Då och då dyker det upp band och album som skakar om rejält. Som öppnar upp nya perspektiv och får en att litegrand se världen på ett nytt sätt. Band som gör med musiken ungefär det samma som surrealisterna gjorde med måleriet en gång i tiden. Flera av King Crimsons album har fungerat på det sättet för mig. Ett exempel är låten Fractured, från Starless and Bible Black (1974). Art Zoyd, Can och delar av det Brian Eno gjort är andra exempel. Och förstås Univers Zero.
Jag syftar på musik som spränger bort gammalt slagg ur hörselgångarna och aktiverar områden i nervsystemet som man inte visste fanns (och kanske inte ens ville veta). Det är intensiva upplevelser som inte alltid är behagliga. Som när man ser en film av Tarkovskij, eller läser en tung och komplicerad roman. Man vet att det krävs en ansträngning, samtidigt känner man intuitivt att belöningen när man tagit till sig verket kommer att vara påtaglig. Att den kommer att gör en rikare som människa.
På sistone har det dykt upp flera band som gör just det här. En generation yngre musiker för in ny energi och kraft i den gamla trötta progressiva rocken. Norska It´s The End är ett sådant exempel. Ett annat, det i mitt tycke förnämligaste av dem alla, är amerikanska trion Zevious.
Sedan jag upptäckte deras album After The Air Raid (2009) i början av juni i år har jag inte kunnat sluta lyssna på det. Det är som att gruppens musik öppnar en dörr någonstans djupt inom mig och släpper in nya och fascinerande färger och dofter. Det mest förbluffande är att denna rika musik åstadkoms av bara tre musiker. Egentligen upplever jag dem inte som tre, utan som en enda sammanlänkad organism. Bandmedlemmarna tycks stå i en närmast perfekt telepatisk kontakt med varandra.
I ett försök att förstå varför musiken påverkar mig så starkt bestämde jag mig för skicka ett mail med några frågor till bandet. Gitarristen Michael Eber var vänlig nog att svara. (De övriga medlemmarna är John DeBlase – bas och Jeff Eber – trummor).
Michael förklarar att flera av låtarna är inspirerade av bandmedlemmarnas drömmar, att man försöker åstadkomma instrumental music that tells a story och music that invokes a strong reaction whether positive or negative och att musiken inspirerats av science-fiction författaren Philp K. Dick´s böcker. Allt detta förklarar, åtminstone delvis, varför gruppens musik påverkar på djupet.
Intressant är också följande citat - Reviewers love to compare us to bands I've never heard of and claim that they have had a definite influence on our music…
Här följer intervjun i sin helhet i oöversatt skick. För en svensk version hänvisar jag till Google Translate.
1. Your album After The Air Air Raid is highly addictive. Any suggestions on how to stop listening to it?
Haha - Unfortunately, once you start listening to the album, you can't stop until your head explodes. Sorry about that.
2. Does “Zevious” mean anything in particular, and were did you get that name?
“Zevious” is actually a play on the name of a great arcade game from the ‘80s that had some hypnotic qualities and weird music. We were also drawn to the name because it's an abstraction of the word "devious"(=slingrande, irrande), which hints at our compositional approach and musical philosophy in general.
3. Were in the usa do you live and what’s the music scene’s like there?
We all live in New York City. The music scene for newer and more experimental music mostly exists in Brooklyn, although we do play in Manhattan every now and again. We definitely prefer to play outside NYC, in part because we have played here so many times, but mostly because there are so many bands in the city that audiences have become somewhat complacent. It is really easy to skip a show when there is another show (or 10) happening the next night. We have had some really great shows in our hometown, but I have found that people are much more excited to hear new music around the country.
4. Do you all come from musical background? What was your musical upbringing? Were you encouraged to play instruments from an early age?
Jeff and I come from more musical families than Johnny, but he was playing from a young age anyway. My dad and Jeff's mom are both musicians so we had some guidance when we were really young. When I was about five, I would listen to orchestral music with my dad and he would either tell me stories or help me follow the scores. I think this really helped me visualize music as I got older and now it affects how I try to compose instrumental music that tells a story.
5. What kind of music were you listening to growing up?
I only listened to classical music until I was about 12 when I started discovering rock music. Igor Stravinsky was (and still is in a lot of ways...) my favorite composer and I have always been amazed by the fact that he was able to incite a riot (with the help of some creepy choreography) at the premier of his ballet, The Rite of Spring in 1913. That piece of history has been incredibly influential on my entire musical career - it drives me to write music that invokes a strong reaction whether positive or negative and to constantly look for challenging concepts (both for us and our audience).
6. I find your album After The Air Raid “provoking” me (in a positive way) and raising a lot of questions. What kind of music is this really? Progressive rock, jazz, heavy-metal…? Do you even care about labeling your music?
I have no idea what kind of music it is! What most people don't realize is that our music is probably most influenced by 20th and 21st century composed music (like Bartok, Messiaen, Stravinksy...). I have the most difficult time trying to describe what genre the music fits into because it incorporates ideas from so many different styles. It definitely includes elements of what you mentioned but at the end of the day, I don't like confining the music to one genre or another because it limits what we can explore. I have one student who always asks me: "Why did you write this song if it sounds so different from that song?" My only response is: "Why not?" That all being said, I understand the usefulness in labeling music - it allows people to discover your music if they have similar musical interest. So... we’ll just call it Progressive-Jazz-Metal for now.
7. Do you find any other band that play the same kind of music that you do?
I don't know of bands that are doing exactly what we are doing, but there are definitely bands that we enjoy playing shows with because their music works well with ours. Just to name a few - Seabrook Power Plant (a trio built around awesome banjo shredding and crazy rhythms), Algernon (our Cuneiform label mates that play post-rock prog), Mick Barr (guitarist of Ocrilum/Orthrelm), and Old Man Lady Luck (a Connecticut based trio that are loud and brutal).
Also, the three of us play in other bands that are a little different than Zevious but still closely related. My other band, Smother Party, is an instrumental micro-tonal rock band that is heading into the studio to record our first album in a couple of months. Jeff plays in Dysrhythmia which is an amazing instrumental rock band that has been pretty influential over the last ten years or so. And Johnny's band, Many Arms, is a really great free shred jazz band that is about to release their second album.
8. From where do you get your inspiration and your ideas. Any bands or certain music that’s been inspiring? Books, films, nature, religion…?
Frequently I base my compositions on dreams (for example: The Children and the Rats). I try to describe the imagery and feel of a dream through the music. Johnny’s music tends to allude to particular situations and imagery inspired from literature, philosophy and art. Both of us rely on our experiences for inspiration as well.
Lately we've both been influenced by the writing of Haruki Murakami because he has a way of relaying reality in the most abstract way. His message always seems relevant no matter how dreamlike his stories become. A couple of other authors that have had a major impact on our music are William S. Burroughs and Philip K. Dick.
9. How do you compose your songs? Do you come up with your ideas while improvising together or are the themes and ideas born individually?
Johnny and I come up with complete compositions separately (usually including the drum parts). We score out all the parts and bring them to rehearsal where we make slight adjustments as a band once we have an idea about what we want the final performance to sound like. As a creative musician, Jeff always has great suggestions and interprets what we've written in an incredibly musical way but he does not compose on his own.
10. Do you tour, or play a lot in front of audiences? If so, what kind of venues/clubs do you play? Progressive rock or jazz festivals?
We play a lot and have toured a large part of North America (with more tour plans in the works...). The cool thing is that we have played in just about every type of venue you can think of. Rock clubs, art galleries, house shows, cinder block shacks, jazz clubs, and even a wedding! We would like to be involved in more festivals but we have not done much of that yet - anything happening in Sweden?
11. What kind of audience is attracted to your music. Jazzlisteners, progressive rock fans, other?
Because of the nature of our music, we tend to attract people with all kinds of musical interest. (We also alienate all kinds!) The music is very high energy so people who like rock music can enjoy it while the complexity appeals to the progressive and classical music audiences. Since the music is visual and meant to evoke specific feelings, those who don't know or care about music theory can relate to it - and there is some improv for people who prefer jazz.
12. Do you have a following, die hard fans, ”zeviousheads” or something similar?
Haha - maybe "Zeviants" - like deviants with a "Z". I imagine they would be the people whose brains revolt against what they are hearing because they like the music but can't figure out why.
13. Are you content with the trio-format or do you sometimes think it’s too limited?
The trio format is by far my favorite to work with. There is time and space for everyone to breathe and contribute more.
One prominent theme that I think stands out in our music is rhythmic interaction. We often try to layer all the parts so that, when combined, there are more "sounding" layers than the three individual parts would suggest. In other words, the bass and guitar are frequently playing counter melodies in two different time signatures while the drums accent both and even add at least one more. The effect is that melodies are created within this "inner space" - so even though each part might stand alone, a third or fourth melody, harmony, or rhythm can be heard or felt when the parts interact.
Both Johnny and I are constantly developing specific compositional processes in order to explore these sorts of spatial relationships. The concepts have evolved in conjunction with the progression of the band and the music reflects that growth.
14. What do you think of the state of progressive rock today? How do you think this style will develop?
I think there are a lot of bands that are exploring new ideas but I am not sure if I would consider them (or us for that matter) to be prog bands. We sort of fell into that category because our music shifts around a lot, but I never really thought of us that way. We are just trying to make honest music so my hope is that "progressive music" is aiming for the same goal without being concerned with where it fits in, or if it fits in at all.
15. What kind of reception has After the Air Raid got in media, press etc? Reviews positive/negative?
The album has been received positively for the most part. We have had some really great reviews and some OK ones, but overall people have seemed pretty excited about it. Reviewers love to compare us to bands I've never heard of and claim that they have had a definite influence on our music, which gets a little tiring, but if it makes their readers more interested, then I am cool with it.
16. What would you say has been the biggest moment in Zevious career so far?
Getting signed by Cuneiform Records was definitely our biggest moment. They have enabled us to be heard all over the world and have done a great job promoting the music. All of us had owned Cuneiform albums for years so it was really exciting when they expressed interest. Plus, they have an incredible catalogue, so anyone who reads this should try to check out some of the great albums they have released.
17. What are your plans for the future?
Zevious is currently in writing and rehearsing mode in preparation for a full US tour in early 2011. Our music requires a lot of rehearsal so we are looking forward taking some time to work up new material. Hopefully we will be ready to record another album by the end of 2011.
18. Any final words and comments?
Thanks a lot for the interview! I hope we can make it over to Sweden soon.