Interview with Spock’s Beard bass player Dave Meros. The band’s latest album ‘X’ is out now.
1. Could you tell us please what are you currently up to? (recording, gigs, plans etc.)
We are currently learning the set that we will be playing on our Europe tour in September. Right now we’re learning the songs individually at home, but in a couple of weeks we have full band rehearsals scheduled right before we start the tour.
2. Could you take us through the songs on the new album ‘X’? e.g. songwriting process.
I’ll break them down into groups, because within each group of songs the writing process is similar.
1) The songs that I wrote with my writing partner John Boegehold (The Quiet House, Edge Of The In Between, Jaws of Heaven, and Their Names Escape Me)
Those normally start out with me coming up with some musical ideas, mostly on keyboard but sometimes on bass. I sort of loosely arrange the musical portion of a song, record a demo and send it over to John. He’ll come up with lyric ideas and very often musical ideas as well. He’ll add his parts to mine and send them back to me. We’ll bounce ideas back and forth for as long as it takes to finish a song.
There have been a few times where John will send me a musical idea first to start the ball rolling, though, so I guess it’s not the same process every time.
We are both really good at taking criticism from each other and also understanding the basic feel that the other guy is going for.
We live about 650km apart from each other so most of what we do is over the internet, just sending files back and forth.
2) Alan’s songs (The Emperor’s Clothes and Man Behind The Curtain)
From what I’ve seen, Al writes in two ways. Sometimes a song will start with the lyrics and he’ll write music to fit the lyrics, and sometimes the opposite, where he’ll come up with the music first and then add lyrics to it.
Al also collaborates with other people more than the rest of us. He writes sometimes with John, sometimes with Stan Ausmus, sometimes with Neal, and on this CD he collaborated with a keyboardist named Larry Kutcher who is an old friend of his.
I guess you could say he’s the most free spirited writer in Spock’s Beard.
3) Nick and Ryo’s songs (Nick wrote From The Darkness and Ryo wrote Kamikaze)
They both write alone, so I don’t know what’s going on in their evil minds. Ha ha. Nick’s demos always sound the best of the band because he plays real drums on them, he’s a “real” singer, and he’s also a very good studio engineer. He’s also a good guitar and bass player and can play keys enough to get by as well, so he’s a regular one man band over there at his house.
‘The Emperor’s Clothes’ is a co-write with Neal Morse. Is this a new song or one from the time when he was in the band? Also are there any plans in the future to hook-up again with Neal on songwriting and perhaps live shows?
Alan did a solo CD a few years ago and his original plan was to have the CD be half instrumental songs and half vocal songs. He eventually decided to have his solo CD be all instrumental songs, but in the meantime he had written The Emperor’s Clothes with Neal. This was about four years ago.
It was originally written as a straight ahead rock song, but Al changed it around to be more proggy and brought his friend Larry Kutcher in to help, and Larry wrote that middle jazzy piano section.
There are no plans to hook up with Neal at the moment, but you never know what the future holds.
4. This is the first album where you have used fan’s donations to help fund the recording process similar to what Marillion have been doing for awhile now. Has this been a success and given that the days of big record deals seem over is this the future of music whereby fans fund it and have a much closer relationship with the band’s they like?
It’s certainly the way of the future for bands like us who are in the middle range of record sales. It doesn’t make sense for a record company to give us a lot of advance money to record with, and unfortunately we tend to spend a lot more on recording and mixing than they want to give us these days, so the pre-sale was necessary to raise the money we needed to produce the CD.
Having said that, it isn’t necessary for the big selling bands to do that because they can get all the money they need from the record label, and it won’t work for really small bands because they wouldn’t have enough of a fan base to support a substantial enough pre-sale.
But it was perfect for us!
5. What have been the most memorable live shows for the band and why?
The ones that are the most memorable to me are the ones where something surprising happens.
One show that stands out as the best Spock’s Beard gig ever was when we played the Astoria in London in 2001. It was our biggest indoor audience ever and they were really feeding us lots of energy. It was one of those gigs where everyone was playing at their top performance level. It’s rare when everything great converges all at once like that. I felt like my feet weren’t even on the ground for that whole show.
There are also some shows that stand out because of something funny that happens either before, during, or after the show. It usually involves Ryo in some way.
6. What sort of setlist can fans expect on the upcoming European tour dates?
We will be doing all of our new CD (with the exception of the bonus track that is on the Limited Edition called “Their Names Escape Me”) and then a few oldies to round out the set.
7. Do the band get frustrated at all over the fact that Spock’s Beard are very popular in Europe and can play a decent sized tour yet in US you are virtually unknown and don’t have much chance to get a big set of tour dates together? Why do you think the European market is much bigger for the band?
Yeah, it is a little frustrating for sure. We’ve talked about that at length and have never been able to come to a good conclusion. Obviously there are a lot more people in Europe who are a little more musically adventurous, or more educated music listeners, but I’m not sure why.
I have one theory that is kind of funny and probably not true, but it’s interesting to think about. Radio in America is not great, but it is OK. The radio that I’ve heard in Europe is HORRIBLE, all rave music and really cheesy pop. So it makes sense that a LOT of people would get used to actively seeking out better music, and that opens their minds to different things, including progressive rock.
8. Has the internet helped get your music out there or in some ways e.g. illegal downloads has it made matters worse? Does MySpace work well in gaining new fans or is it now just lots of bands gaining other bands as friends?
It’s impossible to tell to what degree the illegal downloads are helping or hurting but I’m sure it’s a measure of both. I have a pretty good suspicion that it hurts much more than it helps. In other words, for every new person who becomes a fan because of being able to pirate a copy of our new CD I’m sure there are 20 people who are already fans and want the CD but simply don’t wish to pay for it.
I get Google Alerts for new instances of the words “Spock’s Beard” on the internet, and since our CD was released a couple of months ago I’ve found upwards of 150 bittorrent sites where people can pirate our music.
To answer the next part of your question, MySpace and Facebook are useless and just for fooling around and wasting time. Well, that’s not entirely true. If you want a simple page that serves as a free website that you can refer people to, MySpace is great for that, so I’ll admit that MySpace is useful. And I guess if you really want to find out what a bunch of people that you don’t care about had for lunch today, then Facebook is fantastic too.
9. Who are your main musical influences and in an ideal world who would you have loved to tour with?
I can’t even start to answer that one. . .I’ve had so many influences over the years and they are all very different from each other. I would have loved to tour with each one of them.
I’ve gone through lots of different phases in music and it’s left me with sort of a multiple music personality disorder. I have no idea what I like the most any more, it changes monthly. And sometimes I’ll even go a month or two of not really liking any music at all.
10. Message for your fans…
Come out and see us in September!