No longer wanting to just be remembered as an act that almost made it at the close of the 1970's, Aviary have reissued their debut album on CD, as well as a collection of never before released songs on the recent Ambition. Pete Pardo had the wonderful pleasure to catch up with singer/keyboard player Brad Love, keyboardist Paul Madden, and drummer Richard Bryans, to discuss the past, present, and future of this glorious band that fused pop, progressive and hard rock like no other.
Sea of Tranquility: The band has been away from the scene since the late 70s'-how much interest from a fans perspective was there to get the self-titled album released on CD, as well as Ambition?
Brad Love: It was a complete surprise. I had no idea that there were fans of the band who still loved the first album and played the LP. Stephen Allen was the one who brought the Aviary record to the attention of the Song Haus label, he believed in the music when I thought no one did. Of course I was happy that it was being re-released (the first album) on CD and suddenly we were getting emails from all over the world from people who couldn't believe that they had found something on the internet about a band that had disappeared. That led us to consider all the other music we had recorded and still had on tape, if was music we had hoped to use for subsequent albums but we never got the chance. So it is with great joy we release this music on the Ambition CD , music I had come to believe was buried forever.
SoT: What led to the band being dropped from SONY back in the late 70's?
Richard Bryans: As far as I know, our then-manager had some sort of disagreement with people at the record company resulting in a parting of the ways. SONY, like other labels, was probably going ape-shit for punk rock. In retrospect, our manager clearly had a divisive effect upon the band which grew worse over time. Had the band been able to remain independently strong during that time, we might have pulled out of it without too much damage, perhaps with another manager, another deal and another label. There was a time when the band had that sort of intrinsic strength.
Paul Madden:The Knack; The "New Wave" of English pop invaded our land which led ultimately to the new sound of the 80's. CBS and the music industry as a whole was well aware of this and the focus started turning away from our style of music. To them we were dinosaurs. Good dinosaurs, but not worth the 9 album commitment they signed on to in 1977. I don't know exactly why
we were dropped because no one had the guts to tell us, but I bet it had something to do with the money.
Brad: The short answer was no hit song. I think the record company would have stayed with us if our manager had not dropped the ball, he was interested in a big hit, not a band he had to work.
SoT: Aviary toured with some varied groups back then-can you talk about some
of the bills that the band played on, and bands you played with-any special or strange
Richard: The Hollies, The Knack, Eddie Money and The Stranglers. The Hollies tour was supposed to be coast to coast in Canada beginning in Vancouver, but canceled after the first three shows due to insufficient ticket sales. It was disappointing. The Knack show at Zellerbach Auditorium was fun mainly because the first three or four rows of the audience were hot chicks flashing their breasts like they were doing "the wave." Unfortunately, our management company placed an incompetent sound man with us for those early shows, a mistake which was quite embarrassing at the time. The Stranglers tour in Great Britain was initially a mismatch nightmare, but as we moved along, things got better. Regretfully, we did not get to tour enough; to visit more places. For example, I understand we had a lot of fans in Japan, but we were unable to fully appreciate and exploit that at the time.
Brad: Most of the touring was a blur to me, we were thrown into such wildly different environments, groups doing music so different from us and with their own crowds. It was like a different planet- can you imagine 'Soaring' with the Knack or even worse the Stranglers? I often felt like we were speaking a different language.
Paul: I remember playing with The Knack in Berkley Ca. That was a complete
mismatch but to me it was symbolic of our fate. There were many mismatches
during this time. The record companies were trying to match us up with pop bands. Never once did we do a concert with a group of our genre. Not once. The psychological impact on us created a disconnect in our vision and
confidence. We jumped on a plane to England to become a pop band. Oh yeah, we cut our hair short. That too was popular. Special memories? Just hangin with the guys, playing music, recording, putting new songs together, swimming during an earthquake, moving to Los Angeles,(It felt like the Beverly Hillbillies coming to town.) Oh, I guess I can't leave out meeting girls. After all that was one of my main motivations, maybe that was what it was all about? Many of my special
memories are of disasters, you know, character building stuff. All of us pulling together. Our equipment truck broke down in the Mohave Desert and we had to use Eddie Money's stuff. That was surreal. I felt naked without my organ! I remember Toby Bowen (guitars) actually paying back my father and how happy that made him. Watching the mariners with Ken Steimonts (bass). Hitting the clubs with Richard, dreaming with Brad, living in London riding the tubes and of course the corner Pub and fish-n- chips. The owners made us Thanksgiving dinner! One
beer was a 3 course meal. The serenity of Northern England, the grandeur of the North Sea pounding the bulk head as we were unloading and setting up for our first concert with The Stranglers. Security not showing up and all the wild screaming punk kids breaking down the door and rushing the stage,
spitting with love and excitement.
SoT: The Aviary sound is pretty unique-soaring vocal harmonies (Soaring-great song by the way!), symphonic keyboards, hard rock guitar riffs, and irresistable melodies. You can hear bits of your influences in your work, perhaps the Beatles, Queen, ELO, Yes, Deep Purple, and Gentle Giant. Can you describe
your take on the Aviary style, how it came together, and the bands influences?
Brad: It was a group effort, when I brought in a song, that was only the start. Often it totally surprised me, what the guys brought out of it I had not even seen, so it would change the whole direction. It was a great experience. The groups you mentioned were all influences, English groups were the most influencial, starting with the Beatles. We were always drawn toward the hard rock sound though, whenever it happened we went with it. Paul and I were both classical piano players but Paul was also a keyboard player and I was not, he could do things on the organ that I couldn't get and he understood his other instruments and how to use them, I mainly stuck to the piano and some clavinet.
Richard: All of those bands and more actually. Mainly though, as Brad said, you take two classically trained keyboard players, one of whom is the main composer and lead vocalist, and then add a dynamically sophisticated guitar player and rhythm section and you end up with Aviary. The style really comes from the identifiable individualistic contributions to the whole. Brad was writing a lot of songs at that time. We had a lot to work with as a band and, fortunately, we worked well together. There was a lot of mutual trust and respect among the members of the band. That allowed us a lot of freedom.
Paul: All the guys had their special influences. It was obvious to me. Ken loved the Beatles, that's what I remember the most, and their sound flowed out of his bass like magic. Toby created soaring guitar melodies, but I don't know where he got them. The Aviary style came from Brad and we all picked up on it and found our own way of expressing it. It was fulfilling! Richard brought the Rock-n-Roll to all of it. I was heavily influenced by
the orchestral sounds of classical music, especially Debussy. I spent a good part of my college days working on "Reflections on the water". Brad's music opened the flood gates of imagination.
SoT: Songs like "Soaring, Puddles, As Close as You Can Get, Feel the Heart, Hello, The Sun the Sand, Ambition, Desert Songs/Pharaohs March, and Fine Lines" are all perfect examples of Aviary's mastery of merging crafty pop and AOR with progressive rock. What are some of the bands favorite tunes off the two
Brad: We chose these songs that are on Ambition because they were/ are favorites from the many songs we have recorded. I find myself listening to the "Desert Songs/Pharaohs March" a lot lately along with "Fine Lines." I kind of go through different favorites depending on how I feel. "Eva's Birthday" has always been a favorite, not for everyone who hears it of course, but I enjoy it.
Richard: For me, most of them are favorites in one aspect or another. Difficult to say.
Paul: I agree with Brad on "Desert Songs/ Pharoahs March" , but I also really like "Feel the Heart."
SoT: Can you talk about the history behind Ambition?
Brad: Well, the CD came about because of two reasons, first Stephen Allen got the ball rolling with Song Haus for the re-release of the Aviary record and then Toby started collecting all the songs together we had recorded and grouped them together according to time periods. He sent me the 5 or 6 CDs he put together with rough covers and title ideas. From there I went through the master tapes I have been hauling around for years, transfered them to digital (had to bake the tapes!) and discovered they sounded very good still. What emerged was a group of songs that we felt represented the period of time right around the time we recorded the first album. The first Aviary album was a group of songs pulled from the previous 5 years and so are these songs for Ambition. Some have suggested these songs were rejects from the first album but that is not at all true. We had far to many songs to include them all on one album and alot of these songs were written after the choices were made for the first record.
Paul: Ambition is the unobstructed heart and soul of Aviary, nobody messed with our art during this time. It was pure. Pop music was not an option.
SoT: How has the reaction been to the band since the two recent CD releases?
Brad: The reaction has been wonderful, like I said before. I had no idea that we had so many fans, it was a shock. After Aviary ended the silence was deafening. I soon came to believe we disappeared without a trace, as if it never happened. The internet changed all that, now it is possible to make contact from any where in the world, amazing!
Richard: Yes, it's apparently great so far.
Paul: Did I do that? Gee, you were good! We should have "stayed on course."
SoT: Are there any plans to get back together and do some recording, or even
play any live shows?
Richard: Always a possibility. We are kicking it around. Depends mostly on the fans.
Brad: Yes, we are checking into Prog fests in California, that would probably be where we would start.
SoT: Has the band kept up with the progressive rock scene at all in the last
ten years or so?
Richard: Not really.
Brad: I'm afraid not myself either. Mostly I think about general things, musical (harmonic) direction, the overall sound and emotional content. I'm rather detached. I might be ready to embrace music closer again at some point. I hope so because it is the only thing that makes me happy.