MAJESTIC was formed as a One Man project in the United States by Jeff Hamel. He began playing guitar at the age of 14 and began his musical career as a guitarist for the progressive metal OSMIUM of 1980s group. As multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel is harnessed to the task of composing and recording all the music himself, sometimes seeking vocal talents of other artists. He released the first album of Majestic ‘Descention’ in 2007. Since time he added 5 albums including ‘Arrival’ in 2009, “Ataraxia” in 2010 in the “Labyrinth” in 2011 and the more recent “V.O.X.”, a double concept appeared in 2012. Today it presents itself to you in the form of an interview I made with him a few weeks ago.
It is a real pleasure to have the chance to do this interview with you.
Thank you, I am honored you chose me for an interview.
Before talking about your latest album V.O.Z., I would like to that known a little more about you. What is your musical background?
I grew up in Detroit, now living in Minneapolis. I began playing music in grade school as many do, playing violins in orchestra. In high-school I gave up orchestra and started playing guitar. I spent a year or so studying under Joey Mazzola, who went on to be the guitarist for Sponge. After high-school I went on to studying audio production at Recording Institute of Detroit for a couple of years. During those years, I played a few local clubs and in various bands. Mostly metal and/or cover bands. I got bored with a lot of the music that was out at the time, and I started listening more into early 70 prog rock. I had a hard time finding players who were interested in that, so I started just picking up the keyboards and making my own music. I stepped away from performing live to work on my own thing for a while. This is where I developed the style and sounds I use today.
The creation of the Majestic project did it in 2004 that is what motivated you to create this project at the time?
Majestic just kind of happened, it wasn’t planned at all. I’ve always enjoyed writing music, even if just for my own enjoyment. At the time, I used Majestic just as a screen name for sites prodigy and AOL, etc. Back in 2004, I had just finished up a couple of ideas and my son persuaded me to post them online. I put a few tracks up on Myspace. I was surprised people started showing interest and it grew from there.
You can tell us about the theme of the album V.O.Z., it seems dark enough? And how was it born?
VOZ is really about the complexity of human kind and sometimes people don’t understand how dark they can be. Life is constant change. I tried to set it up with a simple backdrop of sailing from the old world to the new one with a lot of up and downs in between. There is much commonality across both CDs. I wanted a very cinematic feel for the CD.
Ataraxia and Labyrinth, to name a few, have been welcomed by the progressive community, how do you feel with the release of this latest album?
I am very proud of the latest release. Each release I try to make more interesting than the previous. I took a chance by releasing a double CD but I am very glad I did. Many people seem to be enjoying it and for me, that is what putting music out is about.
Last album, it remains, why this major change in the line-up for this album?
Many people were used to Jessica’s voice on Majestic. She definitely brought a lot to the music. Sadly she had to back out of the project due to other projects she was working on. It was tough at first, but I used the change to do something different with multiple singers. I was able to do things musically that I was not able to do previous. It opened quite a few doors.
How was the selection of the artists? You can submit them? And tell us the new drummer, Mike Kosacek?
Hmm, where to start about Mike. The guy is an incredible drummer. Almost all the tracks you hear on the CD are first takes. I used the track titled “Hyperbole” as an audition track for drummers. This is not an easy track, but I figured if I could find someone to play that, the rest of the CD would be easy. I went through at least 5-6 drummers before finding Mike. No one could play it. Mike sent back his audition a few days after I gave it to him. What you hear on the CD is what he sent back. I was floored because the track was dead on. I am sure he had no idea what he was about to get into with all the tracks I threw at him.
The selection of vocalists was similar. I knew I would have multiple singers on the release to keep things interesting, especially for a double CD. I tried to use the various strengths of each singer to appropriate tracks. For example, I had Celine and David sing the heavier tracks and Chris and Tara the lighter ones. It worked out well. Each vocalist did a fantastic job.
We easily note improvements in the level of production and the quality of the artwork of Vladimir Moldavsky. For the latter, you had an idea of what you wanted or he used his inspiration?
Vlad’s work is amazing. He did the cover art the Proximal Distance project which I took part in. He also works close with my good friend Gregg Johns of prog band Slychosis, overseeing all their artwork. So I know his work well. I gave Vlad full control to do whatever he wanted. He came up with the cover idea based upon the music and some previous ideas he did. He is one of the best in the business. I was honored to have him involved.
That is what inspires you when you write? Do you need a special environment?
On the weekends I tend to wake very early and that is when I do my best writing. Everything is quiet and the day is new. Great for creative ideas. Very rarely do I sit and have a topic I want to write about. Everything I do just depends on the mood I am in. I always write music first. After I come up with ideas I like, I try to visualize an image of how the music sounds and then put words to convey the image I see. I think that is one of the big differences between prog and pop. With pop music, lyrics usually come first. With prog, lyrics are almost secondary.
Question to $50.00, why did you choose the progressive style of music, there are other styles more pay?
I wonder that sometimes too. haha Really, it is pretty simple. I enjoy listening to many types of music. When you look at progressive music, many styles blend together and it is always changing. With prog, it is perfectly acceptable to start off a song with a folk feel, then break into jazz and end a track with metal. It is the best of all worlds. I do occasionally work on non-prog projects, but I really enjoy the freedom progressive music allows.
Do you think that it is possible to live from his music today? You think progressive music is doing well today?
There are some great bands out there. I think with the internet, prog music is more accessible than ever before which is great. Now, anyone can put out music. However, because of all the new music, bands have a hard time getting noticed. The whole music industry is changing. The newer generations tend to expect music for free and they forget all the work that goes to making music accessible. From the fans perspective there is so much music out there, it is difficult to support all the bands. I have no idea where prog will end up tomorrow, but I will just keep making the music I enjoy.
What are your musical influences and what kind of music do you listen to?
When I first started it was bands like Maiden, Metallica, Anthrax and way too many more metal bands to name. Since then a few bands really caused me to rethink music, Yes, Genesis, KC, Marillion, Dream Theater. I enjoy the epic style tracks because it is music that can take you places. Even recently bands like Ayreon and Steven Wilson’s projects I really enjoy. I don’t get a lot of downtime to check out new music since I am constantly working on my own material. I do enjoy other types of music too such as classical, jazz, fusion, etc.
Do you have future projects?
Yes. Proximal Distance II is in full swing. I’ve also begun writing for the next Majestic CD. And I am working on some small non-prog projects in between. Never a dull moment!
Since your beginnings in music, what is your most beautiful memories?
Music has always been a major part of life. Whether connecting with an audience or finding the magic in composition, life is full of wonderful memories. It is difficult to choose a favorite. Sometimes I get a chance to share or involve music with my kids. As I see them begin to discover music for themselves, that is the best memories of all.
If you had a choice what would be the dream you want to achieve?
I feel like I am already living it. I don’t need to be rich and famous or anything like that. I enjoy making music and I am lucky enough to be able to share it with people. When you can write something that someone on the other side of world enjoys, it brings us all a little closer, even if just for a moment. I am glad just to be a very small part of that.
Can we expect to see you in Quebec City a day?
Anything is possible. Majestic is a recording project, but I am trying to start up some live projects as well. It would be great to visit QC.
You have the final word….
I just want to thank you for all your work supporting prog music. It is sites like yours that allow us musicians to reach the fans and continue making the music we all enjoy.