Demetris "All Around"
"...the songs have a very wide spectrum of emotions: from the acoustic to the metal, from prog folk ballad to AOR... My album it's a kind of Opera Rock waiting to be represented in theatres and cinemas :)." An eclectic, crossover album in hybrid what more has to offer? I'd say this is the quintessence of prog music in general! And ACTIVE HEED, aka Umberto Pagnini, unfolds the nets of progressive creativitity, science fiction and rationality like a spider!
Dear Umberto/ACTIVE HEED, thanks a lot for your participation in that interview! It’s our honor to host your point-of-view in our radio (www.justincaseradio.com)!
We welcome you in that interview! Where are you now? Where this interview finds you exactly?!
Thank you very much Demetris. It’s a great pleasure for me being interviewed by JustInCaseRadio!
Now I’m in my music studio writing some lyrics for the new songs I’m preparing for the second album of Active Heed!
Tell us some info concerning pre-ACTIVE HEED and the first ACTIVE HEED years.
Active Heed has born, more or less, one year and a half ago from me (Umberto Pagnini) to concretise my musical ideas. It is a music project where I am the author of all the songs and lyrics. My idea is to contact some of the best session men (Italian and from all over the world) to give my music a touch of cross-cultural feeling remaining in the ample sector of the so-called “Progressive” music. In the first album of Active Heed (Visions from Realities) I have had the collaboration of people from United Kingdom, U.S.A. and Norway beside Italy.
I do like to collaborate with musicians coming from other parts of the world and also from other kinds of music, not necessarily progressive.
How did you come up with that name? Is there any meaning behind it?
Yes, Active Heed's meaning is exactly the way I face life. With a positive and careful attention to all the things around and always “hungry” to learn something new.
Is ACTIVE HEED a one-man-show or are there equal roles among you and the other musicians involved in the record? Tell us a few things about your fellow musicians that took part on that record. We read, for example, that Marit Børresen and Mark Colton of CREDO fame participated in that record!
Active Heed has born from an idea of mine. It is a music project where I, Umberto Pagnini, wrote all the music and lyrics. The making of the album began when I found a music genius. His name is Lorenzo Poli and with his collaboration we recorded almost the 80% of the tracks in the studio with my voice as a base trace. After that I hired the singers and the drummer to complete with a professional touch the remaining of the tracks.
You have your debut album out called “Visions from realities”. Is that a concept album or a set of songs? How would you characterize your album conceptually?
‘Visions from Realities’ is a concept album. It is the story of Forest travelling through our Reality and the after-life Reality and keep on bouncing back from one to the other until he discovers the way to choose his own path and going forward. Through the songs he passes from full love and happiness to desperation, from resignation to rage, from serious considerations to funny and maybe surreal stories, i.e. when Forest is bugged by Johan Robeck, a Swedish/German philosopher, who wants to sell Forest goods through spam messages... Therefore the songs have a very wide spectrum of emotions: from the acoustic to the metal, from prog folk ballad to AOR... My album it's a kind of Opera Rock waiting to be represented in theatres and cinemas :)
Also, lyrically, it has many philosophical underpinnings according to the titles. What did you have in mind when you were writing those titles?
My idea was to write about some of the main Questions in Life but with a touch of non-heaviness or false seriousness. I think that taking things not too much seriously brings to better results than being too sure about your own certainties.
Who is Johan Robeck from the track “Me, one second before Johan Robeck”?
Johan Robeck, a Swedish/German philosopher. From Wikipedia: Robeck's argument is based upon the idea of life as a gift, given by God, who therefore gave up for his rights in the gift.
Your favorite tracks from the album?
I think that ‘Every Ten Seconds Before’ shows at the best what could be a perfect song, in my opinion, taken by itself. It has 7 different moments with 7 different moods with a final ‘in crescendo’.
Anyway the album is a concept story and the songs should be listened in their order. It is like a unique song of about 50 minutes.
What are your influences as a musician and, further, as an artist? Influences that you have as role models in your life?
I listen to all kinds of music. There are also several pieces of classic music (opera) that I like very much and, with a little bit of fantasy, can be considered as progressive music. I like intelligent music where you can recognize that the author tried to put something new and innovative in their works. I like innovative ideas but not when things become too strange or complicated in a way that almost none can understand and appreciate. I think the right path for good music is innovation with a solid step in the past.
Usually, most of the prog albums include tracks with medium to high durations! Instead, the bigger track of that record is 5.49 long while there are some tracks that don’t exceed 2 minutes. Is that for more accessibility and easiness to wider audiences?
The reduced length of some songs of “Visions from Realities” is to follow better the story of Forest, the main character. For example there is a song “Without Joy” where Forest screams aloud to show his desperation for having lost Joy. It last 1:43 only and it repeats almost the same melody from the beginning to the end. What else way could I tell such a feeling if not with a kind of replication of the same moods and words?
Your music is highly radio friendly, I'd say, and in most of the moments breaths the air of optimism (my perception). How much do you agree with that and how much optimism or/and pessimism are attributes of your personality in your life as a person?
“Visions from Realities” is a concept album and tells about the story of Forest who travels onward and backward from different levels of Reality try to escape the wheel of destiny in the effort to understand the beneath truth.
So, yes, it is an “active heed” attitude, positive and cheerful passing through, anyway, bad and good things that can happen in a lifetime. I think that you will get more from your life with a positive attitude.
Do you collaborate with a company for that record or is that an independent release? How is the promotion of the album going?
It is an independent release. A label has contacted me before the realizing of the album but I prefer to be free to decide how to invest in the promotion and the other parts of the advertising of my music album. The promotion is going better than what I expected. I still have many things to learn but I will never get tired of learning.
Do you have any other independent musical collaborations? Any projects currently?
My current project is the preparation of the second album of Active Heed.
I am almost at 1/3 way and I would like to have it ready, more or less, for the second half of the next year. It will speak again of Forest travelling through new levels of Reality.
What about your live performances? How are they going for you and what are the people’s reactions?
At the moment I have no live performances scheduled. The songs creation for the second album and promotion of “Visions from Realities” take all the time I have.
Any plans for a DVD release? Or, is that too early?
Yes, it is too early. At the moment I am 100% focused to create great and original songs. Live performances, DVD and so on will come consequently the audience appreciation of the music.
What’s your personal philosophy in life? How do you cope with barriers? And, simultaneously, how do you build your strengths?
My philosophy in life? Well, you should ask your ancestors Plato and Aristotle J
Anyway, I think that basically you have to believe in what you do and always be yourself. Never cheat your audience. Never try to make a song in a certain way only because you think someone will like it. Make your music the best you can and the best full of your personality.
Is there any specific compositional approach from your part that you follow through from a musical point-of-view? Does music come first? It’s all about the lyrics? Or, both?
Music comes always first along with the overall impression of what the song should show in that specific moment of the story. When the song is 100% musically ready in its structure, then I think of the lyrics following the sensation that the music gives me in every single part of the song itself.
The progarchives.com platform labels ACTIVE HEED under the Crossover Prog genre. We almost agree to that but we also believe that it’s easy to make such simplistic descriptions. We will leave it up to you to describe your music to someone who's never heard of your music.
Active Heed music is a modern progressive rock open to experimentation with new ways to propose the music for fun and relaxation, but always with an intelligent touch which requires a little bit of effort to be understood and for that it lasts forever in your heart J
What is prog rock for you? And prog music in general, anyway? We think this is a concept and not a genre, as many believe.
It’s a concept, you are right. It is the willing to experiment, to never be satisfied, and in the end is exactly as the word says: Ιt’s Progress.
Also, what do you think about the future of prog rock and prog music in general? Are there any ways for the betterment of its promotion through internet and other means?
In my opinion good music will always get the good commercial results…
People shouldn’t buy an album only because they know the band or the author but should do a little effort to listen the preview of the songs independently from the notoriety of the artist. There is a lot of good quality music in the world and now with the Internet is even easier to find it. But you must not get distracted by the background noise made by all the other music produced in the world.
Is there any possibility to record with a major symphonic orchestra? We strongly believe that this would be a completely “must listen” experience! Also, this is one of my “classic” questions for every artist, hehe!
There is a song in the album: ‘Me, One Second Before Johan Robeck’ which has a symphonic orchestra part in the middle. It thought that sound could express in the right way the action of Forest trying to escape. Listen to it and give me your opinion Demetris J Anyway symphonic orchestra fits perfectly with progressive music.
Tell us a few things about some of your plans for the future.
I am preparing the songs of the second album of Active Heed. It will be another concept with new adventures of Forest and Joy. I’m working with new musicians and things are going really great. It will be a wonderful album; a masterpiece as my new producer frequently says. I hope it will be ready by the second part of the next year. I will post about the progress of this project on our pages of FB soon…
Is there any possibility to see you playing in Greece? Have you ever been to Greece in general and do you know any artist from here?
At the moment there are no gigs scheduled for Active Heed. I am focused to finish the songs for the second album and have no time for that. I have been contacted by a company for possible gigs in Canada but had to decline.
I think that gigs will come by themselves at the right moment. I like the contact with fans. Their comments and their suggestions are always taken in the most consideration for the creation of the my music.
A message from your part for the listeners of JustIn Case Prog Radio and for all prog’n’rollers out there is…
Dear Prog’n’rollers, never forget you are an elite of the musical environment and being an elite you should act as leaders J
Okay now relax, have fun and be happy. You are in the right place to get some hints to improve your perception of the world and after having listened to some good progressive music songs, you will be a better person with a higher level of comprehension of Beauty…
Anything that you might add?
Yes, a special message of sympathy to the Grecian people who are suffering from the economic crisis. I would also like to say to never give up on your dreams, never, in every kind of circumstance. I’m with you…
Dear Umberto/ACTIVE HEED, thanks a lot about answering those few (lol!!!!) questions!
Demetris “All Around”
Founder and Progducer of JustIn Case Radio (www.justincaseradio.com)
P.S. Professional interview Demetris! My GREAT appreciations for the quality of your work!