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Interview with PilGrims in ProGress
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
All five of us grew up in musical families and have been playing since we were kids – which for all of is a long time ago. Our parents and grandparents were in most cases the instigators: Henning’s mother, a talented singer and harmonica player, gave him a Hohner Melodica when he was three. When he was six, his grandparents bought him his first guitar, which he taught himself to play. Luís’ father brought home an old guitar (which he still has) when he was about 9 years old, and at age 15 years old he also started playing bass. Guy started playing drums at age 12, and André played piano and keyboards from an early age. Dugald played piano from age seven, picked up trombone, bagpipes and guitar as a teen, and bought his first bass off a friend when he was 15.
We all grew up listening to the same music – Yes, Genesis, Deep Purple, Cream – and all of us played in bands in our younger years. Parallel to this we all got involved in quite different careers: pilot, teacher, engineer, entrepreneur etc… But none of us ever lost our passion for the kind of music we wanted to play. As the fates would have it, we all ended up in our later years in the same place, Bonn. This is where we found each other, discovered our common musical interests and it was here we decided we had waited long enough to let the world hear the songs that had been inside us all those years. That is when PilGrims in ProGress was born.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Travel, read and listen to other people’s music. I get a lot of images and inspiration for the lyrics from books – for example the “Wizard of Oz” allusions in “Battle Flag” or “Beowulf” in “Somewhere Far Away” – while “The Tourist” and “All of Your Heroes Are Dead” draw heavily on 1970s Prog and Art Rock, both lyrically and musically. A lot of ideas come to me when traveling – “The Tourist” in London; “All of Your Heroes Are Dead” in Hamburg ; The crosswalk at the beginning of “Hat Into the Ring” is in San Antonio, and the ocean waves heard in “In Small Things Forgotten” and “Fare Thee Well, Pilgrim” were recorded in Newfoundland and Tenerife, respectively.
How long has your band been around?
Since November 2013. Yes, there’s an anniversary coming up!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are based in Bonn, Germany. We are not so much influenced by that town, but rather by the common passion for progressive rock music which each of us brought with him from his own home port – Five guys who grew up in places as far apart as Upstate New York, Portugal, Luxembourg and Germany (Rhineland and Saxony) who carried the dream for decades inside them to make the music we are making now. Bonn is important because the music brought us together here.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
On one level it is a play on the title of Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” – a book we once considered basing a concept album on until a much more famous band beat us to it… However, while that book is about a religious journey, our “pilgrimage” is purely musical. A quest for new sounds, to find the spirit of the music that inspired us as young men and to create something original. A quest which is never completed – which will always remain a work “in Progress”. And then there’s the dad-joke allusion to “progress”-ive rock… The capital “G”s (sorry if this disappoints any conspiracy theorists) are purely optical – like the “ö”s in Motörhead or Blue Öyster Cult.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Our “Epigonia” album launch at SAGA in Troisdorf, Germany in October 2022 – a great club, fantastic sound, good friends. It was a memorable evening for us all.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Our favorite is still SAGA in Troisdorf. We have a lot of places we would love to play at. Let’s just say, “All of them!”
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Any of our heroes who are still performing – Deep Purple, for example, Spock’s Beard, Flying Colors or Dream Theater – the list goes on. We have covered songs by all these bands in our live sets and have seen them all numerous times.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
To someone just getting into a band: Never refuse a gig – every experience in front of an audience is useful.
To my younger self: Never take a hiatus from playing because of “real world” commitments. Always find a place in your “real world” for your music – not everyone has the good fortune we had to “get back into it” later!
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
“Telegraph Hill”. Lyrically, because what grew out of a story of a real hike developed into something more universal and poetic; musically, because of the way the instruments all interweave to create a very special sonic atmosphere.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Personal favorites are “The Tourist” and “Somewhere Far Away”; “In Small Things Forgotten” is well liked by audiences.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Our songs are always collaborative efforts; Usually Henning and Dugald bounce musical and lyrical ideas off each other, eventually come up with a demo version, which is then refined by the other band members’ contributions. André provides ethereal keyboard landscapes, Luís adds a different, bluesier guitar sound, while Guy’s on-point drumming pulls the whole thing together into a stricter form. In the end it becomes a PilGrims in ProGress song.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
We don’t have a particular agenda – the music itself is the primary message. That being said, much of the lyrics are very personal, but like any poetry they are open to whatever associations they evoke in the listeners’ minds.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
We are five males all over 50, each with very definite and passionate ideas about our music and what it should sound like. So the answer is a resounding YES. But in the end, a certain amount of pushback is always good for the creative process, and after the dust has settled we always reach a kind of consensus which is usually better than the original ideas.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We have started work on a concept album (we are a prog band, after all…). New songs that will take listeners back 5000 years. And to the stars. More to follow as the Pleiades travel…
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
At our band website (pilgrims-in-progress.de/e_index.php), on Bandcamp (
), our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PilGrims.in.ProGress/) or on Instagram (www.instagram.com/pilgrimsinprogress/)