ORION TANGO Talk Debut Album, Influences & More

Orion Tango - Orion Tango - Orion Tango

Orion Tango is a power trio from Philadelphia with the line-up comprised from guitarist Tim Motzer, bassist Barry Meehan and drummer Jeremy Carlstedt. The band released their self-titled debut album in October via Motzer’s label 1k Recordings, and in the interview below the trio talks about the release, and future plans.

PROG SPHERE: Alright, first things first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, howʼs life? 

TIM MOTZER: Life is good with a tremendous amount of changes happening all around us that are keeping things moving forward and exciting. We have to be quick on our toes these days to keep it all moving forward. No time to stand still.

Speaking of new music, you recently released an album. Are you satisfied with the reception you received for “ORION TANGO” so far?

TIM MOTZER: Absolutely. The Orion Tango album has only been out for a short time, and thus far, people have really responded very enthusiastically to it. We’ve released a batch of limited edition CD’s all signed and numbered by the band of 100, of course, there are downloads, and unlimited editions available too. Quite a few prominent musicians in Philadelphia have told me how much they like the Orion Tango album, and that it is inspiring, which is fantastic! People seem to get it, and they are really digging the minimal cover design of the 3D pyramids with the belt of Orion in the sky. For us,the idea was this group wanting to play together and make our own music from our hearts and create in the moment. We are all improvisers. Most of what we all do is based around improvisation. It’s a crucial component with the musical luminaries that I’ve worked with, and, certainly with my projects on 1k recordings such as Base3, Goldbug, Instant Takemitsu. Another way of expressing this process is as instant composition. The three of us creating music together is something we love to do and we recognize that it’s a special chemistry.

Orion Tango - Orion Tango - cover

PROG SPHERE: What was it like working on the ORION TANGO album?

TIM MOTZER: Last year Jeremy suggested that we start a band so we can play more together. We invited our long-time friend/collaborator/bassist Barry Meehan, and talked about going in to the studio to play and record and see what would materialize. We’ve played for years together on various sessions and projects, but never made a record or had a band together. As it turned out, It was a great session, recorded by engineer Eric Bogacz at 1k in Philadelphia. The remarkable thing about the session is that we played one song after the next, improvising. What you hear on the record is what happened. Lot’s of ESP in the band. It was just the 3 of us playing live in the studio. No punch ins, or overdubs. It’s an impressive document of the band at this stagethat demonstrates what we sound like live because it’s totally performed live. One of the keys in the sound of this record is we all played in the same space together with no isolation. Controlled leakage—but the leakage tends to be the glue. The vibe was there in the studio, it was magical. Everyone did their thing, and it’s a unified sound. Eric captured it beautifully. We did very little production, aside from adding ADT to the end of ‘Orion Tango’, and a bit of EQ and compression, so it’s not heavy handed in that regard at all. It was a very natural process.

BARRY MEEHAN: We usually take an informal approach, with the hope of “calling the spirits,” as I like to call it. It keeps things free… It’s easier to loosen up that way and let things happen. We set up and play together in the room as a live band would at a show. The formality is mostly in the technical end of catching the performance. As for what it was like, I am often not sure if anything truly good happens as we are doing it. As an example, I felt very non-committal while cutting “Find Your Happy Place”—some pieces are obvious as the energy is palpable… I love the idea of found music… the proof is in the listening!

JEREMY CARLSTEDT: After so many years of improvising together, it always feels effortless to make music with Tim and Barry. It helps that Tim has his own studio—we don’t have to watch the clock so it’s a more natural setting to allow the inspiration to arrive. Plus, Philly has amazing food and drinks so when the tape isn’t rolling we are usually having a great craft beer and talking about our favorite records and musicians.

Guitarist Tim Motzer

PROG SPHERE: Are there any touring plans in support to “ORION TANGO”?

TIM MOTZER: We’ve played a debut show, thus far, part of a progressive rock series in Dunellen, NJ called NJProgHouse, which was great. The audience reacted favorably to us. They were generous listeners who apparently appreciated what we did. They even asked us to play an encore. Pretty nice on our first time out as Orion Tango. One listener said it was “one of the best gigs he’d ever been to.” All that to say YES, we are ready to tour and play shows. It’s the whole point of this band. We have begun booking shows in the States, so over the next few months we expect to play in D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philly, NYC, and perhaps shows in Montreal, and Toronto. The thing about this band is we are a “live band,” and it’s quite a sound to hear and witness what we do. It’s powerful evocative stuff. Orion Tango is all about evolving, so as we play more shows and explore this music, the excitement will be to see how this band develops. We are not ruling anything out, and possibly even vocals will make their way in, as we are all singers and songwriters too. Our next show is on WXPN for their series called The Key Sessions where they record bands in their studio and make the recording, video, interviews, and photos available on their website, as well as via broadcast.

PROG SPHERE: While weʼre on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

TIM MOTZER: We’ve all toured a great deal with other projects abroad. With Orion Tango, I would love to tour in Europe, Japan, UK, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Canada, among others. There’s quite a few stages I know that I’d love to play with this band. We love Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. If there are opportunities to do so, we’d love to play those places. Right now we are targeting cities close to home to get things rolling.

BARRY MEEHAN: I don’t feel alone in wanting to see Japan or, in fact, Italy. I have been to Portugal, Israel, Germany, England, France, Belgium, Finland, the world interests me in general, Spain, Norway. Book me! I’ll go!!!

JEREMY CARLSTEDT: I would be happy to tour any country that would have us! The experiences you get from spending time outside of your particular area are invaluable and I think most musicians appreciate learning about other cultures. Let’s go everywhere!

Bassist Barry Meehan

PROG SPHERE: Who and what inspires you the most?

BARRY MEEHAN: Jimi Hendrix from the start—an undying influence. The Beatles. progressive rock, still Chris Squire, Geezer Butler, John Wetton, John Paul Jones, Charlie Haden, Miles, Eno, Frippertronics and many more… Too many to mention, Mick Karn, Squarepusher, and Endtroducing: DJ Shadow, Kind of Blue, AfroRock vol 1, all the DJs in Philly from ’96-2006. I’ve heard many tracks that influenced me. Whew! Gotta stop!!!

TIM MOTZER: I agree there’s so much! The work of great artists, painters, photographers, designers, architects, writers, dancers, and of of course, musicians. They are the triggers that create spark. I’ve been inspired and still am by many of the great musicians of our time, Guitar- wise the list is a long one, one of the first was Jimi Hendrix for me. I can name many guitarists, like
Terje Rypdal, John Lee Hooker, Curtis Mayfield, Ali Farke Toure, Robert Fripp…it’s endless really. I have a list on the 1krecordings.com website that list’s over 100 of my favorite players. Others? Bill Bruford, Jon Hassell, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Zawinul, Ravi Shankar. It goes on and on. I am inspired by originals, originators, innovators, explorers and things that make me go ‘wow’!

JEREMY CARLSTEDT: I’ve had many musical mentors and I think what inspires me the most is that all these greats take time to have a nice meal, check out someone else’s music or spend time with family and friends. I’m inspired the most when I have a day that has a nice balance of these things. Some of my favorite drummers are, of course, Chico Hamilton, and Elvin Jones for sure. Denis Charles, Tony Williams, Billy Higgins, and a few more, but most influential is Chico. What he taught me helped me to hear Elvin Jones better. Papa Jo Jones. All those cats listened to Papa Jo, and Sonny Greer.

Drummer Jeremy Carlstedt

PROG SPHERE: What other genres of music do you listen to?

JEREMY CARLSTEDT: I’d say lots of jazz and classic rock, but much world music as well. When I meet someone not from the US I’ll often ask who the best musicians are in that country so I can have something new to check out. I’ve always enjoyed prog music because it embraces many genres – anything goes.

BARRY MEEHAN: Trance, chill, ambient, EDM, Afrobeat, Reggae, classical, Jazz, pop, prog rock, blues,… Pretty much anything.

TIM MOTZER: I collect vinyl, and have a massive eclectic record collection, so that’s a big part of my listening routine. I listen to all kinds of music from blues, rock, soul, jazz, funk, classical, avant garde, ambient, electronic, prog, rock, world music, music of india, music from Mali and Nigeria, minimalism… I love the music from the German label ECM. I’ve been listening to their output for many years…again, it’s endless!

PROG SPHERE: Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

TIM MOTZER: I think it all makes an impact. What ever you hear affects you and your music somehow for sure.

PROG SPHERE: I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else youʼd like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

TIM MOTZER: We’d like to say we hope you enjoy the Orion Tango record, and hopefully we will play in your city soon. Our agent, Dee Hessler is on the case, and is looking out for us. Please visit the 1krecordings site, you can find the Orion Tango album there, along with a whole lot of interesting music. Happy listening!

Orion Tango’s self-titled debut album is available now from 1k Recordings. Follow the band on Facebook for future updates.

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