Parallel Worlds
(Magnatar Music)


The 2019 album debut by Florida-based Magnatar, Parallel Worlds gives rise to a fantastic new sound in the world of 21st century progressive instrumental rock. It is interesting to note that the music on Parallel Worlds was composed by Glenn Smith, who adds in unique sounding textures on his electrified 1971 Harmony A Style mandolin. It’s quite special that a mandolinist would compose an all-instrumental progressive rock-fusion band, but for open-minded music fans, Parallel Worlds will clearly prove to be an entertaining sonic experience. Speaking about the rare sound of a mandolin framed by an instrumental rock band, Glenn tells, "I feel the compositions I write allows each player in Magnatar to rise to another creative level and release something new from within them. Great players sometimes just need a new or different avenue to take them to a somewhat different feel and sound. It has been a very interesting process to develop a prog song on the mandolin, which is quite a different approach to say the least, and then turn the guys loose on it to put the meat on the bone so to speak. It is also a lot of fun as well as gratifying to watch the creative interaction of the band, as each member feeds off of the others to come up with their specific contribution to the song. The results have far exceeded anything I could have hoped for". Crafting an elegant sonic backdrop for Glenn's mandolin and songwriting are his very capable bandmates Joey Costa (bass), Reed Hayes (drums), Ryan Rivas (guitars) and Dave Norton (keys). Progressive instrumental rock fans looking for fresh musical terrain, should give Magnatar a good listen. In the CD booklet, the band cites YES as a major inspiration and one can easily see fans of YES, and their long-standing guitarist Steve Howe, enjoying Parallel Worlds. While Chris Squire’s ghost can be heard hovering somewhere above this album, another accurate influence would be Steve Morse in the Dixie Dregs. Magnatar brings their unique musical vision to life on their superb sounding, all-instrumental, 9-cut debut album. presents an interview with
Dave Norton, Glenn Smith, Joey Costa,
Reed Hayes and Ryan Rivas of MAGNATAR

: The bio page on the Magnatar web site is quite revealing. I didn’t know that connections between the Magnatar band members go back almost 50 years. Can you tell us something about the formative days of the band? Decades before Magnatar actually became a band, the various members were involved with a wealth of bands. It seems like the YES / Beatles influence goes all the way back, 50 years in fact.

Dave Norton: Even though I am the newest member of Magnatar, the connection with my cousin Glenn represents the longest personal relationship within the band, actually dating back some 60+ years. Given that, the mantle of the band historian has somehow been bestowed on me, so here goes. The history of how this whole thing came together as the band we are today is indeed quite interesting. As mentioned, the original connection was with Glenn and me. We were cousins growing up in DeLand and our families would often visit each other on Sunday afternoons. We played Little League baseball and basketball together, although never on the same team. This really was during our early youth and well before either of us had any inkling of the musical relationship that would form many, many years later.

Joey and I got to know each other in high school in the late 1960’s, when we were both playing in different local cover bands when it was the cool thing to do. Joey was a huge Beatles fan and was very influenced by Paul McCartney and the Hofner bass guitar. It wasn’t until a year or so after we graduated that we ended up together for the first time in a band called Hemby. The core of this band evolved over time into Hot City and eventually into Fantasia. We flirted with some success in Hot City and had a single released in Europe and the U.S. on the London Records label. For Joey and me this was the formative period that really forged our individual playing style and our long lasting personal relationship.

It was during those very early days of Fantasia that Glenn first entered the musical history phase. He wasn’t a player back then, but he became a regular presence at our practices when we were writing original material fast and furious. He was really intrigued by watching the creative writing process “live” so to speak, and he just loved it. At this point for the band, the progressive bug had taken full hold, with YES clearly being one of the primary influences. In a kind of “parallel” way around this time, was when the real turning point for Glenn occurred.

Intrigued and inspired by what we were doing, he was also starting to learn to play a little bit of acoustic guitar, which would ultimately drive him to a serious pursuit in music. Ironically, as Glenn began to learn and develop his talent as a musician, I actually left the music scene in the mid 1970’s to go back to school and then a 30-year career in medical sales. Glenn and Joey continued pursuing their individual musical journey over the decades and played in many different bands, some together, some not. So that is the early history of the three of us. Fast forward 35 years or so, and Glenn and Joey reunited to form the precursor to Magnatar, which was Buckets & Strings. Neither Reed nor Ryan had entered the picture at this point, but fate would take care of that a little bit farther down the road.

mwe3: So why did it take so long to get an album as good as the Parallel Worlds album by Magnatar?

Dave Norton: Well, that answer needs a little bit more history to make sense. As I just mentioned, Glenn and Joey represent the original nucleus and “elder” generation of the group. While they founded the band some 12 years or more ago, the group underwent several iterations of players and styles over the years, which eventually evolved into this lineup we have today. The first major transition to the Magnatar of today was when Reed came on board almost ten years ago. He represented the “middle” generation and brought a combination of both power and technical style that significantly elevated the overall sound and impact of the music. The core of Magnatar was subsequently and firmly established a few years later when Ryan joined the group as the third and youngest generation. His style, technique and creativity, immediately took the music to a level it had never reached before.

Except for one short period early on, the band had always primarily been a four piece. They had also played around with some early recording efforts, but it never quite got off the ground. The final piece of the puzzle involved me, and it came about quite unexpectedly. As I had mentioned earlier, I left the music scene in the mid 1970’s and went back to school and then pursued a career in the corporate world. As fate would have it, I was getting close to retirement and had been contacted by my old Fantasia band mates to get back together for a short and simple two song set at our high school reunion. I hadn’t played in over 38 years or more and was very reluctant to accept this invitation. After much cajoling I eventually relented, and while it only lasted for 15 minutes or so, it brought back the memories of what it was like to be on stage and playing music. So you can probably see where this is going.

That night, Glenn was also at the event and after we played, Glenn, Joey and I were talking about what their band was up to. While still caught up in the moment, the next thing I knew I was asking if they would have any interest in bringing me on board to add some keyboards to the band. As the saying goes, the rest is history. At this point I was still working full time not to mention I lived in Atlanta. So I started to acquire some gear and take on the daunting task of learning these very challenging songs… at least for me. To say I was intimidated in the beginning is a great understatement. Early on I really struggled, but to the credit of all the guys, they were extremely patient with me, and believe me, it took a lot of patience before I started to find my footing, but eventually I did.

As my confidence grew, I also started to experiment with multiple keys and different sounds, and began to really try not to just learn the songs but to really enhance them and elevate this very cool and unique music to yet another level. So I guess you could say, I am a big part of the reason it took so long. That said, I think we all agree that the result was worth the time and effort.

mwe3: The album is so good that it feels like it’s been worth the wait. So, how does the Parallel Worlds album reflect the wealth of diversity the various members bring to the album?

Glenn Smith: I feel the compositions I write allows each player in Magnatar to rise to another creative level and release something new from within them. Great players sometimes just need a new or different avenue to take them to a somewhat different feel and sound. It has been a very interesting process to develop a prog song on the mandolin, which is quite a different approach to say the least, and then turn the guys loose on it to put the meat on the bone so to speak. It is also a lot of fun as well as gratifying to watch the creative interaction of the band, as each member feeds off of the others to come up with their specific contribution to the song. The results have far exceeded anything I could have hoped for.

mwe3: How would you describe the Magnatar sound? To my ears Parallel Worlds sounds very influenced by 1970s era bands Dixie Dregs with a kind of YES meets Return To Forever edge to it. Even with so many 1970s influences, the band brings a kind of 21st century twist to the Parallel Worlds tracks.

Reed Hayes: I would describe the Magnatar sound as dynamic instrumental rock, strung together with mandolin, guitar and heavy bass. The sounds range from heavy and hard-hitting to whisper soft. It can be fairly complex with lots of changes in songs like “Parallel Worlds” and “Night Changes”, or it can rock out and groove like “New Galaxy” and “Fourth Passage”. As Dave noted, there are three generations of progressive influences in this band. Glenn, Dave & Joey are the oldest, and you can readily see their favorites are the earlier prog bands like YES, ELP, and King Crimson, I’m a little younger so I was into bands like Rush and UK. Ryan is the youngest and he’s into bands Like Dream Theatre and Animals As Leaders. When you bring all of these generations and associated influences together to develop new music, you get what we think is a pretty unique and original sound and style.

Ryan Rivas: I agree and will probably be repeating a lot of the points Reed made, but I think the basic description that I tend to give people is ‘instrumental progressive rock’. But really, that doesn't give the full picture. So then I try to paint that picture with more recognizable bands that we sound similar to. Definitely, the one that seems the most apparent is YES. We are all big YES fans. Glenn, Joey and Dave saw them play in the 70's and have been inspired by them ever since. I got turned on to progressive rock when Joey introduced me to YES a few years ago. So YES definitely represents the one universal influence for all of us, and to some degree that influence invariably shapes our music. That said, there is absolutely zero conscious effort by the band to mimic or in any way try to sound like YES. For one, I don't really play guitar like Steve Howe… well maybe sometimes!

And then there's the mandolin, which I think is safe to say is extremely uncommon in rock music, not to mention that Glenn has such a very unique and unorthodox approach to playing it. As for that blend of 1970's prog rock with the modern twist, I think that is really a reflection of our mixed tastes. As I mentioned, Joey, Glenn, and Dave draw a lot of their influences from older bands like ELP, YES, Jethro Tull, etc. I am a huge Dream Theater fan, which is more like progressive rock/metal. Reed loves Rush and in fact played in a Rush tribute band for several years. I think our writing style and musical approach has more of a classic rock lean to it, but I really tried to give the recordings a more modern sounding mix. A lot of modern recordings I hear have a more full and punchy sound, versus that more raw sound typically found in your classic rock songs.

mwe3: Can you tell us something about where Magnatar is from? I had not heard of the Florida town called DeLand. Can you tell us about living in DeLand and where the band members are originally from?

Glenn Smith: DeLand is a small college town in central Florida, situated about 18 miles west of Daytona Beach and about 35 miles northeast of Orlando. It is home to Stetson University and it has a pretty eclectic art and music vibe going on. That said, it is still a pretty laid back place all in all. Dave and I were both born here. Joey is originally from Wadsworth, Ohio, but relocated here with his family when he was 14. Ryan is from Miami and Reed is from Chicago, and both relocated to DeLand when they were 6. So you can see that we all have long and deep roots to the area.

mwe3: Was the decision made to go all out progressive rock on the first Magnatar album and to keep it instrumental? During the history of the band, various members were in other bands with names like Drama and Cat Food so I guess the decision to go full out progressive on the Parallel Worlds album was an easy one to make. I read the bios and there are so many progressive rock connections in the band history that it boggles the mind but I was happy to see and hear such dedication to the instrumental music genres.

Reed Hayes: Yes it definitely was. The reason I joined the band almost ten years ago was because it was instrumental music. For a drummer like myself who grew up listening to prog and fusion it was a no-brainer. I just want to play the music that I like, and can feel good about. I was lucky to find a group of like-minded players who wanted to do instrumental music, which allowed me to play the way I like to play. And the best part is they are all really cool guys!

mwe3: Is instrumental rock underrated?

Reed Hayes: Is instrumental music underrated? Maybe for some, but everyone listens to music differently. Some people only care about what’s on the surface of the music, like vocals and melody, while others hear the layers of what’s underneath all that. It just depends on what your interest in music is. And that’s how it should be. It’s all about the enjoyment. I can appreciate the interaction between musicians playing off of each other, or a good drum solo. While to others it’s like shoes in a dryer. That understanding has helped keep me grounded in what I do. I know there are a lot of people who don’t care about the music that I do. But I can’t let that affect who I am. I’m not going to do something I’m not fired up about just to get a pat on the back. We’ve had people say to us “you know if you guys got a singer more people would like you.” I know they mean well, but I’m the one putting my heart and soul in this. I happen to love instrumental music, and at the end of the day, I gotta be happy with what I do, and that is what Magnatar gives me.

mwe3: Thanks to the focal point of the Magnatar sound being Glenn’s mandolin, one of the first things I noticed was a Jethro Tull influence. Would you say that sound of Ian Anderson’s silk and steel acoustic with the heavy Tull guitar sound was an influence on you and does mandolin being the focal point, set Magnatar apart from other bands? It’s such a unique sound but the mandolin is so well integrated and recorded that it all makes perfect sense.

Glenn Smith: I must say that you are the first to ever comment on the Jethro Tull influence, and yes, I am a huge Tull fan. While I can’t say that the guitar sound was a direct influence, I do view a parallel between blending a power-prog band around a mandolin, similar to the power of Tull with Ian's’ acoustic and flute as a centerpiece. In terms of writing, my approach to composing on mandolin differs from other mandolinists in an almost simplistic manner. Not being formally trained, I ‘write’ a lot of melodies and rhythmic chordings in my head by simply humming or playing notes, while relying on muscle memory to visualize that, and develop a feel for a entire piece which takes quite a bit of time. For inspiration, I combine random searching with a theme that is usually personal to me. My method is so unorthodox but yet so workable for me, and it gives the players of Magnatar a chance to experiment, without just playing randomly, to be different. As far as the sound, Ryan and I worked very hard to find just the right EQ and mix, but really all the credit goes to Ryan for the finished product. When we somehow put it all together, it just seems to work!

mwe3: It seems like a number of fortuitous events helped shape the Magnatar band and sound. For example, three of the band members seeing YES play in Florida in 1971. It’s memories like those from 1971, and I’m sure other memories you have, that made the band so important to so many people. Also YES fans will appreciate your dedication at the end of the CD liner notes.

Joey Costa: I would say very fortuitous. It really is quite amazing to think about how all of the events intersected and our paths crossed over the years. But first and foremost, there is no denying the influence YES had on me, Dave and Glenn, which profoundly shaped our taste and style of music over the years to this day. I still remember the specific date when I saw YES for the first time. It was July 7, 1971, when YES opened for Jethro Tull at the Orlando Sports Stadium. It was their first U.S. tour and I remember being incredibly excited to be there. I was already a huge fan and was very familiar with their material, but I never really thought that I would actually see them live. They were not well known at all to most people in the crowd, who were really there to see Tull who were really hot at that time. This was “The Yes Album” tour, and of course both bands were just fantastic! From that night on, YES was and still is my favorite band of all time, and I guess it goes without saying that Chris Squire is my favorite bassist.

Then only a few months later something amazing happened that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. On November 21, 1971, YES played a free show outside under the stars in a sinkhole converted to a small concert stage in our hometown of DeLand, Florida! They had just released Fragile about 2 weeks earlier. It was almost like seeing beings from another planet! After that I wanted to create music that took you on a journey. By 1973, Dave and I helped start a band called Fantasia, and I finally had a band that was able to take me on that journey. Unfortunately, things always seem to happen to bands, especially the really good ones, and we were no exception. We had our moments and came close, but it just wasn’t to be.

Fast forward forty plus years… I had the opportunity to record my friend Glenn's’ band at my home studio in 2007. It was all acoustic music with really great riffs. Before I knew it I was playing bass with them. Around the same time I met Ryan when he was just 14. I played some YES for him and he played some Dream Theater for me! We had shared our passions, so why not blend our passions? When you are playing with like minds, there is no age rule or limit. At times I feel like I am still 14 and playing with Magnatar seems timeless. There are still times that it seems like it was only yesterday when first I heard YES. I know a lot has happened with and to YES over the years, and the death of Chris Squire was truly a devastating event to me personally, and I know for YES fans everywhere. Glenn, Dave, Ryan and me got to see the opening night show of the ARW tour in Orlando a while back, which was great, but it really would be nice to see a real YES reunion in the future, or as close as possible, that is without the presence of Chris Squire.

mwe3: Another lucky break in Magnatar history was Glenn’s fast mastery of the mandolin, which is a mainly an acoustic-based string instrument with the strings in reverse from a guitar. Does Glenn still have dyslexia and is writing / performing music a kind of cure for it? Interesting how a disorder can sometimes have a positive outcome!

Glenn Smith: My dyslexia is both my friend and my foe. Each one of us has to learn how our minds work, and that can be a life long challenge in my case. In some strange way it has allowed me to go down different avenues that others wouldn't understand. It has always helped me in trouble shooting, but not so much in a classroom setting. The real epiphany for me was many years ago before I switched to mandolin. For several years I worked pretty hard at learning to play rhythm guitar. I was a decent, mediocre player, but really not much more.

It was almost by accident, when one day I picked up the mandolin that had been stored in my closet for over 20 years, and began playing around with it. All of a sudden the layout of the strings made so much more sense to me. It was almost like an immediate natural comfort holding and playing the instrument. From a music standpoint, it was nothing less than life changing, and probably the only reason there is a Magnatar today. I wish I could explain better.

mwe3: Why do you call the first Magnatar album Parallel Worlds and is there a mystical connotation to the title or is it more about the band members and how they were all kind of moving in the same direction?

Dave Norton: I wouldn’t really say there is a mystical connotation to the name. The title track, “Parallel Worlds”, is actually one of the older songs Glenn wrote, even before Reed and Ryan came on board. It was one of the songs that really pushed the band in an even more progressive direction, and it basically became one of the signature songs the band was known for as the group continued to evolve. I also think it does accurately represent the story of the band as it pertains to who we are today and how we all came together.

For me personally, it also represents one of the songs where the addition of the keys really made a significant impact during the recording process. I came up with an idea for the big middle break, which had historically been a basic guitar solo. Ryan and I essentially rewrote that entire middle part around the keys, which also lead to Reed completely redoing his drum parts. The result was a much bigger and more dramatic sound than it had ever been. All that said, as far as the name of the album itself, it just made sense, sounded pretty cool, and once I found the images for the front and back cover, it was a done deal.

mwe3: There are 3 generations of musicians in Magnatar, so can you explain how that plays into the diversity of sounds and ideas on the Parallel Worlds album? I guess great music truly transcends age and time of birth. Are you amazed at the continuing interest in progressive rock, both vocal and instrumental-based, 50 years now after the first YES album and what do you think of the current world of progressive rock?

Ryan Rivas: As Dave discussed earlier, we have band members from very different eras. Glenn, Joey, and Dave lived through the 1970's, when some of the greatest rock bands were in their prime. Reed is a little younger, but he still got a lot of the 80's and certainly still appreciated 70's music. I'm the youngest, and I've really only seen the era where pop music dominates the charts but there are still some successful rock bands. I think progressive rock tends to be more "underground" in this day and age. I tend to listen to newer bands, like Haken, Plini, Animals as Leaders, etc. So I think our playing styles are all a direct reflection of our main influences.

But each member has a way of injecting his style into the music without sounding out of place. And actually, what I find impressive about Magnatar, is that we all independently write our instrument parts… nobody dictates what part someone else should play. Not to say that we don't occasionally have ideas for each other, but ultimately each musician has executive control to play the part he chooses. And somehow, we never really have problems with one person writing a part that clashes with another's. It just works out and that has been one of the great pleasures of this band and this music.

mwe3: Guitarist Ryan Rivas is credited with producing the Parallel Worlds album. Can you explain what is involved in producing a masterpiece album like Parallel Worlds and who else was key in the creation and production of the album?

Ryan Rivas: First of all, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your very positive compliment! To have anybody refer to a product of my work as a "masterpiece" is very rewarding. I live for it. Thank you so much. As for who was involved, it was really everybody to some extent. Reed predominately mixed his drum tracks. Joey, who actually had his own recording studio for many years, taught me some of the basics about mixing and helped me nail down the bass sounds that he wanted. I then regularly sought and incorporated feedback from my band mates during the mixing process. The album was mastered by Steven Morrison at Mad Life Studios, (Atlanta, GA), so he played an important role as well.

As for what is involved, it is really anything that makes the music more appealing. Whether it's doubling up on guitar tracks to create a bigger sound, adding a track for nothing but a few small percussive accents, or playing with the compression and EQ to make the mandolin fit into a loud, rocking part… it's all about making that song something that a listener can really jam to. Because the songs were already mostly written, I think I spent more time mixing than I did writing or rewriting musical ideas. In all honesty, it was a lot of trial and error.

I would finish mixing one song, move on to the next, and then, in the process, discover some way I could improve the overall clarity of the whole thing. Then I would end up redoing the first mix to incorporate my improvement. This happened quite a few times. I still have a few improvements in mind, even after the album has been released. But at the end of the day, the objective was to complete an album that we all could be happy with and proud of, and I think we all believe we were successful in that sense. I have heard a lot of good responses, and even some constructive criticism. So, I look forward to applying what I've learned and doing an even better job on the next album.

mwe3: What do you think about the current music world and why do you feel it’s so hard for bands and artists to get heard these days?

Reed Hayes: That’s a tough question for me to answer. I have my own music world that I live in. I guess if my goal was to be a part of the “current music world”, whatever that is, I would know more about it. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am just focused on doing my thing as a drummer and contribute to our band’s music the best way I can. If we get recognized for what we do that is obviously a great thing, but as long as we are happy with what we are doing, that is really all that matters.

As far as being heard in today’s music world, I think that is really a relative issue. With the internet it seems anyone can get heard to some degree. I remember a time before CD Baby and iTunes. If a major label didn’t sign you, you were passing out cassette tapes to your friends and that’s as far as it went! But now if you want to promote your music and do all the networking yourself, it is possible to get your music out to a lot more people. I hear these days record labels aren’t interested in any bands unless they’ve already established an audience of their own through social media.

mwe3: Dave Norton and Glenn Smith did a great job on the CD booklet design. Can you say something about the Parallel Worlds album cover art and mixing the outer space images with the back cover cityscape photos?

Dave Norton: There are really 2 very different components to how the album cover and the 8-page booklet that is included in the CD all came together. Once we decided on Parallel Worlds for the title, I started researching sites for imagery related to the concept of parallel worlds. I found a few different ideas that I sent to the guys for feedback, but the first round just wasn’t quite right. With a little more poking around I came across what is the front cover, and knew immediately that was the image I was looking for. I also found what became the back cover shortly thereafter. The idea / imagery of the macro, space view of the two worlds for the front cover, combined with the micro, surface level cityscape for the back cover, just made for a great, cool looking combination. Everyone agreed and we licensed the rights to use the images for the album.

As far as the inside booklet, I designed the overall layout, but it was important for it to reflect who the band is and our very organic roots. Glenn is well known for taking magnificent sunset shots and posting them on his Facebook page. He also does mixed media abstract art that is very creative and unique. I wanted to use a combination of both the sunsets and the pictures as the backgrounds, to then overlay the credits and other text pages for the booklet. I then had to pick just the right sunset shots and art pictures from Glenn’s extensive portfolio, that best blended the colors and worked well with all of the text.

I am very proud of the finished product as a total in-house effort, with the exception of the licensed images for the front and back covers. For all of us, but for Glenn in particular, the merging of beautiful sunset pictures, colorful creative abstract art, and this interesting and unique music we make, just all fits together as an organic foundation for the band. I even incorporated both the sunset shots and artwork as major components of our website at

mwe3: So with this first Magnatar album out, what plans does the band have for the rest of 2019? Because the US is so large, I guess it’s pretty difficult to plan a tour to some of the major cities and towns. How will the band proceed forward as far as new music and recordings and possible live shows?

Dave Norton: First and foremost, we are definitely moving forward with our next album. Much like Parallel Worlds, it will be a combination of some songs from the earlier days of the band, as well as some new material. We already have a working title and a pretty good idea of which songs will be included. As far as live shows, that is a much bigger and more difficult issue. We all want to find opportunities to play live, but we are severely limited in this regard due to each members other outside commitments, including full time jobs for a couple of the guys. That situation, combined with the almost nonexistent venues for our kind of music in the immediate local area, severely limits our playing opportunities. We would however welcome the opportunity to open for some shows around Florida. As I am sure you are aware, there is a network of amphitheaters in the state that put on some really good concerts, and we certainly feel like we would be a great opening act.

Perhaps through additional exposure like your site, we may catch the eye of one of these promoters. All that said, and as a result of these circumstances, Glenn and Joey over the last few years, have slowly but methodically, built several expansions to our rehearsal and recording studio and other improvements to the surrounding area. With the latest enhancements, we have the ability to completely open the front of our studio, and put on our own concert. We can easily accommodate several hundred people for such as event. We even have our own permanent sound system and light show. We can also host additional acts in conjunction with our own private event. So we will just have to see what the future brings. For now, we just want to continue to write and record Magnatar music, and perform for our families, friends and fans when we can.


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