Andy Tillison, the mastermind behind The Tangent, isn’t a wet-behind-the-ears newbie when it comes to the world of prog rock. He knows he’s taken a risk with the band’s new album, Le Sacre Du Travail, but ten years of leading the band on its journey and seven albums to show for it have given him the strength and courage to present something decidedly different in today’s world of prog.
Spurred on by the growing resurgence of progressive rock to do something unexpected that stands outside the box, he zeroed in on the idea of creating an orchestra suite in the spirit of artists like Camel and Deep Purple’s dearly departed Jon Lord. The naysayers might consider the new album to be too far afield from what’s considered prog rock these days, but The Tangent enjoys a broad international fanbase that respects the fact their heroes are bent on being as big and bold and as adventurous as the people who originally started the progressive rock movement off in the late ‘60s.
“Big and bold” i this case doesn’t mean loud and in-your-face. On the contrary, Le Sacre Du Travail serves up everything from ‘70s rock to smoky blues to jazz to classical music. Given the conceptual nature of the record, Tillison sees it as a soundtrack without a film.
“Hopefully that's what I'm getting across with this music,” says Tillison. “I want to give the music the excitement I felt when I first started hearing classical music. That’s why I got into progressive rock music; hearing classical music as a child, I used to be off and away imagining pictures and scenes and telling myself stories to go along with it. What I wanted to do was tell those stories to somebody else with my own music.”
Le Sacre Du Travail is, in brief, a story about 7 billion people that all have the same name; “You”. The Tangent wanted to put the listener into the picture, having decided that if they were going to present this story, it had to be something that absorbed everyone on a familiar level.
Tillison: “We avoided the concept album idea for a really long time, and finally we’ve done one. Most of the lyrics came pretty easily; I never wrote them down, I just sang what I felt, lots and lots of different things. I had many takes and many ideas, so I had to go back and pick out the best ones, and eventually I got the idea of what I wanted to sing about. It came out very naturally.”
Looking back on The Tangent’s catalogue, Tillison – who started his musical career writing punk songs and pays tribute to that era on a the bonus track ‘Hat (Live At Mexborough School 1979’ – admits that The Tangent’s evolution is something of a surprise. At the same time, given that he’s had a decade to refine his craft as a prog artist, “I knew this was coming.” Looking back on his roots, Tillison knows exactly what influenced the outcome of Le Sacre Du Travail
“The obvious influence is one of the very first progressive rock albums ever made: The Days Of Future Past by The Moody Blues. They had the idea of breaking a day into pieces and running through it on the album. It must have been there in the back of my mind, although I must say I probably haven't listened to that album in 30 years. I never really thought about it while I was recording, but at some point I realized I was doing the history of a day with an orchestra and a rock band. Deep Purple’s Concerto For Group and Orchestra was a big influence, and at the same time Roger Waters' Amused To Death album is definitely in there.”
“We know we’re taking a risk,” Tillison adds. “Some people will go ‘What the hell is this?’ because it’s a big piece of music to get into and you have to find your way around it. But that’s where I want to be; on the leading edge of progressive rock music.”