UK based duo MetaQuorum recently released two new singles which are available on Bandcamp. In an interview for Prog Sphere, Dmitry Ermakov and Koos van der Velde talk about the band’s work.
Define the mission of MetaQuorum.
To have fun and continue on our music journey. To contribute to the revival and emergence of new Progressive Music styles and to continue developing our own Meld music by experimenting with a fusion of different genres. To bring out Meld, a new wave of Progressive Music, both instrumental and songs, to all generations of music-lovers. To help in shifting the balance in the general population’s preferences from ‘dumb’ music dominating radio waves and… well, TV, Net etc. towards ‘intelligent’ music of any kind.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your new video single “Jonathan Livingston.”
Jonathan Livingston is inspired by and dedicated to Richard Bach’s book ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ (pub. 1970) which influenced and inspired Hippie and successive mass cultures with its calling for inner (and outer) freedom from the bounds of mainstream dull society, which is so needed today. Anyhow, for our previous video, North Sea Fret, we shot the footage ourselves and then it was edited by Ákos Páll Gecse of Tone Troopers (https://www.facebook.com/tonetroopers). But we didn’t have a budget for making a Jonathan Livingston video and that meant that we had to do it ourselves. We had some atmospheric footage of seagulls, clouds and Carol dancing on the beach by the autumnal North Sea so I had an idea to film us playing the track and then blend that with those bits of video. So I did it using Premiere Pro. It is a simple idea but I think it worked.
There’s the idea of freedom, flight, going beyond… in the synth solo, so that’s why we put the seagull and cloud footage as an overlay there.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
I used Cubase to record the sketch. I often use a score and note the theme by hand.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
If you’re asking about Jonathan Livingston – Yes and no. The first and middle parts were improvised while the ending was composed. Then during the production and mixing we carefully adjusted the dynamics through editing and sound-engineering.
Describe the approach to recording the single.
One day I had a feeling a piece wanted to come out so I switched on Cubase and started playing on my Yamaha Motif – within five minutes I had a bass lane, organ and synth solo recorded. I stored it on HD and it was lying there for a couple of years, I have many pieces like that in a dormant state… Then when Koos joined the project, I remembered about this sketch and we recorded the end piano part, drums and percussion. During production we added sub-bass, rhythm guitar, pads, sound effects and recorded a Tibetan singing bell for the very beginning. Then we went to Dunstanbrough Castle on the Northumbrian Coast to record several soundscapes with seagulls and the sea which we then added to the sonic palette of the track. During mixing we processed the audio using various plug-ins and positioned the individual instruments and sound in 3-D, visualizing where they would be on stage if we were playing live.
We wanted to keep an organic feel, we didn’t want it to be too mechanical, so we kept things more natural by not quantizing too much.
How long this song was in the making?
As I said, it was in work for about three years on and off but if we add up the actual time it took, I’d say about a month.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on “Jonathan Livingston”?
I’d say that the main musical influence behind this tracks is “Nightingales and Bombers” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Other influences are Marcus Miller and Miles Davis’ ” You’re Under Arrest.”
What is your view on technology in music?
Amazing new music recording/production tools are appearing all the time and that is great! They offer new and intuitive ways of composing, playing and producing music in every style. That is awesome but… the most important thing for any artist is to be able to play and compose without using any of the new gadgets – that is, to have a great technique, taste, feeling and intuition, i.e. to have a mastery over however many music disciplinees one has learned.
This doesn’t just apply to our modern times. There is a story about a harpsichord contest between J. S. Bach and Louis Marchand… well it didn’t really happen as Marchand, fearing defeat, just fled!
“What would have happened if the contest had taken place? Marchand was probably right to anticipate a defeat. As a composer and improviser, he was considered a master of the French style. The trouble was, Bach was also a master of the French style, as well as of the German style, the Italian style, the Spanish style, the English style… There would really have been no contest at all.”
Anyone who endeavors to play progressive music must have a vast erudition in all things musical, including music genres from various cultures all over the globe and the music of the past like baroque and classical etc…
Technology is a double-edged sword: if used rightly in the hands of a proficient musician, it can be a tremendous help in creating masterpieces and it is much easier to release music now than ever before but… Since it is so easy to get your hands on some soft and gadgets for making sounds and ways to record them, potentially, anyone can make some kind of noise from prepackaged samples, grooves, loops etc. The music market is over-saturated with music of this kind and to be brutally honest, the bulk of it is simply dumb and crap. It is made by unqualified people simply because they have the tools. Don’t get me wrong, we use samples, too, and I’m not talking here about great Hip-Hop, IDM and Electronic artists who use sampling a lot, i’m talking about the general ‘consumer’ musicians. It is too easy… they just need an Internet connection, a bit of cash for the tech and promotion and there you go… General level of culture has been steadily declining since the 80-s and so this kind of music is very popular now. A lot of mediocre to bad music is promoted by the music industry simply because many major labels look for the lowest possible common denominator so that they can sell to the largest crowd possible and make maximum profit. This kind of music has influenced a whole generation, if not two or three. Many kids don’t know any better, they listen to poor imitations, remake after remake, remix after remix, without ever trying to get to the source. Even if they listen to good bands, they often have no idea about what their influences are and what their contribution to the genre really is… This is really sad… That is the negative side of technology.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
Sure, music acts as a bridge to connect various peoples and cultures and can become a catalyst for social cohesion or a movement. Music can directly influence the positive development of cognitive and intellectual abilities and, depending on what kind of music it is, it can have curative properties and spiritual benefits.
What are your plans for the future?
We plan to release another five new singles: one at the end of May, two in June and another two in September or maybe July, have not decided, yet. We are also releasing re-masters of our debut single North Sea Fret and album Midnight Sun in June. Then we have several tracks I recorded with bass player Viktor Mikheyev back in 2012-13. Finances permitting, we want to re-produce them, replacing programmed drums with Koos on live drums and re-arranging them a little. So that is material for new EP. At the same time, we’ll be working on four songs and, also, on several quite complex pieces which I composed using the ‘old’ technique of actually writing a score. Oh, and I’d love to bring out a nu-Baroque – n-Progression EP sometime, too – it would have a fugue by Handel, a fuge and three variations by Frescobaldi, my own double variation on those two themes, as well as a fugue and a rondo I wrote myself some years back.
Visit MetaQuorum’s official website here for more info about the band.