interview for DPRP by Bart Jan van der Vorst
Robert Reed: "I Just Make Music I Love"
Five months ago I did a short interview with the members of the band Magenta after they had performed at the Progeny festival in London. Due to the lack of a proper interview room at the venue, we settled for the staircase instead. In hindsight, that wasn't such a good idea. Although we had a very nice conversation, the background noise drowned out the actual interview on my tape and there was no way for me to distill anything sensible out of it.
With the release of the new Magenta album Seven we decided to do it all again, this time by e-mail, thus elimitating the chance of any unwanted 'noises'. Below is the transcript of the e-mail interview with Magenta mastermind Robert Reed.
Bart: Could you tell us something about the origins of Magenta, and why you decided to discontinue Cyan?
Rob: Magenta is a continuation of Cyan, so it wasn't discontinued as such, just moved to the next level. Magenta was one of those things where I decided that I wanted to write and produce a prog album with all the bombast of the 70's but add my take on what is was all about. Obviously the biggest difference is the fact that I have Christina singing which I think brings a whole new dimension to this kind of music.
Could you explain the background behind the story of Seven? What made you decide to do an album about the seven sins?
Myself and Steve (Reed - lyricist) wanted to make the songs on the new CD more individual, but still linked by a common theme. We needed to keep the power and emotion of previous Magenta tracks as one of the main ingredients, but to also give them a new addition of power and emotion all of their own. This is when the idea of the seven deadly sins came to us. Seven individual song linked by a common theme. Rather than basing the lyrics on the literal meaning of each sin, Steve thought it would be more interesting to base each song on a different facet or perspective of each sin. To make people think, to make people feel and to make them look at that sin in a completely different way. It took a great deal of work, but I think we made it.
After Revolutions you once again chose for religious themes for your lyrics. Does this mean you see yourself as a religious band, i.e. reli-prog?
No, we are not as you put it 'Reli-Prog', I have never even heard that term. It is just coincidence that the religious aspect turns up in some of the songs. The religious connotations are not literal, we are not preaching religion just touching on how maybe religion plays an indirect part of life as a whole.
You make no secret about the influences to your music (e.g. Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield etc), however, there are some passages on Seven, and more even on Revolutions, where the music seems to have been lifted straight from a seventies album into your song. Is this something you create intentionally or is it more something that 'just happens?
I just write the music I like. Using Organ, Mellotron and bass pedals makes it sound like classic prog from the 70s. I embrace this. I try to make music that I like to listen to, but there are also references to people like Bjork, Massive Attack, ELO, and Abba. I just like what I like and am not scared to throw it in.
Aren't you afraid of people calling it plagiarism when hearing such passages?
It is not intentional it is just how I write. I don't hide the fact that I love the music that I love. You will always, in whatever type of music you write or play, have accusations or criticisms levelled at you. I JUST MAKE MUSIC I LOVE and hope that others enjoy it and come along and have fun at the gigs with the band.
You have also released a single recently. Could you tell us something about this release and what made you decide to put out a non-album track as single?
The song Broken is actually about Vampires. Christina wrote the lyrics this time around. Track 2, Call Me was initially an instrumental Cyan track that did have lyrics but were not utilised until now so I decided to revamp the song including the lyrics. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do it with the band as we have been playing it live for a while and the song had taken on a whole new life, so I added it to the EP. Track 3, Lemminkainen's Lament is a remix of a track that was on a Finnish concept album that Magenta had a track on last year. Track 4 is something I have always wanted to do. I had a piece of music I had written and it was perfect for a church organ so I took a mobile studio to a church and recorded it there. Great fun. Track 5, is a string remix of Sloth off the Seven album.
The reason for releasing a non album track? Simple really, it was put together to showcase the current live line up and I also wanted to try to write a shorter song that still had the progressive ideals of Magenta.
You name Mike Oldfield as your main influence on your guitar playing. Who else would you call an influenced you in your (keyboard) playing and your composing?
I love John Beck from It Bites, and obviously Rick Wakeman (for his piano playing) and Tony Banks (for his organ playing). Composing I love Mike Oldfield's arrangements, how every musical part has a melody. Musically, I think Bjork is a genius. She is true progressive rock. Abba and ELO are also masters of the melody. I will listen and buy anything as long as it has a great melody.
Reviews on DPRP:
What is the main difference between Magenta the studio band and Magenta the live band? And why do some of the musicians in the live band not play on the album?
Magenta the studio band is basically me and Christina and who ever else is right for the feel that the music requires. I write all the music and play the keyboards, bass guitar and some guitars, and backing vocals and Christina comes and sings lead vocals with the lyrics that Steve has written. Most of the band plays on the albums, and all are MORE than capable of playing the parts. But there are also people who I have known well before Magenta who I enjoy working with and its great to record with them also.
You are obviously a big fan of the prog wave of the seventies, what is your opinion of the current prog scene? Do you have any favourite contemporary bands?
I think the current Prog scene in its broadest sense seems to be a very healthy and vibrant one. Unfortunately as I am always busy writing and recording, I don't have much time to listen to current prog bands. Also, its good to get away from prog when you are creating it all day. There are bands that I listen to in the popular music market that may not necessarily be classed as Prog in the traditional sense but I hear definite prog overtones with artists such as Bjork, Massive Attack and a lot of the current dance music. Then you only have to look at the cotemporary rock scene with bands like Radiohead, Muse and Opeth and you can see that prog is alive and kicking.
Any other comments you'd like to make?
Yeah, I would like to thank all of you out there for buying the CD's, turning up at the gigs and writing to us with your kind words of support. It means allot to us all that there are so many people out there enjoying Magenta's music. We as a band love playing the music live and to have people come along and enjoy it with us is just the greatest thing. Cheers.
Also, keep an eye out on the website for all the latest goings on and we should have some news on the new live album, DVD and future single releases. Finally, don't forget Broken is officially released in June.
Thanks Bart, it has been great talking to you and thanks for the D.P.R.P's and your continued support.
Official Magenta Website