Spock's Beard interview

"Doing anything with Spock's Beard is a lot of work"

22/03/2013 @ 14:24
Maybe it took more than it should, but by now the word legendary is no surprise to anyone when it comes to Spock's Beard. As progressive rock music proves to be timeless, so does their music, as its quality remains untouched by time or the changes that take place. With the new stellar album "Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep" coming out, the oldest and the newest member of the band talked to Rocking.gr for the new cycle in the life of the group that excites both the band members and of course the fans. The great Alan Morse comes first.

Spock's BeardIt might have started some time now, but I think the release of the new album settles the beginning of the new Spock's Beard era. How do you feel about it?
I am very excited. This album is maybe one of the best we’ve ever recorded. Have you heard it?

Yes! And I love it.
Thanks! I think it came out pretty cool. I'm really excited about it!

You've toured enough with Jimmy and he was more than an obvious choice for sitting behind the drum kit. But Ted Leonard inevitably makes the real difference in your new sound. From your point of view what was Ted's real contribution and how does he make the difference as the front man of Spock's Beard?
He has an awesome voice, he's a great singer. Also, he's a great writer, and guitar player, but most of all he is a great guy...

Spock's BeardThen, even though I have real faith in him as a musician I was pleasantly surprised to see two of his compositions making it to the album. And while "Hiding Out" is a real progressive piece, it is "Submerged" that surprised me, being a quite unusually straight forward track for Spock's Beard. Nevertheless, they're two of my favorite tracks on the album. Are Spock's Beard so open-minded and democratic as they seem to be?
(laughs) Well, yeah. Pretty much. I guess so. The first time I heard "Submerged" I was with Rich and I told him Wow, I want to do that. That's a beautiful, cool song. Yes, it is a bit of a departure for us, but I don’t care. I love the way it feels.

John Boegehold is once again offering some songwriting and doing a great job. Could he be considered the sixth member of the band and Rich Mouser the seventh, after so many years of collaboration?
Yes, pretty much. These guys have been around like ...forever. So, they're part of a family that has about 15 guys...

Spock's BeardBut, isn't it strange to see outsiders writing songs for the band and for instance Ryo to have no contribution?
Yeah, not this time. He brought some ideas while we were writing the record, but for some reasons no one made it to the album. He had written the instrumental on the previous record...

"Kamikaze", which was real good...
Yeah, it just didn't work out this time.

You co-wrote with Jon the first track that I really loved on the album. "A Treasure Abandoned" is quite a melodic, fantastic piece, that I could claim to have some AOR touch on it. How was it formed?
The opening theme was from a piece I recorded years ago. It was on a computer that got lost (long story), so I couldn't really finish the song. John B heard the theme and thought it was cool, asked if he could use it for something if I wasn't going to do anything with it, I said Sure! He took that theme and wrote all the rest of that song around it! Came out pretty cool, eh?

Spock's BeardYou wouldn't expect me to forget Neal, right? It’s kind of nice that he still writes songs for Spock's Beard, although strange somehow. When I asked him why he went straight to the pt.5 of "Thoughts" he told me that he’d written with you another part and you already had one more "Thoughts" song, so he left parts 3&4 for Spock's Beard. I guess one of them ended up to be "Afterthoughts" after all, hehe...
Neal & I wrote most of the music for "Afterthoughts" when I went out to write with him a long time ago, then I guess he kinda forgot about it and wrote another "Thoughts" for his record! So then we couldn't decide who was going to call their version what. Ted came up with "Afterthoughts" that seemed pretty cool, and avoided any conflict with Neal's tune, so there you are!

Would you consider playing a "Thoughts" suite live, with pt.1, pt.2 and "Afterthoughts" in a row?
Well, I hadn't thought of that. Yeah, we could sort of put them all together, I don't know. We'll be playing "Afterthoughts" and maybe we could put them all together in a big song that might be cool! Never thought of that...

Spock's Beard - Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless SleepOverall, the album is amazing. Did you have any concerns that the lineup changes might affect the result? I expected something good, but the result blew me away I have to say...
Well, I wasn't really worried about it. I mean, I wasn't worried about the collaboration after the changes that took place. I wasn't worried about the collaboration with these guys. I was just excited about writing the new stuff.

I bet you must already have drawn the parallels between Spock's Beard and Genesis, right? The similarities are impressive! Are you the new Genesis (laughs)?
Yeah (laughs)! Well, people like to see it in this way, especially with the drummer becoming the lead singer and then going solo...

And now is Ted Leonard something like Ray Wilson?
(laughs) Yeah, I guess... (laughs)

Now, what really led to Nick's departure? I know his official statement was that he wanted to join Cirque de Soleil, but he's been more than silent about Spock's Beard and I know you guys are more a family than a band and following you all these years, so something just doesn't seem right. I hope I am wrong...
Well, no, nothing else is going on, that's really what happened. We're still good friends. You know, we have a lot of fans of our music, but nobody's making a living from this, and we all accept that he had to take this gig with the Cirque.

Alan Morse (Spock's Beard)I was always impressed that such a good and successful musician like you combines being an electrical engineer, CEO of a company and an active musician. Is there a secret behind this successful combination?
Well, I'm very fortunate to have a great bunch of people working for me that know what they're doing, and that I can trust to run things while I'm away. It's a pretty unusual situation, I'm very lucky to have them working for me!

A delicious european tour with Beardfish was just announced and I'm not surprised that you won't be coming to Greece. Is there any chance if a promoter is reading this interview?
I sure hope so! I'd love to play in Greece, any promoters listening out there? Give me a call!

What should fans expect from this tour?
We're going to play a lot of the new record and some of the older favorites as well. A splendid time is guaranteed for all! Ryo will probably do something crazy!

This tour is part of the Inside Out's 20th anniversary and by the way you return to the label with your new album, but you once again asked your fans to pre-order and finance the album in advance. I guess it worked the previous times.
Yeah, it's amazing how many people are willing to pay for something that hasn't even been recorded yet! I was really surprised. We have the best fans in the world!

Spock's BeardI've also ordered the limited edition as it contains some extra songs. You do know that the loyal fan wants all of them, don't you? How did you decide which tracks should be on the CD and which ones only on the limited edition?
It was pretty hard to decide. Some of the stuff on the second CD is some of my favorite stuff on the record. Ultimately we went with what Thomas Waber at Inside Out said would be good. It was too hard for us to have perspective on it.

In a week I fly to London to see Neal playing live there. I've a dream to see a full set of the classic Spock's Beard lineup one day, just a one off. How possible could this be?
Well, who knows, but I'd be surprised if that happened. No plans for anything like that.

I loved your solo record. Are you thinking of releasing a second one?
I hadn't planned to, but a lot of people have been asking me about it. This time I think I'd do one with vocals, that would be fun! Maybe after the dust settles on this record I'll get into it.

You've always been playing progressive rock. Is it getting easier for bands like Spock's Beard these days, or is it my impression?
I don't know, I think it's still pretty tough. Doing anything with Spock's Beard is a lot of work, and expensive. There's just a lot of gear and people needed to make it happen.

Do you have any useful advice to guitarist that would like to try playing with fingers instead of a pick?
Well, I wouldn't really recommend it, but if they want to, I'd say practice a lot and get acrylic fingernails put on, that helps a lot!

Now, what music have you been listening to lately?
I mostly listen to older stuff, really old, like Wagner, Charlie Parker, David Bowie. But I like this band Rival Sons, they're cool...

They are good, indeed. Thank you for you time Alan. You guys keep up doing what you do. It's more than enough for us.
Thanks for taking the time, hope to see you on the road someday, maybe in Greece!

Ted Leonard has a crucial role to the sound of the new Spock's Beard album, so we wanted to know his thoughts and impressions after his first work with the band. Friendly as always, he answered a few questions, giving us his perspective on the new era, which finds him with the spotlight on him.

Spock's BeardWell, I couldn't say anything else than congratulations. You seem to have fitted like a velvet glove in the Beard family. Now that the album is coming out how are you feeling?
I feel really good about the album. I think it incorporates just the right amount of the classic Spock's sound while introducing a new and really exciting direction.

No one that was familiar with your previous works doubted that you'd deliver a fine job as a singer, but you proved to be a great composer for the band. Firstly, the impressive opener "Hiding Out" is all yours. A quite progressive piece, full of beautiful melodies. How was the music formed and what are the lyrics about?
The music started out pretty guitar dominant, then when Al expressed an interest in the song I reworked it to emphasize the keys a little more.  The lyrics were part of a series of divorce laments, haha. I wrote it the day before Thanksgiving, knowing that I wouldn't be spending it with my kids/family.

Spock's BeardThen, "Submerged" is the ''Ted Leonard moment” on the album. It's the most straight forward tune of the album, somehow establishing the new era with you on the band. I have to admit I'm already addicted to it, it's very emotional. Tell us about it.
Some fans are already aware that this song was on my solo album with Nick on drums. Again, Al really liked the song so we ''Spocksified” it a little. It wasn't really meant to be a prog song, but any attempt to make it proggy would have taken away from it's impact, so we kept it (at least structurally) as written. It is a bit of a departure for the band, but Spock's have never been afraid of an occasional straight forward song like "All On A Sunday", "June" etc.

On "Afterthoughts" you co-write the tune with the infamous Morse brothers. I guess you have to be equally twisted music wise to write a song with them, and especially a song in the series of "Thoughts", hehe. How was it to write with them? Did you work together or just each one added his parts?
I wish I was in the room when the music was created. By the time I got it the music was fairly complete, and even some scratch lyrical mumblings were audible. I just took it and squeezed some crazy words into the already established melodies and phrasing.

Spock's BeardI'm still too close to the album and I guess so are you. But could "Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep" be your finest moment as a singer?
I think from a production standpoint my voice comes off better on this album than on some others, and I think Spock's plays to some of my strengths as a singer more than other projects I've been involved in. But as time goes on, I try to place more emphasis on communicating the song than just sounding good.

Which are your favorite parts on the album? Apart from "Hiding Out" and "Submerged" I would point out your performance on "A Treasure Abandoned" and "Something Very Strange"...
Well, everyone knows I'm a huge Kansas freak, so I would have to say "A Treasure Abandoned". I don't think John necessarily was aiming for a Kansas sound when he wrote it, but between the sound of the music and where it lands in my range, it's really reminiscent of them ...so I can't help but love it.

Spock's BeardWhich was the most challenging moment while writing or recording the album? Is it a challenging process to write a Spock's Beard album, or did it flow easily and somehow relaxed?
For me it would have to be "Hiding Out". It was a challenge to take a song that was written before my involvement in Spock's and try to make it jive with their sound.

I've told you before that you deserve more recognition as a singer. Spock's Beard, after all these years, have managed to establish a good name in the progressive rock community at least. Would you say that you see people suddenly discovering this great singer? What's the feedback so far?
So far, it's been really positive. Of course, the pre-orders usually go out to the die-hard fans. I'm sure we’ll see some varying reviews once the proper album is out.

Now, with a couple of projects active again, are Spock's Beard your number one priority?
Yes ...absolutely ...but don't tell my other bands, haha.

Spock's BeardIf you were asked to pick one Spock's Beard song from the Neal era that you haven't played before to add it to the setlist, which one would this be?
So many... If I have to choose one, then let's just say "Harm's Way".

Any idea on how we can bring you guys to Greece for a show?
It really hinges upon sales and whether we can make it cost out ...but I would love to go to Greece!