Tabor, Ty (Platypus) (November 2000)

Taking Our Backstage "Platypass" To Meet Ty Tabor!

Ty TaborThe Platypus is found only in eastern Australia, where they live on the edges of rivers and freshwater lakes where burrows can be dug. Platypus are most active for several hours after dusk and before dawn. During the day, a Platypus rests in a burrow in the bank of a river or lake, but it may spend some hours near the entrance to the burrow, basking in the sun and grooming its dense fur. Platypus are renowned for their excellence in the water as both divers and swimmers. The Platypus usually feeds at night on aquatic insect larvae, shrimps and worms by dabbling in mud or silt on the bottom of rivers and freshwater lakes with its sensitive, flexible, duck-like snout, aided by electroreceptors (electronic sense) on its bill. These are stored in the cheek pouches and will be chewed after returning to the surface. The Platypus can eat its own body weight in food in one night.

Now how did a weird creature like that get into prog'n roll? We will let Ty Tabor explain the band's name. "For the first album we were working on a Jeff Beck-type tune that sounded like something off Blow By Blow and it had a clavinet sound in it. Derek Sherinian (keys) Derek [Sherinian] was playing his clavinet part and he made the comment that every time he hears a clavinet it makes him think of a platypus. And we all cracked up. So the next obvious thing was, 'hey, why don't we name the band exactly that?'"

When the much acclaimed When Pus Comes To Shove was released in August '98, the American public had to wait until February '99 whilst Japanese fans even had to be patient until May of that year. Not a healthy situation for an upcoming band or should we call it a project. And whose idea was it in the first place? John Myung (bass)"I remember John Myung calling me, telling me he wanted to do this other 'thing' next to Dream Theater. When he called me, the rest of the 'band' was already known, so as soon as I heard that Rod Morgenstein was involved, of course I said yes. I have been a fan of Rod's and the Dregs for a long time now and I see Rod as one of most talented and gifted musicians around! Just to be part of a band that would involve his incredible talents, [and those] of John and Derek was like a dream come true. When we got together in Millbrook studio to record the first album, we really hadn't discussed what kind of an album we wanted to make. In fact, to be honest, I thought it would be all instrumental and I was there to do the guitar parts. I was really amazed when especially Rod Rod Morgenstein (drums)started telling us how much he wanted vocals on the album. Also Derek was keen because of course he already has his own instrumental combo with Planet X so I was really amazed that they wanted vocals for Platypus. When the album was finally released in Europe, it took indeed a long time before the album was also available in both America and Japan. Because they do not include bonus tracks I guess most of our fans had already bought import copies from Europe by the time the album got a general release. So that was definitely a thing we didn't want to happen with the second album. I forgot to tell you that from the word 'go' we agreed that Platypus and especially When Pus Comes To Shove, would not be a one-off thing! We felt that there was great potential and that we could go a long way with the four of us so we really want to continue Platypus for as long as we can. So for Ice Cycles we made sure we had all of the contracts sorted out before the album's release so that it would be available all over the world at the same time." Ty continues his view about those Japanese releases that always seem to have bonus tracks and always try to be released several months before the actual release. "I think that's the dumbest thing on earth really. First of all, it slightly kills the understanding between the artist and his fans because they feel let down because they have to pay a lot of money for an import copy. Secondly those bonus tracks mainly are a bunch of crap by means of some leftovers from the session or a live track. I think a new album should be available all over the world in exactly the same format on the very same day!"

Ty Tabor - Mindflower LaneIn what way is a Platypus album different than say a King's X album or a Ty Tabor solo album? Because when listening to your solo album Moonflower Lane and Naomi's Solar Pumpkin I unearth a lot of psychedelic elements, which I don't seem to find in the Platypus music. "Exactly, it's mainly the influence of the various people you work with at that particular time which is of importance. I don't enter a recording sessions with a definite sound in my head or wanting to create such or such. If you are given the opportunity to enter the studio with some of the best musicians in the world then you write 'on the spot;' it's there and then that you get the inspiration and you really 'let it flow'. More so for the new album Ice Cycles where we already knew each other and we were able to write more song-oriented, more 'compact' like you put it. I have to admit I'm a big fan of the sixties and early seventies especially where British bands are concerned. The Beatles have to be my all-time favourites because they really covered all musical grounds. You just said they seem like four musical gods who were put on the earth by a superpower and I couldn't agree more. The Beatles are the foundation on which the entire music industry is built. But if you take early Aerosmith or early Kiss, then you could hear their definite sound in a couple of seconds as well. That's all gone now. I remember in the sixties and early seventies there were some fantastic radio stations in the US. Today it's all crap. You have independent radio promoters whom you have to pay in order to get your song on a playlist. Radio is now in the hands of big corporations who own fifteen or more stations and hand over the same playlists, so in fact what you hear is the same crap all over! Radio through Internet might be a solution but maybe not yet as the quality of the transmission is still lousy [check out for a possible solution - Bo Bo {this web-over-digital-radio company seems to have gone out of business - ed. 2011}]). When I tell Ty about my near encounter with George Harrison [see below], he starts telling me some interesting anecdotes. "I once spent some time at the East/West office in London only to find out George Harrison had been there ALL day the day before. I could eat my hat! I did manage to hang around one whole afternoon with Ringo Starr though. As I'm good friends with Peter Frampton and his guitar tech, I managed to meet Ringo when Peter was part of his all-star band. It was an afternoon I'll never forget. Sheer magic!"

With no real "fixed" ideas in mind, the music of Platypus has been said to contain influences as diverse as Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth and Mahavishnu Orchestra. I do have some problems with the latter ... "Really? Well maybe not that obvious, but Mahavishnu Orchestra has been a major influence to all of us. Personally I re-discovered this outstanding band by means of their CD re-issues about two to three years ago. It sort of got me back into the seventies. In fact what me and the guys have always said about the seventies is that some great music was made but we always feel the music could have been a bit harder. I like Mahavishnu like I really dig Dixie Dregs, but I would like it even more if it had a heavier bass or more distortion on the guitar. In fact our very own 'Partial To The Bean' is sort of our tribute to the great seventies, but then in the approach we like best.

When Pus Comes To Shove (1998) - European cover One of the many outstanding seventies bands certainly has to be Deep Purple, a major influence on the music of Platypus, however without the intention to really sound like them in the first place. "Not at all. In fact I was very surprised when it occurred to me how close to the Deep Purple sound we really got. I remember I had the album mixed and I was listening to it in my car and there and then I thought, 'hell this sounds exactly like Deep Purple but with a slightly heavier edge.' Of course Derek's splendid Hammond takes the music in that obvious direction." When Rod and Derek did an interview session on the Internet, someone pointed out the music to him felt a lot like Captain Beyond but Rod didn't know who the band was. Now this band founded around ex-Deep Purple singer Rod Evans and augmented with two members from Iron Butterfly sort of holds the same elements: heavy rock and psychedelica so maybe in a way Captain Beyond could indeed be a good comparison? "I know Captain Beyond but I have never been into their music. In fact I never bought any of their albums so I wouldn't say our music is in the same style. What we do with Platypus can't be labeled as we really try all kinds of music. If you're in one small room with four different individuals then it's marvelous to see in what different directions the music is steered. That is the strength of our band, namely that even we don't know where it is heading!"

When Pus Comes To Shove (1998) - US cover Because the name Deep Purple has been mentioned so many times in reviews of the first Platypus album, do you deliberately emphasize that element for new recordings or do you indeed look not to go into that direction in order not to have those comparisons? "When we record we record 'on the spot,' it is and will never be our intention to copy ourselves. What has been released is over and done with. There's no point in repeating yourself even if that album sported a huge hit. Platypus tries to expand its musical boundaries time after time. Listen to Ice Cycles and then to When Pus Comes To Shove and you'll hear what I mean. This is who I am; this is what I think musically. The only concession on the second album, if you like, has been the fact that we really were 100 % certain we had to have vocals mainly because that's the only way we can secure some airplay."

Ice Cycles (2000)Although Ice Cycles is now with all of us, the album would have been called Platypie. So what happened? "As I already told you, the recording of our first album meant we were laughing our socks off constantly. We really had a very productive time but we also laughed a lot. Before we started the recording of our latest album I had this image inside my head of a table on which a huge pie would lay. Left and right from the table you would see the legs of a platypus. So it was a play of words seeing that image and calling it 'platypie' whilst, although such a word doesn't exist, 'platypie' might also be how you call multiple copies of the platypus. Sort of: one platypus, two platypie. But when the recording started I had a really tough time with a lot of sad experiences I won't go into detail about. Because the atmosphere of the songs was rather dark and the lyrics sounded rather ominous we simply didn't find it appropriate to give the album a funny cover and a funny title. So we opted for Ice Cycles instead, which fit better. During the recording, the rest of the boys understood that this time there would be very little jokes going on yet everyone showed their professionalism once again and started the recording as a serious project with a focus. It really felt more of a band this time around. The most difficult track on the album for me is 'Gone.' I won't and can't go into detail, but it's a song about someone that is no longer with us but has not yet died. It gave me a strange, unexpected pain and that's what 'Gone' is all about. Sorry I can't tell you more, but I even feel bad talking about this." Is it about drugs? Someone you lost? Family? Friends? "Sorry John, but I really can't tell you any more. It should take me too long and furthermore, I don't think I can do it. I'm really not sure if I'll ever be able to do this one live?" So there are plans for a Platypus tour? But as with Transatlantic I'm afraid it'll be a privilege for US citizens only? Ty Tabor "That's where you're wrong. Our first album has done so well in Europe and very, very little in the States. We feel our fans are mainly to be found in Europe so that's where we would tour if the opportunity is there."

If we go back to The Beatles then one can honestly say that George Martin has played a very important role. So why has Platypus produced their music themselves? "I fully agree with you that George Martin was indeed one fifth of the Beatles. Most of the arrangements as we know them today have probably been written by George Martin in the first place. Oh yes, without any doubt he's as important as the Beatles themselves. Because all of the Platypus members had the pleasure to work with various producers we do know that the result of a recording session will sound very differently if you use a different producer. Some producers will only work on the sound. Others will only work on arrangements. They all work differently, so it remains a tricky experience. We all found it would be much better if we did everything ourselves because all four of us know exactly what the result should sound like."

Platypus flyer So does Ty Tabor listen to the current wave of progressive rock? Does he know what's happening? "Everyone thinks there's a new progressive scene but it's not. In fact, progressive rock in America is non-existent. Only a handful of people are active in this domain, but if you go to any youngster and ask him/her about prog then they'll nod their heads, not knowing what you're talking about. All of these so-called BIG prog names no one has ever heard about. The sales are so small it doesn't even register. The music never gets on radio. I'd like to see it change to alter the current music scene. But I'm afraid 'it's all about money' once again. But don't you mind, Platypus isn't here for the big bucks, but for the music and the sheer pleasure of playing together and that is something no money in the bank can pay for!"

[I once attended a gig at the Palomino Club in Los Angeles only to find out that the day before there was a gig by Taj Mahal which had George Harrison, Jackson Browne, John Fogerty and Bob Dylan all jam until the early hours of the day. You have to know the Palomino club only holds about 200 or so people. - Bobo {the club closed in 1995; in updating this in 2011, I came across a video someone posted of the concert Bobo mentions, see here -ed.}]

Platypus (l to r: Tybor, Sherinian, Morganstein, Myung)

When Pus Comes To Shove (1999)
Ice Cycles (2000)

Naomi's Solar Pumpkin (1997)
Moonflower Lane (1998)
Safety (2002)
Rock Garden (2006)
Tacklebox (Ty Tabor Demos Vol. 1 & 2) (2006)
Balance (2008)
Something's Coming (2010)
Trip Magnet (2010)
Nobody Wins When Nobody Plays (2013)
Almost Live From Alient Beans Studio (DVD) (2014)

Added: November 6th 2000
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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