An incredibly rare masterpiece of prog-rock music – that’s “Jeremias” by Austria’s big surprise, the band “Circle of Illusion”. Their debut album, an 80-minute rock opera, has been climbing prog charts all over the world, since its release in September 2013. The mastermind behind the project, Gerald Peter, agreed to conduct an interview with Uri Breitman.
1) I’ve been listening to Jeremias for weeks and weeks now. It’s a haunting album, it doesn’t let go and it penetrates every corner of your brain. This huge piece of work could not have been written by a musician with no formal education. Can you please tell me what kind of music training did you get, from childhood to these days?
Gerald Peter: Here is my musical CV where all the information is included. [Born in Vienna on 1986; Six years of piano lessons; Attended workshops and jazz-piano lessons] So I never studied music. I just had classical and jazz piano training, lots of band experience and passion for music.
2) This project has taken years to complete. Most musicians can’t work so long on one piece – how did you find the energy to keep going and not give up on your vision?
Gerald Peter: The trick for me was to make unrealistic plans, due to my lack of real experience… I wrote the whole album in 2009 before the “Circle of Illusion” band was formed. It took me 6 months just to write an extraordinary concept album with very high ambitions. Actually, I wanted to finish it earlier, but the problem was that the band didn’t form earlier, the material had to be rehearsed, lyrics had to be written (which I cannot do). The CD-recording and the post-production also needed much more time than I had planned. My love for small detail also delayed the production process. But you have always to think about this: Good things need time!
3) The story of “Jeremias” echoes some past works, mainly Ayreon’s “The Human Equation” and Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime”. Did you find some inspiration in these masterpieces?
Gerald Peter: I listened to the “Human Equation” a few times, but I don’t know the story and the music very well. I don’t know about Queenryche’s CD. The basic idea of the story of Jeremias arose in a dream i had years ago.
At the beginning of the project, we had a three person-creative-team (with me, Florian and a third guy called Markus) to do brainstorming about the development of the story based on the main idea. Later, Florian concentrated in writing lyrics and the progress of the story and me in the production of the album.
4) It’s so hard squeezing so much music into one 80-minute disc. How much editing did you have to suffer through? Did you have to cut down some written parts in order to fit the 79:59 limit?
Gerald Peter: I could not believe how much work it is, until I actually did it the first time. This is especially true with arrangements containing over 100 audio/midi tracks. I did it professionally for the first time for a full album, and I have to say that this is a part of the work I could imagine to delegate on the next album 😀
5) This album deserves at least two titles/accolades: the best Austrian prog album of all times — and one of the best albums of 2013. Which title means more to you? would you prefer a different title altogether?
Gerald Peter: It is a special honour for me to hear both of this titles. But I think the title of one of the best albums 2013 means more to me, because there is no austrian prog band which I have listened so far (except my own…).
6) Which are your favorite composers? I mean classical ones, modern ones, rock composers, even Jazz or film score composers.
Gerald Peter: Film music composers: Danny Elfman, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Don Davis; Rock/prog composers: Dream Theater (late 90’s to early 00’s) , Haken, Symphony X, Neal Morse; Great artists from the jazz/fusion genre where I am inspired from: Hiromi Uehara, Dave Weckl Band, George Duke.
7) All three singers – Taris, Cara & Elga – have really done their best here, their voices are very good and they deserve a lot of respect. But personally, I had a hard time understanding their lines because of their (natural) Austrian accent. Was this a concern for you, or you just wanted to focus on the music itself?
Gerald Peter: I just focused on the music. Lyrics and pronunciation was Taris’ task [that’s Taris Brown, main vocalist and the guy behind the concept and most of the lyrics on the album; U.B.].
8) This is a rock-opera which needs to be seen, not just heard. Are there any plans for some kind of video production in 2014? perhaps a DVD or a stage show in London or even YouTube clips?
Gerald Peter: There are a lot of ideas, but no concrete plans at the moment. It has to be worked out and if there are any news it will be posted on our Facebook news feed.
9) Now that the “Jeremias” album has been released (on Sep-2013), are you thinking about writing a 2nd one? or are you focused with promoting and touring the first one?
Gerald Peter: The focus is on promoting and playing the first album. In my head I have enough ideas to start writing a 2nd concept album, but playing live is more important for me now than working on new stuff.
10) Although “Jeremias” is a very original composition, I still notice many Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation tributes and references in the arrangements, vocal parts and lyrics. Did you do that on purpose, did it slip by accident, or did you want to show your respect?
Gerald Peter: In the music itself, there is no intentional tribute to Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation. I also didn’t listen very much to Pain of Salvation except the album „Be“. I think some words of Dream Theater album-titles are used in the lyrics. You could consider it as a tribute.
11) What was the most exciting feedback you’ve got for the release of the Jeremias album? (feedback could mean reviews, phone calls, emails, invitations, anything).
Gerald Peter: A review from live-prog (Marcel Haster) – this review is really enthusiastic and made me smile for the whole length of 15 minutes.
12) What is your opinion on recent prog-rock works like Steven Wilson’s “Raven” album, Haken’s “The Mountain” and Dream Theater’s 12th release?
Gerald Peter: I did not listen yet to Wilson’s “Raven”. Haken’s “The Mountain” is one of the best progressive albums I have ever heard. Dream Theater’s 2013 release is good but at some points I miss the quality of compositions like 10-15 years ago (Scenes from a memory or Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence).
13) Thanks for your time. After you’ve answered all these questions, there’s probably something more you’ve wanted to say about this great album and your band?
Gerald Peter: It was the biggest project I ever did in my life, and I am happy that I found such a great band to realize it and record this album. I am also glad that I found our label Generation Prog Records with Michael Schetter. I am thankful about everyone who likes the album!
Please follow Circle of Illusion on Facebook and demand us on eventful.com and tell everybody about Circle of Illusion 🙂
* * *
That was the interview with Gerald Peter, the main composer, arranger and keyboard player for the band Circle of Illusion. If you like big, dramatic symphonic prog rock, you will definitely enjoy this action-packed, richly producted mega-monster of operatic prog, sing in English, with very elegant and tasteful metal influences, three great soloists and excellent playing from all members of the band.
I dare you to listen without getting hooked for at least 1 month. Now seriously, I wouldn’t have taken the trouble to interview Gerald Peter if I hadn’t thought this was one of the best progressive rock albums released in the last 3 years.