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Spock's Beard

Net na de release van de fantastische box-set ‘Snow Live’ komt Spock’s Beard alweer aanzetten met een nieuwe studio-album genaamd ‘Noise Floor’ en zoals gewoonlijk is het weer een erg fraai werkstuk geworden. Lords Of Metal sprak met Ted Leonard over de voorbereidingen, de uiteindelijke release en de verwachtingen voor het nieuwe album.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

Hi Ted, let’s go back a couple of years in time to your previous studio album ‘The Oblivion Particle’. What did that album mean for the band both from a commercial as well as an artistic perspective?
Commercially it wasn’t really a step in a positive or negative direction. Artistically, I felt like there was some fantastic material and sounds on that album.

A couple of months ago the double live DVD/CD-set ‘Snow Live’ was released. When did you come up with the idea to perform the ‘Snow’ album completely in a live situation?
I didn’t have anything to do with that decision. I think it was mostly Neal’s idea.

How did it make you feel to play with both the old and the new line-up of Spock’s Beard at the same stage?
It was great. I mean these are some of my favourite musicians, so to get to share a stage with them in any situation is an honour.

What do you think about the actual end result of the ‘Snow Live’ package yourself?
I thought it turned out really good. The stage, lighting, camera work and editing are all top-notch and Rich Mouser did an excellent job with the mix.

It took you about three years to come up with the new and meanwhile thirteenth studio album ‘Noise Floor’. When did you start with the actual preparations for the album and what was the game plan that you had for this new one?
Some of these songs have been in the works for years but the real recording started last summer. I think the game plan, as always, was to top the previous album in terms of sound and composition.

In my opinion the song material is a bit more “direct” than what was to be found on ‘The Oblivion Particle’. Do you agree with that and if so, was this an intentional thing or did it happen naturally during the song writing process?
I would agree with that. I know it wasn’t intentional from my perspective. Some songs just kind of steer themselves.

Talking about the song writing, did this differ in any way compared to the previous album and if so, in what respect?
This album includes a bit more band collaboration. Ryo and I created ’Beginnings’, Al and I got together for a couple weekends and came up with two others. Al and Stan Ausmus also worked together more.

Each individual member likes to write separately from the other band members. Why do you feel best with this approach and do no never feel the urge to start composing as a team?
I enjoy collaborating with other writers. It usually just comes down to logistics because we don’t live near each other.

What are typical elements that you are looking for during the song writing process that need to be present in a great Spock’s Beard song before you decide to release it on an album?
I think we are striving to avoid formulas and I think that comes across more so on this album than on previous efforts.

Where was the album recorded and how long did the recording process take?
Nick’s drums were recorded at Sweetwater in Indiana. Much of the other tracking was done at Rich Mouser’s studio in California. As usual there was a lot of tracking at each individual’s home studio as well. The recording process took about six months, but it wasn’t constant. There were a lot of personal schedules to work around.

Drummer Nick D’Virgilio is back for this new album after having left the band in 2011. Why did he return and will he remain in the band or was it just a one-time thing again?
He just committed to the recording and we’re stoked to have him.

A video was created for the track ‘To Breathe Another Day’. Why did you choose for this particular song?
It’s the opening track and it has a lot of energy to it.

Will you release more videos in the near future and if so, for which songs?
There will be one that’s sort of a documentary for the song ‘Beginnings’. That should be coming out before this gets published.

What do you think about the importance of videos nowadays as besides Youtube there aren’t too many possibilities for broadcasting anymore?
I think videos marry well with social media. It’s not very fun to just watch a waveform, so they are very important, indeed.

I know it’s always a difficult question, but if you had to pick one song from the new album that would represent Spock’s Beard best at this moment, which one would that be and why?
I would have to go with ‘One So Wise’, as that song has a wide variety of elements to it. and it is exploring some new directions.

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On the album you also use two violin player, a cello player and an English horn player. Why did you feel that you had to incorporate these elements into your music this time?
Spock’s Beard has used real strings and horns throughout their catalogue. Keyboard software has come a long way but there’s a special dimension that comes from the real thing.

What are in your opinion the biggest differences and/or improvements when comparing ‘Noise Floor’ to its predecessor?
I think, as a whole, the songs are stronger and more immediately memorable on this one. Sonically, it seems like Rich (who has always been great) just keeps getting better.

Besides the regular album also the ‘Cutting Room Floor EP’ was added as a second disc. Who came up with that idea?
The record label wanted a shorter main disc so there was much deliberation as to which songs would spill over onto a second disc. It was a pretty democratic process, though.

Did you record more material than what is placed on this new album? If so, which ones and what is going to happen with them?
There are always other songs floating around. We included everything that was tracked on drums but there are complete demos of other songs. Some may find their way onto future albums.

Is there a special meaning to the album title as there’s no song to be found on the record with that title?
No special meaning. Usually there are about twenty ideas and it comes to a vote. I think this title evokes some cool mental imagery. I’m not big on naming an album after a song. I think that almost downplays or under cuts the other songs.

What are some of the subjects that you touch on in the lyrics and who was mainly responsible for those?
I have one song that is about my nephew that was born brain dead and lived for sixteen years. Another is about a girl that was rescued from sex-trafficking. Another is about coming out of a dark time and realizing you made it through. Other topics are about the “craziness” of the current social climate (especially here in the US). The topics are really all over the map. John, Stan, Al and I all contributed.

Who was responsible for the album artwork and what was the assignment that you gave to him?
Thomas Ewerhard did the artwork. He has done many of the Spock’s and Enchant albums (and many of the other bands on Inside Out for that matter). We usually just give him a title and he comes back with multiple directions, then there’s a lot of back and forth until everyone likes the result.

Is the artwork in any way connected to the lyrical content of the album and if so, in what way?
Not really. I mean you could probably manufacture some correlation, but there’s no intentional connections.

The album will be released on May 25th, but what are you own personal expectation from this album? When will it be a success for you?
There’s not a ton of money in this so really the music itself is its’ own reward. Playing it for the first time in front of people and having it well received is always a special moment as well.

What are your plans after the release of the album? Do you already have any concrete shows or tours booked for 2018?
There has been some talk of a UK/Europe tour in October and November but nothing has been solidified. Otherwise, the only other plan is to play Cruise To The Edge next year.

Spock’s Beard is already around for decades, so what have been the highlights and maybe also low points that you have experienced over the years?
I’m probably not the right member to ask…it’s been all high points for me. I know for the band, their highest reach and show attendance was for the ‘V’ tour and ‘Snow’ was the highest selling. Followed by, arguably the lowest point which would be when Neal left.

How long do you intend to keep this train rolling, as the new album proves that you’re still all fired up?
Until it derails, I suppose. So many of the seventies prog bands have set the expectation that you don’t ever get to quit, so who are we to consider it (being a band from the 90’s)…haha.

You have achieved quite a lot already, but do you still have some dreams for the band that you want to realize in the future?
Just to continue to make the best music we can make and maintain an audience to play them to.

Okay Ted, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I think we covered it! Thank you!

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