Daymoon interview

Daymoon is a “regressive rock” band led by Fred Lessing, hailing from Sintra, Portugal. The band’s debut album called All Tomorrows was recently completed after seven years working on it. Post-produced by Mr. Andy Tillison of The Tangent, the album appears as a pretender to conquer your mind and heart.

Nick: Hello, Fred! Thanks for agreeing on this interview for Prog Sphere. Let’s introduce the band Daymoon to the people around the world. Would you mind telling us how your story began?

Fred: At its very roots was a band that I played in here in Portugal, called Dead Landscape. We made what we called then ‘symphonic rock’ – the word ‘prog’ was unknown to us. That was in the early 80s, but the Portuguese market at the time was not receptive at all to more ambitious types of pop music, like ours. So the band disbanded in the mid-80s, and I went into playing early and baroque music for almost a decade. In the mid-nineties, I started recording music again under the pseudonym ‘Daymoon’, with guest musicians from around the world. All of this worked by sharing files via the Internet, and some of those songs ended up on our debut album. By 2007, the Daymoon project turned into a proper band, with whom I recorded much of All Tomorrows, and we’ve been performing live now since 2009.

Nick: There is an interesting thing about the band. Namely, you describe your music as ‘regressive rock’. Why is that?

Fred: There are several reasons: any kind of music is derivative, and so of course is ours. In fact, we make no conscious effort to create ‘new’ music, we simply let anything flow into our music, regardless of from what period it is. Also, many of our texts have a certain psychological component to them, and regression is the most important tool in psychoanalysis. And of course, the older we grow as people, the more we regress into our own pasts…

Nick: Speaking of music, you released an album this year called All Tomorrows. Tell us why it took seven years to complete.

Fred:  Quite a lot of years indeed. The foremost reason was that the initial recordings – done at my own, not too shabby, home studio, and by musicians across the world – were in a poor shape technically speaking. So I had to gather local musicians to redo all the base tracks, and that of course took ages again. Plus, when Andy Tillison eventually started post-producing the album, he still found a lot of flawed stuff, so we had to return to the studio yet again and fix what needed fixing.

Nick: Another interesting detail about the album is that it was post-produced by Andy Tillison of The Tangent fame. How did you hook up with him? I believe you are a fan of The Tangent, so for the record, tell us what is your favorite Tangent album?

Fred:  Yes, I’m definitely a Tangent fan! In fact, a German prog site called an album that I did with a previous project that I was in (Mispel Bellyful) a ‘sort of counterpart’ to The Tangent. Anyway, I was introduced to Andy by Ian Oakley, at the time The Tangent’s manager. Ian really liked our music, and suggested I ask Andy to tame the messy beast that the album was back then. Andy took on this challenge, and it took us both more than two years to put order into chaos. I must add that without Andy, this album wouldn’t be half of what it eventually became.

Nick: Let’s talk about the music presented on All Tomorrows. It’s evident that in general the album’s structure is pretty diverse. There is a vast field of influences that can be heard during the album’s playtime. Musically, what was your guideline in the writing process? What served you as inspiration to come up with some of the particular songs?

Fred:  All the song-writing is mine, and I’m known to be an inconsistent person, so it would be impossible for me not to write inconsistent music. In fact, I like inconsistent music! One of my very first favourite songs ever was ‘Flick of the Wrist’ by Queen, and I couldn’t get enough of the quirkiness and initially incomprehensive nature of that song. Even today, I get almost immediately bored by albums that sound the same throughout. Hence, I simply write the kind of music that I like, and what I hope will give people pleasure to listen to repeatedly. Some songs, like Marrakech, have hardly any repetitions in them at all, I like to think of them as mini-epics, so to speak. Others of course are straightforward (and probably very regressive) pop music, like News From the Outside. On the other hand, I often try to create a mental landscape by musically illustrating my lyrics, e.g., in several sections of Human Again and Arklow, I tried to underscore –  or in places even ridicularise – my lyrics. In Sorry, Thomas and Mats of Isildurs Bane took this approach even further, and transformed my recordings into a strange kind of theatre play. So what I hope to be giving our listeners, is a chance to sit back, close their eyes and travel without leaving home.

Nick: For the recording duties of All Tomorrows, you gathered up a group of musicians. Did they contribute in the album’s shaping or did you shape and compose the entire thing?

Fred:  I composed everything, but as with any music involving several people, all Daymoon band members and guest musicians improved my original guidelines, scores and guide vocals vastly. A few examples are TranscendenZ, that is shaped intensely by the three soloists in it. Or Bell Jar, that was originally a slightly floydish tune that I wrote back in the early 80s, and Andy redid more than half of the orchestration, giving it a much more modern and intense sound. First Rain was an instrumental at first, but then Portuguese metal-ambience progger Hugo Flores took a poem of mine and made up his own vocal lines. The two woodwind and reeds people on the album besides myself also recorded a few short free solos, but mostly they followed my composition. So, on the whole the album as it is, is my own crippled brainchild, improved upon by its performers.

Nick: In the album’s info on your website you state that the people will have to cope with “your crappy vocals and incoherent writing style“. I just don’t see what’s wrong here. Actually, my opinion is that your vocals fit very good with the rest of album. We would all agree that Andy Tillison is (probably) not the best vocalist out there, but still, it’s HIS vocals that make The Tangent identified in the world of prog rock and music in general. Do you have any comments on this?

Fred: I sang less than half of the stuff on the album as I’m not a particularly good singer – I lack dynamics and vocal range, and my singing is often pitchy. In fact, I’ve had singing lessons for a year now as my stage debut as a lead singer for my band was pretty disastrous. Today I feel more confident about my voice, and our next band album will feature more of my own vocals.

Nick: On the lyrical side, All Tomorrows is filled with love. Would you mind telling us about that aspect of the album and how you reflected upon it during the writing process?

Fred: Most of the lyrics are snapshots across 27 years of my emotional life with my wife, starting at the very beginning (News From The Outside), when she dragged me out of a very dark pit in my life and carried me through all those years right until now. And yet, it was only a few years ago that I realised that love is not something one can take for granted. It is a conscious decision, like others decide to give themselves to religion. It requires one to understand the other person as deeply as we can, and to accept fully the sum of what the other person is. And after many years, if we are lucky, we may be able to love the sum of what a whole life together has been, and is still becoming. In 2009, my wife was diagnosed with colon cancer, which has since metastesised and become terminal now. As such, both the album title and the song The Sum have acquired a whole new meaning, as our All Tomorrows together are finite now.

Nick: Beside All Tomorrows, there are three unreleased albums prior this one. What can you tell us about these releases? Are they available to the public?

Fred: They’re nothing but a beginner’s attempts to record music using a PC. I redid two of those old songs (Bell Jar and Marrakech) for this album. If anyone is really interested, I share Chronicles for free – they can simply write to me at [email protected]. It’s my musical autobiography, and not much prog is on it. The drums are all keyboard or computer-generated, and the recordings are pretty sloppy. Still there are few good songs on it, and it even got a partially good review on a prog site.

Nick: How does it look for Daymoon when it comes to concerts? Do you have many chances to play live and promote your music?

Fred: We’ve been playing live since 2009, with a long break in the middle – our material is really hard to play live, so after an initial false start, we stopped for a year to fine-tune the band and the live versions of the songs. This year we’ve performed three times, which is quite a feat when you make non-commercial music in Portugal. Some songs have been arranged differently for the stage, mostly to fit my voice as we don’t have the guest singers on stage with us, and some solo sections have been changed too to suit especially our live guitarist’s playing style. But still it is very difficult to make our kind of music in a small country like Portugal, where venue owners cannot afford to have a small audience, and the media as well as labels categorically refuse any music that does not follow the latest fads or any sellable pattern. Plus, our band is rather big – we’re seven on stage, with heaps of acoustic instruments, and tons of electric and electronic instruments, so we need a fairly large stage, and can’t really play impromptu, as most other bands do. Still, for early next year we’re planning to organise a prog festival in our home town Sintra, together with the local authorities, and that’s bound to be fun.

Nick: The latest news from the band say that you are working on the new album which will be called Fabric of Space Divine. How does it seem to be so far? Structurally, is it any different from All Tomorrows?

Fred: Fabric of Space Divine is less complex musically speaking, more melodic, and it’s a concept album. Actually, as large a concept as I could make up, as it spans the entire history of the universe. It’s divided into three rather long tracks, the first one covering the evolution so far of the universe and life on earth, with some rather experimental sections. The second track features a lot of world music (but not only), and is a look at some of the systems of belief throughout human history. And the third one, much of it tending towards progressive rock, is the hypothetical evolution of life in the future, to the very end of the cosmos. Tracks 1 and 3 are loosely based on the ideas of British hard scifi writer Stephen Baxter (who actually heard a very early version of the album), and track 2 in parts on Histoire Générale de Dieu, by Gerald Messadié. Of the current Daymoon members, only I and the drummer are on the album, all others are guest musicians from across the world. The sound quality is much better though than All Tomorrows, so we hope we’ll be able to cope with all the production work ourselves. The album is currently ready for the final drums to be recorded, so we should be able to release it this year still.

Nick: What are your further plans?

Fred: Right now, we hope to collect enough money to get All Tomorrows printed as a proper CD, and we’ll release Fabric of Space Divine later this year. We’re also writing new songs for our third studio album, which will take us a year or so. As for the future after that, I know now that, like so much else, making music is nothing but vanity, and I have no clue as to what life has planned for me. For my own enjoyment, I can only hope that I’ll be able to make music for many more years.

Nick: Is there anything you would love to add at the end of this interview?

Fred: Many thanks for giving me this chance to ramble senselessly :) And many thanks too for keeping non-commercial music alive!

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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