Prog fans will already be familiar with Ian Jones’ primary musical vehicle Karnataka – who we get to see at HRH Prog X this September. Ian was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his hectic schedule to talk to us about his new project Illuminae…
Good Afternoon! Where do we find Illuminae today?
Good afternoon! You find Illuminae enjoying the Spring sunshine in London! It won’t last of course, it’ll be snowing/hailing/raining soon (delete as appropriate) so we’re making the most of it!
For the uninitiated, tell us a little history of the band…tell us about the project that is Illuminae…
Illuminae is myself and vocalist Agnieszka Swita. We’ve been friends for a number of years and had similar tastes in music. We started working on some ideas together but both got busy with our bands and projects. I was working on Karnataka’s Secrets of Angels album. Fast forward to 2017 and I was listening back to the ideas we’d started and just thought we had some really strong material that deserved to be revisited. By then we both had the time to dedicate to the project and Illuminae was born! We discussed how we wanted to take the project forward and we were both keen not to create a band in the traditional sense – we both already had established bands and collaborators – but to write together and invite guest musicians to record on the album. There was a simplicity to working as a duo which was very attractive and immediate. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have Steve Hackett, John Helliwell, Craig Blundell, Troy Donockley, Luke Machin and Gonzalo Carrera as special guests.
How did you approach the writing of Dark Horizons? Was it a fairly seamless process or were there any bumps along the road?
To start with there wasn’t really any crystallised idea of what this project was going to be; we were just two friends getting together and making music, so it all developed in a natural way over the course of time. I think we reached a point where we’d written quite a lot of material and made that leap of deciding this could be an album! All the material on Dark Horizons was written collaboratively, usually around the piano or acoustic guitar, and yes, it was quite a seamless process. We both really enjoy the writing process and everything just clicked as a writing partnership.
How was it working with prog-rock legend Steve Hackett?
Wonderful and surreal in equal measures! Genesis’ A Trick of the Tail was the first record I ever bought, so to arrive at a point where Steve Hackett is guesting on our album was just amazing! Steve was great to work with and just so kind and gracious. He plays a couple of beautiful solos on the album opener The Lighthouse. A bit of a ‘pinch-yourself-is-this-really-happening’ moment!
It’s been a difficult few months to say the least for most bands that were ready to put new music out into the world, how have you kept a presence and made sure Dark Horizons has got the attention it deserves?
Yes, it’s been an incredibly difficult time for the whole music industry. One silver lining is it afforded us a lot of time to work on a video for one of the album tracks Blood on Your Hands. I’d found some great, very imaginative and beautifully filmed videos created by Chris Lavelle of LDi Studios. We approached Chris to see if was interested in collaborating on a video project and sent him some demos of the songs we were working on. He liked what we were doing and we settled on Blood on Your Hands as having a lot of visual potential. Chris storyboarded some great ideas and we did some green screen filming in the David Puttnam Media Centre of Sunderland University. Chris created this whole world in which the story unfolds. The album has also been getting a lot of airplay and very positive reviews which has helped get the music out there, and of course, I’ve had to dance with the devil – otherwise known as ‘social media’!
What plans do you have for Illuminae moving forward? Any gigs on the horizon?
We’re already working on the follow up to Dark Horizons and have quite a bit of new material written. We’d love to take the album out on the road, and like everyone, we’re just monitoring the situation and hoping that can happen at some point. But in the meantime, we’ll continue working on new material and hopefully get to collaborative with Chris Lavelle again on a new video project.
Thanks for catching up with me today, you get the last word…what’s it gonna be?
A huge thank you to everyone including HRH for your support. We hope the album allows you to escape the outside world, even if just for a little while. Stay safe and look forward to seeing many of you on the road.. hopefully soon!
PHOTOGRAPHY : Maria Kuczara