Welcome (Back) to Twin Peaks

In a small town in upstate Washington, the body of the high school homecoming queen is discovered. An FBI agent is sent in to investigate. What he finds, though, is significantly more than just a small-town murder, and he uncovers a surreal, twisted, and downright bizarre web of secrets, doppelgangers, mystic visions, and a damn fine cup of coffee. Welcome to Twin Peaks, the fictitious small town in upstate Washington located “five miles south of the Canadian border and twelve miles west of the state line” which was the subject of the ABC series of the same name in 1990-1991, created by Mark Frost and David Lynch.

On May 21, 2017, “Twin Peaks” made its long-awaited return to television screens—25 years after the series ended with the prequel film “Fire Walk With Me” in 1992—this time on cable giant Showtime. It was a bit of a rocky road getting there, though, with Lynch in and out of the project due to budgetary disagreements with Showtime. Eventually, though, all troubles were ironed out and the series’ original nine-episode order was doubled to eighteen, with Lynch as sole director.

My knowledge of “Twin Peaks” is peripheral at best, gained mostly through cultural osmosis. I love many of Lynch’s other works (“Mulholland Drive”, “Dune”, “Lost Highway”, “The Elephant Man” and others), but had simply never gotten around to “Twin Peaks.” So, when Showtime broadcast the first two episodes, simultaneously making the first four available on demand, I felt it was time for me to take the plunge. But first I talked to longtime fans to find out what they thought of it. I wanted to know how they came to be “Twin Peaks” fans, why they loved it, and whether the new show stacks up to the original.

Josh Wilson of Atlanta was first introduced to the films of David Lynch in high school. He tracked down “Twin Peaks” partly because of his love of Lynch films, but also because of his love of “The X-Files” (which was influenced by “Twin Peaks”). Wilson recalls being drawn into the series because “I love Lynch’s sensibilities. His imagery and use of dream logic, his wacky humor, his willingness to explore a dark mythology … all things I love.” Four episodes in, and he’s found the new show to be “such a mind-blowing experience. Pure unadulterated Lynch. It’s brilliant.”

For Rachel Stewart of Chattanooga, TN, the journey began with the discovery at a Dollar Tree of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, the spin-off novel written by Lynch’s daughter Jennifer. Stewart was 13 at the time, almost exactly Laura’s age in the book, and she had a love of reading diaries, both fictional and factual. “I read the book cover to cover and then headed to Blockbuster to rent episodes (once I figured out it was in fact a TV show). The only thing Blockbuster had was the pilot (with the European ending) and ‘Fire Walk with Me’. So, I went for years just on those two things.” It was the show’s setting that entranced her: “Having grown up in a small Southern town my whole life, I could relate to and appreciate the characters and the idea that something just isn’t right.” From “Twin Peaks” she explored other Lynch films and became a fan. For her, the new series is “pure Lynch aesthetic and insanity. I am charmed, bewildered, and terrified all at once.”

Echoing their sentiment is Tripp Gwynn of Charlotte, NC: “My brain is still reconfiguring itself. I lack proper terminology. But, it was really, really good.” Atlanta musician Joe Monticello told me, “One episode in, and it seems like it’s much more David Lynch than Mark Frost. This is not a bad thing at all, since I’m a huge Lynch fan. I’m definitely all in and looking forward to seeing where it all will go.”

“Twin Peaks: The Return” stars Kyle MacLachlan as three (so far) different versions of his character, Agent Dale Cooper. The show also features major appearances by original cast members Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Brennan), Russ Tamblyn (Dr. Jacoby), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), and many more. While fans welcomed the return of all their favorite characters, for Stewart, the heart of the story is Laura Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee. “Laura is an icon for the town, as well as the series. I love her because I think she’s a good person who’s struggled with darkness and demons in her life.”

There were two cast members whose involvement in the new series was gravely affected by cancer. Catherine Coulson played Margaret Lanterman, better known to “Twin Peaks” fans as the Log Lady, a grieving widow who carried a log around with her. Regarded by the townspeople as crazy, Lanterman would dispense cryptic messages of foreknowledge that she claimed would come to her from her log. Coulson appears in the first two episodes of the new series—hair loss, breathing apparatus and all—having filmed her final scenes just prior to her death in September 2015. “I was a little verklempt during Catherine Coulson’s scenes,” Gwynn commented. “They were like messages from the great beyond.” An appropriate epitaph for the Log Lady.  One other intended returnee didn’t fare quite as well. David Bowie was to have revisited his role from “Fire Walk With Me” as Agent Phillip Jefferies. No one knew how sick Bowie was at the end of his life until he passed suddenly on January 10, 2016. He was unable to participate in filming for the new series, but his character still seems to have a significant role. “It kills me that he was ill as this was being shot,” Wilson stated. “He has a big part in it that you can tell was worked around. He’s mentioned a lot.”

The overwhelming sense is that the long wait for “Twin Peaks” to return to television was worth it. “Totally,” says Wilson. “It’s pure Lynch and that’s why it’s so good. Doing it without him would have been a pale shadow of what it should be. He’s not giving you what you think you want, and that’s the brilliance of it. There’s no one else like him.” Josh Pinder of Saint Austell in the UK agrees, adding that “[It’s a] surreal feeling that we exist in a time where they’ve actually made another season.”

So the fans are happy. But what about new fans? How inviting is this show to new viewers? Would someone who is curious about it be able to jump in? “Casual viewers are gonna hate it,” Wilson said. “If you aren’t versed in what had happened before, I can’t imagine you’d be able to follow a second. Going in knowing nothing, I think you’d be totally lost.” Dan Benge of Atlanta concurs: “It’s very Lynchian, which will also be a major problem for anyone who hates nonlinear stories.” Even one original fan, Pierce Piper of Conyers, GA, found it difficult to reconnect: “I pretty much feel like I needed to see the original series again to refamiliarize myself with everything. There were characters I didn’t remember and plots I didn’t recall except vaguely and that did me no favors in watching this.”

Armed with all this feedback, I decided to dive in—and I found that my friends were right. The show offers no assistance whatsoever to new viewers; in fact, the very first scene proves to be pretty much unintelligible to the uninitiated. One is expected to grab on and hold tight, figuring things out as one goes … or not.

But I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. Once I got past the first scene, it started to make a weird sort of sense. The first episode introduces four main plot threads: In Twin Peaks, Deputy Chief “Hawk” Hill (Michael Horse) receives a message from the Log Lady about the long-missing Agent Dale Cooper. Somewhere in New York City is a mostly-empty room containing a large, transparent glass box that’s being observed around the clock in case something appears in it. And in Buckhorn, South Dakota, Cooper’s doppelganger acquires two sidekicks but kills both as he discovers they’re plotting against him. DoppelCooper is almost certainly tied to another event in Buckhorn, the brutal murder of the town librarian, her head completely severed from her bloated body. The school principal’s fingerprints are found all over the victim’s apartment, but he has no recollection of ever being there. What’s more, the body isn’t hers—it’s a John Doe. So where is her body? And where’s John Doe’s head?

Along with all the returning characters, “Twin Peaks: The Return” introduces a large cast of new characters, most of them appearing in only one or two episodes, telling their chapters of the unfolding narrative. Among standouts are Matthew Lillard, giving one of his finest performances as Principal Hastings, who goes from happy husband expecting company for dinner to imprisoned accused murderer who has little recollection of even knowing the woman he has supposedly brutalized; and Michael Cera, making a one-off appearance as Wally Brando, son of Lucy and Deputy Andy Brennan, born on Marlon Brando’s birthday and modeling himself after “Easy Rider.”

It’s rather difficult to describe the show’s plot in any meaningful way, simply because it’s made up of seemingly unrelated story threads that range from the incredibly mundane to the abstract and metaphysical. For instance, Episode Three makes the Herculeanleap from an extremely strange, silent, nightmarish scene of Cooper in outer space with an eyeless Japanese woman, to a quaint and amusing scene in the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s office and a discussion of the relevance of a missing chocolate bunny (spoiler alert: It’s not very relevant). Lynch is a master at balancing the dark and disturbing with doses of offbeat humor.

Much of the dialogue throughout is quite stilted and the delivery of it by the actors is deliberately mannered, giving the whole production a dreamlike, even otherworldly, quality. All that drops away, however, at the end of Episode Four: FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Deputy Director Gordon Cole (David Lynch) have a private conversation about their meeting with who they thought to be Agent Cooper (surprise—it’s DoppelCooper). The two men express their disquiet about the encounter and conclude that something is very wrong. The scene is played straight and with deadly seriousness, separating it stylistically from the abstract and overly theatrical delivery of almost every other scene in the production, lending it a grave urgency and importance that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Lynch’s directorial style creates a visual landscape unlike anything else currently on television. He employs lengthy static, silent shots to set the mood of his piece, including having a single character walk away from the camera and conduct his business in the background of the shot. The lack of camera movement and edits (plus the almost total absence of incidental music) means that the show feels much less like a television production; in fact, it gives the viewer the sense of being in a room in which the action happens, as a spy or a voyeur if not a participant.

I’m very glad that I gave this show a try, and I’m now looking forward to exploring the earlier episodes. It’s definitely a challenge, but having the internet and good friends well versed in the lore at hand can carry you a long way. “Twin Peaks: The Return” is not for the faint of heart. But if one has patience, and has an open mind, and isn’t put off by bizarre, non-linear storytelling, the experience offers rich rewards.

Interview: Mike Martin (ex-Fozzy/Stuck Mojo)

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Over two years ago I had the honor of speaking with Agent Cooper and Dreaded Marco lead guitarist, Mike Martin (formerly of Fozzy and Stuck Mojo), about his life in music.  It was even more special due to the fact that it was my first interview for Better B# and that it was nearly three hours long.  It was a blast and I couldn’t be more excited to speak with him once more to catch up on what has occurred in the time between.  So let’s not dally any longer!  Thanks for joining me again, Mike.  How have you been?

Thanks so much for taking the time! I’ve been doing great. 2015 is already a busy year!

You’re in several bands now.  Not only do you have your own solo project, but you’re also the lead guitarist in both the prog rock band Agent Cooper, as well as rockers The Dreaded Marco.  How do you balance all of these obligations?

I’m very fortunate to be able to play with such a diverse group of different bands.  I’m interested in many styles of music. It’s great to have opportunities that allow me to express those sides of my playing. It can be a bit of a balancing act. This month I’m playing gigs with my solo group, The Dixie Duncan Band, The Dreaded Marco and Stickman. Finding the time and the headspace to keep rehearsals scheduled and attention to the details of all of our music is a challenge for sure. I count my blessings everyday that I get to wake up and make music for a living so I work very hard to stay focused and bring my “A” game to every show no matter the project. I always give 100%.

The Dreaded Marco is your most recent endeavor.  They’ve released a few albums on their own prior to this, but you joined them for their newest album, Safe Word.  How did you get involved with them?

I’ve been friends with The Dreaded Marco guys for years. Our drummer, Mike Froedge, has been a key player around the Atlanta area with bands like doubleDrive, Speed X as well as having toured with Black Label Society and runs a very successful studio in town where we did some Stuck Mojo tour rehearsals before. The original guitarist, Dixie Duncan, is a very good friend of mine and we’ve been ardent supporters and fans of each other’s work for years. Dixie and I conspired to have me open up their Classy album release show a few years back. I’ve been a fan since the band’s inception. After Dixie decided to leave the band a couple of years ago, the guys reached out to me and Troy McLawhorn from Evanescence, Seether and doubleDrive to fill in on some shows. Troy and Froedge obviously have a lot of history together so it was an honor for me to get asked to join the band and record the latest album with them.

On Safe Word, which is a really fun record by the way, you not only handle guitar duties but also appear to be the person who experiences quite a few random encounters between songs.  Can you tell us about that release and what it was like creating it?

Thanks, man! It was a lot of fun putting this album together. I think that joy comes across in the performances. That’s actually our bassist Scott Williams doing the spoken intermezzo parts. We do sound a little alike too. Even my older brother thought that was me at first!

The guys already had all of the songs on the table written and ready to go when they pulled me in. What was cool was that they already knew that we weren’t going to do a ton of overdubs. We really wanted the album to sound like what we sound like live so they gave me all the room in the world to write my guitar parts. I wrote around Charlie’s parts so we could have a cool complimentary guitar sound. Some of my ideas led the guys to change some of their parts too so it was good to not just be a session guy on the album but actually get to influence the writing process and put my sound all over all of the songs. We’re very pleased with the way it all turned out.

The Dreaded Marco isn’t the only group you’ve been busy with lately.  You released an album with Agent Cooper this last year entitled Far From Sleep that slipped under the noses of some people.  I gave your bandmate, Sean Delson, a hard time about that when I interviewed him recently, but he made it up to me by saying that new material is currently being recorded for a new album.  What can we expect from this next batch of songs?  Any idea when we’ll get a taste of it? I don’t suppose we’ll get as lucky as last time with being the first to hear the title of the upcoming album, eh?  I’m hoping you all aren’t going with what Sean told me, The Barry Adkins Story – A Tale Of Woe.

Yeah, there are probably things we should have done differently with the completion and release of that. It really is a good album and I like all of the guitar work I got to do on it.  I don’t, unfortunately, have any announcements to make about a new album.

That was the first album since 2 Of 5 and the track “Wormwood” that I produced and recorded all of my guitar parts at my home studio. Lots of different tones. We recorded Safe Word, including all of my guitar parts, at Mike Froedge’s studio, Open Sky, in Atlanta.  I was very pleased with the sound of the guitars on everything. Since then I’ve made some changes and additions to my studio and I’m getting better tones now more than ever which makes me very excited about my next round of solo recordings.

What is your most memorable moment or story from Agent Cooper’s European tour with Tony MacAlpine?

Getting to work so closely with Tony. I pulled double duty but my main job on the tour was teching for him. Amazing to get to watch him work everyday. Hands down, he is one of the finest musicians and nicest people I have ever worked with. There are a lot of moments that I think of fondly but one that stands out to me right now was spending some time one day after sound check with Tony going over his pedal board and tweaking settings for everything. Incredibly humbling to be working with one of your guitar heroes and influencing decisions that they he was making with his rig and set up. Tony was very gracious to me and I’m humbled that he trusted me with that. We also would go out for coffee and hot chocolate just about every day. Such an amazing time for me!

Last time I spoke with you, you were on Steve Vai’s label, Digital Nations, which re-released your solo album, 2 Of 5.  How has that affected your career?

It was a huge turning point for sure! That came right on the heels of my leaving Fozzy so it was exactly the adrenaline shot I needed to keep moving forward. I still get a lot of positive messages and emails about my work with Fozzy and Mojo but the deal with Vai definitely allowed me to keep the focus on my own work. It brought me a lot of new fans from all over the world. Many of them did not know of my work with Fozzy and Mojo so it’s been great to branch out on my own in that way. It really put my feet back under me, you know? Gave me some confidence in myself and my work at a time when everything was in flux and I was very depressed and filled with self doubt. Not just career-wise, but dealing with a family tragedy that was going on all through that transition period along with all of my career changes. Now as a solo artist, I’ve been in a position to open for many of my heroes and some of the best players out there whether it was Steve Vai, Richie Kotzen, The Aristocrats, The Guitar Gods Tour with Yngwie, Bumblefoot and Gary Hoey directly as a result of the re-release. It was a big factor in Tony MacAlpine’s decision to hire me as tech and do that UK/EU tour in 2012 as well since it gave him and his manager a point of reference for promoting the tour since we both had albums out with Vai’s label.

You also had told me about working on a new solo release.  How is that going?  What lay in store for us?

I’m always writing so that never stops. I’ve had a few things take precedence of my time along the way so I haven’t been in a giant hurry for my next solo release. I needed to get clear of a few things that were taking up some time and energy plus joining The Dreaded Marco and getting Safe Word out definitely needed to be a priority for me. The instrumental market is tough. I’m a touring guy that loves being in a band so I tend to lean towards those experiences first since that’s really what I’m all about. That’s not to say I don’t feel expressive in the instrumental genre. It just is a bit more psychotherapy for me to be that unrestricted with my need to be expressive, you know? I make everything I do very personal and emotional regardless, but the solo stuff has it’s own space in my universe and the most important thing for me is to get that in a context where I can perform it live regularly in an honest, transportive and vulnerable way and that is very hard for us instrumental rock guys to do.

I’ve been pouring over my notes and archives to get a sense of what the next release will ultimately be. I’ve got some heavier riffs that were left over from an album I was working on for a band some years back that have not found a home yet since they weren’t used for that album. I’ve had a lot of fans asking if there’s going to be something like “Wormwood, Part 2”, I have a lot of meditative pieces, so on and so on. A full album may not be next. It may be a string of singles that stand alone or maybe successive EP’s if I find some songs that hang together well enough. As much as I’d like to just throw a full length album out there, it’s expensive to make and expensive to promote properly and those promotional windows can be very short without a decent budget. My thinking now is if I keep putting out a series of shorter length releases it may give me a better opportunity to get the music on the road to be heard live first. All that said, I’m still in the decision phase of all of that. Singles or EP’s mean new music out sooner versus a full length release somewhere in early 2016.

Will “The Redemption Of Purity And Innocence” make an appearance?

You remembered that title! Excellent! It is definitely in the pool of top contenders as a single. It has the potential to be a bit more epic in length so it may just need to be dealt with that way. It’s also likely to get a bit orchestral and as much as I like writing and working with software synthesizers, my classical background makes me yearn for real ensembles populated with real people moving real instruments. But, that is very, very expensive, so we shall see!

All of these bands you’ve been in – Fozzy to Stuck Mojo, Agent Cooper to The Dreaded Marco, and your solo work – all of these have very different styles and attitudes.  Do you find that you have to become the rocker, the progger, the jazz guitarist, or are all of these simply aspects of who Mike Martin is as a player which need to stretch their legs from time to time?

They are all facets of my musical identity and psyche, for sure. It all feels very unified in my heart and soul but I do know how confusing that can be when I’m trying to describe what it is that I do. The best way I can possibly express it would be to quote my dear friend, composer and drummer, Quentin Baxter who simply would say it like this: I’m a musician. I play music. The rest are details that are not unimportant, but they can put boxes on the nature of the art unnecessarily. I simply just allow myself to be the thing that I am. The rest sorts itself out. An interesting thing that my brain does when I focus too much on one thing is to just vomit out something completely different to help balance the emotional equation. A good example of that is a ballad I will be releasing as a single entitled “Wherever You Are” that I wrote in the last hours before hopping on a plane to Europe for the first time with Fozzy and Stuck Mojo. I had been so focused on all of that aggressive music and nervous about the tour that it just came out. I was wise enough to record the first sketch on the spot to capture the emotion of the moment.

The Dreaded Marco - Safe WordWhat are your favorite songs on the recent Dreaded Marco and Agent Cooper albums and what makes them special to you?

I’d have to say “A Positive Message (For A Change)” and “The Lesser of Two Evils” both off of the Safe Word album. They are both really powerful live and I think we captured that energy in the studio. There’s an emotional component to “Lesser” that is very moving to me. I went for a more subtle and understated approach to my guitar parts on that but I really love the way everything comes together. My guitar parts are not so understated on “A Positive Message” but my and Charlie’s parts mesh together in a very cool way. I’m very proud of that one!

On your Youtube page you’ve reviewed a number of guitar amplifiers and surely used many more during your musical life.  Is there one amp to rule them all when it comes to chasing that perfect tone?  Perhaps you can discuss your thoughts on Solid State versus Tube versus Digital Amplifications such as the work Positive Grid is doing.

That could be an hour long discussion at the very least! There are so many amazing amps on the market these days. I personally prefer tube amps for most of what I do but it’s tough to deny a good solid state amp like a Roland JC120. My go to amp for many years now has been a Peavey JSX. It’s like a Swiss Army knife of guitar tone! There are definitely times when only a Marshall will do what you need, or a Fender for that matter, but I need my amps to give me good variety of sounds. FUCHS amplifiers are amazing as are Orange and I use them both a lot. I’d own one of everything if I could but I have to find other ways of dealing with that. I have a friend here in Georgia that makes boutique overdrive pedals called Jetter Gear and I find they help me fill in the gaps. He really knows how to get to the soul of an amp’s tone and create a stomp box that just works beautifully with them. In a pinch, I have been using the Positive Grid BIAS app on my iPhone and I have to say it is amazing as well. I mainly got it for hotel and dressing room practice and writing sessions when I’m traveling but I’ve now used it on some rehearsals and expect I could use it on a gig in an emergency. It sounds that good. And it’s on my phone?! Crazy! They make a desktop version now too that I have yet to try but I can see where it would be very helpful in a digital recording situation either when writing or re-amping or just auditioning sounds. It’s an amazing time to be a music maker, that is for sure!

I know that you’ve been with with Dean Markley for a while now.  How did you find your way to them?  Did you happen to experiment with other companies or did you just try DM, like their work, and stick with them?

When I was first starting out I would buy the strings I could afford with the money I made doing chores at home and eventually after I got my first gigs and a part time job at KFC (of all places!) on the weekends when I was 14. I would buy Dean Markley Strings whenever I could afford them. They always sounded great and would last and hold their pitch a good long time. Which was important to me as I couldn’t afford to buy strings very often!

Years later I got a job doing guitar sales in a big music shop here in the Atlanta area called Ken Stanton Music and part of my job was doing maintenance on instruments, restringing customer guitars, setting them up, etc. So I got to play every brand and label of guitar string imaginable! It was a wonderful experience to be able to get to know them all through my job, you know? Blue Steel Strings were a newer product from Dean Markley at the time and I liked them so much when I would put them on other people’s guitars that I started buying them to put on my guitars too.

After I got my first seven string Ibanez in 1998 (which is still my #1 guitar!) I started buying some other brands too since they made 7 string sets which made them convenient. And I liked them as well. Flash forward to 2004 when I started playing with Fozzy, they were a Dean Markley artist so I started getting strings directly from them and have been using them ever since! They really are great strings and they have been putting out a very consistent product all of these years. I’m very demanding of my strings and they have always delivered beautiful tone, stay in tune fantastically under heavy abuse, feel really good under the fingers (that is very important!) and last reliably if I’m not changing strings all the time like I do when I’m on tour or recording. They really have been amazing to work with all of these years and I am so grateful for their support and keeping me on as an artist even after major changes in my career along the way. They’ve been there for the highs and the lows and I can’t tell you how much that means to me!

Now for a more…diverse line of questioning.  Last time we talked you spoke about the proper use of turn signals.  What other common courtesies have people been neglecting that makes you want to scream?

That’s still a big pet peeve of mine for sure. I think lately I’ve just become tired of the lack of honesty in the world. There seems to be a “fake it until you make it” philosophy that is just pervasive everywhere, not just in the music business. It’s in our schools, our news media, our politics, our social networking, our pop culture. I’m ready to see the world get back to reality.

What is your drink of choice?

Bourbon, whiskey or scotch with a good cigar is a nice treat these days. Bulliet Bourbon seems to be my go to as of late.

What has been on your playlist as of late?

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Big Wreck, Animals As Leaders, Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats, KXM, Ty Tabor, Beitthemeans, Meshuggah,  Rene Marie, Dead Sara, Angel Vivaldi… lots of stuff. I always seem to have some Rush and Frank Zappa on hand too. But I’ve been writing and arranging a lot the last few months so I haven’t been able to listen to too much other music.

You mentioned that you like to make songs for pets; your cats specifically.  Were you aware that music has been made specifically for cats?  Perhaps there is a market for your pet projects after all?

No! I’ll definitely have to look into that. I have no doubt that if my cats could get away with using my credit card, they would definitely go shopping. Even though they get free dinner and a show here at home every night! Maybe I should consider branching out into that. I seem to have the perfect test subjects and control group here. They’re all critics!

In addition to music for cats, music has been made recently using patterns found in ocean microbial formations, as well as by analyzing the ring patterns of trees and assigning them audible notes.  They make for some surprising songs!  Seems rather Frank Zappa-esque to me.  What do you think about undertakings such this?

I think it’s great! This whole universe seems to be held together by vibrations at the quantum level. Even Pythagoras pondered the Music of The Spheres and the harmony of the universe so long ago. The more we study nature, we will learn about ourselves, our art and our existence. I am all for it!

What is your craziest personal story?  Doesn’t matter whether it is music related or not.

While I have found myself in the company of some colorful characters and bore witness to some crazy situations, I’ve always been pretty nerdy and responsible. I have to say I don’t really have any crazy stories. As far as you know…

What is the dream of your musical career?

It probably sounds cliche but I have already done so much that I feel like I am living the dream. Every day I wake up and I know that even though I struggle, this struggle is mine and I’m thankful to be in the fight and still able to swing for the fences. I have a lot more music in me and I just hope and pray that I’ll be blessed with many more years of good health and the ability to keep on this journey. I don’t ever want to lose this spark or the fire in my belly.

What is next for Mike Martin?

Got some cool shows coming up in the next few weeks opening for Jake E. Lee with The Dixie Duncan Band and we are looking at some possible tour dates this summer with that project as well as getting some recording done.

The Dreaded Marco are doing a big fundraiser for a cancer charity at the Atlanta Hard Rock Cafe and we are opening for dUg Pinnick and Corey Glover when they roll through Atlanta late this month. We have some plans for shooting some videos and talking with a couple of labels and booking agents now about taking this thing to the next level. We already have about half of our next record written too.

Along the way I’ll be getting out with my solo band more the second half of the year as I’m working on finishing my next releases. Hopefully I’ll find a way come up with the appropriate budget for that and start paying on my student loans before they haul me off to debtors prison! And to top it off, I’m actually going to be playing a show in Atlanta with my friends’ band Stickman and we will be playing on the same bill with Fozzy.

I really appreciate being given the opportunity to speak with you once more, Mike.  It is always a delight.  In case I’ve missed anything, or you’d like to plug something, feel free!  Otherwise, best of luck and hopefully we’ll get a chance to see more of you real soon.

Always a pleasure, Barry! Thank you so much for keeping up with me and my projects. You are a big part of the support that allows me to keep doing what I’m doing and I can’t thank you enough for that! For anyone wanting to keep up with my projects and guest appearances like on Bonz from Stuck Mojo’s new album Broken Silence, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, check out my website http://mikemartin.net and you can find all of that plus more demonstration videos on my YouTube channel and get information about lessons with me via Skype and iChat or just drop me an email and keep in touch. And if anyone buys my music I promise I’ll use that money to make more music!

For more on Mike Martin, visit:
Official Website
Buy his solo album, 2 of 5 from: iTunes | Amazon
Buy The Dreaded Marco’s Safe Word from: iTunes | Amazon
Buy Agent Cooper’s Far From Sleep from: iTunes | Amazon | CDBaby

Interview: Sean Delson of Agent Cooper (prev. of Fozzy/Stuck Mojo)

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I’m honored today with the privilege of speaking to an incredible musician and bass player to the stars, Sean Delson.  Sean has been a part of bands such as Salem Ash, rap-metal innovator Stuck Mojo, The Duke Project, Fozzy (featuring Chris Jericho), and now Agent Cooper.  He’s traveled all over the world to perform, from the United States to Australia and far between.  He’s even played live with former-Dream Theater drummer, Mike Portnoy, and been served shots onstage by Pantera drummer, Vinnie Paul, all in the same night!

Hello again, Barry! The honor is all mine. That was a great night you just mentioned. All that happened at the famous “B.B. King’s” in New York if memory serves.

Thanks Sean, and you’re correct. Fozzy rocked the house that night!  Anyway, I wanted to talk of your beginnings for a moment.  What brought you to the bass guitar over another instrument?  What inspired you about that sound?

I’m not exactly sure, but it may have something to do with sitting first chair playing trombone in school for 4 years. I also remember my piano teacher commenting on how unusual it was for a student to be so comfortable with the left (bass side) hand parts. Maybe it was just meant to be?

Trombone?  How did you end up playing trombone, of all instruments?  And can you tell us more about you trying your hand at piano?

To be honest, Barry… I need to ask my parents about that one. I think I took to the piano after the “Trombone/Braces” fiasco. Hence that leaning to the bass clef side of things. Yes… that is it. It was post trombone days. I still have a nice 88 key weighted keyboard in my studio for writing purposes, and just to tinker on when the mood strikes. Thinking about it now, I really should spend more time on it. Believe it or not, my very first instrument for the school band (Middle school band in sixth grade) was the flute! I thought I was being clever by NOT having to carry a huge case to and from school. Have you ever carried a tuba in its case? The flute and I really didn’t get along, and the teacher asked the class if anybody would consider the trombone as there was a shortage in that section. I jumped at it, and really took to it fast. That part, I can’t explain, but it just came easily. Learning to play trombone and the songs at the time was very easy to me. Hell, I have no clue why.

Which musicians had the most impact on the development of your style?

I always have to list Geddy Lee, Andy West, and Steve Harris as the top 3 for giving me my chops foundation. I loved coming home from school and playing to the records of Rush, Iron Maiden, and The Dregs. When I moved out to California to attend BIT (Bass Institute of Technology), I met a kindred spirit in Dave Benner. He was attending the school as well, and is a GREAT bassist! He also helped shape my approach and I give him credit as being a major influence. And of course, there’s no way I can leave out my older brother Corey! Bless him for helping me so much and teaching me songs when I first started playing bass.

And who are some of your favorite musicians today?

WOW! That list almost has no ending. I think we would have to break it down to styles, genres, etc. It’s a long and varied list! There is so much going on today in music. But as I think about your question, I asked myself. “What is it that you go to when you just want to ‘hear something?’” Believe it or not, it’s usually really old school RUSH or Martina McBride. I bet you didn’t see that coming…

Salem Ash Promo

Salem Ash (l to r): Doug, Sean, Frank, and Corey

Martina McBride? That certainly comes out of left field considering your playing style, though you do have an eclectic catalogue. Speaking of which, can you paint me a picture on how progressive rock outfit Salem Ash came together?

Remember I told you I went out to CA to attend MI (Musicians Institute)? Well, we (now-famous drummer Matt Laug and I) left Florence, SC in my brother Corey’s van and drove 3000 miles carrying all of our belongings with the hopes of “making it” in the music business. As you do. I grew up listening to all of the progressive bands due to Corey playing all of those records, so I guess it just was “normal” to me. That was the style that came naturally as a result of the many years being bombarded by the genre. Bands like Kansas, Genesis, The Dregs, Jethro Tull, Styx, and of course, Rush to name a few…. That should paint the picture, yes? Back to Salem Ash: Approximately 1 year after leaving for Hollywood, Corey moved out there as well so we could form a band. I knew of, and jammed with, a drummer named Dodd Lowder at the school (another kindred spirit from NC). On a side note, Dodd was roommates with Dave Benner. Salem Ash came to life in Hollywood, CA with Corey on lead vocals and guitar, Dodd on drums, and me on bass. A 3 piece was born. We bounced around LA for a while and then decided to set roots in Atlanta, GA.

Matt Laug!  Really?  This was long before his time of playing with everyone from Alanis Morissette to Alice Cooper to Christina Aguilera.  What sent you both your separate ways?

Yes, that was long before then! I was 17, and I think Matt was 18, when we packed up and headed out to Hollywood. We lived together back then, and had 2 different approaches on how to be successful in the Music Biz. My only goal was to be in “a band.” A band of brothers that wrote, recorded, and toured together. Just like a lot of the bands I mentioned earlier. I never really wanted to be a “session guy” or a “hired gun.” I wanted THE FAMILY. Call me greedy, but that was what my soul told me to go for. Matt, bless him, approached it in a different way. He wanted to audition into an already successful band, and he definitely worked his ass off studying, practicing, and honing his chops and feel. He’s earned every drop of his success, and continues to play with the TOP recording artists alive today. I always say to him, “Damn son! Your resume looks like a lie!” But it’s not!

I don’t think I mentioned it earlier, but Matt played on the last 3 songs Agent Cooper just recorded. When he came to stay here at the lake house this past summer, we agreed that we somehow HAD to do something together on a record. So let it be written, so let it be done! And you too can have Matt play on your record. He has built a brilliant website setup to where he can record his drums in a top notch studio in Los Angeles while you watch and hear it live streaming! A true miracle of the digital age if you ask me. Given that I’m technologically handicapped. Please do yourself a favor and check out www.mattlaugdrums.com and see what he’s up to, or have him play on your record!

Also, you mentioned that Salem Ash started in LA but relocated to Atlanta.  Why Atlanta?

That was largely due to the music business teachers at the school. The two largest Music Mecca’s at the time were, of course, NY and LA. Nashville if you were into country. The study showed that Atlanta was the second most up and coming music scene. So, being that we were all from “The South,” it just made sense for us. We figured we’d go to Atlanta, set up camp, and forge a career in music there. The theory was sound, anyway.

Salem Ash only released one EP, is that correct?  I’ve heard the songs and they are phenomenal.  What was the main reason Salem Ash didn’t last with such great material?

That fast forwards us a few years since moving to Atlanta and adding fellow “Florentine” Doug Busbee as the lead singer. We had a few member changes over the years, with Corey switching between guitar and drums several times. Frank, who you know as Bud, Fontsere was in there as well for a few years on drums. I assure you none of that material has gone to waste! Many of those songs written in the Salem Ash days ended up on the Agent Cooper records. We are always mulling over old songs to see if we can salvage them, even if it’s just a few parts. Some make it, some don’t.

After Salem Ash, vocalist Doug Busbee went off and formed Agent Cooper.  Meanwhile, your brother Corey Delson, former Salem Ash guitarist, put together a project called Throkmorton.  You can be heard playing with both of them.  What can you tell us about that period and the different projects?

At the beginning of that period, it was hard on me, and somewhat stressful. Corey wanted to really focus on more of a pop songwriter sound, and Doug was not about to veer off the progressive sound we had been working on for so many years. I was caught in the middle really. I tried to do both as best I could.

Fozzy - Chasing The Grail Promo (small)

Fozzy (2011, l to r): Frank Fontsere, Chris Jericho, Sean Delson, Rich Ward

Rich Ward, of Stuck Mojo and Fozzy, has always called you one of his favorite bass players.  No doubt why he turned to you to join him for those and projects like The Duke.  How did you two meet?

Good old Rich. I owe him so much. Way back in the day, there was a very young Stuck Mojo. We (Salem Ash) played a lot of gigs together around Atlanta, and just became friends. That was heightened when I landed him a job with the landscaping company I worked for. We rode around together listening to music and plotting how to “make it.” Hahaha!

Can musicians live on music alone?  I know you helped out a number of musicians the same way by getting them day jobs at that landscaping company.

Of course, many musicians eke out a living from just playing music alone. Then, there is the less than 1 percent that go on to do REALLY well…. You know, the Taylor Swifts of the world. But back to the harsh reality of the landscaping days. YES, at some point I feel like every musician in Atlanta worked there at some point! I got everybody a job that needed one. Music is a bloody tough racket! When even the likes of Jon Bon Jovi says in an interview that if he started music during these times, he probably wouldn’t have made it…. Well, that just about says it all.

What were you up to when the call came in asking for you to join Fozzy?

Getting called to play in Fozzy was a direct result of Rich asking me to play on his debut solo album. It seems that the current bass player of Fozzy, at the time, took offense at not being asked, and decided to quit, I believe. So Rich called me and asked if I would learn a set of music for a gig in NY that Fozzy was playing…. In like 48 hours! The rest, as they say, is history.

Up to that point, Fozzy had been almost strictly a cover band.  Had they already settled on writing original material by the time you were offered the slot?

Yes. I joined the band when they turned the corner from wigs and covers to really making a go of it as a serious band. “All That Remains” was my first Fozzy record.

Speaking of slots, how’s your Mum?

JESUS! It never dies…. That whole “Sean’s Mum” chant and T-shirts gimmick grew so large that I had to sit down with my parents and explain the whole “mom joke” thing. That’s funny as hell looking back on it all. In the UK, it even made a write up in a Nottingham newspaper!

Did your participation in Stuck Mojo come as a given with your involvement with Fozzy and The Duke Project, or were you re-asked to join in for that one?  While on the subject, which of these was your favorite to participate in?

Pretty much from moment I played with Rich on The Duke Project, that was it for all the bands. The core band remained the same, and only the singer changed. So it became a “cycle” if you will. We would record a Fozzy record, then a Mojo, record. Many times we would also stack the tours. For example: Fozzy would do a 3 week run across the UK and then into Europe. Let’s say the tour ended in Paris. CJ would fly home after the gig to fulfill his WWE obligations, while Lloyd [Nelson] would have been flown over to see the gig, and then a Stuck Mojo tour across Europe and possibly the UK would begin. It must be said that making all this work out smoothly is largely due to Mark Willis. He’s the man behind the curtain that manages EVERYTHING for the 3 bands. He even helps Agent Cooper, so hats off to Mark. As for my favorite, that’s tricky. Talk about 3 totally different bands. From a sheer musical standpoint, I would have to say The Duke Project. I can expand on that if you wish. Fozzy was so much FUN! Of course having a world famous superstar celebrity as your lead singer really opened a lot of doors that afforded us many great opportunities that we may not have otherwise been offered. I’m sure you can see that. MOJO was a machine. Plain and simple. The vibe was very different in that band, and the crowds that it drew. Intensity! So they each have their place, you see?

Absolutely!  And I’d love to hear more about what makes The Duke Project your favorite musically.

That’s an easy one. If you’ve heard that record, you will know that it was a serious departure from Stuck Mojo and Fozzy for Rich. It was his solo record and these songs were so much “from the heart”. The songs came from a “different” place. Not the angry riffs everybody was used to. There is so much musicality on the record and I enjoyed having the freedom to write and create my bass lines on those songs. Even pulling out some fretless bass, which you don’t really get to do that much in metal! Working with Rick Beato was great as well. There’s nothing wrong with riffing, mind you, but this record was nothing like Rich had ever done and I was honored being given the task to play bass on it.

You’ve toured all around the globe.  Where has been your favorite place to play and where are you itching to perform that you’ve never had the chance to before?

Of all the Globe Trotting, I must say…. Australia was probably my favorite place. Now that may be because we did so much other stuff, like visiting zoo’s, boating, and just plain old exploring. Australia has a huge boating community, and you know how much I like boating. A place that I’ve never played? There is one place that we tried to go to, but for some reason… it just never happened. That place is Japan. I really want to play Japan…. Bad.

In 2011, Fozzy’s lead guitarist, Mike Martin, left the group.  Later that year you also announced you were leaving to focus on Agent Cooper.  I imagine that was not an easy decision to make, as steady work for a musician is hard to find.  What was the main factor that led to your departure?

No, it wasn’t easy. In between the touring, I was still, as much as I could be, involved with Agent Cooper. We would try and do something: plan a record, book some gigs, etc… and a Fozzy or Stuck Mojo tour would always come up, taking me away. With Rich, touring is a constant! Which is a great thing, don’t get me wrong. But year after year, I felt like I was letting the AC boys down. What started out as “Can you help me with my solo record” turned into nearly 10 years worth of recording and touring. That’s not a complaint! It was a blessing. Stepping down was simply a personal choice that I had to make. All of the years spent touring that I have done, has been nothing short of “Living the Dream.” Yet, always present, was the longing to do that with Agent Cooper. To complete my personal “Music Bucket List,” I had to do it… And I made it happen when Agent Cooper toured Europe with Tony MacAlpine. It was a dream come true for me. I know Rich and guys could all relate to that feeling. The need to fulfill that “inner voice’s” calling. We all have it in some form or another.

Agent Cooper - From The Ashes Promo

Agent Cooper (l to r): Eric Frampton, Mike Martin, Sean Delson, Doug Busbee, Ganesh Giri Jaya

Agent Cooper is filled out by the ensemble of vocalist Doug Busbee, guitarist Mike Martin, keyboardist Eric Frampton, drummer Ganesh Giri Jaya, and bass player extraordinaire, Sean B. Delson.  How did this reincarnation of Salem Ash come about?

It started many, many years ago, as you have now read, in Hollywood. Salem Ash, in a nutshell, just kind of morphed into Agent Cooper. Nothing was really ever lost. The spirit of it has always remained a constant for us all.

In 2012, Cooper released a six-song EP called From The Ashes, an apt title considering the origin of the band.  The band then took this release to the road as main support of guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine’s Dream Mechanism European tour, as you just mentioned.  What sticks out in your mind about this tour?

Of all the touring I have ever done, this tour was the most fun of all. I can’t explain it, but the bus was full of so much camaraderie it was amazing. The very last night of the tour we were in Paris. How do we always end up in Paris? We ALL were a bunch of sorry-looking, beat up skeletons after many nonstop weeks of touring. All of us tired and looking quite gaunt. But I wandered into Tony’s dressing room, and could tell everybody was feeling sad. Sad to see it come to an end. Let me tell you, that on most tours, a lot of people are like, “I can’t wait to get home!” or “Just two more shows and it’s over!” Not on this tour… I said to all members of both bands the following fantasy: “OK guys, (and Nili Brosh) here is a big red button. If you press the button, the tour carries on for another month. It doesn’t stop. If you don’t push the button, we all can go home.” Barry, everyone in that room, some tired, some sick, some both… Everyone said they would push the button. I know it’s hard to explain what that moment felt like, but it sums up the tour. None of us wanted it to end. Damn…

Things have been pretty quiet on the Cooper front since the band returned from touring Europe.  However, earlier this summer you snuck the full-length album, Far From Sleep, right under our noses.  Why such a quiet release for an album of such great music?

It has been quiet. A little too damn quiet. Right after the MacAlpine tour, the plan was to finish the record and tour again with Far From Sleep that Fall to coincide with the release. Would you believe that we had 3 tours “implode” in a row! It was awful. Mind you, this was no fault of our own. It was “so and so went into rehab again” and “So and so’s band has just quit so there will be no tour.” It was crazy. All that time lost. We held on to FFS for way too long, waiting for a tour. Finally, we were well on the way to having another album recorded when impatience lead us to just throwing it out there. The music biz as we know it, is totally different than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. All we want to do is just keep making music that makes us happy. Throw it out there… it’s all we can do. Let the cards fall where they may, dammit. There are no more labels to speak of like it used to be. Now I will grant you, we probably should have hired someone clever like yourself to help us release it properly. We really do need a “social media” guru in that respect! Perhaps we will discuss this a little later, yes?

I’m always happy to help, as you know. Speaking of social media, the band released a digital holiday charity single of the classic “Walking In The Air” last year to benefit the Claire House children’s hospice.  Can you tell us about Agent Cooper’s involvement with this charity?

Well, we have always talked about doing a Christmas song, and we all agree that there needs to be more good in the world. So we made up our minds to do a Christmas song for a charitable cause. You know my wife is British, and every summer we always have a house full of British girls to soak up some sun and enjoy the lake we live on. When we started kicking around the idea of a song, my wife and all the girls immediately said “Walking in the Air!” It’s a British CLASSIC. But here in America, it’s not very popular at all, sadly. There are very few people here that have ever heard of it. England has always been really good to us, so I presented it to the band and we just started working on it. It was a nightmare getting all the clearance(s). I’m serious, that was very hard. Our charity of choice was to be Claire House, in the UK. It’s a children’s hospice. Claire House was a great, great choice. For more information about Claire House, and or to see the video and hear the song, just click here: http://vimeo.com/81089508

Daniel Craig introduced the video, I mean… come on! I’m so happy to report that we were able to raise some good money for this worthy charity. We will be pushing it again this year. A loud shout out and big thanks to a very old friend of mine, Mike Carr and his production company, Mummy Cat Productions, for putting it all together. The animated feature, called “The Snowman,” is from 1982, and always plays during Christmas in England. It’s a beloved classic and I can’t be happier with how it turned out. I have it on my Playstation at home and, every once in a while, I’ll turn it on and crank it up on the big screen. It’s very emotional.

What can you tell us about the future of Agent Cooper?  What do we have to look forward to, and will it be soon?

A few days ago, I had a very serious discussion with Mark Willis about it. He wants to see us back out there as well. I told him “Just let me get through this year, and we will revisit this, in great detail, in January 2015.” I’m very excited and optimistic about that. I’m not sure how we will handle the newest record yet, but we have some very fun stuff being recorded!

So there’s a new record in the works!  Sounds great.  I don’t suppose there’s an official name for the album yet, is there?

We haven’t settled on anything yet, but we are seriously considering, “The Barry Adkins Story – A Tale of Woe.” Thoughts?

Well, that’s flattering! I’m really not sure how well a comedy album would sell though. You mentioned earlier that you have an affinity for boating.  When did you first become interested in maritime activities? And on any given weekend, what can Sean B. Delson expect to be found doing?

I grew up on boats thanks to my parents. Sailing, fishing, cruising, you name it. On any given weekend, you can find us beached up on some island getting into various forms of hedonism and evil. Not really so much the evil part, but I thought it sounded cool.

You’ve had a signature bass designed by Halo.  It looks interesting!  Is it in production and for sale, or is it a one-of-a-kind affair?

It’s much more than “interesting”… it’s a bloody work of art! It is for sale on a custom, order by order basis (search “Delson”). I won’t bore you, unless you want me to, with the details on how it’s made and it’s specifications… It’s a bass taken from my head, and brought into this world by Jeff Lee at Halo and his team of luthiers. That was another “Bucket List” item checked off… The Sean B. Delson Signature Series Bass.

Sean Delson Custom Halo BassThere’s undoubtedly at least one person craving to hear more about what makes this bass tick.  Can you give us more specifics about it?

When I was first offered the opportunity to create and have a signature series custom bass guitar, I was told to “make it your own… your own design, specs, etc.” So I really sat back and gave it some thought. If you look around, so many builders, including Halo, are going with all of these outlandish designs. Futuristic looks, if you will. Then I thought, let’s take it back, let’s get back to the roots of where it all started. Following that, was the idea, “What would happen if a classic Beatle Bass married an old school Gibson SG bass?” In my mind, that was the shape I wanted. If you look at the bass, you will see that Jeff Lee at Halo also sprinkled in a little BC Rich, and the SBD Bass was born.

On the technical side, I just combined all of the custom goodies that I have applied to my session basses over the years. It had to be a neck thru body (not bolt on), full 24 fret with easy access, ebony fretboard, and the electronics had to be 2 EMG’s custom wired to have a separate volume for each pickup AND a master volume to control the whole bass. Not a standard “mix” knob. Separate “bass” and “treble” knobs in addition to a sweepable stacked pot cut/boost midrange control. Taking it one step further, I wanted a custom 27 volt cavity for three nine-volt batteries to power the electronics. That extra voltage really gives you more headroom and lets the low end really “blossom”. Especially helpful on my six-string basses, and really heavy low tunings like Mojo and Fozzy use. I’ve never really had a Sunburst Blue instrument, so I went with that color. Quilted Maple, of course. The white banding was Jeff’s idea, and I like it. In my best handwriting, I signed my signature, and it can be seen in Mother of Pearl inlaid into the headstock.

A lot of people have said to me, “I can’t believe you didn’t make it headless!” I really contemplated that, and on a 6 string model, I definitely will go headless. It becomes a balance issue really. With a headstock full of six bass tuners, our good buddy gravity will really pull you down on your shoulder due to so much weight hanging out there. I don’t like that. With a headless setup, you can NEVER knock it out of tune. It’s so much easier and faster to tune with your right hand while muting with the left. Also the bass really sits right in your gut without that weight on the headstock. It’s like you become one with the instrument. And surely we don’t need to go into the advantages of eliminating the odds of smacking your band mates in the face or knocking down a mic stand whilst running around the stage. Plus, fans love to grab on to “anything” they can get their frenzied hands on. That’s disastrous with a headstock! If that’s not enough and more details are needed, I can keep going!!

Haha, no. I think you nailed it. Now, you mentioned earlier that you played trombone as first chair at your school for four years.  Are your ever saddened by the fact that you could have been a world famous trombone player to the stars?

Is there such a thing? I’m afraid me getting braces stopped a very lucrative career as a trombonist dead in its tracks. The very same “train tracks” that I had a mouth full of! I did enjoy it, to be honest, and I was getting really good at it, as far as you know. It was sad not being able to play…..

What should we know that we haven’t already covered?  Would you like to plug anything?  Websites, music, or a bridge in London you’d like to sell us?

I really would like to ask for everybody reading this to please check out the Clair House video and pass it along. “Like” it, “tweet” it and any of those other fancy new internet inventions. I could say go to AgentCooper.com and buy our albums, but the charity is more important to me. Please help us help those kids this Christmas!


Agent Cooper – Walking In The Air from Mummy Cat Productions, LLC. on Vimeo.
 

Thank you so much for your time, Sean!  It’s always great to speak with you.

Thank you! Until next time!

Sean B. Delson


For more on Agent Cooper, visit:
Official Website
Purchase Far From SleepiTunes | CDBaby
Get the charity single “Walking In The Air”: Proceeds Go To Claire House Charity
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CD Review: ‘Far From Sleep’ by Agent Cooper

Better B# - TAM Banner

 

I initially heard about Agent Cooper’s album, Far From Sleep, during my first interview for Better B# over two years ago. During what turned out to be an incredibly long, but fun, talk with Cooper guitarist, Mike Martin, he told me about the work in progress. The group had recently returned from a European tour with Tony MacAlpine and had already released a six-song EP called From The Ashes. Almost 2 years later, during this last Summer, the fabled full-length was released right under my nose. Under most peoples’ noses, as it turns out! But I felt that I should take a moment to reflect on this previously only whispered about affair, and give great music a chance to catch some ears.

For those who are familiar with the EP From The Ashes, you may be saddened to find that Far From Sleep consists of the songs from that short adventure with a few more tracks thrown in for good measure. I, myself, was a bit disappointed to find that I wasn’t going to be treated to a completely new full-course meal for my auditory appetite. However, this just means that if you’ve already bought the original EP, the full album will only run you a few dollars more. And if you’re one of those fortunate souls just now discovering the joys of Agent Cooper, you’ll be happy to have arrived just in time for that full-course meal I was talking about a moment ago.

Far From Sleep is a dramatic, dynamic album that boils over with talent and catchiness. From the beginning, it hits the ground running with its harmonized vocal proclamation: “We are power!” before steamrolling over you with energy that brings a smile to your face and pushes your foot to the floorboard. The next two tracks, “Tornado Dreams” and “The Stand,” are sure to cement the belief that you’re dealing with no ordinary band, but some sort of musical love-child between Rush and Boston. This is a wonderful blend of rock n’ roll attitude and progressive elements that just go well together. Not only that, but vocalist Doug Busbee emits a voice that is as unique and gripping as any you’ve heard. It cascades over the music and carries you along through emotional highs and lows, with the help of roaring bass lines, magical guitar solos, and organ solos that, wellface it, you didn’t expect to get swept off your feet by an organ solo.

By the end of this release, I found myself not only with a smile upon my face, but with a small sense of wonder as well. There’s something grand about this listening experience. There is an air of lightness to much of the music, such as the song “Mother,” which puts you at ease. Others, like the closing number, “Misunderstood,” touch on subject matter with a level of depth that is too often glossed over by musicians, without making it heavy and burdensome for the listener. Agent Cooper know just when to let you linger and when to pull you in and Far From Sleep never lets you linger too long. I just hope the band takes that to heart and pulls us in with another release sooner than later.

 

For more on Agent Cooper, visit:

Official Website
Purchase Far From Sleep: iTunes | CDBaby
Get the charity single “Walking In The Air”: Proceeds Go To Claire House Charity
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