In the enchanting world of progressive rock, an Australian guitarist and songwriter named Carl Belle embarked on a musical journey deeply rooted in his childhood memories. Growing up surrounded by the melodies of classical music and the intricate sounds of progressive rock, Carl’s destiny was set in motion by the echoes of his father’s favorite prog tunes resonating from an old Marantz record player.
The pivotal moment arrived when the enchanting notes of “Everyday” from Spectral Mornings (Steve Hackett) and the profound impact of “Parallels” from Going for the One (Yes) ignited a fire within Carl. Thus, the desire to wield the guitar was born, leading him to traverse the vast landscapes of progressive rock.
Fast forward to the present, and we find ourselves delving into the intricate layers of Carl Belle’s recent project, Elias, and their sophomore album “Atlas.” A journey that not only reflects his musical prowess but also serves as a testament to the challenges and triumphs faced during its creation.
The album unveils a compelling narrative, with each track intricately connected by musical chicanery. “Atlas” is not just a collection of songs but a cohesive exploration of emotions and themes, all centered around the prevalent theme of anxiety.
As Carl recounts, “The title of the album Atlas refers to the titan from Greek mythology who was destined to support the weight of the heavens for all eternity.” This burden, mirroring the weight of the world within our minds, becomes the muse for a musical expression that oscillates between uplifting and bleak, much like the ebb and flow of anxious thoughts.
The creative process behind “Atlas” was a daunting challenge, intensified by the circumstances of the early Covid-19 years in Melbourne. With over 270 days of lockdown, Carl, accompanied by his family, navigated the writing process amidst the confines of a small house. The experience, though tumultuous, shaped the album, making it a reflection of resilience and creativity in the face of adversity.
One of the standout tracks, “Blind Mary,” featured on “Progstravaganza: Harmony in Complexity” compilation, unravels a poignant story inspired by an encounter with an elderly blind lady struggling to reach Christmas Eve carols. Carl’s guitar weaves a musical tapestry around this encounter, capturing the essence of a devout woman losing her sight and the irony of a supposedly kind institution showing hostility to a helping stranger.
Intriguingly, “Atlas” introduces guest musicians, a challenge that required writing parts for each collaborator, including talents like Alex Machacek, Derek Sherinian, and Dewa Budjana. The album’s richness is elevated by these collaborations, and as Carl humbly notes, placing his solos alongside theirs exposes the imperfections in his technique.
The underlying theme of anxiety echoes not only in the music but in Carl’s guitar playing, a rush to complete tasks, reflecting the struggles of carrying the weight of the universe in one’s mind. This anxiety, however, becomes the driving force, a source of inspiration channeled into the music, creating a sonic journey that mirrors the artist’s inner landscape.
As Carl navigates the intricate world of progressive rock, his influences come to the fore. Guitarists like Wes Thrailkill, whose album “Everything That is You” served as a catalyst for Carl to pick up the guitar again, become guiding lights. The fusion of jazz and metal, the rhythmic complexity of Animals as Leaders, and the influence of drummers like Marco Minnemann shape Carl’s musical identity.
Yet, the journey of an artist in the progressive rock scene is not without challenges. The pressure to improve, the struggle to reach listeners’ ears, and the isolation of solo work are constant hurdles. Carl reflects on the difficulty of finding reliable collaborators and the personal battles with imposter syndrome and anxiety, seeking insights from those who may have faced similar challenges.
As the conversation drifts towards the evolving music scene, Carl acknowledges the immense talent permeating social media platforms. The convergence of jazz and metal intrigues him, with musicians pushing boundaries and creating stunning results. The underground scene’s continual evolution promises a rich musical landscape for the future.
Amidst the challenges and triumphs, Carl Belle reflects on the most memorable moments of his musical journey. The release of “Atlas” stands out as a major highlight, a culmination of artistic battles and collaborations that shaped a sonic masterpiece. The relief of completing the album, coupled with the honor of having talented guests contribute, marks a significant milestone in Carl’s career.
Among his compositions, “Blind Mary” holds a special place, but the closing track, “Bob Dudeface,” with its twists and turns and a stellar piano cameo by Mike ‘Mad Mikey’ Kennett, captures Carl’s admiration. The joy of listening to the final product and the gratitude for the talented contributors become poignant memories in Carl’s musical journey.
Looking ahead, Carl hints at upcoming projects, including animated shorts for each track off “Atlas.” The fusion of filmmaking and music continues to be a creative outlet, challenging his computer’s capabilities. A new guitar for the next album and a return to first principles for technique refinement are on the horizon, with the promise of taking time and breaking patterns.
As the interview enters the quickfire round, Carl unveils his dream collaboration, envisioning a super band with Dave Weckl, Alan Pasqua, Greg Howe, and Chase Bryant. The desire to master the keys/piano reflects a broader musical palette. His all-time favorite progressive rock album remains “Going for the One” by Yes, drawing listeners to the mesmerizing allure of “Parallels.”
Beyond the realm of music, Carl’s background in condensed matter physics and his interest in data and science find their way into his music. Scientific methodology influences his approach to learning and practicing, emphasizing the value of time and optimization.
In a final message to fans discovering his music through the compilation, Carl expresses gratitude. The listeners, feedback, and support from those who share their experiences energize solo artists to persevere. He urges everyone to take care of their mental health, emphasizing the importance of self-care and the reassurance that no one has to face challenges alone.
And so, the story of Carl Belle, the Australian progressive rock guitarist and songwriter, unfolds. A tale of influences, challenges, triumphs, and an unwavering passion for creating music that resonates with the complexity of the human experience. As he continues his journey, weaving sonic landscapes and pushing the boundaries of his art, listeners are invited to join the adventure, discover the nuances of “Atlas,” and embrace the evolving tapestry of progressive rock.
Elias on the web: