“We never really think about Rush and other bands when we’re writing music. I get a little too wound up in my own storyland to wonder if it echoes anything else.”
When we catch up with Steve Hales, co-founder and drummer of Kepler Ten, he’s diplomatically keeping comparisons to the Canadian prog superstars at arm’s length.
As one of the founding members of the UK’s premier Rush tribute act, R2, it would be all too easy to draw a line between his new project and his second life as the two-limbed maelstrom that is Neil Peart. It doesn’t help either that the band’s name sounds like a nod to Rush’s extraterrestrial pursuits.
For Hales and the rest of Kepler Ten, Richie Cahill (guitars) and James Durand (vocals and bass) – who joins us with Hales on Skype – playing as the world’s most revered three-piece gave them the incentive to write their own music, showing them what they could do as an outfit in their own right.
“We suddenly got embroiled in bass pedals and MIDI,” expands Hales. “Richie thought it was hilarious that we were trying to get our bassist to tap dance on bass pedals. The same with triggering sequences and having clicks coming in and out – [we were] just trying to do it as faithfully as we could.
“Once we’d got to grips with all of that, we thought, ‘Hang on a minute, we could be using all of this to our advantage – so let’s start writing some songs.’ We went from there.”
The tough education didn’t just stop there, as Hales explains, “Our challenge as a three-piece with so much going on is standing in certain places on the stage at certain times to trigger things. And to put on a really good show as well!”
Kepler Ten will soon release their debut album Delta-V, a rollicking, fist-punching prog cut that swings between Dream Theater noodles and huge melodies à la Van Halen, and is being released on John Mitchell’s newly formed label, White Star. It’s also cut through with richly visual narratives, thanks to the band’s approach to composition.
“As far as the music goes, I like to have the image in my head when I’m reading Steve’s lyrics,” says Durand. “It’s like trying to score a movie soundtrack. I want the music in my mind to convey what that lyric is about.”
It’s also rather unexpectedly dark. Hales goes into detail about one of the quieter songs on the record called Swallowtail, which recounts how a widower tries to capture and pin butterflies in a macabre echo of his wife dying and her soul moving on. “It’s not all evil and nasty, but there’s a lot of twisted meaning in there,” he laughs.
Despite their earlier protestations, there’s one thing that Kepler Ten definitely share with Geddy Lee’s gang – oodles of enterprise.
Hales explains, “We’ve not got much money, so we thought we’d push the limits to what we can achieve, and perhaps a little bit of application could make up for a lack of top-range equipment and thousands of pounds paying someone to push some faders.”
Line up: Richie Cahill (guitar), Steve Hales (drums/ keyboards), James Durand (bass/vocals)
Sounds like: Eddie Van Halen tagging along with Canada’s finest
Current release: Delta-V is out this month on White Star Records