Alan Reed - Pallas

(by Conny Myrberg)


1: It's been a few years since the last album, the latest one being The Dreams of Men (2005), isn't it about time to make the next studio album and if so, how far has it progressed?

ALAN: It's been too long hasn't it?  We'd originally planned to have a new album out by last year, but for various reasons that have more to do with our individual personal lives (rather then our musical ones) that didn't happen. 

Then of course we had to abandon our plan to turn "The Sentinel" into a stage musical, when it became clear that Kylie Minogue wouldn't be available to play the lead role.  We did investigate working with Britney Spears, but she wasn't up to the job - She has some personal problems apparently:-) 

A new album IS in the works, but I'm not really in a position to tell you when it'll be ready.  In terms of direction it'll probably not be TOO much of a surprise.  Probably more Country - less Western:-)

2: How are your songs developed from being a rough composition to a finished product, such as "Ghostdancers" for example?

ALAN: They all go through a fairly complex and time-consuming process where an idea is destruction-tested in various styles and arrangements.  In the case of "Ghostdancers", Graeme and I both wrote different vocal parts and lyrics for the same basic idea.  In the end his version was the one we pursued.  Once the lyrical idea was settled on that then influenced the final arrangement and sound textures.   The idea of adding Paul's fiddle part came pretty much at the last minute, but as soon as we thought of it we realised it was exactly what the song needed.

3: One of my absolute favourite songs in the neo prog genre is "Fragments of the Sun" which also is recorded on the "Moment to Moment" album. Out of sheer curiosity, would you like to share some information on how this creation came to be? I'd be most grateful for that.

ALAN: That's kind of an odd one in some ways.  We had the idea that we'd bookend the "Beat The Drum" album with the same musical theme.  That's why on the album version you hear that as the intro before it gradually morphs into "Fragments".  The band kind of jammed the opening section which eventually developed into the song. 

The title and the verse lyrics were actually something I'd come up with for a different, earlier idea which didn't come together.   Graeme used them for a vocal melody he was toying with and suddenly we had the beginnings of another track.  I hadn't actually heard the full thing until we tried to record the vocals (one of the difficulties of me living 500 miles away from the others).   We tried to structure it so it had some echoes of "The Sentinel" period material - to remind people of the band's past.  That's where the line "..just like a sentinel." came in.  Also the keyboard figure is deliberately reminiscent of the one in "Rise and Fall".. I loved how it turned out.  In fact I use that keyboard melody as the ringtone on my mobile phone.


4: It seems as if the whole "neo prog" family has gathered up in Katowice in Poland (Pendragon, Pallas, Clive Nolan/Caamora and last but not least NEO). Could you explain a bit how you all came to shoot your videos  on this particular location?

ALAN: Well that's not quite everyone.. (yet)!!  Basically it's all to do with the Polish label, Metal Mind.  They set up regular video shoots and invite bands to come and perform  - the result being a DVD.  Production costs are currently relatively low in Poland, which means you can get a very professional product for a relatively low price.  

There was no great plan in our mind as  regards making another DVD - We were very pleased with how "The Blinding Darkness" had turned out.  But Pallas had been interested in going to Poland for some time, and Metal Mind had previously asked us come.  As I'd already done a video shoot there with NEO I knew what to expect, and as I was going to be there anyway for Clive Nolan's "SHE" project, it seemed the perfect opportunity to bring the rest of the band over.

5: You were one of the first bands in the neo prog genre, how do you think the regrowth of the neo prog has turned out and how big do you feel that the interest of this music is today?

ALAN:  Well, against the odds, nearly all of us are still here in one form or another which must mean something.  Even Twelfth Night and Solstice have reappeared!!  I don't really try to analyse it to be honest.  I'm not sure whether it's just pure, stubborn, bloody-mindedness on the part of the musicians, or the loyalty of the fan-base, but there seems to remain enough interest in what we and the other bands do to keep going. 

More intriguingly for us, there also seems to be a number of younger people interested in what we do.  I see them particularly at gigs in areas we haven't traditionally played, and in their profiles on portals such as Last.FM.  I don't see a major resurgence, but I don't see it withering on the vine either.

6:  In these times of frequent downloading, how do you guy in Pallas manage on the financial department?

ALAN: That's rather a personal question, but I'll be honest and say that Pallas has never been a major revenue stream for any of us.  What we make pretty much gets reinvested in whatever the next project is, maintaining and updating the gear etc. 

I have to say that the internet has pretty much become a double-edged sword for us.  It's allowed us to access and maintain an often thinly-spread audience.  But download culture - particularly P2P torrenting - has become an epidemic which now seriously damages our ability to bring in any serious income.   I'm not going to get overly moralistic about bootlegging, cause we've all done it to some extent, BUT the level of illegal downloading probably now outstrips our legal sales by a considerable margin.  To make matters worse our albums have been widely available free via torrent even before release.  Both 'The Dreams of Men' and 'Moment to Moment' were available online before anyone in the band had a finished copy!!! 

Now that's not just criminal - it's downright nasty.  It erodes any opportunity we have to reap the benefits of initial sales.  Making an album, or a DVD etc is still a considerable investment - in time, effort, creativity and love, let alone money.  For some B**** to steal it and give it away (presumably from an advance promotional or press copy) shows no respect for the time and effort that we have put into it.  Against that sort of background, it's getting harder to make the sums add up.  I can see a point beyond which it is no longer viable for us to continue - and it's very close.

7: If I understand this correctly you shot your video to your show on tha same night as Caamora, where you also participated. How did you manage to rearrange yourself between two acts as different as these and on the same night to boot?

ALAN:  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time :-)....  Once I realised quite how complex and taxing my involvement in the "SHE" show was going to be I did wonder if I'd taken on too much.   I'd actually been rehearsing with the "SHE" team for three days before the show, which was pretty tiring and challenging.  It was a great experience, but all of us knew we were operating at the edge of what was possible.   The others kept asking me how I was going to cope with a Pallas show as well, and I just kept saying "I'm trying not to think about it!" 

They were very different animals.. On the day itself, I was very torn between spending time with Pallas, and with the "SHE' team - Don't forget I had two sets of soundchecks as well!!.  In fact, we had a complete dress-rehearsal of "SHE" in the morning!!! 

Getting on stage with Pallas was actually a real release. I didn't have to think too hard about what I was doing - it was all pretty natural stuff.  I could just enjoy it.  The "SHE" gig needed much more concentration both in terms of singing and presentation.  I must admit that by halfway through act II, I was getting tired.   By the end I was just glad to have got through it.  If we do it again - and there is some talk of that - then I won't be bringing Pallas along :-)

8: An unforgettable DVD release to us fans of neo prog is with the constellation NEO, we simply have to know how it felt to participate with such amazing musicians!

ALAN: ..And such an honour for them to be allowed to play with me!! :-)  Actually the idea for NEO grew out of a conversation Jowitt and I had a couple of years previously, where he asked me if I'd be interested in doing some gigs with Peter Banks playing a mixture of early 'Yes' material and some of our own stuff.  That never came to pass, but he came back later with the idea of what I've called 'The Brit-prog Karaoke band". 

Basically we're our own tribute band. It's mainly about having a bit of fun, but it was kind of weird hearing different guys play the Pallas stuff - as it probably was for them hearing me do a bit of IQ and Arena.  They're all obviously great musicians, but they do play things a bit differently from my lot, and the non-verbal communication on stage was also a bit different to what I'm used to .  Keeps it interesting though, and they're good fun to be around.


9: After all these years you've played together, can you give us some "behind the curtain" information on the bandmates' attributes or characteristics if you will, that makes you function so well together?

ALAN: Well, it's like a family really.  We all understand eachother's foibles and weaknesses, and no one member's ego is allowed to get too big.  There's a shared sense of humour, which helps.    In terms of dishing the dirt I can exclusively reveal that they're all pretty damaged in one way or another :-)

GRAEME has a real thing about rubber, leather and body-piercing.  It makes travelling through airports an interesting experience. 

NIALL has to be kept on tranquilisers most of the time, because he hates travelling and gets hysterical on the bus without them.  We have to work out the doses quite carefully so they wear off in time for the gig. 

COLIN: has been a transvestite for a number of years, and spends most of his free time hanging round the docks in Aberdeen - where he's quite well-known.

RONNIE: He's the Svengali of the group - the evil mastermind  behind the whole operation.  He's got a really wicked temper, and to be honest the rest of us are so scared of him we just do what he says.

I , of course, am perfectly normal :-)

10:  As usual when it comes to DVD production from Wyspiański Theater in Katowice, the quality is excellent as well as the sound. It would be nice to hear a little about the cast behind the production of "Moment to Moment" such as how many cameramen, audio personell, the equipment etc.

ALAN: Well, to be honest, I met very few of them, but it was a large team.  The facilities were provided by Polish TV's outside broadcast unit - so the local equivalent of the BBC.  There were, I think, seven cameras - including a motorised robot along the front of the stage and a jib camera on a boom that swung up into the theatre roof.  Very impressive.  I didn't actually meet the director or video editor, but I gave copious notes to both, before and after the show.  I'm glad to say they responded pretty well to what I requested and I'm very pleased with the finished product.  When not doing Pallas I actually work for the BBC as a producer so I do have an idea of what's involved. 

The sound was mixed by Niall and Ronnie at The Mill, so we had control over that.  Mike Bentley also provided the artwork so overall we had quite a bit of influence in how the final product turned out.


11:  How well do you feel that the audience responds to Pallas in form of singing along and such? Also, how was the atmosphere?

ALAN: You can't really see it on the DVD, but the audience was extremely enthusiastic, and we really enjoyed playing for them. 

To answer your question more generally, it varies place to place, night to night.  Mostly we try - and succeed  - to get people involved.  It often depends on the nature of the venue.  For example if the audience is seated or standing. 

For example last summer we played one night in Glasgow where we had 300 people going crazy and sweat was running down the walls.  Niall said it was like playing in a shower.  The next night we played for the Classic Rock Society in the north of England.  They seemed less responsive in terms of jumping up and down, but they voted the show their "gig of the year" in their annual awards.  Go figure!

12: The choice of tracks for this DVD, what is the thought behind it?

ALAN:  Well, we needed to include what we'd been playing from "The Dreams of Men" and also wanted to avoid repeating too many tracks that people might already have from 'The Blinding Darkness" DVD.  We'd also played some gigs with the band's original singer, Euan Lowson, where he'd sung a lot of stuff from his era of the band.  Indeed at one point we'd thought that he might join us for this recording.  So with those criteria in mind we found ourselves with a set that encompassed both the most recent and the earliest stages of the band's career.  Oddly enough they seemed to fit together quite well.

13:  Now that you've teased us all with this DVD concert, are there any plans for further shows and is there a chance that they would be performed somewhere near the little country in the north, called Sweden?

ALAN: Well we decided at the end of last year that we wouldn't play any more gigs until we had the new album finished.  But we've already broken that decision as we're now going to play at the 3rd Art-rock Festival in Eastern Germany at the end of June.  Spock's Beard, Frost* and RWPL are also on the bill that night, so it should be quite a giggle. 

Other than that it's heads down to get the album done.  However, we always like going to new places to play, so if any promoter wants to get us over to Scandinavia they should get in touch.  The band's based in Aberdeen, so it's not really that far!! 

We thank you for your time.




Track Listing/Features:

  • Warriors
  • Hide and Seek
  • Ghostdancers
  • Cut + Run
  • Heart Attack
  • Queen of the Deep
  • Northern Star
  • The Last Angel
  • Invincible
  • Midas Touch
  • Fragments of the Sun / Outro
  • Arrive Alive
  • Tales From the Tourbus (bonus video)
  • The Rehearsal Tapes (bonus video)

Bonus Materials:

  • web links
  • desktop images
  • photo gallery
  • discography
  • biography
  • 2 video extras - 'Tales from the Tourbus' and 'The Rehearsal Tapes'
interview with Alan Reed and Graeme Murray