Interview With Drummer Andy Edwards from Kiama

Have you guys been checking the hot new U.K. prog rock band Kiama? They’ve just released their debut album Sign Of Four to much acclaim in the prog rock world for their energetic and very polshed melodic style. The band’s made up of musicians from many well-known bands and features Rob Reed (Magenta/Kompendium), Andy Edwards (Frost*/IQ), Luke Machin (Maschine/The Tangent) and Dylan Thompson (Shadow of The Sun/The Reasoning). We recently got in touch with band drummer Edwards about the band and to discuss his long career as a music educator and drummer with U.K. prog bands Frost* and IQ as well as performing with Robert Plant’s band Prior Of Brion.

Hey Andy, thanks for spending some time to talk about your musical career to date and your exciting new project Kiama.
You’re welcome. Thanks for the opportunity.

Can you give our readers some background on who you are and your passion for playing the drums? A lot of prog fans will certainly know about the bands you’ve played with like IQ and Frost* as well as Robert Plant of course but maybe not as much about you.
I started playing drums in 1980 when I was twelve, inspired by my Dad’s jazz record collection and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that was emerging at that time. Being a metal and jazz fan naturally takes you towards fusion and prog. My heroes are probably Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa. Drummer wise I love Billy Cobham, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jack DeJohnette, Marco Minneman…the list goes on and on.

After playing in various cover bands I ended up playing with Robert Plant in a band called the Priory of Brion which played all over Europe. That was an incredible experience! After that I played with the blues guitarist Ian Parker and then in 2005 I returned to my prog roots and joined IQ who are one of my favorite prog bands. I’m also a composer and I’ve always written and recorded my own music. I’ve now set up a BandCamp page to release some of this music and I released a 26-minute prog/metal/jazz epic called ‘Black Corridor’ just before Christmas. Finally, I’m also the head of music at Kidderminster College in the UK.

I’ve been checking out some of your videos and have really been impressed by your versatility as a drummer (especially the one where you had fun playing the history of drumming) Is that something you pride yourself with as a musician?
If you class yourself as a prog musician (which I do) you’d better be pretty versatile because that is the nature of the genre. But I do listen to lots of different music and earning a living from it means you have to be able to play in lots of different styles. In my time I’ve played jazz, metal, reggae, folk, bhangra and blues.

But however much technique you acquire in the end it all comes down to feel, and to me different styles mean different feels. Once you know how a certain genre feels you can play whatever you like in that style. I think that’s where the innovation comes from. It’s always interesting to hear drummers playing outside their usual style – I love that! Frank Zappa would do that a lot, make these incredible musicians play the heaviest modern classical stuff and then move to some cheesy disco beat.

Speaking of drummers, are there any these days that you’re very impressed with or are inspired by?
I sometimes do drum clinics and I used to often play alongside Marco Minnemann, and Thomas Lang and along with Virgil Donati they have really raised the technical standard for drummers. Of today’s drummers I love Gavin Harrison and Martin Axenroot from Opeth. Steve Judd plays some interesting stuff with Karnivool. The guitarist Phi Yaan Zek played me some stuff by the guitarist from Meshuggah. It featured Morgan Agren on drums and that was very intense! I also listen to a lot of jazz and funk drummers, Chris Dave is pretty amazing. Also Jojo Mayer and Martin Valihora who plays with Hiromi is great.

Besides Kiama, what are you up to these days? I know you’re no longer with IQ or Frost* so are you mostly doing teaching and clinics to pay the bills?
Yes, most of my income comes from teaching. I’ve also recently been collaborating with Phi Yaan Zek who is a guitarist/composer who writes some of the most interesting music you will ever hear and Steve Lawson who is one of the greatest solo bass players on the planet. Last year we released an improvised album called ‘Ley Lines’ and ‘Ley Lines II’ is in the pipeline.

I’ve also done a lot of live improvised stuff with Steve and over the last few years we’ve performed and recorded with Julie Slick from Adrian Belew’s band and Jem Godfrey from Frost*. You can listen to all of that on Steve’s BandCamp. I also played on Christina Booth’s album ‘The Light’ and made a prog funk album with the trombonist Murphy McCaleb. And that is just the tip of the iceburg!

Are there any bands these days that you’re most excited about? Any that are influencing what you’re going to be doing with Kiama?
With Kiama we really wanted to form a great band and get the musicians all together in the same room and record them that way. This was really influenced by Steve Wilson and ‘The Raven that Refused to Sing’ album. I think that album really gave prog a shot in the arm. Also the way Steve used Guthrie Govan on that album, getting him to play more emotional solos that worked as a part of a strong song really influenced our choice of Luke Machin on guitar. Luke really got that approach and I think he is mindblowing on the Kiama album.

How long have you known Rob Reed from the U.K. prog band Magenta? Have you worked together before or will this be your first collaboration?
I’ve known Rob for about eight years and we crossed paths at many prog festivals when I was playing with IQ. When I had my little break from playing he started phoning me up and asking me to do various sessions with him. I’d got a bit fed up back then with the whole pro-tools way of recording drums where everything is quantised and the kit sounds replaced. On many modern albums the drums are all but programmed. This can be very true with progressive metal!

If the fans knew how some of those albums are made they would be shocked. I wanted to record real drums with no editing or quantisation. Rob assured me that the drums would all be real so I agreed to play on the Magenta album ‘Twenty Seven Club.’ I really enjoyed working with Rob and his whole approach. When we were recording that album we started talking about forming a band to take that approach even further and Kiama was born. I’m pleased to say that every drum track on that album is 100% real and was all done on one take!

What do you expect to be achieving with your new band? The clips sound very exciting and we think the band’s sound will appeal to all fans of melodic, accessible progressive rock.
We really wanted to add something to the modern prog genre, rather than doing more of the same. We really wanted to emphasise melody and the song and not sacrifice that for pointless twiddly bits. We wanted to write an album that could be played live and wasn’t the result of programming and studio trickery. I do love electronica and mad programming but we wanted to achieve something more organic.

We hope that there are enough prog fans out there hungry for that approach and want to come and see us live and buy more albums. The one thing we didn’t count on was how well Rob, Dylan, Luke and myself would get on musically and personality wise. I think they are all really super talented and I can’t wait to make more music with them.

As you know, we cover they heavier end of the progressive music spectrum. What do you think Kiama will bring to the table that might appeal most to our readers?
I think Luke’s band Maschine is much closer to the progressive metal genre and my old band Frost* sometimes went in that direction. I hope any fans of those bands will be interested in hearing us in this context.

Also we are drawing the influences of many classic rock bands, especially Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow as well as the usual prog influences and my hunch is that many prog metal fans do have wider interests musically and I’m sure there are fans of those bands amongst your readers.

I remember when Frost* toured with Dream Theater I can remember those guys citing Rush and Iron Maiden as formative influences for that band. Add to that dollops of jazz fusion, The Beatles and Zep and you have the foundations of prog metal. And those are our influences too.

When do you expect the debut Kiama album to come out? Please do keep us informed as we know our readers will be all over it!
The album came out on 18th January and it seems to have had a good reception so far.

Anything else you’d like to add?
If any of your readers are interested in listening to the other stuff I do my bandcamp is:

All prog metal fans should check out Phi Yaan Zek:
and check our album ‘Ley Lines’

and please out Steve Lawson

If you subscribe to Steve’s site you get access to the album we made with Jem Godfrey called ‘Live at the Tower of Song’ I also play on the album ‘Winter Song’

Interview by Jeff Stevens

Andy Edwards – Official Site

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