Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: May 5th, 2005
Shadow Gallery’s Lead vocalist Mike Baker talks with Rockeyez
Hello Mike, thanks for granting us the interview. It’s a pleasure to talk with you. Before we get to the new CD let’s talk about the past. Tell us what was the first album you bought?
It was Alice Cooper “School’s Out.” I got it sometime around 1973, and yes, it was the one that came with the girls’ panties inside the cool fold out desk. I’m happy to say I still have it (and that the panties are in mint condition!) *grins*
What was the first concert you attended?
I saw Rush, Styx & Moxy together on one bill at the old Agricultural Hall in Allentown, PA back in ‘76.
What song sticks in your head that you played over and over in your younger years?
Any song by Alice Cooper from the early 70’s. His “School’s Out,” “Killer,” “Love It To Death,” “Billion Dollar Babies” and the “Welcome To My Nightmare” albums are (still) amongst my favorites.
Did you collect anything as a child?
Pretty much the usual - cards, comic books, bugs (bugs? Ha-ha-ha) - but the best thing for me has always been collecting music. I was an obsessed fanatical collector of (mostly) hard rock and metal when I was pretty young and to this day, I still am. Always will be... At first it was cassettes and 8-tracks (*gasp* my age is showing), then came the vinyl (my age is showing even more!) and eventually compact discs. And don’t even ask me how many I actually own, because I stopped counting about 5 years ago!
What was the last CD you listened to?
Judas Priest - “Angel of Retribution.”
What kind of kid were you in school?
Oh, I was very, very BAD!!! *laughs* Just kidding, well umm, sorta…I was a pretty good kid until I got to the 5 th grade and the evils of Rock and Roll took control of my brain! It was all downhill (or uphill…depending how you look at it) from there…
Your voice is fantastic. Did you sing in school or take lessons?
I never sang in the school choir/chorus, if that’s what you mean. I originally started out as a bass player…but by my last year or two of high school the local band I was in discovered I could sing most of the songs we were playing and asked me if I would consider it because we couldn’t find a singer to save our lives. I couldn’t play the bass and sing at the same time, and it was easier to find another bassist (because we knew a few), so I bagged (sold) the bass and focused primarily on the vocals. And no, I have never taken lessons. I learned on my own screaming along to my Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath & Iron Maiden records, cranking the stereo up to 11 in my bedroom. In the mid 90’s I eventually did have a bit of vocal training with the rest of the guys in Shadow Gallery, though that was mostly to help with our backing vocals…it didn’t really do much for me other than I got some practice singing the Shadow Gallery stuff live, which was fun.
Were you in any bands before Shadow Gallery that recorded material?
Yes, Myself, Carl Cadden-James, Brendt Allman and Chris Ingles were all in a local metal band called Sorcerer. We recorded some live & original demos in the mid to late 80’s, early 90’s. These demos have never been released. And back in the early 80’s I sang on a few demos with some local bands/friends, including Nasty Nasty and Axxis.
When did SG first start?
It was the early 90’s. John Cooney, our drummer in Sorcerer at the time, sent Shrapnel Records (owned by Mike Varney) one of our demos and he got back in touch with us saying how much he liked the ‘progressive’ elements on one of the tracks (notably Carl’s flute), and that he was starting a new label which was going to feature a more progressive style of rock music. That label was Magna Carta, who we eventually signed with. They are responsible for releasing Shadow Gallery’s first 4 CDs.
What was the first venue you played with SG and year?
Sorry, we have never toured. We’ve had a few offers and have rehearsed but there always seemed to be something that would come up and not allow us to.
How did the band form?
As I mentioned earlier, we were all in a heavy metal band that went by the name of Sorcerer. We played local shows for a few years and then decided we’d take some time off and record some demos…and that eventually led to the band being signed by Magna Carta records. Our good friend Ron Evans (who was our lead guitarist at the time and had come up with the Sorcerer name) chose to stay on the metal path, so we sadly parted ways with him, changed our name to Shadow Gallery and the band was officially born.
This is your fifth album with SG. How has the band changed since your debut album in 1992?
Other than the fact that all of us are getting older (and hopefully wiser), it’s hard to say. I feel we have matured quite a bit in our overall playing and songwriting from the early 90’s…and we are using better equipment now. Long gone are the days of recording with ADATs and 8-track reel to reel machines, or not being able to afford guitar strings. Finally, Gary Wehrkamp (who joined the band in ’94 after our first release), is a multi-talented musician/artist who brought a ton of creativity and diversity to the table. He runs just about every aspect of the group at this point and certainly deserves most of the credit for keeping the SG torch burning.
In 1998, Shadow Gallery won so many awards. Best Disc Shadow Gallery - "Tyranny" winning over Symphony X "Twilight in Olympus". Shadow Gallery Best band winning over Blind Guardian and You (Mike Baker) second in Best vocalist. I can keep on going. How was that feeling when you just released your debut album winning all these awards?
“Tyranny” was actually our 3 rd album. And band/individual awards are nice, but not the reason we play the type of music we do. We could care less if people/critics like our music or give us ‘album of the year’ or not, because we are always going to be true to ourselves as musicians and artists before anything else. If we are satisfied with what we have accomplished, then that is all that really counts.
I have only heard the new release and have not heard any of the other four CD’s by SG. Can you tell us how does the new CD compared to the others?
For starters, Chris Ingles (one of our founding members) isn’t playing on “Room V.” He did co-write a few of the new songs, though, so his spirit and presence is still felt throughout the disc. Arjen Lucassen (of Ayreon / Star One fame) and newcomer Joe Stone both play memorable guitar solos (in "7 Years" & "The Archer", respectively), marking the first time we’ve had guest guitarists featured on one of our discs. Also, the overall production and sound is much fuller than any of our previous efforts…, the CD layout/booklet is going to be bigger, and better than ever…matter of fact it’s our best yet…especially on the Special Edition release. That all said, we feel it’s our best release to date, but then we like to leave that stuff up to the fans…they are the ones who will ultimately decide.
Can you tell us the concept of the new release “Room V?”
If I did then we would have to kill you! *insert evil laughter* seriously, we don’t want to give too much away too soon, but I will tell you that “Room V” is the continuation of the story that we started on the “Tyranny” album. Not so much a sequel, mind you, but the next couple of chapters in the story…like a book. There will be a nice multimedia section on the Special Edition bonus disc where Carl explains everything from ‘Room V to Tyranny’ in much more depth.
There are so many great songs on the new CD. How do you guys come up with some of the music and lyrics?
Pure luck! No, just kidding…we use the same procedure now as we always have. We’ll sit down together and discuss musical ideas and the direction of the band or what we are aiming for, and then everybody goes off in pairs or by themselves, gets back in touch a few weeks later and exchanges these ideas. For example, Brendt or Gary (or both) will write the music for a song and then Carl (or sometimes myself) take it home and will come up with a melody and/or lyrics to compliment the idea. Not conventional, but it works for us.
What is your favorite track on the “Room V?”
I like them all, but if I had to pick just one, it would probably be ‘Torn’. It was the first song we recorded for the CD and I remember coming home all happy about it and then playing the very rough vocal/music mix for my girlfriend and…she didn’t like it. I told her it was far from finished and there would be a lot more added to give it that Shadow Gallery ‘vibe’, though she wasn’t so sure. Funny she had doubts, because once the song was finished, lo and behold, it became one of her favorites!
Can you tell us any special moments recording “Room V?”
Other than the story, I mentioned above, last September (a few weeks before the recording of the “Room V” vocals were to officially begin) I had become quite ill and ended up in the hospital for a few days. I have never had to spend time in the hospital before and it gave me lots of quiet time to reflect on my life and question my ‘mortality’. Needless to say I am feeling better (or I wouldn’t be here for this interview *grins*), so just being ABLE to record this album was something very special to me.
My favorite track is “Vow” can you give us any background on that track?
Basically, the two main characters from the “Tyranny” story finally (end the ‘mystery’ and) meet at the beginning of ACT III from “Room V” and a few songs later the guy (me) proposes to her (Laura Jaeger) and they get married. They don’t live happily ever after though…
Do you plan on making a video for the new release? If so, will you make it available for viewing on your website?
No official videos are scheduled at this time. They are pretty costly. But we won’t rule it out if we think we can get it on the air somewhere, and that it will help promote the new CD.
How long did “Room V” take to record?
Once we had all the musical ideas and story for the album together, about 5 months.
When is the release date for “Room V”?
May 30th in Europe, June 7 th in the US, and June 22nd in Japan. Btw, the “Room V Special Edition” release will only be available in Europe.
I watched the trailer on your site for “Room V.” and I noticed the one saying spread the word. Well Rockeyez will spread the word because this album is explosive. In seven years since your first release, how the hell has this band gone unnoticed by so many people?
I think that answer lies in the type of music we play, the fact that we only release a CD every three years or so, that we have never toured, and that the lesser known bands always seem to get less promotion. That’s not saying the record company we were with (Magna Carta) hadn’t tried, because they did. But they were a smaller independent label to begin with, and a ‘prog’ one at that and we all know how that goes. Hopefully our signing with Inside Out will bring us more exposure then we have had before..
What is your favorite track to play live?
With Shadow GALLERY, it’s always been the song “Ghostship,” from our “Carved In Stone” album.
Tell us the wildest thing that happened on tour?
I’m sure I could dream up a few things…ha-ha-ha.
Do you ask for anything special (rider) in your dressing room?
If I ever had such a request, I would want the fridge packed with Iced Tea! I live on that stuff. Oh, and lots of babes at our beckon call! Ha-ha (just kidding, half the band is married and the rest have girlfriends)
I noticed on your site there is no mention of a tour. Will you be touring soon?
Again, it’s hard to say. We don’t make a ton of money playing/recording the kind of music we do, and some of the guys in the band have families and we all have mortgages so we have to work real jobs to get by. Yes, we have to pay the bills just like everyone else. We will never say never, though…
If you went out on tour as a support act or Co-headliners. Who would you like to tour with?
I’m sure every band member would say someone different, but I’m a crazy Alice Cooper fanatic, so personally, I would want to tour with him…just so I could finally meet him! I’m sure we’d be happy no matter who it was, though.
What can we see in the future for SG?
A DVD of the making of “Room V” is currently in the works. New T-shirts/merchandise for sale, a fan club cd with some demos and unreleased material, and of course, another studio CD. Beyond that, I have no idea…we’ll see what opportunities present themselves.
We have been working with Eric Corbin and Jennifer Johnson over at Inside Out Music for sometime now. Tell us how Inside Out has helped the band?
Inside Out has been great - very professional and very easy to work with. A real breath of fresh air for the band. Most of their staff have been fans of Shadow Gallery from the beginning and seem to be very pleased that we are now part of their label.
Do you have any pet peeves?
I don’t like pushy people, or those who are fake or false. And bad referees. LL
By looking at your photo gallery. The band are big sports fans. What sport do you like best and what player?
I have been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) and the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) since I was a kid, and have really gotten back into the NASCAR scene over the past few years. My favorite players are Allen Iverson, Randy Moss & Jeff Gordon #24 is my driver.
Do you collect sports cards?
I used to collect them when I was younger, but not anymore. I still have them all though…
I am going to mention some words tell us what comes to mind:
War - Peace
Family - Friends
Internet - Connection
Band member - Lead vocalist
Favorite - Underdog
Hate - Love
God - Satan
Evil - Woman
Ego - Humble
Contract - Dilate
Woman - Evil (ha-ha)
Would you like to say anything in conclusion to our interview?
I first want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak in depth about Shadow Gallery, and for spreading the good word. I also want to thank all of our great fans for their incredible patience and unwavering loyalty and support over the years… we certainly hope they enjoy listening to “RoomV” as much as we enjoyed making it! So until the next mystery is resolved – Peace!