I had a chat with the man who envisioned the ANABASIS from the void. He is an excellent musician and for your information, a very fun and clever bloke.
Here’s what we talked about….
Lady Obscure – You are the mastermind behind this project – what did it take to bring so many brilliant names together?
Barry – Well, I had some experience with projects like this before having co-produced a pretty large charity CD project back in 2005 called The Tsunami Projekt. I had already had some contact with a few people in the prog scene like Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), Neal Morse and Randy George (Neal Morse Band, Ajalon) among others. So, I just started reaching out to some musicians that I thought would like to participate. Many of them are personal friends of mine, like Brick Williams (Hourglass) and Josh Sager (Din Within) and Christopher James Harrison and Lee Abraham (Lee Abraham Band) so that part was actually pretty easy.
Lady Obscure – 90 % of my readers are prog-heads so it is reasonable to assume that there will be a lot of die-hard Spock’s Beard fans reading this interview… Could you please tell us more about Ryo Okumoto’s involvement for my readers? How did he get involved with the project? And, how do you think his involvement affected or changed the project?
Barr[pullquote_right]He is an excellent musician and for your information, a very fun and clever bloke.[/pullquote_right]y – One night, George Andrade, my writing partner for The ANABASIS just happened to be on Facebook and Ryo had posted that he was looking for some prog projects to get involved with. We think he was only half serious at the time, but we reached out to him anyway and sent him a demo of “Rome” that we had been kind of struggling with getting to sound the way we wanted. Ryo liked “Rome” but wanted to know if he could do a bit of re-arranging and how much freedom we’d give him. We said “go for it!” So, Ryo took the song and really tweaked it quite a bit and sent us back his ideas which eventually evolved into the song you hear today as the opening track on the album. We thought his contributions were breathtaking and so we decided to ask him if he’d like to do more. He agreed and eventually we invited him to become a full-fledged member of The ANABASIS and he was all for it. The rest is history. Ryo’s contributions to the arrangements cannot be understated. He really contributed a lot of great ideas and many of the tracks, especially the three epic tracks took on a completely new and different feel and texture once he had added his orchestrations, textures and solos.
Lady Obscure – The ANABASIS is purely a studio project. The most interesting bit about it is that it was recorded completely over the internet. Since this is new to us, I’d like to ask – what kind of challenges you had to overcome?
Barry – Believe it or not, getting all of the parts actually recorded was not too difficult. All of the musicians I worked with were top-notch players who had experience with recording. There are plenty of services available these days for transferring large volumes of data over the internet, so we’d each just use one of those services to get the files to each other and add our parts. We all recorded our parts in our respective studios. Everyone sent me their recorded tracks, I put all of the songs together in terms of bundling all of the tracks together into individual packages, then I sent them over the internet to our (extremely gifted and criminally underrated) Producer Lee Abraham who did all of the mixing and production. What Lee accomplished, in my opinion, is amazing. The technology out there now for recording musicians is incredible and Lee is certainly a master at leveraging it for the best possible sound. So, really, I didn’t have to overcome much at all – the album sounds the way it does because Lee Abraham is a genius. He’s also a great friend.
Lady Obscure – Are you planning to maintain the project without touring? My understanding is that touring is a very important part of a band’s promotion…
Barry – Well, you know, this is not my day job as much as I would like it to be. The unfortunate reality is that unless you’re willing and able to basically live on the road 24/7/365 in a tour bus, the business of making music for a living is pretty much dead as a door nail. I’m making music because I love making music. Would I like to have our projects at least fund their own costs? Absolutely! But the fact is, not a lot of people buy music these days and that’s just how it is, so I went into making this album knowing it would cost me a lot of money and I’d probably never get any of that money back. We signed on with 10t Records because as someone who works a full time day job outside of music, I don’t really have time for promotion or anything like that. My spare time is spent practising my instruments and writing and producing music for the next album and we leave the promotion and selling of CDs to the record label.
Lady Obscure – The project includes three epics about three major civilizations of the history – “Rome,” “Vikings,” and “Egypt.” What brought you here? Is there a particular and exciting story behind your choice of themes?
Barry – I was always interested in the period of Egyptian culture during which they were conquered by the Roman empire. A very engaging and dramatic story. It all started with the main riff to the song “Egypt” and when I saved the project file I named it “Egyptian Thing” Pretty soon I had written some goofy lyrics about Pharaohs and wrath and war and vengeance and my writing partner, George Andrade, read my lyrics and kind of chuckled because (like most of MY lyrics) they didn’t make any sense. He then embarked upon a huge research mission about the Egyptian culture during that time period and that is how the three epics eventually evolved. We then decided to integrate some modern sociopolitical commentary with the three shorter tracks and thus the album’s loose concept was conceived. If you read the lyrics carefully, you’ll see how all of the tracks, including the non-epics are tied together. George is really a brilliant author with a literary background and we think he did a fantastic job of weaving a compelling narrative.
Lady Obscure – Can we expect more? If we do, will you be working with the same line-up? Would you envision your next gem to be a concept album again? Maybe in the same vein?
Barry – I write music very organically. I just write about what moves me. The next album is already mostly written. I don’t want to give too much away just yet. I don’t think we’ll actually call it a “concept album” but it will certainly have a common thread that ties the songs together. That is the job of my writing partner, the amazing George Andrade who writes all of our lyrics and helps with arrangements. In terms of line ups, Ryo will be back of course, as will most of the same musicians. Because the music is taking a slightly different, perhaps a tiny bit heavier direction this time, we may end up using Gordon Tittsworth (Images of Eden, All Too Human) a bit more than just on backing vocals this time. I’ve also got few cool things planned with some new guests whom I am sure will be known by practically every prog fan out there. I’m talking to some of the folks that participated in The Tsunami Projekt. One thing that won’t change is the project will continue to be a collaborative project where the participating musicians are given freedom to put their own stamp on their parts and offer ideas if they have them.
Lady Obscure – Thank you Barry for taking the time to answer my questions!
It is clear that these guys will be a permanent part of our play lists. So, to reach them you’d need to go to their official website or their Facebook page. Of course, you may want to check out my review of the album here as well!