Welcome to the Prognaut.com. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule before the release of Force of Gravity to talk with us about the new album and all that is going on with Sylvan.
Prognaut.com – Force of Gravity is about to be released this month. Although FOG is not a concept album, what message does the album communicate to new and loyal fans?
Jan: To the loyal fans it is the quite simple message: we are glad and proud that you liked our recent albums. Here is the new one! We are very excited presenting this to you. We hope you`ll like it, too!! For the new listener it is as simple as for the loyal ones: this is Sylvan`s music, this is our latest release. Hope, you`ll like it!
Prognaut.com – What was different about the process of making Presets and Force of Gravity?
Marco: The new album was composed in the vain of creating a variety of styles, emotions, ideas and approaches. Presets was clearly centered on uniformity concerning sound and atmosphere. This is a completely different approach – and I love both of them!
Jan: There are several levels one can answer this question. First, the artificial one. Presets was made at the same time with 'Posthumous Silence', so Presets had a certain frame though without being a concept album on its own like PS. FoG was free of any thoughts a concept album would have had. FoG contains 11 individual songs and one of the strengths of this album is that each song is telling a story which exists for itself. The technical part of the making process was quite the same compared with the other albums. For example the song writing process was very similar, the studio and engineer Jens Lück are the same as with the other ones.
Sebastian: Beside that, Sylvan has got a new member, because founding member and guitarist Kay Söhl quit the band in 2007. During the period of making the Sylvan Live DVD Jan joined the band.
Prognaut.com – How does the process of writing and working together work within Sylvan?
Jan: Musically, everybody has got ideas, one more, one less. Lyrically, Marco is writing the most. All the songs were completely finished before we join the studio. So the hard work is before going to the studio, because we have to put together all the different ideas, and everybody has to like it. The result is that we discuss a lot. Whether everybody agrees immediately to a song. That is big luck and it is very satisfying. Or the song has to be rewritten several times until everybody is satisfied or - the third possibility - somebody agrees because of friendship or stuff like that or we gain a compromise. But that doesn`t really matter. What counts is the result, the complete CD. Most important is the matter of fact that everybody is satisfied with all the stuff. And then it is a miracle for us. General spoken, it is a little bit like in politics. You have to convince people if you want to start a new concept or idea! Making a CD mirrors democratic processes of the human society. Like the relationship between macrocosm and microcosm.
Prognaut.com – How difficult is it to develop your lyrics knowing that English may not be your primary language?
Jan: Marco is very familiar with that and gifted with a lot of talents, for example he is also able to speak French like a Parisienne inhabitant. Besides that, it is absolutely not unusual for German bands to write in English.
Marco: I think it is easier for me to write in English than in German. This might be due to the flow and sound of the language. Surely the choice of words is more challenging, but also very inspiring.
Prognaut.com – My early favorite off FOG is Isle in Me. What was your inspiration for this song in particular or others you would like to discuss on the album?
Jan: Mostly, it concerns the lyrics of every single song. The inspiration for 'Isle in me' is the painting of Caspar David Friedrich 'Das Eismeer' ('the icesea').
Prognaut.com – Midnight Sun is another of my favorites off FOG. Can you describe how you found Miriam Schell and how the song developed?
Sebastian: Miriam Schell is an old friend of us, though she already worked together with our drummer Matthias on their project "Rain for a day" for a many, many years. So Miriam is well known by each of us and very familiar with our music. She sang the choir part on "Artificial Paradise" and "Presets" and was also involved in the choir arrangements of the "Posthumous Silence" DVD.
Prognaut.com – Her voice is wonderful. Do you plan to feature her on future albums?
Sebastian: In my opinion we can't answer this straight away. It could be the same question, whether we do plan to record live strings on every new CD.. It really depends on the song we're developing. If a female voice is necessary or required, we try to find out, how's role it could be. Here Mimi's voice fitted perfect. So we would love, if she's interested to play some gigs with us, but there are no specific plans for new recordings with her at the moment.
Prognaut.com – Are there other artists you wish to work with on future Sylvan albums?
Sebastian: As I was asked by Kalle from RPWL for playing the bass on his "Blind Ego" Album, I really like the idea of having guests on your album. But one important thing is, that you really use this as a style element and not as a must. It makes absolutely much more sense to use a guest, if we're not able to play something. As Sylvan is no project band, we all have our instruments and our positions in the band. So we wouldn't ask another bassist to play a "normal" bass-line, just his name is Paul Mc Cartney - okay here I must admit that I would let him play ;-) - but what I mean is that we use strings because nobody of us can play them. Or we ask Mimi to join us, because nobody can sing like here - of course not ;-)
So we don't have any plans for guest artist in the near future. Let's see how's asking ;-)
Prognaut.com – You mention SPV in the song Follow Me. Can you tell us a little about the relationship you have had with them and the search for a label?
Marco: SPV in „Follow Me“ is a financial term and stands for „Special Purpose Vehicle“ – a construction used by banks to avoid transparency. It has nothing to do with our former distribution partner. But there would be definitely a few things to tell about this partnership not really successful.
Prognaut.com – Turn of the Tide is another of the strong songs adding to the continuing messages you deliver with such emotion in your music.. Where do you draw your inspiration?
Marco: Inspiration always comes from the experiences you had, the things you lived, the music you heard. I draw my inspiration from the emotional power of melodies and words … and from the wish to share my special feelings with others through the force of music.
Prognaut.com – You always deliver at least one epic per album and Vapor Trails is another fantastic epic. It sounds as though the experience of a jet ride may have been the inspiration for this song. Your words and music do a wonderful job of describing the experience but would you like to share more about the actual experience?
Marco: The lyrics of this song are based on emotions I experienced on quite a few jet rides. It’s about the helplessness in this place, being a complete slave of modern equipment, computers and the people around you. I always felt somehow left to my own, thinking about millions of things like what will happen if you crash, leaving all the people you love behind. I love flying, but still it’s a special place, forcing you to think about your life. This inspired me to write the words you now hear on Vapour Trail.
Prognaut.com – Besides Marillion and some of the other bands mentioned on you’re My Space page, is there a band or album this year which you guys are enjoying that you would like to mention?
Jan: Dream Theater`s Black Clouds and Silver Linings, together with other reasons because of the two bonus discs with the cover songs and the instrumental mixes. Great! And the 40th anniversary of King Crimson`s classic debüt master piece 'In the Court of the Crimson King'. Timeless!
Prognaut.com – I missed your show in Seattle last year because it fell on a school night for my son. Can you describe your experience at the Seattle show?
Jan: Awesome! First of all, the biggest 'Thank You' goes to Frans and his fellows who did a really great job to organize the whole event over there which gave us the big opportunity to play the gig in Seattle, a fantastic and fascinating city. We met Randy George, the Bass player of Neal Morse, who is a really kind person. The gig was so much fun, because the audience was great there too. Hope, we can play there soon again!
Prognaut.com – Can you describe some of your experiences at the 2008 Cal Prog Festival?
Jan: Almost the same as the ones in Seattle. We played in LA at CalProg some days before we went to Seattle. The atmosphere at the festival was so great. And again the organizers especially Papa Jim was absolutely fantastic and amazing to us. We would love to play there again in the future. Both big steps for the band`s history!
Prognaut.com – Do you have plans to tour in America in the near future?
Sebastian: We would love to tour North America, but it's always the bad thing about the travel costs. We can't play and pay, so we need to cover at least the travel costs. And even though Sylvan is well selling via ProgRockRecords in the States, it's not enough to get a tour booked. If anyone of you out there has an idea for a SYLVAN US-TOUR, we would come over immediately ;-)
Prognaut.com – Is there an American band you would like to tour with?
Jan: Dream Theater, Chickenfoot, Neal Morse, Spock`s Beard ...
Prognaut.com – Obviously you guys will be very busy with the release of FOG and supporting the album with a tour. Can you share with us some of the upcoming tour details?
Sebastian: We will start our FOG tour this year with shows in Germany, the Netherlands and England. For next year we have plans for few shows in Poland and another one in the Netherlands. More to come :)
Prognaut.com – Is there a concept or event/experience you would like to write about in the future?
Jan: The topic of illegal downloads could be a challenge to write about, because there is a high risk to blame a lot of people with just one single song about that stuff. It could be interesting to see how people would react on this! The problems coming out of the global possibilities that anybody is able to download any song that is available in the net are growing bigger. It is an uncomfortably matter, because it happens all the time, but you cannot blame a single person. Every band on the planet is concerned by illegal downloads, but it is senseless and useless to blame all the people on the whole planet. Last but not least, you would blame your own fans who are supporting us. That would not be very polite!
Congratulations on the10th anniversary of SYLVAN (1998 - 2008). Thank you for taking time out with us and we look forward to future conversations. Good luck with the new album and here’s hoping you will make it back to America soon!
Marco Glühmann - vocals
Jan Petersen - guitars
Sebastian Harnack - bass
Interviewed by Prof on September 25th, 2009