The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

JCHRants

Pleb?

Upcoming shows. Progressive Rock vs. Progressive Metal. David Letterman. Progarchy. Prog Rock Magazine. Pleb.

Roger CortonSo the new shows are locked in?

JCHYep. We’re a go. The dates are up. There are prox. twenty seats left for each show, so…

RCCOME AND GET IT!

It feels to me like the kids who dig ‘Modern Prog’ as they like to call it, have almost no connection with the source material. That’s what bugs me personally. Usually with music, the people who dig a newer version of a music still enjoy the source material from which it sprouted.

JCHHey, that’s my line (laughs).

RCI just saw that movie “Hell Or High Water” and I thought of these get-togethers.

JCHLOVE that movie. So who’s the exploited “Injun” who takes it in the neck and who’s the racist Texas Ranger with a heart of gold?

RCThat’s exactly what I’ve been pondering (laughs). So much bickering for so many years now.

JCHWell, that leads to me to tonight’s sermon. As you know, I’ve been ‘lurking’ on social media now for several months trying to take the pulse of the youth of America.

RCYou know you sound like David Letterman when you do that, right?

JCHOh I get it. I’m old and I’m not trying to be otherwise. But unlike ‘Dave’ I’m not trying to be ‘hip’ and ironic. In fact, I kinda blame the guy for a lot of the downfall of American culture.

RCYou’re actually serious.

JCHI am. Irony has become like the default position now. If you say almost anything with a straight face now, you have to add, “I’m serious” at the end. Maybe twice. Just to show sincerity. Sincerity is no longer the default setting. You just proved it with your last reply.

RCPoint taken.

JCHAnd the real irony for me is that an old guy; an acknowledged Midwestern Square who admires no one more than Johnny Carson, was a prime mover of such a radical shift. In other words, it wasn’t some young buck. It was a guy who did a show with Stupid Pet Tricks and interviews with his Mom.

RCIs this leading anywheres?

JCHYeah. I read a couple of articles in Prog Rock Magazine over the holidays…

RCI thought they went under?

JCHNahhh, they’re baaack. Anyhoo, they discussed the almost complete age divide between people who listen to ‘classic prog’ and people who listen to bands started over the past fifteen years or so. There’s very little overlap now.

RCYou yourself have acknowledged that what you do is “Museum Music”, right?

JCHRight.

RCSo why do you think that is?

JCHWell, there’s this kid who does a blog called Progarchy who wrote an interesting post on why this is. It also neatly summarizes the Prog Rock articles for those too cheap to subscribe to Prog Rock.

RCMe! Me! Me!

JCHThere is much in that blog post I agree with–and I also gotta give him his due–he’s certainly doing the whole community a big favor by actually -covering- the scene. However there is a lot I think he gets entirely wroooooooong. It’s definitely written from a young’uns POV. It summarizes a lot of what I think young’uns don’t get is so darned off-putting to ‘classic prog’ fans

RCOld farts…

JCH…about bands like Dream Theater and Opeth and whoever.

RCWhich is the fact that it isn’t at all what we would call ‘Progressive Rock’.

JCHRight. Guys like me DEEPLY RESENT calling what those guys do ‘Prog’.

RCWell they would call it ‘Progressive Metal’ (air quotes).

JCHOK, fine. But then there are who genres of EDM like ‘Progressive House’ and so forth and no one conflates that with ‘Prog’, right?

RCRight, but aren’t you just being… how would you put it… ANAL?

JCHNo way, José (get the “Hell Or High Water” joke?)

RCOh, I got it.

JCHThe bands and fans and writers that conflate Progressive Rock with Prog Metal are, in my mind, guilty of the worst kind of trademark infringement. And older fans know it even if they can’t articulate it.

RCBut you can, of course.

JCHSure. Progressive Rock… the good kind… came from guys who could really play and had a sense of doing ‘bigger’ things–incorporating other genres into their stuff. Classical, Jazz, Folk, World music. The idea was to branch out. Now when the stuff started to get pretentious and moldy, it turned awful. And the only band of that era that remained was King Crimson.

RCBut you love KC.

JCHI sure do. But Fripp was just one bit of Progressive Rock. It’s like the Prog Metal guys only took maybe 15% of ‘Progressive’ (the ‘heavy’ Fripp) and then took the other 85% from boring speed metal guys with skulls. In fact, most of the activity I see on social media focuses exclusively on the shredding. My guess is that most of the fan boys would’ve been air guitarists back in the ’80’s.

RCOr the overblown Metal theatrics–which always reminds me of the first-person-shooter video games my kids play.

JCHEXACTLY! It feels to me like the kids who dig ‘Modern Prog’ as they like to call it, have almost no connection with the source material. That’s what bugs me personally. Usually with music, the people who dig a newer version of a music still enjoy the source material from which it sprouted. For example, a guy who likes Van Halen would also listen back to Led Zeppelin or Cream or Hendrix or the blues. People who like newer Hip Hop, still revere the ‘godfathers’… Grandmaster Flash, etc. But for whatever reason, there’s this cultural divide between ‘new’ and ‘old’ with ‘Prog’ and that makes me think that the two really share nothing in common except the label. In other words, the new bands call themselves or writers or fans called them ‘Progressive Rock’ even though they ain’t.

RCNot sure I agree, but why?

JCHMaybe a band doesn’t want to be labeled as ‘Metal’. Maybe the writer doesn’t know much about Progressive Rock and hears a band like Meshuggah and since they sound more complicated than ‘Metallica’ just slaps on ‘Prog’. Maybe ‘Prog’ is just a label for any music with rock guitars in a time signature other than 4/4.

RCOr that requires slightly more chops than Metallica (laughs).

JCHSeriously, that’s a lot of what I think.

RCLook, I know you disdain most ‘virtuosic’ playing as aimless shredding. And I agree. But I still don’t understand why you get so caught up in labels?

JCHDespite what Miles and so many other musicians say, labels matter–if not to the artist, definitely to the public. If someone hears about a band, the first thing most people want to know is, “What do they sound like?” And a label is what does the trick. Even before they hear a song, they want to know what to expect. And if you say ‘Blues’ or ‘Hard Bop’ or ‘Folk’ or ‘Grunge’ or ‘Rap’ or ‘House’ you at least get people in the ballpark. But if you say ‘Prog’? It’s simply too vague. The split between the old-school guys and the more recent ‘Metal’ fans is too wide. So the term is effectively meaningless.

RCI get you. Not sure I’m one hundred percent on board, but I get the idea.

JCHSee I’m trying to reach out to people on the other side, but the fans are so polarized.

RCWe’re not talking politics are we?

JCH(laughs) No. But I realized that the ‘polarization’ is because the two fan bases are actually for two different genres. And frankly, I wish the young’uns would FIND THEIR OWN NAME!

RCYou’re serious.

JCHKinda. It gets tiresome trying to talk to most young (cough) ‘Prog’ fans because they just have no time for the kind of music I do… or that I think of as being ‘Progressive Rock’. In other words, it’s a one-way conversation.

RCSo in that Progarchy blog post, the guy is bemoaning all the hurdles in seeing shows. Cost. Distance.

JCHI totally get that. But he ignores the stylistic aspects and I see those as the real issues. His solution is to have an old-school and a new-school band on the same stage. But that strikes me as ridiculous as having a GOP candidate do a shared event with a Democrat candidate just because they want to save on costs! If the idea is to get more ‘Prog’ fans together; to broaden the fan base; to make it easier for everyone to hear the music? That dog won’t hunt.

RCSo what’s your solution, big boy?

JCHI don’t have a solution. I’m David Letterman, remember? All I have is cynicism (laughs).

RCWait, I thought you said you weren’t David Letterman. You’re Mr. Sincerity.

JCHBut on this? I am sincerely cynical. The new fans are not fans of Progressive Rock. Whatever the new music is (UN-PC ALERT!), it feels sorta transgender. They can call it whatever they want, but the DNA is not from Yes or KC or Genesis or Tull or any of the founders. It may wear some of the same clothes, but it’s just not the real deal underneath.

RCOuch. We’ll get letters.

JCHI know. But regardless, you can never get the two factions together. The ‘new’ people don’t see the value in the old stuff. And the old people are often stuck in their Museum Of Rick Wakeman Gold Capes.

RCOuch!

JCHThat’s also a truth. Look at how hard I have to work to get any fan base. There are plenty of fans of Neal Morse and the like if I could stick to that one old-school path. But for me Progressive Rock is… PUN ALERT… ‘progressive’. It’s supposed to be evolving. I didn’t spend all those years in music school just to keep playing the same junk until I can collect social security. My job is to keep pushing into new areas.

RCLike the operas.

JCHLike the operas. And hope to Christ that enough people will follow me that I can keep the rain off my back and Ramen in my belly. In sickness and in health.

RCAmen.

JCHMy point is that both old and new ‘Prog’ fans get on my nerves some times. People like what they like, but the whole genre is about growth. Trying new stuff. It demands that I incorporate new musics into my work, but it also demands that listeners do the same. Most of the stuff I hear from both factions is depressingly samey. You have to admit that, right?

RCOf course. We’ve had this argument many times. For example, I like Dream Theater. Yes, it’s very ‘samey’ but I like the basic product so I’m happy for the same-i-ness. As you’ve said, there’s a ‘Holiday Inn’ factor to it. You get a ‘predictable experience every time you check in’, as you’d say. Most people like a band and then want them to keep doing the stuff they already like. That said, I also like what you do, obviously, partly because you do help me to stretch my boundaries. But I also recognize that not as many people feel like I do. So when you get too adventurous, you run a risk, which you acknowledge and seem to be OK with.

JCHI am. But back to the main point…

RCYOU are bringing us back to the main point? I never thought I’d see the day!

JCHYou should play the Super Lotto, dude. Yes, back to the main point. I don’t see how to ‘harmonize’ the two factions that call themselves ‘Progressive Rock’ for they are, in fact, very different genres and the audiences really have little in common. My ‘solution’ would be for the young’uns to stop even using the terms ‘Progressive’ or ‘Prog’… call it ‘Virtuoso’ or ‘Patrician’ and go their own way. They’d probably sell more records if they unloaded the term ‘Progressive’. They don’t get that it’s totally radioactive for American critics.

RCPatrician?

JCHYeah. The Djent guys often refer to any ‘normal’ music–and that may include a lot of old-school Progressive Rock as ‘pleb’.

RCAs in ‘plebeian’?

JCHExactly. So rather than calling other musics ‘common’ or ‘peasant’, they should come up with a positive moniker for what they do, e.g. ‘Patrician’ or ‘High Society’ or ‘Shredulous’ or even ‘Djentacular!’. I could give a fuck (laughs). Just don’t call it ‘Progressive’. Because it’s anything but.

RCI just googled ‘Djent’ and ‘Pleb’ and came across a new term: ‘Chugsmith’. What a crack up (laughs).

JCHThat’s exactly what I was saying about ‘labels’. Fans love labels. And in the case of ‘metal’ it’s like that old joke that turns out to be completely true. Imagine. Any. Type. Of. Porn. No matter how outrageous. And you’ll find it’s already on YouPorn (laughs). By the way, what’s your personal fave, Rog?

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