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Sea Talk with the Stick Man Tony Levin
How did you become part of the lineup for Cruise to the Edge 2014?
It almost came together the year before, for The Crimson ProjeKCt to play it, but that didn’t work out. So, for this year’s cruise I contacted the promoters and asked if Stick Men could be part of the fun. I’m happy it all worked out.
What were your initial thoughts of the cruise, and how did the actual experience measure up?
I expected it to be fun and relaxing, but it was more of both than I’d expected: Great bands to hear, great facilities, and a very nice atmosphere with all the people who share a passion for progressive rock. I’ve been part of festivals that had many groups playing, but the thing that makes this stand out is sharing the week with the fans and with the bands, and in a setting that’s in itself a lot of fun.
If you were giving a state of the union on the matter of progressive rock …
I’m no expert on the current status of the industry. We in Stick Men, and I, in other projects, just enjoy playing our music. We don’t try to make it specifically fit into a genre, we just make the music we want to be playing. But it certainly is progressive rock, and we can’t help but notice that a lot of those who gravitate to our music also like King Crimson, Yes, and other classic progressive groups.
I can’t predict how the genre will fare in the coming years, but I think that some music takes more effort to get into—to understand—than others, and I think there is an additional value to that complex music, both for the listener and the players. So I’m happy to be enveloped in that adventure, wherever it takes us.
What is the essence of “prog rock” to you?
I keep using the word “progressive”—here’s why. To me, progressive music implies music that’s not settling for the way things have been done, but trying to forge new directions. Terms get complex because the bands that did that back in the ’60s and ’70s—and knocked the socks off many of us who hadn’t heard anything like it—those bands were playing progressive rock that got called “prog rock.”
So, does that phrase refer to music that is looking for new directions, or to music that sounds like those bands did in the ’60s and ’70s?
Both are valid, and there are some great bands doing either or both. For us in Stick Men, we’re not trying to sound like the classic prog bands did, we’re trying to push ourselves to do new things, whether we succeed or not. So it seems to make things clearer to describe that as progressive, rather than prog.
Can you comment on performing at sea? Did any Stick Men get seasick?
We were all, happily, comfortable at sea. The pool show, with high winds, was a challenge … everything needed to be fastened onstage or it’d blow away. But having Eddie Jobson sit in with us on a few pieces and jams more than made up for that distraction.
What were the highlights of your experience? Did you have a favorite stage or other general area on the MSC Divina?
I liked the ship a lot, so I didn’t spend much time in Cozumel. If I had to pick high points, it’d be our opening night in a club … great turnout and a lot of excitement about the music, even though we’d all just arrived on the boat. And just the general days of hanging out among fans of the music. It’s not at all like after shows, because you’re not running off, so there’s none of the hurry that’s there when you meet people after shows.