[Interview] Exclusive interview with Belling The Tiger

We are pleased to be able to offer you in this article an interview with the American Progressive Rock band Belling The Tiger, whose album “Lost” was released on November 2021 and reviewed in our pages.

> Hi, how are you?

Michael Allen Moore (guitars and keyboards): I am well thank you!

Danny Grimm (vocals): 😊

Michael Johnstone (guitars and keyboards): I’m doing wonderful, thanks for asking.

Andrew Harvey (bass): I’m good, how are you? Ha-ha, just kidding. I know you can’t respond to me.

Duane Harvey (drums): Great! Thanks for having us.

> The sound of your band is a blend of Progressive Rock, Heavy and Experimental traits, where does your passion for this genre come from?

MAM: Early exposure to bands like Rush and Yes as well as 70s hard rock and eventually Marillion in the mid 80s.

DG: Great question. For me, it’s my earliest memories of music. Me and my buddy snuck into his older brother’s room and listened to his records. I got to hear Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” Todd Rundgren’s “Ra” and Rush’s “Fly by Night” for the first time all in one day. It was an amazing day. It remained my focus for my entire life.

MJ: My passion for the genre of Progressive rock started with Rush. Prog rock is a challenge to play well and it’s always rewarding when I play the parts right.

AH: I enjoy all these things seperately and simultaneously. My appreciation for music in general and especially for more complex music came from my upbringing. Both of my parents are classically trained musicians, and my father is the drummer for BTT.

DH: Like the other two “old guys” in the band, I cut my prog teeth on Yes, Tull, Zappa, Rush and garden variety fusion stuff, but it wasn’t long before I got into a whole lot more than all that both as a player and as a listener. One thing I like most about playing prog is the ability to draw on all of that background to make something that is new but also accessible to a lot of listeners. The genre allows you to be creative and is broad enough to not pigeonhole you into anything too specific; there’s a lot of freedom in it.

> Your “Lost” album contains 11 tracks including a long suite, how would you describe the album?

MAM: I’m very proud of this record. It began as a simple writing project between me and Danny but eventually grew and evolved into a full band. It does include some older ideas and for me, the LOST suite one of them. I imagined a very expansive cinematic sound for the piece which was challenging to execute and now it’s even more challenging to execute in a live setting. However, I’m very proud of it and of the way it’s been adopted and interpreted by the rest of the band.

DG: “Lost” is definitely an amalgam of all the music that has influenced each of the players. Michael & I set out to do a prog CD. You can hear bits of our influences pop out from time to time. It does sound uniquely like us though.

MJ: An exciting experience from begining to end!

DH: I like to say that BTT plays progressive rock with mainstream appeal. We try to stay on the melodic and expressive side of things while still holding the interest of more adventurous listeners.

> An elaborate album with many nuances, what are the themes of the album?

MAM: That’s a great question. A lot of the themes of the lyrics pertain to the frustrations and difficulties of basic interpersonal human communication no matter what relationship dynamic may be at work. I believe there are some very universal themes here regarding “struggling with depression, loss, alienation, etc.” Mental Blindness, for example, is written about the difficulties of communicating with other people through social media and technology and the inevitable pitfalls and miscommunications that one will encounter.

DG: Its not really a theme album for me. Lost is … about being emotionally lost. The others stand alone.

DH: “Larger Concern” is about urban decay as a result of racial “redlining”, particularly in Detroit. The album artwork does have a lot of references to Detroit in it, starting with the Old English font on the cover.

> Your album contains a mixture of multiple genres and styles, what are the main artistic influences?

MAM: We all have a very eclectic background including a lot of modern international jazz as well as 20th century music to a basic love of hard rock.

DG: As a player, Rush, Yes, Kansas, Beatles, Queen, Judas Priest, Dixie Dregs, Stanley Clarke, Jeff Beck, Foo Fighters, Kings X, Frank Zappa, Queensryche, Neil Morse. As a singer, Alanis Morrisette, all the guys in Queen & Yes, Pearl Jam, Kings X, Rush, Debbie Harry, Beatles, Queensryche, Neil Morse

AH: I think we are all influenced by all the music we like collectively and it gels together pretty well. Bands like Rush and Porcupine Tree are common influences. Jazz and classical music as well. I tend to like music that is heavier and darker, whatever genre it might be.

DH: I have an extensive background in jazz and improvisation which informs pretty much all my playing. Every performance is different from the next, and this spirit permeates through the whole band so things stay fresh. We are also drawing on a lot of folk traditions from around the world as well as incorporating the electronic elements most prog listeners expect so nothing is really off-limits.

> Your music is full of tempo changes and long instrumental sections, how is the composition of the songs done?

MAM: Initially, our process wasn’t that organic. I charted things out vaguely and described sections to people and then we would record sections in isolation. I’m very excited to move forward with this lineup because I think our next release will be so much better because now we’re beginning to “gel” as an ensemble and take the time and write music through jamming and experimentation.

DG: It depends on the song. Many start with a melody and the chords are built around it. Sometimes there is music first. Michael & Duane do a wonderful job at building on a melody and making it grow into somthing amazing.

AH: Most of the songs that appear on this album already had a pretty strong skeleton written when I joined the group, but I was given pretty wide open creative freedom to write my own bass parts. When I hear music without bass and am asked to write bass parts for it, it just tends to be pretty obvious to me what to play. Normally I start with the root notes of the chords being played and then let the parts evolve based off of things that still “work” that occur to me and are more interesting.

DH: Rock bands often write “by committee” and we are no exception. This was the biggest adjustment for me coming into this project. I was used to everything being charted out ahead of time, do a rehearsal or two and GO! The process here is much more iterative and has a lot more hands involved in the composition process. This slows the creative process dramatically, but also gives you something you can’t really get any other way. The checks and balances that emerge deliver unique results. It’s a stew, and everyone contributes.

> Many of your fans and readers are wondering if there will be a chance to hear the new album live, do you have any plans for that?

MAM: Yes right now we are booking some gigs and looking to play out as much as we possibly can. Covid is quickly on the decline and venues are just now getting back to full capacity with live music.

DG: Haven’t thought about a live album, but sure! It would be a very raw/honest recording of exactly what we are.

MJ: Oh, absolutely.

AH: We get together every week and practice the album in its entirety as a setlist. In my opinion it’s starting to sound even better than the album, and I’m pretty excited for our first show!

DH: We’ve been working toward playing live for a while, it’s part of what we want to do for sure. After some delays, we now have a solid date for our on-stage debut on March 18 at Road Rangers in Taylor, MI. We hope to be performing regularly around Detroit soon and we’ll see where things go from there.

> Even though you recently released “Lost,” do you already have other plans for future releases?

MAM: Yes there’s some material that’s ready to be broken down and interpreted and reinterpreted by the band to eventually be recorded, hopefully in the not too distant future.

DG: Yes, as long as I can sing. There are several tunes in cue for a second CD now.

MJ: I look forward to making more music for everyone in the future!

AH: I don’t see why not. I think our plan for now is to focus on playing this material live for a while and probably writing new songs as they come to us as bands do. We certainly don’t have any premeditations of dissolving the project at this point in time.

DH: We have a few unfinished songs now and are in the early stages of writing the next wave of songs from BTT. I expect you’ll be hearing even more ethnic influence than before and perhaps a bit more sophistication in some of the writing. We’ve had some major upgrades in the studio, so sonics will be taking a big step forward as well. I’m looking forward to it.

> The music market has changed a lot in recent years, how difficult is it to establish yourself with a more sought-after music genre like yours?

MAM: The progressive rock world is international and very supportive although it’s a bit cliquish at times it’s a nice genre to be part of.

DG: ?? People actually like this?? It’s still a learning process for me. I’m shocked that people will listen to a song longer than 20 seconds without auto tune & programming.

AH: I feel like it’s probably better in some ways with the advent of the internet. Personally, I’m the second youngest member of the band at 31 [Michael Johnstone is 27] and the internet has been around my entire adult and teenage life. So I probably can’t offer the same perspective that some of us can on it. But I can say that for niche genres in general, the networking and community aspect of the internet has certainly helped immensely. One can connect with people with a similar interest the whole world over rather than just the (possibly select few) individuals in their local area. They can do this without having to leave their homes which is also a double edged sword in many ways.

DH: I’m not sure I’d describe prog as “more sought-after” overall, but it is more sought after than the jazz I was playing years ago. That aside, the music market is really in a state of chaotic flux these days. A lot of the changes happening tend toward rewarding limited attention spans (think Tik Tok, IG, etc.), which is not really conducive to growing an audience for music that requires close and extended attention for greatest reward. Right or wrong, when working as the band’s publicist, I so far have avoided that scene altogether. We do have an official website and Facebook page of course, which are pretty essential these days for general promotion and advertising of gigs. More traditional avenues of promotion like reviews, the prog press, radio and web broadcasts, and live shows still seem to be the way to go for marketing a prog band, and like Michael says, the prog community does tend to be quite supportive. Building a real audience takes years though, and we are just getting started. You have to play a long game.

> What advice would you give to young artists entering the modern music scene by offering Progressive sounds?

MAM: Be unique.

DG: 1 -Stay true to yourself. Remember – You can be yourself better than anyone else on the planet.

2 – Don’t suck – Practice….a lot

3-Always remember you are an entertainer too. Put effort into making it appealing to as many people as possible.

DH: First, practice! All playing musicians need to be solid to make it in today’s ultra-competetive performing world. Be persistent. Don’t expect to get rich or famous, though most of us hope to be lucky that way. Make the music you want to make because you want to make it and let the rest fall where it will.

> As usual, I leave the last question free, to allow you to talk about any topic of your choice not touched on in the previous questions.

свобода!!!

I thank Belling The Tiger for their availability and for the pleasant interview, wishing them the best for the continuation of their musical career.

Thank you 🙏

Belling The Tiger |Official Website|Bandcamp|Facebook Page|Spotify|YouTube Channel|

Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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