REAL AND ORIGINAL CLASSIC SYMPHONIC BRITISH PROGRESSIVE ROCK
Pete Pardo at the Sea of Tranquility prog site interviews Andy Wells. [16 May 04]
A few months ago we reviewed a debut album from UK prog band Pilgrym, a release so surprisingly strong that we were compelled to get in touch with the band for more insight on the splendid CD Pilgrimage. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo had a chance to catch up with keyboard player/singer/guitarist Andy Wells about this exciting new band.
Sea of Tranquility: Can you tell us how the band came together, who is currently in the group, and what were you all doing previous to Pilgrym?
Eventually I asked him to put down some guitar on a few tracks I was recording and his playing blew me away, the rest is history, we delved around for like minded players and Pilgrym were born. The band now consists of myself on gtr/vox & keys Tony gtr/vox, long time friend Kevin Mulvihill on drums, Oliver Drake on bass, Emma Pearson on keys & Rob Jarvis on keys gtr.
Tony has worked as a session musician for many years prior to forming Pilgrym. He has worked with other named musicians such as Bill Nelson (Be Bop Deluxe), Iron Duke and even auditioned to replace Greg Lake as bass player / vocalist in King Crimson but was turned down by Bob Fripp because he was the wrong star sign.
SoT: Wow, I bet most of our readers are going to be surprised to hear that!
AW: I'm sure! Kevin Mulvihill has also worked with many top bands over the years and now, aside from Pilgrym, drums in a 20 piece big band jazz outfit.
Rob Jarvis like, myself is also a music teacher part time, and works on film and TV soundtracks.
Emma Pearson is a full time student at the moment, doing a degree in music technology. That covers everyone!
SoT: The music on Pilrimage is very rooted in classic 70's prog rock, yet has a healthy dose of 80's melodic pop hooks. What are some of the bands influences that helped shape your sound?
AW: I don't really listen to others while in the writing process but I suppose the bands I listened to as a kid will have an indelible stamp on the sound we have. PFM / Greenslade / Asia / King Crimson etc. I think blocking my mind off from any outside influence helps create the sound that Pilgrym achieve. I don't want too many influences involved because I think any new music should move forward with a minimum of reflection on other people's styles to create individuality and fresh music for the future.
SoT: You use a wide variety of vintage and modern keyboards on the CD-can you talk a little bit about your gear, and what are some of your favourites?
AW: In the studio we have a Hammond B3 with custom 200w Leslie speaker, Mellotron Mk 400,Wurlitzer EP200a, Roland super JX10 / JX3P, EMU Emulator Mk2, ARP Oddysey, Mini Moog, Yamaha SY99 & E-Mu Vintage keys [ new ]. I love the Hammond but the Tron is a bitch to play and very temperamental, and the Moog very rarely stays in tune for long. The King of synths in the studio is the Roland super JX 10. It has an extended 76 note semi weighted keyboard which plays more like a piano and gives me extended range for more expression. It's also the midi platform for all the synth's in the studio with midi capability on it's own as a synth it's also a monster sound wise basically it's 2 JX 8's piggy backed together with 4 separate synth outputs for each timbre. Like I said, it's a monster synth and my all time favourite!
SoT: Who came up with the concept of the artwork for the CD? It's a wonderful yet mysterious piece of artwork!
AW: The artwork is done by a good friend of ours from New Jersey USA. His name is Lee Gaskins, quite a genius, www.leegaskins.com [check out his sites]. I can't remember how Lee came across my work but I remember him giving me a call to say he would be interested in designing some cover art. The Pilgrym album fit the bill perfectly. After listening to rough music of tracks to be included on the Pilgrym album, Lee was inspired to do the cover. He is busy at the moment designing the cover art for the new Pilgrym album, 'The Great Divide'.
AW: Live work so far is limited, but we are in rehearsals to do a full show. We have done some support work in the UK and recorded 'Reborn' off the album, at one of the shows. We want to get two albums under our belt before any full scale live performances; it will give us a better choice of material to draw from.
SoT: Your songs seem to have a quality that would lend themselves perfectly to a live setting, with lots of strong chorus' that the audience can sing along to. What songs are you planning on playing live?
AW: We will perform all from Pilgrimage plus some of my solo stuff and material from the new album.
SoT: Do you and Tony Drake share the song writing duties, or is it mostly you who writes the material?
AW: Song writing is mostly done by myself as Tony is busy working on his own solo album at the moment. I'm hoping the rest of the band will contribute some input to maybe the album after The Great Divide as most of the material is already written and formatted.
SoT: What decides who will sing what song?
AW: Mmmmmh !!! Total democracy, but it's usually me as I work in the studio at ridiculous times and when I've finished the vocals everyone seems to be happy with them and we tend to keep them as they are. Tony will be contributing a few more vocals on the next album. We have an acoustic track called 'TheHere and Now' which I think Tony's voice will lend great character to it being more balladie than mine.
SoT: How about the current prog scene-are there any current prog rock bands that you admire?
AW: I listen to a lot of classical music, but I think bands like Porcupine Tree carry on the progressive tradition very admirably. I like Neil Morse's writing and also admire him as a musician. I have also heard the Flower Kings but don't possess any of their albums yet, might have to look for one.
SoT: Now we get back to the follow-up CD, which you've mentioned will be called The Great Divide-is there a timetable for that and what can your fans expect as far as the music goes?
AW: We are currently in Hydeaway and Holy ground studios recording material for the next album , and I think listeners who liked the first CD will be very pleased with this one as well.
SoT: Sounds good Andy, we are looking forward to it!
|Pilgrym's prog guitarist Tony Drake is interviewed by prog artist Lee Gaskins.|
|[Via email - 17 Feb 04]|
|Greetings Tony. I know you guys are busy with the brand new album, web design and other endeavours to promote Pilgrimage, so a hearty thanks for taking the time to answer this email interview.|
No problem Lee. After the wonderful work you've done on the debut album sleeve, it's my pleasure.
Go to Lee's website: Lee Gaskins Illustrations...
|What was the first moment of realisation that you wanted to be a serious musician? What bands or performers influenced you in your early youth? Who influences you now?|
|Probably around 1963 hearing the Shadows and the Pretty Things. Although I was only singing at the time, I just loved the sounds and tones I heard from the guitar. Then of course Clapton and Hendrix in 1966 changed the course of every wannabe player. Today and for 30 years, Andy Latimer has always been an inspiration to me.|
|What guitars do you play (types, brands)? Do you customise them? What do you look for in a good guitar?|
|Gibson Flying V, Ibanez 'Prestige' series, Takamine acoustics, Tama drums. I don't do any work on them myself. Martin Chung and Marcus Johnson at G.T.R. Guitars in Huddersfield look after and set up my guitars. A good guitar is one you can play on first handling - you'll just know!|
|Are you self-taught on the guitar or did you receive training? Do you play any other instruments?|
|I'm self taught and got no training. Anyone coming up through the blues played along to records and put banjo strings on to lighten the gauge. I also play drums and percussion, which we may use live.|
|It seems that keyboard player Andy Wells is the catalyst for the "Pilgrimage" album and he's penned most of the material. Why the group Pilgrym, and not just an Andy Wells solo project? Would you like to do more composing on the next album?|
|Why change a winning formula?! I had a lot of input in "Pilgrimage". I'll save any composing for my solo projects.|
|Is there any reason for naming the band "Pilgrym"?|
|Yes. We're all beginning a great journey. Very challenging, with thousands of pitfalls and very relevant, we thought, to the original Pilgrim exploits.|
|Your playing hand has only two functional fingers due to two serious accidents. If you don't mind recalling these incidents, could you explain what happened? And how did you get through these physical as well as emotional setbacks? After the second accident, how did you reinvent your technique on the guitar?|
|At five, I fell onto stone slabs with a glass of pop and it smashed into my arm, hand and fingers. My bar finger had a 2-inch piece of plastic inserted and has never grown. Then at 35 I crushed my second finger flat, had it pinned and cauterised and now it doesn't bend. The second accident was more traumatic because I already had my technique sorted. I had to relearn everything and try and get back my fluency in soloing. I hope you can't hear the joins or lack of fingers - haha!|
|So how did the Pilgrimage sessions turn out? What do you like most about the album?|
|Excellent! everybody played their hearts out. At this moment in time, this is our best work. I like the way the album plays through. It's fresh. You can really hear the feeling in there.|
|Since Pilgrym is a new band, in a paragraph or to, please explain your music to the uninitiated? What do you consider the band's strength?|
|Pilgrym is Middle-Ground Progressive Rock. The strength is the family feel to the band. No stars - just respect for each other's talent. You have to have a big heart to play in Pilgrym.|
|Andy seems to have an amazing passion for music. How was it working with him?|
|Andy is quite simply the best musician I have worked with. It's his feel along with technique which drives the music. Listen to the amazing 'Hammond/Leslie slow downs' in "Black Sun". Sheer goose-Pimple stuff.|
|Can you please tell the Internet community about the other musicians on the album - Emma Louise Pearson, Mike Sizzlo and Kevin Mulvihill? What about their backgrounds? How did they join the project, etc? Are they guest musicians or part of the group?|
|Yes - Kevin Mulvihill (drums) and I have worked in bands together for 30 years. Different bands - from his early days in the Drovers with Billy Currie (ULTRAVOX) and John McCoy (Deep Purple, Mammoth) to his current Fusion projects. Kev will amaze live - he's our "secret weapon". Unfortunately Mike Sizzlo (bass) had a bad accident at the beginning of recording and Andy and my son Ol played most of the bass parts. Emma has just come on board and is a fine classical/rock keyboard player. Check out Reborn Live. Ol will be involved as commitments permit. To augment the band live, our friend Rob Jarvis will come in on guitar/ keyboards. This is the band, Enjoy!|
|Rumours have it that you're interested in doing a solo album. Any hints about what you'd like to do? Besides prog, are there other musical directions you want to explore? What do you want to accomplish in the near future?|
|Yes. I have two tracks of a solo album recorded. It's titled "Believe In The Dream." I'll be doing all the guitars and vocals, with solos everyone can play along to. I'm quite happy in prog, because like me, it's very emotional - yes, I'm happy. The future? To play in 2004/5 and meet thousands of prog fans worldwide.|
|What does music mean to you? What do you think of today's music in general? Is progressive music an underground movement and can it still survive in the 21st century?|
|Music can make you laugh and cry. It's a huge family business that crosses all ages and social barriers. Sometimes before you go live you can be sick, excited, shit yourself - haha - etc. But once you hit the stage you can't describe the feeling to anyone who has not experienced it. It's the biggest buzz on earth and it lifts your heart to hear applause. Today's music gets better... Prog and Rock on the way up - manufactured pop stars on the way down. Excellent! I don't think Prog is underground at all - with Yes, Dream Theatre, etc. filling gigs. The future is bright.|
|The classic question. What would you listen to if you were stranded on a desert island with a CD player and batteries. If you could have any 10 albums, what would you choose and why?|
- Moon Madness.
|When you have time off from your musical endeavours, what do you like to do? Hobbies? What is your favourite book? Movie?|
|When time allows, I collect 60s and 70s vinyl. Reading consists of record collecting books. Film has got to be Ben-Hur - never tire of seeing it. Family is very important - my wife June, boys Ol and Matt (both metal guitarists) and daughter Charlotte are my pride and joy. One day I hope to give them the life they deserve.|
|Is there any person you'd love to play or jam with?|
|That's easy - trading solos with Andy Latimer on stage. I'd die a happy man!|
|You have an open forum. Do you have any words to the Prog fans out there? Or to young aspiring musicians?|
|Keep believing in genuine live music. Use the feelings in your head to bring out the best in your heart. You cannot rehearse "feelings". Listen to true musicians - Camel, Greenslade, The Enid, King Crimson, Yes, Pilgrym (had to get that one in - haha!) Come on - Prog fans - this is the chance to stamp good music on the world. Hope to see you live in 2004/5. Love, Tony. "Always believe."|
|Thank you so much for this interview, Tony. I always appreciate musicians that are true to their craft and are not afraid to take risks. Best Wishes and thank you for sharing you answers and views.|
|Feel free email: Tony Drake... And: Lee Gaskins...|