Interview by Progressive World
The Enchantment began in 1988 as Mae Dae, the first band formed by Douglas Ott (guitars), Paul Craddick (drums) and Mike "Benignus" Geimer (keyboards) (the latter two left after 2000's Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10). Within short order Mae Dae became Enchant. Add in vocalist Ted Leonard and bassist Ed Platt and the lineup was complete.
A Blueprint Of The World was released, and re-released in 1985 when Magna Carta signed the band (in the US). While surely the fact that Steve Rothery had produced and played on a few tracks was the entry point for many, Blueprint proved not to be a Marillion clone. 1987 saw the release of Wounded, an album with a very different vibe from Blueprint. The band's sound changed again with 1998's Break.
With a change to the InsideOut in the US (they were already signed to InsideOut Europe), the band released Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10. Now, in 2002, the band has released Blink Of An Eye, featuring new drummer Sean Flanegan,
an album that has created quite a buzz in some quarters. Here to explain the Enchant mystique is Doug Ott.
Igor Italiani: Hi Doug! First of all I would like to start from the very end, so can you tell me if you were pleased with your performance at NEARfest?
Douglas Ott: Oh yes, I think we did very well. I was actually surprised with how well the band was received, 'cause it's a hard/prog rock festival and I don't think Enchant are really a hard rock band. We are more from the heavy side of the progressive rock movement, so I was very, very happy on how we played, with the songs choices and especially with the reaction of the audience.
II: But, considering that you were playing in the US, do you think that this type of music can have a revival there or it is not going to happen anytime soon?
DO: I'm not sure but it's an interesting dilemma, 'cause with the success of such new staples like Dream Theater a band like Enchant can certainly do better in terms of popularity. In fact Spock's Beard is a good example of this reality. However, at the same time, it seems that the media has turned its back on this type of music. MTV doesn't play it, and radio stations really don't play it, too. So it's more of a cult following; it is spreading underground, like in the Internet community, which is really the only place where you can go and find out this genre and its artists.
II: But, you know, talking about radio stations, I'm always a bit surprised by the lack of interest they put in bands like yours, 'cause in my opinion Enchant possesses a repertoire that is somewhat radio-friendly.
DO: Yeah, I agree to a certain extent. What more can I say? In fact I would love to have more support, especially in our home country, but you know, it's just the way that it is, and we try and work around it.
II: Returning to concerts ... last time, after Juggling..., you weren't able to tour Europe. Do you think that this time the thing will happen?
DO: I really hope so. It's definitely something we are interested in, and something we wanna do, it's just a matter of timing and wherever we can find the right band to play with. At the moment this is something that the record company is taking care of, but we have nothing planned yet. Keep watching our website for updates, though.
II: OK, let's go to music now. Blink Of An Eye seems to follow the direction you already set with Break and Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10, the one comprising hard driven rock with substantial prog elements. Doug, what differences do you sense between those three albums?
DO: Well, to be accurate I think that Break had a more raw, almost grungy sound to it. It had definitely some alternative music influences inside. With Juggling 9... we really tried to get rid of a little bit of that influence, coming back to a more classic and melodic approach to the songs. With this album I wanted it to be more of a guitar record, with a little more focus on the heavy riffs, and maybe explore a little bit more heaviness than we ever done before.
II: OK ... alongside the release of Blink Of An Eye Inside Out decided to re-release also Wounded and A Blueprint Of The World. You know, just the other day I was listening to A Blueprint... and re-discovered how beautiful it was with all those sweet melodies ... what do you remember about that record?
DO: Well, it was a very exciting time for us, 'cause it was our first album. We had been together around five years to the time, and we always dreamed of making a record. When it finally came true unfortunately we were working with a producer who didn't care for it that much, but luckily for us our friend Steve Rothery called in and offered to help, so we immediately flew to England and actually worked with him on the record. And when the album came out our record company of the time, Dream Circle Records, put out a lot of promotion and we really got a very good response for the album, and a very good response for the tour, too. It was really electrifying.
II: But, can you tell me something more about the added bonuses of the re-issues?
DO: Yes, the Blueprint... album it's been re-mastered, it has new artwork, I've written liner notes for it, plus my memories about each song. We also added a bonus disc with demos of most of the material, plus two unreleased tracks, which were composed during the five years before A Blueprint.... Please consider that all demos, all of them with the exception of three songs, were made before Ted and Ed joined the band, so they actually feature our first singer. So for the hard-core Enchant fans you finally get the idea of how the band sounded before Ted. Talking about Wounded it has the entire mini Time Lost added in a beautiful digibook package, alongside a couple more demos, if I remember well.
II: Returning to Blink Of An Eye, in my opinion the best track is the last one, the instrumental "Prognosis." Can you tell me something more about its genesis?
DO: You know, we haven't done an instrumental since our very first album ... so it was just that I had the opening riff in my head and I was playing it one day at rehearsal, then all of a sudden everyone just started jamming on it. So I went home and wrote the completion, then I went back to show the guys the full song. We then started playing the track and it was much slower than the version you find in the album. But Sean, our new drummer, continued to say: "Hey let's play it a little bit faster", ands so every week it got a little more faster, a little more faster to the point where it became this really intense song. We really started to like it a lot, so we decided it would be fun to put it onto the record. But unfortunately we had to supply a bonus track, so we decided on "Prognosis", also because Ted didn't want to lose any of the vocal ones in the process. However don't' worry, "Prognosis" will be a staple of our next concerts.
II: But Doug, has the thought of doing an instrumental album ever crossed your mind?
DO: Well, no. Actually, oddly enough, Ed and I, when we were in our early twenties, we played as an instrumental rock band, named Epic, and we wrote so many songs which had no lyrics. But after a while I found myself being somewhat frustrated and limited in not having any vocals, and so I think this was, still is the main reason why so many years have passed by without Enchant doing another instrumental song. It really took some time for me to come up with a song good enough to leave it as it is, without any vocal lines added.
II: What about an all-acoustic record instead? 'Cause I think your music suits fine that type of record...
DO: Oh, it's definitely a possibility ... maybe it would be fun to do like an unplugged Enchant record. Maybe live or something. Yeah, I think it could be a lot of fun. Ted and I have already been playing around with certain songs; for example we did an acoustic version of "Enchanted" for the Japanese edition of the Time Lost CD, and we also played acoustic versions of "Pure" and "Acquaintance," so it could happen. We just need some time to arrange it.
II: Doug, I have one more question before the end ... can you tell us the details about the separation from Paul and Michael (Benignus)? Yes, I know everyone has already asked you this, but please forgive me! :-)
DO: Well, don't' worry Igor, I know this is a question everyone asks. So ... Michael started to work at a really good job here in San Francisco; his responsibilities were so much that he didn't have the time to do our music anymore. He was also making a lot of money, so that he didn't want to stop. You know, we as Enchant obviously require a certain amount of time so the inevitable decision was to part ways, even if we are still friends. However, let me say that he didn't write any keyboard lines for the new album. As far as Paul is concerned ... well, when we finished Juggling 9... it was evident to me that he was already struggling with the direction in which the music was going. He really wanted to do something different than the Juggling 9... album, he wanted to do something more like Break, with more of an alternative grunge feeling. You know, he really likes bands like Stone Temple Pilots, so when we started to work with the material for this album he just didn't seem happy with it,
but on the other hand the entire band was interested in re-exploring these progressive elements we didn't want to loose. So after many talks and much debate me and Paul came to the conclusion that it would be better if we stopped working together in the Enchant form. But there's no hard feeling whatsoever in this choice, we are still very good friends. As a matter of fact, he heard the Blink Of An Eye album before anybody else did, as I took it to his house just after I finished mastering it. You know, his opinion is very important to me, still is. So his words to me regarding the album were like: "This is the best Enchant album you could do!" and I was very happy with this reaction. Plus he still comes to rehearsals when he wants, so you can see that there are no hard feelings at all. It is just that he wanted to do a different style of music in the future.
II: But, while you filled the drum spot, you are still searching a capable keyboard player for the upcoming shows and albums...
DO: Yes, it's true. I would like to have somebody that has the ability of playing solos and virtuoso passages, 'cause I really love keyboard solos, but, at the same time, I want also a texture player, one who is able to be subtle and paint colours with his sounds. Right now I don't know what this person would be, so that's why I'm looking around.
II: But is there someone among the famous names who fits your description? I don't know, maybe someone like Derek Sherinian, whom I really like.
DO: Wow, I love Derek, I really love Derek...
II: So I don't know, maybe someone like him or Kevin Moore...
DO: Yeah, I would say a cross between Derek Sherinian and Mark Kelly. That would be a great combination. So if you know someone with this qualities please feel free to contact me as soon as possible. :-)
II: Don't worry, Douglas, I'll do it. OK, I have no more questions, so thank you for your time and have a nice day. Hope to see you somewhere in time.
DO: Thanks to you, Igor. Bye and have a nice day, too.
Interview by Igor Italiani