In their second national press cover feature another Lodon based journalist found himself at the bands farmhouse. "Music" Magazine 8/3/84
Graham Morrison


My mum warned me there would be days like this. Still recovering from 'album-lag' I staggered into our offices a few hours after hearing The Sentinel' LP by Pallas and phoned EMI to set up an interview. "Would you go to Aberdeen?' they asked. "Yes" said I. It was only after putting the phone down I realised that to get that far north with enough time to do a decent interview would mean an alarm clock bursting into life about 6am.

A few days later I staggered across the tarmac at Aberdeen Airport wondering what I'd ever seen in this five piece's first album for a major. 10.30am, a plastic breakfast inside me and dark thoughts about a band that have the audacity to live in the back of beyond. (Don't they know that the music press NEVER moves out of London!)? I was hailed by three happy people with the smug expression that accompanies anyone who's had proper food and knows you haven't.

"Hi, how was the flight?" asked bass player Graeme Murray. Singer Euan Lowson joined in; "Glad you made it, you must have had to get up awfully early!" (I marked this one down for possible murder.) Keyboards wizard Ronnie Brown, also grinning, suggested we got into the car and headed out to the farm where the other two members of the band were, a FARM!

"Oh great," thinks I, "Wall to wall fitted cow-pats, sitting around a peat fire talking about a record I'm getting less interested in by the second".

The farm itself lay about five miles outside Aberdeen and the band have total use of one of the cottages. The building belongs to a local man who likes the band and only asks that they pay the electric and telephone bills.

It gives Pallas the chance to have their equipment always set up and ready to put new ideas on tape. The cottage is set in beautiful country that inspires good songs. Yet it is remote enough to ensure only rabbits and deer will be upset if the volume gets turned up.

Guitarist Niall Mathewson saved the day. "Fancy a cup of tea?" he enquired. Here, I decided, was a man after my own heart. I was to find out as the day went on that Niall was a tea fanatic, and any excuse was used to put the kettle on and 'brew-up'. Derek Forman, the drummer in the band, led me over to the window. "Look at that view," he enthused. "Many a time when we were working on ideas for the album we'd get stuck. I tell you this, a half-hour or so out there and you come back in brimming with ideas!"

Over a cup of tea I listened to a few 'ideas' they'd put on tape in the cottage. Still very raw, but the potential is them Much of what I heard will be used as the foundation for future album projects. It's like a kind of musical note-pad, just ideas that came to them and were committed to tape before they were forgotten.

Future album projects? Is it a bit hasty to be talking of the next record when 'The Sentinel' is still hot off the press? No, this is not a 'flavour of the month' outfit, and the commitment from their record company shows that they too are aware of the band's long term promise. "EMI are behind us 100 per cent," Graeme said. "We haven't signed a deal that says two singles, and if you don't get a hit you're out."

"EMI have said to us, take your time, make another good album, there's no rush. They know that they are unlikely to see a return on their investment until the third album at least. In this day and age that's fantastic. It's giving us the chance to progress musically at a pace that suits.

The thing that strikes you about Pallas is how 'together' they are. I don't just mean in the musical sense, but as people. Whoever you talk to it's "WE did this" or 'WE did that", "WE feel", "THE BAND decided", and so on. Their commitment to one another or possibly to Pallas is total. When disaster struck, as they were about to record their last album, it was their strength as a unit that pulled them through. The band explained:

'Our manager had approached all the majors for a deal, and one of them was really interested, offered much more than the others so naturally he pursued that path. There was talk of an album, which we desperately needed to get out. We contacted Eddy Offord to see if he would be interested in producing it. Eddy came back straight away, yes he would, and how soon could we get out to his studio in Atlanta, Georgia?

"Arrangements were made, studio time booked and so on when suddenly for no apparent reason, this record company pulled out of the deal. So there we were, we had an album to record, a wry enthusiastic producer and no record company. EMI had been interested in the early stages of the negotiations, so our manager started talks with them again. They weren't quite sure and wanted to hear some finished product before committing themselves.

"We had to go over to the States and put something down for the record company to hear. The only way we could raise money was to sell every bit of equipment we had that we didn't need to record with. Graeme's prized racing car went into the pot too, and somehow we scraped up enough money to get over there."Pallas got to Atlanta by the skin of their collective wallets and the man from the company duly arrived to hear what they'd done. The deal was signed and Pallas joined EMI. In my review of the album, I complained at the choice of single material on it. As is usually the case, there was a reason for this and the band explained how that came about.

"The record company was very keen on us to re-record "Arrive Alive". It had been out on a self-financed indie single in Britain before so we decided to put "Eyes In The Night" as it's now called on the US album and have a track called "March On Atlantis" on the UK release. As it turned out the same album is going to be used both here and in the States, so what we've done is to put "March On Atlantis" on the 'B' side of our next single that will be "Shock Treatment", and although it's a single it does fit into the rest of the album.

"We see singles as a different facet of songwriting — one we have to explore. It's very difficult to come up with an original sounding single that is palatable to the band, to our existing fans, and that's going to attract new people."

"We need airplay to get across to a lot of potential new fans. To get airplay on national radio you need a single. The days of rock programmes on a regular basis are over at the present, just two hours a week, and the rest of the time it's concentrating on different extensions of mainstream pop. It's about time that rock fans started making a noise, and there's enough of them. Look at the album charts and see how often bands sell out major venues on tour."

"Singles don't have to be a compromise if you approach them in the right way, and that's what we've tried to do. Anyone who likes 'Shock Treatment' enough to investigate the album it's from will probably like the rest of the record too."

The single is due to be released to coincide with Pallas' first tour for over a year. The hassles before the recording that we spoke of plus the recording itself have kept them off the road for far longer than they like.

"We are primarily a live band," they said. "Although we'd like to try as many different directions as possible, it won't be at the expense of live work. We like to present the fan with a complete package from the moment they enter the theatre involving lights, effects, and the lot. What's the point of just going out and presenting your album? The fans might just as well stay at home with their headphones on and listen to the music recorded in ideal surroundings, i.e. the studio."

For a band that professes to be so 'at home' on the stage, they have recorded an excellent studio album. How was this possible?

"You have to understand Eddy's studio," they explained. "What he's done is convert a theatre. The first 10 rows of seats have been taken out and the backline is in little sound-proof rooms. Eddy's got all his gear in front of the stage, there's no glass between him and you, and it's just like playing a gig. We felt at home in that studio, but normally home is where the stage is."

'The Sentinel' is just the start for Pallas. As they said, the whole project was so large they could have done a double album on that theme alone, but the days of groups going along to majors demanding a double album to start off with are not with us yet. Given that they had to record single material to get the airplays, EMI have allowed them more room than another company might have considered.

As there are longish tracks on it, and their producer has been linked with the likes of Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer it was inevitable that writers would start reaching for their 'comparison chart' as soon as the album was released. The band have fairly strong views on this.

"Progressive rock in the eighties is different from its birth in the seventies," they remarked. "It's hard to describe, but the closest we can get is to say it's rock music for the eighties, with the technology that's available in the eighties influence by the progressive rock of the seventies. It's experimenting and naturally electrics plays a big part, but you have to take it slow. "Yes" went completely over the top on some things with everybody playing different time signatures that all met up when it's put together properly.

"This was OK for the musicians in the audience, they could understand what was going on. It became inaccessible for Joe Soap. You have to gradually break new ground without it becoming inaccessible. There are few adventures in the rock field really; those that exist are more of a cult status, rather than mass acceptance.

"If progressive rock has a place in the eighties, it has to be accessible. People who want to shoot down so - called progressive rock music in flames because it's old - fashioned are those with very narrow minds. Their minds are usually channelled into fashion' by what they read in the music papers that try to dictate music style rather than report what's happening."

"As for some of the comparisons that are being bantered about, it shows a lack of imagination on certain people's parts that they have to quote past examples. Unfortunately they tend to do this in rock music. There's not a band that isn't a little bit like another, that's progression. How do you be original? If being original is going on stage with a pneumatic drill and breaking up slabs of concrete — fine. We know there's a couple of bands that do that, but to our ears that's not music, and never will be

"Pallas are five people. We've all got different influences and our sound reflects the five of us. Take one out, and replace him, you'll get a different sound. For people to say we're clones is ridiculous. If people want to liken us to Duran Duran, Genesis, ELP, Yes, Queen, etc, well they've had, shall we say a modicum of success, and have been admired for their musicianship.

"We are five individuals, and we make the sound that is Pallas.