A Few Words With...Mark Robertson
One of the cornerstones of the Magna Carta label, Cairo have been delivering consistantly impressive progressive music for years now. ProgSheet decided to pick the brain of keyboardist / composer Mark Robertson to get a brief peek at what makes the man and the band tick...
Q : There has been a definite resurgence of progressive music with more bands than ever on the scene. Why do you feel this has happened?
MR: Possibly because people are getting tired of what is on the radio, therefore more audiences to support the musicians that want to play prog- rock.
Q: What was the very first song you learned to play?
MR: I learned to play Let It Be. That was my first song, but I had played classical music before that.
Q: What drew you to want to play the keyboards?
MR: The options of having great polyphony, the sounds they create and all the effects you can create with keyboards. When you play classical piano for instance solo…….. The things you can play are so complete, something you cannot really do as a soloist on an instrument like a trumpet or flute for instance, they kind of need to be part of an orchestra or something.
Q: What was the first prog album you ever heard & what was your initial reaction to it?
MR: The first Prog record I ever heard was Tarkus by ELP, I was pretty much stunned.
Q: What would you say are your biggest influences as a composer?
MR: I would say my biggest influences are Copland, Chopin and Liszt with some jazz influences like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.
Q: How did Cairo come together?
MR: I had Just come off tour with Tony MacCalpine and Mike Varney introduced Jeff Brockman (our Drummer) to me. At that time I had been talking to Varney about he and Pete Mortacelli starting a prog label,I was asked if I wanted to start a prog band and do a couple CD’s under that label. After talking it over with Jeff we decided to do it and started auditioning different guys to play in the band. The rest is history.
Q: How would you best describe the musical aim of Cairo and your role in it?
MR: The musical aim is to write good music. My role in the band, well………I write,play, arrange, and produce and try to keep a high level of quality in the band,as far as the production and writing. I’m your basic hall monitor!!!
Q: What 3 songs best show the diversity of your playing and why?
MR: The Fuse, The Prophecy, and The Underground (all on the last CD). I just mention them because they are on the most recent recording. They all show the diversity of songwriting, musicianship and imagination of all of us as well as the guy’s playing on the last CD with us. The studio guys, Luis and Brian did awesome work on the CD.
Q: Tell me 2 things I'd never know about Bret Douglas?
MR: He is a rap artist, and loves to eat head cheese in the studio, in front of us……….while recording,,,,,,,,,SICK!!!!
Q: "Ruins At Avalon's Gate" is a massive, epic piece. Walk me through how that came together from concept to recording.
MR: It is a song I wrote over the period of about a month or so. I first wrote the whole thing on piano and then showed all the different parts to the guys in the band. I had written all the bass parts and just showed them to Rob. Bret and I sat and worked out all the vocal lines together as Jeff and I did with the drum parts. Alec and I kind of worked out the guitar parts as we were recording because they came last.
Q: What are 6 CDs, off the top of your head, that you just couldn't live without?
MR: Steely Dan- AJA
Steely Dan- Gaucho
ELP - Trilogy
Yes- Close to the Edge
Genesis- Selling England By The Pound
Aaron Copland- The Copland Collection
Q: If you could turn people on to any one band in addition to Cairo, who pops into your head first?
MR: Magellan is very good, not sure what style you are talking about but in prog rock I love 'em.
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