Those who call themselves progressive rock fans should definitely check out Shadow Gallery. It is a shame that I have to introduce the band, since they are around since 1992. A few years later I stuck upon their self-titled debut in a record store in Ghent (De Kaft – for those who are about to rock - and since then they always flabbergasted me with every next record. I spoke to Gary Werhkamp in 2005 when former record ‘Room V’ came out, but I truly looked forward to hear him again, talking about all recent happenings – dark issues as well as common things, you know how it goes in life – anyways, it was a superb hearty, debonair conversation with Gary again. Open view on ‘Digital Ghosts’, the ones you better ignore, but not in this case! Gary calls me from his home in Pennsylvania and was glad to find my name on the list of journo’s. After a debonair introduction, we decided to start with the questions in chronological order, while picking up the thread at the time of our last contact. I think you started already writing songs for this new album right after the release of ‘Room V’, isn’t it?
That’s right. We did. Our intention was to start writing and record a new album immediately and make it as fast as we can, maybe release it in the same year. But then, as always, things came up that caused some delay. One of these things was really tragic. Mike passed away after a heart attack…
Right.Does it mean that there are still ideas from Mike on this album?
Unfortunately not. He just started listening to our ideas in late August, September. But he was very, very excited about working on it and he had put aside a couple of song ideas for him to work on. Such as the song ‘Strong’, but unfortunately he did not get to work on that. And in the beginning I think you thought on using only guest vocalists for ‘Digital Ghosts’?
We had planned on having a guest vocalist or two. That was our plan, but it became a must after Mike died. What was the first guest vocalist you contacted?
Even before October last year we were planning on working with DC Cooper on a track. From the beginning you start to outline some ideas for a new record, even before you have written anything. One of those ideas was to have another duet: DC Cooper and Mike. Like the song ‘New World Order’, that we did ten years earlier. So we asked DC and he agreed to sing on a track. That ended up as a different track on the Japanese bonus disc, so DC’s voice is not on the normal disc. But a remarkable guest is Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear. How did you come to that idea?
We were even considering working with him on the last album for a song, but we were not able to get in touch with him. This time we found him a lot easier, actually through his MySpace page, we just thought it would be a good voice. He is somebody we’ve known his work before. We know him from his days in Gamma Ray. We already had a lot of respect for him as a vocalist. Who wrote the lyrics this time?
For this new album, Carl wrote the majority of the lyrics as he always does.I guess there is a lot of pain, rage and despair in the lyrics…
Yeah there is definitely a strong statement that we make as a band in the song ‘Digital Ghost’; that’s our dedication to him. Yes, that’s the one with the jazzy piano thing…
(laughs) Yeah, that was a very old idea. All that jazzy piano stuff, that’s probably the oldest idea on the album, going back to… even before ‘Tyranny’. 1996-1997. But we never felt as if we had a place to put it on our records till this time. The Pink Floyd-ish leads of the guitars are a direct hit as well…
That’s hard to avoid sometimes, you know. They were such an influence.What also struck me was that there are more real progressive tendencies in the music, on this record, but correct me if I am wrong…
No, Vera, I think that is a very good observation. I personally have been trying to get back into that style more for a long time. It is tough, because we have so many ideas and so many different styles. Sometimes it is difficult to get them all in, but what attracted me to the band in the first place was the progressive rock nature of the first album. And then after I joined, the band started to move into a heavier direction. I was expecting a progressive rock direction, not so heavy. But we try to keep that influence there and we got the chance to explore that and push it more to the front on ‘Digital Ghosts’.How did you eventually meet with the new singer?
I had heard about Brian about four years ago. The person who is helping me with my recording studio was in a band with him and sent me a few MP3’s through email. I liked his voice a lot and I sent him an email to tell him that I thought he did a great job with his songs and wishing him good luck. And even my friend suggested that perhaps he would contact him to appear as guest on an album I was working on at that time, which was Amaran’s Plight’s ‘Voice In The Light’. So he was interested in that, but the schedule did not work out for us, because the recording studio I was building took much longer than anyone had planned. So we had to rush to finish that Amaran’s Plight album with the vocals. After that time I lost touch with him completely and when we were considering new vocalists, we decided not to hold auditions and not to jump right in to try to find a singer to replace Mike. Because you cannot really replace someone like Mike, he was such a part of the band. So we just pretty much avoided that issue for the time being and simply concentrated on recording the music and writing the songs. With the confidence that we would find the right singer the right way. When we were considering different vocalists, I was reminded of Brian and tried to get in touch with him, but there was no way to find him. His phone number had changed, his email had changed, his web address was no longer active. Everything about him was gone, almost like a ghost. I searched for a long time to try to find him on the internet, I even thought I found him in Texas, which is a state almost two thousand miles away but I gave up when it wasn’t him. Then I sent an email to Brendt and Carl, saying: “It is too bad we could not find him, he might have been a great singer for us, here is what he looks like.” And after I sent that email, my phone rang and Carl called me. He said: “I know this guy, I work with him, I saw him this morning.” So it turns out he had the same job, working in the same building as Carl and neither of them ever knew that the other one was a musician. Unbelievable!
So it kind of felt like we should definitely contact him and find out if he was interested. And he was. And although he had a very short time to learn what we were doing and sing, he jumped right in and did a great job.This is an amazing story!
Oh we have that sense of faith which works pretty well for us (laughs)Do you come together as a band and rehearse or try out things or do you work the modern way with files and things like that?
Well, we have the advantage of all owning small recording studios. And we have the further advantage of the fact that we play multiple instruments each. Many of the times, an idea is started and developed by one person. Brendt might have a musical idea and record a draft of all the instruments and send it to us and then from there we can individually work on it, add new ideas and send it back to him. And it develops further when we are going to record the real thing, the master recording. At that time, Brendt and I come together to work on the music to record things and Carl works on his own, working on lyrics. I remember ‘Room V’ was mastered by Jeff Glixman; did you use some extern help or not?
‘Room V’ was mastered by Jeff and I did the mix myself. This time we started the mix here in Pennsylvania and then sent it out to Rich Mauser who is an incredible engineer and he mixed out in California. I think he had done the majority of the Spock’s Beard records and Transatlantic. Actually he was mixing the new Transatlantic just one day before he started mixing for us. I am sure it is going to be a great record. One of the remarkable things is that the old drummer returned for a few songs…
Joe Nevolo plays on the songs ‘Venom’ and ‘Gold Dust’ and I play drums on the rest. He has been our drummer since 1997 and he played on the last record ‘Room V’ as well, but this time we did not have the opportunity to have him on all of the songs, so I picked up the sticks.Another guest, guitarist Srdjan Brankovic, must have something to do with your visit on Serbia I think…
Sure, I was playing a guest guitar solo on the Expedition Delta record a few years back, got to know the band and started working and helping the band in America, so he wanted to return a favour and played a guest guitar solo on our album.And he was accompanied by another guest: Vivien Lalu…
Vivien is a friend of the band as well, he put together our Shadow Gallery forum many years ago. I also did a guest appearance on his Shadrane project record. The harmony vocals are also more prominent on this record, it sometimes reminds me of Queen!
Good! That’s a compliment! We always wanted to have a lot of harmony vocals and this time we decided to add even more. It was great, great fun to do that. Now a delicate question…
(with his amazing kind of humor hehe) I am starting to loose you, goodbye (laughs)You should be in the Guinness Book of Records!
Don’t say that! (laughs out loud)And you guess why?
For having seven songs on seven albums each…That’s another remarkable thing indeed, but you are the longest existing band without playing live.
Well, we hope to come and see you soon. (laughs)Do you play live with the other projects or another band?
Yes about 120 shows a year. I do it three times a week and I travel around playing with a couple of bands. So I perform all the time and I love performing, I really enjoy it. I love travelling and touring and playing and it is great. And what about Roswell Six? You played with them as well…
That was fun! I played guitar tracks on the album, working with Eric Norlander. There’s a lot of talent on that record.What about the feedback on the record of Amaran’s Plight? Was that satisfying?
It was, I was surprised how many people loved it. I do not know how well it sold, but I did hear from many people they liked the record and that was nice to hear. Is there a chance for a successor ever?
There was. Right away after it came out we came together and discussed it, but one issue we had was not putting our individual bands on hold, waiting too much longer. As it was, the recording of the Amaran’s Plight record would have delayed the Shadow Gallery record. So I did not want to delay that any longer. My decision was to wait and to not do another Amaran’s Plight album until after I had given Shadow Gallery all my immediate attention. Did you finally manage to meet Arjen (Lucassen)?
Sure, I met him years ago. We had dinner in New York City. A great, great guy, except for his brother Job, who is actually even nicer. He is the winner of the family. Give him my regards. A ‘Primal Cuts’ CD from Shadow Gallery came out, recently. Did you choose special edits of songs or not?
We did not do much. Magna Carta approached us and we agreed and they asked us which songs we want to include. We gave them a list and they had their list and we agreed. I think it had a different ending with a song or two.Business-wise it was not a calm period either I think, because InsideOut was linked to SPV who went bankrupt…
Sure, that was probably an unpredictable time for many people. It did not affect us and we had faith that they would resolve the issue. They were very forthcoming with us about what was happening and what was going on. We appreciate their honesty and we just continued on with our recording, hoping and knowing that they would work out and it did. It worked out very well I think. EMI is the main distributor in Europe and as everybody will have read Century Media is taking care of everything now, also in the States! The title ‘Digital Ghosts’: is it a link to nowadays shallow life, and that everything has changed since we talked last time? Everything is getting more computerized?
It certainly is! Things can appear or disappear and yet remain the whole time. This is a kind of a common theme throughout the album, which deals with a variety of issues that all have a common thread. Having something wonderful and then suddenly loose it. Maybe in the end you realize you have not lost it, it is still there. You cannot reach it anymore probably…
You cannot touch it! But you can still experience a lot of emotions by having this available on digital things. In life on certain levels it is the same…
It is and even it goes back on losing our friend Mike. He is not here but his voice is still heard. The emotions and feelings in his songs will still remain. In that sense he is still a part of us even though we cannot see him. Can we see this album as a kind of getting over this loss?
Perhaps. There are lots of bonus tracks on the album if you buy the limited edition. Can you tell a bit more about that?
There are four additional songs on the limited edition CD. Two of them are basic and two of them are very special to us. We have an a-cappela version of the voices only of the song ‘Digital Ghosts’ song which is called ‘In Your Window’ song – verses only. We also have the demo tracks from a year ago of the song ‘Gold Dust’ which has Carl doing lead vocals and Brendt doing keyboards and I doing drums instead of Joe. Then we have a remake of a song called ‘Two Shadows’, which is the continuation of the ‘Room V’ story. An earlier version and a different version were only available in Japan. But now we have a version with each person in the band singing lead vocals and a longer extended ending. So we added a musical extension of the entire story. And finally we were able to find a recording on a cassette of Mike singing a song considering for Shadow Gallery, we did not get to work on too much. But he did get his vocals a few weeks before he died. And at the very end of finishing this album somebody from his family called us and said they had found this tape. So, we were able to extract his vocals and put it on the music we had started with and we released this song which is called ‘World Of Fantasy’. These are Mike’s last vocals and there is additional artwork too I believe.Is there a chance that the story of ‘Room V’ will continue?
There is always a chance (laughs). But not for now, except for the song ‘Two Shadows’. When the time is right it will happen, but the time is not now. What about you trying to learn to play violin?
(laughs) Not much progress there, Vera. I have hardly time to play the instruments I think I can already play hehe. Sometimes I think I play not enough guitar; because I spend so much time on producing. I remember reviewing your DVD as well, are there plans in that direction?
No, not really. But the band is considering of doing a video shoot next month, probably for ‘Gold Dust’. It is a multi location shoot, from Time Square, New York City to Allentown, Pennsylvania. Can you tell me something more about the artwork?
There is a lot of artwork inside, which I know you do not have. But it invokes a vibe and a feel about a journey through life and the good and the bad that can happen to you, but it is all retrospective. Of course this is only my interpretation, I do not know if it is meant that way. Brendt did all the artwork and we worked with really talented people. Brendt started doing some photos and we just loved the way they turned out. He is very talented, so he did everything: the band’s photos, video shoots, the promotional videos…Brendt’s hobby is artwork, photography, graphics, and things… Do you have any hobbies besides music?
I do, but most of the things I do are related to music. I run a teacher’s facility, so I enjoy teaching music four days a week. And I love recording other bands, whether I am just producing, recording, engineering or a session musician. I love travelling and performing as long as I can get home and see my son the next day. That has been most of my life for a long time. Okay, I think we almost covered everything, is there something you want to add?
Well, we covered everything I guess. The current news is about the video shoot and maybe we will do another one after that. We are working on new merchandise, planning the promotion, a release party in November and just get the album out. It is not very easy to sell records these days, so you have to work hard and think about how to promote it. ’Digital Ghosts’, a record to buy and cherish and explore, not a fast meal but an eminent five stars dinner you can enjoy over and over again… Take the time to discover it in this era of digital ghosts!
To round off I want to quote Gary on his MySpace area: "I realize the truth is that with each person I meet, I have the opportunity to be a positve influence on their life and also encourage them to reciprocate. Life may be a complex game, but it surely works well, and makes a lot of sense to me. And I certainly enjoy playing!" I felt a spontaneous bond with this American guy.
Those who are interested can also read my previous interview:http://www.lordsofmetal.nl/showinterview.php?id=1005&lang=nl www.shadowgallery.com www.myspace.com/officialshadowgallery
Interview by Vera Matthijssens
Promopics courtesy of InsideOut promo material