Prog Blog: Interview With Mark Trueack (Unitopia)

Adelaide’s Unitopia have long been touted as one of Australia’s biggest progressive rock exports – everywhere except Australia that is.

It’s indicative of their position in the world prog rock scene that they are able to release a prog tribute album and have it so well received, selling multiple pressings overseas and finally seeing Unitopia reach Australian airwaves at no less than 20 stations across the nation.

Whilst their touring schedule has been rare in Australia (they only toured for the first time in 2011, after over 15 years together) lead singer Mark Trueack is ever accessible for a chat and shed some light on the process behind the album, and on their future plans.

Prog Blog: Firstly, congratulations on the release of Covered Mirror – it’s a remarkably well-crafted record that has obviously been a long time in the works. What gave you the idea to embark on such a project, rather than taking on new material?

Mark Trueack: Thanks for the kind words. Yes we spent a little more time than we anticipated as we were still undecided on some of the songs. Sean and I love all styles of music and we wanted to put our own stance on the project. While recording Covered Mirror, we were already thinking about ideas for several projects, but we wanted to do something in between to help in our creative process.

PB: How did you come to choose the songs that you did? Were there any issues getting approval to include them on the record?

MT: We both had many ideas of who we wanted to cover, and it did take longer to finally come up with the right mix. Getting approval is cool, we just pay the royalties.

PB: How does the process for approaching a cover record differ from that of writing an original album?

MT: We look at each song and find the best way to interpret how it could sound, doing it the way we would normally approach a new song. We tried very hard to make it our own. I think we have learnt so much from making this album; it will allow us to become more free-flowing in future with our own composition.

PB: How long did it take to produce the record?

MT: We started just before the European tour, so since about 2010.

PB: Do the songs on the album still hold the same relevance for you today as they did when you first heard them?

MT: Yes, they are very meaningful to both of us. Sean and I have wonderful stories to tell about each song. You can find them in the liner notes of the CD.

PB: What are your thoughts on the shift in the music industry away from the hey-day of classic acts such as Yes, Genesis and Supertramp? Is there still a future for prog?

MT: It depends where you are: obviously Europe, Japan, US, Canada and the UK have a very strong following. In Australia there seems to be a small underground market. There only needs to be one big breakthrough and you never know what might happen. I worked for EMI/Virgin for nearly 11 years and in that time I was involved in promoting Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and Marrilion. Genesis had their biggest album in Invisible Touch, hitting Top 5 in the National charts. Peter Gabriel also had success with the Grammy award winning album SO.

Working at this time (mid 80s) we released the CD format, and artists like Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield re-entered the charts, so there are fans out there, we just need to let them know!

PB: Unitopia is a well-established act, with your roots going back to the 1990s. Who are the new breed of prog acts coming up through the ranks in Australia and internationally?

MT: In Australia we played with Anubis, who has a nice sound, and bands like Merlin Bird have some interesting ideas. There seems to be more Progressive Metal hitting the pubs these days; however, Toehider seems to have something special on offer, and have a very unique sound. There are many fantastic bands throughout the world. Marillion, TinyFish, The Flower Kings, and Porcupine Tree are some of my favourites.

PB: What are you listening to at the moment? What are you being inspired by?

MT: I am listening to lots of the late John Martyn, Marillion Thomas Newman, lots of classical music and soundtracks.

PB: Will we see a Covered Mirror: Volume 2 in the future? Will it feature any newer acts?

MT: We are not sure yet, but if we do it will be called Hard as Rock, so that should give you an idea of what might be on it.

PB: What’s next for Unitopia? New releases? Tours?

MT: We have 3 new album projects, along with guesting on several albums Turn Left/Turn Right Limited edition Double CD (Dig pack), The Hope by The United Progressive Fraternity, and More than a Dream Double Pack. We will be preparing for another European /UK Tour, and perhaps Japan and Asia

PB: Your 2011 Australian tour was a long time coming, after a European tour previous to that. Which part of the world will get to see you next?

MT: We hope to take on Poland, Scotland, Sweden , more of Germany, France, and more to be announced!

Covered Mirror is out now through Bird’s Robe Records, and features tracks from Klaatu, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, Marillion and more.

Listen here http://birdsrobe.bandcamp.com/album/covered-mirror-vol-1-smooth-as-silk

Visit Unitopia’s site here http://www.unitopiamusic.com

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