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Keyboards/violinist/producer Mike Varty is in a number of bands including Credo who have just relased the excellent 'Rhetoric' and Landmarq to name but two. Read on...

1. What are you currently up to?

Credo has been taking most of my time so far, but as the album is now out there and we've nailed down most of the promotion and rehearsal, I can step away from that a little bit and just start to enjoy the gigs. This is just as well because Landmarq are currently recording another album, so I'll be starting to record the keys for that any time now. We're doing some more writing with Credo as well, there is a 3rd album in the pipeline.

2. How do you manage to juggle being in so many bands - Credo, Landmarq, Janison Edge the Mighty Rooster & Shadowland?

Ah, yes, am I busy? Well, Shadowland is and has been dormant for close on 10 years, The Mighty Rooster has now retired (due to musical indifference!), Janison Edge is in hibernation until we get a chance to write some more of the music, and it's only Credo and Landmarq that are particularly active at the moment. These two aren't too dificult to juggle so far, but I definitely need to avoid joining any other bands!

3. Credo - How did you hook-up with the band and end up producing the new album `Rhetoric'? Copuld you take us through some personal highlights on the album and why?

Hooking up with Credo is a catalogue of coincidences (as was Shadowland, but that really is another story). First I think I must have answered an add in Melody Maker or something, which is strange because I don't buy MM, must've borrowed it from someone. Anyway, to cut a long story very short it turned out that I knew all the chaps from the band because years before they used to rehearse at a place where I used to work occasionally. I hadn't seen them for a few years but we hit it off right from the start and that's about the time that we started putting together the music for Rhetoric.

I guess from the point of view of producing the album it seems to me that it was a matter of whoever could do it should do it, and having produced the Janison Edge album I had the knowledge of how and the equipment to put it all together and make it work. I'm not sure that I can pick out any particular highlights as I really enjoy all aspects of making an album, including the hard work. The main highlight I suppose is when all of the instruments start coming together and that always gives me the spine tingling feeling...

4. Credo have played a series of low key dates. How have these gone and how has the album been received so far by fans and reviewers?

I can never judge how good an album is or how well it will be received, but Rhetoric does at the moment seem to be getting some rave reviews. However, that's only one hurdle to get over, the other hurdle is to find some venues to play and this is really where most bands have a problem. So far we've done pretty well to play some small localish venues and these will be our bread and butter I think, while we keep working on trying to get the bigger gigs.

5. What have been the most memorable gigs and why?

Do you mean ever? There was a superb Shadowland gig at Breda, can't remember the date, but the venue was packed to the gills, everything clicked that night and we played a storming gig. Then I'd have to say that although Janison Edge only played 2 gigs, the Progfarm gig in Holland was fantastic because the people there were great (though my keys stopped working at the end!).

The Mighty Rooster gigs were slightly different because I doubled on fiddle so I got a chance to dance around the front of the stage, and in front of 800 people you get a pretty big buzz... And, finally Credo, I hope that we have yet to have our most memorable gig, although we've had some good ones!

6. Janison Edge - could you tell us some brief history about the band and what style of music the band play?

Jansion Edge is 'progressive rock' in the sense of how it used to be, heavy on melody and theatrical lyricism as well as the bombastic instrumentation (most likened to Genesis than any other band of that era or this). The band was founded by myself and Sam Collins (fka Sue Element) about 10 years ago, simply because we had a lot of musical ideas and nowhere to take them.

As we worked on the music we spent quite a bit of time thinking about the other members of the band and how to create a good group that would work together well. Ian Salmon (bass in Arena/Shadowland) impressed me much when he stepped into Karl Groom's shoes to do some Shadowland numbers, and I asked him if he was interested. Then came time for drums, and I'd met Dave Wagstaffe (Landmarq) a few times before and we'd got on quite well.

Finally, we cast about for a bass player and Paul Brown (Medicine man and most recently The Oliver Wakeman Band) came to mind, just completing the band as the drums were being recorded! I have to say that the album was very well received internationally and we spent about a year pushing and promoting the band.

What made us lose heart a little though was that we couldn't get any gigs, it seems that none of the usual venues were prepared to take a risk with a new band. Having spent so long on promotion and not had the return of being able to tour, everyone in the band drifted off and busied themselves with other things - and that's pretty much where we are now. We have some great music for the 2nd JE album and I'm really hoping that I'll have some time to start working it up sometime, anytime.

7. Have you seen an upswing in interest in progressive music over the past five years in the UK or is still very much a small, fan based scene?

I've actually been pretty much out of prog for the last 5 years after promoting the hell out of Janison Edge, so I can't really say. I know that a fair few of the distributors that I knew back then aren't around any more, and the general word is that it doesn't get any easier.

8. Where do you get your songwriting ideas from and who musically is an influence on you?

I'm not sure where song ideas come from actually. I play a few things or imagine a few things in my head and my yardstick for whether they're any good is if they stick in my head for more than 5 minutes. My main problem there is that I have a short memory! But in fact I usually record my ideas into the PC (Cubase) and the jiggle around with them for a long while.

Some songs tumble out very quickly and others take a lot of hard work and iterations to get to a stage where I think they're any good. Cubase is brilliant because I can move everything around and try out different ideas really really quickly. This makes the music creation spontaneous and usually rewarding. I leave the lyrics to others!

I have many influences and I don't tend to listen to prog music. At the moment I've got the new Oasis and Coldplay next to the CD player, along with Chemical Brothers, Stephane Grappelli and some bluegrass. I would probably say that most of what I would like to write is actually prog and probably the biggest influence would be Genesis and then Marillion. I have a softspot for folk music as well.

9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I don't seem to have much spare time at the moment, but to relax I either sunbathe in the garden (only in summer of course) or I watch a film or something on TV.

I'm a fairly active person so going for a good fast cycle ride is wonderful for clearing the mind!

10. Message to your fans...

The fans are what keeps this scene going. Be open to new albums and new bands, and challenge the people who keep booking tribute bands so we can play some original music to you.

Interview © 2005 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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