A Letter To Jim Dalrymple and Merlin Mann
Jim Dalrymple and Merlin Mann have a great podcast over on The Loop. Highly commend it as a gentle, humorous, not too techy podcast that centers on Apple, associated tech and music.
I have just listened to their recent podcast (number 22 to be precise), from December 10th. As so often, there was the inevitable digression into music, but unusually this week, they included a detour through ‘progressive music’. It was started by a tweet (I think) from ‘Mr Mike’ - who brought up three bands. Dream Theater (founded in 1985), Porcupine Tree (founded in 1987) and Anathema (founded in 1990). On the show they were described as ‘new’. As you can see, they are not. So - to my letter … (and please - more joining in the fun and adding some context, than ‘having a go’ … enjoy.) Dear Jim and Merlin. I love your podcast and prompted to write after listening to number 22, when towards the end, you got into progressive music. I am writing this post as both counterpoint and amplification of some of the points that you both made on the podcast.
Merlin : “I love Prog Rock” - and then goes onto say it is “Dorky Music” - but that he is ok with that - _“I say Aloha”.
JP : “Why Dork?”
I prefer to quote Steven Wilson ….
“Progressive rock is very much an underground musical form and one of the problems is it’s very exclusive and puts people off.”They have this idea that it’s this impenetrable, pretentious indulgence. "Of course it’s not at all. The world’s most successful ‘progressive rock’ band Pink Floyd are one of the biggest bands in the world.
JP : “Dork’s - every one of them” :-)
Jim : “I love people that can play fast - and all that crazy stuff” JP : “Don’t forget ‘Prog’ isn’t all fast and crazy - that is more your metal and thrash world.”
Anyway - to the point. You started discussing Dream Theatre and Jordan Rudess. Wholly agree with Jim’s take. An amazing musician, but I do also sometimes get left behind by his music. Check out Levin, Minnemann and Rudess. Awesome. BUT, you do have to spend time getting into it. I won’t go into who the other two musicians are except to say that Marco Minnemann is the drummer for The Aristocrats - that also includes an amazing guitarist called Guthrie Govan. I will return there in a moment. Merlin, there is no reason why you should have heard of the the three bands - except that you did say “I love Prog Music”. But, I also noticed that King Crimson was the only ‘prog’ band that you actually called out. OK - and Rush. As a lover of King Crimson you will know that their main drummer (since 2007) is Gavin Harrison (Pat is still around but is described as ‘2nd Drums’). Gavin has chops. Check out his solo performance on Letterman’s drum week. Starting out as a session drummer - he came to prominence in 2002 when he joined Porcupine Tree. Sticking with King Crimson for a while, again, as a fan - you will know that their entire catalogue is being remastered - by Steven Wilson - the brains and creative force behind Porcupine Tree. He was actually chosen by Robert Fripp, primarily because he is (and describes himself as such) a sound engineer first and foremost. It is ironic that Wilson originally started Porcupine Tree as a totally ‘made-up band’, so that when he started ‘they’ (it was only him in ’87). had a ready made history. So, Merlin, you got that one right ! Porcupine Tree was put on hiatus (we are not quite sure if that is forever) in 2010/2011. This year he released his fourth solo album - Hand.Cannot.Erase. He tours (when timetables allow) with Guthrie Govan as lead guitar and Marco Minnemann on drums (see above reference and connection to Jordan). I write occasionally about Wilson and his activities - this was a recent one that you might enjoy. In it I list all his recording projects
- Steven Wilson - 4 solos to date.
- Porcupine Tree
- Blackfield (Porcupine Tree too heavy? This is more ELO/Abba influenced - try it)
- No-Man (see quote below)
- Bass Communion
- Storm Corrosion
[No-Man] … is a two-man band that Steven formed with former Appleton Grammar School pupil Tim Bowness that was once described by Melody Maker as ‘the most important English group since The Smiths’.
This list doesn’t take into account the remastering he is doing of what seems to be every ‘old’ progressive band you might ever have heard of including Tull, ELP, XTC, Hawkwind, Yes, Gentle Giant … even Tears For Fears - and Roland was a pretty amazing sound guy to begin with. Nor the 4 grammy nominations he has had for best surround sound album - again playing to his sound engineering background. My overall arching point. I do feel that ’genre’s are dead. It is impossible to put Wilson into one. More Jordan. What I do enjoy is that by tracing lines of contact with who musician play with - you get a fascinating insight not just into the music - but the musician. Big Band Jazz interpreting Porcupine Tree anyone ? Thank you Gavin Harrison.