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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Josh Turner
Interview with Brett Kull of Echolyn from 2005

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

You've really done a lot different on the new album. It's like you're a whole new animal. I'd really like to see this material performed live. Do you have any tours or concert dates lined up at the moment?
No live shows planned at the moment. We are pretty worn out after the Europe tour plus we have a lot of catching up to do with our other lives. Yes, we feel that the new album is going into some new directions for us.
MSJ: By the way, how did you come up with the name Echolyn for the band?
I just made it up. It sounded nice and rolled off the tongue.
MSJ: Let's talk about the new album, The End is Beautiful… A lot of the pieces and passages seem to be about relationships. It exhibits many emotions and gets quite emotional at times, often reaching the extremes. Is this a concept album and if so, is it based on personal experience?
It's not a concept album but it does have continuity to it. Our only real conceptual album was our previous one, Mei. We draw our music from personal experiences. Basic rule: don't talk about or make songs based on things you don't know about or understand. It takes away from the reality of the conviction. We do sometimes stretch things a bit to heighten the effect but everything is still based on a real experience.
MSJ: There are so many great songs on the album. I like them all. I'd have to listen to it a lot more before I could truly sift through it all and pick my own favorite. I know it's tough, but if you had to narrow it down to one, what would you say is your favorite? Which one makes you the most proud?
For me "The End Is Beautiful" (title track) is my favorite. It clicked when we wrote it. It gives me goose bumps when I hear it still. I think it's one of the best we've written.
MSJ: Let's talk about some influences that seem obvious to me…The album seems to draw upon melodies from Dave Matthew's Band, Blue's Traveler, and maybe even the Spin Doctor's. I'm not sure I heard these influences in the previous albums. Any idea how these sounds may have gotten in there?
I don't know. I don't listen to any of those bands at all. Many people say they detect a sort of jam band vibe in our tunes. I don't see it but I think it's great. Whatever works for you is fine by me.
MSJ: From the progressive rock angle, I can hear ELP, Kansas, Spock's Beard, and even Flower Kings in there as well. Are these some of your influences?
No, not at all. I like some of the music Kansas put out but I think those other bands are horrible. To be more specific (this is of course only my opinion) I listened to ELP in 1983 when I was in High school. I bought all their albums then came to realize as I progressed as a songwriter/musician how pretentious the music was. Keith Emerson is a great piano/keyboard player but he can't write a good tune to save his life. Greg Lake is a god-awful bass player and an even worse guitar player that has an ego the size of Lake Michigan. You can see it in every modern interview he does. He still thinks it's 1973. Carl Palmer is hands down the most overrated rock drummer there ever was. Spock's Beard, I don't know. Every time I hear something from them it seems like they are trying too hard to be "progressive". They are the Journey/Toto of Progressive rock - great players, but no depth.

The Flower Kings I've only heard a few times but it seemed pretty regular. I played a show with the Guitar player once (it was a Transatlantic gig). He was one of those egomaniacs that make me cringe and want to just play music in my room by myself.

MSJ: In general, tell me about your influences.
It's always changing. When I was a kid it was Herman's Hermits, then The Beatles, then Led Zeppelin, then Rush, then The Who, then Genesis, Pink Floyd, then The Mahavishnu Orchestra, then Pat Metheny, then Gentle Giant, by that point I had developed my own style. I still listen to a wide array of music... from 70's AM Gold to Henrik Gorecki. It all affects the way I write.
MSJ: Looking at the track listing, one song and one song only, "Arc of Decent," has a subtitle, "Dancing in a Motel Just West of Lincoln." Can you explain this to me?
It's about suicide contemplation in a lonely Hotel in Nebraska. "Dancing" is just another way to say "wrestling with the idea of". It was inspired by a short story called "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" by Stephen King.
MSJ: I have a couple curiosities about the album that I'd like to ask… What does the title "Heavy Blue Miles" mean?
It's referring to the endless sky (the world) weighing down on your shoulders.
MSJ: In "Makes Me Sway," what is it that makes you sway?
It's when a liar is spinning his best lie to change your mind and you're almost believing them.
MSJ: Why did a song about the end come in the middle?
It felt good there. We've had the title track at the top and end before so we figured we'd try the middle.
MSJ: Why is the end beautiful?
Because it's coming through a hard time and making it through that time unscathed once again.
MSJ: In "So Ready," what is it that you are ready to do?
Achieve a happy ending.
MSJ: What do you mean by "Misery, Not Memory?"
When Ray thinks about his lost friends, it brings more misery than happy memories.
MSJ: You used some sound bytes in a few places. What's the background behind the ones you use in "Lovesick Morning," "So Ready," and "Misery, Not Memory?"
"Lovesick" was a DJ talking to an old woman about risqué topics. "So Ready" was Ray's neighbors being recorded through the wall. "Misery..." was various sounds recorded by Ray... sinks filling up, wind through a small hole, doors slowly closing, also some sound bytes of various people speaking soothing things about beauty.
MSJ: I get the impression several people in your band contribute to the songwriting. Can you give me an idea of how your songwriting process works, the origins of the pieces, and how these pieces are put together?
For the new album we all contributed to every song. Ray and I handled the lyrics but we all wrote the music and helped with the arrangement. It was a true band effort which helped the outcome, in my opinion.
MSJ: While the last album sounded good, the production in this one is impeccable. What has changed in terms of the engineering aspects behind this album?
I'm getting better. I hired a friend of mine to come in and record the basic tracks so I could concentrate on playing. Those tracks were recorded live. This really adds to the energy level. We used a Neve 8058 to record the majority of the tracks which then went to tape and Protools simultaneously. I recorded all the overdubs at my place with Groove tube and AudioTechnica mics into Universal Audio Mic pre's and dbx and Empirical lab compressors. Everything was mixed by me in Protools.
MSJ: You went from one long epic to an album of eight songs. Was Mei a one-time-only kind of a deal? Would you do that again in the future?
That's a one and done kind of thing. Why repeat yourself? It's too good to want to do again.
MSJ: Any plans in the works for live albums or DVDs?
We just put out a great DVD. I can't see us doing it again.
MSJ: Are you in any other projects these days aside from Echolyn?
I have a business that keeps me pretty busy and I occasional play with a band called "Grey Eye Glances."
MSJ: The vocal leads and harmonies are unique and clever. How is it that you are all singers?
Ray and I really put a lot of work in on the vocal melodies and words. It's important to us. That's something I wish we could go back and fix on our earlier stuff. Ray has a great sense of melody plus a strong voice that can do many different things.
MSJ: Going back to the beginning, how did you get involved in music?
I've been into music since I was born. I've always listened to music and felt its potency.
MSJ: When did you decide you wanted to be a guitarist and singer in a band?
Maybe 5 or 6 years old. It wasn't until I was 13 or so that I picked up the guitar. It's the only thing I've ever wanted to do.
MSJ: How did you meet the other members of the band?
Paul and I have known each other since 5th or 6th grade. Ray, I've know since 1985. We were all in a cover band together. Chris I met in 1989 and Tom the year after.
MSJ: Can you tell me about a Spinal Tap moment that you may have experienced in your career?
We were in Quebec City at a meet and greet. No one came except 5 people. We sat at a table and I kept thinking of Arty Fufkin saying "Just kick my a**, come on kick my a**!"
MSJ: I'd like to find out about your current musical tastes…
We'll right now I'm listening to "I'm only Sleeping" by the Beatles. Revolver is still one of my favorite albums. Um... I'm going to see Sufjan Stevens next week. I dig his music quite a bit. Beck is a big influence. I'm seeing him in a couple weeks too. His albums always sound so good and are so different from each other. The playing is brilliant.
MSJ: What's the last CD that you purchased?
David Bowie's "Hunky Dory" and the "I love Huckabees" Soundtrack.
MSJ: Along the same lines, what's the last concert that you attended as a fan?
I saw Wilco down at Penn's Landing In Philadelphia. One of the great Rock bands out there today.
MSJ: I'd like to find out some of your favorites…

What is your favorite album of all-time? Is there any CD or tape for that matter that you've worn out?
Wilco : Summerteeth
Elliot Smith: XO
The Beatles: Revolver
Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti
Genesis: Selling England By The Pound
Neil Young: After The Gold Rush
Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here
Radiohead: OK Computer
REM: Automatic For The People
Supertramp: Crisis? What Crisis?
Henrik Gorecki: Symphonie 3 "Sorrowful Songs"
Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring
MSJ: Well, albums we discussed but songs...
I love Glenn Campbell's version of the great Jimmy Web Song "Wichita Lineman," I love "Catch the Wind" by Donovan, I love "I Got a Name" by Jim Croce. "Help Me" by Joni Mitchell gets me every time. I don't really have an all-time favorite song. It all depends on the mood I'm in. That's the beauty of music!
MSJ: Who is your favorite band?
If I was put it to the test it would have to be The Beatles.
MSJ: What is your favorite movie?
To Kill a Mockingbird
MSJ: What is your favorite TV show?
The Simpsons
MSJ: Do you have a favorite book?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or anything by Stephen King… The Green Mile, It, The Stand, are some of my favorites that I've read over and over again. I loved John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany."
MSJ: I like to ask this question, because it helps me to identify with the artist, but do you have any pets?
I love all critters. I used to have a horse when I was in my twenties. I've had many cats and dogs and birds. None at this moment though.
MSJ: Any final message for the fans?
As always, thanks for all your support and openness to listen to our music. It means a lot to us.
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