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The Cyberiam

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Keith Semple of The Cyberiam from 2018

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?"

Well, that would probably take an entire magazine (laughter, and prog was always a personal "treat" for me until 2015, (we'll come back to that), but in a nutshell I've been playing music for 23 years, 20 professionally. I received a gold disc for my popular music in the UK and have performed eight sold out UK arena tours since 2003 (including venues like The Royal Albert Hall and the 02 Arena in London).

I moved to Chicago in 2006 to perform and write for a band called "7th heaven." We opened for Bon Jovi at Soldier field, plus we performed 

with many of the classic rock and 80s stars from Styx, to REO Speedwagon to Huey Lewis and many more. We wrote three Chicago Billboard Number 1 albums.

I now perform in my own band "SEMPLE," and since moving to the US in 2006 I have performed over 2000 shows.

I decided in 2015 that after 15 years of writing prog and listening to basically nothing but prog but always playing popular music, it was time to put together my "dream" band and make the music that I truly love.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I'm a science nerd, so I would probably be in research science or I'd be writing books on philosophy, skepticism and more.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
I wanted to find something that would encapsulate the essence of today's crazy computer driven world. "The Cyberiam" was the name that we felt best portrayed this.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
For Cyberiam it would be Porcupine Tree, Rush, Pink Floyd and Dream Theater.
MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
We've been privileged to have had many excellent reviews of our band but probably for me the best compliment is that we sound like "no one else." Yes we have influences, and they seep into our playing, but our mix, our song arrangement  and our sound is simply unique. To me that's the best thing that could be said about us.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
We are performing at Progtoberfest in Chicago In October 2018. In 2019 we are performing for Progstock and hopefully Rosfest, too. We will perform roughly once a month with a potential single release in early 2019 followed by our second album release hopefully in March of 2020. 

We also plan on releasing a special edition vinyl version of our debut album in mid 2019.

MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
If I had to describe it I would say this: Imagine Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Rush, Bryan Adams and Smashing Pumpkins  all got in a room together and had to write an album (laughter). . . I could imagine the resulting music sounding something like ours.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Certainly - most of which our keyboard player (Frank Lucas) has already performed with. Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater to name one. Mike Portnoy and Steven Wilson to name two more. There would be a rather large number of amazing musicians on that "wish list."
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
It's a huge problem! But finally the world of streaming and downloads is catching up to the music business so  musicians are beginning to be properly compensated for their writing and performing talents. It's not quite there yet, but it's going in the right direction.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
That's a tough on,e but I'd rather people were at our shows and sharing them to the world than not at our shows at all. Plus I feel like the prog community is such a respectful community when it comes to supporting musicians with buying their music, merch etcetera. They really understand the plight of the true musician trying to get their music out to a wider audience.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
I reckon everyone's "should" be Simon Cowell or someone of equivalence who packages up whatever will sell and makes millions.
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?
Not to sound corny but that's exactly what I did with Cyberiam. I love these guys, and the way we work together is rare and much appreciated by me. But if I had to choose musicians with household names in the music world it would be Jeff Campitelli on drums (who's played with Joe Satriani), Derek Sherinian on keys, Steven Tyler on vocals and the bass player from Porcupine Tree.
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?
Porcupine Tree,  Dream Theater,  Sting,  John Mayer, Pink Floyd, Rush, Aerosmith. . . In no particular order.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Last CD I bought was a local prog band called "District 97"....loved their female lead singer and the unique sound they had going on. 

I've been bouncing between Haken and Leprous. Loving both! But my ear is drawn towards Opeth more and more lately.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Yes...and continually! (laughter)  I'm reading The War on Peace by Ronan Farrow currently. Always reading the latest from R.A. Salvatore, Sam Harris and Ian Rankin. My nerd side is enjoying Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Wow that's rare with my crazy gig schedule, but I did get to see Steven Wilson in Chicago in May, ironically the day after I shattered my wrist at the gym. Was an incredible experience I will never forget.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
One of the first was Thunder at the Limelight in Belfast , Northern Ireland. I have a tattoo of them on my arm so you can imagine how much I like them!
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
Yes! I'm using the Line 6 Helix for all my Cyberiam tones. It's life changing and easy to use. If you like our Cyberiam album tones then you would like the Helix!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
I like a good 80s rock ballad. . . not going to lie (laughter).
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Well all my amps go to 11, naturally (laughter), but probably the time I was walking through the crowd at Birmingham NIA arena and heading to stage from the back of the arena for a planned entry, when we realized that the front row of the crowd was too far forward / close to the stage. I couldn't get through so I got stuck in the middle of the crowd having to sing the first verse of the song before making it all the way back and round to  the stage. No one thought to check that before we did the show there. It worked out okay in the end, but for me it was n nerve-racking!
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?
Easy. Christopher Hitchens, Steven Hawking and Dave Gilmour.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Sushi and Indian food
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
We simply want people to know that we love what we do. We put thought and care into every single bar/note of our album, and we are very proud of it. We also recorded and mixed it ourselves, so even though it might not be worthy of Mutt Lange it is better  than we could have ever hoped. I think I watched about 1000 hours of youtube tutorials! (laughter

Plus the fact that Andy Van Dette agreed to master the songs for us was the icing on the cake!

We would love for everyone who listens and checks out our album to share their thoughts on facebook and beyond and help get our music out to a wider audience. Tell us about venues in your area where we could come and play for you. This is what we love, and this is what we want to do!

Thanks everyone.

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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