Last week we spoke with Rynda Laurel, who, along with Public Enemy’s Chuck D. and other artists, hosted a SXSW panel called “Books Are The New Vinyl.” Laurel advocated that the printed book, especially ones involving art, poetry & photography are essential and provide "neurological and emotional connections e-books cannot." Chuck D. called albums “sonic posters.” One of the new promises in the continued evolution of printed books lies in the idea of self-publishing and publishing on demand. We found a perfect niche project that exemplifies all of the reasons books still matter. Photographers Karel Zuiderveld and Buster Harvey recently released a Deluxe hardcover edition of “Progressive Nation at Sea 2014.” We put “Five Questions” to Buster…
Despite being almost killed off by punk rock, “progressive rock” lives. Can you talk about the ongoing appeal?
Prog never really went away, but it did become morbidly unfashionable for a long time, and the focus on visual style over substance in the 80s made the "progressive" moniker a commercial kiss of death for years. But prog isn't so much a genre as it is an approach to making music "out of the box," and that has always had an appeal to a subset of the listening public and to the artists. With the spread of the internet, the tarnish began to wear off and a new generation of bands and fans began to emerge (and continue to do so). The bands are now able to market and promote their music themselves through a fairly underground scene, bypassing the need to follow the whims of corporate execs at the big labels. Some consciously look to recapture the sound of the classic prog bands of the 70s, while others adventure on newer ground and incorporate elements of post-70s styles into the progressive framework of longer complex songs. Both approaches have their adherents and detractors among the community (prog fans are a fractious bunch) but it's a pretty big tent. I think the key is that, once you cut past the labels that the press once stuck on it, progressive rock is adventurous music that has aged far better than people ever anticipated. It's music that musicians and non-musicians alike can enjoy, a celebration of "art for art's sake".
This has to be the first photo book featuring these bands, around the pool, in the middle of the ocean. Why?
While classic rock cruises have been a growing industry for several years now, it is only recently that promotors have been willing and able to look to less mainstream music for theme cruises. What was unique about the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise is that they looked almost solely to the newer generation of progressive bands, with a heavy slice of progressive metal. Hardly a recipe for big sales, but the kind of gamble that can produce a following among folks with years of potential cruising ahead of them. I really hope they can do it again.
It’s a beautifully photographed book. What was the scene like?
Thank you! It was a very exciting vibe there - the crowd was distinctly younger than at most prog events, and their response really electrified the artists' performances. That feedback is what good live music is all about. You could tell that for every band a person knew of before the cruise, there were two or more they were blown away by. There was also a sense of history - former band members returning for one-off reunions and guests joining bands for unique performances. The capstone was when Jon Anderson, the former singer of Yes (and the only 70s era artist on the cruise) joined new generation supergroup Transatlantic for a medley of Yes classics - it really felt like the passing of the torch to the younger wave of artists. I hope we were able to capture a bit of that feeling through our photographs.
What do you think is the appeal to the artists? Did fans have access to them and did the artists seem to enjoy the scene?
This is a very respectful audience, and I think that really allowed the artists to have whatever kind of experience they wanted to get from it. If they wanted their privacy and relaxation, people were very willing to leave them to it. Thankfully, most were very willing to mingle and party a bit with the fans, and all appeared to be having a great time. They certainly never had to pay for a drink. There's something really cool about strolling along a Caribbean beach and seeing a favorite artist relaxing with their family or doing shots with newfound friends. We are all, artists and fans, part of a very devoted community, and I think the artists felt welcomed without pressure to be "stars" offstage.
Are there any epic sunburn tales waiting to be turned into songs?
What happens on a cruise ship ... Time will tell.
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