In the genre of ‘prog’ there seems to be a more than average interest in ‘special editions’ and boxsets. Fans seem to like to have the old “LP feeling” and like to have something worth looking at in their hands. The unexpected answer to this demand comes from New Zealand, not exactly a country known for its progressive artists….
UK born artist Paul McLaney (vocals, guitars), Jeremiah Ross aka Module (keyboards, programming) provided music and lyrics while Matt Pitt (Redkidone) provided graphics and illustrations. Their efforts resulted in a gorgeous 64 page book with illustrations reminiscent of great fantasy artists like Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews. Presumably the album consists of music by a rather unknown artist from the seventies. Long lost tapes have been recovered through a mysterious package, delivered in Paris (France). The music was carefully re-mastered and extended by a New Zealand trio known as Immram…… Take a look, have a listen and prepare to be overwhelmed by what these three guys have come up with!
Interview for DPRP by Menno Von Brucken Fock illustrations/potograph from the book The Voyage of the Corvus Corrone
Paul: I am but part of the puzzle. The release is the brainchild of myself, electronic composer Module (Jeramiah Ross) and artist Redkidone (Matt Pitt).
Can you give us a short introduction about Mr. Paul McLaney?
Paul: I was born in the North East of England in 1975 and spent a good portion of my first 12 years moving around. 13 schools later I completed my schooling in New Zealand where I still reside. I’ve been involved in a number of musical projects, primarily my solo acoustic work, my band Gramsci as well as collaborations with Concord Dawn, Module and Rhian Sheehan.
According to the definition on Wikipedia, an immram (English pronunciation: /ˈɪmrəm/; plural immrama; Irish: iomramh, IPA: [ˈʊmˠɾˠəw], voyage) is a class of Old Irish tales concerning a hero’s sea journey to the Otherworld (see Tír na nÓg and Mag Mell). Written in the Christian era and essentially Christian in aspect, they preserve elements of Irish mythology. Is there a connection between this definition and your artist name?
Paul: To be honest we never considered it the name of the artist but part of the title. The Voyage of the Corvus Corrone is intended as an Immram – the tale of a voyage, like the Odyssey. The thing traditional Immram and this album share is the idea of leaving this world for another. To leave the Old World behind and to enter the New. That could be leaving England on the Mayflower for America or leaving Earth for Mars. On a more personal level I believe the allegory is in leaving old modes of thought behind and embracing change. The key line in the album is the final one “Be careful that the fears which you escape do not stowaway.”
How did you come to this concept “album + book”?
Paul: As Joseph Campbell stated, “myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.” In the pre-internet era music of all kinds of music was steeped in myth, be it Robert Johnson’s deal with the Devil at the Crossroads or the supposed Midas Curse placed upon Jimmy Page. Now with everything at our fingertips, explanations have robbed music of a lot of its mystique. All mysteries have more than point of entry and it seemed to us that in our shared cultural heritage of synth/prog rock, Fighting Fantasy novels, and artwork early Spectrum and Commodore computer games etc that such a combination should already have existed somewhere in the nexus of those cultural landmarks.
How did you choose the artist for the artwork, Matt Pitt aka RedkidOne?
Paul: Module, Matt and I have been circling each other for years waiting for the right project to share. The Immram project is meant to evoke the nostalgia of pouring over Roger Dean’s artwork or the panels from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. We all lament the era where the albums artwork and packaging were intrinsic parts of the album experience. Imagine Yes albums without Roger Dean’s artwork. Imagine Thick as a Brick without the St Cleve Chronicle. In those times, the artwork was almost like a palette for enriching the listening experience. I’m sure that as many people were inspired to pick up an instrument after listening to such albums, many more were inspired to pick up a paintbrush or pencil.
How did the album do so far? Selling all over the world?
Paul: We’ve been delighted with the response and are about to head into phase 2 with the release of the 9 minute animated film for Dignity. The Netherlands and Germany have been particularly responsive to the project. It seems there’s a deep abiding love for progressive, synth based music over there.
Did the sales and the publicity in the media match your expectations?
Paul: Yes, everything’s on track. The idea was to preach to the converted and then start preaching conversion. We’re very excited about what Matt’s coming up with for Dignity. It really advances and expands the World surrounding the Corvus Corrone. Worldwide premiere May 18th 01:01:01 EST.
In my review I referred to Iva Davies (vocals) and musically to the synthi-pop of the eighties, Tangerine Dream and Steve Hillage. What’s your opinion?
Paul: On those artists? I love the highpoints of Icehouse’s career – Hey Little Girl, Great Southern Land etc. with my personal favorite being the song Man of Colours. I always viewed Iva Davies as a kind of Antipodean art-rocker in the vein of David Bowie and perhaps Bryan Ferry; elegant pop with a dramatic flourish. Jeramiah’s a big TD fan (I’m a fan too but perhaps only really aware of things like Love on a Real Train which I think is an astounding piece of work and Force Majeure). I think the guitar parts are perhaps more Gilmour and Fripp in places. There’s a lot more guitar on the album than is first apparent as it is used texturally which is maybe where the Steve Hillage thing comes up. Jarre, Floyd and Vangelis were definitely touchstones.
Paul: Daily. Plans are afoot and we have discussed it at length. Really it’s all about the demand for a show at the scale we’d want to do it. We don’t want to do small.
What’s the music scene in New Zealand like, what’s the ‘status’ of progressive rock in your country? Are there any progressive/symphonic acts in your country we should know about?
Paul: The music scene here is a diverse and healthy one with the majority of the more popular groups flirting with elements of dub (Fat Freddies, Salmonella Dub) and drum and bass/dubstep (Shapeshifter, Six60, Tiki Taane). We have our pop acts and our rock acts, our indie hipsters and old guard. We all get along. I think your readers would enjoy NZ acts like the Syd Barret-esque Connan Mockasin (touring with Radiohead this year), Cairo Knife Fight, Decortica and Battle Circus on the heavier side. I’m personally a big fan of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Immram fans should all rush out immediately and purchase Module’s sophomore album Imagineering released this April. Rhian Sheehan is also a rare talent for fans of Eno etc.
Did you suffer from the quakes or do you live on the other island?
Paul: We’re all based in the North Island so weren’t directly affected but I think it’s fair to say the nation has suffered the aftermath. It changed everything.
How long did it take you to conceive and record the album and to write the story?
Paul: The conception and writing was a matter of months, the execution of the project took about 2 years from memory. That wasn’t sustained effort, just the overall timeframe in which we could give it our attention.
Can you give us a rough outline of the recording process since you’re practically a one man band?
Paul: As I mentioned, all the synths and the vast majority of the sequencing are the dominion of my esteemed colleague Jeramiah Ross, aka Module. The guitar and vocal parts were laid down over the course of two days with a couple of pick up sessions later on. This was the bedrock on which J went to work on layering the amazing sonic textures which contextualize the album. The lion’s share of the process was completed within 3 or 4 months and then we painstakingly tweaked the arrangements and production culminating in a marathon mixing session which also saw some 11th hour overdubs.
Paul: It was always intended as a transparent premise. It’s a concept album. But unlike many albums of its nature, the actual concept is presented within a wider concept. In the age of the Internet I believe the mystique surrounding recorded music has been eroded. Everything is at your fingertips and as such doesn’t require as much of the individual’s personal investment. When the entire music world seems to be available online, via download, for free, there’s not a heck of a lot to get excited about anymore. Somehow, the ease of acquisition, together with the lack of physicality, or attendant mythology, just dampens one’s imagination. The purpose of The Voyage of the Corvus Corrone was not to generate a perfect forgery but to provoke thought and generate dialogue on this topic, about the rather odd state we find ourselves in with music, and whether there’s a way back, not to a past we know we cannot return to, but to a future in which music again becomes a rich, immersive experience. I suppose it’s about the nature of listening.
Have you been travelling to Europe or any other countries in the past?
Paul: Not as part of this project. I recorded a solo album at Abbey Rd in 2003 The Shadow’s of Birds Flying Fall Slowly Down the Tall Buildings but nothing recently.
Are you planning to do something like this again? If not, what are your future plans? If yes can you tell a bit about the new project?
Paul: I’ve heard rumours of more master tapes being located in a lost Mayan Temple. I can neither confirm nor deny this at present… I imagine it would be more ambient…
Anything you like to add yourself?