It's been awhile since I've updated this page ... nearly four years ago now.
Not that I've had much evidence that many people read it, but I do get the
occasional request for Chosen material, so I know someone reads it occasionally.
Plus, the old photo of me was taken ... well ... awhile ago, so it was time to
replace it with something a little more recent. At least something post-beard.
If you haven't read this for awhile, you may find something new here, so have
The easiest answer is "just a guy". But that's not a very satisfying answer, is it? I guess I need to come up with a bit more than that for a bio page.
OK. I'm just a guy ... but I'm a guy who's been listening to Progressive Rock since the new album from Genesis was "Nursery Cryme" (that's 1972 for you youngsters). I remember hearing it on the radio (yeah, they actually played progressive rock on the radio in those days, whole albums at a time!) and looking "everywhere" for it. I couldn't find it anywhere.
I had an acquaintence who was into "weird music", and I told him of my dilemma. When he asked me to elaborate on where "everywhere" was that I looked, I told him, "well, you know, K-Mart, the Sears record department ..." He stopped me by practically falling on the floor laughing at me. He informed me that they don't carry progressive rock, I would need to go to "The People's Emporium", which was a head shop (if you don't know what that is, don't ask), that they would certainly have this title, since it was a fairly famous one. This same guy later turned me on to Gong, Hatfield and the North, Bonzo Dog Band, The Tubes and others. His girlfriend was into mellower Prog, and she turned me on to Camel, Jethro Tull's Aqualung and A Passion Play and others. Plus she just turned me on in general, but that's another story ...
So here I was, a Progressive Rock fan in a sea of bubble gum music and noplace to turn. There was no Internet in those days, no mail-order independent labels. Finally, I made the acquaintence of a fellow who was the manager of Disc Records, a record chain with a store in one of our local malls. This guy was a major Prog-head, and he went against the grain of the Disc Records corporate folks and stocked many Prog titles in his store. Better yet, he could special-order anything I wanted. I wanted a lot. I can't begin to guess how many bucks I dropped on every Prog album I could lay my hands on. Some that come to mind are Schicke, Führs and Fröhling, White Noise, all the later Gong albums, Greenslade, Synergy, Frank Zappa, Tangerine Dream and of course all the Yes, Genesis and King Crimson albums. I still have this huge vinyl collection, but I seldom listen to it these days. I'm not a vinyl-head, I really prefer the clarity, simplicity and lack of surface noise I get with CD's. Maybe my ears are just blown out from too many years of playing in garage bands.
I went to college to become an electrical engineer, but I soon discovered that my school had an "Electronic Music Lab". I soon began blowing off classes and making strange noises on their 3 Synthi AKS's, 2 ARP 2600's and a cheezy Farfisa organ. I took a couple of courses in Electronic Music so I could use the equipment, and ended up working for the University's Music Department doing tech work on all their equipment, repairing and calibrating everything from synths to tape machines to mixing boards. Best of all, I got access to an 8-track studio (a big deal back in '76) and all the time in the world (after hours) to play around. I also had access to expensive microphones, a Steinway 9' concert grand piano, a real harpsichord, and a small pipe organ. I composed and recorded many hours of Electronic & Multi-keyboard Prog, ranging in quality from pretty cool to total trash. But I enjoyed myself.
Oh, I did finally get my EE degree.
Did I mention I played keyboards in a progressive rock band? Actually, it was a Christian progressive rock band (it's not quite an oxymoron) named "Chosen", active in the "dark ages of Prog" (the early '80's). We mostly played in church revivals and dances, though we did a few free gigs for anyone who wanted to come them in public parks and shopping center openings. This was a strange bunch of people, we had a bassist who thought he was Jeff Berlin, a guitarist who thought he was Allan Holdsworth, a drummer who thought he was Bill Bruford, a singer who thought she was Sade (an odd fit, but it worked pretty well), and me ... I thought I was Edgar Froese. Or maybe Larry Fast. None of us were actually as good as those people, of course, but that didn't prevent us from trying. We baffled church audiences with our covers of Genesis' "Watcher of the Skies" and Yes' "Perpetual Change". We rearranged a bunch of traditional church hymns and made them into Prog tunes, which actually helped give audiences some point of reference since they at least recognized the basic melodies and lyrics. Then we baffled them some more with a bunch of our own progressive compositions, with vaguely spiritual lyrics which would be almost as at home in a pagan ritual as they would in a christian church. Almost. It was great fun.
I still have the reel-to-reel stereo master tapes of the best of my old electronic stuff (plus the 1" 8-track master tape, which I doubt anyone can play back any more). Chosen made one full-length (about 45 minutes) album, and a 3-song demo tape, both released only on cassette for sale at our concert gigs. I still have all the 4-track 1/4" reel-to-reel master tapes from those recording sessions. Unfortunately, my TEAC 4-track was stolen from the storage garage I had it in. Idiots ... like they have anything they can play back on it. Someday hopefully I can borrow one from a friend and get this stuff into digital media so I can work with it. I still hope some day do a digital remaster of the Chosen material, create MP3's of all this stuff and post them here for anyone who wants to hear them to download for free. If you're reading this and you care, drop me a line to encourage me.
I've been threatening to create a Chosen web site on the GEPR some day, and when I have time, some day I will. If you want to look at some work in progress, it's here, but it's far from finished.
In 1995, I met Grace. I knew we had a lot in common when I found out that she had a poster of Jean-Luc Picard on her wall at work and was a Dungeons and Dragons player. But I really knew we were made for each other when I found out that she knew every note of ELP's Brain Salad Surgery, Frank Zappa's Live at Fillmore East and the Who's Tommy and Quadrophenia. So I gave her the ultimate test ... I played Gong's Angel's Egg and You for her. Not only did she not run out of the door screaming, she really liked them! (I know because sometimes when I phoned her at home, I could hear one of them playing in the background). OK, maybe that wasn't the ultimate test. That, as every progger knows, would be playing Magma for your girlfriend.
We got married about a year later, and Grace has turned me on to some other types of music that fall into the Prog range of artists, though she definitely goes for the Celtic styles of it. She turned me on to bands like Loreena McKennitt, Enya/Clannad and Anuna. (Plus, she just turned me on in general, but that's another story ...) Great stuff, though folkier and not as raucous as I had been listening to before. I guess that describes me pretty well too ...
In 2003, I brought Grace to her first progressive rock festival ...
NEARFest. Her favorite bands? The ones
usually considered to be the most "difficult" for women, namely
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and Friday's pre-show
with Miriodor. At
NEARFest 2004, she bought the 3CD
Theusz Hamtaahk box set so she could learn the lyrics in Kobaian!
Now that's a dedicated fan! Told ya she was cool. That's her below with
Christian Vander (left) and Roger Dean (right).
A fairly high-pressure engineering job and a special-needs son (he's 7 now) at home keep me pretty busy these days. I haven't had much chance to play my synths in about 10 years now. But I still listen to prog every chance I get. That's pretty often, since I have a 1-hour commute to work every day and a nice stereo system in my car. But all my keyboard playing these days is "air keyboards".
My musical tastes these days run to the Symphonic Prog end of things, with a fair smattering of Space Rock, Canterbury and Ambient. Zeuhl has also made a comeback in our house since Grace discovered Magma. I used to be a big fan of Fusion and RIO too, but I find I usually don't have the patience for them any more. Except for Thinking Plague who I love. Well, maybe "patience" is the wrong word. It just seems like there's other things I'd rather be listening to instead. I've also been getting into some prog-metal, particularly Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memory.
My all-time favorite bands are still Yes (the Close to the Edge line-up, though Relayer is still my favorite album), ELP (through Brain Salad Surgery at least), Gong (from Camembert Electrique thru You and also solo efforts from Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and Tim Blake from the years immediately following), Camel (Camel through Moonmadness), Jethro Tull (but only Aqualung through War Child plus Songs From The Wood), Pink Floyd (up to and including A Momentary Lapse of Reason, though even The Division Bell has a few good songs on it), Genesis (from Trespass through Seconds Out), Tangerine Dream (their golden age from Rubycon through Stratosfear and also including Edgar Froese' solo albums circa Aqua ans Epsilon in Malaysian Pale) and Rush (2112 through Permanent Waves especially). What can I say? I grew up listening to these guys.
But I also love some of the new bands that are recording now. When I first wrote this back in January 2001, I was listening to Underground Railroad (Through and Through), Metaphor (Starfooted), Shakary (Alya) and Dream Theater (Scenes from a Memory). This month (November 2004), I've been enamored of some really different stuff ... Amy X Neuberg's Residue and her husband Herb Heinz' Another aren't even what some would call "prog", but I think they're truly "progressive" in that they don't sound like albums you've heard before ... I'm loving them. Hal Darling falls into the same category, though D2R does sound a bit like Frank Zappa in places. Along more "traditional prog" lines, Stereokimono's Primosfera and Akacia's The Brass Serpent have been getting a lot of spin time on my car's CD player. At home, my wife likes Magma's 3-CD Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogie and Hidria Spacefolk's Symbiosis, so I get to hear those frequently. Next month I'll probably like something else better. I'll let you know.
Fred Trafton 11/29/04