Thursday, April 23, 2009

OSV Interview

Innovative, mind-expanding, remarkably gifted. Cosmetic words for musicians like Garry Oppert, a unique drummer that always tries to express himself through the magical language of music, are never enough. Along with bassist Steve Sexton and with the valuable help from Brandon Vaughn, they formed the project OSV that’s gaining success and reputation as time goes bye! Garry answers the questions and cannot hide his enthusiasm about the forthcoming 3rd CD. Please pay attention to the words of a man that serves the musical spectrum for more than 20 years…

How was the band formed? Why you chose to follow the path of instrumental music?
Steve (Sexton) and I got together and formed the project in 2006. The story began 20+ years ago as together we @ 17 years of age formed the the original band "Knight" that later became the well known underground success "Oblivion Knight". Back in those days we parted ways due to musical differences and as Steve developed Oblivion Knight, I formed the band Virtual Reality and recorded two demo's and had some underground metal success...Steve and I had not seen each other or played together in 20+ years. In 2006 we reconciled our differences and agreed that together along with VR keyboardist Brandon Vaughn we could form an all instrumental project, incorporating some of the latest top end guitarist and that might actually work as a successful project...well the Mission began and OSV's first CD "Mission One" was born....we got more positive feedback than we ever imagined, so we ventured ahead with the new CD "Second Thoughts" and with its well received success thru CDBaby and Itunes we are now starting the bass and drum tracks for the 3rd CD tentatively entitled "Chapter Three."

Which are your main influences and how would you categorize your music?
Well this is a very diverse personally I am a prog metal old school rock/funk guy..Band wise I would say....Dream Theater's early work, Iron Maiden, Fates Warning w/ Mark Zonder on drums..and newer bands like Pagans Mind, Dreamscape, Dali's Dilemma..Lemur Voice...I guess some of these are not so new but still had a major influence on my style...Drummers that impacted me are Neil Peart, Mike Portnoy, Virgil Donati, Thomas Lang...etc etc... the list goes on and I personally try to get better at my drumming on a weekly basis...I am always blown away by how good some of these guys are and how far they can take the instrument.....

How difficult was to combined guitarists from all over the world and inspire them to adopt the band’s style?
With today's technology and being somewhat of a computer "guy" it was very easy...we used sites like to send and receive large wave files and basically work as if we were all here....its an amazing technology that I am sure will be very common place in the near future...and probably already being done in mass....

The language of music is widely accepted. How difficult is to express your feelings with the absence of words?
This to me is long as the listener is in tune with an instrumental project....I guess some people have to have a vocalist to get the full effect...but I personally have always loved the instrumental side of things..for example if Dream Theater was all instrumental I think they would have had even more success in the prog world over the last 15 some point forcing vocals over prog sections becomes an annoyance to me...but that's only my opinion..there are a few really top end singers that I love to hear out there...Nils from Pagans Mind and Roland who used to sing with Dreamscape come to mind right away...there just are not any Ronnie James Dio's or Bruce Dickinson's out there anymore like the old days...

Are you satisfied with the response you received from the sale figures of your debut?
To be honest it blew me away...I really did not expect us to sell very many....but honestly its been more successful than I ever imagined...

Do you plan any live concerts or it’s difficult to make it true due to lack of present band members?
Unfortunately, I don't see this ever happening...just due to our life style as well as getting everyone involved would be an awesome thing but most unlikely...

I know that you also rehearsed and recorded some tracks featuring Matthew Mills on guitars. Do you plan to invite him again and release some tracks from your collaboration?
This could happen in the future - Matt Mills is a great guitarist...On this project Steve and I did not want to be quite so "neoclassical" in our delivery....we felt that Matt's style would be more of that direction than we had initially planed, so we opted for some other guys who were a little more versatile in their own playing...again Matt is a great player and a great guy.

Tell me about the astral covers you choose for your CD’s. Do you want to connect your music with our galaxy?
This was more my mind set in the beginning and I think Steve has adopted to his as well! (laughing)..... yes we are dreamers and thought-provoking individuals....this is how we see things in our mind’s eye...if the listener see's it that way then we feel you will fall right in to this concept...

Is there any chance of including vocals in your songs, regarding your future releases?
Steve and I are always kicking this around...he is long time friends with John Arch of Early Fates Warning and I have approached Nils from PM about the possibility...but who knows what the future may hold...

Which other guitarists do you plan to invite in OSV?
This my friend is a great question...since "Chapter Three" is now looming we will be on the search....we have two or three in mind right now that we would really like to work with...yet to be determined...

Do you also participate in other projects as well?
My original band Virtual reality has some material that I think would do well with the prog fans....I am trying now to sort thru the older material and some of the newer material to see where we are as for as a new CD release... Hopefully this will come to fruition..

Add anything you may want.

Dimitris, thanks for your time and support..I have been listening to and playing music for a very long time it seems...and in this day and time it is hard to find anyone who will take the time to do interviews or even show interest to the underground seem to be one of those people....Thank you and God bless..

Dimitris Starakis

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Timefall - Into The Shadows CD , Your Days Were Mine Mini-CD reviews

Timefall - Into The Shadows CD, Your Days Were Mine mini-CD
What an encouraging fact to witness newcomer Power / Prog Metal bands that their talent is taken under serious consideration! Timefall is one of the highlights of the previous year, since they released a brilliant EP, which made every fan of their music to long for a full-length album! The band was formed in the summer of 2006 and the following year they released their debut entitled “Into the Shadows”. Their style is quite melodic Power Metal music and a vocalist (Jonathan Tatum) that is expressive and quite talented. “Into the Shadows” features the 18-minute long epic track “The Last Day on Earth” which showcases the band’s abilities and highlights the essence of a project free from musical boundaries. Definitely a noticeable debut.However, the big step forward for Timefall is their newest EP “Your Days Were Mine”. Unfortunately, the EP includes only two songs, but despite its minimal content, it can easily win the prize of the “EP of the year”! Wonderful musicianship from all band members, full of passion and faultless playing! I was happy to witness that the self-titled track combines the Power Metal might along with Progressive Metal parts, more vivid than their debut. The band still focuses on melody and emotion through their music and this is clearly reflected on the amazing song “If I Failed”, a composition full of Eastern influences (a musical direction that I always adore and Timefall also adopted in the song “Betrayer” from their debut EP). The guitar wizardry of Matt Sheperd and the tremendous vocal abilities of Jonathan Tatum form a powerful duet full of talent and multidimensional abilities, so note down their names; they’ll increase their fame really soon! Power/Prog Metal devotees must discover and support Timefall since they can offer much to the scene and can build a great career next to British bands like Balance Of Power, Threshold and others as well. Check out their website: Band’s mySpace profile:
Dimitris Starakis
P.S.: Jonathan will also be singing in Eumeria’s debut …check out his amazing vocal performance in the song "Heirs Of Peril":

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Braver Since Then Interview

It was impossible after tracing John Lutzow not to ask him for an interview, concerning Braver Since Then and of course Leviathan. One of the most talented musicians from Colorado has new music to offer us and his talent cannot be put under criticism. John expresses his statement on Leviathan’s past and split-up, but also shows his enthusiasm on a possible scenario of reforming this extremely talented band again. On the other hand, he explains why Braver Since Then is a band he is proud of. Ladies and Gentlemen, John Lutzow reveals it all…

Since there’s a little bit of mist, concerning the formation of Braver Since Then, could you give us details on this matter?
For some reason, I always knew that I wanted to form “Braver Since Then”, even when I was in Tyrant’s Reign (which later became “Quiet Room”) or my nine years in Leviathan. “Braver Since Then” always stuck with me as a great name. It was taken from a line in Cyrano DeBergerac. Growing up I always remember watching the Steve Martin remake of that story, called Roxanne. This movie really stuck with me and formed my romantic outlook on life. There is so much meaning behind the name “Braver Since Then”, If you know what leads up to that line in the movie you would see where I am coming from. So to me, “Braver Since Then” is not just words. It tells a whole story about wanting something so much and doing everything you can to be recognized and always falling short of the prize, be it love, victory, or any reward because of how things look on the surface. It is a metaphor for how most people in the world are only interested in nicely packaged, easy to swallow entertainment or art while something truly meaningful is right there hidden under layers hoping to be discovered. Like I have said before, It was always my intention to make a band out of the members of Leviathan once we broke up. I have worked with Derek Blake, the vocalist/bassist since high school. He was at one point going to be the singer in Leviathan also but that is a different story.

The initial reaction from a Leviathan fan after the first approach to BST’s works might be surprising. If I ask you to spot the differences between the 2 bands, which ones would they be?
I don’t know. I am a bad judge of music. To me all music either falls into one of two categories. Good music and bad music. To me all of my music is the same style. I am always wrong about the genre or styles. To me I never thought Leviathan was that heavy, but when I would play some for older people they would think it was death metal or something. So to me the only difference between BST and Leviathan are the vocals. Leviathan traditionally had higher metal sounding vocals and Derek’s voice is more alternative sounding. Which I always wanted for Leviathan. I didn’t want to have typical metal sound. The songs themselves are the same.

Which are the main lyrical issues that Braver Since Then deal with?
Most of the writing comes from what would be my diary. When I have things in my head I sit down and write. Later when I need to start putting together songs I work through the words and structure what would be a good amount to convey the emotion I was feeling at the time. That might be another difference between my old stuff and BST. I know how to better edit my thoughts and words. I can condense them down so that there isn’t ten pages of lyrics trying to be stuffed into a 5 minute song. That is a complaint I heard about my Leviathan songs. They were always a little long winded. Now days though I try to test my self as a writer. I need topics, I am not as narcissistic or self absorbed as I used be. I don’t write about my emotions that much anymore. I always was afraid of creatively drying up as a writer. To me the lyrics were always the most important thing. I would put music to lyrics. Most people I know do it the other way around. They write the music then try to throw some words over the top and just hope there is some cohesiveness. As I am older now, I am grateful that I can still write. To me the sign of a good writer has always been if you can be given a topic and write intelligently, passionately and still tell the story with poetry you might be worth something.

Your previous CD’s had no or restricted distribution! Haven’t you tried to solve this problem?
You know that has always been the problem for my music. Leviathan tried so hard to find a good label or distribution. We worked harder than any band in Colorado to be professional. We never got what I feel we deserved. As far as BST goes. I have sent CD’s to every label I could find. The only place that was willing to take a chance was “just for kicks” distribution. They bought a bunch of CDs from me without having heard them. I think they are disappointed though, because they aren’t interested in our new album. So for me, I just wanted to get the music out there and make it available. In my mind I still think if people liked my writing from Leviathan’s CD’s they will like what we are doing now. We are 3/5’s of Leviathan after all. My songs on the last two Leviathan albums were really only BST anyway. Ron Skeen never played on the recordings when we did the albums. So once again the only difference between BST now and Leviathan ten years ago is Derek on vocals instead of Jeff Ward. For now? We are working on that.

Why did you choose “Short On Patience, Burn In Haste” as the title of your current album?
I am glad you asked that question. Patience has always been my biggest weakness. Every bad thing that has happened in my life has come from lack of patience. However the reason for using this title has a more personal significance now. I had already planned to use this title but in the middle of recording the album, I was called away because of health problems with my mother. She ended up passing away one day when I was in session. This definitely put a shadow over everything. I felt guilty that I had not been there for her, all because I was in a hurry to get the album done. Projects haunt me once I start them. I don’t sleep when something is pressuring me. I feel I have to complete things before I can rest.

You chose Itunes to release your new album, but also your previous efforts as well? Why?
This goes back to the other question. It is only for lack of anything better. To tell you the truth I think if Leviathan was just hitting our peak right now we would have sold twice as many albums because of the easy access to music online. We wouldn’t have needed a label. We had a good following world wide back then based on our reputation and constant good reviews of the albums we did on our own. Prospective music fans could have listened to our music online and then made the purchase instantly. They wouldn’t have to deal with going to a shop to only be told they have to order it. So as long as your fans know you have music available, they can reach it.

Do you play live often? Is there any vivid support from your hometown?
BST plays about once a month. That is enough for me. Our biggest disappointment is that we never got to tour Europe and Japan. The local scene in Denver isn’t that good. There aren’t any bands like us right now. Clubs don’t care about us. Even though they all say they liked Leviathan and respected what we did, we still don’t get any favoritism.

Leviathan was a prosperous band and highly appreciated by numerous Power / Progressive Metal fans from around the globe. Describe to me how you joined the band and also some of your most memorable moments.
Prosperous? What do you mean by that. We never made any money. Our only reward was the feeling of being in a great band and knowing that a few people liked our music in Europe and Japan. We know that we sold over 20,000 copies world wide but still never made any money, in fact lost money almost every album. The labels made money but we didn’t. The only project that any of us did that was profitable was Ron’s side project, “Iron Fortress”. Ron got that project paid for and received a few thousand dollars afterwards. As far as how I came into Leviathan, Ron Skeen asked me to join in 1990. Leviathan was a great local band. Everyone I knew all said the same thing. The drums, bass and vocals were great but the Guitars were the weakest link. Ron wanted to change that. He still is one of the most underrated guitarists out there. Before I joined Ron and the other guitarist had such bad tone that you couldn’t hear what they were doing and they would stand in front of their amps and not move. That made it hard for people to be interested in what they were doing. Ron wanted to get a guitarist that was more like the shredders on the scene like, Yngwie, Marty Friedman, Tony Macalpine, Jason Becker etc. So I joined as a hired gun so to speak.

When did you finally realize that Leviathan came to an end?
It ended badly. Just like a cliché, it ended over money. We were probably going to separate after “Scoring the Chapters” anyway. At that point I was doing almost all of the music and Ron was handling the business side of things. He had a growing family and was removing himself from the band. He owned the rights to the name “Leviathan” so the other members and I were going to keep going under BST. That was the plan I had anyway. It didn’t work out because of how badly Leviathan broke up. We broke free from Century Media because they were in breach of contract with us. They promised us many things and never delivered. We started working through the idea of releasing “Scoring the Chapters” on our own. All of the numbers showed us we could release it ourselves and make a profit. We set out to record the album our way, the way we always wanted to. The entire process up until the point where the band separated was a dream coming true. We were all friends and enjoyed being together. We were making what was to us our best music. I got to spend almost a full month at Morrisound studios. I got to do what every guitarist dreams of, it was like a kid in the candy store. What ever guitar or amp I wanted to use I got to go and borrow to record every part. Anything I wanted to try I got to. We finally had a great singer and got to fully utilize our vocal assets with Derek and I doing harmonies. Before we started the project we had everything set to show that if we sold 3000 copies we would be able to pay for the entire project and make money. We lined up distribution before we recorded the first note. Every thing went bad once the album was done due to Century Media playing hard ball with us and Black listing us to the Distributers. They weren’t allowed to buy from us or it would affect their ability to receive product from Century Media. That caused tension among Ron and I due to issues over money. It tore the band apart. BST was supposed to continue but I was so beat down by the music industry I quit playing. So did Trevor and Ron. Jeff and Derek kept playing in other bands.So to date we have only sold about 1500 copies of STC which is sad because we sold over 3000 copies of our first CD with no help.

How difficult was it for you to find the strength to go on with Braver Since Then? Was it also hard for you to continue composing music that was not easily accepted from the masses and also without any financial support?
It was very difficult. I completely quit playing, I sold all my gear and started pursuing my childhood dream of Racing Motocross. I did that for a few years then got hurt really bad. I figured that was a sign to start playing music again. I built a studio in my house and start recording with Derek again. For many years I tried to contact Trevor and Jeff Ward again with no luck. Ron and I started talking again. I always sought his opinion and approval of my music so I sent him copies of every album I did. Once BST became a full band again with a real drummer I always asked Ron to play with us, but he said he was done. About a year ago I found a number for Trevor Helfer. We contacted him and asked if he wanted to get together with Deke and I. We told him we needed a drummer after a problem with the first BST drummer. He said he didn’t play anymore and didn’t have a drum set. I borrowed a kit and he came over. Within a few minutes we were back playing Leviathan songs we hadn’t thought about in eight years. It was amazing. We were so tight together. That is something that I had been missing for so long. Musical anonymity is easier to live with if you have a great band.

You once tried to contact George Lucas, by sending him your music. Could you tell me more about this?
Well, that is a very long story. It was an Idea I had to make a movie about the crazy, obsessive Star Wars Fans all around the world and how there is almost a cult religion around it. The short and skinny of the concept revolved around an album I did as a solo project in between the last two Leviathan Albums. It was called, “Threading the Stoneneedle”. It was an instrumental with a story being told over the top of the music using dialog from the Star Wars Radio dramas. The rest of the crazy idea never happened. I am sure that George Lucas never even listened to what I sent him. This album’s music was actually closer to heavy progressive stuff than anything else I have ever done. It will be available on Itunes also or directly from our web site.

Do you still contact Ronnie Skeen? Shall we continue to dream about a possible Leviathan reunion?
You know what, Ron and I had been in contact with each other consistently over the last few years until Trevor joined back up with Derek and I. I am not sure why Ron stopped emailing me because of Trevor. I invite him to every show of ours, but he never responds. Oh well. As far as a Leviathan reunion goes. BST is working on that. After three years of lost contact with Jeff Ward we just found him. He is back in Texas again with his family. I am trying to get him to move back to Colorado and rejoin with us. He gave up music for his family. He told me that he would definitely sing on our next album though. So Leviathan fans be ready. Our next BST album will be heavier and basically the same line up as “R,Q,P,O” and Scoring the chapters. As far as my songs were concerned anyway. Like I said before. If there is any way we could come to Europe and play we will be there. I heard Jag Panzer and Titan force were playing some Festivals. If the interest and funding were there for Leviathan/BST we would go in a minute, 4/5ths of us anyway.

Colorado has an important Metal heritage and I don’t know how to explain it, maybe it’s something in the air you breathe! Musicians like Harry Conklin, Corey Brown and others as well are favorites of mine. Which are your picks from the local scene?
My favorite local bands from the past were Titan Force, Monkey Siren, Foolish Pride, and Dotsero. I don’t think any of those bands are still around however.

Tell me about your future plans.
We have two CD release parties this month and after that we are just going to continue to play and write material for our next album. Our main focus is to get Jeff Ward back in the band. As promised our next album will be much heavier and more technical. With Trevor in the band it pushes me to the limits again.

Add anything you may want.
Thanks for all of your work and encouragement over the years. I appreciate all the support and help the Progressive music fans have given us. Thank you.

Dimitris Starakis

Friday, April 10, 2009

OSV – Second Thoughts CD review

OSV – Second Thoughts CD (Independent release)
The all-star instrumental project that features drummer Gary Oppert (Virtual Reality), bassist Steve Sexton (founder of the mythic band Oblivion Knight that recently re-released their stuff through Steel Legacy Records, check for further details) and Keyboardist/Guitarist Brandon Vaughn released their second effort and prove once again that their talent is inexhaustible. It’s pretty amazing to witness an all-instrumental Progressive Metal/Fusion CD that doesn’t include even a single boring or tasteless moment, due to lack of vocals! Well, these guys have gained insight to the above mentioned musical genres and definitely know how to compose brilliant music, which is strongly focused on melody. “Second Thoughts” features also virtuoso guitarists like Marcel Coenen, Jonas Tamas, Agah Bahari and Borge Olsen that contribute their unique style and the outcome is pretty diverse and innovative! OSV is maybe a grandiose example of talent, gathered in an album, so I am pretty sure that all enthusiasts of music that stands the test of time will obtain this work! Deeply emotional melodies, combined with inspiring and sensational solos, along with memorable riffs is the big advantage of the project. Some may be believe that creating an album with musicians that cannot join you directly in the studio is an enterprise, but OSV prove this opinion wrong. The project is definitely down to earth; they do not make grandiose plans about becoming one of the most famous projects in the world, but they surely have accomplished their goal, but composing music away from boundaries and clichés. I state myself as a fan of their talent and as soon as you get their albums, you’ll become one too! Check the band’s mySpace profile for further info:
Dimitris Starakis