Their eight studio album called Octane is a real beauty, maybe together with The Kindness of Strangers their finest album ever.. It is the second release of Spock’s Beard after Neal Morse left the group and the music of the Beard has changed a lot on Octane. This CD could best be labelled as rock instead of progressive rock as the band moved towards a more direct approach. The compositions on Octane are much more rock orientated. Take for instance songs like NWC, The Watching Tide or Surfing Down The Avalanche, which could be described as a prog metal song in the best tradition of Dream Theater. So, probably Spock’s Beard will loose some die-hard proggies and gain some rock lovers, which is a good thing, because it shows that the music of SP is still evolving and maturing. Nick D’Virgilio is my partner in crime and we talk about their new album and the other musical projects Nick is working on at the moment and in the future. Just as I experienced last year in Tilburg, Nick is not a “smooth” and big talker, but maybe I ask the wrong questions… Never mind, here we go…..

Martien: So, Nick, any bad reviews already, or were they all rather positive…?

Nick: Of course I have not read them all, but the ones I have read and seen were very good. Most of them said that this was our heaviest album so far and I think that they are right. It is a natural progression to change your musical style over the years. This CD could be best labelled as modern rock.

Martien: Are you not afraid that you will loose some of the real prog fans?

Nick: No, you cannot please everyone, you win some and you loose some, so, I do not think that people who already bought/heard all our other albums will be disappointed. I still think that there are enough progressive musical passages and parts that will appeal to the die-hard prog fans; so not to worry! This album is actually a more complete band approach kind of album. Feel Euphoria was kind of “my” CD, a lot of my song ideas were used for that album and on the new one everyone contributed. I also have to say that with FE we had restricted time. For this new album we really took the time to write and record the best songs we could come up with. We really took the time to make this our best album ever and of course we again used some of my ideas, but Dave was actually the main composer on Octane. In a couple of months we wrote and recorded 18 songs, so this time we were in a luxury position. We had too many songs, so we actually could pick out the best of the best. Five of the remaining songs will be on the bonus disc of the limited edition of Octane. In fact we considered these songs not to be good enough for the album….

Martien: Anything else special on the limited edition besides the 5 extra songs?

Nick: Yes. There is also a video part on the limited edition of Octane. It shows what went on in the studio during the recording of the album. It is very light entertainment, showing the funny moments and me acting like a dork, really……

Martien: Any special meaning behind the title?

Nick: Actually, no, ha ha ha… It is just the eight album. We definitely agreed on not using one of the song titles as the title of the album, so it is just the number eight, nothing fancy really.

Martien: The first song, the seven-part epic, A Flash Before My Eyes, dominates the album and the story of the song kind of reminds me of The Human Equation, the last Ayreon album, coincidence?

Nick: Absolutely, I do know the Ayreon projects, but I really have not heard his latest album and I certainly did not know that the two stories have similarities. A Flash Before My Eyes is about a man who gets hit by a truck and he sees his life flashes before his eyes, so you have childhood memories, adolescence and adult events that coloured his life. In fact long time friend John Boegehold and our bass player Dave Meros were the writers and creators of the storyline for Flash, so.. But it turned out to become a great song, or not?

Martien: Yes, the highlight of the album. The third part of this epic is one of the heaviest songs of SP I have ever heard; it even has some Dream Theater riffs, according to me…

Nick: Yes and no, really. Dave came up with those amazing riffs. I think that this song has some real Tool influences; just listen to the bass riffs. These, and the drumming parts, really form the core of this song. It was a blast to record this one; I really love Avalanche, if you like this heavy stuff, then you should check out the bonus tracks When She’s Gone and Broken Promise Land on the limited edition. You will enjoy those as well.

Martien: The instrumental track NWC is another great song, what does it mean, by the way?

Nick: Nothing, actually. I do not know who came up with that title, but it just fitted. It is a great instrumental, I love it, and it really kicks ass.

Martien: I also noticed that your singing has improved again, have you been practising??

Nick: Ha, ha, thanks. Yes, I have been singing and practising a lot lately. I also stopped smoking and I am getting older, so my voice is getting better and it is maturing. I really tried to work with my voice in a different way on this album. I listened to Chris Cornell of Soundgarden a lot and I even put my ear on some old Judas Priest albums to try and find out how Rob Halford does his over-the-top singing. But I will not try to sing as high as he did in the beginning years of Priest, ha ha…..

Martien: You are an excellent singer, but also a great drummer, what do you prefer?

Nick: It is very hard to choose. I really enjoy being a frontman and do the lead vocals, but I also enjoy drumming a lot, so I can not tell you really what I prefer….On the tour we will be bringing an extra drummer along, just like on the previous tour.

Martien: Speaking about tours, when will we be seeing you in The Netherlands again?

Nick: It will be a short, little tour and we will be in playing in Zoetermeer and Zaandam.

Martien: Any side project activities at this moment?

Nick: I will be going on tour with Tears For Fears and with Fates Warning in the near future, the rest of the guys I do not know…..

Martien: What is your favourite Beard album now?

Nick: I know that it is boring to say, but I really think that Octane is our best one so far, it is one of the most satisfying albums we have ever done. It feels more like a group thing now, we realize that this is the permanent line-up of SP for years to come. But, I also consider The Kindness Of Strangers, as a great album.

Martien: How difficult is it to make up a setlist for the new tour?

Nick: Very difficult, of course we have to put a lot of stuff of the new album on the setlist. Then we play some songs of Feel Euphoria and then some old stuff. Maybe something from V or The Kindness.. It is rather difficult to play those older songs because we miss the dominating keys of Neal; we really have to study these songs to pull them off just as we did when Neal was still in the band. But we can cope with that; this band is capable of doing anything, so…

Martien: Would it not be a good idea to let the fans decide via e-mail which songs they would like to hear on the forthcoming tour?

Nick: We thought about that, maybe in the future this will happen some time, but not now.

Martien: Last question, which music do you listen to at this moment?

Nick: I really love to listen to some heavy rock right now. The Velvet Revolver album is one of my favourites at this moment.

Martien: Thanks for your time, Nick.

Nick: Thank you again for showing interest in our music, see you in Zoetermeer or Zaandam.

Interview by Martien Koolen,

Photos borrowed from spocksbeard.com