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As well as looking ahead to the events at Stone Free 2018 in just under a month’s time we’ve  also had the chance to grab a few words  ahead of the event with several of the bands set to appear.
Sunday in the main O2 arena sees prog giants Yes (featuring Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman) headlining and celebrating fifty years of Yes music. We spoke to Jon Anderson from his US home just before he headed over to the UK to start rehearsals.

“We’re meeting over at Rick’s house near where he lives in Norfolk,” Jon explained to prepare for the Stone Free performance is the latest date in a tour that’s seen ARW clock up a few miles. “We’ve had a great time and travelled the world and are very excited to be playing again this Summer, “and on coming back to the UK he confessed, “I miss Coronation Street!”

The set may see some changes from the ongoing tour as they’re “always trying to keep it fresh and maybe introduce two or three more songs on the next dates, or little segments.”

New music, working with three or four different musicians including collaborating again with Roine Stolt to follow up their Invention Of Knowledge album. “It’s a slow process, using the internet as our go between, sending ideas back and forth, but we like to take our time on how it evolves. We only met three times but times change and the musical world is constantly evolving and I’m in a strong creative zone.”

Amongst other things, Jon is just finishing an album called One Thousand Hands that was started 28 years ago, based on the fact that so many people played on it – Ian Anderson, Chris Squire and Alan White are just a few names mentioned. “To me it still sounds as fresh as yesterday. It just never got finished, but it’s great that it still has musical strength and it gives me a lot of faith in old music that we wrote.”

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There’s also talk of new music from ARW – “We’ve written a lot of music and it’s a question of finding the right time. Music is the master, we’ve done some recording, but they seem like good demos with some incredible orchestration from Trevor which sounds quite extraordinary,” and of course there’s a film of the ARW show in Manchester from 2017 due out – “We played pretty good and the recording is good and visually it looks good.”

Sunday’s events also see PROG magazine album of the year winners (for The Optimist) Anathema opening events in the arena. After setting the world to rights about what is and what isn’t prog and the state of heavy metal (don’t forget Anathema did start life in a much heavier vein) Vincent Cavanagh laughed about hoping to bump into Jon Anderson. “I met him on a cruise, one of the concert cruise ships, and he was a lovely man, one of the nicest I’ve ever met and I think John (Douglas) wants to try to meet Roger Hodgson as well as he’s a massive Supertramp fan.”

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It’s also a rare chance to see Anathema play live this Summer after a lengthy tour on the back of The Optimist. “We’re already starting on writing again – songwriting is the driving force behind the band and always has been the starting place for everything. As a collective and as individuals it’s what we all enjoy the most. I’m starting to get itchy feet now though! Thinking I wouldn’t mind doing something after spending time setting up a home studio and doing demos.”

They don’t have a huge amount of time with opening the Sunday events so “we’ll just play our biggest tunes, but with something like Download we may do something that’s a bit heavier or older, but for Stone Free it’ll be the biggest tunes which is quite acceptable for people who haven’t necessarily heard us before.”

Anathema is music made for a big venue – “the last gig we played was in Istanbul in a massive arena that was packed out. I think we’re made for big stages and bigger productions. We started a trend with the Plovdiv gig in the open air Roman Theatre with the orchestra! Opeth, Katatonia, Devin Townsend, we all have the same management!” And the final word after talking about enjoying the events around Stone Free after their own show – “Since I  moved down to London, it’s only round the corner from me, so we can get our set done and then watch the bands and have a mingle…and I can be home later!”

Saturday’s bill has a hard rock feel and sees the likes of metal giants Scorpions and Megadeth rubbing shoulders with some up and coming hard rock bands. What Conor Gaffney of Glasgow’s Anchor Lane called “wee fish swimming in a big pond.”

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Their New Beginnings debut EP showcases their sound in four blinding hard rock tracks spoke to us anticipating their appearance on the Orange Amps sponsored stage.  “We’re currently busy in the studio and working ready for Stone Free and Download this Summer as well; writing new material has been the focal point this year to follow up the EP – available from all the usual platforms…”

With Stone Free as an alternative indoor event he explained “it feels like it’s not quite a festival although we’ve done a few indoors ones like Winterstorm Festival in Troon Town Hall in Scotland and the atmosphere there was fantastic – a different feel to an open air festival.” They’re also playing at a HRH at Hafan Y Mor – “people don’t stop raving about how good it is and the same with Stone Free. We’ve had a lot of good feedback about it as well as looking at soe of the bands who are playing. When we looked at the line up we were gobsmacked at the line up of massive bands.”

From what they’ve played in the past, it’s been not just playing but “enjoying the whole thing because “as well as being musicians, we’re also music fans.” In the meantime, writing new music is ongoing so look out for a possible crowd funding campaign as Conor mulled over the idea of added extras for pledgers to make buying into their album a bit special, something “a wee bit more worth the investment.” Watch this space…

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Finally we grabbed a word with Rich Moss of Stone Broken. They’re at Stone Free just before heading off to Download Paris, Graspop and then headlining Steelhouse “in South Wales up a mountain. We’re headlining the Friday night.”

Stone Broken are a band who spend a massive amount of time on the road and pressing the flesh with fans and press alike. For once we caught them “not on the road right now but we still have a lot going on behind the scenes and a couple of rearranged dates from the tour that had to be postponed with the bad weather.”

For them the festival experience is a case of “go in, play our set and then spend 4/5 hours doing press and meeting people – we only managed to catch about half an hour of music at Download last year but the most important thing is  making sure that we go out and do our stuff. We won’t be hanging round at Stone Free with needing to head off to Paris. We’re a bit gutted about not being able to see either of the main headliners as I’ve never seen them but it comes with the lifestyle – get on and do the next show.”

They’re also a band who have done the indoor festival shows – “not on this scale before but we’ve done Planet Rockstock and Winter’s End, where people benefit from no weather changes and not having to be prepared for dark clouds, but it also allows us to go out and meet more people as they aren’t as scattered around. But we just love festivals because of the atmosphere and the mood.”

Stone Free Festival website, Facebook and Twitter

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Feature and ARW/Anathema/Stone Broken live photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive and his website is www.michaelainscoephotography.co.uk

 

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