We did an interview with Edinburgh, UK’s progressive rock act ABANDONED STARS on February 26, 2012.
How are you guys? How is 2012 going so far?
Smashing! Great start to the year, our EP was officially and non-intentionally released for Christmas and since then we have been busy promoting it and have received great reviews and some airplay at national and international level….pretty good for a new wee band.
How did you put this band together? Please tell us more about the beginnings of ABANDONED STARS.
Abandoned Stars started when two Scottish brothers Leen and Tony got a serious need to get progging. Having played in several bands together over the years, a new band was formed when Leen returned from exile in England, they recruited their French frontman through an advert on Myspace and their Italian shredder through an advert on Gumtree, Edinburgh.
We have all played in too many bands to mention here but we share the same influences (RUSH / DREAM THEATER / PAIN OF SALVATION / OPETH etc…) and quickly got some tunes written down in the same vein.
The international aspect of the band helps us bring a new mixture and new flavours to the plate of prog metal. We started writing songs in 2011 and chose 4 to represent our sound for the EP “Opening Act”.
Do you use computers and electronics in your music?
Whilst we play live, we use samples for our live shows to recreate the layers of synths found on the recordings that a keyboard player would provide. Ideally we would have a keyboard player but it proved a difficult task to find someone suitable in Scotland.
Computers are a great way to help write songs as well. We tend to record our rehearsals to hear what bits work, what needs work etc….it is also a great tool for riff sharing.
You released your debut EP entitled “Opening Act” in December 2011. How did you decided to mix it at SLR studio in Ontario, Canada?
We signed up for a “sign me to” page with Roadrunner Records and discovered the band KING MISFITS (Canadian Prog Metal band) which really stood out from the rest. We contacted their sound engineer Marty Bak, who owns the SLR studios, and were impressed with his professionalism and his great mixing/mastering skills. We are very happy with the result. He really gave us a good prog-metal sound with a modern edge. If Canada is good enough for RUSH, it’s good enough for us!
What formats did you choose for the release and why? Are you planning to release a vinyl?
We decided to release the EP as a digipak to make it a bit more ‘special’, very few people seem to buy CDs now and as fans we do like the format and feel of the digipak which is often used for limited editions. We sell the EP mainly through our official page but then like most bands we do have the Itunes/amazon/CDbaby downloadable tunes….although this is quicker, we have little or no control over the cost.
We would love to release it in a vinyl form! You can’t be ‘prog’ and not enjoy good vinyl!!
How are you trying to market your music? What are the main channels for communicating with fans?
We use the main social networks (facebook/youtube/reverbnation) for bands and update/check them daily. You can also download a free app for Abandoned Stars on Android with regular updates etc. We have just signed a deal with Two Side Moon Promotions who are organising a press release for us which will open up new ‘communication’ platforms for us.
We have sent our CDs for reviews which have been great so far. We will also feature in the CD sampler of Fireworks magazine (UK, 20 000 copies) and Rock Hard Italy’s CD sampler as well (10 000 copies). This is all fantastic exposure for a small band like us. I remember discovering bands like Angra through a sampler. It is a great feeling to listen to something new.
What’s the story with ODDRIFF Records? Are you planning to spread your wings and find a bigger label?
When our early songs were in the initial stages of creation we gave them working titles such as “longyin”, “bmaj” and “oddriff” etc. As oddriff is a pretty good description of most of our riffs, we decided it would be an appropriate name for our own label. We have had some independent label interest but decided to release ‘Opening Act’ ourselves in the hope of attracting the attention of a more prog-oriented label that could help us and support our full length album.
Do you consider running your band as a DIY operation?
Yes, at the moment. We recorded most of the tracks in our home studio, only using a professional studio to produce the drum tracks, before sending it all to be professionally mixed. We do as much as possible ourselves – it seems to be the only way to do it if you want to achieve something within a budget! Quite frankly, we’ll do anything we can to get the band heard!
How many shows have you played so far?
Not enough!! We are always looking to play live. We are all well seasoned performers and truly enjoy rocking out on stage! The prog scene is great in the sense that even though it is a small community, you are dealing with people who care about music, lyrics and visuals and will happily debate all aspects over a pint!
What are your future touring plans? How do you book your shows?
If you book us we will come! We are looking for a full time promoter as it is hard for a new band to get good support slot opportunities with established bands.
The plan now is to play more strategic gigs for a bigger impact, with similar bands to raise awareness and cultivate a solid fan base; and to keep annoying promoters with our requests for festivals and Prog Metal nights!
What do you write about? What would you say to a person focused on message in music. Obviously, there’s a huge gap between the leitmotiv of hardcore punk and progressive rock. There’s a certain message, there are ideas and on the hand hand there’s virtuosity and art for art’s sake. What’s the meaning of lyrics in progressive rock? How would you defend the genre?
Over to Olivier who writes our lyrics: “I write about emotions/stories that people might relate to. I tend to keep the words simple to translate a real emotion rather than making up stories about aliens or dragons. Don’t get me wrong I am a sucker for these but I just can’t write them on a serious level. I love bands that can use old English and fancy words to develop their prog-rock concept and I do spend time reading their work and trying to understand where they are heading lyrically…but I also like a more ‘raw’ and immediate feel, something more personal, I do not want to hide behind lyrics. I love how PAIN OF SALVATION tackle what appears to be non-autobiographical topics yet still manage to make their words feel ‘real’. I tend to go with this style as this is what I enjoy listening to the most in other bands as well. If ABANDONED STARS decided to do a concept album it would still be the same ‘personal’ approach.”
How is the prog rock scene in Edinburgh?
The prog scene in Edinburgh is growing steadily, largely thanks to new bands emerging worldwide such as PERIPHERY and TESSERACT. This is encouraging young bands to get out there and play prog-metal to the masses!
How’s the modern progressive rock/metal scene doing in comparison to the old school times?
The skills of some young progsters are insane, you can see young musicians picking up extremely technical stuff like it is beginners level, you see ten year olds covering DREAM THEATER, shredding like Michael Romeo with great flair. It is just amazing what is happening thanks to Youtube and modern technology. The guys we listened to growing up, and learned to play along with, were Rush or Deep Purple, but now kids practice DREAM THEATER ‘Metropolis part 2’ or ‘Icarus lives’ by PERIPHERY like it is some sort of ‘beginner’ song.
It is now easier to create new sounds as everything can be made available via midi-samples, the trick is to use all these means to be, and stay, original. It is very hard to bring something new but we feel that the essence of progressive music is to surprise the listeners and take them to places they are not expecting to go, musically speaking.
How’s Edinburgh these days. What would you recommend for the visitors?
All is good in the Scottish capital! We have new-ish venues opening up like the HMV picture house, where bands like OPETH and PAIN OF SALVATION played a wee while ago. Edinburgh’s history and architecture will satisfy any culturally oriented person. It is definitely the epitome of a town that managed multiculturalism, modernity and old history, come and visit us! After all we’ve got a Frenchman and an Italian in the band….if it is good enough for them….. [laughs]
Thanks! Would you like to add anything else?
Thanks for the opportunity to promote the band, we really appreciate it! And thanks for reading us too! Please do come and listen to our samples on www.abandonedstars.co.uk. For those who want a wee chat with the band about anything, from Scottish food to Devin Townsend, just pop along to our Facebook page – we’d love to hear from you! If you have an extra £4.99 at the end of the month then how about your very own copy of “Opening Act”, available through our official website….you might get a free button badge with your purchase!
ABANDONED STARS – “Beyond Reason” video: