Prior to launching their soon to be iconic debut project Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera, Act One, we got the chance to talk in depth with the mastermind behind the work – Gary Sohmers – to find out more about the music, the show in full, what inspired it, what it represents, and what lies ahead. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Gary – huge congrats for the new project. For those new to your work – where are you based, and how long have you been making music for?
Aloha from New England … I live outside of Boston in Hudson, Massachusetts.
What inspired the idea for Beasties, and was it the concept that took hold first, or a desire to create a rock opera?
Beasties music has been in progress since 1976, when I wrote Good Old Friend, as the introduction to responsibility to help others, and the planet. Over the years other songs came to me as I learned, failed, learned again, failed again and persevered through my careers.
At the end of 2016 when the world itself was on a collision course with climate change and the election of a corporate criminal, the Beasties showed themselves to me in a state of deep depression.
In one week, in January 2017 on the verge of an inauguration that caused a rift in the universe’s trajectory, I wrote 10 songs, a stage show, and started three novels from 3 perspectives. It became a rock opera when I put the songs in story telling order, and the universe compelled me to make it happen.
How long was the project in the making, and how does it feel to finally share it with the world, and reflect upon it as an audience member now – trading creative control for curiosity of reception?
Being the lead “creative” person on such an expansive project is an interesting perspective to have after 50 years of only being support for so many great, and not so great, artists, writers and musicians as an agent, producer, promoter, publicist or schlepper.
As a producer, the art of making vision become reality is just to envision, plan, then execute. But once ego is involved, finding the rational balance to produce with artistic desire becomes an evolution instead of a revelation. I’ve embraced persistence of vision.
“…The universe compelled me to make it happen.”
What’s the full plan for the project – will there be a stage version, videos, a tour?
Beasties: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera was written to be performed on stage by a band, with singers, in an immersive visual environment that includes projections, animation and video storytelling. We hope to be able to tour the concert show, land on a Broadway stage and become a show that theater groups, universities and high schools can eventually produce easily in house.
How did you come to connect with the likes of Dave Bickler and Chris Farlowe, and what do you think each new voice brings to the collective presence of the story and project?
After orchestrator Bill Holloman completed the arrangements and demos, to find the correct voices for the characters, we reached out to friends. Legendary UK vocalist Chris Farlowe, whose first hit was in 1966, written and produced by Mick and Keith, has been a 35 year friend, and agreed to sing the villain role of Dick T.Raitor.
I was luckily introduced to the great Dave Bickler to sing the hero role of Impulse by my long time friend Pete Strand, bassist of Yipes!. Barrence Whitfield and I have been friends since the 1980s, and I was lucky to get him to sing the lead role of Voice in between his tours with The Savages.
“Ego, subconscious beliefs & irrational conditioning can be an artists’ worst enemy.”
What do you hope audiences take away from this work?
The goal is to raise awareness of the global problems of climate destruction, corporate corruption and narcissistic abuse of the planet. The Beasties represent the human emotions, some of which we can control and some which need to be controlled. Its a story about the Universal and human perspectives.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of creating the sci-fi rock opera?
As always having been the “producer” and never having been the “artist,” my greatest challenge has been accepting that I have created this powerful work of performance art and should be confident that it is as good as it is. Ego, subconscious beliefs and irrational conditioning can be an artists’ worst enemy.
” I hope we can create a positive global change of perspective with music and theater.”
What are you the most excited about moving forwards with Beasties?
I am excited to eventually see it on stage, and the reaction of the audience to the music, the story and messages. I hope we can create a positive global change of perspective with music and theater.
What’s something about you that most fans would be surprised to hear?
After 50 years in show business, 13 seasons appearing on TV, producing over 1000 concerts and over 300 comic cons, most people would find it hard to believe that I am an anti-social introvert, who has learned to survive in the intense biz.
Is there anything else we should know?
I released a record in 1980 that featured the first recorded appearance by my friend Butch Vig on drums. Butch also did drum tracks for the original video release of my Dinosaur Rock in 1983.
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