WITH PALLAS (italian version)
by Max Salari
My compliments for your last release, can you tell us how was born "The Dreams Of Men"?
In the usual way for Pallas. We built up an "ideas bank" of musical bits and pieces. Over a period of time we chose the best of these to develop into songs . A few other songs appeared along the way. It didn’t happen overnight :-)
The music from the new album is very deep and complex, what’s your aim with it?
To make the best music we can at this moment in time. We always try to better ourselves with each project, and we always learn from what we’ve done in the past. This time we wanted to make an album that was perhaps a little more "energetic" than previous releases - to turn up the guitars and drums a little. However we wanted to keep the essence of what we’d achieved with the previous albums. I suppose I’d describe it as being like previous Pallas - only more so!!
"The Bringen Of Dreams" is a very beautiful song, can you tell me more about (liric and music)?
It’s very much a scene-setter for the album; an introduction to what follows. The lyrical idea (and the concept for the album as a whole) was that we all have many dreams we follow. Some of them are hopes, and some of them turn out to be terrible nightmares. When you go to sleep you never know what’s in store for you. It’s your subconscious that drives you, not your conscious mind. That’s a useful allegory for life as a whole.
Which are the main differencies between "The Cross & The Crucible" and the new one?
It’s less gothic I suppose, though strangely darker in tone. I guess the lyrics are bleaker. We must be getting more miserable as we get older :-). Musically I think it’s more detailed. We’ve spent a lot of time getting the minutiae of each track right. There’s a lot of stuff going on that will take the listener many plays to even notice.One album definitely flows into another. If you liked "The Cross.." then I don’t think you’ll be unduly surprised by the new album. But I also think we’ve managed to move ourselves on a bit.
Arrangements and sounds are very good, how hard it was to do them?
There’s always a lot of experimentation. There’s always quite a bit of new equipment as well. New sounds to play with. What I think is noticeable about this album is the production. The problem we always have is instruments fighting for space to be heard. This time round we’ve managed to get a clarity we haven’t managed before. A lot of that’s down to Niall who engineered it. The basic sounds are better, and the mix means they can sing out a bit better individually.
Can you tell us something about the lirics, did they are influenced by fantasy or by the day to day reality?
An element of both. Graeme and I write together - or rather, we write apart and then bring our individual ideas together to get a finished lyric we can both live with. I think Graemes usually more of a fantasist - while I’m more interested in the day-to-day.. But this time round he’s really come up with some good human-scale stuff. We usually only finish the lyrics as we record them. It’s amazing how much changing a word here or there can alter the meaning or emphasis of a lyric. They grow as the music does.
I’ve liked also the cover, I believe that it represents very well the concept of the album, who choose it?
Well it wasn’t chosen exactly. Mike Bentley, who did the cover, is effectively the sixth member of Pallas. He runs the website and merchandising operation; organises the tours etc and keeps us focused on what we’re doing. On top of that he’s amazingly skilled in the graphic arts. He was working on the artwork simultaneously as we worked on the album. Both developed together. In fact it’s probably true to say that some of the images influenced the music. We didn’t choose the artwork so much as comment on it while it developed. It’s kind of like:- I do singing, Graeme does bass, Niall does guitars, Mike does album covers :-)
The final part of "The Warriors" reminds to me something about "The Sentinel", what do you like about that album and what do you dislike?
I like the ambition of it. Few bands would have the audacity to make their first studio album a full-blown concept album with recurring orchestral-style themes. But then Pallas have always been a particularly ambitious band musically. What I didn’t like about it was that it sounded too polished in a way. I was a fan of the band at that time, and I didn’t think "The Sentinel" really captured the dynamics of live Pallas. They were a very "heavy" band live - really dramatic. I think some of that was missing. That said, it’s still quite an achievement.
How much are you influenced by the Pink Floyd and which are your Floyd’s favoured albums?
I can’t say that we’re consciously influenced by the Floyd any more than we are by any of the other bands of that era such as Yes, Genesis, Zeppelin or Purple. I guess we’ve found ourselves using "found sounds" occasionally in similar ways to stuff they’ve done, but it’s more a case of what we feel’s appropriate rather than a stylistic influence. I suppose we share some of their sense of creating an atmosphere and a dramatic tension. And lyrically I suppose we’re a lot closer to them than we are to the likes of Genesis or Yes.Personally, I think my favourite Floyd album is "Wish You Were Here". I just think the balance between the music and the words on that album is superb. You can lose yourself in it. When we were signed to Harvest we had a business meeting with the then new label manager and it was word for word "Have a Cigar". Listening to that track now always makes me smile.
In the new album there are also some celtic and melancholic influences, what has inspired this?
Well we are Scottish. To include these sorts of things is entirely natural for us. We’ve always had that melancholy streak to our music. It’s a very celtic thing. This time round though, we had a couple of tracks which just cried out for it to be a bit more obvious. Once we put the fiddle (violin) on "Ghostdancers" it just gave the track the extra "something" it needed.
I follow your band since the beginnin, but for me this one is your best album to date, which is your fave one?
This one. The newest one is always the favourite, because you’ve put so much into making it that it holds a special place in your affections at least until you’ve played it to death. I’ve been living with "Dreams of Men" for some months now, and I’m still very much in love with it. Some of the playing is just breathtaking. We’ve got to learn how to play it all live now!!!!
Which is the secret kept in the ability to do an album like the new one after so many years?
We’re just enjoying what we do. There’s a vibe in the band that’s the best it’s ever been really. I suppose we’re more confident musically than we’ve ever been, but also the balance between the personalities in the band is very positive.
A little game. Please, choose one song from each album and tell us why.
a) Dreams of Men: "Ghostdancers": I just love the atmosphere of this piece, and lyrically it questions some of the holy cows of Scottish and American folklore. We the oppressed became the oppressors in someone else’s home.
b) The Cross..: "The Blinding Darkness": A wonderfully interlaced keyboard and guitar part, that despite being sequencer-based has a real life to it. There’s a sense of wonder and betrayal about the lyric that I just love too.
c) Beat The Drum: "Insomniac": This was the problem child of the album that took forever to write. But it has such a great drive and atmosphere. The lyric sprang out of working overnight at the BBC when I was only connected to the waking world by the internet and the wire services. It keeps that sense of loneliness.
d) The Wedge: "Just a Memory": Way ahead of its time. We were aiming for a kind of Peter Gabriel III vibe, and we almost got there with this. It floats along in a dream-like way and the outro is just to die for.
e) The Sentinel; "Rise and Fall" I’d seen them play this live before they went to record the album. This takes no prisoners.
f) Arrive Alive: "Crown of Thorns". My favourite Pallas song to sing even to this day. The first time I saw them play (in a pub in Glasgow) I went home singing this. I was hooked.
As far, what can you tell us about the relationship with Insideout?
It’s good. They’re a label who understand the kind of music we do, and are small enough to still be excited by it and big enough to be able to get it to a wider audience. They’ve been remarkably patient with us over delivery of this album. They said "It’ll be ready when it’s ready!" They couldn’t be more different from EMI if they tried.
What do you think about the music that are playing Marillion nowaday?
I can’t really say because I haven’t really heard anything they’ve done since "Brave". I went to see them live on that tour and wasn’t very impressed, so I’ve lost interest. They used to be a great live band with Fish. H is a very good singer, but I don’t really have an opinion on what they’re up to now.
Pendragon, IQ, Jadis, Marillion... you are still alive after so many years, what do you think about and which is the band the most close to you?
It’s good to see so many of these bands still going after all this time. They must be as stubborn as we are J. I ‘ve never really followed their music to be honest, tho I do make a point of trying to see some of them from time to time to see what they’re up to. We get on fairly well with the IQ boys. I wouldn’t say we have that much in common musically, but they seem to have a similar attitude to life to ours.
People links you to prog music, do you like this or do you feel that holds the band back?
I’ve given up caring about that. Whatever I say people will label us how they like. Some say we’re prog, some say we’re not prog. It doesn’t matter really. We’re Pallas and we do what we do. In mainstream terms, the description isn’t as negative as it used to be. 70’s rock seems to be being rediscovered and rehabilitated by the media now, so the whole thing is being re-evaluated. What does worry me is the growing infighting within parts of the prog community over what is and isn’t "true" prog. It’s like children fighting over the last piece of cake.
In your opinion, does it help to came from England in prog music?
Well, it hasn’t helped Pallas, because we’re not English!!! I think being a British band in most forms of rock music is an advantage. Apart from singing in the English language (which makes accessing the US market a bit easier) we have possibly the most diverse and active music scene for a small country, together with a powerful music and media industry. Tie all that together and British musicians probably do have an unfair advantage over those from other European countries.
Why did women that make Progressive Rock are so few (I can remember Lana Lane and very few others)?
No idea really. The music just doesn’t seem to appeal to women generally. The bluster of many of the fans about it being an "important" "artistic" endeavour probably puts a lot of them off. Women seem less concerned with ego in what they like. I suppose it doesn’t help that most of the bands are so ugly as well :-)
Do you are planning a tour to promote the album? There will be an italian date?
We have a short tour planned for the end of January. Unfortunately Italy doesn’t feature this time round. However, we’re hoping to go out again in the autumn and it would be nice to include an Italian date or two. We’re also looking out for any festival dates. We’ll consider any decent offer.
Which your favoured country to play?
A hard one. Each country seems to have its own qualities. I love playing in Scotland because that’s home and audiences there are brilliant when they’re on your side (they’re also horrible to bands they don’t like as many bands have found to their cost). The last tour I’d have to say it was the French who were the most manic. They went totally bananas. Brilliant effort!!
And your fave meal?
Lamb Tikka Massalla with Pilau rice and Peshwari Naan (traditional British Curry!!)
When you are "on tour", do you find some time to visit the places where do you play?
Not as much as I’d like. You arrive, you rig, you sound check, you eat, you play, you de-rig, you travel to the next gig. There’s not much time for sight-seeing. I like to have a wander round whichever town or city we’re playing in if I can, but it’s not always possible. Niall once said "I’ve been lots of places - mostly at night!" which kinds of summs it up really :-)
These seem to be very dark times, do you see some signals of hope?
I’m not sure. The uncertainty in the wider world has given the reactionaries in most governments the opportunity to feed our fears and reduce our liberties. It seems to me that you don’t defeat intolerance by being intolerant. That way the bad guys win. I feel less hopeful about where we’re headed than I think I’ve ever done. I hope I’m wrong.
To end this interview, can you give to our readers a suggestion to buy your bright new album?
"Buy our bright new album!!" If you like your music a bit more challenging than verse/chorus/verse/chorus, but you still like a bit of life and drama to it, then you could do a lot worse than check out the new Pallas album. It rocks, it rolls and it’s got an opera singer on it - What more could you possibly want? :-)
Interviews: 2001 (in italian); 2003 (english)
Reviews (in italian): The Sentinel; The Cross and the Crucible; The Bliding Darkness;
The Dreams of Men; Moment to Moment
Article (in italian)