EAST OF LYRA: ΙΝΤΕRVIEW WITH LEE PAYNE
LEE PAYNE INTERVIEW
First of all I would like to welcome you on Metalzone Hellas.
Thank you my friend it is an honor. Greece has some of the most loyal and dedicated metal fans in the world and it is my spiritual home. I was always fascinated with Greek mythology as a school kid, it fired up my imagination and inspired me in my music writing constantly. I love the land of immortals we have played some of my favorite live shows there too!
Tell us some things about how the whole idea of East of Lyra started. Why a record now in this style and not some years ago?
The starting point for the progressive rock project was a Cloven Hoof song called “Starship Sentinel “off the “Opening Ritual EP”. The first band line up were great fans of Rush as I was, so I decided to write a song influenced by Geddy, Alex and Neil but still keeping within the confines of our trademark sound. I knew the guys would love the track and it would lend contrast to the EP so we played it live on stage throughout our early years. There was a great temptation to write further songs in this style but my vision for Cloven Hoof was to remain an out and out aggressive yet epic metal band. We were pioneers of power metal I guess due to our speed and complicated song structures.
Over the years I had accumulated many song ideas that suited a prog rock band so I saved them till the opportunity presented itself. For the past few years I had been working in a studio back in England called vault studios. Chris Dando and Ben Fitzharris were the owners of the place and they were fantastic producers and engineers. All the recent Cloven Hoof albums were recorded there so I had a great relationship working with those guys.
Dando has a great voice and played keyboards like a genius so it got me thinking about the possibility of working on a prog rock band together. Ben played great guitar so we had the nucleus of a band there and then. A superb drummer called Mark Harris Bristow was recruited by Dando to join the band and he was a human metronome. Bristow was so good I had to get him to join Cloven Hoof also, now all we needed was a killer lead guitarist.
Ash Baker came highly recommended so we tried him out and he blew us all away with his soaring lead guitar and crunchy riffing style. Ash too impressed me so much that i knew he had to be in Cloven Hoof full time too. Mr Baker is amazing live and his stage craft and high energy performance wowed the audiences across the USA earlier this year. So there you have it… East of Lyra was born!
How do you see the album now? Is there something you would like to change?
The more I hear the album the more I like it in fact so there is nothing really I would change. Musicians always obsess about production and are never usually satisfied but it is all subjective really. Taste in what you like at the time is transient so it is no good harping on about production sensibilities we could of changed this etc. I am very proud of the album and every time I listen to it I pick up a new part I never noticed before because it is so layered. The musical textures and dynamics are great so I love it and I think a lot of prog rock fans will get off on it big time.
Can you tell us about the lyrics or the story behind “Siren Song”, “Wings of Freedom” and “Shadowlands”? What are these songs talking about?
Those songs are part of a concept piece that takes up most of side one on the vinyl release of the album. It will be available sometime later this year with a gatefold sleeve. The tracks “Siren Song”, “Wings of Freedom” and “Shadowlands” deal with the story of the Marie Celeste and gives our imaginative take on explaining what happened to the entire ship’s crew who disappeared without a trace.
The synopsis is the vessel set out from New York harbor on a voyage to the Azores but it hit a sudden storm that appeared from nowhere. The ship became becalmed and floated about in a Sargasso Sea then a mysterious fog appeared. Suddenly the sailors realized they were in a ships graveyard stranded with vessels from ancient times. Sirens then called to them and they could not resist there lure as they dived into the water.
It turned out this was a trap as a gigantic starship burst forth from the water and beamed the humans aboard. It then sped off into space as the powerless Mariners gazed out of the windows at the fragile Earth they were leaving behind.
The star ship took them to a far off world in a distant galaxy ruled by a race of warrior Amazonian type women. The genetic strain was dying out so in order to save the aliens from extinction they had abducted males from other planets to add to their gene pool. However the sailors from Earth did not mate with these beings, they were fed into machines that showed them a fictitious virtual reality world while they drained there life force and DNA.
The males that were substandard to requirements were taken back to their respective worlds when the next raiding mission arose. Then the trick of the tail at the end of the album is when one of the sailors provides an account of his adventure and no one believes him.
Although the story of the Marie Celeste is factual we have just given our imaginative take on explaining what happened to the entire ship’s crew who disappeared without a trace. It is not what we believe actually happened of course. The clue is in the title, this is a work of Science FICTION.
How do you think the fans of Cloven Hoof will react to East of Lyra?
The progressive rock idiom gives us a blank canvas to paint on. Hoof’s style is now well defined and the bandwidth of metal has certain parameters that are established. To go beyond what the genre requires you are in danger of alienating fans, so Lyra being a whole new separate entity infuses us with a whole new creative freedom.
Cloven Hoof has released concept albums of course like “Dominator” which focused on the dangers of genetic engineering. But it has a very heavy aggressive delivery. East of Lyra’s approach is multi layered and more pastoral at times. There is greater light and shade to the various musical passages and there are some very strange time signatures inherent in our work. Lots of 7/8 and unorthodox soundscapes are explored. Like twin horns on the same goat Hoof and Lyra have similarities but the overall delivery is very different. Cloven Hoof are heavy metal to the bone and East of Lyra is an unashamed Progressive rock band. If you like Rush and Yes then check the album out, you will love it.
What are your expectations regarding the debut of East of Lyra? Any plans for a tour-concerts, second album, etc.?
We hope to do a few live shows next year to fit around Cloven Hoof’s hectic touring and recording schedule. We have already agreed to do a charity show for Brian Mear and his worthy cause Mear fest. We will make our debut for him at a special prog rock festival he is organizing. Other shows are on the cards of course and various people are working on them to fit in with our busy diary.
If people like the new album then there will be another Lyra album in the pipeline. There is a wealth of material to draw on so we are confident we can release a few albums if the demand is there. I certainly hope so because the East of Lyra project is very exciting.
How do you see the general progressive rock scene nowadays? Can this genre attract new/younger fans or is it a style only for a nostalgic older audience?
The cool thing about prog rock is that the audience is from all ages, it has no age restrictions. The main reason is young or old musical taste is subjective. Fans of rock and metal do not follow fashions they make their own minds up about what is good or not. No hype from the music press can influence them so they cannot be controlled or dictated to. The scene itself never changes much because the fans have such open minds. As long as the music is imaginative and played with musical dexterity and conviction then that is all that is required.
Could the progressive style of East of Lyra be mixed with the classic heavy metal sound of Cloven Hoof? Is this something that has crossed your mind or do you consider the two bands completely different? Or could you for example imagine Chris Dando singing for Cloven Hoof?
Dando is a great singer but his voice is too pure for Cloven Hoof. Metal needs an aggressive rougher gravel voice style delivery. Chris has the range and operatic qualities of course and his harmony vocals are brilliant. Prog and metal are chalk and cheese really both styles are played with power and passion and have great light and shade qualities to the music. The main difference is Prog is more layered with pastoral soundscapes while metal is more aggressive and abrasive.
I have always had a duel passion for true Metal and Progressive rock all my life. When I was a kid my idols on Bass were Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) and Chris Squire (Yes) in equal measure. I suppose that duality has shaped my writing within Cloven Hoof to some extent that is why we were not just a straight forward metal band. Our power and aggression are metal but the music has epic time changes and lyrical depth that are associated with prog rock. “The Gates of Gehenna” song is the perfect example of this. The song progression dispenses with the verse, chorus, verse chorus, solo then end chorus infinitum. Instead it is a series of musical movements that tell a story of someone selling there soul to the devil. I treat many songs like mini movie scenarios set within a heavy metal framework. It gives great depth to our compositions and someone called our music thinking men’s metal… I like that definition a lot!
That said when I got the opportunity to record a solo project I wanted to explore the prog rock idiom in further detail. it would be pointless to make a straight ahead metal album as Cloven Hoof fulfils all my heavy metal musical aspirations.
Allow us to ask some things about Cloven Hoof. In what stage is the band right now? Any plans for a new record perhaps? Anything new with regard to the band?
The band just completed a new album called “Age of steel” and it is a total killer. Pure Steel records will be releasing it next year and we can’t wait for you to hear it.
We are very excited about the forthcoming release of a live hi-definition video and CD release too. It will be a box set and was recorded at the Bang your head festival in Germany. There were 20 cameras at the show and we played one of the best sets of our career. I just heard the sound recordings and it sounds fantastic!
Warts and all it captures the band live magic for all time. We will include bonus live out takes we did in the rehearsal studio before the US tour last year. Someone just miked us up in the rehearsal room to see what it would sound like. Wow we really sounded super tight and heavy. The fans are in for a treat when it comes out in late March or early August 2020.
How do you see now the “Resist or Serve” and “Who Mourns for the Morning Star?” LPs? How do you feel about them? What feedback did you get from the old fans?
The most important album we have made to date is the “Who Mourns for the Morning Star” opus. It featured a new Anglo American line up comprised of George Call / Lead vocals, Danny White / Drums, Luke Hatton / Guitar, Chris Coss / Guitar and yours truly / bass. WMFTMS was a life changing record. The opus was incredibly well received by old and new fans alike getting 10 / 10 reviews. It enabled Cloven Hoof to tour the USA for the first time as headliners coast to coast. We had to do back to back tours playing 70 dates at a time without a day off due to popular demand. It was real road warrior stuff. I think W.M.F.T.M.S was our best album to date, but just wait till the new one… the age of steel!
Many fans seem to miss the “Dominator” and “A Sultan's Ransom” era. Is the expectation of a Cloven Hoof album in that style and sound realistic, or the idea is to present something different with Cloven Hoof?
It is no point living in nostalgia and resting on your laurels. A band has to keep reaching and break new ground or die. Hoof always gets better and improves with each release. Sure we have a well-defined bandwidth and an epic style of our own but you can always give it a new twist. I like the aforementioned albums a lot and am very proud of them but I like the new songs more. There would be no point continuing if I didn’t.
Many fans daydream the return of Russ North. How are your relations these days? Do you see him returning to the band at some point in the future, just for an album or a thematic tour, to perform the entire “A Sultan's Ransom” for instance, or is this something impossible?
No there is no chance whatsoever I’m afraid. Russ had very serious problems with alcohol addiction sadly. He simply gave up music and had no interest in being in a band due to insurmountable personal problems. I still look back with affection on the old days and wish him well. We have left a great musical legacy of working together that his unfortunate condition will not diminish. The fans still can hear him on the fantastic albums and remember him that way.
If East of Lyra gained great success, would you put aside Cloven Hoof, or vice-versa?
No I would never give up Cloven Hoof under any circumstances. East of Lyra is a solo project that can fit in between any Cloven Hoof tours with ease. I feel I am very lucky to be able to explore my musical creativity to the fullest and work with such fantastic musicians and people. Prog and Metal is my passion and I have devoted my life to it. I can ask for nothing more.
Which bands (from the progressive rock/metal scene or rock/metal scene in general) would you imagine to cover which songs from the debut of East of Lyra? And similarly, which songs would you like to cover from which bands?
Good question but I think it would be too presumptuous of me to name bands who should cover our songs. However I will deal with the second part of the request easily…
Heart of the Sunrise – Yes
Return of the Giant Hogweed – Genesis
Minstrel in the Gallery – Jethro Tull
Flying Teapot - Gong
Thank you very much for your time! If you want to add something you can do it now.
Best wishes to Metalzone and thank you for giving me the opportunity to spread the word about East of Lyra. I am very excited by the project because I have been wanting to make an album like this for 35 years… better late than never!