Thursday, November 6, 2014

Exclusive Interview With Ed Platt Of Enchant

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I recently caught up with Ed Platt, one of the founding members of, and the bass player for the progressive rock band Enchant. The band’s compositions have always been characterized by ambitious lyrics and experimental harmonies and, in the past, that formula has led to some amazing music.  The musicianship of each member is of virtuoso quality.  They toured with Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Marillion and the California Guitar Trio. Enchant has been around since 1989. Through 2004 it had eight serious full length releases that included one live album, but then nothing for a decade.  After a ten year recording hiatus the band just released a phenomenal new album “The Great Divide.”  The album leads what seems to be a resurgence of interest in progressive rock.  With soaring aural landscapes, cascading progressions of notes, off-beat timing and kilter, and thought-provoking transcendental lyrics, the eight listed tracks and one masterpiece of an additional bonus track on The Great Divide, pick us up right where Enchant left us in 2004.  The members are older and the album presentation shows glimpses of that maturity.  It truly is a must have album for any progressive rock aficionado.  

Ed was kind enough to sit down with me, answer questions and talk about the new release, the band, its history, and life in general.  So, without further adieu, here is what happened -  

Hi Ed, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and answer my questions.

Q. Enchant has been around in one form or another since 1989. How did the band first
get together?

Ed:   Well actually the early origins of the group reach back to the end of the 1980s when the band was known as Mae Dae. This band had 5 members two guitarists and a singing bassist along with Paul [Craddick] and Mike [“Benignus” Geimer] before Doug [Ott] joined the band. After Doug joined, the band changed the name to Enchant and took on a whole new direction adding Doug’s great songwriting and melodic approach to the guitar. Brian, the original vocalist, bassist left the band so Doug and the guys asked me to join. Doug and myself had been playing in a progressive hard rock band previously in the late 80’s. After hearing the demo’s for Nighttime Sky and Acquaintance for the first record I was really impressed at the musical talent and songwriting of these guys. We then started auditioning vocalists and Ted [Leonard] showed up one day, blew us away and was hired immediately. Steve Rothery of Marillion became aware of us from the connection with Paul so he helped produce A Blueprint of the World in England in 1993 and the rest as they say is history!

Q. You are all accomplished musicians. How did you choose progressive rock as the
canvas for the band?

Ed: I think this is the music we all in one way or another have been most influenced by along with just great songwriting and the great musicians we came up listening to -. Rush, Kansas, Marillion , Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, more so back then. Along with the classic hard rock we grew up on as well of course. When Doug met the original guys in Mae Dae and joined Enchant they all really loved Progressive Rock. It was a passion for all of them and the music was even more progressive then. So that was the background or foundation as it was. The band has evolved over the years from all kinds of music since then. Doug has many influences ranging not only from progressive rock and classic hard rock but many different kinds of music including a lot of the classic pop songwriters. My background or influences were more Jazz Fusion and Funk along with Heavier Rock and even Funk. Ted loved Kansas and Kings X and a lot of more current music at that time including grungier stuff, and brought in a whole new element which even today on The Great Divide comes out! It’s funny but Ted was probably the least prog influenced guy in the band back then and now, is one of the top vocalist / musician / songwriters in all of progressive rock. Sean [Flanegan] is very influenced by progressive rock and also fusion styles, he is an incredible odd time drummer with an amazing meter and feel for everything he plays. He loves King Crimson and Genesis and adds so much when it comes to the rhythmic part of the music. Bill’s [Jenkins] roots come from the early classic rockers and blazing keyboardists like Jon Lord and Rick Wakeman. He also loves Jazz and Fusion and is an incredible all around musician and soloist.

Q. Ed, you have been Enchant’s bass player since the beginning. How did you get started playing bass? Do you have any favorite bass equipment? Was there a bass player that inspired you or one that was your mentor?

Ed: I actually started playing bass at 15 years old , I was taking guitar lessons from David Victor (Boston, Velocity, Bostyx, Platinum Rockstars) he needed a bassist so I learned the band’s music on bass and loved it even more than guitar. Started gigging with his band as well as playing with Steve Oliver of Jazz fame who turned me on to Kansas, Jeff Beck, and The Dregs amongst other greats. I was playing with Doug as [far] back then in High School so with all these incredibly talented guitarists I made the switch to bass and had it made playing with these awesome guitarists.
I then discovered Stanley Clarke and Louis Johnson and taught myself how to slap and pop the bass and got heavily into jazz and fusion. I really loved the way Stanley could play lead bass as well - that was a huge influence. At the same time Geddy Lee’s style along with Chris Squire influenced me on the progressive rock side of things. After getting into Jaco, Mark King and Dave LaRue later is when I really started getting comfortable on the instrument from watching these guys. The[y] were influences and mentors from studying their styles. I have been lucky enough to tour with John Jowitt, John Myung, Pete Trewaves and Dave Meros, all who have heavily influenced me as well.

Q,  What type of gear do you use?

Ed: On gear and instruments, I like Mesa Boogie and Trace Elliot bass amps and cabs. I use some custom Tech Cabinets as well and play my Kubicki Factor 4 bass along with 2 Music Man Stingrays a 4 and a 5 string and 3 Fender Jazz basses as well.

Q. The new album, The Great Divide, is the first studio album the band has released in ten years. What has the band and its members been up to over the past 10 years? Why the long hiatus?

Ed: What brought the band together to record The Great Divide . . . Well, we were always together and working on music, we just didn’t really have the time we needed with so many life changes we were all going through. Families are always first and we have to work as well and
this became more difficult the older we were getting. Five guys going through relationship changes, having kids and taking care of young ones, raising them,working more to make ends meet and juggling “life events” made it really difficult. We all have many other interests as well so the time just slipped away as it does. We did play some shows and festivals - the Bay Area Rock Festivals, the ProgPower USA Festival in Atlanta and had music written but [it] need[ed] to be completed. We finally got [to] the point we all looked at each other and said, “let’s do this!”  We also have some of the most amazing fans in the world from all over the world who continued to support us and encourage us to get back at it.

Q. How does the band go about writing lyrics and music? Has that changed over time? If so, how?

Ed: Doug and Ted write most of the lyrics, Our original drummer Paul did as well in the past. Doug has been the main songwriter over the years he is just really gifted at writing songs and continues to be one of the best in the business in my opinion. Ted has grown so much as well over the years and has also become one of the best. Same with the music although our original keyboardist wrote some amazing music as well and I have written parts and pieces also but now we all collaborate more.
Sometimes we have a certain subject in mind to write about and sometimes, we just start with the music and see where it takes us? Actually a lot of the time we do this and maybe Doug or Ted had something in mind they had lyrics for. They might just write a song and present it to the band as well completed.

On The Great Divide we wrote new music and lyrics and used some of the older material we worked on before or already had written. Both of Ted’s songs he wrote alone have been done for sometime. We have been working on “Within an Inch” for a long time as well, but never completed it [until] last year. Doug had the main melody and parts of “The Great Divide” when he was a lot younger back in his early 20’s. “Circles” was around as well for years; we just finally completed it. “Here and Now” was the newest; it came from an idea I had and the guys loved it and helped make it into something special, especially Bill’s haunting keys.

Q. Aside from Enchant who do you think to today writes great songs?

Ed: I think Steven Wilson is an amazing talent, he is one of the very best today; he combines old and new styles and is very unique. Rush to this day are great songwriters, Neil Peart is my favorite lyricist. John Petrucci and Dream Theater are still amazing, Neal Morse is always top notch, I think Ty Tabor from Kings X is awesome and I really like John Mitchell from Arena too. I guess it depends on what genre we are talking about. As far as progressive Rock goes these are my favorites still.

Q. I found The Great Divide to be a phenomenal album. I hear a bit of influence from early Rush, a similarity to Geddy Lee in some of your playing on the album. Was that intentional?

Ed: Thank you [Old School] we are super proud of this album. Well, I think a lot of Geddy comes out in my style because he is a hero and one of my biggest influences. Chris Squire as well especially in the title track. I played that with a pick because the back picking part was so fast I had to to keep up. Also the fact I started on guitar years ago and played a lot of lead comes out. And listening to so many great guitarists my influence by them on bass as well. Hopefully I have meshed these styles into my own with others on the album. I add a lot of slap and pop in a heavy rock way as well on this one; I think it adds a lot to the rhythmic patterns. I added some tapping as well.  I wrote the intro to “Here and Now” one night wanting it to be not some crazy part but to create a mood with the music tapping in a simple pattern that would set the feel of the song.

Q. What is your favorite track on the album? Why?

Ed: “Here and Now” is my personal favorite song. Being involved in the writing for me is an all time high with Enchant and watching it materialize from a few parts and intro and simple progression to such an amazing song with great lyrical content, and an amazing middle section. I love this one. I also love the production on this song.  To me it just sounds incredible. When I told Doug about the idea for the content of the piece he was very moved by this and wrote from his heart and soul being that this touched on some really meaningful subject matter of appreciating what we have now in the moment and present time and not just after someone or something is gone.

Q. Lately there seems to be a resurgence in progressive rock? Why do you think that is? 

Ed: Progressive rock has changed in my opinion quite a bit over the years from the classic sounds to more modern creative ambient and darker moody sounds. Steven Wilson is a good example of a newer progressive sound along with groups like his Porcupine Tree, Tool, Incubus, Radiohead, The Muse etc. You can even really make a case for Daft Punk having these influences in creativity. Prog purists will likely disagree with this but I have seen where Rick Wakeman even agrees with this in interviews.

What I see that has [contributed] to the resurgence of progressive rock is more creativity and less rules in music. The heavier groups, like Dream Theater, continue to impress not only with the insane musicianship but great songwriting as well. Supergroups like Transatlantic and Flying Colors seem to be doing quite well which is great for the genre. And then you have Rush who ride every wave in every decade and continue to lead the way for everyone else.

I think that there are actually for more and more people out there and musicians who want more from music then it might seem and they are looking for good music with melodies! Melodies make music, in my opinion, and chord progressions that move people. And meaningful lyrics make it a bit deeper.

Q. Enchant arose during the CD format era. That has now changed. Vinyl, CD or digital download, which do you prefer? Why?

Ed: I still prefer CD and Vinyl. Especially after getting the Special Edition CD Booklet for the Great Divide, and finally Vinyl! Looking at the artwork and the lyrics and opening these up for the first time brings me back to my first memories of getting albums as a kid looking through the artwork in the albums and later CD’s.

I prefer the sound quality and overall experience. I am a big time rock music history buff as well as art history and I think music and art go hand in hand it is just how it should be for me.

Q. Do you have a favorite record store in or around your home town? If so, where and why?

Ed:  Well I used to really like Rasputin’s in Pleasant Hill and Berkeley, CA. They are back in Pleasant Hill again now and hopefully carry The Great Divide! They had a huge poster in the window of Blueprint of the World when it came out 20 years ago. I have fond memories of getting used albums there years ago. And many of my friends worked there as well

Q. Whiskey, Jager, beer or wine?

Ed: No Jager that shit is nasty! Whiskey, Beer and Wine!

Q. Are there plans to tour the album? If so, when and where?

Ed: Yes, we do plan on doing a U.S dates along with some European dates and hopefully this time We really want to get to Mexico and South America as well. We have nothing set in stone at this time and are working on this now. We are playing ROSfest on May the 3rd, that festival, and are talking about doing some other festivals in the year as well. We might play a local show or two in California earlier possibly.

Q. Where is the best place place to buy The Great Divide on line?

Ed:  Inside Out music our record company http://www.insideoutmusicshop.com/ or amazon are both good.  Also https://www.lasercd.com/search_results?fulltext=enchant

Q. What is next for Enchant?

Ed: Well are planning to play some shows and possible festivals and maybe a tour and already have more material in the works for the next album. We are rehearsing the older material and working on new ideas as well. We are really looking forward to 2015 and beyond and do not plan on taking any extended breaks in the future.

Q. Any final thoughts or comments you would like to share with The Ripple Effect waveriders?

Ed: Just big thanks for all the support and bringing attention to many unknown artists and promoting them.

Thank you [Old School] for this interview and the great review and positive comments. It is very much appreciated. Also, anyone who is not familier with Enchant check us out.

Q. Oh, two more questions 1. If you could be any type of animal in the world what type
would you want to be? 2. As a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?

Ed: Easy, I would be a Wolf or a Dolphin, and as a kid and even now a Major League baseball player and make millions of dollars to play the game I love.

Ed, again, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  Waveriders, don’t miss The Great Divide by Enchant.  It is, well, enchanted.

-Old School



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