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Long Earth

With: Martin & Mike



Philippe André - April 2020

Profilprog (PP): Hello Martin and Mike, thank you for giving us your time to answer our questions.

PP: This is your second album, what are the main subjects?

LONG EARTH: We cover a wide range of topics, and there’s a song by song analysis on our website, but basically the centre piece of this album is a 4 song cycle based on the four seasons and a relationship that starts in Spring and ends the following Winter, hence the « Once Around the Sun » title. The other 5 standalone songs cover environmental issues, coping with the ups and downs of life, the darker side everyone has to their personality, love, oh, and there’s a song about a serial killer!

PP: Martin, your voice seems close to that of a folk singer, what do you think?

LE: That’s a new one on me, although someone recently pointed out that there was a folky side to a couple of the new songs, but we don’t see that ourselves. I’ve been told in the past that I have qualities in my voice that compare to John Wetton, Morten Harkett, Bryan Ferry and a few others without being a soundalike to any of them- I take them all as a compliment and aspire to be as good. I think the music we play is very diverse, and as such I have to encompass different elements within the vocals too. I am hugely influenced by so many bands and musicians and I’m sure that the folky influences come out.

Mike: Ni, I think Martin has very clear diction, and is a great storyteller and actor, acting out each song lyrically and visually. Maybe that’s what folk music does, relates stories and messages on life and experience.

PP: Are the compositions collegial or is there a main composer?

LE: It’s very much a band effort, and there are songs that originated in ideas from individual member, but they are then worked on by us all and developed from there. I‘m very lucky that the guys let me have free rein to write the lyrics, vocal melodies and harmonies. But whoever comes up with an idea, it goes through the Long Earth jamming process and comes out as the 5 of us.

Mike: All lyrics and melodies were by Martin, Music, with the exception of A Guy From Down the Road, which was originally a jam session by Renaldo, Gordon & Ken, were based on original ideas by Renaldo or myself, then deconstructed and rebuilt by all of us into a sound we were all happy with.

PP: I found that the more the album progressed, the more symphonic it became, what do you think? Is this voluntary?

LE: It’s the way things come out. Some things just sound right when stripped back, others come from hard rock riffs. I came up with the concept for the Once Around the Sun suite, but this was because these pieces of music seemed to have a distinct seasonal feel to them, and they fitted together in sequence pretty naturally. Once you attach the story and lyric to them, you further refine the arrangements and the subject matter suggests the type of sounds that you use. It came from that. The question then was where to put the «concept piece » and it just flowed better that this ran after all the other songs. A grand climax.

Mike: Renaldo writes guitar-based songs with lots of hooks, whilst I write more piano and orchestral influenced songs, so we merge those styles together and then everyone has an input. No external influences, just our own feelings.

PP: Did you want to send a message with the album title and cover?

LE: The title of the album was obvious to us, because it’s the name of the major concept piece. The cover ties in with both this the band name. But the other songs are a varied bunch of little stories of their own – vignettes if you wish - and as such are a brief snapshot of life on earth in 2020.

Mike: Yes, the stories behind the songs are covered in a section of our website, but the lyrics are self explanatory really

PP: Are you musicians rather studio or rather live?

Mike: We’ve all been playing live in various bands since the early 1980s, and in Long Earth, our live shows have been going down extremely well. But we love both equally.

LE: Very much both. We love playing live and have enjoyed playing the new songs alongside the best of The Source, our first album. We have a number of gigs to play over the next couple of years and are looking for many more. However, we also love the creative process – writing and jamming in the rehearsal room and finding that spark that leads to something magical. Personally, I love the whole production process too, having my own studio at home.

PP: If the overall health situation allows, you will soon participate in "Prog in the Park", what do you expect from this festival?

Mike: The festival is primarily to raise funds for cancer charities – two of us in Long Earth have survived cancer, so this gig, and others like Prog Before Christmas are very dear to our hearts and well worth supporting

LE: It will be a great day, providing Coronavirus doesn’t stop it happening. There will be some fantastic bands and musicians, many of whom we know and have gigged with over the years. There’s a couple of really good cover bands as well as a whole host of original talent. It will be huge fun to play. Hopefully it will be well attended too.

PP: What are your real jobs outside Long Earth?

LE: Mike is a retired forensic scientist (our resident murder expert). Gordon is a retired IT expert, Renaldo works in managing the railway network, Ken is a nurse and I work in the legal profession.

PP: Martin, where is your other project, Field of Vision?

LE: It’s a studio only project, and the other guys have their own bands, so we email song ideas to each other and record them. It’s a slow process but we will release these songs someday, maybe next year. But Long Earth is the focus right now, and we are already working on new material for the next album.

PP: There is an important progressive scene in Scotland, do all the groups collaborate together?

LE: To some extent, yes. Obviously 3 of us in Long Earth, plus our producer Hew, were all in Abel Ganz in the 80s - as was Alan Reed and Joe from CoE.. We used to gig with Pallas and Comedy of Errors. Mike was due to be Grand Tour’s second keyboard player for live work before they had to cancel their last two appearances at Prog Before Christmas – a band with both CoE and Abel Ganz musicians. I was in a band with a member of Scarlet Inside. Renaldo was in a band with Bruce from CoE. We still play gigs with other local prog bands and try and support each other. It’s a good scene and there are some good friends in it.

PP: For you which is the most known of the Scottish groups? Pallas, Comedy of Errors or another?

LE: Prog-wise, Pallas are obviously up there and both Comedy of Errors and Abel Ganz have played far & wide and have a strong following. Scotland also produced Fish, who is an icon here, and of course the mighty Ian Anderson is at the top of the tree. Ray Wilson was in Genesis briefly and is a good guy and hugely talented. Long Earth would love to be as well known as some of these guys.

PP: Do you think it is still possible today to live from music?

LE: It is, but only for a small number of bands. If you have a legacy from the 1970s or early 80s then you can do well, but it is increasingly hard. Fish has spoken often on the subject. For a band like us, it would be very difficult to make a living from one band. The wonderful John Young of Lifesigns is an example. He also works & tours as part of Bonnie Tyler’s band.

PP: The same question for all, Internet is good or bad for you ?

LE: It’s both. While it is wonderful to get worldwide airplay and sell albums everywhere via download, there’s no doubt that file sharing and the perceived « value » of music, in some territories and age groups especially, make it hard to earn meaningful money. There are so many great bands and musicians in every genre who are fighting for attention, whereas in the days of record company domination, very few bands got signed and promoted with huge marketing budgets and everyone else had to fight to be noticed in their own back yard. Unless you’re a pop artist signed to a major label, you’ll struggle. It’s easier to make and share music, but hard to make it pay. Streaming royalties are so low as to be insulting, but sometimes streaming gets you new fans – you’re caught between a rock & a hard place. As if that wasn’t hard enough, we are also competing for attention with 50 years of progressive rock bands before us. Most people as they age stop looking for the new bands and settle for what they know and love, or what they’re exposed to in mainstream national and international media.

PP: Do you prefer the physical or the digital today?

Mike: I’d love to do vinyl – the last vinyl LP I did was with Shoot the Moon in 1982. We’d love to do a double vinyl of Once Around the Sun if someone wants to sponsor it

LE: I think we all love being able to work digitally, but we like to have a physical product and high-quality sound reproduction. That’s why we put the effort into the images in the CD book – it’s something to hold, to read, and to absorb while you are listening to the album.

PP: What do you think of the return of the vinyl record?

LE: It’s great if that’s something you really missed. I love the scale of the artwork, and the warmth of pristine vinyl. If there’s enough demand for it, then I’d love to see & hear Long Earth on vinyl. There’s even been an enquiry about cassette tapes! – apparently that’s a thing. We just want people to hear our music, and if they like what they hear, to buy it so that we can reinvest the money into making more albums. We’d like them to hear the music in the best way possible, but there’s no denying the convenience of MP3.

PP: What are your favorite bands in recent months? And in previous decades?

LE: Oh, so many. We will each have a different answer, some as long as your arm. Obviously, the core of 70s prog’s big bands – Genesis, Yes, Tull, ELP, Pink Floyd, Camel, Crimson, Deep Purple, and some of the neo-prog from the 80s such as Marillion. We also have diverse tastes among us, like Kate Bush, Japan, Talk Talk, XTC, Roxy Music, Curved Air, Thomas Dolby, Trevor Horn. Anything well played and original. Nowadays, guys like Steven Wilson, Muse, Transatlantic, Big Big Train plus lots of bands who are in the same position as us, some of whom we get to play gigs with such as Crystal Palace and Stuckfish. There are so many, and they count on people like you to help them find an audience.

PP: Thank you for your collaboration and all the best for Long Earth

LE: Thank you Philippe, and thank you for supporting Long Earth and helping us tell our story

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