I recently got the chance to send some questions to Imminent Sonic Destruction’s Tony Piccoli (left) and Edensong’s Tony Waldman (right) about their upcoming tour. Interviewing two Tonys? That’s not confusing at all! Seeing two bands like this tour so expansively is definitely a huge deal, so I had some questions about that.
1. ISD is unabashed “super” metal, and Edensong seems to be a folksy heavy prog: What brought you two together for a tour?
Tony P: At the time that I was thinking of booking a tour for ourselves, Edensong were looking to get out a little to go along with the festivals they’re playing this year. (Terra Incognita and ROSfest) So, it made sense to combine resources and see if we could book a small run, and that’s exactly what happened.
Tony W: We were brought together by John Kotzian, founder of Ytsejam.com. He knew both of our bands and said but not verbatim, “Guys, hang out together at Mike Portnoy’s Progressive Nation Cruise or else there will be grave consequences.” Out of fear, we hung out and the rest is history. It’s kind of funny, because we’ve said that we want to play more of our heavier stuff for this tour (because of ISD’s style) and ISD has said they wanted to try more of their proggier stuff. Anyway, I’m sure there will be a good balance of prog and metal 😀
2. Any special plans that won’t be a spoiler?
Tony P: A couple things may happen with some guest musicians (Looking at you Chicago) and possibly New York…so there’s that!
Tony W: We’ll be playing Rosfest on 5/7 (that may have already passed if you are reading this now). Before the tour, we’ll be playing at Quebec’s prog fest “Terra Incognita.” We have a kickstarter coming out real soon, but I won’t spoil what it’s about (you may also know what it’s about by the time you read this).
The Prog Mind: I should probably make it to ROSfest one of these years.
3. Being both based in the USA, what do you make of the Prog community here? Is it thriving or struggling?
Tony P: I would honestly say neither. I think the prog community here is sitting comfortably in the middle of thriving and struggling. I say thriving, because the bands are out there, and so are the fans; but it’s struggling at the same time, because these fans are kind of tucked comfortably underground. I feel if commercial radio DJs could play what they wanted, prog would still be a main stay of American culture.
TPM: You’re probably right. I always find it more interesting when a DJ has time to play whatever they want.
Tony W: It’s a tough question to answer. I feel like prog metal has always been a better seller than prog rock in the past few decades here in the US (and worldwide too). However, I’ve noticed some general prog fests / cruises and acts popping up here and there that seem to be creating quite a buzz. I’m also seeing a lot more genre fusions which are creating some new and fresh sounds. Bent Knee and Thank You Scientist are two bands that come to mind. People like Mike Portnoy are really trying to keep things alive (and diverse). His Progressive Nation at Sea cruise was really historic and brought over 40 groups together from many of the sub genres of prog. Each new generation seems to have a community of dedicated followers. I’m excited about the current scene and have high hopes for the future of the genre.
TPM: Most people know my feelings about Portnoy, but there is no denying his impact for bands, especially in the US. I know plenty of bands that owe him a lot.
4. As a related follow up question, what do you think of the musical community in the US? I often feel like Europe and other parts of the world offer greater opportunity for young people to learn music theory and to play an instrument. Do you share this sentiment? Was learning music a struggle for you?
Tony P: To me, there is no shortage of musicians in the US at all. As far as the bit about young people having better opportunities to learn music in other countries, you know I guess it depends on the country. Obviously, we’re hearing about things in the US about music classes and such being shut down in some areas, but overall, anyone who wants to play music will get an opportunity, but It’s a matter of how bad they want to. As for me, learning music was not a struggle. I say that, but understand, I don’t know much about theory. I can’t read music, and I barely understand time signatures! Haha! This makes writing a bit difficult, and it makes communicating the songs a bit hard sometimes, but we still make it work. When I say learning music was not a struggle, what I mean is I started writing songs right away. As soon as I learned some of the basic chords, and learned how to play some of my favorite songs from my teen years, I started writing. So, 22 years later, it comes pretty easy to me.
TPM: Wow, your songs are so complex, too, for you not to be a student of theory!
Tony W: I feel like many musicians come from overseas to study music in the USA. Places like Berklee in Boston and the Musicians Institute in LA are like magnets for many people. There are great music programs, teachers, and players here, so I feel like there are plenty of opportunities for young people to study music. I guess it depends on what you call “young.” Maybe there are more music theory opportunities for grade school children in Europe than there are here? I don’t know but I wish I had intense music theory when I was a child! (although I would have hated it).
5. I’ve often wondered this. What do people say when they find out you’re in a prog band?
Tony P: “What’s that? Is that like some devil worshipping stuff?” hahahaha
Tony W: The lay person often says, “I think I’ve heard of prog before.” I sometimes have to explain what the genre even means. All I know is that the older I get, the more people around me seem to be familiar with progressive rock. (Good sign)!
6. Concerning musical influences, what is the magical recipe that helps you create tasty music for your bands?
Tony P: A well thought-out idea or concept. If I know what I want to write about, theme-wise, the music and lyrics come much faster.
TPM: Totally makes sense with your style of song writing!
Tony W: You can be influenced by plenty of great bands and not write tasty music, right? I guess tasty is all a matter of opinion. The magic for us comes when we write stuff that makes us feel the magic or inspires us. We write for ourselves first and hope people will like it later. For me, I know I’ve written something “tasty” when I’m dying to show it to a like-minded person, quite often my band mates. What I really like about our new album is that there are so many influences coming from so many places. It really has something for everyone whether they like prog or not. Some artists on this album that have influenced me include some iconic video game composers like Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda as well as film composers like Ennio Morricone. We also have made use of foreign instruments and genres on this album (Balinese Gamelan, Hang Drum, etc.), so that also gives it a unique tastiness.
TPM: That is one thing I love so much of “Years in the Garden of Years” is that use of the foreign instruments and genres. It just sounds so damn cool.
7. ISD: It kinda takes balls to write an album about “love at all costs” like “Triumphia”. What inspired that theme? Any tidbits?
Tony P: To quote the great Ace Ventura when Dan Marino asked him if he had any more of that gum, “That’s none of your business and I’ll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs.” hahahaha What I mean of course is that, I have my inspirations of course, but I’d rather it be something the listener comes up with.
TPM: One of my favorite comedies!
8. ISD: Okay, I have to ask this: The sweater vest is infamous at this point. What are the origins of it?
Tony P: Oh, the damn sweater vest. Haha! It actually originates from the days of playing locally. We would typically be paired up with metal bands and the guys in those bands would be wearing all black, brooding, “Oh look at me I am so metal” and my dumbass decided it would be cool to mock that by wearing a button up shirt and sweater vest. I’m not sure the sweater vest will be out on the tour, most likely not, but we shall see.
TPM: I promise that’s the last you’ll hear from me about the sweater vest! hahaha
9. Edensong: I’ve honestly never heard flute used to this effect anywhere else. Who is your greatest influence in that area?
Tony W: Jethro Tull. That’s all I will say. No, I’m just kidding. There is a definite Tull influence for most of us but I don’t think Barry the flute player was ever a die hard Tull fan. Where is Barry when I need him to tell me about his flute influences…
10. Edensong: It seems like you use religious imagery fairly often. Is religion important to you, or is more of a theme that interests you.
Religion is more of a theme that interests us, though, it particularly interests James who writes all of the lyrics and concepts. I would say that it has much more of a presence on our first album, The Fruit Fallen. It seems like James likes to use religious items as metaphors – aka “The Baptism.” Where is James when I need him to tell me more about this…
TPM: Most people here know I’m a Christian, and so I notice these things immediately. I don’t like to flaunt my faith, but I really do appreciate deeper concepts like in your albums, even if it doesn’t necessarily line up with my beliefs all the time.
11. What should fans know about the upcoming tour?
Tony P: Well, for ISD we are semi-celebrating 10 years together. Now, ISD has only been around since 2012, but we have been a band since 2007 back when we were called Mellotrön. So, it’s pretty cool to be doing a co-headlining tour in our 10th year of jamming together. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and our set list is going to feature about 50% old, and 50% new.
Tony W: That the tour is going to be awesome and you should talk to us and hang out and give us high fives and run around with hands up screaming our bands’ names. Well, also that we’ll be in Toronto, St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Erie – PA, and New York City. Even if you don’t live any of those places and can’t come to any shows, please tell your friends in those places (if you have any in those places). Let’s make this tour another stepping stone for the prog landscape in the world! Arigato Gozaimaaaaasu!
Find ISD and Edensong online: