Progressive rock quartet from Buellton in California, Temple of Switches released their self-titled debut album in November 2015. About this six-track album, and more, the band talks for Moshville.
Hey guys. How are you doing?
Mike (guitar): Excellent! Couldn’t be better.
You released “Temple of Switches” in November. How do you feel about the release?
Mike (guitar): We’re happy with the artwork and the mix, and the response to the music has been positive so far. The music covers a lot of ground so there is something for everyone. We’re just curious to see which market fits it best. So far it seems to be popular with the 45 thru 65 year old males. They love it in Brazil and eastern Europe.
How much of a challenge was it to work on the album?
Joe (bass): It was very challenging for me because I live in Las Vegas, and the rest of the band is in SoCal. This limited the amount of input that I was able to have in the project.
Jay (drums): Working on this album is by far the most challenging thing I’ve done musically. About an entire year went into creating this album, a lot of sacrifices and arguments went into making this album. But the finished product was well worth all of it.
Kevin (keys and vocals): There were several challenges. Deciding who would mix it was a big one. We each tried our hand at it but decided to hire an engineer. I learned a lot from watching him. My biggest challenge is working alone. I really enjoy working with other band mates. I have a short attention span when I’m alone.
Mike (guitar): The making of this album nearly broke up the band. We started out recording the drums. Our bass player at the time was extremely particular and impossible to please and tried to play a dominant role in the process. Jay is not the type of drummer that will play to a click. He varies the tempo with the mood of the song, within the song. That drove the bass player crazy. He wanted a robot. He actually suggested we replace Jay. That was out of the question for us. We love Jays drumming, it’s intense and unique and adds an element of brightness to the music, besides, we have been friends for decades and have a real chemistry.
We tolerated the bass players complaining for quite some time and finally had to let him go. My brother Joe plays bass and had gigged with us a couple of times and really liked the material as well as Jays style, so he insisted that he be the one to record the bass parts on the CD, so we replaced all the bass lines with Joes. We also had our friend Kevin Robertson play bass on one track called “Fountain of Youth”. We originally released the CD at the end of 2014. The bass player we fired then contacted us and said he disagreed with the writing credits, that the drummer should not receive any writing credit at all. We do not operate like that. Jay had significant input to all of the music. These are not Beatles songs, his drum parts are orchestrated. In the end we had no choice but to pull three of the songs that involved the old bass player from the CD, and re-release it. It was a rough time because the tracks we had to drop were really great. Maybe some day we can work things out and release those three songs.
How is the progressive rock/metal scene in California these days?
Mike (guitar): We live in a rural area. We formed the band in 2012 and in our isolation, thought that we were on the cutting edge of reviving Progressive Rock. It wasn’t until we released the CD and started to promote it the we realized that prog rock was a thriving genre. That being said, prog rock is nearly non existent in our area, and the majority of the people seem to be musical agnostics which makes it fun for us. We play really, really loud, and have lots of lighting effects. It is sensory overload. It’s a blast to watch the looks on peoples faces. It really blows their minds. One gig we played at a bar, and I was looking out at the crowd. Every single eyeball was pointed at the band. It was unusual because normally people are unruly, rowdy and inattentive at bars and don’t pay much attention to the music. Many people have said they have never heard anything like this before. Very rewarding.
What is your opinion about the new wave of progressive bands?
Mike (guitar): Fantastic. You hear bands that sound organic, with flutes and woodsy sounds like old Genesis, and modern sounding jam bands pushing the envelope. The genre covers so many styles. It’s good to hear intelligent music being created like this. I was losing hope with all of the awful commercial stuff that was coming out. Now we need the terrestrial radio stations to start giving the genre the attention it deserves. The industry is changing so rapidly. Apparently we are in the middle of a revolution in music marketing.
Can you tell me something about your influences?
Jay (drums): My influences consist of a great variety of drummers: Neil Peart of course, Simon Phillips, Dave Weckl, Carl Palmer, Max Roach, just to name a few.
Kevin (keys and vocals): I’ve always liked the more melodic stuff from any band I heard growing up in the late 60s and early 70s. Usually it was the “slow song” that was my favorite.
Joe (bass): Rush is definitely my primary influence, but they probably are for most rock bass musicians. I also played jazz as a youngster, so I have a very open mind as far as musical interests.
Mike (guitar): It’s funny, the best musicians I’ve worked with, Kevin for example and my friend Dale who I grew up with and co-wrote some of the material on this CD with, rarely listen to music. Dale did not even have a stereo. Yet they can create like madmen. Beautiful magical music, seemingly effortless. I on the other hand have always been a musical junky. I’ve listened to everything. I’ve heard all the Led Zeppelin albums so many times that they are permanently etched in my brain. Top influences for me would be: Yes, Led Zeppelin, Jean-Luc Ponty, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rush, Kansas. All the bands from the seventies that had powerful material.
What are you listening these days?
Mike (guitar): I’m immersed in the jazz guitarist John Abercrombie. He is a master of his instrument. His soloing abilities are just crazy. He can plug a guitar in totally dry and alone, by himself make the most beautiful music you have ever heard. I have over 45 albums that are either his bands or projects he has done with others. ECM finally re-mastered the three albums he did with Richie Beirach back in the late seventies, on CD. I got them for Christmas, and am looking at them right now. I’ve been chewing my way through his music for more than ten years and it never gets old. He is the absolute best in my opinion.
Your five favourite records of all time?
Joe (bass): I tend to like edgier stuff like Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Jazz prodigies like Hiromi. The more difficult the music is to play, as far as bass lines, the more I like it. My favorite album is probably Farewell to Kings, or Permanent Waves both by Rush.
Rush; All the Worlds A Stage
Crack The Sky; Live
Acoustic Alchemy; all of their albums.
Pat Travers; Go For What You Know
Anything by Al Dimeola.
Kevin (keys and vocals):
Dark Side of the Moon
Clyde and Phyllis
Santa Claus is Coming To Town (ya I’m a nerd)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
John Abercrombie Quartet – Arcade
John Abercrombie Quartet – Quartet
Kansas – Two for the Road
Jean-Luc Ponty – Cosmic Messenger
Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Trilogy
Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you used to record “Temple of Switches”?
Kevin (keys and vocals): The organ is a Roland VK–8 that I ran through a Leslie 251 at full volume, with stereo mics placed about 3 feet in front of the cabinet. I also had the Leslie affect turned on (the VK-8) and used the brake to stop it at a place that sounded extra sweet and dirty. I borrowed the Leslie from a friend and brought it into the studio one afternoon. I had it on for about two minutes and I was really wailing on it and then the power went out. It turns out the power pole next-door caught on fire. I took it as a good omen. I played the pipe organ at Bethania Luthern Church in Solvang on the intro to “The Positive Side, Part 2”. It is a Phelps organ with 32 ranks. My parents used to drag us there every Sunday when we were kids.
Joe (bass): I used two different basses on this CD, a 1975 Fender Precision and a 1998 Rickenbacker 4003. I recorded the bass parts at my home studio here in Vegas through an Ampeg SVT-400T with some compression directly into my computer using Reaper, then sent it to the boys in SoCal so they could put the finishing touches on it. No effects, just raw bass baby!!!
Jay (drums): My hardware consists of a custom made 12 ply Ludwig Element series shell pack, it’s a 9 piece kit with 12 Sabian AAX and XXS series cymbals! A Black Series Wave Drum, and a custom made drum rack built by the Kaman Corporation. I refer to the drum rack as the Binford 9000, because it’s the ultimate tool for any drummer! Now I dare any young drummer to try to figure out what I’m talking about.
Mike (guitar): Should I say this? I used a line 6 HD500 almost exclusively for my pre-amp, plugged direct into the board. I think it is an awesome tool. I also used an Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress.
As far as guitars I used a Gibson Les Paul for all the guitars on Federal Offense. On The Vortex I used a Gibson EDS 1250 doubleneck for the rhythm guitars. Behind the Keyboard solo I tripled up a cheap ($30.00 used) stock Harmony Strat copy, using different pickup settings on each of the three tracks. I actually fell in love with the sound of those three Strats and call them “The Motley Crew”.
The intro for the Positive side is the EDS 1250. There are also doubled up Japanese knockoffs of an EDS 1250 playing the chimey sounding guitars after the drums come in. The stanzas are at first Les Pauls, then switch to Strats when Kevin starts singing. The lead is a Les Paul. The guitar exit from the lead is the “Motley Crew”. There is some guitar synth stuff at the end too. Calling all was played on an Ovation Viper through three different synth patches I created on the HD500. The song was actually written around those sounds.
Time Unwritten starts out with the EDS 1250 for the intro, as well as the rhythm guitars throughout. The feedback guitars where the vocals start were Les Pauls at full volume through a miced up fender showman amp. The “secret agent” sounding guitar solo is the Harmony Strat.
Desert Sands starts out with Les Pauls and a violin bow Jimmy Page style, I think there are seven layers. The rhythm guitars are Les Pauls. On the pretty section after the crescendo, I used a Chinese Les Paul knockoff which has three pickups like the Ace Frehley model. You can get a plethora of sounds that way.
Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?
Mike (guitar): We need to shed the bad vibes from the experience of having to drop those three songs, and move forward with a new slate and make music with more intensity and complexity without sounding cluttered. And be very careful who we choose as band mates. The core of this band have all been friends for over 35 years and we want our chemistry to prevail. Not lawyers and assholes.
Any words for the potential new fans?
Mike (guitar): Give the CD multiple listens and play it loud. There is a lot for you musically, sonically, and emotionally. It’s a really intense album.