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Progressive Rock Interviews

Cozmic Box

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Cozmic Box from 2011
Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?
John Hohnstein: I began learning the piano at six and studied music, trumpet, and piano through college. I didn't join my first rock band until I was 24. Played locally for several years with rock and progressive rock groups, including opening up for B.B. King on a brief tour back in 1975. Pretty much dropped out of the scene by the 80s, except for writing and recording. Have released three CDs under the name, “Mystic Machine.” A solo piano CD is in the works. When I met Jed on MySpace in 2007, I was starting another prog rock project with a former bandmate and we asked Jed if he was interested. That band ultimately did not work out, but in the process, Jed and I discovered our bond - musically and brotherly. On one occasion while here recording, a psychic told Jed and I that in previous lives we had been Viking warriors together. You never know.

Jed McConkey:  Started playin' when I was thirteen, played guitar in my high school band which we called “Aqualion.” We thought we were just the coolest and we got all the chicks! No, we didn't.  I left high school at 16 and started playing with local lads from Belfast, jumping from band to band, all different styles and genres. Many different hair styles and colours were experimented with, as well! I started to take it seriously when I turned 21 and got my first four-track tape machine, I loved it and wouldn't come out of my room for days on end. 

From then on I played in loads of cover bands, but I was always writing and composing my own stuff. I was hooked on the recording process! I could spend weeks just working on tunes and learning new skills. I love it and I can’t imagine a better way to spend time.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
John Hohnstein: I can't imagine not being involved in some way with music - whether it's performing on stage with Jed, or playing at home for my wife. It's just in the blood. Without good music, life would definitely be diminished.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?

John Hohnstein: After much brainstorming we narrowed it down to our "top ten.” Cozmic Box stood out and seemed to represent something cosmic and cool about us. We always invite people to "open the box!”

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
John Hohnstein: My influences range from my early music teachers to my father's Barbershop Quartet, to then being introduced to Jimi, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis, and others. I also have to say how much I've grown and learned from the musicians that I have had the pleasure to play with over the years. And Jed is one player and friend that I really resonate with the most. Wish we could play together more often.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
John Hohnstein: It's hard for us to predict what's around the corner for us. Right now it's just the two of us and we're only 7000 miles apart! And because of the current US immigration policy, the only legal way for Jed to come here from Northern Ireland and play for income, would be if he were either "culturally unique, or famous.” We've never actually gigged together! As much as we want to, it doesn't seem very likely in the near future. In the meantime, though, we still want to share and hopefully profit from this creative project. We are now working on our second CD, but this time via the World Wide Web. Our first CD, Flame Of Truth was actually the musical result of two visits by Jed here in the States: one in 2008 and then the summer of 2011.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Jed McConkey:  It's quite difficult to pin down as it takes so many twists and turns. "The Moment Shows" is quite smoochy mellow and soulful, and then you get hit with "Trance War,” which I think is a very hard hitting trance vibe! All in all, we like to use the term "Tranceadelic."

John Hohnstein: Or Steely Dan meets Pink Floyd! On a serious note, our first CD, Flame Of Truth also has some message from the Universe. Many of the lyrics on the CD were really channeled by my former wife, Claudia, over thirty years ago. She often would just sit down at a typewriter, go into either a zone or trance and the words channeled would come through in the form of poetry and prose - remarkable material, actually. It’s really spooky how much it seems that it was meant to merge with our music and individual talents thirtyyears later. And they are pretty profound and compelling lyrics. One of her poems speak of the band of musicians and the making of music, " ...and it was good music indeed...!” Really inspirational to us, and it definitely has influenced our direction. With her gracious permission, we plan to continue exploring this direction with the interesting, prophetic, and artistic material that she channeled from who knows who...  And if there are any messages that were meant to be shared with the world, we are grateful and honored to be a part of this "collective art!” And we thank the Universe for the opportunity to share it with others....

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Jed McConkey:  I would love to find players who are on the same wavelength as John and myself. Players who can feed off each other and anticipate what each other’s next note may be. The buzz of being in the zone together is priceless. There is no better high!
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
John Hohnstein:  It's illegal and it is definitely a hindrance! We spend many years developing our craft and countless hours writing, rehearsing, and recording our product. Not to mention the investment in equipment. As much as we would be flattered that somebody would download our songs, it would be sweet and it would be just if we were able to make money from it. As we speak, Jed and I have not made a dime from our efforts. As Jed always puts it, "Are we rich yet...?"
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Jed McConkey:   For a start, the sound quality is usually horrendous in that situation, people screaming and whistling etc. Personally I wouldn't be interested in receiving such recordings.

John Hohnstein: I don't like it, but I don't think there's a reasonable way to stop it. Adversely, if folks were doing that to us, that would mean we're up there on stage being recorded! So I guess in that situation, it would be OK.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Jed McConkey:   Well! I would have to say my beautiful partner Hetty Lane. I love her musical style and her beautiful pure voice, but she's an acoustic folk artist. A Folky! Grrrrrrrrrrr! Whereas I am a Rocker! And I sure ain't beautiful....
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?
John Hohnstein:  I would love to see and hear the likes of Beethoven (perhaps the young composer Jay Greenberg) conducting a full orchestra, playing with Jordan Rudess on keyboards, David Gilmour on guitar, Justin Hayward doing vocals, John Petrucci on drums and Jed McConkey on bass guitar. In terms of inspiration, imagination, power, precision and connectability, it could be an unbeatable concert at Red Rocks! 
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?
Jed McConkey:   John Martyn and Danny Thompson would start the day’s proceedings. What a start! Next up would be Hetty Lane with a full band and string section. I think these artists would set a real mellow groove to kick off on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon! As early evening draws in, Sade would take the stage and smoothly operate on our dancing receptors preparing us for the smooth transition into the evening with Steely Dan, followed by David Gilmour and his band, picking up the pace but still with a smooth groove for Porcupine Tree, and for the final performance of the evening: a star filled sky at Red Rocks with Cozmic Box playing with guest appearances from the day’s performers. I would be the happiest dude on the planet.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

John Hohnstein: I recently paid for and downloaded Momentary Lapse Of Reason by Pink Floyd.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Jed McConkey:  The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. An absolutely fascinating read. He writes about the human being as though we are just another animal species and he is right! The first line in the introduction says it all. "There are one hundred and ninety three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred and ninety two of them are covered in hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens."
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
John Hohnstein: The last concert I attended was Dream Theater - utstanding performances and delivery - amazing capabilities.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
John Hohnstein:  Not sure exactly what you mean. I don't think so...

Jed McConkey:  Yeah! Have you ever been driving along on a miserable stormy wet Monday morning going to some place you don't want to be! Abba comes on the radio! By the time the track is finished you are humming the tune and your head is swaying from side to side.  Let me just say "I have never owned an Abba record and have no intentions of ever purchasing any." but they sure can make ya smile.

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
John Hohnstein:  Had two with the same band. The first was right out of the movie at an Air Force base gig. Same scenario- pretty laughable! But the moment that really takes the cake was at a Catholic High School prom. You know, the gowns, tuxes, and chaperones. Our lead singer was jumping in the air, doing a leg split when something else split…the seam of his skin tight spandex, and out came the forbidden jewels for all to see and loath/appreciate! One of those jaw dropping, unforgettable moments.
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?
Jed McConkey:  Billy Connelly for his fast wit and story telling, The Queen of England for her insight to being the Monarch in the modern world and to see if Billy could break her resolve and Michel de Nostredame to see if he can predict when we're gonna get some money!
 Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
John Hohnstein:  Jed and I are anxious for people to really connect to our music. And when they do, they will find it an enjoyable and moving musical experience, like in the “old days”when you would put on a vinyl album, listen to the first side, then flip it over to hear the second side and actually experience the whole album! That kind of enjoyment... The music is not just about us. It's about the listener, too.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at
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