Sunday, October 14, 2012

Interview with John O'Boyle of Dutch Progressive Rock Pages

Here is a recent interview with John O'Boyle of Dutch Progressive Rock Pages.  The link is here and the following is the text:

DPRP’s John O’Boyle brings you the Final Part of the Three Part Special which sees Multi Instrumentalist Craig Kerley (Not Otherwise Specified) talking about his debut release Judgment, his influences and working with Rodrigo San Martin.

John:  Greetings Craig from the U.K.  Thanks for taking time out to participate in this interview for DPRP, so first things first, how you doing buddy?
Craig:  Doing pretty well.  Been pretty busy lately, but it beats the alternative in this economy.  Hope things are going well for you too John.
John: Well two albums in with Rodrigo San Martin, both being DPRP recommended as was your own Not Otherwise Specified album Judgment.  Not a bad start if I may say so.
Craig:  Thanks!
John:  The reviews I have read for Judgment were very positive, how do you feel the album was received personally?
Craig:  Better than I had expected.  Judgment started out as more of an experiment to see if my musical interest was still there.  I never really expected to put the album out in public, but have been pleased by the response so far.
John:  The whole album was created by yourself, from the songwriting through to playing all the instruments.  Is this an approach you like to take or did this just happen naturally?
Craig:  This approach was more out of necessity than design.  At the time I really was not in touch with any other musicians, so writing with others was not really in the cards.  However, I have found that I really like creating music alone.  It allows me to approach writing and recording on my schedule in a borderline obsessive manner that would be very likely to piss off other musicians.
John:  Being the one to make the final decision on a song, it must be hard to decide when you have THE version in the can?
Craig:  I never really see any song as finished.  I still think about ways to improve and change songs on Judgment.  However, at some point you just need to give up and move on, accepting that it will never be perfect.  Otherwise, you will drive yourself and others around you crazy.
John:  How do you approach your songwriting?
Craig:  Chaotically!  I usually start off by just fooling around on guitar, bass, or keys.  Eventually, I come up with a riff on guitar, or a chord progression on keys, or a bass line that I like.  I know I have found something I can work with when I feel myself get excited by the riff.  I then usually try to create a drum track to make it more interesting.  After that, I generally lose control of the process and it is more likely to control me.  I make mixes, listen to them incessantly, take notes, make revisions, repeat ad nausea, and somewhere along the way a song starts to appear.  It often feels like a song was there before I wrote it, I just needed to chip away all of the garbage hiding it from me.
John:  Do you see yourself as a bit of a control freak in the nicest sense of the words?
Craig:  Without a doubt!  It feels like my baby and I don’t want anyone messing with it.  I am sure I will get over that some day with ongoing therapy!
John:  The album is built on themes of personal discovery.  Do you want to talk us through the album, giving us your thoughts and ideas?
Craig:  I feel that no matter the personal process used to write lyrics and music, the real value in music lies in the listener’s interpretation.  While these songs are based on my personal experiences and observations of others, I wouldn’t want to be too literal about the process as it may take away from the listening experience.  Suffice it to say, however, these songs are a composite of life experience and my observations of personality types in both my personal and professional life.
John:  The artwork is very intriguing.  What was the thought process behind the visual?
Craig:  I wish I could say there was a lot of planning put into the album artwork.  Unfortunately, it is the result of a very limited budget.  I searched through Creative Commons licensed images online until I found ones that I felt matched the mood of the album.
John:  When is your next album due?
Craig:  I was shooting for December 2012, but for many reasons that may be a bit ambitious.  I recently had a bit of a setback when my house was hit by lightning.  Everything in the studio was saved, but there was a lot of damage otherwise that has taken a great deal of my time to get repaired.  The entire album is currently written and mostly recorded, but I still have a lot of work to do.
John:  Can you offer up an exclusive for DPRP about what we are to expect?
Craig:  Well, I can tell you it will be much more proggy than Judgment.  I gave up on any attempts to write mainstream music and went with the flow.  Most songs are long, including a 20 minute plus anthem, and you will find much more complexity in meter and chordal structure throughout.  There will be many flavours of prog, including metal, straight ahead rock, and even a classical guitar piece.  I really enjoy listening to the demos over and over again, which is really the only test I use to decide its merit.
John:  You have done a very interesting version of Dance on a Volcano, what other pieces would you like to work with?
Craig:  I have always been a huge Genesis fan, including all of its derivatives.  I plan on covering a Peter Gabriel tune on the next album.  After that, I may go to some of Mike Rutherford or Tony Banks solo work.
John:  Why after 15 years did you decide to return to your musical roots?
Craig:  About 5 years ago my sons, who were 6 and 8 at the time, wanted to take up musical instruments.  One started with drums the other with guitar.  Once we bought a guitar for my older son, I found myself playing it as much as he was.  From there, I was hooked.
John:  What happened during those wilderness years?
Craig:  I grew up.  I finished graduate school, started a career, met and married the love of my life and had two sons.  I didn’t have time for music and, given the choice, it was easy to let music go.    It was my sons that brought me back to music.  They became interested in music at about the same time that my career allowed me to be more independent and have time for other interests.  Seeing music through their eyes, like I saw it when I was young, lit a fire under me.
John:  How did it come to pass working with Rodrigo?
Craig:  I believe I had put some demo songs up onReverbNation and somehow we found each other there.  I really was not looking at music as being anything more than a hobby at that point.  I heard and liked his music.  When he asked me to sing on a song, I jumped at the opportunity!
John:  What does it feel like to know that Rodrigo wrote songs on There’s No Way Out with yours and Jelena’s voices in mind?
Craig:  I was quite flattered.  I had not focused on my voice in a very long time.  I felt it was very weak.  Knowing that Rodrigo did not agree with my appraisal helped a great deal with my confidence!
John:  That must have been quite a buzz and compliment at the same time seeing that it was the first album you guys worked on?
Craig:  Absolutely!
John:  Have you any plans to work with Jelena in the future?
Craig:  Not as of this moment, but I generally don’t make plans when it comes to music.  If something comes up, I would love to work with her again.
John:  Rodrigo is quoted as saying and I’m not too sure as to whether you are aware of this, “I clicked “prog” and this INCREDIBLE piece started. It was Craig Kerley’s Judgment.  After listening to that, I though “Alright, I’m not getting near a microphone ever again!”   Now there’s a gracious comment if I ever heard one.  That has got to be humbling?
Craig:  I was not aware of that.  I think I’m blushing.
John:  Tell us about the infectious song Destroy the Signal off Eyes, a song where you came up with the harmonies.  How would you rate it against the alternate take Destruye la SeƱal sung in Spanish by Tamara Szych?
Craig:  My Spanish is more than a little rusty, but I liked it very much.
John: What is interesting is that Rodrigo, Jelena and your good self are all adept musicians but yet putting that to one side, egos never seem to come part of the creative process, which is something that I love about you all.  Are you hoping to work together in the not too distant future?
Craig:  I am.  Being involved in Rodrigo’s albums really lit a fire under me musically.  It was the kick start I needed to get going with music again.  I will always look forward to working with him.
John: A question I ask everyone, what songs would we hear if we pressed the play button on your I Pod, assuming you possess one?
Craig:  I have one of those old 80gb iPods and it has about 13,000 songs on it.  The selection appears very chaotic.  Currently, I am listening to Smallcreeps Day by Mike RutherfordA Curious Feeling by Tony BanksMilliontown by Frost*, and everything by Dream Theater.  Other favourites include Nine Inch NailsToolHe is LegendShinedownSlipknot, KornAlice in Chains, and Jane’s Addiction.
John:  Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?
Craig:  Without a doubt, Peter Gabriel.  I have loved and admired his songwriting since I was about 14.  More recently I have been influenced by modern proggers such as Trent Gardner (Magellan), Neal Morse, and Jem Godfrey (Frost*).
John:  What are your five favourite albums?
Craig:  Only five?  OK, if you’re going to put me on the spot:  Animals by Pink FloydThe Lamb Lies Down on Broadway byGenesisLeftoverture by KansasMetropolis:  Scenes from a Memory by Dream Theater, and Bridge Across Forever byTransatlantic.
John:  Given the opportunity, who would you like to collaborate with?
Craig:  Other than the people I have already had the opportunity to collaborate with, I would love to work with Jem Godfreyof Frost*.  I love the nearly manic nature of his music and production.  Also, he just seems like a fun guy!
John:  What’s the music scene in Atlanta Georgia like these days, a city that has pedigree and such a historical musical past?
Craig:  My responsibilities at home and in my day job don’t leave me much time to see live music these days.  I understand the scene is quite vibrant, but I haven’t had much of a chance to participate in it lately.
John:  How do you perceive the music industry in general and more specific in the U.S.A?
Craig:  In a wonderful state of flux.  One of the main reasons I got out of music when I was younger was due to the system at that time which limited access to listeners and made self production economically unattainable.  After my break I found the music industry was becoming everything I had hoped it would be when I was younger.  The classic big record labels have largely become dinosaurs and the individual artist has an opportunity to reach a very specific worldwide target market with relative ease.  This, combined with the affordability of recording equipment, is opening the door for a significant increase in the variety in music.  I believe that the demise of the old system is resulting in a creative renaissance in modern music.
John:  Who would you recommend as bands / artists to watch out for in the future?
Craig:  I used to be pretty good at coming up with recommendations.  I have to admit, however, that I have spent a lot of time listening to the classics lately and probably not enough checking out what is new.
John:  Are there any final words you would like to say to the readers of DPRP?
Craig:  It is so exciting to see the resurgence in prog music.  As readers of DPRP you are on the forefront of this movement.  Thank you for your support of our genre!  It will help ensure that great prog will be around for many years to come!

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's been such a long time . . .

I realize that it has been a very long time since I have spewed my stream of consciousness out onto this blog.  I assure you that this is not because I have been hiding from the world of music.  To the contrary, my plan to write a song every couple of weeks worked out brilliantly and I can now say that I have a rough draft of the entire new album complete.  At this time, I am putting the finishing touches on the lyrics and plan to record vocals over my silly guide vocals starting this week.  I am pretty pleased about this, especially because I nearly lost my entire studio (and house) last week. 

A week ago on Friday I was lying in bed watching TV when a bright light and loud crack made me and my wife believe that house had just exploded.  We ran out of bed, to the sounds of alarms blaring, screaming to our kids to make sure they were alright.  They were, and they came running downstairs with equal looks of shock on their face.  Then we smelled the smoke coming from the studio.  It turns out that lightning had hit two 150 foot tall pine trees 10 feet outside of our bedroom window.  The bolt traveled down the trees, through the roots, and connected with our cable TV lines.  These lines heated to the point of setting the insulation in the walls of the studio on fire.  After calling 911 and getting everyone out of the house (as well as my studio hard drives) the Fire Department arrived and tore out a wall in the studio, putting out the fire.  Thanks to their quick work, the house did not catch fire.  However, nearly every electronic device in the house was fried, with the exception of my studio.  Somehow, the lightning had destroyed nearly every surge suppressor in the house except the ones in the studio.  We lost TV’s, computers, audio equipment, phones, furnaces, and much more.  But somehow, the studio equipment and hard drives were fully intact.  Insurance will cover most of the damage, but could not have replaced the several weeks worth of work I had done recording since my last off-site backup.  Lesson learned . . backup to an external drive every day!!

On another note, Jay Rowland and I decided to take our writing in a different direction.  NOS will continue to be written and performed by me alone.  However, we are writing from scratch together for an as yet unnamed prog metal duo.  More to come about this in the near future. 

Anyway (they say she comes on a pale horse), the album seems to be structured like this:  brief intro, rockin’ 5 minute proggy song, 12-minute prog metal piece, short classical guitar interlude, 12-minute prog metal piece, 22 minute progressive rock epic, 7-minute remake of a prog favorite.  Hope that clears things up! 

More to come, sooner than last time (I hope)!


Monday, February 27, 2012


I have been trying an experiment for the last couple weeks, which I hope to continue for the next few months. . .

I recently found myself getting bogged down in the minutia of songs that are mostly completed.  “Perhaps I should invert this chord, or move that one note in the bass line up a fifth, or add one measure of 23/8”.  It was getting quite maddening! I listened to the same two tracks over and over again until I would find myself spontaneously bursting out in song to questions like, “Can I use your restroom?”  As you might imagine, I have this tendency to be a wee-bit perfectionistic when it comes to music, and as such tend to perseverate on songs until I feel they are “just right”.  Unfortunately, to get a song “just right” I would need to focus on it to a point nearing self-abuse.  No, not the Freudian definition (sicko!), more like that endured by Manuel Noriega when troops played loud music outside his Palace in an attempt to get him to hand over Panama.   While this process has always resulted in music I am happy with and want to listen to, I am finding that it really stifles the creative writing process.  As a result, I have created the “Two-week Song Challenge” for myself.

The Two-week Song Challenge is based on a book writing challenge I heard about.  In that challenge, aspiring authors are tasked with writing 50,000 words in 30 days, without self-critiquing their work as they write.  The idea is to let the creativity flow, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.  After the 30 days are up, the budding authors can then go back and see what they have, decide if it’s a keeper and edit, or throw it back. 

In this spirit, I have decided to try to write and record one complete song every two weeks for the next few months.  The goal is to get these songs to the point where they are “acceptable” rather than “perfect”, and then just move on.  Then, after a few months, I will go back through the completed songs, decide which ones should be “perfected”, and do so.    My first attempt at this started with a classic prog/rock style song that I am very happy with.  The next two week cycle begins this Thursday and I have no idea what will come out.  This is very exciting to me as I will again write with no preconceived ideas about how the song should turn out.  One thing I am pretty certain about is that these songs will have a heavy prog influence.  When I first started writing Judgment I tried very hard to write straight ahead rock songs, but they kept turning out prog.  Prog has run in my blood since my first Genesis concert in 1980 and no matter how hard I have tried to move away from it I always end up back there.

Well, wish me luck!  Hope fully I will have a lot to show for this experiment soon. 


Monday, February 13, 2012

Sugar-induced mania

Who would have thought that having six preteens running around the house for 24 hours would have presented an opportunity?  I had pretty much decided that it would be impossible to be creative while my oldest son had his 13th birthday sleepover at the house this weekend (Happy Birthday Buddy!).  As a result, I hunkered down to try to get a lot of the boring technical stuff out of the way on Falling and Anthem.  Both songs are nearing completion, but we are attempting to have Falling ready for mix and master in the next few weeks so that we can let everyone hear the direction NOS is headed in. Between the running, jumping, video games, sugar-induced mania, and late-night nerf gun wars, I was able to get Falling completely setup in my studio so that it can be shared online with Jay and can eventually be sent electronically to the mixing engineer.  Additionally, I was able to get Anthem half-way to that point as well.  So, although creativity was generally low, productivity was high and we keep moving forward.

I am really loving the new sound, and am very excited to have my first taste of some independent work Jay has been doing.  His writing style really adds a whole new dimension to the music of NOS.  I only wish we had the next album finished today so that we could share!

Take care,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Home Bass

Spent a good part of the day re-recording the bassline for Falling, which was no small feat given that I tore part of a fingernail off on my right hand.  I have a feeling I will be going back and rerecording some of the faster runs in a few days.  The goal is to have Falling completely finished in the next few weeks and send it out for mixing/mastering.  We then plan to put it up online in some way (as yet undecided) in order to let everyone have a listen to the new sound.  Of course, I still have to write the lyrics, but at least I have an idea what it is about (falling, I suppose).

I'm meeting online with Jay tomorrow for a writing session.  We have been generating lots of new ideas that we should be able to form into coherent songs somewhere along the way.  More to come soon . . .

Take care,

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Technology Gods Have Smiled Upon Us!

Yesterday, the technology gods truly smiled upon Not Otherwise Specified.  After several months of work, Jay has his home studio up and fully running, including a HD video cam and Skype connections.  To our surprise and excitement, we can actually hear each other over this connection and can play multiple instruments without feedback or distortion.  1000 miles just became a much smaller distance.  Things should begin to move more rapidly now, not only on the songs we have been working on, but with the new ones we hope to write in cyberspace.  We'll keep you posted!

Take care,

Sunday, January 29, 2012