I’ve had a very interesting friendship with Hamlet of Transport Aerian. I’ve definitely not loved his music all the time but I am always honest with him and he is quite the same in return. He asked me to take part in an experiment of sorts. Rather than do the traditional album review and interview, he thought of basically combining the two. So what you have here is me playing his new album “Therianthrope” and reacting to it in real time while talking with Hamlet. Honestly, I really enjoyed this experiment! This is NOT your typical interview at all. Enjoy!
Progman Rob: Ok we are off with track 1. Well that’s a nice uncomfortable start. Castanets! It sounds like a death march and it’s surprising so far that it sounds cohesive given that the musicians had no clue what they were each doing.
Hamlet: In the “normal” songs musicians were just improvising. The “blind improvisation” are only Abstract Symphony songs.
Progman Rob: Ok so this is the former?
Hamlet: This one is pre-written, with improvisations by Paul Sax, Elvya and Dyian recorded with one take. But even in the “normal” songs, musicians weren’t told what to play.
Progman Rob: Ok that makes sense, “Smoking Sirens.” I liked the chorus…
Progman Rob: You sound great, but don’t let that go to your head! Oh there’s a note…very impressive and it works well.
Hamlet: What themes does this make you think of?
Progman Rob: very dark. death gloom, depression. Maybe I need more coffee?
Hamlet: I think you might require quite some if you want to survive to the end of this.
Progman Rob: I thought the violin provided some hope within all of the darkness though.
Hamlet: It’s about the irrational fears and paranoid aspect of the depression, and also about how an irrelevant element in everyday life can trigger it. I remember shuffling through the vinyl records in the local store and bumping against some famous pseudo-jazz starlet on a poster looking right through me. When a person dealing with these mental issues, anything can be a trigger. The song is attempting to describe it.
Progman Rob: And I can relate to that. I’ve been triggered by less.
Hamlet: Yes, I believe everyone who suffers from this has that. But that’s where the music starts: to describe it to those who aren’t one needs a strong image.
That seemed like a strong enough one. As for violin: I’m very very happy that Paul Sax (Curved Air, Praying for the rain) joined in. He really knew exactly what the song needed to become beautiful, as it’s otherwise rather monotonous.
Progman Rob: The song is the place where those thoughts wind up.
Progman Rob: Yeah plus castanets. Who doesn’t love castanets?
Hamlet: Don’t you think an out-of-place piece of arrangement can add a lot of gloominess? [wink]
Progman Rob: It adds discomfort and makes sense on that level.
Hamlet: Yes. Discomfort. I like the word.
Progman Rob: So track 2 is up, “Pitchfork Martyrs.” I am liking this already.
Progman Rob: Malevolent Pop
Hamlet: Or a cabaret satire?
Progman Rob: Somewhat like Crimson on Broadway. Belew era to be clear on that.
Hamlet: And it has the seed of that era. Irony and satire are the seeds of this one.
Progman Rob: The guitar reminds me of Bowie’s player Reeves Gabriels.
Hamlet: Peter Matuchniak did all the guitars here! He thinks in terms I can’t and I think it adds what’s needed.
Progman Rob: Shape throwing guitar
Hamlet: Association. I think the initial skeleton I’ve made had the seed of cabaret pop, and that’s what it has started revolving around in the end.
Progman Rob: I think that one would make a good “single.”
Hamlet: The theme could be too evil for that.
Progman Rob: I always found cabaret to be evil but that’s me.
Hamlet: It’s a satire for the modern day populism – not the one that comes from top down, but the one in brains of people standing in lines to buy another discriminative cheap cartoon magazine. I generally stay away from social topics. But racism and xenophobia anger me beyond measurements. And that’s what it is about.
Progman Rob: there’s plenty off things to satire with today’s society of idiots.
Hamlet: Yes, exactly. I remember that magazine portraying drowned boy as a future rapist. It has been totally accepted by our highly educated first world society. yet, if somebody ever dare to touch them… That’s where satire ends. It only can hurt the defenseless. It’s disgusting.
Progman Rob: Indeed it is.
Hamlet: So yes, pitchfork martyrs. Pretending to be martyrs, preparing pitchforks for those who dare to speak up. We don’t need repressions to control the crowd – the crowd is already enough by itself.W hat does this have to do with an album about mental illness? Well, just the realization of this state of things can make any thinking person mentally ill.
Progman Rob: “Let You Never Perish” is next, track 3. Well now, this is half comfortable and half not.
Hamlet: What happens if Hamlet tries to write “a normal” song.
Progman Rob: So maybe call it let you never get comfortable with notes.
Hamlet: its me, JoJo Razor on female voice and Darren Brush on a warr gutiar! In fact, he plays the instrument he has built himself from the scratch!
Progman Rob: I love the guitar for sure!
Hamlet: it looks like a warr guitar, but it has different shape and more strings. Lovely instrument, and I always thought I want one eventually on one of my records.
Progman Rob: Not into the track other than that to be honest. Obviously it never lets you get too close to it.
Hamlet: I think it means I did exactly what I intended. A sense of something disjointed, feeble.
Progman Rob: Why am I not surprised? hahahaha! Disjointed is a good word for that one.
Hamlet: Self-pity has place in any mental state, and this one speaks of it not only in lyrics but in its very form.
Progman Rob: Next is “Destroy Me” which probably will…
Hamlet: Title says a half. Lyrics say the other half. And the choice of voice correlation explains why.
Progman Rob: I prefer your fake drums sounding more fake.
Hamlet: These are no drums though. I think in trip-hop context drums are allowed to be looped. In this song its only me and Rachel Bauer, who also sang for Darkblue
Progman Rob: Yes that’s what I mean. To me, they should be clearly programmed. I like the vocal a lot. Tranquil, yet it’s riding this edge…
Hamlet: She has this very distinctive timbre, that you won’t get from a singer with school. It’s natural and I never tell her how to do it.
Progman Rob: The synths are on the verge of something which adds to it nicely.
Hamlet: I wanted this song to be supressive.
Progman Rob: Yes that’s the word for it! It sounds like it will explode but doesn’t.
Hamlet: As any well-suppressed pain, that will never be spoken – for the sake of saving what’s built carefully. Any family eventually devour each other into one blended two-back creature and pains are not to be spoken anymore, but to be kept deep inside.
Progman Rob: Which I can relate to.
Hamlet: Anybody can, I fear. Which is why I wrote it this way and the next one is the inner world meets outer world! Abstract Symphony are all blind improvisations based on musicians perception of common world concepts. I only put pieces together and played some drums and eventually bass to bind the images together.
Progman Rob: “Information Field” sounds like information overload.
Hamlet: I asked the guys to describe the internet.
Progman Rob: A lot of things pushing at you.
Hamlet: Note that here musicians had no idea what the others play, neither did I edit the tempos or the tonality – just put it together. Stefan Boeykens – acoustic guitar, Marco Ragni – keyboards, Darren Brush – chapman stick, Peter Matuchniak – frippian soundscapes, Elvya – dulcimer, Me – bass/drums. That’s the line up we used for this experiment. Also, Stef Flaming of Murky Red played on two tracks.
Progman Rob: An acoustic guitar trying to smooth it over before giving up. The internet is basically the human mind on overload anyway.
Hamlet: Indeed. That’s why its called “Information Field.” I don’t know if you heard of the theory of Neosphere?
Progman Rob: I haven’t.
Hamlet: That the human minds create a sort of “new dimension” of the atmosphere, totally made of thoughts and ideas?I think despite that it is obviously not quite a scientific theory, it does in one or another way exist.
Progman Rob: It does make sense on a very common sense level. “Saturate” is the next track.
Hamlet: I asked them to describe the strongest emotion.
Progman Rob: Blasts of guitars and powerful keys!
Hamlet: Marco Ragni decided that organ is the great way of describing BIG emotion, and I sort of abused it as the main frame of this song.
Progman Rob: It works on that level. Spoken word as well…
Hamlet: was Rachel’s idea. After the first playback she said it lacks the binding element.
Progman Rob: Many improvs do though.
Hamlet: So she uttered random words from one of the poems. It is not many, it is totally improved. As other Abstract Symphony pieces, it is blind.
Progman Rob: I love that last guitar riff and then it ends!!
Hamlet: Accepting the compliment but it does belong to Peter Matuchniak who did that!
Progman Rob: Damn him!
Hamlet: Ok, bass and drums were mine, so I take a bit of it too. I’m not much of a drummer, but knowing context sometimes serves better than being technically impeccable.
Progman Rob: “September” breaks from the “Abstract Symphony.” Why did you break from it?
Hamlet: I didn’t want it to be a classic prog 5 pieces epic.
Progman Rob: Yes because your twisted avant-garde will remind people of “Supper’s Ready.”
Hamlet: Also, because the themes evolve according to a classic panic attack dynamics, and the next Abstract Symphony is about pleasure that will later turn into a guilt.
Progman Rob: This is a very nice track.
Hamlet: I wrote it when I was 15. I love revamping old songs, because they often come before the time they should have.
Progman Rob: Wow so why go back and use it now?
Hamlet: Because often songs get born before they should have. The ideas are eternal, and sometimes they seem to mistake who to and when to come. Of course, it sounds richer now – i have years of experience and a fantastic line up!
Progman Rob: The vocal has a Devin Townsend quality so I like that. Also, I like the guitar solo as well.
Hamlet: Stefan Boeykens and his unique style. I’ve worked with him since 2008, he never lets me down! He’s not your typical guitar player, he tries to play like he is, not like anyone else. It’s very pure and it suits Transport Aerian entirely.
Progman Rob: I think you and your 15 year old self have a winner with this track.
Hamlet: Hahaha, I might have!
Progman Rob: A well written and arranged track.
Hamlet: And light. I mean, not as grave heavy as I normally do.
Progman Rob: That’s very true. I think you need to show your other sides.
And now, “Lovemeat.”
Hamlet: Abstract Symphony! Asked to describe a whore. Also asked Stef Flaming of Murky Red to play some guitar above the improvisation. The interesting point here is: the more abstract the concept I ask to describe the more “together’ the blind improv go. the more particular or subjective the concept – the more disjointed and wider the variation. In this case it was half: to check the variation field on a very subjective matter and the other half to make a song representing a desire that will drown the lyrical subject into the depths of guilt.
Progman Rob: A whore that’s nice?! Hmm, this isn’t what I would have expected…but then I am just starting and now it’s changing a bit. This track is definitely more “together.”
Hamlet: It was the biggest struggle to put this one up. Everyone had different idea! It’s a very subjective concept.
Progman Rob: It actually sounds like a written track and not improv at all, which is a complement. It has a Floydian vibe.
Hamlet: Stef and his guitar.
Progman Rob: Quite nice!!
Hamlet: I think it won’t be much of a secret that his soloing is very Floydian.
Progman Rob: The end is quite interesting but also works well.
Hamlet: The end is Peter Matuchniak’s acoustic guitar.
Progman Rob: It’s interesting that that piece is a bit of an island from the rest of the “suite.”
Hamlet: If I remember correctly he was telling me that playing the acoustic guitar like that feels “naked”. And I think his dynamics there add a lot of unexpected emotions.
Progman Rob: An unexpected ending to a nice piece.
Hamlet: I’m must be honest, I’m surprised you liked it! It was such a tough birth process I barely enjoy this track myself, although I admire the musician’s effort of representing this concept.
Progman Rob: Usually when other people don’t like something, I do. Artists included!
Hamlet: But Rob, that’s also related to me, and you know what dividing by zero often gives!
Progman Rob: hahaha! And “Eternal Guilt” is next…
Hamlet: Yes, a reason why the Symphony is spread. After pleasure comes guilt. In this case – primordial guilt that will never find the cure. All the song – only me and Darren Brush on Chapman’s stick so all the instruments that are not stick I played. And nope, drums aren’t fake, played on hybrid acoustic/electronic drumkit. (as in all the other songs, by the way)
Progman Rob: Rhis is what I think of when I think of you. A complex vocal. The venom is dripping.
Hamlet: I think vocally its the most “technical” piece, but I think my voice has a lot of different edges, and the anger one is probably the strongest.
Progman Rob: And kudos on your drumming “prowess.”
Hamlet: It’s super simple 4/4 beat but with a lot of creativity with sounds.
Progman Rob: It works for the song. This one is about the vocal and guitar line. Nothing should get in the way or else.
Hamlet: Yes, guilt can be devastating and to explain it, I chose the only suitable method.
Progman Rob: Guilt is something we all live with. The hard thing is not everyone admits it.
Hamlet: Yes, again. It’s an album about very personal demons, but they reside in anyone, which is what I was trying to show by combining the conventional and very personal songs with Abstract Symphony where the “outer” world was described. “Therianthrope” – is everyone.
Progman Rob: I think it does work to weave between those worlds on this album.
Hamlet: Yes, another answer to the question why not one 5 parts epic.
Progman Rob: It all becomes obvious eventually. “Poor Things Need (A Common Interest)” is part IV of the Symphony…
Hamlet: A mix between an Abstract Symphony and the song. It started as a blind imrpov, but it was so song-like so I made a lyric and vocal line (also some primitive drum beat and a bass line).
Progman Rob: Yeah there’s a direction to the music that lends itself to lyrics.
Hamlet: I asked the guys to describe pop music but I meant more than that.
Progman Rob: Pop music is more vapid than this!
Hamlet: It’s another sarcasm piece, also a bit on racism, on ignorance. “The human zoos and sunburned necks”… Did you know that there was a picture from something that almost turned into a human zoo from 68? It’s not even a half century ago.
Progman Rob: I didn’t know that but it’s not a surprise.
Hamlet: This song is for everybody who still want that back. And there are many. I saw the faces of people on these photographs. They enjoy it. They see nothing wrong with it. It’s only the modern laws that prevent them from doing it all again, not morals. Poor things. Need a common interest. And so do we.
Progman Rob: “Lions” is the next track.
Hamlet: The song is about alcoholism. I also wrote this one many years ago, and only now recorded properly.
Progman Rob: Guilt leads to alcoholism of course.
Hamlet: In fact, I allowed Marco, Peter, Stefan Boeykens, Darren and Stef to do whatever they want with a skeleton and they came up with a huge space arrangement. So I only credit the concept, vocals and percussion here as not much of the initial song left. But I think it works. And lyrics explain the rest.
Progman Rob: Yeah the music is very improv for one of the “song” pieces. A lot of tension on this one. We drink to quiet these demons and the music is a lot like those demons
Hamlet: Spot on.
Progman Rob: It helps that I used to drink I suppose.
Hamlet: I think I’m hitting all the buttons of the same issues. Either they’re universal, or you are hit by brothers of my demons or both, but I enjoy that you understand every concept with your skin.
Progman Rob: When you spend as much time in your own head as I do, there’s not much choice but to try to sort it out. And this end sounds like an attempt to sort it all out. Attempt, because it doesnt quite sound “sorted out” but a nice solo section.
Hamlet: Stef and his Floydian feeling again. The first part is soloed by Peter, much more aggressive. I must say, its unusual for me, but I enjoyed staying back and not playing guitar. These guys know how to pull the right strings.
Progman Rob: each solo works well in that section, edgy leading to more relaxed. They did a nice job there. And now “Immortals” which is Part V.
Hamlet: Yes. Can you guess what I asked to describe?
Progman Rob: Afterlife?
Progman Rob: OK close.
Hamlet: And everyone played in the same scale and in the same tonality. Darren said ‘but I’m an atheist!’. I said ‘describe the universe then.’ In fact, I wanted a piece about love. Just read/listen to the spoken word lyrics, and there are all that you need to know about this song.
Progman Rob: I guess the spoken word is needed since there’s a lot of space. But I am not a fan of spoken word in anything.
Hamlet: its more of a conceptual piece than musical. First of all, the fact of blind unity in description of such a cross-cultural concept is astonishing.
Progman Rob: It does make sense as a way to explain the song.
Hamlet: Second of all, its the idea of the only salvation, but very vulnerable one. Immortality of the moment of love, followed by and preceded by death, fear, pain. Love, that is. Everyone who experienced it, know what I try to describe, but fail. As many many artists before me. That’s why God. And that’s why immortals.
Progman Rob: Love is the one thing that SHOULD unite everyone but fear will always prevent that.
Hamlet: I think more of love between two people, rather than between all people. I don’t think unity of humanity is possible. I think momentary salvation in loving someone is possible. But then it brings the fear of loss.
Progman Rob: I agree with that.
Hamlet: And that’s how this album ends.
Progman Rob: With “Last Years of Peace.”
Hamlet: Yes. There is a Russian movie, which I quoted in lyrics. In this movie, an immortal wizard has a mortal wife. And at one point she goes to sleep and he stays at his books and whispers to himself “I’m immortal, I’m destined to outlive you… Praise the heroes, the brave who dare to love even with knowledge that it all will end.” And this is the main idea of this song. Last years of peace for you and for me – not for the world as there is no peace – war is everlasting. It’s about the moments of peace between two that is destined, doomed to be over.
Progman Rob: There’s a hopelessness once you realize that it must end. Everything has an expiration date including that kind of love. I love the instrumentation on this one.
Hamlet: Hopelessness and love come together, even in happy couples. For we are not immortals forever – just for the moments and yes, Stefan Boeykens on acoustic guitar, me on the rest and again Paul Sax and his violin, this time dueting with Elvya’s dulcimer in the ending section. I think they did astonishing job here.
Progman Rob: The dulcimer sounds perfect and the violin weaves around it.
Hamlet: She’s absolutely fantastic musician. Her solo album is probably the best independent album I’ve heard at all, so after hearing this I really wanted to work with her. Well, 3 years later it happened! And Paul just has it. His feeling of music is spiritual. He knows exactly what to play and when. I wish we could do some shows together one day, really.
Progman Rob: A very nice ending to the track. Peaceful but tense ending to the album too.
Hamlet: I don’t know if it’s peaceful. I think there’s a lot of pain in it, not even mine – Paul and Elvya finished for me what I started.
Progman Rob: That’s the tension I was hearing I guess. I think there’s a good flow to the album. I do agree with splitting up the more improvisational pieces. Also there are plenty of emotions that are well represented as well.
Hamlet: I think if you managed to understand the themes without me explaining much, then I succeeded with what I intended. Which is why this sit and talk format works for this one – its more of a statement than an album.
Progman Rob: I think so. And I like this approach as well. So when is “Therianthrope” out?
Hamlet: 17 November! Besides normal world wide digital release, we prepared a very special limited edition package. It’s hand-made, it has a separate artwork card for every song, and there are very few copies will be available. The best way to get one will be on Melodic revolution records store, mrrmusic.com (or to drop by one of the live shows, as I plan a set of some special, chamber and intimate ones to play this live).
Progman Rob: That should make for an interesting interpretation live!
Hamlet: I plan a three-piece line up, with a lot of ambience, acoustic instruments and probably violin or flute added. No drums, no rock-format shows; Only intimate poetic evenings.
Progman Rob: Hamlet, thanks for sharing the album with me. Thanks for thinking of me to be a part of this.
Hamlet: well big thanks for your time and for very in-depths conversation. I really enjoyed talking with you – nothing had to be explained at all.