The American progressive rock band Shadow Gallery recently released their fifth album and they are still regarded as one of the most important and innovative progressive metal bands to come out in the last decade. Room V is a masterpiece and it took almost 4 years to make this sequel to the fantastic concept album Tyranny, which came out in 1998. The songs on the new album unite compositional elegance with the unique trademark Shadow Gallery sound. The CD is doing overtime in my CD player and I think that it will probably be my number 1 record of the year 2005, unless Dream Theater delivers another "perfect" album. It is time to talk with multi-instrumentalist Gary Wehrkamp about the new album and ask him why Shadow Gallery has never been to Europe. Gary turned out to be a very talkative guy, but as he gave rather short answers to my questions I was glad that I prepared so many ...
MARTIEN: Well, Gary, congratulations with the new album, the band did it again, but why did it again almost take 4 years to make a new album?
GARY: Well, it did not take 4 years to make the album, ha ha… We were also busy with other things, the change of record label, the contract with Magna Carta was ended, so we were thinking about a new label, but which one and where and how; and how this would work out legally. We had already written lots of new songs and as it turned out they would rather fit in a concept album, so we decided to make it a concept album again. The actual songwriting process took approximately 9 months and the mastering also took 9 months, so no 4 years…
The new album thematically continues on from the Tyranny album, so the album in between these two Legacy has nothing to do with these albums?
No, indeed, there is no relation whatsoever. Legacy is quite a different album, it has a different sound. We decided to go on with the story from Tyranny as that album had an open ending.
So, could you tell something more about the story on Room V, how does the story evolve, or is that something that every listener should make out for themselves?
Actually, I can tell you that the story about the man and the woman continues as they get a child. But the mother dies right after the pregnancy because she is blood weakened as she works in a company that deals with biotechnical products that are very dangerous and can cause serious chemical outbreaks. But I am not willing to tell you everything, really.
So the song called Andromeda Strain is based on the book with the same title written by Michael Crichton, a novel about scientists who have to deal with a lethal virus?
To a certain extent you are right, the title of the song is related to that book but we follow a different storyline altogether, so…
What does the title stand for?
In fact it has two meanings, it is the code name for an operation, which the main character in the story has to deal with, and Room V is the name of our publishing company. In fact we are actually involved in the story; Brendt, Mike, Carl, Joe and myself are players in the story of Room V.
Seeing the fact that you are quite a religious band, does the song Seven Years has anything to do with the seven “fat” and meager years that are mentioned in the Bible?
Good question, but the answer is no. But the whole number 7 does have a special meaning in our musical career. However in this song it stands for the age of the little girl.
Does the story have a happy ending?
Again a rather sneaky question of you, but in fact no. The ending is i n fact more sad, or better put, it has an open ending.
So, this means that there will be another album related to this concept/story?
Yes, of course, why not, ha ha ha
Who wrote the story/the lyrics for Room V?
Carl Cadden-James wrote all the lyrics and he came up with the story. Of course we discussed about the lyrics and the songs but in fact the story was Carl’s “solo work”. The rest of the band only dealt with the details.
Speaking about the band, is Chris Ingles still a member of Shadow Gallery, or not?
Again a rather difficult question, why are you torturing me like that, ha ha ha … No, I will try to explain how the situation is with Chris. He is still part of the band, but at this moment he is no active band member. He has contributed to some of the new songs on Room V and he also played on some of the demo versions of the new album, but on the actual CD Chris cannot be heard. I played all the keyboard passages on the new CD. If Chris will be an active Shadow Gallery member in the future is not clear at the moment, so….
Room V is again a concept album; do you not think that it is considered old-fashioned and not progressive to release another concept album?
We are not a modern band, so, ha ha , does that answer your question? We do not care if people find us old-fashioned, we are unique and if you do not like our sort of music than that is okay. We still think that there are enough people who can appreciate what we are doing and I know that the competition is keen, but we do not care. We do what we like to do and what we can do best.
On Tyranny James La Brie, D.C.Cooper, Laura Jaeger and Paul Chou contributed to that album, any guest performances on the new album?
Yes, Laura’s voice can be heard during Comfort Me and your own Dutch Arjen Lucassen plays the last part of the guitar solo in Seven Years.
This is your first album with the new label Inside Out, how did you end up with them?
Among others by word of mouth and with the help of some musical friends we were asked by Inside Out if we were interested in joining their label. They made us a great offer and if you take a look at the bands that already work for Inside Out I really think that we fit in well. Furthermore it is a growing label that is really doing well on the music market, so we took our chances.
Are you all full time musicians now, or not?
No, not really. We still cannot live from Shadow Gallery and I wonder if we ever can. We all have other bands to make our living and to pay our bills. I for instance give lessons and I play in 2 other bands.
What sort of bands?
Completely different than Shadow Gallery, they have nothing to do with progressive music whatsoever. In fact it is mainstream music with influences from Radiohead, The Beatles and other bands from the sixties and seventies. College kids stuff, in fact, ha ha ha…
Are you, or anyone else in the band, at the moment working on side projects?
No, we have put that on hold for the moment. I am planning to do something with D.C.Cooper and Mike Zonder (Fates Warning, MK) and I also have plans for 2 solo albums. One will be a new age kind of album and the other one will be a prog rock album without the metal edge, so something like Rush or Yes. But at the moment I have got my hands full with being the manager of SG and I can tell you that it is a hell of a job!
Do you consider Shadow Gallery to be a metal band?
Well, our music definitely has a metal edge to it, there are snap shots of metal on every SG album so far, so yes I still would call our music metalish…Our musical approach is without any doubt metal-like, but the arrangements are prog rock-like, so no metal, there your are right.of course.
Does it not surprise you that every time you release an album the reviews are staggering?
No, ha ha ha…Yes, of course the reviews of Room V are again surprisingly good, considering the fact that we can do better. Really, it is not all that good, we still have so much potential and our best album is still to come.
Who came up with the name Shadow Gallery, by the way?
I think that it was Brendt who came up with that idea, but at that time I was not even in the band. He found it in a comic book and the rest liked it, so….
Then the last question, which of course deals with the fact that SG, has never played live till this day. When will it finally happen???
I knew that you were saving that one for last. I will not tell you, ha ha ha…..I truly think that it will maybe never happen as we all have full diaries, families, full time jobs and mortgages. But we will seriously consider it this time, as it will be very difficult to get all the guys of the band together to go on tour. Besides it was never our intention in the first place to do live gigs as SG is most and for all a real studio band. Maybe, some day, never say never….
Gary thanks for your time and your answers.
Thank you and thanks to all the Dutch fans who love our work and buy our CDs. Cheers!
Shadow Gallery Official Website
Inside Out Website
DPRP Review of Room V