Marc : First, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Michael Holmes : No worries…
Marc : The album has been released for some time now and it gets almost only great reviews, how does it feels ?
Michael Holmes : To be honest I never know whether an album is any good or not until some time after we’ve finished it. When I’m writing or producing in the studio I get far too close to the whole thing and it’s really difficult to stay objective, so once something is released I usually have to give it a few months before I can finally listen to it with new ears. So, yeah, it’s rather good (and reassuring) to be getting such good reviews.
Marc : Why Resistance as a title for the new album? Is that an overriding theme across the songs of the album or a personal statement about prog rock/the band?
Michael Holmes : Well, for me at least when I was writing stuff for Resistance I had in my head all the crap that’s been going on in World politics recently, in fact for the last couple of years. Trump, Brexit and the rise of the far right has all pointed to a real unpleasant shift in attitudes and it does make you wonder ‘why has public opinion changed so much?’ Why is it now OK for people in power to blatantly lie and be allowed to get away with it? We’re always ready to complain when we don’t like the way things are going, but ultimately it’s us that determine which party is in power. The whole concept of ‘truth’ has been turned on its head and it seems OK to lie, as long as you do it loudly enough and for long enough. Racism, bigotry and xenophobia - they’re all present in politics today and we’re just not doing enough to counter it.
Add to that the whole global warming thing and the apathy of governments to sensibly tackle the emergency. Everybody knows we’re in a crisis situation and all the heads of state are worried about is their funding by fossil fuel companies and their lobbying groups.
I’ve just been thinking recently there comes a time when we all have to stand up and be counted. We know from experience that politicians will only attempt to put things right if the voting population start getting angry, which is why I’m 100% behind groups like Extinction Rebellion – they may not be the ultimate remedy for the situation, but at least they’re instigating discussion.
Marc : What are the Resistance lyrics about ?
Michael Holmes : Well, that’s really a question for Peter. The good thing about his writing is that people can put their own interpretation on the lyrics, and personally I chose to see them as a feeling of helplessness – ’what can one person do’ type of thing, and ultimately a rage against corruption and apathy.
Marc : On Road of Bones, you went for a heavier sound on some tracks giving a progressive metal edge to the music. It feels the same on Resistance. Is it a conscious choice ?
Michael Holmes : No, not at all – as I’ve always said the only thing to do is to let everything evolve naturally and hope that some people like it. If not it's going to sound contrived and I think you can always tell, and personally I find it a little disappointing when artists do that.
Marc : Are you inspired by bands like Threshold, Dream Theater, Fates Warning or is it just not your thing ?
Michael Holmes : I have to say I like most things if I find them interesting and original, at least to a certain extent. Important things for me in music are melody, groove and interest, and that can come from any genre. I’m not a huge fan of shredding for the sake of it – I really don’t care how many notes you can play in a second. Sometimes it really works within the context of a track, but for me it’s much more important to hear something that has a bit of soul and groove.
Marc : In one of the review that I have read (one of the few not so great ones), the reviewer said that this heavy sound make IQ's music less interesting, what would you answer to him ?
Michael Holmes : Well, that’s a valid opinion I guess. Like I said we just kind of write what’s inside and take it from there.
Marc : Going back to IQ what has changed in the writing process when Martin Orford left? Were there fundamental differences in terms of musical direction over the years between Martin and the rest of IQ and will you ever work with him?
Michael Holmes : The only real thing that’s changed over the last ten years or so is that most of the music is now written by me. In general we’ve always written at home, and then either sent rough demos around or taken them into the rehearsal studio to try out with the rest of the band. Very occasionally we’d developped something that started out in a jam, but mostly it came from individuals and that’s still the case today.
I can’t really see us working with Martin again – I think we’ve both moved on in terms of musical ambition and styles, and it feels like a good, harmonious combination of people with IQ these days.
Marc : I saw IQ many times, mostly in France and also at one of your famous Xmas bash in London. If my memory is good, I remember that one time, a long time ago, Peter said at the end of the show: ”we hope you enjoyed this concert, this could be the last one for us”.
Does IQ's financial or personal situation has already led you to consider ending the band?
Michael Holmes : Hmm, I don’t remember him saying that, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen! We’re in a nice situation with IQ in that the gigs always pay for themselves so I don’t think that would ever be a reason for us to stop. We have discussed the eventual finish of the band and we all pretty much agree that it would be time to stop when people no longer want to hear what we have to play.
Marc : What is your secret to still be here after all these years ?
Michael Holmes : Er, I guess it’s just plain stubbornness! The fact is we enjoy doing what we do and there’s never really been a pressing reason to stop doing it. I’ve often thought that we’re actually in a rather privileged position in that we have a great outlet for all our artistic ideas and there’s still many thousands of people that care enough to want to listen to what we’re doing and come along to the gigs. There’s soooo many people that would love to be in that position, and although I don’t think we’ll ever be headlining big stadium gigs its still a real buzz to be able to do what we do, get paid for it and have a good time doing it.
Marc : Despite the challenges that you have met throughout your career the quality of your music increases all the time. Would you say overcoming these challenges gives you the strength to carry over and the will to surpass yourselves each and every time?
Michael Holmes : No idea! It’s certainly great that people think the quality of the music increases all the time – I think that’s just as much down to having a very rigid quality control process. Once you’ve released an album it’s out there for eternity so it has to be as good as you can possibly make it at the time.
Marc : The Road Of Bones has been very successful critically and commercially. What was your all time highest selling album? Do you feel some specific albums were overlooked? What is your favorite album?
Michael Holmes : Again I’ve no idea - I don’t have any previous figures for album sales so its difficult to pin down any one album as being the best seller. In terms of a favourite for me it tends to be the most recent thing we’ve done, just because it’s still sounding fresh in my head. Either that or the stuff I’m working on at the moment.
Marc : Why are you so rare in France ?
Michael Holmes : What you mean with gigs? It’s simply that we don’t get a lot of offers to play in France. We’ll generally play wherever we’re asked as long as we can make it work financially and travel/time-wise, but we do need the local promoters to arrange the whole thing for us. Of course if you know any promoters that want to work with us…
Marc : Have you ever thought of joining forces with Pendragon / Marillion or others to organize a global European prog tour?
Michael Holmes : No!
Marc : What do you listen to these days and what inspires you ?
Michael Holmes : That really depends… I can get inspiration from a lot of sources (TV, films, art installations, discussions...) but if I’m playing something from my iPod it varies a great deal depending on what mood I’m in. For relaxing I have a few classical composers I like to listen to, and I’m quite into film soundtracks (you can’t go wrong with a bit of Thomas Newman or Hans Zimmer). Ella Fitzgerald is always great to hear (best female voice ever!), but if I want something a bit more exciting I’ll probably put on a bit of trance or hard house.
Marc : Your career is almost essentially European even if you played some shows in Mexico, in Canada or in the Usa. Was it a choice from the beginning to focus on your nearest public ?
Michael Holmes : Not so much a choice, more convenience. Like I said earlier we’re happy to play most places if we can make it work, but it’s obviously a lot easier (and quicker) to play in the UK or Europe. Most of the band have day-jobs and families so they don’t have a huge amount of time that they’re able to give to touring.
Marc : Looking back after all these years and with hindsight benefit, are there things you would have done differently with/for IQ?
Michael Holmes : Nope! I’ve had a bloody good time all the time we’ve been in existence – travelled to some incredible places, played some great gigs and met loads of wonderful people. Of course there have been a few bad times and disappointments but personally I wouldn’t change a thing.
Marc : What is IQ for you after the years? Still a burning passion ?
Michael Holmes : I think its fairer to say that music is a passion for me. Most of the things I write end up as IQ material but I also like to do other things musically. As it happens I’m working on another album for ’The Lens’ as we speak.
Marc : If you could summon up IQ in one song, What song would that be ?
Michael Holmes : Difficult to say ! For the last few years I’d probably pick 'The Road of Bones', but after nearly 40 years there’s been so many different styles and feels for the band so there’s no one track that I think definitively says ’IQ”.
Marc : You said earlier that some members in the band have a day job, what kind ?
Michael Holmes : Unfortunately none of us make enough out of IQ to completely fund our day to day lives. I was able to retire from my full time job a few years ago because I was offered (very) early retirement and I have some property. The other guys are still working at their respective jobs, either as care workers, programmers or lecturers.
Marc : Thanks again, see you!
Rédigé par Marc le 09/01/2020