Sound of Contact Progressive Rock Band Interview
Simon Collins – Lead Vocals, Drums, Co-producer
Dave Kerzner – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals, Co-producer
Matt Dorsey – Guitars, Bass, Backing Vocals
Kelly Nordstrom – Guitars, Bass
Hannah Stobart – Guest vocals on “Beyond Illumination”
Live Touring Musicians:
John Wesley – Guitar (First Contact : Montreal, May 2013 European Tour)
Ronen Gordon – Drums (May 2013 European Tour)
Jonathan Schang – Drums (First Contact : Montreal)
It’s not often where one can say we may be witnessing the birth of a new super group, especially in the world of progressive music. But, after an amazing debut album and a successful European tour, I think it’s a safe bet that Sound of Contact will be the next big band to hit the progressive music industry. During a chance behind the scenes at a 2006 New York Genesis concert, Simon Collins met Dave Kerzner, founder of software company Sonic Reality (www.sonicreality.com), keyboardist and fellow sci-fi and progressive music lover. Hitting it off well, they decided to play homage to Simon’s dad’s Genesis hit called, “Keep it Dark.” The song was so well received by the band (Genesis), that it was added to the opening soundtrack prior to the very last show in Hollywood, CA. Little did we know that it would be Genesis’ last ever concert. But flash forward to 2013 where Simon Collins, Dave Kerzner and Matt Dorsey released their debut Sound of Contact album conceptually named, “Dimensionaut.” This three pack power trio brought into the studio musician Kelly Nordstrom for guitars and bass. Nordstrom had played on Collins’ 2008 third solo-album titled “U-Catastrophe.”
Dimensionaut is a sci-fi “…deep concept album about a dimensional time and space traveler making wild discoveries on a trek to expand the boundaries of the human experience.” Musically, it’s a masterful compilation of stellar drums, hard and soft progressions, cosmic synthesizer and meaningful, story based lyrics all layered within skillfully played music combining prog, pop and traditional rock and roll. From opening songs “Sound of Contact” and “Cosmic Distance Ladder,” you will quickly discover that Collins’ drum talent is warrant of ranking with the greats. While you can hear a great deal of his father’s influence, Simon adds a unique dynamic. Throughout “Dimensionaut,” he spices up the music with unanticipated mind blowing triples between his already lightning speed accurate rolls. His voice is a distinct mix of a younger 1970s Phil Collins and Nick Barrett of Pendragon. With such talent in mind, when asked why Sound of Contact went down the less traveled path of progressive music instead of something more mainstream, Collins’ points out the diversity of the music within “Dimensionaut” while also acknowledging his upbringing. This band was born out of the 70s Prog-Music and in every aspect, they deliver us some of the old famed with a new harder and edgier overall style that we fellow progers continue to love. As Sound of Contact prepares for a focused USA tour, Audioholics caught up to them on the road in Europe. Here’s what they had to say.
Excerpts of Sound of Contact Music
The Band Interview
What is the purpose of Sound of Contact?
Simon Collins (SC): This band really is everything
we have all been working towards musically since we decided to play an
instrument. I put this band together
with the knowledge this would be an unmistakable team of talent and chemistry. Personally, I am in a position where I can
offer my best performances as a drummer and a singer, my best work as a song
writer along with my experience as a producer as well. This is what I have been patiently waiting
for my entire career. It was always the
intended destination I just needed to find the right people to do it with. The band I used to dream about when I was a
kid has now arrived and I’m bloody excited about it!
AH: Where did the name come from? Is it inspired by first contact with
SC: That is certainly one way to look at it, but there are other meanings to it. We actually spent a couple months coming up with a solid name. It had to be universal and have room for different interpretations.
Understanding you’re influenced by Sci-Fi, what stories / movies / books /
themes most closely inspired “Dimensionaut?”
SC: I’d have to say that Carl Sagan’s visionary work has been a massive influence not just on this album but for much of my solo work. His vision of the cosmos is everything in it changed the way I see the universe forever. Also, Bruce Sterling’s “Imagination” really paved the way for some ideas we were already playing with. This album is also about a spiritual journey so classical movies like “Star Wars” even come into play. We all know that Yoda was the Emperor of inner space and what the force was all about.
Kerzner (DK): Speaking of Sagan, the movie “Contact”
was an inspiration as was “2001,” “2010,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Sixth Sense” and other movies that make you think and wonder.
There’s a depth to “Dimensionaut” rich
with adventure and philosophy there for anyone to dig into if they want to. In
some ways it is like a film score to a film that hasn’t been made yet.
AH: Why Progressive Music and not something more commercially
SC: This band is exploring new sonic ground but also playing homage to some of our favorite music. We don’t really look at it as just prog-rock. There is pop sensibility in the band and it’s on the album, so we don’t look at it that way.
I don’t have a problem being associated with the “prog-rock” label because
that’s ultimately a good thing. We’d love nothing more than to do our part in
helping to bring that adventurous, experimental and eclectic style back into
the fold. I personally miss the excitement of new albums coming out with rich
atmosphere, story, dynamics, mood and thought-provoking lyrics. I hope we see
more and more of it to be honest. It’s fuel. Fortunately there are some classic
albums of this genre to listen to and discover for people who are new to it.
But it’s nice to offer new music of that nature to the world. To me it’s a form
of giving back. This is what motivated me to want to make music in the first
place. The art and beauty of it.
AH: Live on stage, what additional music do you fill with once you’ve played through Dimensionaut?
SC: We are thinking about injecting some new material. We are writing for the next album and also some solo material of mine that would best fit to what we are doing with SOC. There are a couple of tracks off of my 3ed solo album, “U-Catastrophe” that would work well. Also, Dave and I covered Genesis, “Keep it Dark” back in ’07 so we will play that along with a couple of surprises.
DK: We’re currently putting together a US tour and then another European tour to follow. We’re doing some of those dates with Francis Dunnery, the original founder of the band It Bites. Francis sang on “Supper’s Ready” along with Simon on vocals and me on keys with Steve Hackett for his “Genesis Revisited 2.” So, all three of us are guesting with Hackett on Sept 20th and 21st in Chicago to perform that plus a few more. Leading up to that we’ll be doing some pretty outrageous prog celebration sets at the end of the night. We’re going to make it fun for any fan of progressive rock both old and new.
Opening song, “Sound of Contact” opens up with Yes-style lyrics.
Were they an influence to the band?
DK: “Sound of Contact” does have what you
might consider some Yes-like lyrics and vocal harmonies. “Close To The Edge” is one of my favorite albums. But, our approach
wasn’t to intentionally do anything like any one band. We were going for a
motif in the beginning that would be revisited at the end of the album and this
worked to convey what we wanted to say. It’s funny because some of Yes’s lyrics
I have never really understood. “Mountains
come out of the sky and they stand there.” I asked Jon Anderson about
some of those lyrics and he went into this elaborate explanation and then
finally said “We were hippies man!”
which I thought was funny. I love all those classic songs even if I don’t
always understand the lyrics. Although making new progressive rock music gives
us the chance to write lyrics how we would want them to be.
was one of the first bands my father took me to see when I was getting into
music as a kid. It’s deep within the
sub-conscious at this point so it wasn’t so much of a choice to sound that way
from side, but I’ll take it as a compliment.
AH: The very end of “Pale Blue Dot.” Was the sound that
carries through the vocals and then fades created via analog guitar effects
pedals or keyboard? If so, which ones?
DK: There are a fair amount of sounds on the album that sound like guitar but
are really keyboards. I tend to play keyboards like a guitarist often and some
of my influences as a keyboardist are Steve Hackett, David Gilmour, Steve Howe,
Jonny Buckland from Coldplay and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead. As a keyboardist I’d say I’m as much influence by their
guitar playing as I am by Tony Banks and other keyboardist’s keyboard playing.
Anyway, that said, it was probably more of The
Who and Supertramp who influenced
that intro and outro which was done on a Wurlitzer electric piano through some
effects pedals like a Rotovibe, Vox Wah and Delay.
AH: When is the US tour and will you be coming to Florida?
SC: We are in the midst of planning a U.S. tour for
August and September with some highlights already confirmed. Two of those being a guest appearance with
Steve Hackett in Chicago, and we’re headlining “Prog Day” (http://www.progday.net ) in North Carolina.
DK: I’m from Florida and one our world SOC headquarters is in Miami where
the Sonic Reality recording studio is. I think we’ll at least do some sort of
warm up gig down there and I’m pretty sure we have a gig booked in Gainesville
as well. The tour dates will be announced on our web site http://www.soundofcontact.com
After the tour, what’s next?
SC: We are going to be touring the world with this album, so we plan on playing Europe again and even Japan and South America. We are always writing too, but our priority is this album at the moment and we are going to be putting together videos for each song as well.
Sound of Contact is essentially Simon
Collins and Dave Kerzner. What will that mean for the next studio album
and will John Wesley be on it and able to co-write songs?
DK: I’ve worked with John before in the studio and he is one of the best
guitarists you can find for this style of music. I’d love to work with him
again and co-write something. That said, Matt Dorsey is the third member of the
band and is not only a song collaborator with us already but plays both guitar
and bass on “Dimensionaut.” That
doesn’t mean we won’t work with Wes when we get the opportunity should
schedules be in sync. He is working on his own solo album and all sorts of
projects so it is hard to say now what will happen. But, his role with Sound of Contact has always been mainly
as touring guitarist and even then we knew we would only get him for as long as
he is available.
SC: We would like to work with him on the next album so that’s a possibility for sure. We also like to work with many different talents, so we keep our mind open to the realm of possibilities.
John Wesley Interview
AH: I’ve been privileged to see you perform once with Fish in Tampa and two times with Porcupine Tree. When you opened for him, during one of your solo songs you did one of the most passionate and melodic guitar solos I’ve ever heard. You are a tremendous talent with an amazing and growing career. As a solo artist, you have highlighted your ability to write music. As a live performer with Fish and Porcupine Tree, you have shown an amazing ability to perform additional highly complex music. Are you motivated by the potential to be part of a band that allows you to have writing and collaboration opportunities as do you think that will happen on the next SOC studio album?
JW: Thanks for then
kind words on my previous gigs and career, it is greatly appreciated. With SOC my initial involvement was a result
of hearing the album which I really liked, and I only take gigs with bands that
play music that I enjoy performing. As to being involved in the future
recordings, it wasn't a prerequisite for me to do the gig, but if that door
opens I will certainly take a look and see where it leads.
AH: What’s on your pedal board for SOC music and why?
JW: On this tour I catered the pedal board to the songs;
I have my usual assortment of gain boxes, Klon Centaur, Analogman King
of Tone, and Analogman Peppermint Fuzz. Delays are fairly critical to the
songs, so I have the Diamond Memory Lane and the Strymon Delay in my effects
loop. A 1974 MXR Phase 90' Analogman mini Bi Chorus and the Fulltone Deja Vibe
for color, Fulltone Wah and Dunlop volume pedal. All of these effects are
powered and controlled by a Pro 14 by www.thegigrig.com
AH: Why PRS Guitar?
JW: PRS really has taken guitar craftsmanship into
a new level over the last thirty years. The single cut Piezo Trem that I play
is one of the finest guitars I have ever owned. Bottom line is that the
type of gigs I do requires a guitar that will intonate, tune up and sound
amazing all the time, or else it will not work not the gigs I do, there is no
room for a temperamental instrument, and the PRS always performs.
AH: What brand/gauge strings?
JW: Daddario .10
AH: I admire how you make your solo music easily accessible and offer it for free on your website. This is truly honorable and likely exposed you to many fans. Tell us what inspired this decision. http://www.john-wesley.com
I had experienced some less than positive dealings with record companies that
had tied up my music and made it very expensive to sell. Realizing that the
element of creating was more important than deriving income from the albums, I
put them up for free download so that people could have and share the music and
stories I had created. The end result was that thousands and thousands of
people downloaded the music and some of them ended up buying the CDs, which is
now helping to pay for the continued recording of solo albums and the expression
of the music that I create.
AH: Tell us about your pending sixth solo
JW: I started recording it right after the last Porcupine Tree tour was finished. In
that time I had a few life experiences that made me re-think the album, so I
trashed it and started over. I hope to finish after working with Sound of Contact, I have a good portion
of it done and now will finish as time permits. The album carries deep sets of
ideas relating to the human condition and the consequences some of us face from
the many facets of "Disconnect"
that we experience in our daily lives. I hope to show that “Disconnect,” in spite of what the
literal meaning is, actually becomes a shared experience amongst us all.
Simon Collins Interview
AH: Your vocals (key / pitch / range) are reminiscent of Nick Barrett
of Pendragon. Is he an influence?
SC: Quite honestly, I have never heard of Pendragon but will have a listen now that you’ve made the comparison.
AH: What age did you get your own kit?
SC: I was 6 when my father bought me a kit for my birthday. It was a red Tama 4-piece and that was what inspired me to really get into music. I started playing to records my parents had lying around and my music education begun from learning to play to those albums, and of course, growing up on tour with Genesis.
What other instruments do you play?
SC: I taught myself the piano when I was in my early teens and immediately dove into song writing. Shortly after that I was writing lyrics and working on my voice. I couldn’t find a singer back then, so I just decided to sing the songs myself. Much later on, before production begun for my second solo album, I made a real effort to pick up the guitar and teach myself to play. I knew different influences would come out from writing on guitar, so that was the goal. I see the piano, guitar, vocals and even drums as tools that have the key to exploring different musical styles and directions. That is so important as a song writer and producer and I’m so glad looking back that I made the extra effort to learn those instruments.
AH: Aside from your dad, who
else inspired you on drums and did you take formal lessons from someone?
SC: I grew
up playing to tons of albums, so it’s very diverse. William Calhoun, David Grohl, Manu Katche,
Vinnie Calihouta, Keith Moon, Steve Perkins, Stewart Copeland and Gavin
Harrison have all had a significant impact on me. When I was 10-years old, I had a teacher but
he was force feeding me jazz and at that age, all I really wanted to do was
play to my favorite bands and make some serious noise. Luckily, my mom and dad were okay with being
deafened on a daily basis for hours on end.
AH: Encompassing his entire body of work, including Brand X, Genesis, solo career, collaborations with artists like Eric Clapton, Earth Wind and Fire and Tears of Fears (to name a few), what do you find most influential and what are your favorite projects from your dad?
SC: I still love all the music from my father’s involvement with Genesis between late 70s and early 80s. It’s not just his work of course, but the entire band. It’s a big family to me. Putting that aside though it just stands on its own as some of the best progressive rock that’s been made to this day. That’s why singing on “Suppers Ready” recently with Steve Hackett, or my cover of “Keep it Dark” were so important to me. It was my way of celebrating great music and giving something back to say, “Thank you!” It’s the soundtrack to my childhood and in a way that was my introduction to music. It was that era of Genesis that I was on tour every night and that inspired me to start my own journey into music.
AH: Tell us about your keyboards and synth.
DK: Well, depending on what we focus on, my rig with the band or my studio that could take up a lot of space! I have a rather large keyboard and synth collection. I’ll list most of them and then just talk about the ones I use with Sound of Contact. Here we go:
- Yamaha CP70
- Kawai EP-308
- Hammond C3 Organ with Leslie 122
- Hammond L100 with Leslie 145
- RMI Electra Piano
- Arp Quadra, Solina and Arp 2600
- EMS Synthi AKS
- Oberheim 8 Voice SEMs and OBXa
- EML 200 Modular
- Serge Modular
- Roland System 100
- Sequential Circuits Prophet 10, Prophet 5 Rev 2 and Prophet T8
- Wurlitzer 200A, 270, 140B
- Hohner Electra Piano, Pianet N, Clavinet D6, Cembalet
- Baldwin Electric Harpsichord
- Vox Continental and Farfisa organs
- Roland VP330 Vocoder
- Yamaha EX-1, CS60
- Rhodes Mk1, Mk2, Mk5 and Suitcase 88
- Minimoog Model D
- Moog Taurus I
- Univox MiniKorg
- Arp ProSoloist
- Mellotron M400
- Eigenharp Alpha
- Haken Continuum Fingerboard
- Yamaha Motif XF7
- Nord Stage 2 73 and 88
- Nord Wave
- Prorphet VS rack
- Yamaha FS1r
- Kawai K5000r
- Kurzweil K2600
- Roland V-Synth rack and 5080
- Korg EX 8000
- Oberheim Matrix 1000
I justify the obsession with collecting instruments because it IS my business to “sample everything” with Sonic Reality. Some of these are very rare and keyboardists, songwriters and producers appreciate that there’s someone like me going out and finding them, sampling them and making those sonic flavors available to them.
Now, when it comes to Sound of Contact
I don’t use all of those instruments by any means. But, you never know what
you’re going to use on a song so it is nice to have a variety. We did most of
our tracking in Vancouver so I wasn’t able to have them all at myDave Kerzner - Keyboard fingertips.
When I have it available to me I use a lot of Wurlitzer and Yamaha CP70
electric pianos with SOC. Also Mellotron choir, flute, violins and even a viola
which I used on Beyond Illumination (it sounds more like an exotic wind
instrument the way I used it). Of course I use a ton of Sonic Reality sounds
and IK Multimedia software. But, ironically, we didn’t sequence anything on the
album apart from the very end of “Only Breathing Out”. So even if I played a
plug-in on the computer I played it live and we recorded the output of my
computer interface into the analog audio inputs into ProTools HD just like we
did everything else. That approach gave the album a much more raw organic feel
to it and I like that. We actually had to PLAY all the parts! Haha.
AH: Who are your influences?
DK: I have many ranging from Eckart Tolle to JD Salinger to Tony
Banks. But, I assume you’re more interested in the musical ones. Besides the
guitarists I mentioned, Tony Banks was a huge influence because seeing him
surrounded by a square of keyboards made me want to be a keyboard player. It
looked so cool to me. Other influences would be Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel,
John Lennon, Sting and Kevin Gilbert in terms of the high standard of lyric
writing I aspire to. As for keys, Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, Rick Wakeman of
Yes, Keith Emerson and the prog
legends. But, I think more like a producer and songwriter than say just
specifically in terms of the keyboard role. I’m also not going to be wearing a
cape or throw knives at my Nord Stage any time soon.
AH: Where did the idea of Sonic Reality (www.sonicreality.com) come from and what do you hope to achieve?
DK: Well, when I lived in LA in the 90s I had collected keyboards back
then and to make some extra cash I’d sample them for other companies such as
Roland, Alesis etc. who would put the sounds onto these expansion boards for
their popular keyboards. Then I started sampling for recording and performing
artists like Crowded House, Madonna and others. When CD ROMS became
available I realized I could actually just sell these sounds I was sampling for
artists to musicians all over the world. Some other companies started doing it
and I was doing it with them until I started Sonic Reality in 1996. The company
has been through a lot from then to now. As far as what I hope to achieve with
it, I look at it as a passion for sounds turned into a business. We connect with
certain technology and take advantage of what it can offer. A lot of times
that’s with IK Multimedia who has been a long time partner of Sonic Reality. We
actually share the same US office building in Sunrise, Florida. But, Sonic
Reality also does sounds for many other formats like Reason, Kontakt, Rex,
Apple Loops, Acid Waves and more. Besides continuing to “sample everything”
(that’s our motto), I am specifically working with the original drummers and
engineer/producers of classic albums to recreate the sounds of their drums
which are very distinct. So, for instance we’ve got a Floyd-style drum kit and
groove library done with Nick Mason and Alan Parsons in the works. I’ve got
Collins/Genesis-style drum libraries done with both Hugh Padgham and Nick Davis
which we recorded at “The Farm” (Genesis’ studio) and I even sampled
Simon Collins’ kit that we used on “Dimensionaut”.
These are all coming but currently we have drum libraries with Neil Peart of Rush, Terry Bozzio, Billy Cobham, Bob
Siebenberg of Supertramp, Rod
Morgenstein of Dixie Dregs, Woody
Woodmansey of Bowie’s Spiders from Mars… those last five were all recorded by
producer/engineer Ken Scott who recorded The
Beatles and so many others. It’s an education and great fun working with
all of these musical heroes of mine and a complete thrill to be able to bring
those caliber sounds to musicians all over the world most who may otherwise
never get the chance to work with those sounds or these artists.
AH: How did you get Neil Peart to track for Sonic Reality?
DK: I was at a studio in LA
called “Ocean Way Recording” working
on a product called “Ocean Way Drums”
while Rush was there mixing “Snakes and Arrows”. I said, half joking,
to their A&R man Andy Curran “Hey, if Neil ever wants to do a sample
library give me a call!” They were very nice and Alex uses our products so we
kept in touch after that and one day Andy calls me up and says, “You still want to do a Neil Peart drum
library? If so you have to come out to LA this weekend and he has one full
day for you”. Needless to say we packed our bags immediately.
AH: As a fellow musician, I would love to have drum clips created by Carl Palmer, Gavin Harrison, Terry Bozzio, Bill Bruford, Steve Gadd and after hearing “Dimensionaut,” Simon Collins to name a few. Any thoughts of capturing these greats?
DK: Well, we do have libraries with some of those drummers you’ve mentioned. I’d love to do a Gavin Harrison sample library though. I co-produced an album called “Chalk Lines” by the band Lo-Fi Resistance and Gavin played drums on most of it along with Colin Edwin on bass. What those two brought to the album was so distinctly characteristic of them. While I’m not doing a drum library with Gavin I am doing a bass library with Colin which will be really unique. As far as capturing great drummers and other musicians, it really comes down to timing and circumstances. Certain situations present themselves and that’s usually what affects them happening as opposed to me having a sort of “hit list”. I do have some in mind that I would personally like to work with though. It’s cool because when we capture riffs and grooves it’s a chance for any musician to do essentially a virtual music session with these guys. It’s like the elements of your “fantasy band”. That’s why I created my own fantasy band “Sonic Elements” making use of these artist sample libraries with cool special guests like Keith Emerson, Steve Hackett, Alan Parsons, Rik Emmett and other musicians I grew up listening to.
A lot of information learned from influences, to equipment to background and reason for Sound of Contact. I’ve listened to “Dimensionaut” multiple times now, each one finding something else interesting to latch onto and look forward to in my next listening session. I expect great things out of this band and even greater things out of Simon Collins in the years to come and look forward to seeing them live in Orlando, Florida soon (I hope).
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