SALEM HILL was formed in 1991 by singer, guitarist and songwriter Carl Groves, bassist Pat Henry, and drummer Kevin Thomas. Prior to the recording of the bands first album in Spring 1992, simply titled "Salem Hill", the band was joined by Michael Dearing on vocals and guitar. The band followed up their debut with "Different Worlds" in 1993 and then proceeded to take a three year break from recording and performing.
They have so far released eight studio albums and it is about time they get a bit more exposure here. I got in touch with them for their story.
Your biography has been covered in your
ProgArchives profile so let's bypass the biography details. But which bands were
you influenced by and why did you choose that name ?
: The biggest is The Beatles. After that the usual suspects: Yes, King Crimson, Kansas, Gentle Giant.
: Agreed. But we all groove on
radically different stuff as well.
This is an archive based interview also intended
for the fans you get well after both you and I have passed away so let's go
straight to your albums. Please give us your long or brief views on your albums,
Salem Hill from 1992
: massive reverb
: Probably our
least “prog” album. A bit naďve-sounding in places, but hey, it was a long time
ago! It would be fun to re-master and warm it up a little bit sonically.
: Cheaply-recorded. We had zero money. I don't listen
Different Worlds from 1994
: a fun album that was
conspicuously absent of massive reverb
: fun is the right word. I still
believe this album is unjustly overlooked by SH fans.
Catatonia from 1997
: Possibly my best lyrical effort
as far as concept albums go. I like what the album says both lyrically and
: poignant. Our best conceptual
: Strong effort! A bit “same-y” sounding in places, but
has The Judgment on it, which is one of our two-or-three best
The Robbery of Murder from 1998
: One of our best. Really strong material throughout,
well played/sung, and the production is really good.
: this album was magical in every way -- content, performance, audio,
: It's certainly a milestone in the
SH catalogue. My only complaint with it is that I find single songs from this
album do not work well when removed from the context. Maybe that's just
Not Everybody's Gold from 2000
: not magical in any way, with the
exception of 'Suite', which is my favorite song in our catalog.
: Terrible time for the band. The
album sounds like it was a bunch of square pegs hammered thru round holes
because...well...it was. I like 3 of the songs...
: Not our best, but it was done at a really dark time in
the band’s history. It has some good moments, but to my ears it’s a bit
cluttered sounding. I know it’s some of our fans’ favorite, but definitely not
Be from 2003
: The most "band-oriented" project
we've ever done. EVERYONE was involved and I think the album benefits. The end
still makes me cry.
: My vote for our best studio album. Great songs,
production, variety, story, etc.. We got some negative reviews because it
wasn’t “prog” enough, which I totally disagree with – it doesn’t have to sound
like Genesis in 1973 to be prog!
Mimi's Magic Moment from 2005
: Great performances. Fewer songs
with greater development... My favorite kind of music.
: And the pendulum swings the other way. A bit
long-winded in places, but really good overall. You can be long-winded if the
songs are strong, and these are. Sonically this is another favorite – big &
warm, but still clean and uncluttered.
: My favorite SH
album. Big. Lush. Lots to chew on. Reminds me of port wine.
Pennies in the Karma Jar from 2010
: devotional, thought
: This one’s still a little close, but generally really
strong. It has probably our best song ever (The Day Is Yours) and the sound is,
again, really warm and full yet still clean.
it's still too close for me to comment.Although I will say that I enjoyed
playing Hammond and Wurly all over it!
and your live album
Puppet Show from 2003 and your DVD Mystery Loves Company from
: Puppet Show is a
little raw, but that’s what we sounded like! The choice of material is good and
it shows the live side of the band, which is a little looser and more powerful.
Also our sense of humor some through, too – unusual for a bunch of proggies!
Mystery is good, too, but my opinion is colored by the knowledge that the
second DVD we recorded (Live Catatonia) is so much better. We had such an
underwhelming response to the first DVD that we never released it – and the Live
Cat album went so unnoticed that you don’t seem to be aware of its existence!
That’s what we get for trying a download-only release – maybe if there’s any
interest we’ll make a CD of it. I hope so, because it’s one of the best things
Just to give those of us who are unknown with your music a bit of a
reference point or two: How would you describe your music ?
: I always have trouble answering this one – to me we
sound like us!
: I agree. Folks say we're neo..then we're symphonic,
then we do "Be" and they wring their hands. I love color in music. If a song
calls for double tracked guitars screaming like Black Sabbath, or Mellotron, or
Hammond, or a Brian Wilson vocal treatment, etc.- then that's what we give it.
Songs dictate. We just obey (if we're smart).
How is the availability of your albums and from where
can they be purchased ?
: And all
the usual excellent prog vendors. First two albums are out of
What is your experiences
with the music industry and the gigs promoters ?
: On the advice of
counsel, I respectfully defer.
: Generally, they suck. Personally, the
idea of music being described in terms of industry or product units is repugnant
: I’ve seen the industry from just about every angle and
I’m happy we’re existing outside of it. The music business is all about
“packaging” a “product” and has virtually nothing to do with music. It’s always
been that way to an extent, but now that the dinosaurs are in such trouble it’s
only gotten worse.
Your band started out before the internet
really took off with file sharing, Youtube and all the social media. How would you compare
the scenes before and after the big bang, so to speak.
: We owe the band’s existence to the
internet – it spread the word about a little band from Tennessee at a time when
prog music in the mainstream was viewed only slightly less favorably than the
bubonic plague! Our sales have slipped to an extent with the advent of more
accessible theivery (as everybody’s have), but for a band like us it’s the only
way to exist...
back on your career; what was your best and worst experiences ?
: Worst is the period surrounding the
making of Not Everybody’s Gold, about which the less said the better. There
isn’t a single best for me – I enjoy getting to play live on the rare occasions
we do. It’s always a pleasant surprise how many people go to such lengths to
Agreed. NEG was a low point. I think having "Be" named Album of the Year on NRO
was certainly one of the best.The reception we were given at RoSFest in 2004 was
your current status, your plans for the rest of this year and beyond
: We're actually in the
plotting stage of our next album. I've got an editor working on the video of the
2nd Hillionaire's Weekend (Catatonia Live) and from what he's shown me so far,
it's worthy of release. Can't give you a date yet, tho.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you
want to add to this interview ?
: Thanks for your interest and support!
Absolutely. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk about SH. It's always
gratifying to know there are folks who are
Thank you to Salem Hill for this interview
Their PA profile is here and homepage is here