Winter just started to crawl when we had our 1st small conversation with Colin Tench due to our Top 10 Prog/Rock Tributes for 2014 and 2015 where his band Corvus Stone earned a place. We thought that it ‘d be inevitable to interview this kind man and also ‘strange’ musician, and learn more about him. Listening to his music more deeply we realised that Colin and his friends “love Music” and also “hate Music by numbers”…No design, nor specific pattern…Just Music! .
* Thank you Colin and Corvus Stone ..! *
–Colin Tench | Interview–
Welcome to ‘Progressive Room’. It’s an honor for us, taking an interview from an important Band such as ‘’Corvus Stone’’ and also you Colin. We suppose it’s the first time that you give an interview to a Greek Prog/Rock Channel, so let’s start with a flashback of your career.
- What was the main motivation that made you start learning music and what made you involve to Progressive Rock genre specifically, although you seem not to accept the ‘progressive rock’ term eventually.
Music has been a big thing for me from 5 years old I think. I had no plans to become a musician. I was a professional listener. Ha! By the time I was about 21, I noticed that much of the wow was disappearing from new albums by bands like Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac etc. Also, bands that we now call Prog rock bands, like Yes, Genesis, Focus, were being sidelined. I started seeing bands playing things simple enough that I could try and learn. So I tried. Mainstream music was dumbing down to the point where I was dumb enough to give it a shot. Also, I had time on my hands for a bit. Having been brought up listening to the Beatles, Hendrix, The Groundhogs and dozens of other musical visionaries, I could never do “rock” and struggled to play things I actually like. It took a while!
What does “Music” mean to you, and how do you experience it in your daily routine?
Only in the last 5 years have I been making albums. Modern technology makes it possible without a record company or a lot of money, so I have been making up for lost time. So it has been a total change in life but I never had a routine. I can’t do those. As I said, I don’t know why we do it or what it’s for but I do it anyway. While I enjoy it, I will keep going.
Do you feel satisfied with the music evolution nowadays? How can it be compared to the one of 70’s for example?
From the late 90s, I am amazed at what has happened. Prog rock was all but dead from the late 70s. The music press in the UK helped to bury it, even tho’ much of it was British. Now there are 1000s of amazing musicians, bands and albums. I never thought that would happen.
- Do you see that the musical fixation evolving or being stagnant?
There is a problem. The whole point of prog rock was “no rules” and for a time, radio, TV and record companies let bands do as they wanted. That is now seen as the golden era of modern music. Now I see “experts” have decided there ARE rules. To me that is nonsense but the effect is that anyone trying to make a career out of it, follow the silly rules. It doesn’t work. It has a tendency to be boring and predictable.
- Do you separate some new bands with a lot of interesting ideas or orientation?
The variety is amazing. Some obvious groundbreakers are Pain Of Salvation, Opeth, Steven Wilson, Vai, Satriani, Dream Theater and I don’t think any of them(Except DT) describe themselves as “Prog” but they have all been massively progressive. They are all unique too.
- Should we be afraid that eventually music has come to an end, and everything new is a repetition of an old one?
Never! I have no idea why but millions like making music and people need to listen to it or they feel bad, empty or just miserable. Most music is repetition but every voice is unique, so that will keep it alive on it’s own. Just the combination of two people produces a unique sound. We are all very perceptive to the slightest diffference in sound. Their lies the magic and eternal nature of new sounds.
Which bands or artists have most influence your music generally, and how?
- Please, mention 2 to 3 albums that really blew your mind up.
-The Beatles – The White Album. First album I bought and it made me really listen. I loved much of it on first listen but many tracks sounded wrong to me. Of course, those very tracks ended up being the ones that were the mind blowers. It needed time to “get it”.
-Deep Purple – In Rock. Well! Flight of the Rat, Speed King, Child in Time. I’d never heard anything like that and to be honest, for me, rock has still never surpassed this.
-Focus – Moving Waves. I saw them before I heard them and that album really was groundbreaking. Classical, jazz and yodelling. Perfect!
These 3 albums have stood the test of time and were all progressive, slightly mad but musical and taught me there must be no rules.
How exactly ‘Corvus Stone’ came up? Your ‘standards’ Pasi Koivu and Petri Lemmy Lindström, then Robert Wolff added, is that right? Tell us, how did you all met and decided to form the Band, what exactly did you find in common with the guys?
I met Pasi on the internet because of his interest in the band “Black Widow”. I was in a band with John Culley of Black Widow, back in the 80s. So Pasi ended up encouraging me to restart. He sent me some mad music and asked me to play guitar on it. The music was not what I would ever attempt to play to or even listen to, so that made it interesting. I did my best and he sent me more. The results were enough to get Petri’s attention and he asked to play some bass on them. Somehow, the band just happened without even saying it was one. Sonia Mota, a close friend on Facebook, through the music I had made in BunChakeze in the 80s, started coming up with artwork and a band name. We put a couple of bits on reverbnation and Robert Wolff heard it and said he would love to play drums on it. So we said “You must be mad but Ok”. This is a great way to start a band. Like the music, no plans and no rules.
We’ve noticed that you’re a band undertaken to materialize its ideas through many good partnerships. Would you like to pick some of them? And yet, in the near future or later are there artists with who you would like to collaborate on yours or their album?
We never had any rules in Corvus Stone, so we invited many people to play on a song but many also asked us! Blake Carpenter was half way through recording “Road to Avalon” and asked me to play guitars on it plus he wanted to add vocals to “Ice King”. He then became totally involved with us too.
I have never told anyone this but I tried to get Ringo on “And So, Today”. I believe he has at least heard it but apart from the fact that he was touring the whole summer, I doubt if he would have done it. I will ask anyone who I would like to work with. You never know!
You‘ve said that you do not belong to a specific Prog/Rock genre, but just Prog itself. Why do you compose and record such diverse music?
In the band, we are all different in what we listen to and play, so although the result is a bit weird for some listeners who are used to everything being safely in a genre, we have no wish to be in one. Very few people listen to complete albums these days. So what we do makes sense. Should we call the next album “Mixtape”?
- Do the lyrics written first and then the music?
None of the lyrics came first. The music is always complete before a singer gets near it. It is music first, then we decide if it could be even better with a singer. Not easy for singers to work that way.
- Are you currently there on recordings throughout the process and how do you contribute to the orchestration and the final mix of the songs?
I ended up being the arranger and producer. So all of that is my fault. It has been a learning curve of massive proportions. I getting better at it. We tried a producer once in another project. Disastrous! Never again.
- What affects you and what motivates you to write down new ideas?
I don’t know. With Corvus Stone, Pasi often starts the music, so I am motivated by what he has done. That can be hard going but works very well. When I compose music, I just start fiddling with the guitar with no plan at all. I read Phil Collins talking about genesis always discarding the first melody lines they come up with for a chord sequence and keep looking. I always do that but had no idea others do it too!
We‘ve also notice that your sound is not typical of modern prog , is that right? Why is that?
We aren’t trying to sound retro. I know we do but for two reasons. We don’t use technology to perfect timings or compress the life out of the music. It is rough around the edges but I personally find the sound “nicer”. I believe that more people would enjoy prog or most music if it was less sanitised and perfect. Most albums made in the 70s aren’t tiring, even when they are complex. Many modern albums are hard going after 20 minutes. So we don’t “Master” our music really. We mix it and keep it just the way it is.
Ok, lets go back in 2012 and your first self-titled album. A mammoth 21 track CD , a well done embryonic effort that shocked us and pleasantly made us wonder. Is it Classic Rock? Folk? Is it Avant Garde? Or Camel? Floyd maybe? Or Crimson? Is it funky or heavy?
Ha ha! We seemed to just keep recording until a CD was full. We almost never throw anything away. Some say we should but I can still listen to all of that first album and love every bit of it. Reviews have made it clear that there is no “bad” track or best track. It depend on the listener. We learned that we are a band during this album and I bet many would love it if they give it time. Some say it is the proggiest of the 3
And then in 2014 , ‘’Corvus Stone II’’ follows…A brilliant album full of colors and sounds, majestic vocal harmonies combined to baroque echoes of the harpsichord, some pop music, folk hearings as well, and beloved groovy rhythms..Ok, what happened there? Sixteen tracks, eternal inspiration…
By the time we made this, we had so many involved in the band and for the first time, I wrote a long piece for the album and asked Sean Filkins to sing on it.
Phil Naro also came in on this one. In fact there are more vocals here than the first album. We just had a ball doing it. No plan tho’. So it never has a theme. I think it flows perfectly and never lets up.
…And not much later..the unexpected happened! 2015 , and ‘’CORVUS STONE UNSCREWED’’ , an irresistible -in our opinion- album to hear came up! A mix of remixed, revised and new tracks , right?
You see how I improved with my production skills by this album(By doing less). The point of it was to have something that could be a “way in” to what Corvus Stone do. It is tighter. It has new drums on tracks from album one because Robert wasn’t able to be so involved on the first album. Stef Flaming of the band “Murky Red”, has been on all 3 albums and actually wrote “Boots for Hire” & “Jussi Pussi”. We sort of stole them and twisted them. On this album, Jussi Pussi now sounds perfect. One of my fave tracks!
Much of it is new because even the revisions are have big changes. We hope that one day, there will be a reason to make this in to a vinyl release. We just need some luck.
Colin Tench Project
So, lets move from ‘Corvus Stone’ to you and your Colin Tench Project , starting with a simple (or maybe not) question…Who the hell is Colin Tench? Have you found him out yet or still searching for that ‘irregular designed’ musical code inside , considering that you do hate labels?
Ha ha! It’s true to say that most of us in this weird prog world are unknown and will always be so. My side of Corvus Stone is always the melodic side but with moments of madness thrown in. Back to The Beatles really. I love progressive rock but almost never when it is planned to be prog.
Ok, 2016 and ‘’HAIR IN A G-STRING (UNFINISHED BUT SWEET)’’ came up and consist your first personal project. In fact , a multi personal project, with so many people involve, giving their best so as to hear a truly magical project, full of fantasy , divided in four parts, is that right?
When I decided to make the album, I composed what is now “Part 1” and thought that the simplicity could work for a very long piece and I think I proved that to be true. Change the feel and speed here and there but never lose the tunes. That became Parts 1,2,3,4b, And so Today and The Mad Brazilian. All the rest are totally unrelated songs. Unlike albums like “Abbey Road” or Uriah Heep’s “Salisbury”, we didn’t do 1 side of songs and then an epic on the other. Maybe if vinyl ever happens for this, we would do that for fun.
We believe that “And so Today” song, deserves a special mention for its remarkable story hidden behind. Would you mind tell this story please?
I had approached Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales), who had just joined Camel (So I doubted if he would say yes), to ask him to sing on Part 4. He listened to the music and said he’d love to but he had no ideas for, or even time to write lyrics. I was thrilled. He was interested! The next day (I think), George Martin died. It had been 3 months of an endless stream of deaths of icons of the music world. I decided to try and write something not too obvious, in some kind of memory of some of the names and of the “news” that kept coming. With Pete singing this, it was perfect and of course it is now not called Part 4 any more. What we didn’t know, was that the rest of 2016 would carry on the same. Keith Emerson was the next to go just after I wrote it!
In our opinion, a player to have the biggest impact on the sound of this album was to be Gordon Bennett, an excellent guitarist himself and master of GorMusik and his digital album ‘Fun In Outer Space’ who did most of the orchestral arrangement. We need to hear some details about Gordon’s contribution to CTP please.
Gordon is a bit like me. He is very melodic but he also has a huge understanding of how classical music works. He heard/saw “The Brazilian”, which I uploaded to youtube and it grabbed him. He downloaded it and added violins and violas etc, without asking me. Again… the best way to form a band. some one who wants to work with you because of the music. He is a virtuoso on guitar but never got to play one on this album. Now that is pretty unusual! He added a section, then I added another and we interplayed that way, till The Sad Brazilian was done. From then on, he worked on many pieces from the album. A bit of a genius really.
But.. Peter Jones and Steve Gresswell, had a -worth to tell- contribution as well. How did this partnership worked out Colin and what do you keep from these guys?
When I started on Hair in a G-String, I asked Steve Gresswell if he would like to be involved. He is an amazing musician and I was honoured that he would say yes. At the same time, I became the guitarist on the new 80 minute “Coaliton” album with him and Blake carpenter. So we were busy! Steve and I sent bits back and forth for what later became Parts 1,2 & 3. Part 3 is possibly the most “proggy” of all the tracks.
In May 2016, I was lucky enough to meet up with Peter Jones during his rehearsals with Camel in London. Apart from being on cloud nine being in the presence of true musical gods, I talked with Pete about what more he might do on the album. I also tried to talk Andy Latimer into making a new Camel album with Peter. No idea if they will but Pete ended up being crucial to Hair in G-String.
He has a similar sense of humour to me and also appreciates music in a similar way. So he sung Part 1 (Epic), Part 3 (Crazy, clever and funny), Part 4b A comedy duo and of course Redux, which is the best album closer ever!
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Screwed:
A very special and well liked track. This was the real beginning of the album. Started years ago with Gary derrick (Bass), who I was in 2 bands with in London in the 80s, Victor Tassone (drums) of Unified Past, who has also been on Corvus Stone albums and Marco Chiapinni (keys), who along with Vic recorded the album “Return To Mingulay” in 2013. It is the most obvious nod to the past on this album.
Phil Naro has been a big part of what I have done recently. In Corvus Stone and CTP.
He started out in the 80s in Talas and has worked recently with Julian Lennon, Brian May, Bumblefoot and many others. A real pro, brilliant singer and a gent. He could be heard as a 5th Beatle or even a Jon Anderson. He is on 4 songs here and that brings us to Part 4b!
The whole musical majesty tour comes to an end with ‘Part 4b’ which is an astonishing and immensely entertaining piece of work. But there is a crazy story behind ‘4b’ right? What was the main reason for this unpredictable once again inspirational finale?
As ever, the music was complete before lyrics were even written. Sonia the artist, said to me one day “This music is SO good but you can’t call it Part 4b” Now this is one of those pieces of luck you hope for. I knew, as soon as she said it, that it is the perfect title and that I would ask Pete and Phil to do a comedy sketch about this. I wrote it out and they both went for it bigtime. My motto “Never take yourself too seriously” and this is a good example. Gordo added some boings and even jay on drums made what he did funnier.
Not sure but there will be second CTP album. I haven’t even named some who played on this first one or even in Corvus Stone but not because they don’t have a major impact. They all do. Every song has it’s own character. Ian’s Flute, Oliver’s drums on Part 2 & 3, Angelo’s Fretless bass, Gary’s drums on Beautiful Feeling etc etc. I could not make an album without these guys. I like bands. So even tho’ this is “my” project, all of it is recorded in a band spirit with total involvement.
Colin , it was an honor for us to have this conversation with you. Meet people such us yourself makes us think a bit better this ‘out of the box’ idea, and we think that your music has to do exactly about that..
Thank you so much.