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Joined: March 04 2008
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Posted: January 04 2012 at 04:08
Guitarist Tim HERSCHBERG and drummer John WATTS started playing original rock music in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1990s. After doing the local band circuit, HERSCHBERG and WATTS began a strict regimen of writing and recording, invested in equipment and after struggling to find a bassist, finally secured the services of friend Rocco SANTIGATI who also helped record and lay down tracks for the STRATEGY debut album (2007). Highly focused on a strange and dissonant approach, STRATEGY intentionally push the limits of modern guitar-based progressive rock as well as the tolerance of most listeners, making for a challenging sound that draws on the patterns of 80s CRIMSON with the oddities of fellow Arizonans CARTOON.
I got in touch with the band and here is their story.
When and by whom was your band born ? Did any of you, past and present members, play in any other bands before joining up in your band ? Why did you choose that name and which bands were you influenced by ?
Strategy is more of a project than an actual band. There aren't a lot, if any, places to play out for our style of music so we mostly just write and record. Myself and drummer John Watts are the people who started Strategy. Rocco Santigati came on to help out on bass after most of the tracks for the CD had been laid down. All of us have been in bands prior to the Strategy release. Rocco was in several prog bands that played in the Phoenix area during the 70's. In 1980 he and I formed a band called Mask that was influenced by a number of bands, but the strongest were probably the 72/74 error Crimson and Gentle Giant with nods to National Health and Hatfield and the North. During this period in phoenix there was a fairly strong underground scene. From the progressive scene there was Cartoon and Knebnegauge (later to become Pocket Orchestra). After Mask broke up in 1982 he and I continued to collaborate on projects for the rest of the decade. I formed a power trio called ToyBox that performed around Phoenix from 1990 to 1993. We were sort of blues rock with a Rush twist. In about 1994 or so I met John and we had a band that played around the city that was more of a straight ahead rock band with elements of blues rock in it. John had been a working musician for many years and played in a number of jazz and cover country bands. He was also involved with an obscure phoenix band called Ashbury that had an LP out in about 1983 called Endless Skies.
The name Strategy came about as most band names I'm sure. Going through a bunch of names and phrases and then out of the blue something strikes you. I was reading and the word strategy came up and it hit me as something that would be cool for a band name. I though it sounded as though it matched what we sounded like so I approached John with the idea and he liked it. So Strategy it was! I think the main influences were once again, 72/74 era Crimson, Gentle Giant and National Health. There were other influences that came into play here as well though, Henry Cow and some blues/blues rock. I'm a big fan of Rory Gallagher so there are definitely nods to that in there as well.
How is the music scene in Arizona now, a state most known for it's thrash metal scene ?
Metal does seem to rule the roost right now but there are a lot of different musical styles that are strong as well. Blues has always been around as well as country. Unfortunately progressive hasn't really seen much, if any traction since the early 80's. Paul Sears from the Muffins moved out to the valley about a year ago and I've gotten to know him and jam with him a bit. He is now working with a band, that has some international notoriety, called Oxygene8 who has Linda Cushma on stick. Hopefully with Paul and some other diehards we can jump start the scene again. That's probably a pipe dream, but everyone needs a dream!
Over to your two albums so far. Your self titled debut album was released in 2007. Please tell us more about this album.
During the late 90's John and I were working with a vocalist and putting together longer pieces that were more reminiscent of KC, genesis, yes, PFM and some other vocal oriented bands. Unfortunately the vocalist, whose family was from the San Francisco Bay area, moved back there in 2000. We tried to continue to work long distant but it didn't work out. John and I spent the next 2 years trying to find a vocalist to try and carry on. That didn't work out so we decided to do an instrumental, and thus was born Strategy.
I'd describe it as a kind of of heavy rock meets avant progressive. I love the first Captain Beyond album, actually I like all 3 but the first was definitely my favorite, Black Sabbath, Cream and again Rory Gallagher. So you collide that with KC, Gentle Giant, Henry Cow and National Health and I think you have a good representation of what the CD sounds like. A lot of heavy riffs with odd meters and dissonant sounding melodies that are harmonized ala HC.
Then we heard nothing from you for some years. Why this long silence ?
This is kind of a funny question in that the first CD really took about 7 years to complete. The second was a relatively quick 4! A couple of things that affected the length of time between cd's was, Rocco decided to stop playing music and move on to other pursuits so we were without a bass player for about year. After that we reconnected with a friend of ours who we had worked with earlier, Tony Olive. I had a number of songs that I had written so we needed to bring Tony up to speed on those as well as work out new songs I was writing as we were going. We have about 16+ songs, of which 8 made the new CD. So we still have another CD in the works. My hope is this one won't take as long to get out.
You have returned with a new album. Please tell us more about this album.
The new album still has a heavy vibe to it but not as much as the Strategy CD. It's quite a bit more melodic and maybe a little less focused on the odd meter riffing. Still has a lot of odd meter but 4/4 finds itself into the picture quite a bit more. Although I'm very proud of the Strategy CD, I was disappointed in the fact that we could not find a keyboard or horn player. Many of the harmony parts for that cd were not originally planed for guitar but rather horn or keyboard. So to rectify that I started playing keys and they are an integral part of the new CD. I'm not a great keyboardist but adequate enough to play what I was hearing in my head.
There are a lot of diverse pieces on the CD from acoustic to very heavy with some jazz, blues and hard rock. Additionally this is not a Strategy album. With the different focus on the music and the fact that Rocco left I felt we needed a new name to distinguish this from the Strategy band. So we choose H.O.W for Herschberg, Olive Watts. Not very imaginary but it'll do. We may do another Strategy band CD in the future, but as of know that has been put on hiatus. If Rocco decides in the future to get back into music then there is probably a good likely hood that will happen.
For those of us unfamiliar with your music; how would you describe you music and which bands would you compare yourself with ?
I, we are influenced by a wide variety of musicians and bands. I personally like, classical, jazz, blues, rock, blues rock and progressive. I'm partial to progressive but all those things find there way into my music. Aside from the bands mentioned my guitar influences are Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Leslie West, Tony Iommi, Bill Nelson, Roye Albrighton, Jukka Tolonen, Robert Fripp, Fred Frith, Andy Latimer, Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy and whole bunch more (of course Hendrix, Beck, Clapton and Page go without saying).
As I said above the music is a collision of all these influences. It can run from very subtle to raging, from bluesy to jazzy and then very progressive. I find that it's never as easy to describe your own sound as other's can. We had one reviewer of the Strategy CS comment that it sound like a fusion band with a blues guitarist. So the best thing is to listen to it and decide for yourself (PLEASE LISTEN TO IT).
What is your current status and what is the plans for your band in the future ?
Currently we are still writing and recording. I'm finishing up the additional songs that Tony, John and I tracked. So hopefully there will be another H.O.W CD out in the not to distant future. John and I continue to write and are working on a CD. Additionally we have started working with our vocalist, Rich McCloskey again, and have several vocal tracks that are coming together. Hopefully that will be completed sometime in 2012 (crossing my fingers). With digital recording and file sharing advances we can now share tracks back and forth and Rich being in SF and John and I being in Phoenix are no longer the hurdle they once were. So we are looking forward to that. We have a couple of tracks completed, and if I do say so myself, they sound very good.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?
I'd just like to thank you for the opportunity to talk a little about our music. Hopefully people will read this and find an interest in our brand of progressive and want to hear more. Thanks again and Happy Holidays!
Thank you to Strategy for this interview
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