Accomplice: Prog Metal Newcomers

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean

Interview

Discography:
Accomplice-our first U.S. release 1997
Voices-A tribute to Dream Theater 1999
Accomplice-Adrenaline release  2000

Please tell me something about the history of the band, something about the members!

Stephen and Sean formed the band in 1986 with some other local musicians and played for a few years building a pretty good name for ACCOMPLICE opening for groups like Armored Saint, TNT, and Savatage. It wasn't long before the band attracted some more talented players. First they found Scotty and Matthew in 1992 -1993. I met the guys at the University where we went to school in 1993. I didn't join Accomplice until 1994. Matthew and Sean went to college together for many years. That's where they actually met and first played together doing classical studies. In 1999, however, we were forced to replace Matt due to differences in musical direction. We are very happy with our new keyboardist Michael T. Ross who has been with the band almost a year now. He's working out great!

An interesting thing about the band is that we all come from pretty different musical backgrounds.

I have been playing professionally since age 17 and have studied under my musical mentor Allen Carter(Fullerton College), and Peter Erskine(Jazz Great). I studied jazz and classical in college playing with Big bands, Dixieland, and Orchestras etc.. I have been listening to Steve Smith, Buddy Rich, and Mike Portnoy alot lately.

Sean; studied under Dr. David Grimes at Cal. State Fullerton where he earned his Masters Degree in Guitar Performance. Sean grew up on classic and progressive rock, Beatles, Zep, Floyd, Rush,Yes, Purple. He cut his teeth on their music. Also, Van Halen, Malmsteen, Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, and Vai are influences.

Steve; grew up on Motown and the funk of the seventies, but discovered rock as a young man working in a great rock stadium, The Forum in L.A.. The experience of seeing groups like Styx and Triumph from backstage changed his life. Bruce Dickenson, Geoff Tate, Steve Perry and Dio are some of his biggest influences.

Scott; grew up in Chicago which is a great blues and jazz city, also a great rock city so he got it all there. If anybody was ever born a bass player, it was Scott. He's a connoisseur of 70's and 80's fusion like UK, Brecker Bros., Jean Luc Ponty . He arrived here in 1981 I think.

Mike is a local player. He is currently studying keyboard with Derek Sherinian(Planet X and Dream Theater). Michael started playing piano at age eight, but grew up on ELP, Yes. Purple etc. Funny, but he really loves guitar shredders and has the best collection of guitar hero CD's I've ever seen! Lately he's been getting into Jens Johansen. He still studies with T. Lavitz as well.

Please see all of our bio pages at http://www.accomplice.com

What about the name of the band?

The name makes use of the "Partners in Crime" concept......... Not to be taken in a sinister way! We lend more to the idea of the "Partners.....In Music", if you will.....

Are there earlier releases? What about the label, the success?

ACCOMPLICE is the first release from us. However, we are currently working on the follow-up to the first release. We have been getting great response to the European release. In Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and England mostly. The reviews have been great so far, and that is really helping to get the word out about ACCOMPLICE. We were on another Adrenaline release; "Voices; A Tribute to Dream Theater".

What about the influence of other artists to you?

I feel that all musicians are influenced by every part of their lives be it work, play, or other music. Everything influences how you will approach your writing. Therefore, when people tell us we sound like Yes, Kansas, Queensryche, Queen, Journey, and Dream Theater, they are right.....and very flattering. We reflect, to some degree, all of these guys because we respect and love their music. Further, these bands have all touched our lives in some way. To say that we are copying them is selling them and us short because music reflects something much deeper than that.

How would you define the term progressive rock?

Complex............. As opposed to Pop music, Progressive music capitalizes on musicianship and "extreme" playing. Prog Rock stretches the abilities of the player and the ears of the listener alike with dense textures and flamboyant artistry. The player and listener are challenged by polyrhythmic and angular melody. I truly think progressive rock, like jazz, is musicians music.

Is progressive rock or metal the right categorie for you?

This is a difficult question..... The hard core progressive listeners will hear "some" progressive elements but say "it's not really progressive". I think metal may be closer but then I hear Reactor.... it is more progressive than metal. Welcome is definitely not Heavy Metal.........More like "Light Aluminum" We love so many different types of music, they all reflect in what we produce. I suspect Accomplice might fit in both places to some extent.

What about the balance of an record - the mix between heavy trax and ballads...

We want to make the music accessible to as many people as possible. I don't believe it is necessary to alienate listeners for the sake of finding "the one" demographic or category. As a musician it is your job to make the music listenable and interesting. Having a balance of Up, Medium, and Slow tunes is about good musical programming.

Is there a mastermind inside of the band or are you more a "democratic" band? How does the songwriting work in the band?

Usually Sean will come up with some guitar riffs that are worthy and present them to the band in rehearsals. The band then makes a song out of them. The music is always finished first, and we will often discuss the subject matter for a song based on its vibe. Stephen then comes up with the lyrics and vocal melodies. As we refine the songs, everybody has some input on music, vocal melodies and lyrics, and the song evolves from there. Occasionally the band will create new music through some of the long improvisations we indulge ourselves in at rehearsal.

on Democracy; (Generally we vote "if we get the count right". luckily we are in California, not Florida.);-) We vote on all business matters alla "Partners in Crime".

How did you come in touch with your current label? Was it difficult to find a record company?

We connected with them through the Internet. We were originally asked to participate in the album "Voices-A tribute to Dream Theater" where we covered "Pull Me Under". The connection was a great fit. Adrenaline Records was willing to re-package the original CD with new art and a new package.......oh, and a bonus track "Crusader Soul". We did not have great success in the U.S. "Progressive" or anything remotely prog is somewhat taboo over here.

How would you like to develop in the future? Do you think about changing your style?

We have tried to follow our own path when it comes to style. We try to implement different styles on our sound to make it sound like our style. "not to give anything away, but, the new CD will please progressive fans" We are all very excited about the new music. The new record will also have a good balance of tempos.

Is there a most important event in the history of the band?

I believe the most important event in the history of the band was working with our first manager and executive producer of the first album Jeff Henning. Deciding to work with Jeff was the beginning of the path to our first album. Without Jeff, we might not be doing as well as we are right now. He had the same belief in our music as we did and provided us with the necessary means and organization to achieve our goals........... Thanks Jeff!

What about your success in different countries?

We have been getting great response to the European release. In Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and England mostly. The reviews have been great so far, and that is really helping to get the word out about ACCOMPLICE. We have been well received and are happy that people like what we are doing. It is nice to get the validation since we have such a lack of response in the States.

What do you think about the situation of your musical genre in the presence and what will change in the future?

I hope, dream, to see a change in the mindset of the media and record companies to be more open to the genre of music we are in. I don't expect to see the age of the 80's "rockstar" again, but, perhaps there will be a turn in the listening habits of people to explore more complex music and "LISTEN", not just passively hear what we and others are doing. The media should consider this in the presence of a strong Metal scene world-wide. The internet could certainly help, as it sure helped us.

What kind of compromises would you make to push your career?

"We would probably do naked back-flips or dress up in liquid latex to move forward.....Joking.";-) We are flexible, but, we will never put anything on a CD or Stage that we do not feel is up to our standards. We have 3 music degrees in this band, therefore, our standards are firm.

How would you describe your relation to new media as internet, virtual reality, mp3...

We are very interested in new media and are exploring video to DVD and streaming video. The technology isn't cheap here, but, can be a great way to expose the world to Accomplice. We would like to have a video available on our website and on DVD someday. However, we will need more support for this to be available.

Progfans are ignorant and narrow-minded. They live in the past and don't care about the meaning of the word progress.

Progfans are more deep thinking than the average music listener. Prog music is more complex than mere dance music. The prog-listener is listening to something far more complex than a good drum-beat.

As far as living in the past, ALL people have a style of music, or particular song, that they connect with. Whether it is Johann Strauss, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, the Beatles, or Journey, we all have different experiences and memories that may be connected to songs or styles. This does not mean we are living in the past. It means we are saving our memories of times past. This is part of what grounds us as thinking feeling humans. Memories are a part of our soul but we always keep moving forward because the only thing constant in music is change.

So you could have the possibility to make this record again. Would you change anything?

Ha Ha Ha.... Sean and I have these discussions all the time. Sean is of the belief that we can re-do the music, since it was recorded in 97, and make it more 21'st century. I see his point and maybe we could. However; I believe that the songs are like your kids.... You raise them for a while... then you have to let them go and live their lives in the world. I want to make the next song better every time. I'm sure Sean does too.

We recorded this album. Therefore, we know all of the ins and outs of it. We may listen too hard to it and say, "oh, I wish I had done this". I think of the album as a photograph of where we were as people and musicians at the time. We have all moved on since, why remake the album. We said what we wanted to say with the first album, now Accomplice will make another statement on the next one.

Is each member of the band absolute satisfied with each song of the record?

We are all very proud of the first album and worked, kicked, screamed, and wrestled to get the final product. Every recording we have, including the album, has things on it we would like to redo in hindsight with new gear or new licks. I think all musicians feel this way about their playing that's why it is so important to savor the moment then move on.

What about the fact that a lot of people mean a good prog song must be an long track?

I think the length of a song is completely dependent on what the artist is trying to say. The length of the song is not as important as what the song says. If you mean long, 6:00+ minutes, you are looking at a latent property of Prog. Many popular Prog songs are longer, but not all.

I have friends who like the Epic tunes like "Metropolis;9:30" and "Learning to Live;11:30" but also like "Another Day;4:22". (to use Dream Theater as an example) Again, it is not the time reading but the statement that makes the song.


© 12/2000 Renald Mienert
DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean
http://www.durp.com/