[Interview] Exclusive interview with The Aristocrats

Hello webziners. Today we have the pleasure to talk with one of the best Instrumental Prog supergroup in the scene:” The Aristocrats”, that have announced they will release a new live album “FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020” on May 7, 2021.

– First of all welcome, it is a real pleasure for us to be able to talk to you, how are you?

Bryan: Thank you for inviting us to chat with you and I hope you’re doing well in these crazy times. I’m doing pretty good, all things considered, and looking forward to what seems to be a slow but real “reopening” of the world, which means live shows will hopefully be coming back soon to a venue near you. 😉

Marco: Thank you, likewise. We’re all here and doing well it seems. In my case I had lots of fun enjoying time at my house and creating and releasing multiple musical albums, which felt very satisfying. The pandemic obviously is an unfortunate development. But you’re making basically the best possible tasting lemonade from the lemons that got thrown at you.

Guthrie: Pretty good, all things considered, and thanks for asking! I’m very much missing the experience of playing music with (and for) other people but I’ve managed to avoid contact with the COVID virus and so has everyone I know so… I’m profoundly grateful for that: things could certainly be a lot worse. During these weird times, I’ve mostly doing remote recordings for various movie soundtracks and collaborating on some new arrangement ideas for Hans Zimmer’s planned 2022 live tour so I’ve been keeping busy as best I can!

– Where does your passion for music and for such sophisticated and committed sounds come from?

Bryan: I think some of this is a “divine mystery”. Why are certain people inspired to create sonic art and play music, while some others are only inspired to *listen* to music, and others are not inspired by music very much at all? I don’t know the answer to that question. All I can say is, for me, interest in music was present very early on. My very first memory is sitting on an orange shag carpet in my parents’ apartment in New York City listening to a vinyl album on a pair of big brown Koss headphones. I was 18 months old. So, I think passion for music is, to a certain degree, innate. Then it’s up to each individual to feed and grow that initial passion as they grow older, in a way that is authentic to them. And then, hopefully something good happens. 

Marco: Music always was a passion from childhood on. I guess I really have to thank my parents for that, as they’re huge music lovers and exposed me at a very young age to their record collection and took me to live shows.

Guthrie: I grew up in a household where music was always being played and I learned the basic rock ‘n’ roll guitar chords from my dad at a very early age. I suppose I’ve been surrounded by music for my whole life so it would have been weird for me not to develop an appreciation for it! To me, music feels as normal as the English language – I’ve been surrounded by both for as long as I can remember.

– Are you excited for the publication of this new live album?

Marco: Yes, very much. I think it came out great, playing and also sound wise. Furthermore I think it’s a nice souvenir for the ones who had seen us during that tour and a sort of presentation for the ones who unfortunately were unable to witness our shows, due to the lockdown.

– Let’s talk about the album FREEZE! How did come the idea?

Bryan: We actually did multi-track recordings of nearly every European show. So when COVID happened, and we realized it might be some time before we were able to play live concerts again, we decided to take a look at a few shows later in the tour to see what we sounded like just before the shutdowns began, to see if it was possible to perhaps share something with our fans who might also be missing live music. Fortunately we liked what we heard, and so that’s when we went to work on creating a compilation of material – mostly new stuff from our last studio album You Know What…? – that could comprise a live album. And here we are. 🙂

– How was the process of making this live album, also consoderating the difficulties due to the pandemic and if there is any anecdote about the release of this work.?

Guthrie: Whilst the pandemic has obviously taken a huge toll on our entire musical ecosystem, I have to acknowledge that we were actually very fortunate in two respects. Firstly, the timing of our tour itinerary meant that we were able to play almost all of our scheduled European gigs (before the virus appeared and started to chase us across various borders…) and secondly, we managed to record some of our shows. When the world as we know it shut down last year, we found ourselves with plenty of free time and an archive of interesting multitrack audio from various gigs so… it made total sense for us to produce a live record! For us, it’s quite a special album: it documents a period in the tour when we were feeling particularly “gig fit” and musically connected, plus it also feels like a poignant snapshot of the way the whole live music experience felt just before the world was forced to “pull the plug” on all regular touring activity.

– You had announced a new tour, but because Covid-19 is very complicated to play live, what are your plans in this regard?

Marco: Even though within certain countries, restrictions have been lifted and live shows are possible again, the international travels are still not quite certain. Therefore we unfortunate are unable to make solid plans for international touring yet.

– Yours is an instrumental sound full of virtuosity and contamination that does not include vocal parts, will you continue on this imprinting or do you intend to add a singer to the lineup in the future?

Bryan: In English we have a saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a way of saying that, perhaps, it’s not a good idea to alter a formula that seems to be working. So I don’t think a vocalist is going to happen anytime in our near future, because we like what we have as a musical energy between the three of us. If we had a singer, it might be cool, but I’m not sure it would be The Aristocrats any longer. It would more than likely be…something else. 

– How has your sound changed over the years and what are your sources of inspiration if there are any?

Guthrie: I think our band’s “sound” has always been defined primarily by the way the three of us interact musically, rather than by any specific stylistic reference points: as The Aristocrats, we’ve always felt free to build on that foundation of musical chemistry and to explore new approaches without worrying that we might lose the essence of our sound. Every one of our studio albums has featured forays into some new genres and our overall production values have definitely progressed over the years but hopefully everything we’ve released still sounds recognisably… Aristocratic 😉

Regarding sources of inspiration: I think we all listened to a lot of the same music when we were growing up so we must have some kind of shared musical consciousness but… I think those influences will typically reveal themselves in a more subliminal way, rather than through any deliberate effort to sound like band “x” or instrumentalist “y”. 

The inspiration for our individual songs can come from pretty much anywhere… the starting point will often be the desire to write a soundtrack for something specific which happened to one of us but sometimes it’s even more abstract than that: on You Know What…?, for instance, I believe Burial At Sea was inspired by one of Marco’s late-night iPhone field recordings, D Grade Fuck Movie Jam was Bryan’s humorous response to a particularly harsh magazine review and Terrible Lizard is the result of me wondering how to make a trio sound like a dinosaur!

– Proposing a certain type of sound nowadays is not easy as the market requires something else, how difficult is it to establish itself in today’s music market?

Marco: We never thought really about trying to fit into a certain trend or adjusting to a certain time period. Especially with the style we’re playing, all that matters really is the song and how it is performed. We think more as composers/musicians when it comes to writing and executing our craft. And I believe that this should in general be the mission for any type of art. Believing in your vision and craft, rather than trying to fit into what the ‘public these days’ suggests or wants to direct, is in my opinion an honest statement.

– What are your plans for the future both in terms of studio and live performances?

Guthrie: It’s hard to plan anything specific right now: there does finally appear to be a little “light at the end of the tunnel” after all the awfulness of recent events but… trying to predict exactly when everything will have returned to normality still feels quite risky so, for the time being, I suppose we’re all just “watching and waiting”. 

– We leave with this last question the free space to be able to talk about any topic of your choice.

Bryan: I just want to thank the Progressive Rock community in Italy for inviting The Aristocrats into part of their world. I realize that what we do is maybe not “100% progressive” by the classic definition of the genre. But if you’re enjoying the notes and rhythms we’re throwing around, that’s all that matters, and we’re grateful for your support. Hope to see you again soon!

Marco: Well, it seems that we’re ending the pandemic soon. Therefore I hope that everyone will be able to enjoy the life as we knew it. Also, for all the ‘road warriors’ such as bands and crews, it will be great to connect with music lovers around the world once again. The show finally can and must go on.

Guthrie: I suppose I’d just like to send “positive vibes” to all your readers during these bizarre and troubled times, and to say a big “thank you” to everyone who has been following our Aristocratic adventures over the years: we look forward to seeing you again as soon as the world has emerged from hibernation 😉

Thanks for your time, hope to see your next lives soon.

MamaDely from Progressive Rock Journal

Author: Mama Dely

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