With a history of globetrotting, a penchant for the visual arts and a pallet of some of prog and classic rock’s finest; Alan Dweck is already a name of intrigue. Combine this with the emergence of a remaster of his hit track ‘Before’, accompanied by an otherworldly visualiser, and what you have is a handful of conversation starters. We got chatting to Alan to see what’s what…
RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why?
AD: A hard one. There are so many genres and sub genres that make up Rock music. One album that has always spoken to me is Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon. – You can listen to it repeatedly and discover greater and greater meaning. From the lyrics that ooze with empathy and insight into the human condition to the superlative musicianship and arrangements sympathetically built around deceptively simple songs. It has a consistent feel, sounding smooth whilst at a deeper level an inner anger bubbles and scratches just below the surface.
RR: How did you first discover rock music?
AD: I grew up with music all around me. As a child I found myself searching for a special sound amongst the bubble gum and the glitz that populated the airwaves. As a teenager I discovered Soho and in particular the Marquee club, the rest is history.
RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music?
AD: Fractured. We’ve lost the commonality of shared experience in a myriad of different colours. Subcultures and genres are now so small that they touch too few to result in a truly shared experience. We once listened to Radios and CD / Record players in a room with our friends. We now hide our music in our ear pods so that no one else shares them. Music has turned from a social experience into a personal one. On the other hand Spotify and other music sharing services put so much in each of our hands that it’s truly amazing. We can easily listen and discover to so many musicians all over the world. Problem is it’s probably too much and hard to know where to start. So we often end up getting fed something that sounds like what we listened to last time – So if we are not careful we can end up just listening to the same things. That’s restrictive not expansive. Meanwhile the musicians are ripped off whilst these services, internet service providers, hardware manufacturers all get rich from the people’s desire to listen to music. We listen to more music nowadays than ever before, yet the musician and creatives get less than ever before.
RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why?
AD: An Australian Guitarist called Geoff Achison because of his jawbreakingly beautiful phrasing and immaculate control over his instrument. And in the end the way he uses this amazing technique to express intense emotion.
RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad?
AD: As mentioned above, I see splitting and fracturing everywhere. There’s good and bad in it. On the good side there is lots of choice and many, many musicians out there for listeners to discover all playing in carefully curated styles that can be categorised to help listeners find them, On the other hand it’s too wide and more choice leads to greater confusion and less commonality in what we all listen to, That results in fractured music styles and ironically an ever smaller reach for musicians who quickly feel stuck in their genre.
RR: How did the ‘Before’ video visualiser come about? Any particular inspirations at all?
AD: I dislike videos of people doing things to music. I also dislike what I call the Celebrity mug shot kind of video: Lots of shots of the artists in different places, singing and generally trying to look cool. It all serves a cult of celebrity rather than a song or a genuine artistic expression. Whilst I do love much film music the normal subtext is that the Visuals are primary and tell the story whilst the music tells the viewer how to feel. I want to turn that on its head. I want the music to be primary – ie The music tells the story whilst the visuals should support it and enhance how the listener feels. The visual should support multiple viewing in the way that the music supports multiple listening. That is why all the images in “Before” are abstract, they are also all extracted from a single visual “the hand” which we see in full right at the end.
I guess I am trying to capture the magic we used to experience when holding a great album cover whilst listening to the music. The music came first and the cover second but the cover and artwork also became part of the experience of the album’s music. If you look carefully at the “Before” video you should find that in an abstract way it represents the message and story behind the song. I wanted something that the viewer could look at many times and still get something out of it. I also wanted the Hand visual to be the takeaway – the video to be an extension of the picture. But I guess it’s really in the hand of the audience and I just hope they like the experience. I am doing some more videos in a similar line. For some other songs and I also intend to use these videos in different ways for my live gigs. … Watch this space.
RR: How important is the visual aspect to your work to you?
AD: Music and Visuals go together like fish and water. I’ve always worked with artists and used visuals to inspire my playing and writing. In my old band we used to have an Artist painting a huge canvass whilst we played. When a strong piece of music meets a strong visual, the combines statement is so much more powerful and moving than with either music or visual can achieve on their own.
RR: What musical inspirations have you picked up whilst travelling?
AD: In many ways I’ve come to see similarities in different music styles and traditions that transcend their diverse roots. As a result I’ve grown an appreciation of what I suppose we would call world music. Drones and complex rhythms scales and microtones are all present in different forms across cultures. In many ways labels, even large labels like “Rock”, “Blues”, “Country”, “Pop” actually restrict us from opening our ears, by shutting us away from different scales and different uses of rhythm. I have grown an appreciation of so many different music types, from Arabic through Indian, Chinese and Aboriginal. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Rock and Blues music, it’s in my very core, but I also think that other cultures produce music that is equally valid and expresses powerful feeling. In the end it’s all music and for me “Good” music is music that touches an emotional core and moves me. That can come from anywhere in the world and just requires a musician to express it.
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