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Exclusive Interview With Mystical UK Prog Rock Heroes Gandalf’s Fist
Published Here at http://www.independentmusicpromotions.com
Today we have an exclusive interview with mystical UK prog rock heroes Gandalf’s Fist . Hi guys, welcome to Independent Music Promotions. Tell us about your new release “Road to Darkness” and what listeners can expect?
Dean: I’ve heard it described before as “Medieval-Space-Rock” which sounds about right to me! Basically, we always like to tell stories within our songs so we decided to do a sci-fi re-imagining of Baum’s “Wizard of Oz”. Most people pick up on the Pink Floyd influences in this album but we made an asserted effort to have a lot of unexpected twists and turns on this record – there’s folky shenanigans, choruses of pirates and jew-harps – quite eclectic, but it all seems to gel together really well!
Luke: For this album we wanted to create an arc of songs, each song building on the theme of the album telling different aspects of the story, music whise it’s very Pink Floydy in sound, with heavy crunching guitar riffs.
Why did you choose progressive rock as the ideal medium to express yourselves? What do you love about it the most?
Luke: Prog rock is a genre that most might think is old hack and based in the 70′s, but we’ve taken the elements of that early scene and mixed it with long tempo changing solo’s and folk inspired sea shanties to create something thats unique. Prog is our world seen through music, we love fantasy and sci-fi and pirates, we have a lot of fun making our music and I hope it shows in the songs we record.
Dean: It’s all about freedom. There’s no ‘rule book’ for Progressive rock. If we decide that we want to tag a two-minute pirate-metal breakdown onto the end of a William Wordsworth poem or create an entire record about a talking frog that lives in a chimpanzee’s hat there’s nobody around shaking a big stick saying “You can’t do that!” It’s vitally important to us, make no bones about it, we are moderately strange… If we recorded a gangster rap record about a wizard living on one of Jupiter’s moons we’d probably be sectioned.
What have you found works well for you as far as promotion goes?
Luke: We love Facebook, advertising on there has enabled us to establish a fan base world wide, we have a good following on Last FM and Spotify, once the word got out there it was amazing where we found fans, we’ve been on Polish radio and have had lots of cd sales from the US.
Dean: Social network sites really are great. Well not all social networking sites – I tried advertising through ‘genes reunited’ and got zero album sales and one estranged Australasian Uncle. However, sites such as twitter and Facebook are fantastic for us because it creates a sort of ‘virtual word of mouth’. If someone chooses to interact with us this then disseminates to all their friends, relatives and casual stalkers. Music blogs are good as well, however we’ve found that a lot of these blogs popping up now are pirating our stuff, which is a shame because If I was a pirate I’d be busy plundering and trying to commandeer aircraft carriers, not posting MP3′s with people singing about goblins and orcs.
Luke: Speaking of which, we’ve got to give a big mention to the guys at Middle Earth Network who have been very supportive in promoting our work.
Dean: The guys at MeN have been really good in helping to promote our releases through their radio station, and to be honest we love internet radio and podcasts – we’ve done a number of interviews with different stations and they are always a good laugh and let us give a bit of background behind individual tracks.
Tell us about the biggest influences and inspirations that inspired you to play music?
Dean: My biggest influences and inspirations were a lot of bands that popped up during the new wave of British heavy metal in the 80′s. Obviously there a few like Maiden and Def Lep that have stood the test of time but that movement was like Punk for talented people – you’d have new bands popping up left, right and centre performing some great stuff! I would listen to bands like Angel Witch and think these guys have popped up and created a musical legacy just by releasing one good record. Truly inspiring.
Luke: Music has always been a massive part of my life, i’m never far from my generic MP3 player. I also love telling stories and I find that music allows me to tell stories within the songs.
Dean: A lot of people say they can hear the influence of the heavy hitters of Progressive rock in our music but to be honest I’m influenced a lot more by bands that tumble along in a world of their own and create beautiful melancholic songs. I love Camel, Caravan and Blackfield in particular and am really inspired by some of the newer bands such as Riverside, Crippled Black Pheonix and Astra, these guys really know how to knock out some prog gold!
Who in the current music scene do you most admire most and why?
Luke: I love what Porcupine Tree are doing, they started out in very similar circumstances to GF and if we can achieve an eighth of what they’ve done we will consider that we made it in the music industry
Dean: It seems that every time we do and interview it’s only a matter of time before me and Luke start to talk about Porcupine Tree. And with good cause – I think Steven Wilson has a growing body of work that is starting to get recognized alongside the giants of the genre. Also, personally, I have tremendous admiration for Bruce Dickinson. He’s a shining example that you can play Rock music and still be educated and articulate… Plus, his voice is just ridiculously good!
Do you have any advice for aspiring independent musicians who may feel disillusioned or discouraged at times?
Dean: As independent musicians we’re used to rejections from labels and licensing deals, but it’s when someone goes out of their way to put you down that can sting a little – a nasty comment on youtube, facebook, whatever can really put me off my cornflakes. What I will say is this, I have the upmost respect and admiration for anyone who creates something and is brave enough to share it with, literally, the world. If someone doesn’t like it then they can go to hell in a binbag – you didn’t create it for them.
Luke: If you enjoy what you do, stick at it, not everyone can make it as an artist, theres millions of talented people who will never climb the charts, but if you enjoy what you do and get satisfaction from performing live and recording tracks then don’t stop, lifes too short.
Please talk about the lyrical themes on “Road to Darkness” and the effect you hope to have?
Luke: The album tells a story a girl trapped on a strange world, in the middle of a war between powers that she cannot comprehend, Its The Wizard of Oz, but Dark and Sinister, the sounds compilment the story and the lyrics and take you on a journey somewhere very odd.
Dean: What really makes a good concept album is when you take an individual song out of it’s context and it still means something to a casual listener. There’s a couple of tracks on there like ‘The Council of Anderson’ which are very much rooted in the ‘concept’ but the lyrical content of the rest of the songs are very much self-enclosed. The main themes of the record are death, loss and political control… it’s a very happy record – I recommend playing it at your kid’s birthday party or family wedding.
How can music fans keep tabs on Gandalf’s Fist?
Luke: We have our own website at gandalfsfist.com where we have regular news updates and blog entries, we are on facebook and twitter and have rare and unreleased tracks posted on soundcloud.
Dean: If you want to find out more and listen to some stuff then the website’s the best place to visit, if you want to have a bit of banter then please come and join our growing army of strange faces on Facebook. If you’d like to get in touch for whatever reason then we’ve got a contact section on our site – we get emails from all over the world, only yesterday we received one from a Nigerian princess who’d been kidnapped by her Uncle… Don’t worry though, I sent my bank details through just in time so hopefully she’ll be able to escape with my reward.
Interviewed by Gary Hill
Published on musicstreetjournal.com
MSJ: Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music - both individually and as a band?
Luke: I’ve been writing lyrics since I was 16, mixed with creating my own stories and characters; I've always been very imaginative.
Dean: I've been involved in a lot of different musical endeavours over the years and started out, like most people, in a covers band and did a few charity gigs here and there. Myself and Luke have known each other for years and would sit in the pub talking about music as well as coming up with ridiculous plot lines for films.
When we put together Gandalf's Fist it kind of let us combine the two!
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Luke: Probably working in McDonalds, flipping burgers.
Dean: To be able to afford to actually do Gandalf's Fist, we still have to hold time daytime jobs, so I'd probably be doing exactly the same as I am now, only I'd be more miserable. In order to satisfy my need for creative outpouring I'd probably resort to creative writing, at which point, I would be laughed out of the publishers and severely flogged in the corner of the nearest Waterstones.
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Luke: On a night out, a girl asked us what we did, we said we were in a band and that band was called “Gandalf's Fist,” thank you Mr. Todd.
Dean: The way I see it this is true to a certain extent. Although I'm fairly sure I came up with the name, although Luke has credited Toddy, which to be fair, is the kind of thing Toddy used to come up with. Todd is one of our friends and was our flatmate about six or seven years ago as well. He had the uncanny knack of coming up with ridiculous nicknames and the unparalleled ability of making them stick. The best thing about this particular story is that we weren't actually in a band at the time, and the only pertinent piece of information regarding to this yarn is whether it was me, or Todd that spawned the moniker, was the lass was having none of it!
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Luke: Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater.
Dean: Yep, all of the above. I've always described my guitar style as heavily influenced by both David Gilmour and Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, both of whom have an excellent sense of melody. As far as other prog bands that Luke hasn't mentioned, I'd also throw Jethro Tull into the hat, especially on our first album, there was a lot of Anderson-like whisper going on!
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Luke: Another album based on the story of the Hobbit, plus our Christmas EP. I will also be trying to finish my book, on which the first album is based on.
Dean: As Luke says, we've stayed away from middle-earth songs for about four years now, so we think it's about time we went back and did maybe an EP of songs. We might combine it with our Christmas release, which we've already written for the most part. It's a light-hearted album with some really crazy re-workings of classic songs. As well as this, we've actually got about 30 minutes of orchestral music that we actually cut, for creative reasons, from Road to Darkness. It just didn't fit the mood of the album but sounds really cool in its own right. It won't be long before we dust that off and do something with it, no doubt!
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Luke: Progressive folk rock! But who knows what that actually sounds like when we get into the studio?
Dean: I don't mind being pigeonholed. If the pigeon's fine with the timeshare then it's cool with me. I think it's fairly obvious that because of our influences we're always going to fall under the banner of “prog rock,” but we approach each of our recording projects on a song-by-song basis - there is no "progressive agenda." We just write the music that fits the song.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Luke: We would love to collaborate with some power houses of prog, maybe Wakeman or Steven Wilson
Dean: I'd be wary of Luke approaching Wakeman because I know for a fact that he would try and steal his cape. He's hit the nail on the head with Steven Wilson, though. The man's both a genius and a workaholic. If anyone says they don't like his material then they obviously haven't listened enough as it's almost a never-ending stream of work... and I love it all!
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Luke: I think that the world needs to be realistic, illegal downloading will happen no matter what. I think free radio type sites such as Spotify are the way for people to get music to the masses, where sites like Napster were prosecuted in the past, I don’t see such a case coming before the courts in the future.
Dean: I think there’s a few things to consider, I think the "try before you buy" approach seems to be the socially acceptable approach to downloading of music, and I can sympathize with that. The amount of times I’ve bought an album on the basis of a mixtape someone made me... I don't ever remember paying for the tape...
On the basis of "stealing,” I think it's different for huge artists like Metallica than it is for independent artists such as ourselves. It's still stealing, don't get me wrong but if you illegally download Master of Puppets then it’s the equivalent of walking into HMV and sticking a copy down your trousers. Whereas if you download one of our albums without paying, it's the equivalent of actually breaking into my house and stealing a copy from the cardboard box in my spare room. Which would be incredibly stupid as I've got quite a nice TV worth nabbing downstairs.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Luke: For bands like us, people sharing our shows is a positive thing, but shaky handy cam shots of people’s arms and backs of heads, shouldn’t be a threat to high quality DVD releases.
Dean: Yeah I agree, it's totally different. Often for me the appeal of a bootleg is that it's something unique that the band hasn't released, a live acoustic set from the foothills of Antarctica - if you weren't at that gig should you, as a fan, be denied that experience? The people who trade shows often are the "completeists" of a band's fanbase, they already own every album, single and picture disc, they've bought the various incarnations of "The Best of..." umpteen times...so what's the problem?
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Luke: I would have to say that an army of R&B and hip hop stars would be our enemies. That stuff is awful, really music for the masses with lyrics about booty and hos, we'd baffle them with stories of wizards and dwarfs. Then probably just wait till they got bored and started fighting over the new Cheryl Cole revelation. Then go down to the pub.
Dean: First off, is it “dwarfs” or “dwarves?” Answers on a raven please! Actually, Luke is a great musical nemesis in his own right. Really. I've seen him dressed in a crudely fashioned Mexican wrestler’s costume, with a cape fashioned from a tablecloth (watch out Wakeman), striking both terror and bemusement into festival campsites.
Other than that... if there's anyone out there reading this that makes that techno-chipmunk music that charvers listen to at full volume on the back of the bus... you sirs are marked as my nemesis!
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?
Luke: Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray would have to have an axe to churn out the riffs, Bruce Dickinson on vocals, John Bonham hitting the skins, Jon Lord on they keys and Roger Waters on the bass and as chief songwriter. I think this band would be loud, and sound nuts!
Dean: Wouldn't it be great to see a true prog supergroup? Gilmour, Fripp, Emerson, Peart, Geddy Lee, all get my vote - the occasional Ian Anderson flute cameo, all nicely produced by Steven Wilson... if only!
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?
Luke: I'd actually just want to see Kiss do a 12-hour set. In fact, I got really drunk at Graspop a few years ago and experienced that already.
Dean: Hmmm... there'd be Floyd, Tull, King Crimson, Gabriel era Genesis, Porcupine tree and all rounded up by a Led Zep reunion. Gandalf's Fist wouldn't be playing at all... we'd be in front row and centre.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Luke: Listening to loads of Ayreon, Steve Wilson, and the last albums I bought were Blind Guardian and the new Maiden, although have been listening to the new Saxon album too.
Dean: The last album I bought was Welcome to my DNA by Blackfield. It’s a bit different to Blackfield 1 and 2 but I really like it. I listened to it loads on a recent flight from Tokyo and it's etched into my inner ear at the moment! I tend to have a really slow rotation of music, especially the CDs that I keep in the car so I really get into specific records due to sheer laziness of not changing the CD! At the moment I've been listening to Riverside's Second Life Syndrome a lot, a bit of Beardfish and I've really been getting into Abigail's Ghost lately - great band. You can hear a lot of Porcupine tree influences in there - always a good thing!
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Luke: The Wise Man’s Fear, also the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks.
Dean: The last book I read was actually a Zombie-romance novel called "Warm Bodies.” Which sounds crap but had a lot of dry wit and I enjoyed it immensely! It gave me a lot of good tips on going out on the pull should I ever find myself a chieftain among the army of the undead!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Luke: A tribute night to powerhouses of British heavy metal. Just got drunk and pretended that they were the bands from their hey day.
Dean: I went to see Saxon and Wolfsbane at Whitehaven. Good gig. Wolfsbane were excellent and Blaze is such a friendly guy to talk to as well. Was asked to open for his solo band in a different capacity last year but couldn't oblige due to unforeseen reasons so it was good to finally get round to meeting him!
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Luke: We've already heard some mentions of what I get up to at festivals so ... no comment
Dean: I've seen some strange things over the years... at Donnington Park I once saw a tin of pineapple chunks actually spontaneously explode and nearly take someone’s eyebrows off. Bizarre. But on stage the most “Tap” moment was when the drum kit actually started to fall to bits during a song - a tom-tom came flying off the rack and the metal rim actually sliced through my guitar cable split seconds before my guitar solo. To this day I have no idea how that actually happened. I bet if they tried to copy it on that Myth Busters show it would never work!
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?
Luke: Henry the eighth, I reckon that man could pack away some food, plus six wives. I bet he'd have some stories! Ozzy back in the day, when he saw fairies and danced in the court of the twilight king! For balance I’d want to have a real straight lace, maybe Chaucer. Now there was a word smith!
Dean: I think I'd invite the Prime Minister David Cameron. Then I'd invite Scarlett Johansson and Evangeline Lilly off of that TV show Lost. Surely sitting next to the most boring man on the planet will make me appear like the master of charm...
I'd also have to hire extra security to stop Chaucer trying to crash my party after fleeing Luke’s sausage-fest.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Luke: Hog roast and mead! A proper medieval banquet, Henry and Geoff would be right at home!
Dean: Wine for me and the ladies. And a dry crackerwheat to keep Dave amused.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Luke: I love the ideas we’re throwing around for the next album. We're always thinking. We're always planning and looking forward to bringing more music to our fans.
Dean: All in all, I’m really excited for the future and have a really good laugh creating Gandalf's Fist material with Luke so I can't wait to start our next project! I'm also really proud by the positive feedback Road to Darkness is getting from the prog community and I hope more people take the time to discover some independent artists like us. There's some great stuff out there!
Published on progarchives.com
When, where and by whom was your band born ? Did any of you, past and present members, play in any other bands before joining up in your band ? Why did you choose that name and which bands were you influenced by ?
Dean: Gandalf’s Fist started about six or seven years ago when I was at university in Newcastle, I’d been here and there mainly in covers bands, doing the ‘many-the-charity-gig-scene’. I’ve tried the whole acoustic one man band thing and folk sessions, and apart from a brief foray into the world of metal with the band Iron Hog, Gandalf’s Fist has been the main domain of my creative output for the past six years or so.
Actually, I do remember that before Gandalf’s Fist began in earnest, (former bandmate) Ben and myself were talking about a sea-shanty style covers band, and actually demoed a track called “The Ballad of Captain Crookshanks” or something... Anyways, Ben wanted to call the band “ElectroSeaCore” and I wanted to go with “Crabtallica”... needless to say we didn’t dwell on this idea for too long...
Luke: I'd been in a couple of garage jamming bands but nothing serious, it’s mainly with the advent of the internet and affordable recording technology that I’ve been able to experiment with more substantial projects. As for the name, Mr Todd originally invented the band name to impress a girl, it didn’t work, but we loved the name and it stuck.
Dean: My memory of events differs from Luke’s slightly as I’m still laying claim to coming up with the name. This could be wrong however as I’d say my brain was constantly floating in Gin for my entire residency in the north east, pickled almost. However, the details are correct and It was indeed a name we made up when we were talking to a group of lasses in “Legend’s” Nightclub in Newcastle. I can defiantly see why it was attributed to Todd though, Todd is our long time friend and former flatmate and he used to come up with these crazy names for things all the time, and stranger still they seemed to catch on. He would say things like “Let’s Kill Treebeard” which was roughly translated as “Ok – let’s go!”
.... “fancy going for a few pints Todd?” –
“Ok, Let’s kill Treebeard”.
Bizarre stuff. That particular phraseology led to the name of our very first demo song, Treebeard Transport King, which is still knocking about somewhere, probably on MySpace or something...
Luke: Now, Influences? I’d say our main influences would be Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater, in the days gone by I’ve been really influenced by the German metal scene as well, mainly Gamma Ray and Blind Guardian.
Dean: I think when you listen to our music, especially Road to Darkness, those influences come thick and fast. There’s defiantly a distinct air of Floyd in Emerald Eyes, A bit of King Crimson and The Who on The Council of Anderson and a bit of a Steven Wilson style vibe on Assorted Lunatics. There’s a lot of influences in there for sure, you’ll find everything from Maiden, Sabbath, Tull - it really just comes through naturally from our listening experiences, we just write on a song-by-song basis and are not really subscribing to any particular ‘progressive agenda’.
You are residing in Cumbria, England. Cumbria is a bit Tolkien, to say at least. High mountains with a lot of lakes inbetween. Hence it's other name; The Lakes District. There was a pretty big heavy rock scene in Cumbria back in the 1970s. But how is it to run a band in Cumbria now ? Btw where in Cumbria do you live ?
Dean: It’s funny you should mention that as It’s something that really struck me when I was reading Lord of the Rings as a kid, none of my mates never seemed to get the connection, but to me even the respective maps of Middle Earth and Cumbria look similar, and the landscape is indeed very Tolkeinesque. The Place we call home is on the west coast in a fishing town called Maryport. This coastline is filled with history and folklore you know, and was the inspiration for “stakes at low tide” from our first album. I’m a native of this area, and Luke’s a rotten outsider from Nottingham!
As far as the rock scene. It’s defiantly not the same. There’s still some great local bands and actually some amazing musicians that are kind of going unnoticed, however gone are the days of the 70’s when bands from major cities would come and cut their teeth on the Cambrian circuit. You can’t go into a working mens club around here without someone saying “I remember seeing Sabbath play in here in 1969” - that’s just typical and it’s a shame that there isn’t really that widespread “classic rock scene” anymore. That said, many of the local bands do a great job promoting themselves throughout the county and there’s a growing number of really good festivals starting to appear so things are looking up!
Luke: Indeed, there are a lot of local bands with local support, but how far these bands have gone in promoting further afield I don’t know. We've taken the approach to promote as far and wide as possible, we are at this stage in our careers a studio band, so we don’t have the same kind of local support, we don’t conform to the Standard image of a local type band, long hair and teenage girl fans are not what we are about. Prog isn’t for everyone so we enjoy getting our music out to fans of prog no matter where they are in the world.
Dean: Luke’s only saying this as “long hair and teenage girls” are defiantly out of the question at his age anyway. Especially the long hair. Seriously though, he’s right in what he’s saying: in essence our ‘local scene’ is the Prog Rock Community itself!
Over to your two albums. Your debut album was The Master and the Monkey from 2010. Please tell us more about this album.
Luke: The Master and Monkey was 2/3 new material 1/3 songs that had been in rough form or demos for the past couple of years, Dean will have to take the credit for most of the development as I was working away in Scotland most of 2010, I came back in November last year and we worked hard to get all the material finished and recorded, in all honesty the Master and the Monkey was a learning curve, some of the production was not as tight as we would have liked and we hope to address this in the future. As it stands the m & m is was it is, a raw and sometimes unwieldy beast, I believe that it is good in parts, but that the process of making it made us decide to get back in to the studio as soon as possible and put what we had learned into practice.
Dean: The basic premise behind this record was a crazy story that Luke has written. I’m not sure if he ever finished it, but basically it revolved around a monkey called François and his semi-evil legless frog companion “Pierre du Gateau”. It’s actually a fairly funny read and I was really impressed with Luke’s characterisation, so I decided to put a few songs together to go with it... I think you can still read a few chapters of it on our website.
As for the recording process, like Luke says, it really was a learning curve, but an immensely enjoyable one! Song’s like ‘The master and the monkey part one’, were essentially a free-form exploration and we were still figuring out how to capture and present this. There’s some great stuff though, Stakes at low tide had been lying around for ages and defiantly has that ‘epic’ feel.
At some point we’d like to go back to some of the songs and treat them to the production they deserve but I tend to think of this album as our statement of intent.
Your second and most recent album is Road to Darkness released earlier this year. Please tell us more about this album.
Dean: I’m really proud of this record and I think you can tell the immense leap we’ve made in literally a matter of months. The first album was released in January and we wrote, recorded and released this one on the 1st July!
My idea for the album came from the song ‘Emerald Eyes’ which I had written years ago after staying up all night trying to sync Dark side of the Moon with The wizard of Oz. I think this is the main reason this track has such a Floydian vibe to it. Anyway I got back to thinking about this track and thought it would be great to do a ‘space-rock’ version of the wizard of oz, basically a girl being transported to a strange alien world. The rest of the music just seemed to flow naturally as we discussed the themes!
Luke: Road to Darkness was a true collaboration, with Dean bringing the idea of a dark retelling of the Wizard of oz to the table and me running with this idea and coming up with some of the themes of the tracks, Dean came up with the core of the songs with myself writing lyrics and overall sound.
Dean: I think what it boils down to is Luke is a lazy sausage. Seriously one of these days I’m going to teach him to compose on something, be that a flipping Kazoo, Tibetan mountain flute – anything! Haha! Musically, I wrote everything, however vocally and lyrically it is nearly exactly 50/50 me and Luke and it was a great way to work. Aside from this there’s our tribute to a Cumbrian Legend – the Poet William Wordsworth, the track “Untrodden Ways” features his poetry as lyrics!
Luke: The recording was great fun, we worked hard to get the sound right, we took on board the criticism from the first album and worked hard to make the album sound as good as possible.
Dean: Indeed, we were very selective as well in the song selection. Initially, there was a 30-minute orchestral suite that ended the album called “The man behind the curtain”. But it really didn’t fit with the rest of the album so we painstakingly had to cut it from the record, but I think it benefited the ‘album’ as a whole you know. I think there are some instrumental versions of this movement on our soundcloud page if anyone’s interested.
You have also released a couple of Eps this year named Emerald Eyes and Stakes at Low Tide. Please tell us more about them.
Dean: Stakes at Low tide is a song about a local myth regarding a great sea worm that swam into the local waters and basically starting being a bit of a pesky so-and-so. The tale ends with a lot of angry farmers and some very pointy sticks... I think the song tells the story better than I do.... After the album was released we decided to go back and pay special attention to this track, we went right back to the master tapes, remixed all the orchestral segments and gave it a more ‘stand alone’ sound. It sounds great and I wish this was the version we had on the album! Maybe a compilation in the future could rectify this!
Luke: Yeah, ‘Stakes’ is one of the tracks we've had in the development pot for about two years, it was reworked and given lyrics, as we'd always had it as an instrumental called ‘Knives in the Dark”. It’s available digitally through Itunes and also on CD. The CD version features two b-sides(The original album mix and an unreleased instrumental “Maurice’s Revenge”)
Luke: Emerald Eyes is the single from Road to Darkness, its our favourite track from the album and was released before the album as a taster, the b-side was an acoustic version of untrodden ways, which is awesomely piratey and strips down the orchestral arrangement to give a traditional folk song!
Dean: The main difference between this version and the album version is the mix. There vocals are slightly less psychedelic, the layers of guitars are stripped back a bit and a few elements are removed such as slide guitar and female backing vocals. To top it off it was given a standalone ‘radio master’. The reason for this is we thought this was probably the best song to stand on its own feet out of the context of the album so we wanted a version that was more or less a ‘straight rocker’. We wouldn’t really call these releases ‘EPs’ as such, more singles really. We did release an EP a while back called “Moonstruck” as a thankyou to a few of our friends – it was basically a “best of” the early days and featured songs from our first two demos such as “Pipeweed-fusion-mindmeld” and “Over the Yardarm”.
We’re looking at doing something similar quite soon...
Your art works is very special and excellent. Please tell us more about them.
Dean: As independent musicians we’re very keen to support independent artists as well. We obtain licences for existing designs and then are lucky enough to be supported by a wealth of creative people to help turn them to our purpose. The illustration for the Frog on the front of The Master and The Monkey was actually done by my sister, Aisling, and has really made that album art something special. She also did all the interior illustrations for the Road to Darkness inlay booklet. The only thing that I’ve contributed artistically is the GF logo and I also drew the map for the R2D inlay. You can see most of Ash’s sketches on our Website or on FB... I’ll just stick to maps... drawing roads is easer than anthropomorphosised amphibians.
For those of us unknown with your music; how would you describe you music and which bands would you compare yourself with ?
Luke: We record progressive folk rock, which mixes elements of classic 70's prog, our last album was heavily influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, but we include elements of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater and even some metal such as Maiden and Blind Guardian make appearances in our riffs and harmonies. We enjoy varying the style of music that we record, such as ‘untrodden ways’, on Road to Darkness and the “samba melody” on TMATP part 1. We like a lot of different genres and we try to incorporate that into our music.
Dean: First album: “Frog Rock.” Second album: “Jovian-wizard-Core”. In all seriousness it’s hard to put a finger on our style because a lot of our stuff sounds different. Basically, If you look at Road To Darkness, it’s very much a 70’s Prog album, even the reverbs and delays we’ve used are reminiscent of that era, if people like what we’re doing then great! If not, then, well.... time to dig up Crabtallica.
What is your current status and plans for this year and beyond ?
Luke: We are still actively promoting road to darkness, we have a new EP on the drawing board, of wholly unreleased material, we are planning to release a second EP just before Xmas, then we're yet to decide on what next years projects will be, a return to middle earth may be on the cards as well as a best of with remastered and remixed versions of some of our TMATM favourites!
Dean: As you can tell, we’re going through a very creative spell, so realistically we’re not ruling anything out! As it stands we’ve got 3-4 tracks that will be finished this month which have a very nautical vibe to them! Each one is a very different style and we’re actually making a full blown foray into some heavy riffage on one of them! Should be interesting! We’ll be releasing that ASAP free of charge to people who have been so kind as to buy our last album!
Also as Luke mentioned, we’re gearing up to making sure everyone has a very Proggy Christmas! It should be more festive than Ian Anderson’s Jingling cod-piece.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview?
Luke: We have been blown away by how great road to darkness has been received and we're quite excited to see our fan base grow and grow all over the world, beyond that we would love to start touring, and recruit a group of session musicians to take on tour with us, Prog is a genre that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to making it big, but we’d love to grow into different collaborations in the future!
Dean: I would just like to add that if the person who broke into my garden and vandalised my shrubberies is a Prog Rock fan and, by sheer chance, is reading this interview I would like to say this: “I don’t know who you are, or from whence you came but you are not permitted at any future Gandalf’s Fist performances without bringing the following: One large tomato plant, some nice hanging baskets and a well punctuated letter of apology”
Dean: Seriously. Well.... also, Cheers to everyone for showing their support, anyone who’s interested in checking out – cheers to you too! I recommend you start with Road to Darkness and I raise a horn of mead to your excellent health! Luke and Myself are meeting up to discuss GF phase III and from what we’ve been working on I think everyone will really enjoy the upcoming releases! Feel free to get in touch with us, we’re always looking for new Ideas, projects and collaborations! TTFN!