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Progressive Rock Interviews

Alan Morse

Interviewed by Sonya Kukcinovich Hill
Interview with Alan Morse of Spock's Beard  - December 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Tell me about your musical training both before and during Spock's Beard's existence.
Alan Morse: I grew up with music, my Dad was a music teacher and still directs a choir.  I was in his boys' choir.  I took piano lessons at an early age, then upright bass after that.  Started learning guitar around 12, took a few lessons but mostly self taught.  I started out playing bass, because I had taken lessons, but it soon became apparent that guitar was more appropriate for me.  That is to say, I was a lousy bass player!  I took some musical theory, but I'm mostly self taught.

I played in, like, a million bands you never heard of, did some film and commercial session stuff.  Just learned it the hard way!
MSJ: Nine (Spock's Beard) has received quite a bit of critical acclaim ~ well deserved, I might add.  How has the critical feedback been concerning Four O'Clock and Hysteria?
Alan Morse: It has been mostly very positive.  My kids like it!  And other people are digging it too, so that's really cool.
MSJ: And, I'm certainly one of them as well. It's a great, great CD, Alan. You seem to be able to comfortably navigate between progressive rock and jazz fusion.  Certainly, as genres they are kissing cousins, but not all musicians known for one or the oher actually like the other genre very much.  But, musically speaking, you handle both extremely well.  What are your thoughts on that?
Alan Morse: Well, thank you for the compliment, we aims to please!  I do think the genres are closely related; they always have been to me.  Some people don't like one or the other, but I like them both.  Both are fairly technical and complex so it makes things interesting.
MSJ: Absolutely! "Return to Whatever" on Four O'Clock and Hysteria (with its obvious title reference) sounds like it could have been written by Chick Corea or Al DiMeola.  Is RTF a strong musical influence for you?
Alan Morse: Yeah, that title was an obvious reference to them.  RTF wasn't one of my biggest influences, but I really did dig a lot of their stuff, and that tune sounded like it could have been an outtake from them, hence the title.  It was really cool having Jerry Goodman playing electric violin on that one, too, he just kills!  He's amazing.
MSJ: Totally!  Now, having listened to all of your recordings and seen you peform live, a number of strong guitar influences come to mind.  I'd like to mention a few names and you can tell me what comes to mind ...Jeff Beck...
Alan Morse: He's the man!...unbelievable, unique sounds.
MSJ: Steve Howe...
Alan Morse: Great player, although I wasn't as into him, mostly because I didn't dig his tone so much - but obviously amazingly talented.
MSJ: Al Di Meola...
Alan Morse: Again, a great player, loved some of the stuff he did, but I wasn't into the fast picking thing so much.
MSJ: David Gilmour...
Alan Morse: Very cool, gotta hear a lot of Floyd in our stuff.
MSJ: es, I do actually. But, I must say, it is in no way a copy cat. I've liked Pink Floyd for decades. But, the vibe that Spock's Beard bring with that particular influence, is so fresh, so unique and so positive.

I understand that you and the other members of SB are putting together ideas for what will ultimately be the next SB album (and tenth studio release).  Tell me about both your musical and lyrical goals with the band for the future.
Alan Morse: Mainly, just to do the best stuff we can, try to kick our own and everyone else's butts as much as possible!  I think you will probably see us becoming more cohesive and possibly going more for a "classic SB" sound, if there is such a thing.  That's what I'd like to do.  I've been really getting into writing lyrics lately, so hopefully some of them will make it onto the next CD.  I never really got into lyrics much before, so that's a real departure for me.
MSJ: In my opinion, keep on stretching! "Nine" is one of my favorite SB albums! So, where do you see progressive music moving into the future and, what do you want the musical legacy of Alan Morse and SB to be?
Alan Morse: At the end of the day I'd mainly like to be proud of what we made and accomplished.  I am proud of our catalog so far - some of it more than others, of course, but over all, I'd say we've made some pretty good records, I like most of it.  I'm glad we've received some measure of success, I'd like to have more!
MSJ: How would you describe your playing stylistically speaking?
Alan Morse: I'd like to think I'm sort of like Jeff Beck meets Brian May and Mick Ronson, and they join a prog band!  I actually, left to my own devices, tend to be a bit bluesy.  And I like to make weird noises as much as possible.
MSJ: What is the last CD you purchased?
Alan Morse: The Hi-Lo's Happen to Bossa Nova & Folk Songs!  Really!  The Hi-Lo's were my Uncle Bob's jazz vocal group back in the 50's and 60's.  They were killer, you have to check them out!
MSJ: What is the last gig you attended for your own personal enjoyment?
Alan Morse: That would probably be Jeff Beck actually.  I went to see him for the first time last time he was in LA.  He was stunning, just amazing.
MSJ: What is your worst "Spinal Tap" moment?
Alan Morse: I once did an audition with The Motels back in the day.  My wah-wah pedal started picking up the radio.  I didn't get the gig ...
 
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