Interview Ice Age
"It's heavy and progressive, dramatic and emotional and hopefully full of thought-provoking ideas"
(April 2023, text by Martien Koolen, edited by Peter Willemsen)
After a hiatus of more than twenty years of the prog metal'gods' of Ice Age, hailing from the Big Apple (New York) and formed in 1992, return to the fold with a brand-new album called Waves Of Loss And Power (see review). Ice Age's third album is a masterpiece containing eight new songs of which three of them are longer than ten minutes. It is the best prog metal album I've heard in a very long time! The band still consists of the same four musicians, and the sound and the impact of the band is still the same as well, so it is time to have a chat with the band members. So, let's welcome singer-keyboardist Josh Pincus, guitarist Jim Pappas, drummer Hal Aponte and bassist Doug Odell. I really missed Ice Age because their first two albums were really awesome!
What have you all been doing since the release of the second album Liberation in 2001?
Doug Odell: “For about five years after the release of Liberation, the band supported that album fully. We performed live and continued to write and record new songs, many of which are locked away in the vaults. By 2006 we had run out of steam and forward movement, partly due to a lack of support from record label Magna Carta. As we all agreed to take a break, Jim Pappas took some time away from music to focus on other creative endeavours. Hal Aponte and I were very involved in many other studio and live projects, in some of which they even got the chance to work together such as the release of the Coldsteel EP America Idle and playing live as sidemen for various artists, including former Danger Danger singer Ted Poley.”
Josh Pincus: “The new album is about the great heights of creativity, hopefulness and personal power we all feel at times in life, and the contrast with the sadness and grief of loss we all inevitably have to face in many different ways like personal loss, loss of innocence, etcetera. I think as experience and time batters us around, there are times when we find ourselves far away from who we thought we were, or who we hoped to become when we were young. There are moments of optimism and moments of cynicism. These two feelings coexist within us constantly, and that inner battle expresses itself in the actions we take outwardly every day. Those conflicts manifest themselves in cultural and political ways as well.”
Did the band have a concept or a theme in mind before you started to compose the new tracks?
Josh Pincus: “It's heavy and progressive, dramatic and emotional, and hopefully full of thought-provoking ideas. These are the things we always wanted Ice Age's music to be about. It's a continuation of the two preceding albums, but it also represents the evolution of our playing and attitudes as well.”
Doug Odell: “The album is not by any means a concept piece as a whole. We approached each song with complete freedom to let our individual and collective creative muse take its own path. I think there is a lot of variety and diversity within the rock and prog spectrums. All of the light and shade, heaviness and subtlety that is hallmark of Ice Age can be found here.”
How was the working process for this new album?
Hal Aponte: “A few years ago I had a barbecue at my house and I decided it would be a great idea to have everyone there, maybe even jam a little bit if everyone felt up to it, with no pressure of any kind put on any of us. The jam session went so extremely well that we had no choice, but to see this whole opportunity through. We started writing new material that ended up on Waves Of Loss And Power right on the spot that first time we jammed. After that, we did some studio rehearsals and it just escalated from there. Again, it took a few years.
Doug Odell: “One of the amazing things about this band is that one person will present a riff, a chord progression or a drum groove and then instinctively the rest of the band knows exactly what to play to compliment that element. Before you know it, parts are getting developed and sketches take shape. As we fleshed out those sketches into songs over time, some of the prog epics that are on this album came into being. Once pandemic lockdown hit in early 2020, we had to adapt to survive. Thankfully Jim came up with the idea that saved us: he facilitated running a local server for the band to log into and had us all use a software call Jamulus to play together virtually and be able to adjust and minimize internet lag.”
What came first: the music or the lyrics?
Doug Odell: “The music typically comes first with Ice Age, but Josh is known to start developing lyrical themes and working titles along the way as the arrangements take shape. That was very much the case with this new album as well.”
The lyrics of the new songs seem rather dark and critical to me. Do you agree?
Josh Pincus: “Some of the lyrics on Waves Of Loss And Power address the fact that if we can't find a way to coexist with each other, sadly I believe we will all cease to exist.”
Who is mainly responsible for the lyrics and how important are they for Ice Age?
Doug Odell: “Josh wrote all of the lyrics for the new album. Hal has contributed lyrics to some earlier works, I think it's worth noting. The lyrics and vocals are equally important to us as a collaborative unit as the music is. Thankfully we have an amazing singer in Josh, who also happens to write vocal melodies, vocal harmonies and lyrics that are thoughtful and poetic. All in all, they flawlessly fit the music of the band.”
Perpetual Child part 2 is the follow-up to your pinnacle track on the debut album. Whose idea was it to continue this awesome track twenty years later?
Josh Pincus: “We knew we had a real opportunity to go 'big' in continuing some of the musical motifs and lyrical ideas of the first two albums. I wanted to connect with fans of the first two albums and remind them that we remember what came before, and that we feel like these concepts we touched on back in the day still apply to the continuing experience of music and life. The idea of the Perpetual Child is about reconciling yourself to the experiences and 'duties' of adulthood, while being self-aware enough to realize that we never really leave those formative years behind, and that we carry everything with us through our lives, whether we admit it or not.”
The same accounts for To Say Goodbye of which part 1, 2 and 3 can be found on the first two albums. Would you please tell us the meaning of this amazing epic song?
Josh Pincus: To Say Goodbye is really about loss, regret and grief. We all experience these things in many different ways. Part V is specific regarding the issue it addresses.”
Together Now and All My Years are two shorter, rock-based tracks. How do they fit in with the rest of the material on the new album?
Doug Odell: “By typical pop song standard length, I think Together Now is still well within the prog template of track duration! With the two shorter inclusions of All My Years and Float Away, these are just other colours of the palette that is still intrinsically Ice Age to the core. It just so happens that we made the musical statements on these in less time than some of the longer tracks. I think it works well to offer that kind of variety and it shows how dynamic Ice Age can be.”
I hear influences from bands like Shadow Gallery, Kansas, Rush and Symphony X. Did these bands actually influence you and if so, in what ways?
Doug Odell: “Josh is probably the biggest Kansas fan among us, although I love them as well and I know Hal does too. We were recently discussing as a band how underappreciated Kansas drummer Phil Ehart is.
Is there any chance that Ice Age will be doing some live shows in Europe? I really would love to hear you play 'in the flesh', so to speak.
Hal Aponte: “We plan on getting back out there and performing some shows to support the new album. We'll be opening the ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta in September, and we'll be scheduling some shows before and after that shortly. We are very excited to have that opportunity once again. The fans have been so incredibly supportive throughout our time away. We definitely want to do this for all of them.”
Doug Odell: “We would love the chance to play in Europe again if the right opportunities present themselves. It's been nineteen years since we were part of the Headway Festival.”
Do you have any plans for the near future?
Hal Aponte: “We're also looking forward to writing some more new songs. But for now, we are taking it one step at a time and enjoying this new journey.”
Do we have to wait for another twenty years for a new Ice Age album? Hope not...
Doug Odell: “You will not have to wait that long because Ice Age is back!”
Thanks for answering my questions and welcome back!
review album 'Waves Of Loss And Power'
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