BIG BANG MAGAZINE INTERVIEW
This is an interview from Big Bang Magazine in France with Glass Hammer's founders, Steve Babb and Fred Schendel.
Q: Can you explain us what is the concept behind "Chronometree"?
FRED: It was born out of a desire to pay homage to the classic sounds of prog, as well as some of the people we knew (or were!) back in those days. The story has its roots in actual events!
STEVE: Chronometree tells the story of Tom, a prog fan who listens to his albums so much that he begins to hear voices in the music that speak directly to him. He comes to believe that an alien race is attempting communication with him. Most of us take our prog seriously. Tom takes his very seriously! Tom isn't just 'close to the edge', he goes over the edge completely. Amusing? I hope so.
Q: We've clearly understood that you're in love with English progressive rock of the seventies (especially Yes and ELP). Is it only nostalgia or do you believe that this kind of music has still some important things to communicate?
FRED: We still enjoy it, and I think a lot of people enjoy it, and that in itself is the important thing. I don't think it has to still be "relevant" in some kind of social context. I think prog will ultimately be timeless even if the market remains small compared to the mainstream. It's like classical music; most people don't necessarily think a new movie score with an orchestral sound would be considered a wallow in nostalgia.
Q: Do you consider yourselves as being part of significant prog revival (with bands such as Pär Lindh Project, The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard or Transatlantic)?
STEVE: I believe that it was a reviewer from Big Bang who once credited Glass Hammer with the rebirth of the concept album several years ago. I know that since "Journey of the Dunadan" there have been a number of concept albums which follow our format. Especially in the progressive metal category. However, we were there in 1993 when interest in prog was really starting to reawaken. Glass Hammer appeared about the same time as Spock's Beard, or maybe even just before. Judging from what others write about us and by what our fans say, I'd have to say that we have made some impact within the 'revival'. I'd like to believe that we've made a contribution, but if not, I'm still content with our output.
Q: How did you meet Arjen Lucassen? I suppose you're sharing some common musical orientations with your guest?
STEVE: Arjen emailed me after hearing some of our realaudio samples on the Glass Hammer website. He really loved what we did. I own a copy of his first album and really enjoyed it. We continued emailing back and forth for several months. I asked him to contribute to the new album and he jumped right in. He worked faster than any of the actual members of Glass Hammer. He was finished in one afternoon!
Q: Do you think that the progressive movement must return to its roots to survive ? How do you consider the neo-progressive movement of the eighties?
FRED: I think there's room in the world of prog to go in a lot of different directions, but I tend to feel that the prog that evokes the classics of the genre will often be more successful because it tickles people's nerves the way that original music did. Of course, many would argue that attempting to recreate the sound of the past is everything that's wrong with most current prog but I don't agree. The best thing for me is to try to capture the spirit of classic prog while creating our own voice, which is what I feel bands like Spock's Beard, Flower Kings and hopefully ourselves are doing.
STEVE: We've really missed out on a lot of the 80's neo-progressive. I don't think either one of us has heard that much of it.
Q: Is it still possible to explore new landscapes?
FRED: That's tough to say. Yes, it's always possible but truthfully I think there's a lot of resistance to that idea amongst people who allegedly want "progression" in music. I mean, if a band managed to somehow combine classical European theory and structures with hip-hop or something genuinely original like that- and I admit that's a stretch, but say they did it in a way that actually worked- it still would likely be hated. The first album by Somnambulist that we produced was, to us, a really interesting combination of classical prog form with a somewhat avant-garde singer and he was intensely disliked in many quarters. He's been replaced, by the way. Prog fans are incredibly inflexible when it comes to singers, we're finding out.
Q: Are you going to perform "Chronometree" live?
FRED: I hope so!!
STEVE: There's some talk of playing live. Recording comes first and takes so much time. If one of the big festivals were to invite us to perform I'm sure we would.
Q: What are your plans for the next future? And beyond?
FRED: To finally record the album we hear in our head. I think we keep getting closer every time. I hope I get a chance to return Arjen's favor and play on a Ayreon album. In fact, I'm very open to guesting on people's projects. It's a great way to push yourself and do new things. I want to gently push Glass Hammer towards doing ever more epic projects; I think we have a "Tales from Topographic Oceans" in us somewhere if we just had enough time free from the hassles of life to think and work it out!
STEVE: We'll keep pushing ourselves and setting the standard higher and higher. We've got a number of projects in the works. The tentative title for one is "Faith and Reason". This album is nearly finished. This will be a 'classic' Glass Hammer album. We've worked harder on it than anything we've done previously.
Another Tolkien related work called "Glass Hammer Live From Middle-earth" is also nearly complete. This won't be a prog album per se, but proggers may enjoy it just the same. The idea is as absurd as the concept behind "Chronometree". The production actually places the group in a medieval style pub from Tolkien's Middle-earth. The ambiance is complete with rowdy hobbits and grumbling dwarves, all singing along to the songs of their favorite band. I hear a lot of proggers making light of prog's fascination with Tolkien. Here it comes again! This will be the ultimate trip down the Tolkien road for a prog band. We're actually going to Middle-earth to perform! I hope it is as fun to listen to as it is to record.