Reports and Interviews
alphabetical sorting by magazine/music portal:
Classic Rock (Germany)
The Reflection Club - Back to the Future (03/2021)
The Reflection Club - Still thick as a brick! (04/2021)
IO Pages (Netherlands)
The Reflection Club - Hommage as a brick (02/2021)
Low Beats (Germany)
Prog-Rock today: Interview with Lutz Meinert (04/2021)
Music Waves (France)
Reflection Club - interview with Lutz Meinert (2021/03)
On the "Thick As A Brick" tracks of JETHRO TULL (03/2021)
Interview with Lutz Meinert (02/2021)
Progressive Rock Journal (international)
Exclusive interview with Reflection Club (2021/10)
Prog Sphere (international)
REFLECTION CLUB: Declaration of Love (2021/05)
Classic Rock (Deutschland)
The Reflection Club - Back to the Future
With STILL THICK AS A BRICK Lutz Meinert and his band The Reflection Club walk in the footsteps of the most famous Jethro Tull record.
It's best to let the originator himself tell what prompted him to release the alubm STILL THICK AS A BRICK with his band The Reflection Club as a tribute to the almost eponymous prog-rock classic from 1972. "THICK AS A BRICK plays a very special role in my life," explains mule instrumentalist Lutz Meinert. "Until I was 13, music had only a secondary meaning for me, as a nice background sprinkling while doing homework or cleaning my room. My interest was limited to hit radio shows with songs by T. Rex, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Tony Christie, Don Mclean, Slade or Led Zeppelin, which I recorded on cassette. At some point I heard THICK AS A BRICK by the band Jethro Tull, which was unknown to me at the time. With this album my passion for music exploded. I got all the older Tull works and discovered the wonderful world of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Focus and Camel. Thanks to THICK AS A BRICK, music is still my permanent center of life today."
In 2017, the idea of a disc inspired by the Tull classic, but still containing new, original songs, was born. A real challenge for Meinert. Another: the suitable singer with the timbre of Tull frontman Ian Anderson had to be found. On the Internet, Meinert discovered a video of Paul Forrest, the frontman of the cover bands Jethro Tull Experience and Dayglo Pirates. Meinert: "Paul sings so unbelievably authentically and plays the flute so well that when you close your eyes you think you're listening to a young Ian Anderson. The fact that he also masters acoustic guitar is an additional asset to our album."
Of course, STILL THICK AS A BRICK sees itself as an homage, not a mere reproduction. But, says Meinert: "I have taken up the typical stylistic devices of Jethro Tull, the juxtaposition of quiet acoustic and fast, rocky parts, with breaks, changes of beat and tempo, composed passages, solo interludes and melody runs. For the most part there is also the same instrumentation with bass, drums, electric and acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, grand piano and of course flute, but also with glockenspiel, harpsichord and strings." And so that the disc does not degenerate into pure plagiarism, The Reflection Club have renounced concrete quotations to the famous template. Meinert: "In addition, there are passages that are not necessarily typical for Jethro Tull, but still fit into our overall sound, like fusion and jazz parts with instruments such as tablas, sitar or bagpipes".
Matthias Mineur (03/2021)
eclipsed Magazin (Germany)
Still Thick as a Brick!
Reflection Club deliver a kind of sequel to Ian Anderson's masterpiece
"Thick As A Brick" (1972) by Jethro Tull is one of the great concept albums of progressive rock, inspiring and fascinating to this day with its elegant mix of classical, folk and jazz tones as well as the highly intelligent story, garnished with the invented small town newspaper "St. Cleve Chronicle". In 2012, creator Ian Anderson also presented a sequel to the successful album with "Thick As A Brick 2". A project, composed of Crystal Palace, Margin and Jethro Tull Experience musicians, now also pays tribute to the original with a pastiche, docks in style and sound perfectly to this and still convinces with independent songs and story, a transparent-organic sound and an exquisite mulimedial presentation including a complete music magazine supplement. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Lutz Meinert, singer and acoustic guitarist Paul Forrest and flutist Ulla Harmuth provide information.
eclipsed How did the "Thick As A Brick" homage come about, and how did you come together as a band project?
Lutz Meinert: It was only through "Thick As A Brick 2" that Ian Anderson gave me the idea to write an alternative continuation of my own.
Paul Forrest: Lutz contacted me and said he wanted an Ian Anderson from 1972 with vocals, acoustic guitar and some flute.
Ulla Harmuth: As a classically trained flutist with forays into jazz, folk and pop, this very different style of music appealed to me.
eclipsed What significance does "TAAB" have for you that you immediately committed to an independent sequel?
Meinert: "TAAB" was definitely the gateway drug for me into the wonderful world of progressive, hard, psychedelic, jazz, folk and blues rock and responsible for music becoming the center of my life. Beyond that, I think it's the most original concept album ever released.
Forrest: With Jehtro Tull, I found my voice. Ian's voice fit my range perfectly, and I also have a similar timbre to him.
eclipsed What does the band name "Reflection Club" stand for?
Meinert: "Reflection" means "looking back" or "reflection" in English. That fits perfectly with the homage character of our debut. And the "club" exudes an English, elitist and snobbish charm - like our slightly megalomaniac production.
eclipsed What was your concept?
Meinert: To capture the feeling of the prog-rock-soaked typical Jethro Tull sound of that time, but based on a completely new, independent composition with fresh, unused melodies and themes!
eclipsed Instead of the child prodigy Gerald Bostock, you created the financial mogul George Boston. A storyline critical of capitalism?
Meinert: A man stands at the crossroads at the height of his professional career and critically reviews his life, also looking back on some dubious practices in the financial world. The storyline begins with his memories as a student in the small town of Rellington and ends with burnout. If you read the accompanying "Rellington Stone" magazine, you learn that he is the financial mogul George Boston and get a glimpse into his biography and the history of Rellington.
eclipsed It's obvious from your realization that you really took your cue from the very special "TAAB" sound ...
Meinert: Yes, compositionally frequent changes between quiet, acoustic and powerful, rocky parts with electric guitar and distorted organ, breaks, complex through-composed sections and solo parts. Of course I added instruments that were conspicuously present on the original like spinet, glockenspiel and strings. Double bass, tablas, sitar, vibraphone and bagpipes then added their own touch.
Forrest: I had to work really hard to sound exactly like Ian anno 1972.
Harmuth: That's an understatement. I don't even remember how I managed some of the flute parts at the end.
eclipsed Does the Reflection Club also have a future?
Meinert: At first it was only about the realization of "STAAB". But in the meantime I'm thinking about a possible successor.
Walter Sehrer (eclipsed 04/2021)
IO Pages (Netherlands)
Hommage as a brick
With his band he pays an impressive tribute to the legendary album Still Thick As A Brick. The result is impressive and sounds almost more Tull-like than Tull himself.
This is a longer story, because to understand my motives I have to clarify why the album Thick as a Brick (further: TAAB) by Jethro Tull plays such a special role in my life. In Spring of 1972 I was 13 years old and music was just a nice sidekick for me, the ideal background during boring schoolwork or while cleaning up my room. For that I copied some songs from the radio charts onto a cassette. At some point, the song TAAB ended up on it as a single release from the album of the same name by a band called Jethro Tull, which was completely unknown to me at the time. And this song enthralled me more and more with each playing of the cassette. I don't know what fascinated me more about this song, the vocals, the flute, the unusual arrangement? Anyway, at some point I was so enthusiastic that I bought my first LP: TAAB by Jethro Tull. However, my joy was a bit limited at my first listening, because I liked only a few parts of the album. But little by little I gained access to the music and enjoyed it more and more. In the end I was totally thrilled and bought all the earlier albums by Jethro Tull. But soon I also bought LPs by other bands, because my enthusiasm for music, which had been latent at best before, had been ignited with TAAB. So I immersed myself into the world of rock music, especially progressive rock, hard rock, folk rock, jazz rock and psychedelic rock, all the interesting music styles that still fascinate me today and that can also be heard more or less on our debut album. Music became the center of my life from then on. And the flashpoint of it all had been TAAB, which ultimately led to making music myself.
Now you can understand why I was so incredibly curious when 40 years later the successor TAAB 2 was released, not by Jethro Tull but by Ian Anderson, who as singer, flutist, acoustic guitarist and almost sole composer was always the head of Jethro Tull. Of course I bought the album right away, expecting another complex prog album piece, perhaps in two parts but it was a more conventional single song format. Before TAAB2, I would never have even dreamed of producing my own sequel to TAAB but now, after a few weeks of TAAB2 running through my head, finally I thought to myself: What would I have done with this sequel? And suddenly the ideas just bubbled up in my head.I immediately went to the studio to make a note of them. That laid the foundation for Still TAAB (further: STAAB).
But at that time I was in the midst of working on the album Psychedelic Teatime by my other psychedelic-prog project Margin, which was also nearto my heart. And I wanted to finish that album, before I started something new. After that, my mind was free to devote myself completely to STAAB.
Tell us about the members of the band; where did you get Paul Forrest, whose voice is very similar to that of young Ian Anderson?
The recordings were already quite perfect nearing the end and already showed a lot of the spirit that I associated with TAAB in the very first mix. Now all that was missing were the fitting vocals to complete the whole thing. But when I went through all the possible singers I knew in the rock scene, I realized how difficult it is to find a singer who has the timbre of the young Ian Anderson. I couldn't think of a single one that even came close to having that quality. Finally, I searched the Internet for Jethro Tull cover bands. After several, not very impressive videos, I came across the Dayglo Pirates and their singer, acoustic guitarist and flutist Paul Forrest, who did quite a good cover of Jethro Tull. When I saw a video of Paul performing as a guest with Jethro Tull and singing and playing the flute so brilliantly that with your eyes closed you could imagine it was really the young Ian Anderson, it was clear to me: Paul Forrest is the ideal singer for STAAB! Via the website of the Dayglo Pirates I was able to contact their bass player Steve Harrison. He was kind enough to put me in touch with Paul Forrest. When Paul heard the demo of STAAB, he was thrilled and thus became a club member. By the way, he also plays all acoustic guitars and the flute on one part, which is another stroke of luck for the album.
Nils, on the other hand, was to me a foregone conclusion as an electric guitarist. I‘ve already played with him in the progressive rock band For Your Pleasue and admired his skills even then. And in all these years he has become even better. That's why I knew he could master the rock guitar of a Martin Barre and with equal virtousity the fusion guitar, which can also be heard on STAAB.
How I came upon Ulla is a really curious story. With a good friend, who was one of very few people involved in this project from the start, I was thinking about who would be suitable to play the flute. By chance, while doing so, his wife was standing in the room and casually said, "I could give it a try." It was only then that I remembered that Ulla had once played the flute in a song during a performance with her choir years ago. But at that time it was a typically classical, cleanly intoned flute. In contrast, the very special and highly virtuoso flute of Ian Anderson, the most famous flute player in rock history, is a completely different matter. I could absolutely not imagine that Ulla was up to such a task. Nevertheless, out of courtesy, I invited her to my studio and recorded the flute passages of the first two parts of STAAB (further: STAAB) with her.
Surprisingly, she did quite well. An Ian Anderson would probably have recorded it in a few takes and Ulla needed considerably longer, but in the end it sounded perfect. The soft, more classical flute passages she managed more or less right away. With the rocky flute parts, on the other hand, she had great difficulty at first, because with her previous, classically oriented playing, she was used to playing the flute with a pure tone. In rock and jazz and especially with Ian Anderson, on the other hand, a noisy playing with overblowing is called for in the sappy parts. Ulla was not supposed to imitate Ian Anderson's style completely in this respect, it wasn‘t supposed to sound like a plagiarism, where the flute is hummed, buzzed and grunted into just as we know it from the great master. Something like that can easily become an unintentional parody. But in the rock passages her flute play needed a sound considerably rougher and dirtier. It took her some time to throw her classical training overboard and to push the notes noisily and impurely into the flute and to deliberately overblow. But even that worked out quite well with time. So she gradually played in all the flute parts.
But when Paul recorded the vocals later, I had to raise "Time Out" by a semitone and adjust the transitions, because this part was a bit too low for his voice. So I transposed it up a semitone and adjusted the transitions. But to do that, the instruments had to be re-recorded. So Paul offered to record the flute as well as the acoustic guitar. It's a luxury to have two excellent flutists playing at the Reflection Club.
Did you follow the build-up and the structure of the original closely?
I didn't follow the dramaturgical structure of the original, i.e. when which parts follow each other, in which style and for how long, and I didn't even think about that when composing. The only analogy is that the album begins (apart from the orchestral intro, which doesn't even exist in TAAB) and ends with the same quiet vocal part, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. This was designed quite deliberately. After all, our album is a tribute to TAAB. That's why I naturally adopted stylistic elements from Jethro Tull in the arrangement and instrumentation. In addition to the prominent flute and the interplay between acoustic and electric guitar, instruments such as glockenspiel and harpsichord that were also heard on TAAB,, also come into play. However, I really wanted to avoid our album sounding like a rehash of the original. I don't find it worthwhile when bands slightly alter songs of their paragons with a marginally different melodic line and sell them as their own new songs. But there are certainly many fans who enjoy discovering all the individual quotes of their heroes in them. I'm quite comfortable to do without that.
Instead, I wanted our album to exude the atmosphere of a previously unknown, lost Jethro Tull LP, but at the same time sound fresh and new with unused melodies and ideas. And I think we succeeded in this objective. However, I also introduced passages that Jethro Tull would probably never have played, but which nevertheless fit coherently into the album. Included are, for instance, jazz and fusion sections, but also tablas and sitar, which perfectly underline Rellington's hippy phase. I also had a lot of fun composing "in the style of the old masters," which is sometimes done in classical music, such as the great Carmina Burana by Carl Orff. With Margin I had done something similar, albeit with somewhat different musical signatures. Pink Floyd was the inspiration then.
Rellington Stone Magazin
Wehere did you get the packaging in which th ealbum was presented, the Rellington Stone magazin?
When I designed the concept for STAAB, with the lyrics relating to a newspaper article, it was clear to me that the album cover had to be designed accordingly, as befits a good concept album. In addition, this wonderfully underlines the homage character of our album.
The Rellington Stone is not a small town newspaper like the Cleve Chronicle & Linwell Advertiser in TAAB, but a small town music and culture magazine in newspaper form that has been around since the mid 70s. It has, unfortunately, been in dire financial straits for some time. In this situation, Robin Meynard, head of the record label Madvedge Records, has offered his support. By the way, I know Robin quite well, a really nice guy. He offered to include Reflection Club's debut album on CD, complete and free of charge, in the March 2021 issue of Rellington Stone. Of course, he got our permission. For us that was self-understood, because we all love the Rellington Stone and it would be really sad if this amazing, legendary music magazine would have to capitulate after all these years. It is expensive to release an album in such a format, but STAAB is a typical concept album, where only the entirety of all parts together yields the full character of the oeuvre. And that includes the music on CD, the complete Rellington Stone magazine and the album video with surround mix. That's why the vinyl is also equipped with the multimedia parts and why there will be no plain CD edition for the time being, because simply then some aspects would be missing that make up the whole. If you browse through the Rellington Stone, you will learn quite a bit about Rellington Town and thereby get an even better impression of Part 4 - Rellington Town.
However, we might be forced to offer a plain CD edition for financial reasons at some point in the future.
What can you tell about who is George Boston?
George Boston - whose name, of course, is reminiscent of Gerald Bostock only by chance, and who, unlike the latter, actually exists - studied economics near Rellington in the early 1970s. At first he worked as a cultural organizer in Rellington's alternative cultural scene. It was during this time that I met him and we became friends. Then George took a different professional direction and started an amazing professional career in banking and became a financial mogul. By then I had already lost track of him, as he had for whatever reason sadly turned his back on all the old pleasures. A few years ago he had suddenly disappeared from the public eye, noone knew why or where he was. I don't want to say too much more about him because I don't know if he's okay with it, but this much I can reveal. He showed up unexpectedly at my house some time ago and it was like old times again. When I told him about my new project, he was thrilled and helped me write the lyrics, so of course first-hand experience came into play. In a nutshell, it's about a man who is at the crossroads. He looks back on his entire professional career and asks himself how his life should continue. In doing so, he looks back not only on some dubious shenanigans in the financial sector, but also on his private life.
Where does the name of the band come from?
At first I considered releasing the album as the second album of Margin. But Margin was already stylistically firmly moored in psychedelic prog, so I preferred to establish another music project. Somewhere along the line Reflection Club came to mind. I think the name fits well in several respects. On the one hand, our music is a bit our own reflection on music that has influenced us . On the oin the past. On the other hand, the lyrics reflect various events that concern or have concerned me. And if you think about the ongoing financial scandals, like just recently Wirecard, the song lyrics unfortunately bear reference to current events. In addition, the name Reflection Club radiates a certain snobbish English charm, that matches well!
Have you sent a copy of the album to Ian Anderson?
I will send Ian Anderson the album when it is officially released. I‘m also curious to hear what he has to say about it. Maybe he's flattered that his work served as an inspirational model for us. Or maybe he's not so pleased to see others fishing in his musical pond. I'll take pot luck.
Paul is probably the best vocal support I can imagine for Ian Anderson, whether performing under his own name or with Jethro Tull. Unfortunately, Ian never fully recovered from the inflammation of his vocal chords during the 1984 Under Wraps tour, which is more or less evident, especially in live performances, depending on his daily condition. Here Paul would definitely be a valuable asset to many vocal parts, both solo and with Jethro Tull.
Paul Rijkens (02/2021) - published in IO Pages magazine (06/2021)
Low Beats (Germany)
Prog-Rock today: Interview with Lutz Meinert
Lutz Meinert is the head and guitarist of the progressive rock project "Reflection Club", which is currently attracting attention with a homage to a legendary Jethro Tull album (Thick As A Brick). Still Thick As A Brick is virtuously recorded, originally realized and also sounds damn good. In short, the editors are ecstatic. LowBeats spoke with Meinert about the background and motives for such an album.
LowBeats: How did you develop your penchant for progressive rock and what fascinates you about it?
Lutz Meinert: In 1972 I heard the single "Thick As A Brick" from the album of the same name by the band Jethro Tull, which was still unknown to me at the time. This song excited me so much that I decided to buy the LP and thus came into contact with progressive rock for the first time. For me, as a 13-year-old, this was the ticket to a completely new musical world. Before that, I had only heard the single hits in the typical song format that were popular at the time, from bands and artists like T. Rex, Alice Cooper, Slade, Don McLean, Cher or Carly Simon. But this was now something completely different.
With progressive rock I was fascinated, on the one hand, by the fact that the usual repetitive song structure of verse and chorus, which is at best broken up with a short interlude, is broken up here and the musical sequence often takes completely unpredictable turns. On the other hand, I was also fascinated by the stylistic richness in progressive rock, where often many different musical styles such as rock, hard rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, folk, jazz, electronic music up to elements from classical music and avant-garde are fused into something completely new. This kind of music was a great musical journey for me, a real trip and excited me so much that from then on music became the center of my life. And this passion will probably continue to accompany me for the rest of my life.
LowBeats: What was important in the concept of the album, what were the biggest challenges?
LM: It was very ambitious to release an album as a tribute to Thick As A Brick, one of the most famous concept albums in rock history and a milestone in progressive rock, that not only musically but also from the cover concept follows the original with the elaborate legendary newspaper cover.
The trick was to revive the typical sound of Jethro Tull in their proggy phase between 1972 and 1973 without sounding like plagiarism, but fresh and new and to give the album its own character despite the obvious reference to Jethro Tull. In order to achieve this goal, we had avoided from the outset any quotes from Jethro Tull songs that were even halfway true to the notes. Apart from that, I don't think such quotes are particularly original.
Instead, our debut is based on an independent composition with unused melodies and additional jazz and fusion parts that expand the sound. The album's lyrical concept, which is based on new song lyrics and articles from a completely enclosed music magazine in newspaper form, also tells its own nested story. It all took a lot of work, especially since there was also a surround mix with album video that spans the entire playing time as an elaborate slide show with multilingual subtitles.
Since Thick As A Brick - like several other Jethro Tull albums - was remixed and mastered by none other than Steven Wilson (the brand ambassador of the 2019 high-end trade show; editor's note), the bar was set very high, not only musically but also sound-wise.
Especially with an album like Still Thick As a Brick, which sometimes contains very dense, complex arrangements with sonically different, polyphonic melody lines, it is incredibly important to achieve a transparent, but also, especially in the rock parts, equally powerful sound, so that the musical subtleties are not lost.
LowBeats: What role does good sound play - what do the terms "audiophile" or "high-end" mean to you?
LM: When I first discovered my passion for music, I wanted to hear it as well as possible; I more or less owed it to the music. At the age of 16 I started to be interested in hi-fi systems and to read hi-fi magazines. Since then I put a lot of money into HiFi and later into surround systems and high quality studio equipment.
It is a real pleasure to listen to a musically successful album, which has also been excellently recorded, through a high-end system. However, such a system also mercilessly exposes poorly recorded productions. Then the fun is considerably less...
LowBeats: Which studio and hi-fi hardware highlights do you count among your equipment?
LM: In the studio, I digitized most of the hardware in software a long time ago and work with the digital audio workstation (DAW) Cubase and additional wave plug-ins. Thus, I have a high-quality freely scalable, completely automated mixing console with equally freely expandable high-quality automated studio peripherals. The audio interface "Fireface UC" from RME controls the stereo active monitors JBL LSR 4328 PAK and the surround active monitors KRK Rokit 5 and the active subwoofer KRK 10S. In addition, there is a hi-fi/mastering surround monitoring with monitors from B&W's 800 series (2x 802d, 1x HTM2d, 2x n804).
LowBeats: What follows "Still Thick As A Brick" - what are the plans for you and the Reflection Club?
LM: Concerts are not planned for the time being - regardless of the Corona pandemic - because Paul lives in America and plays there in his own band Jethro Tull Experience. But also the other club members have full time jobs, including me, and Nils is also playing as a guitarist with Crystal Palace.
But I'm already writing the next Reflection Club album, which will of course feature Nils, Paul and Ulla again.
LowBeats: Thank you very much for the interview, Lutz Meinert.
Claus Dick (04/2021)
Music Waves (France)
Reflection Club - interview with Lutz Meinert (2021/03)
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.
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!
On the "Thick As A Brick" tracks of JETHRO TULL
For many who have grown up with music beyond any streaming platforms or digital file-sharing platforms and still understand it today as a total work of art that triggers deep feelings in you when you listen to it, but also when you look at record sleeves or other accessories, they will certainly, if they also have a little progressive free spirit in them, not be able to get past JETHRO TULL and their masterpiece "Thick As A Brick" since 1972, packaged in a real, but at the same time freely invented newspaper. Musically and visually an exceptional work that wrote and still writes history.
Until today, there has hardly been a successful attempt by other musicians to do justice to this work in the form of a new interpretation that corresponds to its entirety. The effort alone and the preservation of the high quality as well as the all-round wealth of ideas would be immense - and the result to be expected after such an effort would be far too unpredictable.
Despite all these reservations, after almost half a century, a German musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, lyricist, arranger, producer and universal genius, who does not even 'shy away' from releasing his work in dolby digital surround sound worlds complete with visual design, With his REFLECTION CLUB, he approaches this super-album, which is considered by many to be a conceptual prog-century work, and gives the original title an additional "Still (still)" as well as its music exactly the atmosphere that one already felt in 1972, when "Thick As A Brick" rotated on the turntables for the first time.
For us, reason enough and even an intimate need to talk to LUTZ MEINERT in detail about "Still Thick As A Brick" and his career as a person and musician.
I had expected that after the impressive psychelic-progg debut "Psychedelic Teatime" by MARGIN, the long overdue successor would follow first. How did it come about that instead a debut album, this time by REFLECTION CLUB, another new prog project of yours, is released?
Actually, I wanted to do "Still Thick As A Brick" back in 2012, from then on I was already in the middle of working on MARGIN's debut. And at some point I really got down to it. It became quite time-consuming and busy, which is why "Still Thick As A Brick" is only being released now.
In the beginning I thought about releasing the album under MARGIN. But the debut "Psychedelic Teatime" was already firmly located in psychedelic prog and "Still Thick As A Brick" doesn't have this basic psychedelic mood, but is already a different kind of prog. That's why I say to myself, "Different music, different band name."
Is MARGIN thus put to bed or can we hope for another album, in this case the second one?
I definitely want to make another MARGIN album! I also already have various ideas for it. But I can't say when it will be ready yet.
How did you come up with the project name REFLECTION CLUB?
REFLECTION CLUB came to my mind at some point. I think the name fits perfectly in many ways. On the one hand, I was strongly influenced musically by the progressive and jazz rock of the early 1970s, and the music of REFLECTION CLUB is a kind of reflection of that.
The lyrics, too, ultimately reflect various events that still occupy me today or used to occupy me in the past. In addition, the name REFLECTION CLUB exudes something of that typically English, snobbish charm. That fits!
How did you come up with the idea of writing a kind of sequel to "Thick As A Brick", probably JETHRO TULL's most famous album besides "Aqualung" and at the same time one of the most important albums in rock history?
To explain this, I have to say that the album "Thick As A Brick" by JETHRO TULL plays a special role in my life. In the spring of 1972, I was 13 years old and music was only secondary for me until then, as background music during boring schoolwork or when cleaning my room. At least I gradually recorded a few pieces of hit parade programmes from the radio on my cassette recorder and at some point a cassette was almost full. It contained hits by T. REX, DEEP PURPLE, ALICE COOPER, CHER, TONY CRISTIE and DON McLEAN and other songs that were popular at the time and that I still like to listen to today.
At that time, the song "Thick As A Brick" was added as a single release by a band called JETHRO TULL, which was completely unknown to me at that time. And the more I listened to my music cassette, the more this song stood out for me from my small song collection. The unusual arrangement, the voice and the flute fascinated me so much that I decided to buy my first LP: "Thick As A Brick" by JETHRO TULL. At first I only liked a few parts of this long piece, which stretches completely over two LP sides. But soon I listened to this completely new kind of music and I liked the album more and more. And with that, my enthusiasm for music, which until then had been latent at best, grew enormously.
So I didn't just throw myself into the other great albums by JETHRO TULL that had come out by then, but soon after also into many other bands in the field of progressive rock, hard rock, folk rock, jazz rock and psychedelic rock, all the musical genres that still fascinate me today and that are also more or less represented on our debut. Music had become the centre of my life. And in the end, "Thick As A Brick" was also the trigger for me to make music myself.
Now perhaps it becomes understandable that I was incredibly curious when 40 years later in 2012 the follow-up "Thick As A Brick 2" was released. However, the album was not released by JETHRO TULL, but by IAN ANDERSON, who had always been the head of Jethro Tull as singer, flutist, acoustic guitarist and almost sole composer. I bought the album immediately, expecting another complex prog album, but "Thick As A Brick 2" consisted more of conventional single songs.
Before "Thick As A Brick 2" I would never have dreamed of producing my own sequel to "Thick As A Brick", but now, after IAN ANDERSON's sequel had been on my mind for a few weeks, I suddenly thought: How would I go about producing a sequel to "Thick As A Brick"? Ideas started bubbling up in my head, melodies and lyric ideas flew to me and I immediately went into the studio to record everything. At that point I already knew: This is it! "Still Thick As A Brick" was born.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I was in the middle of working on the album "Psychedelic Teatime" for my other psychedelic-prog project MARGIN, which is also a matter close to my heart. And I wanted to finish that first before starting something new.
How did you find PAUL FORREST as the lead singer, who really sounds almost exactly like the young IAN ANDERSON?
With the album I wanted to revive the JETHRO TULL feeling of the legendary 1972/73 prog phase, i.e. between the albums "Thick As A Brick" and "Passion Play" - albeit with my own accents, quasi as a further development of the style. The instrumental parts were already well done thanks to Nils' great electric guitar and Ulla's virtuoso flute. Now all that was missing was the icing on the cake, the perfectly matching vocals.
I went through all the possible bands and singers I knew - and there were quite a few of them. But none of them seemed to fit even halfway. That's when I realised how difficult it is to find someone with a timbre like IAN ANDERSON. So I searched the internet for Jethro Tull cover bands, but none of them convinced me until I came across THE DAYGLO PIRATES, an English Jethro Tull cover band. Their singer Paul Forrest now lives in America and plays there with his cover band JETHRO TULL EXPERIENCE. There is also a video on YouTube of him performing together with JETHRO TULL, singing and playing the flute, incredibly good! It was clear to me: This is the perfect singer for "Still Thick As A Brick". Luckily STEVE HARRISON, the bass player of THE DAYGLO PIRATES, was kind enough to put me in touch with PAUL FORREST. When Paul heard my demo of "Still Thick As A Brick", he was thrilled and thus became a club member. The fact that he also shines on the acoustic guitar, by the way, is another stroke of luck for the album.
Why does Paul, who is also a very good flute player, only play the flute on one track?
When I asked Paul if he would like to sing on the album, all the flute parts had already been recorded by Ulla. The second part on the album "Time Out" was a bit low for his voice. So I transposed it up a semitone and adjusted the transitions accordingly. Therefore, the instruments had to be re-recorded for this. Since Paul also had to record the acoustic guitar on all the tracks, he offered to record the flute part on "Time Out" at the same time.
How did you come up with ULLA HARMUTH as a flutist?
That's a curious story. I was sitting at the table with a good friend, who was one of the very few people involved in this project from the beginning, and we were thinking about who would be well suited to play the flute on the album. And while we were going through some names, his wife, who happened to be standing in the room, remarked almost casually, "I could give it a try." It was only then that I remembered that I had seen Ulla flute before, when she performed with her choir as a singer and accompanied a song with the flute. I remembered that she played a typically classical, cleanly intoned flute. But the very own, highly virtuoso flute playing of an IAN ANDERSON, the most famous flute player in rock history, is quite another matter. More out of politeness than anything else, I invited her to my studio and Ulla recorded the flute passages of the first two parts of "Still Thick As A Brick".
And she did surprisingly well, so that she gradually recorded all the flute parts. She managed the soft flute passages more or less brilliantly right away. With the rocky flute parts, on the other hand, she had great difficulties at first, because she was used to playing the classical flute with a pure tone. In rock and jazz, especially with IAN ANDERSON, the powerful parts are played noisily with overblowing. Ulla should not imitate Anderson's playing completely, it should not sound like a plagiarism, which can easily become a parody if she hums and puffs into the flute just like the great master. But it should sound much dirtier and rockier in some passages. It took her some time to overcome her classical training here and learn to poke the notes noisily and impurely into the flute and to deliberately overblow. With time, that also worked out amazingly well.
And how did you find NILS CONRAD, the last (club) member of the REFLECTION CLUB?
Well, I already played with Nils in the prog rock band FOR YOUR PLEASURE at the end of the 90s and I know that he is an excellent, technically very skilled and above all versatile guitarist. Because on "Still Thick As A Brick" you can not only hear rock guitars in the style of MARTIN BARRE, but also very virtuoso fusion guitars. Nils has mastered both playing styles with ease in the truest sense of the word!
Did you consider recruiting members of Jethro Tull for the project?
At the very beginning, the thought crossed my mind. And it would certainly have been much more effective in terms of publicity if an original member of "Thick As A Brick" had played on "Still Thick As A Brick". But then I was much more attracted by the idea of reviving the sound of the proggy JETHRO TULL with completely different musicians. I wanted to capture the progressive Tull spirit, but it should sound fresh and unspent. And I think we all succeeded in that.
Did you all ever play or rehearse together?
No, Ulla played the flute parts in my studio, but my parts were already completely recorded. Nils and Paul recorded everything in their own studios and then sent me the files.
What is "Still Thick As A Brick" about?
As with "Thick As A Brick", the story in "Still Thick As A Brick" is also in a story.
The pure lyrics are about a man who looks back on his youth and impressive career in the world of finance and asks himself how his life should go on.
However, if one reads the articles in the enclosed 'Rellington Stone', it becomes clear that this man is probably George Bosten, a famous financial mogul, who unexpectedly disappeared from the public eye a few years ago and suddenly appears as co-author of the song lyrics of "Still Thick As A Brick", which among other things deals very critically with the financial world. This would of course be a huge scandal if a financial mogul discredited and discredited his industry so clearly.
Does the city of Rellington really exist?
Small-minded people may insinuate that I just made up Rellington and the whole story. But of course that is not the case. Rellington exists, of course... Just in a parallel world...
In the thick booklet of the mediabook, the 'Relllington Stone Magazine' is printed with several pages. Who came up with all those articles?
Of course, the editors of 'Relllington Stone', some of whose names are given in the imprint.
And what about the guest musicians listed on the album, from the Rellington Kurhaus Orchestra to the members of the FC Rellington football club?
They are all there, of course... I have good contacts in the parallel world...
Did the lyrics or the music come first?
It's hard to say. The story for "Still Thick As A Brick" was already there as a dramaturgical basis, according to which the type and sequence of the individual musical parts was determined. And I had this story in my head very quickly. However, the music was already partly there, because some musical sections that were actually meant for a third FOR YOUR PLEASURE album, which never came to fruition, fitted the album perfectly. When I was working out the lyrics, I immediately thought of the rest of the music.
The album consists of only one continuous, almost 48-minute piece. How difficult was it to handle all these different parts and themes, some of which reappear in variations, in such a way that in the end it actually sounds like it's all of a piece, just like on?
I didn't find it particularly difficult, but composing and arranging is also very easy for me. I also took my time and listened to the individual parts again and again with fresh ears. That's how the piece matures in my studio, similar to the way it does in the practice room with the band. You rework parts that still sound rough or vary instruments and timbres. In the studio, many things can be tried out quite quickly if you know the technique.
Had you listened to "Thick As A Brick" by JETHRO TULL intensively before or while composing your 'sequel'?
Not at all. Because "Thick As A Brick" is still very well anchored in my head. It's one of the albums I've listened to the most in my life.
Did you decide to do a surround mix of it right from the start?
Yes, after I released the debut "Psychedelic Teatime" with MARGIN, I was often asked if there would also be a surround mix edition of it. I hadn't made that effort yet. At that time I didn't have a surround monitor in the studio. But since I myself appreciate good surround sound from live or studio recordings, it appealed to me to present the next production in surround sound as well.
How did you come up with the idea of the video?
I thought that if I was going to release a DVD with the surround mix and, by the way, also with the HD stereo mix, the graphic possibilities that a DVD offers should not be left unused. I've always found it a pity when the surround mix of studio albums only shows the album cover or the same 10 photos are played on the screen in an endless loop for the whole playing time.
I, on the other hand, wanted a video to run the whole time, illustrating the story.
An almost 48-minute feature film was not financially feasible. So I came up with the idea of creating a relatively elaborate animated slide show. If I had known how much work it would be to dig through thousands of photos, to structure everything dramaturgically, and to cut and add effects exactly on time and on break, I probably would have been satisfied with just the album cover as a video image. Not to mention the licence fees for the many photos.
Will the album only be released as an opulent mediabook or vinyl with CD, DVD and complete music magazine or will there also be a simple CD edition?
"Still Thick As A Brick" is a typical concept album, where the music, the lyrics, the cover with the complete music magazine and even the video complement each other and only together form the complete work of art. That's why such a huge amount of effort goes into the production.
A simple CD edition would simply omit several parts that contribute to the understanding of the whole. That is why it is not planned.
But maybe we'll have to make do with a repressing for reasons of cost.
You could almost call REFLECTION CLUB the 'new edition' of JETHRO TULL, do you see it that way too?
I just see us as what we are, as REFLECTION CLUB. Certainly our debut is strongly influenced by JETHRO TULL, but also basically by progressive rock and jazz rock of the 1970s. I can well imagine that many Tull fans also like our music, as perhaps other prog and rock fans. Since the collaboration with Nils, Paul and Ulla was very pleasant and the result was very successful, it is quite possible that more albums will follow in this constellation. No matter how the music will develop then, with Paul's voice as well as his and Ulla's flute, a Jethro Tull moment will probably also shape our sound in the future, but always only as part of the REFLECTION CLUB.
Do you plan to play the whole thing live as well?
Apart from the fact that with the current pandemic no concert planning makes sense yet, there is the difficulty that Paul lives in America and has his own band there, Ulla has a full-time job as a doctor and Nils has his own band CRYSTAL PALACE. Since I play several instruments on the album at the same time and it is arranged very opulently, we would probably need three to four musicians to bring the whole thing onto the stages in the first place. That would all involve a lot of logistical and financial effort, which can't be provided at the moment. But who knows how "Still Thick As A Brick" will do and what will happen in the future.
Thoralf Koß (03/2021)
Interview with Lutz Meinert (02/2021)
Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist Lutz Meinert had already attracted attention with the debut album of his band Margin in 2014. Since 2017, he has dedicated himself to a new project that required his full attention for more than three years due to its complexity. The musical project is called Reflection Club and has released "Still Thick As A Brick", a sequel to the Jethro Tull classic "Thick As A Brick" in March 2021. The following interview was conducted in February 2021.
Lutz, first tell us something about your musical development.
From 1979 until the mid-80s, I played as a keyboardist, singer and sometimes as a drummer in several amateur bands in Berlin: With Cambert and Bizarr, mostly rock music, albeit already with progressive elements. With Keex these were already much more pronounced and with Imago I had finally founded my first pure progressive rock band. In between I had also put together the jazz rock band Solaris, in which I only played drums. While these bands quickly disbanded for various reasons, Imago lasted about 5 years. But what they all had in common was that they only performed occasionally and never released a record.
The 80s were also not a good time for prog and jazz-rock in Germany, because at that time Neue Deutsche Welle and synth-pop were in and the authoritative labels had little interest in other styles. The clubs in Berlin weren't exactly feverish for prog music at the time either; here, too, punk, NDW and soon disco and tekkno were more the order of the day.
So from the mid-80s on, my musical activities were limited to pure home recording. Little by little I built up a small but useful studio and worked on my own songs. At some point the guitarist Georgios Zikidis joined me and the collaboration was so pleasant and productive that enough pieces for a CD were created. We both called ourselves For Your Pleasure, founded the Indi label Madvedge Records and released our debut album "Scattered Pages" on it. However, the tracks were relatively spontaneous and without any conceptual guidelines and resulted in a rather colourful mix of styles from rock, pop, folk and progressive rock.
The second album "timeless", on the other hand, became more of a pure prog album and the duo had become a complete band. But here too there were the same problems as with other amateur bands: there was usually a core of steady musicians and others who changed frequently. You were only rehearsing to get new people who eventually left and hardly ever got to play live. Apart from that, prog in Tekkno-Berlin was still not a welcome guest in clubs. Sales of our CDs were also modest because we didn't have proper distribution. Georgios had meanwhile left the band and the label due to time constraints and sometime in 2001 it was decided to take some time off, which resulted in the band not meeting again, although there was never a formal break-up. However, I did work with two For Your Pleasure musicians again on later projects.
After a long hiatus of occasionally recording songs in my studio, I felt like working on a psychedelic prog album, which I released in 2014 under the project name Margin. I was joined by Arne Spekat from For Your Pleasue on acoustic guitar and my wife Carola Meinert on background vocals. I played the lead vocals and the other instruments myself.
Actually, I wanted to work on the next Margin album at some point, but then the idea for "Still Thick as a Brick" got in the way. By the way, another "old" For Your Pleasure member, Nils Conrad, is back on electric guitar.
With the debut album "Psychedelic Teatime" of your project Margin, you released a great psychedelic work in the style of Pink Floyd in 2014. Was that just a one-off project for you or can we expect another Margin album in the future?
I really do plan to do more Margin albums. However, it's a time issue. Let's see what comes next, a Margin or a Reflection Club album.
What does the project name Reflection Club mean? The word Reflection can be interpreted in several ways, such as retrospection, reflection, mirror image, etc. Is the project name a reference to the fact that you want to take a look back at well-known rock classics and carry them on?
When I thought of the name "Reflection Club", these meanings actually ran through my head. The project name fits perfectly with the character of "Still Thick as a Brick", which is in fact both a retrospective and a continuation of the Jethro Tull classic of almost the same name. The fact that our future albums are always inspired by classics was not something I thought about when I chose the name. On the one hand, it's an appealing idea and can be a nice source of inspiration, as with our debut. On the other hand, it can also be limiting if you have a musical or lyrical concept in mind that can't be directly assigned to an album. Let's see what we decide on for the next album.
How do you come up with the idea of recording such a classic as Jethro Tull's "Thick As A Brick" in a new, own form, quasi a sequel?
To answer that well, I have to take a little trip back in time to 1972. I was 13 and music didn't play a significant role in my life yet. It was more of a nice background for boring schoolwork or tidying up the room. For that I had recorded some songs from hit parade programmes on the radio onto a music cassette. Among them were hits by T. Rex, Alice Cooper, Tony Christie, Don Mclean, Deep Purple, Cher, Led Zeppelin, Slade, Middle of the Road and Cat Stevens, just about everything that was popular at the time. And at some point a song called "Thick as a Brick" landed on the cassette, the single from the album of the same name by the band Jethro Tull, which was completely unknown to me at the time. At first it was just one song among the others, but the longer I listened to the cassette, the more it stood out from the others. And at some point I liked it so much that I made the momentous decision to buy my first LP, the album "Thick as a Brick". It took me some time to get into this rather complex music on it, but once I did, there was no stopping my enthusiasm for music. I quickly bought all the older Jethro Tull records, devoured music magazines and quickly discovered other interesting bands. Music became the centre of my life within a few months and has more or less remained so until today. So "Thick as a Brick" was the initial spark, the discovery of the wonderful world of progressive, hard, jazz, psychedelic, folk and blues rock. And ultimately, "Thick as a Brick" was also responsible for later making music himself.
Now perhaps it becomes understandable why I was incredibly curious when in 2012 Ian Anderson, mastermind of the now disbanded Jethro Tull, now released "Thick as a Brick 2" under his own name. Of course I immediately bought the album. But instead of a prog album with a long complex piece, Ian Anderson surprised me with single, rather conventional songs on it.
Before "Thick as a Brick 2" I would never have thought of writing my own sequel to "Thick as a Brick". But after "Thick as a Brick 2" had been running through my head for a while, I suddenly had the crazy idea of trying to write my own alternative sequel to "Thick as a Brick". Immediately, the ideas started flying through my head. But I could only sketch them out in the studio for a short while because I was working on the album "Psychedelic Teatime" at the time. But that laid the foundation for "Still Thick as a Brick".
You created a fictitious magazine in which the town of Rellington is also invented and the URLs listed in the printed advertisements do not exist. To do this, you created a magazine on 16 glossy pages with your own articles, which are then found again in larger type on 72 pages on normal paper. That's a lot of work. Why didn't you leave it at 16 pages? Did you also think about the older generation?
I wanted to offer the same reading pleasure in the Mediabook as in the original Rellington Stone, which comes with the LP in newspaper format. That's why the Mediabook has the magazine with the same newspaper-typical font size in manual format, divided into correspondingly more pages. The first 16 pages are just to give an impression of what the original magazine looks like. The type on them is so small that even with good eyes it is quite exhausting to read the text.
How often have I been annoyed by CD booklets where the tiny font is barely legible, but the space on the page is wasted with wide decorative borders - not to mention colour sins like dark red lettering on a black background? I would love to make a voodoo doll for the designer. No one should be angry about our Mediabook in this respect.
Did you also consider printing the second version in German instead of the double magazine in English?
No, that would have been too expensive. Besides, there would have been a desire for other languages.
You have included fictional stories in the magazine. But there are also references to real locations, such as the Quartier Latin in Berlin. Here you have printed concert notes. Are they real or just fictional?
The Quartier Latin was my favourite place for rock, jazz and folk concerts. I was a weekly, sometimes almost daily regular there for years and had also played there with Imago. It existed from 1970 to 1989, but since 1992, when it was converted into a variety theatre, it has been called Wintergarten and has a correspondingly different event concept. Unfortunately, music concerts no longer take place there. The Quartier Latin now lives on a little with the advertisement on the front page of the Rellington Stone. I think it's a worthy place of honour.
What about the theatre group the Notorious Cabinet or the CD review of Reachel Heaven?
The Notorious Cabinet actually existed. I also played there as you can see in the photos and the plays were really quite black-humoured and absurd at times. It was hard to deny the influence of Monty Phyton. But this theatre group has also ceased to exist since the end of the 90s.
Rachel Heaven, on the other hand, is unfortunately purely fictional. Too bad, because the review of her record sounds very interesting.
With your printed texts, do you also want to point out current grievances such as the financial plight of the cultural sector?
Absolutely. Constantly rising prices for commercial rents, more or less free streaming of cultural offerings or free music and culture portals on the internet have been a reality for a long time. This development is causing problems for magazines, music clubs and musicians alike. Quite a few music clubs and magazines have long since disappeared. And this development is now being reinforced with Covid 19. Let's see what happens after the pandemic.
You created the album including the extensive 88-page booklet in book format on your own and also financed the whole thing in advance. That's a big risk, especially in this day and age when many music lovers prefer to get music for free from the internet. Was it such an affair of the heart to release this album in the style of the '72 Tull masterpiece (the cover of the first edition at that time consisted of a newspaper with fictitious articles) that you took the risk?
It is indeed an affair of the heart. However, if you're crazy enough to make your own sequel to "Thick as a Brick", one of the most original concept albums in rock history, where not only the lyrics and music are on a very high level, but also the whole album concept with a highly elaborate cover, you have to bite the bullet and go to all the trouble if you want it to be good.
Is the elaborate package only intended for a first edition? Will there be a slimmed-down version after the first edition is sold?
With "Still Thick as a Brick", the music, the lyrics, the Rellington Stone articles and the album video complement each other not only aesthetically but also in terms of content. Therefore, none of the elements should be missing from a repressing so that the overall concept is not lost. And if the first edition sells well, it should also be possible to finance it.
For your project, you worked with the German guitarist Nils Conrad (Crystal Palace, For Your Pleasure), the American flutist Ulla Harmuth and the English singer, acoustic guitarist and flutist Paul Forrest (Jethro Tull Experience, Dayglo Pirates). How did the contact come about?
It was clear to me from the beginning that Nils Conrad should play the electric guitar on the album. I already know him from our old For Your Pleasure times. He was already an incredibly good guitarist back then and has become even better over the years. That's why I knew that on the one hand he would master the rocking guitar style of a Martin Barre, but also very virtuoso fusion parts effortlessly. And I was to be proved right.
The flute line-up, on the other hand, was much more curious. I was visiting a good friend and music connoisseur who was one of the very few people who knew about the project from the beginning. We sat at the table and thought all the time about who would be well suited to play the flute on the album. Suddenly his wife, who happened to be in the room, said almost casually, "I could give it a try." Only then did I remember that I had seen Ulla play the flute before. She sang in the choir and had once accompanied a song with the flute at a performance. At that time, she played a typically classical, cleanly intoned flute. But the virtuoso flute playing of Ian Anderson, the most famous flute player in rock history, is a completely different matter. To be honest, at that moment I really didn't think that Ulla could solve our instrumentation problem on the flute. But out of courtesy, I invited her to my studio and recorded the first flute passages with her for rehearsal. And she played them surprisingly well, so that she gradually recorded all the other flute parts as well. She only needed a few takes for the soft flute passages. For the rocky flute parts, on the other hand, she had quite a bit of trouble at first. She was used to playing a classical flute with a pure tone. In contrast, the powerful parts in particular required noisy and sometimes overblown playing.
Ulla should by no means imitate Ian Anderson's style completely, with all the puffing, humming and buzzing into the flute, because such a thing would sound too much like plagiarism. But her playing should be much more rocking and dirty in some passages. It took her some time before she was able to push the notes into the flute noisily and impurely, and also to deliberately overblow. But after that, even that worked amazingly well.
After the parts of Ulla and Nils were recorded, the whole thing got a good shot of proggy Jethro Tull feeling, which the album was supposed to radiate. Now all that was missing was the perfectly fitting vocals.
Especially Paul's vocals and Ulla's flute playing, along with Nils Conrad's guitar playing, create the perfect Tull feeling. Was Paul the perfect musician for your project, especially since he is also a member of the Jethro Tull cover band Jethro Tull Experience?
I have listened to a lot of bands and singers and follow the rock scene as much as I can. But still, I couldn't think of a single singer who really fitted the character of the album. If I had had to find an alternative for Peter Gabriel, Jon Anderson, David Coverdale or Ozzy Osbourne, for example, I would have immediately thought of suitable candidates. But none of them would have fitted in with "Still Thick as a Brick". Only then did I realise how difficult it is to find someone with a timbre like Ian Anderson. Finally, I searched the internet for Jethro Tull cover bands. But that didn't convince me either at first. But then I came across a video on youtube in which Jethro Tull performed with a guest singer called Paul Forrest. And that immediately blew me away, because Paul not only played the flute excellently, but also sang so perfectly that with your eyes closed you could think you were actually listening to the young Ian Anderson, unbelievable!
I knew immediately: This is the singer for "Still Thick as a Brick"! After searching further for him on youtube, I came across the Dayglo Pirates - an English Jethro Tull cover band of which he was the singer. The Dayglo Pirates had broken up by then, but through their website I was able to contact their bass player Steve Harrison, who was kind enough to put me in touch with Paul Forrest. When Paul heard my demo, he was immediately on board. He also plays excellent acoustic guitar, which is another stroke of luck for the album. By the way, there are more interesting Jethro Tull cover songs by Paul on Youtube, also with his cover band Jethro Tull Experience.
It was certainly not easy to record the album, since two of the musicians are not from Germany. How and over what period of time did you record the album?
Recording the flute parts with Ulla was completely effortless because she speaks fluent German and lives in Berlin. But the other recordings were also quite uncomplicated. I sent Paul and Nils the playback and dummy tracks via the internet. Both of them recorded their parts and sent them back to me in perfect sync. I was then able to integrate them into the mix without any problems.
Most of the recordings were already completed between 2016 and 2017. After that, the tedious work of mixing began, during which I first had to familiarise myself with the multi-channel material, which also entailed a hardware and software expansion of my studio. The creation of the Rellington Stone magazine and the album video also proved to be very labour-intensive, and at the end came the mastering and the involvement of the pressing plant. It all took much longer than I had originally thought. However, I am a perfectionist in many aspects, who still likes to try this and that. And since I didn't put myself under time pressure, I could really let off steam. In retrospect, some of it was exaggerated. But on the other hand, the whole thing gave me a lot of useful experience from which future productions will certainly benefit.
How did the Corona crisis affect your production?
Not at all. Since Paul lives in America and the rest in and around Berlin, there were no plans for joint rehearsals or even concerts, for which other musicians would certainly have to be involved.
Were there any other musicians involved in the recording besides you four? The Rellington Resort Orchestra mentioned in the album credits is obviously a fictitious orchestra.
No, all the guest musicians mentioned are purely fictitious.
The music on the enclosed DVD was underlaid with numerous photos, which were put together to form a synchronous storyline and perfectly synchronised to the music. In my view, this is unique. So far, I am only aware of productions where at most a few pictures or the song lyrics can be seen on the screen. Who took the very appealing photos and how much work went into compiling and synchronising them?
My experience with surround mixes of all music albums, whether on DVD or Bluray, has always been that the visual support for the music is very rudimentary. Most of the time, only the front cover or a few different photos can be seen in an endless loop or, at best, the song lyrics.
When I decided to produce a 5.1 mix of the album on DVD, I wanted to use the visual possibilities of a DVD and create an album video that visualises the lyrics. An elaborate professionally produced music video with a feature film-like character was ruled out from the outset for cost reasons. But an animated slide show synchronised to the music was a cheaper alternative for me, although due to the abundance of photos, the licence costs were not inconsiderable. Some of the photos came from me, but the majority I sought from large commercial stock photo agencies. The search for suitable motifs alone, which had to fit the text perfectly, cost me several weeks. And then to fit all these photos into the dramaturgical flow and to synchronise them exactly with the music with all the breaks, runs and changes over the entire duration of the album was a hard piece of work that consumed several more weeks. I kept changing the sequence of motifs, replacing some photos with new ones, fine-tuning effects and timing until it became a well-rounded thing in the end.
Did you send Ian Anderson a copy of the album, and if so, how did he react to your homage to his masterpiece?
I sent Ian Anderson our album a few days ago via Paul, but haven't received a reply yet. But since Ian Anderson seems to get sent things from all kinds of people all the time, it's not surprising.
What does the future of your project Reflection Club look like?
As already mentioned, for several reasons concert activities are out of the question for the time being. That's why the next album is waiting for us. Since I enjoyed working with Paul, Nils and Ulla very much, I'm looking forward to a continuation. Let's see what comes out this time.
You can really be very curious about that. Thank you for the very comprehensive answers, it was a lot of fun to do this interview.
Stephan Schelle (02/2021)
Progressive Rock Journal (international)
Exclusive interview with Reflection Club
Hi Guys and thanks for the time you gave us, how are you?
Yours is a young band, where does the idea of making music come from and why did you choose Progressive Rock?
Lutz: The band is relatively new, but we have all been making music for many years. For me as a composer, arranger and instrumentalist, progressive rock offers more freedom than any other style I know. Hard rock, folk rock, jazz rock, classical music, psychedelic rock, blues rock, ambient music, all these styles – just to name a few examples – can be taken up and combined in progressive rock. Not only stylistically, but also formally, there are no limitations in progressive rock like the usual song format of verse and chorus with always the same time signature and tempo. Instead, different parts can follow each other and thus create completely different moods within a composition with surprising turns. If everything is artfully and variedly interwoven with each other and a good dramaturgical flow results, a great musical trip can be created in which you can really let off steam as a musician.
Ulla: I’m more at home with classical music. Though I do listen to rock and pop music from time to time, I am by far not as familiar in thus area as the others in the band. But many of the quite complex and polyphonic passages on “Still Thick as a Brick” show interesting parallels to classical music, so I feel quite tuned in.
Your Folk Prog sound follows the 70s style of Jethro Tull in particular, apart from them, what are your sources of inspiration, if there are any?
Lutz: I think there are a lot of unconscious sources of inspiration for me. Besides Jethro Tull, other bands like Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator, Brand X, Pink Floyd, Camel, Caravan, Focus and Kansas have fascinated me with several albums. And this list is only a small part of the wonderful musical universe that has accompanied me throughout my life. I have literally inhaled all this music over decades and that has certainly left traces in our music. What you can actually hear from it, everyone can decide for themselves.
Your debut album “Still Thick As A Brick” is a tribute to Jethro Tull, but the tracks are original and personal, why this choice?
Paul: We were inspired by Ian’s Thick As A Brick 2. It was his take and response to the original. So we thought, if that’s his take, what would be ours? He brought the Gerald Bostock narrative into the 21st century so we thought we’d do something along those lines but more in the style, especially vocally, of the original album. Ian used themes, riffs and motifs from the original but we had to just take the overall concept and style of that but do something more personal and original. So I guess you could say we are paying direct homage to the style and concept but not the content. Otherwise we’d be paying copyright fees rather than homage!
The album appreciated and positively reviewed on the pages of our webzine, is a well-made Folk and Prog blend, how do you describe the album?
Lutz: That’s already a good description of our style, although I consider folk as one element among others in our prog sound. I have always been fascinated by bands that integrate folk in progressive rock, like Strawbs, Gryphon and of course Jethro Tull on some albums.
The sound is intense, varied and personal, the fans were wondering what they areb plans for live performances, if there are any.
Lutz: Of course we would love to play “Still Thick as a Brick” live, although that would certainly be an elaborate undertaking, and additional musicians would be necessary, as I play several instruments at the same time on our debut. But since Paul lives in America and plays in his two bands Jethro Tull Experience and The Fab Three, Ulla, Nils and I have full-time jobs on the side and Nils also plays in his band Cyrstal Palace, this is unfortunately not possible at the moment for logistical reasons.
The first album showed us a lot of well developed ideas and good technique, many are wondering if there are plans for another studio album in the future.
Lutz: There are indeed. We are already working on the successor. We can only reveal this much: It will be another concept album, which – like our debut – will also be released as a mediabook and vinyl with CD and surround DVD.
Between the “restrictions” and the demand of the modern music market, how complex is it to offer music of a certain type nowadays?
Lutz: The range of music on offer nowadays is huge and it has long been impossible for individuals to keep track of it all. The competition is immense. In addition, you can listen to thousands of albums for free on YouTube, Spotify or other streaming services, and more are being added all the time. The need to buy albums just to listen to music is thus eliminated. And it’s easy to get lost in the oversupply of music.
So it’s really not easy to earn money with music nowadays. But it wasn’t in the past either. In the past, if you wanted to release your own album, you only had a chance if you found a record company. Because only a (big) record company usually had all the financial and logistical resources at its disposal that were unavoidable for the creation and marketing of an album. These included the recordings in the recording studio, the producer, the graphic artist and designer, the mastering, the production of the sound carriers, the distribution to as many record shops as possible, the sampling of radio stations, advertising, reviews and interviews in print media, gigs at festivals or even entire tours. And even then, only very few bands were granted such a coveted record contract, which sometimes had to be paid for by the bands with a meagre share of the sales of the record. It was also not uncommon for record companies to decide on the selection and order of the titles on the respective album and to exert influence on the artistic direction and image of the bands via the producer, which did not please every musician. If you also played progressive rock, this was – at least in Germany – almost hopeless from the end of the 70s onwards.
Nowadays, however, there are completely different possibilities for musicians, which allow them to produce and distribute albums completely independently of record companies and central distributors. Thanks to the immense development of digital technology, high-quality studio technology in the form of virtual mixing consoles, multitrack machines, effects units and even virtual instruments can be obtained relatively cheaply compared to the corresponding hardware. Studio technology that would have cost a fortune in the past has long been available as software with a corresponding sound card for a few thousand euros in a PC.
Inexpensive image editing and DTP programmes can be used to create professional artwork for covers, posters and advertisements. Via Bandcamp, Amazon, online music shops and the band’s own homepage, the recordings can be distributed worldwide relatively easily and cheaply. For reviews, band articles and advertisements, one can turn directly to music magazines (print edition or online), as well as to numerous online radios for the most diverse music genres. Further advertising can be done via numerous social networks. Music videos can be created relatively cheaply and easily by oneself with smartphones, system cameras and editing software and published on Youtube or other video platforms.
However, this freedom is also associated – apart from the expenses – above all with a lot of work. Getting to grips with all the different areas takes a lot of time and perseverance.
What advice would you give to artists who would like to propose Prog Rock both today and in the future?
Lutz: The same one I would give any musician: to make music when the desire comes from within. It’s a great feeling to follow this passion. Although progressive rock is still a rather small musical niche, it is a very lively one, with new bands popping up all the time and fans all over the world following it closely. For example, there has long been a well-connected prog scene on the internet with numerous web presences, in social networks within many groups supported by music magazines. I can only advise prog musicians to be present there. If a band puts a lot of energy into their music, but only half-heartedly takes care of public relations, it would be a shame if many a great piece remained hidden from the interested public.
We leave the last question free, as usual in our interviews, giving you the opportunity to talk or tell an anecdote or a topic not touched upon in the previous questions.
Ulla: I can share a little anecdote with you. Lutz wanted to revive the sound of Thick as a Brick in his compositions on our album, and the flute öfter takes Center stage. Fortunately, he didn’t ask me to play exactly like Ian Anderson. I wouldn’t have managed his very special style even if I had wanted to. The flute passages were difficult enough to play as it was and I had to get used to this style. Although I thought I was slowly getting the feel of it, I wasn’t sure if it was really what Lutz had in mind. During this time I got a surprise visit from a friend, while the rough mix of “The Club of Hopeful Pinions” was still playing in the background, which I listened to often for backchecking. “Hey you listen to Jethro Tull” he said in the middle of the conversation, “I wouldn’t have thought so.” I just said that I listened to a variety of music and quickly changed the subject. I was glad that he didn’t ask about the album on which the song was on, because our project was still top secret at that time. In any case, after that I was somewhat reassured about my flute parts.
I want to thank the band for the nice interview full of interesting ideas and anecdotes, as well as for the time dedicated to our webzine. We wish you the best in your career, Prog On.
Jacopo Vigezzi (10/2021)
Prog Sphere (international)
REFLECTION CLUB: Declaration of Love
Jethro Tull‘s 1972 magnum opus ‘Thick as a Brick‘ is considered as one of the cornerstone releases in the progressive rock genre. It is one of those albums that has shaped the genre and put the foundation of what is to come decades later.
Berlin-based musician and songwriter Lutz Meinert has launched a progressive rock project Reflection Club in 2017 with one of the goals being paying tribute to the English formation’s mentioned release. In his own words, “Reflection Club picks up the musical style of Jethro Tull during their progressive rock phase between 1972 and 1973, expands on it with elements of jazz and fusion and creates a novel, nearly 48-minute-long, original composition, divided into 11 parts.”
This composition, entitled ‘Still Thick as a Brick’, is available since March this year via Bandcamp. Reflection Club was a part of our recent Progotronics compilation, and for that occasion Meinert answered our questionnaire.
Define the mission of Reflection Club.
When I founded the project, I was initially only interested in producing a homage to “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, reviving their sound of that time with my own composition and expanding it with further jazz and prog elements. The band name “Reflection Club” fit perfectly to the project, because “Still Thick as a Brick” is indeed a musical reflection on the progressive rock of the 70s, here in the style of Jethro Tull.
The lyrics are also a reflection on events that concern me and are considered more or less central theme in the form of a concept album. After the great response to our debut so far, Reflection Club’s mission is to delight the world with more interesting concept albums of this kind.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Still Thick as a Brick,” and the themes it covers.
When I heard “Thick as a Brick 2″ by Ian Anderson in 2012, I spontaneously came up with the idea of writing a kind of sequel of my own to “Thick as a Brick,” stylistically closer to the original work “Thick as a Brick,” Jethro Tull’s 1972 classic. I immediately thought of the vocal melodies and themes, which I recorded in the studio. I also had the story for the lyrics in my head. However, at that time I was in the middle of working on “Psychedelic Teatime”, the debut album of my other psychedelic-prog project Margin. And I wanted to finish that one first in peace and quiet before I ventured into a new project.
The subject matter of “Still Thick as Brick” is quite complex, as it relates to different levels and areas of the concept album. First of all, there are the lyrics, which are about someone who is at a crossroads at the height of his career in the financial sector and looks back critically on his professional and private life. Very dubious practices in the financial world are described, as well as the development of the small town of Rellington from a sleepy fishing village to a hyped scene.
If you take a look at the enclosed music magazine “Rellington Stone”, you learn that the main character in the song lyrics is a certain George Bosten, the successful financial mogul who suddenly disappeared completely from the public eye a few years ago and who, according to rumors, co-wrote the song lyrics of “Still Thick as a Brick”.
The Rellington Stone has more articles about the album and Rellington, and the DVD also visualizes the complete music with an elaborate slide show.
Ultimately, the album story is only fully revealed when you read the lyrics and the Rellington Stone magazine, watch the video, and of course listen to the music while doing so. Everything complements each other, as a good concept album should.
What is the message of “Still Thick as a Brick”?
Lyrically, it’s about how much of your conscience you’re willing to sacrifice for power and wealth.
Musically, it’s a declaration of love to the progressive rock of the early ’70s, especially that in the vein of Jethro Tull.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
When I think of an interesting theme, I just sing it into my smartphone. I regularly listen to these recordings in the studio and immediately record them on an instrumental track if I still like them. That’s how it went with “Still Thick as a Brick.”
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
Especially when you’re working on a longer continuous composition, like Still Thick as a Brick, which is almost 48 minutes long, you have to be very careful that the dramaturgy is right. The interplay of quiet and fast parts, of dense and sparsely arranged sections, and of acoustic and electric arrangements must be right, so that the music carries you through the entire composition without you feeling bored or rushed in between. For me, a long track like this is like an exciting journey, where on the one hand you don’t know what’s coming next, but on the other hand every now and then you see something familiar that you can orient yourself by.
Describe the approach to recording the album.
First I recorded the 11 individual parts one after the other, complete with all instrumental and vocal tracks. Among them were dummy tracks that were later replaced by the other musicians like vocals, flute and guitars. After that, I listened to everything over and over again, tweaked the transitions and arrangements, tried out different timbres until everything was coherent. It was a bit like being in the practice room with the band, when the pieces finally take on the form that everyone feels comfortable with, through frequent playing and trial and error.
I then recorded Ulla’s flute in the studio. I sent Paul and Nils the sequenzer tracks with the rough mix so they could record their parts in their studios and they sent me back the finished takes.
After that, I was left with the stereo and suround mix and mastering.
How long “Still Thick as a Brick” was in the making?
Actually, most of the recording was already done in 2017. Most of the work started for me after that, namely the tedious work of mixing. Many Jethro Tull albums were remixed by none other than Steven Wilson, so the hurdle was extremely high, not only musically but also sound-wise. I also had to familiarize myself with the multi-channel material, as I had previously only mixed in stereo. This also required a hardware and software expansion of my studio, which involved a lot of reading and trial and error. Creating the Rellington Stone magazine with all the articles and incorporating them into the newspaper layout also proved to be very labor intensive. The album video also took a lot of time. Just sifting through masses of photos for the approx. 680 images I used for the album video and the album trailer alone took me several weeks. Then to assemble and synchronize all that was another huge job. At the end came the mastering and the integration of the pressing plant. That all took much longer than I had originally thought. The fact that I’m a perfectionist in certain things also made the whole thing take longer. On the other hand, I gained a lot of useful experience from which future productions will certainly benefit.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the album?
For our debut, Jethro Tull was of course in the foreground as a source of inspiration, no wonder when you make a homage to “Thick as a Brick”. However, I was also influenced by the progressive rock and jazz rock of the 70s, which you can also hear on our debut. Not every passage here sounds typically like Jethro Tull. And there are many bands that have influenced me, like Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, PFM, Brand X, Pink Floyd and many more. Some of that will definitely shine through in our sound.
What is your view on technology in music?
Today’s digital technology makes it possible to set up your own professional studio at a reasonably affordable price, which would have cost a considerable fortune back in the 70s to 90s.
Without a virtual, arbitrarily expandable mixing console, virtual studio effects and instruments, this debut would never have been possible and, above all, affordable in this quality. The exchange of audio files via the Internet is also part of this. For me, this results in a production paradise. However, I also have the interest and stamina to deal with all the technology besides the music.
But without good compositions and good musicians, even the best technology won’t make good music. And medicore, interchangeable music can be made with or without digital technology….
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
I see our album as a total work of art, where the music is this basis, but lyrics, cover and video also play an important role and clarify the content concept. And this level is also important to me. But first and foremost I’m a musician and I know how limited the possibility is to deal with complex topics in a few song lyrics. If that were my main concern, I would rather write books than make music.
What are your plans for the future?
Apart from the current pandemic, live gigs are out of the question for the time being, because Paul lives in America and the rest in and around Berlin. Also, Ulla, Nils and I have full-time jobs, with Nils still playing in his main band Crystal Palace. On top of that, we would need three additional musicians to bring the complex arrangements to the stage. At the moment this is not possible for us due to time and financial reasons.
That’s why we are concentrating on the next album. This much can be revealed, it will be a concept album again…
Prog Sphere (05/2021)