Allman, Brendt (Shadow Gallery) (August 2005)

S Is For Shadow Gallery: An Interview With Brendt Allman

Brendt Allman (circa 2001)The brand new album from Shadow Gallery, Room V, is, as the title suggests, the band's fifth album. And it's taken them thirteen years - their self-titled debut was released in 1992, Carved In Stone followed in 1995, the concept album Tyranny 1998, and Legacy in 2001. Josh Turner caught up with guitarist Brendt Allman in late May to talk about the new album, the band itself and will we ever see Shadow Gallery perform live? The answers awaits you inside....

Joshua Turner: I was recently listening to Room V and I was wondering, is there any chance of seeing that music live anytime soon?

Brendt Allman: I sure hope so. I sure hope so. [I laugh] It all sort of depends on finances, you know. It's like it's a... pretty much a financial question really. Will we receive the financial backing that's required, you know? It's mandatory. Potentially what that comes down to... I mean, you know, we all have to support our families and stuff and we all have day jobs -- well, most of us do anyway, outside of that. So I don't know. Hope so. There's been a lot of talk about it. In fact, there's more talk about it in the last month between us than there has in the last 12 years, so I think the possibility is probably good, looks pretty good. We're thinking about playing a couple of festivals.

JT: Like what festivals are you planning on playing?

BA: Uh, I don't know yet. Gary [Wehrkemp] has a list of a few of them and some of them look like pretty good possibilities. There's one in Atlanta. I don't know the names of them. I'm, I'm kind of out of the loop. He's pretty much controlling all that thankfully. It's not on my plate. [he laughs]

Shadow Gallery - Room VJT: As far as the album's concerned? I'm wondering if you could describe what the concept is about. Where the album title comes from?

BA: Yeah, yeah. Actually the name, we've had that for a long time as our publishing company, Room V. It would be, however... you want to say, you know, Roman numeral... Essentially that [the title], I got that from... I'm a pretty big comic book fan and, I got it from Alan Moore and his V for Vendetta story a really long time ago.

It's like, I don't know, '87 or something. I was a teenager. I'm like, I'm going to use this for a band name sometime, you know, as a name for our band Shadow Galley. They're actually making a movie about that, about that comic, which I can't wait to go see. But, that's sort of where we got the name Room V. It really doesn't have anything to do with his work, but it's pretty cool. It's a pretty cool name. Actually, Room V is more... not so necessarily a place, but... you know, like a physical place. It has more to do with... the back-end of the story for Room V, it kind of explains it a little bit actually on the song "Room V." It kind of explains it. You don't know what's happening, but... it's also kind of a mystery too, you know. I don't really want to give away too much away about that. It's one of those things that people are going to have to kind of figure out on their own. We like to throw a lot of riddles, puzzles..., puzzles, stuff like that into our music and lyrics. So, it kind of goes along that, but essentially, we've been using that for our publishing company for quite a long time and it's our fifth album and... and out of the six of us that are in the band, five of us recorded the record.

JT: Huh.

BA: So, it kind of all fits together that way.

JT: Speaking of names, where does the name Shadow Gallery come from?

BA: I picked that out of a book called V for Vendetta.

JT: Oh, okay, so it all ties together. [I wasn't familiar with the comic, so it didn't occur to me that one related to the other]

BA: I'm a pretty big fan of Alan Moore's work, but I think we definitely... we are able to get away with using it, so...

JT: Okay.

BA: And, plus I just think it sounds cool.

JT: To talk a little bit about your songwriting process, your music has evolved since the beginning and in my opinion, it's gotten better and better, and this latest one is just really great.

BA: Thank you very much.

JT: I'm wondering if you can talk about your songwriting process and, and what may have actually evolved in this process to get to where it's at today.

Shadow Gallery - Shadow GalleryBA: It's a little different each time, you know. [On] our first record, Chris [Ingles] and I wrote the majority of the music. Carl [Cadden-James] was really involved in writing the music at that point as well and, you know, we were just trying to find our sound and get to know each other really. It kind of sounds like that a little bit, you know, there's some, I don't want to call it an immature moments, but it sounds like a young band. That said, I'm still pretty proud of that record. I just listened to it the other day, as a matter of fact, for the first time in years and...

Shadow Gallery - Carved In StoneWell, it's Carved In Stone, you know, coming next. That's when Gary joined the band and he brought a different attitude and some extra things that, you know, that we really didn't have before. Like, he's got a really good vision for overall production, that sort of thing. So there [are] a little more production techniques [being] used, thanks to him and what he brings to the table. Plus, he's a really great keyboardist as well, so at that point we had two fairly talented keyboard players in the band, and we were pretty lucky to have that as well as, you know. He's a great guitar player as well and so that kind of helped out as well. He kind of joined the backend of it, when most of the songs were written, but he definitely added his own touch in places. Like [in] "War Cry" especially. A big, big chunk of that was his and I think overall, it's just...

Shadow Gallery - TyrannyI mean, with Tyranny, it was a little more harder-edged where we kind of really set out to outdo ourselves with that and, like, the heavier things, we wanted them to be heavier and, you know, the prettier things we wanted them to be prettier. I think we accomplished that. I am pretty proud of it. There's still some things I may have done, you know. If I had a chance to go over it, I probably would do [it] differently, but I think everybody has that same kind of attitude probably, you know, about their work.

Shadow Gallery - LegacySame thing kind of with Legacy, you know. We wanted to make the heavier stuff heavier and that sort of thing, and the prettier stuff prettier. Same thing with this record really. I think actually on this record, we've matured as storytellers, matured as songwriters, maybe took out things that we normally would have put in, I guess, to the song.

We tried to be more true to the actual spirit of the song itself and, you know, less flashy stuff for the sake of doing it and... more trying to fit the song to what the story was actually trying to tell at that particular juncture. So I think that there's a great maturity on this record as compared to some of our earlier work, and most of that has to do with just experience, you know. Every time you do something, you get better at it, so hopefully our next record will be better than this one.

JT: Okay.

BA: That stands to be seen though.

JT: I've always wondered what your musical influences might be. I do see some similarities between your group and groups like, obviously, Dream Theater and Dali's Dilemma, but I'm wondering if maybe you could talk about who you would consider your musical influences.

BA: Personally or just as a whole as a band?

JT: Yeah, if you could touch, you know, on each one of those a little bit.

BA: Yeah, well, it's pretty rangy and I'd say... I guess I'll start with Mike [Baker]. I know he's really, really into Alice Cooper. That's like his big thing, you know. Big, huge Alice Cooper fan and... Priest, you know. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, all the old, early eighties metal. That goes for Carl as well, our bass player; he's really into that Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, uh, Queensrÿche, Queen, especially Queen. Huge, huge, huge Queen fan. I think that comes out a lot in our... in the way we pack our backup vocals and harmonies and stuff.

And myself as well; I'm a huge Queen fan as well. You just don't get any better than that, you know. I'm more into... Geez, as a youngster I was kind of into the whole speed metal thing, you know. Metallica, Slayer, stuff like that. And in my late teens, I got into jazz really heavily, which kind of led me to progressive rock, you know. Kansas. I'm really a big Kansas fan. I love Kansas, Yes, ELP, that sort of thing. Genesis, especially Genesis. Gary is really, really into Pink Floyd, huge Pink Floyd fan, [that] especially is pretty evident when people pick up the special edition of this record. There's about a 25 or 26 minute Pink Floyd medley that he put together, which I just think is brilliant. I really like it a lot. He was really into Van Halen and Vai, that sort of thing from a guitar player's standpoint, as well as the other, you know, your typically progressive roots, you know. Your Genesis, Yes, Rush, Kansas, that sort of thing. Chris Ingels, our keyboard player, he was really, really into Keith Emerson and I think that kind of comes out a little bit in his playing. And Eddie Jobson, another really great keyboardist and same thing, you know, same kind of... Yngwie Malmsteen, we're all pretty much into him and that kind of comes out a little bit [from] time to time, but I don't know anybody from the eighties who wasn't into him. He's still going strong too; great, great, performer. We don't have to go further than that. If we had everybody here, they'd go on for about an hour.

JT: Oh, probably, yeah. I'd have trouble narrowing it down as well. I'm wondering, could you tell me when your involvement in music began? Like, what got you into it, and just how did you decide that you wanted to become a guitarist?

BA: That's a good question. I think it was, when did Back In Black come out, 1981?

JT: Yeah, I think around then.

BA: '81 or '82 I heard that. I was like 12. I said, that's what I want to do. [he chuckles] As soon as I heard that. I think it was Back..., yeah, it was Back In Black. I heard that on the radio and I said, I gotta go get this, you know. And then I saved up all of my allowance money and went out and bought Back In Black on LP and said I want to get a guitar and be Angus Young. [he laughs] I had to be Angus Young. I later found out that my mother actually played guitar. She didn't have one in the house. Once I actually got one, she ended up actually teaching me my first chord and how to tune a guitar, that sort of stuff.

JT: Oh, wow.

BA: And... I was really lucky that way. And my whole goal in life when I was like 12 years old was to play the guitar better than her [we laugh] and it didn't take too long. She wasn't... she didn't practice or nothing like that. But, that's kind of what started me off on it. And after that, you know, hearing Randy Rhodes as a 14 year old, I was just blown away by the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. That's when I started taking it serious and actually started practicing. About a year later, I think I heard Yngwie Malmsteen for the first time and said, forget about it, this is... I gotta do this, you know. This is... where I'm at. I gotta learn how to play the guitar. Well, hopefully, one day be able to play this kind of music. I'm still working on it. [I laugh]

JT: So, like how did everyone in the band meet one another?

BA: Good question. Chris and Carl and Mike were in a band together in Allentown called Sorcerer and they had played throughout the late eighties, cover songs, that sort of thing. Like, you know, your Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen, that sort of thing. And they kind of took a little break from playing out to start writing music together, which kind of sounded to me, when I first started, kind of like, uh, Queensryche or sort of like King Diamond, too, actually.

JT: Aha.

BA: Kind of heavy and... really heavy focus on vocals, that sort of thing. I had lived in Texas, in Dallas, Texas, up 'til about 1988 and my father had got transferred for his job up in New Jersey. So I'm like, uh, I guess I'll come along. And, uh, pretty decent job teaching guitar down there. Making enough money to survive, but I figured, alright, I've seen Texas, let's go see what the rest of the country looks like. I ended up in Pennsylvania... around the Allentown area and started teaching guitar. Left some posters around different music stores and... so there was this guitar player contacting me because they were looking for a second guitarist. And, uh, once I heard what they were doing, I was like, this is great, you know, I'd really like to be a part of it. And we started doing more demo tapes and more and more and our drummer at the time sent off a tape ... a demo tape to Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records, who had been a big hero of mine, you know, discovering Yngwie Malmsteen and Vinnie Moore and people like that. And, essentially when we were contacted by him, you know, shortly thereafter, he kind of dug this up and wanted more of it, so we kept writing and writing and writing and sending in more and more stuff and... eventually they... he kind of mentioned that Magna Carta was starting up and he had, you know, something to do with that, sort of like a talent scout I guess for them, find progressive-oriented bands.

After we decided to really make a go at this and see if we could actually get somewhere doing this kind of music, you know, we decided to pretty much devote all our time to writing. About that time their original guitar player left the band and it [was] kind of left me to do all the guitar parts, which is fine by me. I got a little more control that way, and what we ended up writing became our first record, our debut, and in fact that was actually the demo tape that we sent to Magna Carta. They signed us shortly thereafter and they actually pressed the demo, which didn't really make us real happy. We kind of wanted to redo it, but they wanted to get some product out fairly quickly. Overall I think it ended up turning pretty... turning out very well.

That's essentially how the band, you know, was started around that time. Around the time we signed with Magna Carta, we sort of adopted the name Shadow Gallery 'cause there's probably, you know, a band called Sorcerer in every town in America. [I laugh]

JT: Yeah.

BA: That's essentially the story of how we got together.

JT: I've got kind of a fun question here.

BA: Yeah, let me know if I'm going to fast here.

JT: No, that's okay. For a lot of people, this can actually be a difficult question, but can you recall any Spinal Tap moments in your career as a band or something quirky that happened, a mistake, an accident, just something that might be funny? [he laughs] Just something along those lines that's memorable?

BA: Yeah, our whole lives are like that. [I laugh] I mean one thing after. I think the funniest... probably my worst Spinal Tap moment had to have been when we were recording Tyranny. A lot of fans know this story, but some of them don't. We actually had to record most of the backing tracks twice, because the original tape of the drums and the first guitars we laid down... we were pretty well into it, I'd say about forty-five percent, fifty percent done with the record. We had one master tape and one backup tape and I was there recording at the studio one night. I had both of the tapes in my possession, which is a pretty bad omen I guess. I left out on the table and directly underneath what I later found out was a pretty bad leak in the roof.

So, the next morning, we, we get there and... well, those tapes are just pretty well destroyed. [he laughs]

JT: Wow.

BA: I single-handedly destroyed pretty much all the work we did on that record.

JT: Holy cow.

BA: We had to go do it again from scratch and that really sucked.

JT: Yeah, that does sound like that sucked.

BA: I don't know if I've been forgiven yet for that either by the guys in the band. But that's absolutely my worst Spinal Tap moment.

JT: This is kind of bad. [stating the obvious]

BA: Yeah, that's terrible and, you know, I'm 100 percent responsible. [I laugh]

JT: Well, yeah, I think everybody is allowed at least one big mistake.

BA: That's a pretty big one.

JT: Yeah. You know, just to talk a little bit about some of your current musical tastes, I'd like to just find out what's the last CD that you actually purchased?

BA: Hmm? The last CD that I purchased was With Teeth from Nine Inch Nails. [A band t]hat I just saw in Philadelphia, like, last week. And, they were great.

JT: Yeah, I was going to ask, what's the last concert that you attended as a fan?

BA: Yup.

JT: So, that's probably it.

BA: Well, actually, you know what, to tell you the truth, what I remember from that show is not so much Nine Inch Nails, but the people that opened up for them. They were called The Dresden Dolls.

JT: Huh.

BA: It was a two-person act. It was a gal who played the piano and a fellow who plays drums and they come out dressed up like marionettes and they played what I can only describe as gothic cabaret music or something. [Their website says: Brechtian Punk Cabaret -ed.]

JT: Weird.

BA: It was the most original thing I ever heard in my life [I laugh]; totally loved it, and, of course, ninety percent of the people there did not know what was going on, but I was just cracking up, because it was the coolest thing I ever heard.

JT: That's pretty cool. I'd also like to ask your favorites as well, and some people have trouble narrowing these ones down. What would you say is your favorite album?

BA: My favorite album without a doubt is Eye Of The Beholder from Chick Corea's Elektric Band. That just the perfect record all the way through.

JT: It's an interesting choice. I'll have to check that one out.

BA: Oh, it's incredible. If you're into jazz fusion, it's just the greatest thing ever. Love that record. Every, every note is 100 percent perfect. It was recorded in three days. [he laughs]

JT: That's unbelievable.

BA: That blows my mind.

JT: A similar question; what would you say is your favorite band?

BA: That's a good question. You know, my personal favorite band is... I have to say probably The Sundays. I just love them, love the hell out of them. And, it's got nothing to do with the kind of stuff that we do at all, but I could listen to them all day long. [I laugh] They just remind me of The Beatles so much in the way they do their melodies.

JT: Yeah.

BA: I'm a real, real big fan of Type O Negative, too. I really love the way they write as well.

JT: Actually, like, you ever hear of a band called Vinyl Kings.

BA: Vinyl Kings? That rings a bell, but I haven't heard them.

JT: I kind of bring that up because they're a band that sounds like the second coming of The Beatles as well.

BA: Really?

JT: So, if you're into The Beatles, that, that's pretty good.

BA: I gotta go check it out then. [I laugh] Vinyl Kings, I'll write that down.

JT: Now also I'd like to ask you some favorites that aren't necessarily related to music. It just gives us an idea how, you know, you might be influenced. What's your favorite movie?

BA: My favorite movie, that's a great question, um ? wow, that's a good question. I would probably have to say Dances With Wolves. [One of two movies I walked out on; the other being The Abyss. Don't ask me why. - JT

JT: Okay. [I laugh based off my disclaimer]

BA: I really love that. I'm pretty big into Native American culture. That movie really effected me in a very big way.

JT: Yeah. I've actually heard that one come up quite a bit. Also, what's your favorite TV show?

BA: Favorite TV show... I really don't watch that much TV. I have to go with, with SportsCenter there. That's pretty much the only thing... well, you know, either that or... the only thing I watch with any regularity is the NASCAR races. That's about it.

JT: Yeah, well... yeah, I think sports are always good answers.

BA: Yeah, yeah.

JT: Yeah. I watch a lot of football... What would you say is your favorite book?

BA: My favorite book? I have to go with V for Vendetta from Alan Moore. [he laughs]

JT: I kind of figured that.[we laugh]

BA: I definitely have to go with that, I've read it about a million times.

JT: Wow.

BA: Can't wait for the movie.

JT: When does that movie come out?

BA: I don't know. I think next year. Natalie Portman's in it. [Click here for trailer: - JT]

JT: Oh, really?

BA: She's playing one of the main characters. I just hope they do it justice, you know.

JT: Would you say you're into sci-fi then or is that just the exception?

BA: Oh yeah, oh yeah, absolutely.

JT: So, did you get a chance to see the latest Star Wars?

BA: Oh, I loved it, yeah.

JT: So, what did you think about it, since it's kind of a timely topic?

BA: I was completely high when I came out of it, high on the movie. I loved it.

JT: Yeah. I thought it was amazing.

BA: Yeah, it was amazing. Amazing effects... just it was great, you know. That's my generation; I mean, I suddenly wished I had a seven year old son to take with me [I laugh] like my father did when it first came out.

JT: Yeah. And I think with this one, there weren't a lot of kids there, so it was a lot of people reliving their youth.

BA: Yeah, it was great, you know. I felt like I was eight years old again, back in whenever, 1978, whenever that came out. It was awesome. I just absolutely loved it.

[May 1977 - ed. and SW geek]

JT: Yeah. And supposedly the rumors are that they're not going to make any more, but somehow, in the back of my mind, I've got a sneaky suspicion there might be some more.

BA: Yeah, ten years from now, you know that cash cow is going to come out.

JT: Yeah, they made 150 million in an hour, that's not too bad.

BA: Yeah, that's crazy, you know. I mean, so they gotta, they gotta. [I laugh]

[In the August issue of Starlog, George Lucas is interviewed and he mentions wanting to make the six films 3D... no, not in the cheepo 50s/60s 3-D way... but... 3-dimensional (have depth) ... well, read the article -ed and SW geek]

JT: Well, you know, I actually have one more question that I like to ask. It helps me identify with the artist, nobody else asks it. Do you have any pets?

BA: Do I have any pets? Yes, I do.

JT: What do you have?

BA: I have three cats. Well, I guess they're mine. They're half mine I suppose, [we laugh] half mine and... I have a beta fish.

JT: Okay. [I laugh]

BA: And a little pond frog.

JT: Huh.

BA: And, I love them all.

JT: That's cool. I think that says a lot about a person, what kind of pets they have [or lack of them] but?

BA: Yeah, I didn't really get any of them. [he laughs] I got the fish; I kind of ended up with the cats.

JT: That's funny.

BA: But, that's okay. I'm actually a big dog fan. My family used to raise Alaskan Malamutes, so, from the time I was, you know, a boy to a teenager, we had, I don't know how many, maybe fifty of them maybe, I don't know, over that time period and, you know, used to do the dog show thing all the time and it was a blast. I love animals.

JT: Just before we wrap up, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans at this time?

BA: Mmm, yeah. I'd like to say something to my fans. [we laugh] Thanks for remembering us and keep this thing going, because we do this because we love it, you know, we're not going to get rich off this. We know it and we're not even... it's not even in our minds. We do it because we have a need to make music and we're lucky enough to be in a position to do so and anybody who enjoys it is just like, I'm just as much of a fan of them as they are of us, because we see eye-to-eye on something, you know.

JT: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I really like hearing that kind of attitude. I wish, you know, in the whole music scene, everybody had that sort of an attitude.

BA: Yeah, it's, well, you know, it's... different people have different outlooks I guess. I don't really look at it as a job. I mean, when I get a chance to make a record, I put everything I can into it and... there's a lot of sacrifices that have to be made to make these records. And we're happy to do them, because we just get such great feedback from the people, I mean, I'd trade a hundred fans of, you know, Green Day, for one of ours, you know. [I laugh]

JT: Yeah.

BA: I really would.

JT: That's a nice thing to say. Well, anyhow, you put out a great record.

BA: Well, thank you very much.

JT: You know, hearing from you, you are saying V Is for Vendetta, but I guess in some ways, to be cheesy, I would say that V is for Victory and you guys just did a great job.

BA: Well, I really, really appreciate that. I really appreciate that.

JT: I look forward to hearing more from you guys, so just, just keep it up.

BA: Thanks very much.

JT: It was nice talking to you Brendt.

BA: Thank you Josh.

JT: And... just enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend.

BA: Yeah, I'm gonna...sit down and watch a very long NASCAR race. [I laugh] I love it.

Shadow Gallery (1992)
Carved In Stone (1995)
Tyranny (1998)
Legacy (2001)
Room V (2005)
Prime Cuts (2007)
Digital Ghosts (2009)

Added: August 18th 2005
Interviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

Artist website:
Hits: 1650
Language: english

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