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INTERVIEW: PROGSTRAVAGANZA 2013
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Original Interview: http://www.progstravaganza.com/author/gulin/
GEKKO PROJEKT: FROM THE CITY OF ORANGE TO THE PROG UNIVERSE
Coming from the city of Orange, California, Gekko Projekt brings progressive rock spiced with the Californian desert flair. Their soulful, often laid-back sound shows that progressive rock is not only about virtuosity, although the members of the band are real connoisseurs of the genre. With experience on their side, Gekko Projekt is determined in giving prog a different meaning.
All of you guys are experienced in music and all of you have worked in different projects prior forming Gekko Projekt. What made you come together and pursue a career in progressive rock?
Vance: All of us were, well, bordering on being rabid prog fans as teenagers, and all of us played prog back then. For all of us, prog was our musical first love. The situation was a little different in Britain, where Peter grew up, in that there was actually a prog scene still happening there with Marillion, Quasar and other bands, so people have actually heard of his early bands, Janysium and Mach One. America, where the rest of us were, had moved on from prog to punk and metal, so there was less opportunity for prog bands. The instrumental State of Siege on the first Gekko Projekt album was originally performed and recorded by Pax, a band I was in in Los Angeles in the 1980s. We used to play clubs around LA like the Troubadour, but the audiences at the time were looking for something more along the lines of the Clash or Black Flag.
Tell us more about your beginnings with Gekko Projekt.
Vance: Rick Meadows should be credited as the founder of Gekko Projekt. Rick and I played in a blues-rock band at the time, and sometimes at rehearsal we would start playing a bit of a prog tune together. The rest of the guys were not as prog-oriented, so it didn’t really go anywhere. We also would go to jam sessions, and Peter came to some of those. The three of us found common ground and wanted to get together, but Peter was committed to Evolve at the time. Finally, Rick said to me, “Let’s just do it,” and he and I and Alan began playing together, auditioning guitarists. I didn’t know Alan at the time, but he and Rick had played together since their early teens. We were playing some material off of King Crimson’s Red and the first UK album, just to get the band started. A few months later the demands of Evolve tapered off, and Peter was able to join the band.
So far, you released one full-length album called Electric Forest released in 2012. How would you describe it to someone who didn’t hear it?
Vance: Some have been calling it melodic prog, and I like that. Most of the songs are instrumental, and we try to create an atmosphere, an audio world in each song. We don’t have the rapid-fire unison lines that you find on some prog albums—which there’s nothing wrong with—but we wanted to do something a little different. We put energy into creating interesting and evocative harmonic structures, but, at least on our first outing, we’ve kept many of the song structures simpler. Our goal was to create music that people could listen to over and over and still find it takes them on a journey.
I find your sound calming and soulful, it’s indeed relaxing. Is it the way of reflecting your personalities on music? Or is it just made on purpose?
Vance: We are not aggressive personalities, so there may be something in what you say. But I think the sound is mainly a reflection of the kinds of music we enjoy listening to and playing. We figure that if we like it, there’s probably someone out there who will also like it!
The song “Avatar Jones” is on Progstravaganza, it’s personally one of my favorites off the sampler and off the album. It pretty much summarizes what I meant by telling of your soulful sound. Is there any special meaning of this particular song? Anything that separates it from other songs off Electric Forest?
Vance: Avatar Jones incorporates a lot of what I think makes a satisfying—for me, anyway—prog song. It fuses lots of styles. It starts with jazz piano, goes into a mildly hip-hop feel, then aggressive rock, and that’s just the first 30 seconds. But it has a story and a theme that welds it all together. The story is about a would-be messiah who finds that the real wisdom is to walk away from being “the wise one”.
The structure of the song is more linear (a sequence of sections) rather than having repeated verses and choruses. Some of the other songs on the album are more verse-chorus. I go back and forth on the question of structure. This kind of structure is often more satisfying to hard-core prog fans, but it can make it hard for others to find their way into the music.
I heard about the song that Rick and you started together called Escape from the Mines of Titan. Was it originally assigned for the second GP album?
Vance: We are in the process of recording it at the moment, provisionally for the second album. We wrote this one a bit differently from some of the other tunes. It started with Rick recording some bass sections, and I rearranged them a bit and put together a demo with drum machine, keyboards and a scratch guitar added, and presented that to the band. There will be other songs on the second album that are also related to Titan (the moon of Saturn).
Rick and you were together in a progressive blues rock bands WZMG and the Coot? I have to admit that it sounds pretty interesting „on paper“. Can you tell something more about these bands? How much of that heritage you applied to the Gekko Projekt music?
Vance: It was a fun band to be in, and I enjoyed recording the album Blues Transmission, released in 1999. There was lots of skill in that band. Damien Meadows (Rick’s son) is a great rock/funk drummer. Greg Watmore is a stellar blues guitarist. Ted Zahn is a great singer and songwriter, and he sings on Peter’s solo album. They always did a great job with my songs, and we got to do a greater variety of styles than the “blues rock” label would make you think of. But I think both Rick and I longed to play music that was more challenging musically.
You were active playing live in the US. Any chance to see you in Europe?
Vance: I would LOVE to do a European tour, and so would Peter, but it’s a big and expensive undertaking. Spock’s Beard had a very successful Kickstarter project for their latest CD, and that allowed them to fund a European tour. I would love for us to do something similar, but being realistic, a European tour will not happen until next year at the earliest.
What do you guys listen to when you all come up together for a recording session? Do you have time to listen to any other music or are you striclty focused on working?
Vance: I’ve known Alan Morse for many years, and I’ve always been knocked out by what he does with Spock’s Beard. I’m also a big fan of The Tangent, and all of us in the band continue to enjoy classic prog music. But in getting ready to create something for Gekko Projekt, I try to listen to music that has not been incorporated into prog often, if at all. That seems like more fertile ground for contributing something new to prog. I’ve recently been thinking of adding a bit of my Tibetan throat singing to a song the next album.
What are your future plans?
Vance: We are currently in the middle of recording the second Gekko Projekt album. We have basic tracks down for more than half the album, and we’re working on recording overdubs for them. At the moment, I’m spending a lot of time getting everything dialed in. This album will have more vocals, and we believe it will show an evolution musically. We are looking forward to getting it out!
Gekko Projekt is:
Peter Matuchniak – guitars
Vance Gloster – keyboards, vocals
Rick Meadows – bass
Alan Smith – drums, vocals