Aztec Jade (October 2001)


A Stone Worth Turning Over - An Interview With Aztec Jade

Aztec Jade (© Adrenaline Records)They'll be out soon with their new album Concrete Eden, so what better time to talk to American progsters Aztec Jade, who are quickly rising among the midst of good bands, thanks to great live performances and solid musicianship? Well, obviously the time is now, so sit back and enjoy this friendly talk done via e-mail, USA to Italy...

Igor Italiani: Hi Aztec Jade -- the first question refers to your homeland ... doesn't it feel a little strange to play a genre so out of fashion in the actual music landscape of America (ruled by MTV and radio-friendly music)?

Aztec Jade: True to a point, but we don't feel that we are competing with MTV and the radio-friendly genre of today. Our music is somewhat on a different level and it's difficult to compare it to much of today's mainstream music. The prog music scene in America is underground at best. We do get a bit frustrated at today's music scene in North America, but we write music to please ourselves first, and if someone else enjoys it, so much the better.

II: But can you recall the first time that you had this idea of a prog band growing up on you? And why did you choose the name Aztec Jade?

AJ: We never set out to be a prog rock band. We just wrote music that felt natural to us, and the media happened to classify it as "prog rock." Honestly, we find our music somewhat difficult to classify in one genre. As for how we chose the name Aztec Jade, the original name of the band was Sidewinder. After we recorded our first demo in 1994, we needed to find a new name because of copyrights, etc... After many possibilities, Matt came up with the name Aztec Jade, and everyone really liked it. There was no rhyme or reason to the name; Matt's theory was that some of the best bands in the history of music had 2 names that meant nothing when put together (like Led Zeppelin or Def Leppard).

II: OK. Now we go a little deeper into your second album, which will go out this October. It is called Concrete Eden and, reading the titles and listening to the music, it seems like a concept album (I don't have the lyrics, yet). Is it really a concept album?

AJ: Actually Concrete Eden is our third studio album [well, Paradise Lost actually comprised their first two albums - Nda], but our second release with Adrenaline Records. You ask -- is it really a concept album? -- well, yes and no. There are parts of it that are linked together, but we'll let the listener determine if it's really a concept? Our goal was to make a record where each individual track can stand on its own, but where there is an overall theme that ties the songs together, too. Does that answer to your question?

II: Who wrote the lyrics and the music for the album?

AJ: Each member of the band makes their own individual contribution in writing a song. The lyrics are written by various members. Usually Matt or Tim would bring a rough idea to the band, and we'd all embellish on that idea. It's uncommon, but occasionally one guy will bring the lyrics first, and the music will be written around the idea of the lyrics. Actually "Black October" (on the new album) was one such example of writing the lyrics first.

II: In my opinion, a subtle change between Concrete Eden and Paradise Lost is that the new album takes your epic-meets-prog approach to new heights. I'm talking in particular of tracks such as "Manifestation" and "Victory Procession", two of the absolute highlights of the album!

Modern Prophet (1995) (oop)AJ: Let's remember that Paradise Lost consists of the combination of our first two albums, Modern Prophet, which was recorded in 1995, and Frame Of Mind recorded in 1997. While we feel that the songs on those CDs were strong, Concrete Eden shows us mature as writers and as players. Our songs still have the same melodic hook that separates us from some of the other bands out there, but now we are incorporating more personal themes and better chops.

II: Always speaking of changes, I've learned that you have a new keyboardist who joined the band recently - can you introduce him to the audience?

AJ: Sure. His name is Ian MacDonald, and he's been a friend of the band and a fellow session player for many years. His former band Hour Glass opened up for us many times in years past. Ian has made a seamless transition into the group, and his personality fits right in. On a personal level, I don't think we've ever laughed this hard. Seriously though, Tim was a very good player and we feel very fortunate to have found someone who can fill his shoes as admirably as Ian does. We are all anxious to see how Ian's musical contributions will enhance Aztec Jade's music.

II: Paradise Lost had already a good production, but the work done with the sounds in Concrete Eden is simply terrific. I bet that you worked real hard in getting those beautiful sounds that the album carries?

AJ: Thanks for the compliments! We recorded the CD again at CMG Studios, but at a new location. We began recording in January and worked for a couple of days just getting drums and guitar sounds. One of the main reasons that this CD sounds so much fuller is that the entire album was recorded on analog 2-inch tape. We had much more artistic freedom recording this disc. If you read our studio diary which can be found on our website (www.aztecjade.com [*]), you'll see the time involved with each track, and we all had our say in the mix down. Everyone involved in this CD, from the writing, recording, mixing and mastering, gave 100%, and we think it shows in the finished product.

II: (To Leon Ozug) Leon, your vocal style is similar to [James] LaBrie's in certain ways, yet tends also to be unique a lot of the time. Can you explain to us how much work do you put in your performance?

LO: A lot of work went into my performance for this album. While the other guys were at the recording studio laying down their tracks, I was at our rehearsal place practicing to old Queensrÿche albums to get ready for the studio. I figured that if I could sing those songs, I could sing anything! I feel that this type of conditioning really helped my performance and when I went into the studio, I was able to sing with ease. Probably the hardest songs for me were "Revelation" and "Black October". Singing comes naturally to me, but getting the emotions across was actually the hardest part. I feel I've matured much since our last CD, and I've shown more diversity on Concrete Eden, as has the rest of the band. I'm very proud of our performances.

II: Mmh ... now suppose that Dream Theater call and ask you to open their next world tour ... what's your answer?

AJ: Fuck yeah, but only if we're headlining - just kidding - we truly respect Dream Theater and all they have done for this genre of music. We wish we could get a break like that (touring with them), to get our name out there. So if any of you guys in DT are reading this, you have our answer! How about it?!

II: But do you think that is good for the entire prog scene to have an act who sells a lot (Dream Theater), and a bunch of great ones who struggle to stay alive (Fates Warning, Pain Of Salvation, Enchant)?

AJ: In a perfect world, all bands with talent would enjoy the same international success as Dream Theater. Let's not forget that Dream Theater is on a major label, while some of the other bands mentioned are on smaller labels with smaller budgets for promoting and tour support. Airplay would definitely make a difference. For all bands. Unfortunately, in America, there are little or no stations (besides the Internet) that play music other than force fed, corporate candy. Back in the day, DJs could take a chance on playing songs that they personally liked, and that's how many bands got their break. If you think about it, the only publicity that prog bands get are reviews in prog-related publications, and word of mouth. Touring is a great way to get your music and your name out there, but again, without the support of radio and local media, the public really doesn't have a fair shot at knowing about a great band that might be in town. Again, being categorized into a genre is limiting the possibilities of an artist or a band.

II: Are you already planning some live dates following the release of Concrete Eden?

AJ: Yes. Actually we are working on some festival dates for 2002, as well as some shows on the Eastern Coast of the United States. We would also like to do a European tour to support Concrete Eden, if funds permit it. We continue to perform as much as possible in our local area and abroad. Unfortunately, our local area has little respect for original bands, and this includes media, clubs and the general public. However our fan base is a loyal one, and we appreciate them very much. With each new show we gain more and more fans. Word of mouth seems to be the best exposure.

II: OK. Before saying goodbye, two final questions. What prog song would you steal from another artist (past or present) and why?

AJ: Good question, but a tough one ... since we cannot all agree on one song, we'll answer individually. Matt and Leon choose "2112" by Rush, because they feel that this song raised the bar for complex conceptual prog music and has survived the test of time. Ian would have to say "Pull Me Under" by Dream Theater, because it was the first prog metal song to get a lot of airplay, and still continues to. Rick would choose "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull, because it's very diverse and eclectic song for its day. Bryan chooses "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, because he feels in a lot of ways we are very similar to Queen, in that our music is sometimes majestic and highly orchestrated. Queen is one of the pioneers of symphonic prog rock and many of our influences have come from them.

II: Prog rock versus Prog metal - who wins?

AJ: Prog rock versus prog metal, and even let's say versus mainstream - what exactly is the difference, and why does music have to be classified? Unfortunately, if it's not classified as prog, then it has more of a chance to become successful. No matter what the genre of music, the fans win!

II: Thank you very much Aztec Jade. It's been a pleasure. See you in Italy as soon as possible.

AJ: Thank you Igor. We look forward to that day as well!

Aztec Jade

[*9/8/2015 Update: No longer available though a news page for the band exists (last updated in 2004 - yes, 11 yrs ago) at www.bluekabuto.com/aztecjade/ -ed.]


Discography:
Aztec Jade (1994)
Modern Prophet (1995)
Primitive Traxx (1997)
Frame of Mind (1997)
Paradise Lost (2000)
Concrete Eden (2001)

Added: October 13th 2001
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

Artist website: www.bluekabuto.com/aztecjade/
Hits: 1060
Language: english
  

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