If you've been around the prog community for any length of time, you'll no doubt have come accross the name of the French prog fanzine Acid Dragon. Well I recently received issue number 48 and thought it was high-time to speak with it's founder Thierry Sportouche, who coincidentlally is also a member of the symphonic band Silver Lining. Here it is.
Jerry Lucky: You’ve been involved in the Progressive Rock scene for many years now…Let’s go back to the beginning. What are your earliest prog memories?
Thierry Sportouche : In 1973, I met a guy called Michel Bériat at the university who was playing as a drummer in a prog band influenced by Pink Floyd. This man was a prog addict. I only knew the basis of rock (The Beatles…) and was keen on discovering new horizons, bands carrying the exploration of new sounds. I borrowed his King Crimson’s "Starless and Bible Black”, I discovered Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” (I had heard “Ummagumma” earlier and was a bit surprised by the craziness of this music), “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson, Caravan’s “In the Land of Grey and Pink”. At the same time, Genesis was becoming famous. In July 1974, I first went to London and bought two singles, one by Yes ((You & I / Roundabout) and one by Genesis (I Know What I like / Twilight Alehouse – I still have it, it’s now a collector!). I had heard of them through a rock magazine and as background music at a college concert. I remember I had some problems with Peter’s ‘rough’ voice the first time I heard it (laughs!). In August, as I was spending a few holidays in Cassis, near Marseille, I went to a concert by a British band called Bachdenkel in the venue of this little town. My first live prog experience. I could interview them last year.
JL : How did that lead to you starting Acid Dragon magazine?
TS : I was one the writers for France’s oldest prog magazine (using a pseudo!), Harmonie, led by Jean-Claude Granjeon. My friend André-François Ruaud, who left the prog spheres for Science-Fiction since then, proposed me to create a prog magazine in English to help the new prog bands rising at that time to be best known by the public: the medias were completely deaf at that time. We did not want to be a concurrent to our friend Jean-Claude (hence the language) and wished to be the “French voice of prog” abroad.
JL : You’ve just issued Acid Dragon #48…tell us the philosophy behind the magazine?
TS : Well, we don’t speak of music we don’t like because we don’t know what “ truth” is and we don’t want to penalize independent productions. We try to be open minded and speak of every colours of prog. We don’t stick to the actuality necessarily. We like publishing stories, indepth studies… We like to support unknown bands…
JL : You obviously don’t do it alone, who do you have working with you?
TS : Mainly Phil Jackson, Olivier Sauce, Jean-Louis De La Cruz, Stephen Rivera… In the past, Humberto Manduley, Vitaly Menshikov…
JL : How many issues do you produce a year? If someone wants to subscribe what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
TS : Well, only three issues per year but we have a sound version (a podcast or should I say a progcast?) of the ‘zine each month on: http://progapart.podbean.com
The best way of contacting us is through our web site : http://acidrago.club.fr/ad2.htm
JL : Now I’m guessing you also maintain a day-job?
TS : Sure, I’m a civil servant (lawyer). You can’t earn a living with music in France, especially prog which is completely underground.
JL : In amidst all this you’ve also found time to be in a prog band called Silver Lining. How did that all come together?
TS : Well, I worked for Anoxie before as a lyricist. I met Nicolas Mourachko (Silver’s guitar player) at a concert I co-organized on a boat in the centre of Lyon. I had a tiny shop selling Acid Dragon. In 1998, he asked me to create a band with his friend Pascal Indelicato (keyboards). I agreed of course. Silver Lining was born.
JL : The music of Silver Lining is very lush and symphonic and hearkens back to the classic prog style with violin, narration and concept. What’s the band’s approach to the music they create?
TS : Pascal is a classical educated musician as well as Annie (violin). Nicolas is more influenced by Camel. I’m a fan of symphonic and theatre rock. I write short stories too. That’s why I use masks and costumes on stage in order to illustrate the story of our album “The Inner Dragon”.
JL : You’ve even had some pretty high profile live gigs…is that something you’d like to do more of?
TS : Well, sure! Playing in UK, in the States and why not Japan…
JL : What’s the high-point of your live performances so far?
TS : Two last year: playing as guest to the Pendragon concert in our home town (Lyon) in front of 450 persons and as the ‘French’ band in the international prog festival in Tiana (Barcelona) with CAP, Galahad and Twelfth Night among others. By the way, a DVD of this festival will be out soon.
JL : Are you working on some new material? And when might we see and hear that?
TS : Three songs are ready and were played during those concerts.
JL : One last question, then…if you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only 5 five discs (no MP3 player), what discs would like to have with you? And why those ones?
TS : “Selling England by the Pound” by Genesis
“In the Court of..” by King Crimson
“Close to the Edge” by Yes
“Brave” by Marillion
And, well, “The Inner Dragon” by Silver Lining (laughs!!).
All are (except the last one) masterpieces of progressive rock. Musical emotion at its best.
JL : Great choices...and thanks for taking a few minutes to fill us in. All the best in 2009.