Between A Rock And A Prog Place: JASON BIELER AND THE BARON VON BIELSKI ORCHESTRA – “Sorry, What Was The Question?”
March 28, 2023, 11 months ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords’ monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, we speak to Jason Bieler of Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra, who discusses the new album Postcards From The Asylum, prog, and how this band differs from the one he’s best known for – melodic metallists Saigon Kick.
Do you consider Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra to be a prog band?
“I really don’t think about genres, some might accuse me of not thinking at all, but I respond to those nasty allegations by simply not thinking about them either. I think about things that excite me, like sushi, frolicking, prancing and creative ways to murder the guy who uses the leaf blower near the studio! Occasionally, even music. I do think there is a parallel between what I do and prog in the sense that I like to ignore typical structures and songwriting rules…although I have never played dungeons and dragons. I'm a riddle wrapped in song, I tell ya!”
Which tunes would you consider the most proggy, and why?
“It’s a great question but one better suited for someone listening to answer. I just focus on writing songs and wearing sequined capes...and if the songs happen to be more ambitious or adventurous, then so be it. I never sit down and try to be clever, or think, ‘How could I make this more prog?’ – which is probably why the prog community has been so very kind to me. I never intentionally tried to woo them, I just seduced them with charm, snark, nonsense and song! Which by the way, would be an awesome band name – ‘Charm, Snark, Nonsense and Song.’ I may have inadvertently just named the next BVBO record, so please be aware by the time this is released I will have trademarked it and will have a team of lawyers at the ready to pounce upon anyone infringing!”
Did you set out to launch a project with challenging material?
“Not really. I just set out to make things that I want to hear, the fact that others like the music is amazing and appreciated but never the motive. Usually when I set out to make things everyone else wants to hear, you wind up with ‘Love Is On The Way.’ And while it did serve the great purpose of paying for two college educations (clearly not mine), horseback lessons, travel hockey, the privilege of by bi-coastal living, house staff, etc., sure one could claim it was not musically adventurous or cutting edge. But screw those people – those bastard journalist kids probably couldn’t afford horseback riding or fine lotions and creams…so who is the clever one now! Sorry, what was the question? I’ll be right back, Renaldo is here with my gelato.”
Who are some of the special guests on Postcards From The Asylum, and what did they bring to the recording?
“I’ve been so lucky to work with amazingly talented musicians over both this and the last record. On this new record, Marco Minnemann, Todd Kerns, Ryo Okumoto, Andee Blacksugar, Edu Cominato, Ricky Sanders, and Chris McLernon all bring a dimension, depth and vibe to the music. Andee is really like my right hand man, ironically Andee is left handed so that might explain somethings musically in terms of how we work together and why we can’t sit next to each other while eating foods that involve dipping sauces without making a real mess of things. He is also in my opinion a genius guitarist! Wait, that is not my opinion it is a fact. Fight me! Edu is so wonderfully talented – just a tremendous drummer. I think he feels the same about me…although I’m not sure, he is from Brazil and I have honestly not understood one thing he has ever said to me. But wonderful player! Obviously all the guys are epic in their own ways. Just a total thrill to work with them. Very inspiring players and even better people!”
Do you think fans of the band who are unfamiliar with your previous work may be surprised to learn you are also member of Saigon Kick?
“In the same way I was surprised to find out about Vanessa Williams having some older risqué photos pop up. At first there was shock, then wow, then a whole lot of ‘You go girl!’ So I would assume samesies in that sense. I don’t want to speak for them but it is super neat to be at this point in my career, feeling like a whole new group of people are discovering what I do for the first time, and then also to have the people who have been along for the entire ride since the SK days. Pretty, pretty, pretty good!”
How does the songwriting and recording process differ with Jason Bieler and the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra compare to Saigon Kick?
“I am a huge fan of working and writing with me and the voices in my head, always have been. I’ve always been a spoiled toddler when it comes to creativity – I want to play with my toys exactly how I want to. And if that means the Lego fire truck is now a spaceship, then that is what it is. In the song sense, of course.”
“I am a massive fan of breathing – I find myself doing it all day and all night, I never stop! In and out and in and out. I think I would like to continue doing it for as long as possible.”
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Prog legends Jethro Tull return this month with their 23rd studio set overall, RökFlöte (which in case you were wondering, is pronounced ‘rock flute’), and a new video has been issued for the track “The Navigators,” which can be viewed below. Another veteran prog artist, Steve Hackett, will be back performing throughout North America in the fall, as part of the Genesis Revisited: Foxtrot and Fifty + Hackett Highlights Tour – tickets can be purchased here.
Big Big Train has shared a live performance of “The Florentine” in advance of their The Journey Continues Tour, which can already be viewed. And you’ll be able to catch another veteran prog musician live soon – keyboardist Derek Sherinian – as it’s been announced that he will be performing with Joe Satriani’s band for two shows this summer (July 1st at Jones Beach Amphitheater and July 2nd at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts).
‘Does humor belong in music?’ was once a question that the late/great Frank Zappa asked – and Austrian funk-prog metallists apparently agree wholeheartedly, as evidenced within the video for their new tune, “Peeping-Bear’s Exegesis of Not Peeping,” which can be viewed below. German proggers RPWL recently issued their lates LP, Crime Scene, and have also presented us with a video for the track ‘A Cold Spring Day in ’22.’
Norway’s Avkrvst have issued their first-ever single ‘The Pale Moon,’ which will be included on their debut album for InsideOutMusic/Sony sometime later this year. And lastly, symphonic metallists Kamelot issued a third single, ‘Eventide,’ from their recently-released first full-length in five years, The Awakening.
April 2023 New Albums
M-Opus - At The Mercy Of Manannán
Aisles - Beyond Drama
Steve Thorne - Malice In Plunderland
Jethro Tull - RökFlöte
The Mars Volta - Que Dios Te Maldiga Mi Corazon
King's X - In The New Age: The Atlantic Recordings 1988-1995
Although they were known first and foremost as a grunge band, there is no denying that Soundgarden certainly had their proggy moments (especially with such odd-time signatured tunes as “Limo Wreck,” “The Day I Tried To Live,” “Feel On Black Days,” etc.). But probably their most artsy and proggy tune was this oft-overlooked ditty from their 1996 offering, Down On The Upside.