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HALF PAST FOUR: Not Another Female-Fronted Band

Half Past Four have been around long enough to become an intriguing subject. Having released two albums under their belt, this Russian-Canadian female-fronted combination breathes in “interesting” in progressive rock, while successfully escaping from any clichés. We conducted an interview with the band as a result of their recent participation on our latest Progstravaganza compilation.

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You were formed in 2005, but it took three years to release your debut album “Rabbit in the Vestibule”. Did you know since your beginnings what direction will you choose in your music? What did you want to achieve?

We were consciously making progressive music since the beginning. We all had different genres and influences that came together to make a more signature sound, but we knew the direction we were going in.

Three of the band members are coming from Eastern Europe. I am interested to hear how did you guys come up together? How did it go with forming the band? Why name Half Past Four?

Constantin and Dmitry met while playing in a cover band in the Russian Toronto scene and met Igor soon after and they began forming their sound. Kyree joined a year later and we have gone through many drummers over the years.

It wasn’t that much emphasized back in the golden era of progressive rock, but it seems that with entering the new millennium, more female singers decide to try their luck in progressive rock. Kyree, what is your look on that?

I think it’s great to evolve, especially, in this case, concerning women breaking into places where men tend to hold court for various reasons. It’s more fun with both chromosome combos involved in my opinion. I am not sure why there weren’t as many women in prog rock back in the 70’s but there were certainly important contributions from artists such as Kate Bush, Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow), Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) and Annie Haslam (Renaissance) and many more. Today there are a notable amount of women playing in, and fronting progressive rock bands. At this point it’s more about what idea they project as a singer or genre that they sing in rather than if they exist at all. I’d like to see more women behind the instruments now!

Rabbit in the Vestibule was released in 2008. I have to admit it’s kind of a weird title for the album. Why did you choose to name it like that? What can you tell us about the story of this record?

The music on Rabbit is a stew of old and new ideas and represented by not only what we started out with musically, but also where we ended up composition-wise. We wanted very much to tie it all in together as a concept, and that is when the idea began to take shape of a vestibule, or anti-room that lead to many doors, the navigation is left to the listener but because the songs were varied and unusually matched, the character of a rabbit – a skittish and random creature hopping from room to room took shape. So, the Rabbit in the Vestibule leads you to each song experience and this is realized by the sound of doors opening and closing between songs.

Rabbit in the Vestibule

You put out three videos off the Rabbit in the Vestibule album. How much this visual segment is important to you?

Nowadays artists tend to use more than one form of expression to channel their art and because videos are a common extension for music we naturally wanted to use videos to further our storytelling and meaning behind our songs as well as give the listener an idea of how we looked playing and our sense of humour.

Could you explain a bit more about the Spinal Tap-like issue?

Since the beginning we have had a hard time keeping drummers around – one per year for a while – which is approximately the amount of time it takes to learn our music! We are happy to finally have Marcello. No sign of combustion as of yet. He’s hot but does not burn!

In early 2012, drummer Marcello Ciurleo joined the band and you were all set and ready to proceed with recording of your sophomore album Good Things, released this year. The album is adorned with more original ideas and instrumental perfectionism and it really shows a big step forward. How satisfied are you with the meal you served with this effort? How was it in kitchen?

The chefs are happy! The great reviews and opinions we have received since the release have been overwhelmingly positive and make us feel very proud of our hard work. We love making music and are very pleased that people enjoy the fruits of our musical kitchen!

Have you listened to any other songs off the Progstravaganza sampler? Anything that you like?

Yes! We are particular fans of or friends Wilton Said who we have played with several times here in Toronto. He is great! We also love Modest Midget!!!

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“Rise”, taken from your new album is the part of our Progstravaganza 13 compilation. It features a part reminiscent of the 60’s surf rock. What can you say about this song in particular?

The first intention behind Rise was to create something emotional and epic and exciting. Iggy wrote some passages that the band added to and it became very clear that it needed a meaningful lyric that matched its grandness and intensity, but also had a bit of tongue in cheek humour. The lyrics are meant to be a juxtaposition between baking a loaf of bread and being pregnant. I liked the idea of a song about baking bread being taken to such a height of dramatic complexity in the music, and I thought it should be interchangeable with a truly grand and complex idea.

What are your future plans?

Our plan is to play as much as possible and probably to spend the winter writing new music, as we tend to do. Our hope is that our music is enjoyed by many people all around the world, our fanbase continues to grow and flourish and that we get the opportunity to play in Europe one day.

MIDNIGHT MOODSWINGS & SEISWORK: Organic Syntheticism

Midnight Moodswings originated as an increment from the confusion that Radio for the Daydreamers have created previously. Embracing darker side, with emphasized melancholic element and syntheticism created by a Belgian DJ & producer Seiswork, Midnight Moodswings have forged an EP entitled „The Dopamine Recursive“ which serves as an ouverture to the project’s debut full-length release  „The Surrogate Piano“.

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The Dopamine Recursive EP is a collaborative project between Midnight Moodswings and Seiswork. How did you guys come up to work together?

Aki: I got introduced to Seiswork’s music through youtube and immediately contacted him for a collaboration or some remixes. That pretty much got us talking about art and music more and more and I realized that we have a similar approach to art, just different styles. Seiswork worked on a remix for “Wasted Faces” first and I immediately fell in love with that track. Since then, he has worked on a few remixes for RftD and Midnight Moodswings.

We were talking about writing a record together for a while but we wanted to set a story, or at least an outline of one, before we started writing music. That involved a lot of discussion and reading up on things but since we were both fine with that, we were a lot more confident about the writing. I would say that is why it was a very organic process to work with Seiswork, since we both like to take our time with the writing process.

Can you tell us something more about the creating process of the EP? How did it go?

Clem: The creation of this collaboration was all done over internet because we haven’t got the possibilities to meet in flesh and blood. We talked a lot on Facebook, shared sounds and our opinions on Soundcloud and it worked well. Gradually, we adopted work habits that organically evolved and we started to develop a good work rate. Specifically, Aki sent me stems of acoustic instruments, and after I add synthetic sounds like beats, I modify the instrumental sounds, and I add some soundscapes that fit well with the rest. The creation mainly involved exchanging of ideas, and we were always honest about what we felt concerning the work of the other.

The way I see this collaboration between MM and Seiswork is that Midnight Moodswings brought in everything what is organic and on the other side Seiswork’s goal was to bring some sort of syntheticity. Would you agree on this? Is that what you wanted to achieve?

Aki: In a broad sense, that is correct. Seiswork is responsible for the percussion throughout the record, which ended up being some of my personal favourite beats. But since we both understood the creative freedom we had, he added a whole “soundscape” section to the record that included field recordings, white noise, recording silence et cetera. That was something that Midnight Moodswings welcomed dearly, since it added a completely different aspect to the record. So in a way, we were both responsible for the organic side of the record because we would have never thought of something like that. Furthermore, Seiswork also had a huge influence on the artwork and the final master of the record. Even though we were responsible for the creation process, but the shaping and concluding of those ideas were through Seiswork. It was a collaborative project in every sense.

Aki, it’s said that Midnight Moodswings is an increment on all the confusion and seclusion you created with Radio for the Daydreamers. How would you compare these two projects? Do you see this increment as an upgrade of the RtfD sound or a totally new experiment?

Aki: The two projects are incredibly different not just with the approach towards the art, but also with little things like the storytelling style, instrumentation et cetera.

Radio for the Daydreamers is a place where we get to truly experiment with sounds and instruments. There is always an overlaying story for both the bands, but we have a lot more freedom with RftD. So with each record, there are a lot of genres that we go through. Sometimes Jazz describes a feeling that trip-hop cannot. Why not use all the faculties we have to express the chaos in our head?

Midnight Moodswings, on the other hand, is a lot more uniform. A lot of people have been misconstruing this uniformity with “maturing” or an “upgrade” but I am afraid Midnight Moodswings is just a different manifestation of our art.

RftD is our playground where we try things that we wouldn’t while scoring a film or writing a soundtrack. Both the bands have a cinematic approach to the art but Midnight Moodswings is more of a soundtrack while RftD is the score.

The visual components of the two bands are very different as well. With RftD we usually had 1 or 2 official music videos for each record, while Midnight Moodswings is completely different in that regard. There are a lot of video projects with Midnight Moodswings, that will be concluded in the coming weeks. While RftD is a lot more mysterious in that respect.

Furthermore, the music we make as RftD is a lot more live oriented. So when we play live, RftD songs are a lot more interesting and therefore fun to play. While Midnight Moodswings is a lot more cinematic and personal music. Records best enjoyed after everyone around you goes to sleep.

Midnight Moodswings & Seiswork - The Dopamine Recursive - 5. When You Cannot

Where do you draw your inspiration for Midnight Moodswings? The music is certainly deep and mysterious. How much of your personality reflects on the music?

Aki: There is really no direct inspiration for any of the art we make. It is always a synergy of little things we pick up here and there. I could name some bands that we were engrossed in while working on Midnight Moodswings, but that would be futile.

I would say a lot of our inspiration comes when we add limits like minimalism, piano-based melodies et cetera. That is not to say that other artists do not inspire us. There are some bands that have inspired our lives through and through and that might or might not show up in our art. But to be specific would be unfair to the artists I cannot remember at this time.

We aren’t trying to be deep or mysterious. We are just trying to emphasize the point that the art is a lot more important than the artist. So our personality is something that we do not actively consider or let influence our art. In the realms of being artists, the art has always shaped our personality and not the other way around. I feel like I am a new person for each record I work on. There are new things that I learn and implement not only in the art, but in life as well.

Did you guys work together on songs from The Dopamine Recursive or you sent tracks to Clem who did his part of the job? The cohesion in the EP’s flow is truly remarkable.

Aki: Thank you so much! I am glad you think that. I would say the cohesion depended a lot on the song. Some tracks were pretty straightforward to work on, while some took a lot longer (through trial, (t)error and adjustments) than anticipated. Usually, we shared ideas first and then talked about the instrumentation and what we were trying to achieve with the song. Which is exactly why we wanted to cover the story behind the record before we started writing. That way, every time we got stuck we knew exactly where to go.

It is always a great time working with artists that are as enthusiastic about creation as we are, if not a little more. Seiswork is one of those artists and that was pretty apparent right from the start. That would probably be why the flow of the whole process worked out well.

Aki, the artistic side of the project seems very important to you. And it seems that you are obsessed with the fractal art. What does it represent to you? Where do you see the connection between the music and this artistic segment of Midnight Moodswings?

Aki: Fractal art is something that has consistently helped my expression. I studied Chaos Theory in school and got introduced to, and eventually incredibly fascinated with fractals. I guess the fact that I had an option of bringing mathematics to my art, this was bound to happen.

There is a sense of distraction that these fractals provide because instead of an understanding, they provide abstraction. And over the years with RftD and now Midnight Moodswings, it has become a staple for us. Something that everyone approaches differently and takes away something different from. That is exactly what I aim to achieve with it. I think if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that means the “beautiful” should be everywhere. So it is not the “beautiful” we should be looking for, it’s the beholder, a way to see the “beautiful.”

With the fractal art, I am not trying to show what’s beautiful, I’m trying to listen to the stories of the beholder that finds this beautiful.

Sometimes it isn’t that apparent and other times it is. Instead of ascribing an overlaying idea to the art and letting that shape it as with our music or literature, fractal art is where I get to allow the art to tell the story. That is something incredibly powerful and beautiful and that is exactly where I see its connection with the music.

Let’s talk a bit about your work with Seiswork, Clem. How long have you been in this kind of „business“?

Clem: I started using music softwares in 2001, but I was young and I didn’t know if I wanted to involve myself professionally in music. At the end of my high school studies I decided to study experimental music in an art school. So I studied electroacoustic music in the Conservatory of Mons (near Brussels) until 2011. After that I started to make professional things for myself and I tried to do some serious collaborations with other musicians and artists (filmmakers, video makers, …). I shared my music for free until this year. Now, I am trying to find record labels that distribute music through platforms like ITunes, Juno Records, Spotify, … but this is pretty hard for starting without having a name in the electronic music scene. Aki was the first artist  with whom I worked towards making a record. Before that, I worked with two friends where we made music for fun and did DJ sets that included mixing Drum&Bass in underground places in the south of Belgium (2008-2012). The name of this group is DJZU or “Dites Jesus”, they still do stuff together. I also did collaborations with other people before 2012 but it did not give a lot of results.

Penses Ameres

You are about to release an EP called Penses Ameres on Hopskotch Records. Is this your first official release? I know that you’ve been involved with many projects. What else is in the pipeline?

Clem: Yes, this is my first official release. My music was already released in record labels but it was only on compilations. The four pieces of this EP were created from an experimental work, this is a sort of IDM with abstract hip hop beats and weird sounds. I have one project waiting: a new EP created like “Pensees ameres” (from an experimental work) but this time it is more drill&bass and drumstep oriented. I just have to propose it to record labels. This summer, I’m working with instrumental musicians (a pianist, a viola player and a guitarist) to create ambient works for making a physical EP. In addition, I’m planning to create a little movie about schizophrenia but this will be a big project and I’m only at the beginning.

Aki, there is a video for the song „Only You Can Heal“ taken from the Midnight Moodswings’ debut album „The Surrogate Piano“ which is to be released some time soon. Comparing with the work off the Dopamine Recursive and judging by this song, it’s obvious that you are pursuing a different direction. How come? What can we expect from the album?

Aki: Pretty much from the start, we decided that Midnight Moodswings would be more or less the antithesis of RftD. Especially when it came to structuring the records. Uniformity is certainly something that we want to approach each record of this project with, but in that we want to change things. Therefore “The Surrogate Piano”, while uniform in itself, is a lot different than “The Dopamine Recursive”. One of the things that makes the former different is the fact that it is very lyrically driven, unlike “The Dopamine Recursive”.

The uniformity, on the other hand, comes in the instrumentation of the records. They are a lot richer in sound than RftD. We are using a lot more acoustic instruments with Midnight Moodswings. Even though “The Dopamine Recursive” was mainly electronic, “The Surrogate Piano” stays away from that and includes a lot more acoustic and organic sounds.

Have you had any chances to check some other bands from our new Progstravaganza sampler? Anything you like?

Aki: I have only had the chance to listen to “Le Reverie” and “Lion Farm” so far. Both have put out some really interesting music. I aim to listen to the rest of the bands soon but as of now, those are the only 2 I am familiar with.

Do you think that you guys will be working on another collaborative project in the near future?

Aki: There is a lot on our plate right now. “The Surrogate Piano”, a little solo-project for me, and then the next RftD record. But I am sure we will be doing some collaborations in the near future.

Clem: I think we have the opportunity to have a good understanding of each other and good working methods when we do music together. So yes it is quite possible that a new collaboration will be put in place in the future.

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AXIAL LEAD: Following The Lead

Bucharest based progressive/avant-garde metallers Axial Lead are set to release their first full-length album entitled Of Infamous Credentials this October. Having them featured on Progstravaganza 13 brought us to conduct an interview with the band, talking about their vision, influences, progressive music in 2013 among other things. Take a look below for the full interview and follow the lead!

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You are coming from Bucharest in Romania and by your own words you create progressive/avant-garde metal. Let us know something more about your beginnigs.

Well, only two of us are from Bucharest and we’ve been friends since high school, but it was kind of an accident how Axial Lead began.

We’ve all attended either design or architecture universities, and it was there that we all came together without any auditions or plans for the future. We hung out for a while; doing anything but music, while time was getting shorter and shorter, as the end of our studies was nearing. You might think it’s not such a big deal, but one of us had come for his studies all the way from Ecuador, and losing him wasn’t an option, so we started working intensively on our music, hoping that our group will somehow survive. Many experiences brought us closer together, and come 2011 everything fell into place when we finally had a name and a sound.

Now the college days are over and we’re still here, calling ourselves progressive, not only because of our sound, but also because of the nature of our collaboration. Somebody said we’re avant-garde and we liked it, because we could have never expected things to happen this way, and we still have no idea of what will come, although we have  big plans for our music.

Which artists/bands have influenced your work? How much of that influences is reflected on your music?

Sometimes it’s just surprising how different our opinions on a certain matter can be, almost to the point of ass-kicking, but we consider this to be our best and strongest feature, and it is also valid when it comes to our influences.

Since we’ve met, we kind of grew up together, and we found there is never a single right answer or solution to any problem, so we learned to work as one. Because of this, even if our personal preferences range from Michel Camilo to Rainbow, Rick Wakeman, Sikth, Cynic, Spock’s Beard, Beastie Boys, Paco de Lucia and many others, it doesn’t really matter what one person likes or wants, because it will always be filtered through everyone else’s interpretation and in the end it will have only a slight taste of the initial idea, but a full Axial Lead sound.

We’ve been told that our songs have an evocative and visual, ambient-like nature, and we think this is because our visual-arts background is a very strong influence.

When you are in the studio, do you already have all the structures of songs or there is always some space for additional experimentation and tweaks?

We’ve spent a lot of time on the preproduction, and we’ve recorded some DIY demos for all the songs on the upcoming album. Most of them were 100% completed by the time we started recording, even if some of the older ones went through multiple structures that were all played live, and lived their own lives. When we took them to the studio, one of them, the oldest song, had nothing of the original but two, maybe three riffs. Even the name of the song had changed and it was barely recognizable.

While some of them went through severe changes, another one had little more to it when we started recording, than a general idea of what it was going to sound like, because we’ve never actually played it before. Many fragments of the song were done on the spot and the lyrics and vocals were completed long after the instruments were recorded.

Even some of the ones that were completed, are a little bit different in the album version because we can’t help meddling with them. Moreover, there are some parts that we never play the same way live, because we like a little bit of improv. Either that or the vocalist keeps forgetting his own lyrics.

It was a unanimous decision to record this album now, because we have new ideas, and if we didn’t get these songs out of the way first, we would have kept changing them indefinitely.

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Combining all these musical genres such jazz, djent, thrash, flamenco (holy grief!), power metal and funk into an entity is trully marvelous. How do you maintain to keep this hodge-podge tamed?

 It’s not so much that we want to put everything in there, as it is the fact that it just kind of happens due to the way we compose. The variation of genres is not that obvious, and there’s always a dominant, while the rest, if there are any in the same song or section, are filtered through  a common denominator, sort of speak, which is the metal. Sometimes the song just calls out for another texture of sound and we try to keep an opened mind towards what can and what can’t be integrated in that particular song. But hey, it’s just globalization in action ha ha!

 The Progstravaganza 13 features “Your Greatness To”. Why do you think this song is the best representative of your work? Tell us more on the song.

 It’s not the best representative, we just happened to like how our demo version of it sounds, and we didn’t have any of the album versions yet, so we figured what the hell, and just went with it. We don’t think that only one song can be representative, because most of them have parts that are important to us for various reasons. Our songs are bits and pieces of experiences and this one is only a fragment from the story in the album.

The last verse says: “Midway beyond the grave, there’s a broken door made of silver and snow, with handles of mercury gold.” Imagine this portal and then imagine it is at the bottom of a dried up ocean that has crystallized in huge spirals of sulphur, 4722 years after the main character escaped from prison to seek this very portal. “your greatness to” is about crossing the wasteland.

So, what’s the situation with your first full-length? It’s said that you are planning of releasing it in the fall. What can be expected?

 We’ve finished all recordings for the album and we set a date for the release in October. At first it will be available as a free download but we do plan on making a limited edition, featuring the full illustrated story from the songs, sometime in the spring of 2014. We make our own artwork and we feel there is a very important visual component to our music. We’ve started work on two music-videos of which one is an animation, and will be released together with the limited edition. The other one we plan on finishing sooner if all goes as planned.

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Do you think that progressive music in 2013 is “open-minded” enough? There are bands that certainly sound more regressive than progressive. What’s your take on this?

Maybe “regressive” is the next big thing, ha ha! You never know where the greatest change may have its roots and inspiration. For instance, the Renaissance was built on classical foundations and there is a pattern of this happening throughout history. We do agree that some bands are riding the edge of the wave, while others never even got to the ocean, but it will all change someday anyway and the world is full of paradoxes. The most anyone can hope for is to be part of the this cultural heritage. In the mean time, we take pleasure in what we do because it gives us a purpose, no matter how close or far from the edge.

There is a saying: “Take a step back so you can take a big leap forward.”

Name five albums you listened to recently

Silent Machine – Twelve Foot Ninja

Pelagial – The Ocean

A Long Time Listening – Agent Fresco

Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

Scurrilous – Protest the Hero

You had experience playing live before. Is the feedback you are getting from audience inspiring you in terms of providing more energetic performances? How does it feel being on stage with Axial Lead?

A while back, before our first performance we were very nervous, but somebody told us we could change all that, if we think of it from another perspective, because it’s all just adrenaline and it can be very very good for you. It was true, but there’s also something wonderful about feeling nervous and then realizing you’re up there by your own choice, with your closest friends, in front of people who support you. To answer the question: YES! it does help when you see a little bit of injury in the crowd ha ha! We cherish every mosh pit and sore throat.

This Fall will bring us lots of new experiences and we can hardly wait!

Thank you for the opportunity  to present our work and our upcoming first album. We’re proud to be part of Progstravaganza 13!

Follow the Lead!

Modest - Panoramic Faces - Credit Thomas Heere

MODEST MIDGET: A Very Strange Mix of Polarities

With an interesting name as it is, Modest Midget led by Lionel Ziblat bring progressive in a real meaning in the progressive rock. With an album behind them and with another set to be released, the band is to explore further. We talked to Lionel about many interesting things concerning the band.

Modest - live in Neerkant - Cafe de Muzikant

So, would you be willing to elaborate how (for God’s sake) come that you are described as rough as Paul Simon, as commercial as Ingmar Bergman and as sophisticated as Britney Spears. Mentioning all these names in the same sentence feels really weird and contradictory?

I came up with this description because its impossible to describe my music.

On the other hand I do understand that people who don’t know it need to have something to be able to “grab on to”.

I found that this description, whatever it means, triggers curiosity from the right people. Statistically speaking if you are not triggered by it, probably the music wouldn’t say much to you either, and if it does make you curious, the chances are you’ll find something meaningfull in the music. From that moment Britney Spears or Paul Simon are not so relevant anymore.

How do you look at the eclecticism in your music? Mixing so many different music styles into an entity knows to be really hard. How are you dealing with that challenge?

I don’t approach it quite this way. I just make music that comes to my head. I don’t experience it as eclectic or whatever.

In my opinion, an artist who knows how to listen (even if the music is in your head, you still have to learn how to listen to it, grab it, and make it “happen” in reality), doesn’t need to to think in terms of “lets make something special, and lets mix some Irish elements with Macedonian folklore”. You just write what you feel and hear, and the technique, knowledge and craft are there only to support your idea’s. Nothing else.

Your music is not easy to line up in any music category. What is the way you maintain to do it? How do you call what you create in terms of music styles?

You got that damn right. Its impossible to categorize and I’m pretty proud of it. As a creator you don’t spend your time putting fences around yourself or your music, putting labels on it or anything of the sort. Right the contrary. You tend to break rules & frontiers. How people call it is absolutely irrelevant to me. Anyways, the moment a style gets a name, it immediately takes out the real exciting part, at least thats how it works for me.

The fact that I keep doing it is probably because I’m either more naive that I thought, persistent or just plain nuts. Pick your choice (you may also mix among them).

Modest - Panoramic Faces - Credit Thomas Heere

A Modest Midget listener has to be one who is open to many different genres, to be open for experimentation. Would you agree on this? Due to all these challenges you are facing with, what can you tell about the people who attend your gigs? What’s their reaction on what you serve?

I have no idea and never thought about what a Modest Midget listener’s atittude should be.

However, if I think about it, in my experience the fans consist both of people who really know and love music, as well as others who just fall into it naturaly without much effort.

Why certain people like certain pieces, bands or artists remains a big mystery to me. I doubt that anyone has a plausible answer.

What’s the message of the “Rocky Valleys of dawn” song? It comes with quite meaningful lyrics (Find the beauty in whatever grim confronts you from within Rocky as it is, still in the end this is your path my friend). Tell us something more about it.

Thank you for asking.

You can see it as a little welcoming anthem that a young dad to be sings for his yet to be born son.

Imagine a young dad waiting for his kid and who’s anxiously thinking of how to help him deal with this world, with life, and to make sure he both appreciates and enjoys the beautiful moments, as well as is capable to deal with his own weaknesses.

Inside the album (which I don’t know when will be out, but hopefully within the next months), the song is part of the cycle of life.

The album is called ‘Crysis’ and it deals with the aches and joys of a life span, or of any chapter in life. The beginning, the middle and the end, which is often a beginning of something new. This song is the third track, right after two tracks that metaphorically deal with the making of a baby and the belly afterwards.

The spectre of the Modest Midget influences is interesting, ranging from Gentle Giant to Queen to Steely Dan and further more to Bartok and Stravinsky. When writing new music, do you usually listen to such heterogenous music on purpose?

No. As I said before as far as my personal creation goes; the music I make as an artist, I don’t ever sit and plan what to listen to in order to “cook” a specific kind of music.

In my case – this is going to be an extensive answer so if you get bored fast, don’t read it –  I heard and learned every noto of the Beatles when I was between 7 to 12 years old. In the background at home there was a lot music too, South American (Chicoa Buarque, Jobim, Leguizamon & Piazzola) as well as Dixieland, Choral music, sympnies and piano concerto’s of the Classical guys (Talking about Haydn till Beethoven). I later discovered Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan etc. and was fascinated by a bunch of very notable groups which are now described as Progressive Rock, but which originaly had no category. Somebody gave me two albums by Emerson Lake & Palmer and I absolutely loved it. Then it was Yes, King Crimson, Genesis & Gentle Giant. Many Israeli artists were also very influential, like Matti Caspi and Kaveret (rings any bell?).

After discovering Frank Zappa I didn’t know where else to turn and I found the answer in the modern classical world; from Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky & Bartok to Schnitke and Mauricio Kagel.

Nowadays I hardly listen to any kind of Pop music unless there’s some special incentive. If I ever do any recreational listening its to artists for which I have big regard as composers or who are great “troubadours” like Chico Buarque.

 The Great Prophecy of a Small Man

Your first album named “The Great Prophecy of a Small Man” received very good reviews from the media. How satisfied you are with its reception in general? When you look at it now, is there anything you would love to change on the record?

As often is the case, I worked my ass off on the album and I like it the way it is. Nowadays I would have more experience with production, but I realy can’t complain.

The only thing I would have loved to be different is if I had the means to promote it more massively. I’m sure there are many more people out there who could enjoy it.

Your new album is called Crysis and it’s about to be released. Reading the press release, you say that it’s more eccentric than debut. Make parallel between these two records. What is it that makes Crysis more eccentric?

I don’t know exactly what it is but listening to it now that its ready (it only needs to be mastered and I want to think carefully how I want to publish it), its a very strange mix of polarities. A lot of fun but a lot of strain as well, a few very delicate tunes and a few which are extremely assertive, some very straightforward and catchy melodies as opposed to others that are quite wild.

There is no way under the sun to be able to compare the two albums. I think you hear that its still Modest Midget, but its completely different. In a good way I hope.

It’s said that you composed music for different orchestras and productions, working with Holland Symfonia and Wouter Hamel. Besides, one of the movies your wrote the soundtrack for called Footnote was nominated for the Oscar. What can you tell us about this side of your personality? Is Modest Midget in some way escape from that other Lionel Ziblat?

First let me correct something essential about your question. I DID NOT compose the music for Footnote. My very good friend and talented composer Amit Poznansky wrote that, and he did a marvelous job!

What I did was give him a hand with orchestrating because I have a lot of experience doing that and because I studied it for many years. Orchestration, as opposed to composition, is the art of implementing the music into an orchestra. Knowing how to write for the different instruments, and how to make it mix properly. Its a technical as well as an artistic craft, but in this case it was more technical because Amit knew what he wanted to hear. I just happen to know how to take a brass section of 8 players and make them “kick ass”, in a way that still allows the strings and the woodwind sections to come out.

In relation to your question in general, Modest Midget is as much a retreat compared to writing for chamber ensembles, as composing for classical groups is a reatreat from Modest Midget. When you’re married, is your job a reatreat from your family or is your family a retreat from your job? I think that having two or more polars allows you to charge yourself with some extra energy and they indirectly feed and inspire each other. This is why my company is called Multi-Polar Music.

What the future holds and whats your favourite beer?

The last year has I was totaly consumed by producing the new album.

I’m actualy looking forward to do something different in the near future. Writing another piece for a chamber ensemble is definitely in the air, and as you mentioned above I do write more and more music for film, and thats a craft I’m still learning to master.

My favorite beer is actualy Port. I love a good wine with a good meal, but Port is my favourite drink.

I don’t like beer that much I’m sorry to say. Thanks for the interview and thank you all for reading!