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Progressive Rock Interviews

Odin’s Court

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Matt Brookins of Odin’s Court from 2015
Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?
I started playing guitar around 14 or 15 on my mom’s old Silvertone acoustic. I found it in my grandparent’s hall closet. I learned a few tunes before realizing it had been strung left handed! So I started over again after about six months. I played in bands in high school and college, both original and cover. My first original recorded project was my senior year of high school. I cut a demo playing most of the instruments and had a few friends sit in here and there…we recorded in some guys apartment on a four track bouncing things down (like The Beatles used to do), because even then I liked layers. After college I mainly did cover bands, but then I started Odin’s Court in 2001 because I had become tired of playing covers and wanted to get back into writing. The band itself has had a few iterations, but the core sound has remained intact since I do 99% of the writing. The other members, of course, have put their stamp on things with their personal styles. As a band, we have put out a few albums internationally and done some light touring in the US. We’ve had the pleasure of opening for a lot of good bands during our ride thus far.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I’d be crazy, in a padded room – or who knows, maybe even in a worse place. A lot of people comment to me how grounded I seem…even keeled. At the same time, I have seen a lot of people in my life struggle to cope with various things. I think most people have obsessive personalities to a certain extent – some people get caught up in substance abuse (whether drugs, alcohol, or even food) as an outlet. Others become all about their career. For me, music has been a healthy outlet. It gives me something on which I may focus and work very hard without damaging myself or others in the process. Of course, I still have to balance things – time with family, time with friends, how I spend my time involved with music. Lately I have been spending almost all my time on the business aspect because of our new release. I have fun with this, but I need to try to balance things back out and stay connected with the creativity and actual music aspects.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
I’d like to give some really compelling story where people say “wow, how profound!” But the truth is, it is rather boring. We started as a three-piece and were hanging out late into the night jamming and discussing a name. We wanted something that said “group” and not “individual,” so we thought Odin’s Court would be cool. There were a lot of other suggestions – some probably better, and some utterly absurd. If I could go back, I’d probably pick a different name given hindsight – we have a lot of folks showing up to our shows expecting black metal, folk metal, or something along those lines. Many have commented to us afterwards how cool we were, but the name misled them into showing up. Of course, Black Sabbath had a song from one of my favorite albums they did without Dio or Ozzy called “Tyr” with a song called “Odin’s Court” – that is a coincidence, but it is a great song and album regardless.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
There are far too many to name, but I like all styles of music, as long as I perceive it as genuine. I do not like manufactured music designed for the sole purpose of making money. I like music as art. So I listen to all types: classical, blues, rock, metal, rap, bluegrass, country, jazz, new age, etc. Some of my top favorite artists from which I personally draw inspiration would be Pink Floyd (and Roger Waters solo), Devin Townsend, Counting Crows, Yanni, Beethoven, and Mozart. But there are many others.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
We have a few live dates in the USA in 2015. I’m hoping we can add some more. We have another album’s worth of new material through a bit of the recording process, so I plan on finishing that off this year for a 2016 release…assuming Turtles All the Way Down is received well enough. I also want to eventually “reboot” our début album Driven by Fate. I also had a crazy idea recently to revisit Deathanity to produce it more in line with how I really want it…including Dimetrius on lead vocals. Both of those things have been started. In a nutshell, I’m always working of Odin’s Court related music even if we may fall out of the public’s eyes here and there.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
That’s a funny thing. I’d say progressive rock and metal, but with more of an accessible sound to casual listeners with underlying complexities for technical music lovers. However, ask some traditional prog fans and we are straight metal. Ask some traditional metal fans and we are progressive. Ask some prog metal fans and we are traditional metal. Ask traditional metal fans and we are melodic hard rock. And so on. I will say that artists with which we have frequently been lumped over the years, from a most compared to a lesser compared frequency, would be Porcupine Tree, King’s X, Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. But I do personally think people tend to see us in a very diverse light, though the reviewers often state how we have our own definitive identity, despite to what bands they may have compared us.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Is this like a dream list? If so, I’d love for Odin’s Court to play with Floyd or Waters. Or the Counting Crows. Or even Yanni as part of his backup band. Not the best fits, but we are diverse enough musicians to pull it off in my humble opinion. More realistically, I’d love to share the bill with bands like Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Evergrey, Amorphis, King’s X, and Symphony X. If I only had one choice for an artist to do a tour with, and it could be our best fit, I’d say Devin Townsend! We did open for his Devin Townsend Band once in 2003.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
I’d like to say I think it has helped, but I don’t think it has. Personally, I feel that our culture has devalued art to the point of no return, though I hope a revolution will happen to find the next model soon. People are growing up and being conditioned with instant gratification due to the technologies around them, combined with our fast paced way of life. Even though legal services exist to purchase music digitally, so many people just listen to music on YouTube or use Torrents to consume it for free. I remember when our first album on a well-established label, that being Deathanity on ProgRock Records, came out - it was torrented thousands of times before the official release date even happened. I know there are exceptions with individuals, but as a culture, I’d say people don’t look at music or art as something they need to support in the same way they did in the past. They assume there will always be something to consume for free. Eventually, the model has to change or people will cease to be able to make ends meet with music, at least from a rock or pop point of view, and they’ll quit. With technology, it is easy for someone to record something in their bedroom, throw it on YouTube, and become an overnight sensation. However, there is something to be said in all disciplines for honing one’s craft. And while that bedroom sensation may be here today, most are gone tomorrow. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just “old” in my 30s. I realize things change; that isn’t the problem as I see it. My problem with it is that it is stealing. How many other disciplines would stand for this type of behavior? What if I walked into a carpenter’s workshop and took a desk (s)he made? Why? Because I want it! Forget the fact that (s)he invested time and energy into perfecting the craft and creating something useful, I should be able to have it because I want it! Everyone else is doing it! Sickening. And it isn’t just downloading, it is live performances as well. People baulk at musicians when they hear a price to perform. And it is really cheap if you think about it…try to find a plumber to work for a price similar to the expectations levied on most musicians. Or a lawyer, etcetera. I’ll put it this way, I spend thousands of dollars and hours investing in creating art – a single album with Turtles All the Way Down - to share. I don’t think people realize how much it takes to put out an album at this level. If you don’t like it, fine, you don’t buy it. If you do like it, buy it, but don’t steal it and try to justify it. If I can’t make ends meet, I’ll stop creating music publicly because then I won’t lose so much money. I have to eat. Pay the bills. Sorry, I think I am going on and on here…
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
I’m less worried about this since it is a trading thing. If they were recording shows to profit, I’d have more of a concern. However, since I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to recording, my main concern with bootlegs is the imperfections – both the performance and the sound quality. But mainly, the sound quality and overall balance of the recordings. I’d prefer a proper “off the board” recording with a real mix for listening on personal systems, versus the more “dial it in” live sound from the floor you typically get at concerts. Or at least having a “live album” type quality. Though I do admit, bootlegs can be cool when they give the feel of being there based on the raw sound.   
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Torrento, whose superpower is stealing music and spreading it to others from his secret network underground. Because, who else would it be? I suppose The Evil Promoter or The Belligerent Club Owner may also be formidable foes at times…most are okay, but some are downright formidable! Do I get to have a sidekick?
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?
Oh, fun. Enya on vocals, Devin Townsend on vocals and guitar, David Gilmour on vocals and guitar, Yanni on keys, Kevin Moore on keys and vocals, Roger Waters on bass, Alison Krauss on fiddle and vocals, and John Abella (our original drummer) on drums. Why? I love the ability of all these players to play for the song and create an ambient soundscape that I can see and feel. It would be very new age ambient with lots of nice melodies, and the vocals and guitar solos would be to die for!
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?
I think I would go one of two routes – either more of a song writing / acoustic rock oriented type thing, or a melodic / ambient type thing. For the first one, the Counting Crows, Annie Lennox, Alison Kraus and Robert Plant, Lionel Ritchie, Bruce Hornsby, and Devin Townsend (doing all of Ghost). For the second one, Devin Townsend, Yanni, Pink Floyd, OSI/Chroma Key, Enya, and Opeth (doing all of Damnation). I guess those are both pretty chill…maybe we could roll it into a single festival with two days, each with their respective theme.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I just bought the latest Devin Townsend Z2. I really enjoyed the first Ziltoid album, but the second one hasn’t struck me quite as strongly. There are some great songs on it, but the bulk of it I am not totally into yet. But, the first disc, the DTP material, that is gold! I love, love, love it! Especially the track “Skyblue” – I like cranking this album at the gym when working out. I kind of rotate what I’m playing…this week I’ve also been jamming to some Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Dickinson (solo), Alice in Chains, Angra, and Amorphis. I simply adore Annie Lennox and her beautiful voice – I’ve been listening to a lot of her solo stuff the past week, as well.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Absolutely. I love to read. Right now I am reading And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer – I love Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s series, so I thought I would give it a chance and see where a new author takes the characters. In the past year I also read works by Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Leonard Mlodinow. I’ll probably re-read the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pulman again this year, as I like to read it once per year (it being my favorite series).
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Unfortunately I live three plus hours, accounting for distance and traffic, from most places that would have concerts I would want to see. I think the last one I saw was The Counting Crows, who are always amazing. What I love about them is their free spirit – they are constantly reinventing and interpreting their songs in new ways. I’ve seen them multiple times on the same tour, and the setlist always varies, but so does the way they play the songs! And Adam’s lyrics are second (in my humble opinion) only to Roger Waters.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Many! But since I think you are more driving at music people may not expect me to say, I’ll go that route…I love 80s pop music - all of it. I love to listen to it on Pandora, Sirius XM, CDs at home, etcetera. I also love bluegrass and will crank it up when driving around. A funny ritual I have after we play gigs is to listen to a Yanni album on my drive home or to a hotel, but I think I’ve sufficiently covered my Yanni fan-boy-ism through your other questions. I do listen to a lot of new age as well, in fact, probably more of this than anything right now. Maybe if I said I love Prince that would be what you’re looking? Or Lionel Ritchie / The Commodores? I’ll rock out to that stuff!
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Wow, I love that movie. I think I could go so many different directions here, but I’ll do the “out of place” gig with hardly any attendance thing. We played with a prog rock “supergroup” that was doing a weeknight near DC. The club owner asked us to do the show since we have prog tendencies, but they were straight up traditional prog. Thus, the 30-ish people there were mostly looking quite confused. We didn’t do a Spinal Tap, Mark 2 Jazz Odyssey, but we may well have been. Though truthfully, the supergroup seemed to dig us, and there were some folks there that “got us.”   
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?
Only three? Wow, that is hard. Ludwig Van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, and Roger Waters. But Stephen Hawking should be in there too...
MSJ: What would be on the menu?

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Stay in school. Say “no” to drugs. Check out our new album. Thanks for your time, and thanks to all who read this! 
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 2 at
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