My Prog Hero: John Fred Young On Animals As Leaders

Animals As Leaders portrait against a black background

“I grew up in Kentucky listening to classic rock bands but then one day, my dad – who’s in The Kentucky Headhunters with my uncle – gave me Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.”

“He told me it was the heaviest stuff I would ever hear. I was so terrified of the homeless man on the cover that I didn’t listen to it for about five years, but once I got past the cover, it was cool. My uncle listened to more out-there stuff.

I remember him jamming along to Bill Bruford and listening to The Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Past, but I didn’t soak it up because I went in the direction of Led Zeppelin and Cream instead.

I feel that as a musician you can get sedentary and listen to the same stuff over and over, so right now I’m relearning a lot of those classic prog bands. I’ve only been getting into prog properly in the last few years and that’s how I found Animals As Leaders. They’re my new favourite band. I really like their sound and I want to see them live so bad.
I found them on YouTube when I typed in ‘epic drummers’ and my mind was blown. Tosin Abasi’s guitar work is just sick, and they have songs that are in 12/8… they’re just incredible.

I typed in ‘epic drummers’ and my mind was blown.

Black Stone Cherry's John Fred Young

Black Stone Cherry's John Fred Young

I liked Dream Theater and Mike Portnoy but I wanted to find something for drums that really went outside the box. I played them to our engineer David Berry and he said, ‘These guys are like mathematicians playing music.’ You’re not going to have your average radio listener jamming to them because it’s over their head. I’ve always loved left-field stuff but Animals As Leaders are so far advanced compared to what I grew up with.

I think it’s so important to be open to different types of music because you can become a better musician.
I was playing along to the Rush box set the other day too and I’m still learning. I started on guitar, went to drums and right now, I’m learning to play piano. I know I grew up listening to Ian Anderson play flute but I figured that none of the chicks would like me if I played flute! I’ve still got a lot of digging to do but I’m young and thirsty.”

Black Stone Cherry’s Kentucky is out now on Mascot. Visit the band’s website for more.

Natasha Scharf
Deputy Editor, Prog

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.