Monday, September 15, 2014

An Interview with Aaron Clift

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  You are probably checking your calendars, thinking it can't possibly be Tuesday already...and you would be right.  Two firsts tonight in the Concert Closet; a blog post on a Monday and  an interview with Aaron Clift.  Aaron is the founding member, lead song writer, vocalist, as well as the keyboard player for The Aaron Clift Experiment.

Tonight the Concert Closet makes a return trip to Austin TX to dig a little deeper into the mind of Aaron Clift and learn about the making of the band's second album due for release in 2015.  It is comforting to know that progressive music continues to attract new innovative musicians and song writers.  The Aaron Clift Experiment's debut release, "Lonely Hills"  is an excellent work and well worth the price of a download.  I am extremely energized to get my ears on their second album due next year...please to enjoy...

Closet Concert Arena: What influenced your decision to become a musician, and why did you choose symphonic progressive rock as the musical style for your band?

Aaron Clift: I was exposed heavily to music at an early age; my dad’s side of the family is full of classical musicians, and both my parents used to play lots of records for me when I was very little.  My mom says that I tried to sing along to music she was playing in the car even before I was old enough to speak!  During my younger years, I was heavily involved in classical music.  Viola was my first instrument; I sang for years in different choirs, and I studied performance and composition at Tufts University.  Rock music was also a big part of my life growing up.  I used to listen a lot to my parents’ record collection (my first recollections of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jethro Tull), and I used to hang out with my friends at summer camps and have music listening parties.

When I was a teenager and first starting listening heavily to rock, I always wondered if there were any bands that mixed rock and classical music because I loved both forms of music equally.  Around that time, one of my friends gave me a copy of “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and I was immediately captivated by the album’s sound and structure.  After listening to DSOTM, I went online to All Music Guide (in those days a relatively new web site) and did some research on Pink Floyd to find out if there were other bands that played this style of music.  That was when I learned about progressive rock.  At last I had found a style of music that mixed up classical and rock!  Pretty soon, I was making my first purchases of bands like Genesis, Dream Theater, and The Moody Blues.  After hearing “Selling England by the Pound” for the first time, I knew immediately that I wanted to be in a rock band someday that would play this kind of music.  As fate would have it, all of us in The Aaron Clift Experiment come from classical music backgrounds, and we each like to bring that style into our songs.

CCA: Who are the bands/artists that have had a hand in steering your writing ways?

AC: I have so many musical influences that it’s hard to narrow them down, but I’d say my favorite artists are those who have had a combination of outstanding songwriting, musicianship, lyrics, and emotional impact on me.  Those artists include: Genesis, Rush, Kate Bush, Marillion, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.  In classical and jazz music, I’m influenced a lot by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, Shostakovich, and Reich.

CCA: Which musician(s) would you most like to cut an album with?

AC: I would love to work with Steve Wilson or Devin Townsend.  To me, they are the pinnacle of well-rounded musicians; both are excellent guitarists, vocalists, songwriters, arrangers, and producers.  They are not only extremely knowledgeable about music but also just seem like really cool people who would be fun to hang out with.  I know I would learn so much from working with them.

CCA: Your first album “Lonely Hills” has a somber, dark feel.  Where did you go emotionally when writing the songs on that album?

AC: When I wrote the music for “Lonely Hills,” in 2009 – 2011, I had just emerged from a very difficult period of my life in which I felt very uncertain about my direction in my life and about who I wanted to be.  I had dealt with depression and anxiety and wanted to find a way to document my experiences.  So, the songs on “Lonely Hills” all in some way describe the struggle I went through.

CCA: I understand that you’re currently working on a second album.  What can listeners expect on the new album?

AC: When forming The Aaron Clift Experiment in early 2012, I conceived of the outfit as more of a solo project than a band, and I think the solo artist approach comes through to a certain extent on “Lonely Hills.”  But after The Aaron Clift Experiment started playing lots of live shows, more of a band dynamic emerged, and I felt that this should be our future.  When Eric Gutierrez joined us on guitar in 2013 (replacing our original guitarist), he brought a heavier sound and virtuosity to the band that’s spilled over into our songwriting.

The songs for our second album are going to be livelier and more energetic than anything we've done to this point.  We definitely sound like a real band now!  If “Lonely Hills” was our “Foo Fighters,” then our second album will be our “The Colour and the Shape.”

Eric has also partnered with me on a lot of the songwriting for the second album, so there’s more diversity to our sound than ever before.  On the lyrics side, I've branched out into a lot of different topics, but one of the central themes running through this album is power dynamics and conflict between the individual and the group.  I've been keeping a blog on our web site that has more information about the writing process for the individual songs on the album.

CCA: I know you are currently using the fan funding site Kickstarter to help fund the recording of your second album. Can you tell me about it and why people should help support your project?

AC: All of us in the The Aaron Clift Experiment are very excited about the new music we’re creating.  We’re enlisting Matt Noveskey (bassist for Blue October) to produce and record the album at his amazing new recording facility, Orb Recording Studios.  We’re also increasing the recording budget and time for this album – all with the goal of creating a really solid classic progressive rock album.  We think that the progressive rock community is going to be blown away with our second album, but without the funds to cover our recording costs, we won’t be able to bring our vision to life.

 We know that the progressive rock community is full of great people who are true music fans, and that’s why we want to involve the community in helping us reach our goal.  Our Kickstarter campaign runs from September 15 – October 14 and is live at  The campaign has some really awesome rewards for those who contribute, and any contribution helps.

So c'mon fellow progheads, take advantage of this opportunity to be  part of the prog process and what is sure to be a remarkable prog album!  You can find out more about The Aaron Clift Experiment at and follow them on Twitter at @AaronCliftMusic.  Most importantly, click on that link to the Kickstarter Campaign and help make this album a reality! You can always tell your friends you helped produced a progressive rock album--how cool is that?!

The Aaron Clift Experiment...tell your friends you knew 'em when and helped produce their second album!  Progressive music and her fans...there is nothing better...until next week...

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