If you like Progressive Metal and you live in London, chances are
that you have seen the Oxfordshire-based outfit To-Mera at least
once in a live environment. Well, these young looking but much
experienced talented musicians are currently celebrating the release
of their second full-length album "Delusions" and axeman Tom MacLean
was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding
this new release, the band's general approach and attitude towards
music and their plans for the future.
Hi there guys - thank you for doing this interview with "Pure
Metal". You must feel quite relieved now that your latest album
"Delusions" is finally about to be released. What is the mood
surrounding its release by the media and the band's fan base so far?
Tom: I'm only really directly aware of the reactions of the UK press
and fan base so far, but for the most part the feedback has been
pretty positive, and most people seem to think it's an improvement
upon the first album, which is a relief. Of course, we're bound to
divide a few people, but given the nature of our music, we expect
Would you say that "Delusions" is much different from your debut
release "Transcendental" and if yes, in what respect?
Tom: On the whole I'd say it is just a more mature album overall.
Our skills as musicians and music makers have improved, and perhaps
our musical interests have broadened a little, so we wanted the new
music to reflect that. Everything is just a lot more developed than
on "Transcendental", but if I was to focus on any particular aspect,
I'd say it's heavier (owing to the use of a detuned 7-string
baritone guitar on 5 of the 8 tracks) and rhythmically more complex.
Can the departure of Akos Pirisi (drums) and Hugo Sheppard
(keyboards) from the band be described as an obstacle or a blessing
in retrospect? What is the current relationship between the older
and the newer members of the band nowadays?
Tom: I think every lineup change has only been made for the greater
good. The main reason for Akos' departure was that we didn't feel he
was committed enough, and getting him to move over from Hungary was
going to be a logistical difficulty. Having Paul on board has
allowed us to rehearse more regularly and, with respect to Akos, he
is perhaps technically more advanced, so it's allowed us to push the
rhythmic element of our music a lot harder.
regard to Hugo's departure, that was his decision, but I think it
was necessary for us to proceed, as he had never really been into
metal in the first place and was starting to focus his interests
elsewhere. His replacement, Hen, is ideal in that he truly enjoys
the music we are making (and is the principal composer of another
prog band that we are both involved in, Haken). He's a true pro!
Influences from bands like Dream Theater and Opeth are more than
obvious in "Delusions", still you seem happy enough to explore a few
musical 'avenues' that none of the previously-mentioned bands have
done so far in their career. To what extent is your musical vision
influenced by your personal musical preferences?
Tom: It's interesting that you mention the Dream Theater and Opeth
influences - people say that a lot. They have certainly been major
influences on my musical development, although the funny thing is I
don't really listen to them so much as bands like Pain of Salvation
or Textures. Then again, the last album had a Symphony X tinge to
it, and yet I hadn't been listening to them for a while either. I
guess the inspiration I get from the bands I listen to takes a few
years to rub off haha!
In all seriousness though,
there is no doubt that the music I listen to influences the music I
want to create. There are so many wonderful forms of music out there
that I just want to reconcile them and bring them all together to
create my own. The ultimate aim is really to make a musical fusion
that is seamless. I still feel I am a long way from reaching a point
where I can say I've achieved this, but I think with Delusions that
we've taken a step in the right direction.
Do you find it difficult as a Progressive Metal outfit to find
unique ways of expression? Which, in your opinion, are those
elements in your music that one should expect to find only in a To-Mera
Tom: Progressive Metal now has such a rich history that it's
difficult not to be touched by all the amazing ideas that have come
out of it. From my point of view, the bands that have defined the
state-of-the-art most significantly are Dream Theater, Pain of
Salvation, Symphony X, Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah and Opeth.
If you can name one progressive metal band that hasn't been
influenced in the slightest by at least one of these, then I'd love
to hear them! I wouldn't deny I've been influenced by each and every
one of them, but if there is an element that sets us apart, I think
we could be identified by our attempts to merge jazz harmony with
metal in a more consonant way than perhaps some other bands have.
The average length of the majority of the compositions that are
featured in "Delusions" is eight minutes long and that is quite a
brave attitude, especially for a 'young' band like To-Mera. Is that
the result of a conscious decision on your part, or do you generally
find it difficult to limit your artistic expressions to conventional
Tom: There's never been a conscious decision as to how long a song
should be. If you spend all day listening to 8 minute plus songs,
chances are that's going to become the norm to you, and you gauge
your own compositions on whether or not they feel like you've really
got all you can out of them. Having said that, I regard 10 minutes
as being the benchmark for a true prog song, and we haven't got
there yet, so there's still work to be done.
Two of the compositions that really made a huge impression on me
were "Inside The Hourglass" and "Asylum". Can you tell us in a few
words how these two compositions came to life?
Tom: I'm glad you said that. Those are my favourites also. "Inside
The Hourglass" is a funny one. The music for the refrain was written
on a glorious sunny winter morning after our first UK tour.
Initially I thought it would make a good "pop song", like "Blood"
from "Transcendental", and when I heard Julie's vocal melody ideas I
was convinced that we'd have another 5 minute song we could make a
video of or something. But then it just kept growing.
Nevertheless, the vocals on the chorus do have something of an
anthemic quality about them I think. Julie's lyrics are great as
well! They're all about trying to find a way to learn to enjoy life
in the present, rather than yearn for things we may never have.
"Asylum" is another very different song. It was almost written as a
joke actually, and in the space of about a day, but it's just so fun
to play, and it allows us a chance to flex our improvisation muscles
in the mid-section (at least when we play it live - on the recording
there is a saxophone solo by a friend of mine called Hugh whom I met
We were in a band that played very
silly jazz-rock music. He was highly influential in developing my
love for jazz and improvisational music, and he plays with such good
humor as well, so he was the first person I thought of to guest on
this album). I think, despite the general dark demeanour of our
music, we're actually quite a silly and light-hearted bunch of
people, so "Asylum" really captures that.
"Delusions" is an album that sounds both fresh and powerful. Who
is the person behind this success and how happy are you with the
Tom: Brett Caldas-Lima recorded, mixed and mastered the album. I
think he did a great job, although there are always little things
that you think could perhaps have been done better had there been
more time etc.
How much time did you have to spend in the studio in order to
bring "Delusions" to life and how would you describe the overall
Tom: I think it was between 3-4 weeks. It passed with considerably
less strife than when we were recording "Transcendental". We
encountered pretty much every technical difficulty in the book with
Do you guys prefer to get involved in the recording process or
prefer to leave such duties in more 'expert' hands?
Tom: Well, personally I would prefer to be involved more, but my
understanding of recording is pretty poor and Brett knows what he's
doing (for the most-part), so sometimes I think it's a case of "too
many cooks…" and all that. Involvement in the mixing process is
What are your plans in terms of touring for "Delusions"? The most
recent entry on your website was back in November when you announced
your participation in the Fates Warning gig in London.
Tom: We had been banking on securing a couple of high-profile
support slots around this time of year, but both fell through, so
that's put us on the back foot a bit. We'll probably start off
arranging a UK headline tour to get us warmed up, whilst working
towards getting on a European tour with a larger band.
Your touring history as an opening act includes names such as
Fates Warning, Dream Theater & Emperor. Which of these bands have
been the most enjoyable to tour with? Any funny/interesting stories
Tom: Well, we didn't tour with any of them, but rather provided
one-off support slots. Dream Theater was by far the highlight, being
one of my favourite bands since the age of about 13. I got to meet
Mike and Jordan, who were both supreme gentlemen. The crowd was
relatively enthusiastic as well, at least compared to the Emperor
crowd. Bit of a mismatch I think.
How would you describe the average To-Mera fan and what kind of
crowds do you hope to attract during the band's upcoming tour?
Tom: Haha! Well so far I'd say our fans have come broadly from two
camps: the female-fronted metal fan and the progressive metal fan.
Which, I suppose, are the two camps that we fit in best with.
We did a show with the technical metal band Linear Sphere once, and
we managed to play to a whole load of tech-metal heads, which I
really enjoyed (despite the PA blowing up), because they totally got
into every aspect of the music. Really I'd like to play to a mix of
everybody. There's enough going on in our music to satisfy everyone
What are your plans for the immediate future and how far do you
think this band can evolve, taking into consideration the current
state of the music industry?
Tom: First and foremost we want to get the new lineup gig-ready and
get out there and play some shows. As for the long-term, there are
We all have day jobs still, and
whilst we'd love for this band to take off and are putting all the
spare time and love and energy we can into it, we're still doing it
for the love first and foremost.
Having said that,
I now think we finally have the perfect lineup, so there's
definitely a lot of enthusiasm about writing new and more
challenging music, and already talk about how we're going to
approach a third album.
Do you have any interests outside the band? How would you
generally describe yourself as a person/people?
Tom: My main interest is music anyway. I spend pretty much all my
free time thinking about it, but I happen to like pretty much every
kind of music, as long as it has some genuine emotional content to
it, so it's easy for me to step away from the metal world when it
gets too much. I do a lot of self-study and try to play with as many
different people as possible. It's all about self-development and
enjoyment. Beyond that, I guess we all have a lot of interest in
sociopolitical/ environmental issues etc.
Can you name a few of the albums that are responsible for your
musical upbringing and which have been the source of inspiration for
the band in general?
Tom: There are so many albums that have influenced me, no matter how
directly. The first metal album I heard was "Youthanasia" by
Megadeth. The first progressive metal album I heard was "Awake" by
Dream Theater. Since then my musical interests just went in all
directions at once! There are too many influences to choose any main
sources of inspiration.
Tom, thank you very much for doing this interview - the last
words are yours!
Tom: Thank you so much for your interest in the band. To any fans
reading this, we hope to play for you this year!
Interview © February 2008 John Stefanis
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