Interview with Alan Reed, Pallas (November 24, 2005)

Pallas might be an unknown to most of our readers, but they have been around for a very long time, and is an important part of the small, but very strong British progressive rock scene - Pallas is however from Scotland . I've put a few questions together for them...

Kenn - "The Dreams of Men" is the follow up to the highly acclaimed "The Cross & the Crucible" album - how hard was it to make a worthy successor?
Well, we were aware that "the Cross...” was a strong album and we did wonder how we could follow it. We realised that whatever we did had to be at least as good and hopefully a bit different. Because of that we probably spent longer than usual on building up a store of ideas before we finally focussed on developing the tracks for the album. Nearly everything went through several re-writes and re-arrangements.

We decided that we wanted to make the album a bit more "energetic" sounding; A bit more drums and guitar. But other than that things kind of forced their own flavour. For quite a long period it wasn't really clear what shape the album would take, and it was really only as we got to the end of the recording sessions that it became clear what the album would sound like

Kenn - What are the biggest difference between "The Dreams of Men" and "The Cross & the Crucible"?
I would say it just has MORE of everything. It's much heavier in places… It's also more grandiose and orchestral in places. There's more of an obvious celtic feel to some of it as well. We've tried to make every second of every track count. There's layers of detail there which will take many listens to become clear. If you liked "the Cross...” then you'll find "Dreams" familiar enough to follow, but it does go off on some weirder tangents: - including Folk, Opera and R&B!!!!! :-)

Kenn - You have been around for ages, but "The Dreams of Men" is only your 5th studio album. Are you perfectionists, or why are your releases so far between?
We are a bit perfectionist to be honest. Things have to FEEL right before they come together properly. It's not that we don't work at it, but things have to achieve a certain momentum before they reach critical mass.

Pallas is not a full-time occupation for us these days, so it also has to fit around the other demands in our lives. We had a 12 year gap between records up till 1998, so bearing that in mind, we've been quite productive in the last 7 years, with 3 studio albums, 2 live albums, a DVD and an out-takes and rarities compilation. We're certainly not lazy!! :-)

Kenn - Your music has always been very emotional, but what emotions do you think describes your music the best?
I think the overriding emotion that communicates itself with our stuff is a kind of grandiose melancholy. We do big music, but there's always a hint of darkness and sadness about it. It's not often happy, cheerful music. We're just miserable gits really :-)

Kenn - You took almost 12 years off between 1986 and 1996, why and were you active in other bands in the years between or...?
To put it simply, we ran out of money and had to find other ways of supporting ourselves and our families. We left EMI because we were dissatisfied with their handling of us. We almost secured another major deal, but that fell through at the last moment and the economics of the situation just became unworkable. We kept in touch, and gradually tried to get another album together - we must have demoed about 3 albums of material - but it never seemed to quite work. I think it was only when Ronnie (keyboards) rejoined that the magic seemed to return.

Most of us dabbled with other musical projects - but none of them were particularly serious. Pallas was always our first love. Niall (guitar) has been working as an engineer and producer, so has played on all sorts of stuff, as well as doing some touring playing guitar for a major Scottish folk singer. I played some guitar and sang in a Blues band. Very different, but lots of fun.

Kenn - The British progressive metal scene has a small but very faithful following around Europe, why do you think that is... and how do you do outside of Europe ?
There's always a market for good music - whatever label's applied to it. I guess we're fortunate that we built a fairly sizeable reputation in the 80's, and much of that audience has stuck with us. It's a similar story outside of Europe. The band's name is recognised and we attract an audience based on that reputation. The fact that the last 3 albums have been well-received means that we're also attracting a wider audience that had no previous direct experience of us. This is particularly true in the USA, where having good local distribution means we're getting out to people for whom we were a band only previously available via expensive imports. They're certainly taking much more notice of us than they did before.

Kenn - Let's speculate, you've been offered a chance to tour the US along with Pendragon and Arena to promote British progressive rock - how well will it do, and is there an audience for such a tour?
I have to say that a triple bill such as you describe probably wouldn't be that attractive to us. Maybe touring with one other band might be nice, but otherwise it's asking a lot of an audience, especially if it's places we haven't been before. The US market is more fragmented than the European one, so a tour of that type would be difficult to make economic.

"Prog" per se is quite hard to sell to the wider American public, so a package tour wouldn't necessarily be a draw. Working within a more "rock" context might work better, doing a tour where the bands have crossover appeal in to more than one genre. Perhaps we could tour with Slipknot and Green Day? :-)

Kenn - Do the bands from the scene stick together or are you fierce opponents?
I wouldn't say we're fierce opponents, but there is a sense of healthy competition :-) We don't really see ourselves as part of a scene to be honest. I think the geography (being Scottish) makes us feel a bit apart, but we've also always felt ourselves to be more of a "rock" band than a truly "prog" band. Having said that, we have pretty good relations with most of the major British bands. We run into each-other from time to time and do each-other the odd favour here and there. How many other bands are likely to have a set of Moog Taurus pedals when yours are sick?? :-)

Kenn - What are the immediate plans for Pallas - will you be touring?
We're doing a short tour at the end of January, mainly centred around Germany. We're also planning a few short bursts of dates throughout the year, including a visit to the USA. Unfortunately no plans to visit Denmark yet - but we're open to decent offers :-)

Kenn - Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life ... and why?
Most life-changing album for me has probably got to be "Selling England By the Pound", by Genesis. I don't tend to listen to them much now, but when I was 15 someone lent me that album, and I was entranced by this weird noise. The fact that the singer had a similar range to me meant that I found myself singing it quite comfortably. I'd never thought of singing before then - and I obviously didn't have the voice of a Coverdale or a Plant. So I guess it's all ultimately Peter Gabriel's fault that I'm doing this at all!!!

Kenn - Last question - do you have any famous last words for our readers?
If you haven't heard us - and you like your rock to have a bit of a challenge to it, or you like your prog to include a bit of heart and soul, then give us a try. If you have tried us and you like what you hear - then many thanks. Hopefully one day we'll be get to see a few of you somewhere in Denmark.

Pallas - The Dreams of Men

Album out on InsideOut Music.

Click on the album to see more info on Pallas.