Clouse, Terry (Somnambulist) (September 2002)

A Cigar's Life: A (Sleep)Walking Tour Inside The Paranormal Humidor*

SomnambulistThe European distribution of their second CD has begun only recently, but thanks to the innovative scheme adopted in their progressive compositions, I think Somnambulist could represent a big surprise in today's prog universe ... starting out with the band's name and their record's title! So beware of The Paranormal Humidor and start reading...

Igor Italiani: Hi Terry and Somnambulist ... first of all I would like to know why you published your second album after such a long hiatus...

Terry Clouse: More or less due to lack of personnel. Shortly after we completed the first album, Henry Bones and Scott Ratchford left the band to pursue other interests. Jody [Park] and I continued to write together while trying out various other guitarists and drummers. It was a difficult couple of years for us. Nothing at all interesting going on as far as formulating a new band. We did a little later, however, write and record a song for an Italian horror movie compilation with a good friend of ours named Mike Kite [...E Tu Vivrai Net Terrore]. He is a multi instrumentalist. Drums and guitar are his particular fields of expertise. We eventually hooked up with a couple of ex-Volare members. We wrote, rehearsed and partially recorded a second album but it was shelved due to weak material and an overall lack of direction. So, afterwards, it was back to the old search for new players. It's taken us quite a few years, as you can see, to solidify a line-up. I used to think we were cursed; now, perhaps not.

II: In fact, I've seen that the band has some new members. Can you introduce the new musicians to the audience (maybe telling also where you picked them up)?

TC: Yes indeed! Jo Whitaker, our drummer, is a former alumni of our previous band Privy Member. He is quite versatile stylistically incorporating a lot of Jazz and Latino rhythms into the music. I've never had the pleasure of working with a percussionist before who contributes composition and interesting angles on themes. He is currently working on a solo album culminating his diverse interests. It will be quite remarkable, I think. Charlie Shelton is our new guitarist. Jody and I have actually had our eye on him for some time waiting to catch him between projects. His approach to guitar is very unique in many ways. The voice of his guitar is very enunciated, if you take my meaning. For example, even when he is "shredding," the notes are still very clear and individual within the chord. He has a fluid like picking technique that reminds me a bit of Holdsworth (although, his playing doesn't necessarily). His writing style will definitely come to the forefront on future recordings. Peter Cornell is the new vocalist. What can I say about Peter? I'm sure you are all familiar with his very musical family, particularly his brother Chris. His contribution has likely been the most notable in that, before, Somnambulist was not a band with strong vocal composition. Now, we are quite the contrary and that has been mine and Jody's hope since the beginning, to be vocally driven. The colour Peter has added is immeasurable.

Somnambulist - The Paranormal HumidorII: Talking about the music ... your band's name is certainly bizarre, but it pales when it is compared to the new album's title. Why The Paranormal Humidor?

TC: Why not?

II: Well, Ok ... but is there a concept behind the lyrics of the album or not?

TC: Nope.

II: However, in my opinion, your music brilliantly mixes some odd prog signatures, such as Yes' multiple choral lines and Crimsonic rhythms, with electronic and modern sounds. Do you think this is a good description of your sound? What are the bands that influenced your music?

TC: I think that is a very flattering description, thank you. Our music is most definitely a hybrid of many different influences. I am the Yes fan in the band. My compositions most decidedly reflect that sound and feel. I think a lot of my other interest show through as well, such as, Queen, Bowie, Angelo Badalamenti and 10cc. Jody is into many of the pre-punk staples such as Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, The New York Dolls and oddly enough, Rick Wakeman. Charlie likes Tool, John Coltrane, John Lee Hooker and many others. Jo is into everything from Jazz to Latino to Bluegrass, as is Peter. So, as you can see, our collective influence is fairly vast. Many of our interests may not be immediately evident in our sound, but fashions it none the less. The love affair with the electronic element you speak of stems from our mutual admiration for the body of work offered by Björk. Go figure...

II: Can you tell me what are the differences you sense between your first album and The Paranormal Humidor?

TC: There are several differences. The musicianship is stronger and the compositions are more coherent. For me, I think the songs benefited from a more calculated approach, as opposed to the frenzied pace of the tracks of the first album. This is due largely to the amount of time we had to hone them. This time around we were able to spend months trying different arrangements and exercising a more proper editing process. Before, we were forced to work more quickly and a lot of the arrangements weren't developed to their potential. Perhaps one day, I would like to revisit and re-record those tunes, making the necessary adjustments. Jo's style of drumming lends a solid foundation and Charlie's guitar playing adds a diverse color. Of course Peter's prolific lyricism enabled the new compositions to be more vocally oriented. All in all, I feel that the new album is a vast improvement of the original formula due to the new lineup.

II: Is it too early to know where you are headed with your third opus or not?

TC: Not too early at all. Due to prior obligations of Peter's, we were unable to follow through with a number of performances, including NearFest 2002. Because of this, we have begun writing material for the next album to be titled Vulnavia. As it stands, we have two complete pieces written by Charlie. I have several demos of songs, most of which will be included, as does Jody. Right now we are in the process of learning a composition offered by Jo that has a fusion-like feel. As I said earlier, Jo is working on a solo album that we will all most likely contribute. I also have plans to do a solo project in the near future. At the rate we're going, we hope to have the new Somnambulist album completed by spring 2003...

II: Are you trying to put up a US tour in support of your album or do you think it's just too hard to organize such a thing at the moment (considering the music actually in vogue in the American market)?

TC: No. We had some performances lined up, but as stated earlier, prior obligations of Peter's prohibited us from following through. However, when he is available again, we plan to do some shows that will feature some of the new material as well as tracks from the current album. I hope this happens soon, as the audience's response to the new tunes will help us decide what to include on the next album.

II: Is there some other country you would like to visit, as a band or as plain tourists?

TC: Yes. Anywhere we're wanted (Japan! Japan! Japan!)!!!

II: Let's switch our attention to the Internet for a moment. Do you think that the web can be a great tool to support music? Are you working on an official website for the band?

TC: Absolutely. The internet has been helpful to me personally to find new bands to listen to. We are currently designing a band website we hope will be up and running by Christmas. We're late-bloomers.

II: There are a lot of talks too about the ongoing crisis in the global music market ... do you think that there will be some major changes in the imminent future or not?

TC: I'm assuming that the crisis you speak of will be the bypassing of the corporate music industry in favor of independent labels. I definitely think this will have a major impact over the next few years of how artists' work will be heard and sold. The internet is becoming a major tool in distribution of underground and special interest sounds that is vastly becoming preferred over Britney, O-Town and that ilk. It's an interesting time in that people of all generations are becoming ill with the poison they are being force-fed. It's funny that it has taken over 20 years for the masses to think on their own musically and not be OK with the dumbed-down homogenized crap they are told is "artistic expression." Independent labels offer a smorgasbord of listening experiences varying from 3-chord punk to full blown symphonic progressive to be ingested by eager ears. Millions of bands worldwide have finally found a forum to distribute their wares. Without this, IF they are accepted into the corporate music world, the artists' original vision is forcibly altered to fit an "obvious" marketable form. Independent labels such as Ken Golden's Laser's Edge and subsidiaries, Cuneiform, World Domination, Touch 'N' Go, Mammoth, Matadorand thousands of others are a saving grace to the garage band. Also, bands that fund their own recordings can sell their own products via the Internet.

II: Before the end I have one final curiosity ... is there a musician or band with whom you would like to record a song?

Terry: Yes, Björk.

II: OK Terry. Thank you for your time. Great luck for the future and hope you'll come down here to play live one day...

TC: Thank you, Igor, for your interest in the band and hopefully you will see us live in the near future.

[* corny title is to be blamed on the editor - ed.]

Somnambulist (1996)
The Paranormal Humidor (2002)

Added: September 1st 2002
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

Hits: 2036
Language: english

[ Back to Interviews Index | Post Comment ]