SHINING PYRAMID
Shining Pyramid
(Shining Pyramid Music)

 

Over the U.K., Nick Adams (guitars) and Peter Jeal (synths) released the first album of their band Shining Pyramid. There seems to be a rising number of talented electronic musicians from England these past few years and you can add the name Shining Pyramid to that list. Self-produced and recorded by Nick and Peter, this first Shining Pyramid will be of interest to electronica and synth meets space guitar fans. The electric guitars mix well with the synth sounds throughout the 50+ minute CD. There’s many sonic signposts for fans looking to check out Shining Pyramid, including mid ‘80s era Tangerine Dream, Michael Rother, space-rock in general and in their more melodic moments, even bands such as Canadian prog-rockers Maneige. Most of the Shining Pyramid album features tracks that clock in around five or six minutes, the exception being track six—with the title “Annie Trevor / Under The Wild Hills / Pyramid Of Fire”—which clocks in at 22 minutes. With their music being inspired by Arthur Machen’s 1895 gothic horror story, Shining Pyramid's CD is very hotly mixed and mastered. The CD has a variety of instrumental rock flavors added to the hypnotic electronics to make of cross-genre appeal. It’s not often you find an electronica album that is so well cross-pollinated with guitar sounds but that challenge is superbly solved on this first Shining Pyramid CD. www.ShiningPyramid.org / www.shiningpyramid.bandcamp.com/releases

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
SHINING PYRAMID

mwe3
: How did Shining Pyramid form as a musical group and how did you arrive with the name of the group? Did you both have a long time fascination with electronic music and sonic guitar scapes? How did you both meet up?

Nick Adams: We are work colleagues. It took a while for us to discover that we were both into recording music and when we realized we shared an appreciation for 70's prog acts it was logical to try to do something together. It will sound a little fanciful but I'd been thinking about a name for us and one night in a flash I saw it all - we would be Shining Pyramid and the first album would be based on Machen's short story. I first read it many years ago and it has stayed with me. I even saw the cover art. Luckily Peter liked the name. Actually, it was The Shining Pyramid but Peter wanted to drop the "the".

We're both interested in the hypnotic quality of drone and repetition so wanted to explore that but I like melody as well and what guitar player doesn't enjoy a bit of a riff? We like to have a bit of variety to our sound, some light and shade.

Peter Jeal: I got into EM in 1979 when I heard Tangerine Dream’s Force Majeure and was thunder-struck. So I've been working on solo pieces since school but didn't take it too seriously. Indeed we thought to start with this would be just a bit of fun. But we both soon decided that if we were going to spend time on a project, we should commit and give it our best. It's so much more rewarding. Always been more into instrumentals, lyrics make it all too explicit and I like the idea that a listener is free to interpret what they hear, maybe in ways we could never have foreseen.

mwe3: You mention the Arthur Machen story in the CD back cover. Tell us about Machen, how he impacted the group sound and what other influences inspired you to form Shining Pyramid. When I look at the CD cover art I think of the movie The Shining. I read that the cover was created by Jon Adams of the Wales Millennium Centre?

Nick Adams: Our album is inspired by Machen’s gothic horror story only insofar as it’s a kind of soundtrack to parts of the tale. What appealed to me was that Shining Pyramid sounds like the dreamed up name of a prog group but was actually coined in the 19th Century. It’s a great story by the way but of its time. Stephen King is certainly aware of Machen’s story, I’ve read that somewhere, and I wonder if he didn’t borrow the Shining bit from it. The cover art is by my brother, Jonathan, an architect and big fan of Roger Dean and Hipgnosis. I described to him what I wanted, a pyramid made of obsidian in a landscape on a moonlit night. I was hoping for a painting but he came up with that but I’m not going to complain as it has a glossy quality that looks good on computer screens. As far as other influences go we come from slightly different angles. I grew up loving YES and Floyd, Jon Anderson’s Olias album sounded like music from another universe—but I also enjoyed listening to Wishbone Ash and Heap and other rock bands particularly the Stones. Mick Taylor is one of my favorite guitar players.

Peter Jeal: I was really attracted by a mystical world-view coming from a pre-technical age which gives it a perspective I feel we've lost. I particularly like the fact that at that time there were much greater areas that were unknown - both of place and in our understanding of nature.

But my main influence is Tangerine Dream. They've produced such a huge and varied body of work with every release saying something new and unexpected; they've just made so many worlds. But founder Edgar Froese described himself at a gig once as a “guitar player from Berlin” and so although synths are cool they’re just a tool—albeit extremely flexible.

mwe3: Can you tell us what guitars and synths you’re playing on the Shining Pyramid CD? Are you both gear heads of sorts into vintage sounds and what was the key to getting that sonic synchronicity between the guitars and synths?

Peter Jeal: It's not really about the kit for me, it’s just a blessing to have so much potential for sound available with modern tech. It astonishes me how much effort and craft must have been required to get the magic out of the gear in 1970s.

For this CD I mainly used just a MicroKorg with a Roland D20 on “ThreEn” but I'm breaking in a Waldorf Blofeld now for new material.

It is weird though re synchronicity - before working with Nick the thought of composing in partnership seemed unthinkable but when I hear his sketches and parts I can usually picture straight away how I can compliment with or contrast against them so I guess we have bits of similar gray matter.

Nick Adams: I'm glad you think there's synchronicity! It was never deliberate but sometimes the guitar sounds a bit synth like and Peter's sounding like a guitar. I’m a big fan of vintage gear. I used a '73 Gibson SG for all of what we think of as “side 2”, the album is designed for a vinyl release if that should ever come about. I also used an '88 Les Paul Standard and a 70's Japanese Les Paul copy that's basically had everything changed on it and is in new standard tuning. That's the guitar on Far in the Spiritual City. I've got an ‘82 Les Paul Custom for those duties now. I've got various pedals and other guitars, a really nice '72 Telecaster and a Strat I've put together from parts with Bare Knuckle pickups in it. My Les Paul Custom has got Sonic Monkey pickups which are great. I've just picked up a lovely '78 Guild 12 string that I'd like to use on the next record although Peter seems nervous that I'm going to go all Folk. I use a Fender Blues Junior or Marshall DSL 40 but often go straight into the recorder via pedals.

mwe3: Are the Shining Pyramid tracks improvised or do you have a set composing style? How did you create the tracks on the CD? The tracks have a live feel. Did you overdub a lot or was it mostly cut live in the studio?

Nick Adams: The tracks are built up from an initial part which acts as a framework. I suppose you could call it "live" as I prefer not to do too many takes as I think you lose a bit of spontaneity. So there are some mistakes! I don’t like to get bogged down, I’d much rather move on to the next thing. “The Worm” track has four guitar parts - that’s my Les Paul Standard. I worry that I’m leaving no room for Peter but he says “I’ll just turn you down”! Sometimes I’ll be recording and a sound will take me off in a different direction and that may become the basis of a new track, so there is some improvisation. There are a lot of bits and pieces in the can. Peter will add synth parts to my guitar tracks or vice versa and then we’ll overdub on top of that. There is a bit of editing but that’s Peter’s domain.

Peter Jeal: Yes, it's very much an iterative process. I will listen to works many, many times as they progress before even turning on the gear, and imagine how they can develop. So when the red light is on I like to just run at it and see how it works out. Sometimes it does straight off, sometimes it's, well, not what I expected! But as Nick says, we don't want to spend too much time polishing and tweaking. A small change can make a huge impact of course. But I think that there is such a wide spectrum of how listeners hear the music anyway, each from their own perspective, the broad strokes are what matter. So let’s crack on to the next one.

mwe3: Tell us how you see Shining Pyramid on the 21st century progressive rock scene? Do you follow the prog sound? Great to see prog making such a vital comeback these past five years, even as the legends slowly and sadly pass on into the tomb of time. I know you were recently in prog mag. What’s been the reaction to the Shining Pyramid in the prog community world wide?

Nick Adams: We’d be recording our music regardless of a scene as it makes us happy. It’s a bonus that there’s an interest in Progressive sounds and that prog is no longer a dirty word. We're still big fans and it's fantastic that you can go out to see King Crimson or PFM or Hawkwind. I've not forgotten the impact that those records had on me with their level of musicianship and vision. Reaction to the record has been positive but these days with so much music being made it's easy to be lost in the sonic maelstrom, but we have to bear in mind that we’re contributing to it.

Peter Jeal: It’s great to see prog growing as long as bands are always moving it forward. It’s senseless to define prog of course but it can’t be a style it’s got to be in a state of flux and constant development - that’s its appeal for me anyhow; that you can listen to some new “prog” and be surprised.

Re SP I don't think many bands want to own fitting into a genre and we're no different—hang on, is that a genre itself? We just enjoy what we're doing, working on the next release, planning the next album.

Great feedback is very gratifying as there’s so much quality music produced every day. So if it takes off, well, great but that's not the goal. It’s all about the music.

mwe3: What other plans do you have for Shining Pyramid, both for the CD and for the band in 2016 and beyond? Do you have videos planned or a possible live show in the future and what kind of Shining Pyramid album would you like to make next time around?

Peter Jeal: We have chatted about doing a gig but it feels quite onerous. Sure, we can just present released and forthcoming material with us playing a track live each and the rest off a PC but that doesn’t feel enough. We might end up performing material very different from the studio releases, which isn't risk-free but we don't want to do forgettable gigs.

As for the next album, I think we want to continue trying to offer soundscapes that evoke the essence of life and how it manifests in many guises - some we’ve forgotten how to recognize, some we’ve not yet learned to.

Nick Adams: Playing live is an interesting and slightly alarming prospect. I'm not sure how we could do it without using backing tracks which doesn't appeal to me. We'd either have to augment our line up or maybe just go out and make it up as we go along. I haven’t thought about a video to be honest. We're currently working on a new record which further explores our interest in nature mysticism. We're looking back to a time, not so long ago, when people were connected to the land and not their mobile phones.





 

 
   
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