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Progressive Rock Interviews

Kinetic Element

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Mike Vissagio of Kinetic Element from 2015
MSJ:

I don’t think we’ve interviewed you since 2012. Can you catch the readers up on what you’ve been up to since then?

Well I think it's actually been longer than that, Gary. We put out Powered by Light in 2009.  But at any rate, I am glad to be back here. Kinetic Element has been through an amazing series of near-misses, backstabs, a revolving door at the bass position, and a detour down another road, that together delayed getting another album done for five and a half years.  I will try to be succinct because each thing is a frustrating story all its own. 

No sooner did Powered by Light come out than we had to cancel an important show at Orion Studios when our bassist Tony D'Amato decided he could not continue. We decided, after trying out a couple of bassists who did not work out, that we would try to continue with me playing left hand bass, and we learned some cover songs from Jethro Tull, the Allman Brothers, Cream, Rush, Asia and even Mountain to go out and play in the bars and also perform some of our originals, and had very poor results, although when we debuted one of the Travelog songs for the first time in March of 2011 at an all-original show it went over great. During that time we did get to Orion as a trio (no bass) and did what is still probably our best overall show, and early in 2011 we met a singer, and later on a bassist, who joined and made us a five-piece, but the singer insisted on being a much more covers-oriented group.

We continued to play the bars and got nowhere, and began trying to record originals with them, hammering at it for two years when we realized the singer, for all his talent, wasn't right for us, and we let him go, and the bassist subsequently quit while we were negotiating with a Canadian promoter to tour with a couple of big Canadian prog artists who I will not name because it turned out he was a fraud. Having lost those guys we were back to a trio at the end of 2013 and Todd and I decided, “to hell with it, let's concentrate on making another album.” Michael Murray, our drummer, broke out his laptop and a Sonar X-1 recording program, and we got to work, with Todd and I turning out four more pieces that together with the one mentioned earlier, became Travelog

We labored a couple of nights and one weekend day for over a year, but could not locate a vocalist in Richmond. We had decided I would no longer be the voice of the band, and after failing to find someone in Richmond, we went the guest artist route with Dimetrius LaFavors of Odin's Court, Michelle Schrotz of Brave, and Cprog artist Mike Florio handling the singing.

While this was going on, when I let it be known we wanted to hire out the mixing and mastering we were approached by Steve Babb and Fred Schendel of Glass Hammer who told us they wanted to do the mixing job because they knew of us and all our difficulties getting this done over a long period of time. You can imagine how amazed I was to find out that these two legendary prog people wanted to get involved with little old us. Of course we said “Yes,” they proved their mettle in some trial mixes, and away we went, finally getting product in hand just in time for two important shows at Orion and New Jersey Proghouse on May 29 and June 6 respectively. 

MSJ:

What's ahead for you?

 All I can tell you is that I want to play at ROSfest with KE next spring so badly I now care only about that. Who knows whether we will get an invite, though? I will continue promoting Travelog and sharing the reviews that keep coming in with 3.5, 4 and 5 stars consistently, try to arrange some shows somewhere where Michelle and Mike Florio can justify traveling to play them with us, and pray that I can keep this very talented group together. I would like to keep creating new music with this band, but right now everyone seems to need some time away from the band, so that is on hold for now.

MSJ:

How does the new Kinetic Element album differ from what has come before?

It's much more symphonic, the pieces are longer and more interconnected, the lyrics deal with how precious individual liberty is rather than the Christian themes I had been pursuing. The production is light years better than Powered by Light thanks to the Glass Hammer guys, and of course, the singing is immeasurably better. The imagery is a little darker and the mood is more somber because we are almost in a lament over world events, and as such there's more of a feel of searching for something like on a Big Big Train album.  A lot of people are amazed at how good it came out because they more or less forgot about us for a few years while we were, um, trying to figure out what to do.

MSJ: What are the similarities?
Well the core of the band is still here (me, Todd Russell and Michael Murray). The bass is still very solid with new member Mark Tupko. We still evince the same influences and ethos of the Big Three of Yes, ELP and Genesis. The lyrics are meant to be very thought provoking, it's 70 minutes long, we have the same graphic artist (Martin Kornick of Man In The Mountain), and hey, we're still a prog band!
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?
Well, if I had a fantasy festival it would include everyone I love from the early years. But if it was a "today" festival, I guess I'd hit up Frost, Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Knight Area, Pendragon, Rocket Scientists, The Tangent and Renaissance.
MSJ:

What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Since we got involved with Glass Hammer I got a couple of their CDs, If and The Breaking of the World. I am also listening to IQ's The Seventh House and the new Heliopolis record.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Who doesn't? May I have a little Grand Funk Railroad please? Perhaps a dose of Foreigner?
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
I think I could very safely say, The only hope we have to survive as a civilization is to treat each other with respect as individuals and make the effort in our hearts to think the best of each other. Liberty has to survive. People will always disagree on many things, but we can take the golden rule to heart and apply it in our own lives. If we do that consistently and spread that vibe as far as we can in all out relationships, we won't be heading down a path that leads to needless conflict. And while I am at it, Prog Lives. It keeps us young.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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