In 2004 I was surprised by a fantastic debut CD of the American band CRYPTIC VISION. Last year they gave a performance at the American Rosfest, a progressive rock festival and from that performance a CD was released recently, which once again showed that this is a band with a future. Some of the members already have a music past, because singer TODD PLANT sang in EYEWITNESS and MILLENIUM and keyboardplayer HOWARD HELM was in the band ZON. 2006 will also see a new CD release of the band, so therefore I had an interview with the band...
Duncan- Drums and lots of other weird instruments
Todd/TP: Todd Plant- Vocals and guitar
Howard: Howard Helm- Keyboards and vocals
Sam: Sam Conable- Bass and Vocals
First off, I would like to get back to the beginning of your musical careers, because singer Todd Plant and multi-instrumentalist Rick Duncan did a lot of stuff before CRYPTIC VISION, can you tell about ZION, Todd's band in the mid 80s which was a melodic rock outfit with Christian lyrics?
Todd - Zion existed for about 2 years and never
released anything. Thankfully we never caught anything either. The music was a
bit like Cryptic Vision - melodic Christian prog. Huge market for that on some
of the islands off New Guinea. So we did what any red-blooded American band
would do: buy a bus, hire a chick, switch
to top 40 and tour until we disintegrated! That took about another 6 months so we all had a chance to go bankrupt. Rock On!
Sam- I think this project is more Buddhist or Taoist at this point... A much bigger Buddhist prog market exists out there and we're going to find it.
Then somewhere in the early 90s a new project followed called MERIDIAN?
Sam- I saw a promotional photo of Meridian and Rick
had an amazing mullet going. There was a really cool glowing globe in the middle
and Todd looked really serious. TP - I was seriously about to conquer the planet
with my super powers. Rick - Yeah, That definitely won the award for the
strangest promo picture. The band
was Todd- Vocals and Guitar, Robert-Guitar and Keyboards, Mike Lowe-Drums and I played Keyboards and Bass, Meridian was primarily a recording project. We did rehearse it for a live show but never made it out of the jam room.
Throughout the 1990s Todd emerged in a few classy melodic rock bands, MILLENIUM and EYEWITNESS , please tell me all about these bands?
TP - No, I wanna talk about football. Why must you
torture me? OK, blah blah Ralph and yadda yadda 2 albums each. We got to go play
in the UK and Germany. Blah blah MTV Europe but no friggin money in 7 years.
gone! Sam- Poor guy...Touring Europe must have sucked...
Why did you quit these bands?
Sam- He told me they didn't use enough cowbell. Gotta have more cowbell, baby
TP – As I mentioned in the previous question, friggin. I got an offer to work with former members of the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Chicago, and Firefall doing mostly Doobies tunes. The McDonald songs were the most fun and 25 or 6 to 4 was cool, but most of all, I finally got PAID for something! And we played big festivals and were treated like stars. Nobody knew who I was, but I must have been somebody to somebody! I actually had some people tell me they remember seeing me sing for the Doobie Brothers in '73 or when I was on the TV show "Good Times". I mean I'm old, but geez not a geezer!
TP- However, let it be known that I replaced the
mighty Nordic singer Jorn Lande (after he replaced me) in
Millenium and was suckered into doing one more non-paying album called "Jericho". I soon realized that if I'm not going to make money, I might as well do music that is artistically rewarding. Entre CV.
Anyway, what did you two wankers do in the 90s ?
Rick- I played in a few local bands but spent most of the time recording other bands at my studio and doing live sound production for concerts. (got to pay the bills) Sam- Actually Rick and I met in 1991 when I approached him about recording a three piece band I had put together. He is a great producer and engineer... Really easy to work with in the studio. I had no idea of the magnitude and depth of the musical visions he was experiencing. When I listened to tracks off Moments I was amazed. I knew he was a good drummer but had no idea of the compositional talent he has.
Then in the year 2003 the project CRYPTIC VISION came to life, can you tell me about everyone involved in this project, because some well-known names emerged in here?
Rick- I had the basic concept for the CD for a few
years. It too started as a recording project. I did the basic tracks and Todd
was doing all the vocals. We then started to bring in other guitarists for solos
and the more intricate rhythm parts. Todd suggested Ralph Santolla and I knew
Shawn Bowen and the other guest guitarist
from the studio. Todd had also worked on a project with Howard Helm who provided the great B-3 and Moog solos.
Sam- I still can't quite remember the singer's name... I think it is Tad...No, Tom...It definitely is Tom!
TP – just call me Overlord of Chuck Norris.
I saw even a ZON member appeared, what did he do all these years and how did you get in contact with him, because ZON was a legendary late 70s Pomprockband from Canada?
Howard- Ah another Zon fan!!! Zon came so close to recording a new album two years ago but not yet. I have lived in West Central Florida since 1989 when I moved here while touring with Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. After Zon's split in 1981 I played with a band called Refugee in the mid-80's, (Chrysalis/Polygram). You may have seen some re-releases from MTM Music in Germany of our first album "Affairs in Babylon" recently. After working with Refugee for several years the opportunity arose to join the Hunter/Ronson Band which I did and played and recorded with them until 1992 when Mick fell ill. I have been producing and writing music ever since then based at Morrisound Studios in Tampa for many different bands and television. During my time at Morrisound on many different projects, I came to know Todd Plant and Ralph Santolla. Todd introduced me to Rick Duncan when the first Cryptic Vision album was being recorded. I enjoyed working on that album as a studio player and I am very pleased to be much more involved with the band now on the second album and am eager to return to the live stage with Cryptic Vision in 2006 as well.
Sam- It's been really great that Howard had the time to work on the new album. Our original live keyboardist John Zahner had touring commitments with Jon Oliva's Pain and was recording their new album at the same time as us. We asked Howard if he could fit it in and the first session he came down for blew us all away. He is a tremendous musician.He brings a real classical and composed element to the music and has a gift for arranging various instrumental voicings as well.
And also KANSAS member David Ragsdale appears on the first album 'Moments of clarity', how did you get him involved?
Rick- I had definitely wanted to use violin on the album and had a couple of local violinists doing tracks. On a couple of the solo sections I was looking for a little more than they were able to do. I had met David backstage at a Kansas show. I knew he would do a great job so I emailed him, sent him the tracks and he did his magic.
The music of CRYPTIC VISION is a mix of late 70s US Prog/Pomprock, 80s AOR and some of today's Progressive Metal, kinda like mixing KANSAS, JOURNEY and DREAM THEATER, was this the intention and vision of the band?
Rick- I've always been a fan of the 70's prog bands and had written a lot of material in that style. When I heard bands like Spock's Beard and Flower Kings in the 90's, It was like a breath of fresh air into a genre that had all but died in the 80's. I think it is great that there are still people who appreciate and support this type of music.
Sam- We are huge fans and have always listened to the work of great bands like the ones mentioned. I think there is a huge amount of Yes influence bouncing around in the band too. I am a giant King's X fan as well and I know that bands like The Beatles influence Cryptic Vision's sense of melody and vocal harmonies. I had never heard of The Flower Kings or Spock's Beard until Rick turned me on to their work. Dave Meros has quickly become one of my heroes in the bass world.
Howard- Being originally from Toronto, Canada I grew up in the sixties/seventies with an amazing mix of eclectic and progressive radio stations. With popular radio in Toronto being influenced by both Europe and America without many restrictions, many European bands got their earliest North American debuts in Toronto and other parts of Canada. Progressive music has always been well received there.and I was fortunate to have witnessed "live", many of the great early Progressive bands. (Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, ELP, etc. ) These influences heavily motivated bands like Zon and later Saga and while that style may have fallen out of radio popularity over the last twenty years I believe many people worldwide still love and want to hear that style of music. The opportunity to play with Cryptic Vision was so "logical" for me, creative, inspired, progressive style rock, it involved very little thought to agree to work with the band.
Back to that first record Moments of clarity', can you tell me all about the songs, I believe even some old MERIDIAN songs were included, probably the AOR song ""Angeline"?
Rick- Actually a version of New Perspective, Shock
Value and Colored Leaf were floating around back then. Angeline was a song that
I had written the music for a while back, but had no lyrics. I wanted a happy
sounding song to tell that part of the story (about finding his soul mate) and
the music seemed to fit. The lyrics to New Perspective and Shock Value were
changed slightly to fit the story. Sam- The original version of New Perspective
was done at about half the tempo of the version that appeared on Moments. It had
a totally different
So you played a festival (ROSFEST) last year, can you tell me all about it?
Sam- Originally the live band came together specifically to do the Rites of Spring Show. I don't think any of us new if we could actually perform this music live and do it justice. The first time we got together, for me it was a huge adrenaline rush to actually be playing songs like "Introspective" the first time through and to realize that this was actually going to work. We really didn't have any idea what people were going to think when we walked out and played this material. We had one big show before RosFest and that was opening for Kansas. It was such a huge dream come true for us as a band and from the moment we started the show, we could feel a tremendous amount of energy coming back at us from the audience and feel them right there with us as we moved through the set... It was one of the greatest moments of my musical career and I was so happy for Rick that we were all sharing in his musical vision together and opening for some of our greatest heroes.
Rick- ROSFest was definitely an awesome moment for me. George and Tom really put together a great festival. I thought all of the bands were great and the response we got at 11:00 on a Sunday morning was unforgettable.
Now a CD is released with that concert?
Sam- Yeah, we recently released "Live At ROS". You can purchase it through our website: http://www.crypticvision.net or through Progrock Records. It's also available through Amazon and CD baby. Rick had volunteered his services to George to multi-track record all the artists that played at the Rites of Spring festival. I think The Tangent also has plans to release some of their set. We didn't know whether the resulting recording was going to be worth anything or not. When we listened back after getting back to Florida, I was really pleased that we actually pulled off a decent show. Honestly, the whole time on stage was a blur and very surreal for me personally. I remember realizing that we were going on stage at 11 in the morning and being a little concerned that no one would show up... After the opening 3 song medley I could tell that this was going to be a really fun show and it was a full house... Everyone was so cool and enthusiastic. It is an honor to get an ovation from a prog audience because they are very discriminating musically and really pay attention to everything you are doing.
Can we expect a DVD release of the performance as well?
Sam- no there is only about 30 seconds or so of video material from that show that our sound tech Mike Preston grabbed on his cel phone or something...
Rick- No I don't think anyone would be interested in purchasing a 30 second DVD... seriously we have talked about doing a DVD at some point in the future. Logistically it's hard to do it at a festival because there is very little set up time.
Sam- Hmmm...there may be a market there we haven't tapped into yet... the audio on Mikey's cel phone could be beefed up...
Are you working on a new CRYPTIC VISION album yet, if so please tell us all about the songs?
Sam- The new album tracks are almost finished. I was so impressed by Moments of Clarity that I had no idea if we could come up with material that would compare. Rick played a bunch of demos and we all started working on the material and the songs are even better and more varied. The new music definitely has a different energy to it than Moments in that it is truly a band project now. We have some guests on the album but there is definitely a solid core to the new material that feels like the band's identity revealing itself. I think the coolest thing about the new songs is that we are covering a very wide variety of textures and moods... Some bands I hear are a little narrow stylistically. That's what I always loved about Led Zeppelin...they could play soft and beautiful on "Going to California" or "Black Mountain Side" and then crush you with "Black Dog" or "Misty Mountain Hop"...
Rick- Yeah, I am very happy with the way the tracks are coming out. I do think it is a better album than Moments. The album's running length is around 73 minutes. There are 3 big epics (that take up about 35 minutes of the 73) and some real solid shorter format songs. Like Sam said, there are a lot of different textures and moods. I think if people liked Moments they will really like this album. Howard- the new Cryptic Vision album is extremely versatile, exciting and very much more of a band project than the previous album. I think prog fans around the world will be very pleasantly surprised by the growth of the band.
What can we more expect from CRYPTIC VISION, any touring plans (in Europe) and will this be a long-lasting project/band?
Sam- How many minutes more do we have to live? I can't imagine being blessed with any greater vehicle to express myself in. We have a very easy and cool working relationship. It really is a great bunch a musicians and some fantastic music... these guys actually like when I play my Rickenbacker with a pick... We already have a fair amount of the third album together and also will be releasing a DVD as soon as we can fit it in. We are also trying to put together a European tour later this year.
Rick- I feel like we will be doing this for years to
come. There is already a 3rd album that is about 75%
done that will complete the trilogy. I've been very blessed to find talented like minded individuals to create music with.
Sam- Oh god...We're not really like minded are we? That is a scary thought in itself...
Then Todd, I believe you joined the band TEER, you probably can not get enough singing the classic old 80s Floridian melodic hardrockstyle (I define that style as big sounding guitar riff orientated hardrock with triple-part harmonyvocals and melodic lead singing, as well as catchy hooks and memorable choruses all over the place), what to expect from TEER?
TP - Ahh, the Teer experiment.... blah blah you're just not working out yadda poof! again.
Sam- Todd, you go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.
Any other bands/projects you are involved with?
TP - I've decided to limit my agony to one relationship. At my age one has limited energy. This is the most amazing and creative band I've ever been in. In the immortal words of Highlander "there can be only one".
Sam- I play bicycle pump and cross cut saw part time with the Oneco Baton Twirler's Association..
Rick- Sam will also be doing his stand up comedy act at the Dog and Gun Saloon. side note -> (in the 80's I actually played in club called "The Dog and Gun Saloon" pretty scary huh?)
TP - where's Oneco?
Sam- The home of the best Baton twirlers of course...Geez, get with the program!
Back to CRYPTIC VISION, how does the future look like?
Howard- stay tuned for more exciting music. the best is yet to come.
Sam- Hexagonal. No, honestly, like a cryptic vision... No telling what might happen next... I just know whatever it is, it will be loud and bombastic.
TP - I see lots of spooky music and gaggles of groupies. I also see the forest for the trees. I also see a bunch of sarcastic caucasians doing interviews until we go poof!
Sam- But I don't want to go Poof! I would rather go Bang! or make a big cloud of toxic black smoke and leave a burn mark on the pavement. We are kind of spooky aren't we...
Thanks for answering the questions, have a good career with your band?
Sam- Is that a question? Thanks for taking the time to check out what we are up to!
Rick- Thank's for listening!
Sam- What did you say?? I can't hear very well... I have this persistant high pitched ringing in my ears.
TP - mega dittos
More info at: http://www.crypticvision.net
BACK TO INTERVIEWSINDEX
BACK TO HOMEPAGE