The interview printed below was slated to appear in May of 2002 in an Argentine progressive rock web site entitled Nucleus (, translated into Spanish.� To our knowledge, the interview has yet to appear on the Nucleus web page.� For our English-speaking readers, here is the original, untranslated version of the interview.� Interview by Sergio Vilar.

  1. How would you describe your style?

Hermetic Science�s music is a unique blend of several different stylistic sources:� early twentieth-century classical music, the music of J. S. Bach, Renaissance church music, traditional Asian music, ECM-style spatial jazz, and of course progressive rock�both the more mainline keyboard trio format of ELP and Egg and the more acerbic approach of chamber prog bands like Univers Zero.� Our music has always featured a lot of mallet percussion, and as time has gone by we�ve used more and more analog keyboards, as well as archaic instruments like recorders and lyres.� Our characteristic blend of analog keys, vibes, and marimba is quite distinctive.� Our arrangements are distinctive in other ways too:� we often use the bass guitar as a second lead instrument, so our arrangements feature a lot of counterpoint, and our harmonies, which use a lot of stacked seconds, fourths, and fifths, give our music an �open� sound that compliments our instrumentation.� We are one of a very few progressive bands of our era that have an original, immediately recognizable sound.� Unlike the hundreds of clone bands out there, you won�t easily confuse Hermetic Science with anyone else!

  1. Which were your main influences when you started to play?

I was trained as a classical pianist and my first college degree was in piano performance, so obviously I owe a lot to the classical piano tradition.� My father was a skilled amateur jazz drummer, and I think listening to him play when I was a boy developed my sense of swing.� I spent years studying vibraphone and marimba, and developed my own totally unique approach to playing those instruments that took into account classical and jazz approaches, but went beyond them.� I did graduate work in composition, and the analyses of the music of Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams that I undertook in graduate school made a permanent impact on my compositional style.� Most importantly, though, I grew up at a time when a tremendous burst of musical creativity was underway and when what was happening in contemporary classical music, modern jazz, and rock all seemed to be converging.� At that time, I could see a lot of connections developing between these previously separate musical traditions.� I�ve never lost sight of that sense of interconnectedness between rock, jazz, and classical music, and exploring the connections between these supposedly disjunct musical traditions�which, sadly, have in fact been re-separated in the last 25 years�has been a driving force in the music of Hermetic Science.

  1. Please, tell us the concepts behind each one of your albums.

The first album was not based on an extra-musical concept:� it was all about demonstrating what could be done using vibes and marimba as lead instruments in a prog-rock context.� While the album has no concept per se, there is a unity to it, but it�s a purely musical unity, based on a logical progression of moods, tempos, and dynamics.� The Prophesies suite that dominates the second album is loosely based on the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, and musically depicts a progression of warning, doom, anger, mourning, and finally, renewal.� En Route is based around the three major novels of the late nineteenth century French novelist J. K. Huysmanns.� The three novels are more or less interconnected, and feature a spiritual progression that�s not dissimilar to the historical progression of Jeremiah�degeneration, spiritual death, finally rebirth and renewal.� In the second and third albums, the progression of musical moods, tempos, and dynamics are shaped by the concepts�even as they shape it, to some extent.

  1. What do you think of progressive music at this time?

This is something that I don�t prefer to discuss if nobody asks me, but since you�ve asked me, I�ll answer you honestly.� In sum:� I�m not too enthused about what�s going on in progressive music right now.� Why?� Because it�s not progressing anywhere! I see several problems.� First, while some of the print and internet �zines do encourage and recognize creativity and originality, distributors are a very conservative lot, and if they can�t immediately pigeon-hole your sound, they either won�t carry your product, or they�ll carry it only in very small quantities.� The result? Bands like us that think �outside the box� (as we say in the U.S.) can�t really sell enough units to keep going financially; we either quit, or voluntarily conform to accepted norms.� Since the distributors won�t carry our music�or, at best, carry it in small quantities, and don�t actively promote it�prog fans never have a chance to hear what we�re doing, and continue to patronize the same familiar bands and styles, because they know what they like and they like what they know.� So the distributor�s conservatism fuels the audience�s unadverturousness.� Second, there�s now literally hundreds, if not thousands, of self-released albums flooding the market�that should be a good thing, but unfortunately, most of these bands simply jump on the current bandwagon, which in recent years has been pseudo-Dream Theater or pseudo-King Crimson, and repeat the same tired old licks. �This glut of releases means more and more of us are competing for smaller and smaller slices of the pie�the progressive music audience is growing very slowly at this point�and again, makes financial survival very difficult.� Hermetic Science have now released three albums, the first two of which met with almost universal critical acclaim, and I�m the author of a world-renowned book on progressive rock, yet sales-wise it�s no easier for us now than it was four and a half years ago when our first album came out.� It�s a bit depressing.� And, of course, with the whole Napster phenomenon, we�ve got a whole generation of new listeners coming up who feel that music ought to be free.� I don�t know where it�s all going to end.

  1. Which bands would you recommend among the newest ones?

Again, I�ll be honest with you at the risk of offending some:� I don�t listen to much new prog anymore.� I can only listen to so many bands rip off the same King Crimson and Dream Theater licks, I can only listen to Spock�s Beard and the Flower Kings recycle the same old riffs from the seventies so many times, and then I can�t take it anymore.� I�ve been working on a book about ELP since late 1998, so there have been periods in the last three and a half years when I�ve really intensively listened to their music, and I�m struck all over again by how fresh, new, and right the best of it still sounds.� I don�t hear much prog today that sounds that fresh.� There was a very real prog revival in the nineties�from �91 or �92 to �98 or �99�and on occasion I still enjoy listening to Ozric Tentacles, Djam Karet, Anglagard, Xaal, some of the Edhels� earlier discs, and of course the first two Hermetic Science albums.� Otherwise, though, in my view the prog revival is losing steam fast.� Nowadays I�m much more likely to listen to classical music�especially from the sixteenth and twentieth centuries�or music that�s totally off the beat track, like ancient Greek music, North Indian sitar music, something like that.

  1. Why the name �Hermetic Science�?

Two reasons.� First, as a field of knowledge�if that�s the right word�hermetic science includes among its various branches alchemy, the transformation of base metals into gold.� Our goal has always been to take our disparate influences and fuse them into something new:� to engage in musical alchemy, if you will.� Second, when I first heard of hermetic science many years ago, in a class on seventeenth-century England, I thought it would make an awesome name for a band, very iconic, conveying its own powerful symbolism:� something like �Magma.�� It�s a name we�ve worked very hard to live up to.

  1. What can you tell us about your activities outside Hermetic Science?

I�m also an author, best-known for my book Rocking the Classics:� English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture; a second book, a musical biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, is in progress.� I�m Professor of Music at College of the Redwoods, Eureka, a city in the far north of California, where I teach music history, music theory, and keyboard:� I put a lot of energy into teaching!� I like to read a lot:� the Bible, books about history, cultural studies, music, theology�very rarely fiction.� I like to hike, and I live in one of the most beautiful regions of the U.S., good hiking country.

  1. Are your partners involved in any other projects?

Sadly, I�ve lost connection with some of my former band members.� From the first lineup, Don Sweeney is finishing a degree in jazz at the University of Washington (Seattle); Mike Morris is finishing a degree in English at the University of Cincinnati.� From the second lineup, Matt McClimon took a degree in music education at Humboldt State University, and moved to New Orleans to be a part of the jazz scene there.� He quit drumming, and plays vibes now.� Andy Durham became a police officer in the Bay Area, and apparently has quit music.� I�ve always felt that Andy did some stupendous bass work on Prophesies, and I�m irritated his bass playing on that album hasn�t received more recognition.� From the current lineup, Jason Hoopes is major in composition at the University of Southern Oregon in Ashland; he plays in a group up the called Various Artists, totally different than Hermetic Science, they play instrumental dance music, funk and hip-hop oriented, and even employ a DJ!� I think we�re going to hear more from Jason as a composer in the future�he has some terrific ideas.� Joe Nagy is really into the local Afro-Cuban scene, and does a lot of drumming for a local guitarist, Reuben Diaz, whose music is somewhat reminiscent of Carlos Santana�s.� Again, I think Joe is a very accomplished and original drummer, and I�m surprised at how little attention has been paid to his drumming on our first and third albums.� Playing with younger musicians has been an excellent experience for me:� their tastes and outlook are a big reason why Hermetic Science haven�t become a doctrinaire progressive rock band.

  1. You don�t think Hermetic Science�s music needs any vocals? In Rocking the Classics, you have a very strong concept about the lyrics of progressive music.

There are two reasons Hermetic Science is an all-instrumental band.� First and foremost, I�m a composer, not a songwriter:� they are two very different skills.� Second, it�s my opinion that vocal prog has already been done.� About all you can do is either repeat the epic, �philosophical� themes of the seventies, in which case you�re going to sound like Jon Anderson or Peter Hammill, or else you can work in a more modern singer/songwriter vein, in which case the lyric is the main thing and the prog element tends to go out the window.� In my opinion, the most important prog bands of the last decade�Ozric Tentacles, Djam Karet, Xaal, Anglagard, us�have tended to be all-instrumental bands.� The popular vocal prog bands of the last decade�Spock�s Beard, Flower Kings, for example�have tended to relentlessly recycle the same old seventies riffs.� This is in fact more or less the position I took in the final chapter of Rocking the Classics, if I�m not mistaken.

  1. What can you tell us about the book you�re working on?

I�m currently working on a musical biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.� I�ve been working on it since late 1998! (Although I did stop work on it for a year.)� It is going to serve both as a biography of the band and a critical survey of their music�above all the ELP corpus, but also the solo work of the three musicians.� Along the way I�m dealing with some issues left over from Rocking the Classics:� I spend a lot of time examining how, and why, the critical reception of prog changed in 1973-74, as well as re-examining the economics, sociology, and politics of prog.� At present, I�ve covered the period of 1970 to 1991.� Although it will not uncover the new vistas of Rocking the Classics or match that book�s incredibly broad panoramic view, in other ways it will go much deeper and deal with its issues with greater nuance, subtlety, and authority.� When it finally is finished, I think readers will find it well worth the wait.