First of all, congratulations with releasing your new album. The reviews are very positive. That is already the second time in a row, as both this album and Vol.1 are received very well.... Do you read the reviews? Does reviews have influence on 3Rdegree or on you in daily life?
Robert James Pashman (bass, keyboards, backing vocals):
Within the band the opinion/feeling is that each album is better than the last. We get better as music and lyric writers and as engineers. Much of the album is recorded in our home studios and the sound quality we achieve at the studio where we record drums and have the album mixed by Angelo Panetta is also always improving. Outside of that we rely on the reviews we receive and enjoy hearing people’s differing reactions.
The main thing reviews (and particularly year-end lists) help us with is reaching an audience. More than any festivals/concerts we’ve performed, radio shows we’re played on, word of mouth or Facebook posting has done-believe it or not-Progarchives.com has been our #1 “recruiting source” as answered by new additions to our email list.
Soon after releasing Ones & Zeros in 2015, you spoke about a second album: vol.2. As I understand, you have released this album a bit later than expected and you changed the title from Vol.2 to Vol.0. What’s the reason for the delay, and may I ask, why did you not choose for the title: vol.2?
George Dobbs (lead vocals, keyboards):
To start, designating the album Vol. 0 is just a very slight joke on our part by defying the obvious expectation for a Vol. 2 . One counts in binary thusly: 0,1,10,11,100,101,etc.. So we made a joke of it. We said "ha, we are counting in binary ...and we are ALSO counting backwards! We are such witty fellows --the hilarity will not end there, so come and spend more time with us..." But counting backwards also makes sense because Vol. 0 is not a continuation of a story from Vol. 1. However, it can serve as a preface to Vol. 1. Vol. 0 describes a current dilemma that is a precursor to the world described in Vol. 1. That being, a vicious cycle of narcissism and neediness. A greed of the spirit --always wanting more, forever unsatisfied. Is that the "human condition" itself? So be it then: our very nature propels us toward the comical despair that I hope we described in Ones and Zeros Vol. 1.
As a band you have a long history. In the nineties you started as a trio. That's where the name 3Degree comes from. Nowadays, 6Degree might be a better name as your band has grown to 6 members. Besides that, you have developed on the artistic level. . In which way did your music develop during creating your new album?
I'm not certain if I could pinpoint how we have developed at all. With the past 3 albums, I think we have merely been perfecting the expression of our style as already established on The Long Division, and maybe earlier. But we have tried new things (for us) on this album. Obviously, "Click Away!" is our first tentative dip into long-form composition. But we mostly still embrace the verse/chorus structure as much as ever, even though we are capable of going off on some tangents after we establish our main ideas. More than in the past, we've been willing to cycle over a progression a few more times than we normally would, in order for a solo instrument to have a nice expansive solo that builds to a crescendo. That's sort of new for us as well --in the past we favored short, tight solos ("Human Interest Story," "Proverbial Banana Peel", "Apophenia" "You're Fooling Yourselves")
Patrick Kliesch (guitar, backing vocals):
We’ve never been a band with long form songs. Before O&Z vol.0, nothing clocked in longer than 8 minutes from our previous five albums, mainly because we’ve stayed away from the lengthy instrumental solo passages.
In contrast to Vol.1, vol. 0 seems not to be al concept album. Nevertheless, the theme: 'dangers and challenges of modern technology' is once again a recurring theme throughout the work. What kind of ideas or experiences do you have with this subject? Your lyrics are often ironic; what message do you want to give with this album?
Indeed, Vol. 0 is not a story. Neither did we write a random collection of songs about unrelated topics (like one song being about egomaniacs in general, another about a sexy date, another about the Crimean war, another about slave-labor in the Thai fishing industry). The theme (concept) is more specific than merely the dangers and challenges of technology. Vol. 0 detail Mankind's struggle to "connect," to other people, to nature, to his own creations (whether biological or cybernetic). So we cover: the relation of an internet troll to his "audience", parents' discussing the fate of their their children vis-a-vis bio-enhancement, people cutting off the rest of mankind to form their own tech-utopia, a person (a selfish man, specifically) in a human-robot relationship struggling with the same relationship problems two humans might have, mankind's antagonistic relationship with earth, people obsessively interfacing with social media (to brag, virtue-signal, to be part of the grand social media cyber-community global experiment). For my part, I don't put much stock in "message" songs. But how about this: the message of this album is "folks, don't expect too much from Technology --it's not going to stop you from being a selfish, self-obsessed fool, in love with the smell of your own excrement ...although it might turn you into that."
On vol.0 an old acquaintance comes around the corner: Valhalla Biotech. The 'company' even has its own Facebook page, but it is no longer very up to date. Will this website be revived? On your new album you advise the listeners to take a look at the site ....
Eric Pseja (guitar, backing vocals):
Valhalla Biotech initially evolved during the writing of Vol. 1 to serve as an enabling character, providing the sinister muscle which powers the means to any selfish end they can sell, no matter how questionable the morality or how vast the collateral damage. We also added an air of untouchability that such a company might enjoy in an unchecked technology-fueled future -- never having to waste resources on safeguards, feel-good PR initiatives, or reparations for damage caused by ineptitude. Naturally, a corporate leviathan such as Valhalla Biotech would have risen to power during the human ego-driven vignettes of Vol. 0 so we decided to include it, but much less overtly.
As for the online presence for Valhalla Biotech, the main website and the separate "clickaway" page were created for thematic continuity, and we feel our efforts would be better spent on making more music than doing web development.
Just like Ones & zeros, 0 excels in beautiful artwork. If I am not mistaken, it is from the same artist, Aleksandr V. Kouznetsov. It seems that you have found a great cooperation. What does the cover say about the musical style of your album, why does it fit so well?
The artwork had an ominous quality which I liked. There is a pixelation in the eyes of the looming face that made me think "Malevolent (?) Digital God." And the naked woman --a stand-in for mankind, vulnerable, or maybe entranced, and at the mercy of that looming god-figure.
You are a band with a critical opinion about society and politics.. What is it like for you as musicians to live in the United States Do political and social developments have influence on work, are they inspiring you?
Bryan Zeigler (guitar, backing vocals):
Social and political developments affect our work because they affect the environment we work within. And developments in political discourse and technology have formed the basis of our last three releases. The wide variety in points of view and experience within the band help make things more nuanced than “Computers yay” or “Republicans boo.” The message is much less “here’s what you should think” than “have you considered this?” Can advocating too strongly for the “correct” political position cause more societal harm than good due to the breakdown in discourse? How can seemingly benevolent technology be used against us?
A lot of (American comedian) George Carlin’s later worked focused explicitly on his ability to look at society from the outside. Even while passionate about issues, he was a stoic long before it was cool. And in that spirit, we try to be focused on observation and comment, while not clearly rooting for any particular outcome. And while none of us are truly objective, that type of approach permits, maybe even requires us to critique those we agree with.
As a band, You are part of the quite vivid prog scene in New Jersey. Is it still as vivid as a few years ago? Do venues still dare to book a band, even though it might cause an economical risk? In the past you have be involved in crowdfunding. What are your experiences, and will you use crowdfunding again in future, if necessary?
Robert James Pashman:
Next to most other US population centers, the New Jersey area-mostly fueled by James Robinson & crew at the NJ Proghouse-has been a decent place for progressive rock to flourish since the turn of the century. This “cosmopolitan” state was always a bit kinder to progressive rock bands as they made their way through or right across rivers in New York City or Philadelphia. It also is a place where there are many musicians and lots of people so better chances for attendance. That said, lately it does seem to be waning as only certain bands draw enough concert goers as to not have awkward emptiness prevail and an “end days” feeling cast a pall over an otherwise fantastic concert. NJP takes risks to an extent. All other shows we do in the area seem less “caring”, pay little to nothing and are usually exercises in cramming in as many bands into one night to spread the risk. Only NJP, Orion Sound Studios (Baltimore) and occasional shows elsewhere are really “helping the scene”. Of course festivals like ProgStock (NJ), ProgDay (North Carolina) and others are paramount but only once a year.
Crowdfunding seems to be something you can do when you either are truly in need of up-front money before a musical venture such as making an album or as a way to sell a bit more than just an album by bundling in original and quirky extras. I found it to be time-consuming and worth doing once but I’m not sure it’s necessary.
There are three beer brewers in your band. Beer and music is a very interesting combination ;-) After releasing Ones & zeros you brewed a special beer. Will you also brew such a beer now your new album is released? If so, how would you qualify this beer?
The beer we brewed (Cautionary t'Ale -- Triplet Tripel) was actually created following the completion of The Long Division, and we actually polished off the last 750ml bottle just before the band embarked on the last US tour. We did discuss a few ideas for recipes to celebrate Ones & Zeros (both Vol. 1 and Vol. 0), but the actual brewing never got done. I do plan on brewing this autumn, however. Maybe we'll call it 01000010 01000101 01000101 01010010.
I’ve taken a hiatus on brewing this past year, but I’m preparing to start again really soon. When that beer is ready, it’ll definitely be named in honor of O&Z. Maybe something like ‘Drink Engine Optimization’ or ‘Keyword “Hops”’, although ‘The Gravity’ seems like the obvious choice.
Since Ones and Zeros reviews repeatedly mention that your music may not be seen as ‘progressive rock.’ Now I have read that you describe your music as: 'pour in one cup of prog rock, add a half cup or grunge / hard rock, 2 ounces or Beatles-esque harmonies, a tsp. each of power pop, soul / funk, classical, and acoustic rock. Mix in a blender for about 4 to 6 minutes. Pour into a Belgian beer glass and serve. "Do you still agree?
Rob Durham (drums):
These ingredients are still bubbling up and being churned around on the new album. The only difference might be the quantity of each ingredient used from song to song.
Nowadays there are heaps of specific criteria used for indicating to which genre a bands music may be categorized. This creates a difficulty in using single-word descriptors such as "prog" as they are not particular enough.
Classic prog in itself can be thought of as a blending of the then-contemporary rock styles alongside other elements (classical, jazz, folk etc.) that those musicians chose to include in creating their peculiar combinations of new sounds.
I think that it is in this spirit that the band pours its collective influences into that Belgian beer glass, serving up a listening experience that can hopefully be enjoyed whether or not one wishes to call it prog.