DPRP Interview: Robert Reed & Andy Edwards – March 2016
Rob Reed is the driving force behind Welsh proggers Magenta as well as instigating various side projects including the highly acclaimed albums by Chimpan A and Kompendium. In 2014 he released his debut solo album ’Sanctuary’ which conspicuously tipped its hat to Mike Oldfield and the seminal ‘Tubular Bells’.
Andy Edwards is one of rock’s most respected drummers having recorded with IQ, Frost* and Magenta as well as a world tour with Robert Plant. He also teaches drums and his students have included Leo Crabtree (The Prodigy), Jim Macaulay (The Stranglers) and Simon Fox (Be-Bop Deluxe).
More recently they combined their talents to form new band Kiama joined by guitarist Luke Machin (Maschine/The Tangent) and vocalist Dylan Thompson (Shadow of The Sun/The Reasoning).
Our interviewer Geoff Feakes took the opportunity to talk to Rob and Andy.
Rob: With Magenta and all my solo projects, there is a lot of “me” in there. I do a lot of it, writing, playing various instruments etc. I really wanted to be part of a band, be the keyboard player. Something I hadn’t done for many years. When we recorded the last Magenta album Andy played drums on it. We were recording in Rockfield Studios which was used by Rush, VDGG and Queen back in the 70’s. Andy only agreed to play if we recorded the drums old school, one take, no triggering or cutting and pasting which I was well up for. When we were there we got talking about how fantastic it must have been in the 70’s when a band would turn up and set up in the room and play all together. Press record and go, make an album in a few weeks. This sounded amazing, as I’m really fed up with the modern way of all the members of the band, never meeting, and file sharing. Also I waste so much time stuck in front of a computer on my own making my records.
Andy: The idea for Kiama germinated in Rockfield Studios in Wales. Rob and I were recording drums for the Magenta album ‘The Twenty Seven Club’. We were in the same room where they recorded ‘Farewell to Kings’ by Rush and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen and you really get a vibe in there. We started discussing the way those albums were recorded compared to today and the idea came to form a band and make an album using those methods.
Rob: So we said we would try the old way of making an album. First we had to find the players. We went through a bit of trial and error, as we wanted people that we could get on with, no egos allowed. Luke (Machin) I had met at the PROG awards in London. I’d seen his playing on YouTube, but after talking to him I realised that he could obviously play the fast stuff, but he was more interested in melodies from the guitar and feel. This is what we were after. We wanted it to be about the song, NOT the “widdle” that’s easy to do. Next we had to find a singer; again we wanted somebody who could convey emotion and definitely NOT the operatic rock voice that is heard so much these days. I love Steve Hogarth’s voice, the way it breaks and conveys emotion. I had known Dylan (Thompson) for many years, even before he was in The Reasoning. I said to him that one day he would be fronting a band of mine. He came down, tried it out and it sounded fantastic. He really has a distinctive voice. For me the voice is the most important part, something neglected in Prog. So we had the band and off we went to Peter Gabriel’s studio Real World where we set up facing each other and played and recorded like a band.
Andy: The idea was to form a band, not get some session players or guests. The band needed to gel and have the skills to come up with not only playing ideas but also song writing ideas. Most of the songs were written by Dylan and Rob but Luke and myself have also been involved with the writing as well as the playing. I think we have all been involved in the whole process from coming up with the name to the mix and artwork.
DPRP: Kiama’s debut album ‘Sign Of IV’ has recently been released, musically how does it compare with your previous work?
Rob: With Magenta my references were the obvious – Genesis, Yes, and Mike Oldfield. But I always loved those rock bands that dabbled in Prog and created some classic Prog moments. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Rainbow with ‘Stargazer’, Queen, Blind Faith; they all experimented with arrangements and extended songs but also had great melodies. Even Pink Floyd are not about “widdle”. There is very little showing off on ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, it’s all about the melodies and the emotion. That was our references.
Andy: I can musically get bored really easily and because of that I have played all sorts of different styles of music. I think I have ended up playing prog because that style allows you to do a lot of different things. When I played the blues with Ian Parker and Aynsley Lister I found that style really restrictive. In Kiama we can play a blues if we want but in the blues you would never get away with something in 13/8! So, to answer the question, I think it is very different to what I have done in the past. There are links to some of the prog bands I have played with but it’s different to those bands too. It’s also different to what I would do myself as an artist. I think that is true of all of us in Kiama. It’s a product of us all and doesn’t sound like Magenta or Frost or Maschine but there are links. The biggest difference for me is the fact that there is space to improvise and it has a soulful funkiness that I think was in the original prog bands but has all but disappeared from modern prog bands.
DPRP: Are there any tracks on the album in particular that standout for you?
Rob: They all mean different things to me. The song ‘I Will Make It Up To You’ is my favourite and the least prog, it’s just a fantastic song. Dylan came down to the studio one day with the song, it sounded very different. Different chords, but I loved the “hook” so I came up with completely different chords and it just took off. The other thing I like is the guitar solos which are so melodic. I begged Luke to extend them, play more and faster. He just kept saying unlike most guitarists that it didn’t need it, that less was more. It was all about the quality rather than the quantity of notes.
Andy: My favourite track is ‘Free’ which I think has a very emotional lyric and one of the best guitar solos of all time. ‘Beautiful World’ does so much in just one track including a drum solo but I hope it’s a drum solo that fits into the sentiment of the track. Another track that deserves a special mention is ‘Muzzled‘ which again I think is beyond categorisation. But I do love them all and I hope we have made an album that will stand up to repeated listening.
DPRP: Rob, your previous projects outside Magenta have tended to be one-offs, what does the future hold for Kiama do you feel?
Rob: Kiama is definitely a more long term project. I just like being one of four and sharing the writing process. It will come down to the quality of the songs that we come up with for the next album.
DPRP: Before we finish, can you give our reader’s an update on what’s currently happening in the Magenta camp?
Rob: I’m about to finally start a new Magenta album. It’s strange to think that the band is over 14 years old. One thing that hit me was the thought that a lot of people write off the band before they even listen to what we put out. I started to feel that it didn’t matter how good the album was, people were saying “Magenta, yes I know what they are about“. It’s hard to get new people to give it a chance. I think that each Magenta album is different, ‘Metamorphosis’ is nothing like ‘Home’. But people assume that it’s all neo-prog with a female singer. So it’s been hard to get into the right frame of mind to make something new. I love working with Tina (Booth) and Chris (Fry), that’s my day job. In the end though you have to make the music for yourself, and make it to the best of your ability. I’m excited and want to try something different with the new Magenta album. Let’s wait and see!
DPRP: Finally Rob, your second solo album ‘Sanctuary II’ is on its way. For many, including myself, ‘Sanctuary’ was the best album Mike Oldfield never made; can we expect more in a similar vein?
Rob: (Laughs) That was exactly the reason I made the album. Mike wasn’t into making long form instrumental music and I missed it. I love his first four albums. There is so much emotion in those albums. I spent a lifetime preparing for making ‘Sanctuary’. I wanted it all hand played, and real. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. It completely split the fans down the middle. Half thought I was a genius, the other half thought I was the work of the devil. Yes, ‘Sanctuary II’ is finished. Tom Newman is producing and I have Simon Phillips on drums, which is a dream come true. I’m blown away by what Simon has done and added to the music. I think there is a lot more of “me” on ‘Sanctuary II’. I really hope that I’ve managed to capture some of the emotion that Mike captured on those early albums.
DPRP: Many thanks to you both for taking timeout from your busy schedules to talk to the DPRP and all the best for the future.
Rob: Thanks for taking the time, and thanks to everybody for their continued support.