Nektar is one of those bands who in prog rock circles, have earned the ‘legendary’ tag. They’ve recently released an excellent new album in The Other Side – read our review here – which is the sort of record that makes you either (a) wonder how you’d missed out on a band like Nektar or (b) feel the chills as they recapture some of their glorious early days.
With the help of Matt Ingham at Cherry Red Records, we were able to arrange a quickfire Q&A with Derek ‘Mo’ Moore from the band.
ATB: When I first heard to the opening track, I’m On Fire, it sounded like a bunch of guys having a real blast. Laying down some chords and enjoying creating round them. Is that how making the album was for you?
Mo: Yes it was a lot of fun to do. We did all the tracks for the new album live and then did overdubs. The exception was Drifting which was the first take live we only added the vocal lines and the piano under them.
ATB: There does seem to be a sort of renaissance (or perhaps it never really went away) for bands like yourselves, Gentle Giant and Gong/Hillage releasing work from the archive as well as new music. Is that quite reassuring that the demand is still out there?
Mo: It is incredible that after 50 years we still have fans of all ages. The new album is for them. We feel it is the follow up to Recycled as it is a concept album and sound like that era.
ATB: The album feels like a proper old school progressive rock album in terms of the arrangements and the instruments – the 12 string and keyboards. There’s also a distinct nod to and link with the past in various ways through the music and the personnel. Did you feel it was important to include those latter elements.
Mo: They were there from day one. The band is awesome. We play like it is the 70’s naturally. I am VERY pleased with the result.
ATB: So, can you tell us a bit more about the idea behind developing Sky Pilot from 1978 into SkyWriter.
Mo: Sky Pilot which I wrote in 1978 never felt right to me. Ryche called me and he told me he had a verse that would fit and we looked at it and it was perfect. The whole song now made sense. Mick and I started the lyrics and invited Ryche to join us . It made for a great writing team as we finished the lyrics. The story of a guy who loses his girlfriend and is up in the sky writing letters to her hoping she will see them. Nowhere does it say he is in an aeroplane. He is flying. Lots of imagination here.
ATB: With a piece like Love Is/The Other Side that hits eighteen minutes, it seems to start as a simple love song (possibly the Love Is bit…) before you’ve expanded the piece. Am I thinking on the right lines here or miles out!
Mo: We wrote all of the music first and then we did the lyrics. Mick Brockett came up with the name The Other Side then everything came into focus from there. We were still writing lyrics in the studio. The whole album is a love song.
Starting with I’m on Fire when he professes his love. SkyWriter where she dies and he is writing letters in the sky to her hoping she will see them (she does). The Other Side is the musical trip he takes to the other side. Drifting where he is hanging in space having learned how to fly and he can see her eyes in space. Devils Door tells of the journey to the Devils Door and back. The Light Beyond tells of the light you see when you die. You can hear the voices of the dead. Look through me is a look inside yourself and Y Can’t I B More Like U 2020 is self-explanatory closing out the album.
ATB: Does it sort of annoy you a bit when us reviewers listen to a track like Drifting and fall into the trap of commenting write that we can hear a touch of the sounds of Sabbath/Floyd/Barclay James Harvest…etc
Mo: I think it is clear that there are influences, bands like Floyd, Rush, Iron maiden and many more were influenced somewhat by Nektar. We had our own groove. I am flattered that they do that. If you listen to the album you will hear lots of influences from that time in the 70’s Even the keyboard sound in I’m On Fire sounds like John Lord and the SkyWriter solo reminisces Procol Harum and lots more, it was not intentional but it is there.
ATB: What prompted the choice of Drifting/Devil’s Door as the ‘single’ for the album?
Mo: The single was SkyWriter/Devils Door and we felt they were good songs to represent the band. Then we released Drifting into the internet community. We held back The Other Side until the album was available.
ATB: Y Can’t I B More Like U? sounds like the title from a Prince song but the gorgeous twelve string and the ‘proggy’ instrumental passage puts that thought to bed – however, is this ‘Nektar 2020’ in six and a half minutes?
Mo: Yes the whole album has that Nektar Proggy feel to it. I am flattered you mention Prince as he was a fantastic performer who now lives on The Other Side with Roye and Vinny and Michael our Tour Manager.
ATB: Nektar has quite a history and legacy – how do you think The Other Side sits in the catalogue?
Mo: I would place The Other Side after Recycled in our legacy / catalogue. It is the ONLY concept album to follow Recycled and has the 70’s feel about it and has that Jam Band feel. This band, like the original, is a Jam Band.
Here’s the band playing at Progstock in 2019:
Our thanks to Mo for taking time to respond to our thoughts. You can find out more about Nektar online: