Prog-rocker super group Fascination Curve reflect on the American and global political climate with their new album Corona Time in Amerika. Released Aug 4 th of this year, the 7-track record sees legends from the likes of Toto, Asia, and ELO poignantly reflect on the turbulent social times since the beginning of the pandemic, with a rousing progressive rock sound, in the vein of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Corona Time in Amerika dances between sounds in its epic, almost operatic journey. Explosive valleys of choruses and swelling electric guitar solos lead into slower and more tender jazz influenced passages that together form the dynamic soundscape needed to reflect the current political climate. Karl Lundeberg remains active in both artistic and social communities. The artist was a protestor during 2020’s BLM riots and wrote and performed the musical scores for Sir David Hare’s indictment of the Bush adminstration’s involvement in the Iraq War ‘Stuff Happens’, as well as the Jon Robbie Baitz anti-Trump work ‘Vicuna’. Indie Boulevard talked to Karl about politics, the new album and future plans.
IB: Hey Karl, great to see you here on Indie Boulevard. It’s super nice to have the chance to chat with you. You recently released your debut album “Corona Time In America” and it’s really a very strong body of work. I have not heard such a variety of genres in a long time. Tell us about the album. How did it all start?
KARL: The album has its lyric roots in the experiences I had as a kid in 1960’s Washington DC. My parents were involved in the civil rights movement and I had a front row seat to unspeakable things during the protests, riots and civil unrest of that time. The fight against racism in all it’s forms and in all places is part of my DNA. My mixed race daughters here in LA had a complete change in their lives the moment Trump took office and the paternal outrage at seeing my family experience 1950’s style racism caused me to start writing lyrics reflecting that anger at the right wing extremism reappearing all over the world.
The musical roots to “Corona Time In Amerika” are many… most importantly, all of the musicians on the album are part of the large LA studio music scene and we have known and worked with each other for 30 years in some cases. Over time, one finds musicians with similar tastes and styles but people are so busy, that the conversations about “ doing something” someday often get forgotten about in the rush of the days upon days. Oddly, Covid stopped us all in our tracks and suddenly musicians had time to explore personal as well as musical notions which had been on everyone’s “ to do “ list. And so, I began writing lyrics and music and recording and organically friends and musicians wanted to be a part of it…. “ Land of The Free Home of the Slave” was the first tune and from there, I just continued writing and recording with everyone and in a very short period of time, there was an album and a group.
IB: I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the title track was 20 minutes long. That’s a really bold move. Was it difficult to record such a long and complex song?
KARL: The title track started out as a poem I wrote. A poet friend of my told me this need to be a piece of music and it developed from there. The length was not a problem as everyone in the group loves the concept of a proper prog rock length piece of music… the piece is composed in almost a classical music format in that there are musical and melodic themes and gestures which reappear as variations throughout the piece as it slowly builds. A lot of different moods and dynamics….the challenge for me was reflecting the rather wry, humor of the poem in the music and that led me down all manner of wonderful alley ways.
IB: The song has the line “What the hell is going on?!”. Going back to those days, it was a strange time for the whole planet. And yet, what was it? A political conspiracy? Was there really an epidemic or was it all an experiment?
KARL: “ What the hell is going on?” is unfortunately even more relevant today than it was 6 months ago…there isn’t a single fiber of social/political tapestry that isn’t either on fire, fraying or quivering. Fascism, Racism, Plague, and now war….. Conspiracy theories which seemed daft two years ago are mainstream news now….people we regarded as clowns are now in places of power and are creating political and social chaos which seems to be a parody caricature in a comic book, yet is real. The question still stands, ‘What the hell IS going on?.’
IB: The album takes on the subjects of Ukraine, Roe vs Wade, racism and the continuing drift towards Civil War. Why did these themes become the main ones in the album? What are you trying to tell people when they are listening to “Corona Time In Amerika”?
KARL: The very basic message of the album is Wake Up Folks! People forget that Hitler was elected …. the same playbook is being followed all over the world.
IB: How did you manage to assemble such a professional team of musicians?
KARL: I have known these musicians for years and they, in turn, have all known each other for years. Basically it all boils down to the fact that We all have the same record collection from our formative years. And, just as importantly, it is pure joy to work with folks who are lovely human beings and first rate musicians at the same time. We speak the same musical language, each person having a slightly different accent but all heading for the same creative place.
I also think there is a need for musicians of conscience to express themselves during these very strange days…there is just not a lot of music being written in reaction to what is going on, especially in the rock/prog rock genres. I think prog rock is the perfect vehicle to deal with complex issues. Long form music allows for more space to develop ideas and comment in a mature way musically and lyrically. The current tiktok 30 sec sound byte culture is childish and doesn’t allow for a serious statement about serious situations to be made.
IB: If you had the opportunity to organize your own music festival, which bands and artists would perform there?
KARL: Music festival fantasy ….Weather Report, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Gil Scott Heron, The Beatles, Ravi Shankar, King Sunny Ade, Gentle Giant, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarret, Yes, Little Feat, Stevie Wonder, Mungo Jerry, George Carlin, Bob Marley, Miles Davis, The Kinks, Joan Armatredding, Joni Mitchell, Sly and The Family Stone, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and the Berlin Philharmonic performing the complete symphonic works of Jean Sibelius, A Javanese Gamelan, and a performance of Japanese GaGaku ,music. And Billy Connelly as the mc.
IB: You are not afraid to experiment, mix genres and create a new sound. But is there a particular inspiration for your music?
KARL: Inspiration is a curious thing to pin down. I had the great honor to have studied with the great 20th century composer John Cage who told me a very simple thing, which is incredibly difficult to put into practice. He said, “ Just write whatever music you would want to listen to yourself ”. Sounds simple…but is hard to block out the noise of the expectations of audiences, the expectations of labels in the music biz and just the ears of your ordinary person who knows nothing about music, but who is 95% of your audience. But by following that mantra, one can at lest get close to what you really have to say and whatever that comes out, will be yours and yours alone.
IB: Going back to your 20-minute track “Corona Time In America.” It would be great to hear that song live, it’s a whole 20 minutes long, that could be a real show. Are there any concerts planned in the near future?
KARL: There are several theater directors here in the US who have told me that Corona Time in Amerika must be staged in some way…not as a musical or as a drams, but as a concert which incorporates some theatrical/visual/dance elements. This is actively being workshopped in San Fransisco with the former director of the American Conservatory Theater, Carey Perloff.
IB: Do you have an opinion on why only a few artists and bands manage to become famous worldwide? Is it luck or fate? Because I listen to a lot of indie music that sounds amazing, and I think, “Wow, these guys must be super famous,” but they only have 7 listeners on Spotify.
KARL: Music, as a commodity, is in a very strange place….music, as an art form is in a very perilous place. Humans in the developed world ( whatever that really means) are increasingly incapable of both physically and mentally being able to focus on things more than 15.8 seconds…. that is a problem for any art form. A painting, a book, a dance, a sculpture, a poem, a song…..these all require an audience to at the very least to be able to experience the event….experiencing art takes being able to see and or hear what is in front of them. If they can’t experience, they cannot understand and they cannot react.There are plenty of great artists, musicians, poets and performers doing great work out there. I don’t pine for the the days over the big record companies because they screwed over artists for decades. But at leas, at the very least, there were people…living human beings who were involved in the decision making process…at first they were actual music people….then it became business people… now, its algorithms. If you music doesn’t convince the algorithmic standard that you can sell shampoo or Big Macs or cars….too bad. That is not a music business…that is an advertising business which uses music and visuals to sell shoes or canned fish. My opinion on this? I guess I can’t really have an opinion on it….I have never sold canned fish.
IB: And the last question. What are the next steps for your project? Is there anything exciting on the horizon?
KARL: ‘Fascination Curve’ has just released a single and music video entitled “ No Going Back “ …. it deals with the rights of women being taken away after hundreds of years of fighting to get where we are today. The views on youtube are piling up. The second album has been written and composed and recordings are already about halfway finished. In fact, a piece dealing with the war in Ukraine was recorded literally today…it is a more poetic rather than political acknowledgement of the stunning will and sacrifice which the people of Ukraine are showing in defense of their home. And band members are engaged in the usual variety of projects: Marc is with Asia as well as a Keith Emerson Band project, Gregg with Ringo Starr, Mha with Elton John, Ken with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald and Amy with everyone.
Connect with Fascination Curve via website www.nogoingbacksong.com