Interviews by DPRP's Dave Baird & Ian Butler
When InsideOut announced that THE TANGENT, BEARDFISH & RITUAL would be touring together as a triple bill, two DPRP team members, Dave Baird and Ian Butler went along to one of the concerts on 24th May 2008 at Spirit of 66, Verviers, Belgium, to interview members of all three bands. As is always the case with this time of event, the best laid plans go awry and the interviews were conducted rather hastily undertaken around the band's performances. So here's the result of chatting informally to members of each band at different points during this special evening.
Interview with The Tangent's Andy Tillison
DAVE: So the new album has been out, what, two months, how has it gone, what has the reception been?
ANDY: Well the reception has been, erm, embarrasingly good, I really didnít expect it to do what it has. In fact the reception has been so good that there has been a back-lash which is good you know, when people start saying ďI canít see why everybody is finding this so goodĒ then the back-lash has started and means that something has gone right, if you see what I mean.
I never really expected it to be received as well as it has been but then again all The Tangent records bar the second one have taken a really good write-up straight away from most of the progressive rock community. This time round I had pushed a lot of buttons to see if we could change things, to try and change the way we make music, our attitude and the lyrical content, even the way we presented the record, and I kind of thought that weíll just have to take some risks and see if everybody hates it, you know? But it just didnít work out that way, it turned out that everybody really was very supportive and seems to like what weíve done so Iím suprised but pleasantly suprised.
DAVE: Itís an evolution from "A Place In The Queue" which was itself very different from "The World That We Drive Through", maybe perhaps because Roine wasnít present but it seems perhaps now that weíre seeing The Tangent now and The Tangent sound as being this evolution from "A Place In The Queue"?
I think that is pretty much it, if you actually look back at the body of The Tangentsí work since the first one up Ďtill now I think that one the first thereís no doubting about it that it was kind of like a second cousin of The Flower Kings, we had three members of the band playing, one of whom was the the boss. Roineís guitar style and voice along with his oan bass player and drummer was likely to make something that sounded like The Flower Kings, particularly as he was involved on the overall making and production of the record. He didnít want to take a back-seat role, he wanted to be co-driving the bus if you see what I mean, and of course this continues into the second record and this is the one I wish we hadnít made Ė it was too quick after the first and I hadnít really had enough time to think about it, I got a request ďweíd like you to make another one. Can you do it? Can you do it by then...Ē to which I rather foolishly said yes, being run away on a runaway train.
Having said that when you look back there are actually some quite decent parts on it and some bits that Iím actually missing playing Ė we arenít playing anything from that album tonight. I miss some of those songs like the title track "The World That We Drive Through" and one of my favourites which is ďThe Winning GameĒ which is in fact one of my favourite Tangent songs ever.
But, you know, "A Place In The Queue" obviously developed a little bit further moving away from thay and now the new one is further away again. I think the great thing is that although the new Tangent album still sounds like the same band that made the first, it doesnít sound anything like The Flower Kings any more, it has completely lost The Flower Kings sound.
DAVE: Looking back at influences, youíve got this Canterbury, UK thing going on with these big fat 80ís keyboard pads sounds with a funky, neo-prog style ...
ANDY: I think the track youíre talking about there is "Crisis In Mid-life" and originally when I wrote it, it was an organ figure but then I though ďweíve made four Tangent albums with a lot of organ on every record, lets just change the sound and see what it sounds likeĒ. Now the middle-eight section had already started to remind me of UK so I thought lets take it the whole way and put the riff onto a nice big fat Yamaha CS80 like Eddie Jobson would have used. Yeah, itís another aspect of prog Ė The Tangent have been around constantly digging-up things, finding things that people havenít done for some time, putting them together and mixing it up. It was doing that and making a piece that sounded like it came from the tail-end of the progressive music original period and this was a time that I really enjoyed. We also spent a lot of time digging around and finding Canterbury references and stuff like that. I think it was because around the time that I became re-baptised into the progressive rock community it was the time that Porcupine Tree were out, The Flower Kings had just surfaced and Spocks Beard were just appearing. I looked at what was going on with The Flower Kings and Spocks Beard, and I thought that these people had the spirit of prog but that there was something missing. I just tried to think about what it was and I though ďEnglandĒ.
ANDY: ďEnglishnessĒ, that was what was missing
DAVE: Well this is very apparent in your lyrics as well, they are very English
ANDY: Absolutely, I usually try to let people know, and I might have said the before in a DPRP interview but itís bizarre, some people think of me as some kind of keyboard wizard but as a matter of fact Iím not all that good a keyboard player. Iím OK, I can play the keyboards but Iím not Rick Wakeman. The guy out of Beardfish Ė heís a fucking real keyboard player and I just sit back in awe.
DAVE: And heís still a kid
ANDY: But the reason why I do The Tangent is the words, thatís it, thatís what I do first, I write words. I try to make songs out of them but for me the words are the most important part and thatís why Iím here tonight Ė to sing my words, not to play the keyboards, but somebody has to play the keyboards so I do. And this is also another weird thing, in all honesty, Neal Morse is a great singer in terms of hitting every note, sounds great and the like but Iím kind of like a punk. I grew up with punk bands and I never got taught to sing or anything like that.
DAVE: Letís just say that your voice has character
ANDY: Well this is it. Somebody once wrote ďAndy Tillison canít sing to save his life but heís got character by the bucket-loadĒ and I thought that was right, spot-on.
DAVE: In a previous review I think I wrote that your voice takes some getting used to but itís worth the effort. Itís like Hammill, Hammill is not a great singer in many ways but thereís so much character in his voice that you learn to adore it
ANDY: Progressive rock goes from singers who are just impossible amazing like Jon Anderson through to people with totally strange voices like Pater Gabriel that do take some getting used to, and Peter Hammill to people that can hardly sing at all but somehow still manage to get the message across like Lee Jackson and perhaps Andy Latimer for example Ė you donít really come home from a Camel gig saying ďWerenít the vocals greatĒ! So my voice is really there as telling the story and I get for instance a lot of Americans because they see things in a slightly different way who kind of think that The Tangent are a bit of an insult because they donít get their tenor voice putting it across like Daniel Gildenlow, Neal Morse or that guy out of Dream Theater. They are not getting any of that, they are getting this guy who is basically an English punk-rocker screaming over the top of it.
But, yeah, I believe Iíve got the character and the people that Iím really trying to appeal and sing to are people that are really actually listening to the words. I find particularly in Holland and Germany that people are listening to the words. Iím not so sure about the French guys, maybe itís a bit difficult for them as they donít find English as easy.
DAVE: I think anyone that listens to Van Der Graaf, you donít listen to Hammill without understanding the lyrics because they are very profound
ANDY: They are very personal as well?
DAVE: Yes, very personal but in fact itís the same with you, your lyrics seem to be quite introspective or self-mocking a lot of the time, "The Full Gamut" for example is a very personal track about your split-up with Sam. Iím also a 40-something guy and I relate to these lyrics, Iíve been through a lot of the crap that you are talking about. I donít think you are targeting, youíre just saying what you think and feel?
ANDY: Well, as a matter of fact yes I am targeting, thereís a deliberate thing into it. When Sam and I split up I had to go through a full gamut of emotions and problems. Thereís so much more to breaking up when youíre later in life, it happened in a different country and all sorts of things that I wonít go into but I found myself thinking that when I was young, there was always some kind of song for when you got dumped by a chic or were given a wrong telephone number deliberately or your parents wouldnít let you go out, or use the car, all that kind of stuff that rock-Ďníroll songs are about. I thought yes, but in those days rockíníroll was just for young people, thatís what it was for and now rockíníroll is itself middle-aged, late middle-aged, and I thought it is time that I started singing to the people that are going to listen to this. I realised that people could be in their 40ís, 50ís and 60ís when listening to this kind of music so I tried to write something that was relevant to them on this album.
DAVE: Well I think itís a success
ANDY: Well a rockíníroll song can take you to the point with a two minute love ballad when the girl you spent the summer with has gone off and thatís it, itís all over but this is fucking peanuts when youíre left and thereís a house to worry about and whatís going to happen to the kids, and whereís the fucking car, and what can I do and where am I going to sleep tomorrow?
DAVE: Sure, and in writing "The Full Gamut" and putting it on a CD did it help you come to term with it all, was it a cathartic process?
ANDY: It was cathartic but being quite honest I havenít got over Sam...
DAVE: Indeed, I read your comments on your website where you say that these are the first gigs youíve done without her since 1994. It hurts, somebody doesnít just walk out of your life after such a long time...
ANDY: Well thatís it, I look for her every night behind the keyboards and itís like, you know, really weird without her and life has just not been the same since. So yeah, the fact is that when I first presented "The Full Gamut" to the band, the band's managements and to all the team that support us there was a sort of ď*cough cough*, Andy, erm, this piece, erm...Ē in facy everybody was against doing it, everyone. They said ďlook, this is for you and for you only, donít put this on the albumĒ. So I had one ally, of course that was Manning - Guy, he heard it and he was (laughing) ďFuckiní hell, this has got to go on the record, itís fucking brilliant, thereís been nothing like this since...Ē. You know there are not that many 20 minute prog-rock epic love songs in fact...
DAVE: I canít think of any actually
ANDY: ...I think Hammills ďOverĒ is the nearest thing to it. So we were very much divided and so I decided to settle the score and wrote to Hammill himself, explained it all and asked ďWhat should I do about it allĒ. He eventually came back with with an email and basically said ďThis is your fucking job, this is what you do. This time round you havenít had to think about it or try to find inspiration, you havenít had to think Ďwhat shall I write the song aboutí, it has hapenned, itís the most important song youíve written. Put it outĒ. So there you go.
DAVE: Personally itís my favourite track on the album, I find the opening melody that you replay later in the song very haunting, I love it and the lyric hits home with people that have been through simillar things, obviously not the same process you have been through but similar...
ANDY: Everybody has a different one, I know
DAVE: Same canvas but a different painting
ANDY: Thatís it, you know that nobody will go through the same one but at the heart of it everyone will feel that same kind of emptyness and stuff so, yeah. We play some of that tonight
DAVE: I read on the web that youíre playing a three-part medley from the longer songs
DAVE: Your website is very informative, unlike Beardfishís which is absolutely crap
ANDY: (laughing) Beardfish have the worst website in the entire universe
DAVE: They need some help because their music needs to be heard
ANDY: Yes I realise so I will probably help them
DAVE: Be a father figure?
ANDY: Well itís already a bit like that because they are all about the same age as my son which I find remarkably good fun...
DAVE: The Tangent have been around now for how long, remind me?
ANDY: 2003 was the first release...
DAVE: So youíve come from nowhere to being a prog god in a very short time
ANDY: (laughing) A prog god who manages to get 100 people to come out in Belgium...
DAVE: OK but The Flower Kings donít always get many people either, itís just a sad reflection on peopleís taste. Regardless you are very well respected letís not beat around the bush, are you surprised at this?
ANDY: Yes, surprised but I think that the one thing that really got everybody was the moment on the first album, because strangely enough I never really thought about what I was doing when I was doing it but I realised that Iíd written the first song that anyone had ever written about prog rock. This hadnít been done, every other genre has its thing, metal bands sing (singing) ďMetal will stay...Ē and all that kind of thing ďI believe in Metal...Ē, ďFor those about to rock...Ē and all that kind of stuff. Rockíníroll has songs about rockíníroll, ďRock and roll will never die...Ē, disco has its songs ďD Ė I Ė S Ė C Ė O...Ē, country has country songs, and blues has songs about the blues. Prog rock never had a song about prog rock and I didnít even know. I realised it about two months leter and though fucking hell, this song is about prog rock, "The Music That Died Alone" and it just struck a chord with people. I think the fact that the band admits that we love this kind of music Ė Iíve loved it all of my life but up to now Iíve been the guy in the front-row waving his hand in the air at the band Iím watching
DAVE: And now youíre up there
ANDY: Yeah, Iím doing it. I think the point is that thereís a kind of recognition and a belief, that The Tangent is able to put over, well at least I do believe in this kind of music and love it. I think the fans recognise this and kind of enjoy the ride.
DAVE: Most of your music is quite Ďin your faceí, some quiet moments but mostly very up-beat
ANDY: Yeah but we will play also some of the quieter stuff tonight
IAN: It must be so good to play with really talented musicians like Jonas and Jamie and stuff
ANDY: Itís fabulous
IAN: You write a song and the guys can just play it?
ANDY: Yeah youíre undoubtedly right, it is great to play with them, but at the same time thereís something I miss right, and this is quite important, something I miss about what I call a real rock band. Now youíll see it tonight for instance, Beardfish and Ritual, these are real rock bands. They live near each other, they are best friends, they rehearse every week...
IAN: They hang-out and drink beer...
ANDY: Thatís right. Now I donít do that with my band because they live in Sweden and they are basically session musicians
DAVE: So youíre an internet band effectively?
ANDY: Thatís it now although we have been able to do this the simple fact is that Iím English, I donít speak in their native language. Theyíre so experienced, theyíve done so many gigs for so many different people and this isnít anything special for them, none of them, itís nothing special theyíre just going to do this gig tonight, theyíre going to play as well as they possibly can and thatís what they do. Although Iíve always really relished working with great musicians I still miss the hug at the end of the gig, the comeraderie. I mean Ritual do have a little ritual before they come on stage Ė they sing a gradually ascending note together, and Beardfish are really kind of brotherly and everything. In The Tangent's case itís like ďOK, are we ready?Ē and so I miss it but you know itís horses for courses.
IAN: But this doesnít reflect on the record, the band seems to be able to lock effortlessly into a groove
ANDY: This is something we like to do in The Tangent, locking into grooves
DAVE: Jamieís very good at that, Zoltan too but very different
ANDY: Weíve never been able to guarantee future line-ups of The Tangent and the point is that I still canít
DAVE: Thatís why youíre here with a reduced line-up?
ANDY: Yeah, just to get out and play. I think that my future decisions about whether The Tangent will continue to be a live performing band will be based on who I decide to play with. I have often thought that maybe it might be nice idea to form a band in England where we could rehearse and put it together. We always come out and play on two days of rehearsals and I would like...
DAVE: To write together too?
ANDY: Yeah, that kind of stuff would be nicer. Manningís really important from that point of view with me but unfortunately heís one of the guys I canít bring because I canít afford to bring a guy just to play accoustic guitar, Iíd love to have him here but I canít.
DAVE: Youíre paying the guys to play
DAVE: And these tours donít make much money...
ANDY: No, thatís right, we are not a money making bus, no. So I do get on well with everybody and everything but itís more a question of practicalities or input from the rest of the musicians. Iíve now added Jacko to the The Tangent and basically Jacko is The Tangentís guitar player and Kristerís just hired for this tour.
DAVE: That was some great playing on the new album
ANDY: Jacko, yeah heís amazing, an astonishing guitar player and also of course very much into progressive rock music, he know what Iím on about. How about this, Krister has never heard "Close To The Edge" or any Yes album, he canít relate to "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway". Itís not his fault, itís not a personal criticism but to be able to work with Jacko and say ďwhat weíd like here is something you know, like that bit in Close To The EdgeĒ and itís really nice to be able to have these reference points in common, and Jacko is really very well up not just on the overall prog scene but heís particularly well up on the Canterbury scene. Heís done a lot of things and Iím able to relate to him closely. So, back in England the band is Jacko, Manning and Theo Travis, the saxophonist Ė already a pretty damn good band there.
DAVE: Whereís Jamie living?
ANDY: Hymar? Heís in Sweden, heís Swedish.
DAVE: I always thought he was Brazillian or something
ANDY: Heís originally from Peru
DAVE: The funny thing is, when I spoke to Roine (although Flower Kings and drummers is always a strange thing), he said that Jamie left The Flower Kings because he didnít like prog
ANDY: Well he doesnít...
DAVE: Well heís doing a pretty bloody good job at it
ANDY: It doesnít matter whether he likes it, itís a paid gig for him, sorry. But there are many bands out there, for instance, Chris Maitland wasnít in Porcupine Tree because he liked the music but he did a fantastic job. I heard that he didnít like the music at all. Hymer doesnít exactly dislike our music its just that heíd rather be listening to something else. Hymer likes Elton John or Boston, Foreigner, Aerosmith. Thereís nothing wrong with it...
DAVE: No for sure, you canít judge taste
ANDY: But heís an amazing drummer and heís a nice guy, and Kristerís an amazing guitarist and also a nice guy, the point is that they do their job. I think more than anything its this tour that has made me notice the holes in my own life because Iíve been watching the brotherliness of Beardfish and Ritual and have though ďI want that backĒ. I want how it used to be with Parallel or 90 Degrees, we used to arrive at the rehearsal room then say ďCanít be bothered to fucking rehearse, lets go and drinkĒ. Weíd just go to the pub and fuck the instruments, and I miss that.
DAVE: If the band are in England and youíre in France is that not a problem?
ANDY: Not really, I have EasyJet very close
DAVE: And why are you living in France?
ANDY: Now thatís a very long story but weíve only three minutes before Beardfish are playing
DAVE: Whereabouts in France?
ANDY: Near Toulouse. I miss England like crazy until I get back then the traffic starts to really get me down.
The Tangent Official Website
DPRP Review of The Music That Died Alone (2003)
DPRP Review of The World That We Drive Through (2004)
DPRP Review of Pyramids And Stars (2005)
DPRP Review of A Place In The Queue (2006)
DPRP Review of Going Off On One (2007)
DPRP Review of Not As Good As The Book (2008)