Sea of Tranquility's Mike Blackburn recently spent some time with Shadow Gallery's Gary Wehrkamp to talk about the new CD on InsideOut Music called Room V, as well as other happenings these days in the Pennsylvania band's career.
Read on for the full interview!
Mike /SoT: What have you guys been up to since the last album, Legacy from 2001?
Gary: Our contract with Magna Carta ended and a lot of the time was spent seeking out our new deal with Inside Out, which is for two albums, Room V plus an option. We never stopped working or writing but we all have day jobs and that certainly impacted on the time it took bringing the album to fruition. The bottom line is, the record is ready when it is done, and we know when that is, and if it takes us longer than some bands, to make the record we want to make then so be it. We are only after our best, and reaching our best potential.
As far as aside projects, Mike did some tracks for Arjen and the Human Equation, and there were a few other things going on, such as a side project I started with Mark Zonder (which is on hold till our schedules free up), and going back to after the last SG release, I was involved in several other side projects including Trent Gardner's Leonardo and Explorer Club and Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon and Star One projects. We also wrote some tracks for James Labrie's Mullmuzzler first two records.
SoT: Were there any problems with Magna Carta- many of the old stable of artists have moved on to other labels?
Gary: No, Magna Carta has been great for us and the genre in general. They motivated the whole progressive rock era, adn we were glad to be a part of that with them... When our contract expired, we had to look at all options and at the time, Magna Carta was not in a position to offer us any "increase" in marketing or funds so we just decided to look at all the other possibilities available to us. Inside Out was the best for us, for a variety of reasons, and so far I am happy with our choice.
SoT: What is the predominate theme behind the new album?
Gary: It truly does pick up right where Act II of Tyranny (1998) left off, around Christmas time. It continues the story of the two protagonists and tells their stories in two more acts. Good verses Evil in one sense, and it covers world issues, personal dilemnas, political thoughts, and spiritual journeys.
I am going to leave it to the listener to follow the story; I do not want to give anything more away.
SoT: It has some of the heaviest riffs ever from you guys and has a real balance of light and dark, hard and soft.
Gary: That was not necessarily a conscious effort, just the way things turned out actually.
SoT: I do not have the lyrics or a lot of liner notes so who wrote the story?
Gary: Carl wrote the storyline and lyrics- the rest of us chipped in with a few words here and there.... The music was written by Brendt and myself, with a few parts also written by Chris.
SoT: How was it working with the famous Jeff Glixman?
Gary: Jeff is great, and fun to be around, so the process was fun even if it was strict work and only for a few hours. He "mastered" the record... Carl and I were with him for the procedure and finished off the mastering ourselves the following day.
SoT: What is your outlook for the future of the genre if we call it Neo Progressive?
Gary: The whole music industry is in a declining situation right now which makes it hard for all types of music, including of course progressive rock. There seem to be surges followed by dips, and a record label could tell you better with all their data, but there are still people out there who like this music, and new fans are coming along daily, but ultimately I do think it matters what you call it, its just "art-music", music made for the sake of art, rather than for the being of commercial success and gain.
SoT: Maybe satellite radio will provide a good home for the genre in the future?
Gary: We will have to wait and see. Change is good. Evolotion is good.
SoT: The bonus CD version of the project contains bonus tracks of course- what is the source and vintage of that material?
Gary: Well, it includes a variety of different stytled writings and recordings, including a drum solo, a celtic piece, a demo for the album we did not use, an acoustic version of the song "Rain", and a long Pink Floyd medley, as well as multimedia footage which includes Carl discussing the storyline of Tyranny and Room V.
SoT: Will the concept ever be performed in its entirety even as a one-off for say a DVD?
Gary: As of now there are no such plans but when we perform it, we will probably record it for a DVD.
SoT: You play keys and guitar- which is your fave?
Gary: I truly enjoy them both. It changes depending on what I am feeling better at playing... Right now my technique is at a low, because I spend my time managing and promoting rather than practicing or playing.
SoT: What do you see as the next innovation for guitar players?
Gary: Continual improvement of amp/speaker/effect sampling tools. When I was working with Arjen on an Ayreon project, he asked me to try a Line 6 POD. I was not a big fan of sampling tools at the time but gave it a try to appease Arjen, who by the way always gets a killer guitar sound. I was blown away. These tools have become part of the necessary kit for a gigging/recording guitarist now and I see that continuing and expanding a great deal, into "all-in-one" devices that are like the Wal-Mart of technological boxes which have tuners/recorders/metronomes/video application/chord finders/scale fingering suggestions/ear training programs/interactive real time internet capabilities/lessons/and simulators that can hook up to anything and do everything - all in one boxes.
SoT: Ok, time to list five indispensable desert island discs now, no Shadow Gallery allowed!
Gary: Hmmm five that's hard but:
1. Pink Floyd "The Wall"
2. Yes "Drama"
3. Ayreon "In the Electric Castle"
4. Malmsteen "Marching Out"
5. a home made compilation of the largest variety of classical to pop to home made stuff, certainly including a good dose of RUSH!
SoT: Thanks Gary and good luck with the new release!
Gary: My pleasure.