Ben Averch

Friday, May 7th, 2010 @ 2:24 am

My guest today is the first unsolicited interviewee for BandsLikeRush.com. Ben Averch – a one-man progressive rock band from Seattle – contacted me directly at this website with an offer to talk. I’m glad he did because – not only is his music great – but he’s an avid, long-time Rush fan, with great stories to boot. Its quite rare to find a fellow musician who – like me – writes, performs and records his own music – and doesn’t SUCK! On the contrary, his music is not at all simple Rush “similac” or directly derivative from any other classic prog rock band, but are personal statements, with great arrangement, production, and musicianship. His songs have grown on me – they’re in my iPod – I suggest they get in yours.


Well, this is Ben Sommer. I’m thrilled to have Ben Averch here who is, you know, a young up and coming indie prog rock. You know, an aspiring star from the Northwest, that is, and Ben, so if you could just, you know, say hi to the folks and, you know, give us a little background about who you are, what your music is like and how you got started?

Ben Averch: Sure. Hey, Ben, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for the invitation. It’s an awesome idea to have a website dedicated to bands like Rush, so I’m very happy and very honored to be able to contribute.

Let’s see, what’s my deal. I am a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. I live in Seattle right now and I’ve been a Rush band since I was a little boy. My brother Mike turned me on to Rush when I was like 6 or 7 and he was 12 or 13 and we got moving pictures and ‘Exit…Stage Left’, and then we got the betamax tape of ‘Exit…Stage Left’ in concert and we watched it every day, probably 2 or 3 times a day and it was just, you know, mesmerizing.

Ben Sommer: Wow.

Ben Averch: It’s just so fantastic, you know. Prior to discovering Rush, you know, most of the music, you know, household was what would Dad would play, which was Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: And it’s just really laid-back folk stuff. You know, it’s when I first heard ‘Limelight’ and ‘Vital Signs’ and I couldn’t believe that there was music that was so powerful and yet melodic at the same time and the lyrics that passed made them, too. So the whole thing was just, you know, it was just the light switch turning on and that was the way the music should sound. And I pretty much carried that sort of belief in aesthetic through to my adulthood where I now create a sort of Rush-esque thematic albums where I play drums, bass guitars, vocals, do the keyboards and do all the production.

Ben Sommer: Right. Well, so when you first got turned on to prog rock, sorry if I didn’t catch that, were you a musician when you’re playing then or did you hear the music first?

Ben Averch: I was just a little boy, so I was just in discovering mode and what the deal was, we wanted to play those songs, me and my brother and his best friend, Dave and, you know, they were both pretty good guitar players as far as I knew at age 6 and so there wasn’t any room for another guitar player so I decided I would be the drummer.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: So I got out some phone books and pots and pans and started tapping away trying to reproduce, you know, ‘Red Barchetta’.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: And so it was a lifelong quest to try to replicate that Rush sound and eventually I got a drum set and I actually played drums and got relatively proficient with it and I decided to become a songwriter and a singer also by the time when I was maybe 16. And so what happened was we had a band where, you know, a very sort of late 80′s Rush-like band where I played drums and sang and wrote the lyrics and it felt very limiting as far as my drumming went and in terms of how you can express yourself as a singer being behind the drum set, so I decided I would learn the guitar and be the more of sort of classical rock frontman-guitar player-singer guy.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: And so that started a new band, which was called Bison, which was based out of Boston and we made a record called ‘Space Evader’, which was basically a super hyperactive, you know, Grunge meets Rush, I guess, you could say, except it was much faster and not sludgy the way Grunge could be. But eventually when Bison stopped to exist, I wanted to continue to create music, but I didn’t have any band mates and I didn’t really want to seek out band mates, so I just decided to record all the parts myself and that’s pretty much my M.O. for the last eight, nine or ten years.

Ben Sommer: I just did a quick Google for Bison’s ‘Space Evaders’. I got the album cover up here. It’s hilarious.

Ben Averch: Yeah. [Laughs]

Ben Sommer: What is that little monster there?

Ben Averch: Yeah, I don’t know. Our drummer, his name is Doug Cabot, did the art work. We wanted this, you know, samurai-looking guy out in the space, you know.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: Now, when I think of it, the album cover for my current record, which is called ‘Fortune Cookie’ kind of evokes similar feeling with outer space and the solitary figure.

Ben Sommer: Yeah, it does. Is that Athena or is it just, you know, you like the stripey and the space out colors?

Ben Averch: Yeah, well, with the… so the new record is called ‘Fortune Cookie’ and the story of how the album cover came to be is kind of cool. I was at the Sundance Film Festival in January for work and they have this like underground multi-media extravaganza thing and they had this projected images area where they were showing these really trippy psychedelic underwater-looking things and they had this red background and blue background and some green stuff with fish going by. So I just took out my camera phone and snapped a picture of my silhouette in front of the projected images and it turned out super cool.

Ben Sommer: Oh, wow.

Ben Averch: So then I said, “Hey, I could make this a very good cover.” And I got these images called Ecliptic Path somewhere on the Web and I added a little blur effect and now you have an album cover. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the ‘Grace Under Pressure’ cover in the sense of the isolated figure staring off into the void, I guess.

Ben Sommer: Void.

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: That looks like, yeah, it looks like Southern Mercury.

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: Anyway, that’s funny. Well, I’m curious, though. You piqued my interest. What were you doing at Sundance? What’s your work that takes you there?

Ben Averch: Oh, my day job is I’m a marketing guy for a company called Microvision, which makes a tiny laser display that you can project images from you iPod or iPhone onto the wall or ceiling or any piece of paper and so we’ve got a brand new product that you can buy now at Microvision.com.

Ben Sommer: Wow, cool.

Ben Averch: Yeah, it’s a great deal.

Ben Sommer: Is that has any performance, you know, potential or that kind of thing.

Ben Averch: I also write a blog about the company and I’ve got my music on the side bar and most of the hits to my site and my embedded players come from people interested in Microvision, so you know, we just sort of try to insert the creative element in there as much as I can.

Ben Sommer: Okay, here we go, yeah. I’m just scrolling down the site for… let me just take a look. Cool.

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: So I’m curious because also I live in the Boston area, so it looks like ‘Space Evaders’ is 1996, so it’s back in the 90′s. What were you doing there? Did you go to college here or were you just…

Ben Averch: Well, I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Ben Sommer: Oh, yeah.

Ben Averch: And I actually went to high school at Brooklyn High and so my band mates… my bass player is Matt Olken or was in Bison and we met in high school at Brooklyn and basically we had our band, Bison, and we went around and things looked promising, but ultimately, it didn’t materialize into, you know, something that could support a lifestyle, you know, as it were.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: And Matt had a scholarship to Harvard and you know, it gets harder and harder to say no to Harvard scholarship when you’re playing in these dirgy bars and going nowhere to…

Ben Sommer: No kidding.

Ben Averch: And so he made an intelligent decision to accept that and you know, we decided to figure out what else we’re going to do creatively, so I ended up moving to California and then to Washington about 5 years ago.

Ben Sommer: Cool. Cool, so what was your kind of musical education? Were you all, you know, 00:12:05.202 [inaudible], self-taught in all the instruments or do you have a foundation in theory or composition or anything?

Ben Averch: I took drum lessons for a while as a kid, but my real musical sort of school, if you will, was I was a street musician in Harvard Square, Cambridge, which is where Tracy Chapman used to play and stuff like that. And basically I would support myself by playing 12-16 hours a day in front of the Coop in Harvard Square, Cambridge and I learned how to play guitar and sing by doing this. So it was like boot camp, but it was hard core because my approach to it was I’m going to make this as hard core and a Reno Rock power as I possibly can, even if there is nobody walking by. So invested myself in each song that I would play and I got a lot better at playing and singing and writing and I learned how to project my voice and learned everything that I know really about how to be a musician from this 3-year period of performing solo acoustic as a street buster.

Ben Sommer: That’s a…

Ben Averch: But I had some experiences that I’ll never forget. You know, there was a time when I was playing, I forgot what song I was playing, but all of a sudden that I realized I couldn’t remember the next lyric or the next chord or what to do with my hands, but the song kept going, and my consciousness was detached from the performance of the song and I just saw myself from a different perspective. I was not aware of what was happening and it was a magical experience that I still think about sometimes and you know, it’s just cool to have something happen outside your awareness when normally you’re like, okay, I know what I have to do when I’m doing it.

Ben Sommer: What did you do? Did you remember the song or did you start winging lyrics or what happened?

Ben Averch: The song kept going. I sang the right songs. I played the right chords and it was all, all good. It’s probably one of my originals. I emphasized original songs as much as I could. I played a few covers. I played ‘I Would Die For You’ by Prince, and one thing that was cool was Eddie Vedder was in town. This was at the height of their popularity in ’94 and so Pro-Jam was playing in Boston somewhere.

And so I’m playing and I see this little dude all curled up in an Army jacket and I’m thinking, you know, there is only one person who doesn’t want to be seen as much as that guy and that has to be Eddie Vedder, so I realized this is Eddie Vedder who was watching me play. So I go okay, I’m going to turn it up.

Ben Sommer: Wow.

Ben Averch: And just rock, so I was playing ‘I Would Die For You’. It was like really good, you know, for me. So sure enough, he comes up and he looks at me. He sees the Bison tape and the guitar case.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: He said, “Is this the tape?” I said, “Yeah, yeah, please take one.” So he tucked a little money in the guitar case and I’m like, “Hey, you know, I’m a big fan, right?” So sure enough, he looked all alarmed and takes off.

Ben Sommer: Geez.

Ben Averch: He’s recognized, right?

Ben Sommer: Yeah, Grunge kid, he doesn’t want to…

Ben Averch: Yeah, exactly.

Ben Sommer: He wants to lay low.

Ben Averch: So you know, here I’m kind of having fun with it a little bit, you know, because I couldn’t help myself, so I’m standing there, “Eddie Vedder is in Harvard Square! You know, find him!”

Ben Sommer: Oh, you did that? [Laughs].

Ben Averch: Yeah. [Laughs]. What can I say? You know, I was young and impetuous. And sure enough, at the end of the day, it was a $50 bill, so that was his tip. So you know, I apologize, Eddie. If Eddie was… for making your day more difficult.

Ben Sommer: Oh, he’s the first one who is listening to this podcast, so he will put you… [Laughs]

Ben Averch: Oh, yeah. [Laughs]

Ben Sommer: Just kidding.

Ben Averch: Yeah, I know.

Ben Sommer: Cool. So you moved out there. It looks like from your bio, you have a few albums for the last few years, and the last one, ‘Fortune Cookie’. You know, here’s a phrase. Now, I identify with your kind of your musical style even, but even more than that the kind of the do-I-like-the-piece of it, so you’re doing everything.

Ben Averch: Right.

Ben Sommer: I’m a musician. I don’t do everything, you know, drums particularly. But you’re mixing, you’re recording, you’re just producing, in a way, yourself and you’re arranging all the music. What are the pros and cons and you know, what’s the upside or downside? I’m thinking of a phrase that I’ve heard that says that anyone who defends himself in court has a fool for a client.

Ben Averch: [Laughs]

Ben Sommer: And so you know what I mean. What do you think? Is this working out? The album sounds very good, the quality.

Ben Averch: Thank you.

Ben Sommer: So what do you think?

Ben Averch: Yeah, I mean, there are pros and cons to it. The pro is I can work very fast because I don’t have to convinve anybody or, you know, put forward a point of view and get somebody else to buy in. I can just hear it in my mind and then go and execute it. And now having done 3 albums in this vein, I’m fast at it and so I can do a whole song in, you know, one day or two days and then spend a lot of time mixing and perfecting it.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: So I’m also very comfortable because I know nobody is going to tell me this sucks, right? It’s either as good as I think it is, right?

Ben Sommer: Which could be a liability, you know?

Ben Averch: Yeah, you know, there are benefits in working in a band. You get creative synergy. You get multiple ideas from people and you know, it creates a positive thing when you have multiple points of view all helping on a creative process. But for me, I guess, these are really glorified folk songs in a way. You know, they all start with lyrics and an acoustic guitar and then the way that they become prog or rock is that through the arrangement and sort of the choices that are involved in that. You know, so it’s fun to be able to experiment totally with different sounds and different approaches and different ways of doing things without having to clear it with anybody to make sure it expresses somebody else’s point of view also.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: So from that sort of mega little, I mean, eye of point of view, it works for me.

Ben Sommer: [Laughs]. Well, for me, it’s like… I, myself, I’m kind of an over-educated trained composer who kind of drifted back to his rock roots, so it’s not megalomaniacal to say, you know, if you’re the prime creator and you just happened to be… you know, a lot of composers play a lot of their music, so if your instrument, so to speak, is kind of the rock trio kind of format and it’s not a big deal to learn how to mix and do the engineering to a certain extent. I mean, I’m surprised there are more of us out there because, you know, a really single-minded composer who goes to either trains himself like you did or gets educated like I did, you know, it’s perfectly natural to be in control of every elements without having a producer telling you, you know, how the text needs to go and then you have to have a ringer for every instrument or vocal part or whatever.

Ben Averch: Yeah, I think the one element where having somebody else involved would really be beneficial is in producing the vocals because that’s one element where I have, I would say, limited ability to push myself and, you know, I would benefit, I know for sure, from somebody else, saying, “You know, you can sing that line again better.”

Ben Sommer: Oh?

Ben Averch: Or things like that, you know, because, you know, when I make the call, it’s often like, “Okay, well, that’s how it sounds when I sing that line.”

Ben Sommer: Good point, yeah.

Ben Averch: You know, it’s either great or maybe not as great, but hopefully it all works out anyway.

Ben Sommer: Right, right.

Ben Averch: But I know for sure, I worked with producers when Bison was going. We did a few sessions one with a really great producer named Mike Gazzios 00:21:04.983 [ph] who is down in LA now, and it’s really great to have somebody else knowing the switches and telling you go and saying do it again and to not have to worry about that and just say, “Okay, my job now is strictly to be a performer, you know, at least of a vocal piece.” It seems to make the most difference.

Ben Sommer: Right, it’s funny you mentioned your voice. I mean, it’s a very… I can’t… the name that comes up and I actually had to Google for the name, but it’s the guy, the lead singer for the Smithereens. Do you remember them?

Ben Averch: I do remember the Smithereens.

Ben Sommer: So it’s this guy, Pat DiNizio.

Ben Averch: Pat DiNizio

Ben Sommer: Yeah, I remember from the 80′s, he always had a soul patch and he had a kind of a wobbly but kind of husky baritone.

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: Anyway, that just sort of reminded me sort of a way and I’m showing you I was horrified to see his latest picture. He is like 300 pounds. He is getting like that.

Ben Averch: Oh, I don’t look like that audience.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: So don’t get me confused wit Pat DiNizio.

Ben Sommer: I won’t.

Ben Averch: Yeah, I used to listen to the Smithereens. I mean, I’d like everything. Buffalo Tom was the band that I used to love. They’re from Boston back in the day. I mean, apart from Rush, the biggest influences on my music were probably Bob Mould and Sugar and 00:22:32.485 [inaudible] and then Joe Box, which is sort of a post-punk band from Washington, DC. And I don’t think that my music sounds anything like Joe Box because they just have such a unique thing happening. But when I would see them perform, they were so intense and so incredible at playing live that I just thought, ‘Okay, so this is what’s possible for a rock band.’ You know, they would sweat all over everyone and yet, they were just amazingly tight. I’ve never seen any band like that, before or since, so they were huge for me.

Sugar was huge for me because the heaviness was… it was heavier than Rush in terms of the guitar and the angst level and this sort of saturation of it all. It was just, you know, extremely dense.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: But the harmonies and the melody and the vocals were just as melodic and there was just always something to hang your hat on. You know, I don’t listen to a lot of metal or really anything that doesn’t have a very strong melodic element to it. So the Sugar for me was great when Beaster came out. Man, I was listening constantly and it was just like, okay, huge, heavy guitars, heavy everything with great tones, but then these melodies and these vocal harmonies, which I really love. And in particular, the first song on ‘Fortune Cookie’, which was called ‘Love Me Anyway’ has this sort of Bob Mould-Sugar style vocal harmony and I just love doing that. It always sounded so cool and it reminds me when I was a little bit younger, I guess.

Ben Sommer: Oh, yeah, nostalgic.

Ben Averch: Right.

Ben Sommer: So anyway, our time has kind of passed, but that image of playing 12-plus hours a day in Harvard Square, that’s pretty intense.

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: That’s awesome that you had the nuts to stand out there that long and hone yourself. What do you do now for touring? Do you…

Ben Averch: I don’t do anything.

Ben Sommer: [Laughs]. You’re a mad scientist in your studio?

Ben Averch: Oh, yeah. It’s like one guy in his room who is creating rock albums. You know, I’ll play acoustically maybe once or twice a year if I’m asked to and have the opportunity and if you look on YouTube, there is a variety of live videos of concerts I’ve done over the last, you know, couple of years. But being the solo guy, it’s a very, very different, you know, atmosphere and experience to play acoustic when it could be epic rock.

Ben Sommer: Right, yeah. Well, I mean, is that the trick when you’re a solo guy. If you want that and replicate when you’re out in the studio, you’ve got to shell out and to shell out, you’ve got to be independently wealthy or something.

Ben Averch: Right. I don’t want to… you know, that’s thing, right? I don’t want to hire people to play my songs, right? I want to find people that hear the song and they’re like, “Oh, my God.” This is my life’s work. It’s not to play bass with this guy, right?

Ben Sommer: Oh, well, that guy still needs to eat.

Ben Averch: Right, right, yeah, true enough, right? So anyway, the focus for me is songwriting and recording right now just because I don’t have… you know, my best buddies who plays bass and my good pal playing drums and all that.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: And I really think that that what’s needed to create a viable live entity.

Ben Sommer: Why don’t you do what I do? I mean, I can’t play drums, so I have a guy, a ringer, who I have known for years and he is enthusiastic about my music and you know, I pay him when I can, but you know, he’s been playing for me even when I couldn’t pay him.

Ben Averch: Right.

Ben Sommer: And so maybe next time you try to, at least, get a guest guitarist or a guest drummer who you can recruit to your cause and maybe…

Ben Averch: Yeah, that’s a great idea. You know, as I look at the track listing of the ‘Fortune Cookie’ record, I imagine how much fun it would be to play some of these songs live. I think they would just really just leap out.

Ben Sommer: Yeah, you know, I think so. So I will play… I like, you know, the title track of the album.

Ben Averch: So, now, here is a funny note about this.

Ben Sommer: What?

Ben Averch: The song ‘Fortune Cookie’, I had as the number one song on that record. It’s a 13-song record and I was driving around and I just decided that it didn’t fit with the rest of the material and so I took it off the record and now I have a 12-song record that starts with ‘Love Me Anyway’ instead.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: And now I have to put up ‘Fortune Cookie’ as a bonus track on my band camp page and then basically try to get all the proceeds to go held the earthquake repair in Haiti.

Ben Sommer: Oh, wow!

Ben Averch: Yeah! So I thought, you know, hey, if I’m not going to put this song on the record… you know, it’s a good song. I wrote it maybe 15 or 16 years ago.

Ben Sommer: Yeah?

Ben Averch: So I guess it shouldn’t be a shock to me if it doesn’t fit seamlessly with these contemporary songs, but yeah, on my page, which is Averch.bandcamp.com…

Ben Sommer: Yeah, I’m looking at it.

Ben Averch: Yeah, I’ve got the ‘Fortune Cookie’ single plus a $1 donation that helps benefit the earthquake relief and just, you know, just seeing what good can I do with this. All right, you know, maybe it will not generate millions of dollars, but I figure it can’t hurt so…

Ben Sommer: Yeah, you know, well, that’s awesome. So pardon me if I’m probably or any fans of Rush or this site will not get too interested if I get any… or talk shop with you, but just because I’m curious.

Ben Averch: Sure.

Ben Sommer: So what is your ambition career-wise? Are you wanting to stay where you are and quit your day job from, you know, being in that side, just the basement and just producing music? What is your kind of goal?

Ben Averch: Yeah, well, it’s tough, man. I mean, of course, it’s my dream that I could support myself, you know, though music. But you know, I’ve got a family and I’m in my mid-30s.

Ben Sommer: Me, too.

Ben Averch: And so there are a lot of certain realistic considerations that a guy has to make. So while I have an ambition of being a self-sufficient musician in terms of lifestyle and income generation, I have to be as pragmatic as I have to be to, you know, because the kids need new shoes and all the rest of it.

Ben Sommer: Yeah, I hear you. I’m in the same place.

Ben Averch: Yeah. You know, that being said, who knows? You know, if I keep my goal really, you know, from a realistic perspective, is to just make as much material as I can and as good a material as I can and try to get it out there for people because I think that, you know, a lot of these songs have kind of a different perspective on things than most rock songs. You know, this album ‘Fortune Cookie’ is mostly about relationships and the difficulties of relationships and how to take it on yourself to understand, you know, the contributions that you made to this situation, for good or not for good, you know. And I find that most music or the general default setting for people when they are thinking about their relationship is why aren’t you doing this and I don’t like it when you do that and I wish you would do this other thing.

And there is very little kind of self-reflection and self-ownership about the state of things. And so what I’m trying to say is there is a song called ‘Landfall’ and the refrain is ‘coming up against my limitations’ and when I heard that song being sang back to me on the recording, I thought, you know what? I’ve never heard that type of sentiment in a rock song that, okay, you know, emotionally, I’m limited and that I recognize that and I understand that and this is the way it manifest itself. It’s that I can’t figure out the right way to be or the right thing to do. I don’t know. For me, it’s unique, but there is probably someone else out there doing the exact same thing I just hadn’t heard of.

Ben Sommer: Well, no. I mean, I think it sounds pretty unique. And even if there were, you know, you ticked off a bunch of other influences besides Rush and now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m not the biggest, you know, high fidelity guy who knows all the obscure bands, but those ring true as influences in the music. But even if you were just like a Rush nut from start to finish and you consciously try to then make your music sound like Rush, you know, it always comes out a little skewed, a little unique, so…

Ben Averch: Yeah, well, I appreciate that. You know, for the Rush bands that read your site and listen to the podcast, I think that there are some super-Rush bands. One of the things about Rush that I’ve always loved are the guitar solos. From me, that’s the high point of every Rush song. You know, ‘Emotion Detector’ is a great example of a Rush song that, you know, if it didn’t have the most amazing guitar solo you ever heard, it could be just a kind of an okay song. It’s not amazing. But then when he played that solo, it’s like forget it, this is the best thing I’ve heard in my life.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: And that’s what I feel about all his leads, you know, ‘Chemistry’, ‘After Image’, ‘It’s Beautiful’, even on the new record, the track ‘Faithless’ has a beautiful solo. ‘Bravado’ in the ‘Live’ version. For me, I mean, the Rush songs exist so that when Alex plays the lead, it just transcends and that’s the experience that I really aspire to. You know, I try to have a solo in each of my song and I don’t think I could play that good, right, as far as Alex because Alex is always the best. But I want to push my playing to create for my song to have the same effect where I’m like, “Okay, I’m going along in a rock song, this guy who is not interested back there in all of this and then, bam, the lead hits and I want him to return and just make that lead say everything that the vocal and the music are trying to say by just pushing it to that other level.

Ben Sommer: It’s funny that you mentioned that. I forgot about that. Your style of replaying. You know, if I hadn’t connected with you through this Rush channel, I might not have caught it, but absolutely I hear Lifeson all over it in a good way. I mean, anyone who can… you know, in the 80′s, there were hundreds and hundreds of 00:34:34.953 [inaudible], right?

Ben Averch: But…

Ben Sommer: You know, there were several that were just very good, you know, no matter if they were finger-tapping their asses off. But I definitely hear in the tone in that, you know, peculiar way use of the ‘Bravado’, the ‘Way Me Back’.

Ben Averch: Right.

Ben Sommer: So as they say back East.

Ben Averch: That’s right.

Ben Sommer: You know, it’s very cool. I appreciate, you know, it comes across as it should.

Ben Averch: Yeah, it absolutely out of love, you know, as far as his playing has meant for just personally. You know, it bring tears to my eyes this song, ‘Available Light’, right? They never ever have played it live. It’s still one of the… I think one of their best songs of all time. Why is it so great? Because the lead, if you listen to that lead with headphones on and your eyes closed, you will cry.

Ben Sommer: It’s pretty great.

Ben Averch: It’s really fantastic and I’m sure that they probably don’t know how great some of the stuff is. One thing I haven’t told you about is the time I met Rush.

Ben Sommer: Oh?

Ben Averch: So this is kind of a funny story. Back, I guess, I think it was 1992 or 1993, they were given the award from Harvard Lampoon of Musicians of the Millennium.

Ben Sommer: [Laughs]

Ben Averch: Right?

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: And so, you know, they do this thing with the Hasty Pudding Club and they had, I think, in Hathaway, there recently and they basically, find a way. This is a humour group within Harvard.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: One of my friends from high school was in Harvard and he was part of this Harvard Lampoon group and he told me that they were inviting Rush and Rush was going to come and he wanted me to be there. And, of course, I freaked out. You know, part of me felt bad because my brother and my bass player, Matt, who also loved Rush just as much as I did, you know, couldn’t come. It’s like one invite per person. But I was the most over the top insane about Rush, so I got in. And sure enough, you know, here they come right there wearing either new tuxedos and stuff, and I got to spend some good time with Geddy and Alex.

Ben Sommer: Wow!

Ben Averch: And I told Alex, you know, how much the music meant to me and a few other things. I told him I saw him on the Power Windows tour, you know, when I was 10 years old and he’s like, “Don’t say that,” thinking that had been a long time ago.

Ben Sommer: Oh, yeah.

Ben Averch: I didn’t necessarily get to spend quality time with Neil, which was something that I wish had happened differently.

Ben Sommer: Yeah.

Ben Averch: But it was great to be there. It’s at the ‘Counterparts’ CD, album cover basically. There is a picture of the three of them holding up medallions and I was seated right at that table, you know, out of the frame, but it was an amazing time I’ll never forget. Sure enough, there were just three guys who happened to be amazing musicians who are lifelong friends and they’re not outer space aliens at all.

Ben Sommer: That’s good to know. Yeah, yeah, well, they strike you as that way. They’d either be way back in Corps, straight up dorks if you met them in person, but…

Ben Averch: Yeah, it may be a little bit of both. But they are, you know, they just lit the candle, right? And for me, it’s about the music and being a musician and expressing through music and it’s been going ever since.

Ben Sommer: Cool.

Ben Averch: Back to the question of guitar solos, there is a song called ‘World Fictive’ on my record that does not have a solo, but probably has the most Rush-like instrumental break of any of the tracks in terms of its, I don’t want to say, lifting, but referencing the vibe of ‘After Image’, which has always been my favorite instrumental breaks in Rush because of the build-up, right? You’ve got the pulsing fore on the floor with the kick drum and a little high hat is going, you know, ktsk, ktsk, ktsk and then he alternates between the synth tom and snare drum and the chords are bang, ringing out, and ultimately manifest in this big solo that’s all chord-based and just fantastic. But the ambience of that part, the keyboards and the synth bass and the drums and the guitar chords just chunking out and kind of hanging there, man, that’s just beautiful. Red Zachary is a little bit like that, too.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: But I don’t know. I just get off on that stuff, so whenever I can make my own kind of atmospheric wonderland, I’ve been just excited to do it.

Ben Sommer: Cool, is that to do an intro and altro into the podcast, would that be one of your selections?

Ben Averch: Yeah, you know, I love the ‘World Fictive’. The ‘Hook’ is probably my favorite song along with ‘Starting To Be Real’. I love them all for different reasons and it’s hard to say, but I think ‘World Fictive’ is probably the most straight up Rush-like vive. It’s got a drum loop that is in 7 and the whole track is mostly in 4.

Ben Sommer: Oh.

Ben Averch: So when you hear the beat, you know, what it takes, I guess, 7 times through the repetition of the loop before it catches up to where you think the one should be.

Ben Sommer: Okay, I can’t even compute that. Is that even lined up?

Ben Averch: Maybe in 4 now.

Ben Sommer: Okay, I’ll trust you.

Ben Averch: But yeah, the song is in 4, but the drum part is in 7 and the only reason it doesn’t sound totally weird is because you’ve got 4 on the floor on the bass drum.

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: You know, the bass drum is going on all the quarter notes and it’s just different places where the open hat and the snare drum hit that it creates the sort of accents. But yeah, that’s a grea song for Rush bands to get into. I think anybody that really loves Rush would enjoy this music because I approach each instrument, you know, almost from the point of view, what would the guy in Rush do? And I can’t necessarily do it all, but I come at it from that point of view and yet, it doesn’t sound hopefully like a complete rip-off.

Ben Sommer: No, I don’t think it does. Like I said, only if someone wouldn’t find you through this avenue of being a Rush fan person and looking for like-minded artist, I think, would they make the obvious connection on, you know, the song writing and you know, the rhythmic and harmonic textures and the solos, but I think if someone came cold, they’ll just say you have some very interesting indie prog rock.

Ben Averch: Cool, cool. Yeah, I mean, one of the things about Rush that is really unique is the lyrics, right? And then the ‘Vapor Trails’ record has seem to me, at least, was so wildly different from the ‘Test For Echo’ and the previous set of recordings because of the directness and the personal nature, of course, Neil has his tragedy. But you know, songs like ‘Ghost Rider’ and ‘Vapor Trails’ and ‘Secret Touch’ and ‘Sweet Miracle’, they’re so moving in such a direct way that it almost seems like an entirely different band. You know, if you go back and listen to some of the more sort of intellectual music like ‘Alien Shore’ from ‘Counterpart’, you know, he’s saying sex is not a competition and these kinds of, you know, puzzling intellectual scenes, but it’s just so radically different when you hear some like ‘Secret Touch’, ‘the way out is the way in’.

Ben Sommer: [Laughs], yeah.

Ben Averch: And it’s just, oh, my God. It’s mind-blowing in that growth and the fact that he was willing to make such a personal statement, you know, is I’m sure very healing for him, but for all the fans that love the band, that love him and just as a songwriter, I found that to be distransformational.

Ben Sommer: Pretty shocking.

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: You know, I never caught that. Good quote, though. Out through the in hole. I know I… [Laughs].

Ben Averch: Yeah.

Ben Sommer: Creepy. Cool. Well, listen, I want to thank you for spending the time with me. What I’m going to do like I promised, I think I’ll pick out the ‘World Fictive’ tune and maybe I’ll give the whole album another listening and pick out another tune with your permission included in the podcast.

Ben Averch: Cool, absolutely.

Ben Sommer: Cool, and I will let you know when this is published. It will be on, you know, iTunes site and actually this is the main boy for the screencast edition.

Ben Averch: Oh, fantastic.

Ben Sommer: So I’ll throw it out in YouTube and hopefully, it won’t crash and burn.

Ben Averch: That’s great. Well, yeah, I’m trying to get as many people to visit my Averch.bandcamp page as I can, so if they can click through on your site, that would be huge.

Ben Sommer: Absolutely, absolutely. Let’s do a link exchange and so is that place you want to funnel people through or you want to plug any other site?

Ben Averch: That’s the place. You know, Averch.com is there, but you know, it’s just kind of generic information about me and all the music is on Bandcamp page.

Ben Sommer: Okay.

Ben Averch: So if people want to hear it or want to transact, it would be even better, right?

Ben Sommer: Right.

Ben Averch: That’s the way to do that.

Ben Sommer: Cool. Hey…

Ben Averch: I’m curious to listen to your stuff now. I did not know about your sort of classically-trained guy doing rock.

Ben Sommer: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s a long story, but I still retain some of those bad influences of classical, you know, straight-up compositions. So yeah, it definitely take a listen. Let’s exchange emails. Put me on your list and I’ll put you in mine and I’ll let you know as soon as this thing is published.

Ben Averch: Hey, man, I appreciate it so much. Thanks for taking the time and, you know, thanks for listening to the record.

Ben Sommer: Hey, no problem. It’s my pleasure. Thank you very much, Ben.

Ben Averch: All right, talk to you soon.

Ben Sommer: Right, take care. Bye.

Ben Averch: Bye-bye.

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