Below is a transcript of a radio interview that took place between TREAT bandleader Mike Hyder & Chicago Based Podcaster, Ben Sommer.
The interview took place on 18/2/2010
Sunday, February 21st, 2010 @ 3:21 am
UK Proggies - The Treat [57:00m]: Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download
Today’s interview is with Mike Hyder – lead guitarist and primary songwriter for the UK based
In the interview we learn from Mike about an eerie irony he’s been experiencing lately – constantcomparisons to Rush. This marks the 3rd or 4th times in as many media reviews that they’ve been compared to Rush. And Mike cheerfully accepts the comparison, knowing how to take a compliment. The Treat’s music goes beyond this however, with unorthodox instrumentation, occasional folk tinges, and outright metal guitar.
See below for the full transcription:
Ben: Hi, this is Ben Sommer. I’m here with Mike Hyder who is the bandleader, guitarist, and main songwriter for UK based band, The Treat. Hey, thanks for joining, Mike. You were just asking how we heard about you.
Mike: Yes, that’s right.
Ben: This podcast is for a site I just started a few weeks ago and the maiden voyage was an interview with a US based prog rock band called Tiles. I have a friend at a Rush fan site who posted an announcement about the site with a link to this first interview and a call to the readers of that site. It said, “Ben’s looking for other lesser-known bands in the same artistic space who Rush fans or any prog rock fans might like to interview.” So, your name was thrown out there. The Treat as well as a lot of the other big ones who I wouldn’t have a hope, at least at this point, of interviewing Dream Theatre, etc; all the usuals. So, I checked your music out. I really liked it and I thought it’s a perfect fit for the podcast.
Mike:That’s good to hear because we’ve actually been going for some years. But, it’s only in the last two to three years – really, actually just about two years – that we’ve started to get quite a bit of national publicity in music magazines here in the UK, particularly classic rock which I know sells in the United States at various places. I know because I’ve actually bought copies of it in the US when I’ve been over. And also, there’s a new magazine called Classic Rock Presents Prog and we were in the first two issues of that with two tracks off our last album, ‘Audio Verite,’ and we got a review. And would you believe in that very magazine, one of the introduction passages, they said that although our music reminds them of established prog rock bands from the classic heyday of prog rock, which would be the late 60s and the early 70s: Yes, Genesis, all those people – King Crimson. But also, they said that there’s modern twist to what we’re doing which has a harder metallic edge of Rush. They actually mentioned Rush specifically in the same sentence as ourselves. So, we were quite pleased with that. And now, one or two other people have also mentioned there’s an occasional similarity between The Treat sound and the classic Rush sound. And now, here you are and you’re saying sort of a similar thing. So, I don’t know. Maybe great minds think alike.
Ben: Yeah, I think so. It’s funny. When I interviewed Tiles – the angle of my site is “bands like Rush”. It’s kind of a simplistic way to introduce fans of that classic old power trio, to new music which may to broaden their horizons. So, when I interviewed Tiles, they particularly felt that it’s been a double-edged sword. They’ve unfortunately been accused of outright mimicry and trying to ride on Rush’s stylistic coattails. And so, they had kind of a pejorative sense that, “Here’s another guy comparing them to Rush,” where it seems like you think differently.
Mike: Well, I do think differently because, I don’t know, maybe we’ve made a slightly longer journey over a longer period of time. There is an old tenet, isn’t there, in the entertainment business in general that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and although, on the one hand, I don’t necessarily completely agree with that. But, to be honest, certainly when I was growing up – and I think this is still true, even now, just about or it’s certainly true with a slightly more older fan base of people that might be listening. And that is that you like a certain type of music and a certain type of band, let’s say. And then, if you hear other groups being mentioned in the same breath, that at least points you in that direction. And whether the similarity is great, or it’s not so great, or whatever, at least you’ve had exposure. You need the exposure. People need to have heard of you to begin with in order to make a decision about whether they’re liking what you’re doing, or they’re not liking what you’re doing or they think what you’re doing is great. Or if you’re a clone, they think you’re a clone of somebody else or you have a little bit of a twist of that band, but you do your own things.We, personally, never been completely compared to Rush in terms of being a clone band or anything like that and that’s, obviously, great. We have enough of our own character. But, there has been a mention occasionally and I can see, for me personally, I can see what that is. There are three people in this band. There were three people in that band. Okay, there are lots of trios. We do know how to rock out and rock really hard, and fast, and furious. And so do Rush. And then, Rush also have that kind of mellow aside that they’ve had over the years. Maybe earlier on, but people remember things like Rivendell, which they did very early on, and even bits of 2112, and Closer to the Heart was quite mellow. I know that Rush, themselves, don’t like to play it; sort of slightly disown that song, but I think it’s a great song. And we have that sort of mellow aside and playing a lot less, especially on the last album, ‘Audio Verite: Deceptive Blends,’ which is a double album of ours that we put out a few months ago and got some really good reviews for. There’s an acoustic side and then, there’s the harder rocking kind of side that we have and I think that’s where they’re kind of, “Oh, there are there people in that band. There are three people in this band. Oh, they do acoustic and hard rock. And okay, this band do acoustic and hard rock.” So, on certain levels, yeah. Let’s put it this way. We’re extremely closer to Rush than we are to Britney Spears or something like that.
Ben: I hope so.
Mike: [laughs] Thank God.
Ben: Yeah, I agree. I want to get into your last album. I know it’s still current and from your bio, it seems like it was a big deal to do a double album. Why don’t we back up and give people who are just totally unfamiliar with you a quick intro of your history, and where you’re at in your lives, etc.
Mike: Okay. Well, myself, I sort of formed the band. I was in and out of bands here and there. And finally, I got down to a power trio format and Rush were definitely one of the bands I had in mind. And also, to be honest, also older bands, but a lot of your audience I would imagine, including the Rush guys themselves, have paid homage to Cream; Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce – that kind of classic power trio that interested me. So, I wanted to have it within that format and I formed The Treat around about, actually, some years ago now. It was around about 2001 and we rehearsed for a long time really trying to get a set together and so on. I wrote a collection of songs for the band and we spent most of 2002 doing all the usual clubs, and pubs, and playing all around London and Oxford which is where we’re based in the UK, but in various places all around the UK mainly. We also released a single called ‘Agent 555’ and that was played on various local radio stations and Internet radio, in particular, picked up on it as well. And then, in 2003, we finally kind of got it together to record an album. Obviously, recording costs are expensive so we couldn’t just fly in and do it. We have to build up to it. And in 2003, we did the first album ‘In Technicolor.’ Now that I think about it, the similarities with Rush are quite a few because with Rush, if you listen to their first album with the original drummer in the band, it’s very much a power trio album slightly in the shadow of Led Zeppelin and people like that; all those songs ‘Working Man’ and so on. And then, from the second album, when Neil Peart joined, then they kind of really started to branch out and got a lot more, shall we say, progressive. And in that respect, this was not deliberate on my part. I did not set this up this way. It just happened to be that way and maybe that’s the way bands are. Your first album is full of energy. It’s songwriting, and rehearsals, and on the road and stuff. And you just bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. “Let’s get out there and show them what we’re all about,” sort of thing. And the very first album if you listen to ‘In Technicolor,’ that’s our first album – The Treat’s first album, it rocks hard and it’s furious. It’s not full-on metal. It is rock in the traditional classic sense. It’s 1970s inspired, but with a slightly modern twist to it. And so, that won over the rock audiences and we started to get quite a bit of positive feedback with that. And then, a little bit later on, we did have a little bit of a lineup change and so on. We started rehearsing more and more. And I really broadened out the songwriting, the musicianship got better, so I was able to explore ideas that I had for a long time in terms of time signatures and, basically, just different tempos and things. And we spent, I suppose, really, from about 2005 onwards just experimenting, doing a lot of studio work. One of the guys that we work with, who’s an engineer, he has his studio here locally and we’re able to more or less go in and out; not quite on the same level as The Beatles went in and out of Abbey Road at their own will. But, it’s local and we go in whenever I have ideas, we bang them down, and so on and so forth. So, from 2005 onward, there was lots of experimenting that went on musically and the first fruits of that came around, I suppose, the end of 2007, early 2008. We had the ‘Phonography’ album that came out which was our second record which has got a lot of quite heavy rock stuff on it and some of which may well reminiscent of Rush. Things like Fanfare for the King, Make You Crawl. Some of these tracks are up on our MySpace site which is if I could put a little plug here.
Ben: Please do
Mike: MySpace.com/TheTreatUK. And by the way, if you want to find out lots of things about the band, it’s, of course, www.thetreat.co.ukand you can send us messages from there as well. There’s an email address there and you will be answered to. If you send us an email there; any of your listeners.
Ben: I can prove that. You guys answered me.
Mike:Certainly, with the ‘Phonography’ album, that’s where the guy – there’s quite a big wellknown writer here in England, a guy called Geoff Barton who used to write for Sounds Magazine and writes for Kerrang! which is quite the same as Hard Rock Magazine. Rush have appeared in it loads of times. Rush appeared in Sounds Magazine and so on. And he picked up on us as well and he picked up on that kind of hard rocking side and also, the prog side. And he’s been championing us, thank God, quite a lot in Classic Rock Magazine and then again now, it has a sister publication, Classic Rock Presents Prog. Obviously, we were kind of two paragraphs on about page 50 or whatever which is fair enough. And right there on the front cover, yes, you’ve guessed it – Rush. It was really – and you know, this is what reminded me because when you contacted me a short while ago and you said, “There was a similarity between Rush and yourselves,” and I thought, “Wow. It just goes on and on.” And then, there was another magazine. I can’t recall which one. I think it may have been another issue of Classic Rock. No, no. I know what it was. Let me think. It wasn’t the first issue of Classic Rock Presents Rock which we were in. I think it was either issue two or issue three. That’s right. It was issue three because issue one, we had a track off our new album which I’ll just talk to you about in a moment – and the same thing with issue two.But, with issue three, where we had a review, a really great review, of our new album, ‘Audio Verite,’ which was done by another guy called Mick Wall who is also quite a well-known writer. He does prog stuff and he also writes about Guns N’ Roses and people like that. So, he does the hard rock stuff as well. And on the front cover, would you believe – yes, you’ve guessed it – Rush, again.
Ben: It’s fate.
Mike: So, this is now about four or five coincidences. It’s almost as if our life is slightly entwined with Rush in some respect.
Ben: I’m just curious. You personally, you said you dig them and you appreciate them. But, who would you say, personally, is your favorite band, if not them?
Mike:Well, Rush are a band definitely that I’ve liked enormously over the years. To be absolutely honest, I love what I call the classic period of Rush and what I think a lot of other Rush fans might also call the classic period of Rush which is the sort of 2112 on through Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres and, particularly, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures. They were at such a peak during that period. And Signals is also great. They’ve had great moments since then and to be honest, Snakes and Arrows I thought just completely blew my head off when I heard it. I thought, “At last!” Everything comes to those who wait long enough. You know what I mean?
Ben: Yeah, back to basics.
Mike: It really was such a great album. But, I mentioned Cream earlier. Obviously, if you listen to some of the songwriting that I do, it is quite structured with not just 1970s classic rock; Rush era stuff. But, it’s also Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple – the classic heavy rock bands. But also, some of the more – I suppose these days, some people might even call them pop oriented. But, I still think that they were great and those are The Beatles, The Stones – the classic three and four minute kind of pop song, rock and roll songwriting. But, what I like about growing up listening to Rush and, of course, Yes, and Genesis, and King Crimson, and some lesser-known groups then. They’re quite well-known in England and there’s a contingent of American people that really dig them. But, maybe some of your listeners may or may not know them, but slightly lesser-known bands like Family, and Caravan, and Wishbone Ash, and people like that. Super Tramp I think made it quite big in the States at one point. There’s people that were slightly on the periphery. I’ve listened to them all. I like them all in different ways. But, what I like to do with Treat stuff is I like to take some of those wonderful prog elements, but incorporate them into if The Beatles were a prog rock band or they were producing Rush. And to be honest, even Rush I think themselves admitted that maybe they got a little bit too lengthy on some of the pieces and when they trimmed it down back to Spirit of Radio, and Freewill, and Tom Sawyer, when they took those 18 minute concepts and then absolutely…
Ben: Stripped them down.
Mike: Made them lean and mean. I think that is the best way I can think of describing it. And they said, “Listen, guys. Let’s not go for 18 minutes. Let’s absolutely say what we want to say within five or six minutes. Let’s see if we can do it.” And that is one of the things, to be honest with you, that we do try to actively do. I certainly do as the guy writing most of the material. But, even when we’re working out the arrangements, we do try to keep it within a certain length. Of course, if something goes a little bit longer, so be it. If it’s a little bit shorter, so be it. But, one of the guys in England who plays us quite a bit on one of the British Internet stations who does some of the prog stuff, he loves the Phonography album, the second one we did because there are songs on it like Clutching a Jagged Glass which has lots of time signatures and changes in tempe and so on. But, the whole thing only lasts about, I think 4:20 something like that. He always introduces and says, “One of the shortest progressive rock songs.”So, that’s maybe where we’re a little bit different from a lot of the other contemporary progressive rock bands that maybe are out there at the moment.
Ben: Right. I think it’s putting a good constraint on yourself to say: how do you make a very concise, clean, and beautiful statement in the three and four minutes?
Ben: And then, you have all this artistic influence. It’s almost like an artistic, kind of a mash up of your influences. One is the well-crafted, quick statement. The other is the elaborate exploration of every musical element. How do you join them?
Mike: Well, exactly. It can become quite a minefield and you do have to seek your way through it. But, there are people like Rush that do work at it. Tom Sawyer, which is a great groove and it’s one of my all-time favorite Rush songs, apparently it took them ages, so I’ve heard, to get the groove and get it sounding. And yet, when you hear it on the record and even when you see them play it live, and I’ve seen them live a couple of times, they just get better and better, to be honest, that band live. You think, “Oh, they must’ve just walked into the studio and just got it in one take.” And of course, they didn’t. They really worked, and worked, and worked at it. As they say, it’s 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration, isn’t it, to get the things?
Mike: But, as I say, there are those similarities between ourselves and Rush. But then, what I like to think of which makes, hopefully, to your listeners who may be interested in us, what makes us, hopefully, unusually – especially for this particular era – is that we do use, especially on our new album, ‘Audio Verite: Deceptive Blends,’ we first of all, we had so much material because so much experimenting went on over from 2005 onwards as I mentioned earlier. I knew very early on it was going to be a double album. And then what we said was with the previous album, ‘Phonography,’ we had quite a few different genres of themes going on, but one fast song, one slow song, one slightly different. And then on this one, we said because it’s a double album, let’s seam it out. Let’s make it like a traditional vinyl album like something Zeppelin would’ve done or Rush did in their hay day with an album sleeve and all the rest of it, although we were doing it with a CD format, but it amounts to the same thing. So, we said imagine two CDs and each CD is replacing a vinyl album. So, you’ve got two halves on each CD if you follow me. And so, we did it like that and we set a hard rock side, and then we had an acoustic side, and then we had an experimental side, and then we had an electric side and then, it all flowed out. And what we did was we – what we like to do is we do like to use quite a few different genres like progressive rock, like a little bit of psychedelia and little kind of folk leanings which, of course, Rush had as well. I mentioned Rivendell earlier. But, we also like to use little elements of maybe jazz as well and the occasional bit of – well, certainly blues, of course, which is the heart of rock music, and maybe a little bit of country. I know it sounds like, “Oh, my God. It must be directionless.” It isn’t. If you listen to the music and check it out, there is a thread that runs all the way through it and we also like to use lots of different types of exotic instruments.
Ben: Yeah. I noticed that even on your MySpace page, the listing of instruments – there’s nothing in there in common with Rush. They’re very cookie-cutter compared to yourselves, what with the bass clarinets, the winds etc.
Mike: Indeed, yes. There’s lots and lots of things. But, even with Rush, there was a point. Maybe not so much now, but during their Farewell to Kings, Xanadu – all that period where Neil Peart was using glockenspiel and lots and lots of different percussion instruments and so on. It’s interesting. Hopefully, your listeners will be interested. When we were doing the ‘Audio Verite: Deceptive Blends’ album, I detuned one of my 12-string guitars into a sitar tuning because while I can play the sitar a little bit, I can play the guitar a lot better. So, I kind of slightly cheated and put the guitar, the 12-string guitar, into a sitar tuning. And so, here I was kind of working this track out which turned out to be Citizen of the World which was the first track that the Classic Rock Presents Prog wanted on their CD covermount which we got quite a bit of publicity for. And we got emails from quite a few people in the United States, actually, that really picked up on the song and kind of said, “Oh, we really like this and blah, blah, blah.” I got lots of emails which I do respond to and the other guys in the band respond to. So, do please send us emails if any of your listeners are interested in learning more about us. At that point when I worked this out, I said to Dom, Dom Lash, who’s the bass player in The Treat, I said, “I think we need to get in a slightly different kind of percussionist.” And we were at that time, changing drummers, shall we say. And this guy burst on the scene. He lived just a mile and a half down the road from there and our paths had never crossed. He played tablas and he’s originally from Scotland. He’s a guy called Dave Hart and he came in. We rehearsed in his front room one afternoon, plumbed all the way through it. And I think a week later, we were in the studio recording Citizen of the World which is one of the highlight tracks and one of the tracks that we’ve been compared to Rush because it starts off accoustic, and it has different time signatures and then it goes into a direct finale hard rock kind of section. And he was originally just drafted in to play tablas on one track and then, he said – I don’t know, in conservation, he said, “Oh, I can play bass clarinet. I can do that.” I said, “Oh, right! Okay. Well, we’ll have you back in.” And we called him back in so many times, “Can you play this?” “Oh, yes. I can play this.” “Oh, can you play that?” “Yes, I can play that.” And we said, “Listen, you’re in the band.” And since then, it flows. He’s on the new album. Dave plays timpani on a couple of tracks. He plays glockenspiel. He plays bass clarinet.
Mike: He plays – God, I can’t even remember half. On the next album, which is going to be coming out hopefully in due course, he plays even more instruments. He plays accordion, piano accordion and flute, although, he’s playing flute on this one as well, but he plays flute on the next one. He plays saxophone and so on. So, I’m kind of taking charge of most of the string instruments like six and 12-string acoustic guitars, electric, six and 12-string electric and doing a bit of sitar, a little bit of banjo I get to play on this latest record of ours, and a bit of mandolin, kind of slightly folkier instruments; classical guitar. Alex Lifeson, of course, is an influence there again because he plays classic – or used to play – quite a bit of classical guitar, especially around the time I’m thinking of Farewell to Kings era Rush. And of course, people from an earlier age, Steve Hackett from Genesis.
Ben: It seemed to me it was a big thing in the 70s, kind of a cross up.
Mike: Yes, absolutely. All those people, including Rush, they were such great players. They made such great, great, great, timeless, long-lasting rock music, really. I’d argue that point with anybody, anytime, anywhere. Growing up with those people and they’ve continued. It’s people like that that have inspired me to kind of, you know – because all this is very time consuming.
Ben: No kidding.
Mike: It requires a lot of time, and energy, and finance, and all the rest of it. And so, you have to be – I think if I were starting out now and I had – I won’t be cool enough to mention any names. But, I had to listen to, let’s say, the current top 40 AM radio music scene wherever in the United States, or in the UK, or wherever. I don’t think I would probably pursue a career in music, shall we say. Let’s not dwell on that, though.
Ben: What names? Come on.
Mike: [laughs] Well, I think there’s a lot of very formulaic pop stuff that’s out there.
Ben: The new style R&B.
Mike: Well, yeah. You know, I really take offense to that term; them calling it R&B.
Ben: It is odd, isn’t it?
Mike: It isn’t R&B. It’s like a kind of a very sort of plastic kind of engineered – I’m not even going to call it disco soul because that’s degrading disco and it’s especially degrading soul. It’s just kind of like a very plastic kind of pop which is all kind of engineered by some guy in a studio with an Apple Mac or whatever. Sorry, I shouldn’t use brand names. But, it’s the whole thing. There’s nothing wrong with Apple Macs by the way. They’re great if they’re used properly. I’m talking about the use of them.
Ben: I know what you mean. Their little mini musical science experiments almost.
Mike: Yeah. It’s so processed and it’s so flat. The music doesn’t – great music, to me, whether it’s rock and roll, or it’s classical music, or jazz, or folk, or blues, or prog rock, or whatever it is, it should have tremendous peaks and low. It should move you. When you sit and listen to 2112, or Dark Side of the Moon, or Abbey Road, or Physical Graffiti, or whatever it is you’re listening to, Close to the Edge. We could go on, and on, and on. It should move you in some way. It should take you on a journey. And I don’t mean, “Oh, wow. Man, take me on a journey.” I mean really enrich your soul, perhaps, in some way.
Ben: This other stuff is more like it anesthetizes you.
Mike: It is. It’s just like a kind of – I don’t know what it is actually. I think they used to call it elevator music or something. And to be honest with you, gosh, I don’t want to sound I’m sort of aging or whatever, but they’re all the same. There’s no difference between any of them.
Ben: They’re all using the same software plugin to roboticize their voice.
Mike: Exactly. Okay, Rush are a Canadian band. But, even from their era, if you look at other people, people like, say, April Wine which some of your audience might know or remember who are a hard rock band that ran about the same time. There was another power trio called Triumph. There was a guitar player called Rik Emmett who I always liked. I don’t know if your audience might be familiar with him. But, they never, ever quite got to the same level as Rush, but they were Canadian as I recall and they were a power trio. But, there was a huge difference between Rik Emmett’s style and Alex Lifeson’s style. They all have their own identity. Or listening to some of the other American slightly prog-influenced – I would say prog was largely a British thing, but the American people also got in on it. There was a band called Kansas that had an album called, ‘Leftoverture.’ Carry On Wayward Son. Maybe some of your audience knows that. And the guy had a violin and that was there kind of little twist. You knew it was them. But, the guy who played violin in that band didn’t play it in the same way that the guy who played violin, John McLaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra; Birds of Fire and Inner Mounting Flame. He was a different style. Even if they’re using the same instruments, they had enough blooming talent. They used the instruments to how they wanted to sound. If you listen to Jon Lord with his wonderful Hammond organ with Deep Purple, he sounds completely different to me, to my ears, to Keith Emerson using it in Emerson, Lake & Powell or even on the odd occasion, John Paul Jones playing Hammond organ with Led Zeppelin. They all have their own style. There’s no personality with any of these people. You know what I mean?
Ben: That’s all correct. The good news, and I have a sunnier view of it maybe because I’m only getting into my true music career now versus even several years ago when things were still so dark is that those people aren’t selling records anymore hardly, comparatively. And the chances for guys like you to come up and do things grassroots style – the thing we’re doing now, you might’ve languished even 10-15 years ago without an audience.
Mike: Oh, absolutely. I can see a change coming. To be fair, obviously, it’s a question of circumstances, and where people are, and what position they’re in, and so on. But, you mentioned Dream Theatre earlier on. They’ve been going year in, year out for, I don’t know what it is now, 15 or 20 years and they were going at a time when it really was not cool to be in anything remotely to do with progressive rock and so on. Yeah, it’s thanks to a lot of – in England, we had a group called Marillion a guy called Fish who used to be their singer and then, he now has a solo career. And so, it’s a handful of people that just kind of…
Ben: Stuck it out.
Mike: We now are going to carry on and thank God that they were there because they, you know. And a lot of the older guys who maybe went away for a little while are sort of now coming back. Maybe some of your audience and yourself are familiar with – there’s a guy called Peter Hammill. He used to be in a group called Van de Graaf Generator; very, very popular in England. And they went away for a few years and they’ve come back now. And they’re making some really bold, artistic statements and they’re a prog rock band and so on. So, they’re bringing their older audience, obviously, back with them and also, a newer audience. And because they are more famous, Rush are more famous, of course, obviously. Yes are still going and so on. So, maybe those people are obviously on the front cover of a magazine and that’s fine and that’s cool. And if that’s what it takes to get the magazine off the shelf, and into people’s houses, and get them reading the magazine, or listening to radio shows like yours, or whatever, so be it. But then, once they’re turning over the magazine, or listening to a show like yours, or whatever. Once they’ve been invited in via Rush, or Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd, or whoever it is, then maybe there’s an opportunity for the other people like ourselves. You know what I mean?
Ben: Right, yes.
Mike: To get a look and to be heard. So, to me, really, it is all positive. I think my only concern and this is maybe a little bit more possibly in the UK than it is in the US, I’m not sure. And that is that because for a number of years, you had this what people are calling euphemistically R&B, because you had a lot of this stuff going on, there’s a slightly older audience out there that is feeling very embittered and thinking that everything that’s out there is rubbish and nothing is worth listening to.
Ben: Sucks, yeah.
Mike: And it’s trying to convince those people. And we are getting there. Rest assured, we’re making a breakthrough and so are other bands, but it does take time. And you really have to say, “Look, look, look. Yes, there was a lot of nonsense for a lot of years, but things are turning a corner.” There’s stuff out there, like ourselves, like The Treat, but there are also a number of other people coming up on the scene. There’s a British group called Diagonal that have got their roots in King Crimson, and Soft Machine, and people like that. And they’re coming along. There’s a girl singer. I’ve forgotten her name now. But, she’s in a group called Panic Room and not their latest album, but their last record – she’s mixing an eastern style of singing with this wonderful, great hard rock and tremendous progressive rock influences coming in there. There are people out there really trying, and really making an effort, and really putting everything into it and I’m just – all I can say – hopefully, your listeners are very broad minded. I’m sure they must be if they like Rush and people like that. But, all I can say is listen to the newer people as well. It won’t diminish your love of Rush, or of Zeppelin, or Yes, or Floyd, or whoever it is. It won’t diminish your love of them. We’re not replacing those people. All we’re saying is just give us a chance as well and it will further enrich your listening experiences hopefully. [laughs]
Ben: Give The Treat a chance.
Mike: Give The Treat a chance, absolutely. It’s a treat to listen to The Treat, yes. [laughs]
Ben: Stupid question. What’s “The Treat”? Where is that from, the name?
Mike: Well, very, very early on when we absolutely first formed, people are kind of squabbling over band names and what people should be called and not. There were all kinds of names banded about and, thankfully, I’ve forgotten most of them. But, at that point, very early on, we all agreed on a name called – the name was Burn, actually. I think everybody that particular week happened to be listening to Deep Purple or something. I don’t know, whatever it was. Anyway, and we called ourselves… And within about two or three weeks or the best part of a month, we kind of realized there was a band a mile and a half down the road that were also gigging that were called Burn and we sort of kind of ignored it and we said, “No, we’re the better group.” Anyway, as the months went on, we did find on two or three occasions promoters were getting confused as to who they were booking and so on. And we said, “Look, this isn’t practical really.” And also, I think I was a bit uncomfortable with it slightly because although, in some respects, it’s a great sounding name, it has been overused – and not just that. It maybe takes us a little bit too much into a metallic direction and we wanted more of a prog kind of. The thing about a group name like Yes or even likeRush, you’re not quite sure what the music is. Do you know what I mean? And I like that. That idea has always appealed to me. You don’t know quite what to expect. And so, I don’t know. We were banding around lots, and lots, and lots of names and we said, “Oh, let’s call it The Treat.” And it just kind of stuck and it kind of grew from there.
Ben: So, was the “the” – I forget the part of speech “the” is. But, does the “the” try to differentiate you from that other band “Treat” in, I think the 80s. Were you even aware of them?
Mike: Yes. Again, to be honest with you, we were completely unaware, honestly, of their existence. It was only, actually, soon after we got our distribution deal which we have with a distribution company in England that distributes our records all around the UK and overseas as well. Obviously, I have to get into the whole further and further into the business side of running a band, and making records, and all the rest of it. I kind of saw on some sheet or another – I can’t remember now where it was – and it said “treat this” and “treat that.” And I said, “Well, that’s got nothing to do with us.” And soon after that, round about that time, we got a review in one of the national magazines and the journalist said, “This is the UK based Treat and not anything to do with heavy metal band from the 1980s.” And I thought, “Oh, God. Was there a heavy metal band in the 1980s?” So, “Oh, no.” Yes.
Ben: Treat, treat. You would figure no metal band would name themselves Treat.
Mike: Well, yes. I was going to say that, actually, to be fair, though, they are called Treat and we are called The Treat. Although, we always were called The Treat to be honest. But, Dave, who is our percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, he’s very kind pernickety about that. He says, “We always must make sure. We always got to call ourselves The Treat,” because otherwise, we might get confused with the other group. But, to be honest, I think even if you went on Amazon, or Play, or any of those places where you can get any Treat material from or, indeed, any of the download sites like iTunes and so on, it becomes very, very obvious that it’s two different groups because with their stuff, they were, shall we say, a 1980s hair band; a metal band. And with us, the album covers, if you look at our album covers if you’re into artwork. And if you’re into prog rock, as far as I’m concerned, you should be into artwork as well; wonderful hypnosis album covers for Pink Floyd, wonderful Roger Dean covers, Yes, really lovely way out covers like 2112, and Farewell to Kings, and Hemisphere. And I even like the cover on – actually, probably my favorite Rush cover is probably actually ‘Moving Pictures.’ I thought all the puns on that were just fantastic. And so, if you look at our album covers, although they’re not perhaps quite as extravagant as that because, obviously, we’re on a slightly smaller budget. But, they do have that. I would say it’s a progressive come psychedelic kind of edge to it. The ‘In Technicolor’ album has got the three different colors with the black surround and then the ‘Phonography’ looks like a kaleidoscope of guitars and other music instruments. And then, with the new one, we just thought, “Look, let’s let it all hang out.” A lot of the stuff for ‘Audio Verite: Deceptive Blends,’ the new record, the new double album, a lot of it was recorded, shall we say, around the time when, shall we say, the world was at quite as much peace as it should have been. And so, if you look at the gatefold of the album, there are various studio shots of us taken at different times during the whole making of that record which took about three years to make on and off. There’s a heading, “The Weapons of Mass Construction.” We wanted to turn something very negative into something very positive. We wanted to grab it and turn it into positivity. And so, our weapons are musical instrument weapons which can be heard far and wide on the ‘Audio Verite: Deceptive Blends,’ kind of thing and even what we’ve done before. And so, we said, “Okay. Let’s just line up as many of the instruments as we can, get them into the lens of the camera photograph, into the view finder, have the photograph and that’s the album cover.” And so, we’re still carrying on, hopefully, that kind of slightly progressive tradition with the album covers as well. And if you look at the back cover of the album, and anybody can see. They can check all this out on our website. On the front of the cover, you see the front of the instruments and on the back of the cover – surprise, surprise – you see the back of all the instruments. So, there’s a little bit of a kind of wonderful, traditional, progressive styling to not just the music, but also in our artwork, and cover designs, and how we present ourselves, and things like that.
Ben: Absolutely. Most bands, but not all artists take the same care with the stuff that surrounds their music where there’s an opportunity to be artistic with just the music itself.
Mike: Well, exactly. That’s why we like to have as much – like taking out a cue from people like Rush. We like to have as much artistic input in, say, over what we’re doing. That’s one of the wonderful things about bands like Rush and other people of their ilk is that you always felt it was them you were listening to. Do you know what I mean?
Mike: It’s like if they went there, the music wouldn’t sound like that at all. It would sound very different whereas, again, comparing it to a lot of these newer people that are out there now, admittedly, from a genre. You kind of think, “You know what? They don’t even need to be there. They just need some hotshot producer.” You may as well just hire a model to come in and mime on the video. Do you know what I mean?
Ben: That’s essentially it.
Mike: Yeah. I think truly – I always like to – I mean, I grew up that way and I kind of still like to think that way that if I’m listening to a band, I’m listening to the band. I’m listening to what they want to do. Neil Peart is such an expressive drummer. Anthem is still one of my favorite tracks. Whenever anybody comes up to me and they say, “I’m just learning how to play the drums,” or, “I want to be a rock drummer,” or whatever, “What do you think I should listen to?” That’s one of the things, immediately, I say, “Listen, listen to Anthem.” And of course, obviously, other people; John Bohnam and people like that and Bill Bruford of course was great, and Yes, and so on. But, do you follow what I’m saying with the identity thing? It had to be those people and that’s what kind of try and do as well with The Treat.
Ben: Cool. Tell us. You alluded to something you’re working on, the next album in due course. So, tell us where you’re at with that and when the fans should expect that.
Mike: Indeed. Well, we’re about 80% of the way through the record and we’re hoping for a release sometime this year. But realistically, because of all our schedules and things like that, and because the new record is still being promoted and, in fact, the ‘Phonography’ album, is still – I was astonished. There are still some people in Greece and various parts of Europe that are still picking up on that album. So, we’re still kind of in the throws of still promoting those records, but we’re still working on the new one. So, I don’t think something is going to be out before the fall of this year realistically. But, the new record is going to not be as elaborate or as extravagant. We got really quite extravagant on the last album. I, myself, said there was a little bit of Night at the Opera air of Queen about what we were doing with the last one. And with the new one, it’s a lot more stripped down. Well, it still is, again, like Rush. Let’s go back to what we were all about. Snakes and Arrows kind of really cemented it for them. With our new record, it’s going to be probably ten songs, a single CD album and most of the tracks are going to be round about the four minute, although there are a couple of songs that are going into five and six minutes. But again, lean and mean. Do you know what I mean?
Ben: Yeah, dialing it back a little.
Mike: Absolutely. But, we’ve pushed the boat out with ‘Audio Verite: Deceptive Blends’ and we don’t want to bring the boat back in. So, we’ve still got Dave doing some timpani parts on a couple of the numbers. He’s doing piano accordion on a track. I’m playing mandolin on one particular track. There’s flute and, obviously, lots and lots of lead guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums and acoustic. There’s quite a lot of acoustic guitar on the new one, but it’s acoustic guitar played in a classic rock style, so I’m thinking acoustic guitars on 2112 the way Alex Lifeson plays acoustic guitar or the way Pete Townsend plays acoustic guitar on Magic Bus or whatever. And you have The Who stuff or the way Jimmy Page was playing acoustic guitar on Led Zeppelin.
Ben: Right. Not a folky strum, strum.
Mike: Exactly. We understand folk music. We love it. But, we want to bring a rock edge into it with a progressive styling. So, yeah, we’re all very excited about the new material and it’s a little bit of a concept as well. I don’t want to give too much away at the moment because I want it to be a little bit of a surprise, but it is ten tracks that I slightly interrelated. And I’ll give you a little bit of a clue. It’s to do with good things in the life of an individual and bad things in the life of an individual. So, it’s light and dark. That’s not what the album is called by the way, but it gives you an idea. But, it really is the most exciting stuff, so we can’t wait to finish it all off and put it together. But, we are about 80% of the way through it. So, hopefully, sometime a little bit later on in the year, it’ll be emerging and, of course, I’ll be contacting yourself and letting you know of its existence and when it comes on the scene. We’re hoping to do some festival kind of appearances and things like that later on. Those are where you can really blossom and you can really reach a lot of people. And you know it’s going to be, hopefully, like-minded people or people who are broad enough to sit and listen to hard rock with a bit of bass clarinet or occasional bit of mandolin or whatever. They’re going to be able to take it in. For people interested in The Treat, please do check us out at www.thetreat.co.uk. That’s our main site and that gets updated on a regular basis, particularly the diary page. That has some song samples on it. But, if you want further song samples, you can go to the MySpace site which is www.myspace.com/thetreatuk. You’ve got to put in the UK because we talked earlier that there might be some occasional problems with other people who are also called that. So, those are the two main sites and if people want to give us their support by actually purchasing some of our records or downloads, then Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. We’re on both. And of course, there’s another site called Play. They sell a lot of our stuff, Play.com. And of course, iTunes, iTunes America, iTunes everywhere around the world, actually; iTunes UK and Australia, Asia. We’re on iTunes everywhere. And we’re also on Rhapsody, Napster and also, Amazon MP3. So yeah, just listen out for us in all those places and in various music magazines that we’re being picked up on more and more. Oh, by the way. We were also featured and we got a glowing review in an American progressive rock magazine. I don’t know if you know of it. It’s a magazine called Progression and it’s based in the United States. A guy like yourself who’s really into music and so on, he edits it. We got a glowing five star review – just astonishing. I was quite almost embarrassed, actually. [laughs] I mean that nicely. And you can find that on the reviews page at thetreat.co.uk because we publish all the reviews that we get on that site. So, people in the US are picking up on the band more and more. Long may it continue. And so, thank you very much as well, Ben, for all your support and giving us this exposure. We really appreciate it.
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