Cryptic Vision debuted on the prog scene back in 2004 with the album Moments of Clarity, a strong album brimming with prog rock, metal, and AOR elements that turned a lot of heads. After a much talked about appearance at ROSfest, and a subsequent CD release documenting their appearance at the festival, Cryptic Vision are back with their latest on ProgRock Records In a World. This new album shows even more promise than their debut, and sees the band now as just that, a band, ready to stake their claim as one of the newer sensations on the scene. In a recent discussion with Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo, members Todd Plant (vocals/guitar), Rick Duncan (drums/guitar/keyboards), and Sam Connable (bass/vocals/pedals), spoke about the new and debut album, the history of the band and past recording work, playing live, and the future of the group.
Read on for the complete interview with Cryptic Vision!
Sea of Tranquility: Rick and Todd both have a pretty extensive background in the music
industry-can you talk a little about some of the work you have both done over the year, and then how Cryptic Vision came to be?
Rick: Must of my background in the industry has been producing and recording. I played in a couple road bands that were mainly cover bands. Todd has had a lot more experience singing with some big names in the biz. He can tell you about that.
Todd- Oh yeah, well I jammed with David Hasselhoff's roadie's cousin Stan. Plays a mean autoharp. But seriously folks, I've performed with some truly great musicians and it's an honor to be chosen to sing for guys like former Doobie Brothers drummer Chet McCracken, the late great Cornelius Bumpus (Steely Dan& Doobies), Chicago guitarist Chris Pinnick, the late Doobies bassist Dave Shogren, David Muse (sax/flute
with Firefall & Marshall Tucker Band), andformer Jimi Hendrix & Santana drummer Buddy Miles. Band of Gypsys is my favorite Hendrix album and Buddy was a big influence on Jimi in '69. He told me some stories that blew my mind! But I digress - most people know me from my years with Millenium and Eyewitness in the '90's, and some may know me as the
voice of Hulk Hogan's fight song "American Made". My wife knows me as the Imperial Emperor of yardwork and dishwashing! (laughs)
Sam: Howard Helm has had quite a run as well with Zon and Refugee. I think he actually got paid more than the rest of us over the years... Stayed in better hotels instead of vans and busses. Jammed with Brian May... We keep getting contacted by Zon fans. It is very surprising, even to him.
SoT: One of our writers, Mike Popke, made a note in his review of your first
album Moments of Clarity that most of the band was wearing Yes, Spock's Beard, and Dream Theater shirts on the group picture in the CD booklet. How important was the vintage, as well as the modern, era of prog rock to the ultimate vision of Cryptic Vision?
Rick: I've always been a fan of prog. Over the years I've written a lot of proggy sounding stuff that I thought I would probably never do anything with. When I heard bands like The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard, I thought it was great that there are still people out there that listen to this kind of stuff. I already had the rough idea for
Moments of Clarity, and I played some of the demos for Todd and so began
Sam: What Mike didn't realize is that all Rick wears is printed prog concert t-shirts. I guess he will occasionally wear a Tampa Bay Bucaneers shirt for variety.(laughs) As far as the music goes, we all listened to Yes, Rush, Kansas and AOR stuff when we were learning our chops. I play stuff that may sound like Dave Hope or Chris Squire because I
learned to play by wearing out my LPs of Yessongs, Fragile, and Point Of Know Return. It is not like we are trying to be "Kansasian"... People have used that word, but I don't know if there really is such a word. We play what we like and it really is very pure and honest, not trying to be anyone else but ourselves. If we wanted to be "commercially successful", we would probably be playing metal right now. But all the fire and skulls and death and stuff might be too scary.
Todd: I've got a Guantanamo Bay Resort and Spa t-shirt! (laughs)
SoT: In a World is an album rich in prog textures, but also contains a fair amount of AOR and metal elements. How has reaction been so far to the new CD, and have you managed to reach fans and critics beyond the prog genre?
Sam: I think In A World is a potentially strong commercial album because of the many different styles and textures. The reviews have been extremely positive and supportive. Everyone picks a different song they think is the best song. It actually makes things a little challenging for because we are getting ready to do some video work and there is no definite "single" that sticks out. Some cuts could get airplay on "Adult Contemporary" and others on "Prog Metal" formats. It is a blend of everything. It is funny because many of our fans would consider "commercial" or "AOR" dirty words or insults... I see them as compliments. I would like for as many people as possible to experience our music and hopefully we can touch everyone in some
way with our music.
Rick: Definitely. We have a lot of fans that aren't necessarily into prog. It's cool that people like both extremes. The proggy and the more straight ahead rock stuff. So far the reviews have been great.
Todd: I'm a bit tired of the labels myself. I thought I knew what prog meant until I saw the Prog Power Fest lineup. And what does AOR mean anyway? I say we're a modern melodic symphonic bombastic retrogressive rock band.
SoT: You've got a few all-star guest musicians on the new album, such as David Ragsdale, Ralph Santolla, and Alan Morse. How did you come to hook up with these guys?
Rick: David played on Moments of Clarity and did such a great job. I knew I
wanted him to do tracks on this album (and the next.) As with Moments I sent the tracks to him in Las Vegas and he recorded the solos and sent them back. With Alan I emailed him and also sent the tracks to him to record in his studio. He said he liked the instrumental sections and he came up with some really interesting solos. Ralph also did some tracks on Moments and was in to doing more tracks on this album.
Sam: We had no idea what Alan Morse would bring to the songs. The first time I heard his tracks, I burst out laughing because I had never heard anyone make those kind of amazing noises with a guitar. I think he really added a cool and challenging edge to a couple of the tunes. Everything David did was amazing as usual. We are truly flattered that guys of their caliber and experience would want to be a part of our music. Another friend of ours Jerry Outlaw came in one night and had never heard the tunes but we hooked him up and he just ripped some leads... Incredibly intuitive player. His lead on "Power To Mend" is perfect for the song. Our full-time guitarist Tim Keese really
stepped up on this album and did some of his best guitar work. His leads on "Merkaba" and "Point of View" are amazing for those songs as well.
SoT: You mentioned some of the players on the album-there are some different band members this time around-can you talk a little bit about the current line-up?
Rick: With Moments there really was no band. It was a recording project. When we were asked to play ROSFest 2005 we put together the live lineup of Me, Todd, bassist Sam Conable, guitarist Tim Keese and keyboardist John Zahner. John also plays with Jon Oliva's Pain. When we were starting to track In A World John's commitments with Pain made it necessary to look for another keyboardist. Howard Helm had
done some of the keyboard tracks on Moments and we were lucky enough to get him on board. He is truly an amazing keyboardist and has really brought the live show up to another level.
Sam: It is really fortunate that we all ended up getting together. It has changed my life and has been an amazing journey... I feel like we are just getting started. The most difficult thing with bands seems to be getting the right guys together in a room to play and with this project, it came together very naturally and without any struggles. These are the greatest musicians I think any of us have ever played with collectively.
SoT: You mentioned the ROSfest appearance-how was that experience for you?
Sam: ROSFest was a really great experience all the way around. The other bands featured were very diverse and well developed. Magenta put on a great set as did The Tangent and Arena. It was the first time the live band had played for such an appreciative and knowledgeable audience so we were not really sure of how we would be received. Just before we headed up to Philadelphia we opened for Kansas which was
basically our debut in front of prog fans who had never heard the material before. The response was amazing... We were all feeling really excited about what the band was able to do but had no idea of what we were headed into. When we got back and listened to the recordings at the studio, I was totally relieved because they were pretty good and I
really couldn't remember playing the show.It was an adrenaline-fueled blur...
Rick: Yeah, it was really great! The response was overwhelming. We also recorded our live album from that show.
SoT: How often does the band play live? Have you had any opportunity to play at any other festivals or high profile gigs?
Rick: We played Calprog 2006 which was also a great experience. In the next 2 months we will be doing opening slots with Kamelot, Kansas, The Flower Kings and Toto.
Todd: Last year we played the "BBQ Fest" with Night Ranger, Lou Gramm, CCR, War, Pat Travers and others. This year's "Ribfest" has not only Toto, but Cheap Trick, John Caffery, The Family Stone and others. We can do shows with metal bands like Kamelot and with pure Euro-Prog bands like The Flower Kings simply by adjusting our songlist and the amount of aggression. Oh, and of course which t-shirts we wear. I can hardly wait to break out my Cannibal Corpse and Britney Spears t-shirts. (laughs)
Sam: We are currently accepting offers to play at your next festival! (laughs) Live shows are what this band is all about. I think our energy and intent really come across best in a concert setting. In America, people don't seem as excited about live shows as they are in Europe, which I think is a shame. There have been concerts that have changed my entire outlook, like Yes at Madison Square Garden. They were "In The Round" with the revolving stage.How ironic- "In the round" at a "square garden".
Anyway, they played really well and Chris Squire's bass tone at that time cut like a razor. But yeah, to answer your question, we play live whenever we can!
SoT: Who does the bulk of the songwriting in the band, and how does the whole
process go from initial idea to getting something recorded?
Rick: On In A World I wrote all the music and about half of the lyrics. Sam wrote the lyrics for 2 songs and Todd wrote the lyrics for one. A couple of the songs were cowritten by Me, Todd and Sam. I generally write songs on acoustic guitar. I then sequence the song on keyboards with drums, bass lines, guitar and key lines. Todd will do a demo vocal and we work out vocal melodies and harmonies. We then learn it and tweak it as a band. When it comes time to record I usually use the original sequence minus the drums with a click track to record real drum tracks and then we build on it from there.
SoT: While much of the band's music is pretty demanding and challenging, there are a lot of commercial qualities floating around many of the songs. How hard is it to put together a purely catchy, melody driven vocal oriented song, as opposed to one that has many parts and is instrumentally complex?
Rick: I think even if you have a longer more complicated piece you still need to have good melody and hooks to make it interesting.
Sam: I am not sure if Rick can write anything that is not well thought out and filled with great hooks. We keep trying to get him to be less "catchy" and more "scary"! I find my fingers hurt more after playing with this band so I guess it is more demanding and
challenging music. I keep blowing my fingernail off- super glue and tape helps a lot! (laughs)
SoT: Hey, if it works, use it! (laughs) If you could do a short tour of the US with 2 other active bands, who would you choose as your road mates?
Rick: How about Kansas and Spock's Beard? (laughs) Like you didn't see that
Todd: Journey and Aerosmith. I'd love to hang out with Tyler and Perry and listen to road stories. Plant & Page would be amazing. Steve Vai and Glenn Hughes would kick ass.
Sam: How about Kansas and King's X? Maybe Spock's Beard and Velvet Revolver? Yes and Stone Temple Pilots? Peter Gabriel and Tool? Hell, I'm never going to make it as a promoter! (laughs) I guess I'll just stick to blowing my fingernail off! (laughs)
SoT: What does the next year in the life of Cryptic Vision look like?
Rick: I hope we can continue to make new fans and possibly do a European tour next year.
Sam: We will continue to promote and support In A World, put together
a mangement/promotion team, do some great national shows, release some
web-type videos, work on getting to Europe, and start recording the
third piece of the trilogy.
SoT: Sounds like a plan-good luck to you guys!
Photos Courtesy of the ROSfest Website
(Click here to read our review of In a World)