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Progressive Rock Interviews

Anton Roolaart

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Anton Roolaart 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

It's always interesting to see what artists think about their music. How would you describe it?
I try to write enjoyable melodies while making an effort to being creative musically. I like to sing and therefore the music has to be enjoyable to sing. I do have instrumentals, usually for guitar but I focus more on songs where I can sing. I also like to explore new approaches to sounds or structure and hope to be unique musically in this respect. Usually the final arrangement and recording is less a calculated approach and comes out more like a natural thing for me. When I listen to the album Dreamer after a while of not listening to it, I say to myself “Yeah, that’s a cool start." I am pleased with the album but it’s a journey for me and there are some things that I am still learning of course. There are also other types of music I want to do but mostly progressive rock. One thing for sure, I have never been more immersed into music than I am now.
I also like to perform out in smaller venues (or larger ones) acoustically. I’ve been doing that for a long time now. I have a slew of songs that are more singer/songwriter type that I also keep up with and perform. Of course, I also do acoustic versions of the bigger symphonic rock songs and I’ve been told that they come across obviously different but also very enjoyable. So, I think they stand well on their own acoustically.
MSJ: You've been working on your music for a long time. Can you give folks a rundown of your musical history?
I am originally from Holland and after living in Long Island and Connecticut for a short time we moved to Charlotte, N.C.. My father listened to classical music quite a bit while I was growing up. He had an elaborate custom made stereo system. Then when I was 13 my mother bought me a Yamaha classical guitar and I took classical guitar lessons down the street from an classical guitar teacher. My parents did not really push me with music. My parents split up and my father moved back to Europe when I was a 12 or so. My mother then let me choose what I liked and gave me freedom and support as I needed it. After a couple of years on classical guitar I got another folk guitar and eventually started learning songs from The Beatles, Cat Stevens, CSNY, Neil Young, and Bowie. I also started experimenting with my own songs but I couldn’t sing very well at that time. I didn't get an electric guitar until later on. I remember my older brother played electric guitar in a rock band with a guy named Aurther Bell (pretty good guitarist). I thought that was cool.

Then, in eighth or ninth grade a friend of mine and I skipped school. We went to his house and he put on Close to the Edge and other Yes and Genesis music. Until then I only knew Yes’ "Roundabout." Well, it opened up my eyes and I was hooked ever since. That was my introduction to progressive rock. Well not entirely, a few years earlier, my brother, who is a really good artist, was studying the artwork of Roger Dean. He actually painted album covers on his bedroom walls from floor to ceiling. One wall had the album cover of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, the other wall had Tarkus (ELP), the other Roger Dean's Demon’s and Wizards (from the band Uriah Heep) and the remaining wall had Santana Abraxas. The best part was that he eventually moved out and I got to have his bedroom. I spent several years sleeping in that room that way. All my friends were jealous and wanted me to paint their walls like that but I wasn’t that good at painting. A thought just occurred to me, maybe that influenced me more than I had previously recognized. Well.. I guess the paintings happened before I got into the music.

Ok, very soon after that I started writing songs and started singing. I was also starting to get into the technical aspects of music production like recording and mixing. I liked messing around with those things (it’s the engineer in me). I didn't get into a band until later on but did start to play often with friends ... hanging out and playing music... you know.. playing guitar with other friends at parties. Someone would bang on something... singing. It was really great.
MSJ: You also produced your CD. Tell us about your training and experience in sound engineering and the like.
After high school I was going to a community college for electronics in Charlotte, N.C. they also offered a Recording Techniques program with a small 8 track studio on campus. Well, I signed up immediately and spent 1 year in that program, finishing it with my own recording project. I even thought about becoming a sound engineer and worked for a small period in a studio as an apprentice. But inevitably, that wasn’t going to be my career then (at the time anyway). Instead, I went travelling in Europe and lived there for about a year (I spent time in Spain and Holland). When I came back (reluctantly at the time) I studied Engineering at the University, graduated and then moved to New Jersey. I didn’t like the south that much. Actually, I wanted to move back to Europe but I ended up near New York which is also cool. Anyway, MIDI came along and I thought that was really neat. I immediately got a keyboard and midi software and that’s how my own studio got started. While I am mostly a guitarist (instrument-wise I guess), I’ve been writing and playing around with keyboards since then (the '80’s).
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music, what do you think you'd be doing?
Something creative I would imagine. I think very visually, even when writing songs and feeling the moods. Most of my songs hold a scene in my head. That's why I like the Dreamer cover so much. Michael Phipps (artist that painted the cover of Dreamer) is amazing and in some ways we think alike. Anyway, many people in my family are creative, my sister, and my father is a painter (still paints at his age of 82). I also like interacting with people a lot. So I think that maybe I would have liked to work in independent or low budget film. I worked for a year in a film studio in Charlotte, N.C. as a helper. I was doing the technical part of editing and mixing background music into films as per the direction of the director. I liked working with those kind of people in the film business.
MSJ: You've got some interesting guests on the disc. Can you tell us about them?
Yes, i got to know a guy named Eddie Stremler (another prog head) who met me in a café in Red Bank while I was performing a version of "Carpet Crawlers." He walked up to me and said, "Cool, I like Genesis." We became friends. Eddie had previously had a couple of encounters with Rich Berends (who played on Eddie’s CD) and Rave Tesar. he put me in touch with them. Rich Berends is a very good drummer and plays drums in Mastermind with his brother Bill who writes the songs and plays guitar. They have several albums out and are known in the prog community. Then there's Rave Tesar. Rave is a pianist and keyboard player. He's also a producer and has produced and worked with many known artists in the industry, including Tony Visconti, Larry fast, and he worked with Annie Haslam for 15 years or so. He also played with Renaissance on their last couple of tours and records. I thought that was very interesting. Needless to say, I made a decision early on that I wanted to work with people like that. Rave’s very talented and great to work with. Rave plays jazz these days and has just released a Jazz CD that he wrote called You Decide, which is getting good reviews. Rave also put me in touch with Charles Descarfino because I wanted to try another drummer as well. Charles does professional percussion work on Broadway and has performed with many other artists as well.
MSJ: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?
You mean wishful thinking ... Let's see... well, I just want to create some great music and work with like minded people that are talented. I may be doing some gigs with Ron Howden (Nektar) on drums but that remains to be seen. I would probably like to play on stage with Jon Anderson singing. Yeah, that would be cool. But right now I’m currently putting a band together and Vinnie, who plays on the CD, will be playing bass and a good player - Kendal Scott will be playing keyboards. We’re still looking for a drummer in the area that can do a gig here and there. So, I want to concentrate on playing with these guys and find a good drummer to work with.
MSJ: Who do you see as your musical influences?
Steve Howe, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Bowie, Beatles, and maybe even Cat Stevens. There's probably several more I should mention. I am still getting influenced by so many bands I'm discovering through my radio station - ProgRockRadio.com. I guess I'm fortunate in that sense.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms oflower sales. Would you agree?
I don't agree with that statement from the labels. I do think that the natural tendency is for people to do whatever they can that technology allows. I'm not certain if those changes are good for the artists. I do think that there will be a lesser need for labels to be involved.
MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
I think trading may be OK. But selling them is not OK. I am a little concerned about artists losing money from others selling their product illegally. But I don’t think downloads are the primary culprit.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Like I said, I’m putting a band together. I hope to play with some interesting artists and venues; and, of course, eventually play at some prog festivals in the future. I actually love gigging, traveling and meeting new people along the way. I need to get out there, promote the CD so I’m focusing on that, whether it’s alone acoustically or with the band. I should say that I have a lot of material for CD #2 whenever I start that. I hope to start on that late fall or winter.
MSJ: How has the CD been received so far?
The reviews are very good and I'm very pleased thus far. It’s still not readily available in Europe but that will change soon. So I can’t wait to see the response from there as well. But I also think it’s a little early (it’s only been out a month). But all in all the response is very positive. I’m elated and driven even more now. I'm also happy to know that from what I've heard people that aren't prog heads at all are getting into it. I think that's a plus and probably means it's somewhat accessible music and at the same moment getting recognition from prog heads is very gratifying to me.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and what have you been listening to lately?
In all honesty the last CD I bought is from a young woman that performed in a cafe in Asbury Park. I bought the CD from her directly at the gig. Her name is Meika Pauley and she's got a really special and unique voice. Her expression while singing was real and strong. It caught my attention and I bought her CD. She's from the Boston area I think - a wonderful singer/songwriter.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Porcupine Tree at the Nokia.
MSJ: You run an internet progressive rock radio station. What can you tell us about the rewards and challenges of that and how you got started doing it?
The biggest reward is the emails with praise for the great music on the station. I am secondly grateful to find out about new or old artists that I never knew before. The third reward for all is that listeners are grateful to learn about prog bands that they would never have heard about. And yes, they do buy their CD's often because of this. The challenges for me are that I don't have as much time to make it become what I really want it to be. I mean, it's not bad or anything but I would like to do some interesting programming and shows, etc., but time is a little resource I don't have.
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?
I started progrockradio.com to spread good and creative music the big labels ignore. That about says it.
 
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