An interview with Ajalon
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Topic: An interview with Ajalon
Posted: February 19 2010 at 19:33
USA is the home of some bands who have put up their houses somewhere in the borderland between AOR and symphonic prog. Ajalon is one of these bands. Take a spoonful of Kansas, a spoonful of Yes and a spoonful of AOR........ and you end up with something like Ajalon.
This brew may not be everyone's favourite drink, but there is no denying that there is a very big audience out there for this music. I got in touch with Ajalon to get their views on this and many other things.
As usual, my questions are in bold and his answers are in red italic bold
I give you Randy George from Ajalon.
What are you up to these days, just some months after the release of your last album ?
We are getting ready to play a couple of shows. One in Seattle Wa with Neal Morse openning for us and the other at ROSfest 2010 in Pennsylvannia.
Just before we go over to music and since I have an apologising Tiger Woods on my other ear while I am listening to This Good Place too; what do you think about his current situation and my girlfriend's decision to attach a GPS tracking device to my neck to monitor my every move this year just because I am an avid golfer ?
Well I think if you were a multi-millionaire like Tiger Woods then she might have a point... but I think she's pretty safe!
With a nervous glance towards the door, let's change subject to Ajalon.......
When, where and by whom was Ajalon formed ? I take it (from your website) that Ajalon is a reference to Joshua 10:12 from the Bible. Please tell us why.
Ajalon was formed by myself and Wil Henderson in 1994. Dan lile joined us about 6 months later on drums. That was in 1994. Yes Ajalon is taken from the scripture Joshua 10:12... I paraphrase it to mean Grace In The Midst of the Fire.
How was your formative years ?
I was raised by the TV set...
Please give us a presentation of Light At The End Of The Tunnel from 1996. The lyrical themes, the recording, the music and the participants. How was it to work with Rick Wakeman and his Hope Records on this album ?
We recorded Light At The End Of The Tunnel about 6 months before Rick Wakeman got a hold of it. IT was very exciting to be connected to one of our heroes. It certainly gave the band a wider audience. LATEOTT was primarily songs written by Wil Henderson with me producing the recordings.
You moved to another record label for the second album, but Rick Wakeman still participated on it. Please give us a presentation of On The Threshold Of Eternity from 2004. The lyrical themes, the recording, the music and the participants.
Threshold was a much better produced album, but the themes and music was still very much from our original batch of material all written before 1998. We did ad a Moody Blues cover and we also had guest appearances from Rick Wakeman, Neal Morse and Phil Keaggy.
Please give us a presentation of This Good Place from 2009. The lyrical themes, the recording, the music and the participants.
This Good Place was mostly new material written by us between 2006 & 2008. It is a more relavant allegorical theme lyrically rather than the more Christian themes that were on the first two CD's. Guests included Paul Beilatowicz (Carl Plamer, Neal Morse), and Rick Altizer (Adrian Belew). This is a much heavier album than the first two as well. Much more driving guitar rythyms and such. The drums were over the edge!!
What is the current situation regarding availability and distribution of your albums ? What is your experiences with the music/record industry ?
We are available on all the major download sites and all the online stores. ProgRock records has good distribution so anyone can get the CD at any store. I think the industry has changed a lot. Never more has bands had the opportunity to promote themselves with such resources as are available using the internet. I think it is still harder to get into brick and mortar stores unless you are on a major label. But it's an indy artist market out there for sure.
You have released three albums over a period of thirteen years. I guess your participation in Neal Morse's solo projects is one of the reason for the long breaks. Please tell us more about the gaps between the albums.
Yeah it's been a little lean in terms of number of albums but Ajalon is something we all do as we can while juggling the challenges of life. I was working with Neal quite a bit. Wil went back to college to get a degree, Dan was married and had moved away... but things came back around to put us in proximity to each other again so we picked up and went on.
Please tell us more about your connections with Neal Morse. How is he to work with ?
Neal is great to work with. I am pleased to be a part of his solo work along with Mike Portnoy. I have had my share of input to Neal's music. I'm sure there is more to come when the time is right.
I guess it is fair to say that you may have one or two Yes, Genesis and Kansas albums in your record collections. But which bands has influenced you most and how would you describe your music ?
Yes, my music is certainly a reflection of the many influences I have from those records. I'm not sure there is one more than another, but yes, Genesis, Moody Blues... all have a profound impact on my musical character since that is what I grew up listening to. I think you can hear a similar musical symmetry in my stuff. There are other influences as well. It's not all British invasion prog... but that is the most obvious.
I have both European and American relatives. In Europe, we do not do God in the public. God is reserved for our churches and the private sphere. In the USA, you have God everywhere although your constitution says USA is a secular country. Every public event (sport or cultural) starts with a prayer. Here in Europe, that is an absolute no-no. Your lyrics are pretty openly Christian and thereby pretty offensive to us European who regard Christianity as purely a private matter.
Well to begin with our constitution completely reflects that the US is a Christian nation founded by Christian men on Christian principles. It's right on the back of our money. "In God We Trust". However, the corruption of the US government has grown to a point where that has been lost and our leaders now suggest that the US is no longer a Christian nation. And with said leaders in power, they are right. One thing you have to respect is that other religions don't have a problem with who they are in their beliefs. You don't see Muslim nations slowly getting rid of their Muslim identities. I think it's too bad that some in the US have abandoned their spiritual heritage. We however stick to what we believe. But we also feel the time has come to disspell the stereotypes that most people reject in the Christian faith. few truly ever see or understand what Christianity is all about. But everyone see's the stereotypes which completely misrepresent what it is. Sadly the Christian church is one of the organizations has done the most damage to itself. I know that you have a somewhat different culture in Europe, but people are basically in need of the same thing where ever you go. Everyone wants to feel loved and everyone wants to feel important to someone. We try to focus on what is common to all men. If a few get offended in the process, that's their own personal issue.
...What has been the reaction to these lyrics ?
Well we have certainly been much more widely accepted and embraced by the secular listener more so than some of our Christian counterparts also doing Prog Music. Our lyrics aren't preachy or churchy. And on "This Good Place" there are no religious references at all.
I remember when Jessica Simpson was expelled from the Christian music scene in the USA and had to seek refuge in the secular market (poor, poor girl...) because she was deemed too earthly.
I never knew she was in the Christian music scene. While I know and have worked with many Christian music people, we are not in that circle and would not bow to the whims of those who influence that circle even if we were. Believe it or not the Christians didn't support us any more than the secular audience did back in the days when we much more vocal about our faith.
...Both through Ajalon and Neal Morse, you have experiences from both the Christian and the secular market. Is the attitudes still as rigid as it was in the 1990s or has the attitudes softened up ?
Well from what I have seen where Neal is concerned I think the attitudes are now that most understand that this is what Neal is doing and it's not going to change so most have supported him in it even if they don't like the lyrics... but I see much less imflamtory rhetoric than there used to be. As far as Ajalon, we are doing some different things lyrically such as you will hear on This Good Place. We will be true to our calling and that may or may not include more overtly Christian themes at times.
Please tell us more about the gigs and festivals you have played. You are still available for gigs and festivals ?
Ajalon played tons of gigs in the 90's. We are now just getting back into the live arena. So we will be playing ROSfest in May. We hope to come to Europe to play sometime.
What is the plans for Ajalon this year and in the future ?
Only time will tell. I'm sure we will start writing again and begin work on a new album later this year.
Please name your all time favourite five albums.
Transatlantic - SMPTe
Genesis - Wind and Wuthering
Rush - Permanent Waves
Moody Blues - To Our Children's Children Children
It Bites - Once Around The World
A big thank you to Randy George for kindly answering my questions. The Ajalon artist page in PA is here and their homepage is here
The Good Place
available from all good shops or through their homepage
Edited by toroddfuglesteg - February 20 2010 at 11:02
Joined: May 22 2007
Location: Michigan, U.S.
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|Posted: February 19 2010 at 19:43|
I'm agnostic myself, but I must say that I do enjoy all of Ajalon's albums. It was a nice interview to read. Thank you Torodd and Randy.
Joined: November 18 2007
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|Posted: February 19 2010 at 20:24|
Well, he's completely wrong about the constitution, but oh well. He sounds like a genuine guy, and he obviously believes in everything he is saying. It's even more commendable that he no longer feels Ajalon's music needs to be religious at all. That should free their appeal up considerably for even more non-believers to enjoy the music itself without getting put off by 'the message', or what have you.
The music on this album sounds much more mature and original than ever before, so I may give this one a go sometime soon. I actually enjoyed their last one, and would certainly give this new record a chance.
Cool interview, overall.
Edited by JLocke - February 19 2010 at 20:32
Joined: January 21 2005
Location: United States
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|Posted: February 23 2010 at 12:30|
Clearly, Randy George needs to do some homework:
the odious phrase 'In God We Trust' was officially adapted as the motto of this country during the Commie witch-hunts in the mid 1950's, at about the same time that the pledge of allegiance was corrupted by the addition of the words 'under god' in between 'one nation...' and '...indivisible (remove it, and the pledge makes better sense).
Thus his misconception of this being a Christian nation owes more to the paranoia and fear-baiting of McCarthyism than to anything conceived by the founding fathers. Quoting John Adams himself (from the 1797 treaty of Tripoli): " the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion...the United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation." (the wording of the treaty was ratified unanimously by the senate at the time: those were the days!)
Apologies for what probably seems like another Freethinker's rant. But ignorance of history ought to be everybody's pet peeve. Stick to the music and ignore the agenda behind it, and everyone benefits.
"Sacred cows make the best hamburger." - Mark Twain
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