July , 2013
By Vinny Cecolini
Sound Of Contact
The Progressive Revivalists Take Flight
JAM Magazine Interviews Dave Kerzner and Simon Collins
With the release of the album Dimensionaut, Sound of Contact has released one of this year's rare musical treasures. By reinterpreting different creative aspects of their mainly '70s prog-rock influences including Pink Floyd, early Genesis, Mike Oldfield and the Alan Parsons Project, into a refreshingly original progressive rock sound, the group has created a surprisingly surreal effect that is sure to catch many off guard in a very pleasant way.
Sit in a darkened room, clear your mind and follow Dimensionaut on its meditative journey through time and space. The mission, if you dare to take it, is to expand the boundaries of the human experience. Musically and lyrically, Sound of Contact paint a vivid, dreamlike soundscape that makes you feel as if you're floating alongside the title character.
The first time you experience the music on this album, you'll be struck by the mesmerizing, yet familiar lead vocals. The singer is Simon Collins, who in addition to releasing three critically acclaimed solo records, is the son of former Genesis drummer and front man Phil Collins. Proof indeed that talent is hereditary, his sister is actress Lily, who starred as Collins Tuohy in the Academy Award nominated movie, The Blind Side.
Formed in 2009, Sound of Contact also features guitarist/bassist Matt Dorsey and keyboardist David Kerzner. In the studio, the trio is joined by guitarist/bassist Kelly Nordstrom. The group will undertake a tour of the U.S. in August and will perform the entire 73-minute Dimensionaut. At the end of the show, a variety of musicians on the bill will come on stage to perform a medley of timeless progressive rock classics.
JAM: How did Sound of Contact come about?
Dave Kerzner - The seeds were planted in 2006 when I met Simon, oddly enough, at a Genesis rehearsal. He was visiting his dad and I was with my company Sonic Reality discussing keyboard sounds with Tony Banks. Simon and I immediately hit it off and decided work on a song called "Keep It Dark" (originally written and recorded for the Genesis album Abacab, 1981) as a tribute to his father's band on their 40th anniversary. Then we worked together on Simon's 2008 solo album, U-Catastrophe. I played keyboards and collaborated with Simon and producer Kevin Churko on "The Big Bang," which featured a drum duel between Simon and his dad.
Bassist/guitarist Kelly Nordstrom worked on two of Simon's solo records and bassist/guitarist Matt Dorsey was part of the U-Catastrophe touring lineup. Sound of Contact came together in 2009 when we all wondered what it would like to form a band.
JAM: The release of a concept record is especially daring in these times. Why risk it?
Dave - It may seem ambitious if you look at Sound of Contact as a new band. To us however, because we've been together for so long, this project feels like our second or third record. It is 73 minutes long and features a ton of material.
Simon Collins - We consider ourselves a band that can bring the concept record back. Genesis and Pink Floyd produced classic records of which we're big fans. Some of the recordings they made are considered the Holy Grail of progressive rock. This type of project is something I wanted to do for a long time. It was just a matter of getting together with the right people. We knew we shared similar inspirations, including science fiction novels and films. We're all Carl Sagan fans and drew inspiration from his work. It was interesting to jump into the deep end together and start collaborating. It was one of the most profound and creative experience I have been a part of in a studio; an amazing way to kick off the band.
JAM: How much pressure did you experience while writing and recording Dimensionaut?
Simon: We did everything independently during the process, so we didn't feel any pressure. We came on-board with our label, InsideOut Music, after we finished the record.
JAM: InsideOut Music is the ideal independent label for Sound of Contact.
Simon: I believe so. As soon as the label heard our music, they were excited to work with us. It just made sense for us to sign with them, so they could get the record out to the right audience.
JAM: What is the biggest difference between being a band member and being a solo artist?
Simon: Solo records are very personal. Sound of Contact is my way of taking a breather from that personal world. On my last album, I sang about personal things I'm not comfortable speaking about. To come into this band and write about a fictional character was great. Sure, we've injected our own life experiences into the character, but being part of something bigger than yourself and doing it in a selfless way was appealing and refreshing.
Dave: When I worked with Simon on his last solo record, we sent tracks back and forth to each other. I was not always there. Both Simon and I played keyboards and our roles were blurred. Our roles in Sound of Contact are defined. I'm the keyboard player. Simon sings and plays the drums. On a solo record, you might overdub and layer certain parts. As a band, we're in the room together and playing. A lot of Dimensionaut's tracks come from us playing off of each other; jamming together in the studio. That's what gives this record a "band sound."
JAM: Simon brought the Dimensionaut concept to the band?
Dave: He came to the three of us and said, "We have to do a story about a 'Dimensionaut.' Let's do a concept album. Let's do it as a band." We all chipped in to build the story.
Simon: My intention was to go back to my roots. My musical education was Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes. That's something you want to do with a band.
JAM: Simon, how long had you been developing the Dimensionaut concept before bringing it to the other band members?
Simon: Kelly and I started working on it immediately after the conclusion of the U-Catastrophe tour. We were working at my company, Light Years Music, and thinking about the next step. We brainstormed on ideas. We decided we wanted to build a story around this journey. It has a spiritual element combined with our love of science fiction. We researched cosmology and quantum physics. We needed to know about the sciences. We also dabbled a little bit with conspiracy theories.
Dave: It is a multilayer-ed story about a character that travels through time and space. The songs are about his struggles and his journey; his desire to lead a normal life on earth. He is using his powers and by doing so, he's becoming a "Dimensionaut." It takes place in a science fiction setting, but in essence, it is one man's journey to enlightenment.
Simon: It's also a cosmic love affair.
JAM: While listening to the disc, themes such as escape and moving to higher planes of existence came to mind.
Dave: We intentionally wrote the songs so there is room for interpretation. You can look at it purely as science fiction or you could look at everyone as sort of a dimensionaut. We don't know how we got here. We dream. We experience different phases of life and we have these different struggles. And you can take any of the album's songs out of context, like "Not Coming Down," which could be about the excesses of thrill seeking.
JAM: Dimensionaut's music and lyrics create vivid visual images.
Simon: That was quite intentional. We considered including a detailed CD booklet with artwork and visuals, but we didn't want to spell everything out. We want everyone to find their own interpretation. There is a film score aspect to it as well as picturesque lyrics. We have a vision for the story that we're going to unfold visually, both during the live shows and through our music videos that we plan to shoot for each track.
Dave: Eventually, we're going to create a music DVD where viewers will begin to see our vision. Some of it will be abstract. At other points, Simon will play the character Dimensionaut. He does that in the "Not Coming Down" video, which can be seen at www.soundofcontact.com.
JAM: I've enjoyed this record in a darkened room without any visuals.
Dave: The live-show visuals depend on our budget. Although we're thinking big, for now, we just want to get things off the ground. We love the big stage shows put on by Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree. That's what we want to present live - animation and all sorts of visuals that give you pieces of the story.
Simon: The music videos are going to be put out over time. It's going to be fun for fans that follow along. At the same time, I agree with bringing back albums that you could just put your headphones on and use your imagination. It should become a movie in your head.
JAM: Although I enjoy listening to Dimensionaut uninterrupted, it does contains potential hit singles.
Simon: We designed it that way. We went into the studio as producers and songwriters wanting to create this album on a grand scale, so it can be enjoyed in one sitting. But every song on the record is an episode. "Not Coming Down," for example, is about the catalyst for the title character's transformation.
Dave: Some songs, such as "Closer to You" or "Beyond Illumination," might seem romantic, which may give them a commercial appeal. "Pale Blue Dot" might have energy that appeal to alternative-rock audiences. There is not one song on the album, however, that breaks the concept or takes it into too commercial of a territory.
JAM: "Closer to You" has the potential to be a very big hit if it is given a chance.
Simon: We plan on releasing it as a single and have exciting ideas for the music video. The song is an emotional highlight of the album.
Dave: As much as it is a contender for a single, the whole section of "Salvation Found" is a bookend that occurs in the most progressive rock song on the record, "Mobius Slip."
JAM: Was "Mobius Slip" inspired by the late science-fiction and comic book artist?
Dave: It was more about the object hovering near the top of the disc's cover art. Simon had come to me and said, "Look at this picture of a Mobius Slip over water."
Simon: It is a sculpture in Paris that has the appearance of floating above water.
Dave: We thought that it was so iconic. It is not only on the CD cover, it's also a character in the story. It keeps showing up and there is a mystery to it. In fact, it's like the monolith in the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey. The structure stands for something beyond our comprehension, whether it is alien or it is consciousness.
JAM: The first time I listened to the album, I envisioned Mobius' artwork and his contribution to the animated film classic Heavy Metal.
Simon: We're working with a 3D artist named Taavi Torim. He has created all of the visuals for our record and has worked on all the music videos. We are looking to mix sci-fi animation with live action.
JAM: During the upcoming tour, will Sound of Contact be able to present the visuals during the performances.
Dave: Even when we begin a proper tour, we will be building our visuals. We'd like to think that we're on par with Pink Floyd right out of the gate, but we have to build our way toward that goal.
JAM: Is the beginning of "Not Coming Down" and the song "Realm of In-Organic Beings" homages to Pink Floyd?
Simon: Yes. "Realm of In-Organic Beings" has a hint of Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky," but it has an actual purpose in the story. After "Only Breathing Out," the title character is in this realm. The sounds heard throughout the song represent the characters you will see in the accompanying visuals.
JAM: You have mentioned Genesis, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree. Who else do you consider as influences?
Simon: While growing up, my dad took me to see a lot of those bands, including Yes. It was also a generational thing. I started to develop my musical tastes apart from the records that were lying around. I learned how to play drums when I was six. I sort of gravitated toward to what was around me at the time. I also got into The Police and '90s stuff like Nirvana and Jane's Addiction. I've dabbled with electronica, which you'll hear on my solo records. Although I'm into new prog rock artists like Porcupine Tree and Sigur Ros, I maintain pop sensibilities. Everyone in this band loves The Beatles as well as some of the newer pop rock bands like Radiohead, Muse and Coldplay.
JAM: Simon, at a young age, you had the good fortune of being exposed to a lot of great music.
Simon: It was a blessing. I have a lot of gratitude for my unique upbringing that, luckily, occurred around amazing music. I also had the opportunity to grow up around amazing musicians, and not just my dad. Chester Thompson (Genesis tour drummer) took me under his wing. We used to practice syncopation before shows. I got to know Eric Clapton and Sting. I was so privilege to have that in my life.
JAM: You not only inherited your father's drumming talent, but also his vocal talent.
Simon: Thank you. When I first became a musician, I was not into singing. I started recording demos when I was 14. I had these songs, but I didn't plan on becoming a vocalist. I wanted to be a drummer and a songwriter and I wanted to find a singer. I just couldn't get behind anyone singing my songs, because I've always written personal lyrics. Eventually, I started singing on my own demos and after a while, it just made sense for me to continue doing so. The band thing was always my intended destination, but the only way I could guarantee having a solid music career was by doing the solo thing. Through that, I developed my voice. Ironically, the drums took a back seat. There were no drums on my first solo record (1999's All of Who You Are), they were all programmed. Working with our drummer Dave has helped bring out different styles of drumming in me.
JAM: What is next for Sound of Contact?
Simon: We're always writing new material. First, however, we want to continue touring and bring this album to life. Though we do have side projects, Sound of Contact is the priority. Ironically, we will be working with each other in those projects as well.
Dave: We have a lot of material left over from the Dimensionaut sessions. At one point, we were considering releasing a double CD.
Simon: Our debut would have been a double-CD concept record! We've been refining some of the unreleased material, which has been fun. We also record everything. While rehearsing for our last show, which was in New York, we broke out into an impromptu jam. That produced some great musical ideas. So what we now have is a vast amount of material to sink our teeth into for the next record.
Dave: There is a potential surprise coming later this year.
JAM: Simon, how is your father doing?
Simon: My dad is doing quite well, thank you. He is a fan of the band and promises to come and see some of our upcoming shows.