The following interview with Steven McCabe was conducted by Torodd Fuglesteg and was published on progarchives.com, August 2010.
Let’s start with the biography. When and where were you born and when did you start Elegant Simplicity ?
I was born in Leeds, over here in the UK and I started Elegant Simplicity around 1992. I had played in a number of bands up to that point, one of which was a fusion trio a bit like BJH neets the Mahavishnu Orchestra! Between the release of the first cassette and the first CD, I played guitar, keyboards and mandolin in a covers band where we occasionally did our own material – some of which was released on the Nature of Change. Anyway, after the band folded, I effectively gave up live work and concentrated doing my own thing.
Besides of yourself, is there any other regular members of Elegant Simplicity ?
The main regulars are Ken Senior on vocals and Christopher Knight on drums.
You have been releasing albums since 1992. What is the inspiration and motivations for your music ?
I was a very late starter to music, both as a listener and a performer, so when I was bitten with the music bug and learnt how to play in some rudimentary fashion, I couldn’t find anything like the music I was already writing and hearing in my head. I was a huge heavy rock fan at the time, anyway – mostly Sabbath and Heep – and I was never entirely sure what to call the stuff I was writing! It certainly wasn’t heavy rock! Anyway, after getting some songs together and having some feedback from friends, Elegant Simplicity was born. As far as motivation is concerned, I just love to play, love to compose and record. I can get inspired by what I see, hear or read about. I doubt I will ever be bored with or of music.
Let’s run through your releases. Please write whatever comes into your head about each of them, starting with Improper Advances from 1992 and finishing with Too Many Goodbyes from 2007.
That’s a lot of releases to consider, but here goes:
- Improper Advances – great tunes, some great guitar solos but let down by basic production and drum programming.
- Nocturnal Implications – very prog rock album, I now realise, with a stupendous title track. Quite jazzy, too.
- Blinded by Time – ambitious, hugely layered album. Brass, strings, you name it! Very powerful album.
- Inside the Hurting – all electronic album. Good tunes, but guitar sorely missed.
- Crying to the Future – first really solid album in terms of production and songwriting. One of my faves.
- Endless Longing – all electronic again, this concept piece tells the tale of a love affair between two espionage agents during the second world war and the resulting fallout of one over the other’s betrayal!
- Natural Instinct – acoustic guitar duets rocked up into simple, accessible tunes. Frantic.
- The Nature of Change – first CD release. And the first to feature Ken. I still remember the excitement of it coming out. Looking back, it should have been a double – or at least two separate albums – as it was a little bit schizophrenic: first 6 songs quite poppy/rock and then you have the 43 minute title track!
- Reversal of Time – very progressive record, with socio-political lyrics and some heartbreak, too.
- Purity and Despair – all instrumental, complex record and one of my favourites. Great sound and choc-full of melody.
- Moments of Clarity – very depressing album, with disturbing lyrics and grim subject matter. Inspired by a friend having to turn off the life support system of her husband. Harrowing – in all departments, but some great Camel-esque material on there.
- The Story of Our Lives – 48 minute concept piece dealing with relationship issues. Very strong melodies and guitar playing. Lost of atmospheric pieces and some aggressive playing, too.
- Palindrome – one of our best releases. Everything about it oozes quality.
- Architect of Light – another concept record, very long songs and probably our best album overall.
- Anhedonia – this was inspired by a Woody Allen biography! Though you wouldn’t think so to listen to it!
- Studies in Heartbreak – back to instrumental-land with this one. Very complex record, but full of melody and orchestral flourishes.
- Nowhere Left to Turn – another, almost entirely, instrumental record. Very, very long tracks and quite aggressive, too.
- Too Many Goodbyes – a return to vocal based works and one of our best albums. Ken sings great and there is hammond, moog and all the classic stuff you can think of. Accessible and very melodic, too, with a very quirky end track!
Some of these albums has been released on cassettes only and are probably out of print. Do you have any plans to make this material available again on CDs or digital downloads ?
Yes, now that digital downloads are going really well for me, it would be silly not to release this stuff again. The first seven were released on CD some years ago but sold out straight away and I never got round to re-pressing them. As ever, it all comes down to time!
You also have a free compilation album called As It Was out on a free download from your website. Please tell us more about this album and where we can obtain it from.
As it Was will eventually be two albums worth of material. The current release features tracks from the last 10 albums and the next one will be tracks from the ones before that; so, all our albums will be represented across these two releases. For years, I have had 40 second clips available on the jukebox at the website, but the nature of my music makes it really difficult to judge if you would like it or not. So, after much research on the subject, I figured I had nothing to lose. The album is absolutely free. It is in ultra high quality, with full artwork @ 320kbps. All you have to do is create an account at elegantsimplicity.com, add it to the shopping basket and you can download it straight away.
How would you describe your music and who would you compare yourself with ?
I consider it to be melodic progressive rock, with jazz and folk undertones. I guess, if I really had to find a comparison it would be with BJH, Camel and Tull. Fans of those bands would likely disagree, though!
Are you involved in any other bands or projects ?
No, not for some years. I have done work in the past as producer / artist and you can read about this stuff on the website, as it is far too dull to go into here!
I guess music is not your main occupation. What is your main occupation ?
As I like to say to anyone who asks, by day I am a mild mannered database applications developer and by night an undiscovered rock god!
What is your latest update and your plans for this and next year ?
This year, it is to get the new CD completed and to compile the next free album. Next year will be all about getting the new CD out to as many people as possible.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?
Yes, to all music fans out there, whatever genre floats your boat, keep supporting independent artists like Elegant Simplicity – help stop the world from being homogenized into oblivion! And to you, Torodd, and Progarchives.com, thank you for the questions and keep up the great work.