Interview with vocalist Brian Ashland of Shadow Gallery by Vera in October 2010Finally it happened! After almost twenty years of existence, the eminent progressive rock band Shadow Gallery played live in Europe! It was their second gig ever on ProgPower festival in the Netherlands on the second of October 2010. The venue in Baarlo was sold out. Early afternoon I went to the Castle where the bands and some of the fans stay during this weekend. I met with lovely manager Jill and waited outside with any journo’s from Romania, while we were welcomed by Fabio D’Amore, debonair bass player of Italian Pathosray, but yesterday he played at the festival with Serenity.
When it is my turn for action – in other words: the interview – I follow Brian upstairs and in his temporarily room we sit down to have a nice chat. The guy appears to be superb friendly.Can you tell something about the preparations for this tour?
Well, this is the first tour ever for this band. We have been rehearsing for ten months. We had no experience in playing with each other, the band had no experience with live gigs at all. We all have hectic and conflicting time and work schedules; that’s why we started so early. What do you want to know about the preparations? Everybody went crazy? (laughs)What was the cause for this different approach after all these years?
After the release of this record ‘Digital Ghosts’ I think everything fell into places, from what I have experienced since I joined Shadow Gallery. With time: everybody could do it, everybody wanted to do it. We are not getting any younger; so when we want to do this, we better start playing live now. I cannot take the credit of putting the fire, I think it is just collectively decided. It craved itself.Now you are the front man and singer; how does that feel?
I have never sung before this band. I am a guitarist and I had my own projects before. I have toured before, but this is the first time you see me with this band. It is a little bit different, I am a bit nervous, but so far so good.And what did the guys decide to play? Mainly new songs or also old stuff?
Everything they’ve done... We do at least two tracks from each of the albums, mostly the heavier stuff of the records, that suits better in a live situation, although there are some piano pieces as well. We picked the songs we think our fan base will collectively enjoy. During this handpicking, we really had in mind what they would like to hear. This show is crucial because it is the first one and as headliner on a festival, but where will you play during this tour?
We do all of Europe in three weeks. After this we go to London, Paris, Milan, three shows in Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Germany and Belgium. Three weeks. I think we shoot a video during the last show in Belgium. We want another video for another song of the album, because we were not so happy with the previous one. We liked it but I think we could do better than that. I think we are going to do a live shoot. Is it only a video you will shoot or are there plans for a DVD of this tour?
Yes, I think we’ve been followed around on this whole tour. I think the plan is to make a DVD available of all our experiences on tour right after this tour. We’ll see… The video clip is going to be for the song ‘Pain’. I think a video will expand the press attention for Shadow Gallery again after the tour, we’ll see how this works…Did you ever visit Europe before privately?
No. I fell in love with Europe before I came over. I did enough research on it before this tour. People are very different, I love to dig into new cultures. I enjoy being here very, very much. I think I’m going to look for a wife here, so I can stay (laughs). We have seen so very little so far, but it all looks great.When did you arrive?
Yesterday morning. So we did not have time to go anywhere yet. We were in Baarlo, in the village this morning for a little while. To me it is very beautiful.What can you tell about the place you live?
I live in Pennsylvania, but outside the town Allentown in the south near the mountains. It is what they call Dutch Pennsylvania with lots of farmers and horses. I live about two hours from Gary; he is in the mountains. I’m in the fields.’Digital Ghosts’ came out in 2009. Do you have already new songs?
Oh yes, we have ideas. For now, we decided to focus on this tour firstly, but I know the next record won’t take five years before it is done (laughs). People have asked to do some shows next year too. If we decide to do that, I hope to play a couple of new songs as well. I don’t think there will be a full new album by then, but ‘Digital Ghosts’ is already a year and a half at that point, but Gary and I have discussed a couple of new things to play when we come over again. But for now, we haven’t start writing yet. It must be pretty exciting to finally meet people and fans in flesh and blood after all the far away contacts in Europe…
Oh yeah. All these reactions can put a new perspective and stamp on everything that you do from there. For me that is the most enjoyable part of this tour: meeting people, finding out why people like the stuff, I really love that. When you are in the studio, you follow your heart and try to please your own ears first. That’s how I am in the studio. But it is even more enjoyable to bring it out on stage and see how people enjoy it. It is strange how you met the band. It had something to do with your work, isn’t it?
Yes. Gary had some demo tapes of mine where I do everything: drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals. When they decided after Mike’s death, that they would try to find another guy, they spent a long time looking for me. All my information was changed and the ironic part of the story is that they looked all over the United States. They thought about hiring a detective, because they could not find me anymore. The latest trace they found was that I should have moved to Europe. They were about to give it up. Gary told Carl: “We’re going to stop looking.” Carl asked: “What is his name?” “Brian Ashland” “I think I know the guy,” Carl said. We work in the same building! We knew each other vague, we did not know anything about each other. It is a crazy story!It was meant to be!
It is something you read in a book. First I was only surprised and was hesitating, but when they gave me the demo tapes for the new record, I think the song was ‘Haunted’, I decided to do this record, even as a singer. And here I am in Europe with the band.Wasn’t it difficult to do the older songs?
No, here is what I did: I listened to them enough to know the song and then I never listen to them again. I know the lyrics, but I did not want to sound like Mike during the recordings. I like to add my personal touch and the more you listen to something, the more you tend to copy it. Learning the songs was not easy, because I had to learn them in a very short time, but I think it is okay. It all feels the same now, the old and new material.I wish you an amazing trip through Europe. See you on stage tonight! We kept on talking for a while after this conversation and I got to know Brian as a debonair person. Late at night the show at ProgPower was ace, though not free of technical problems. The afterparty in the basement downstairs was a meeting of many friendly people and at the end of the tour I met the guys again, when they were playing at the Biebob. From the beginning till the end let’s say… and Shadow Gallery felt more comfortable on stage during the last show, that’s only natural. Let’s hope we can see a DVD soon, but keep following their tour blogs and news on their website as well! www.shadowgallery.com www.myspace.com/officialshadowgallery