It’s always a great pleasure to come into a great band from a country that is usually overlooked when it comes to the Progressive Rock genre. One of such countries is Bulgaria, and one of such groups is an instrumental, experimental trio Future Was Perfect, whose great self-titled debut album we’ve reviewed on our pages already. The band was recently featured on our ‘Progotronics I‘ compilation, and is currently one of the leading bands in our Android app‘s monthly playlist. Having said this all, we are definitely big fans of FWP, so the interview below with guitarist and keyboardist Hristo Penev comes as a great pleasure for our staff, but also for the people who look for something interesting and new.
Define the mission of Future Was Perfect.
Future was Perfect is a group of friends with similar tastes in music and art in general. We are on a mission to make an inspiring, high class prog that is not bounded by a particular style. The main idea behind our debut album is to tell a story, with each piece revealing some part of it, all together forming a concept album, similar to an audio screenplay or an abstract soundtrack to a film.
Usually everything starts with a basic idea of a guitar riff or a piano lick by me or the other guitarist in the band – Rosen Zahariev. Then if that idea is of any good we put it down as a score (guitar tabulature) and start to develop it by adding more instruments and textures to the harmony. We get together in the rehearsal room and play throughout those ideas. After a lot of composition, arrangement and reworking efforts the basic structure of the track is finally laid down. Then it is time for the bass parts done by Kaloyan Mihalev. Drums came last in our productions, since we had struggled a bit to find a diligent and skilled enough drummer to compose and play his parts.
Your mixture of progressive rock, jazz fusion and ethnic motifs makes it for a very enjoyable listening experience. What drives you in the first place to create this type of sound? How much of a challenge is it to put this together?
All of us in Future was Perfect love so many different music genres – from jazz and classical music to more harsh styles like black metal & djent. For us this is the essence of Progressive music – mixing it all together without setting any boundaries. Our main inspiration for the album was the classical Prog Rock scene of the ’70s and more recent artists like Steven Wilson & Opeth. That’s why we’ve added keyboard instruments like the mighty Mellotron, Hammond Organ and Fender Rhodes to the main sound force of the recordings – the guitars. We were totally after that old-school, vintage sounding album inspired by the Golden Era of Prog, but with a more modern approach to it. Another important fact is that here in Bulgaria we’ve got a strong heritage in folklore music, which is mostly based on odd time signatures – 7/8 (used in the track “Shadow Dance”), 9/8, 11/8 etc. So all of our influences came in naturally together to form the overall sound and concept for the album.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
Right from the start in early 2014, we were notating all our ideas as a musical score. Writing down our ideas was slowing down the creative process a bit and it may seem to some people as if it is not the “rock’n’roll” way to do it, but for our purposes it proved to be the best possible choice there is. We’re really happy that we did it that way. The biggest advantage of having your music written out with the aid of a music notation software is that we could easily determine what instruments and elements of the harmony work well with one another and what parts of the track would not sound appropriate. Once we had the backbone of each track settled (that is the guitar parts), we gave ourselves total freedom in experimenting with all kinds of keyboard instruments – mostly the Mellotron. In our opinion the end result was a harmonically rich and homogenous sounding album.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected? Do you guys just sit and start jamming?
We love jamming; starting each rehearsal with some good jamming is already a tradition, but when it comes to creating music, we tend to take a totally different approach – to carefully craft each piece. Usually the starting ideas given by me or Rosen, are then utterly explored and developed – either at home or during rehearsals. We do a lot of reworks until everybody is totally happy with the material. The goal is everything to be executed exactly as planned.
Describe the approach to recording the album.
Once the compositions were settled as final, we put a month or so in a careful pre-production and planning for the initial recordings. First of all, the focus was on crafting the sound of the main driving force behind the album – guitars and drums. Then the bass and drums tones and lastly all the Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ and Mellotron sounds were chosen. After that we sketched a time schedule for the recording sessions. Only then we were ready to start. It was a very helpful and productive process planning out all the aspects of the recordings like this, because once in the studio everybody could relax and keep their minds on the most important thing in every recording session there is – playing your absolute best.
How long Future Was Perfect (album) was in the making?
3 months – from late November 2015 till February 2016. The mix and mastering took several more months and the album was finally ready for an official release date on 9th Dec 2016.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?
Each one of us has his own musical heroes. We’ve got quite diverse influences from one another and we think that’s the key for the fine mixture of styles in Future was Perfect’s debut album. If we had to mention some names, they’d be people like Steven Wilson, Opeth, Riverside, Deadsoul Tribe, Russian Circles, Cloudkicker and jazz gurus like Miles Davis, Esbjorn Svenson Trio, Marcus Miler, Al di Meola and many, many more.
What is your view on technology in music?
We love it! We totally embrace computers and virtual studio technology in our music, although it may not be that obvious. Our goal is to take the best of both worlds – the analog and the digital one. First of all, our approach to the recording of the instruments is totally old school – “commit to a sound,” meaning no re-amping, “fix it in the mix” or leaving space for modifications later on in the process. Then, on the other hand, thanks to the new technology that is available, we were fortunate enough to lay our hands on virtual recreations of iconic keyboards that otherwise we would not be able to. Finally, recording on a computer these days brings great, professional sounding results and also doing it in our home studio makes the process quite easy, less stressful and cheaper, compared to hiring a big professional studio.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
The concept behind the album is based on Retro Futurism. This is a sub-genre in Sci-Fi literature, cinema and art that describes how the people in a past period envisioned the future, predicting technological advancements way bigger then actually possible. A good example of this is the second part of the “Back to the Future” trilogy where from 1985’s standpoint, the futuristic year of 2015 is imagined with flying cars, hoverboards, self-cooking meals, video calls and etc. Such retro futuristic ideas are the main driving force behind our music compositions and are also represented through the artwork of our debut album (done by Rada Kratchanova & Sofia Kratchanova). The album comes as a digipack CD that unfolds an urban landscape from the 1930s and on the front cover stands an android, a rightful member of the society. If we are to speak about a deeper meaning regarding the message of the album, it would be the appeal to all of us as human beings not to trust blindly everything that is presented to us. Think more and don’t believe anyone who promises a certain “perfect” future, that eventually would never come.
Recommend us some great Prog bands from Bulgaria that we should check out.
Unfortunately, here in Bulgaria, Prog is not that popular but we could mention some high quality bands like Mental Architects, Yuvigi, Morrum, Alexandra Zerner, Pantomind, Kalin Tonev.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re about to do several gigs here in Bulgaria in the next few months and hopefully abroad too. Another thing is that we’ve already started working on a second album, also a concept one, so when it’s done Prog Sphere will be the first ones to hear it.
Future Was Perfect’s self-titled album is available now as digital download and Limited Edition Digipack from Bandcamp. Follow the band on Facebook, and download our Progotronics I compilation where Future Was Perfect is featured with a song “Traces Unknown.”