By Willy van Buel

STARCASTLE released 4 albums during the 70s. Their first couple of albums showed a very Progressive Rockstyle, while the later records were clearly more midwest AOR rock oriented a la HEAD EAST and AXE. The band split up and many years later, like many more 70s Rockbands, they reformed and are about to release a new record. Time for Strutter'zine to check out what these guys have been doing all these years and share with us the information around their new 'project'. Willy van Buel had an interview with bassist Gary Strater...

Before going to the come back, please, can you tell us where and how it all started way back in the early seventies ? How did STARCASTLE formed ?

Starcastle formed out of a couple of other bands that were working out of Champaign, IL. We all ended up together because we had simular goals and musical tastes from the beginning.

I always ask myself, how does a band finds their musical direction or style ? I mean, as like STARCASTLE, you're 6 guys with 6 different characters, how easy or difficult was it to hold this line-up steady ? Which were the bands of music that influenced STARCASTLE in the beginning ?

Our influences ranged from the Beatles, the Who, Deep Purple to Weather Report, ELP, Genesis and Yes. Also Aaron Copland, Stravinski and several other classical composers influenced us. Add in Terry's experience with REO SPEEDWAGON and you get prog rock.

From '75 to '79, STARCASTLE released 4 fine albums. Which one was the most successful one and how was the reputation of STARCASTLE back then. Did the band had a big following ? Can you please tell us more
bout the scene at that time ?

The first lp was the most succesfull, but we all feel that our second lp " Fountains of Light ", was musical superior.

About the live shows, at the time, was it easy to create live the same moods and spheres as you did on the albums because I find the music then, was fair complex at some times ?

We played all of our pieces as completely as we could and performed all of the vocals ourselves live, as well.
The music was indeed complex for the time, but there are a lot of bands today that play complex material.

Can you remember the best gigs or tours you did and with which bands? Did STARCASTLE ever played in Europe ?

The best tour we did was with JETRO TULL when our first lp had just been released. They were great players and really inspiring, intelligent people. Their entire road crew was by far the most organized professional that we ever encountered. Rush and their people run a close second. We shared several venues with Rush and had very friendly relationships with them. Of all people I met on the road, the members of Rush are probably the people I miss the most. They portrayed no illusions of self importance to me, and that is rare in any industry. We never played in Europe but we did record in Chipping Norton, England.

As you now look back, what was the most nicest thing you can remember of STARCASTLE part one ?

The nicest thing about Starcastle then, as now, was that the music came first. It came before ego or record sales or politics. We felt that we were trying to be musical artists and the public allowed us the time to express what we could. For that I think we are still greatfull !

Now, 20 years after the last release REEL TO REEL, STARCASTLE is back. Please, how did it all started again and was it easy to bring back all the original members together ? What or who turned the scale for this historic reunion ?

Now, we just want to release a new cd and bring Starcastle full circle. Getting in touch with everyone was harder than convincing everyone in the band to participate. There are a total of 10 musicians that performed under the name and we now live all over the US. The musicians that composed and performed the different pieces in the past should perform the same pieces on the new cd. Their names are: Steve Hagler - Herb Schildt - Gary Strater - Terry Luttrell - Steve Tassler - Matt Stewart - Ralph Goldheim - Bruce Botts - Scott McKenzie and Mark Mcgee.

I've heard you've already written (and recorded ???) new songs. Will the style be a return to the sound of the first 3 albums or a more AOR approach like on the last release ?

Several of the pieces are older, one from 1978 ! We may put the thing together chronologically which would be interesting because the music does span 20 years of composition. One of the pieces is a brand new concept piece that is being composed during the sessions by the original members. It should prove interesting. The cd will be all progressive material. Hopefully more like the first 2 lp's. After the horrible experience of our 4th lp ( Reel to reel), we decided to stick to what we do the best. You must bear in mind though that prog rock has had many faces in it's life and our material has too. Because of this time displacement, we are calling the project " CHRONOS ".

Who did or will do the production job and what (if you already recorded ?) were his influences on the bands music style ?

The cd is being produced by me ( Gary Strater ), with the help of the band, and Mark Rubel of Pogo Records, and will be recorded here in Champaign, IL. at the POGO Studio. If nothing else, you'll be able to see what we did without the help or interference of a major label.

In the US, AERIA (Eric Abrahamsen, God bless him), signed you, are there also interests from Europe or Japan releasing the new album over there ? What kind of deal does STARCASTLE have with AERIA ?

I am doing this recording with Aeria because of Eric's enthusiasm and support and because Aeria is a label that is owned by a musician and is run for the BENIFIT of it's artists. There has been requests and nudges over the years from friends and fans and we finally took the hint and decided to release at least one more cd. If it goes well and Aeria likes it, maybe we'll do another.

Last question, do you have some last words for all the fans over here in Europe, and of course in the rest of the world ?

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank our fans for their support. It's more valuable to us than we can say.

(A special thanks goes out to Eric Abrahamsen)