- For the benefit of our readers can you resume the beginning of the band? The story of 3rdegree started some 20 years ago if I'm not wrong?
I (Robert James Pashman) had been playing bass, keyboards and lead vocals in a power trio with 2 friends from high school and the first 2 years of college and we had a falling out. I then got together at the end of 1990 with drummer Rob Durham and then summer of 1991 with Patrick Kliesch. We put out an album in '93 (The World In Which We Live) and then decided it be best to add a very strong lead singer and we added George Dobbs in the summer of '95. I then happily receded to backing vocalist and bassist while George played most of the keyboards.
- What's happen when the band split after the second cd? Can you talk about the «second start» of the band?
We got very frustrated with a pre-internet NYC concert scene and our inability to add to our fan base in any significant way. We played live all the time and nothing was happening so only 9 months after releasing '96's Human Interest Story (our 2nd album/1st CD at the time) we broke up. In 2005 I was collecting our old cassettes and putting them on the computer, making mp3s, cd-rs and Pat and I (having kept in touch) thought we had some very strong material at the end of the band's tenure ('97) that we should record "for fun". Much of that material became our third album Narrow-Caster. We asked Rob Durham to play drums and found George a few months later.
- If I understand well , the title of your new cd , The Long Division, is about the actual situation in USA ? Am I wrong? Can you talk about that?
We talk about it in great detail in a YouTube clip but some (around half) of the song lyrics we were working on in late '08 and beyond were musings by us about the state of politics and the division that is fueled by both big American political parties. "You're Fooling Yourselves" (music video on YouTube) is the best example of our frustrations and the album cover is a very simple and strong way of putting the idea out there too.
- For somebody from outside the american society seems really split in two , between right and left.. more than ever.. What's happen in your country? I presume it's important for you
to talk about that..Like what you make with “You’re Fooling Yourselves”. Can you talk about the genesis of this song?
The genesis of the song was the chorus sung with most of the lyrics intact and it was started by Patrick. He was thinking more partisan since Obama had just taken office but we sort of turned it on its head since the rest of the band is not in total agreement on political issues. We thought it much more interesting to make each verse a hard left and hard right view and ripping apart of the other side's thinking and policies. It's scathing and unless you hear the whole song (and especially see the video) you might not get what we're trying to say but if you do I promise it will be worth it. So in the end we take politicians to task for not thinking critically and doing the people's business as well as the followers/voters who should also not "drink the Kool-Aid" or get on Facebook and rip apart people with whom they disagree on a daily basis. It makes for a coarser, unfeeling society. "Incoherent Ramblings" is written from the point of view of a political strategist who tows the line everyday as a career. They are to blame too. "The Socio-Economic Petri Dish" sort of recants the whole crash at the end of '08 and takes everyone to talks for wanting more from their government be it social programs that can become a way of life or a bank bailout when their greed put us in this mess in large part.
- You have socially critical lyrics all over the cd.. it's a source of inspiration for you..
Yes, unpolitical but still social is "Televised" which points to reality shows and the people who populate them. We did find that these criticisms belonged in this collection of songs. We started working on another grand concept at the same time but have relegated those songs to our next (5th) album which we're hoping to have out in 2014.
- Did you see a solution? Did you think that people will understand the danger of that division? Did you have some hope about the political situation?
I don't think we expressed where we think it's going on this album. We of course hope there's a waking up at some point but I'm not sure it's likely. I think one sides ideas have to be starkly considered out of touch or dangerous before we have a mass agreement or a real landslide where one party really feels like they've lost. We haven't had a real landslide in America between one set of ideas over another since 1984. There's been mandates but not overwhelming agreement since then.
-We have the same phenomenon here in Canada.. Now it's our republican who form the government.. But here it's more complicated . When I say here I talk about the Province of Québec. People are divided between left and right but also between federalist and independantist..Mostly people who are at right are federalist and people who are at left are independantist.. A little more complicated as you can see…
Yes, Canada and most other countries have to form government coalitions whereas in America you have people in each party who are more apt to reach across the aisle to hammer out deals and they actually have a lot of power because they are the swing votes.
- Your cd is very actual with the new presidential election just finish.. What's your feeling about this recent election?
It was a big to do about nothing. Almost nothing changed. I'm fearful about either parties' ability to get us back on a firm financial footing. I've been in general agreement with one parties ideas but I'm starting to really find that I'm personally agreeing with the ideas of a third party and since I lived in a blue state the past election that would definitely not have been a contest, I was able to easily vote for a third party. It felt good to do so.
- During the election I watch a lot of american TV just to have an idea of what's happen.. Two things really hit me: First: the publicity is really agressive and negative if you compare of what
we have here in Canada and especially in Québec and second: one TV show present a map of the USA with the two colors to represent where the democrats have gain and where republicans have gain.. It's really funny
to see that the states who vote democrat are states where progressive rock are more «popular» (New England, California..) What did you think of that? We have the same phenomenon here in Canada.. The society of the Province of Québec (french) is more at left than at right and the Province is THE place in Canada for progressive rock!
I've sort of thought of that too. I'd generally say that the people who make progressive rock and the fans of it are left-leaning. There are exceptions as I find the more religious are usually right of center but it's interesting. I've heard it argued that "artistic" people are usually liberal thinkers and I think the trend is that but there's exceptions. I wish prog rock was enjoyed by or at least presented to more people!
- Brett Kull of Echolyn mix the song of «You’re Fooling Yourselves”. Did you know him since a long time.. Did you have specific reason to ask him to mix that song?
I've been a fan of Echolyn since seeing them in '95 in New York City when they were touring their third album and people in progressive rock bands like us thought they had found the "golden ticket" (like the Willy Wonka movie) getting signed with Sony but of course that didn't work out. My good friend Tom Brislin (Yes/Renaissance/Camel/Spiraling) introduced me to him when they were both playing in The Syn. I visited his studio in Pennsylvania and always thought I'd like to do something at his studio just to get a different set of ears on our music. Angelo Panetta is our mixer and does a fine job but we were getting toward the time we needed our album to be done and I decided to give Brett a shot. I drove over to his studio and we mixed the song. That was one of a few songs that needed to be mixed and I thought since that would be the single that it couldn't hurt to have his name stamped on it. There wasn't anything specific about that song that I needed him to bring out but we're pleased with the results.
- Stylistically the last album is like the other cd of the band.. A certain diversity with of course a good dose of prog elements. What,s the musical style that you like the more to mix with prog?
I think The Long Division (4th album) and Narrow-Caster (3rd album) are not entirely unlike each other. I think the songwriting is strong on both. I think we recorded The Long Division in a better way, especially the drums and guitar. I don't expect a huge leap in sound quality next time because we are not making enough money to go to bigger studios to record drums and whatever else. I think all things considered, we're at a good place where we don't need to significantly increase our overhead just to make a tiny upgrade in sound quality. Stylistically, we definitely have more musical moments where there's no singing on The Long Division vs. Narrow-Caster. With a vocalist as gifted as George, you don't want to keep him silent for too long! But in "prog" you do have fans who get a lot out of musically challenging moments in recordings and we were happy to oblige them even if it wasn't exactly by design.
- What.s your projects for the coming month? I hear that you're presently work on new songs for the next cd. Did you just start working or working on since a long time..How many songs ready or near ready? How did you proceed for the songwriting?
I'd say we have 2/3rds of the next album written 1/3rd of it recorded (at least the drums are) and we have a general concept which at this time looks to encompass the entire record rather than just one half like this past album. We are wondering if we should dive into this album or play some live shows in support of The Long Division. It's a conundrum for sure.