Interview with Michael, Bobby & Derek, Thought Chamber (March 22nd 2007)
Thought Chamber is a new American band founded by Michael Harris and Ted Leonard. Their debut album will be unleashed onto the metal community shortly; we have put together a few questions for them…

"Angular Perceptions" is your first album, but it’s not like you are total newcomers to the scene; maybe you could start off and tell us a bit about the background for Thought Chamber?
Thought Chamber –
The members of Thought Chamber (www.myspace.com/thoughtchamber) are Ted Leonard from Enchant on vocals; drummer Rob Stankiewicz & bassist Derek Blakley both from Haji’s Kitchen / Somsara; Michael Harris on guitar, guitar synth, piano, and keyboards; Bobby Williamson from Outworld on keyboards.

Michael – The original idea for the band was planted by my manager, John Purdom, back in the late 90s. John felt I should put together a progressive "supergroup" to exploit both great musicianship and vocals, which could bring more attention to my music, having been mostly instrumental. Eventually I put an ad out on the internet which Ted Leonard responded to. I immediately went out and bought an Enchant CD and loved Teds’ vocals. In spite of the logistical limitations (Ted in CA and myself in TX), and of us both being involved in other bands / projects, we continued to send demos back & forth for several years until we had a record’s worth of material. At that point I called up my friends, Derek & Rob, and found they were interested in being a part of the band as well. And their contributions were, well, stellar.

How have the reception been so far – have you been overwhelmed and surprised?
BOBBY
– People seem to love the stuff........no surprise to me though, I loved it too when I first heard it in the beginning stages!

Michael – The initial response has been really fantastic from the few who have heard the record. The official release is April 3rd (2007).

If you should choose one song, which represents the essence of Thought Chamber on the album, which one would that be and why? I would pick "A Mind Beyond", because I think captures your style in one song pretty good, but also displays a lot of variety.
Michael – Wow, that’s very insightful of you to pick the closing song, thank you. I would pick the same song, because I feel it shows originality, dynamics, chops, melody, all the strongpoints of TC. "AMB" was actually the first demo Ted & I completed.

You live in various parts of the US, how does that fit into the mould of being a band? Band practise, writing songs etc. must be very hard…
DEREK –
It's true that the situation could be more ideal, but when you find the right people for the job it's just something you have to deal with.

Michael – Believe it or not, we have never even all stood in the same room together. But, although this fact surprises people, it’s not that unusual in today’s recording community to record in home studios, send stuff back and forth, and communicate via phone or E mail.

How important is the lyrically side of Thought Chamber – and what has inspired you on the album?
Michael –
I spend many many hours on lyrics. You can ruin an intense piece of music with a tacky lyric. At the same time, even in prog you can be too technical with the lyrics, so it’s finding that balance that is really challenging. It’s the same with the music as well. I hear way too much prog that is technical at the expense of melody. You can’t lose sight of what a "song" is supposed to be in the first place. I’d say the lyrics to "Balance of One" are my favorite on the record. Ted is going to co-write some lyrics with me on the 2nd record.

If you had to describe your music to a complete musical ignorant – what would you tell him?
Michael –
That’s always difficult. I tell people "progressive", but no one seems to really be able to define it. I would more specifically explain that Thought Chamber is a combination of rock, metal, jazz fusion, and classical, all combined with technical elements and melody.

Ted Leonard has a very unique and emotional voice, how important was it for you to have a vocalist, who brings this sort of contrast to the music? And how did you get him into the band?
MICHAEL –
I hooked up with Ted by simply putting an ad out on the internet. Great vocals are probably the most important ingredient to the identity of a band. I don’t even think the listeners realize how important vocals are, but they would if they heard their fave bands with different vocalists. Ted is just incredibly perfect for Thought Chamber. He does it all without being derivative of anyone.

Tell us a bit about the album art work.
MICHAEL –
We were lucky enough to work with John Holland, a fabulous graphic artist who, only a few months ago had done my instrumental CD, "Orchestrate". His work was so impressive, we just had to work with him again on "Angular Perceptions". He really works with you and listens to your ideas. Having said that though, I totally turned him loose on the Thought Chamber art. It was his baby all the way. All I did was explain my lyrics and he ran with it. He also designed the very clever logo.

JOHN HOLLAND – (www.mistymountaingraphics.com) – The name of the band is in itself a metaphor for the human mind -- intelligence, imagination, creativity. Lyrically some of the songs deal with ancient cultures and mythology. The complexity of the music inherently deals with a lot of math. So I tried to bring all these elements together in the cover art -- music, math, and mythology -- and still convey some idea that the music is aggressive and heavy. Some references are obvious, others are subtle metaphors. All of this information is being funneled through this weird eyeball machine, and in turn passed on to the Egyptian girl in the center. Whether the machine's ultimate intentions are benevolent or malicious is left up to the viewer.

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment for you and Thought Chamber, not necessarily sales wise?
DEREK
– Just getting a CD finished that we're all pretty darn happy with was a huge accomplishment.

BOBBY – For me personally, it's been quite an accomplishment to have some of my keyboard work end up on insideout/spv. That's the biggest label any of my musical effort has been involved with.

MICHAEL – Well, first of all that we rose above logistical adversity and completed our record. And secondly, that we feel good about the record!

What are the strengths and where can Thought Chamber improve?
MICHAEL –
I am personally always striving to write better songs on every record, and to say more with less. But at the same time, this is prog. The technical elements are what makes prog fun and challenging, so they will always be there in my compositions, and my bandmates always display incredible chops.

The album was written some time ago, and you must have a bundle of songs ready for the next album. Which direction do you think the next Thought Chamber will take, and when will you start dealing with the new songs?
MICHAEL –
ASAP! I have already started on it, and although there are always commitments and intangibles in a band, we want to have it out in late 2007; 2008 at the very latest. I don’t have anything completed yet, but several songs are close, and several I have a good head start on. Here are some things I want to try on the 2nd TC record: 1) A Sci-Fi epic that will be 15 minutes or longer; 2) several simpler songs that still have as much or more impact & power that a more technical song does; 3) More jazz fusion influence in the breaks; 4) Continuing to exploit what we call "ensemble licks", which are licks that are rapidly split up between several instruments (examples on the first record can be found all through "Sacred Treasure"; middle of "Balance of One"; the 2 main instrumental tunes, etc)

How did you get the name Thought Chamber, and is there a story behind it?
MICHAEL –
It was a phrase I used in the title of my 2001 CD, "Sketches From the Thought Chamber". We had the longest "name game" ever in trying to come up with this name, and that is what we settled on. It just seemed to fit.

Do you have any touring plans for 2007?
MICHAEL –
Nothing yet, but we hope to perform live if not now, then after the 2nd record, when we will have more material, etc.

I was wondering – could you name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life - and why?
DEREK –
DT's Images & Words. It reminded me that I should be striving for more musically than I was at that particular time.

BOBBY – Yngwie Malmsteen's "Marching Out". To me, that was the one album and particular musical style that grabbed my attention and still to this day hasn't left my clenches. I remember seeing Yngwie live for the first time when he opened for AC/ DC here in Houston.......after seeing Yngwie play I was mesmerized.

MICHAEL – I saw that same tour actually! OK,I would say the band RUSH had the hugest musical impact on me. I bought every RUSH record and watched the band evolve over the years. I like everything up through "Presto", and am still blown away by all those great records. And as good of players as they are, it was the music that rose above it all to me. If I had to reduce that to one single record, it would be "Hemispheres".

Which five albums would you bring on your iPod to a deserted island?
DEREK –
Aquarium Rescue Unit – In A Perfect World; Bozzio/Levin/Stevens – Black Light Syndrome; Dream Theater – Scenes From A Memory; Simon Phillips – Out Of The Blue (Live); T-Ride – T-Ride

MICHAEL – ELP – Brain Salad Surgery; Rush – Hemispheres; Captain Beyond – Captain Beyond; Kansas – Masque; The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

Which album(s) have put a big smile on you face and has made you bang your head in 2006/7?

DEREK – Opeth – Ghost Reveries special edition; Meshuggah – Nothing remix/reissue; Strapping Young Lad – The New Black

MICHAEL – Mercenary – 11 Dreams; Iommi / Hughes - Fused; Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – Of Natural History

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Thought Chamber –
Music can heal the world.

Interviewed by Kenn.

Thought Chamber - Angular Perceptions

Album available on InsideOut Music.


For more info on Thought Chamber - click on the album cover.