Man On Fire
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Joined: March 04 2008
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Topic: Man On Fire
Posted: September 06 2011 at 14:34
MAN ON FIRE was introduced to the world with the release of their self-titled debut CD in 1998. Formed by Jeff Hodges (vocals, keys, production) and Eric Sands (guitars, basses), the MAN ON FIRE sound combines melodic vocals, fretless bass, layered keyboards, and heavy guitar soundscapes. With influences ranging from Japan and Peter GABRIEL to RUSH and Kevin GILBERT, MAN ON FIRE is preparing for their second release, "The Undefined Design", which features special guest David Ragsdale (KANSAS) on violin.
I got in touch with the band and they kindly answered my questions.
When, where and by whom was Man On Fire formed? Did any of you, past and present Man On Fire members, play in any other bands before joining up in Man On Fire? Why did you choose that name?
Jeff: Man on Fire was formed in 1998 in Atlanta. Eric and I were formerly in a band together in Atlanta called "Section 8" that was signing a record deal with a major label in the late 80's when all hell broke lose at the label we were dealing with. Disheartened, the band broke up and we went our separate ways for several years before Eric and I reunited to write new material. Our longtime friend, Steve Carroll, who was also our previous bandís manager, later joined on as the bands lyricist and graphics designer. I think Steve actually came up with the name for the band based on an old movie that consequently was remade a few years ago by Denzel Washington. It was all part of our long-term marketing plan... yeah that's it! LOL
Eric: Steve came up with the name, soÖover to you Steve!
Steve: Actually, the name comes from a novel by A.J. Qunnell called Man on Fire. That was the basis of 2 movies, one of which was the recent one starring Denzel Washington. I always thought it would make a great band name and we did pick it WAY before that Denzel movie!
How was the music scene in your area when you started?
Eric: There was and continues to be an active live Music scene in Atlanta. In the 80's and 90's one could see excellent live, original rock bands on any night of the week. These days, it's all about tribute bands.
Jeff: Atlanta's music scene doesn't necessarily lend itself to progressive rock as much as some of the northern states and europe, but there's a good following and a few annual festivals. Still, we traveled out of state on most occasions to play other festivals such as ProgDay, Rosfest, etc.
Over to your albums... Your debut album was Man On Fire from 1998. Please tell us more about this album.
Jeff: Really this album was a collection of both material I had written after Section 8 broke up, as well as several songs I wrote once Eric, Steve and I started working together again as Man On Fire. "Just out of Reach" is a popular song off this album. When I wrote this I was going thru a difficult period in my life - I had just broken my ACL and torn some other things in my knee, and I was on crutches undergoing pre-operation physical therapy. So some of the pain, along with hope, translated itself into that track.
Your second album was The Undefined Design from 2003. Please tell us more about this album.
Jeff: I had opened my Atlanta studio Caffeine Tracks that year and had all kinds of new toys. I began to experiment more with arpeggiators and manipulating synth sounds and creating unique sounds. This is where I also began using more processed percussion and drum loops and samples in our music. David Ragsdale added a new flavor with his stunning violin work once again.
Eric: This was the first CD where I feel Man on Fire really found it's identity. It's been my favorite up to now.
Steve: The Undefined Design was the record where I personally became more involved and stepped in as lyricist.
Your third and most recent album was Habitat from 2005. Please tell us more about this album.
Jeff: Habitat is a concept album concerning the lives of a group of people that all live within one city block of each other. As I began writing songs for the third album, very soon the songs seemed to take on a human personality, each it's own. About 3 or 4 songs into it, I called Steve and mentioned that, and we birthed the idea of making it a concept. After that, the songs just poured out as we added more residents to this block. The lyrical content that Steve wrote around the music is just amazing in my opinion. We had the fortune of bringing in Adrian Belew for guitar work and David Ragsdale returned on violin.
Eric: Habitat is an interesting snapshot in time for the band. As a concept album, It was quite an ambitious creative undertaking, especially for Jeff and Steve. Guitarist Adrian Belew is featured prominently on the CD. While I still think itís a great piece of work, it was a departure from what I considered the sound of the band to be. Chrysalis marks a return to our initial vision, (in my opinion).
Steve: Habitat was an amazing thing to be creatively involved in. The working relationship that I shared with Jeff on this one was electric Ė the lyrics just seemed to almost write themselves, pouring out effortlessly. Being able to share an album credit with Adrian Belew will always be an amazing achievement for me.
You are getting ready to release your 4th album, Chrysalis. What can we expect from this album?
Jeff: This album is by far the work I'm most proud of in terms of it's depth and character, it's production qualities, and it's balance between organic and natural instrument sounds blended with more synthesized and processed sounds. During the time I was writing music for the record, I opened a world-class commercial recording studio (charlestonsound.com), so I was able to really take my time and use all the best vintage and modern equipment that was at my disposal. Along the way I met and became friends with many fantastic musicians and session players who came together to make huge contributions to the record (Cameron on Trumpet, Jenny on Violin, Quentin on Drums and Elise on co-vocals)
Eric: Sonically, Chrysalis blows away anything we've done in the past. Jeff has grown not only as a keyboard player and songwriter but as a world class producer. He never ceases to astonish and inspire me, even after over twenty years of working together. UhÖSteve's lyrics don't suck either :^)
Steve: Thereís a maturity and uniqueness of sound to Chrysalis that really sets it apart from anything Man on Fire has done previously. It definitely has its own voice.
How is the creative processes in your band from coming up with an idea to it's being recorded?
Jeff: I typically come up with a song idea and lay it down via midi keyboards and sampled drums on my zendrum. Then I'll introduce that to Steve and Eric, and Steve will begin to write lyrics based on my scat vocal melody. Eric will come in, I'll share a few of my ideas with him, and then he'll take it to a completely new level of greatness. For this record, I was able to take my time with each of the other players in their recording sessions to really get the best performance, the best representation of the instrument in terms of room sound, microphone placement etc, and layer things so the music can evolve, growth, digress, break down... build up etc etc.
Steve: Jeff usually has a very specific vocal melody and word meter that he records and gives me along with an early version of the foundational music in rough demo form. Sometimes there are disjointed words in his vocal melodies, but mostly itís just phonetics that sound a little like words. I then will sit and listen to these demos one line at a time and a sentence or phrase begins to emerge that matches the meter and feel of the melody Jeff has created. Itís a unique process that we have, but it works.
Eric: Ah, I love this question... We've been asked this before. You see, Jeff comes up with the empty shell of a song and we all contribute our parts to make it something really special! LOL! Actually, these days, Jeff writes the songs and has definite ideas as to what he wants as far many guitar and bass parts, but he's also really open to ideas and suggestions. During the recording, many parts are spontaneous and add an unexpected element when they occur. There definitely is room for input and to improvise. Jeff and I work well together. I usually record with him in the control room. We get a rhythm going, slappin' da bass, moving faders and high-fiving. It's a very fun process!
For those of us unknown with your music; how would you describe you music and which bands would you compare yourself with
Jeff: I would say we're kindaí like Muse meets Peter Gabriel Meets Yes meets Rush meets King Crimson meets Coldplay meets Radiohead meets The Fixx meets Lincoln Park meets Bella Bartok.
Eric: For me, its equal parts Japan, Peter Gabriel and a touch of 70's metal.
Steve: Iíve always been happy that for the most part critics are left at a loss to name any obvious influences with Man on Fire.
What is the availability of your three albums and where can they be purchased?
Jeff: Worldwide there are many outlets - in Europe there's Just For Kicks, in the USA there's Synphonic, Lasers Edge, amazon.com, Barns and Noble, the list goes on and on.
Steve: Chances are that your favorite prog reseller either has our CDs in stock or can get it through 10T Records.
Eric: 10T Records releases are available in the US at virtually any brick and mortar store, as well as digital distribution through all the major download services. Additionally, the entire Man on Fire catalog can be purchased at http://10trecords.com/artists/genres/progressive-experimental/man-on-fire/discography/
What are your plans for this year and beyond?
Jeff: Well this year we hope to close out on a high note with Chrysalis coming out in the 4th Quarter, and we'll be working hard to promote the record through radio, online media and retail. On the live music note, Man On Fire and many of the other artists on the label have expressed interest in a label-sponsored music festival, so we have some things to possibly look forward to on that front.
Eric: Promote and play as much as possible. Perhaps start working on the next album. Six years Is way too long!
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add?
Jeff: I just want to thank the music critics, the distributors and retailers, the folks in radio and promo, and especially our fans, for giving the new record a spin. I know it's been a fairly long hiatus for us, so we appreciate all of you giving this new collection a deep listen. We hope that you find very enjoyable and musically satisfying. Thanks!
Eric: We really appreciate your interest in the band. Thanks for helping to keep prog alive.
Steve: Yeah, thanks to ProgArchives for all that you guys do to keep this style of music alive and relevant!
Thank you to the band for this interview
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