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Progressive Rock Interviews

Rick Plester

Interviewed by Larry Toering

Interview with Rick Plester from 2010

MSJ:

When did your desire to be a recording artist take over, driving you eventually to choose that over a career in pro hockey?

I grew up dreaming of being a rock star, so it was on my mind by the age of 16-17 and I was playing junior hockey. Guitar helped my concentration as a goalie. I practiced both a lot. But it wasn't until I had three major knee injuries. It wasn't my choice. I was about 23 or 24 and decided to give music a shot, seeing as the injuries had taken over. It was around that time that I started taking music more seriously and decided to pursue a career at it. But I got a lucky break and got back into hockey and moved to L.A. and finished my career in the West Coast Hockey League. Then I got a deal for my band Black Symphony in 97-98-99 so that's where the music career really started and I left hockey behind.
MSJ: How did you and Pete Holmes hook up originally and what was the overall concept of Black Symphony all about, recording and touring-wise from start to finish?
I left Calgary after Rhet Forrester, (Riot) who I had been working with earlier had passed away. I wrote some songs and got the band going, toured, opening for Dio, etc. I had a drummer named “Jeff Martin,” but we parted ways. I wanted a double kick drummer with an Ian Paice, sort of Ginger Baker feel. I checked several people out and all of a sudden got a call from Pete somehow. I knew who he was at that point so we got together and before the session was even over I knew he was the guy I was looking for. We clicked and became best friends and the rest is history. We have very good chemistry, and he is always on my mind. I asked him to re-cut almost the whole album Tears Of Blood which is the first of three albums, and he was on all of them. We did some more touring and problems started to arise at the label.
MSJ:

So once Black Symphony was all over, where did things go from there?

By the time we did the fourth album and the third singer, who was great, the industry changed so much over just those few years and it was much harder to get distribution and things began to crumble. So being disgruntled at the record company, I spent the next 6 months away just reading and learning about technology. So I got into the production side of things. So I was able to get involved with mastering, mixing and producing other bands, such as MSG. My old drummer brought Michael Schenker into the mix and that's how all of that happened, I worked with a number of artists on the production side and almost put BS back together. But it didn't happen and so I started setting my sights on solo work.
MSJ: What was your next musical step after BS? Can you also fill us in on where your health took a bad turn and how you got through all of that?
I had been working with James Kottack a lot, producing him. And through his wife I met Mandy Lion and got hooked up with WWIII and Pete came back into the mix.

At this point I was exhausted and collapsed. In just a couple of weeks my health went completely downhill. For a month and a half I had all kinds of weird symptoms and it was very stressful and even my marriage came to an end. It was a mystery as to what was wrong with me. The next year was quite blurry and I thought I was unaware of it but those around me could tell. It turned out my house had mold and I became a victim of it. So then I finally found this doctor who saved my life and diagnosed me with Toxic Mold Disease. The builder took some shortcuts that nearly killed me, and it turned out I had to leave the house and went to Canada after staying in a tent in my backyard for a bit. It was while I was staying in a tent that I got in touch with Pete and the seeds for a solo album were sown. While in a year long recovery process I ensued and rebuilt myself after being told I would never fully recover. I worked on this record in my downtime which eventually led to a three year process altogether. Somehow I still own that house.

MSJ:

Categories are tough, always... tough to use, tough to define and generally tough to get out of and still be recognized as an artist. I feel the “prog” label is a fitting one for you myself. Would you agree or do you leave it up to other people to label?

I would leave it up to such people because I don't label it myself and would rather that came from the heart of others. I've been categorized all over the map so being a listener of everything it doesn't matter to me, whatever they call it I'm fine with that.
MSJ: Now you have that solo disc finished, with Pete Holmes and bassist R.J Killinger, how did it all begin and what were some of the demands and challenges of putting it together?
It started off as an experiment, and I had an endorsement which helped drive my ambition. It involved a lot of time but a lot had been written before hand and took to pre-production which really went rather fast, considering the circumstances of being ill. There was a time when I sat down and really absorbed it, listened to Pete’s drum tracks and got a satisfactory feeling that inspired me to do even more and I wrote one of the last songs for it. Time was really my biggest obstacle. But I was broke and had to start producing again, so the album took a back burner to producing, which I was paid very well for. So time started its way back to me, and being in Canada I was able to bounce back and forth and get it completely recorded between, Los Angeles/Vancouver/Calgary/Edonton and Toronto, Canada with my remote studio.
MSJ: Can you give us a little background on R.J. and where he came into the picture?
Original bass player of BS, I saw him at a club and he really impressed me. So when it came to the solo album I thought, “who better?” He lives in Calgary and is involved in various music projects. I love what he did because of his amazing feel and choice of notes and melodies.

His level of creativity along with Pete results in a band feel, so I consider it a band in every respect because of them.

MSJ: Moving forward, you recently did some performing. Tell us who joined you, where the gigs were played and how it all went down. And did it have anything to do with presenting this record?
Nothing to do with presenting the record, but I am promoting it in the process. Living in different cities it's hard to get organized as a unit for touring. I was up in Toronto where my fiancé is, and with some help from her I got some gigs organized and we picked some cover songs and played for a week and it sold out.

It was a huge success and I had people telling me it was better than seeing the Stones or AC/DC, and these were musicians so it felt great to hear that.

This involved Stan Mizeck on bass, and Kevin Reed on vocals, and I also sang along with some guest singers. A cool jam between some top dogs, it was real cool, and we had drummer Dale Harrison. I hope to work with Stan and Pete in the future. It will be a great rhythm section. Stan is an amazing talent and they would have magical chemistry together, I just know it. So if they allow it to happen, I think it will. And I'd like to do the next disc with vocals and do all of the singing.

MSJ: Has it been difficult trying to get the CD exposed or something that comes easy, and do you see yourself taking it on the road anytime in the near future?
I'd love nothing more than to take it on the road for a good year doing three hundred dates all over the planet. Instrumental music is a very tight market, though, so it will be a tricky thing to launch. But I've had people show a lot of interest so I feel really good about it and its potential. I find it to be an easy record to revisit time and again. It has that fiery potential, so I'm doing my best to shop the CD around. So many people I worked with have left the business. So I'm even considering releasing it on my own and letting it take that step. I just have to get it there.
MSJ: How do you see the music business in general now that you've been there and done that, and seen it all in between? Is there any thing that surprises you and do you see its future getting darker or brighter at this point?
Good question. I think there is a lot up and coming kids. Being the industry has taken its losses, it can still go back to where it has been, especially with some of the leaders still doing a great job, some pushing the age of 70 and still on the road, but their time is closing in, so the next generation awaits. These are big draws, and they won't be around much longer so things will eventually hopefully go back to a better way in the near future, how many years? Could be five, but it can turn around. Label backing, sponsors, etc. all play a key part and I'm hoping it will all find its way back to reinventing itself, but it will take some years. Let's hope those years go by fast while there is still time.
MSJ:

What do you think of the changes concerning technology, how the music consumer factor has changed according to it and what do you think of digital technology and the role it plays in it all for the artists as well?

It's a double edge sword. The fact that it makes music so accesible is a great thing of convenience. The problem is there is so much of it that the artists are being hurt, but it needs to be regulated to a certain degree so that more artists can get in and out of the game and make room for as much opportunities for them as possible. I think the artists should have a choice if they want to give their music away or sell it. I don't feel like giving my music away, but I have to right now. I saw KISS recently and couldn't believe all of the video being shot independently on cell phones and camcorders. I don't feel that's doing anything positive. So it's a beautiful thing on one hand but also a potentially ugly one on the other.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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