It was honor to be able to chat with some of The Progspace team about their work, and progressive rock and metal music in general too! They’re a group of Prog-lovers who started a journey to share their thoughts about albums, concerts, tours and festivals, the photo galleries of the Prog concerts they visit, as well interviewing upcoming or established musicians and prog-related people.
I’d like to start with some information about The Progspace for our readers. You’re obviously a very diverse and committed team writing for the site! What is your particular background in Prog Rock and Metal, either as an appreciator, musician or journalist, or all of the above? How long have you been writing and reviewing music for, and can you tell us a little about how the site was founded, and by whom?
Hey Ivan, thanks a lot for the invitation, nice to meet you! Talking for myself, music in all its variety has always been an important part of my life, but my rock / metal ride began in the 90s, before Ayreon and Star One opened the wide fields of prog in the 00s. Since then, it has been a wonderful journey of discovery, and especially the exchange with like-minded metalheads and friends (mostly online) broadened taste and knowledge.
Regarding the writing about music, I started during lockdown, made my first steps for another webzine and then my own blog https://mostly-metal.net , as I felt I needed a kind of outlet for the passion I couldn’t express on concerts anymore. Another reason was the intention to give something back to the bands who enrich our days with their art, and show them some support this way too.
When live music returned, I met Dario at some shows, and had the great pleasure to join The Progspace team as well. But I’m sure he can tell you way more about its history.
The Progspace was founded in 2016 by four Prog enthusiasts at the holy grounds of the Kasteel de Berckt, in the tiny village of Baarlo in the Netherlands, during the ProgPower Europe Festival. Sharing our passion for all kinds of Progressive Rock and Metal and adjacent music was our goal, especially giving smaller up and coming bands a platform, and we’ve been growing steadily ever since we went online. Our team of dedicated reviewers and contributors from all over the world is about 20 strong now and we are trying to implement new ideas of diverse content and services for the fans as we go to supplement the standard album reviews and concert galleries. For a couple of years now already, we managed to bring our listeners weekly updates about the newest singles (What’s Hot?! Spotify Playlist) as well as an extensive list of album and EP releases (Releases of the Week article series and accompanying Spotify playlist). An annual highlight are The Progspace Awards, where our team will select 12 nominees in each of the 16 categories which will then be open for voting by our listeners. Spurred by the pandemic, we also held three online festivals so far, and you can still watch them on our YouTube channel. We are actually looking into putting together another edition, but it’s going to take some time…
As for me personally, growing up in a quite musical family with mostly classical music laid the foundation for my appreciation of music in general, and also more complex compositions and virtuosic performances particularly. The discovery of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” (the Delicate Sound of Thunder version!) opened up a whole new world of wonders for me. I haven’t looked back ever since (that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate classical music anymore, rather expanding my horizons and discovering new music constantly), and the years of listening to Progulus Radio and attending ProgPower Europe (and of course many other amazing festivals like Night of the Prog, Be Prog! My Friend, Artmania, Generation Prog, Complexity, Euroblast…) and countless shows have not only led to many many awesome friendships in this amazing community, but also ultimately to the foundation of The Progspace at ProgPower Europe 2016. My first steps writing about music go all the way back to some show and album reviews for the website of the legendary Rockfabrik Ludwigsburg (near Stuttgart) almost 20 years ago, the flame was rekindled through stints with https://www.betreutesproggen.de/ and https://www.dprp.net/ , both excellent sources for anything PROG as well. It wasn’t until my friend Van Kirsch asked me if I was interested in starting a whole new endeavor with The Progspace that I found my true calling.
Thank you so much for this insight into your musical backgrounds and roles at The Progspace!
With an army of writers and contributors spread around the globe, how does your team co-ordinate all the tasks involved in the research and creation of content? Do you all work via some form of rotation, or do writers tend to cover their own specific areas of musical interest? I ask because Prog Rock and Metal is such a broad range of styles, and it must be a mammoth task to keep on top of not only new releases, but also arrange your deep and interesting interviews, articles, videos and events as well! There must be magic at work, so I’m curious if it is really structured behind the scenes, or a form of creative yet controlled chaos?
Thanks for your kind words, yes, there are indeed many tasks that need to be done, but there’s no magic at work, just a well-oiled machine with passionate people. All team members bring in their strengths, whether it’s technical knowledge for the website’s programming, the joy in writing reviews, doing interviews and concert photography, or taking care of the social media accounts. And there are different digital tools that help to keep the overview and to coordinate everyone’s input.
While we’re all clearly rooted into prog, our tastes still differ (as it does among our readers), so we can cover the full spectrum from melodic progrock to mind blowing technical deathmetal, but also genres outside the “progressive box” will be heard and can find coverage.
A creative yet controlled chaos might describe it quite accurately to be honest. While I’m the keeper of many lists concerning the newest album, EP and single release and all that, our collaborators with their wide variety of backgrounds and interests both musically and in general are all chiming in with their particular knowledge, strengths and personalities, as Katha mentioned. Always striving to optimize workflows and come up with new and better ways to promote the music we love.
Since the site’s founding in 2016, what do you think have been the most important innovations for progressive music during the last near-decade? Is it the instruments being used? The themes of the recordings? The ease of self-publishing? Particular artists who have bridged styles or interpreted the definitions of “progressive” in new ways?
Seeing the increase of amazing (solo) projects and collaborations over the past years, I’d go for the technological progress that makes it possible for musicians worldwide to connect and work together.
That is a tricky question indeed and one that might split the opinion of the entire Prog community in half, since some people still want to think of Prog as a particular sound invented in the 70s and might not be as accepting of new trends and sounds within the genre as some others on the opposite end of the spectrum might reject any thought of a ‘dated’ original Prog sound, always on the lookout for the craziest new stuff. In my personal opinion at this moment in time though, I would say in the field of the organic integration of more electronic sound components like just recently on the debut albums of Violent Jasper (“Control”) and Ophelia Sullivan (“Disposable Identity”), both small independent artists at that one might add, real progress has been made over the last couple of years.
In a musical landscape where there are so many artists creating audio on any given day, how do you make the painful choices about what is news-worthy or of most interest to your readers?
Considering the incredibly high number of releases at the moment, this is a challenge indeed. For the reviews and interviews, the writers make their choices depending on their taste out of the promos we get ( https://theprogspace.com/submit-your-music/ ), or pick albums that spark their interest.
For the Releases of the Week article and the What’s Hot?! playlist, bands can submit their music via mail as well, and of course we keep our eyes and ears open, as there’s always a chance to stumble across a musical gem.
It’s always a healthy mixture of beloved bands and projects firing out new releases, and chance encounters of previously unknown (to us) stuff through a wide variety of different channels like promo emails, our own feeds, messages, sometimes even ads… but in the end it all comes down to personal taste as always.
As 2023 comes to an end, I wanted to ask what your most memorable moment(s) have been with The Progspace this year? These could be events, releases, interviews or other moments from behind the scenes?
Several moments come to mind in this context, but the most memorable was clearly this year’s ProgPower Europe for me and the very special pre-party presented by The Progspace, with three members of Novena opening the festival in their unique, crazy way. Nobody knew what to expect, but they absolutely nailed it, including a Corazón conga line!
Taking place in The Netherlands every October, ProgPower Europe is just the perfect place to be for a prog-lover, having the chance to see a fantastic line-up in a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere as well as meeting old and making new friends. Since it’s a rather small event with 14 bands and around 500 visitors, it’s pretty easy to get in contact with each other or even to have a beer and a chat with some of the musicians.
I’ll have to agree with Katha about ProgPower Europe here. The first edition we as The Progspace were lucky to present as official media partner, an edition with lots of The Progspace Online Festival alumni (Chaosbay, Ihlo, Maraton, Omnerod & Novena), a couple of The Progspace Awards Winners (Wilderun) and Nominees… And for me personally one of the strongest line-ups in the 13 years I’ve been lucky to attend this one of a kind family gathering.
Just a couple of weeks before, Ayreon’s “Live Beneath the Waves” show in Tilburg has to be mentioned as well I think. The biggest prog show of the year for sure. (Read all about it in our massive review here and check out our galleries as well: https://theprogspace.com/ayreon-01011001-live-beneath-the-waves-15-17-september-2023/ ).
But speaking strictly about behind the scenes The Progspace stuff, we reached out to the public for the first time with a real kind of ‘recruitment drive’ and picked some exceptionally passionate people both with the help of it and through other avenues, and it’s been a real pleasure to see how they integrated themselves into the team and I’m looking forward to seeing all of them involved even more with everything The Progspace in the future!
What do you have planned for 2024? What surprises from you lovely folks might lie on the horizon?
As this year is slowly but surely coming to a close, we’ll dive into the preparation for The Progspace Awards 2023 soon, for that we’ll carefully select 12 nominees each in 16 categories. Out of these our readers can vote for their favorite artists, bands and releases, and the winners will be announced in the beginning of 2024.
Yeah, The Progspace Awards go into their fourth year already, but that should hardly come as a surprise. As for real surprises, well you’ll see them when they’re there, otherwise they wouldn’t be surprises now, would they…
Finally, when you’re not writing or listening to music, what other interests and passions do you have?
Since it’s a very time-consuming passion including the overwhelming amount of concerts we’re happy to have in Munich at the moment, there is not too much time left, but I’m also playing Squash and am part of a dancing team (even though that’s somehow music related as well).
Going to (Prog) concerts is a very time consuming, yet ultimately infinitely rewarding hobby indeed (on top of all The Progspace work). Also, I’m quite fortunate to have found an exciting day job in Event Management, something I can be quite passionate about as well. Other than that, my remaining free time is also filled with music, singing in a (classical) choir. Or it can also be filled with other nerdy topics besides Prog, like watching Star Trek and stuff like that…
The Progspace website: https://theprogspace.com/
The Progspace on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theprogspace
The Progspace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theprogspace
Releases of the Week: https://theprogspace.com/rotw-playlist
What’s Hot?!: https://theprogspace.com/wh-playlist
The Progspace YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/TheProgspace