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Topic ClosedInterview w/Declan Burke of Frost*, Darwin's Radio

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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Interview w/Declan Burke of Frost*, Darwin's Radio
    Posted: January 19 2009 at 15:22
Recently disbanded supergroup “Frost*” has returned with their powerful new album, Experiments In Mass Appeal – singer/acoustic guitar player for the group and lead man of “Darwin’s Radio” takes some time out to answer some questions for us.

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ProgArchives: So what’s the band doing right now between the album release and gigging?

Declan Burke: We’ve just done a number of gigs, and earlier on – towards the end of last year – we did some shows with Spock’s Beard, we did a gig in London in December when we played at the classic rock awards. We’ve got some other gigs coming up in April and May with RoSFest in the States. So we’ve got whole loads going on.

PA: You’re a new member to the band, so how did they find you and how did you first get involved with Frost*?

DB: It’s a bit of a weird story. It goes back to when my other group, Darwin’s Radio, released their CD. At the time, on various prog forums, people were talking about it and one particular chap sent me an e-mail that said, “oh, I really like your CD, I think it’s great!” and I e-mailed him back and said, “thank you very much, that’s a very nice thing to say.” So I went to the guys in the band and I said, “Oh, I got this e-mail today from a guy called Jem Godfrey,” of course I’d never heard of him, and Mark – our keyboard player – said, “Oh! He’s well to do in the music business!” so that was a big compliment. We sort of kept in touch, really, through e-mails and whatnot. When Frost* disbanded after the Milliontown tour we still kept in touch. Jem was going to do an EP of songs that he had written entitled Dear Dead Days, and he asked if I wanted to sing on one or two tracks, so I said, “yeah! Yeah, I’d love to!” Then this EP started to evolve into more and more songs until eventually, “well, this is going to be a Frost* album”. John and Andy were around, so it was all going to happen again. They asked if I could do it, so I said, “yeah! Let’s go!” So it sort of happened by accident! A happy accident, but yeah, it’s great.

PA: Is the line-up a little more stable now than it was after Milliontown? Will you disband again or is it more solid?

DB: I hope so. I hope things stay together. Andy Edwards is taking a year out, he’s got some other projects and work that he’s doing, so I think that with the gigs coming up we’re going to have to have another drummer come in to help us. But Andy’s still involved with the project. The plan is to do a DVD later this year. A little bit different than your normal live dvd, we’re hoping to set up in a big old abandoned warehouse, and record the songs and see how they go. Jem’s writing still, and we’re hoping to release some of the tracks over the next few months – so there’s a lot happening.



PA: I’m a little bit curious as to where the title of the album comes from

DB: Well, it’s from the title track of the cd, and the song – I understand – is all about the music business, and perhaps more in the pop scene, how record companies will sometimes experiment with what works with the public, “Oh this works, this doesn’t work, let’s do this, cut it.” Trying to see what sells best to the people and musicians are an expendable asset to their means. It’s probably got something of a dark undertone, but I like that – it appeals to me.

PA: Yeah! About that kind of “dark side” thing, I’ve noticed a lot of bands in the Neo-prog scene doing some darker stuff, what do you think about this trend?

DB: I don’t know – I’m guessing maybe it comes from what’s going on in the world today. There’s some big issues going on out there and I guess it translates into the music. But I don’t know, really.

PA: So being the new guy in the band, how much did you get to contribute to the album, or is it entirely Jem’s project?

DB: Well, Jem’s the songwriter, he writes all the music and lyrics - Although I have little bits and pieces which I’ve contributed. Perhaps he saw vocal delivery and he probably had it in his head when we went into record, because I remember him saying to me afterwards, “well I didn’t think you were going to do it that way,” but he was happy that I had. I think there was some… sort of happy accidents along the way. There was a few times where I’d sing the line and then he’d rearrange the parts to make it fit a little bit better. But songs like “Dear Dead Days,” we struggled with the chorus for ages and nothing worked. I think we had about 3 or 4 choruses for that one, and nothing was working. So Jem and I got together and we just bashed around and came up with the chorus that’s actually on the cd. So I’ve got a bit of a song writing credit in so much that I helped on the chorus to Dear Dead Days. It’s also the only song on there where I play the electric guitar on the chorus, but the rest of it is John, and the acoustic bits are me. But yeah! In so much that Jem will write all the material, he’s interested in our input and what we can bring to the table. When I finished the vocals John Mitchell had yet to put his guitar parts on, so it would be a few months before I would hear it – and up until that time I knew the songs as they were, but with no guitar on there. So when I finally heard it I thought, “Oh wow! This is fantastic!” He just brought so much texture into the songs that I didn’t hear before. All of us, when we started to add in our bit and pieces it became… - I think it sounds more like a band! It just sounds like 5 guys having as much fun as they can. With Andy on the drums, he never used any toms, so the entire album is just snare drum, bass drum, cymbal, so that was a bit of a challenge, and that was given to him to see what he could do. I guess the result is just this, “RRRAAAGGGHH!!” of a noise [laughs] – it’s just great!

PA: What do you think of the reactions to the album so far?

DB: I tend not to read reviews… I tend to stay away from it – and I’m not one for forums usually. Although I do post occasionally on the Frost* forum, but I don’t tend to look at it too much. But the reaction from the boys and girls who visit the Frost* forum has been very positive. I’m aware that there’s individuals out there who don’t particularly like what I’ve brought, and maybe they’re just not used to it since it’s not the same as what it was before, but I guess it’s a little bit of the challenge being new to the group and doing what I do. But from the people that I’ve been talking to they’ve been very supportive and happy with what they’ve heard.

PA: So what’s your favorite song to play live with the band?

DB: Ah… good question… Black Light Machine is great from Milliontown and from the new album I’d say that Experiments In Mass Appeal is great to play. We’ve recently played Saline – at the last gig that we played and it was the first time we played that live, so that was great to do. But there’s so many aspects of the music and I don’t think there’s a single song when I’m looking down the set-list where I think, “Agh! I don’t want to play that one!” [laughs] I’m happy to play all of them. It’s just great music. Particularly from the new album where they’re just so focused and pointed at the songs, it’s all about the song – there isn’t so much virtuosity and crazy solos, it’s all about, “listen to this great song”.

PA: So now that you’ve spent some time in Frost*, what’s your priorities between Frost* and Darwin’s Radio?

DB: Well we’re actually in the studio today, so I’m actually taking some time off to sit down and chat with you. As we speak, Sean’s recording the last of his bass parts. All of the drum parts are finished and Mark’s keyboard parts are all done – so we’re hoping that we can have it all done and together and have the next cd out next month. So we’re hoping to release this and maybe do a few gigs to support it. At the same time we’ve got some gigs coming up with Frost* that we’re going to do, and of course the DVD that we’re going to concentrate on. We’ll see! I’ve always been a firm advocator in that I think it’s quite healthy for musicians to play with as many other musicians and do as many projects as you can so that when you go back to a certain group you’re thinking, “Oh! Right, were back to this – this is good! Let’s get on with it.” I’ve recently done a solo for Carl Westholm of Carptree, so I think that’s going to be on the new Carptree album, so that’s great and I get to be on there. So yeah!



PA: Actually – I was about to ask how that Darwin’s Radio album is moving along.

DB: Yeah! It’s a little bit different from the first one. I think it’s a little more of how we wanted the band to be. The first one was… it wasn’t so much as released as it was… escaped [laughs] because we’d been playing together for so long and we were saying, “man, we just have to get something out!” and there was a whole spectrum of music that we were listening to. Dave, our drummer at the time, he was coming at music from one angle, I was coming at it from another angle, Mark – he’s very much in the prog genre, and some songs were very, very Proggy and other songs were really poppy and some were just love songs, really. I think there was a mix, a blend in that album that was… I’m not to sure that it flowed consistently. But the new cd that we have is very much coming from the same place. The songs are all linked, the lyrics are telling a story throughout all of them – we’ve only got 4 songs on this album and we may even whittle it down to 3. But they’re long – and one of them is 20 minutes – the others are about 12 or so. So they’re big, big prog songs, and I think that’s what we were trying to get the band to be with the first release and we’re more there now with this one. But it’s been a long time coming because Mark has been playing keyboards with IQ and I went off and did this album with Frost*, so poor Darwin’s Radio has been left on the shelf [laughs]. But now we’ve got the time to get into the studio with these songs that we’ve done and we can scratch off the recording and get it out there, so we’re excited about it – plus, Jem’s going to mix it for us, so we might even sound semi-decent! [laughs]

PA: Here’s an interesting one for you – what do you think of the internet as is applies to the progressive scene?

DB: I think it’s fantastic! I think it’s really good. In a way it’s the reason why I was drawn to Frost*. I saw Frost* originally as an internet-presence-band, rather than someone who wrote the music and then went out and played the gigs. I saw them coming at it from a different direction – like releasing samples and having people talk about it, and what have you. I think it’s great – and a lot of new music that I’m listening to, I would have never come across or even heard of if it hadn’t been for bits and pieces that I’d heard on the internet.

PA: What was it that first made you pick up the guitar and first start singing?

DB: Well I come from a relatively musical family. My parent’s used to play in the Irish club circuit years back, and I remember going to see them when we were really small, and I used to sing as a child – then when I was about 12 or 14 I heard Van Halen for the first time [laughs] and I thought, “Ah! I’m going to be able to do that!!” and I’m still trying to be able to do that [laughs]. But I just love the sound of the guitar, so I picked one up and never looked back. But as well, the guitar is a great instrumental to write music to – you can just pick it up and strum and sing and play and write as you go. But personally I would be very bored if I were just the singer in a band, or if I were just the guitar player in the band. The great thing about singing and playing guitar is that you can let everything inside of you out in one hit – to be able to sing it and be able to play it. That’s how I feel, personally, as a way to just get everything out.



PA: You were in a Rush tribute band originally, do you think there’s any chance we’ll hear Frost* or Darwin’s Radio break out any Rush tunes during a show?

DB: We nearly did! [laughs] Back in December when we played in London we were going to break out and play 2112, but everyone’s schedules and… time just beat us, so we played The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway instead. The Rush thing was fun, I think the main reason that I did that was because I just wanted to get out and play gigs, and you could probably only go so far playing covers in pubs. I really just wanted to get out and perform more, so I saw the tribute thing as a route to doing that. But behind it I always wanted to play in my own group, and it was through the tribute thing that I met the guys from Grey Lady Down, which had Mark and Sean and we became Darwin’s Radio after I quit the tribute band and GLD folded, so we got together and started writing music. I’m a little bit embarrassed about it now, but it did put me in the position where I was able to meet all these great musicians, form original groups and play original songs.

PA: Back to Frost* again, have there been any talks of a follow-up album, or are you still playing it by ear?

DB: Absolutely, we’re going to do another album for sure. Jem’s always writing and he’s got maybe 4 songs that he wants us to do and release perhaps individually, but he’s writing all the while. We hope that after we get the dvd going that there’s certainly going to be another Frost* album. It will definitely be a departure from the new album as much as this one was a departure from the first album. Which is great! Because in the truest sense of the word the band is progressive – maybe some people may not like that, but that’s what progressive is. This second album is nothing like the first one, it’s moved and it’s got a complete different direction, but at the same time you can tell it’s the same band. I think even when we play live the songs knit together so well. You can play Black Light Machine and then play Toys, yeah, they’re different songs, but you can tell that it’s come from the same stable. It’s the same band and they don’t sound abstract to one another, so that’s a good sign. So hopefully the new album will be a step in that direction and we’ll welcome it.

PA: What are your thoughts on the current progressive scene right now? Just in general.

DB: I really like it! And you’ve got so many parts to it as well, you’ve got groups like Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree at one end, then you have Pendragon and a lot of other great prog bands that are like branches on a tree that come out in different directions, but are fundamentally still prog. I love groups like Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater and what have you, I love that end of prog, if you’d like, that’s what floats my boat, and I think that Frost* sort of fits in with that stream. So yeah, there’s a lot to listen to – my friends are always saying, “oh Dec, you need to check out ‘such-and-such’,” there’s so much great stuff to listen to and there’s not nearly enough hours in the day to listen to it all. It’s fantastic! And we’re playing RoSFest in May, and honestly there’s some bands in there that I haven’t heard of before, but you go and check out their websites and their myspace where they might have a sound blast and you just think, “Whoa! Fantastic! Great stuff!”



PA: Okay, we’re getting to the obligatory questions here, so I’m going to go with “what are your 5 desert island discs?”

DB: Oh, okay – that’s a good one. Wind and Wuthering by Genesis, Deadwing by Porcupine Tree, Scenes From A Memory by Dream Theater… ooh, let me think… Grateful from Carpark North and Experiments In Mass Appeal, of course!

PA: What was the last cd you listened to?

DB: Last cd… I’m not too sure! I’ve been listening to… my wife really likes “Take That”, so I was listening to their last album [laughs] I just thought there was some really great songs on there. I’m always attracted to “the song” no matter what genre of music it comes from – so we had that in the car for quite a while. Sean is always giving me cds and I sometimes forget the name of the band or even the name of the song. I always remember the melody though – “Who’s that band!?... aw, I forget!” [laughs]

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Thanks once again to Declan for taking the time to do the interview, Frost*’s new album, Experiments in Mass Appeal is now out on InsideOut records:



Frost*’s Official Webpage
Frost*’s PA Page
Frost*’s MySpace

Darwin’s Radio’s Official Webpage
Darwin’s Radio’s MySpace

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 19 2009 at 15:33

Cool review Mike!!!!  Or at least somewhat Frost-y review. Wink

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 20 2009 at 11:32
King By-Tor

Thank you for the interview, I enjoyed reading it.

Declan,

Thank you for the music, I quite enjoy listening to it.

Tom
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 21 2009 at 12:10
Another excellent review Mike,i know how much time and effort you put into these interviews, so thanks.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2009 at 14:00
Darwin's Radio's new album, Template for a Generation, is released later this month. It contains three long tracks; the shortest of which, Breathe It In, is on the cover disc of Issue 3 of Classic Rock Presents Prog.

The band's website, http://www.darwinsradio.co.uk is open for pre-orders, which will be posted out from 14th August. 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2009 at 15:04
Big smile  Great interview .. Thanks Mike!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2009 at 20:50
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