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Progressive Rock Interviews

ScienceNV

Interviewed by Larry Toering
Interview with ScienceNV from 2013
MSJ: Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?
Jim Henriques:  MM in Composition, musical director of The Rocky Horror stage show in Miami, B-movie score credit on IMDB, solo singer-songwriter, guitarist/keyboardist in prog, goth, alt, and blues bands. Performing for more years than I can to mention!

David Graves: I’ve been writing and recording electronic music since the 1970s. In the 1990s, I decided to formally learn more about the craft, and began taking lessons at various places in San Francisco, including the Conservatory of Music. That put me in the position to see a number of different aspects of music, conventional and otherwise. I ended up working with musicians who were working in more esoteric “experimental” genres (e.g. Soundwave), theater, film, and also the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra (where I was a resident composer for two seasons). All of these different experiences influence how I write and play music with ScienceNV.

Rich Kallet: For myself, I began playing drums at age 10 but didn’t really take it seriously until I was 15 and decided I wanted to major in music for college. Predominantly trained as a classical percussionist, I also was in a number of garage bands that didn’t amount to much. After moving to California in 1981, I became completely immersed in Afro-Brazilian music and also dabbled in Afro-Haitian and West-African drumming. I only came back to playing rock with an ill-advised garage band in 2001. Fortunately, that’s where I met David.

ScienceNV embryologically formed as a course project for a composition class David was taking at City College of San Francisco in 2002. Larry Jay (who worked with David on a previous project: “The Dayglo Anglos”), myself and a bassist friend (Steve Glaze) performed a prog rock composition (“The Fates”). Afterwards, David, Larry and I came together as a recording project (“The Aesthetic Condition”) and released two CDs. When we were in the midst of recording our second CD (Angels of War), I had reconnected with Jim, who at the time had a successful rock gig down in LA (“The Emily O’Neary Band”) as well as a Goth recording project (“Blood of Roses”). Jim and I immediately began working on some recording projects, and on his trips up to SF, we’d jam with David. ScienceNV came about from this accidental admixture and the catalyst was an invitation to perform at a private outdoor music festival in the East Bay. Alas, the festival never materialized, but what did was our first CD (Really Loud Noises) which essentially was our playlist for the concert. Speaking only for myself, our rendition of Ravel’s “Bolero” and the composition “Chacooone” left me with the impression that we had serious potential as a prog rock group.

This was enhanced by the fact that none of us were particularly interested in a traditional vocal-based prog band. It’s interesting that jazz has existed as both a vocal and instrumental genre for a century without a problem, but purely instrumental rock is virtually non-existent. I think ScienceNV has demonstrated that rock can stand on its own as a purely instrumental musical form.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Jim Henriques: I’d be (am) an author of Science Fiction novels (I’d be more ambitious about marketing said novels!)

David Graves: Well, since I haven’t worked as a pharmacist for several years, I guess I’d start working more in video.  I’ve been experimenting with hi-def methods and some animation techniques, some of which have been very useful for ScienceNV music videos.

Rich Kallet: I’d probably be too involved in research and much grumpier than I normally am.

MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Jim Henriques: When we were first jamming we noted that many non-scientists like to think of themselves as scientists because they envy the cred scientists get. If this sounds a bit elitist, think of someone (like me) with no dancing skills at all passing myself off as a dancer.

David Graves: It’s been a while, so I suspect my memory is flawed. But I recall, when we were first getting together in 2004, that there were two or three stories that were shared which all described a similar (unenviable) circumstance: musicians who write pieces in a complicated way in order to appear sophisticated. Jim had an instructor when he was taking his composition coursework who showed off his calculator with a “log” key, hoping to impress Jim (Jim teaches math, physics and astronomy and apparently this was pretty intimidating). A clarinet player giving a composer workshop in SF told me about orchestral scores he was receiving that had two versions: one that was submitted to the judges for consideration of an award, and then the simplified version that was distributed to musicians to play. The only difference was in their appearance; when the music is performed, it is identical. He coined the term “science envy.”   My instructor from the SF Conservatory of Music described a similar phenomenon as “physics envy.”  As we all have had a lot of science education, and use it in our everyday professions, we thought we’d use that name — tongue firmly in cheek.

Rich Kallet: There are several versions of this story which reflect particular incidences we’ve had over the years. David and Jim will tell those. When the discussion of a band name happened, I had been reading Paul Gross and Norman Levitt’s Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, which describes the lunatic fringe of the academic left (full disclosure: I’ve been a Marxist since I was 23); so the name ScienceNV was great as far as I was concerned. Parenthetically, Gross and Levitt’s book supports Woody Allen’s assertion that intellectuals are proof that someone can be absolutely brilliant and clueless at the same time!

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Jim Henriques: Allman Brothers to Tool, King Crimson to Kate Bush, Bjork to Oingo Boingo.

David Graves: I listen to a lot of different music. The one that seems to be most persistent, over the years, is Brian Eno.

Rich Kallet: As ScienceNV, I think many of the reviewers hear what I hear which are strong influences from King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer with faint echoes of Gentle Giant and Yes. But as we cross over into fusion/jazz/ambient, it gets more than a little precarious trying to dissect (excuse me: “deconstruct”) our influences. For example, recently a very kind reviewer heard influences of Porcupine Tree in our composition “Curved Space”. That really surprised me! Of everything ScienceNV has ever recorded, that composition is uniquely our sound. . . and perhaps we should be heavily medicated for making the gesture in the first place!

As for me personally, I was most influenced as a teenager by Michael Giles, Bill Bruford, and Phil Collins. I have to admit that a character flaw in my youth was never paying enough attention to Buddy Rich. I’m so blown away by his musicality, creative use of drum rudiments and his sense of time. As we like to say in the sciences: he was an “outlier.”

As I’ve gotten older I’m just listening intently to every drummer I hear. I’ve been particularly impressed with Nick D'Virgilio (formerly of “Spock’s Beard”) and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree). And I should be beaten severely with a stick should I fail to mention Steve Smith, Rod Morgenstein (who is an old classmate from U of Miami) (and if he’s wise will deny ever knowing me) and the phenomenal Terry Bozzio!

MSJ: What are some of your favorite tracks on The Last Album Before The End Of Time, and can you describe why?
Jim Henriques: My favorite is Dave’s “Curved Space”. It is wonderfully economical and mature. Second would be “Mars” where I think we blended the truly classical with some witty quotations and asides.

Rich Kallet: I am extremely pleased with “Mars,” particularly as I probably annoyed the hell out of every other band member lobbying to tackle this classic (behaving like a five year old sometimes pays-off in dividends!). I think it worked so well because Jim had the good sense to stick very close to the original score. “The Ring Cycle” is a very close second and something that makes me very proud of our ability to work together so well on a piece that really holds together as a composition throughout a variety of moods.

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Jim Henriques: There is a radio station in SoCal called Jack FM and the motto is “Playing what we want.” That pretty much sums up our stuff. We’re not trying to sound like warmed over Crimson or Genesis, but those influences pop up in the weirdest places in the music we write.

Rich Kallet: Prog rock is the most convenient label. It works as long as people aren’t too parochial in their interpretation. Like everything else creative, music is an iterative process of discovery and modification. The lack of vocals has necessitated that we constantly explore/re-evaluate our style and sonic palette to stay fresh and interesting. But in that process we always pay attention to what we’re good at and what is too much of a stretch. I was personally excited by the Southern rock/funk flavor of “Molecular Super Modeling.” Not only was it extremely fun (Jim’s guitar solo is the most humorously brilliant guitar solo I’ve ever heard), but it opened up another avenue of expression that seems to fit us well.

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Jim Henriques: We will be skewing off in a different direction for the next project, trying some new things, none of which will be covered by Taylor Swift.

David Graves: Already working on the next album. The album we just released was recorded, mixed and mastered in hi-def 24-bit audio, and I think it sounds incredible. This is the sort of album you want to hear on a CD; there’s no argument about its superiority over an MP3. I suspect our next album we take that to another level, we’ll be shooting for another penultimate audio experience, whatever that is in 2016. Can’t wait.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Jim Henriques: Personally, I would love to play with Derek Trucks’ band.

David Graves: Funny you should ask. We’re seriously considering some vocals in the next album, so we’ll be auditioning new musicians to work with us. Nothing decided yet, but it should be interesting.

MSJ:
Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Jim Henriques: It’s helped some get established but weakened the earning power of others.

David Graves: For us, getting noticed and getting our music heard is paramount. We work pretty hard on this stuff and that’s our goal. But a career? One that pays money without teaching? Not something I personally want to pursue. All four of us tried to develop paying musical careers in the past, and that was before the advent of downloading. We’re back to the days where sales at concerts are where folks can make their career fly.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Jim Henriques: I’ve never cared one way or the other – the recordings are pretty poor.

David Graves: My only objection involves sales. It bothers me greatly when bootlegs are sold and the band receives nothing.

MSJ:

How do you feel about where the music industry is today, and do you think it's headed for better days?

Jim Henriques: I’ve always been out of touch with “the industry,” so I can’t really say. We just want people to hear our stuff, that’s all.

David Graves: It’s a good time to make great recordings. I’m not sure that makes the industry healthy or not!

MSJ:

What's the local live music scene like, in and around where you're from?

Jim Henriques: A lot of retread and tribute bands, not a lot of actual musical skill. Seems like finding the next funny noise is all there is to new rock music. I think we’re in a time like the 70s was for jazz, with the smooth jazz apocalypse looming on the horizon.

David Graves: In San Francisco you could go see two bands every night and you’d still miss a lot. That doesn’t mean you’ll like the music – that aspect about live music hasn’t ever changed. There’s a considerable variety and there are a lot of bands who shouldn’t be writing their own material.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Jim Henriques: I don’t know about my nemesis, but I’d be Dr. Manhattan – he’s great at multitasking and doesn’t spend too much money on clothes!

Rich Kallet: I’m likely too old to answer that question as I stopped reading comics back in the “Sergeant Rock” era of the 1960s. Does Cartman count?

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?
Jim Henriques: I’d have loved to have seen Band of Gypsies, The Doors, and the original Alice in Chains. 

Rich Kallet: I was thrilled with the advent of the 21st Century Schizoid Band. Jim and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them live in So Cal several years ago. But honestly, I’m very disappointed that they never produced a CD of new material. It’s difficult for me to accept that such great musicians and founding members of prog seemingly have nothing new to say to us.

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?
Jim Henriques: Kate Bush, Bjork, King Crimson, Tool, Korn, System of a Down
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Jim Henriques: I’ve been listening to Gadi Kaplan’s album.

Rich Kallet: I recently purchased Separate Realities by Trioscapes - great musicians with huge energy! Today I just received Steve Wilson’s new release The Raven That Refused to Sing. I’m listening to it at this moment and I’m loving it. He is clearly one of the leading creative forces in prog.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Jim Henriques: I’m re-reading the entire Dune series, including some of the newer novels from Frank Herbert’s son Brian and Kevin Anderson.

Rich Kallet: I’m currently reading Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers about the political and social forces that led to the first World War. A fascinating read. Most striking to me was the misunderstanding of motives between Great Britain and Germany that have familiar parallels between the United States and China today. I’m also reading a biography of Auguste Rodin that I picked-up when I was in Paris a few months back. I’m always fascinated by people like Rodin who were from very humble beginnings, and whose talents were not apparent to either themselves or others until discovered almost by accident.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Jim Henriques: I saw Steve Hackett a few weeks ago. It was nice to hear some of the old Genesis before “Grab-a-cab.”

Rich Kallet: I don’t go out to see music all that often, but Steve Smith’s band Vital Information visits SF frequently at Yoshi’s in the Fillmore District (a great venue). This has become a small ritual for David, his wife Joyce and I. Steve is truly an inspiration to watch.

MSJ:
Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Jim Henriques: Techno and new-age spa music: they are pleasant air-shakers when I’m doing my day job.

Rich Kallet: There are some show tunes I love. When I was about five, in the early 1960s, my parents took me to see The Music Man with Robert Preston. It was one of the last musicals made into a Hollywood movie before the cultural revolution, civil rights struggles and Vietnam War forever changed the shape of American culture. So there is no misunderstanding, I don’t bemoan the cultural shift, but I recognize that something quaint and beautiful of our collective American aesthetic slipped away and is irretrievably lost.

MSJ: Who's your favorite "rock star" of all time?
Jim Henriques: Peter Townsend
MSJ:

What are some of the things you do to relax or pump up to prepare for a show?

Jim Henriques: After my first performance at age thirteen when I was nervous as heck, I’ve not been jittery before a show; it just is an enjoyable thing to do. One exception: I had to conduct a string octet at school and I was really nervous!
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Jim Henriques: It came during a classical guitar performance I was giving with another musician. I tend to memorize my parts, but in this case I made the mistake of looking at the music and lost my place! I just sat out until I could slip back in.

David Graves: For our live performances a few years back, we put together surround-sound electronics that we played between some of our songs. The one I recall is during the beginning of our version of Pink Floyd’s “Careful With That Axe, Eugene.” It was a hellacious production, completely over the top.

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?
Jim Henriques: Kate Bush, Carl Sagan, and Ayn Rand.

Rich Kallet: The poet Rainer Maria Rilke (unfortunately a vegan which would limit our dining experience), the philosopher Erich Fromm and Woody Allen.

MSJ: Do you see progressive rock getting more and more space-rock and cinematically directional in the future?

Jim Henriques: I don’t know what to say about prog’s direction if the Mars Volta is considered prog. I’d like there to be a vein of prog that follows from the modern King Crimson.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Jim Henriques: Listen with an open mind, don’t compartmentalize, and appreciate good writing and performance – eschew gaudy studio tricks.

David Graves: I am really impressed with how working in hi-def, from recording through mastering, has made the whole album seem like a new medium to me. The CD sounds tremendous.

Rich Kallet: Just that I’d like to convey my sense of gratitude to work with Jim, David and Larry on precisely the type of music I’ve always wanted to create. The positive feedback we’ve received from reviewers, friends and fans alike has been rewarding beyond words. And thanks to Music Street Journal for providing us this opportunity to talk about our music.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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