interview by Jaime Rodriguez and Matt Di Giordano
U.S. based progressive rock legends Spock’s Beard recently touched down in Mexico at the prestigious Baja Prog Festival. Prior to their performance, Matt Di Giordano and myself had a chance to sit down with the band and discuss the future of one of prog-rock’s greatest unsung bands.
Jaime: So, will we ever see the return of Sid? [laughter]
Dave: I dunno.
Alan: Sid? The guy named Sid? Haha, I’m just kidding bro. Haha.
Jimmy: I was just thinking about that song while we were playing.
Jaime: I’m just kidding.
Jimmy: Just funny you say that. My iPad cycles and when I do long drives it goes on shuffle. And it happened to come on. Like, this was cool.
Alan: That was pretty cool.
Jaime: No, I was just kidding. It’s one of my favorite songs, so I was just messing around.
Matt: So, you did the song “Afterthoughts on the new record. Could you tell us a bit about how it plays into the “Thoughts” song cycle?
Alan: Well, it’s one of those, definitely.
Ted: I don’t think there’s any… There’s no lyrical tie between the three songs, it’s just the thought of having those Gentle Giant vocals and something to do with thoughts in each one of them, right? There’s no lyrical ties between the first two.
Dave: Yeah, it’s just kind of disturbing with the vocal counterpart, that’s kind of the main thing… disturbing lyrics… disturbed individual.
Jimmy: Ted, you wrote the lyrics on that.
Dave: And he’s a disturbed individual.
Ted: Yeah, it was pretty easy. I’m typecast as the disturbed guy.
Alan: Can’t imagine why.
Jimmy: And then Neil did five or something like that? So, four is still missing?
Alan: Yeah, well, we had written a song and were trying to figure out what to call it and then I talked to Neil and he said, “Oh yeah, I just wrote another “thoughts” type of song too.” So we were like, “Uh oh, we don’t want to call them the same thing, you know?” So we decided to call ours “Afterthoughts.” I think he thought we were gonna call ours “Thoughts 4” so he called his “Thoughts 5,” but whatever, it all works out.
Band: And there will never be a “Thoughts 3” [band laughs]. Maybe next time. We’ll start at 5 and work back…
Jimmy: Or we’ll be like Saga and have chapters and the chapters are not in relation to anything.
Jaime: How did you guys arrive at deciding to make a video. My memory may not so well, but I don’t really recall there being an actual video other than just live stuff?
Band: It was the record company’s idea.
Ryo: No, it’s Al’s [laughter].
Alan: Yeah, I thought it would be good. I mean, that’s how people find out about music a lot now, they just go on YouTube and find stuff, so I thought it might be good to have something up there.
Jaime: Excellent job done. Who did the production on that?
Alan: Yeah, he did a great job. That guy was cool.
Ryo: We had to play how many times, like 35 times? One day?
Jaime: 35 takes?
Alan: Oh yeah.
Jaime: Where was the video shot at?
Band: Downtown LA.
Band: Yeah, in some funky…
Alan: …Abandoned wherehouse thing or something.
Ted: They were shooting some sort of hip-hop video right next door, so there were all these scantily clad girls walking out and stuff.
Alan: Yeah, and all these super awesome hot-rod cars and stuff. And then there was us…
Matt: So, I know you collaborated with Neal a little bit on one of the tracks on the new album, the 7th track, is that right?
Alan: A couple of them: “Afterthoughts” and “Waiting for Me.”
Matt: Do you want to talk about how that came about?
Alan: Yeah, we collaborated on stuff, you know, wrote it together [laughter from the band]. Haha, um, you know, I thought, “What the heck, maybe he’d be into it, so I asked him if he’d being into writing some stuff.
Ryo: You don’t know how to write, you need the help.
Alan: Yeah, he’s pretty good. So I flew out to Nashville for a few days and hung out with him at his house and we wrote that. There’s also a couple other things that we just started on that might emerge again later on. That was cool stuff. He’s pretty good at that [laughter from the band].
Dave: Songwritin’ stuff
Alan: [In funny accent] That songwrit’in thang.
Jimmy: He’s been known to spin a yarn here and there.
Matt: Is there a particular track on the album that stands out, or where there was something interesting that happened in the recording process where you could give us a bit of analysis, perhaps something finicky that happened in the studio?
Ryo: We spent a loooooooot of money! [laughter from the band]
Dave: We took a lot of time.
Ted: Probably the song that sounds the most different from what was written to what finally happened was “Hiding Out,” at least from an energy standpoint. I remember hearing the first mix of it and was like, “Holy crap.” All of a sudden it was a rock song. Before it was just kind of a meandering kind of vibing thing and they just rocked it out. So, that was a cool little thing that just happened in the studio. Just layer upon layer with everyone doing their part it became bigger and bigger and more aggressive. And it didn’t really start that way so it was kinda neat. Everything else, once it was written we pretty much replicated the idea and just expanded on it, you know?
Alan: There were some changes along the way, I mean, “Wish I Were Here,” which is on the second disc kind of got put together and almost created in the studio. We pretty much played one drum at a time and stuck them together and made it into a drum part.
Jaime: You guys have been known to pair up with a lot of legendary bands over the years. Now that Ted’s in the group is it possible that we could see an Enchant/Spock’s Beard short tour sometime?
Jimmy: Another one?
Ted: That idea’s come up but I think it would be weird. I just think it would be weird to be the lead singer in two bands at the same show. It’s one thing if I was the guitar player in both bands because no one pays attention to the guitar player…
Alan: Yeah, nobody gives a shit those guys.
Ted: No, but I think it would be weird. Especially since it’s a different singing style and I think it would make either one sound less authentic when people here me sing big rock with Enchant and then do what we do in Spock’s; it would almost sound like I’m a cover band singer, like I’m faking some else’s style, you know? So I just don’t think we’ll ever do it. Right? Is it just me?
Dave: You never know.
Ted: Yeah, but I could see doing it at a festival or something. But having Enchant come on right before Spock’s again, I don’t think that would be wise.
Alan: Plus that would be pretty brutal for you, I mean, geez, that would be pretty harsh.
Ted: That’d be fun, it would actually be fun but I just think it would be weird.
Alan: I think you’re right, it would be kind of strange. We’d just call it the Ted Leonard tour or something…
Jaime: Well, it is progressive rock…
Alan: It is something very strange…
Matt: So, Jimmy, you’ve been touring with the band for a while now, right?
Jimmy: Eleven years.
Matt: But this is the first studio album you’ve been on?
Jimmy: This is the first studio album I played drums on but I did a little singing on X.
Matt: Oh, cool, I didn’t know. And Ted, this is your first one on with them. How do you guys see your role in the band as contributor’s besides just live?
Jimmy: Well, I haven’t done any writing as of yet. You know, just notes at the final stage, coming up with a drum part idea that alters the song a little bit. I haven’t done anything with writing, it’s all been just tracking. Ted’s writing. For the next record we’re still writing so I might come up with something… but once it hits the recording stage everything is completely open and collaborative, so I’ll come up with ideas at the same time… the guys are suggesting things all the time. Plus in the writing process, that alone is a suggestion. At least from my end of it I don’t see that I own the drum parts; it’s everybody’s song. So, I love the input. I love everyone telling me, “try this, try that.” It sparks ideas and takes the song places. It goes with every other instrument as well, and they’re great. It was really easy tracking.
Ted: I think for me, when I write a keyboard part it really means, “Insert real keyboard part here,” then I’ll depend on Ryo to do what Ryo does. Or I’ll put a guitar solo but it will be just to hold the space. You know? Even right down to the structure of the song I kind of depend on the fact that Al, Ryo, and Dave will have a better sense for what is Spock’s than I will. I’ll write a song and rely on the fact that they’ll make it Spock’s. You know? Some songs that I write would naturally lend themselves to it but some wouldn’t… “Hiding Out” being a good example. But, as soon as we entered the band I never felt like I wasn’t welcome to the collaboration. At all. It was very open, like, “Hey what do you think, let’s try this.” So yeah, it’s been very cool.
Matt: [to the rest of the band] Do you guys have any comments on these guys and their being new and all?
Dave: Us commenting on the new guys, the newbies, the provies? Yeah, awesome, it was the perfect choice both times. And it was really natural thing both times, it wasn’t like we did auditions or anything. It was like, “This is the guy we want, let’s ask him.” And they said yes, both times.
Ryo: He sucks! [laughter from band]
Jaime: Have you guys thought about when you’re going to do a DVD with Ted?
Dave: We’ve got a couple little bits and pieces. We videotaped one show and did multi-track recording and that could turn out to be a really high quality thing, but it’s not a full show. So that might be some bonus tracks or something similar along those lines. But yeah, we’ll eventually do some kind of a DVD. Our record company is becoming less and less excited about live recordings, not just from us but in general because everyone’s doing them all the time now. We just have to pick a good opportunity and do one. We do need to document this [group].
Jaime: Do you already have some thoughts on the next record or are you just waiting for a while?
Dave: Yeah, these guys… Well, I haven’t been writing too much but Alan and Ted and John and Stan and Ryo have been writing a lot. We have a lot of little pieces of demos going around, so the process has started.
Matt: Well, I figure we’d better wrap up here pretty soon unless you guys have something you want to add about the new record Brief Nocturnes that you think would be of interest for everyone to hear?
Dave: It will be the best thing ever recorded in the history of music.
Matt: There we go. Documented. Hey, well thank you guys, I appreciate your time.
Dave: Thanks for being patient with us, you know, three reschedules…
Matt: No prob.
Ryo: Do we do a station ID thing?
Matt: This is Progulator.com, signing out.
Jaime: Live from Mexico, in the flesh.