Anomalous Strangers
(In A Strange Land)

Interview by Igor Italiani

They took the name for the band from the book Stranger In A Strange Land, and in fact Strange Land seem like strangers in America actually, as the United States pays little attention to skilled prog acts like this Wisconsin-based three-piece. Obviously we hope the situation will change soon for the better, and in the meantime we exchange a few words with the leader of this up and coming combo, Sean Gill.

II: Hi Sean, first thing I would like to know is how you started as a band...

Sean Gill: Well, the band has been around in some form since about 1994. Chad [Novell] is the only member who has been in it from the start. I met Chad in college and after his guitarist quit, he asked if I'd like to try out. We hit it off really well, both musically and as friends. That was November, 1998. We changed the band's name to Strange Land then, and our music really changed a lot at that time, too.

II: Anomaly is your first album. Are you satisfied with the first reactions you drew?

SG: I think we definitely are. We've received some good reviews and had very positive response from our fans. Even criticisms are easier to take in stride since we know that we are still learning and growing.

II: You come from the US, which recently seems interested only in hip hop and things like that. Do you think that progressive can return to prominence also in your country or not?

SG: I don't think it will be popular in the way that Yes and Kansas were in the 1970's, but I think it will continue to grow as an underground scene. Bands like Rush and Dream Theater do well here, so there is hope. And things like the Internet and the growth of indie labels will help bands like us make our own way. Consider also that there are a few festivals in the US, like ProgPower, Wisconsin PROG, and NEARfest that do very well. The bands support each other and we're making the scene happen without major media support.

II: I hear a lot of Rush and Fates Warning influences in your first record. Do you feel the same or not?

SG: Yes, that's a fair assessment. Rush was one of my earliest influences. And all three of us are influenced by Fates Warning. Of course, we have many other influences as well, and I think our new material we've been writing really reflects a greater diversity.

II: The fact that you called yourself Strange Land has some references to the US or there's something else here?

SG: No, it comes from the Robert Heinlein book Stranger In A Strange Land (and the well-known Iron Maiden song). You know, we had a hard time picking a name. We eventually whittled down a list of about 20 possibilities to that one. However it is a good sounding name as well.

II: Being a prog outfit with only three members proves to be really hard to do a lot of times ... are you in search of, maybe, another guitarist, or are you satisfied with the actual formation?

SG: We were a 4 piece with a keyboard player. After he left, we looked for a replacement. We found quality players, but we wanted someone who would fit into the family as well; someone whose personality really clicked. Since then we've become more and more comfortable as a 3 piece. It also helps to have a bass player/keyboard player/lead singer who can sometimes do all 3 at once! But the idea of adding someone does pop up occasionally.

II: Considering you are very active on the web, what's your point of view regarding it and the things related to it, like music online, mp3, etc...?

SG: The Internet is a great tool for bands. We can reach people all over the world. This interview is evidence of that. And I think it's great for prog fans, like myself, who are more likely to seek out something new on their own. I'm a little more torn over things like Napster. I'd love the exposure it brings, but getting entire albums for free ... well, I think it's wrong. If you enjoy someone's art you should pay them for it. I wouldn't mind seeing a few major labels go down, sort of tear it down and rebuild the system so it works for the musicians and the consumers.

II: Now Sean, can you tell me what's the first place you would like to visit (playing with the band) and why?

SG: Italy, of course! Ha, ha, ha. Actually, Italy or anywhere in Europe would be great. It's well known that European audiences are more open to our type of music. Personally, I'd love to visit Ireland.

II: What's your favourite prog band at the moment?

SG: I'm listening to Pain of Salvation as I write this. I think they bring something fresh to the scene [I totally agree -II (and ed.)]. I have also been listening to a lot of Zero Hour, Event, and Devin Townsend lately.

II: Has the idea of playing mainstream music ever crossed your mind in the past?

SG: No. It would be artistically and emotionally unsatisfying.

II: Anything left to say before goodbye?

SG: Yes, sure! Support your local musicians. Wherever you live, there's probably some great prog happening. Go out and find it. And a big thank you to all of those that do this.

II: Thanks Sean. It was a pleasure. Hope to see you and your band somewhere in the future. Goodbye from Italy.

SG: Thank you for the opportunity, Igor. I have enjoyed it. Take care.