BETWEEN A ROCK AND A PROG PLACE: PROGJECT's Jonathan Mover – "There's Definitely An Audience That Still Appreciates Prog…”

June 18, 2024, a month ago

By Greg Prato

feature hard rock heavy metal progject

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A PROG PLACE: PROGJECT's Jonathan Mover – "There's Definitely An Audience That Still Appreciates Prog…”

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, renowned/respected drummer Jonathan Mover – whose credits include Marillion, GTR, the Tubes, Joe Satriani, and Alice Cooper – discusses his latest project, ProgJect, which will tour in June 2024 and sees him joined by Alessandro Del Vecchio (lead vocals), Mike Keneally (guitar, vocals), Ryo Okumoto (keyboards), and Pete Griffin (bass, vocals).

How and when did ProgJect form? 

ProgJect came together in mid-2019 and was born from my experience playing with the Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box. In short, I got a last-minute rescue call to jump out on tour with them, while they were sorting out a visa issue for their drummer to get into the States. Right from the start, the minute I hit the stage and started playing all those Genesis songs that I grew up listening to, practicing to, and dreaming of playing one day, the seeds were sown, so that when I finished up with them, I knew I wanted to continue playing that music, prog music, in some way, shape or form. That being said, I didn't want to put together a 'tribute' band, per se. I wasn't interested in covering just one artist, and certainly had no interest in emulating or dressing like anyone, or using the exact same gear and playing the exact same drum fills in a tune, so the idea came to me to put together a 'tribute to a genre', instead of a single artist – I wanted to play all of my favorite prog, of which Genesis is just a part, amongst Yes, King Crimson, ELP, Gentle Giant, UK, Rush, Bruford, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, etc.    

As soon as I got back home from the tour, I got on the computer, as I do with everything I'm working on, and began mapping it all out. The name ProgJect came to me immediately, and from there, I began compiling a list of the artists I wanted to cover and the songs I wanted to play, as well as the instrumentation needed and names of various players to contact. I also started piecing together the ideas for the kit, which was very exciting, as I wanted to be as acoustically authentic as possible and avoid the use of electronics and samples. I put together a monstrosity that has a bit of everyone and everything in it. In order to cover Phil [Collins], Bill [Bruford], Carl [Palmer] and Neil [Peart], you're going to need lots of toms, and cymbals, as well as cowbells, woodblocks, tambourine, bongos, congas, wind chimes, bell tree, crotales, gong, glockenspiel, and of course, tubular bells! Needless to say, I'm having a blast playing all those parts every night and living the dream of my childhood.  

What can fans expect by attending the upcoming ProgJect shows? 

The fans can expect exactly what we've done from the beginning, which is to play the shit out of a wide variety of prog classics and epics from the "big four" – Genesis, Yes, Crimson and ELP – along with some Gentle Giant, UK, Rush, Floyd, Tull, Gabriel. And, within that framework, we take some liberty and creative license by playing some medleys that are full of surprises, as well as throwing in a few of our own bits and pieces and interpretations of the originals. And most exciting is this time out with Alessandro Del Vecchio onboard singing lead, we're able to expand the repertoire to include covering Rush, Yes and Kansas more authentically, as he has a four-and-a-half octave range and can hit all the notes!  

Which songs are you looking forward to playing the most? 

That's a question that gets asked a lot and is a tough one to answer, because we really do love playing the entire set and it's often difficult when having to decide what not to play, due to time constraints. But, for me, there are of course a few songs/medleys we do that are just so much fun for a drummer, that it's impossible not to love every second of playing them. Not in any particular order: "Firth Of Fifth/The Cinema Show" [Genesis], "In The Dead Of Night" [UK], "Lark's Tongues In Aspic, Pt. I & II" [King Crimson], "Cogs In Cogs" [Gentle Giant], and absolutely "The Bruford Medley" [Bruford] because Bill's parts are always so great – very clever and well thought out.  

Which songs prove to be the most challenging to pull off live? 

To be honest, nothing has really been difficult or very challenging to play from a musical perspective, but rather, we've been challenged and limited from a vocal perspective, as very few singers can pull off Yes and Kansas, and even fewer can pull off Rush. That being said, as mentioned, Alessandro has a range to cover everything, so we're now able to cover material that we've not been able to play in the past and are really looking forward to no longer having any material out of reach. But what can be challenging, is to unlearn and relearn some of the songs, since I've changed arrangements and parts, and/or have put together some pretty complex medleys that include many different sections. 

For example, as if Bruford's [the band] material wasn't complex enough to begin with, after learning something and listening to it one way for 35 years, I've taken five of my favorite Bruford songs – "Hell's Bells", "Abingdon Chasp", "Age of Information", "Sahara of Snow" and "Land's End" – sliced them, diced them, and re-arranged them into a medley, hence "The Bruford Medley", which really keeps you on your toes just remembering everything new and not instinctually playing what was originally recorded, and that you've been familiar with for a few decades.  

What will Travis Larson and Bill Bruford’s roles be at upcoming shows?  

Travis and Bill are both 'opening up' for us. Travis is an amazing guitarist, as well as a great guy to hang with, and is the perfect artist to play before us in that he's a solo act performing to tracks from his recordings. That works great for us due to the fact that we have so much gear, it's almost impossible to fit another band onstage with us. As for Bill, it seems a little strange to say he's 'opening up' for us, but what's happening there is Anil Prasad and Bill are going to basically have a chat, directed by Anil, who has a history as a journalist and author, which will also include some audience participation. So, it's more of an "Evening of Prog" with Bill Bruford and ProgJect, which is really interesting, because after we booked the two shows with Bill, I looked at the setlist just to see what we were playing that has him on it, and it turns out that about half of our set has Bill on drums. 

The Yes material is all Bill, the UK material is all Bill, most of the Crimson material is Bill, some of the Genesis material is Bill drumming with Phil, and of course, The Bruford band material. And, with that, we're all very excited to have Bill there checking us out. A couple of years ago when playing NYC, we had Eddie Jobson and Derek Schulman in the audience and then back stage, which was obvious a thrill for us all. And then found out that Robert Fripp had seen a video clip of us covering "Lark's" and posted it on his feed online and gave us a thumbs up. Very cool!  

What is your favorite prog album of all-time and why? 

That's actually an easy one! UK [UK] is a desert-island disc for me. Why, because it's the perfect combination of everything I want, need and love in music. It's got the production, the compositions, the lyrics, the solos, the parts, the dynamics, the time signatures, the vocals, the individual sounds of the instruments, etc., and when listening to it, it takes me on a journey, or, I should say, several journeys, as each song is a different story and aural soundscape. The exact same reasons that The Beatles and Frank Zappa are my favorite artists...they give me everything I could ever want in music from an artist. 

When I got that record, it lived on my turntable longer than any other record from any other artist. Each time I played it, I heard something new, and it never got old. Even today, it stands up one-hundred percent in every way and with everything I mentioned. It's a perfect record as far as I'm concerned. AND... it was recorded/mixed in December 1978 to January 1979, in about one month's time, to analog tape; no Pro Tools, no samples, no digital copy/cut/paste – those guys could play! UK is a true 'supergroup' in every sense of the word.  

Is prog alive and well in 2024? 

Well, no pun intended, fortunately, it is alive enough for us to tour and play the music we love to play. In the bigger picture, I think prog is very much alive, but unfortunately, the artists are fading away. The last Genesis tour had them selling out stadiums and their audiences heard a great mix of their history, from heavy prog to pop prog. Peter Gabriel just had a hugely successful tour. The last King Crimson tour was a monster as well. And even though they aren't as big as they used to be, artists such as Yes, Jethro Tull, Kansas and Carl Palmer (ELP Legacy) are still out there playing quite a bit.   

Of course, you have your diehard prog fans that are older, and have been listening to prog for decades and probably saw a lot of the bands that we're covering, but we're also meeting many younger fans and musicians at our shows too, that got turned onto prog in one way or another, and although they most likely did not get the chance to see the original artists they're now listening to, they're at least getting a taste of hearing it and seeing it 'live' through us. So, there's definitely an audience that still appreciates prog and the players that perform it, and hopefully, we can help keep that flame lit for a while.

ProgJect live dates and ticket ordering information is available at progject.com.

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A PROG PLACE NEWS BLAST

Symphonic metallists Rhapsody Of Fire recently released their latest studio effort, Challenge The Wind, and to mark its release, have also issued a new lyric video for the track “Mastered By The Dark,” which can be viewed below. Described as merging 'complex progressive elements and melodic heavy metal,' Evergrey recently issued their fourteenth studio effort this month, Theories of Emptiness, which can be ordered here.

Although seemingly thought primarily of as either mod rockers, proto punks, or arena rockers, there's no denying that the Who certainly had their proggy moments – in particular, the 1973 double LP concept album, Quadrophenia. And soon, two archival releases by members will be issued. First up will be the arrival of Pete Townshend's Live in Concert 1985-2001, which is a 14-CD behemoth, and features none other than David Gilmour on live recordings from November 1 and 2, 1985. And second is the arrival of John Entwistle's Rarities Oxhumed Volume Two, which will arrive on August 2nd but can already be pre-ordered.

Instrumental proggers Sometime in February recently signed on with InsideOutMusic, will be playing a handful of shows in July, and have unveiled a new track, “Hiding Place,” which can be heard below. Caligula's Horse recently issued a 'digital deluxe edition' of their album Charcoal Grade, which features instrumental tracks. 

Italian prog-metal fusionists Asymmetic Universe recently issued a new single, “Don't Go Too Early,” for which a video can be viewed here. Swedish folkloric progressive rock band Kaipa recently issued their new album, Sommargryningsljus, and have issued a new single, 'Revelationview.'

JUNE 2024 NEW ALBUMS

June 1
Sonus Umbra: Whiteout

June 6
Caligula's Horse: Charcoal Grade [Digital Deluxe Edition]
HFMC: Eternal Snapshots 

June 7
Evergrey: Theories Of Emptiness

June 11
Izz: Collapse the Wave

June 21
Jethro Tull: Bursting Out- The Inflated Edition (expanded 3CD/3DVD reissue)
Marillion: An Hour Before It's Dark- Live in Port Zelande 2023 (2CD set)
Frank Zappa: Whisky a Go Go, 1968 (3CD set)

June 28
Kaipa: Sommargryningsljus
Yes: Fragile (Super Deluxe Edition)

CLASSIC CLIPS

Jonathan Mover wasn't kidding about ProgJect taking the material seriously that they choose to cover. Here is the group from 2022, when the line-up was comprised of Michael Sadler, Ryo Okumoto, Jason Bieler, Matt Dorsey, and Jonathan Mover, performing three separate prog classics that you are sure to instantly recognize. 



Latest Reviews