NOTE: The interview was conducted by Rodrigo Altaf last October 11th, 2017 and it was originally published at: whiplash.net in brazillian. The LOTSOFMUZIK team worked hand-to-hand with Rodrigo and Sons of Apollo PR to get the interview done and we had the English transcrip to be released here.
Rodrigo: Hi Derek. First of all, congratulations on the Sons of Apollo album. I was sent the material to prepare for the interview, and it´s mind-blowing! I´m quite surprised actually.
Derek: Thank you very much, we appreciate it! We´re very excited about Psychotic Symphony, it´s coming out on October 20th on Inside Out Records/Sony Music and we´re already planning our world tour in 2018. I wanna stress that Sons of Apollo is a full time band, and all of the members have cleared their schedules for 2018 for the Sons of Apollo world tour, and we want to bring music to the people. It´s gonna be a spectacle!
Rodrigo: Awesome. I can´t wait! So when can we start reading about the tour dates?
Derek: Within the next couple of weeks, we´ll start announcing the dates. You can follow our movements at SonsofApollo.com, and also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Rodrigo: You´re obviously no stranger to working with “supergroups”. What is different now from Platypus, Black Country Communion, Planet X, particularly when it comes to band dynamics and relationships?
Derek: Right now Sons of Apollo is exactly what I want to play. It´s the perfect mix of rock and roll, hard rock and progressive chops. Personality wise, Mike and I have a 20-year history, we got back together in 2012 when we did the PSMS with Billy Sheehan and Tony Macalpine. We have a strong personal and musical chemistry, and we just decided that we wanted to do something with a vocalist sometime in the future. So here we are in 2017 with Sons of Apollo, we really wanted to tap Billy Sheehan on bass, and Mike brought in Bumblefoot and Jeff Scott Soto, who I thought were perfect fits for us. And what´s amazing about Sons of Apollo is that we´re like the Marvel Avengers – everyone is a superhero on their instrument, everyone has a very distinct sound and style, and when we get together, it just explodes! And you can hear in on Psychotic Symphony.
Rodrigo: You mentioned the tour that you did under PSMS and how Billy Sheehan was involved. Did you consider Tony Macalpine for this project, or did you go straight with Bumblefoot? And how were the other members chosen?
Derek: We went straight with Bumblefoot, we wanted to make this into something much more rock than PSMS. Tony was perfect for the instrumental fusion thing, Bumblefoot with his rock background is more suited for Sons of Apollo.
Rodrigo: What can the seasoned prog metal fan who is used to Dream Theater, Symphony X and Fates Warning expect of different from Sons of Apollo?
Derek: Here´s the difference between us and the other bands that you mentioned: we have octopuss pedigree. That´s a serious rock pedigree that goes deep into our sound. And that´s something you can´t download an app and get – you either have it or you don´t. And so, that´s the difference. We´re rockers but we have sick ass chops – as sick as any of those bands that you mentioned. We have just mastered the art of strategic wankery, where we don´t ruin the songs – we keep the songs rocking and listenable, but then we interject the virtuosity at the precise moments.
Rodrigo: I agree, and after listening to the album, I have to say that the long songs are long for a particular reason, not just for the sake of being long, and the shorter ones are trimmed properly.
Derek: Well, it isn´t like we try to write a long song or a short song – the song is the song! And when you´re working with four other great musicians, the songs have a tendency to write themselves, when everyone has a common focus.
Rodrigo: Are you surprised with the reaction so far to the first songs that were released - Signs of the Time and Coming Home?
Derek: It´s even beyond – Coming Home has almost half a million views on YouTube since it´s been out, and our record label is very excited, and very excited with all the pre-orders. There are some prog metal fans who are concerned that they´re not hearing any virtuosity or craziness in the songs, but they have to understand that all the progressive songs on this record are so elaborate and so sick! And that´s the thing about Sons of Apollo, there´s something for everyone: for rock fans, for musicians, for prog metal fans…it´s all there! And I think that as producers, Mike and I made the perfect mix, and it really helps when you have players like this, who have the perfect mix of feel and virtuosity.
Rodrigo: A common trend in the music business today is that bands of a similar caliber do joint tours or co-headlining tours, like Scorpions and Megadeth, Deep Purple and Alice Cooper, Anthrax and Accept. Which bands do you think Sons of Apollo could tour with?
Derek: You know what, that´s more of a Mike Portnoy question, because he picks the bands, but I think that Sons of Apollo would be well suited on a package tour like that and also doing our own shows. I think that´s my decision as well – to do a mixture of the two. It would be great to be on a huge tour like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, and also it would be cool to be on a multi-package tour. But we have plans, so stay tuned on SonsofApollo.com, and everything will be answered as far as touring.
Rodrigo: How will you juggle Sons of Apollo with Black Country Communion, which just released BCCIV? Will you tour with both bands?
Derek: There are only three shows scheduled for early 2018 for Black Country Communion and that´s it, so there´s no juggling. Sons of Apollo is all of the members´ first priority.
Rodrigo: The lyric of the two songs already released talk about struggles and fights, but with a bold and positive edge to them. I got an overall positive vibe of the album. Who wrote the lyrics for the debut, and was there any input from you and Mike on the lyrics as well?
Derek: Jeff Scott Soto wrote the majority of the lyrics, and I came up with a couple of the titles of the songs. Jeff did all the heavy lifting of the lyrics. I did a lot of the vocal melodies, and Mike also did both. Between the three of us, we really wanted to make sure that the vocals and the melody lines were as strong as the music tracks that we had recorded earlier. There was a lot o pressure on Jeff, but we got through it and I think he sounds amazing on this record. For the first time we´ll really get to see Jeff Scott Soto shine with a great band behind him.
Rodrigo: One side effect of this band is that it´s going to expose Jeff and Bumblefoot to a bigger audience, which they haven´t experienced so far.
Derek: I think Bumblefoot is gonna be a huge guitar start in 2018. He´s just mind-blowing, and everyone that hears him knows it!
Rodrigo: What are you guys planning to play live, aside from the songs off the debut? Any unusual choices for the setlist that you can share? You played Deep Purple´s “Burn” and Van Halen´s and the Cradle Will Rock” already…can we expect more classic rock songs being played?
Derek: For the live shows, we´ll be definitely playing our record, but we´ll have to complement it with other songs. We´ll figure it out when we get there. Again, that´s another Mike Portnoy department. He´s always done the setlists, sequencing and album art and all that kind of stuff for all his other bands. I´m sure he´ll figure it out and it will be amazing.
Rodrigo: You played with Allan Holdsworth in your solo album Mythology and in Planet X´s Quantum. He passed away last April, sadly. Any fond memories of him that you could share?
Derek: It was very sad indeed. I never played with him, he recorded and sent me his tracks on both records that you mentioned, which I must say was a high point in my recording career, having Allan Holdsworth play on my solo record, especially the song Day of the Dead, which, as a Holdsworth fan, it was a very big deal for me, so I´m thankful for that. I had the chance to hang out with Allan on several occasions, and he was just an awesome human being and an extraordinary talent, on a completely different level of musicianship, so I feel blessed to have been able to work with him.
Rodrigo: You've worked with Allan Holdsworth, Bumblefoot, Al Di Meola, Steven Stevens, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Brett Garsed, Tony MacAlpine, Joe Bonamassa, John Petrucci, Steve Lukather, Nuno Bettencourt, Tosin Abasi, John Sykes, Zakk Wylde, is there any guitarist you'd like to work with that you haven't?
Derek: I´d love to work with Jeff Beck, Brian May, David Gilmour, all those British guys. That would be fantastic!
Rodrigo: This must be a special year for you, with BCCIV and Psychotic Symphony getting many great reviews, and possibly awards for “album of the year”. Do you bother with music reviews and awards at all?
Derek: The reviews come in and I´m curious to see what they say. But for Black Country Communion it´s always the same – every review is almost always the same with slight variations. Every once in a while you get an oddball weird review. But most reviews we got for Psychotic Symphony have been eights and up. We got one seven out of ten, but everything else is 8, 9, 10 out of 10.
Rodrigo: What is the question you´re most tired of being asked in interviews?
Derek: We´re not tired, I´ll take all questions! We´re just very grateful that people are interested in Sons of Apollo, and we don’t take anyone´s time for granted.
Rodrigo: The song Alive has a really catchy chorus with an AOR vibe. Was there an intention to write at least one radio-friendly song for this project?
Derek: It wasn´t intentional, it just worked out that way. Jeff wrote the lyrics and the melody lines all by himself for that song, and I think he just hit it out of the park. When we wrote the music, we knew the music was good, but it all totally changed after Jeff got his teeth into it, so I wanna give him proper credit.
Rodrigo: I can definitely see it played on the radio.
Derek: We all do, and in a perfect world, that song should be a hit!
Rodrigo: I´m talking to you from Toronto, but interviewing you for a Brazilian website called Whiplash. Could we close this interview with a message for the Brazilian fans?
Derek: We look forward to coming back to Brazil. I´ve been playing there for the last 20 years at least, maybe even more, and I always thought that the Brazilian crowds are the most fun to play for – very loud and they know their music. So, it´s in the works: Sons of Apollo´s Psychotic Symphony coming out October 20th on Inside Out/Sony Music. There´s a South American Tour in the works, and I promise you we´ll be there in 2018. Rodrigo, I wanna thank you – “obrigado!”, and we´ll see you soon! Again, Sonsofapollo.com, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!
The debut album, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY, is now available to pre-order on 2CD Mediabook (featuring a second disc of instrumental mixes), Gatefold 2LP vinyl + CD, Standard Jewelcase CD & digital download. Pre-order now here: http://smarturl.it/SonsOfApolloPS.
The full track-listing of PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY is as follows:
1. God of The Sun
2. Coming Home
3. Signs of the Time
6. Lost In Oblivion
7. Figaro’s Whore
8. Divine Addiction
9. Opus Maximus
An album teaser can be seen on InsideOutMusic’s YouTube page here: https://youtu.be/kPN2DttzlZQ
SONS OF APOLLO online:
We are a bunch of Independent writers and reviewers.