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Interview: ALAN MORSE (Spock's Beard)

Rock Stars...

For the past fifteen years, Spock's Beard has been a forerunner of the Progressive Rock music scene which has been experiencing a resurgence, not only with old the legions of older fans rediscovering the music form their youth, but with younger people who are discovering the music for the first time and calling it their own.

Spock's Beard are back to form with their latest self titled CD, Spock's Beard. The band, while still retaining their signature sound, have experimented more and have explored new and Jazzier realms of musical expression.

Here is enlightening interview with the guitarist, Alan Morse, whose signature style of playing without a guitar pick, is an inspiration to guitarists world-wide.

Alan Morse


How was it that you become interested in music?

Alan Morse: Well, basically I have been a musician a whole life. My dad was a choir director and so we, my brothers and I, started taking piano lessons when we were five years old. But I didn't really start getting into music until I had gone to see the movie “Woodstock” and saw Pete Townsend throw his guitar up in the air and thought, “Hey, that's so cool!” Soon after, my brothers and I formed our own band and seriously started practicing because we wanted to Rock.

So tell us about the new album. What was the decision behind the album's name?

Alan Morse: This record is our statement about who we are now and we're at ... we are Spock's Beard.

Did you approach this new record differently than the band's previous efforts?

Alan Morse: Not so much. It is kind of similar to what we have done in the past. We always try to make the best records we can, and we pretty much follow in that vein. It's certainly one of our most eclectic records; there are a lot of different styles on it and things we have never done before. We don't want to make the same record over and over. That gets to be kind of boring! (Laughter). And that is one of the reasons that makes Progressive music fun you can throw all kinds of things at it and it's always fun and exciting to play.

The time signatures on this new record are very intricate. Which songs did you find the most challenging to play and record?

Alan Morse: Well, the first two on the record, On A Perfect Day and Skeletons At The Feast are pretty challenging because there were so many different styles and sounds - especially with the guitar. I really like On a Perfect Day a lot. It has lots of acoustics and is a classic Spock's type of thing. Skeletons At The Feast was a difficult piece to play because it is just so relentless and pounding one riff over an over again -- your hand gets tired after a while! (Laughter). I think it is really cool piece. It Rocks! And that is why I got into this thing, I like to Rock!

Which songs do you feel will come across the best when performed live?

Alan Morse: Well, I would think On A Perfect Day, if we can pull it off!, will be pretty amazing live. Skeletons At The Feast should be great also. Then there is the big epic, As Far As The Mind Can see, that I am really looking forward to playing. We're hoping to play in the UK sometime in the Spring, perhaps in March, April or May. I'm really looking forward to it because it has been a while since we've played in Europe. We're hoping to get to play some different places, too, and do a London show.

After fifteen years as a band, do you feel that Spock's Beard have achieved a high level of satisfaction within the band?

Alan Morse: I'm not quite sure what that means! (Laughter). Seriously, I think we're all pretty happy with what we have done and are proud of it. It's been great to be able to play and see all of these different people and travel all over the world. And we hope to keep doing it.

What was it like in the early years of Spock's Beard?

Alan Morse: It was a lot of fun - really cool. It was tough at times. We didn't know if we were ever going to find an audience or anything. We've been in bands since forever and most of them never went anywhere. But when it really started happening it was very exciting - a gas! I remembered the first time we played at ProgFest out in Los Angeles, California. We finished playing our first tune, The Light, which was a really long piece, and we really couldn't tell if people were getting into it or not - they were all just kind of sitting there. When we finished the tune, it was all quiet for a second and then the whole place just went nuts! We got a standing ovation. That was one of the high points for me. It was awesome.

Who has been your key inspiration as a musician?

Alan Morse: I am interested in a lot of different players, but one of my personal inspirations is King Crimson. They have had so many different incarnations and have always come up with something cool, fresh and interesting and always reinvented themselves. That is inspiring to me. Of course, there is the Beatles who have also been one of my big inspirations.

Any Jazz artists?

Alan Morse: I really don't do Jazz all that much, although I like it. I listen to Charlie Parker and the Bebop guys and really admire the freedom and the amazing technical virtuosity of that kind of music. It sounds like an incredible amount of fun to improvise! I hope to inject that kind of spirit in my music and to do something wild and totally unexpected that blows people's minds. And on this record I think there are more Jazz influences than ever before, as we wanted to do something a bit different.

What do you see in the future for Spock's Beard?

Alan Morse: We're working on global domination! (Laughter). Really, I hope with this new record that people like it and that we'll find some new fans out there. We just want to keep making records, as long as people keep buying them, and do shows. I can't think of anything better to do! And we really appreciate it when people come out to see us and we hope they keep doing it. It's great to play in all different places you've never been before and where people know all of the words and sing along even though it is not in their own language! (Laughter). It's a wonderful thing!

What is the future for yourself as a musician?

Alan Morse: People have been asking me for a solo album for quite some time, so I figured it was time to get out there and make a statement. My solo record is coming out in March on InsideOut . I have some sound samples on my MySpace page at It's all instrumental. It's co-produced by my brother, Neal Morse. He also co-wrote a few of the songs and plays most of the keyboards. Cool stuff!

Neal has been having quite a career on his own.

Alan Morse: Yeah he's never been one to just sit around and has always been very prolific. He's a very talented guy -- I taught him everything he knows! (Laughter).

Do you feel there is a resurgence in Progressive music these days?

Alan Morse: I should hope so! I think people are ready to hear some music with a few more notes in it! (Laughter) And we're here to give it to them!!!

Interview © December 2006 Angela Schultz

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