Progressive lurch to the top

Event co-organiser and member of participating band Viper Soup Complex Michael Spiteri speaks to Teodor Reljic about Prog the Islands: Archipelaprog

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
29 November 2016, 8:00am
Ferret
Ferret
What was the main impetus behind setting up Prog The Islands, and how has it developed over subsequent editions?

Initially, Noel Mifsud set the festival up in order to showcase the prog side in local rock and metal. Back then, local prog/experimental bands were scarce compared to nowadays and Prog the Islands couldn’t follow a yearly schedule because of this ‘drought’, of sorts.

Currently, I think that the event has developed into a more varied form since local experimental/prog bands with distinct identities and various sounds are emerging all the more. If I had to point towards a contributing factor, it would be the internet. The internet has exposed free music and there is no limit to those who are interested to delve deeper into whatever piques their curiosity and craft-honing. Moreover, there is a healthy musician crossover between genres – the music community has become more communicative.

The event usually followed a three-band gig set up but this will be the first time PTI will take place over two nights with six bands participating. 

The ‘prog’ genre – in its various forms – is arguably considered to be both old-fashioned and a bit ‘difficult’. How do you feel about this reputation, and how does Prog the Islands attempt to prove it wrong?

I don’t really get the old-fashioned thing since society has steered heavily into nostalgia culture, while even the words “retro” and “vintage” are considered cool nowadays. However, this might also be because new ideas are not heavily covered on a mainstream level as ‘prog’ was covered back in the 70s. Still, when bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd come up in every prog-related conversation it might be because there is a sense of reverence to these “elders” of sort. Maybe because songs like 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson, 1969) still feel fresh and even more socially relevant nowadays because we are, in fact, living in a “Schizoid Man” time.   

As far as difficulty goes, I feel that it’s relative and it depends on one’s own musical inclination. Sometimes a single note can be more effective than continuous runs on the fret board, as what’s commonly attributed to the “prog” genre. I think that the “too many notes” scene in Amadeus (1984) works greatly in this observation. In the end, it rests where you want to take the music while challenging yourself to pour your internal melodies and rhythms into actual art.

Prog the Islands is not aiming to challenge these mentioned preconceptions directly, especially since musical preaching is not classy. However, the event may also be a stepping stone for more open collaborations between musicians who may not necessarily aim to belong anywhere in particular.   

Viper Soup Complex
Viper Soup Complex
What can you tell us about the bands forming part of this year’s edition? What would you say they each contribute to the vibe and feel of the event?

First of all, we managed to get the line up to reflect our goal – all six bands are local, skilled and distinct from one another. It’s a bringing together of some of the most curious and interesting acts as of late.

What we’re aiming at is to be somewhat all over the place while combining groovy and tight musicianship. Falcon’s Flying Circus, one of our headliners, is definite testament to this. Fronted by the charismatic David, their set will channel nostalgia as well as fresh sounds. The Ranch have just returned from their tour and one should expect no less than a highly energetic jazz rock driven set. Add a talented brass ensemble and scat singing by Egle to the mix and we’re good! Here at Viper Soup Complex, we’re not planning anything less than a wacky, in-your-face performance fronted by Annemarie’s antics. Eyes to Argus’ sublime melancholia will both elate and crush audience members with their seemingly directionless approach. However, we can take it since we’re all very highly emotional beings. Another genre bending performance will be given by Ferret! who have no qualms about not being coherent and/or understandable to audience members. However, their musicianship presents a keen interest to music in its many forms.

Our final addition to the line-up, Krishna, has gained traction as one of the island’s chunkiest instrumental bands. With Tim on bass/guitar and Liam on drums, Krishna is a visceral display of doominess that isn’t really metal, alternative rock, or ambient, but somehow fits under all the genre umbrellas.

Krishna
Krishna
How do you feel about the musical scene in Malta? What would you change about it?

The music scene is really going through an interesting wave at the moment. Especially after Coconut Grove closed, there’s this awareness that people really have to invest their time and some dimes to support their favourite local bands and make the scene work. Fortunately, some really interesting acts are emerging who are on an international level of musicianship and creativity. Not to mention that live equipment has improved in most areas.

On the surface, the lack of venues is somewhat problematic – but it can also lead to a positive working experience with the proprietors, as it’s currently happening. However, we do hope that more places open up. Realistically speaking, I wouldn’t change anything per se since that’s one hell of mountain to climb – not to mention that things are in fact looking interesting. However, I would actively pursue collaborations spanning on diverse media; genres; art, and see what comes out. I don’t like to be safe and comfortable, repeating the same thing over and over again. Oh, actually, I would change one thing – I would create some decent rehearsal spaces for artists/musicians which wouldn’t force them to fork out thousands of euros just to meet up and make something work. Now that would actually be nice.

Prog the Islands: Archipelaprog is the latest in a series of concerts showcasing Malta’s progressive rock and metal scene, taking place at Razzett L-Ahmar, Mosta from December 9 and 10. The featured bands are: Falcon’s Flying Circus, The Ranch, Viper Soup Complex, Eyes to Argus, Ferret and Krishna. Doors open at 19:00 each night. Tickets: https://shop.trackagescheme.com/event/prog-islands-archipelaprog/

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...