ARAN PROG PROJECT: In a Progressive Key

Aran Prog Project

Multinational prog project ARAN has recently launched a concept album entitled “EVO – A Progressive Journey.” Founder, songwriter, and bassist Massimiliano Gentilini spoke for Prog Sphere about it.

Define the mission of Aran Prog Project.

I think that Aran’s mission is to find new ways in the progressive world to explore with music and sensations. We try to create original art mixing between already existing kinds of music like Rock, Metal, Funk, Jazz, EDM…. all of them, united in a progressive key. I like to think that our purpose is to broke the classic rock or metalhead (or Proghead, better said) stereotypes, that different musical languages can live together in the same project.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your new release “EVO – A Progressive Journey,” and topics it explores.

EVO has been created in a 3 years process (thank you Covid….), from 2018 to 2021, recording first the singles one by one, and then finally publishing the whole setlist as it was thought in the beginning, a concept album, this year.

All the songs have been written and produced by me (Massimiliano “MarFi” Gentilini, Bass player), but it has been recorded with a total number of 20 guest musicians from all around the world of progressive music and I think that’s why you can hear in each song of our album a unique mix of sounds and performers.

The artistic concept of having an album where each song defines a different Era of the planet Earth and the universe, and the evolutionist concept in it has been inspired by the album “Darwin” of the great Italian progressive bands “Banco del mutuo soccorso”. The idea of relating history and music is due also to my big passion for Iron Maiden, a band that always loved to give history lessons with their songs and albums, I really love that, art and culture together as one.


How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I wrote all the songs, first with sheet music editing softwares (like Guitar Pro and Sibellius). Writing all the instruments by myself in the beginning of the project has been a real challenge, but I loved to learn and understand how each instrument works on Aran’s songs, little by little.

Next steep, I created a demo with virtual instruments (exporting midis from the editing software, and trying to recreate the best I can the true sound I want), and on this demo we recorded drums, bass and rhythm guitars. Then all the rest of instruments, one by one.

When you work with so many artists, some of them remotely, you really have to be patient and at the same time never lost the direction you want the song to take.

At last, we usually recorded the solos from most of the guest in the last part of the recording phase of the album, some of them a few week before the release.

I have to say that, even if our music is all written in a sheet, I always told the musicians that I prefer if the interpretate the song in the most organic way they see, and not just reading the sheet. Sometimes, forget about what is written and just fell it is the best way to produce music, in my opinion, and I wanted that every guest on the album gave their artistic part contributing with what they were best at. Choosing the right person to play the right song is the thing to do right, the rest came by itself.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Sure. The first song is about the Origin of the universe, then you can listen to the representation of the creation of planets and life on earth on the second song, “The expansion of matter”. Third song is about “Cambrian”, an Era knew for its massive extinctions between species, about 450.000 years ago. Then we pass through the jazzy sound of the “Reptile era”, the era of dinosaurs, and the last before the coming of mammals and humans. Last two song on the album are about the arrival of the man on Earth, and the decadence that we gave (and we give) to our planet, with some comic mention to rednecks and fascism problem.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

The album has been recorded starting from my ideas, and then recording the musicians one by one, starting from drums and the the rest of the instruments. Some of them were recorded in different studios here in Barcelona (Spain), like Sureau Studio and Chicago Ways Studio. Many others, like our very special guest on drums, Mr. Cameron Fleury, recorded remotely from Canada. So, we have tried to take advantage of what was the reality at the time of the pandemic, and decided to work remotely as much as possible, so as not to have to repeatedly stop recording due to pandemic restrictions. Luckily those days seem to be over for now, and we already have a fixed line-up of musicians and several scheduled live events.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

Dream theater and the Neal Morse band are the first to come in my mind when I think of inspiration. Last decade Neal Morse’s works like “Similitude of a dream” are really what I think can be the top of progressive productions nowadays and I simply adore it. But I also listen a lot to many classic prog rock bands that I really love and I think you can recognize clearly in the album like Rush, Yes, ELP, PFM…. For the Metal side, what bands like Haken, Leprous, VOLA, Thank you scientist and Mastodon have done with Prog Metal is what I think is the way we should follow, with no limit or prejudice of what you’re doing or what you think this kind of music need, but just what you feel can fits better for your songs.

The albums has also afunk and jazz parts, inspired by 70’s and 80’s fusion bands that we used to play as students in modern music schools, like Jaco Pastorius and Weather report work, Chick Corea, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, just to name a few.

What is your view on technology in music?

I think that technology has always been closely related to music, but since 20 or 30 years ago we are living a very interesting revolution regarding musical technology. Technology has made much easier some of the processes on learning ad making music. For example, many of the keyboard tracks of our album has been recorded remotely from Rafa’s (Keyboardist) home studio, then sent to MarFi (Bass player and producer) and reviewed if needed. And so with all the rest of instruments. Also, technology has allowed many people to have access to recording material so they can develop the first stages of their musical projects at home, without need of going (and paying for it) to a professional studio. Probably we are living the best years for making music.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

As a professional musician, I always loved to think about my work like my objective is to make people happy. Or sad, but for sure, to transmit emotions. That is the only real purpose for a musician, I think. I believe music is a message (science says so too) and that we, as musicians, have the power to manipulate that message to make people fell in many different ways. And I fucking love that. People’s energy in a live is the best drug you can try, really.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, we published our first full album this year, and the idea is not to wait other 3 years to record the second one. In fact, our second album composing part is almost finished, ideas are there, we just need to define some details and, with a bit of luck, enter in the studio next year to start recording, but this time as a real band with stable members and not as an album made by session musicians and guests; I hope you will hear that in the results, I really think next album is going to be more mature and less experimental, even if we will still pursue the idea of not being just tied to stereotypes of one style of music.

Also, we’re preparing some concerts in the next months here in Spain to promote EVO, and a Prog festival for next year, so stay tuned my friends if you want to see Aran live.

Find more about ARAN PROG PROJECT here.

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