Galgano, John; Tom Galgano; Brian Coralian (Izz) (August 2002)


The Wizards of Izz

Izz (© Izz)I Move ... well, maybe the title of their second CD should have been switched to "they move," 'cause Izz are a band on the rise in the hot prog scenery that is boiling in the music underground. However, as soon as their new album was released we wasted no time in contacting the band, who in turn were very kind in answering all types of questions we posed to them.

Igor Italiani: Hi members of Izz, how are you doin'? You know, I would like to start the interview in a quite diverse manner compared to usual. There was the soccer World Cup going on some days ago ... were you watching it?

John Galgano: I had a great time watching the World Cup this year. It was very exciting. I was rooting for both USA and Italy and both went on a nice run and gave us something to cheer about. Since the time difference was so drastic here in the U.S. it was fun to wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning and turn on the TV and find out what was going on. I still think both the USA and Italy should have won their elimination matches. It was frustrating, but it was all great competition and awesome to watch. Looking forward to Germany in 2006!

II: Do you have other interests besides the passion for music?

JG: I'm a huge baseball fan. And I love the Mets in particular. I get to as many games as I can during the year. I love sports in general. Just playing basketball or baseball with friends is great. Reading is also another passion of mine. I love Dickens, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, and basically any history book I can get my hands on.

Izz - I Move (2002)II: OK, now it's time to talk about you as a band and about your second album, I Move , which I found really interesting. First of all, can you tell me how the songs of the album developed from scratch?

Tom Galgano: Well, every song came about differently. "Weak Little Lad" began with Brian [Coralian]'s lyrics which I then put to music. "I Wanna Win" came out of a day of jamming with John and Brian. "The Mists Of Dalriada" and "Light From Your Eyes" were completely Brems' [Paul Bremner] compositions which he simply presented to us almost fully complete. "Star Evil Gnoma Su" also came from a jam with the whole band together. So, in some cases, the lyrics came first. In others, the music came first. Sometimes one of us would present a semi-finished composition to the band. Other times there would be intense collaboration among all of us. The one thing that is for sure is that no two songs on I Move were written with the same formula. I think that the important element for us is that none of our music is forced out. We never say: "OK, let's write a ten minute epic!" We let the songs tell us what to do with them. A piece like "Coming Like Light" was calling out to be multi-sectional. One cannot bend or twist a composition the way he or she wants. The music must bend or twist because it wants to.

II: However, the mix of styles you use on the album really impressed me. I think that the best thing you did was to balance all these miscellaneous sounds flawlessly and still keep an eye on the song's complexity, always focusing on melodies first and technique second. Are you satisfied with the results you obtained?

TG First of all, thank you for the compliment. Yes, we are very satisfied with I Move. To me, music is music, regardless of the style. I think the Beatles and Emerson, Lake and Palmer proved that. I personally get bored listening to an entire CD full of the same style. Thus, when I write, I write what I might like to listen to and I like all kinds of music. And yes, the focus should be on melodies first and technique second, although its not something we do consciously. It's just common sense. A piece can have all the chops in the world flying about, but if the piece is not well put together, all those notes flying about are just that - notes! Notes in and of themselves do not make for good music. The emotional interpretation of these notes makes good music. Music needs to ooze emotion and if a display of one's technique helps convey this emotion, then it is obviously warranted. I love listening to great technique, but in the context of a well put together piece of music.

II: The amazing thing about this mix of styles is that we can hear the obvious reference to Yes in more than one song, but there's much more than that. King Crimson, King's X, Beatles, electronic sounds, Enchant ... your influences seem to be sparse and too numerous to mention them all. Can you tell us the truth about your muses? :-)

TG: While all five of us have an interest in progressive music, each one of us branches off into other musical interests. For instance, Greg [DiMiceli] has a love for Brazilian music. Brian is a jazzer at heart. Brems was born and grew up in Scotland and has a tendency towards Celtic flavored music. John seems to be fully interested and inspired by everything around him, be it music or literature. I love listening to great piano players. I think (along with most everyone else) that the Beatles changed the face of music, not just rock music! I get truly inspired by the sound of Moog synthesizers. I could go on and on, but it is safe to say that we strive to use our entire musical vocabulary in our music. If I find myself writing a pop song, I shouldn't stop myself and say: "No, I can't write this because it's not progressive enough!". If I think it's a song of quality whether its pop, proggy, hard rock, avant-garde, classical or jazz I should pursue the completion of that song. Not doing so would be to stifle one's creativity. Not doing so would be putting limits on oneself and one's music. Progressive music to me means NO RULES and NO LIMITS and a healthy dose of EMOTION.

Brian Coralian: Some of the influences you mentioned are indeed favorites of the band. Some of the other bands are completely foreign to us, although we would probably enjoy their music if we heard it. Newer bands, such as Radiohead and The Dave Matthews Band, are also an inspiration. In addition, our creativity is piqued by many of the new singer/songwriters out there. I believe I Move represents a step in the right direction for IZZ, in that our sound is evolving into something less familiar. We're slowly but surely finding our own voice, which I think is especially important in the world of progressive rock. The best new bands in the genre find new ways to "speak prog." I think these bands remain true to the spirit of progressive rock, in that they are pushing the boundaries of rock and exploring new approaches to making music. IZZ tries not to inhibit our writing by restricting ourselves to a small menu of sonic choices. Since the first era of progressive rock many new sounds, technologies and genres of music have emerged. We just want to utilize what's available to us.

JG: My influences range from artists such as Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and King Crimson to singer/songwriters such as Jonatha Brooke, Jennifer Kimball and even Michelle Branch, who has impressed me both live and with her intelligent songwriting. If you've never heard Jeff Buckley's Grace [Well, yes I have... --II] go out and get it now. It's essential listening! I listen to anything I can get my hands on. There's so much music out there and I don't want to miss out on anything. And it all works to influence me in certain ways.

II: Another aspect of the album that I really loved is the great production you managed to unveil. Tom, can you explain to us how you worked to obtain such a perfect sound?

Izz - Sliver Of A Sun (1998)TG: Once again, thank you for the compliment. I learned a lot about engineering and production from our first CD Sliver Of A Sun. I learned, as a result of trial and error, about good mic-ing technique, how to get a good clean electric guitar sound, as opposed to a distorted sound etc. ... I guess what it really comes down to is that we didn't settle with a recording that we didn't think sounded good. We tried to get the best possible sound for every instrument. But we paid special attention to the drums. To me, if the snare drum sounds "tinny,' or thin, and if the bass drum doesn't have that punch, it can affect the overall sound of a recording, even if every other instrument sounds good. We spent a lot of time getting that perfect snare drum sound for each track. You can have all the book knowledge in the world about engineering, but in the end your ear tells you what works and what doesn't. I can't forget to mention the person who mastered I Move: John Shyloski from the Carriage House Studio. His superb mastering job cannot be overlooked.

II: Speaking of songs, I think that the title track sums up best what Izz are all about. Can you tell me what's the meaning of the lyrics? Do you think that the song can gain some airplay exposure?

BC: The song "I Move" was originally written as part of a possible song-cycle about a cab driver and his kidnapped daughter. The lyrics are a comment on the way people occupy themselves with mindless activity to avoid facing their demons. It's an epidemic in the United States, and I would assume it affects people around the world. We are so occupied with moving to the next job or activity that we don't leave time for healing old wounds; inevitably this will catch up with us. Much of the CD deals with the choices we make with our lives, and the consequences of those choices. This song reflects the mindset of a man who knows he has made bad choices with his life, but will do anything to avoid confronting that truth.

JG: "I Move" has already gotten some airplay on progressive radio stations and internet radio and we are definitely making a push for this song as well as "Spinnin' Round" and "Believe" to be played on the radio. We are currently looking towards college radio stations here in the U.S., in addition to mainstream radio. But university radio is wide open to a vast array of musical tastes. Right now, mainstream radio is sort of clogged up with the same stuff they've been playing for years and years. But here in the US, college radio gives hope to open doors for all types of music to be heard over the airwaves.

II: Yes, I know that the US market is not so interested in original music nowadays, so maybe it is difficult for you to organize shows and promotion, or not?

JG: It's always a struggle to get an audience to listen to music they've never heard before. You have to offer the audience something different, something that catches their attention musically, something that moves them. We've gotten great responses from crowds in New York, but some of these crowds we play to are the most open minded music fans in the world and don't really represent the mainstream US music market. In terms of the US music industry in general, yes, it's very hard to break into that because the "powers that be" are only allowing certain types of music to be played on mainstream radio. And this lack of support from big-money backers is always going to make it hard to promote and organize live shows. This means that we have to do things ourselves and take big personal and financial risks to play our own music. But because we love the music so much, these are risks we are willing to take.

II: But do you think you'll be able to go on a lengthy tour to support I Move? There's something already planned?

TG: The possibility of doing some kind of tour will be explored in the near future. At the moment we're focused on promoting I Move in and around the United States. Over the next few months we'll be covering 5 different states here in the US. We'll be performing in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina [at ProgDay] and California [at ProgWest] and we think this is a good start in putting together something more lengthy. We feel like it soon will be right to organize a tour of either Europe or America, or perhaps both.

II: Do you think that in the upcoming years the Internet could considerably alter the music market, or not? What's your stance about this new technology and its future applications?

TG: I think it's safe to say that yes, the Internet will continue to alter the music business. I'm not sure what I think it will be like in the years to come. One of the positives that we have seen within the last ten years is that one can listen to any type of music one wants to. The choices are unbelievable. It used to be that you only knew about the bands that were on the radio. Now, listeners can discover bands on their own without being boxed in by the mainstream market telling you "this is what's good, this is what you have to buy." So in this way the Internet has truly liberated the listener and this is a good thing. Will it become common practice for albums to be released on the Internet for download, making record stores obsolete? Well, this is hard to say, too. I have a gut feeling that this won't happen. There is something special about physically opening up a CD. It's something that you can hold in your hand ... a new CD has that certain smell to it ... I guess I'm sort of a romantic about this because I still love buying a CD and opening them for the first time. If the Internet is used well and not abused, I believe it will help the music business in the long run. At least this is my hope.

II: What about the European market? What's your plan regarding CD distribution or concerts in the "old continent"?

JG: As Tom said, we feel that soon it will be time to come over and play for the great music fans in Europe. Like New Yorkers, the European audiences are some of the most open minded people in the world, so I think we'd actually feel quite at home. In terms of CD distribution, we have deals with a number of distributors around the world in countries such as France, Japan and the Netherlands, and we think that slowly but surely our music is reaching many people in Europe. This, of course, is one of the goals of the band, to allow our music to be heard in Europe. The "old continent" is where our roots are, both musically and personally. All of the great musicians who inspire us came from a great European background and this is another factor that makes us even more eager to not only try to get our music heard in Europe, but to come over and play. The timing and the financing of such a tour would have to be just right, but perhaps it will be soon.

II: Boys, the only thing I didn't like about the album was the cover. Can someone justify the design or not? :-)

JG: I'll try to justify the design because it was my "baby" in a sense. Emotion derived from music is one of the main themes of I Move and I wanted to try and get this idea across visually as well as musically. Our emotions are sometimes all mixed up together so we can be feeling happy, sad, touched or angry all at the same time, and music can do all this to you just by listening. At other times, our minds are clear and we know exactly what we are thinking and feeling. Our emotions are, in a sense, under control. I think the cover art tries to explain this dichotomy. There comes a time when we turn the page and wipe the slate clean. All of the emotions we were feeling that were all mixed up now leave us and we are left with a clear vision of what we want and who we are. This transition can occur at any time. It can even occur from song to song while listening to an album. It happens in relationships all the time and it happens everyday of our lives. And music can help this to happen. And I guess all of these ideas are what went into the cover art.

II: Last thing I want to know ... how the band started and why did you choose Izz as the band's name?

TG: Well, John and I have been making up songs together since we were kids. I suppose it just got more serious as we got older. But we always have just loved the collaborative process. Then in 1996 I did a couple one off shows with Greg DiMiceli that featured a few of my compositions. Then over the next few years Greg introduced me to Brian, Phil (our former bass player) and Brems. In 1999 we released Sliver Of A Sun, our first CD. Although Brems was not an official member originally, he contributed right from the start, co-writing "Lorna Doone," and playing on four of the eleven tracks from Sliver Of A Sun. When Phil left, it was just a natural thing to have Brems officially join us. As for our name, well, my brother and I are big baseball fans. A few years ago the New York Mets had a pitcher named Jason Isrenghausen. His nickname was Izzy. So, we just took the 'y' off and there you have it - IZZ. It's a name that just came very naturally, and we both liked it for no apparent reason. And when my brother and I agree on something it's a minor miracle and should not be taken for granted! Thus, the name IZZ was born!

II: OK Izz, that's all. Thank you very much. The only thing that's left for me to say is that I hope to see your band live here someday and always keep up the great work!!!

JG: Thank you Igor! It was a pleasure. We certainly hope to play for you in the near future. Keep doing the great work you do for the adventurous music around the world!


Discography:
Sliver Of A Sun (1998)
I Move (2002)
Ampersand (2004)
My River Flows (2005)
The Darkened Room (2009)
Crush Of Night (2012)
Everlasting Instant (2015)

Izz Live (DVD) (2011)

Added: August 8th 2002
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

Artist website: www.izznet.com
Hits: 1364
Language: english
  

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