.......INTERVIEW
. with members of the North American Progressive Rock Band METAPHOR
.                                       by Sergio Motta, Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Sergio Motta - As I understand it, Metaphor has been active since the last decade. Have you
kept the band name as Metaphor from that time?

Malcolm Smith: When we first formed as a Genesis tribute band, we kicked around several names, and decided to stick with Metaphor. 

Marc Spooner: I didn't want to have an obviously Genesis-derived name (like the Musical Box, Grand Parade, etc.), though I remember that “The Soil” was suggested - I liked that one.

Jim Anderson: The band was already named by the time I joined.  I didn’t have any choice.  In fact, it was only because they were named Metaphor that I joined.  If they had been named “Squirrel Enema” I might have kept looking.

Malcolm Smith: …which is of course another Genesis-derived name.

John Mabry: I wanted to change the name to Mayflower Gorillas, but no one would budge. Puritan Apes didn't fly either. Next month I'll suggest Plymouth Chimps, but I have little hope.

Malcolm Smith: I’d go for Pilgrim Primate..

While you were a cover band, which of you definitely sat down and said: “Hey guys, what
about composing and performing our own repertoire from now on"?
Marc Spooner: Malcolm always had a few songs in his back pocket (the ones that became Seed and In the Cave) and played me tapes of them.

Malcolm Smith: Plus, I had a lot of raw material that I brought to Marc with the idea that we’d move into all original music. To me, that was the intent all along - a tricky way to find other musicians of like-mind!

I know while being a cover band, you were doing only the Genesis songs from the Gabriel
era. What is your impression of the Genesis music of the Collins era?
Marc Spooner: I always thought ‘’Trick of the Tail’’ was an unqualified masterpiece. ‘’Wind and Wuthering’’ is about 85% great. I always had a soft spot for ‘’And Then There Were Three’’. I like ‘’Duke’’ in parts and same with ‘’Abacab’’. After that, I can't really listen to them. Whatever the era, they were always a great live band. 

Jim Anderson:  Really?  I can’t listen to ‘’Abacab’’, in fact I think I sold it!  But I never had a chance to see them live until the following tour, I guess it was the “Genesis” tour, which was fantastic!  Each of the different Genesis eras had their moments.

John Mabry: I'm actually very influenced by the Collins era, and came to my appreciation of Genesis through Phil's era, and working backwards. As the singer, I kind of see my role as "finding the pop" in the progressive pie the rest of the guys have served up. Coming up with hummable, catchy melodies to sing on top of the very complicated and sometimes dissonant musical textures we write is often not easy, and I draw more on Phil's ghost than Peter's in this task.

Concerning the ‘’Starfooted‘’ album, I have had the opportunity of reading some reviews
of it, and as far as I could see, it was very well received by most prog fans. How does a
musician basically feel right before having his very first album thrown into the market?
Is there any sort of apprehension towards the acceptance of his work by the listeners?
John Mabry: We were shaking in our boots! At least I know I was. It's very scary, like going out on stage naked. Without your teddy bear. Fortunately, most people were very kind. We only got one bad review for ‘’Starfooted’’, as I recall, and what do the Kurdistanis know, anyway?

Malcolm Smith: The funny thing is that many reviews mention bands and other artists as comparison or even influences on our music, when in some case one or more of us has never even heard that material!

Marc Spooner: I was nervous as hell! Total apprehension. I was just glad to be acknowledged. And the fact that people really liked it was just extra special. I'm still excited to see our CDs in the vendors' boxes at NearFest.

Malcolm Smith: Of course we wanted the music to be accepted by the prog rock community, but we’re careful about not trying to produce music that we think will please anyone except ourselves. 

Jim Anderson: Actually I became a big fan of this album right before I joined the band. 

Malcolm Smith: That was a requirement of the audition!

Jim Anderson: For me it was one of those CDs that only comes along every few years--it didn’t leave my CD player for weeks!  It was only then I heard they were looking for a new bass player.  These guys actually pulled me out of retirement!  “Starfooted” was a great, fun album for us to play and practice as we started writing for “Entertaining Thanatos”.

Some reviewers of your second CD “Entertaining Thanatos” have strongly taken its
sonority as being very close to that of Genesis. I personally disagree and would say it is a
bit closer to the Neo-Prog direction on many aspects, in some of the keyboard passages
for instance, and I quote bands like Arena and Grey Lady Down as a lively reference.
Would you personally take it as a progression or were you intentionally trying to get rid
of the old roots?
Malcolm Smith: The material on “Entertaining Thanatos” has in many ways moved away from the Genesis influence...

John Mabry: I think we were very consciously trying to forge an original identity. We’ve kept that basic Genesis sound-palette, but we have far less overt mimicry on this CD, which is a departure from ‘’Starfooted’’, which sometimes borders on pastiche.

Malcolm Smith: Well, our hope is that we’re developing more of our own identifiable style. I wouldn’t call it neo-prog, it’s simply music.

Marc Spooner: I'd much rather be accused of being influenced by Genesis than any neo-prog band. Form what I've heard of some neo (and I'm no fan) I don't really think we sound like that much at all. 

Malcolm Smith: There are so many sub-genres of prog rock, I think our music crosses into a few of them.

Marc Spooner: All these definitions and labels are slippery and have limited use. Not to mention many critics are lazy and also have to write their reviews after only one listen to a new CD, so their impressions are often shallow. All good music requires many hearings to get what is really going on.

Clearly, ‘’Starfooted’’ and ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’ are successful works. Has the success
of those two CDs brought the band a certain recognition, requests for gigs, label interest,
or other positive professional results?
John Mabry: It brought us a lot of personal pride, and plenty of praise from our peers. It has also given us a lot of confidence, like, "Oh, a critically-acclaimed album--we can do THAT. Give us something hard!" I'm sort of kidding. ‘’STARFOOTED’’ was SO well received, we were a bit daunted to follow it up. Fortunately, we had so much material written and in rehearsal when it finally did hit that we didn't spend too much time agonizing over it.

Malcolm Smith: It’s also resulted in us being asked to provide songs on a number of compilation CDs, and we get the occasional interview request.  Distributors and reviewers know who we are..

From what countries does your music receive the most positive reviews?
Malcolm Smith: Both our CDs have received good reviews from around the world, maybe the most positive ones for ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’ are from France and the USA, so far.

Marc Spooner: I’d say Europe and South America seems to be where we are gaining the best reviews for ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’.

Jim Anderson: I’ve been told we’re big down under.

Lyrics for some of the songs on ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’ were based on mythological
tales. Will you be making use of any other literature on forthcoming albums by Metaphor?
Marc Spooner: Yes, the next CD will be based on the novel, "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell.

John Mabry: It’ll be a rock opera, like ‘’STARFOOTED’’, and it will be one long story. As the lyricist, I really like using mythology and stories to base the libretto on. Mostly because myth and literature is so rich, and the human experience so universal, that I can usually find some personal drama in almost any story. Like Galatea 3.3 on the new CD. I never had any real resonance for that story. Marc just threw it out one night, and so I went home, reread the myth, and started riffing on it. Eventually it hooked into an experience in my own life, and the lyrics came together very quickly after that. About half of the lyrics are written for our adaptation of The Sparrow, and most of the music.

Your first CD was released by Galileo Records, a label from far-off Switzerland, and
‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’ is released on your own label, TropeAudio. Did you receive any
offer from labels in your own country?
Marc Spooner: Most prog labels are either not interested or cannot offer a good enough deal to make it worthwhile for us financially. In other words, we'd take all the risk. So that's what we did for Thanatos - took all the risk and released it ourselves.

Malcolm Smith: We did receive a few offers from other labels, for ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’.

Jim Anderson: U.S. labels and others!

John Mabry: Nobody will touch us. It could be the poison ivy, though.

Malcolm Smith: Galileo was great for ‘’Starfooted’’ - we were that label’s second release and we really appreciated their enthusiasm and excitement about the music.!

Concerning the current live performances, do you still play out any Genesis tunes when
asked by the audience, or do you only play out your own songs now?
John Mabry: Live! Ha! You make me laugh.

Malcolm Smith: With our work and family and lives, it’s tough to find the time to write, rehearse, and record, let alone gig. 

Marc Spooner: We don't play live at all, sadly. 

Jim Anderson: I keep hoping we’re just waiting for a better offer!

Malcolm Smith: For a live performance, we have more than enough original music to choose from.

Marc Spooner: If we did play out, it would be only Metaphor songs.

Malcolm Smith: Even Peter Gabriel doesn’t play Genesis songs anymore!

I understand that ‘’Starfooted’’ is being distributed here in Brazil by Rock Symphony
Records. Are you aware of its acceptance here and also around other South American
countries?
Marc Spooner: Yes, we were thrilled to have ‘’Starfooted’’ licensed by Rock Symphony and hope that your review and this interview will help sales of ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’. It's great to have fans in South America!

John Mabry: We were very pleased when Rock Symphony picked it up, but we have no idea how many have been sold. 

Malcolm Smith: Both our CDs have done well in South America, thank you!

John Mabry: We do feel lucky to be represented by Rock Symphony, and to be available to South American prog fans. Now if only Rock Symphony would answer our e-mails!

Just to close our interview, would you like to impart any message for all those who
appreciate not only the music by Metaphor, but the Progressive Rock music in a
general way?
Marc Spooner: Keep listening, keep buying, keep caring about it, and don't let anyone tell you what you should be listening to.

Jim Anderson: Music is a universal language.  Progressive Rock in general knows no borders. I hope you enjoy ours!

Malcolm Smith: Let me just say to our Brazilian fans: Obrigado lendo esta entrevista! Nós esperamos que vocês apreciem ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’, e ‘’Starfooted’’. Com os  melhores desejos do pessoal do grupo Metaphor! (sorry if I insulted anyone!)

John Mabry: Thank you for listening, and for allowing us to contribute in our small way to this wonderful music that we all love so much. Prog may never be commercial again, but it is music that feeds the souls of millions, and we are honored to be a part of it.

 
Sergio Motta
is a friend and partiner from the Progressive Rock And Progressive Metal Site

Jim Anderson - Bass Guitar and other low frequencies
John Mabry - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Marc Spooner - Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Mellotron & Synthesizers
Malcolm Smith - Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Guitar Synthesizer, Flute and Backing Vocals

Greg Miller, Drummer with the fine Bay Area band "Mind Furniture", will be guest drummer on their upcoming 3rd CD.

with guests: Feffrey Baker & Bob Koehler - Drums

Discography:
"Starfooted" June, 2000
"Entertaining Thanatos", February, 2004

Metaphor Home Page
http://www.metaphor.org

Metaphor History
The "Genesis" (sorry for the pun!) of Metaphor: In 1993, San Jose guitarist Malcolm Smith placed the following advertisment in BAM Magazine (San Francisco Bay Area):

"Hackett seeks Banks,
Rutherford, Gabriel, Collins.
Object: Suppers Ready."

Only a very few people either 1) understood the ad, and/or 2) responded. Despite the cryptic nature of the ad, Metaphor was formed with keyboardist Marc Spooner, drummer Bob Koehler, and brothers Vince and Robert Montia on bass and vocals. This first version of Metaphor specialized in performing the music of "classic" Genesis, from the so-called Gabriel Era of 1970 to 1974.

Though rehearsals were sporadic and "real life" continued to interrupt, Metaphor fully realized over three hours of this very creative and challenging music, as a tribute to the music of classic Genesis.

Following two successful performances, the band decided to drop the Genesis material and pursue original, uncompromising, progressive music. In 1996, a search began for a new bass player and singer, to replace Vince and Robert who left to pursue other creative endeavors.

In 1997, Jim Post joined as the bassist, and John Mabry as vocalist/lyricist. Rehearsals began with much of the music written by Malcolm and Marc, as well as a piece penned by Bob and two by John. Recording for Metaphor's debut CD began in fall of 1998.

In 1999, Metaphor completed recording its debut CD, "Starfooted", at Suspect Studios in Sunnyvale, California, and subsequently signed a record contract with Galileo Records, a Swiss progressive rock record label. Galileo released Starfooted in April, 2000 to very positive reviews.

In July, 2000 bassist Jim Post decided to leave the band in order to focus on other endeavors. The band fortunately found a wonderful replacement in Jim Anderson, who now handles all bass and bass pedals duties.

In 2001, Metaphor focused its limited time on writing and arranging a lot of new material. At the same time, recording of two new songs took place, one of which will appear on the BayProg compilation CD, to be distributed in the Spring, 2002 issue of Expose Magazine.

After the recording sessions for the two new songs, in late 2001 drummer Bob Koehler, one of the original members of Metaphor, informed the band that he was ready to move on and focus on other priorities in his life. Metaphor in 2002 auditioned a number of drummers to fill the spot, and welcomed Jeff Baker as guest drummer for its second CD, "Entertaining Thanatos" released in spring of 2004.

Throughout 2004, Metaphor wrote, arranged, and began rehearsing a 3rd CD's-worth of material.

What is Metaphor music?
Like a lot of quality progressive rock being produced today, the original music of Metaphor is not easy to classify into a single genre. It (hopefully) is not too derivative of any particular band, although the influence of a number of classic (as well as lesser known) progressive rock bands can be discerned.

Progressive music itself is well-described by writer and prog afficionado Bradley Smith as,
"An art form...concerned with abstraction and introspection, rather than with the commercially-driven trends and fashions that shape works created purely for entertainment. Progressive music always looks forward,striving to be new and different, dissenting vigorously from the current musical establishment. Like all serious art, it is a challenge to the senses, and like all serious music, it requires active listening."

That description can certainly be applied to Metaphor. Creativity, interesting and changing moods, alternating time signatures, quality musicianship, and a commitment to creating music of our own design, regardless of commercial potential (or lack thereof!), are also apt descriptions of Metaphor.
 

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