John Graham of Ontofield

Jerry Lucky: Shall we start at the beginning? How did you become interested in music creation and then Progressive Rock specifically?


John Graham: From the age of about 11 I have been interested in creating music, first on guitar, then the vocals and then drums, bass and keys. I was introduced to a great deal of diverse music when I was young and progressive rock was just one of those. I found myself listening to a lot of music you might term "progressive", but I didn't know music had labels at that time. I've worked very hard to try and escape the tyranny of labels and categories ever since.


JL: Who would rate as your most significant influences in the music you make?


JG: In terms of musicians and bands and / or in general? Music wise, I would say Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Marillion, Faith No More, Bob Dylan, Led Zep, Eric Clapton, Cream, Jeff Beck, Yes, Kate Bush, Polly Harvey, Genesis, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Dr John. I could just go on and on.... In terms of the lyrics and feel, those influences are a lot harder to explain, but you can get a good idea from the lyrics themselves and what I stand for.


JL: Was there a specific prog-moment when you said – that’s the kind of music I want to make?


JG: There were a few....When I first heard Eric Clapton in Cream, Sabotage and onwards Ozzy era of Black Sabbath, Marillion and Pink Floyd. Those different moments are clear in my head. If I am honest, there was no "prog" moment at all, I just make my music and other folks have labelled it as "prog rock", "crossover prog" or what have you. I don't mind what folks want to call it.


JL: Now you are essentially a “one-man-band” and while I dislike the term you seem to give new meaning to it when listening to how accomplished the performance is. Tell us – did you choose this direction or was it chosen for you?


JG: That's jolly kind of you to say, thank you! I must say that I chose to go in that direction. I understand that the dynamic of bouncing ideas around with collaborators is all good, but I chose not to. There is equal merit in going it alone, not better or worse, just different. I notice there are more and more folk doing it, Tame Impala being a fairly good example. I definitely wanted to have something that at the end of it I could say was all done by myself.


I think I always felt under pressure when writing with others, I never quite knew what was expected and I didn't have the confidence to fully "spread my wings" with others around because of worrying about what others thought. I am not like that now though and maybe sometime in the future, I may collaborate with other folks, you never know. The main thing for me with my own music is to aim for exactly what sound I have in my head both technically, lyrically and emotionally. I can say with impunity that it is all me, no compromise and no dilution, for good or bad.


JL: Perhaps describe how technology has helped you make such marvelous music as if you were a full band.


JG: Technology has helped me hugely. Certainly midi and sequencing, alongside the fantastic sample and synth based "instruments" have been a game changer, certainly with drums. I can play the basic patterns and fills on my electronic drum kit and record the midi notes. I can then spend as long as I want changing, adding, taking away in Cubase until I have exactly what I hear in my head. That goes for the synth too. If I can't physically play a synth or drum part that I have written, then I can programme it with midi. I sometimes play a synth part on my midi guitar, because I can play that with far greater ease than I can playing a keyboard. There is no shame in that for me. Composers from all periods have composed music for others to play.


JL: Would you have any words of advice to others in similar shoes?


JG: I would hesitate to give anyone advice! I suppose that you need to be honest and objective with what you are producing and be yourself. The more honest and objective you can be, the better the final product will be. You can then make better judgements and decisions. Also, knowing when to stop. I have a very well equipped studio with just about everything I could want, so knowing when to stop and when to put the brakes on is even more important if there is nobody holding you to a budget or schedule. Also, do whatever you want. If you want to swing over a straight 4/4, do it.


JL: What about the name? Ontofield – what’s the storey behind that?


JG: The name Ontofield, was something I thought up myself. I have always been fascinated with ontology and epistemology and other philosophical esoteric ideas. The Ontofield is my description of the "ether" where our quantum reality is, our holographic "reality" and the idea of our individual realities being created by ourselves and others. What we believe in and what we and others manifest and how differently vibrating energy/light, manifests itself as different things. Pretentious? Matumbo? Also, I wanted a word that I made up because the search engines pull up Ontofield at number one, two and three straight away.


JL: Would I be correct in assuming this is not your day job?


JG: No, it is my day job and my night job! I spend my time practicing, writing and recording music, doing voluntary work driving the elderly folk around to hospital and doctors and running with my dogs. My wonderful wife Fiona is very understanding. I am lucky enough to have had a good career and bought my studio from the proceeds of that. I am also recovering from global heart failure, so my choices, up until the last year, have been somewhat limited.


JL: So what does the future hold for Ontofield? Will we ever see some live performances?


JG: I'm just starting to put some new songs together for a new album. I think the whole end to end process will be a lot shorter than Sleeping With Fractals, now that I have a better idea of what I am doing. I am looking to put a band together as I really want to get out and play live, I think it is the next logical step. I am looking for a keyboard player first, but am also looking for a drummer and bass player, so if anyone is interested, please get in touch.


JL: How has the internet helped or hindered your musical dreams and desires?


JG: The internet has helped me hugely. I don't have to be signed to a major record label to get my music out there to people. It has meant that I have met and formed friendships with people from all over the world, who have sent me messages of support and have been very kind. I have made a good friend in Russia, who has been helping to spread the word about Ontofield. There are others too, Prog DJ's at radio stations like Jim Lawson at Cuillin FM and Shaun Geraghty at Stafford Radio's The Prog Mill as well as Prog Archives, Wouter from the Dutch Treat at Jawdy's Basement and of course yourself! There's also Prog Streaming and Progwereld, PRM Radio and Prog Palace etc.


Of course, there is the downside of the internet, such as some unprincipled folk downloading the music and sharing it illegally, but I am no Canute character; let those dice fall where they will. I won't spend any energy getting upset over it. Each man has to answer to themselves.


JL: Lastly then if you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have 5 discs with you – what would they be and why those ones?


JG: Kate Bush - The Kick Inside. Just the feeling it gives and the memories it evokes. A magical and seminal album…Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here. Could have easily been The Dark Side Of The Moon. Again, the memories and the themes and music are good to lose yourself in…Black Sabbath - Sabotage. Ozzy's voice, the music, the lyrics. The kaftan...Marillion - Script For A Jester's Tear. Again, memories. Just a fantastic album and for me, their best, alongside Real To Reel…Bob Dylan - Street Legal. Changing Of the Guard has some of the greatest poetic lyrics of any album ever, for me. It taught me the power that you could put into lyrics and words.


JL: John, thanks for taking the time to chat. All the best.