The name Sound Of Contact has various connotations, both physical and ethereal. It also affords a certain Simon Collins a degree of anonymity. Though the Collins surname carries some prog clout and the idea of not pushing it to the fore might send some marketing men off out of the room screaming, this is a band that’s happy to let the music do the talking.
Born in London but raised in Canada, Collins has an accent that reflects his upbringing. Now 36 years old, the son of Genesis drummer Phil has three solo albums under his belt, but admits that Dimensionaut marks his first brush with progressive rock. So what prompted a prog album at this stage in his career?
“Quite simply, it just felt like the right thing to do,” Collins explains. “It certainly had a lot to do with the fact that I had met the right people.”
While Collins has several collaborators within the band (see box out, over), his right-hand man is Dave Kerzner, with whom he first collaborated on a cover of the Genesis song Keep It Dark in 2006.
“Dave is a big influence,” Collins continues. “We both love the same kind of music and this is something that we both wanted to do for a long time. It was an organic evolution; there wasn’t necessarily a whole lot of thought as to why we should or shouldn’t do it.”
He professes that a progressive rock album had always been his intended destination. “I just needed time to meet the right musicians to put together a band like this.”
Specifically, Collins felt that he needed a band to coalesce around him to realise his progressive ambitions. “All my albums are pretty dynamic and so in a way, this wasn’t really different. But to go in this direction where you embrace these influences is something you want to do with a band.”
For his part, Kerzner observed Collins heading in a more progressive direction with the latter’s third solo album, 2008’s U-Catastrophe. “It had more of a rock edge,” he reports. U-Catastrophe also featured two notable guests: former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett on Fast Forward The Future and Collins’ father Phil on The Big Bang.
Proof, if any were needed, that Collins has totally immersed himself in the prog world, Dimensionaut is a concept album ‘about a dimensional time and space traveller’.
“I have always looked at all my records and songs having motifs and meaning to them,” says Collins. “This is something that I have always wanted to do. It was just a matter of working with the right people that could also come on board with this concept.”
Collins and Kerzner share plenty of cultural and other common ground. “Dave and I are inspired by a lot of the same things. We are hugely into science fiction. I’m a big backyard astronomer and great Carl Sagan fan.”
He is at pains, however, to stress that Dimensionaut is a collective endeavour. “Everyone brought their own ideas into the studio and we had an opportunity to bring this character to life.”
“Simon and I write lyrics really well together because we have a lot of the same references and we came together pretty naturally to tell the story,” Kerzner adds.
Aside from being a concept album, there is a very different lyrical and musical flavour to Dimensionaut compared to Collins’ solo albums. “Over the course of three solo albums I got a lot of stuff out of my system, experimenting and exploring different musical influences,” he says. Case in point, Collins’ first solo album, 1999’s All Of Who You Are, was completely electronic and didn’t even feature his distinctive drumming.
His most recent solo album, the aforementioned U-Catastrophe, was also his most personal.
“I’ve had a chance to mature as an artist and as a human being and on the last album I was singing about certain things in my life that I wasn’t even comfortable talking about.”
As such, Dimensionaut draws a line in the sand lyrically. “It was a chance to take a breather from a very personal world and instead to bring this character to life, step outside of myself and be a part of something in a selfless way. It was about contributing to something bigger than me and that was what was very appealing about it.”
Dimensionaut is an album that has been in the making for some time, with its gestation dating back to 2010. “It’s an album of over 72 minutes of material and it took a lot of work,” Kerzner says.
The band also made considerable progress creatively before addressing the business side of the equation. “We did it really on our own, individually and independently. We weren’t thinking we should get a record deal first and then make an album.”
Describing the album as, “70s prog with a modern edge and a futuristic aspect”, Kerzner justifiably professes himself delighted with the result. “The music is fresh and timeless,” he proclaims.
The enthusiastic reception afforded Sound Of Contact when they played Marillion’s fan convention in Montreal earlier this year provided gratifying affirmation that the band are onto something special, and this month has seen them touring Europe with Spock’s Beard and Beardfish.
“We had a great reaction in Montreal from 3,000 people who hadn’t previously heard a note,” Kerzner recalls.
The Collins surname has significant resonance in progressive circles, but his son has his own take on the situation. “Funnily enough, I don’t feel any pressure or expectations.”
While Collins readily volunteers that he has certain musical and personal goals, he makes a robust case for being judged on his own merits. “I think that if that was something which affected me, I don’t think I would continue to make music because it is something that if you let it, that can really get the better of you.”
That said, being Phil Collins’ son and pursuing a career as a musician has not necessarily provided him with an easy ride. “It has certainly brought some unique challenges into my life,” he begins to explain before refusing to be drawn on the details. “I could probably just ask you to use your imagination,” he deadpans.
Collins is, however, more comfortable celebrating his Genesis heritage. “For me, the glass has always been half or two‑thirds full. Growing up around Genesis and amazing musicians, I am so proud of my dad and the music he’s made. Genesis have had a profound impact on me and I am just grateful to have had the experience. I have known nothing else since I was a kid playing drums.
“For me it was never a matter of how difficult this path would be. I always just wanted to make music. I don’t really have much to complain about.”
“There’s always going to be a double-edged sword in terms of how people choose to perceive somebody like Simon, who’s connected to somebody else,” says Kerzner, “Obviously, some people see the superficial aspect of it and that’s all they see. But the important thing is the music we are making, regardless of who it is.”
Collins is keen to avoid shackling himself with expectations about how successful Dimensionaut could be, but he is cautiously optimistic. “We are walking into this with the feeling that we are going to connect with a lot of people simply because we are making the music that we would love to buy ourselves or the music that we can’t seem to find anywhere else. Surely that has got to have a certain effect on other people who have been inspired by the same music and listen to the same bands that we do?”
That said, he claims that he has already fulfilled his initial ambitions. “If it strikes a chord with someone, somewhere, that right there for me is a success. I think I have already surpassed my expectations.
“We came to the studio and we all contributed our best work, our best ideas and we brought the best out of each other and we did something real, genuine and authentic; something you can’t replicate and something that you can’t force. It was very organic, natural and probably the most profound creative experience that I have ever had.”
Following this month’s tour with Spock’s Beard, Sound Of Contact are set to play the Night Of The Prog Festival at Loreley in Germany on July 13. Additionally, Collins and Kerzner will reprise their guest spots on Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited II live in Chicago in September. But they also have ambitions for their own Sound Of Contact headlining tour. “We want to play and we have some ideas about how to visually represent this album too.”
So far, so good. But in an era when so many musicians pursue multiple projects in parallel, one wonders how committed Collins and Kerzner are to Sound Of Contact.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do all my life, growing up a fan of all prog rock, Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes,” Kerzner says. “There is so much more to do we almost need a double album. There is just so much music pouring out of us. We are going to continue making records as Sound Of Contact even if we have other projects on the side.”
“For me and Dave, this is our priority number one,” Collins agrees. “This is what we are focusing all our energy on right now. We want to make a lot of music and play to as many people as possible.”
Collins has no plans to make another solo album but equally won’t rule it out for the future. “It will definitely happen down the road but right now, for me personally, this is everything I want to be doing."
This article originally appeared in issue 36 of Prog Magazine.