First of all, can you tell us about your latest album "Cardinal Points"?
Cardinal Points is a concept album based on the four elements of Western Alchemy / Mysticism. The elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, which during the middle ages were thought to be the makeup of everything in the physical realm. In a way the elements were part of an early theory of the states of matter. Part of the thinking also tied them into the directions of the four winds and also to attributes in people, indeed the elements pervaded all parts of life from the scientific, medical and even the spiritual/psychological. Cardinal Points comprises of four tracks one for each element, in which both musically and lyrically we have tried to pull together as many of the concepts regarding each element as possible. So everything from the melodic progressions, specific sounds, the song structure and the lyrics are all based on the attributes of the element it represents. It was important to me that each song could stand on its own, but also that the album worked as a coherent musical whole.
Tell us about the new line-up of the group?
The new line up came about mainly out of who was available and wanted to take part in the new project. LEGEND had been dormant for 10 years and life had moved on. I first started talking to John Macklin (Drummer) in late 2007 early 2008 about the possibility of a new LEGEND album. At the time my objective was to involve all the folks who’d been part of the band in the past and indeed that objective was mostly successful. Kerry Parker – whom we jokingly refer to as our ‘once and future singer’, was an original member of LEGEND in 1988 though some significant upheaval in her personal life meant that she had to leave before the band got seriously involved in recording. Both John and I had managed to lose contact with Paul Thompson, our long term guitarist and despite the wonders of the information age we couldn’t hunt him down. So Dave Foster, who has been a friend for years, (We were label mates with his band Mr. So & So, in the 90s), as well as having played Bass for us live on numerous occasions, was the logical choice to take over the Guitar duties. LEGEND has always been unlucky with bass players; no two albums have had the same person, so this was in a way the most complex position to fill. I had initially asked Matt Cohen of The Reasoning, if he’d consider playing on the album and initially he was keen on the idea, however his commitments with The Reasoning meant it wasn’t to be, so it came down to a chance meeting with Dan Nelson of Godsticks that the line-up was completed. I have to say it is personally a great honor to be working with such a talented bunch of musicians.
You can us a brief history of Legend?
In essence LEGEND was born in Runcorn, Cheshire UK during 1988, though it was more of a distillation of various projects from throughout the 80s. We didn’t set out to be a Progressive Rock Band, though progressive rock was definitely an influence, because we didn’t think we’d be good enough to play Prog. The line up originally consisted of Paul Thompson on Guitar, Shaun Gallagher on Bass, Chris Haskayne on Drums and Kerry Parker and Debbie Chapman on vocals and me on Keys. Everybody in the band had different influences, Kerry for instance had a strong Jazz and Folk background, whereas Paul leaned towards the Blues / Heavy Rock, I was really into Folk Rock and Prog and all this got thrown into the metal pot. Between 88 and 90 we did all the usual small band things; small gigs in clubs / bars to ambivalent audiences, personnel changes with the Bass player and of course Kerry departed.
1990 saw us sign a deal with Pagan Media and then we put our all into recording. Our first album ‘Light in Extension’ was a technical challenge, with various aspects of the recording process causing radical re-thinks, mainly because we were working on a shoestring budget. Whilst there were no real problems with the songs, the recording and production wasn’t brilliant, coupled with the fact that Chris Haskayne’s distinctive drum style didn’t suit us in the way we had hoped. Despite all of the trials the album was very well received in Japan, which resulted in a licensing deal, which was a fantastic break for the band. In early 1992 we changed Drummers and John Macklin joined us which made the quorum of LEGEND complete. John’s fascination with time and tempo changes and the fact he continually challenges himself to put different nuances on the rhythm parts was just what the band needed. So after touring to promote the album and the new line up we culminated 1992 by filming a home gig in Runcorn. Which resulted in a VHS release ‘Playing with Fire’ in early 1993. Playing with Fire gave us the opportunity to showcase 6 of the songs from our debut album in the style we had originally envisioned. In addition there were four songs that were to form the foundations for our next album.
The Second Sight period was quite focused, especially on the objective of producing a much more polished sound, but also, and more importantly it was a real consolidation of the band’s style. It was with Second Sight that we really started to find our feet as a Progressive Band. I am particularly fond of the two epics on that album; The Wild Hunt and Mordred respectively. Second Sight was released in the last quarter of 1993 in the UK and 1994 in Japan. Media reaction to Light in Extension had been very mixed, but Second Sight was much more warmly received and we spent the Spring and early Summer of 1994 touring alongside label mates Inkubus Sukkubus.
Throughout 1995 we mostly focused on working on our third album. The band had really developed our style by then and it was a very creative period and yielded in my opinion our strongest album yet. We had the confidence to simply play what we wanted, rather than trying to make the sound go in different directions, everything just seemed to coalesce beautifully. Whilst there were a couple of short songs the rest of the album focused much more on the epic song structures which seem to suit the band best. This culminated in our nearly thirty minute epic entitled Triple Aspect which fittingly enough became the title of our third album. Triple Aspect was release in early 1996 and received much critical acclaim. However compared with our previous two albums sales were really disappointing, though we did make a number of new fans. Sadly at the time in the UK tribute bands were blossoming and it became very hard for LEGEND to get decent gig slots, so we toured comparatively little with Triple Aspect. Indeed despite our many efforts over the years LEGEND has never really been able to make the breakthrough into the Prog mainstream, let alone elsewhere.
Who is Steve PAINE, a summary of your musical background would be appreciated?
My childhood was filled with music and Piano lessons, ever since I started Piano lessons I have been making little musical doodles, but my parents and teachers dismissed these as messing around when I should be practicing. In my teens I became fascinated with electronics and synthesizers and computers. At 16 I was working on recording my own instrumental compositions by bouncing by between to cassette tape decks. It was around then that Peter Gabriel’s third studio album was released and that was what made me decide I wanted to work with music and electronics in whatever way I could. At 17 I joined my first band. In my early years I dabbled with a variety of instruments, such as Flute, Guitar and Drums, partly because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to play, but mainly because decent Keyboards were just so expensive. As a parallel to this I was lucky enough to fall into an apprenticeship in Sound Recording courtesy of a very fine gentleman called Rick Eyre. During the 80’s I played in various bands, worked as a recording and live sound engineer. In 1985 I met Mike Turner and together we formed Pagan Music Ltd – later to become Pagan Media.
Pagan Media was part Recording / Rehearsal Facility, part Record Label and part Show Production Company. From 1985 to 1999 Pagan was the whole of my life – it is the record label that released the first three LEGEND albums as well as releasing albums by artists as diverse as The Magic Mushroom Band, Inkubus Sukkubus, Mr So & So and The Rattlers. During this time I Produced and played Keys on Inkubus Sukkubus’ seminal album ‘Wytches’ as well as Producing releases by Mr So & So, Mythical Beasts and All Living Fear amongst others. Since Pagan Media closed in 1999 I have been working mostly in the Live and Theatre scene with the occasional Conference thrown in.
Why a long silence after Triple Aspect?
Although Triple Aspect was very well received, indeed some would say critically acclaimed, sales were disappointing, as were the lack of decent gigs. However we remained undaunted and I set to work on writing Cardinal Points, however a number of factors arose that meant it became increasingly harder to keep the band together. Mainly just life issues, Paul Thompson had recently married, John Macklin also became a father and Mike Turner my business partner in Pagan Media Ltd decided to retire. I also was in a new relationship and a new child on the way. So in a way real life caught up with us. Although we carried on gigging till the end of 1998 it seemed a sensible point to give LEGEND a rest for short while, but as life rarely runs according to plan, that short interval turned into 10 years.
According to you, what would be the landmark album of Legend, one that any good fan should have in its collection?
Hmmm that’s a tricky one… Much of the Prog media suggest that LEGEND just keeps maturing so start with Cardinal Points and work backwards. I think Triple Aspect is a major landmark because I feel that it is the album where we really found our sound. It is certainly a milestone for us being the culmination of our work in the ‘early period’. Cardinal Points whilst being a logical progression from there, it is also our first attempt at a concept album, which in combination with having Kerry at last putting lead vocals on an album, made it very special. I guess I shall just have to sit on the fence with this one and say either Triple Aspect or Cardinal Points.
We know all that progressive workplace is not easy today, primarily due to the lack of support of the media but also from internet and illegal downloads etc. As a musician, what do you envision the future of progressive and music in General?
I think the future of Progressive Rock is a bright one. With the internet now being an integrated part of life in so many places the mainstream media no longer has the stranglehold on the public it once did. So music of all sorts has much more of a chance because those who love that music have more opportunities to seek it out. So as we’ve seen with Blues, Jazz, Folk etc they may not be mainstream but they all have vibrant scenes and I think for Progressive and other types of ‘Classic’ Rock that is also becoming true. There is now so much more scope to be seen and heard, of course there’s also much more competition, which can be a mixed blessing, but overall I think the greater opportunities afforded for public expression can only be a good thing for all types of artistic endeavor.
Why have chosen to progressive music instead of a different style more pay?
I could be really pretentious and say we have stuck to our musical ideals, but the reality is quite different. Like all new bands we desired to be popular so we did give commercial consideration to the style and content of our songs, this is especially true of our first album and to an extent the second. However we realized that writing standard format Rock wasn’t really our forte, yes some of our short songs are good, but they are not outstanding, it is only when we get our teeth into more complex song structures that we found our strengths. From Triple Aspect onwards we simply chose to play what we felt and it is very satisfying to us.
Based on the principle of the progressive, you think that it is possible to live this music today?
I honestly do not know the answer to that one… yes I think that those who reach the pinnacle of popularity in the Prog scene could make a modest living from playing Progressive music. As for LEGEND it is certainly not the case at present, we all have our day jobs or alternate careers.
What are your future projects?
Well I’m currently in the final throes of writing the music for the next LEGEND album, which is our fifth studio album. Currently entitled Spirit we shall be recording throughout the summer and autumn and mixing in the winter, and if it all works out I hope to see released in spring 2013.
As I mentioned earlier symphonic metal is having an increasing influence and as Paul Thompson is rejoining the line up on Guitar I expect this album to be our heaviest yet. Also if I can find the right voices I currently envision some of the songs having significant choral parts as compliment to Kerry’s lead vocals. Although the album has a theme – that of the spiritual journey of life, it is probably less conceptual than Cardinal Points. Our other objective is to get out and about with some live shows in 2013 – so anybody who wants to book us…
All these years, what are your most beautiful memories?
The thing that keeps me doing this after all these years is our fan base. Although small it is incredibly loyal and has stuck with the band for all this time. As a result of them I’ve met and frequently correspond with folks from all over the world and to know that in some way the music I write reaches these people and touches them is an incredible feeling. I guess some of our early reviews stay in my mind too. Light in Extension got some real stinkers… ‘The sound of LEGEND is like a Nightingale soaring over a tribe of rioting Gorillas, or is this being prejudiced towards Gorillas?’ is a quote that makes me smile even now.
Do you have a dream you would like to achieve?
I would love for LEGEND to be able to do a theatre show in our own right. I’ve spent a lot of time working in the Theatre since the turn of the century. Not just in sound, but in lighting and stage management, so the idea of being able to stage the band’s music in a show rather than simply a gig is certainly an ambition. Though simply to be able to tour the band again would be equally wonderful. As I’ve mentioned our fan base is small, it is also quite widely spread out across the world, so maybe technology will enable us to unite them all for a special performance over the net perhaps. It would be nice if LEGEND were lucky enough to achieve some more mainstream acclaim, however I am under no illusions that it will ever happen. I am just content that at the moment we can manage to make music, release albums and that there are folks who enjoy it.
Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions, hoping to see you in Quebec City soon.
It has been my pleasure – thank you for the interesting and insightful questions and for all you do in support of good music. We would love to play in Quebec City if the opportunity ever arises!
By Richard Hawey