You recently published a new album. Please give us a short rundown: What are the themes, how did it come to be, etcetera?
There are no specific themes connecting the songs together, so it isn't a concept album. I tend to write lyrics that deal with real life situations. On this album the lyrical themes range from feelings of isolation, feelings of regret, bad relationships, and feeling that one's dreams and ambitions in life have slipped by.
We started working on new material about six months after Subconscious came out back in 2004. We pretty much had an entire album written by the end of 2005. Our bass player at the time was feeling some pressure regarding the amount of time that he needed to invest into the band in order to do the new album. It is quite complicated music and so it does require some serious practice time and rehearsal time to make it work. He decided that the time demands were too great so he left in the summer of 2006. Our keyboardist was interested in pursuing his own music and wanted to work on scores for movies as well, so he decided to leave in late 2006. When we found replacements for them we decided to keep the best parts of all of the songs and re-work some of the sections. In the process of doing this we ended up writing several new songs as well. It became very obvious that we had a large amount of music, and we decided we might as well record it all and release it as a double album.
Some readers may not know you. Please tell us something about the origins of the band.
The band started back in 1999 when myself and Jon Shumway, a childhood friend, decided to start up another band. We had played together as teenagers in a metal band. We started writing music and eventually released the first Hourglass album and started playing lots of shows here locally in Utah. We had a lot of fun.
Who would you say are your influences, and what music do you enjoy listening to?
I've always been very influenced by progressive rock bands. I love the early prog stuff from bands like Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Kansas, and even The Moody Blues. I was very influenced by Rush, and Dream Theater has always been one of my favorite bands. I enjoy some metal bands as well. I'm a big Megadeth fan. Lately I've been listening to lots of Porcupine Tree, Marillion and Symphony X, although I've been a fan of those bands for years now. I wish I had more time to explore some of the newer prog and metal bands. I love classical music as well.
My biggest guitar influence has always been Steve Lukather. His work in Toto was nothing short of brilliant. Everything he does is wonderful and I admire his playing immensely.
Why did you choose to make a double album instead of two single albums in a shorter period?
We talked about just releasing two separate albums about a year apart from each other. When Eric and Jerry joined the band we really could have just had them learn what had been written before they joined and then hit the studio. But as we started looking at those songs and re-working some sections, other songs just started coming together. After another year of writing and re-working it was clear that we had a large amount of music ready to go. We had all of the music written and ready to record, so why not just record and release it all. Plus, the idea of a double album was pretty appealing to us. Not many bands release a double album and it just felt right. I'm glad we did the double album. It feels like a big accomplishment now that it is released. Also, a factor in the decision was that our fans had been waiting for a long time for some new music and we really wanted to reward them with everything we could. We gave them 139 minutes of music for their patience.
"Oblivious To The Obvious" is your third album with the third bass player and the third singer. What is the reason for these line-up changes?
Mostly a lack of commitment on the part of the members who have left. Many of them view the band as a hobby more than a career pursuit. They just don't have a passion for it and when that is the case, especially with very demanding music, it isn't going to work. It requires time and involvement to be in Hourglass and if you aren't willing to give that, it probably won't work out for you to be in the band. It is also difficult when people start getting married and having children. The time demands become more difficult. My time is more limited now than it has ever been, but I still love Hourglass and have a desire for it to exist. I want it to work. I want there to be another album some time, so I do my best to find people who want to be a part of it. It is a constant challenge.
In my opinion your music must attract a wide range of public. What is your experience and is this true?
We play so many different styles that we do get attention from lots of different types of fans. Some metal fans love us, some prog fans love us, and we also have an appeal to lots of melodic rock fans. It is hard for me to categorize us as a metal band or a progressive rock band. We just play what we feel like playing, no matter what it ends up being.
Could you tell something more about the Pawn songs. Can we expect Pawn III in the future?
The first "Pawn" song was about a relationship where one person is being treated poorly, yet they are willing to stick it out and remain with the other person. For "Pawn II" I thought it would be interesting to have a similar situation, yet have the person actually leave the bad situation. So in "Pawn II" the person being treated poorly actually says "I've had enough" and decides to leave. I liked the metaphors of a chess game and being able to do some play on words type of things in the lyrics. I doubt there would be a "Pawn III", but you never know. The original "Pawn" has been a fan favorite for many years now, so we will have to see how "Pawn II" is received. I really like the Arabian-Egyptian vibe that we accomplished in those two songs.
The title track seems a tragic story to me. Are the lyrics based upon reality?
It is a pretty depressing story for the most part. It isn't true though. I hashed out the basic idea for the song with our drummer John and then got to work on the lyrics. It is basically about how a person has a tendency to adapt behaviors that their parents had, whether those things are positive or negative. In the case of "Oblivious to the Obvious", they are negative behaviors and thought patterns. It is sometimes difficult for us to break out of learned behaviors that we observed when we were young, and that is what happens to the main character in the story. It takes a life-changing event to make him realize that he needs to make some changes, and to realize that who he is, is not the person he would like to be.
Are you satisfied with the production, because the music sounds crispy and detailed, but now and then it lacks some power to me?
I'm happy with it for the most part. There are always little things I would like to change. I think that no matter how much time I spend on it, there are always little things that I would do different in hindsight. We mastered it a little bit lower than some of the modern albums, not much, but lower than many. The whole volume wars thing is getting out of control, and I wanted to make sure that you could turn our album up to a loud volume and not feel like your speakers are blown with a bunch of crackling sounds coming out because of the mastering. You can turn our album up pretty far and it retains all of its clarity. So in other words, "Crank it up!"
When I listen to "Oblivious To The Obvious", I think that your sound could go all the way in the future. Did you have any ideas about the style of the next album? Will it be more progressive metal or just different?
No plans on the sound of it yet. I don't think too much about what it should or shouldn't sound like actually. I kind of just write and whatever comes out, so be it. We have talked about doing a couple of shorter, straight ahead metal songs so that is possible. I can guarantee you that there will be a lot of progressive elements there though. Prog is in my blood. I personally think that Hourglass is at our best when we are doing the melodic stuff that we write. Songs like "38th Floor", "Plains of Remembrance", and "Mists of Darkness"--that is the style where I think we shine the most. But, we love metal and also we certainly have some very laid back tunes as well. I'm sure it will be a wide variety again.
"Oblivious To The Obvious" is not a straight progressive metal album, but it will be filed as one. What is your opinion about that and did you make this choice?
Progressive metal is the closest thing to what we are, I suppose, so I don't have any problem with that. It is the easiest label to give to what we do. We don't have a huge metal foundation to what we do, but it is obviously there on songs like "On the Brink", "Skeletons", "Thread the Needle", and "Not my Time", so metal is part of Hourglass. It just isn't the only thing we do. I really think we are an incredibly diverse band, stylistically speaking.
Could you tell me about your plans in the near future, playing live or something like that? If yes, where?
We have played a couple of pretty big shows here in Utah since the album was released. We don't have any specific plans of playing anywhere, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. I would really like it if we got out and played live more. I think we need it as a band. It is tough here in Utah. There is not much of a music scene going on here. I hope to get out and play some prog festivals. I also hope to play some other places in the USA. I will start working on writing some new material this summer. I already have some songs started.
Some songs on "Oblivious To The Obvious" are so long and diverse that they need some concentration by the listener. Are you not afraid that in these days of quick listening and downloading, people will give your songs less time to listen to?
It is certainly a possibility that people won't give an album that is as long as ours a fair listen, just because of the length. I understand that that is a possibility. Honestly, we just write music that we feel like writing, and if it is really long we embrace that fact. Many of our fans are musicians and our music is certainly more appealing to musicians than the average person just flipping through the radio stations, listening to radio-formatted music. Writing music is a pretty selfish thing for me. We write whatever we enjoy and if other people like it then that is just the icing on the cake. You have to love the music yourself first though. Otherwise you are trying to cater to other peoples wants, and I personally am not too interested in that. You have to write music for yourself. I'm very grateful that we have fans out there who love what we do and support us by buying our albums and seeing us live when they can. Thank you Hourglass fans.
Would you like to say something to or share something with the Progwereld readers?
If you like diverse music that features strong, catchy vocal melodies, lots of soloing, complexity and long epic songs check Hourglass out. I'd like to thank Progwereld for their support over the years and thanks to Hans for the interview.