Interview with Brendt Allman & Gary Wehrkamp, Shadow Gallery (May 17, 2005)

First off I want to congratulate you on your great new album "Room V", an excellent follow up to your last one “Legacy”. But once more it has taken a very long time to write a new album - why is that? Are you all perfectionists, and every little bit has to worked out to perfection before everyone is satisfied?
Brendt Allman: I think it takes us such a long time because most of us work day jobs and have lucrative professional careers outside of music. Add that to the fact that yes, we are a bunch of perfectionists (we work on every record up to the last minute and in many cases, past our deadlines). I believe this shows up in the outcome and makes it worth the effort in the long run.

Gary Wehrkamp: Also, there were some things we needed to take care of after we completed our previous record. We usually update our studio equipment before we begin a new record, and that takes some time, and we also needed to go shopping for a new label, and setting up a new deal for ourselves with Inside Out took some doing to get underway. The fact that we can be perfectionists sometimes, just adds to the delay.

Actually this time it has taken more than the usual 3 years between albums (4 in this case). Is song writing a very slow process in Shadow Gallery? Try to walk us through the creation of a song?
Brendt Allman: Song writing is not a very difficult thing for us. I think, without trying to sound big headed in ANY way, I consider us songwriters first and musicians second, unlike a lot of progressive bands that tend to over play a lot. Its tricky deciding when and where to stretch out with the flashy stuff. Ultimately, the song has to tell you where it wants to go. Typically, one of us will come up with a seed of an idea...a chorus or a verse and build around that on our own for a bit, but we're always quite careful not to write too much by ourselves. We try and leave room for the other members in the band to put their stamp on the song. But, in other cases, one of us will write a song alone. It all comes down to how you hear the song in your head. I might write a part and think, "Chris should write the next part to this"... or " Gary would know what to do with the next part"... and sometimes songs come to me in their complete form very quickly. I wrote the song “Rain” in about 5 minutes.... where as a song like “Room V” was worked on by Gary and me for weeks. I remember that Chris and I wrote “Hope For Us” in about 15 minutes. That's a proud point on song writing for me... I wouldn't change a single note in it to this day.
I'm not real sure why this record took as long as It did... we really only worked on writing the music for 6 or 7 months... and about the same for the recording.

Gary Wehrkamp:
Brendt, should we point out that the difference from “Tyranny” to “Room V” is 7 years?

You are often described as one the most innovative and important progressive metal bands, how does that make you feel? And does that put extra pressure on you, when you write songs?
Brendt Allman: That kind of blows my mind. It's incredibly flattering to hear and truly a gift from GOD to be in a position to write music, music that some feel is important in their lives. Some of the feedback we get is truly inspiring. We've been very blessed to get such positive press around the globe. I don't really feel any extra pressure, because essentially, I have to enjoy the music myself first. If I don't like it, I'm pretty sure no one else will... or at least, that's how I think. It also depends on the record. A song like TORN may not have made it on a non-concept record... I mean, it's a fairly simple song, musically speaking, BUT, it fits the record well and is a very important part of it. That kind of goes back to what I said earlier about letting the song tell you where it wants to go... writing an album is the same way. You get a feel for what needs to come next.

Gary Wehrkamp:
We just do what we do. I think every band is, or has the potential to be completely unique if they search long enough - With some many different inspirations, your style becomes a big melting pot of everything you love, and everything you want to include and share.

I know artists don¹t like to put a label on their music - but a spaceship from outer space has just landed in your backyard, and is demanding an answer - so how would you describe your music to an alien from another galaxy?
Brendt Allman: Awesome question.... I would describe it as dumping out all of your colours on a canvas and wiping off the ugly parts.... or wait... maybe you're looking for a label here.... in that case, I'd describe it as melodic progressive metal with a focus on the vocals.

Gary Wehrkamp:  A mixture of all feelings, all emotions, all colours, all degrees of hot and cold, fast and slow - a rainbow of sound and sonic possibilities.

If the music of Shadow Gallery was an emotion, which one would it be?
Brendt Allman: Anticipation.

Gary Wehrkamp:
It would be anger for one song, love for another - It would cover all emotions, and sometimes we confuse everyone and mix a bunch into a single song.

Room V” is the sequel to “Tyranny” - and the story picks up just 8 hours after “Tyranny” left us thinking: “What is going to happen now?” - is this the conclusion of the story or will more chapters follow?
Gary Wehrkamp: There is more... Isn't there always more? Was there more to this question?

Brendt Allman:
I guess only Carl knows if this is the end. It's his baby... the story is his brainchild. I certainly hope it's the end :)

To new fans - will it be possible to follow the story without Act I & II?
Gary Wehrkamp: Yes, because It starts from a  point where two people are meeting face to face for the first time, and moves on from there - It draws on their past to a degree, but really plays focus to new issues, problems and perspectives...

Brendt Allman:
Act III and act IV can certainly be followed without knowing the story line of “Tyranny”. That said, there are enough references to “Tyranny” on this record to make it worthwhile for those fans to pick it up as well, if they'd never heard it.

Laura Jaeger, who was also an important part of "Tyranny", returns and does a wonderful job, how important for the story was it to get her back?
Brendt Allman: The record depended on her acceptance to reprise her role. She's integral to the story... and we'd have that no other way. I could listen to hours of her.

Gary Wehrkamp:
Of course she is necessary to the story, but beyond that, we love her and her great singing.

I know the album hasn¹t been released yet, but how has “Room V” been received by the media?
Brendt Allman: That I don't really know yet. We've heard a few things so far and all of them have been very positive. As stated earlier, we've seemed to be blessed with a good deal of positive press. But that said, we have our detractors as well. There's usually no middle ground with Shadow Gallery... you either get it, or you don't. It's really as simple as that. Kind of like the taste of certain foods... you either love sushi or you hate it... no one thinks it’s "just ok".

Gary Wehrkamp: Very well received by the magazines in Europe so far! America can be tougher, we'll have to wait and see.

Is there any chance we will ever see Shadow Gallery on tour?
Gary Wehrkamp: That’s a new question for us, I am not sure how to answer that. Brendt?

Brendt Allman: That depends on finances. I will say this, there have been more serious discussions about touring in support of this album than we've had in the last 12 years.

Room V” is your first album on InsideOut Music - why did you change record label, and what are your expectations for this album?
Brendt Allman: Our contract was up with Magna Carta... I'll leave that at that. We heard nothing but great things about Inside Out from a lot of people. This could be a new beginning for us. I expect this to be our best selling record by far. I certainly think it's our best work to date. It's a much more mature record than we've ever made. The production is better. The packaging is better. It, as a whole, is my most proud work of art.

Gary Wehrkamp:
Inside Out was the best choice for us once we considered all things.

This one is by far the best produced album you¹ve ever released - you have produced the album yourselves, but isn¹t it sometimes hard to keep the distance necessary to remain objective to the songs?
Brendt Allman: Well, as I stated before, I too believe it's our best production to date. I think it's a learning process. The more you do something, the better you get at it. Plus, Gary has a very good ability to separate the musician from the producer... he thinks like a producer thinks. But the best part about that, is that he'll listen to the rest of us, even when we've charged him with the producer’s role.

Gary Wehrkamp:
It is always a band produced record... there may be somewhat at the top of the pyramid handling things, but we all know how and when to compromise and this ability allows us to keep our diversity great.

The mix however was done by Jeff Glixman - why did you decide on him, and why didn¹t you do it yourself?
Brendt Allman: Actually, Jeff did the mastering. Gary did the mix (My mistake, Kenn). Mastering is a very important part of making a CD - Jeff has incredible ears... and a ton of years in the industry. His additions to the overall sound in the mastering phase of this record were the icing on the cake. He took what sounded very good sonically, to sounding great. Again, we're very blessed. Blessed to have his input on this record.

Is there a deeper meaning behind the flaming V on the album - who has done the artwork and how does it fit into the lyrical concept, if at all?
Brendt Allman: The same artist that did “Tyranny”, did “Room V”. The symbolism of the cover will become very easy to see, once the listener digs into the lyrics. I don't want to give anything more than that away :)

Gary Wehrkamp:
Rainer Kalwitz is his name. Great artist and person, from Germany. There is much meaning in the cover. The albums lyrics will unblur the covers meaning in time.

I know Arjen Lucassen has contributed on this album - was that through Mike¹s connection, and what exactly has he done on the album?
Brendt Allman: That's Gary's doing. Arjen has a style all his own - his note choices always seem very thought out, considered and perfect. His contribution to “Seven Years” was absolutely perfect - everything about it.

Gary Wehrkamp: I first met Arjen back in 1998 and have been emailing with him ever since. Mike and I have both performed on past Ayreon albums, and it was time to give Arjen to opportunity to return the favour. (special thanks to Gjalt).

Most of you are also active on your own mailing list - Gallery of Shadows - why is that and how important is it for you keep a close contact to your fans?
Brendt Allman: The fans are one of the main reasons we do this... I mean, we make music because we have a NEED to make music and that need to make music is greatly fuelled by the passion of our fans. They're just amazing. I mean, we take forever to make records, yet they're always there, showing interest and keeping the flame alive, inspiring us to reach higher and farther each time.

Gary Wehrkamp:
It’s strange for me even to call someone a fan, I just see it is another person, who we are happy to meet, who has the same or similar taste in music. We are as pleased for them to hear our music, as they are to come across it.

I simply adore “Christmas Day” and “Hope For Love”, but which song do you consider to the best song you have ever written?
Brendt Allman: “Christmas Day” and “Hope For Us” are two of my favorite songs as well. I think my most favorite song from Shadow Gallery is “Vow”, which Gary wrote the music to. I had very little to do with that song, other than co-writing a lot of back up vocal melodies and harmonies. Maybe I love that one so much because I can listen to it completely objectively. It's hard for me to pick a favorite that I mostly wrote, because I hear a lot of things I'd do differently now. “The Queen Of The City Of Ice” holds a special place in my heart though.

Gary Wehrkamp:
I love almost everything from the first album... "New World Order" was a nice challenge to write and I am pleased with the results... For the new record, I am proud of anything where Brendt and I wrote the music together in the same room at the same time.

Any famous last words?
Brendt Allman: America - Stop letting your freedoms be stolen from you in the name of false security and safety!!!  Join or create your local Tyranny Response Team :) Oh yeah, and thanks so very much to every one who still remembers and listens to our music - we give everything we have to it and you make it worth every minute spent.

Gary Wehrkamp: Remain Positive and put your faith in God and yourself and anything is possible, but don't live for the possibility, Move forward based on your potentials to do something great!
And thanks to everyone for giving Shadow Gallery some time in your busy CD players....

Shadow Gallery - Room V

Album out on InsideOut Music.

Click on the album cover to see more info on Shadow Gallery.