Eden Shadow is a brainchild of composer and multi-isntrumentalist Ryan Mark Elliott, and “Melodies for Maladies” is the sophomore studio record which represent a massive chunk of material that explores progressive rock and beyond.
I had pleasure to talk with Ryan about this new material, but he also told me about the gear, his vision of the progressive rock scene today, inspiration and influences, and more.
Hey Ryan. How are you doing?
Very well thank you. It’s been a busy couple of years but I can now celebrate the recent Eden Shadow release.
You released “Melodies for Maladies” recently. How do you feel about the release?
A mixture of elation and relief. This sophomore record was an exciting but tricky record. The band, engineers and team on board with this record were amazing, so I am proud to have created a record where so many talented individuals have had their input. I have been working on this record since 2011 so it seems surreal it’s out there now for people to listen to. It’s an intense album, and I am proud of it.
How much of a challenge was it to work on the album?
An enormous challenge. It’s an ambitious and tough record to play in the technical sense. Some of the guitar parts I had written before I could play them and Aled has told me that this is one of the most challenging records he has drummed on, and he’s drummed on a fair few records!
Besides that, I was super meticulous with the production process, making sure everything was sounding the way I wanted it too and making the focus all on the playing rather than big walls of sound, which meant much less synthesisers than our last record.
The most challenging part of all though was getting the overall vision and statement across on this album. For all the technical effort that has gone into this album, I’ve intended for it to serve the artistic vision. The reason that that was challenging is because I wrote music about dark themes, I mean really dark. The entire lyrical content, is about post-truth politics, subterfuge, manipulation, the media, war, depression, anxiety and loss. That sounds really miserable but the end of the album does shift the whole perspective of everything and focuses on hope. It took years of searching, arranging and reflecting on this album critically before it all came together in a way that was sophisticated and said what I wanted it to say.
That being said, it has been incredibly exciting to work on this record, there have been some immensely rewarding moments in making this record and the time spent in the studio I would regard as having some of the best moments of my life.
What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from UK are you friends with?
I have had the pleasure to meet a lot of people in the genre and that is mainly through my record label, White Knight Records, and one of the main men behind the label is Rob Reed of Magenta.
I met Rob Reed when I was 17 and he has been a mentor for me ever since. He is a wonderful and very honest musician with a lot of integrity and I have learnt a lot from him. I also know Nick Barret of Pendragon. Myself, Rob and Nick have shared really interesting conversations about music and one of the biggest talking points is the changing ways in which people listen to music. I.e. access over ownership. Spotify hit 40 million subscribers not too long ago, and it is has been a huge topic for artists. I am in favour of streaming and know it is becoming huge, especially with Amazon now introducing their service. Not everyone will be in favour of it though with regards to the pay and loosing that tangibility: Rob and Nick are against it and I can totally empathise why, but at the same time, I am part of a generation that has a different interaction with music. It is fascinating to me. Ultimately, I use a streaming to discover artists so I would be a hypocrite to speak out against it and as a very young artist, my priority is getting heard over getting paid. I would be shooting myself in the foot if Eden Shadow did not feature on streaming sites.
Aside from that, I have met Pete Jones of Tiger Moth Tales, an amazing talent and a breath of fresh air in the prog scene. I’ve met the guys from Haken a few times when I was living in London, I remember finding their first couple of records jaw dropping. They came out when I was still a teenager.
I also had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Hackett when I was doing a research project too. He is an absolute gentleman!
What is your opinion about the current progressive rock scene?
It’s alive! Which is good. However, I don’t think it will ever be as prominent as it ever was in the 70’s, and it will always in some ways be on the peripheral with it’s cult following.
I do have my qualms about it and I think that comes down to two things. The first one is the overbearing nostalgia. There are some fascinating young or current acts coming out such as TesseracT, Karnivool and Mew but I feel like the main magazine outlets still won’t venture away from putting Dark Side of the Moon or Close to the Edge on their covers. Those are timeless records but they came out over 40 years ago! We need to embrace and support the new.
The other thing is how inauthentic prog has a tendency to be. Put it this way: music is a form of art, and art resonates best with people when it speaks truth. That would probably explain why ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ is one of the most successful albums of this genre in recent years. It is because it is a very honest album about alienation and isolation that many people could identify with. Prog tends to be more focused on the cerebral rather than sincerity, and I have probably done that myself when I was younger. I am starting to move away from that now. I don’t have a problem with the music being like that at all, it’s more that it just doesn’t interest me as much when I listen to or write music these days.
Can you tell me something about your influences?
The first bands that I ever listened to as a child were Queen and Rush. Brian May and Alex Lifeson were my two huge influences when I grew up as a guitarist. Further on from that, I started listening to frightening guitar stuff like Satriani, Vai, Eric Johnson and Dream Theater. That really shaped me in my teens and those were the players I wanted to play like. I ended up spending hours and hours with a metronome and learning crazy technical stuff. Later on, I then started discovering albums like Debut by Bjork, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, OK Computer by Radiohead and In Absentia by Porcupine Tree. All of those albums were game changers for me. I look back at many of the artists I grew up with and it’s like having a tree of influences where listening to one artist has somehow spurred me onto listening to another!
What are you listening to these days?
There have been some amazing releases over the past couple of years. The latest releases that I am listening to are Laura Mvula’s The Dreaming Room, Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Eric Johnson’s new acoustic album, Have you in my Wilderness by Julia Holter, Keeping the Peace by Arthur Beatrice, Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant, Beach House latest two records, The Hope Six Demolition Project by PJ Harvey, A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead, oh and Opacities by Sikth. All of these records I have listened to in the last couple of weeks. I recommend them all!
Your 5 favourite records of all the time?
Argh, I love so many records! This probably changes on occasion, but the first records to pop into my head are:
Vespertine – Bjork
Moving Pictures – Rush
Dirt – Alice in Chains
Once I was an Eagle – Laura Marling
Wish you were here – Pink Floyd
Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “Melodies for Maladies”?
I used a 93 Paul Reed Smith (It is a year younger than me!) which is a gorgeous guitar for all the overdriven guitars and most of the solos. I used a custom telecaster for the cleans and leslie effected guitars. I also had my Ibanez Paul Gilbert, 12 string acoustic and a Martin acoustic as well for a wide range of guitar tones. It is an eclectic album so I needed a wide range of guitars and effects. Additionally I used a Victory Countess and Mesa Boogie. The best of British amplifiers, mixed with the best of American!
I reduced the use of synthesisers on this album, but my Moog Subphatty features very prominently on this record. I love it…it sounds enormous! I also used EastWest on Introspect and Logos. Alex used a 89 Washburn and Fender P Bass and Aled uses a Pearl Masters kit.
Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?
Yes. I am currently working with my other band, the Kinky Wizzards on the post-production of the second album. It is a very different side of my musical self, much more humorous and it’s all about the interplay between myself, Miff on Bass and Jiff on drums. A lot of people compare us to The Aristocrats and Frank Zappa. Our record should be out early next year.
I will be looking to play live with both Eden Shadow and Kinky Wizzards next summer.
Any words for the potential new fans?
Welcome to the world of Eden Shadow! Hope you enjoy the new album, and look forward to potentially seeing you on the road!