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Progressive Rock Interviews

Ajalon

Interviewed by Josh Turner
Interview with Randy George of Ajalon from 2005


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.


I first wanted to find out what opportunities are there to see you perform live?
I just performed live with Salem Hill in Nashville on Saturday. Beyond that, there's no plan. I'm just going to wait and see what Neal wants to do.
MSJ: Is there talk right now about possibly touring with that new album or maybe with One or Testimony or a combination of them?
Well, certainly if we tour, there will be a nice selection of tunes from all of the albums as well as some older stuff, probably some Transatlantic and some Spock's Beard too. Yeah, a lot of different possibilities. It's just a matter of Neal feeling like it's the right time to do it.
MSJ: Is there anything on the Ajalon front that might be coming up?
Probably not till Summer. Ajalon's basically working on new material and starting to map out another album. And, Wil has been in school. As long as he is in school, we're not going to be probably doing too much live stuff, but we'll be gearing up for it this Summer, definitely we'll try to do something this Summer. It's kind of hard to gauge anything right now, but we're always thinking of working towards creating a situation that works for everybody, that's good timing for everybody, and financially works out for everybody too, because any kind of touring or live dates generally require a fair amount of money to pull off. People always have to fly somewhere to get there. So, yeah, that stuff's always a possibility. I'm not giving up. I'm always talking to Neal about it.
MSJ: I also wanted to ask you about these album titles, because they're very interesting, but starting with Neal, do you have any idea how he came up with the question mark concept?
The question mark concept I kind of think he decided to name it that based on the whole, you know, mystery aspect of it. He was trying to make a mystery thing out of the whole project to give people something to just kind of sink their teeth into and get people thinking and maybe doing a little research to try to solve various little puzzles along the way to get information about both what the album is about and who played what on what. I think he kind of started on down that road before he realized how much people would actually run with it. So, it became something more than he anticipated sooner than he expected. So, I think most of it was really an attempt to sort of follow through with something he had started, but hadn't really thought through all that much at the beginning, but made it work out in a way that was fun for everybody and that worked for the kind of project he wanted to do. I really hadn't discussed the title with him. I heard it when InsideOut actually made the announcement that it was going to be titled with a question mark unlike One, which was entirely my idea.
MSJ: Oh, really? How did you come up with that?
Well, One was a concept. Well, it seemed like the idea was, the whole concept of One was the whole concept of man being one with god in the beginning and separating from God and then, you know, finding his way back to God and becoming one again. So, it just seemed a simple name to sum up everything. At the time, it seemed really cool. I didn't think too much in terms of whether it would be, too corny or whether people would perceive it as being the first album, which everybody knows it isn't. So, for me it was a more conceptually driven title. Neal resisted it all along. He didn't want to do that from the beginning, but Mike really seemed to like it right away and so Mike and I kept on Neal about it and basically in the end after attempting to come up with other names and other suggestions, he went with it, because nothing else seemed to be right. So that's kind of how that unfolded.
MSJ: I gotta tell you. I've actually listened to Neal's ? countless times before I've come to any conclusions, but I think it's one of the greatest albums I've ever heard.
Oh, I'm glad you like it. I like it a lot. The feedback initially seems to be great. I guess there are those people who seem to think it's just more of the same. I heard that about One also. I don't really get that, because I don't think that Testimony, One, or ? sound alike. I think they all sound completely different from each other.
MSJ: Oh yeah, it's a progression.
What do they expect? They want Neal to become something different than what he is, you know, it's like every Spock's Beard album is more of the same. It's great, great stuff. The two Transatlantic albums are more of the same. It's not like there was any real drastic difference between them. If you stand back and look at it in a more broad perspective, it's not that different from album to album and I don't think that his solo stuff necessarily merits needing to go in some really different direction. Plus, the guests on this one make it really cool too.
MSJ: Oh yeah and the thing is, to paraphrase something that Andy Tillison once said is that when you're playing a Neal Morse disc, you can instantly recognize that it's his, but it's material we've all grown to adore and it's always welcome. It's stuff that we really like and that's fine as well, but like you're saying, this is a progression and evolution from where he's coming. It really does bring in some new ideas. One thing I did want to ask you about it, what I'm not entirely sure about, is if that is 100% Neal Morse's songwriting or if people like yourself actually helped in some of the songwriting duties.
Well, on the latest album, [?], Neal had pretty much completed the songs by the time we had got to it, but what he had initially, was one long song about 43 minutes long and I'm listening to it and I'm thinking, okay, it's another concept album. It has no breaks. But the songs were just really cool and I'm really liking this a lot. So I'm thinking, "okay, this is really cool, but I don't think it's complete," because first of all, I think 43 minutes is too short for an album. That might have been the case when vinyl was the main format, but I think that it needed to be longer and so in listening to it, I identified three places where there needed to be more than there was. I kind of identified those places as being needed to be fleshed out. We needed to bring it down, because he would go from one idea and then right to the next idea and it would just be slam, slam, slam, and you never just got a break. It just kept hitting you. It was relentless. I said, no, let's end this idea and let's bring it down to a really nice, smooth, mellow little section here and then start into the next thing. Let's build it up gradually and create some dynamics in the landscape cause it was all just one dynamic. If anything, what we brought to this was just to really further add a few little places that gave it a little bit more shape than what it originally had. One track in particular, "The Outsider" was one that was sort of my idea, the whole Genesis vibe sort of like "The Musical Box" or whatever, you know, with mellotron flute, and things like that. Those were ideas I thought would be really cool. The place where Steve Hackett solos, that whole section is the second half of a track called "12." We kept referring to it as the Hackett jam. That was all new stuff that we improvised too. From the beginning, I was like, well, we have to get Steve Hackett on this project, because I kept hearing the Genesis vibe in a lot of the material and I thought, oh, we should ask Steve Hackett. I said he would be a perfect guest for this and since he's releasing material on InsideOut, it would be enough to get in contact with him through the label and as it turns out, we did. We ended up writing that whole section just for him to solo in. The track ID's and the song titles are fairly a little bit misleading in my opinion. I cut up the album into seven individual tracks and to me there are seven tracks on the album. Neal just sort of threw darts at it and put the track ID's on there, but that's cool. So, those are a couple places where we added a lot. At the very end, you know, where it sort of picks up the theme from the first track, that whole anthem theme that takes you out to the end of the song, we kind of added that on, because that was a theme we hadn't really brought back and we needed an ending. And then the piano at the very end, that last piano chord was another one of my ideas. I was like, we build all the way up to this point and then just come down on the piano, just like the ending of "A Day In The Life" [Beatles]. That was kind of the idea that I was hearing.

MSJ: You mentioned some of the guests, but what part is Jordan Rudess playing on?
Jordan Rudess trades off solos with Al Morse in a song called "Burning in the Fire." Jordan tends to use a lead synth tone and it sounds a lot like a guitar. I mean, he's really good at using keyboard patches that sound a lot like a lead guitar. It's really wild. So, it like blends really well and it makes a perfect contrast with Al cause they just both have real similar kinds of riffs that they play, but that's the only thing that Jordan did was just the solo in that section.
MSJ: We could probably spend the whole time talking about this album, so I want to change gears a little bit. You also came out with another excellent album with Ajalon, which is On the Threshold of Eternity. What does that title mean exactly?
Well, it's a fairly basic title in that, a Threshold is a doorway you are about to cross into and also it leads to the question of mortality. We're mortals and we live in a mortal world, but our souls are eternal and our souls pass into eternity. And it begs the question, how are we going to spend eternity. Everybody has their own beliefs as to how they are going to spend eternity or what happens when you die. It's a question that man's been asking for ages and ages. Of course, even the bible provides very clear-cut answers for that. They make perfect sense and there's really no holes in that in terms of being a faith, or a substantial belief system and it makes sense. It makes perfect sense, because unlike other faiths, Christianity is one faith that says we can't do it ourselves. Everything else is you can do it yourself. This is the one faith that says, you can't. There's nothing in ourselves that can change us, that can bring us into eternity and change the nature of what we are now. Basically, the whole premise of the thing is just to sort of say, a lot of people believe that there is not a lot of time left in this Earth time, that there is coming a day when all that will matter is your faith and what you were willing to believe.
MSJ: Okay, it's obvious that "The Highway" is a metaphor, but what is it that you're actually speaking of in that particular track?
"The Highway" is that place where we're torn between the world we know and the world that is available to us, because often times we tend to feel lost and alone. Everybody basically has a need to be loved. Whether they admit it or not, the truth is everybody has a need to be loved and the song basically talks about that. I don't want to be separated and alone, especially for all eternity. I want to be where I'm in the presence of God's love for all eternity, not separated from it. It's just the ultimate choice that all mortals face in the end before they die or maybe even after, I don't know, but ultimately that is the ultimate choice. It's just that a lot of times I think that people feel alone and they're afraid to move forward in that direction, because there's a lot of things in life that perhaps affect people making a decision like that, because they're afraid what other people might think. Most of the time I think people are just afraid of losing something. Often times they are afraid of losing themselves and sometimes that could be real misleading too cause it isn't all about losing yourself, but losing a part of yourself that if you could look back and see it, you probably wouldn't want it anyway. I think the song is about that decision of sort of being at the crossroads where you can make a choice and go a different way, but you don't want to choose the wrong highway, because you don't want to stuck by yourself on a lonely road where you don't have any hope of rescue. You want to take the road that's going to lead you where you want to go. I think that's what the song pretty much talks about. The song was written entirely by Wil Henderson so he's probably got some other insight toward it. But I'm sure to some degree that's what he intended as far as the meaning of the song.
MSJ: Speaking of tracks, you talked about "12" earlier. What does that number represent?
I think it's representative of a lot of different things that come in groups of 12 that all seem to have some sort of cosmic significance whether it's the 12 months of the year, the 12 signs of the Zodiac, which correlates to the 12 months of the year. There have been some who have tried to say that it correlates to the 12 tribes of Israel and it might to some degree for all we know. It's not real clear-cut in the bible as far as that particular concept goes, but still. There were 12 apostles, you know, there's just so many things that come in groups of 12, there must be some significance to it. Neal is basically asking the question and not really trying to establish any great revelation about it. I think he is just saying all of these things have this number 12 in common, so I'm asking, what do you think about it? So he's actually asking the question, do you think this is an accident or do you think there is some grand significance to this.
MSJ: I hate to keep flip-flopping, but it's very rare for an artist to be involved in two great projects like this at once, but I'm also wondering, how did you come up with the name Ajalon for your group?
That's an interesting question. I had basically written this song that I had called "Moon Over Ajalon" and it was essentially an instrumental piece in a jazzy sort of progressive instrumental style. When I hooked up with Wil and we started working together doing different things, we were talking about doing a new project basically, and he was just looking at it one day, over my shoulder or something and said "how about Ajalon, I think that would be a great name for a band" and I had to think about it for awhile cause I wasn't sure. I thought, yeah, it sounds cool, but it is really obscure. I don't know, it just at the time didn't jump off the page at me as being, wow, this is a really cool name for a band, but it had that progressive quality to it, you know. The coolest thing about Ajalon is that over the years it's turned out that it's meaning is really deep. There's no really easy way to explain it, but it's easiest for me to tell people that it means "Grace in the Midst of the Fire" after an hour of bible study to explain how I arrived at that. Its Hebrew translation is Place of the Deer. It was also the name of a valley and a city in Israel. You can find it in Book of Joshua 10:12 then it sort of paraphrases into grace in the midst of the fire, because you have a whole lot of tribulations surrounding this one event where people were being protected from the wrath of God and it was just sort of a sublime connotation. But yeah, we stuck with it and I think that really describes what we wanted it to.
MSJ: Have all the projects you've been involved in been spiritual and religious and is that kind of your intention going forward as well?
From a lyrical standpoint and the concept of talking about it, yeah, because, you know, I've been a Christian most of my life. It's funny, when I was a teenager, maybe 14, 15, and I used to listen to Yes and I used to listen to Kansas and it's funny, if somebody is saying about something or said something that hit close to home to my faith, some of my spirit leapt, just sort of leapt, you know, it's like, wow, you know, I thought that was cool. How cool would it be to do this kind of music and have it be entirely about God. Before Ajalon, I had done other projects, but they were not so overtly Christian-oriented in terms of the lyrics. They were fairly positive. I always felt that music and words should be positive reinforcements. I guess I've never really had any reason to write any lyrics that are negative or that really reflect a lot of pain and anguish.
There's people who I think that resonates with. It's just not me personally. It's just not my thing. I tend to put more positive uplifting type of lyrics in it. Kansas had done it quite a bit. Most of Yes' lyrics were always pretty positive. Genesis was a little twisted sometimes lyrically, but it worked within the context of their storytelling. Rush was always fairly challenging in their lyrics, most of the time positive, but sometimes, it was always literary. Rush was very literary in their lyrics. Neil Peart's an avid reader and 90% of everything he wrote came out of a book that he read. So, I guess you kind of find something that resonates with you personally and that's what you can write about and that's what you feel comfortable doing. I think the next Ajalon album will probably be a little less prostheletic in terms of the general messages of God can heal if you only surrender or I was so terrible and had some much trouble and I struggled then this is what God did for me… and you can kind of get into a vicious circle with that sort of writing. Pretty soon. It all just sounds the same. You're just saying the same thing over and over and over. So I'm kind of to a point where I would like to explore deeper storylines and get into a little bit more where people live. Sometimes, it is painful. Sometimes, it does evoke emotions that make people feel a little uncomfortable, but yet again, you can be as positive as you want. The fact that you're singing about God is enough to make most people feel uncomfortable if they're not Christians. So, I don't know, I think you have to just write what you know and you have to write what you feel, but I think that you'll find that the next Ajalon album will be quite different lyrically than the first two. I'm really hoping that Neal will do that too. I think Testimony and One were very much stories about, you know, one being a very personable story, the other being a very broad perspective of man's journey through life. One is very much about the temple of Moses, which is an Old Testament story. So it has a very specific storyline going through it and it focuses on a very specific thing and that's very cool. There's really a lot of depth to that whole subject. Day for Night is one of my favorite Spock's Beard albums and the lyrics, Neal has told me, actually as in most of the Spock's Beard's stuff, is not about anything or anybody in particular, but he does say things in it that he had a way of sort of speaking things that really did resonate with people. So, personally I'd like to see a return to more of that style of writing from Neal too in the next album, more of that lyrical style, something. I don't mind it being spiritually oriented, but I think you can speak to people on a level that hits them where they live. That's always been my method anyway. If people ask me about Christianity or ask me why I'm a Christian or do I really believe in God, I try to bring it home to where they live, because that's what I would relate to before I was a Christian. I would be able to relate to people who could talk to me where I was.

MSJ: I have to agree with a lot of what you have to say. It's a perfect answer and these two albums, lyrically, they're just very strong as well… I also want to talk about some of your musical influences. There are some similarities in the way that you play the bass to Dave Meros. That's kind of what I hear and there is some overlap between how you and Neal write music, because I was listening to Ajalon's music and there seemed to be a lot of similarities in your songwriting. So, I'm just kind of wondering, what are your musical influences?
Well, my musical building blocks would have to be Beatles, Yes, Moody Blues, Paul McCartney, Kansas, eventually Genesis and Rush and Brand X, Bill Bruford Band, Steve Hackett doing his solo stuff. Those have been a real big influence, but Yes is probably one of my very biggest influences and still is, I mean, it's my A, B, C's of music and funny enough, you will tend to write and put out what you built your musical vocabulary with. I built my musical vocabulary in the seventies with those bands, but it's been tempered and shaped throughout the decades by other styles. Like perhaps towards the end of the eighties, the early nineties, I got real into the new age sound on Windam Hill, Michael Manring, Michael Gettel, Michael Hedges, Rip, the Rippingtons, Wind Machine, and a lot of those bands, fairly contemporary stuff, but some of them were really innovative like Wind Machine, I really got into that. I saw how people tended to use instruments in different ways. Michael Manring, using the fretless bass, the way he did and then layering in an oboe or soprano sax in a way that just gave it a texture, really open, airy, wooden texture and that really inspired me a lot. It inspired me enough to an album called In the Light of the King's Countenance, which is acoustic guitars and woodwinds and strings and I basically did these open tunings and the acoustic guitar compositions and then I brought in woodwinds and strings to cover the melodies. I wrote out all the melodies and just hired members from the piano symphony and Pacific Northwest Ballet and they came in and just read all my parts off a sheet of music and just made it happen. Incredible stuff, these players are just amazing. I think one perfect example relates to the latter nineties was rediscovering progressive music like The Flower Kings was probably one of my first and then Transatlantic and Spock's Beard and I discovered all of these guys and I was like, oh, wow, I really love this stuff. They're just doing the style of music that I really love, but it still very much reflects that sort of Beatles-theory prog music. It's got a lot of Beatles influence and you can hear it and that's sort of my roots as well.
MSJ: Speaking of roots, going back to the beginning, when did your involvement in music begin?
Oh wow. I started taking piano lessons when I was six. I was 12 years old when I got my first bass and I immediately starting learning McCartney stuff and Moody Blues stuff and ultimately eventually I started learning Yes stuff and then I sort of picked up guitar along the way as well. I was never serious about playing guitar until probably 1989 and then I finally went out and bought myself an electric guitar and I started playing and then I started taking lessons here and there. I find that anytime you really want to grow as a player and you want to really get better at what you do, find a good teacher and take lessons. That's the best advice I can give anybody.
MSJ: Talking to you, it's obvious you're a multi-instrumentalist, but what you consider yourself primarily a bass player?
Yeah.
MSJ: When did you decide that the bass would be your primary instrument?
I was at a shop that had all these Fender basses and I just thought it was so cool cause they had big giant tuning keys and there were only four strings and they were big. So, I don't know, that was it. I never really said gosh, I want to be a bass player. I kind of wanted to play the guitar for a while. I don't know, I wound up a bass player. It was just weird. I didn't know what I was getting into I guess. You just do things. When you're a kid, you just do things. You don't think about why you do them, you just do them and so you just go with it, but I spent a lot of years as a bass player in bands long before I was actually ever playing keyboards or guitar in a band. So, I've got a lot of live experience as a bass player that I think translates into a better command of the instrument and I am just more in a comfort zone on the instrument. There's a lot of instruments I wished I played. Being a drummer or a good singer are the things I wish I could do. It's funny that bass players, keyboard players, guitar players are a dime a dozen. It's drummers and singers that are in demand from my perspective.
MSJ: Can you recall any Spinal Tap moments in your career?
Spinal Tap moments? {chuckles} Spinal Tap moments, wow. Oh gosh, I can't really think of anything that jumps out. I suppose there have been. I can't really think of any right now.

MSJ: Maybe you've just been lucky.
Anytime I would open my mouth on stage was a Spinal Tap moment if you ask me. I wasn't as good of a public speaker as Wil was, but yeah I've been pretty lucky that way I guess. Neal's had a couple.
MSJ: He's got one of them on that DVD as well.
Yeah, that was pretty funny. He had fallen and he couldn't get up. So, he wrote a song about it.
MSJ: How did you and Neal actually meet?
Well, in Summer of 2003, I was getting ready to produce a CD called CPR Volume 1. I don't know if you heard about that one.
MSJ: I think I have actually.
Yeah, and it's a double CD. We got a bunch of Christian artists together who did Progressive Rock music to create a compilation to just sort of say, look we're here, this is who we are, and that was really the result of a brainstorming of a number of different Christian Progressive Rock artists who congregated on a Yahoo! Group. So, we started talking about it and somebody basically decided, hey, you know, let's talk about how we can advance each other's music and the whole Christian Progressive Rock thing in general and so the CD ended up being sort of the first big project that we undertook. I ended up being the producer on it. So, we were doing this CD and we thought, well, of all the artist's that we wanted to get together, we asked Kerry Livgren and he said he wanted to do it, he was interested, and we knew we wanted to get Neal Morse cause he was sort of fresh in his solo career. Ajalon had been searching for a singer to do a little part in On The Threshold of Eternity. A number of other people I asked and they declined very politely. Like Fish, he sent me a very nice email, but declined to do it. So it just sort of came down to why don't we get Neal Morse to do it, and the more I thought about it, the more it made a lot of sense. So, I thought okay, I have two reasons why I need to get in contact with him and I had exchanged a couple emails with him, but he's not good at answering emails, so I thought "I think I have to call him." Somebody gave me his number and I and I called him. He was interested in doing the part for Ajalon. He wanted to hear it and said "send me your stuff so I can hear it." The conversation gravitated to, hey, you just got your album done and you're going to be touring, what are you doing for a touring band? And he was kind of, oh, I don't really know. I'm just kind of praying about that. I don't really have many decisions on that, why, what do you do? Well, I do everything pretty much, but I can pretty much do whatever you need. He wasn't being real specific at first, it sort of ended up with "just send me your music, let me see what it sounds like." I said, okay, great. He said let me send you a copy of my album too. So we just basically exchanged material and I got back in touch with him and said, oh man, I really love this. I think this is great and I'd really love to a part of it. He says, yeah, well, you know, the thing I really need is a bass player. I don't really have a bass player yet. So, after several subsequent conversations I think he was convinced and he felt to do it and I was willing to go to Nashville, so I could do it and so it all just sort of worked.

MSJ: How did you meet the band members for Ajalon?
Well, I met Wil Henderson back in 1993. I had a band with a singer and one day she said, well, I got in contact with this guy that answered an ad of mine some months back. I talked to him before and I got back in contact with him and anyway, he wants to come to rehearsal. He's a bass player. I thought, oh, perfect, I really want a bass player {he says this sarcastically} to come, you know, I didn't really want to deal with it. So, she dragged him into rehearsal one day and he shows up and walks in. It's like, okay, I'll give it a try and he seemed to really dig what we were doing and he seemed to work out. He started playing bass and he can sing too and, I don't know, it's kind of odd. We did this thing for a few months and did a bunch of gigs and he learned all our songs. We even wrote more songs. Then, we discovered that he had songs that he had written and then he just picked up a guitar and did his songs. Then he said, I'd really like to record some of my stuff and I said, okay, well, I'll help you and we recorded a couple of his songs. The first thing we recorded was Girl on a Swing, which was a song that's on the first Ajalon album and the more I listened to what we had recorded and it's like all of a sudden I heard it, I was like, wow, this guy's really got some great ideas. You just sort of discover somebody's true talent and his real gift was not really in what we were doing, but he had all these other ideas. So, we moved in together and started writing songs, which ended up being the first Ajalon album. We just wrote songs to go and play. At that point, we hadn't planned on doing an album, but it's just the two of us and we actually kept playing use the method with sequenced drums and keyboards and he'd play bass and I'd play guitar. We did a hodgepodge of his stuff and a hodgepodge of my stuff and we started writing more and more songs for Ajalon. About six months later, a very old friend of mine, who I have known since about 1982 came up. I played in a number of bands with Dan Lile. He loved Seattle and I think he really wanted to get out of Denver and get away from what was going on down there with his life and basically, wanted to start all over somewhere else fresh. Six months later, he packed everything he had into a trailer and dragged it up here and moved in with us. We gave him a room. We rented a rehearsal studio and started working on the songs. We already had a wealth of songs. So, he just basically plugged right in and that's how Ajalon started. This rehearsal studio we were rehearsing in, one of the guys that ran it, he kept hearing us rehearse over and over. The more we did it, he got sort of like, wow, there's something different about these guys and we're putting in a 24 track recording studio in here. We're going to need to have something to show for what we do, so let's just get in here and start recording. So, we put the studio in and we basically went in and recorded the album and mixed it all there and that's what became Light at the End of the Tunnel. We later sent Rick Wakeman a copy on cassette, and that was a whole 'nother story, but he released it on his label and that sort of gave the band credibility and a much broader audience.
MSJ: What's the last CD that you actually purchased?
Well, I don't buy CD's anymore. I have an internet radio station. So, people send them to my by the drove. Record labels give me free copies. So, the last CD I bought was a Jump Five CD for my daughter. Quite honestly, I do get to listen to a lot of different stuff, a lot of different music and there are a few bands that have really jumped out at me. So, a lot of the prog stuff that I've listened to lately has been pretty cool like some of the newer bands that have come out on InsideOut and some of the new bands that are on ProgRock Records. Man on Fire, I think Man on Fire is pretty cool and I like Brother Ape and another band called Seven for Four. It's a fusion band. Man these guys are amazing, another one called Sphere Three or another one called Bad Dog U. You listen to these bands and they're just amazing and they're just heavy, intense fusion stuff, and they've got these funny names and like you've never heard of them. It's like, well, who are these people and where do they come from? I would say if there's been one album that's really caught my fancy, that I've really enjoyed over the last, say, over the last year, Jordan Rudess' Rhythm of Time is now I think in my top, probably the top five albums of the last couple years.

I like, oh gosh, what else do I listen to? Simon Apple is band that I've really grown to like a lot. They're a Philadelphia-based band, kind of a cross between Steely Dan and Pat Metheny. {good comparisons} Ten Point Ten with 12:25, just an amazing CD.

New stuff, boy, the new Salem Hill Mimi's Magic Moment I think it's real cool. It's one of the best things they've done. It seems like I spend a lot of time going back and getting albums that I lost track of for years too. I just got the Steve Howe album from like '78, '79, something like that, you know, I used to have them on vinyl. I like Metamorpheus, that's Steve Hackett's latest CD with the Underworld Orchestra or something like that. It's very cool stuff. Who else had a new CD out recently? I'm blanking, because I go through so much of it. Well, I mean, you have no idea. You just never have any idea how much stuff. There's a new Pendragon, new Echolyn.

MSJ: Back to back, Frogg Café and Little Atlas came out with some albums that were far superior to he ones they did before. Are you familiar with those bands?
Little Atlas is a band on ProgRock Records too and I really like them a lot. I like Little Atlas a lot. I was just listening to some earlier today. I'll listen to just about anything and get something out of it. I typically stay within the fairly progressive range of styles, you know, InsideOut Records, Prog Rock Records, that kind of stuff.
MSJ: Have you gotten a chance to hear Tomas Bodin's I A M or The Tangent's latest or Karmakanic's latest?
Karmakanic's is kind of cool. Tomas Bodin's, it's an interesting album, some stuff sticks with me more than other stuff sticks with me. Not that there is anything wrong with any of it. I just have a real particular taste and while there's this great deal of other stuff that is very good in its own right, I just have my favorites.
MSJ: What's the last concert that you attended as a fan?
Wow, let's see, that I'm a particular fan, quite honestly, the last big concert I attended as a fan was Yes and Dream Theater at Red Rocks and then I saw them the next night up at Loveland and of course between Mike and Wakeman I had tickets and passes galore. So, I took a huge group of people each night, so it was a lot of fun. I had sort of, this would be fun, you know, to bring all my old friends from Denver to go see all these guys and then to meet them and stuff. We had a great time. So, probably Yes and Dream Theater last September, but you know what's funny is Wil drug me to go see Al Stewart a few weeks ago. Al was pretty much just doing an acoustic duo with another guy and just doing his stuff, unplugged and acoustic, just a couple acoustic guitars and so that's probably truly the last concert that I attended as a fan. Well, last week, I played live with Salem Hill in Nashville, but they were opening for Glass Hammer. After that was done, I basically walked around and sat down and watched the entire Glass Hammer show, because they did a really killer job. They had a 150-piece choir come in. Did a few tunes with the choir and then that was a really spectacular thing. It's a very nice production, very well-done. So, even though I was playing in the warm-up band for that show I actually sat and watched the Glass Hammer portion of the show as a fan and I very much enjoyed it. I saw Steve Hackett a few weeks ago. Steve Hackett was here with his trio. That was extraordinary cause afterwards, it was like hey Steve, how's it going, you know, I introduced myself and said I play bass for Neal Morse and he's like, wow, that's cool, I had such a wonderful time doing that and then he goes, just spills all this stuff, like oh, I just had such a wonderful time doing that and so on and I never get to do that, I need to write more stuff like that myself. I never get to just blow solos for that long and he went on about how much he really liked it. Anyway, it's really refreshing to be able to meet him and then to find out he had so much fun and really enjoyed doing that so much. It's good to make that connection and let him know how pleased we were with it. It's just very cool.
MSJ: What would you say is your favorite album?
Oh, my favorite album, wow, I would have to say, I can't just say there's one favorite album, but I could probably name five albums that are probably in my top favorite, uh, probably being Yes Going for the One is probably one for sure, uh, one likely Transatlantic's SMPTe, people might kick me for that. That's my favorite Transatlantic. Day for Night by Spock's Beard. Trick of the Tail Genesis. Spectral Mornings by Steve Hackett.
MSJ: What would you say is your favorite band?
You know, I guess I honestly have to default to Yes, because over the years, that's another answer that I'd go on and on about. You don't even know this, but I'm actually in a Yes tribute band right now too. That's another thing that I do and so it's been a real experience to go back and revisit all that music and to be in a band that actually plays it and spends so much time really capturing the essence of it and the scary thing about it is it's so natural for me. It's like "gosh, this is where I belong." Yes has been the biggest musical influence and the biggest part of my life. They're probably without a doubt my favorite band.

MSJ: What would you say is your favorite movie?
Well, let me take a quick look at my DVD's. My favorite movie, wow?
Gosh, that's probably a lot harder to narrow down a favorite movie, because I have different movies over different periods of my life that have been favorites. You know, probably one of my favorite movies and this is really silly, it's probably That Thing You Do. I don't know why, but that's one of my very favorites.

MSJ: What would you say is your favorite TV show?
Oh my gosh, wow, well, that's a toss up right now. There's probably three that I would have to say are my all-time favorites and they're probably in this order. I'd probably have to say my very favorite TV show is the original Star Trek, the original series, and then Hogan's Heroes and Outer Limits. The original Outer Limits. It's just when I was a kid. I grew up with those. Every Friday night they would come on. When you're a kid man, there's no escaping that.
MSJ: What would you say is your favorite book?
Oh for fiction, Lord of the Rings without a doubt.
MSJ: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Denver Broncos. There's no two ways about it. I grew up in a Bronco family and a Broncos household there's no escaping that.
MSJ: Do you have any pets?
At the moment, I don't have any pets. The last pet I had was '93, '94, '95 for a few years I had a cat named "Itchy." When my daughter was born, I don't know, we kind of felt like it was too messy, once you have a kid crawling around the floor, you know, it kind of gets dirty and kitty litter and all that kind of stuff, it's time to get rid of the cat. I gave the cat to Dan Lile who's the drummer in Ajalon and the cat lived with him for quite a while. He moved to Texas for a few years and he took it with him and then they left it there. When they moved back here they left him there with some crazy lady. So, hopefully she didn't do something really twisted to him, but I don't know. I'm not really a cat lover though. I hate cats really. I'm much more of a dog lover, but I haven't really had a dog as a pet since I was just out of High School really. It's just easier to go and enjoy other people's pets.
MSJ: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans at this time?
Well, you know, I have a solo album coming out. It's my second solo album that will be coming out next year, a lot of good guests. Ajalon has a forum on the website, you know, and each of the band members has their own category in that forum too and then you can read more about the projects there and I have a radio station called The Radiant Flow, which is at www.radiantflow.com. Great programming! Live shows every night of the week and I'm involved in a number of other projects that are going to be coming out. I'm just always striving to achieve something better and I'm always listening. I listen to what people say. I listen to that and I'm very privileged. I feel very privileged and lucky that people enjoy what I'm doing and that I'm able to work with the people I'm able to work with, the people that I've been able to work with, because no matter how good people think I am or no matter how good I might think I am, I know better. I know that there's thousands more out there that are far better than I am at everything that I do and it's humbling.

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