Dario from THE PROGSPACE: "To experience this amazing music live with friends is the best feeling ever"
Looking back at my own musical journey over the past years, I noticed a growing community of like-minded people who passionately work in the background for our beloved music, most of them in their spare time, but also realized that they're not necessarily connected with each other. So the idea of "Behind the Scenes" is to shine a light on these writers or content creaters by introducing them and their work, and also to expand this topic with those who are part of the creative process (like painter or producer e.g.), but are not so much in the focus as the bands or musicians.
The first spot belongs to the one who inspired me for this new interview series, and I'm glad he joined me for a chat :-) Welcome to read more about THE PROGSPACE and one of its founders here:
Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions today. Could you please introduce yourself and The Progspace to our readers?
Sure :-) My name is Dario, and together with my friends Van and Matt, we started The Progspace around 6 years ago. The idea came from Van at Progpower Europe in the courtyard of Castle De Berckt to build a website for prog music, especially having in mind to push smaller, upcoming bands, as the big, established acts already get enough attention.
Van and Matt created the web design, and together we started from there with album and live reviews as well as galleries, like they’re both also photographers. Of course the three of us couldn’t do it alone, so we asked friends from the community all around the world if they wanted to contribute in the one way or another. Over the years we had a couple of people coming and leaving, as we all do this in our free time besides our full-time jobs and all of that.
At one point we also started with exclusive single, video and album premieres, and added more features like the Releases of the Week or our What's Hot?! playlist, so everything continually grew over the past years.
One highlight among your features are clearly The Progspace Awards, for which you’re asking everyone to participate at the moment. How did you come up with this idea, and how was the reception so far on the current voting?
It was from my side, as I didn’t like the pressure I felt on me when everyone was doing their AOTY lists. I just couldn’t or didn’t want to decide on a Top 20, 30, 40, so the idea was to ask others to help me. We started two years ago, and it has been a great success.
It's always overwhelming to get the response from bands and musicians, and it’s great to see that also smaller acts and debut albums are getting some recognition, as people vote for them too and not only for the big, established dinosaurs. It’s a very exciting journey, and I’m really happy that it’s growing and growing.
I have a feeling that, compared to the previous two, this year is even bigger. I might be mistaken like this is not really based on numbers of Google analytics or Facebook insights or whatever, but just from the current feedback and seeing so many bands and fans sharing the link.
While we record this interview, the voting is still running for a week (up till February 28th), so yeah, I’m really excited to see how we can hold up the momentum that we built up with all these posts. 16 different categories with 12 nominees in each, that’s a lot of artists and labels to tag, but it’s very rewarding to see their reactions, as they seem to be really appreciative and humbled by the nominations.
Another The Progspace highlight were several Online Festivals, on which you presented an illustrious and incredibly varied line-up. What can you tell us about its origins, and do you have plans for another one?
During the lockdowns we came up with the idea, but we were not alone with that of course, as there were many others, both in the prog and also in the bigger metal scene. We did one in October 2020 and two festivals in 2021, with the Christmas holiday theme going on in the December edition, which was a lot of fun. The whole thing grew just from the enthusiasm of the bands we invited, and of course from the fans that watched together with us on the premiere day. The videos are all still available on youtube btw.
Then last year, live music started happening again fortunately, so we focused on going out and seeing bands again. As you can guess, setting up an online event like this is a lot of work: Writing to the bands, checking with them whether they’re interested and if they can put in the time and effort to prepare something in time. Then you have the whole postproduction and PR, getting the word out to reach as many people as possible.
We skipped last year for these various reasons, but had our first venture to present an actual live gig: the Progpower pre-party with Abraham Sarache and his trio at Castle De Berckt, which was the perfect surrounding for it. They just released an album with a couple of songs from that evening :-)
Looking into the future: We’ve been asked a lot if we’re gonna do another Online Festival, as people really seemed to like it. So yeah, we’re thinking about maybe an end of November date.
That would be awesome :-) Let's talk a bit about yourself: Which bands opened the world of rock and metal for you?
That's very easy to answer: PINK FLOYD. I grew up in a very musical family, was playing the cello since second grade, and we often played music with my sister and my parents like a string quartet or just singing together. Yeah, we did all that when I was a kid, but there wasn’t really contemporary pop music or anything else in our household.
As the story goes, when I was twelve, my father got the “Delicate Sound of Thunder” double CD from the local library. I was alone at home after school when I saw this CD lying around and put it on. Of course the first track is “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” - I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t listen to anything else for the next two weeks, just playing this one song over and over again, and it took me quite some time to go on and listen to the rest of the album.
After having told the drummer of our youth big band about my PINK FLOYD discovery, he gave me a CD which had no cover, and the back was from a different album, but on the CD - all progmetal fans are gonna go crazy now ;-) was “Falling into Infinity” by DREAM THEATER, while the back cover was from “Metropolis Pt. 2”, funnily enough. I don’t know if it was intentional, but anyway, that was my first dive into progmetal. Next up were probably SYMPHONY X, and then I went down the rabbit hole.
What a wonderful introduction into prog :-) After that, which have been the most important milestones on your musical journey?
One album opening my mind in many directions was AYREON's “The Human Equation”. After listening to it for the first time, I went to the record store and tried to check out everything I could find from all those amazing singers. Some of these became big favorites over the years, like Devin Townsend, who’s just such an incredible musician and very unique figure in the prog scene, or Devon Graves from PSYCHOTIC WALTZ and DEADSOUL TRIBE, with which I absolutely fell in love.
Another one was Eric Clayton from SAVIOUR MACHINE, which is something very different, and then there was Mikael Åkerfeldt from OPETH. Up until this point, I wasn’t listening to death metal or anything that included growls, shouts, or unclean vocals. Hearing OPETH's “Still Life” for the first time left me absolutely shocked, and I immediately bought the CD. It was for years by far the heaviest shit I would listen to, so thanks to Mikael for opening my mind :-)
But it would remain an outlier in my taste up until 2015 / 16, when several records opened my enjoyment for heavier and even more brutal music. One of them was definitely HYPNO5E's “Shores of an Abstract Line”, but also OCEANS OF SLUMBER, BLACK CROWN INITIATE and PERSEFONE among others.
What was your first concert, and which has been the most memorable one?
I’ve seen a lot of classical concerts when growing up, but my first metal show was DREAM THEATER with PAIN OF SALVATION in Oberhausen. I was maybe 14, and if I remember correctly, it was the pre-release tour for "Six Degrees". They played a lot of stuff from that album already, but I think the album wasn’t out yet. PAIN OF SALVATION just blew my mind into pieces. I was so overwhelmed and amazed, but didn’t understand what was going on until a couple of years later, when I finally went back and really dug into their discography.
The most memorable concert – that is a very tough one – but maybe I’d go with my most anticipated. I remember very clearly that I was standing in the queue outside and was shaking in anticipation, like my whole body was trembling. It was the PSYCHOTIC WALTZ reunion on the Power of Metal tour in Stuttgart, and they were supporting SYMPHONY X and NEVERMORE, who didn’t make it in time for the start of the tour, so the two remaining bands played longer sets. It was just overwhelming!!! After the first song, Devon – or Buddy – said that they didn’t rehearse together for about 14 years. Probably the band did in the US, but I guess he just came up from Austria where he’s living and joined them. So yeah, PSYCHOTIC WALTZ have their own special place in my heart, and this might have been the most exciting concert for me.
Like going to so many shows over the years, it’s always awesome to experience this amazing music with friends, it’s the best feeling ever, but of course it blurs a bit together if you see a band over and over again. Most of the time there’s new stuff they have released in the meantime, and every time is special, but I have to admit that I’m not the crazy hardcore fan in the first row anymore, screaming all the lyrics. I tend more to stand in the back and quietly enjoy :-)
What inspired you to not only enjoy the music, but also to write about it?
Within the prog community, there’s a lot of enthusiasm that the music inspires in us as fans I think. This shows in like every time you meet someone like-minded, you’re immediately into a nerd out about your favorite releases and songs, what you liked about this or that.
Even before I started writing about music, it was one of the best and most rewarding feelings when I came with a new recommendation to a friend, and of course in case it's a friend, you usually know their music tastes a bit, so you wouldn’t come up with a super heavy sludge, grind, prog death to someone who prefers prog rock. But especially if it’s one of these albums or a song that truly moves you and makes your heart explode, so you share it with someone you think who might like it and they tell you they feel the same – Yeah, that’s just one kind of a feeling.
Meanwhile, it kind of got a mind of its own this thing, growing, not on its own of course, because it needs to be constantly fed this little monster, but it definitely has taken a life on its own. We’re not in it for the business that we try to maximize our SEO with the best strategy or whatever, we just try to put out the content that we think is good and has some merit or cool insights. We just wanna share the music we love, and hope other people will love it as well, especially for the smaller bands to give them a little bit more reach and a platform to find potential new fans.
Totally get that. Which albums make you forget everything around you, even the professional thoughts to write about it?
This is hard to say with bands who are currently putting out new stuff, ‘cause I probably always have my writer’s hat on when listening to new music. But yeah, that’s more the case when listening to some of my all-time favorites. When I’m not immersed in the emotions drifting away somewhere else, I would probably start formulation sentences in my head - Not necessarily to write an article or something, but trying to describe the emotions that the particular music evokes in me to explain it to people dear to me, so they could understand what’s so special for me about albums like SYLVAN's “Posthumous Silence”, various PAATOS records, FATES WARNING's “A Pleasant Shade of Gray”, the afore-mentioned “The Human Equation”, and one very unknown underground jam which was never properly released from a Dutch band called ORPHEO, their demo “Echoes”. In case I should pick just one, this would be “Existence” from DARK SUNS.
You traveled a lot for music already and are deeply rooted into the prog scene. How do you see its development in general and the Munich scene in particular?
I think there’s like a huge renaissance in the progmusic scene. The comeback of PORCUPINE TREE was a huge thing for example. They grew so much even over an extended period where they didn’t put out any new music, but came back and played venues that would be five to ten times the size than before. AYREON is doing his sold-out weekends in Tilburg with fans from all around the world, bands like HAKEN, LEPROUS or RIVERSIDE are playing bigger and bigger shows as well.
The audience is currently getting more diverse in terms of demographic, and there’s a trend in modern prog to become more accessible. It’s not only LEPROUS, but also bands like SLEEP TOKEN, incorporating contemporary pop music with modern progressive metal, or take the new RIVERSIDE album opening like a-ha, which is glorious :-)
These kind of more popular progbands are also attracting a non-prog audience these days, but then again there is still this weird underground, avantgarde, experimental stuff, like Japanese Zeuhl band KOENJIHYAKKEI, for which I'm in the middle of writing a mini review right now.
Looking back at the local scene in Munich, it’s interesting to see for example a band like HAKEN, that I started following with their debut album, I had to see them eleven times or something before I got the opportunity to see them in Munich, they never played here before. Our city was not necessarily one of the first destinations for progbands who came out for European tours, there have been more active places like Colos Saal in Aschaffenburg, Spirit of 66 in Verviers, Belgium, or quite a lot of venues in The Netherlands, but this seems to become different nowadays. I can’t really say if this has to do with the global rise of prog again, or with the local music scene becoming stronger and people being eager to see concerts again after the restrictions ended… Maybe a bit of both.
Absolutely, and I love how things grow here at the moment. Thanks again for your time and these wonderful insights.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this crazy little monster that we keep feeding :-)