few songs I wrote. I didn't have titles for "Enemy," "Sputnik," or "Star Power" until they were completed and I listened back to them and these names just seemed to fit. "Sputnik" in particular was named due to the bristling Clavinet at the beginning that reminded me of those antennae on the Sputnik satellite. Once I had those songs named, I just ran with the concept. I'm a sci-fi fan so it was a natural theme for me to pursue. "Forbidden Planet" is the only song in which I intentionally pursued telling a sci-fi story.

I found the little toy on the cover in Toronto in August 2003. I just thought it was a perfect representation of the music, which has a humorous, "tongue-in-cheek" quality. People might be interested to know that the original name of the band (back in 2000) was Satellite. We were forced to change it when the ex-members of Collage named their new project Satellite. I angry at the time, but in retrospect it probably worked out for the best.

SV: What process you do usually use to compose your music?

BN: The basic ideas for my music comes from either hearing an idea in my head or from improvising on my primary writing instrument, guitar. Once I work out the basic ideas on guitar, I do a sequence of the parts to give the band an idea of how the song goes. It is then up to them to embellish what I have done with their own instruments.

SV: Do you think that with keyboards, bass, percussion and wind-synth can create atmospheres that could not achieve using guitars?

BN: Definitely. I think omitting guitar from the music lets the other instruments shine in a way they couldn't if we had a guitar player in the band. I like guitar, but I feel most rock music, including Prog, has enough guitar-oriented material to satisfy listeners. I wanted to do something different and focus on other instrumental and sonic elements. I don't think we did nearly as much with this particular line-up as we could have, and I look forward to exploring more sonic possibilities in the future.

SV: You, individually, they have participated in very varied projects besides Eccentric Orbit. Was it interesting to work in them? Did those experiences contribute somehow to define an own sound how band?

BN: The most recent work Madeleine and I did were two songs for the Gentle Giant tribute CD's and a track combining ELP's Eruption and Tank, which was to have been for a fan ELP tribute CD (this song has never been released). Prior to that, my last experience playing Prog rock was in 1986 - 1987 when I was in a band with violinist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Devine, who recently worked with Richie Blackmore in his band Blackmore's Night. This was probably my most formative musical experience. Chris was a classically trained violinist and he really taught me a lot about writing, rehearsing, and playing complex music. I can't say the Gentle Giant projects were anything but a brief interlude; fun to have done but not particularly influential.

Mark is a very good drummer who is capable of playing in many different styles. I'm not sure that Pye Fyte really prepared him for Eccentric Orbit as the style of that music is very different. Mark's approach was to try and support the music without being too busy, which was really what I wanted. He did a great job of adapting to what I had in mind and what we thought the music really called for. Madeleine was completely unprepared to play rock, coming from a classical background, but she is coming along nicely. Her last serious playing experience before joining the band was playing in Boston Ballet's orchestra.

SV: Do you have thought to publish a new album this year? Is there tentative date of edition?

BN: I have finished three songs for a second album, just under half the record. We are at a bit of a crossroads right now in terms of how to proceed. We are considering options to start playing live, which would delay a recording but would benefit us in other ways. In either case I don't imagine we'll do another album this year. Next year would be a stronger possibility. One idea I'm toying with is doing an album of Dave Brubek songs called Rock Impressions of Dave Brubek. As our line-up parallels the classic Dave Brubek Quartet, I thought this might be fun. However, I still have to sell the other members on this idea, and then arrange all the music.

SV: Changing topic. What current, North American or European bands, do they find interesting?

BN: My favorites of the more recent crop of Prog bands include DFA, Deus Ex Machina, Pochakaite Malko, Thinking Plague, Dreadnaught, Nathan Mahl, Niacin, Taproban, Maxwell's Demon, Anglagard, Anekdoten, and Periferia Del Mondo. I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting.

SV: Some that has surprised them lately and that you want to recommend us to listen?

BN: A Japanese fusion band called Igzit Nine is well worth checking out. Also, for more melodic-Prog, a little-known band from Massachusetts called Seldon's Inquisitor are really quite good. Their albums are available on their website [8/07 - this site is no longer available]

SV: Thank you friends. Some final words?

BN: It really is wonderful to know that our music has reached people in places all over the world. It makes us feel like we are part of a worldwide community. My thanks to all those who support Progressive music, and if you have feedback for Eccentric Orbit, we'd love to hear from you. All the best, and thanks.

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