plenty of hard rock and prog-rock action in play on the most recent
CD from the U.K. band known as Gandalfs Fist. Formed
back in 2005, Gandalfs Fist mixes up 1970s era prog with elements
of folk music and hard rock and the results of their 2012 CD entitled
From A Point Of Existence will certainly make them of
interest to progressive rock fans. The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist
Dean Marsh and vocalist Luke Severn, Gandalfs
Fist has a bright future and is in the throes of finishing their late
2013 CD. Even so, their third and latest full length CD, From A
Point Of Existence is well played and features some solid
electric guitar based prog-rock sounds and styles. Whats even
more amazing is that Dean Marsh plays just about everything on the
CD that, through the art of studio overdubbing, sounds like a full
band. Theres a definite kind of hard rock meets near metal vibe
but the concepts and sounds are very much rooted in classic progressive
rock. Carving out a unique space in a crowded prog-rock scene, Deans
electric guitar work is on fire for most of the CD. Decked out in
the kind of artwork that was so appealing back during the heyday of
prog-rock circa 1975, the CD even has a story line, making it a kind
of modern day rock opera, which helps to make the album a unique collection
in the global prog-rock world. www.GandalfsFist.com
presents an interview with
Dean Marsh & Luke Severn of
Tell us about your early years growing up in England. What was the
music that inspired you to become interested and then involved in
music and speaking of which, why do you think England has such a rich
history of music? I fully understand the importance of the golden
age of prog and so what bands and artists were important to
you both musically and inspirationally, both now and then?
DEAN MARSH: Growing up in the north of England definitely has
an impact on you as a young music fan
you grow up listening
to Zeppelin singing about viking hordes and great battles and then
you take the dog for a walk down the Solway Firth or Lake District
and you are hit with this stunning Cumbrian landscape that seems to
have jumped right off the vinyl pressing.
Thats one of the reasons why I love songs with a narrative,
that paint a little movie inside your head, and something I find myself
gravitating towards doing when I write music myself. Ive always
loved music... my dad was a great guitarist and musician and would
often sing me and my brother Don McLean songs instead of bedtime stories,
so I think that love was ingrained in me from a very early age.
As a teenager, as clichéd as it sounds, I had a life-changing
moment the first time I heard Pink Floyds Dark Side of the
Moon. I think that its quite evident in our music that since
then Ive been a massive Floyd nut. Other bands that definitely
inspire me are the likes of Jethro Tull, Camel, King Crimson and Gryphon.
I listen to a wide spectrum of music and Gandalfs Fist is my
expression of that. Elements of my love for hard rock, traditional
folk, prog and psychedelic all show through in some form or other.
I think one of the reasons that Britain has such a rich history in
terms of music, especially in terms of popular music of
the last fifty years was to do with you had groups of working class
kids looking for escapism from the monotony of industry.
Thats why you get massive insurgents of bands leaping out from
industry heavy towns like Birmingham and Liverpool... there was a
certain standardization and accepting of ones lot
to a certain degree and that all changed with the postwar ideology
of people striving towards self expression.
You get that associated work ethic of someone whose old lad has grafted
all their life... and I think that defiantly carried forward into
what became the successful acts over the years, they were determined
and they grafted at it. Not like today where unfortunately the ideology
of these reality TV shows seems to have instilled into young, often
very talented, musicians that you have one audition and life is either
handed to you on a plate, or you give up.
SEVERN: I grew up listening to 1960's and 70's music, my parents
era, and I think the rich history stems from wartime Britain. We had
a rough old time during that period and the generation after that
really let loose and enjoyed life, starting with The Beatles, through
Zeppelin, the Stones, Sabbath, all these bands came out of that era
of freedom and have gone on to inspire the following generation.
Pink Floyd continue to be a great influence. I'm also a massive Queen
fan, although not strictly prog, some of their stuff has very prog
elements. Recently I've been listening to a lot of Rush so that golden
age still influences us now.
mwe3: Tell us about your early musical training, where and
when did you start to study guitar and music and what instruments
do you play and what instruments do you write music with and why?
LUKE SEVERN: I'm purely a voice, a hired hand to pull in a
different sound to Deans vocal. I have a choral background and
was involved in musical performances at school and such.
DEAN MARSH: I got an unbranded electric guitar as a present
for passing my exams when I was 16. Up until that point, I had never
had a music lesson in my life
and I havent had one since.
The action was terrible, it made my fingers bleed and the sound it
generated was akin to a flatulatic baboon but it gave me the initial
buzz of playing music.
I would play along to my favorite records, which at the age of 16
were Masters Of Reality by Sabbath and Maidens Piece
of Mind. I would just play and play until it sounded right and
thats how I learned. I think joining a live band shortly after
defiantly helped the learning progress. You have to learn quickly
out of necessity, especially when playing alongside musicians that
had been playing for years... you either learn quickly or sound crap...
When were recording a Gandalfs Fist project I play all
the electric guitars, acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo and the bass.
On the last two records Ive played the synths as well as the
tin whistle... usually the vocals end up being 50/50 between Lukes
I actually write about ninety nine percent of the songs on an acoustic
guitar when Im just relaxing on the couch and messing about...
once I come up with an idea most of the song gets written within the
hour. I would also like to point out that Im teaching Luke how
to play the spoons so we can perform his 20 minute rock opus A
Supernova of Spoon (Part VIII) sometime live in the near future.
mwe3: The most recent Gandalfs Fist CD, From A Point
Of Existence is a fully formed prog-rock suite of songs that is
based around the ten part title track that is being called A
Medieval Space-Rock Odyssey. Can you elaborate upon the concept
of the title track suite, what is the story line about and how do
the other tracks fit in? Also the CD artwork is great. Is the album
artwork also intrinsic to the concept?
DEAN MARSH: Medieval Space-Rock was, I think, coined
by one of our fans on Facebook, primarily to do with our general prog
sound mixed with some folk motifs that pop up every now and again.
We thought for a while about doing a Tolkien-themed album based around
The Hobbit... mainly because of our name we would often get
emails asking if we would ever actually do one. I thought about the
general story and thought about what if it was transposed to real-life
people rather than wizards and dragons and what followed basically
ended up in a 30 minute track, split in two parts, about the cycle
At the start of the title suite, a ruthless tycoon is murdered on
his doorstep and what follows is basically a semi-hallucinogenic journey
through his dying thoughts. While this is going on, the other tracks
play out the individual stories of characters plotting to steal his
wealth and position, each of whom have their individual motives and
represent distinct aspects of the human condition - Love, Greed, revenge...
thats the idea anyway.
The album art is actually the second version of what we had planned.
Originally we acquired some art which had the title character lost
adrift a sea of clouds with a stepladder leading downwards. It represented
the story of the record but not the psychedelic sound. As a result,
my sister Aisling actually did the redesigned sleeve by hand and did
a fantastic job. It really harks back to covers from the likes of
Caravan where you are sort of looking at this weird landscape that
would, in your mind, be the geographic origin of what you were listening
We wanted to put an album together based on the Hobbit. We changed
the setting, so its kind of Tolkien meets Blade Runner. We concentrate
on the Lonely Mountain as a towerblock "Monolith" and the
death of the Dragon. The album title being the point of death where
the dragon falls, it's pretty dark but, that's generally the music
that appeals to us. Moody, slightly depressing but with massive guitar
riffs. Yeah, the song Crestfallen is about the flight
of a robin over the city, where the story takes place, and the ice
cream represents the stories' main character William Small
an ice cream man!
mwe3: When did you form Gandalfs Fist and how has the
band and the bands sound evolve from the early days? Can you
tell us about your musical partnership in Gandalfs Fist? What
is the chemistry like and can you say something about the recording
process, for instance how much overdubbing is there and what was the
studio process like while recording the From A Point Of Existence
LUKE SEVERN: Back in 2005, this was just Dean's solo outlet
for creating music. It was just a collection of riffs and ideas. I
have to say it was a joke for a while, then in 2009 we reevaluated
and recorded The Master And The Monkey, it was rough and ready,
not very polished but set us down a road to record two albums and
an EP in the last two years. Our sound has evolved from that early
phase, to be much more epic and grand in scale. Basically, Dean writes
it I sing it. Once the bed of the songs are there we work collaboratively
to develop the album, but mainly its just Dean creating the
hearts of the song and myself and Dean writing and singing the lyrics
and then both of us working on the mix and polishing the overall sound.
We work well together, we're friends first, band mates second, so
if something isn't working or needs changing, neither of us is afraid
to tell the other to do it again.
DEAN MARSH: When we first started out we were just messing
about and it was all whacked together in a couple of hours and fired
on the internet. We really didnt think anyone in their right
minds would listen to it! Gandalfs Fist is basically the result
of two friends having fun. Its not like I hired Luke in or anything,
we were already mates from university and found that we had a great
laugh writing and recording songs together.
Things are a lot more gradual than a couple of years ago. Now people
are actually listening to the stuff were putting out there is
a bit more of a concerted effort and money going into the production
side of things. The way the creative process usually works is that
Ill come up with a quick demo and Luke will give me some feedback
via email. From there Ill build the tracks up over the following
months, either in our own studio or hired studio space. Its
usually about halfway through this process when Ill hit Luke
up for some lyric ideas. Sometimes Ive written everything and
need some gaps filled, and sometimes Ill just have chorus to
work on. After that its deciding whos voice fit where.
Lukes voice is great for the heavier stuff and I tend to be
more of a chorus kinda guy.
Finally, we make it fun. We set up all the gear in the studio and
buy beer. Lots of beer. We lock ourselves in there until were
happy with the tracks doing rough edits on the fly and then Ill
spend a good few weeks working on the final mixes. Were massive
control freaks so we try and work in our own studio space if we can
but sometimes we simply dont have the time so well spend
a day or two locking off some of the shorter tracks in a commercial
On From A Point Of Existence, there is quite a lot of layering
to create textures and atmosphere, especially in the title track however,
I always insist on doing guitar solos in one take, no punch-ins. Sometimes
this leads to hours of frustration of Luke testing the durability
of the record button but it makes the difference. I always like to
go back and add a little overdub harmony here and there as Im
a great fan of that Wishbone Ash lead style and its become a
bit of a trademark...
Can you tell us about the guitars and other gear you play on the From
A Point Of Existence CD? Which guitars are your favorites and
how about acoustic guitars, strings, picks and pedals that enhance
your sound and what amps you prefer? What do you like best about the
current guitar market?
DEAN MARSH: I like using Jacksons, I think theyre a great
versatile instrument and am not really that keen on swapping guitars
every five minutes. I use a Laney head but used a lot of amp modeling
during the recording of From A Point Of existence, for the
main reason that I had absolutely no idea where some of these tracks
were going. Its a godsend to be able to change the sound rather
than do an entire re-record, especially on a song that is 17 minutes
That said, on the single track, There And Back Again,
we mixed things up a bit and used a Telecaster through an Orange head
for a bit of contrast. But other than that it all pretty much stays
the same. I prefer lighter strings on electric and heavier on acoustic
and I have my own guitar picks made. I like them quite thick and after
Ive finished using them they go into free gifts to people who
order CDs from our website.
To be honest, Im not a tech-freak, I like to keep things simple.
If I like a guitar when I play it in the store Ill just buy
it. Theres a fella down the road, Steve, he builds his own acoustic
guitars and I was down there the other day trying them out, absolutely
fantastic sound and thats the kind of thing I like, although
I did give him my old 6 string banjo the other day and now I think
his wife officially hates me! (lol)
mwe3: What do you like best about the current state of progressive
rock in England and prog around the world in general? It seems like
theres a whole new generation of bands and artists who were
greatly inspired by the first prog-rock bands. Also its pretty
amazing that theres a whole magazine geared to the prog-rock
world, I'm speaking about the Progrock mag coming out of London. Its
a lot to cover but they do a pretty good job!
DEAN MARSH: To be honest I find it really exciting that there
is such a high quality of material coming from the likes Porcupine
Tree, Crippled Black Phoenix, Astra, Von Hertzen Brothers... the list
goes on, and moreover, it seems that Im discovering a great
new band every week. Hopefully some people think that about us.
I really enjoy Prog magazine. Weve been featured in it a couple
of times and I think they do a good job of covering the heavy-hitters
whilst promoting the up and coming bands and long may it continue.
I think its popularity will only inspire more bands in the future.
The internet also has a great role to play in this new era of progressive
rock. Its great that everyone has access to our material, I
can only imagine what would have happened if I released these records
back in the day. I never did have the patience for selling cassettes
from the boot of my car!
SEVERN: Its great that there are others out there. With
not being on the gigging scene, we are quite isolated from it, so
I'm glad that people are starting to notice prog again.
Yeah, Prog magazine have been quite supportive to us, we have a couple
of contacts down there, any advertisement is great and it means that
we can reach out to some of the older prog fans, maybe those that
buy and read magazines, but aren't necessarily aware of us from the
internet, where most of our following has come from.
mwe3: What do you like to do to relax and outside of music?
Do you have favorite pastimes, favorite movies, books and other hobbies?
LUKE SEVERN: Well we're both massive geeks, and could quite
happily pass the afternoon, watching Game Of Thrones or playing X-Box.
I'm a massive comic book fan as well, so the amount of movies spinning
out of that genre at the moment is great. We both follow Football
(soccer) and spend many an evening watching or talking about that.
DEAN MARSH: I would just like to clarify that I am not as massive
a geek as Luke! I think I have geek-like-tendencies but Im quite
happy to leave Luke to his comics! (lol) Personally, I like a bit
of fishing and as part of my job Ive done a lot of fell walking,
rock climbing and caving which Ive grown to really enjoy. I
also consider myself a bit of a chef-de-cuisine in the
galley and my signature dishes are pie, pie sandwiches and pie-floaters,
which is a pie floating on top of a bowl of soup!
Recently, Ive just finished organizing and stage managing the
Maryport Harbour festival which featured Mostly Autumn and Martin
Turners Wishbone Ash. That ate up most of my free time so now
its great to get back to the production of the next record.
My favorite film is Blade Runner but my favorite writer
is actually Shakespeare. I have a degree in literature and let me
tell you it was cringe-worthy to bear witness to every other classmate
writing their thesis on Harry Potter. I thought about
writing mine on Wheres Wally/Waldo. But I couldnt
mwe3: Can you tell us about the next planned CD from Gandalfs
Fist? Is there a title and how far down the line are you as far as
writing and recording and how would you compare your current musical
direction with the other Gandalfs Fist CDs? What other plans
do you have for the second half of 2013 and beyond?
LUKE SEVERN: The new record is in process, we basically released
From A Point Of Existence and Dean went straight back into
to the studio to start on the next project. I personally have not
been on to the studio yet to add my vocals, but I would hope we will
be ready for a late 2013 release. As for other projects, we released
a Christmas EP last year, which is becoming an annual event, so look
out for that and I'm trying to book some studio time to revisit our
first album, Master And The Monkey and make it the album it
should have been.
MARSH: The premise the next record is that you are intercepting
a signal that is being broadcast from a derelict space station from
the far corners of the universe from two space hobos that have stumbled
upon some salvaged instruments and have begun an impromptu interstellar
jam to tell the story of a mythical character named the universal
wanderer... Is that Prog enough? (lol)
Theres a short story being written alongside the creation of
the record by a very talented young writer so that will be offered
in some shape or form with the album release.
The recording process is in full swing now, we have maybe four tracks
that are locked off as one hundred percent finished. Id say
were about halfway through. Im really excited by the next
record. It is a proper space rock album which has a definite emphasis
on some big, punchy choruses. Its still got some folk elements
but theres a big jazz influence too. The guest musicians were
working with this time are fantastic and from all over the world ...
a jazz sax player, Czech flute players. Its all coming together
into a really rich sound!
After this album, I begin work straight away on an orchestral score
for Tokyo-based author and old friend Paul Ewen. The idea is to create
an OST for his upcoming novel What Happens On The 25th...
mainly because I really want to write a song that has a 7-part bassoon
Other than that , I have a lot more free music planned for release
via the website which will include an updated fan sampler EP that
will contain some exclusive tracks that didnt make the album
as well as some new planned video content for YouTube aficionados.
Thanks to Dean Marsh and Luke Severn of Gandalfs