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Interview of members of North American progressive rock band Metaphor
Conducted via email by Sergio Motta for Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal Internet Zine (Brazil), in August, 2004

Sergio Motta (SM): As I understand it, Metaphor has been active since the last decade. Have you kept the band name as Metaphor from that time?

Malcolm Smith (MS): When we first formed as a Genesis tribute band, we kicked around several names, and decided to stick with Metaphor.

Marc Spooner (MSp) : I didn't want to have an obviously Genesis-derived name (like the Musical Box, Grand Parade, etc.), though I remember that “The Soil” was suggested - I liked that one.

Jim Anderson (JA): The band was already named by the time I joined. I didn’t have any choice. In fact, it was only because they were named Metaphor that I joined. If they had been named “Squirrel Enema” I might have kept looking.

MS: …which is of course another Genesis-derived name.

John R. Mabry (JRM): I wanted to change the name to Mayflower Gorillas, but no one would budge. Puritan Apes didn't fly either. Next month I'll suggest Plymouth Chimps, but I have little hope.

MS: I’d go for Pilgrim Primate.

SM: While you were a cover band, which of you definitely sat down and said: “Hey guys, what about composing and performing our own repertoire from now on?”

MSp: Malcolm always had a few songs in his back pocket (the ones that became Seed and In the Cave) and played me tapes of them.

MS: Plus, I had a lot of raw material that I brought to Marc with the idea that we’d move into all original music. To me, that was the intent all along – a tricky way to find other musicians of like-mind!

SM: I know while being a cover band, you were doing only the Genesis songs from the Gabriel era. What is your impression of the Genesis music of the Collins era?

MSp: I always thought Trick of the Tail was an unqualified masterpiece. Wind and Wuthering is about 85% great. I always had a soft spot for And Then There Were Three. I like Duke in parts and same with Abacab. After that, I can't really listen to them. Whatever the era, they were always a great live band.

JA: Really? I can’t listen to Abacab, in fact I think I sold it! But I never had a chance to see them live until the following tour, I guess it was the “Genesis” tour, which was fantastic! Each of the different Genesis eras had their moments.

JRM: I'm actually very influenced by the Collins era, and came to my appreciation of Genesis through Phil's era, and working backwards. As the singer, I kind of see my role as "finding the pop" in the progressive pie the rest of the guys have served up. Coming up with hummable, catchy melodies to sing on top of the very complicated and sometimes dissonant musical textures we write is often not easy, and I draw more on Phil's ghost than Peter's in this task.

SM: Concerning the ‘’Starfooted‘’ album, I have had the opportunity of reading some reviews of it, and as far as I could see, it was very well received by most prog fans. How does a musician basically feel right before having his very first album thrown into the market? Is there any sort of apprehension towards the acceptance of his work by the listeners?

JRM: We were shaking in our boots! At least I know I was. It's very scary, like going out on stage naked. Without your teddy bear. Fortunately, most people were very kind. We only got one bad review for Starfooted, as I recall, and what do the Kurdistanis know, anyway?

MS: The funny thing is that many reviews mention bands and other artists as comparison or even influences on our music, when in some case one or more of us has never even heard that material!

MSp: I was nervous as hell! Total apprehension. I was just glad to be acknowledged. And the fact that people really liked it was just extra special. I'm still excited to see our CDs in the vendors' boxes at NearFest.

MS: Of course we wanted the music to be accepted by the prog rock community, but we’re careful about not trying to produce music that we think will please anyone except ourselves.

JA: Actually I became a big fan of this album right before I joined the band.

MS: That was a requirement of the audition!

JA: For me it was one of those CDs that only comes along every few years--it didn’t leave my CD player for weeks! It was only then I heard they were looking for a new bass player. These guys actually pulled me out of retirement! “Starfooted” was a great, fun album for us to play and practice as we started writing for “Entertaining Thanatos.”

SM: Some reviewers of your second CD “Entertaining Thanatos” have strongly taken its sonority as being very close to that of Genesis. I personally disagree and would say it is is a bit closer to the Neo-Prog direction on many aspects, in some of the keyboard passages for instance, and I quote bands like Arena and Grey Lady Down as a lively reference. Would you personally take it as a progression or were you intentionally trying to get rid of the old roots?

MS: The material on “Entertaining Thanatos” has in many ways moved away from the Genesis influence...

JRM: I think we were very consciously trying to forge an original identity. We’ve kept that basic Genesis sound-palette, but we have far less overt mimicry on this CD, which is a departure from STARFOOTED, which sometimes borders on pastiche.

MS: Well, our hope is that we’re developing more of our own identifiable style. I wouldn’t call it neo-prog, it’s simply music.

MSp: I'd much rather be accused of being influenced by Genesis than any neo-prog band. Form what I've heard of some neo (and I'm no fan) I don't really think we sound like that much at all.

MS: There are so many sub-genres of prog rock, I think our music crosses into a few of them.

MSp: All these definitions and labels are slippery and have limited use. Not to mention many critics are lazy and also have to write their reviews after only one listen to a new CD, so their impressions are often shallow. All good music requires many hearings to get what is really going on.

SM: Clearly, ‘’Starfooted’’ and ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’ are successful works. Has the success of those two CDs brought the band a certain recognition, requests for gigs, label interest, or other positive professional results?

JRM: It brought us a lot of personal pride, and plenty of praise from our peers. It has also given us a lot of confidence, like, "Oh, a critically-acclaimed album--we can do THAT. Give us something hard!" I'm sort of kidding. STARFOOTED was SO well received, we were a bit daunted to follow it up. Fortunately, we had so much material written and in rehearsal when it finally did hit that we didn't spend too much time agonizing over it.

MS: It’s also resulted in us being asked to provide songs on a number of compilation CDs, and we get the occasional interview request. Distributors and reviewers know who we are.

SM: From what countries does your music receive the most positive reviews?

MS: Both our CDs have received good reviews from around the world, maybe the most positive ones for Entertaining Thanatos are from France and the USA, so far.

MSp: I’d say Europe and South America seems to be where we are gaining the best reviews for Entertaining Thanatos.

JA: I’ve been told we’re big down under.

SM: Lyrics for some of the songs on ‘’Entertaining Thanatos’’ were based on mythological tales. Will you be making use of any other literature on forthcoming albums by Metaphor?

MSp: Yes, the next CD will be based on the novel, "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell.

JRM: It’ll be a rock opera, like STARFOOTED, and it will be one long story. As the lyricist, I really like using mythology and stories to base the libretto on. Mostly because myth and literature is so rich, and the human experience so universal, that I can usually find some personal drama in almost any story. Like Galatea 3.3 on the new CD. I never had any real resonance for that story. Marc just threw it out one night, and so I went home, reread the myth, and started riffing on it. Eventually it hooked into an experience in my own life, and the lyrics came together very quickly after that. About half of the lyrics are written for our adaptation of The Sparrow, and most of the music.

SM: Your first CD was released by Galileo Records, a label from far-off Switzerland, and Entertaining Thanatos is released on your own label, TropeAudio. Did you receive any offer from labels in your own country?

MSp: Most prog labels are either not interested or cannot offer a good enough deal to make it worthwhile for us financially. In other words, we'd take all the risk. So that's what we did for Thanatos - took all the risk and released it ourselves.

MS: We did receive a few offers from other labels, for Entertaining Thanatos.

JA: U.S. labels and others!

JRM: Nobody will touch us. It could be the poison ivy, though.

MS: Galileo was great for Starfooted - we were that label’s second release and we really appreciated their enthusiasm and excitement about the music.

SM: Concerning the current live performances, do you still play out any Genesis tunes when asked by the audience, or do you only play out your own songs now?

JRM: Live! Ha! You make me laugh.

MS: With our work and family and lives, it’s tough to find the time to write, rehearse, and record, let alone gig.

MSp: We don't play live at all, sadly.

JA: I keep hoping we’re just waiting for a better offer!

MS: For a live performance, we have more than enough original music to choose from.

MSp: If we did play out, it would be only Metaphor songs.

MS: Even Peter Gabriel doesn’t play Genesis songs anymore!

SM: I understand that ‘’Starfooted’’ is being distributed here in Brazil by Rock Symphony Records. Are you aware of its acceptance here and also around other South American countries?

MSp: Yes, we were thrilled to have Starfooted licensed by Rock Symphony and hope that your review and this interview will help sales of Entertaining Thanatos. It's great to have fans in South America!

JRM: We were very pleased when Rock Symphony picked it up, but we have no idea how many have been sold.

MS: Both our CDs have done well in South America, thank you!

JRM: We do feel lucky to be represented by Rock Symphony, and to be available to South American prog fans. Now if only Rock Symphony would answer our emails!

SM: Just to close our interview, would you like to impart any message for all those who appreciate not only the music by Metaphor, but the progressive rock music in a general way?

MSp: Keep listening, keep buying, keep caring about it, and don't let anyone tell you what you should be listening to.

JA: Music is a universal language. Progressive rock in general knows no borders. I hope you enjoy ours!

MS: Let me just say to our Brazilian fans: Obrigado lendo esta entrevista! Nós esperamos que você aprecíe Entertaining Thanatos, e Starfooted. Os mais melhores desejos do Metaphor! (sorry if I insulted anyone!)

JRM: Thank you for listening, and for allowing us to contribute in our small way to this wonderful music that we all love so much. Prog may never be commercial again, but it is music that feeds the souls of millions, and we are honored to be a part of it.

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