Demetris "All Around"
Such an honor to interact with such a cultivated and all around person like Shane Atkinson on his musical vehicle, EVERSHIP and a bunch of related issues. Well, fellas, music as a concept is evolving when you talk with guys like Shane; this guy, along with his collaborators, raise the bar and shows that music "can shake the world (gently", as Ghandi used to say about people). Enjoy this erudite interview and put EVERSHIP's record on...yesterday! This is about a current prog jewelry!
Dear Shane, welcome to JICPR! On behalf of all progducers, we loved your music so much (“Flying Machine” is a personal fave!)! How are you doing generally and musically?
Very busy, but generally very well. Musically we are focused on a live show right now. So, lots of rehearsals.
You have a new album out, named self-titled; this is your debut album, right? Tell us a few things about the album (musically, lyrically, conceptually, etc.).
That’s a broad question J. The album represents a very small subset of the material that I had for a band effort. After a 15 years hiatus from music, I had stored up so much song material that I was exploding. Evership is what was birthed. These songs on the first record represent a range of life experiences. (I wanted to make two albums the first time out, but my wife, and PR person, said I needed to focus on one.) Album two will likely be the rest of the life stories).
I generally write in layers, production-wise and lyrically. The songs should hit at multiple levels. At the top level, every person, hopefully, can find someway to connect. At the lowest level they are my own experiences, some of them deeply personal, hence the layers.
What immediately stroked us was your story as it is described in the bio section in Progarchives platform. An excerpt says: “The release of the Evership project signifies both the end of a very long journey and the beginning of another. In essence, that journey is what the band and music are about”. It is amazing to see that kind of dedication, persistence and resilience while building up your studio and this record. How do you feel and think of all this adventure that you endure and what did you learn from all this experience?
While it may seem like a cliché; nothing worth doing is easy. I think that some perceptions of art are that it is fun, a joy, effortless to the artist. It can be, but I think perhaps it is a projection of the joy that the recipient of the art experiences. The two are not necessarily connected. For example, Dreamcarriers was the first song I recorded. That song was written in an extreme depression. I guess it reflects the hope that I had for finishing the project. I was operating on the promise of a future joy, which is the definition of hope. A decade is a long time to work on something. I think the album aptly reflects the complexity of that time.
We’d like your personal comment(s) on each one of the songs from the new album.
Silver Light: The cycle of addiction cast into a werewolf metaphor. It’s about reaching out for help beyond yourself, finding grace and overcoming that which would destroy you, finally and conclusively. It is a song about overcoming.
A Slow Descent Into Reality: An amalgam of experiences, others and mine. It is the story of a man who thinks himself the king of the world. Only to find that he is a flawed human being. Loosing it all, he embarks on a journey, questioning his presumptions about modern life. It is a song about humility.
Evermore: A classical dialectic that compares the concept ofrelational Love based on feelings, with Love based on commitment.
Ultima Thule: An irresponsible husband is afforded the opportunity to amend his ways, the hard way. It is a song about mercy and what it takes to come back from whatever it is that draws us away.
Flying Machine: I believe in a universe of Purpose, not a meaningless one. No human being is expendable. We are here for a reason, each of us. Find it and attempt that which is beyond yourself.
Approach: This is the sound of the Evership flying overhead. Dedicated to Jimmy Hotz who made a similar track (moving left to right.) on his “Beyond the Crystal Sea” album.The Evershipflies front to back over our heads! (use headphones).
Any favorite moments from your new album? How would you characterize its sound to someone unfamiliar with it?Any initial reactions from different audiences?
There is a great youtube review of the album by a guy trying to classify the sound. I love that review,mostly because he is perplexed. I would characterize the sound as an explosion of something you think you have heard, but are certain you haven’t. Another critic sited at least twenty influences. I was thinking, come on? At twenty influences can’t we just call it unique? J I guess from a genre perspective I would say it is classic rock infused prog. While that is simple, it explains the “man, that sounds familiar” experience. I’d rather say it is a movie you watch with your ears.
My favorite moment is when Beau sings “There must be something beyond me!” in ‘A Slow Descent Into reality”. I think that captures the intent of the record; a call to Transcendence, a Lift from the mundane….if that doesn’t sound too presumptuous.
Tell us a few things about your collaborators for this record.
The actual recording process took about three and a half years. The time before that was mostly me making decisions. I produce everything in my head first. So collaborations were sporadic, organic, and opportunistic. When I was ready for a part to be recorded, if I did not want to, or could not do it myself, I reached out to like minded musician friends and family. My brother James was only about 3 hours away in Georgia. So when he’d visit on occasion, we would do some recording. He eventually moved to Nashville for other reasons, but that really helped me nail things down. Beyond that I would steal days here and there from other friends like Rob Higginbotham. Jaymi Millard and I go twenty years back, and had always talked about doing a prog record. He was immediately in when it was finally time. The project was in jepordy for about a month as my original singer had to bow out. Basically, it took me so long to get my act together, his whole life had changed. I really thought I was done…after all that work. But then I discovered Beau West through another singer friend Mike Preibe (who sings BGVs on the record too). There would be no Evership without Beau. The rest is history.
Tell us a few things about your music history and other collaborations in the past.
I was first a drummer. I regularly played through every Rush and Zeppelin record after school. We always had a piano in the house. My grandmother was a lounge organist, so Hammonds and early synthesizers were a common thing. I discovered Yes when I was 13. I used to go to sleep with Tales of Topographic Oceans or Relayer (That’s right, “Sound chaser” was soothing to me.J About the same time I discovered Iron Maiden; this would have been their first album. Around that time, my music teacher in school had taken an interest in my talents and turned me on to Iso Tomita, which exposed me to classical music. He also exposed my to jazz, the fusion side. Chick Corea, etc. So I had all that going on in my youth full steam; classical, progressive, classic rock, jazz, even opera. Between Tomita and Rick Wakeman I was ruined for the symphonic side, and you could say the symphonic side won out. I think it was the composer in me as well.
Now, as collaborations go, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. My music past was a bit lonely in that I had no one to share my interests with. My family moved around too much for me to really make friends. I think this is why I hid as a backup player for a while, as long as I am not involved in the creative direction, I’m fine. I was in a band in the mid-nineties called “Curious Fools”, and that didn’t go too well. We made two records, were tossed around by a few labels. Eventually, I realized there was no me in it. I’m not a good bandmate or team player. I see myself as a painter. Have you ever seen a group painting? No. I’ve come to realize that the internal world that I created, that was necessitated, as a kid, provided ample energy for creative output. I just don’t need anyone else involved in that aspect. But I certainly cannot perform everything myself, and for that I am very grateful for the band Beau and I have put together.
How is the Nashville music scene?
Nashville is really more of a music business city. There are a ton of studios and publishing organizations. Nashville is a different city than it used to be. I mean it has dramatically changed within the last 5 years. Big money has moved in and I hardly recognize downtown anymore. New York and LA are moving here. It’s cheaper and safer. But it’s getting pricier. Nashville is not a prog town, yet. Neal Morse is here. Glass Hammer is just south in Georgia, now Evership. Things are looking up for prog here in the South. In general, I think Nashville is a great place to launch from.
What is prog for you? And where do you think it goes?
I write music, not prog. I think prog, like jazz, is that genre where the immediately unidentifiable end up. The music that I grew up listening to- I had no idea it was called prog or whatever. I just liked it. It’s music. Prog for me solves my “container problem”. This is the condition I often find myself in; where the media form does not fit the creative output. I quit music school because I realized you cannot be taught how to make art. You can only be taught technique. This is where prog can suffer, because often there is plenty of technique, but it’s sometimes not that artfully executed…but who am I to say. It’s an opinion. However, I do consider myself of the kind that does not find my musical influences in the prog of the past. (There I find inspiration.) I am motivated by the same influences the originals were; classical music and Fusion Jazz. In a way, I see myself continuing the musical direction that punk and pop destroyed or transformed in the 80’s. That also may be why Evership sounds as it does. The sound is going to be a bit nostalgic because of the instrumentation and the production, but the music is an expression of today.
What about influences in your music (and in your life, besides music)?
Like many artists, I am a sum of my influences, plus me. As I’ve said before, my influences are cross genre, classical, rock, jazz, opera. My Christian faith plays a role in my thinking and execution. I believe all good things come from God. And music is a good thing. I see composition as mimicking a creative God. I sign my work as Bach did, soli deogloria.
I’ve always taken an interest in philosophy and literature. I am a fiction writer as well. I’ve been working on a fantasy since I was 13. (That’s another topic) Token and Lewis are influences, ancient Greek culture, in all its forms, was influential to me. I am recently enamored with the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor.
Plans for live action for the new album?
Yes. We have been rehearsing for 2+ months. There is a very exciting announcement to be made soon about aprominent appearance next year. (Alas, in the states). Many guys from the album are in the live band. James Atkinson, my brother on guitar, Jaymi Millard on Bass in particular. Otherwise, Jesse Hardin plays Rhythm, Acoustic and Classical Guitars. Joel Grumblatt is the Chester Thomson to my Phil Collins. I am playing keyboards.
We would love to play in Europe as well. When I think about my music, I believe my musical sensibilities are more European than American. My family was in Europe earlier this year. My wife has family onthe Adriatic coast; a surreal place. I’ve actually recorded some sounds down there that will be on album three. Nonetheless, it would be great to get nearer my musical home, stylistically speaking.
What music do you listen to this period? What are your musical inspirations from that music?
Here is another oddity about myself. I don’t listen to much music. Let me explain. Currently my head is full of so much I really don’t have the mindspace for anything else. I am always producing and composing in my head. I am also very concerned I may inadvertently copy something. So if I do listen, it’s to something completely out of genre, like opera or classical or something World, like Indonesian Gamelan music or music germane to Hungary or Japan. Weird I know.
A message from your heart to the listeners of JICPR and the people:
Evership is so honored and excited to be presented to the beautiful people of Greece. It is our hope that you, the listener, find yourself somewhere on the journey that is Evership. From Beau and the gang, thank you for the opportunity to weave a dream in your ears.
Dear Shane, thank you so much for this interview! Kudos to Michelle for her help to setting up the whole “Prog Week”!
Demetris “All Around”