Interview with Tom MacLean of To-Mera

Thomas MacLean is an English-born guitarist and bassist. He is best known for being the guitarist in the progressive metal/jazz fusion band To-Mera and for being the former bassist of the progressive metal band Haken.

Our chat took place at the time of the Generation Prog Festival, featuring Tom together with Michael Schetter (Relocator) on bass, Frank Tinge (Relocator) on drums, together with Sebastian Halbig (Time Shift Accident) on keyboards and PV Bhaskar on percussion.

Peter Funke

live promo photo of Tom MacLean playing guitar by Monika Baus at artrockpics.comTom MacLean, live. Promo photo by Monika Baus @ artrockpics.com

Hello Tom, my name is Peter, from the DPRP – Dutch Progressive Rock Page. Thank you for taking your time to give us some information.

What do you think about playing at festivals in comparison to gigs on normal tours?

Tom: Festivals are a different experience. For a start, the event is not all about 'you' or your band, but celebrating music as a whole. There tends to be more of a light-hearted party atmosphere. In some ways, this can take pressure off and make things more enjoyable, but on the other hand, there's no guarantee that the bulk of the audience has any interest in your music, so you occasionally find yourself met with disinterest despite your best efforts. On the whole though, my recollections of festivals have been very positive.

We are DPRP, the Dutch Progressive Rock Page, and you are playing on the Generation Prog(ressive) Festival. How would you describe progressive rock?

Tom: I have a strange feeling I've answered this question before, some other time. But perhaps my answer has changed a bit since. Essentially, there are two kinds of progressive rock: it's either rock-based music that is trying hard to inject some new approaches to the genre, or its music that has absorbed elements (to varying degrees) of the original prog-rock movement, going as far back to the late 60s. I used to feel only the former deserved the term progressive rock, but now I don't think it matters so much. It's still possible to do interesting things with old formats I suppose. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say most people are referring to the latter definition these days.

promotional photo of the band To-MeraTo-Mera, promo photo

Let's talk about you and To-Mera. To-Mera is still alive and well?

Tom: To-Mera was basically put in hibernation after releasing Exile at the end of 2012. We were always a band fighting against the tide and after a while the fight took its toll. I'm still immensely proud of what we managed to achieve in spite of all the difficulties and setbacks we had to face, but in the end I felt I couldn't carry it any further. That said, Julie and I have been working on a new project called Euphonia which, whilst originally starting life as an opportunity to try some more "accessible" music, may well end up incorporating some of those "darker" elements. More on that later.

You can listen to Euphonia on Bandcamp.

banner for the band EuphoniaEuphonia, promo banner

Let`s have a look at the future. What are your plans for the next two or three years?

Tom: Musically speaking, I really want to get my new project Psion off the ground, and record and release some new music for Euphonia as well. I had hoped that I'd have got back into the habit of playing live more frequently by now, but since the recent birth of my daughter, live performance seems more of a happy bonus to making music than an absolute necessity. Maybe ask me how I feel about that again after the show next week! 😉

You can listen to some new Psion music here.

logo for the band Psion

Tell us something about your most frustrating experience as a musician.

Tom: I don't even know where to begin. To be honest, the imbalance between frustration and satisfaction of being a musician was part of what led to me taking a break from the whole scene over the last couple of years. But as time passes, you start to forget the bad and remember the good. 🙂

Of course, our readers would like to know as well something about your most thrilling experience so far.

Tom: Two shows stand out in my memory. Opening for Pain of Salvation with To-Mera in 2008 and Crescendo Festival with Haken in 2012. Not necessarily on the basis of the strength of my or the band's performance (I'm sure there were better ones), but purely for the buzz I felt after stepping offstage.

Can you describe your way into music?

Tom: Pure luck. I met Lee Barrett and Julie Kiss at a Dillinger Escape Plan gig and heard they were looking for a guitarist to play with. I took the chance and one thing led to another.

Who are your musical heroes and what impresses you?

Tom: I stopped idolising musicians as I came to understand that every successful musician is really just someone who has kept the faith in their abilities and worked hard, and made the most of whatever opportunities came their way. Not everyone is capable of going the distance, but you don't have to be "special" to do so. Furthermore, the most talented and dedicated musicians don't always make for the most desirable personalities. Some of us are downright sociopaths. 😉

What are you doing in civil life, what is your profession?

Tom:I am a science and maths tutor.

Again, thank you very much for your time talking to DPRP.

Tom: My pleasure!