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Reflection Club - interview with Lutz Meinert


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PROGRESSIVE ROCK



Head of the Reflection Club project, which is releasing its first album entitled "Still Thick as a Brick", Lutz Meinert takes us in the footsteps of Jethro Tull, but not only.
TONYB - 22.03.2021 -
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Hello, can you start this interview by telling us about your musical background?

Since 1979 until the mid 80's I played rock, progressive rock and jazz rock as a keyboardist, singer and partly as a drummer in several Berlin amateur bands, like Cambert, Bizarr, Keex, Solaris and Imago. After that I limited myself to building a home studio. Because at that time punk, new wave, NDW, synth pop and later tekkno dominated the music scene in Berlin, and the major German labels had no interest in jazz and progressive rock.
Little by little I had built up a small but usable studio and was working on my own tracks. In the early 90s, guitarist Georgios Zikidis joined us and we worked so well together that after some time we had recorded enough material for a CD. In 1993 we released our debut album "Scattered Pages" under the project name For Your Pleasure on the self-founded label Madvedge Records. However, the tracks had been created more or less spontaneously without any conceptual input and resulted in a mix of styles from rock, pop, folk and progressive rock.
The second album "timeless", on the other hand, became a rather pure prog album, and the duo had become a complete band. But in 2001 the band more or less disbanded, frustrated by frequent line-up changes, few performance opportunities for prog bands in and around Berlin, and mediocre CD sales due to a lack of distribution and the lack of concerts.

After a long hiatus of occasionally recording songs in my studio, I released a psychedelic prog album titled "Pychedelic Teatime" in 2014 under the project name Margin. Here Arne Spekat from For Your Pleasue was again involved on acoustic guitar and my wife Carola Meinert on background vocals. I was responsible for the lead vocals and the other instruments.
Actually, I wanted to work on the next Margin album at some point, but then the idea for "Still Thick as a Brick" came up, which, by the way, features another For Your Pleasure musician Nils Conrad on electric guitar again.

How did you come up with the idea of composing in 2021 an album in a musical style practiced 40 years ago?

I probably would never have come up with the idea if Ian Anderson hadn't released a sequel to the prog classic "Thick as a Brick" by his former band Jethro Tull entitled "TAAB2" under his own name in 2012. Because after listening to this album several times, at some point I had the idea to write a kind of alternative sequel to "Thick as a Brick", which is more oriented to the style and sound of the original than Anderson's successor.

Why Jethro Tull? And why Thick as Brick?

To understand this I have to say that "Thick as a Brick" plays a very special role in my life and I travel back to the year 1972 for a short time. I was 13 years old and at that time music was for me nothing more than a pleasant, acoustic background during boring activities like schoolwork or cleaning up. The only energy I put into music was to record a song from the radio onto my cassette recorder every now and then. And besides hits by T.Rex, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Sweet, Slade, Cher and Don Mclean, at some point the song "Thick as a Brick" landed on my cassette - the single from the album of the same name by the band Jethro Tull, which was completely unknown to me at the time. And the more I played it, the more this song stood out for me, so that at some point I decided to buy my first LP: "Thick as a Brick" by Jethro Tull! It took me some time to get used to this rather complex music, which was new to me, but after that my enthusiasm for music knew no bounds. Not only did I get all of Jethro Tull's previous albums, but I also devoured magazines about rock music and soon discovered other interesting bands like Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Camel, Focus . So for me "Thick as a Brick" was the initial spark that catapulted me into the wonderful world of progressive rock, hard rock, jazz rock, folk rock, psychedelic rock and blues rock and ultimately led to the desire to make music myself one day.
And then when Ian Anderson himself published a sequel and gave me the idea, the circle was closed.

Four years between the creation of Reflection Club and the release of this album: how did it come about?

The whole production was very time-consuming. Besides the composing, arranging and recording, it was especially the mixing that cost me a lot of time. On the one hand, some of the arrangements are very dense and complex, and it was a bit of a pain to work out all the polyphonic musical lines and instruments with all the subtleties in the mix without losing focus on the lead melodic lines. Also, many Jethro Tull albums have been excellently remixed and mastered to the highest quality by Steven Wilson. Here, too, the bar was set extremely high, which also spurred me on. Then I also decided to wcreate a 5.1 surround mix in addition to the HD stereo mix. Since I had never done anything like that before, I first had to upgrade my studio with hardware and software, and then I had to familiarize myself with the whole thing. In addition, there was to be an album video covering the entire playing time of the piece, which was realized as a rather elaborately edited slide show. The search for the right photos alone took months. Mounting and editing it all took another few months. Since I'm a perfectionist in these things and had to do everything part-time, it took quite some time.

How did you choose the different instrumentalists?

I've known the guitarist Nils Conrad since the late 90s, when we played together in For Your Pleasure. Of course, I also later followed his career with the Berlin prog band Crystal Palace, which he joined in 2011. He was my first choice from the start, because he masters the rock style of a Martin Barre as well as virtuoso fusion guitars.
Next to join the club was Ulla, whom I had known for many years but had only noticed her peripherally as a flutist. I knew she played the flute, but rather only accompanied a song with the flute for herself or in her choir from time to time. When she heard that I was looking for a flutist for studio recordings, she offered herself. Actually, I thought it was an absolute crackpot idea, but I invited her to my studio anyway out of politeness. Surprisingly, the test recordings went much better than I had expected and we recorded the first takes for the album on the very first day. The more classical parts she managed almost right away. For the rock parts, she needed some time to fade out her classical flute school and to consciously play noisy and overblown instead of pure tone. But she soon managed to do this really well, too. So this casting problem was solved.
The search for a singer with the timbre of Ian Anderson, on the other hand, was more complex. First I went through all the bands and singers I knew in my mind - and there were quite a few. But no singer really seemed to fit. Finally, I searched the Internet for Jethro Tull cover bands and at some point discovered a video on youtube of Jethro Tull with guest singer Paul Forrest (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFDUC87pmh4).
His singing and his flute playing sounded so authentically like the young Ian Anderson that it was immediately clear to me to win him for the project, which happened quickly via the Internet. The fact that he also has an excellent command of the acoustic guitar is another asset for the album.

How was the recording process?

I first recorded all the instruments and vocals in my studio, with the guitars, flute and vocal parts acting only as preliminary demo tracks. This gave me a good overall impression and allowed me to tweak some minor details in the arrangement.
Then Ulla recorded all the flute parts in my studio. After that I sent the rough mix to Paul in America so that he could record the vocals and the acoustic guitar in his studio there. It turned out that the second part "Timeout" was a little too low in pitch for his voice. So I transposed this part a semitone higher, adjusted the transitions accordingly, and sent Paul the adjusted rough mix again. When Paul had recorded the vocals and the acoustic guitar, he offered to re-record the flute as well, since this had also become necessary due to the transposition. That's why Paul's flute can be heard on "Time out".
Finally, I sent the d rough mix to Nils so that he could record the guitar parts in his studio and send them back to me. Thanks to digital technology and the Internet, everything went smoothly.

By taking the original title of the album and its iconography, aren't you afraid that some people might cry plagiarism before even listening to the slightest note of the album?

Well, I have to expect that. I'm sure there will be some Jethro Tull fans who will call our debut blasphemy, but we'll just have to live with that. It's a delicate matter when you release such an homage. That's why I wanted to avoid that our album sounds like a plagiarism. So "Still Thick as a Brick" is based on a completely new composition, without any help of quotes from Jethro Tull songs. Also, our debut includes sections that don't necessarily sound typically Jethro Tull, but still fit well into the overall sound. For example, there are fusion and jazz parts and arrangements with tablas, sitar, and bagpipes that are not necessarily typical of Jethro Tull. 
The lyrics also tell a story of their own, focusing on dubious practices in finance, among other things.
Based on the first feedback to our album, our concept seems to have succeeded. We have already received enthusiastic letters from several buyers, and also the first reviews are consistently positive. For example, the Eclipsed magazine wrote in the review of "Still Thick as a Brick" among other things "A pastiche is not to be confused with a plagiarism, it takes up the aesthetic vision and the stylistic means of the role model - gladly also very detailed - in order to create something own, new based on it. Exactly that succeeds on this convincing album with bravura!" Exactly that was our concern!

Gerald Bostock, Georges Boston ... the analogy even nestles in the name of your collaborator. Is it a simple coincidence?

No, the similarity of the name was intended to establish a connection to the protagonist on "Thick as a Brick", the eight-year-old Gerald Bostock, who looks back on his life as an adult George Boston in a parallel universe, so to speak. There is also a little hint of this in the song lyrics when "dusty poems" are briefly mentioned. This of course refers to the fictional poem "Thick as a Brick" that gave the name to the original.

In the same spirit, but in a different style, Rob Reed, with his Sanctuary project, has published 3 (soon 4) albums written in the style of Mike Oldfield. Do you know these works ? If yes, do you think you are in the same approach as him ?

Sure I know these albums of Rob Reed, Sanctuary 1 - 3 are even in my CD collection. I think Mike Oldfield's early albums are great, especially "Ommadawn". But after 1978 no other Mike Oldfield album could inspire me very much. So it was a nice surprise for me to hear Sanctuary, a "new Mike Oldfield album" seemingly from his heyday - even if it was of course by Robert Reed. He has not only perfectly adapted Oldfield's style in terms of composition and arrangement, but also his very own guitar tone, amazing.
In fact, the approaches are almost congruent: Rob Reed and Reflection Club both play their own pieces, but "in the style of the (respective) old masters". Perhaps Rob Reed sticks even closer to Mike Oldfield than we do to Jethro Tull, but that's a matter for others to judge.

Is Reflection Club a long term project ? Is it only about Jethro Tull ? Or do you plan to pay tribute to other bands ?

I've been so busy with the production so far that I haven't had a chance to plan the future. Since the collaboration with Paul, Nils and Ulla was so pleasant and musically productive, I would like to record the next album with them again. And with this line-up it should be quite tullig again, just because of the integration of the flute and Paul's voice. Whether a Jethro Tull album will always be the inspiration or another classic remains to be seen. Of course, it would be an interesting but also very challenging idea to apply the homage concept of our debut to other classics. What band does that already? It can be, as happened with "Still Thick as a Brick", a nice source of inspiration. On the other hand, it may also be a hindrance if you have a musical or lyrical vision in mind that is not directly reflected in a classic.
Maybe there is a middle way, we'll see. But should we ever plan a sequel to "Close to the Edge" by Yes, "Godbluff" by Van der Graaf Generator or "Brain Salad Surgery" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer - actually also three island records of mine - Paul might have some problems as a singer ...

What kind of music do you listen to ?

I listen to a lot of different things. Besides progressive rock also jazz rock and jazz, hard rock, folk, folk rock, art rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, grunge, alternative rock, southern rock, ambient, electronic music, singer/songwriter, classical and also interesting pop. Actually, it doesn't matter whether the song is complex or simple, new or old. But there are also music genres that are less pleasing to my ears, because for me the basis of the music is often missing, namely interesting melodies or the whole thing sounds too stereotypical. I would count hip hop, rap, tekkno, death metal, disco or classic rock'n'roll among these. And with spoken words, whether rapped, growled or mumbled, I quickly skip on anyway.

What would be your 5 desert island albums?

Oh dear, just five albums for the island, that's actually impossible for me to answer. I've heard so much excellent music in my life that has touched my soul deeply that five albums would never be enough to put it there.
Off the top of my head, in alphabetical order of course, I would think of the following five pairs of albums:

David Bowie - Hunky Dory / Ziggy Stardust
Brand X - Unorthodox Behaviour / Masques
Genesis - Foxtrot / Selling England by the Pound
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick / Aqualung
Pink Floyd - Meddle / More

Of course, I cheated here and named two albums per performer, but I could probably never choose one or the other. That would be similar to the question, what do you like better, a good pizza or a good pasta dish? In practice, I solve the problem of the question I can't answer with the following trick: I eat both in a row!
But actually I should have mentioned albums by King Crimson, Yes, Camel, Transatlantic, Caravan, David Sylvian, Porcupine Tree, Tori Amos, U.K., Bruford and many more. The island should not be too small ...

More generally, how do you see progressive rock in 2021? How do you see the future?

After the 80s, when progressive rock was frowned upon by large parts of the music press and the major labels, I find it amazing how much this music genre has regained its reputation. For many years now, there have been reports about it again in the music press and there are many prog bands, some of them new, that release albums, give concerts and even grace the covers of music magazines like Transatlantic or Steven Wilson - even if the latter has recently probably only been living out his passion for disco pop.
Of course, prog will never become mainstream, nor was it in the 70s; this music is simply too complex to be consumed en masse at every opportunity. But progressive rock has long since regained the status it deserves. And with the constant presence of prog bands in magazines, portals, forums and articles like these , I think this will continue in the future.

A last word for our readers?
It's only Prog'n'Roll but I like it!

Many thanks



More informations on https://madvedge.de/index.php/reflectionclub_en.html
 
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LAST REVIEW
REFLECTION CLUB: Still Thick As A Brick (2020)
3/5

In the same spirit as Rob Reed and his "Sanctuary" project, Reflection Club pays tribute to the music of Jethro Tull by writing an original score "in the style of ...".
 
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