their debut release ‘Angular Perceptions’, American newcomers Thought
Chamber have crafted a technically brilliant progressive metal album
which will excite fans of the genre. Listeners will recognize the
familiar vocals of Enchant front man Ted Leonard fronting the band..
world where it’s hard to find anything original, in which nothing and
nobody is really innovative, newcomers Thought Chamber manage to
draw attention right from the start with their debut album “Angular
Perceptions”. Their intelligent brand of progressive metal is highly
complex while showing great variation. At the same time, it sounds like
a coherent collection of songs.
Recently I had the chance to ask band leader Michael Harris some
upcoming debut album ‘Angular Perceptions’, so here we go.
First of all, I want to congratulate you with your new album. So lets
talk about ‘Angular Perceptions’ now.
thanks. Glad to do the interview…
not that familiar with your previous work, so can you tell us something
about Thought Chamber, how did you get this band together?
original idea for the band was planted by my manager, John Purdom, some
years ago, who felt I should put together a progressive “super group” to
exploit both great musicianship and vocals, which could bring more
attention to my music. Around that time, I was writing a lot of
progressive material, but it was mostly instrumental. Eventually I put
an ad out on the internet which Ted Leonard responded to. I immediately
went out and bought an Enchant CD and loved Teds’ vocals. In spite of
Ted living in California and myself in Texas, and us both being involved
in other bands / projects, we continued to demo the songs back & forth
for several years until we had a record’s worth of material. At that
point I called up my friends, Derek Blakley & Rob Stankiewicz, and found
they were interested in being a part of the band as well. Then Derek
recruited keyboardist Bobby Williamson.
I read on your website that you started back in 1996 to gather material
for this album. So there is a 10-year gap, did this influence your style
or did you actually need this time because you changed your style?
Although the instrumental, “Mr Qwinkle’s Therapy” was largely written
even before 1996, it wasn’t finished until a short time ago, with Rob,
Derek, and Bobby adding their amazing chop page to it, and for the most
part, the rest of “Angular Perceptions” contains compositions that
originated around the year 2000. Because of the reasons in my response
above, a long time span was necessary in putting the band together and
recording our debut CD. Yes, I’m sure my style had changed in that time
and I had gathered new ideas, but the record best reflects mostly my
present style, as many of the original demo solos, etc were replaced
with newer ones.
did you launch into writing the material for this album, did ideas come
easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a
careful composing thing?
compositional process is very regimented. It is well thought out, not a
spontaneous thing, at least not with progressive material. I normally
keep “tweaking” and listening to my compositions until they sound like
real songs to me. And I don’t etch them into stone until the album is
actually done. Something can always be changed / improved. Supposedly,
old Beethoven manuscript originals have sections crossed out, etc, so
that justifies my own over the top meticulous attitude, if you will,
regarding composition. Thanks Ludwig.
you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do on ‘Angular
Perceptions’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?
Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?
you bet. There are certain elements that I wanted to include from day
one for TC: 1) compositions that are technical, but not at the expense
of melody; 2) allowing all my band mates to display their chops but
again not at the expense of “the songs” themselves; 3) using what we
call “ensemble licks”, which are,
instead of one instrument playing a whole passage of notes, split up
between several instruments rapidly back & forth; 4) never losing sight
of dynamics, which is often forgotten in modern prog and recordings in
general (best examples of TC songs w/ dynamics would be “Sacred
Treasure”; “Silent Shore”; and “A Mind Beyond”); 5) playing many of my
solos with a clean jazzy tone as opposed to the expected distorted tone;
6) keyboard-wise using a very distorted “B3-esque” sound with delay on
did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the
studio; how does Thought Chamber work?
initially did this record like I do all my records – I demo the material
first, then everyone eventually replaces the parts with their own parts
and we mix. In Thought Chamber, Ted and I did all our demo work without
ever being in the same room, or even same state. We should probably give
the U.S. mail service a liner credit. Rob, Derek, and myself all live in
Dallas, so we actually did get in the same room early on to help Rob
work out his drums. We then recorded Robs’ drums at Nomad studio with
engineer JT Longoria. While I was finishing my final guitars and
keyboards in my home studio, Derek worked out his bass parts, which I
engineered in my home studio as well; Bobby recorded his solos as well
and E mailed them to Derek and myself, while Ted recorded his final
vocals in his home studio. Then we mixed with Sterling Winfield at Nomad
studio in Dallas, and Gary Long mastered the disc. Many people are
baffled that bands can record like this, but technology has made this
commonplace. The classic scenario of musicians laying back on the studio
couch and reading Rolling Stone is not always the case anymore. Isn’t
that a shame.
all the songs been written before you entered the studio, or did you
made some changes during the recording sessions?
most part, everything is in place ahead of time so we don’t waste
anytime in the studio, although the only instrument recorded in a pro
studio is Robs’ drum kit. He records his drums along with a click and to
the complete demo tracks, so it is a full inspiring sound. Once the
drums are in place, each member records their final parts in the manner
was responsible for writing the lyrics and what would you say are the
main themes on this album?
the lyrics. Basically I write about anything that interests me that I
also think would be an appropriate song topic. Here are concise meanings
of all the songs - there are 10 songs on the record, with these 7 being
– An old man looking back upon the “sacred treasure” of his life
– An imaginary place where the great minds in history dwell
BALANCE OF ONE
– Two personalities of one person struggling and equalizing
TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS
– Using mythological references, a fictional view of what this early
Egyptian theory of reincarnation could be
– Early mans’ discoveries in the amazing world around him and man’s
“calling out” to God
– A vision of the perfect state of mind
– A perspective towards the end of life of one’s influence on others and
the sadness of no real adulation from others while alive
important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart
from listening to the music?
the lyricist it’s always very gratifying when someone actually
acknowledges the lyrics along with the music. This doesn’t happen very
often, but I feel that prog fans are just the greatest at really
absorbing both the music and lyrics.
are the main differences between your solos album’s and ‘Angular
just having vocals presents a new kind of challenge. There are more
limitations because of vocal range vs. the range of a guitar or
keyboards, for example. There is also the element of the lyric. The
lyric has to fit the song. If it is a dark melody in a minor key, the
lyric shouldn’t be a happy lyric. In general, I think my instrumental
music is a tad more diverse than Thought Chamber.
you received any feedback on the new album yet? How do you feel about
this album – are you satisfied with the outcome or would you have liked
to have changed anything in retrospective?
change something about every record I’ve ever done. Every song I’ve done
for that matter. It’s painful for me to listen to most of my recorded
work. I would say there is less that I would change about “Angular
Perceptions” than most of my other records though, because the luxury of
time allowed me to redo a lot of parts. I’ve also heard the record so
much that I’m kind of numb to it, and am greatly anticipating the 2nd
Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Angular
Perceptions’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning
behind it and can you tell us something about the artwork?
point Ted had said that he liked titles that were also a lyric hidden
within a song – not a direct song title, in other words. I felt “Angular
Perceptions” fit that mold perfectly, being a lyric from the 1st
vocal song on the record, “Sacred Treasure”.
John Holland’s description of the cover art (www.mistymountaingraphics.com)
– “The name of the band is in itself a metaphor for the human
mind -- intelligence, imagination, creativity. Lyrically some of the
songs deal with ancient cultures and mythology. The complexity of the
music inherently deals with a lot of math. So I tried to bring all these
elements together in the cover art -- music, math, and mythology -- and
still convey some idea that the music is aggressive and heavy. Some
references are obvious, others are subtle metaphors. All of this
information is being funneled through this weird eyeball machine, and in
turn passed on to the Egyptian girl in the center. Whether the machine's
ultimate intentions are benevolent or malicious is left up to the
you have any favorites on this release, songs that you think are somehow
above the others?
always do. I’d say the closing song, “A Mind Beyond” is among my
favorites because it displays all the strong points of the band. There’s
nothing un listenable on the record to me though. The instrumentals were
do you see the future of Thought Chamber, do you think, for instance
that the band will still exist ten years from now?
can’t think that far ahead, but it would be great to know we could
actually make two (2) more records! But seriously, we don’t plan on
taking 5 years per record anymore, as we have a “system” now, and are
really enjoying taking this one record at a time.
can we expect from Thought Chamber, any plans for touring Europe or so?
would love to, and are discussing that presently.
Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to know you a little
did you get involved in the music business?
of all, I come from a musical family, so music chose me. I started a
band, albeit a garage band, 6 months after I had started playing guitar.
I guess at that point there was no turning back. I didn’t find my niche
until many years later however, as a composer and recording artist.
songs and bands do you listen to these days?
usually go back to the stuff that is “classic” to me, such as the 70s
and 80s RUSH records; early YES; etc. I do listen to some modern things
if I am curious or if they have been recommended. When I am composing a
record, I usually go through very, very long phases where I listen to
there anything you like to do besides your job in the band?
I am a
sports fan (mostly pro baseball & football) and also enjoy computers,
reading, movies, and all things musical.
is your opinion on the progressive metal scene these days, is there
as prog metal has evolved over the years, I have found that the
recordings have gotten better and better. I’m amazed at how you can get
“everything louder than everything else” in a mix and still hear
everything. I have also found that musicians keep pushing the envelope
of technique, which I think is great. On the negative side, I find that
many bands forget the element of dynamics in modern recordings and that
they play lots and lots of notes and forget the “song”.
Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you
think “this is what I want to do!”?
difficult to pin that down to one record, but I’d say hearing Black
Sabbath “Master of Reality” spoke volumes to me. It was so much heavier
than anything I’d heard that I couldn’t get enough of it. The cool thing
about Sabbath is that the songs are truly great, even to this day.
Okay, if you could choose three bands to get on stage with, who would
King’s X; Black Sabbath
here anything you’d still like to share with us?
would like to thank you, Eugene, Metal Experience, and all the great
fans for supporting prog and metal!!!
Thought Chamber are:
Derek Blakley - Bass
Harris - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
Leonard - Vocals
Stankiewicz - Drums
Williamson – Keyboards