Hot off the Press

Darrel Treece-Birch of TEN & Nth Ascension

by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Sr. Columnist —

2016 has been quite a busy year for Darrel Treece-Birch, marked by two important releases only a few months apart. His solo album No More Time saw the light of day in August, followed by the release of his band Nth Ascension’s In Fine Initium in October. Also, with new TEN album Gothica coming out this month, 2017 seems no less exciting for the fans of the talented keyboard player. In spite of his busy schedule, Darrel caught up with Hardrock Haven to shine a light on it all – and more…

Hardrock Haven: A visitor to your official website comes across the heading that goes as follows “Music to stir the soul and awaken the dreamer”. Would you say it’s your artistic motto of sorts?

Darrel Treece-Birch: I think it’s more of an affirmation of what others have told me over the years. There have been multiple occasions, too many to hazard an estimate, whereby people have kindly expressed that they have felt connected at a deep emotional level with the music. I don’t know why that is? Perhaps it is because I play by feel and hopefully something tangible is passed through the music? I guess my motto is to just be myself; I can’t do anything else really. Of course, it is gratifying beyond words that something I’ve created can mean something to others or indeed allow people to drift and daydream. It’s what used to be certainly more common in the days when listening to music actually meant ‘listening to music’! There is just too much throw away ‘painting by numbers’ music in the world at the moment. Music like Art will always be a matter of personal taste, and thank heavens that this is the case, but it appears to me that with the loss of really ‘listening’ properly to a song, people are losing those opportunities for some music to really stir the soul and let you be transported within the narrative of the lyric. I sincerely hope my compositions do this, and from what I’m told for the majority it is. That makes me a very happy chap.

Hardrock Haven: Although the majority of Melodic Rock fans know you as the keyboard wizard behind the most recent releases of the British ensemble Ten, you’ve been also a part of the Prog Rock group Nth Ascension as well as releasing solo albums since 2000. This sounds like quite a tight schedule to keep up with – how do you manage to do so?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The guys I’m with in Nth Ascension are essentially the family I’ve been with all my years locally. Obviously, two members (Martin’s sons Gavin and Craig) were children when I first started writing and working with Martin Walker and Alan Taylor. The bands I work with have totally different formats and structures; this actually allows the space to keep everything working simultaneously. Nth Ascension started in 2010, and I joined TEN in 2011. Gary knew I was with another band when I was asked to come on board and it has never been an issue to have other musical pursuits. In fact, it is encouraged and Gary has contributed himself on Nth Ascension recordings. Part of the ease of certainly the two main bands working in tandem is down to an unfortunate situation in the national music scene, especially towards original progressive rock. This means that Nth Ascension’s output in the touring world is pretty dire, so we meet every week, we practice every 3-4 weeks in writing and jam sessions, and we record. Everyone contributes in the writing and structural compositions of the tunes. That’s Nth! In Ten’s case, it is a different beast at all together. The recording process takes a lot more time, in no small part to the fact there are seven members. I absolutely love spending the time in Gary’s studio with him working out keyboard parts together and choosing just the right sounds that sit within the frequencies. We have an absolute blast and despite the work ethic, we both have it is a very light and easygoing format. It actually shouldn’t be any other way! Gary’s legacy of work speaks for itself and he is a waterfall of ideas, a tap that can’t be switched off. So, in Ten’s case the recording actually comes first, then if songs are selected for a ‘live’ output the band re-learns them from the recording sessions and we gig them. As far as my solo work is concerned those were always simply moments of self-indulgence. I always felt far more confident and almost protected within the nucleus of a band environment. To just let myself wash away in the silly hours of the night, tinkering on the keys, was something for me. I didn’t feel anyone would actually want to hear it. So in relation to the question, the answer in some measure is I’m clearly a musical workaholic, I love being around my brothers in the bands, and I’m enjoying pushing outside of the comfort zone for my own material, which is ironically odd, as one would assume playing solo would be the place that would be the most comfortable.

Hardrock Haven: For someone who’s not that familiar with your solo output, which of the five albums do you think would be the best introduction and why?

Darrel Treece-Birch: Although technically the five albums quantity is correct, it’s also an unfortunate miss-direction. The first 3 solo-albums were, in fact, self-releases that I recorded direct from the keyboards. I put them on CDR’s, made the sleeves, and basically gave them away to anyone who would care to enquire. It was only when I became friends with Melodic Revolution Records management, Jennifer Falagrady-Katona, and Nick Katona, and I innocently shared a ton of my music meanderings that an interest was shown to officially release solo material. I trust them both in regard to their integrity that I knew they weren’t simply just saying something they may think I wanted to hear. I decided to revisit a previous recording Celestial, but give it what was actually intended. So I relayed all the tracks in a 432hz tuning (which is a whole different story, (and incidentally how Nth Ascension now rehearse and record). I also re-incorporated tracks that I had left off the original recordings. So I ended up with a very pure synthesizer album, with no guitars, bass or acoustic drums. This is a side of myself that I consider to be the self-indulgent part. The bit that tipped a hat to the musicians that inspired me to purchase that first Korg DW6000 synth in 1985. The most recent album is a very personal one in its context and theme and is very different in genre type to the synth based Celestial. I think because I’m either multi-faceted musically or a musical schizophrenic, I could recommend both official releases. Celestial for those that have a leaning towards electro-ambiance and No More Time for something eclectic yet more arguably digestible due to the inclusion of other instrumentation and genre styles.

Hardrock Haven: As it’s been quite a while since the fifth of your solo album hit the shelves, what kind of feedback have you received on No More Time in terms of both critical reception and reactions of listeners?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The critical reception has been beyond anything I could have hoped for. To be truthful I didn’t know what to expect. Being in Nth Ascension and especially Ten you can gauge a level of reaction based on previous experience and you can almost have a steer on generally what others want. That can be a problem for many artists if they really want to push the boundaries somewhat but feel tied to what their public or indeed their labels demand. Fortunately, that is not an issue either for Frontiers or Melodic Revolution Records. The latter that look after Nth and I respectively are keen on self-expression, identity, and creative freedom. Whilst I concur that in the music business, the business element has essentially quashed the music because less freedom is given to their artists. It means that what you are as an artist is stifled, and the result is throwaway pop all sounding pretty much the same, especially in sound, mix, and production. With No More Time, I was sure of what I wanted, because of the narrative, and as my label boss said: “It’s been 50 years in the making”. I wondered if people would find the flow of the music too diverse, but it all makes sense when considering the timeline of events. So I decided to just be very open and honest about my experiences lyrically or to let the instrumental pieces speak for themselves. Reviewers and listeners have thankfully been close to unanimous in their opinions, which I am very relieved about and grateful for.

Hardrock Haven: What was the writing and recording process for No More Time like? Do you think you’ve changed as an artist since 2000’s Seven Days? And if you do, in what ways and is it reflected on your most recent release?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The way I write is pretty consistent in the fact that have tunes come at me at any time day or night. I’ll hum into the microphone of my mobile or I’ll run into my spare room which has a keyboard pretty much always set up for those spare of the moment times. Because I have keyboard workstations I can virtually cover all of the instruments quickly there. Thankfully and fortunately for me once I’m in full flow I can record all keyboard parts and demo drums & bass really quickly. The difference between then and now is that I now have a studio set-up where I can fully record all the other instruments, Bass Guitar, Lead Guitars etc and mix and master myself. I use Apple Logic because it’s what I’ve become accustomed to. I’m still learning and every day I pick up new things, but having the studio has altered my perception of some things, as I now hear even more detail in songs than I ever did before. A blessing and a curse! It makes me laugh if I’ve not been sleeping and people say to me put some relaxing music on. No way! I focus in on every note, every tiny bell tone and beat. Listening to music keeps me alert.

As an artist, I don’t believe I’ve changed too much. My naivety towards many things is still the same but I have moved on considerably in my knowledge of the industry. Those earlier solo albums were very much about proving to myself that I could do something outside of the band structure, and work on my own material at my own pace. I still feel that when I write with others the best parts can be drawn from one another, and as a result, the end product is always better. But then I tend to always like everybody else’s tunes more than my own. Life’s experiences will invariably alter one’s playing. The result of life’s up’s and down’s does change your playing if you are the composer, how can it not? No More Time again exemplifies that, almost like 50 years of emotional highs and lows being offered as a simple package of music. So, have I changed? Yes and no. I believe my love of playing hasn’t waned one iota, and I know that I have developed as a musician, especially being around and involved with the class musicians in the bands I collaborate in. I am also gaining confidence in the other instruments I play, as being my own largest critic can be an obstacle in my own development. That’s when an artist needs honest guidance and direction from people that know music and especially those in the business of music. Friends and family may not be so blunt!

Hardrock Haven: No More Time features as many as fifteen tracks, the recurring theme of “Nexus” divided into three parts and the final piece “Return To The Nexus” among them. What is the eponymous ‘nexus’ and what the role of this three-part suite in reference to the rest of the album?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The Nexus you could call heaven, or the before, after, and the here and now all happening simultaneously. The point being, that it is comforting to think that we will go on, and these moments here are the training ground or a platform to the real destination. Coming from the angle that ‘time’ here is linear and we have a start and end point, I envisaged the Nexus as being somewhere where time doesn’t exist. Therefore you are there before you are here, and you are there after here. At this point, I should say that I don’t smoke or drink so nothing has influenced my interesting views. I saw life in time then as a stream becoming a river and ultimately joining the ocean. I guess simply Nexus part 1 is birth, Nexus part 2 relates to the reality of death and departure, Nexus part 3 is about free will but realizing that whilst we can make choices and shape our own destiny here, there is a finality that is unavoidable. “Return to the Nexus” should, therefore, be obvious in its title, but I wanted this to feel light and optimistic not gloomy and said, with a contemplative peacefulness as the clock ticks away at the end.

Hardrock Haven: Did you write No More Time with any specific idea in mind? Is there a single theme, if any, behind such a complex and diversified release?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The theme is Life, starting with the one before and the one after. I totally understand and have respect for those that don’t buy into my sensibilities but this is a personal story that I happen to be sharing. So it is certainly not a sermon or an attempt to put across my opinions. The album, therefore, is a reflection of my time here so far and how I see it ending. The circumstances in my early years begin with my Father’s time at Sea as a Trawler man in “Riding The Waves” and touches upon words spoken to me before he died at 47 years old from Cancer in the song “Hold On”. “Requiem” and “Twilight” are reactions to that absence whilst “Mother” hopefully captures the enduring love that carries on regardless. At that stage, it feels like it’s an album of two halves because in my teens I discovered Rock and Progressive Rock and so the 2nd Movement begins with the confusions of teenage years and an unknown future as you move away from education to work and arguably the ‘real world’. It then moves to contemplation, hopes, and dreams, love and family. The title track then almost comes full circle back to an element of self-healing and understanding, particularly as the son becomes a father, bringing with it those responsibilities and also a better affinity and empathy with what parenthood means. The final tracks speak about the ties that bind and the bond with those we love into eternity.

Hardrock Haven: Speaking of diversity, it is indeed the key word in reference to the album. Having been rooted both in Melodic Rock and Progressive Rock scene, have you had any specific genres in mind while writing this material? How do you think these influences blend on the album?

Darrel Treece-Birch: I can’t write to order. Well actually I suspect I could, but I would rather write a piece that sits right with the theme. The package for me has to make sense, the words need to fit the music, the music needs to fit the themes. “Twilight” has a folk vibe about it, I wrote that tune on the Bass Guitar back in ’93 against a lyric I wrote in 1983 about the loss of my Father. It was always a sea shanty. It couldn’t be anything else. I could easily take that same tune and give it Reggae rhythm, but the emotion changes with it and so would the narrative. So I had to remain truthful to myself. I’m obviously a keyboardist first and foremost but I have a drummer in me, constantly tapping and annoying everyone (especially in car journeys), and I’ve been playing Bass Guitar for a long time. I’m exploring 6 strings a great deal these days so I’m becoming a bit of an all-rounder, but I know where my limitations are. As stated earlier I wasn’t sure if the changes in genres and styles would be understood by the listener but I hoped that if anyone truly could get into the narrative or even perhaps empathize with it then they would see how those style changes work and reflect a time, a place, an experience.

Hardrock Haven: Speaking of influences, is No More Time more of a result of your recent music discoveries or is it more like the sounds that have accompanied you since you can remember? For example, what’s prompted the writing of such track as “Freedom Paradigm” with all its surprising gloom and heaviness?

Darrel Treece-Birch: I suppose you can’t get away from certain influences. I have never looked to replicate a particular musician or sound instead relying on hopefully just being me. It’s also clear from the story, as I’ve just been explaining that at specific points in life I discovered specific genres. My teen years were all about Rock and especially Prog, so Freedom Paradigm just had to be a ‘tip of the hat’ to that genre. If you had met me at age 16 you may have said “He’s all gloom and heaviness” so you got that bit perfect! Or perhaps we both did (laughs)

Hardrock Haven: Alongside plenty of instrumental tracks, there’s “Hold On” or “Music Of The Spheres” with vocals. Was it your intention from the very beginning of the creative process? Do you think the addition of vocals in “Hold On”, for example, was necessary or just one of many possibilities?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The songs that have lyrics were always designed to have words. I don’t write (generally) lyrics first, the exception, of course, being the aforementioned “Twilight”. I do have a number of tunes and a few currently that can easily sit in both camps, either as an instrumental or with words but I knew that with No More Time that I required vocals. Every solo album prior to the most recent release has been 100% instrumental, and although I love the pursuit of story-telling without words I am a song writer, it’s just that all the songs I’ve written have always been handed into the band format to be developed from there. I don’t feel tied to sticking to this model either, so perhaps the next outing will be a full 100% instrumental again, and the one after that could be 100% songs. Who knows?

Hardrock Haven: You’ve played plenty of instruments on No More Time, including bass guitars, mandolin, and drums. Do you find any difference in usage of these as far as artistic expression and its possible limitations are concerned?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The only thing preventing or limiting my expression is my own ability on the other instruments. I’m not saying I’m bad, I’m not saying I’m good, what I am saying is that I feel in a comfort zone with the keyboard that I can capture what my mind is hearing. With Bass and to a degree with drums I’m competent. With guitar, it’s a development in process. What I was hearing in my mind was more than I knew I could achieve on my own so the only viable answer to the conundrum was to fish the songs out to my friends. Thankfully I was pretty certain of which song would best be served by which guest artist and they all produced above and beyond my expectations, and I had high hopes (laughs)

Hardrock Haven: Alongside conventional instruments, you’ve also used some extra-musical sounds on the album (including the sound of the sea waves in “Riding The Waves” or “Twilight”). Do you think they only embellish the musical content of the album or is it more than just that?

Darrel Treece-Birch: Oh it was certainly more than that. The use of FX and natural sounds is essential in the right places, especially in manipulating the other senses. When I hear the start of “Riding The Waves” I can smell the sea air and the engine diesel. On “Twilight” I can feel the sand under my feet. It took me to those places I had been. Again it was for personal reasons, but I hope others can sense those things too.

Hardrock Haven: No More Time features a lot of guest musicians, including members of Ten, Gary Hughes Band, and Nth Ascension. Was the idea behind inviting them to participate more like gathering a group of friends, or a group of singers and players that fit your music landscape – or both?

Darrel Treece-Birch: It has to be said that I needed their respective skills and input to fully realize what is a private album. I can sing, but I’m only happy in the backing vocals department, so that was never going to be me. I can play guitar, but I can’t shred like Steve, I can’t arpeggio with such precision and skill as Dan, and I can’t produce what Dann, Martin, and John gave me. I can be ‘me’ on the guitar, but that wasn’t what I was hearing in my mind for those tunes, and I’m comfortable enough in my limitations to know when to ask for help. They all made this album even more special by their inclusion and their contribution. I would not change a thing. What would “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” sound like if it had Jeff Beck soloing instead of Gilmour? The differing styles are the strengths of a guitarist. Some see precision and speed as the Holy Grail, others the right vibrato on a single note. So I’m not putting down my own ability here, I just knew what I wanted and they were the right people to deliver it. Thank heaven they all agreed! Bless them all.

Hardrock Haven: Having already mentioned Nth Ascension, why did it take so long for a band which originates in the early ‘90s to release their first album in 2011?

Darrel Treece-Birch: Nth Ascension has only existed since 2010, but members have come and gone since the early ‘90s with probably Alan Taylor and myself remaining the only constants. We could have stuck with the one band name as members came and went, but we just changed the name and started again with a whole new batch of songs. Concurrently that has resulted in a back catalog of multiple songs that most have never heard. Also, Nth Ascension is a family band, not just metaphorically, as Martin is the father of Gavin the bassist and Craig the drummer. Martin, Alan and I simply had to wait until they grew up before we could make our first album (laughs).

Hardrock Haven: A puzzling thing about Nth Ascension is that you’ve released that first album as a free download via Aurovine. What has prompted such a decision in the band camp?

Darrel Treece-Birch: The first album Frequencies Of Day And Night was a CDR self-release. Mixed at a home studio and un-mastered, with a recording that was essentially a live-room session. It caught what we were about at that moment and we wanted to just get some music out into the world and perhaps be heard by a label that would like us to produce something more polished. It was actually the owner of Aurovine that signed the band under his sister label that gave us the opportunity to release that first official release in the case of Ascension Of Kings.

Hardrock Haven: The most recent Nth Ascension release, entitled In Fine Initium, also saw the light of day in 2016. Could you please elaborate on the concept behind the album and the lyrics of the particular tracks?

Darrel Treece-Birch: In Fine, Initium is Latin pronounced ‘In Fenay Initium’. The term means ‘to begin is to end, to end is to begin’. It is an album of two halves, one being the album title and the other centered around the Clanaan story. It is clear when the writing started that the songs had an ominous dark tone that resolved with a sense of hope. With the world being as it is at the moment I felt very reflective about choices, what we believe, what we accept as true, and what, at a core level we know to be good and proper. “Kingdom Keys” is a very spiritual lyric talking about positive attitude and an opening of the eyes to what is around us, not necessarily the information we are drip fed or in many cases force fed. It also looks at the possibilities of Angelic/Demonic warfare on a parallel plane. The lyric has an almost ‘Constantine’ view of the unseen battles beyond the veil. The song “End Of Days” continues this rejection of media manipulation within the topic of conspiracy. Since the explosion of the Internet and especially sites like YouTube, more and more information is now readily available. Unfortunately, despite the fact that these truths cannot now be suppressed, the quantity of ‘fake stories’ mixed into the myriad of truthful but fantastical stories does the work for those that would have once blocked any knowledge from being heard or seen at all. The song, “So That Was The Apocalypse”, is a tongue in cheek title, an excuse. Not to trivialize the horrors of what we do to each other, but to say it’s about choice. Choose life. Finally ‘The Cage’ is a story that could be set in the past or the future, or indeed perhaps it seems written for this Brexit generation. Again the path of angst, aggression and powerful relentlessness is resolved finally with a defiant and willful determination to not accept what ‘others’ will impose. So the album for this first stage is a concept about endings and new beginnings. The second half of the album is a continuation of the fantasy story arc of the “Clanaan Chronicles.”

Hardrock Haven: For those of our readers not familiar with Nth Ascension’s previous works, could you please introduce them to the story of Clanaan, present also on In Fine Initium?

Darrel Treece-Birch: Claanan is a fantasy ‘realm’ set ‘elsewhere’, told from the perspective of a lowly worker from an Eastern tribe. I began this story a very long time ago when Martin, Spud and I were recording together in the late eighties. I love Sci-Fi, I love comics, and I especially love Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Frank Herbert. The landscapes, the people, the savior character, and the opposing enemy is formulaic but is also an accurate representation of something that we battle with, even if only a subconscious level. Questions of why, life, death and to place a purpose to this existence. The music started with Martin and it conjured up that world to me. It didn’t need debate, we just wrote together and I added a story. The story is ongoing; I haven’t set out an ending. I always felt the music would determine the path of the story. On our first official release Ascension Of Kings, the first three parts are very much a prolog to this place called Clanaan, “Overture”, “Realm With A Soul”, and the savior character of the Clanaan universe “The Seventh Rider”. On the current release, the lyric talks of the journey to search for The Rider as rumors have reached the distant corners of the land that The Rider has returned. Six Riders have come before over Millennia and passed beyond The Shield (which is an Ocean or body of water that envelops the Planet) through a gateway called the Forever Portal. The Riders journey through the Gateway to retrieve the Song of Passing. Both albums have contained a written summary of each trilogy, which I named Wave 1 and Wave 2. Perhaps these will better explain the story so far?

Clanaan Chronicles (Wave 1)
The seventh age has dawned. For millennia upon millennia, the spirit substance of the peoples of Clanaan remain bound to the immortal Zeil. His promises of freedom woven with deceit and treachery. We succumbed to the lure of a future unwritten and a path that could not be tied to fate. He lied. We didn’t know that our destiny was entwined with the realm. We never knew that our spirit substance is intrinsic to Clanaan. What once was color all became gray. He builds his tower to the celestial maker reaching for the water shield that surrounds the realm. Dare we dream of release from this debt? The residents of the floating spires have forgotten their past. All but a few know of the truth, we are outcast and ridiculed. To them, he is the provider, the stabilizer and the holder of the keys to the higher ocean. Beyond the gates of Asteria and the mountains of Kiranium, upon the shores of Lamoncross the fishers of the deep speak tales of a new rider. A seventh rider. Perhaps he is the one? Born of the realm with a soul. I wish it to be true. The land has yielded all and is being stripped of life. The Gilder hawks circle expectant of another prize as the quest across the Lamoncross plains increases in size. They’ve heard the stories too and now they seek the physical. If the scrolls are to be known this age will be the last. The foretelling has been a river taking the new course but always moving, inextricably towards an inevitable destination. Should I fear the future because I know and believe of what will be? No! I am a child of the Source. Clanaan will be whole. Zeil will fall and the seventh rider will ascend as a King.

Proximite Ranyard of the cell-house Bex

Clanaan Chronicles (Part 2)
The houses from the east have joined the quest. We are to embark on a journey to find the Rider, who is said to bring balance and harmony to the Realm, restoring the Chord of Creation. Our destination point, foretold by prophecy, is the Gate of Asteria on the boundary of Lamoncross. The cell houses are forbidden to leave their territories but hope has now been re-awakened. I had to leave and join the quest for I need to know, and I believe the time is now. We travel towards the mountain blades of Kiranium to the gate and through the portal of ‘Forever’, which delivers travelers beyond the shield, to the higher oceans, and to the Source. The gateway hasn’t been passed in 1,000 tides since the last Rider that sailed into the Great Deep. Each of the six journeyed beyond but never returned. They took with them the tonal frequencies of Clanaan. When the seventh frequency is joined with the six the Chord of life will break the barrier of Forever. The riders can transit through but we cannot, for they alone carry the frequencies. We have to find the Rider. He must journey to ‘Forever’ and return with the Song of Passing. Then the ascension will arrive as prophesied and the usurper, who stole and corrupted the keys, will fall. The Seventh Rider’s voice holds power and Clanaan submit to His calling. With the Song in our souls, Zeil will have no power over us.
The caravan will soon leave and with it the hopes of all the eastern houses in the land of Jhontyre. With all hope and great fortune, the houses of Lamoncross and Jhontyre will join and that union will give sight to the Northern and Southern peoples of Maak’im and Reho’im. May the reunification of Clanaan be brought to pass, to the glory of the Song Maker, The Rider, and The Source.

Proximite Ranyard of the cell house Bex

Hardrock Haven: Do you plan to continue with the “Clanaan Chronicles” on your future albums?

Darrel Treece-Birch: I don’t feel we are setting out to deliberately write three new parts every time we look to put out a new album but suffice it to say that Clanaan is far from over. Whether we do one part on the next release or do a full album dedicated to this story I can’t say. That would depend on how the band is feeling and if the tone of our new material sits correctly to the vibe that the Clanaan Chronicles generate. We are just not going to force this. As with everything we do, it all has to be natural and organically creative. We don’t do paint by numbers. Each composition is a blank canvas. We just happen to have five artists with paintbrushes in hand.

Hardrock Haven: The album art was provided again by the UK-based artist Oliver Pengilley. Why did you renew this collaboration? How do you think it corresponds with the content of the album?

Darrel Treece-Birch: Oliver is a special artist. Gavin found his work originally, and the way Oliver paints sat well with our direction. It also sat well with our personal beliefs and what we wanted from an artist. We wanted a collaboration that had a seamless synergy between the music and the art. Oliver paints literally to the music. The images and compositions he creates whilst working this way, we feel, exemplifies and explains, in art, the concept of the music we produce. He has full license to do what he does with no interference, as we trust him. To pardon the pun, we are in tune with each other. As long as Oliver is happy to continue this working partnership we will no doubt continue to utilize his beautiful and evocative art. As far as correspondence to the album is concerned, each band member pulled something different, whilst sharing a common thread. I took the image as symbolic, born of fire, yet emerging holding a flame of hope within our hands and hearts. Again, it speaks of an album about endings, beginnings, and hope. All that said, the beauty and depth of any art allow everyone to draw their own conclusions and take from it what they want to see. Choice!

Hardrock Haven: Having started with Ten, now we’d come back to this topic as the band’s new album Gothica is due to be released this summer. Having worked on it, what could you reveal about the musical content of the new album? What can the listeners expect?

Darrel Treece-Birch: Listeners can expect classic Ten but with the natural progression one would expect with a seven-piece lineup. Obviously with Gary as the sole writer of Ten means that he has a consistency and proliferation as a quality song writer to keep producing great songs and melodies. With all that said, Ten is still the sum of its parts. We can’t truly sound like the original line up because we are not the original line-up and Gary has a trust in his comrades to be themselves and put that into the tunes. Therefore you’ll hear lots of my FX noises and keyboard loops and Prog-y synth sounds mixed in with the virtuoso brilliance of Dann & Steve’s guitars. Nothing is overly dominant, the keys come forward where they need to and typically strong riff orientated guitars are right out front when they need to be. There are a fair few tunes on the album that are reminiscent of early Ten albums, and others that follow on perfectly with the sound and feel of Albion and Isla. It is a very strong album with a distinct identity and a dark theme of stories and fantasy running through it, but I wouldn’t say that it is gloomy at all. In fact, Gary can’t do gloomy as his stuff is always uplifting, catchy and thought provoking. His lyrics are way above the standard level of lyricists too, annoyingly! (laughs) Although he’ll never beat Fish in my eyes (laughs)

Hardrock Haven: Is there anything else you’re up to at the moment as an artist? Any plans?

Darrel Treece-Birch: So much it’s crazy, I did say I’m a musical workaholic. I’ve recorded keys for a wonderful solo artist who will hopefully unveil her music to the world soon. I’ve recorded additional keys on another friend’s new solo release. I know I’m being secretive here but you know how it is. Nth Ascension has already started work on new material, with several taking shape very nicely including the further continuation of the Clanaan story.

I’ve just finished re-recording a previous self-release of mine called Healing Touch but with drums, bass and guitars added by myself. I’ve taken some of the original tracks from the songs and expanded upon them, and I’ve recorded it all at 432hz the same as Celestial and Nth Ascension’s In Fine Initium. It is hopeful that this will be released later this year.

I have also begun recording new solo songs as a natural follow-up to No More Time and at this stage, I have four completed, but I think I’ll keep the concept of the album a secret for now.

Hardrock Haven: Is there anything you’d like to add in the end?

Darrel Treece-Birch: I would like to thank everyone that has given my music a listen, and I really hope that it makes people happy. The support from Jen & Nick of MRR cannot go unmentioned either. I’m so thankful too for the friends I have in Ten and Nth Ascension, and eternally grateful to Gary for making that phone call that was the catalyst for speaking to you now. A mention also needs to go out for those that work behind the scenes doing so much work without people knowing they are there, so thanks, Michael Spiggos and Jennifer Falagrady-Katona. Thank you also, Alexandra, for this opportunity. For anyone that wants to keep up to speed with my solo offerings and information on the band projects please go my website at www.darreltreece-birch.com it’s full of links and info to everything I am active in.

Visit Darrel Treece-Birch’s official website: http://darreltreece-birch.com/

TEN official website: https://www.tenofficial.com/

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