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    Posted: April 24 2010 at 03:19

Aragon is an Australian neo-prog band which had some success in the 1980s. Then they disappeared for a long while...... and then reappeared in 2005 again with a new album. I caught up with John Poloyannis for the full Aragon story.

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When, where and by whom was Aragon formed and was and what is your musical philosophy ?

The band was formed in 1983, in Melbourne, Australia. It was formed by Les Dougan, Tom Behrsing, John Poloyannis, Rob Bacon, and Tony Italia. Back then our music philosophy was to write  the best progressive rock songs we were capable of. Now it’s pretty much the same, but our taste in music has widened.


To start with; please give me your (long or brief) thoughts and lowdowns on.......



Don't Bring The Rain from 1987


DBTR was exciting, being the first album we worked on for release. At the time there weren’t too many indie bands thinking of releasing an album, let alone a progressive album in Australia. So it actually surprised us how well it did. It opened a whole lot of doors for us and amazingly we found our songs played on major radio stations in Australia, and then somehow the album found its way overseas. This gave us our first record deal. Another great memory was producing the album cover, which was photographed at Montselvaat castle. Later we ended up playing in the main hall of the castle which was our first ticketed show. There is still surviving footage of this show that we may release somewhere on the web at a later date.


The Meeting from 1992

We had just started work on Mouse, and Warner Chappell presented us with a publishing deal. This left us in the position where we had access to a professional studio and recording time, but a concept that was no where near finished. We were under a bit of pressure to release something quickly. We had finished the story of Mouse, but musically only the middle section had been completed. So we released Act 5 The Meeting. This was a great introduction to working in a world class studio and the engineer of this project, Chris Corr was very helpful and patient with our inexperience. Unfortunately this never felt finished to us, as we had always wanted Mouse to be a completed work... But it was good to release the Cd worldwide as it left people wanting more.



Rocking Horse And Other Stories from 1993

Again Mouse was taking longer than we had hoped, but there was a great desire to get it right. Once again we found ourselves under pressure to release something else as The Meeting had sold quite well. We had always thought our first demo, and a song that was a real favourite in the live set, “Rocking Horse”, would be a great song to release. We had quite a few bits and pieces left over from other recordings and we went through these and added them to make another album. Some were really early pieces, and a few we recorded in the bedroom on a 4 track. One thing we didn’t want to do is release another act from Mouse at this point in time.



Mouse from 1998

Originally we released Mouse without Act 5, as this had sold well and we felt we were cheating people buying something they already had. Later we had the opportunity to release the full version with The Meeting as a special edition double CD....

We had a great time and experience recording the album, and were given total artistic freedom. We allowed ourselves the time to experiment with different sounds and ideas..... and stretched some recording boundaries. Studio feedback was that it was a refreshing change to the norm. As writers it was very satisfying to see the work completed as we had originally intended.

There was a Lot of history behind this album. The story seemed to eerily mirror what was happening in real life. It is basically an autobiography of the band at that time. Both chronologically and historically. Regardless it was a great experience to record, and we were very pleased with the end result. The album had high expectations due to the wait, and when it was initially released it sold exceptionally well.

It was all going too well. Our record company tried to expand too quickly by amalgamating with a major label who were not progressive friendly. This left us with a recent release which had no real Record Company backing as they had no idea what to do with us. The feedback we were getting from their internal people worldwide was they needed more CDs to sell..... but the mechanics of the business were too slow. The album, in our eyes failed in sales. This nearly ended the band, and definitely ended our publishing deal. We found ourselves on our own after we (and our audience), thought we had released our best work. The reviews were excellent, initial sales fantastic, yet our hands were tied. We were all pretty down at this time.



Mr. Angel from 1998

Good songs, but unfortunately suffered by inexperience in recording. We had decided to record our own album in our own studio, but didn’t have the experience to do so. In saying that, we learned a lot by completing this project. We have since discussed re-recording the album, but opted to move on.

We also needed a change as the previous 3 releases were heavily concept orientated, and we were a bit burned out. Mr Angel really wasn’t a concept, and some songs bordered on Rock. We had a lot of fun writing and recording this cd and it was a great stepping stone to the next album. We are still thinking of re-recording some of the songs, and in fact some of them feature in our live acoustic set.


The Angels Tear from 2004

We like this album a lot, and it marked a change in the way we write and record. Tom was going through a difficult time, and could not be there for the majority of the writing. This gave us (John and Les) more creative freedom as writers, but extended the time of release as now there was only two of us. We needed to record not only our parts, but to write and record all the remainder of the instruments. This was a huge learning curve, and hence the time it took to release. But now we feel we are well equipped to do the next cd, which we are currently in the middle of.

You had a long break and then reformed again. What happened ?

There was no break as such but life got in the way, marriage, children etc.. All these things were not there before and our time as husbands and parents had to be balanced with our musical needs. We continued to work regularly, writing and recording but as explained above we were learning new instruments and techniques and continue to do so.

What is the latest update on Aragon ? 

Its all very exciting at the moment, we are in the middle of a few projects. We have just finished a new age instrumental concept CD under the name of Elysian Sea called “The Four Elements” (go to http://www.myspace.com/elysiansea for a listen ), we are a quarter of the way on a new prog album, and we are writing material for an acoustic album all to be released under our own label. (Psychotic Duck records http://www.myspace.com/psychoticduckrecords). We are very close to completing the new web site, where we will offer DBTR as a free download....just for starters.

I would put Aragon in the landscape somewhere between Tears For Fears, Pendragon and Marillion. But how would you describe your music and who would you compare yourself with ?

We enjoy progressive, but we enjoy other stuff as well, and all these influences help shape our sound. It is difficult to compare yourself with other artists, because as writers songs develop differently and sometimes take their own form. We don’t set out to sound a particular way, but if others think we do that’s ok. It’s nice to be compared to artists you admire, but its amazing the amount of other artist we are compared to.

Our influences have changed so much over the years.... Now they are more like:

  • Kamelot and Roy Khan
  • IQ
  • Arena
  • Massive attack
  • System of a down
  • Augustana
  • Karnivool
  • Nightwish
  • David Gilmour and Floyd
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Live
  • Eric clapton
  • John Mayer
  • Lacuna Coil
  • Muse

....and it constantly changes

Your sound was pretty similar to the British Neo-Prog bands......... but you were on the other side of the world in Australia. How was the scene down under and was this geographic distance an advantage or a disadvantage for you, gigs wise and in all other respect ?

There really wasn’t a progressive scene, there was a small movement earlier on with Sebastian Hardy and Windchase, the main players but it had died years before we started. We kind of became part of the indie/underground scene, and were accepted as artists in that area. Our shows are very theatrical, and appeal to those who are looking for something a little bit different. Our audience can be an eclectic mix of people.

The distance was definitely a disadvantage. We were offered to play many overseas festivals, but usually our money was tied up in live work here, or the next album. We just never had enough to make the huge trip.

What is your experiences with the music industry and where do you think it is heading ? 

We think the emphasis has come back to live work, and it is very hard to make money out of CD sales as there are so many ways of downloading music. In saying that, it has encouraged bands to experiment, and in turn there has been some great product released...on the Web. Music seems to have turned full circle as in the 60’s and early 70’s, where artists were allowed the freedom to experiment with new styles and sounds. This in turn allowed them to grow. Nowadays this gives a chance for young artists to develop there craft without having the door slammed in their face. The only critics are the people listening, which is who it should be. A lot of the Mouse album relates to this.

Is there any gigs and/or festivals you remember with great fondness ?

Montselvaat Castle for sure, but the Armadale and the Tote hold special memories as well. Really, they all were memorable. It’s the little things that went wrong we now remember with fondness.... Overuse of dry ice, getting almost electrocuted with the 3 phase power.....deadly, power dropping out in the middle of a show, and a particular moment when the sound engineer, forgot to leave the mike were Les expected it to be.

Do you have any regrets in your career ? 

Not touring overseas and the sound quality of Mr Angel. Other than that nothing else really. We are still enjoying the ride.

How do you see the future of Aragon as a band ? 

We see a very healthy future for all our projects.... not just Aragon. We enjoy the variations, and have a different sense of fulfilment for each one. As we said above, the Web has opened new doors for us, and we like the idea of having total control over our work.

What is your five all-time favourite albums ? 

This is always a hard question, because as we said above its an ever changing entity. At the moment:

John                                                                                    Les

Mike Oldfield Tubular bells                                             Kamelot The fourth legacy  
  Sting Brand new day                                                  IQ The seventh House
Genesis Selling England by the pound                             Genesis Selling England by the pound
  Yes Going for the one                                                          Mike Oldfield Tubular bells
SOAD Mezmerize                                                                  Nightwish Once                                                                                                                

Anything you want to add to this interview ?

3 + 3 = 7


OK........... A big thank you to John Poloyannis for answering my questions.

Aragon's PA profile can be found here and their home page can be found here.



 

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