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SPOCK'S BEARD


Spock's Beard - A Little Chin Music


By Dark Starr

How many progressive rock bands can you think of who are named for the facial hair of a science fiction character? Well, the only one that I can come up with is Spock’s Beard. The band may not be "A" list, but they have a loyal and rather rabid (at least in terms of prog rock) fan base. I’d have to say that of the wave of bands that came after Marillion only Dream Theater probably has a bigger following. Long time main Bearder Neal Morse left the band a few years back to pursue a career in Christian music – albeit prog rock based Christian music. Considering that he was the songwriter, lead singer and much more for Spock’s Beard, lesser musicians might have hung up the hat. Not so with the Beard. Drummer Nick D’Virgilio took over the vocal duties and the whole band contributed songwriting. I had a chance to run some questions by Dave Meros and Alan Morse (Neal’s brother).


Wormwood Chronicles: I know that a lot of people had their doubts about the band after Neal Morse left. Was there ever any question in your minds as to if you could carry on or not? What else went through your heads at that point?

Dave Meros: Absolutely.The band had been pretty much all Neal up until the day he left. He wrote all the material, sang all the songs, did a lot of the organizational work. So sure, we had no idea what would happen when we decided to carry on without him. .. could we write prog songs, could Nick sing lead, what would we do for a drummer when we played shows, will the record company drop us, etc, etc. The only thing that we didn't question was that we liked playing together and we wanted to give it our best shot.

Alan Morse: We weren't really sure if we could pull it off, but we didn't want to quit, so we went for it. Seems like it turned out OK so far.

WC: How has the audience response been to the new incarnation of the band?

DM: Really good, actually. Not much change at all. I think that even though we've changed our sound and focus a little bit, we still appeal to the same general group of people.

AM: It's been good, most of our fans have stuck with us & we've gotten some new ones.It's very cool, we've got the best fans in the world!

WC: What would you say the challenges have been to keeping the Beard alive without Neal Morse?

DM: At this point, it's the same challenges that every band has. That is, to write good material, make good CDs and sell lots of them, try to get people in to see shows, etc. Added to that are the new challenges that we didn't have to face before of dealing with a Democracy. Everybody in the band writes, and we all have different styles, but yet we have to make it all fit within the framework of a single band. It has worked out pretty well, but that's something we didn't have to deal with at all when Neal wrote everything.

AM: Well, we have to do more writing. It can be difficult working more democratically. But ultimately I think it's more satisfying.

WC: Do you think he might ever work with the band again?

DM: I doubt it, but never say never, right? It would be a lot like getting back together with an ex wife. Even after an amicable divorce, it would still be a bit odd. But it happens.

AM: Not likely, we're doing our thing & he's doing his. It would be pretty weird.


WC: Are there still musicians out there you'd like to play with, but haven't had the chance?

DM: That's like asking me if there are still girls I'd like to date. Sure, all of the good ones, just so it didn't create any stress, and especially if they picked up the tab.

AM: Yeah, loads. Some of us got to do a gig with Chris Squire a bit ago, that was a gas! Playing all that classic Yes stuff, wow, what a dream come true. Plus I had Jerry Goodman play on my solo CD, that was awesome. I wouldn't mind jamming a bit with Paul McCartney, maybe you can put in a word with him for me?

WC: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

DM: That's very hard to determine.I'm inclined to say that it's a slight negative. On the one hand, legal downloading provides product to anybody anywhere who has an internet connection, so it opens up a lot of markets and makes it super easy to reach vast numbers of people. We have iTunes sales in South Africa and New Zealand, for example, and we don't have physical distribution there.So that increases sales.

On the other hand, we do lose lots of sales from illegal downloading and bootlegging (I'd guess that at least 80% of our sales from eBay merchants are bootlegs). And there is also such an enormous amount of content on the internet now that even though you are just a mouse click away from any band on earth, it's back to good old fashioned promotion to get your name above the sea of other names.

As far as direct CD sales, I'm pretty sure that it's a negative. Sales of CDs are down across the industry. But iTunes, Rhapsody, etc, are doing great.

The downside for the record companies in regards to download sites is that people don't have to buy the whole CD, they can just download their two or three favorite tracks for $.99 each. So that adds to the loss of revenue, even if all the downloading was from legal sites.

AM: Well, it's a blessing and a curse.If it weren't for the Internet, Spock's Beard probably wouldn't have gotten very far. But it definitely cuts into sales, makes it hard to make any money at it.Especially at our level, it's pretty tough.Then again, I don't think our fans do it that much, I think they appreciate what we're trying to do & want to support us. And if it weren't for discussion groups, chat rooms & email, nobody would have ever heard of us.So it cuts both ways...

WC: It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales... would you agree?

DM: Again, hard to tell. If everyone were like me, I could say that it isn't a problem at all. Since mainstream radio and video broadcasts are so generic these days, it's impossible to check out great new stuff unless you can sample it first, and that would be by downloading it.When someone tells me that I really need to check out a certain band, I'll download a couple samples, and then if I like it, I will definitely go out and buy it.I wouldn't buy it sight unseen, so in my case, it boosts sales.I will always buy what I like because besides the ethical issues, I like the physical CD, the artwork, and all that.Plus, MP3s sound horrible, so I want the real thing.

WC: In a related question, how do you feel about fans taping and trading live shows?

DM: Personally, I don't mind at all when people make audio or video recordings of our shows and put it up on a bit torrent site or on YouTube. But it's when they start bootlegging our official releases that I start feeling ripped off.

AM: I'm not too crazy about it, mainly because I'd like to have some control over what shows get distributed. Sometimes you just have a rough night, you know? You'd rather not have everybody on the net listening to it, thinking that's what you usually sound like.But you can't really stop it, so what can you do?

WC: How would you describe your music?

DM: Party Prog


AM: Loud, long & complicated!

WC: What kind of touring plans do you have?

DM: We have a few dates in the U.S. at the end of April, then a three week Europe tour in May. After that we will probably try to add a few more U.S. dates in somewhere. ..

AM: We're doing a few US dates & then coming to Europe in May. Looking forward to playing Budapest & Vienna for the first time.Looking forward to meeting some new fans there!

WC: What else is on your agenda for the near (and maybe not so near) future?

DM: Besides the upcoming tour, we'll of course be writing new material for the next CD (#10!!).

AM: We don't really have any plans beyond the upcoming tour.There is some talk about some festival dates, but it's just talk at this point.

WC: These next couple we tend to ask of everyone. The first two sort of showcase musician as music fan. First, what was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?

DM: The last CD I bought was a Clutch CD (because of a YouTube video that someone sent me a link for). I've been listening to a lot of Porcupine Tree and Tool lately as well.

AM: The last CD I bought was "First Last Kiss" by Tony Desare. He's this kind of retro Sinatra kind of dude I heard on NPR. Sounded kind of cool, thought my wife might like it & liked it so...

WC: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

DM: Honestly, I don't get out to concerts too much any more, but I did go see Brian Auger's Oblivion Express a couple weeks ago, and he was just incredible.Great band, too.

AM: I went to see Jeff Beck at the House of Blues in Hollywood. It was the first time I ever saw him live! Man, that guy's sick, one of my favorite guitar players of all time.It was great!

WC: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?

AM: Just like to say thanks to all of our fans for sticking with us, hope to see you all out on the road some time!

Nuclear Blast's Website

Spock's Beard's Official Website