"Dream Without End"
Interview with Robert I Edman (guitar & vocals), Alex Jonsson (keyboards), Jan Persson (bass) and Thomas Nordh (drums)
Courtesy of good friend Sergio Vilar and the Progressive Rock webzine Nucleus [www.nucleusprog.com.ar]
Sergio: To begin, would we like to know the origins of the band and something about your previous musical experiences?
Maze of Time was founded in 2001 by guitarist and composer Robert I Edman. Music has been a vital ingredient throughout his life with a number of constellations ever since the early eighties. Over time, he grew weary of playing other peoples compositions as a designated guitarist for various productions. With a couple of friends he was at one point well on his way to the American west-coast, but hesitated as the headroom for originality and thinking-out-of-the-box musical experimentation was nonexistent in the mainstream pop-scene.
By gathering some of his favorite fellow musicians from early on, he convinced long-time buddies Thomas and Jan to join in an investigative trio, to further elaborate and acid test a number of compositions under the working name “Under the Sun”. Before long, guitarist and rock singer Christer Lindstrom joined in for some of the guitar and vocal arrangements. Islander and keyboard tormenter/collector Alex Jonsson, met the group in 2001 and the constellation heard on the band's first release “Tales from the Maze” was formed.
Sergio: Why the name Maze Of Time?
We all grew up more or less together, or at least with many mutual friends, everyone listening to old great formations like Deep Purple, Queen, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Floyd and Tull in our adolescent years, so fantasy wordings come easy to us. We're also traveling in a maze of time and space, whether we like it or not. A teardrop falling from the eye of a dinosaur contains molecules that millennia later winds up in Cleopatra's bath water and may well 2000 years later, be present in my own saliva right now as we speak. We're all in the same twisting maze, perched up somewhere on the huge starship Earth, so we might as well enjoy the ride and make the best of it. The band's name is also kind of a tribute to the golden age of progressive, especially to Yes' Jon Andersson, and the lyrics of “Universal Garden”, “Looking up into the endless sky, staring into the maze of time."
Sergio: Which are the most direct musical influences of each one of you?
Robert: You could say that I’m very eclectic in my musical taste. The early years was spent listening to Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Queen, Kiss, Led Zeppelin. In 1979, I saw a Mike Oldfield concert on TV and it broadened my horizons quite a bit. At the same time a friend of mine played “Relayer “(Yes) for me and I was completely floored! What is this strange ugly/beautiful music! It was like the finest of wines... just getting better and better every year that passes. As a guitar player I really admire players like Hendrix, Brian May, Gary Moore, Steve Lukather, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson – flashy but melodic.
Thomas: Marillion, Saga, Kansas, Yes, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Camel, Mikael Ramel, Gary Moore, Pink Floyd. Some of my favorite drummers are Simon Philips, Steve Negus, Alan White, Neil Peart and the snare king Ian Paice.
Jan: I listened to Gently Giant, Purple, Genesis, Zeppelin, Jailbreak with the album “Thin Lizzy” (I reckoned for sure you can’t have a band named Thin Lizzy, therefore I deducted that band name hade to be Jailbreak -- oops!!). This was during an era where my mates enjoyed ABBA, Osmonds and other easy listening stuff. When presented to Kiss by a mate, I just laughed when I saw their faces will all the make-up and stuff. I preferred Speedking, Cogs in Cogs and others, but sadly didn’t have any peers to enjoy their music with, as I do - with great pleasure – together with my fellow keepers of the Maze…
Alex: Tricky this. As a keyboard player, I have many to choose from. Way back I listened a lot to John Williams' modern symphonic group Sky, where keyboard artists Francis Monkman and Steve Gray both have been a rich source of inspiration. Joshua Rifkin is another, fluently playing anything from Mozart to Scott Joplin. Not to forget John Lord, Rick Wakeman, Joe Zawinul (Weather Report) as well as fretboard hero Carlos Santana (Especially older releases like “Moonflower”, “Inner Secrets”, “Abraxas”).
Sergio: How do you choose the thematic for the lyrics and the concepts for the album in their entirety?
Robert: Lots origin from my self and my life. It's so much about hanging in there and really take the opportunity to be "here and now".
Lennon once said: " Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans", and it sure is a easy way out to leave the present to others, especially when life is full of events initiated by others. With the development of society and the exploding flora of entertainment and things to do between work and sleep - I bet one can spend an entire lifetime being entertained by media and social activities without having to accomplish anything and without contributing to a better life for anyone. My music may be kind to the ear, but I find comfort and energy in the lyrics in capturing moments of play in daily life and inspire others to do the same.
Sergio: In Maze Of Time, do the words inspire to the music or do you write while you listen the sounds?
Often a new song starts with a thought, an idea, an event in daily life or a fictional story, be it truth or make-belief. In parallel, rhythms and grooves for “Tales…” were at first done altogether by Robert, delivering complete packages with arrangements and all to the group. In latter years, both the harmonies and text are more of a group venture, but with Robert as main contributor, still having the last call when opinions differ.
Sergio: How would you say that the sound of the group evolved in these years?
Since we have the benefit of a multi-instrumentalist as our composer, the sound was set pretty much from the start. But we've all contributed with our skills and shortcomings, adding flavor to the mix. Alex, for instance, comes from classic and folk music, which can be heard here and there in the winding melodies. Ever since we started recording our first stuff in 2003, we have had continuous feedback on how the music is perceived, where in the spectrum you can find various instruments and the balance between lead, various vocals and the infamous rhythm section (more laughter).
Robert: We have played together for a while now and everybody pretty much knows what’s going on musically speaking, I think we pushing ourselves forward together in perpetual, irreversible change.
Sergio: Please, account for us something about “Tales >From The Maze”…
“Tales…” is our first full-length CD, so a lot of love and affection has been put into the album as well over three weeks in studio rent. We worked closely with talented sound technician and studio guru Mikael Lundin, who has a sensitive ear for analog sounds, and has contributed a lot to the Maze flavor you can hear today.
Robert: The songs I wrote were all forged in an introspective period of my life. I was thinking about the past and the future. At the same time my first daughter was born and it helped me realize that it’s all about "to seize the day", you’ve got to live out your dreams, be true and follow your heart every day (or at least try). Time is all about priority, what do you really want to do? If you listen to most of the songs on the album you’ll find this as a common theme. So, from that point of view, it’s a concept album of sorts.
Sergio: Personally, I believe that “Tales From The Maze” is a formidable album. With total security, one of the best of the previous year… How was the composition process? Did all the members participate in the compositions?
Thanks Sergio, great to hear! Actually, in the case of this album, everything you hear comes from Robert's heart and extensive talent. Although the arrangements were made by all mazekeepers as a group effort, but all the material sung and played origins from that long-haired blond guy in the corner. We more or less think he's a genius, but never tell him so. See, we don't want him to get cocky and boastful :-)
Sergio: Robert, could you make a comment of each one of the songs of the disc?
“Tales...” A sonic collage made by Mikael Lundin and myself, it’s like a prelude and tells a bit of what is yet to come, like a trailer (laughs).
“Here And Now” is a happy suite, a piece with a sentimental touch in the lyrics, a man reflecting about the past and living his normal every day life, always running against time, trying too much, then suddenly capturing those moments of play. I really like the instrumental section with an almost "Bach like" feel in the harmonies. And the rock ‘n roll riff in 5/4 really kicks ass!
“Distant Tomorrow” Well, I often think about the songs like short movies or novels and distant is really the essence of that i think, the main character longing to travel back home to his galaxy, his time machine is now ready to go but his thoughts are all up on this gorgeous earthen woman, a cosmic love story (laugh).
I really like the dark and misty arrangement on this, very dynamic and groovy the keyboards in the middle section is awesome creating a colorful and dreamy journey for the time traveler.
“Ocean Of Dreams”, this one has got that "epic" feel of older symf/prog band with the mellotron and staccato rhythm beginning, it’s a classic man vs. machine story were the hard and dissonant parts plays the role of machines and the softer more female parts are man (did you get that?). Its great fun to play and very meditative towards the end - or is it the beginning?
“Daydreamer” has Christer singing lead and telling the story of this jester like person who sits under his favorite tree and thinking about a long lost love/friend and falls a sleep and dreams this short kind of road movie. The rhythm section really shines on this one, The middle section is almost a Yes tribute with the fast 7/8 on top of it, great fun to play that part.
“Lady May” has certain relation to Alex’s poem found behind the CD in the jewel case. You see the girl of your dreams in every woman you meet. Spring is here and all the flowers shoot out of the ground, time to rejoice and dance. But who is the wonderful babe behind those sunglasses?
“The Maze” How do you come clean with the past, draw a line and start afresh? The song tells us that everything might just be within your reach, The golden time could well be right here and now, and all you have to is to stand up erect - preferably naked - and say so aloud for everyone to hear. This track was first more west-coast and less intriguing, but got an entire makeover one wet week-end at Thomas' county home. And there you are – things may start out worse than they look, partly referring to the kick ass intro of this track.
“Under The Sun” Wow, kind of the entire album in one track, truly a worthy finally. Our man is crawling back to life; he’s taken his fake persona mask off and faces the world in its true light. It’s been hard times, but he’s back to take a stand.
Sergio: How was the recording process?
A killer. At the same time a great experience. Our studio guy Micke was a man of both firm opinions and experience. There is no quick punch-in-punch-out in the middle of a solo. If you screw up, you have to start over. Micke also had access to great stuff, real band echo, analog mixing equipment and compressors.
Sergio: Besides Maze Of Time, in what other musical projects are you involved in?
As we all are deeply involved as keepers of the Maze. Frankly, there is little time of other stuff. If you put your heart into something, it has the potential to go from good to great. So we think it's hard to do more stuff on the side at the moment, though Robert for one probably could do more on the composing for others if he wanted, since he progresses really fast in his craftsmanship.
Sergio: Which is your opinion of the current music scene?
Getting better. There are an increasing number of venues for alternate, progressive, folk and symphonic rock. Many are of course outside of the new cities, on boat cruises, festivals but altogether it's safe to say that rock is back – hands down.
Sergio: Today, can we speak of a resurge of progressive rock in Europe?
Sure, there’s definitely something in the air, although progressive still is quite diminished compared to the grand old days, say during 1968 and ten year onwards. But re-recordings and the long tail of forgotten bands now available, through the internet and other digital sources, opens up a real treasure chest for new generations of listeners. And maybe this whole surge in popularity origins in a reaction to all the over-produced, auto-tuned, beat.-detected music you hear in commercial broadcast media today. A song made from short macaroni segments, cut-n-pasted in ProTools software, just isn't the same as a live recording, neither in a studio nor in the presence of a live audience. There's nothing wrong with editing software – we're not saying that. It's just that we just can't seem to get where we're heading by patching up a multitude of shaved 24-bit wave file fragments.
Sergio: How do you think the future of this style will look like, either in your own country like in the rest of the world?
Young people today have probably more diverse music taste than we had when we were younger. There is a continuous flow of new emerging bands that play music resembling our own style to a certain degree. Unfortunately, the young musicians - at least in our country – are running out of locations to rehears and play at. In our city, the number of older buildings and less attractive locations are lessening, due to availability of room for erecting buildings and the refurbishment of older office buildings. In the decades past, support was given in the rural and suburban communities by subsidizing access for young musicians, low rent, lending them instruments, access to music through local libraries, one-on-one music education for grade school kids et cetera.
We're a bit afraid that young people see the only successful way of making a living in the music business as through mainstream pop, rap, soaps, TV-shows like "Idol" and other activities that many times are more a product of marketing than musicality, originality or talent. But in our hearts, we have a Gaia-approach to music genres. If something is worth listening to, someone will. For people that intentionally strive to create music that echoes the song in their hearts, there will always be a music scene, regardless of genre or sound.
Sergio: What bands are you listening at the moment?
Different, we guess, for each of us. Ever since we started marketing via CD Baby, the possibility to hear other music in the same genre, region or mood has opened up for lots of music I wouldn't have heard otherwise. There is a lot of really very good stuff out there and many new sources of inspiration.
Alex: I listen high and low; right now I’m back at the roots, resting my ears to Genesis (“A Trick Of The Tail”, “Selling England By The Pound”), Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd (“Ummagumma”, “Live at Pompei”, “Momentary Lapse Of Reason”). Robert presented me to hard-working Porcupine Tree (“In Absinthia”, “Deadwinger”), which often spins in my car stereo to and from work.
Robert: Right now I’m into Porcupine Tree, The Flower Kings, King’s X and Icelandic progressive band Sigur Rôs.
Thomas: Apart from those already mentioned I enjoy hearing Nightwish, Evanecscence and Dutch Gothic band Within Temptation.
At this point, axe-wielder Jan started to name-drop a number of less common, homegrown bands and was given a mild sedative.
Sergio: Well, what are the future plans of Maze Of Time?
Ever since vocalist and guitar hero Christer left the band in 2006, we've spent some time rearranging many of the songs, both on the album and beyond. As of right now, we're looking for reinforcements for lead- and backing vocals. We've been quite choosy so far, and it's never easy to come skipping into well-soldered gang like Maze of Time. But there are promising opportunities for us up ahead so we'll keep you posted on this. Ever since the release in November, it has been easier for us to find sponsors, venues for performing and interested individuals in helping us out in one way or another. In a longer perspective, we are planning for a series of live performances for this summer, both to in order promote our latest release and also because playing live is one of les raisons d'être for us as a band.
Sergio: Thank you friends. Would you like to add something more?
We would like to extend gratitude to all you guys our there, supporting us and acting as ambassadors of the Maze and spreading the word on that the death of progressive rock is highly exaggerated. As for the band, we’re planning to roll out our second release in the next year, and we promise it will be darker, more decisive and hopefully far more intriguing than the predecessor. We're very happy with “Tales…” though, and it'll be hard to top that one off hands down.
And thank you, amigo Sergio, for holding this interview with us, a local band on the flipside of our Spaceship Earth. We enjoyed reflecting on where we come from and where we're heading. Everything is happening quite fast right now for us, and normally we're happy just to keep up with on-going events. Thank you very much, hope to talk to you soon again.
p.s. We found ourselves a singer in the end, and welcome Jesper Landen onboard for the journey to the stars!