Jerry Lucky: Lets lay the foundation here…tell us about the beginning…Abraxas and then Witsend…how did it all evolve into Syzygy?
Carl: Al Rolik and I were in Abraxas dating back to 1978. Sam Giunta joined shortly thereafter. That was a working band until 1982. Sam and I went off to write prog material and do side projects. For example, I still jammed with Al while Sam worked with our drummer friend Roman Zmudzinski. Sam, Roman and I were in the first incarnation of Witsend. Paul Mihacevich eventually replaced Roman who had to step out in the late 80's. Paul, Sam and I worked as a trio eventually putting out Cosmos and Chaos and later Allegory of Light. Al Rolik actually made guest appearances on both of those albums and then started to work with us full-time in 2004 as we pushed forward to create Realms of Eternity.
JL: Now the official bio is one thing, but what’s one (or maybe two) things that the bio doesn’t tell us about Syzygy?
Carl: I guess I would point out that I am joined by incredibly accomplished musicians. Paul and Al were voted best drummer and bassist; respectively by Fortune Magazine in 2003 as part of a prog cover band I put together called YTM. Also, Sam Giunta is a master theorist and composer. He studied under one of the great professor's of music, the late Dante Picciotti. You also may not know that I won honorable mention in the International John Lennon Songwriting Contest a few years ago and I am on the board of trustees for the Cleveland Institute of Music, one of the top conservatories of classical music in THE WORLD.
JL: I’m always keen to find out what those first prog experiences were. What were the first prog moments for you guys? That moment where you said, wow that sounds cool.
Carl: Those early moments occurred with Sam and I way back when. I remember several of those magical moments. An early prog glimmer came when Sam and I wrote our first piece back in Abraxas (1979) called Il-y-abrica. But the most proggy moments came when we wrote our first counterpoint for the penultimate ending of Closure (Cosmos and Chaos). It was a little triumph, but we were high-fiving each other and were high on life hearing what WE made! The other great early prog moment came when we came up with the verse structure for what eventually became MOTH.
JL: Everyone knows the “Heart of rock and roll is still beating in
Carl: Pretty weak quite frankly. We have great support, but it's not true for all. They'll support the classic acts, but they are not abundantly engaged in prog acts of the last two decades.
JL: I want to get some perspective on your musical approach….tell us in as succinct a manner possible how you approached the music for Cosmos and Chaos?
Carl: It really was a composite document to preserve a series of "studies". We had begun to learn how to arrange music and had accumulated some compositions over the years. It was only natural to secure their posterity by making a record.
JL: Now that was 1993…a full 10 years later in 2003 you come back with a new name Syzygy and quite a different sound. What changes prompted the way you approached the music of Allegory of Light?
Carl: Technology made Allegory possible. I opened "Monster Tracks" (my recording studio) and with the advent computers vs. tape (Cosmos and Chaos) we were able to pull together some additional bits and pieces, out-takes and some new compositions to make Allegory. The "approach" was "it's time to get these other pieces out in the ether, how cool can we make them with where we are at artistically?"
The band Syzygy burst onto the scene for many with the release of 2003's Allegory of Light. It garnered rave reviews, but fans would have to wait almost six years for new material. Having just released their newest recording, Realms of Eternity I was itching to find out a little more about the inner workings of the band. Here is my interview with founding member and guitarist Carl Baldassarre.
JL: And here we are a mere six years on and you’ve delivered Realms of Eternity…and again it sounds different…a little bit…what was your musical approach this time?
Carl: ROE represents the full potential of the band. The writing, arranging, performing, production has all moved forward. The pieces are largely new compositions and so they represent a more mature stage of our development. The difference is largely explained by our all-around maturity and consequently the music is truer to what we hear in our heads. We're just getting better at our craft and hope to continue to do so.
JL: Personally I detected a lot more complexity in the music. As I mentioned in my review I hear a lot more musical and vocal counterpoint. Where does that emerge from?
Carl: That is exactly what we hope you hear, since we focus on counterpoint. The complexity comes from doing this for 30 years and my tendency to get bored easily! The trick is to make the complexity sound smooth, inviting and purposeful. I think we are exceptional at that.
JL: I’m guessing reviews have been really good?
Carl: Staggeringly good! It is so rewarding, when you put as much work into the music as we do, to see that it hits the mark.
JL: Is there a part of the world where you have fans that surprised you?
Carl: It has been well received universally.
JL: Tell us about the new members? How did that all come about?
Carl: Al Rolik (bass) is technically "new", but he goes back with me longer than anyone in the band. That's 31 years or more. We just finally decided we wanted a full-time bass player and Al is amazingly talented and diverse. We helped him get in touch with his "inner prog" and away we went! Mark Boals (vocals) on the other hand was a targeted search for a guest vocalist. We were looking for a specific "color" to add to our existing palette. We were fortunate to find him. He fits in and is a good guy to work with.
JL: There is a running debate about lyrics in prog what’s Syzygy’s approach to writing lyrics in prog songs?
Carl: Well I just try to write good, appropriate, intelligent and artistic lyrics. I give careful consideration to the union of lyric, melody, harmony and rhythm. It's an area that I really want to further experiment with. In prog, there are many ways to manipulate those four variables to create something interesting. That's what makes for some of the greatest prog in my opinion.
JL: I’m guessing that all of you maintain day jobs to pay the bills…what’s on the horizon for touring and getting the band in front of fans?
Carl: We really want to hit as many prog festivals as we can. We also want to open for some of the more established prog acts. We think we can really add to the mix in those situations. We can really use the publicity and fan support to promote these goals. We just want more prog fans to hear us.
JL: Where do you see the band going? And where does the balance come in…jobs, family, music etc?
Carl: It's all about balance no matter what. Our families are getting older and are really supportive of what we are doing. Consequently, more emphasis is being placed collectively on the music side of things. As a result, I see the band getting much wider exposure worldwide.
JL: Last question…if you were stuck on a desert island…tell us what 5 CD’s you would most want to have with you and why those particular ones?
Carl: I could never pick five, and fortunately if I had my iPod, I could have everything I wanted! But the essence of your question is clear. I would hope to have some Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Copeland, Ives, Segovia, Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Django Reinhardt, Pat Martino, Joe Pass, Holdsworth, Gambale, Jeff Beck, Zeppelin, Purple, The Who, Tull, Giant, Genesis, Crimson, Yes, various hymns, worship music, Johnny Cash and Syzygy! I bring a little of each of these to my writing and playing.
JL: Carl, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I wish you all the best with the new CD and future endeavors.