too much was known in the international music world about South Africa-based
drummer Georg Voros but that changed when he released Bach
To Me in 2014. The album is a very original sounding adaptation
of J.S. Bachs music for a classical / jazz-rock band. Instead
of jazzing it up or hard rocking their way through Bachs music,
the accent is on very classical-sounding, straight ahead instrumental
near chamber-rock versions. Obviously having a great time drumming
his way through his unique solo album, Georg is joined by a range
electric guitarists and also appearing is rock keyboard icon Duncan
Mackay, who also mixed the Bach
To Me album
while bringing in his tasty Wakeman / Emerson inspired keyboard parts.
Speaking about featuring Duncan Mackays prog-rock keyboard sound
on Bach To Me, Georg tells mwe3.com, Duncan Mackay
played a major part and is one of my musical heroes from the early
days. I used to watch him play his own material before he became famous
with acts like 10cc, Kate Bush and The Alan Parsons Project. To get
Duncan to play on my album was a major accomplishment and the fact
that weve now become very good friends and working on a collaborative
album is very cool. There is a mutual respect between us, which creates
a very healthy foundation for our future work together.
Inspired by giants such as the late great Keith Emerson, Georg Voros
and company are accurately bringing Bach into the 21st century. Instro
prog-rock fans and jazz fans with an ear out for crossover fusion
music will go for Voros and his self-styled CD tribute to the evergreen
sounds of J.S. Bach. www.BachTome.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Tell us about South Africa. It seems so remote yet there appears to
be a thriving music scene going on. Where are you from in South Africa
originally? Theres been some very famous musicians coming out
of South Africa. Do you know Kongos?
Georg Voros: The music scene in South Africa is quite small
relatively speaking and for me is quite one dimensional in what it
offers. It certainly doesnt cater for the market that Im
interested in which is mainly progressive and symphonic rock.
When I was an up and coming musician the only viable way to make money
was to be a cover band musician which is what the pro
circuit at the time mainly consisted of. I did a little bit of that
in my formative years but always wanted to do something different.
As a result I tended to play with bands pushing the original music
envelope. The most prominent band I played with from that era was
a unit called eVoid. This band became one of the biggest acts in the
country and when I played with them we pushed the boundaries in fusing
pop, rock, and prog influences with African traditional music. This
was also the first band in which I had to construct my own drum partsI
thrived on this!
My ancestry is Hungarian and I landed up being born in South Africa
or destiny. My parents were refugees and fled
to Austria when the Russians invaded Hungary in 1956. As a result
they landed up in a refugee camp with four countries accepting refugees
America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Were
talking 1956 when the world was very small and not connected. So my
folks knew nothing about the other countries except America because
of Hollywood and movies, so they got into the queue for the USA. With
one family in front of them in the queue the USA filled its quota
and stopped accepting refugees. So my folks got into another queue
which happened to be for a country called South Africa and which is
how I got to grow up in that part of the world. If they had chosen
another queue I might have been Australian or a Kiwi. True story!
There have been many famous musicians and producers from South Africa
from Mutt Lange, Manfred Mann to Trevor Rabin to name but a few. I
know of Johnny Kongos but never met him. He did rather well in the
mwe3: Its unique in that youre a drummer and band
leader at the same time. There have been drumming bandleaders before.
Who were some of your favorite drummers and who were some other musicians
who inspired you early on to be a drummer and to move into music?
Voros: I wouldnt consider myself a bandleader yet. This
album is the first project Ive fronted, so have led it but dont
really have a band as such. This might change later as I do have more
material that Id like to record.
I never really considered that Bach To Me would be performed
live as in my mind it was always meant to be a studio project, with
the primary aim of creating awareness of myself as a drummer and composer.
Im happy to say that this is happening and is very rewarding.
I was recently approached to find out whether I might consider performing
Bach To Me live with a youth orchestra. This is a pretty exciting
prospect which I will be looking into.
The drummers that influenced me in my formative playing years were
quite varied. But for many years I was a total ELP freak. I ate, drank
and slept Emerson, Lake and Palmer so obviously Carl Palmer was major
influence. A later highlight was meeting Carl when he agreed to endorse
my first book Rhythm Of The Head. That was one of the coolest
things to happen to me.
There were many other drummers who influenced me from Charlie Watts
to Clive Bunker, Bill Bruford to Buddy Rich. Different drummers, from
different genres. Im a huge Rolling Stones fan. But even though
I dig Charlies original and quite simple drumming style, what
hooked me more were the guitar sounds. The Stones guitar sounds
are unique in the way they blend those detuned guitars. People try
and replicate that but dont quite get it right. I still love
and listen to the Stones today, but more so their 1960s and
70s era musical output. However, Bridges To Babylon was
a very good 90s album.
As far as other musical influences go, I like anything that offers
musical quality and depth from classical, to jazz to country
anything thats real!
mwe3: Tell us about your drumming school and your book Rhythm
Of The Head. I read that you also worked with artists such as
Vanessa Mae, Level 42 and even guitarist Albert Lee. What were your
favorite sessions both in the studio and live work too?
Voros: Ive successfully operated a full time private drumming
school for the last 18 years. I started this back in London when I
was doing a lot of touring and had young kids and wanted to spend
more time with my family and be home more. Ive just moved cities
within South Africa and have closed my drum school that has operated
very successfully in Johannesburg since 2003. Im looking at
setting up a new venture in Cape Town right now, which may well probably
operate on a bigger scale.
My book Rhythm Of The Head was published in 1984. I wrote it
because I considered that there were no books like it around at the
time. There were many practical method books around but none that
focused on the mental side of drumming and music, which is what Rhythm
Of The Head is mainly about. Ive had many people read and
reread the book around the world with me getting fantastic feedback
in how it has helped their careers and also their lives in general.
This is very satisfying and due to the book offering a profoundly
motivational underlying message throughout. Its also endorsed
by major drummers, such as Carl Palmer, Virgil Donati and Bill Bruford
Ive worked with many artists, but the artists you mention, I
havent actually worked directly with. Rather, Ive worked
with musicians, producers and engineers who have worked with those
artists. Some of my major accomplishments include working with a UK
band that won an industry award for best band and another
band nominated for a major UK award for best album. A
list of musical credits can be checked out on my website www.georgvoros.com
where all this info is freely available.
mwe3: How did you decide on the band to back you up on your
Bach To Me album? Seems like Duncan Mackay is the perfect man
for the job! How did you meet Duncan and what were the recording sessions
for the Bach To Me like? Also how did you come up with the
Georg Voros: The process of choosing the right musicians to
play on the album happened in a step-by-step manner. I didnt
have an initial set of musicians that I had in mind. As the album
developed I contacted certain musicians that I considered might fit
the bill. Some of them Id previously worked with and some Id
never met. I was of course very aware of what all these guys had done
and what they offered. They all agreed to play on the album because
of the quality of the music. The way I did this was to send them preproduction
tracks with their parts present. This was all midi based with live
drums, but still gave a very good indication of the direction I wanted
the music to go. They then recorded their parts and added the spice
in adding their particular brand of magical playing to the album.
It was very gratifying to see the whole thing come together like a
giant jigsaw puzzle.
took place in many studios so there was rarely a time when anyone
played together as the musicians are based in both the UK and South
Africa. Francis Dunnery, the original guitarist and singer for It
Bites and who now lives in the USA, was due to do a track, but unfortunately
had to decline as he embarked on a European tour with his new band.
Putting this album together was on the whole a very interesting and
diverse experience to say the least. Also, when you work with musicians
of such high caliber its a lot easier to orchestrate the direction
of such a musically complex album.
Duncan Mackay played a major part and is one of my musical heroes
from the early days. I used to watch him play his own material before
he became famous with acts like 10cc, Kate Bush and The Alan Parsons
Project. To get Duncan to play on my album was a major accomplishment
and the fact that weve now become very good friends and working
on a collaborative album is very cool. There is a mutual respect between
us, which creates a very healthy foundation for our future work together.
Our act will be known as Mackay & Voros and will feature both
recorded and live output. This is a very exciting project and the
first album is going to have some interesting offerings. Our aim is
to perform mainly in the UK and Europe but will spill over into any
other territories that show interest.
On how I came up with the album title? I wrote down quite a few possibilities
and one by one discarded them until I settled on Bach To Me. The
title suggests what Bachs music means to me and how I interpreted
it into a prog-rock format.
mwe3: How big of an influence was Bach to you? Seems like the
percussive accentuation in Bachs music is underrated probably
because they didnt have rock drummers 300 years ago! Also was
it challenging to pick and choose among Bachs huge catalog of
music and how did you and Duncan approach the writing of the seven
part For Johann suite of the album?
Voros: Johann Sebastian Bach is one of my favorite classical composers!
I find him to be one of the more interesting composers in approach
and of course the musical counterpoint in the majority of his music
is astounding. He was a musical genius! Im also a big fan of
organ based music and Bach was probably one of the most important
predecessors of prog music, without realizing it of course. Also,
a lot of his music is quite easy to prog up. You couldnt
do this with other composers like Strauss. Try doing a prog version
of the Blue Danube waltz. Its not gonna work!
On the music I chose for the album: This was not easy as there was
so much to choose from. I undertook a lot of listening in narrowing
down what music I wanted to present of the album. I chose Brandenburg
Concerto No. 1 because I like this particular concerto and also
considered that there was a lot to work with in transforming it into
credible and believable prog arrangements.
Jesu Joy Of Mans Desiring can be regarded
as the pop music track on the album. I wanted one track
that everyone on the planet has heard. Jesu is that piece!
No matter who you are, you will be aware of it even though you might
not have any idea of who wrote it. Its that piece of music that
people have heard at a wedding, in an elevator, on the radio, anywhere.
It was also a bit of a challenge to give it a prog attitude because
it has such a pretty melody.
Trio Sonatawas a natural choice as the counter point
in this piece is beautifully complex and translated so well into my
intended genre that you might be fooled at times that youre
listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer.
Whilst in the process of working on this record a lot of people asked
if I was making a drummers album? The answer was
always a definitive no, because I must confess that I
personally find a lot of albums recorded by drummers a bit one dimensional
where the music, if there is any, plays a supporting role to drumming
gymnastics. I appreciate it but like music more. So from the very
beginning I knew I wanted an album that showcased great music, with
my drumming playing a musically supportive role with some solo
orientated parts. It also didnt mean that it had to be boring
and that I was just going for the obvious. Not at all, my underlying
intention with all the drum parts I created was, how can I make
this interesting and different? A lot of thought went into the
drumming you hear.
of course because it is a drummer led album the question
was often raised
are you going to play a drum solo?
Believe it or not, this was the furthest thought from my mind when
the idea for this album hatched, which is a bit strange considering
I grew up in the era of the drum solo- ala Neil Peart,
Carl Palmer and the like. I love drum solos and have played many in
the course of my career, but I was hesitant to include one on this
album. But then I thought, why not, but if I do, how can I make
This is how the original composition For Johann came about.
The initial idea for this piece of music was nothing like you hear.
However, the primary objective of this piece was for it to be some
form of tribute to the great master. So when this track started to
become a reality, I approached it in the same spirit that Bach may
have composed a piece. This is because as I researched and delved
more into his music, what struck me was his mastery of counterpoint
melody and how he managed to get something so intrinsically complex
to very often sound quite simple. So initially the foundation of For
Johann was to present a solo drum piece that was going to feature
complex four limb patterns which at times might be quite multifaceted,
but then also sound quite simple in approach as well in parts.
With that in mind I sketched out ideas so that I had some kind of
format to put into place, as you would when writing a song or piece
of music. In other words, I wanted the solo to have some kind of flow
and to be music. Then a thought struck what if I played
some musical accompaniment to my solo? This idea sparked from a performance
I had seen a few years back when the drummer and percussionist from
Jamiraqui played a show with a didgeridoo player. Aside from their
actual live playing, the three musicians also ran backing tracks that
consisted of soundscape pads. For those not familiar with that term
think of lush strings and synthesized sounds. The performance was
amazing and stuck in my mind because they had taken what would have
been a drumming only event and turned it into something more accessible.
So I thought if I did something similar and played some simple but
tasty parts over my drumming, that it would take the piece to a different
place and space. I decided that this was how it was going to be, but
then of course that evolved...
Enter Duncan Mackay! As mentioned earlier Duncan was one of my earliest
musical heroes. So I thought what if he played on For Johann?
What if I played my drum parts first and he then laid down his incredible
keyboard playing afterward? Wow, what a different approach that might
be - almost like reverse engineering! I wasnt sure what his
reaction would be when I asked him, but to my delight he was excited
at the prospect of doing it. Collaborating with Duncan on this piece
and the rest of the album has been a fantastic experience as we both
have a mutual respect and love for the same kind of music.
An interesting analysis of For Johann was given by a professional
classical musician who after listening to it paused thoughtfully and
this is modern classical music.
I enjoyed reading the iO Pages article which compared your Bach
To Me album to ELP and also to Trace and Ekseption. Is the Ekseption
connection the Dutch roots in your South African ancestry? I guess
Duncan has always been compared to bigger names like Rick Wakeman
and now the late great Keith Emerson. Losing Emerson was a big shock,
whats your opinion of his larger than life time on earth?
Voros: The iO Pages article is great! Im so happy that the
album has been so well received in Holland as Prog is very popular
in that part of the world. Of course the comparisons to ELP and Ekseption
are extremely flattering as I love those bands. There is of course
no connection to Ekseption in my ancestry as my roots are Hungarian.
In my opinion Duncan is on par with all the great keyboard players
we know. Anyone who is aware of his first two solo albums Chimera
and Score will agree with me. I also think that Duncan will
probably agree with me in saying that the reason why he never achieved
the prog status of Emerson or Wakeman is because he went on to play
with some more mainstream pop acts like Cockney Rebel and 10cc.
And as great as they were they were not perceived musically in the
same way as ELP or YES.
Our upcoming album is perhaps as important to him now as it is to
me as one of the focuses on this album is on virtuosity which appeals
to the prog market. However, in the same breath it will also focus
greatly on melody and songs. Also, the fact that Ill be singing
on the album will open it up to a wider audience and not just instrumental
I can reveal that we will also be doing a newer and updated version
of a track off the Alan Parsons Project album I Robot. Duncan
played keys on this album and we agreed that it seems fitting to feature
something on our album from such a world renowned album that he played
the original keys parts on.
On Keith Emersons passing
Duncan and I were devastated!
We both shed tears and were very emotional as Keith played such a
huge part in our lives. There was no one else like Keith Emerson and
never will be again. When he died a golden era died with him, which
is very sad. As a result Duncan and I have decided to compose a track
in tribute to Keith and which will be included on our upcoming album.
No doubt, it will be musically fitting to the great man.
mwe3: You were saying that you had an albums worth of
original material yet you decided to make the Bach To Me album.
Tell us about your original material and will that appear on a forthcoming
album? What are your original tracks like?
Voros: A few years ago I had no idea that there had been a resurgence
of progressive music. I literally had my head buried in the sand and
had resigned myself to the fact that there was never going to be any
new good prog music again, and that I would be listening to my old
ELP, Genesis, YES, Focus, etc, etc albums till the day I died. This
all changed when I saw an issue of the UK magazine prog
in a local book store. I realized that prog was once again popular
and not a dirty word.
Prior to this I had decided that I was going to release my first solo
album and because there was an absence of a prog scene, that my album
was going to be a World Music release. So I started writing anything
that came to mind mixing all genres. Yes there was some prog in there
but there was also jazz, rock, fusion, even African melodies and rhythms.
As a result I have a full album worth of material and will record
this properly if and when I get the time. I may even release one track
at a time. Who knows?
What other activities are you involved with in South Africa and have
you traveled to other African countries? Do you have other interests
and hobbies or is it music 24/7? Have you done any soundtrack work
and/or other ways to have your music featured?
Georg Voros: Aside from my family, my life is filled mainly
with all things musical. Im a drum teacher, music examiner for
a UK contemporary music exam board, conduct music teacher training
courses, write music and have written three books. I pretty much keep
myself busy with all of this.
I will be honest in that I dont have much interest in traveling
to other African countries, as I dont see the attraction
not at this point anyway. I have though performed in neighboring Mozambique
and Botswana. My interests in general are quite limited to my work
though I do have an interest in Tai Chi which Ive done on and
off for the past 30 years. I love good food and good wine and also
when Im in the mood.
Ive written music for TV which has been published and Ive
also played on various projects: a prominent one was the soundtrack
to a big economic summit that was attended by the then current president
of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
What plans do you have for Bach To Me and your music overall
throughout 2016 and into 2017? I guess being a drummer youre
well aware that time flies, yet time is still of the essence!
Georg Voros: Bach To Me may or may never be performed
live in its entirety. If I do work with the youth orchestra then this
will be a cool thing to do. One thing for sure is that For Johann
will not feature on the bill as that would be difficult to perform
with the orchestra. I probably wouldnt play drums either and
would rather conduct the orchestra. That would be a big thrill.
The main focus for me in 2016 is the Mackay & Voros album. This
will take priority over everything else. The release date is August
this year. We then have plans to undertake an eight date South African
tour promoting the album. Aside from this albums music, our
live set list will also include music from Duncans first two
solo albums, including some music from Bach To Me. In 2017
we would like to start touring work in Europe. The wheels will be
set in motion for this in what we accomplish in 2016.
Ive just moved to Cape Town, which is one of the most beautiful
cities in the world and have plans to get a little jazz trio or quartet
together to play around town for something a little different.