"The Vampirate's Voyage" - Nad Sylvan talks to TWR about his Vampirate Trilogy of albums. Photographs courtesy of Lee Milward and Nad Sylvan.
TWR: So, Nad, we are here to talk about the Vampirate Trilogy. How did you get started on it…?
NS: Well, Roine Stolt who was working with me at the time and we didn't see eye to eye about the songs and the context and he wanted to change things around and the way it was built and I didn't really enjoy that at all, so I thought OK, I better keep it to myself and just shelve that song and when I got my record deal, I just immediately thought of that song and that became the album's title and at that time I had no plans to make a trilogy. I didn't even know what the next step was going to be really.
So, when The Bride Said No came up, that was the song I didn't get to finish back in 1989 and I just kept some riffs basically and there was no melody, the whole song is brand new really but the idea I thought was cocky...you know (laughs) and then I saw the link because of the idea of the vampire just courting the widow and the vampire had also killed the widow's husband . And her husband was the Vampirate's son and so she revenges him by rejecting him and so she is very cunning. So that's why it makes sense to me.
Then you have The Quartermaster who is on the first track and if you listen to the lyrics he was of Royal blood by a harlot mother, so he is the Quarter Master and to me that makes more sense.
TWR: Three albums that are full of such powerful imagery, there is obviously a lot of you in there, is there an element of biography in there somewhere too?
NS: Certainly, the Regal Bastard has a lot to do with me and my parents, for instance there is a track called Oahu which is the second track and my dad lived in Oahu for 18 years and he threw a bottle into the water with a message in it…and also the Regal Bastard also comes from my mother's wish of how she wanted me to look and she always said: ' You always look so regal with your jawline and why don't you have your hair in a ponytail?' and do this, and do that...And to me eventually that became like a monster in my head and she had this picture of me which wasn't really me..So I once told her, 'Yeah, you want a regal bastard, don't you?' and so I kept that for many years in my head and I knew that some people might be opposed to the title because I had done something naughty by saying the word 'bastard' but that is not the content at all and the context and so, when people read the lyrics they will realise that it is about the king's illegitimacy.
TWR: Well, if you have followed the story through the previous two albums it makes perfect sense…
|NS: It does, but you have to do that and bastard actually means what it means. Also the three albums differ from each other musically; the first one is very much from where I took off from being in Unifaun and that Genesis sort of homage album and it has a bit more of that..Courting The Widow was the first song I wrote after leaving Unifaun and so I was very much in that headspace. I kept on having a lot of Collins vibes in the vocals and those are the original vocal recordings from 2009-10 that I kept and I just rewrote some of the lyrics and threw that in instead and so those takes are kind of old really. But I felt that was how it had to be, it was in the now, that was how I felt and it felt more authentic doing that.|
I am very much ...when I write and when I record and there are many things which I recorded on the fly when I was in the mood and I kept the original sounds that I had built the song up with and to where it had become a soundscape and I knew some other producers they change and change until you can't even recognise the song! And I don't like that, I believe there is a purpose for what you have right there that is the heart of the ambience of what you are aiming for.
TWR: That is your stamp, that is what makes it you, and if you can't keep that, then there is no point, it could be anybody…
NS: Probably yeah, but then again I am very fond of the classic Prog sounds; Mellotrons, synthesisers etc and it is just part of my musical DNA.
TWR: I think you have just hit the nail on the head, it is a musical progression over the three albums from the start where you wear your influences on your sleeve on the first album and then you move off and by the time you reach The Regal Bastard, it is very much, this is me…
NS: It is very much my soulful side and yet I combine those elements with classic Prog, for example on a song like Meet Your Maker, there is all this funkiness if you like, from Prince or whoever it is but it's not a Prince kind of song and there is all the Prog incorporated into that as well..It is just that I am a very funky kind of guy, and my band in the Eighties was all Funk and Metal combined.
TWR: You have just made the allusion there about uncovering things, and even with the artwork for the album's, by the time you get to the portrait that is on The Regal Bastard, it is as if the layers of dust and grime that have accumulated over that picture because it has been hidden away, it's a musical analogy you are making; that final statement - this is Nad Sylvan, this is what I am, this is who I am.
NS: Shades of Dorian Gray, it is a real oil painting, it is a portrait it is not a photograph, and I have met the artist and a lot of things that I do happen by coincidence and come from my subconscious..I don't know what it was, but if you look at that image you can see these little spider webs and if you listen to the intro of the song, you hear what sounds like a school piano playing in an attic and you are being drawn to that and closer to the attic and you open that squeaky door and all of a sudden, the music hits you like that and you hear moths flying so that portrays exactly what you see in the picture. I think that was one of those hallelujah moments.
TWR: I think what makes the trilogy of albums so much more interesting from my perspective, is that there is a genuine organic progression, it is not forced or contrived and this is how it happened, this is how it evolved.
NS: Yes, I always stay very true to my feelings when it comes to music and I never look at what anyone else is doing I have so much to dig from because I am so fucking old! (laughs), I turned sixty last summer, but you know what I mean?
TWR: That is the experience you can bring to bear on it all, and you make it so vibrant and without a doubt, of the three albums, my favourite is The Regal Bastard and because I know you a little bit, I can think when I hear certain things, I can think to myself: Yeah, that's the Nad I know! Diva Time for instance? Oh god, you are really nailing your colours to the mast there!
NS: Its not so much Prog, it's more you have everything in there, you have something in 5/4 and I wanted to showcase my voice more on this album as I have grown more confident as a singer and sometimes it is easier to hide the voice behind a big orchestration and arrangements and make people focus more on that. As I said, I am too old to try and pretend I am something I am not and I think maybe I have found my own voice. Some people have said it is my most mature album and if you listen to what is going on in the compositions there is definitely a very mature way of thinking, I feel that I have grown more as a composer, I believe I have.
TWR: Over a period of what? Ten years and three albums? You are bound to change but what I like about the three of them is there is a certain continuity of quality, there is a continuity of depth, there is a continuity of...you! But I am also thinking that this is not the end of the story, there is more to come…
NS: No, it is not. It might be the end of the Vampirate's story but I have so much more like Diva Time, there is a complete different character - Rudolph Valentino! There is much more to explore and the next album I am going to start recording at the end of December (2019).
TWR: Where do you get the ideas from? Because some of them...as I listen to the albums, I think, where the hell did that come from?
NS: I have everything on my iPhone and I will hear a rhythm, I will hum the bass lines and the melody and when I hear that back I will remember and so most of my songs have been written like that and some of the ideas have been in my head for a very long time and they keep recurring until I have a song. A typical example of this is a song on the last album; a song called Lead Me On The Waters, a ballad and that had been in my head for years and I thought maybe it sounds a bit too much like a Beatles song and I'd better not do that, and then I listen back to it and think it's not even close…
The next album is very much a collaboration with someone else and a lot of co-writing together and he has got a lot of ideas and we are elaborating on his ideas and the lyrics are already written by someone else and it is going to showcase my voice a lot more. It is not a Prog album.per se, but I think it is like an interim album before I go back to do a proper Prog album again or whatever it may be but it is still very much me.
That's how I feel as an artist, why would I want to repeat the same formula over and over again. I wouldn't grow. Maybe I do push myself too hard but I don't suffer from it. The only time I suffer is when I have a deadline or an approaching deadline and I don't even sleep. I work and I get back pains and spend too many hours sitting at a computer and Courting The Widow was crazy! I almost killed myself towards the end of it, it was incredible. I was still mixing the last couple of songs and then we had to master the album the following day and I was still mixing it at like two in the morning and I was supposed to be there at ten! (laughs) crazy stuff! You think you will be OK.
TWR: The end result is usually worth it and it certainly has been with these three albums. I have watched the music through them but the audience's reaction to it and each one has been progressively better received by the fans …
|NS: I think there are more answers than one as to why that is. I think the fact I have been with Steve now for what is it? Seven years and we have done past six hundred shows together as a band and I don't know how many people see me throughout the year but we are talking about thousands, and a small percentage of those take an interest in who I am and what I am doing and what I do in stage which is how you make your mark and I decided to do that from the word go, this is my only chance - Hackett, go out there and do it! Be full of yourself and it will pay off and you have to be prepared to make a complete arse of yourself in the beginning because I didn't have the experience. And be prepared to make a fool of yourself because it will pay off. And at least I could pretend that I did! I know I wasn't always that great but you have to start somewhere and grow from there and that's how I feel about it.|
I have also heard Steve tell me stories about the early days of Genesis where Gabriel lost his voice and forgot lyrics and this is the people who slated me and said those things and they don't even know that! They always think that Gabriel is his and he was perfect - he never was perfect, nobody is, you see? They played bum notes just like we can.
And on that slightly controversial note, we bring this interesting chat with Nad to a close. Thanks again to him for giving up so much of his pre-gig time to talk to us.