Interview with Roie Avin, author of Essential Modern Prog Rock Albums
What first got you into Hard Rock and Heavy Metal?
As a young kid it was first Kiss and then Def Leppard that I remember catching my attention. I grew up in the hair band era so I did like a lot of those bands but I always gravitated to the ones that were more interesting, a bit more technical, stuff like “Gods of War” from Def Leppard is a good example. That was also a period where the great prog bands were making great pop records like Yes’ 90125, which I loved. My dad’s record collection was filled with all the great classic albums from Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and many others, and I got hooked on all that music through sheer curiosity.
What attracted you to Progressive music more than other simpler sub-genres?
I’ve just always enjoyed big music, lots of harmonies, melodies, great playing. I also love hard rock and pop, and songs with good melodies. It’s when those elements are combined with great instrumentation that it really all comes together for me. At the end of the day, you still need to have a good song and the great prog bands are able to write good songs. The great instrumentality is the icing on the cake.
Is this your first book? If yes, are you still married?
HA. Yes, this is my first book. It was actually an idea from my wife that I write a book around this subject since I have been immersed in it for so long. But it was a ton of work with late nights, for sure.
How long did it take you from conception to completion to complete EMPRA?
Almost 2 years from start to finish. Coordinating the collecting of pictures, conducting and transcribing all the interviews, then making it all makes sense as chapters; it all took a lot of time.
What was your writing style like? Did you lock yourself away for hours at time or did you pick at it on the go?
That’s hard to say. It really required a lot of organization from the beginning. I had the albums I knew I wanted to cover and then it was just filling in the gaps, the album covers, the images, the interviews, etc. Once I knew I had the interviews done for a particular album I could start writing that chapter. Sometimes I could write 2 albums in a day and then I might have to wait a few days before I could do another one. I just kept going until the list was finished. At first you look at a list with 60 or so albums and you think this is impossible and then one day there are only 5 left to do. That was a great feeling.
It must have been agonizing to decide what bands made the cut and was didn’t. How did you decide, did you have a system? If push came to shove, could you rank these albums in order?
This is the question I keep getting asked the most. We did a ranking on the Prog Report of the Top 50 albums from 1990-2015 a while back and so that was a starting point. There were a bunch of great albums that did not make that list that were definitely worthy that I thought should be added. I knew I didn’t want to make a book with a ranking so that allowed me to include a lot more albums that I thought had a great story and were noteworthy. Then there was tweaking that went on, adding a few more, taking out some others. I really wanted to try and give the major bands from this era their due and also find enough room for as many bands as I could. I think doing it chronologically also tells the story of the genre and how it evolved during this period.
How has initial feedback been?
I was very prepared for the complaints of ‘why did you not include so and so’ but surprisingly the feedback has been great. My hope was that most people would agree with the majority of the albums included even if some of their favorites were excluded. Many of these bands have never been mentioned in a prog rock book, and giving these bands some well deserved attention is the bigger picture for me.
With the decline in traditional publishing, do you expect to see the bulk of sales on-line in digital formats or would you predict old-school Prog guys like us would prefer to buy an actual printed book?
Well, maybe I am also a bit old school, but I wanted this book to be something that a prog fan could display proudly about the bands they love. You can’t do that with an e-book. Us prog guys still buy CDs and Vinyl so I think an actual printed book is appealing to an audience like this. But we will probably have a digital version at some point as well.
Do you have any other plans to write another book? The world needs more Prog!
There are some ideas I have, but no immediate plans.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Find someone who can advise you that has done this before. I was able to talk with a few writers that have done music books who were so helpful to me with what to do and what not to do. But also, if you have an idea for a book, just do it. You end up figuring it out eventually.
Neal Morse vs. Steve Wilson in the Prog Thunderdome…. to the death. Who takes it?
Boy that’s a tough one. I’m still hoping one day they do an album together, although it’s probably unlikely 🙂
Thank you very much!
Check out EMPRA here…