The following interview with Steven McCabe was conducted by Dominique Reviron for the French fanzine Koid’9/La Vie en Rock, Feb 2002
1) Can you introduce Elegant Simplicity and tell me the historic of the project ?
Elegant Simplicity was formed around 1992 as an outlet for songs not suitable for the various groups I had been playing in (mostly folk-rock/blues etc). I had been writing my own material for some time and, as I was not a very good singer, decided to concentrate on instrumentals. One thing led to another and after buying some recording equipment, I began to record some of my compositions.
2) Why/what about the name Elegant Simplicity?
I was conversing with a friend one day, agonising over what to call my new project, when he suggested that I named it after one of the songs on one of my demo tapes. I never really wanted to use my own name and, in the absence of something better, ES has and will continue to be. Apart from that, my music does have a certain elegance about it, primarily because of the melodic nature of my writing.
3) What are your main musical influences?
Until I began recording my own songs, I had no idea what ‘progressive rock’ was! My favourite bands prior to the first ES album, were Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Barclay James Harvest. Obviously, all these groups had elements of ‘progressive’ in their style, but I never knew them as such at the time. I was a very late starter to music, anyway, having spent my formative years interested in art and architecture. For reasons too long to go into here, I bought a horrible guitar, learnt a few chords from a book and started writing because I couldn’t figure out what Tony Iommi was playing! Someone then suggested that some of my songs bore a passing resemblance to Ozric Tentacles. I thought, ‘great, another band doing similar stuff to me’. I bought an album of theirs and it was nothing like ES! However, I really enjoyed it and started looking for other stuff to listen to. It was then I discovered the likes of Camel, Caravan, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull etc.
4) In the band, who does what?
Most of the time it is just me. I am the only constant. Next, comes Ken Senior and he does all the vocals. Apart from that, we have Christopher Knight on drums. He is the new guy and will be featured on the new CD ‘Architect Of Light’ to be released later this year.
5) About lyrics, what are your main sources of inspiration?
Real life, conversations overheard, feelings and moods. Most of my words tell a story, usually a depressing one, but a story nonetheless. Where possible, I tend not to use couplets as I find lyrics without obvious rhymes much more interesting and harder to write.
6) Can you introduce to us your last opus?
The basic premise of the album is the constant search for somewhere, either physically or mentally, that we can call home. Somewhere we can feel comfortable, wanted and a part of things. So, on the album, I use music in ‘The Twinning of Souls’ to describe what happens when two individuals meet and become inextricably linked. Things go wrong, as they often do, and the two characters spend the rest of the album looking for a way back to what they once were. The song ‘Let It Be Me’ contains one of the characters observations of his surroundings and how others interact in them. Towards the end of the album, one of the characters meets someone else and has become cynical in the way the relationship develops. In the final song ‘Still Hearing Your Voice’, the character realises that he had already found his way back home but the realisation had come too late.
7) Does E.S. make concerts? Might we see you in France in the future?
We have never, ever played any concerts. This is one of my life’s disappointments. It’s all down to the fact that I can’t seem to hold a stable line-up together for longer than an album, raising the finances etc is just too much. As well as running the label and taking care of all the business, I have a ‘proper job’, too..
8) Your CDs are not often presents in record shops in France; why? is there a problem of distribution?
Musea look after my albums in France and there are a few record shops stocking them, too. Unfortunately, without major label backing or an endless pool of money, my work will always suffer limited distribution. Imagine what it would be like without the internet!
9) Can you tell us about your label Proximity Records?
Before I released the first CD (‘The Nature Of Change’, 1996), I had already released seven albums on cassette. During the period 1992-1995, I received several offers from small labels expressing an interest in my work. At first it was flattering, but as soon as I had read the small print, things were not so good! In the end, I decided that I knew my own music best and that I should continue along the path I had already been travelling. Luckily, it turned out to be a good thing, as it has been successful enough for me to take on another artist, Bjorn Lynne, formerly of the Cyclops Label. I will also be releasing an album from Ken Senior when he gets round to finishing it!.
10) What is your vision upon the Progressive Rock scene at the moment?
I think, because of the fact that Progressive music requires more from the listener than simple pop songs, that as a musical genre it will always remain underground – in the sidelines. It will only change if some enterprisingly brave person on TV/Radio/MTV gets behind it and starts playing it and giving it some support. Can’t see that ever happening, though! I listen to all kinds of music but progressive music I always return to – there is always something interesting going on. Pop songs are great, but not really meaty enough if you fancy getting into something with substance. Progressive music has that substance. It’s a shame so few people are exposed to it as I firmly believe most people will find it enjoyable.