Tag Archives: Dave Kerzner

Dave Kerzner & District 97 at The Borderline

District 97

The Borderline in London saw the first night of the short co-headline European tour giving audiences a rare chance to see two US artists who have been making waves of late, Dave Kerzner and District 97. There was a definite buzz about this gig; the venue was pretty much packed, with a long snaking queue outside the venue long before the doors opened in the pouring bank holiday weekend rain.

Opening the bill was Oktopus, who despite the name are actually a power trio, playing intricate prog-metal with some noticeably Zappa-like soloing. They had something of the feel of a jazz act about them, with instrumental prowess ahead of their songcraft. While they sounded as though they would benefit from a proper lead singer, which they did have at one earlier point in their career, they still played an entertaining set and did their job warming up the crowd.

The Dave Kerzner Band at

Dave Kerzner is one of those musicians who seems too prolific to confine themselves to a single project at a time. As well as playing keys for Sound of Contact and co-writing much of the music for Mantra Vega with Heather Findlay, he also made the 2014 solo album “New World”, an ambitious work with a huge array of guest musicians including Steve Hackett and the late Keith Emerson. He has put together an Anglo-American five-piece band for this tour, featuring Fernando Perdomo on guitar, Pink Floyd collaborator Durga McBroom on backing vocals and The Heather Findlay Band’s rhythm section of Stu Fletcher and Alex Cromarty.

Naturally most of the set came from “New World”, and the songs come over powerfully live, with Durga McBroom added depth to Kerzner’s own lead vocals. The material echoes classic Pink Floyd and Genesis with a balance between songcraft and atmospherics with the occasional flourish of keyboard pyrotechnics. They threw in a couple of covers, ELP’s “Lucky Man”, though without any daggers in the Nord Electro, and a spectacular “The Great Gig in the Sky”, naturally a showcase for Durga McBroom, plus a medley of Sound of Contact material for good measure.

District 97

Aside from a low-key warm up gig the night before this gig in a pub in Cheltenham, District 97′s only live appearances in the UK was their one-off appearance at the Celebr8.2 festival in 2014, so this was the first night of their first British headline tour. They represent the opposing pole of progressive rock compared to the previous band. Their music is an intense and swirling high-energy tapestry of notes, angular metallic riffs and complex rhythms. It combines the ambition of King Crimson with the off-the-wall nature of Frank Zappa with perhaps a little of the bombast of ELP.

There cannot be many progressive rock bands whose singer first came to prominence in “American Idol”; their complex music is a far cry from the commercial pop of reality TV talent shows, although there’s no denying Leslie Hunt’s remarkable voice and strong stage presence. All of them, including new bassist Tim Seisser playing only his third gig with the band are virtuoso musicians, but they channel that virtuosity into dizzyingly complex arrangements rather than self-indulgent showboating. It was all jaw-dropping stuff, throwing in a superb cover of King Crimson’s “One More Red Nightmare” amidst material from their three albums.

The pros and cons of co-headline tours is one of those things that provokes endless debate, and there have been occasions in the past where for whatever reason such gigs just haven’t worked. But when it does work, with two very different but complementary bands with an overlapping audience, it can make for a very successful show, drawing a bigger crowd than either might have pulled on their own, who then proceed to get their money’s worth. This was one of those nights.

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Mantra Vega – The Illusion’s Reckoning

Mantra Vega The Illusions ReckoningMantra Vega is a collaboration between former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay and Sound of Contract keys man Dave Kerzner, with a supporting cast made up largely from members Heather’s own band, including Roger Waters’ guitarist Dave Kilminster, one-time Seahorse Stuart Fletcher, and two members shared with the current incarnation of Mostly Autumn, drummer Alex Cromarty and guitarist Chris Johnson.

Although Heather Findlay has guested on a number of projects over the last few years, most notably Rob Cottingham’s Captain Blue, this is the first record promoted as one of her own projects since 2012′s acoustic “Songs from the Old Kitchen“, and her first new material since “The Phoenix Suite” a year before that. A single taken from the album, “Island” appeared in the middle of last year and did a lot to whet the appetite for the eagerly-awaited album, two years in the making,

As that earlier single had suggested, this is a record with a strong 70s vibe. There are nods to Stevie Nicks era Fleetwood Mac and the rootsier side of Led Zeppelin, as well as the folky feel of Heather Findlay’s work with Odin Dragonfly and early Mostly Autumn. In places it evokes a similar mood to “Songs from the Old Kitchen”, but the album as a whole feels closer to a logical progression from her work back in Mostly Autumn days than the more experimental direction of The Phoenix Suite. With the possible exception of the keyboard-led spoken word opener “Every Corner” and the epic title track, it’s perhaps more classic rock than progressive, but it’s an extremely varied record with feet in a lot of camps.

Heather herself is on superb form, and this record might just contain some of her best vocal performances to date, displaying all the warmth and emotional depth on which her reputation rests. Her lyrics are steeped in eastern spirituality, referencing Indian Yogiraj Gurunath Siddhanath, with the songs portraying a spiritual journey from darkness into light. Songs such as “Islands”, the ballad “Lake Sunday”, and the epic title track all feature gorgeous soaring melodies. The Zeppelinesque “Mountain Spring” is intense and passionate, while the dreamy acoustic “I’ve Seen Your Star” recalls the delicate beauty of Odin Dragonfly. “Veil of Ghosts” also features guest lead vocals from Angela Gordon, Nightwish’s Troy Donockley and Irene Jansen, younger sister of Floor.

Arrangements alternate between rich and layered, and pared-back simplicity. There’s more emphasis on guitars than on keys, and it’s only right at the very end that Dave Kerzner cuts loose with spiralling a synth wig-out; instrumental breaks more often take the form of swirling atmospherics than solos. Guitar virtuoso Dave Kilminster only actually appears on a few songs, though he makes his mark when he does, most notably his fluid melodic break on “Island”. Chris Johnson, though better known as a rhythm guitarist, ends up playing a fair bit of lead, with an understated but effective style, his lead flourishes on “Learning to be Light” are particularly impressive. Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen also makes an appearance with some shredding guitar work on the title track.

The capable rhythm section shouldn’t forgotten; notable moments are Stu Fletcher’s hypnotic circular bass riff that forms the foundation of “Mountain Spring”, and Alex Cromarty going full John Bonham at the end of “Veil of Ghosts”. Last but definitely not least, a couple the acoustic numbers feature the evocative bansuri, the Indian bamboo flute played by Remko de Landmeter.

It’s been a long wait, but this album proves worth that wait. Dave Kerzner proves as excellent a co-writer and creative foil to Heather Findlay as she is at giving voice to his compositions. The result is a record that’s as good as anything either of them have done. For Heather in particular it embraces her musical legacy without being constrained by it.

The album is released on Monday 25th January, and is available from The Merch Desk.

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Dave Kerzner – Stranded

“Stranded” from Dave Kerzner’s forthcoming album “New World”, featuring guest appearances from Steve Hackett and Durga McBroom.

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Dave Kerzner launches Kickstarter campaign for new album

Dave KerznetMantra Vega and former Sound of Contact keyboard player Dave Kerzner has launched a Kickstater campaign for his solo album “New World”, with an impressive array of guest appearances.

I’m Dave Kerzner, also known by my nickname “Squids”. “New World” is my first solo album after splitting with award-winning Progressive Rock band “Sound of Contact”. My new Prog record brings classic rock elements of the 60s and 70s into a modern musical soundscape. New World is a concept album done in two versions, a standard edition with over 70 minutes of music and a deluxe double disc extended edition with over 140 minutes of theatrical, rich and picturesque music to dig into! The subject matter of the storyline deals with the journey of human emotions from the darkness of facing your demons to rising above the obstacles that hold us back in life.

All of the lyrics and music are written, produced and sung by me and I am joined by some amazing special guests such as Steve Hackett (Genesis), Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd), Francis Dunnery (It Bites), Nick D’Virgilio (Tears for Fears, Big Big Train), Jason Scheff (Chicago), David Longdon (Big Big Train), Fernando Perdomo, Heather Findlay (Mantra Vega, Mostly Autumn), Adam Gaynor (Matchbox 20), Ana Cristina and more!

The album has a projected release date of October, provided the project reaches the funding goal of $17000.

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Heather Findlay and Dave Kerzner form Mantra Vega

Mantra VegaPhoto with permission from Mantra Vega, photographer unknown.

A big announcement from Heather Findlay today.

Mantra Vega is a new transatlantic progressive rock band from Myself and Dave Kerzner (former founding members of the bands Mostly Autumn and Sound of Contact respectively) along with Chris Johnson (Halo Blind), Stu Fletcher (We Could Be Astronauts), Alex Cromarty (Mostly Autumn) and featuring legendary guitarist David Kilminster (Roger Waters).

Melding together their wide range of styles and influences in Progressive, Classic and Alternative Rock, Mantra Vega offers a fresh blend of female and male lead vocals and harmonies, atmospheric soundscapes, emotional dynamics and powerful moods. From Heather Findlay’s stunning vocals ranging from angelic to powerful, to the lush keys, guitars and sound design of Dave Kerzner and Chris Johnson to soaring guitar leads from Dave Kilminster and soulful groove from the Cromarty/Fletcher rhythm section, there’s something fresh and new for fans of artists like Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Radiohead, The Beatles, Sigur Ros and more.

Heather had originally planned to record a solo album produced by Nightwish’s Troy Donockley, but that got overtaken by events when Nightwish’s schedule changed. But this new project sounds altogether more exciting. Most of the band are from the most recent incarnation of The Heather Findlay band, though it’s especially good news to see Dave Kilminster back on board.

The solo album produced by Troy Donockley will still be happening in due course, but has been put back until Troy is available.

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