Thought Chamber -  - 24/03/2007

On 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..


In a 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 questions
their 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.

Much thanks. Glad to do the interview…


I’m not that familiar with your previous work, so can you tell us something about Thought Chamber, how did you get this band together?

The 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.


How 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?

My 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.



Did 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?

Haha, 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 it.


How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio; how does Thought Chamber work?

I 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.


Had all the songs been written before you entered the studio, or did you made some changes during the recording sessions?

For the 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 described above.


Who was responsible for writing the lyrics and what would you say are the main themes on this album?

I wrote 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 vocal:


SACRED TREASURE – An old man looking back upon the “sacred treasure” of his life


A LEGEND’S AVALON – 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


GOD OF OBLIQUE – Early mans’ discoveries in the amazing world around him and man’s “calling out” to God


SILENT SHORE – A vision of the perfect state of mind


A MIND BEYOND – A perspective towards the end of life of one’s influence on others and the sadness of no real adulation from others while alive


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

Being 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.


What are the main differences between your solos album’s and ‘Angular Perceptions’?

Well, 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.


Have 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?

I would 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 one .


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?


At one 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”.  


This is John Holland’s description of the cover art ( “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 viewer.”


Do you have any favorites on this release, songs that you think are somehow above the others?

I 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 good fun.


How do you see the future of Thought Chamber, do you think, for instance that the band will still exist ten years from now?

Wow, I 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.


What can we expect from Thought Chamber, any plans for touring Europe or so?

We would love to, and are discussing that presently.



Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to know you a little better:


How did you get involved in the music business?

First 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.


What songs and bands do you listen to these days?

I 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 absolutely nothing.


Is 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.


What is your opinion on the progressive metal scene these days, is there anything missing?

Well, 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!”?

It’s 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 they be?


Rush; King’s X; Black Sabbath


Is here anything you’d still like to share with us?

Thought Chamber would like to thank you, Eugene, Metal Experience, and all the great fans for supporting prog and metal!!!

Thought Chamber are:
Derek Blakley - Bass

Michael Harris - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals

Ted Leonard - Vocals

Rob Stankiewicz - Drums

Bobby Williamson – Keyboards



Angular Perceptions