The Mighty Bard, a name that resonates with the echoes of ancient tales and musical virtuosity, has been pushing the boundaries of what's possible in the realm of progressive rock. With the intricate compositions of their new album, “Beyond The Gate”, their thoughtful lyrics and mind-bending instrumentals, they are carving a niche for themselves in the monument of today’s progressive music. All answers were given by guitarist Dave Clarke.
by Dimitris Zacharopoulos
Give us a short biography of The Mighty Bard please.
The band first got together when Dave put an ad in a magazine to put together a prog rock covers band, Rick our very first, brief drummer brought Neil along, and Neil and Dave connected perfectly on a musical level. ‘I Know’ from the first album was the first track they worked on together, Dave on acoustic guitar, Neil on grand piano in Neil’s living room. After Rick left to join another band, Neil and Dave worked on material for a year then put the rest of the band together. After, Rick, came Aleem, then Ian, then Andy (none of whom exploded or drowned) then Tom on drums, Gavin on Vox ceded to Benj and Mark joined on violin. The core writing team has always been Neil and Dave, with Cad our ‘timing junkie’ and more recently Benj adding indispensable aspects to complete the sextet.
You have just released your sophomore album. How do you feel now that your new album is out?
We are very pleased with the new album, and feel we’ve done a great job at capturing the band as it is now. It feels like a big improvement on ‘Blue God and Other Stories’, we are looking forward to the next releases too. Finishing an album is always strange if you don’t immediately start touring it as with haven’t been able to yet.
Where and when was “Beyond The Gate” recorded? Please describe the whole recording process!
Beyond The Gate was mostly a homespun affair, largely recorded in Dave’s home studio - the songs were writing and honed over a long period, with a few of the tracks tried out live before recording. Generally the musical idea’s came from Neil and Dave, but with this album Benj has also contributed with structure and lyrics.
Who was the one who mixed and mastered the new album? Please describe the whole production process!
Mixing was both John Watt, who mixed the first album, and Yaron Fuch, who completed “Secret Garden”, “Compound the Problem”, “Last Orders” and” Guarded Secret”, when Dave stayed with him in New York for a week at the end of 2022.
Where would you trace the differences between the new album and your debut album?
The band has improved as players and composers, working on dynamics and recording technique between albums - the level of ‘quality control’ has been something we have concentrated on, but essentially the songs are written in the same manner, with feel and emotion being in the foreground of everyone’s thoughts.
You play in a progressive rock style. Which prog rock bands in particular have influenced you the most?
The band doesn’t “strive” to be progressive, that is just what comes out, our influences are very far reaching - our obvious influences are Genesis, Yes, Queen, Pink Floyd, All About Eve. As some people probably already know, Neil Cockle was an early member of Silmarillion, the band that became Marillion - so there are going to be some similarities drawn there because of his lead synth style. Individually the band takes inspiration from all sorts of genre’s; funk, folk, metal, pop, classical - George Michael, Snowy White, Santana, Jaco Pastorius, Brian Eno, Camel, Daniel Lanois, Rush, Deacon Blue, Al Stewart, The Beatles, Jean Michel Jarre, Faith No More - fairly disparate influences rear their heads within our music - we can hear a section, years after writing and realise where it comes from! For us, the genre isn’t important, it’s how it makes us and the audience feel - everyone listens to music for difference reason - we love it all!
Most of the contemporary prog rock bands are influenced by the bands of the 70s. How difficult is it for a prog band to sound original and have its own music character?
We stopped worrying about sounding like other bands, I think we have defined our own sound, of course it is similar to our influences. We never consciously copy another song or artists’s music, but we know it all comes out - when we are writing, we turn off the conscious mind and let the fingers or voice channel what is inside - some people think it is a path to something spiritual, or just channelling the subconscious - what ever it is, if it moves us, then it will strike a chord with someone else - that’s what it is all about. Some musicians talk about being ‘relevant’, or striving for something completely new and original, we’re old and ugly enough to realise that’s just words - make music, if someone gets off on what you have done, then we’re on the right track!
Prog rock is in a downfall the latest years, especially in comparison with the prog rock scene of the late 90s/early 2000s. Do you agree with me? How do you see the worldwide prog rock scene now?
Not many of us listen to Prog, it does seem that many bands have got stuck in a rut, somehow trying to encapsulate one aspect that was produced by their favourite musician in the past, for example, making the instrumental virtuosity the most important aspect of their music. For us, it has to have more to do with melody and musicality than copying something from the past. Maybe suggesting that an entire genre is in downfall is just a generalisation, sure some of it is dull, too ‘widdly’ and derivative, but there are so many creators releasing music - there is something for everyone, surely?
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with a famous 70s prog rock musician, who would he/she be and why?
I’m sure everyone in the band might have a different answer, for various different reasons I don’t think I’d like to collaborate with any of my musical heroes. Possibly Mike Oldfield, Freddie Mercury, Sting, Bowie or Peter Gabriel - but I’m sure we would clash and end up walking out of the studio!
Who is responsible for the music and lyrics of The Mighty Bard? How is a song of The Mighty Bard usually composed?
Neil and Dave write most of the music - working together on idea’s after introducing them to each other, shaping a rough song then bring the rest of the band in - there is a great synergy there and it’s great fun. Most of the lyrics up to this latest album have been Dave, although Gavin wrote “Blue God” and “Maybe”. Benj has contributed a lot to the latest album. Generally the music comes first - a few of us have reams of lyrics written down, but sometimes when listening to a new instrumental piece, words, a subject or a sometimes the entire song ‘suggest’ themselves..
Which are the trademarks of your sound?
Bombastic, beautiful, dynamic and english with many interwoven melodies!
Where do your lyrics refer to?
All sorts of things.. Generally they try to tell a story, but sometimes they paint a picture - lonely warriors, lovelorn individuals, gods, the average man in the street with a story to tell, observations on the modern human condition, or outright flights of fantasy.
There is a melancholy in your music. Am I right? How do you explain that?
It’s not intentional - maybe it is easier to emote with a sad song, Dm - the saddest of all chords! Secret Garden is a positive story, but still manages to sound a little sad, maybe the writers are dissatisfied with their lot in life and the just music saves crying in your pint down the pub :)
An early love of mythology; Greek, Roman and Norse probably adds some of that underlying tragedy!
Give us all the necessary info about the amazing cover of “Beyond The Gate”!
Duncan Storr began emailing Dave after Dunc listened to a CD with TMB songs on UK’s Prog Magazine, we chatted for years over email discovering his tremendous talents. We gave him early versions of the songs and a rough idea that had been bouncing around Dave’s head for years (classic English characters playing a gig in the forest) - we talked around it for ages, even having a Trump-like character as the centrepiece at one point - we are very pleased with the end result, Dunc has done an amazing job!
Which are your future plans? A tour maybe?
A couple of EP’s coming out, with a studio version of ‘Black Train’ - a 20 minute track, collected as an album, more social media, and in 2024 we will start touring again.
Send a message to the readers!
Thanks for listening to our music, we aren’t huge and know that everyone has a massive choice of music to listen to these days - but we do love recording and playing to an appreciative audience and love talking to you. We believe that our music is something of a unique throwback in terms of melody, musicality and the layered depths that keep on giving something with each listen - spread the word, drop us a line. Thanks for the support, we love you all!