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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: May 03 2011 at 07:28

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 ?

Michael Dearing : The biggest is The Beatles.  After that the usual suspects: Yes, King Crimson, Kansas, Gentle Giant.
Kevin Thomas : Definitely Beatles.
Carl Groves : 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, starting with.......

Salem Hill from 1992  

Kevin Thomas : massive reverb
Michael Dearing : 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.
Carl Groves : Cheaply-recorded. We had zero money. I don't listen to it.

Different Worlds from 1994   

Kevin Thomas : a fun album that was conspicuously absent of massive reverb
Carl Groves : fun is the right word. I still believe this album is unjustly overlooked by SH fans.

Catatonia from 1997 

Carl Groves : Possibly my best lyrical effort as far as concept albums go. I like what the album says both lyrically and musically.
Kevin Thomas : poignant. Our best conceptual recording IMO.
Michael Dearing : Strong effort!  A bit “same-y” sounding in places, but has The Judgment on it, which is one of our two-or-three best pieces.

The Robbery of Murder from 1998 

Michael Dearing : One of our best.  Really strong material throughout, well played/sung, and the production is really good.
Kevin Thomas : this album was magical in every way -- content, performance, audio, story...
Carl Groves : 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 me!

Not Everybody's Gold from 2000

Kevin Thomas : not magical in any way, with the exception of 'Suite', which is my favorite song in our catalog.
Carl Groves : Terrible time for the band. The album sounds like it was a bunch of square pegs hammered thru round holes was. I like 3 of the songs...
Michael Dearing : 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 mine.

Be from 2003

Carl Groves : The most "band-oriented" project we've ever done. EVERYONE was involved and I think the album benefits. The end still makes me cry.
Michael Dearing : 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
Kevin Thomas : Great performances. Fewer songs with greater development... My favorite kind of music.
Michael Dearing : 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.
Carl Groves : My favorite SH album. Big. Lush. Lots to chew on. Reminds me of port wine.

Pennies in the Karma Jar from 2010  

Kevin Thomas : devotional, thought provoking.
Michael Dearing : 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.
Carl Groves : Yeah, 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 2007

Michael Dearing : 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 we’ve done...

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 ?

Michael Dearing : I always have trouble answering this one – to me we sound like us!
Carl Groves : 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 ?

Michael Dearing : Why of course!
Carl Groves : And all the usual excellent prog vendors. First two albums are out of print.

What is your experiences with the music industry and the gigs promoters ?

Carl Groves : On the advice of counsel, I respectfully defer.
Kevin Thomas : Generally, they suck. Personally, the idea of music being described in terms of industry or product units is repugnant to me.
Michael Dearing :  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.

Michael Dearing : 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...

Looking back on your career; what was your best and worst experiences ?

Michael Dearing : 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 see us.
Carl Groves : 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 pretty nice.   

What is your current status, your plans for the rest of this year and beyond ?

Carl Groves : 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 ?

Michael Dearing : Thanks for your interest and support!
Carl Groves : Absolutely. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk about SH. It's always gratifying to know there are folks who are interested.

Thank you to Salem Hill for this interview

Their PA profile is here and homepage is here


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memowakeman View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 03 2011 at 16:24
Nice interview. It is funny to see they don't listen to their first album haha.

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