To co-incide with the release of the Wedge, Sylvie Simmons interviewed Alan and Graeme for Kerrang, cover date February 1986
GRAEME MURRAY'S talking fighting talk. ~ "We're coming," he growls over the muffled disco thump from the Carnaby Street shops down the road squeezing through the windows, "out of the corner fighting. Last year the album was out, we thought things were going to happen. And they didn't." You can say that again. "They didn't. It ground to a halt."
Sometimes you can't stand up for falling over. Sometimes you can't fall over without there being a pile of dogs**t to land on. Take Pallas (Somebody please take Pallas - Doc Doom). They get the big-name deal, they get the big-name producer, they get an album they really don't like that much. They get the big tour, they get the "could-be-the-next-Marillion" headlines, their singer gets the sack. Too light for TV, too heavy for radio, too dated for some, too contemporary for others, too progressive, too pop, you name it, they got it. Now they're back on the road in the UK and have a new album out called 'The Wedge' and a new single 'Throwing Stones At The Wind'.
`'We've spent a year, almost," Graeme says, "rebuilding everything that we have."
`'The way we look at it," says Alan Reed, the elfin-sized newish vocalist, "is that we're a new band. We re-evaluated everything when I joined, and we felt that 'The Sentinel' (their EMI debut) really wasn't a definitive Pallas album. We've always been a heavy band live, very powerful, and that didn't really come across on 'The Sentinel', which I think it does now. I think we're starting to find a harder sharper sound.
"Also, it's a good deal more modern. We were accused of being very dated with 'The Sentinel', so we decided we wanted to make something which I feel is lacking modern rock. At the moment rock bands as a whole seem to be ashamed to use anything that comes from the post-punk era. They're frightened of it. It's like the world stopped in 1977 for most of them. "
What we feel it does musically," says Graeme, 'is combine all the best elements of Heavy Rock music with elements from the new technology which only pop bands are using at the moment."
As in truly - pardon the expression - progressive?
Tears For Fears' name comes up, gift-wrapped in respect. Graeme nods. "In the early Seventies bands like Genesis and Yes and ELP grabbed synthesisers as soon as Robert Moog invented them and used them as tools to make music. And what happened at that stage was that they changed they face of rock music in a major way. At that time they were called "progressive rock band' because they were doing something out of the mainstream.
"What's happened now is we've gone through another technology revolution, but the only people who've actually taken grasp of it and done anything decent with it are those well-known Boring Old farts, Yes. The '90125'album was refreshingly different"
Rush get patted on the head, so do Genesis for starting out acoustic and ending up over the-top pop stars, "catering to different aspects of people's tastes". Their own tastes range from all of the above through funk, Earth Wind & Fire, Jazz and Heavy Metal.
"What would happen, says Graeme, if Iron Maiden brought out an album and half of it was acoustic tracks' it's all so safe all the time. Rock bands now, instead of using the music to do the outrageous talking for them, are just using haircuts and clothes. "I would like to think that in five years time Pallas will be looked on as a kind of Led Zeppelin - a band who can do lots of different things on one album, as varied in rock terms now as Zeppelin were in the Seventies.'
Quite a task, but one they reckon they've made a good stab at on the new album. Recorded in seven or eight studios including Townhouse in London and the Tears for Fears place in Bath over a three month period, using sampling equipment, sequencers and drum machines as well as the usual run of- the - mill rock stuff, "The Wedge" covers to use Alan's words, "so many different attitudes…..
"There are seven tracks on the album - one long track, which is more of a "progressive" thing but a couple of them are actually fairly heavy, quite a bit heavier than things we've done before, and a couple of things that are quite soft and atmospheric. Overall we tried to make it fundamentally lively and dynamic, but with a lot of space and atmosphere. We wanted to make it sound a little bit more interesting. We just wanted to take our time with things and make something very very special.
Very much a continuation of what they were trying to do on their "Knightmoves" EP, out in the middle of last year.
We thought that the EP would be a transitory phase," says Graeme, "to prepare people for the album which is a bit of a change again, and give them a variety of tracks (anything from instantly accessible commercial rock to involved and evolved nine minute epic stuff) to show that we're developing some more styles yet are still in touch with the things that have gone before; a stepping stone.
"It sold well," says Alan," considering the band had been away for such a long time, and it being the first release with myself doing the vocals. We were very very pleased with the response, and I think we crossed over with it into an audience who hadn't quite heard of us before or who were put off us before."
According to Graeme, "The Sentinel" was pretty off-putting sounding leaden and flat, more dead than alive. We got a lot of things wrong in our own minds, we got a bit carried away; green country boys come to big town and suddenly get signed to EMI with the chance to work with their hero producer, Eddie Offord (of Yes and ELP fame). And he'd never heard Pallas live, he didn't actually know what the band was all about; he formed his own idea of what we should sound like. By the time the album was mixed (In the bands absence ) his idea and our idea were miles apart. ( hence the American re-mix )
People asked us after Alan joined the band " Looking back, what do you think of "The Sentinel"?" And we had to be honest, we were a bit disappointed. Then suddenly it was proclaimed from the mountaintop: "Sell - out! They're denouncing their past!"
It's just that your first real album tends to typecast you and they were just "breaking out of the typecast "
The fact that they've managed to do so, they reckon, has much to do with Alan joining the band. Odd to think of him as a relatively new member when he talks about Pallas' past with as much proprietary interest as the rest of them. He came to them last year from Glaswegian band Abel Ganz and a course in English lit at Sterling University, after they'd worn out their ears on hundreds of demos of singers who "just weren't right"
Euan Lowson wasn't quite right either. He was kicked out after "becoming a little too complacent", not really contributing to the songs," whereas Alan's quite musical, he can play bass and keyboards (and will, in fact, be playing some keyboards on this tour, as will Graeme, on the new songs), and he comes up with lyrics and ideas," says Graeme.
"We are a five piece writing unit now," he continues," whereas before we were a four piece writing unit with a puppet - and us operating the strings."
Still, in parting with Euan didn't they lose a visual focus, the man in the masks and the costumes and the theatricality? "As soon a s I joined the band we thought we should take a whole different approach to this live situation. With the previous vocalist it was all the dramatics bit and the band as a whole trying to blow the audience away with the enormity of it all. It was a bit cold."
So he wasn't a Pallas fan before joining?
"I wasn't a complete fanatic, but being Glaswegian it was difficult not to know about Pallas - they've been pretty legendary in the Glasgow area for quite some time -and I'd seen them and was awe-struck by the potential of the sound, something unique, but I didn't feel at the time they were fully capitalising on it. I thought it was important for them to go out and reach the people so they'd be sent away feeling that they'd got to know them somehow, as well as being impressed.