After releasing a great double album, “The Garden”, in 2008, Australian band Unitopia won over not only demanding prog rockers, but also people loving really beautiful, “energetic” and high-quality music. Waiting for the new release (it will be the band’s third), my impatience reached a peak and…even the musicians of Unitopia! When I finally got an agreement to do the interview, I was happy and also really worried, not because of the questions, but of one really important detail. “How should I address to him when he will call – a producer, an ideologist, a composer, and not just a vocalist, but an amazing singer?” – this thought was really eating at me. I haven’t known him long enough to call him Truey like his friends do. Mark Stevan Trueack – I know him too well, mainly through the music of that Australian group. But after getting a serenade on a sunny Australian morning or, actually, a deep Ukrainian night, (oh, that voice!), the question stood no longer.
OP: Truey, according to the criteria (despite having very experienced musicians), Unitopia is a “young” group, and critics very often compare you with "patriarchs", from Genesis to the Flower Kings…
MT: Yes yes…It is. In one way, particularly when we first started with “Inside Out”, we were told that we sounded like The Flower Kings, or we sounded like Genesis, but they also said we sounded like Men At Work, and we just thought we sounded nothing like Men At Work. (And I think whoever wrote this really needs a good kick)… I think there are a lot fabulous songs on “The Garden”! I don’t think we sound like The Flower Kings at all - I’d like to think we sound more original than most. But one of the thing I’ve certainly told Sean that we can’t afford to do, is to play too much Hammond. Hammond organ is just absolutely al lover the place in the prog industry! We have to be more original than what prog is right now, and even more original than it could be in the future, and we’d like to use more live instruments. There is very little Hammond organ on “Artificial”, and there is a lot more guitar. On “Artificial” Sean… sounds like Sean! And Matt (Williams) is playing a big role in this album - the guitar that he plays is absolutely awesome. As for me - I play lots of mandolin and banjo.
OP: Yeah! And about Unitopia’s music in general: is it still “prog”?
MT: No, look! Olga likes the word “prog” ?!
OP: Sorry – “Modern classical music”!
MT: I would like to call it “new art music”. To me, that’s what we do! There are progressive elements in progressive music which really can constantly change. Well, we thought we’ve done that (“prog”), but I call it new art music because it's much a product that contains elements from all over the world, and it can be Egyptian or Middle Eastern sounds. We try to incorporate all the different worlds in the music because I think it becomes more universal - it really is! - So, do you see it as a progressive music or do you see it as something a little bit different?..
OP: Generally “The Garden” was a great and beautiful surprise for prog rock lovers. Is it difficult to do something after this success? People are waiting for something like “The Garden” !
MT:This is a good question. I think our writing has improved on this project - I mean, writing a 53-min suite is no mean feat, but the difference is that here there are 8 songs welded together!
OP: As we know, some of the songs on “The Garden” were written long ago and it was their "second birth". Is the music on “Artificial” completely new?
MT:Yes, we wrote “Artificial” from February 2009 to January 2010.
OP: Please, tell us more about this new Unitopia album. Is it a conceptual album with one idea, or maybe a story ?
MT:Yes, this is more of a concept project than “The Garden” was. It tells a story with individual songs that are linked together – a story telling how we as humans have become more artificial. Our epic piece talks about the famous Tesla, the guy who invented the electric coil, specially narrated by Ed Unitsky. So Ed gets a cameo.
OP: Hm… "Artificial world" and an idea - it sounds like something from Bradbury’s sci-f,i and not so "sunny"... Will there lyrical songs on “Artificial” - like, for example, “One Day” or “Love Never Ends”?
MT:The song called “Reflections” is a beautiful ballad with piano. You will love it, it’s absolutely gorgeous! And then you have “The Great Reward”, which is similar and has a magical, big ending, with the orchestra and all. They are big tracks, and they have such elements as you have just talked about. I also think you will embrace the lyrics, these songs are very deep and touching as always.
OP: I hope you are singing a lot on the “Artificial” album!
MT:As Sean and I write the themes together, we write with the various styles I will sing in mind. And yes, I am singing and doing backing vocals, as I have in last two albums
OP: Once you said that if you had a chance to become invisible for a day, you would like to stay near Peter Gabriel and sing along with him. Did you change your mind about this dream?
MT:To be honest with you, I was in touch with Peter Gabriel already. When I worked for the EMI I met with Peter and I took him around Australia, when he was here, and we’ve got to know each other pretty well. He was aware of my vocals and that we had similar voice, but, as he pointed out, some of my vocal expressions are so different from him in a lot of ways and you will notice that in this new album. There are a couple of songs where my voice does sound a little bit like Peter’s, but most don’t, and I think that, as time goes on, people will realize that my voice sounds like Mark Trueak and not Peter Gabriel…You know, people like to compare “paper with paper”, one thing with another, and at the end they will found this sounds like me!
OP: For instance, you have an unusually beautiful vibrato in your voice…
MT:Yeah, it is a little bit unusual, and when Sean and I got together at first, Sean was just amazed to hear it. He’d always wanted to do something like this, and I hadn’t even thought about it. I’ve played in a few bands, here and there…I did a band called “Genesis Touch” , which was focused more on the Phil Collins era rather than the Peter Gabriel one. But people identified me more with Phil Collins while I did with Peter Gabriel, so it’s really interesting!
OP: It's also very interesting to me - how do you compose your songs, you and Sean as I see...
MT:It’s quite simple, really! As you may not be aware, Sean and I have day jobs. We do not do this full time, we would love to, but, until we get a hit record, we are stuck with our day jobs. The writing process is very easy: I bring the ideas and concepts, and Sean is the arranger. I might have a theme idea, and I take it to Sean, we both work out melodic ideas, then I leave Sean to make the first template, I spend time working on vocal ideas and then we get back together and finalize the arrangement. Sometimes Sean may write a piece, and I say: “Let’s do this!” and… change some of the idea! That’s why we are so good for each other. It’s like you Russians would say, “Great Comrades”.
OP: Truey, also a few words about one person from Unitopia's team. It's not a secret that the first impulse to listen to the new music in case of Unitopia for many of us was because of the art cover of “The Garden” by Ed Unitsky.
MT:Oh, I got in touch with him I think it was in 2007. I spoke to him and then we talk again… He sent some ideas, but I didn't like them - I knew what I wanted and it didn't feel like the thing I was seeing in my head! We talked about something a little bit more conceptual, and he came back with an early version of “The Garden “ . We started developing it and he was very excited. I said to Ed, “Well, we want to work with you, because you are very easy to work with!” He's doing all our artwork. He's done the new album, and we've seen some of the pictures which looked really, really good. Ed will do the artwork for "Brothers in Conflict" (the next big Unitopia project) as well and we will probably get him to do the two non-signed albums also. Ed has become my brother!
OP: So, we are looking forward to geting this beautiful CD, “Artificial”, and listening to it in May.
MT:Yeah, May 3rd – it will be the first edition. There will be two editions of this album – an ordinary CD and a special digipak edition, which will feature three extra songs.
OP: Truey, will there be completely new songs, or it will be the same tracks with some differences (maybe with the new arrangement)?
MT:Three all brand-new songs! One of them is 9 minutes long, it’s called “What Kind of World”. It’s very focused on Australia at the moment, you will like that. These three songs will feature on the digipak. But once this sells out, then you won’t be able to get them anymore. The Next UNITOPIA album, which will be the last of our current contract with Inside Out, will be a massive, EPIC 3-album set called “Brothers in Conflict, based on a story of 5 brothers from different war zones. I twill be released in 2014, which sets the date 1914 -2014.
OP: And – The Hope… another very interesting project. You are teasing all of us with this great names – what will it be?
MT:The Hope is a concept project that involves musicians and producers from all over the globe. I have written 15 songs and sent some of them to various producer. Then they returned an arrangement for me to sing on, which makes the platform of the song. This is mainly my project, thug I will also have Sean and Matt’s help, and there are several others involved. For more details, go to MySpace page, you’ll see who’s on board. It’s going to be a big project and a lot of fun, because there is going to be a lot of different types of styles on it. We wanted to touch more women because I do like to write romantic lyrics. I am a very romantic person, I love the female of the species, and I think we don’t give them all the equality that they deserve. I love to write about emotions, and I think a lot of women see that in the music. I touch fire, and I think I will continue to go there.
OP: I think prog rock is the most romantic music which has ever existed!
MT:Yeah, but that’s why I’m going to think we are in! We have progression in music, but you know, we show romantic worlds in music, and the sound of music is very romantic too.
OP: Don't forget about children, they love beautiful “musical fairy-tales” too!
- Yes, both Sean and I have children, Sean has been a father for less than 6 months. I have two daughters, 16 and 20 - both play guitar and sing. Holly, my eldest, has a cameo on More Than a Dream”, she sings an ENYA-like soprano part on “Justify. She was 12 when she recorded that! (A pulsing heart appeared on the screen)
OP: It's amazing! Truey, are you planning to work with them in your future projects?
MT:I have produced a song for my youngest, Britany, and I am working with Holly on a project now. Both will appear on double album THE HOPE.
OP: Will we hear the new songs in concert in 2010?
MT:Yes! The tour is called “More Than a Garden of Dreams 2010 Tour”, so it does say it all.
OP: I hope that you will be in Europe “One Day”, so I hope to meet you on the concert!
MT:Yes, we will be in Verviers (Belgium) and Zoetermeer (Netherlands), and October is looking good. And you know, if we can play anywhere in Russia, just call us and we will come.
OP: I am going to sing all of “The Garden” songs at the concert with Unitopia - I even try to play “One Day” on piano!
MT: (Truey then start to sing: “All alone, silence closing in on what was meant to be…”)
So if you want us to play in your backyard in Ukraine, let me know, and we’ll play!
OP: Oh, really?! Can't believe my ears! Great! Many thanks, Truey, for the interesting conversation and huge thanks to the “Great Comrades” for that beautiful Unitopia world!
My personal thanks to Patsy Delledonne, Unitopia's manager, for her invaluable help in arranging the interview.