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An Interview With SYN Founder



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THE MAKING OF TRUSTWORKS presents an interview with

interview written and produced by Robert Silverstein for

The 2016 CD release of Trustworks by 1960s U.K. beat-prog legend The SYN, starts off in a very chilling way with the disembodied voices of the late Olaf Palme and India’s Mahatma Gandhi—two great men of peace assassinated in public. These two spoken word excerpts by two venerable visionaries sums up the spirit of Steve Nardelli and his new outing with The SYN. For Trustworks, Steve has chosen to work and record with the rising Swedish prog-rock band Moon Safari. On the 9 track Trustworks, the SYN sound receives a musical reinforcement thanks to the enthusiastic drive of Moon Safari. A fine band in their own right, on Trustworks, Moon Safari backs up SYN founder Steve Nardelli—playing all the instruments while adding in a solid wall of backing vocals everywhere they are needed. In his February 2016 interview, Steve Nardelli discusses recording Trustworks with co-producer Jonas Reingold and members of the Moon Safari band: Pontus Åkesson – guitars; Simon Åkesson – keyboards; Johan Westerlund – bass; Petter Sandström - vocals, acoustic guitar and now former Moon Safari member Tobias Lundgren – drums. Any SYN fan who had the slightest trepidation about this unique pairing of The SYN and Moon Safari will be pleasantly surprised at just how well this brilliant album has turned out. In fact, the album has a unique blend of Steve Nardelli’s catchy beat-prog magic with the sonic prog wall of sound that is Moon Safari. Speaking to about the SYN / Moon Safari collaboration on Trustworks, Steve Nardelli adds, "I wrote the basic songs and together with the incredible musicality and musicianship of Moon Safari, they were developed. The vocal harmony is completely their creation, they are in a league of their own when it comes to the arrangement and delivery, amazing! They are a Swedish CSN&Y, more melodic in my opinion, melody is a dynamic and strength that is common to Swedish musicians." Although he sadly passed away in 2015, the great YES founder and SYN legend Chris Squire would have appreciated this latest chapter of the band he helped forge back in the 1960s. Still a vigilant optimist who remains one of the most underrated U.K. singer-songwriters, going way back to the 1960s, Steve Nardelli rekindles the hopes and dreams of '60s music fans on “Revolution Now” singing, “Good times are coming, Peace in our lifetime.” An accomplished masterpiece of 21st century sounds, on Trustworks, The SYN revives the spirit of the ‘60s with a state-of-the-art prog-rock album. presents an interview with
Steve Nardelli of The SYN

mwe3: I remember you spoke so highly of planning the Trustworks album with Moon Safari over the past four years. Can you tell the readers how you met Moon Safari and how many trips to Sweden did it take to get Trustworks in shape?

Steve Nardelli: I first met Moon Safari when we were both playing at Rosfest in Philadelphia in 2009. I had an idea for a track that would have operatic grandeur in music and plot and hearing the amazing 5 part harmonies of Moon Safari seemed like I had found the perfect match for my concept. As it turned out I was right, they were perfect. Following that I spent a splendid weekend in the far north of Sweden visiting them in their home town of Skellefteå, very close to the Arctic Circle, running through some song ideas and making a demo of "Lucifer Hesitating". It went very well, I was very impressed with them as very talented and unique musicians and as people. After that first visit, we would schedule Skellefteå sessions over the next three years in line with our mutual commitments and develop the demos that would become Trustworks.

mwe3: Is there a chronology or timeline for the making on the Trustworks album? I don’t think there’s ever been a musical collaboration like it. I hope you’re getting some press in the Swedish media!

Steve Nardelli: The sessions were completely random, there was no planned schedule, so you could say it developed organically, it’s an eco album! I’ve never done an interview for any Swedish press that I’m aware of, maybe this collaboration will open that door, I hope so.

mwe3: Were all the songs on Trustworks specifically written for the new album? You have other songs that have never been recorded. It sounds like you’ve tapped into fresh sonic terrain. Is there a common thread or concept at the core of Trustworks?

Steve Nardelli: I am writing songs, it’s a never ending circle for me. I tend to group together the ones that I think would compliment each other in the creation of a new album. The Moon Safari input into growing the basic songs is huge and that is where the fresh sonic terrain is coming from, that is the great strength of a successful collaboration, new musical directions are created. There is a common thread, it’s in the mission statement for the album:

‘Rise up the Freedom Fighters, speak out the Silenced Voices, rebuild the City of Hope with Faith and Trust and Loyalty; at the end of the sacred road to Freedom is a church called Trustworks’.

mwe3: Interesting that Moon Safari were planning to tour with YES, or what is left of YES at this point. What did the band tell you about meeting YES? I think Chris would have liked Trustworks. Weren’t Moon Safari on the cruise with Chris?

Steve Nardelli: They met Chris on the cruise and even stayed at his house in Phoenix, so they had a good rapport with him and also the YES tour manager at the time, Paul Silveira, who was also the SYN tour manager. Chris would have liked Moon Safari and I think he would have liked Trustworks as representative of The SYN in the 21st Century. I’m not sure if the sad passing of Chris and Paul breaking his association with Yes was part of the reason Moon Safari pulled out of the tour, I know there were some serious technical issues.

mwe3: When and how did Jonas Reingold enter the picture and help you finish the album? Compare the recording sessions in Sweden and working with Jonas in Vienna. New generations of prog-rockers working with a seasoned pro like you must have been illuminating experiences all around.

Steve Nardelli: The Moon Safari drummer on Trustworks is Tobias Lundgren and he suggested Jonas Reingold to record his drum tracks. Jonas had worked with Moon Safari in the past mixing some of their tracks and they had a high regard for him and I trusted their opinion.

They were right of course, Jonas is a brilliant musician and music head, a great man to be working with in the recording process. I was so impressed with him I asked him to record my vocals and to coordinate with the band to mix the album. Jonas lives and records in Vienna so I had the great pleasure to visit and record in this beautiful city on a number of occasions and we have become good friends.

mwe3: What impact did your working on your Eco Town have on the making of Trustworks? I know you said the album took much longer because of your workload. What’s next for you with the Eco-town progress? The whole green energy movement seems very slow in coming.

Steve Nardelli: When I embarked on the promotion of my eco town project, I anticipated it taking about a year to get on site; it has taken 7 years! I had no idea of the complexities of launching such a revolutionary project, which was part of a UK government initiative, and I have surprised myself at how successful it has been. This is one thousand acres with 8000 houses and masses of eco infrastructure to support it including 4 schools. The creation of the town which will happen over the next ten years has been like making an album, a collaboration of different creative talents: architects, planners, a myriad of consultants that make up my P3 Eco consortium. I’ve no idea yet if I will make or lose a fortune on this project, but I didn’t do it for the money, I did it for the chance to create a new vision for homes in the future, built on the respect for the principles of Nature.

I always laugh at the answer Richard Branson gave to the question ‘How do you become a millionaire?’ He answered: ‘Start off as a billionaire and buy an airline!’ You could say the same about the eco town!

mwe3: Tell us something about the opening track on Trustworks called “What If”. The track features spoken word segments from Olaf Palme and Gandhi too. Tell us what brought that on?

Steve Nardelli: ‘What If…’ was the idea of Jonas Reingold, he takes full credit for it. I suggested he should include someone Swedish and he wanted Olaf Palme who was a true visionary, a very good choice. I think the track sets the scene for the album extremely well.

mwe3: Did you have the tracks ready or was Moon Safari involved in the writing of the Trustworks tracks too? How did the vocal arrangements fall into place? Just like I thought, there’s great harmony vocals from Moon Safari that sometimes evokes CSN&Y too.

Steve Nardelli: I wrote the basic songs and, together with the incredible musicality and musicianship of Moon Safari, they were developed. The vocal harmony is completely their creation, they are in a league of their own when it comes to the arrangement and delivery, amazing! They are a Swedish CSN&Y, more melodic in my opinion, melody is a dynamic and strength that is common to Swedish musicians.

mwe3: The title track “Trustworks” is interesting in that it evolves into quite a hard rock track… “religious icons standing in line”… Is religion still valid in your estimation? The track involves somewhat of a social critique. It echoes some of your earlier philosophies but it’s a bold new vision too. You’ve been talking about the concept of “Trustworks” for the past 5 years now. Where did the title emanate from and did you trademark the name?

Steve Nardelli: “Trustworks” is about trust, something we are all looking for. It is built on the foundations of loyalty, respect and truth, something that seems missing in modern society and everyone is searching for. It’s not really a track about religion, it’s about people trusting each other regardless of religion: ‘Come together and sing with one voice’. I got the idea for the title when I did a television show with Chris Squire in Hollywood at the Ironworks studios. Ironworks became Trustworks, a place where you can find trust in simple terms. It’s a name I constructed of course and, no, it’s not trademarked.

mwe3: “Revolution Now” is a very upbeat track with a positive message. So if good times are coming, then why “Revolution Now”? “At a crossroads of solution”… So you are optimistic about the future? Is 2016 a turning point year? Are you hopeful that “we won’t get it wrong?” I hope so…

Steve Nardelli: I am always hopeful and believe in a common humanity: ’We are all members of the Human Race’. We are going through a political revolution right now, young people are turning their backs on the political classes in favor of politicians that actually tell you the truth rather than spin it. You can see it in the huge support for Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, the new Labor leader despite most old school Blair-ites and media doing everything possible to undermine and ridicule him. I see it in America with the support for Bernie Sanders; ‘Clinton has got the money and I’ve got the people’, that is a great speech line and it says it all. It’s not policies that is gaining support for these politicians, it’s that people trust them, Trustworks!

mwe3: “This World Of Ours” speaks about the human condition, speaking about rage in our hearts, standing up and fighting back. Can the dichotomy of the human condition ever change? There’s some great harmony vocals on “This World Of Ours”. Is this another hopeful song? What is the “golden hind”? We will need it because we have to get ready as something’s coming… Who in Moon Safari singing the solo “Can you hear me?” parts, the high and low voices, towards the end of the track? Are there any other voices on the CD besides you and Moon Safari?

Steve Nardelli: I think the ‘rage’ people feel at the unfairness in ‘this world of ours’ is why there is a ‘revolution now’. I am always hopeful… hope is hard to escape from in my song writing. The ‘Golden Hind’ is the Elizabethan ship of Sir Francis Drake that sailed out to discover the world, very famous in English history. It’s a very positive song about making a difference in our lives, taking the great opportunities and wonder that our world offers us all, even if we are lying in the gutter gazing at the stars. If we fall, let’s fall into our dreams.

I take the lead vocal in the "Can You Hear Me" parts, with Simon Åkesson doing the high and low harmonies, he is standalone brilliant. All the many vocal parts on Trustworks are me and Moon Safari, there was room and no need for anyone else.

mwe3: Track 5 on Trustworks, “Something That I Said” is another socially satirical song, speaking out about the injustices of the world. “Banks are bulging, children are starving”… Are we damned if we do and damned if we don’t say anything? Yet at the end of the track you write “stand up, speak out”. Also the guitar solo in the middle has great tone. Did you write the guitar solos or did Pontus write the solo?

Steve Nardelli: Pontus creates and performs all the guitar solos throughout the album save for some small editions from Jonas Reingold. Pontus is an amazingly talented and creative guitarist, as good as any that have played with The SYN and that is a list of brilliance: Peter Banks, Paul Stacey, Shane Theriot, Francis Dunnery.

Pontus is a unique and creative guitarist, he creates symphonies on guitar, just listen to “Seventh Day Of Seven”, amazing!

As for this track, we can’t be silent when we witness social injustice, we must stand up and speak out even when society tries to dampen us down. The words written by a Persian poet 800 years ago that is at the entrance to the United Nations Building says it all:

If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others, Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a human…

mwe3: “Never Too Late” starts off with a kind of fake C&W intro which is humorous but the song quickly shifts gears. It’s very cynical but the punch line is “It’s Never Too Late To Change”. So there’s plenty of hope beyond the cynicism and pessimism? There’s kind of Jon Anderson type lyrics near the end of the track… “Mystic Dreamer, Dark Enchanter”…

Steve Nardelli: This is my rant song, starting from the first line: ’there’s a fool in Hall of Fame’, a reference to YES getting rejected from there again. I thought it was particularly ungracious this time because of the sad passing of Chris Squire, this was my rant on behalf of my friend and fellow SYN musician. ‘It’s never too late’ to right that wrong so there’s the hope loop again. You have very perceptive ears Robert that account for your musical journalistic brilliance. You are right about the Jon Anderson type lyrics at the end, I was influenced by the chant like vibe of “Going For The One”, probably my favorite Yes track.

mwe3: “Lucifer Hesitating” cosmically echoes Big Sky era SYN. “Devils and demons on the run, Lucifer lies in waiting”… It has the Angels and Devils vying for their place in the world. So you still believe love and redemption can still beat the devils and demons? The song harks back to the “All You Need Is Love” approach to life. Is it a pro religion song? What did Moon Safari make of this song? With those soaring harmonies it sounds like they are fully into it!

Steve Nardelli: This song was written at the time of Big Sky so the echoes are there, you are right again! This was the first track I demoed with Moon Safari and it turned out so well, it was the catalyst to us making Trustworks. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album, it certainly has all the connotations you mention: Peace and Love against the forces of the Dark Side, very Star Wars really. Moon Safari harmonies on this track still makes my hairs stand on end every time I listen to it.

mwe3: “The Wheel”, track 8 is another hard rock track. Sounds like Deep Purple! Does it get back to the futility of life? No matter what the people say, the wheel will roll either way? So is “The Wheel” a metaphor for something bigger? Marxists Vs. Fascists equals the “Confusion Avenue” and “Same old story, history turning”… How does Ulysses fit into the song?

Steve Nardelli: “The Wheel” is metaphor for the Earth. We live in a world of chaos and confusion most of the time, with an occasional oasis of peace and harmony, a state that doesn’t last long. There is a Peace/War cycle, ‘same old story, history turning’, everybody is searching for Utopia (Ulysses), life is a maze and we are all trying to find our way through it. Meanwhile “The Wheel” keeps rolling away!

mwe3: Trustworks ends with the magnum opus “Seventh Day Of Seven” which is one of the epic SYN tracks. With a lot of tempo changes, the song kind of harks back to the vibe of Syndestructible in some ways.

Steve Nardelli: This is another epic from The SYN, I can hear some parallels with Syndestructible, but that would not be a conscious decision. I always think of Chris and the other members of the classic 60’s SYN that have passed, Andrew, Gunnar and Peter… I am committed to recording music that fits the aspirations we had as young musicians all those years ago and there will always be a SYN spine to any albums I make as The SYN to honor and respect them.

mwe3: There’s kind of operatic vocals on “Seventh Day Of Seven” that sound like soprano voices! “Thunder lightning, passions igniting”… all Moon Safari voices? There’s some great guitars and mellotron sounds on this track. What can you say about your approach to recording such a long track? Moon Safari really comes alive on this track. The keyboard sounds are spectacular throughout. Is “Seventh Day” is the high point of Trustworks?

Steve Nardelli: “Seventh Day” is the highlight to the album... the other tracks form the meandering river that arrives at that door, it is a concept album in that regard. All the harmonies are Moon Safari and brilliant they are, breathtaking at times. All the instrumentation is from them as well, including some high quality additions from Jonas Reingold: Pontus Åkesson – guitars; Simon Åkesson – keyboards; Johan Westerlund – bass; Tobias Lundgren – drums.

mwe3: Is the song biblical in some ways, talking about the “Seventh Day”…

Steve Nardelli: “Seventh Day Of Seven” is a biblical reference but used as a metaphor for the road to redemption and achievement against the odds.

mwe3: One could have hoped for some video or documentary on the making of Trustworks? Will there be a single or radio track?

Steve Nardelli: There are promo videos in production as I write this, plus we are filming an MTV quality in March, which includes a top young Swedish actress. It’s a very brave and unique concept for a music video, very progressive and never been done before. I’ll say no more until it is launched, the Trustworks’ ‘7th Day of 7’!

mwe3: As you mentioned to me last year, you are now truly the final member of The SYN who is still walking on the earth. Have you fulfilled your mission that you set out to achieve when you reactivated the SYN in 2003 with both Chris Squire and Pete Banks, following the passing of Andrew Pryce Jackman?

Steve Nardelli: Creating music is a mission of its own, so The SYN will continue as part of that process... it’s very personal for me. Chris asked me three times over the years to join YES, but I always refused because Jon Anderson is the singer of YES and I am the singer of The SYN. That’s who I am.

mwe3: As you told me back in 2005, once you have music in your blood… that something’s gotta give. You must be proud looking back on restoring the legacy and creating this new music with The SYN.

Steve Nardelli: Yes I am very proud of the band and what we have created and all the wonderful musicians that have shared that journey at different times and different albums. Long may it continue…

mwe3: Fans will soon be asking about the next chapter of the SYN, any final thoughts?

Steve Nardelli: Trustworks is the new chapter, that is what I am concentrating on at the moment. Long Live The SYN!





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