Interview with FROST* frontman Jem Godfrey
-Words by Tommy Hash
We can all relate to this; we’re sitting at a desk with a big workload on the horizon. There are duties on the plate that pay the bills, while other things provide more personal amusement. Alas, it’s time to turn some of those things loose for a while; call it a hiatus, a change of directions, shifting focus and whatnot; for sanity’s sake, things have to be put to rest.
Jem Godfrey’s busy schedule has seem him put the brakes on and evetually shine the green light on Frost* a couple times. A successful songwriter & producer, namely with Atomic Kitten and Holly Valance, Godfrey’s success in the mainstream field and love for progressive rock steered him towards creating this band in 2004 as they would unleash their album Milliontown in 2006. The record took the progressive rock community by storm, being critically acclaimed by hardcore proggers as something of a bit of fresh air in what had already become a saturated scene. Yet even with tour dates and a deal with InsideOut, Godfrey decided to put the band to rest shortly after the release; to many this posed the question, “I wonder what they could have done if they stayed together” as well as the statement, “I was hoping for another record on the horizon.”
It’s risky in the world of music for a band to announce their exit from the music community, as there rare is a second chance; yet as many know the whole insanely and often geeky rabid appetite that prog fans have for this music, all is forgiven. So when Godfrey announced a couple years later that album number two was on the horizon; the excitement was probably matched only Star Wars fans who can’t wait to see whatever sequel is on the horizon. Experiments in Mass Appeal delivered, but then it happened again; another indefinite hiatus was announced.
Now it’s 2016 and Falling Satellites is being unleashed, and well, the fans are greeting this again with open arms. But as these hiatus’s will possess, these breaks have yielded two strong follow up albums after their debut. Upon hearing these subsequent records, Godfrey never misses a beat, having surrounded himself with musicians John Mitchell (Arena, IQ, Lonely Robot), Nathan King (Level 42), Craig Blundell (Pendragon, Steven Wilson), as well Dec Burke (Darwin’s Radio) & Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, The Fringe, Ex-Spock’s Beard). Falling Satellites even possesses a guest appearance from axeman Joe Satriani.
So again as the keyboardist/frontman’s admiration for Tony Banks continues, he’s right at home with progressive rock while maintaining his successful trek inside the world of mainstream rock. And you can certainly hear that on the new album, catchy tunage often missing from progressive rock shows face throughout. Nevermind the fact as a seasoned producer, there is certainly a real vibe going on here.
Ten years after their debut, a lot of changes have prevailed in the music scene and even in the way this Frost* album has been approached.
TOMMY HASH: Falling Satellites comes a decade after Milliontown, in your own words, how do you feel Frost* as a whole has grown?
JEM GODFREY: It feels like a natural progression, it couldn’t have happened earlier. I think I needed to take stock in all of this coming together again. There are 11 songs on the album, but I think I had about 22 knocking around from the sessions; it was just about picking the ones that were the most Frost* like. As a result, I had never had so many songs like this before, so I picked the things that I thought were the most suitable. It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.
TH: With all of those songs, did you find it difficult to pick the ones that would make it on the album and sequence them?
JG: The list wasn’t finalized until six weeks before we mastered it. It was hard to tell which songs would eventually make the album when the songs were first demoed, but once we started tracking everything; the drums, bass, vocals and all that, the album came together fairly quickly. So once we had the songs complete, I could easily say,” I think this song is more relevant and would fit perfectly here.” But all the leftover songs will live again, I think at the moment, the ones we chose are the ones most appropriate for the idea of this album.
TH: A lot of times when people turn things loose, put something aside completely and not worry about it, there tends to be this calm about simply walking away for a while. Did you feel that same kind of peace when you put this on the back-burner for a few years at a time; did that make Frost* easier to to come back to.
JG: Yeah, I think you’re right about that. I think the one thing that I have learned in the last ten years is to shut up more often (laughing). It’s been a classic case of too much loose talk, but as I have gotten older, I realized if I want to say something, I really have to have something to say. With Frost*, I tend to find, whether it’s true or not, that it seems like there is this increasing level of hysteria as things go on. It gets to the point where I say “Whoa, Can’t go on!” I have to calm myself down, as I don’t have the resources to do this full time. That’s a very astute observation, as I’m just trying to get my headspace back.
TH: It’s no secret that prog has evolved since you appeared on the scene years ago. The debate of what is and what isn’t prog actually keeps the genre alive while at the same time, it’s only the cream of the crop is who gets noticed and signed on all ends of the spectrum.
JG: It’s seems that the music has gotten a lot heavier in the last ten years. There is so much of that prog metal going on. It’s almost like prog rock has to compete sonically with a more commercial rock sound. Some of these bands might think they have to do something more viable for labels to keep them. The new scene seems like it has less bands around now, whether that’s because not as many bands are being signed as you say or we don’t hear about them so much or whether people have looked into how prog has evolved beyond what we are doing. The music is also becoming more electronic and becoming more diversified. I’ve noticed that there is a lot of folk-prog at the moment. I think it’s evolving without a lot of us necessarily noticing it.
TH: There is that whole new generation coming on board whether it’s your indie crowd that likes The Mars Volta and The Flaming Lips, then you have the mainstream side of Muse and Coheed & Cambria, as well as all of these heavier bands such as Messenger, Threshold, and even Soilwork. Again, record labels do seem to ink deals with bands that have the most potential to get all types of coverage whether it be radio or print; and in this musical climate, better them than some gimmick or niche; nevermind the survival of these record companies in the first place. But a lot of bands are taking on the industry themselves.
JG: A lot of bands are self-releasing now, although these bands might sell less, they are in complete control of their release as opposed to going the more traditional route to reach more people by signing to a label. It’s a catch 22 for bands. Obvious with self-releasing. there is an appeal to that. Similarly, going with a record company, which is a different process, is a better way to reach more people.
TH: You have always had a lot on your plate, writing and producing for more commercial artists. How is it that you are able to balance out all of that with Frost*.
JG: With Frost, it’s kind of works best when have more commercial projects going on to balance against it. The problem with the second album is that I didn’t have that pop stuff going on to work against it, so I think the second album got a bit away with itself, I didn’t feel that that was our strongest album. But it seems to work best when there are different releases I’m working on. I just don’t do pop, it’s having all of these different styles that I work on at once that gets me going. You know if you have the same dinner every night you get sick of it quite quickly. It’s like i’m able to mix different emotions and satisfy different parts of myself creatively to keep everything fresh.
TH: You have also had these top notch musicians working with you over the years.
JG: This is the first album we have done with Nathan and Craig, on bass and drums, it’s been the longest lineup we have ever had. We’ve played a few gigs now and we get on really well; it’s a really stable band of brothers in a way. All of us are busy in several ways, but we do find the time to get together when time presents itself. I think this is the first album I had done some co-writing with John, which is really good. That been a good experience for both of us.
TH: How did Mitchell’s deeper involvement change all of this?
JG: With John, his guitar work is integral to the sound of the band, we like the same artists and songs, the musical styles, melodies and chord structures. The both of us forced ourselves to spend time together; he lives about two hours away from me. It was just one of those positive experiences; he writes really fast and I write really slow, so it’s kind of like for me a really good education to get stuff going; a good partnership. After we got done, he would leave and I would sprinkle my fairy dust on the album; he’s not one to sit around and watch me push faders or play keyboards.
Copyright & Publishing 2016 Tommy Hash for Ytsejam.com