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Gary Flanagan Official Website



How would you describe your new album "Rhapsody In Black"?

GF:  Well, the best way I can describe it is to say that it is very much unlike any of my previous albums.  It is very polished, very elegant and moody.  There aren't really any "get up and party" tracks on there.  It's much more introspective and melancholy.  There are no songs about night clubs, and no songs about dancefloors.  I think it represents real growth for me.  I feel like it is some of the best, most poetic songs I've ever written.

Why did you decide to take this "deeper" route?

GF:  I guess the simple answer to that is that I've grown up.  You have to remember that most of my previous albums consisted of songs that I wrote almost ten years ago.  I was in a very different headspace back then.  I think I was still in my "let's party" phase that most people go through at that age.  That doesn't really appeal to me that much anymore.  My tastes have changed a lot since then, not only in music, but in the movies I watch, the books I read, etc.

How have they changed?

Well, let me put it this way, I just watched "Pirates of the Carribean" last night.  Although I found it mildly amusing, it was nowhere near as entertaining as what I was expecting.  I realized at the end of the film that I would have loved that movie a lot more if I had seen it when I was 15.  It dawned on me that I really have no interest in explosions, fight scenes, chases, glossy CGI effects, all that superficial garbage that I've seen in a million other films.  I want a movie that focusses on the human spirit, that sort of thing.  Something truthful, with not a lot of bombast.  That's exactly what I went for on the new album.  I guess you could call it a study of human frailty and loneliness.  In general, I'm in my mid 30s now, and I've grown a lot over the past 7 or 8 years.  Maybe I'm just an old fogey now, but I actually like songs with lots of heart and sincerity.

You've mentioned many times that this new album is "definitely not a synthpop album", which is a style that you've been well known for in the past.  Was this a conscious decision to break away from your past sound?

Not really, no.  I wasn't thinking in the back of my head "I really HAVE to do something different from synthpop".  It just seemed like the natural thing to do.  I still have great respect for synthpop artists, and I think there is definitely loads of undiscovered talent in that genre, but for me personally, I felt like it was time to go down a new path.  I felt like I had done all I could possibly do under the synthpop umbrella.  I guess you could say I got kind of bored with the beat.  For the longest time, I had an urge to express myself in a more deep, profound fashion.  I was always heavily influenced by the melancholy of such acts as Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel, Crowded House, early OMD and the "Pet Sounds" album by the Beach Boys.  So it just seemed natural for me to go into a darker direction.  Plus, I really don't like repeating myself.  I think it is important for bands to not just make xeroxes of their past albums.  You have to change, you have to evolve, otherwise you just become some boring one-trick pony.  I always respected people like David Bowie who embraced change rather than running away from it.

Do you think this dramatic change may alienate fans who have come to know your more upbeat, dancey 80s sound?

Oh, I can guarantee that!  But ultimately I think any artist has to be true to themselves.  I could just keep cranking out 4/4 dance pop with a retro sound and be totally unhappy, or I can do what I really want to do, which is to evolve and change.  If they don't like the new stuff because it's too moody or serious or undanceable, that's fine.  I'm totally expecting that.  I wouldn't expect anything else, especially since I'm making such a dramatic change.  But on the other hand, rather than looking at it that I may lose a few fans who can't appreciate a new sound, I may gain a whole new set of fans who totally "get" the new sound.  You can never please everyone.

Why the title "Rhapsody in Black"?

Good question. (laughs).  The new album has actually gone through so many title changes.  For the longest time, I was going to call it "Paper and Chocolate".  But I felt that title just didn't "work" all that well.  I wanted a title that was very bold and dramatic, yet also reflected the dark quality of the new material.  Plus, there are lots of classical references on the new disc...lots of timpani, strings, piano, violin, brass, so I thought that the word "rhapsody" would be very appropriate.  So, "Rhapsody in Black" it was.

Why did this new album take four years to complete?

Well, it really wasn't four years.  After my last album I did a lot of shows around the east coast, in fact for a period I was doing nothing but live gigs and very little composing or recording.  I didn't really start thinking about this new album until 2004.  And since that time, I've been a full-time student, plus I worked full-time during the summers.  So I had very little time for creative pursuits.  Plus, on top of all of this, I have been battling numerous health problems over the past couple of years, so that certainly hasn't helped the progress of the album.  A few of the songs on the new album were written two or more years ago, but for the most part, most of them were written and recorded in a very intense two month period during the summer of 2006.

Where can people buy the new disc?

I will have a shop section set up on my website where people can order it.  A few local stores on the east coast should also be carrying it soon.  I'll be selling it at any live gigs I'll have in the future.

What are your plans for the future?

Oddly enough, after I finish promotions for "Rhapsody", I think I'll be taking a break from music, both recording and live gigs.  I have other creative avenues that I would like to explore.  My first love is film and video, and I've had an urge over the past couple of years to get back into that.  I won't be giving up on music entirely...the video stuff would also incorporate my musical side.  I find that there is a special symbiosis between music and visuals that is so natural.  I love exploring that.  Also, I used to do a lot of painting when I was in high school, which I really enjoyed, and I would love to get back into that again.  I would just like to relax a bit.  I have a ton of movies and books stacked in my room that I simply have not had the time to look at.  I would like to get caught up.

What are you listening to these days?

Hmmm, let's see.  A lot of the old standbys....early Human League, old Sparks stuff (absolutely brilliant), Prokofiev, "I Hear a New World"- Joe Meek, Dana is Gone, Siamese, anything produced by Nile Rogers or Bernard Edwards, Gilbert Switzer/The Hold split 7", The Trick 6 song demo, "Hot Action"- A/V, the deluxe edition of "The Lexicon of Love"- ABC, anything produced by Trevor Horn.

What advice would you give to anyone who is just starting to write their own songs or put out their own CDs?

Be very thick skinned.  Don't take criticisms to heart.  You have to realize that many people who pass themselves off as "critics" usually don't have a clue what they are talking about.  The problem with music is this:  it is SEVERELY subjective.  Almost on a criminal level.  So you have a hundred people who like your music, but they filter it through their own sensibilities, and then they come at you with suggestions on how THEY would approach things or how THEY would change things.  And then you get hit by a flurry of various opinions and it can be so easy to be influenced by all of that.  But to be totally true to yourself and to be totally happy with your art, you have to remain true to your own inner voice.  If you have a strong feeling about something, follow that feeling.  Don't ignore it.  I have discovered that the little voices inside of you are usually right 99% of the time, whereas outside input is far less reliable.

Having said all of that, I certainly wouldn't want anyone to totally dismiss criticisms and ignore what people have to say.  Listen to these comments, but learn to discern what is helpful to you and what is not.  You have to have the confidence to do what you feel is right.  And for godsakes, don't just follow the pack!  I think that is a travesty.

Any last words?

Music is meant to be fun.  It's a celebration of life.  I also think it is the most powerful drug ever.  Music will be there for you long after the bar has closed and your friends have gone home.