mwe3.com Robert Silverstein interview with Pat Molesworth October 2018
mwe3: Is the self-titled Zeelley Moon the first album from the band? When was the album written and recorded and what did you set out to achieve musically with the Zeelley Moon album? What were some of the key events in the lead-up to the writing and recording sessions?
I have recorded solo material before, but this is the first band album. Most tracks were recorded between 2015 to 2017. 3 tracks were recorded as long ago as 2011 but were always destined to be part of this album. I set out to make an album to please myself first and an audience second. It is, to some extent, a personal expression but it’s not necessarily autobiographical. As the songs evolve sometimes, they take on more relevance. The writing has taken place over a few years, so it’s been an ongoing process taking in some of life’s events. The lead up to recording was just getting everyone on board and willing to travel to the studio and spend time.
Did you go through a musical education or are you self-taught? Do you practice, or do you spend most of your time writing and recording and rehearsing too? Seems like most musicians also have to spend time as web masters and Facebook participants….?
I’ve had no musical education at all. I’m not sure if it would have helped; trouble is, once I’d started liking what I played from experimenting, it was too late! I like to think that not having learned musical ‘rules’ I might have a more original approach, unhindered by convention. I’ll let others judge that for themselves. Everything I do has come from sitting at the piano and experimenting until something I like comes out. Sometimes I recognize various influences after the event. In more recent years, the more musically educated contributors to my projects might tell me I’m playing a minor chord with a diminished 9th or augmented 5th or something! It’s great! As a band we’ve rehearsed as necessary. I would like to write with a band, but it can be very frustrating. Spending time using the dark art of social media to engage with the public and promote oneself is hard and doesn’t come naturally to me. Ideally it’s a job done by someone else. Luckily there are starting to be folk out there who like what I’m doing and that makes it a lot easier.
What era of music did you grow up in and who are your favorite artists and keyboardists? You cite Genesis, Pink Floyd and Supertramp as influences. Can you tell us where you’re from originally and how you became interested in rock and piano / keyboards? What era did you grow up in? Being in the U.K. you must have had tons of great bands to watch and listen to. Were you influenced by Mike Pinder, founder of the Moody Blues? I hear a bit of Pinder’s string like mellotron / chamberlain sounds in your keyboards. I was thinking Mike would really like your album…
The 70s and 80s I guess is what I grew up with and certainly the most influential. I didn’t really have any favourite artists or keyboardists at that time. I had very eclectic tastes within chart music but found myself abit dismissive of pop music for a while though some of it was great. I appreciate it more now but at the time I aspired for something deeper; maybe to suit a typical teenage angst. I found my older brother’s album collection; Pink Floyd, Yes, Supertramp and others. I loved the depth of emotion angst and sophistication. I had no idea about song structure or what they were playing but I loved it, so I think my motivation to create a mix of pop, rock, theme and prog might have come from there. Fiddling with basic major and minor chords was never going to be enough. I had the aspiration but not the skill so I laid my fingers on a keyboard until nice chords and sequences came out……and they did. My influences, I think, really are a slice of every musical moment that’s ever moved me.
How about keyboards on the Zeelley Moon album? What keyboards and synths did you play and record the Zeelley Moon album with? Do you have a favorite piano sound or brand? Are you into Steinway pianos or Yamaha keyboards? The studio sound is great too, tell us a bit about recording in Pembrokeshire.
My Nord Stage 2, mainly for the Grand piano, Roland FP2 and my old faithful Yamaha PSR 540. My favourite piano sound is the grand and the Nord has some great piano sounds. I can’t say I have a favourite but Yamaha is very nice. I can’t bear the non-intuitive nature of the Nord programming itself; Frankly I just don’t bother. I’d rather spend time writing than trying to work it out. Other keyboards are far easier to navigate. Thankyou, I guess I know how I want things to sound and Richard Bignell at Area 18 Studios is brilliant.
He is excellent technically and also easy to work with and has a very unbiased approach. I have a very modest studio at my home in Pembrokeshire where often piano, keyboard, vocals and backing vocals are recorded. Well away from the house and with a beautiful view, it’s a very relaxing place to work. On this album, Guitars, bass and drums were mostly recorded at Area 18 in London. I’ve yet to use the studios in Wales though there are some excellent ones which I look forward to trying out. Recording is hard because even after you’ve spent all the time writing and then in the studio you always hear things that make you think should be better.
Can you tell us how you met and chose to work with the other musicians in Zeelley Moon and what do they bring to the album? You have a number of musicians on the album. Is there a core Zeelley Moon lineup that you perform shows with? Also there must be great story behind how you arrived with the band name? Zeelley Moon is a very unusual name indeed!
I mostly met musicians I’d seen play and liked their style and they had a good understanding and interpretation of my compositions What they have brought to this album is their brilliant interpretation, intuitive playing, making my ideas a reality. There has tended to be a core line up for performing, though it has changed a lot over the years. There is a story behind the name but It’s not very rock n roll. Actually, maybe all band name stories are like this.
…..I was thinking of a two word slightly ambiguous but interesting and unique name.
“Moon” sounds nice after “Keith” or “Paper”, but it needed a suitably cool first word in front. My ex-boss’ ex son in law’s sir name was Zealy. I liked its sound and decided it fitted but spelt with double EEs and LLs so it looks better when it’s scribbled, hence the “Zeelley” spelling. I Googled it and found there was NO Zeelley Moon of any kind in existence. So, unique music and unique name!
The Zeelley Moon album starts off with a rocking track called “Itchy Feet”. Funny title but it really rocks. Does the track serve as a kind of overture for the album? How does the instrumental side of your music fit in with the overall Zeelley Moon sound and do you like writing and recording instrumentals say compared with vocal tracks? Is that Tony Dubinski doing the guitar solo on the track? I like the pic of the kid and the cat on the inside cover photo. Your kid or cat?
You’re in your car hardly moving on a freeway with a traffic report telling you things are bad in a few miles. Somehow, typically maybe, it kind of represents where your life is right now. You tut and moan. You put your CD in the player and turn it up to escape the monotony.
I wanted it on the album but it didn’t really sit amongst the others, so it became the opening theme but needed a different name. Itchy Feet (implying dissatisfaction at that moment, rather than a nasty foot condition) started life as an instrumental almost 26 years ago and I still have the original demo. Its working title was “Becky Dancing” because my oldest daughter Becky, at the age of one or two, swayed in time to it. This remained until I recorded it with the band. The bass is played on the 2 and 4 during verses instead of 1,2,3,4 – just to get nerdy for a moment.
I experimented in writing music for a long time before making songs with vocals. I don’t particularly like the sound of my own singing voice, but I do like words so I guess someone has to sing them.
Tony Dubinski does indeed play rhythm and lead guitar on Itchy Feet. I like what he came up with. The little girl in the inside cover photo is the daughter of a late friend, a friend who is also the subject in track 3- Tricks & Tragedy. The cat was his. I’ll tell you about him later…..
After the energy fuelled opening cut, “Smile” brings things down to earth somewhat with an upbeat track with a message to it. Is “Smile” a way to find a way back to a more productive kind of frame of mind? Are life’s lessons in “Smile” from your personal experience? Is the track a kind of philosophical song that applies to just about everyone?
Smile was written some years back and, with its indulgent play out solo, tended to be the closing number in shows for a while. It is very much a philosophical song; the words of which, people can maybe apply to their own lives. The opening lines are really about unresolved issues with a lost loved one, but it moves around a bit to not wasting time and understanding that people have issues you need to allow for to get on. They say time is a healer so maybe Smile kind of represents that idea. All my songs are a mixture of ideas, sometimes taking my own experiences and expanding them to be everyone’s experiences. As the songs develop I can often find my own meaning in them relating to me but I hope others will find their own meaning.
“Smile” has an open book facing the song lyrics. What does the open book signify and did you choose all the artwork for the lyrics sheet. Are the photos on the song / lyrics page there as symbolism to help explain the tracks? Something to think about…
The open (and blank) book is a lovely image for me. It could be that a breeze is blowing the pages and we don’t know what page it will choose. It could be a diary of your memories but being blank it could be all the things you never wrote or never said.
Yes, I chose or created all the artwork. Mostly they are designed to give a hint to the meaning of the song or have some relevance. I love pictures and paintings that inspire debate or that can be interpreted differently.
Was “Tricks And Tragedy” written specifically about someone? It seems like the song tries to paint a brighter hopeful face on loss and how the people who inspired us and even brought us into existence often leave us to face our own futures. The song moves from a kind of Elton John / Supertramp inspired verse into a very symphonic middle section. Is that what you do best, combining catchy hooks with a progressive instrumental bridge section? And then it all comes back again. Interesting song title too and the photo is haunting, it’s just like watching death / rebirth in action… that meter thing… any thoughts on death or dying? Do you believe in rebirth?
You’re exactly right Robert! Tricks and Tragedy, as it evolved, took on a meaning that was unconscious at first but yes, it is about a good friend who was an inspirational larger than life character with a great voice and like a brother to one of my best friends for whom it was a huge loss.
The song begins by describing the social and musical lives of our collective musical friends before a totally unexpected heart attack. It continues over the period where his life hang in the balance for months and sadly then ended but a reprise reminds me of happy, sad crazy memories of him.
I don’t stick to any formula or song structure; I just kind of go with my instinct but I always loved it when a song goes off on a tangent. The fact there are two on this album is a coincidence.
I would love to have written “Live and let Die”. What a song!!
I love symphonic melancholy.
I thought of a heart monitor screen representing end of life but that seemed too blunt and frankly unsympathetic. The long exposure photo is of a torch being moved to emulate a heartbeat.
I was very happy with this photo.
I’m a big believer in human nature- good, bad, basic, hidden, all of it.
No, sorry, I believe that when we die, we die but people choose ideas of rebirth or reincarnation to suit themselves.
I have a theory that if you took ten babies with no knowledge of the society they’d come from and left them on a virgin planet for long enough, their successors would first worship the sun and rain and anyone who claimed to control it, develop religion, possibly in the absence of universal law, faith, after life ideas and, as they modernize and become a more sophisticated society, graduate psychological problems too.
There may well be unknown powers and forces we can’t consciously control and senses we have lost as modern humans. Who knows? The crazy theories are no more crazy than the science
I keep my late father’s watch and feel like it means something to wear it.
I also allow in the influence people I have known and lost.
“The Tick Tock” is another reality type track with a message in it. Never put off till tomorrow is a kind of universal message, yet you also say that the sun will shine much brighter tomorrow so why procrastinate? Great message. Is time the greatest teacher of all? How do you apply this complex message in your own life?
You understood the song dead right again Robert. The clock keeps ticking regardless of whether we get off our butts. I might be waiting for the sun to shine brighter but maybe I just need to learn to do things in the rain. Time is perhaps the greatest teacher yes. I apply the message of Tick Tock very badly in some aspects of my life.
You asked about death before. I think instead of thinking of death as something way over an unknown horizon, it might be better to think of our demise as being a fixed point we are tied to so no matter what path we take, we are being reeled in slowly.
What about counting downwards after our 40th birthday? Not to avoid facing our age but to embrace the inevitability of our death. Maybe with this mindset we WOULD get off our butts more and be better to ourselves and to others. Deep eh?
Is “See Me Fly” about family life? You speak about a mom and dad in the song lyrics. How do to lyrics fit in with the driving beat of the track? There’s also a kind of introspective middle section in the track with a beautiful string like section but it’s one of the most rocked out tracks on the Zeelley Moon CD. Is that a pic of you in the “See Me Fly” lyrics page? “See Me Fly” sort of segues into the next track “Weight Of The World” and the two tracks connect lyrically too. The lyrics on “Weight Of The World” are kind of a rebirth of a defeated person. How did you connect the two ideas? Fly and Weight… dealing with an oxymoron?
See me Fly and Weight of the World are really two separate songs and I combined them partly because musically I liked it but also because it expresses the mindset of the first person and his observations of the ‘defeated’ other. Almost opposites and yet maybe much in common. So there isn’t really an oxymoron, for me anyway.
During See me Fly he describes different aspects of life in which he adopts a similar stubbornness to not be blown out or let down, keeping up his guard and continuing to try prove himself after the event. It could be the exaggerated expression of not being seen to stand still, not allowing oneself to be vulnerable.
Weight of the World deals with a defeated person, not a lover or ex-lover and sadly no rebirth as yet; the last line being “I can see you going round and round”. The last section is a reprise of the previous song
It is indeed me in the lyric page picture.
“Designer Crime” is pretty cynical lyrically, was that how you wrote it? It almost sounds like people are programmed like beings controlled by TV! The artwork with lyrics with the urinals is compelling! What was your train of thought on “Designer Crime”? The guitar work is great on that track with fuzz box sound and crowd like voices in it. Pretty brilliant track!
Thankyou. Designer Crime is really a major whinge. This guy is pissed off. It’s an angry song. He’s cynical about life and in despair of the modern world or the bits of it he doesn’t relate to. It jumps from first to second person abit which is a bit of a habit of mine.
The photo is genuine. I don’t tend to hang around in public toilets but I waited for this one to be empty before taking the shot. I felt like it supported the theme of luxury problems of our part of this world. There is a video for Designer Crime which culminates in a demonstration of this guys absolute frustration. I won’t give the ending away but it does involve the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Living On The Water” makes some interesting points and has a great groove and melodic edge to it. Does living on the water help you find a more positive side to life and is it therapeutic to spend time on the water? Can you tell us something about the string like arrangement to “Living On The Water”? Is that one of the more string sweeping arrangements on the album? You can almost hear real strings in there, how do you simulate strings in your keyboard sound, seems better sounding than real strings.
Living on the Water kind of started out when I was seriously considering selling up and living on a boat. Giving up something that perhaps felt like it was important. In the end I borrowed some money and bought a campervan! Maybe everyone’s got their own equivalent of living on the water; a place or a state of mind that gives comfort from the less nice bits of life. It would be great to have real strings. It would need to be an 80 piece for the sound I’d like.
Interestingly I use my old Yamaha PSR 540 keyboard for the strings. There is a slightly soft attack and the large string section sound is already pretty good for an old keyboard, but I play and record the different octaves to give a more realistic feel.
The Nord has some amazing sounds, but life really is just too short. It should be called Nerd, not Nord.
“Feel So Real” is a pretty straight forward track like a Peter Frampton kind of sound. There’s a cool instrumental break in the middle too. I can’t tell if it’s a positive song or more a blues. But the pictures of the naked people on the lyric page! Where did that come from? Lol I love the lady with the briefcase! Lol
The lyrics in Feel so Real mostly came from a song I’d written some years back about friendship.
For me its message is generally positive in that its encouraging the listener to live according to the opening spoken quote which is repeated in the choruses. The sound of the song evolved naturally without any conscious influence.
The naked people are certainly “doing what they know will be seen to be right looking back etc….” There is a story behind this picture though it’s not mine. If some Zeelley Moon merchandise comes about I guess it would have to be large paper carrier bags like the one in the picture!
How about “Out Of The Blue”. It’s the centerpiece of the Zeelley Moon album. It has a great Yes-like kind of sound. It’s kind of progressive but there’s also a kind of early ‘70s rock vibe to it ala Frampton for example. Is the track autobiographic, did you write it for your wife and why did you close the album with “Out Of The Blue”? Again great symphonic string sounds. Was it dedicated for Orsola? Who is that?
Out of the Blue started just as a chord sequence I liked over which one note could suit every chord. The words are dedicated to Orsola. I don’t really do pure love songs but Orsola coming into my life warranted a song dedicated to her. She is hugely supportive and a big influence and definitely my other half as we sometimes say here in the UK.
The final arrangement very much reflects my meeting of Orsola and the ‘out of the blue’ nature of our almost immediate coming together.
I asked Mike Bennett, the drummer on this track, to think “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd which also gave me the feel for the orchestration- lots of brass but also strings.
I closed the album with this as although the songs and lyrics are universal and slightly ambiguous, they do also represent a chapter in my life and Out of the Blue is the story to date so it was natural to close with it.
What’s the reaction been to your music and the Zeelley Moon album in the UK and what would you like people to think about your music on this album? What’s coming down the road for your music, your other work, writing, recording, performances and other things going on in 2018 and beyond? What are you looking forward to and are you hopeful about the future?
I’ve had some fantastic reactions to this album in the UK and enjoyed a fair amount of radio play, also some enthusiastic reviews and really nice comments on radio. Not everyone gets it but prog fans seem to like it. It’s much more accessible than a lot of pure prog.
I didn’t set out to make a prog song or album; I write very much to please myself, but I like to think the term “progressive” can be applied to any genre. Maybe mine is Middle of the road prog?? I would like people to think it’s original, even unique with a slightly different approach and just abit different to things they’ve heard before..
Life has been quite hectic as we’ve moved to the coast in South Wales in the UK which has given me the freedom to dedicate more time to music.
For now it’s about promoting the album and getting people to hear Zeelley Moon.
I have a lot of material I’m confident fans of the current album will like.
There will be another Zeelley Moon another album. I have started work on some of the early stages of the next one.