Nad Sylvan is probably one of the most fascinating artists of the current progressive rock scene. After his late collaborations with Roine Stolt and Steve Hackett, his solo career took off with the very well received “Courting the Widow” in 2015. In may, the multi-instrumentist, composer-singer is back with “The Bride Said No“, second part of his trilogy based on his fictional character of the “Vampirate“. The best opportunity to know more about our friend.
This new album comes out very fast after Courting the Widow. With hindsight, what are your feelings about this album?
Nad Sylvan : It feels fresher to me. All songs were written in 2016 and they still feel new to me. The soundscape is updated and the songs are more fun to listen to!
In the meantime, you’re back on tour with Steve Hackett. How did this happen?
Nad Sylvan : Steve is enjoying a tremendous success at the moment, and we are all very proud and happy for him. I made a promise to stay on until he didn’t need me anymore. I’m now on my fifth year with him, and it seems like this will go on into the unknown future…
So, you made a name for yourself in the prog-rock community with Unifaun but also the three albums made with Roine Stolt on the Agent of Mercy. How did you experience these collaborations? Could we expect a fourth AoM album or following of Unifaun?
Nad Sylvan : I thought they were great fun, especially the Unifaun project – which started very innocently back in 2004. You know, just for fun and games. At the time we didn’t expect to release an album, that came later when fans started to demand more music as we went online with it. I like collaborating very much, and so I have again with my new album. But I find it hard to compromise with my music, hence I feel I’m in a better place now as a solo artist. And singing Genesis classics with Steve pretty much fills up my agenda. So no, Unifaun and Agents Of Mercy are very unlikely to happen again.
What is the concept behind “The Bride Said No”?
Nad Sylvan : Just the silly old Vampirate’ who continues to court the bride and eventually gets rejected at the altar. He is still sailing the big waters on his rotting old ship, and will continue doing so for another album.
Is it the continuation of “Courting the Widow”?
Nad Sylvan : In a way, yes.
The previous album was very well received. Do you feel a little pressure on this one?
Nad Sylvan : No not at all. I do what I do and stay true to myself. That has always been my driving force. But I do feel this is a stronger album and so I don’t worry to much about it.
How would you define the musical universe of this album?
Nad Sylvan : It’s basically a rock album, it’s heavier than ‘The Widow‘, but also more diverse. It goes from heavy rock through a bit of funk and soul into musical theater.
Can you introduce us to the Vampirate? Where is he from? Where is he going?
Nad Sylvan : He is a 400 year old soul who’s father was a demogorgon and his mother a mermaid. He is a goofy but very sophisticated aristocratic character with a big heart, who’s origins is the ‘bois d’algues’, a Sylvan metafor for inner strenght. He will sail his ship into new waters for yet a long time ahead.
« I do what I do and stay true to myself. That has always been my driving force…. »
What is your method of writing and musical composing?
Nad Sylvan : Most songs are bits I have in my head that lingers for some time and develop until I feel have a song. Then I just sit down and start work on these ideas and arrange them in my studio.
What is your musical background?
Nad Sylvan : Absolutely self taught. Played (keyboards) in various bands through the 70’s-00’s. During that time I also became a decent singer.
How did you come to prog rock kind of music?
Nad Sylvan : Simply got turned on when hooked on ELP’s first album, then some early Uriah Heep/Deep Purple stuff until I fell in love with Genesis’s “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” in 1975 when I’d just turned 16. But I also remember seeing Frank Zappa live in Stockholm when I was 14. I became an immediate fan and played “Overnite Sensation” to death!
How could you define prog rock style?
Nad Sylvan : Freedom of musical speech.
We can obviously feel the immense influence of Genesis in your music. What are the others?
Nad Sylvan : The Genesis influence is not that obvious on this new album. I felt I wanted to go further and step away from that. I usually say I’m really a soul singer lingering in the prog rock world. So I’ve listened to a lot of soul music in my life as well as heavy rock. One of my real heroes is actually Glenn Hughes, formerly of Trapeze and Deep Purple.
I read somewhere that the Motown was a big influence for you. Is it true?
Nad Sylvan : Yes. My mother gave me an album called “Tamla Motown is hot hot hot!” when I was about 9 to 10. If I hear “For Once In My Life” with Stevie Wonder, I still shed a tear…
Your style is very theatrical. Where does this attraction for exuberance come from?
Nad Sylvan : I honestly don’t know. Just a part of my DNA I guess. I probably should have been an actor if I didn’t have my music.
« Working with Steve for a number of years turned me into a 100% professional musician… »
What are your favorite bands or artists? What are your favorite albums?
Nad Sylvan : Anything by Earth, Wind & Fire, early Stevie Wonder, Bowie, Genesis, Yes and tons of other bands/artists that came out during the 60′, 70’s and 80’s. Too many albums to mention.
How do you think working with Steve Hackett affected you? Did it affect the direction of the music on this album?
Nad Sylvan : Working with Steve for a number of years turned me into a 100% professional musician. So it gratefully turned my whole life around. As for the music of this new album, I honestly must say that I don’t really think so. There is plenty of room for Steve on a few tracks so maybe you could say that instead, my music stirred Steve in a new direction.
You talked about a trilogy … this album is the second part? Have you some ideas for the third part?
Nad Sylvan : Loosely, yes. Working on developing that at the moment.
There is no long track like “The Turn of the Other Side”. Is it a deliberate choice? Do you like long song format? What is your favorite one?
Nad Sylvan : I didn’t want to repeat the formula of “The Widow”, been there – done that, you know. Besides, you do get your ‘epic’ with the title track (“The Bride Said No“) albeit not so elaborate, yet I feel 12 1/2 minutes I longer than most people would endure. I wanted to make an album where you actually can listen through the whole thing and don’t get weary. I hope I succeeded in that.
With whom would you like to collaborate now?
Nad Sylvan : That I don’t know. I like when being asked.
Will you tour with this album?
Nad Sylvan : I will probably tour after yet another album.
Have you some words for the readers?
Nad Sylvan : Thank you so much for supporting Steve Hackett and his band through out the years, we are a very happy family these days. Also thanks for supporting me in my solo career, you mean absolutely everything to me. Even the naysayers, you make me want to work so much harder. Bless!
For the last question, let’s do it and make it to the Proust questionnaire :
Your Favorite virtue?
Your favorite qualities in a man?
Your favorite qualities in a woman?
Your Favorite Occupation?
Besides music it’s gardening, horseback riding and cooking.
Your idea of happiness?
Your idea of misery?
If not yourself, who would you be?
Christina, Queen of Sweden (1626-1689). Please read her story.
Where would you like to live?
Somewhere where it’s warmer and more easy going than Sweden, but still – I am blessed to be where I am.
Your favorite color and flower?
Your favorite food and drink?
Italian. Red wine and water.
What you hate the most?
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with ?
Your favorite word?
The word that you hate the most?
Your favorite drug?
Your favorite sound, the noise?
Skrut, my cat.
The sound or the noise you hate the most?
Music I don’t understand
Your favorite cussword?
I like them all
The job that you would not like to do?
The one I just had.
The plant, tree or animal in which you would like to be reincarnated?
If God exists, what would you like to hear after your death?
You did alright…
An interview by Cyrille Delanlssays
Thanks to Valérie Reux
Photos by : Tony Wild & Robin Damore