Between A Rock And A Prog Place: NEAL MORSE BAND’s BILL HUBAUER – “You Can Find The Things You Love About Prog In Many Unexpected Places!”
May 3, 2023, a month 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 Neal Morse Band keyboardist Bill Hubauer about his other project, We Came from Space (who recently issued their latest album, Overlords, available both digitally and physically), as well as his favorite prog – both past and present.
How and when did We Came From Space form?
“Sometime around 2010, I reconnected with childhood friend Dave Buzard, and we decided we should make some music together. We wanted to create music that would be reminiscent of the styles of the kinds of records we would have listened to together in high school. I think we achieved that goal.”
How does the band compare to the Neal Morse Band?
“Stylistically, you might find some similarities to specific sections of specific songs, but overall, I think there is very little comparison. I think the point of a band is that the combination of personalities, musical backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses work together to create something unique – something that only that combination could have produced. Three of the songs from Overlords were originally written as possible Neal Morse Band songs. At that time, we had so much Neal Morse Band material that we never really got around to trying them. The Neal Morse Band versions would probably be unrecognizable compared to our versions. Not better or worse, just different.”
How does Overlords differ from previous We Came From Space albums?
“Even though this is technically our third album, it's only the second with this line-up, and we are all really happy with the evolution. One thing for sure is that we allowed ourselves to stretch out more on this album. Our mantra for the first album was ‘make it shorter – what can we cut out?’ But on Overlords, it's more like ‘Let's explore the space!’ While we do bring in individual ideas, there was much more group collaboration on the writing process.”
Please discuss the song "She’s The Bomb," for which a video was made.
“‘She's The Bomb’/‘Atomic Blues’ is a great example of the group writing process. Dave Buzard brought in the rough verse/chorus idea, then, through a number of improvisational jam sessions based on his idea, the final result emerged. ‘Atomic Blues’ was a much longer jam when we first recorded it, but we edited it down a bit to make a more concise instrumental for the record.”
What is the trickiest composition for you to play out of all the projects you’re a member of?
“That's hard – usually by the end of a tour, they all seem easy because you've played them so much. Probably ‘The Battle’ from Neal Morse Band's Similitude of a Dream is the most technically challenging. But honestly, it's always the slow songs that are the hardest to play perfectly. Because you don't have to concentrate so hard on what you are playing, your mind can wander and you end up playing the wrong chord or switching to the wrong sound at the wrong time. On the last tour with Neal Morse Band, the beginning of ‘Beyond the Years’ was nerve wracking. I'm very exposed – playing the orchestra introduction and singing by myself – no place to hide! If I hit the wrong notes, it's quite obvious.”
Who was your favorite prog keyboardist of all-time?
“Sorry, I can't do just one, and if you ask me on a different day, you might get a different list. For composition, Tony Banks is my number one. He is the master of chord progressions and kind of ‘less is more’ player. For emotional performance, T Lavitz (RIP) from the Dixie Dregs was always one of my favorites. And from the early inspiration category, I'm going to say Dennis DeYoung from Styx. His Oberheim synth playing from the late 70's Styx albums was incredibly influential to my impressionable teenage musical mind.”
Is prog alive and well in 2023?
“Yes! I put it into three categories. First, you have classic prog bands from the 70s that are still out there. Secondly, there are many younger (only slightly, in some cases) making new prog music very much in the style of the classic 70s bands (I put Neal Morse Band and We Came from Space into the category). To me, however, the most interesting category are the much younger (more mainstream) bands who are fusing prog elements into their primary genre. There are a lot of pop bands for example who are doing some really interesting things. Check out Marianas Trench's 2019 album Phantoms – it's a very good ‘pop’ album, however, listen to the first and last tracks back to back. Someone was listening to his dad's Queen albums! Another example is the song ‘Work Shit Out’ from Dirty Loops. Total pop, but you get this unbelievable middle progged out fusion jam section. If you have an open mind, you can find the things you love about prog in many unexpected places!”
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A PROG PLACE NEWS BLAST
Fates Warning singer Ray Alder will be issuing his second solo album overall, II, on June 9 (already available for preorder a lyric video for the track “This Hollow Shell” can be viewed below. The sole surviving member of ELP, drummer Carl Palmer, will be launching The Return of Emerson Lake & Palmer 2023 summer tour on July 8, with tour dates/ticket info available here.
Denmark’s prog/power metallists Pyramaze return on June 23 with Bloodlines (a video clip for the tune “Fortress” was recently released). Israeli prog metallists Neolia will be issuing a self-titled release this month, and a live video for the tune “Your Prophecy” has been offered.
Big Big Train recently shared a live performance of “The First Rebreather” (as seen below) in advance of upcoming tour – for which tickets can be obtained here. ‘Instrumental psych rockers’ is definitely a fitting description for Night Fishing, who have issued their debut EP, Live Bait (as well as an in-studio performance video for the tune “No Services”).
Prog rock trio Poh Hock have issued a new EP, Gallimaufry, as well as an official video for their complex ditty “I Don’t”. Lastly, Norwegian proggers Avkrvst will be issuing their debut full-length, The Approbation, on June 16, with the album’s first single/video, “The Pale Moon,” already viewable.
May 2023 New Albums
Currents- The Death We Seek
Dave Lombardo- Rites Of Percussion
Lumsk- Fremmede Toner
Vintersea- Woven Into Ashes
Arjen Lucassen's Supersonic Revolution- Golden Age Of Music
The Ocean- Holocene
Yes- Mirror To The Sky
Mr. Hubauer was not pulling our leg when he listed original Styx singer/keyboardist Dennis DeYoung as a standout prog ivory-tickler. Having a hard time look past such mainstream DeYoung-sung Styx hits of yesteryear as “Babe,” “The Best Of Times,” and “Mr. Roboto”? Then feast your eyes/ears on this clip from five years ago…