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Froskull

Interviewed by G. W. Hill

Interview with Stephen Rockford Hammond of Froskulll from 2014

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

Stephen Rockford Hammond: I have composed music since I was a child and began writing electronic music long before I ever learned to play an instrument. Back then I was really into Michael Jackson and was always listening to his albums. 

When my teenage hormones started making demands, I became very attracted to rock music. I listened to a lot of Alice in Chains, Pantera, Stone Temple Pilots, Led Zeppelin, and Tool. This is when I decided to learn guitar. I'm primarily a self-educated guitarist, but the few lessons I had in those early years helped define what I am today. My teachers' lessons weren't ever geared towards the rock music I listened to, but I nevertheless enjoyed the education. I was learning and using diatonic modes long before anybody clued me in on what a blues scale was. I learned guitar behind a shelter of acoustic jazz and played Django Reinhardt at recitals. In high-school I joined an award-winning show choir. While I gathered confidence as a guitarist, I began multitracking to combine my electronic compositions with the newer guitar and vocal flavors. Ever since high-school I've been leading and writing in rock bands, trying to become the best artist I can become.

The first version of Froskull was called “Stephen Rockford Hammond Band.” Brett came aboard in 2010 after the band lost a guitarist. Although we're brothers, each with a musical history, this was the first time we played in a band together. During the next lineup change we grooved in a new drummer, and I changed the band name to Froskull. Since then we've had a few more lineup changes, and currently Brett and I are the only members in the band. We hope to meet the right drummer and bassist.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: If I wasn't involved in music then I wouldn't be myself at all. I can't say who I would be. I don't feel as though I've sacrificed or suppressed some part of myself to make room for music. I don't see myself as a “career musician,” either. I'm too much a polymath to be career oriented. I manage my time well and fit in everything that I really care about. My guess is I would be only be sleeping or reading or playing more video games if I wasn't making music
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: You should see me after nine months without a haircut. I grow big ugly afros in no time at all. My old friends gave me the nickname “Fro,” and when I bought my home, it became known as “Castle Froskull,” a parody of He-Man's “Castle Grayskull.” This is the same location where my studio is located and where the band rehearses. 

The band was formerly called Stephen “Rockford Hammond Band,” but that name was long and impractical. It didn't provoke progressive imagery. Since the band frequents my home, I renamed the band Froskull in 2012. The rebranding has been more effective in gathering the attention of new fans.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: If I look back nowadays at all the music I have enjoyed, you could say that every bit of that influenced me in some way. I've been inspired in the past mostly by Yes, Bjork, Stone Temple Pilots, Richie Kotzen, Steve Vai, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, Return to Forever, Bill Bruford, et al.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Things are slowing down for me at the moment and I recently have more time to relax. I spent stretches of time single-handedly promoting the new release for most of the year. I recently made significant upgrades to the studio and built a new DAW. I've already started writing new material that I cannot wait to hear finished.

As far as rehearsing the band and playing live shows is concerned, we're short a drummer and bassist. I keep my eyes open for the right recruits, but frankly it isn't a huge concern of mine because I want to focus more time on writing new material, anyway. Playing out live is often lots of fun, but Froskull's music requires regular rehearsals, which cuts into my writing time, and honestly we get very little support playing progressive music in Nashville. Doing all the necessary things to deliver an excellent live performance is often not as rewarding as we would like.

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: I describe the Froskull sound as “space-age indie prog.” I tell potential fans there are some retro elements resembling Yes, Rush, and King Crimson, but with dramatic changes, fusion moments, and electronic undercurrents.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Nobody in particular comes to mind because the market for local rock music in Nashville is very weak, yet sadly there is a saturation of rock bands here. Progressive rock is almost non-existent in Nashville. The artists I admire the most seldom play here for the reason that Nashville is dominated by country-pop and indie-pop/rock. Larger touring acts seldom use local acts for openers because there is so little support for the locals.
MSJ:

Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

Stephen Rockford Hammond: I'm indifferent to file sharing and never thought of it as a help or a hindrance to career musicians. I think the issue is a small hiccup in a changing world. Soon file sharing won't be an issue because music ownership is falling out of style. Streaming is the future. Services like Spotify will eliminate music ownership of all kinds, legal and illegal. The premium streaming services already stream in uncompressed formats that are superior to any mp3, and users have a limitless catalog of listening options.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: To my knowledge, our fans don't do this, so I don't have much of an informed opinion. I doubt the quality of a smartphone's camera and microphone would make the recording worth selling for money. I could understand the problem that the low production value of a fan recording may misrepresent what a band's live music experience is really like.

If show tickets are sold with the agreement that the customers cannot record the show, then they cannot record the show. Customers who go back on their agreements are liable for damages.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: The answer is easily Charles Manson. His music was terrible and he commanded a murderous cult.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Well, the band would not be the sum of its parts. I don't know how I could define my ultimate band. It would be learning through experimenting with different combinations. I could only think to put some people I like together and hope the chemistry works well. Let's do our first trial with Bill Bruford, Jeff Beck, Stanley Clarke, and Diana Krall.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: This is difficult to answer because I can only take live music in small doses. I put a lot of attention on listening to live bands and get exhausted after a couple hours. I never attend festivals for that reason.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: This week I saw The Travis Larson Band open for Tony MacAlpine and bought the Travis Larson CD Shift. I've been enjoying it in my car.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Maybe. I don't read fiction, but I'm always buried in controversial science, comparative religion, and philosophy. I read specialized books that aren't the kind of thing that I would recommend to a casual reader. After many years I recently read again The Book of Five Rings and think it's light and pleasant enough to recommend.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Brett and I saw Tony MacAlpine this week, but I think the highlight was his opener, The Travis Larson Band.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Stephen Rockford Hammond: I honestly have no shame concerning any of the music I enjoy. If anybody has a problem that I enjoy much of Mariah Carey's earlier music, particularly her MTV's Unplugged album, then we can have a fist fight about it. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Chvrches.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: One time my show was literally interrupted by Juggalos rushing onto the stage. The cops were called out and everything. It was exciting and hilarious.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Camembert, Doppelbock, ribeye.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Stephen Rockford Hammond: Thanks very much to you, Gary, and to our fans on the Internet. Streaming is the next big thing in music distribution, so please add Froskull to your Spotify playlists and recommend our music to your friends.

 

 
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