iO: Recombinant Rock

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean


Comparing the first EP with "strange tales..." - what about the differences?

"Strange Tales..." is a more developed work, and a more mature work. Not to discount "Progress" (the first Ep). The same elements are there; male/female vocals, odd time signatures, gtr/pno combinations's still "us", just an earlier version.

Working with female and male voices is a trademark of your music - poor choice or intention?

Intention. There are a couple other Canadian bands who have taken the two singer approach (Kim Mitchell, Blue Rodeo), plus of course bands like Yes, Styx, etc. More than one vocalist provides for a wider range of things you can do with the vocals. Male and female voices provide differing timbres and ranges...more options with the musical palette, so to speak, so why not??

I already wrote I love your music, but sometime I wonder why a lot of people put you in the progressive rock category. To be honest, I wouldn't do so....

We consider ourselves progressive in the sense that we're trying to push boundries and try new instrument combinations, harmonies, vocal lines and grooves within a rock framework. Are we a textbook "Progressive" band? No, but we don't see the point in being a "typical" band, be it Progressive or otherwise. We think there are however, enough so-called "Progressive" references in our music to appeal to fans of "Progressive" music. Perhaps we're on the fringes of "Progressive" a certain point though, this whole line of thinking becomes mere semantics. At the end of the day, no matter what you decide to call it, the music either moves you or it doesn't.

What about changing your name? Problems with hip hop?

Yeah...we were getting emails from hip-hop labels asking for packages. Plus the word "Urban" seemed to springing up stores,furniture stores, was becoming overdone.

How did you come in touch with your drummer?

On "Progress", we used drum loops, as opposed to a live drummer (as we couldn't find one after a couple months of searching). One of the sources for the loops was Charlie Morgan's "Master Drums 2" (an excellent cd).The Cd asked for examples of the uses it was going to, so once "Progress" was completed, we sent a copy to Bridge Recordings (the Master Drums'label), which eventually made it's way to Charlie himself. He was touring with Elton John at the time in North America, so we hooked up in Ottawa(Canada). The rest, as they say, is history. He offered to play on our next record, which became "Strange Tales..."

And what are the reasons for a guy who played with lots of superstars to play with you?

You'd have to ask him that. I guess he liked the music enough to want to get involved.

I already mentioned, I don't believe that you are playing typical progressive rock. But what the hell you are plying?

For those who must have a category, we call it "Recombinant Rock", which encompasses prog rock, funk rock, pop rock and all stops in between.

What about the cover song?

Bruce Cockburn is an icon in Canada, we (iO) all have his records. Unfortunately the message in "Stolen Land" is one which is still applicable, some 10-15 years after the song was written. (It deals with Native/FirstNations rights and history). "Nations" (track 7 on "Strange Tales") touches on some of the same issues, but within the framework of Canada as a whole. The two songs together give a picture of the promise and tragedies of the concept of Canada, and indeed nations and culture as a whole.

What about the influence of other artists to you?

We have a pretty wide range of influences. Probably the 3 biggest are progressive rock, groove/funk music and classical music. Having said that, our record collections are pretty diverse, and include "Progressive" bands such as Rush, Yes, Saga, King Crimson, etc..but also Parliament/Funkadelic,Fishbone, Patsy Cline, Public Enemy, Todd Rundgren, Bjork, The Police, EllaFitzgerald, Mariah Carey, Jeff Beck, Queen, Debussy, Edvard Gieg, and BobMarley to name a few.

What about your live experiences?

We played fairly extensively within the Toronto circuit on the first record, and are in rehearsals putting the finishing touches on our new show. We have found however that the industry here in Canada has been slow to embrace us(probably because they can't slot us neatly into one category). This is why we've tried to reach audiences abroad on "Strange Tales...". It should help to convince industry here at home that there are people and places where we're appreciated.

How would you like to develop in the future? Do you think about changing your style?

As far as developing in the future, we just want to continue to grow as players, singers, songwriters and get better and better. Changing styles? Hopefully each album evolves from the last and takes us into new territory, but without losing the essence of iO (whatever that is defined as). Will we be putting out an album of electronica in the future though? No.

What kind if compromises would you make to push your career?

Musically, none. I'm not really sure what other kinds of compromises you mean. We're definitely making sacrifices now to get our music out there, and have been for the last few years. The compromises would have to be judged on a case by case basis. At the end of the day, we've got to look at ourselves in the mirror, with integrity intact.

Where did you get your inspiration?

Life, nature, generally mankind at the close of the millenium.

How would you describe your relation to new media as internet, virtual reality, mp3...

The internet has been a vital component in our promotional plan this timeout (case in point this interview). It's invaluable for artists such as ourselves who (for whatever reasons) are having difficulty gaining exposure in their home territory. We've gotten press, reviews, radio coverage, and sell our product all through the 'net. This simply wasn't possible 5-10years ago. As far as MP3....great format, but I'm not sure what giving away near perfect copies of your album does for the artist long term. I'm sure it attracts a lot of traffic and therefore corporate sponsors to, it may even put you on their charts, but so what? I read of one band getting 80,000downloads of their song, and only selling 6 records as a result. There is a saying about not having to buy the cow if you get the milk for free.

So you could have the possibility to make this record again. Would you change anything?

Sure....small technical things (this gate should have kicked in earlier, that part could be slightly louder in the mix etc..), some minor edits on the artwork, maybe some different mics on certain songs. We feel we caught a certain magic on the record though, so while not perfect, it captures what's important...the expression of the material.

Is each member of the band absolute satisfied with each song of the record?

I don't think so, but if you're absolutely satisfied, why would you bother to make another album? Again, the record does what's's all about where it takes you in the headphones.

Was it your intention to handle all the production, distribution and management things self or is it because you couldn't get an record deal?

We didn't have a deal, so instead of waiting for one, we decided to do it ourselves. There's a very large indie scene here in's just kind of expected that you do it yourself. Plus this provides valuable insight for when we are signed. We understand how to record, mix and produce our own record, as well as prep all the artwork to press, manufacture the units, promote the record to press and radio, set up distribution, design and maintain a web site, hire local promoters, lawyers, and agents, book gigs, make sense of contracts (licensing, publishing and otherwise) do interviews(like this one) chew gum and walk at the same time. It doesn't hurt to have a solid grounding in almost all areas of the music business...knowledge is power, and experience the best teacher.

© 06/2000 Renald Mienert
DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean