A Chat With: Easton Guillory

Interview, Pop, Prog, Uncategorized

Prog pop may not be the most obvious combination in the music-fusion canon but forward-thinker Easton Guillory is not putting on the brakes on his creative train. Ahead of his new EP, End of Walls, we got chatting to the man himself to find out more…

RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why?

Tricky one. I find myself going back and forth between a classic 70s-ish prog album like Gentle Giant’s Power and Glory, Bowies Hunky Dory or literally anything by King Crimson, and a more modern vibe like Alt-J’s first two albums or a selection of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. If I really must choose I think it would have to come down to a Radiohead album, choosing between them is like making me choose between my children (cats).

At the time of first listen I’d say the album that gripped me the most was Hail to the thief. A really great balance of tricky time signatures, everchanging modulation and general proggy vibes but delivered in a manner that is approachable by your average joe and not too scary on first glance. The range of instrumentation and general soundscape between tracks I also find interesting, almost an homage to how they have developed throughout the years since Pablo, giving hints of punk rock, electronic, heavy rock, orchestral etc. Always maintaining a very clear Radiohead sound and compositional approach.

RR: How did you first discover rock music?

I was pretty late to rock music to be honest, growing up the only music that was played in our house was traditional English or Gaelic folk music which was down to my mam, she’s a mega ‘folky.’ By the time I was a teenager and finally got my first electric guitar and started receiving lessons, my teacher introduced me to the world of classic rock like Gun’s N Roses, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin etc. Although it wasn’t until I came to Leeds to study music at University that I truly found my own musical opinion and fell in love with all things proggy and weird.

RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music?

I think every genre has its good and bad artists, and rock is no exception, however I do genuinely feel positive about the future for rock. The rise of bands such as Black Midi and Black Country New Road is extremely exciting for noise/prog rock and rock in general as I think they are really going in their own direction and bring a sense of originality, which gets harder and harder every day.

You have Richard Dawson with his last few albums, a strange mixture of folk-esque lyrics with very proggy composition and often quite purposely harsh performance giving it the very rawest of feels. The new band The Smile is also very exciting, again using typically very proggy compositional methods like crazy time signatures and sudden modulations, but with an overlying sense of punky jazz?!? I think underground scenes in cities across UK are getting more impactful so bands with your smaller ‘cult’ followings are getting more recognition in the wider community and it’s something I personally love to see.

RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why?

It’s gonna have to be Radiohead. They were the band that made me seriously fall in love with music and set the foundations for my musical opinion as a whole. As I mentioned earlier, the way they can disguise very proggy and general unconventional compositional techniques within user-friendly rock music is baffling. When you see your none musician friends nodding there head along to a song in 13/8 you know something has been done right. I’m almost always surprised when I actually start to analyse a Radiohead song because it always ends up being way more complicated than it sounds.

I read somewhere recently that Radiohead were defined as ‘stealth prog’ which I just absolutely loved because it explains this entirely. Radiohead are the kings of stealth prog, and that’s why they’re my favourite band.

RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad?

Yes like I mentioned earlier I have hope that the growth of underground scenes and smaller cult followings will bring forward these more unconventional bands/artists and more styles of music are being accepted into the mainstream media.

RR: Progressive pop is such an interesting and unique genre label, what made you want to produce music within this sphere?

At the risk of repeating myself, the whole idea of having unconventional, proggy ideas within a nice, easy sounding package is something that really appeals to me. Being my debut EP I want it to be accepted by a wider crowd but I’m also really not one for a 1, 5, 6, 4 progression if you feel me.

Personally I never listen to lyrics first in a song, I’m always drawn to the music and the lyrics come entirely second, which is parallel to how I write music 90% of the time. I wanted the music to be the main interest in my songs, however I still wanted to tell my story therefore the music needed to make way for that. This balance of trying to make the music interesting whilst not being too overwhelming for the lyrics to have actual meaning and impact, resulted in this Prog Pop blend.

RR: What was the general songwriting process on the EP? Were there any challenges to overcome?

It was a long and slow process the production of this EP. As usual, time and money was the main issue throughout the earlier stages and not to mention F*king covid and lockdowns. I worked in a restaurant as a waiter doing long hours for minimum wage while trying to find the time and money to work on this EP. It got to the point where I was pretty much ready to give up and pack it in due to how expensive it was turning out to be.

I then received the tricky news of my grandmas passing which I struggled with for a while and took some time off from music. We have a very big family with not a lot between us but when we sold our grandmas house we all got a share which finally gave me the financial boost I needed to record and produce the EP once and for all. She was always very supportive of my musical endeavours and turned out to be the sole reason I was able to take them further, even after death.

Easton’s new EP ‘End Of Walls’ drops 05/04/22!

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A Chat With: Caged Arts

Interview

The story of Caged Arts is an inspiring one. A mixed ability rock band fronted by Gary, an autistic man who overcame homelessness and alcohol abuse through the strength of his own character and the support of music therapy charity T.I.M.E – the organisation that took him off the streets and onto the stage. With such a fascinating history, we had the pleasure of chatting to the man himself to find out more…

RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why? 

Pink Floyd dark side of the moon. Because it has so much going on with the music. It has so many different sounds, textures and instruments and lyrically it describes life in such an interesting meaningful way, I really connect with the words and the feel of the music. 

RR: How did you first discover rock music? 

Growing up my parents always loved rocked music, ACDC, Budgie. From a baby there was always rock music in the house. My parents had a Vinyl player with tonnes of LP’s that I loved playing with. That really sowed a seed for my love of rock music 

RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music? 

I think there’s great local scene for rock and alternative music, especially in Essex, Southend and Basildon. But id love to see more bands like them hitting the mainstream. And although rock music isn’t as popular as it once was I think there’s a real underground scene for it still. 

RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why? 

My favourite at the moment is called Dirty Honey, I discovered them in lockdown and absolutely love them. I like it because It sounds like rock music from the 80’s and 90’s which I really love. The vocals really stand out to me, such a strong voice, and there’s a great theme to each song. 

RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad? 

I think there’s a lot more music being made now because its so easy for people to record and release their own music without needing for a record label so I think it’s great that there’s lots of different genres blending and new sounds being made. I love being able to easily discover new bands all the time on Facebook and YouTube.

RR: How would you describe the music of Caged Arts? 

I find it difficult to put a label on us as every song to me is different. Crystal castle is more of a slow emotional song whereas the artist still has that emotion but is much faster and upbeat. So, I suppose there’s always a lot of emotion within the music, especially with the lyrics, I spend hours writing down ideas to the type of thing I’m trying to say. Aside from that we love big guitars, big drums and an overall hard-hitting sound. 

RR: What is the meaning behind the name Caged Arts to you and the band? 

Caged comes from behind trapped with yourself and arts is the creative side. Sometimes in life it has felt as if the art inside me has been caged because of my disability. Caged arts is about showing the artist inside of me despite of the cage. 

RR: Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences with T.I.M.E? 

Since coming to TIME’s drop in I showed off some of my lyrics and ideas and from there it went from strength to strength, we quickly started to write songs develop the music and before I knew it, we were playing shows and I was singing as the frontman of the band. Mike, Rob and Marc have been such great friends to me and have really made me come out of my shell. I’m not sure where I would be without TIME. I certainly wouldn’t be making music like I am now. 

The T.I.M.E Team! (Mike, Rob & Mark)

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A Chat With: Izakman

Interview

Rock music has exhausted almost every avenue of songwriting it has available to it but the trip-hazards and mind-bends of Lewis Carroll and Brothers Grimm’s classics is one fruit that has rarely been picked. Rock risers, Izakman, have seized the opportunity with flare on their upcoming record ‘Cyber Love’ and we got a chance to shoot some questions over to songwriter and frontman Itamar Isaak to dig a little deeper…

RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why?

I have several favorites, but I’ll go for the rock opera Tommy by The Who.

The album’s subject matter is heartrending and timeless, following a deaf, dumb and blind boy and his experiences with life and his relationship with his family. It has a fantastic narrative flow from start to finish. Musically and energetically, It stands the test of time. Epic! You come out of it in a different state than how you started.

RR: How did you first discover rock music?

I was first exposed to classic rock music when I watched The Yellow submarine for the first time as a child. Still, I only became aware of rock music at school when many of my friends were into 90’s grunge and metal bands. Everybody wanted to pick up a guitar, put on distortion, and shred in my teenage years.

If you wanted to be “cool” and impress your friends, you would have a skateboard or play soccer and play loud electric guitar.

RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music?

I think it’s all fragmented now because of the internet. I don’t know who the new most prominent bands are anymore because they’re so many now. I mainly get to hear about new psychedelic and indie rock bands. I guess it’s due to the internet’s data from my searches.

My latest discoveries are “UNI”, which a friend introduced me to, The Swedish band Dungen and Amy & The Sniffers, which I found randomly on the internet or perhaps I got targeted on YouTube. All are brilliant, and I hope to see them live one day.

RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why?

It’s hard to pick just one; recently, I’ve been more interested in discovering obscure rarities and traditional music from around the world. Nevertheless, I admire Pond for Nick Allbrooks confrontational charisma and cheeky showmanship.

Their latest album, “9”, is my favorite release I have encountered so far from last year, for its fun unapologetic energy and great emotional yet sophisticated songs from start to finish.

RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad?

Following psych-bands I like, such as “Tame Impala, Pond, UMO Temples”, and the Israeli “Iogi”, I think the majority are leaning towards the lusher and synthesized sound.

Production-wise, you get to hear a lot of amazing and exciting sounding stuff. But, still, artistically, I feel the approach has become somewhat escapist. You always have the exceptions like the Israeli Electric Zoo, which are more raw and rebellious in their approach. And Izakman off-course.

RR: Can you tell us about how the idea for the ‘Cyber Love’ music video came about and its significance?

Cyber Love was spawned from a feeling of alienation and deals with reaching out across cyberspace, social media platforms and dating apps and the struggle to make a true and meaningful connection.

The idea for the clip was inspired by Pina’s Bausch performance “The Man I Love”. The song expresses an individual’s frustration from poor communication. The theme of poor communication is reflected in the music video, which includes elements of Sign language, Morse and Braille, which are all used to overcome an obstacle in communication. The song may suggest that technology can be an obstacle to intimacy rather than a means to achieve it.

RR: How would you say this new album compares to 2015’s Rabbit Holes?

“Rabbit Holes” was made entirely D.I.Y. I had no method and no experience in music production before.Some of the songs I performed and mixed entirely on my own with no one else involved but for me. The song “Sleeping the Day Away” appears in different versions on both albums.

I tried to capture the sound of a late 60’s obscure psychedelic record. The new album was produced in a more “old school” way – in a proper recording studio, with a live band and Roy Nizzani as the producer. Roy’s approach was modern up to date. At the same time, mine was a more classic 70’s rock, resulting in a fascinating sounding record.

RR: Are there any sort of visual elements planned for the other tracks on the album as there was for Cyber Love?

Yes, “Down the Rabbit Hole” is also accompanied by an animated music video produced by Saloniki animation studio – Addart. I developed both “Cyber Love” and “Down The Rabbit Hole” music videos with my neighbour photographer Shay Ben Efraim who also filmed them and has worked with me throughout Izakman’s activities.

The new video is inspired directly by Lewis Carroll’s work across mathematics and literature; the video follows a young mathematician lost in a mathematical wonderland pursuing the solution to a complex equation – a solution that manifests as Alice. The video showcases a new mathematical branch, Soft Logics, that challenges the binary nature of true/false limitations.

Cyber Love is available everywhere on 27/01/22

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A Chat With Chameleon Lady

Interview

With their new EP, ’11 Waverley Road’, dropping on this very day, 3/12/21, it was our pleasure to catch up with indie-rock outfit Chameleon Lady’s voice-box Cam! Diving into his own music habits and the band’s strong family ties, here’s our chat with Chameleon Lady…

RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why?

The best rock album of all time is such a tricky question. I grew up with The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance and the unbelievable American Idiot by Green Day. Personally I’d have to chose one of them as they really introduced me to the genre. 

RR: How did you first discover rock music?

Apart from buying the albums Black Parade and American Idiot by My Chemical Romance and Green Day I suppose it was earlier rock. Bands like The Beatles, Meatloaf. Bat out of hell was regularly on in the house. 

RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music?

I think it’s in great shape. There are so many new and exciting bands coming through with different and unique sounds. It’s such an eclectic mix. 

Check out the band’s latest hit single – ‘Home (The Highlands)’

RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why?

I love Fatherson. A Scottish band from Glasgow. They are just brilliant. 

RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad?

I think the only way is up. I can only see the genre evolving into something bigger and better with new and more interesting sounds and talents. 

RR: Can you tell us about the band dynamic? I understand there are a lot of family bonds there!

So there are a lot of family bonds. Myself and Tom are brothers, Caitlin and Robbie are brother and sister, Kenny is their dad and Michael is their cousin. Although a lot of people would suggest this is a nightmare it works really well for us. It allows us to have a very tight knit bond that other bands just don’t have. Our creative and performance chemistry is off the charts and that can only be a good thing. 

RR: What did you learn about yourselves as musicians from writing the new EP?

I think we all learnt that we aren’t actually half bad as musicians. It’s always difficult starting out and getting your foot in the door but this EP has really elevated our sound and understanding of our music. It’s been such a positive and fun experience. 

RR: What was the main source of inspiration from the new EP? Did this differ from your usual songwriting process?

Our usual songwriting process is very collaborative. One of us will bring a song or idea to a meeting and we all discuss and add our inputs from there. We have always done this but this time round we got more creative and experimental in what we were doing. We tried to dive deeper into the emotions and feelings of the lyrics and music. And we think we have struck gold this time round. 

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A Chat With: Ajay Mathur

Interview

Ajay Mathur represents a glorious cross section between the annals of rock music both classic and modern alike. With a wealthy and expanding discography already in the public domain, eyes turn to Mathur’s latest project: single ‘Anytime At All (The Aftermath Of Silence)’ and we had the chance to chat with the man himself to dive deeper…

RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why?

Oh, that’s a very hard question. There are several rock albums that I consider exceptional and influential. Some of them are ‘Axis Bold as Love’ by Jimi Hendrix, ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ by Pink Floyd, ‘In the Court of The Crimson King’ by King Crimson, ‘The Soft Parade’ by The Doors, ‘Led Zeppelin III’ or Queen’s ‘A Night at the Opera’. If I have to choose my favorite album of all time, it would be The Beatles’ ‘White Album’. The White Album is full of gems. It’s down to earth compared to the psychedelic spiced Sgt. Pepper and it gets heavy as hell, when these guys decide to rock it. The White Album also has a personal context for me. It is said that most of the songs on the White Album were written in Rishikesh, India when The Beatles were there at the Ashram practicing meditation. That’s where I met them as a 14-year-old kid. That encounter possibly sparked my interest in learning to play guitar and make my own music. Before that encounter, I was interested only in drawing and painting.

RR: How did you first discover rock music?

Even though I grew up in a family of musicians and artists and was exposed to Indian classical and Bollywood music, somehow, I gravitated towards pop, blues and rock and roll that was occasionally played on radio shows in India. Maybe it was also a little bit of rebellion against the Indian music of the grown-ups. I grew up with an older cousin and I was fascinated by the way he and his college friends got together on our terrace and sang songs by The Beach Boys and The Beatles. To me it was magic. It was my cousin who then showed me my first three chords so I could play ‘Sloop John B’. That got me started playing the guitar and singing. The rest is history.

RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music?

Rock and alternative music is thriving as an art form, but unfortunately it doesn’t get the exposure it deserves in the mainstream media and the record industry. Nevertheless, rock and alternative musicians are creative and resilient. They are here to stay.

RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why?

War on Drugs, especially their album ‘A Deeper Understanding’, Greta Van Fleet, Garbage and Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters are my current favorites. They all rock, have a unique sound and a distinctive style of song-writing. I also think Alice Cooper’s ‘Detroit Stories’ is phenomenal. Alice Cooper at 73 is as indestructible as ever.

RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad?

The genre evolves all the time, reinventing itself. In my opinion, that’s not a bad thing at all.

RR: What was it like working with Austin Asvanonda on the single?

Working with Austin is a great pleasure. He not only mixed the single, but I also worked with him on the whole album ‘Talking Loud’ which should be released in Spring 2022. Austin is a pro. Even at his young age – he is 24 – Austin has a remarkable level of patience and dedication to creating great soundscapes and mixes. He has the gear and the ear and was even able to decipher my abstract and at times cryptic sound suggestions. On the single, I also got to work with the British sound magician and remixer Philip Larsen which was a really uplifting experience.

RR: How did it feel to win The Akademia award for best pop rock song?

It felt great! Winning an award is always a great moment when you know that your work has been well received and acknowledged by a jury and people well outside of your circle of friends and fans. It’s a boost to your self-confidence and confirms that what you’re doing is good.

RR: Do you think the landscape of rock music would look any different if Lennon was still with us?

I wish I knew the answer to that. I know that John Lennon was a creative force and at the time he died, he was still in his best form. Just listen to ‘Double Fantasy’, the album released shortly before his death, and the fantastic song material on the album. I’m sure that John Lennon would still be a major artist and acting as a voice for his many social causes if he were still with us.

Anytime At All (The Aftermath Of Silence) is out now and available everywhere!

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A Chat With Grave Jones

Interview, Rock

Philosopher, university professor, novelist and rock star Grave Jones is by and large one of the most interesting names currently rising in the music sector. Having composed material for new album ‘Heartrage Hotel’ in Lebanon amidst one of the greatest financial crises’ the world has ever seen, we got chatting to this most extraordinary of musicians…

RR: What to you is the best rock album of all time and why?

GJ: Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction,” because  it’s a perfect fusion of everything I love about rock n’ roll. The record feels like the natural extension of some of my favourite artists that came before: the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith – but bigger, better, and meaner. It has that unmatched ‘fuck you’ attitude coupled with a lot of emotional and vulnerable moments. It has Axl’s unique, immediately recognizable scream that is a pure reflection of his pain and anger, and you have the genius combination of Slash and Izzy Stradlin on guitars: they’re individually such tasteful players, of course, but more importantly, I honestly can’t think of two other players with the same chemistry and who compliment each other as well. The rhythm section is just the cherry on top in that original Guns N’ Roses lineup. No wonder it’s a record that changed rock history forever.

RR: How did you first discover rock music?

GJ: I was 8 years old, hanging out in my older cousin’s bedroom while he was studying for his final exams. I heard something on the stereo and something in me just couldn’t resist the pull. I was too young to know the difference between a bass guitar, a lead guitar, or a rhythm guitar, I had no idea what “rock” and “distortion” was, but something in that sound resonated with me on a deep, visceral level. I immediately went to him and asked him what it was, and he took a piece of paper and wrote down: “Guns N Roses – Use Your Illusion.” I went to the nearest record store and bought the tapes. That was the moment I sold my soul.

RR: How would you describe the current state of rock/alternative music?

GJ: I think it’s very much alive, in spite of what people think. It’s just not mainstream anymore. But it’s always been an up and down thing, I guess. People have been saying “rock is dead” since the 70s when disco got big, but if anything it got even bigger later. However, I’m not sure to what extent the genre can keep growing, reinventing itself, and fusing with other genres, but above all I see rock music as an attitude and a sound that is relatable on a very specific, visceral level. So as long as you have angry, confused teenagers who are trying to find their place in the world, I don’t think rock is going anywhere.

RR: Who is your current favourite rock/alternative artist and why?

GJ: At the moment I’m listening a lot to Greta Van Fleet’s latest record “The Battle at Garden’s Gate.” They used to be very criticized for basically sounding like Led Zeppelin copycats, which is true, but then again these guys were like 19 or 20 years old when they put out their first couple records: how could you expect them to reinvent the genre at such a young age? But now they’re a tad older the difference is obvious. It sounds to me that underneath all those early influences they eventually found themselves, their own identity, and you can really hear in their fantastic last record. My favourite things about them are the arrangements and Josh’s impressive, almost effortless vocal abilities.

RR: Do you see the genre evolving in any particular way at the moment? For good or for bad?

GJ: I’m not sure I can see in one what way it’s going to evolve, but every few years you get a little rock revival with a little twist on the genre. I wasn’t a fan of the nu-metal trend in the late 2000s, but I loved the garage/disco rock revival in the mid 2000s lead by bands like the Strokes, then the whole electronic rock thing of the early 2010s. I’m not a big fan of the current rappers who are dabbling in the genre – like Post Malone or Machine Gun Kelly. On the other hand, the whole Hip Hop and RnB sound has been dominating the charts for over ten years now, and it’s starting to exhaust itself. Every genre that becomes mainstream eventually gets there, all the artists start sounding and looking pretty much the same, until something else comes on. I’m very curious to see what that is.

RR: How did the ‘Heaven Only Knows’ artwork come about? Any particular inspirations at all?

GJ: The cross in the artwork is a picture of a Mexican cross that was in an apartment in Paris around the time I happened to write the song. I recently noticed that I often intuitively find myself drawn to religious imagery, and this one felt appropriate for a title like ‘Heaven Only Knows.’ The artwork was made by artist Tulip Hazbar. She is the one who had done the artwork for ‘Smitheens,’ writing over a picture taken by photographer Walid Nehme and I wanted her to handwriting again on the cross of ‘Heaven Only Knows.’

RR: What would you describe the current political situation in Lebanon?

GJ: It’s not good at all. The country’s been pushed back 30 years in less than a year, almost overnight, and the freefall isn’t over yet. It’s a shame because only two years ago it was one of the coolest places in the world, every single person I know who’d ever visited had immediately fallen in love with the place and ended up either coming back regularly or moving there. 400,000 people have now left the country in the past year, it’s the biggest wave of migration since the start of the civil war in the mid 1970s. Politically, it’s a gridlock caused by a combination of an armed militia, foreign interference, greed, incompetence, and failed system that needs radical change. The situation is sad and infuriating. It’s no coincidence my upcoming record is called ‘Heartrage Hotel.’

RR: How difficult is it to make music in a financial crisis?

GJ: It can be extremely challenging, yes, because the financial crisis isn’t only affecting the purchasing power of individuals, it’s also affecting the country’s most basic infrastructure. With the incessant power cuts, the shortage of car fuel, and terrible internet, how can anyone expect to have the headspace to create anything, let alone to logistically make anything happen. Simple tasks like recording or meeting the band to rehearse become a challenge. I have friends in who work in a production who went to Turkey for a week end only to be able to have decent internet to be able to download and upload large files and be able to work. How ridiculous and sad is this?

RR: How would you predict the current situation in Lebanon will evolve over the next few years?

GJ: This is actually the most frustrating part about this whole situation: I don’t know. No one knows. And anyone who claims to know is either lying or delusional. There are so many elements at play, so many possible moves from proxy powers, upcoming elections, threats of violence… Really, anything is possible. But I have a hard time seeing how anything is going to get any better in the near future.

Grave’s latest single Heaven Only Knows is out now and available everywhere!

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