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In Conversation With... Kurdt Vanderhoof

By Danny Mayo

Kurdt Vanderhoof is the man behind Presto Ballet, and while his other band Metal Church were on tour in the UK, I had the opportunity to ask him about the excellent Presto Ballet album 'Peace Among The Ruins', and other things.

So Kurdt, Presto Ballet, when did you first get the idea to form this band?

KurdtKurdt:  It was an extension of the Vanderhoof stuff which was more Classic Rock from the 70's, and then I started to dig deeper and further back into the prog stuff. I've always been a big fan of the prog scene, and I started writing stuff similar to Kansas and Yes, and bits from this band, bits from this band and so on until some songs came out of it. It was then a case of finding the like-minded musicians who were into the same kind of music, then over the course of 3 or 4 years when we had time, it all came together. The sound was like 'wow', we have something here, and my manager over in Germany said he is great friends with the Inside Out guys when I said I had this Retro Prog thing and they hit on it straight away. I'm really pleased with their response, because it was like 'whooo' when they heard it too!

Like yourself, there are musicians like Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) who has been involved with Transatlantic.....

Kurdt:  Yes that's right, and loads of other projects too, he is a talented guy for sure. I really love Transatlantic, and I didn't realise that there has been a new mini prog scene. I began to listen to all the Inside Out bands, and it was amazing. My favourite band at the moment is IQ, and they have going for 20 years and more, and I only have discovered them. I think their singer (Peter Nicholls) has a
great voice, and IQ are like the Genesis if Peter Gabriel had still been with them. And now the Presto Ballet thing is up and running, we have a record deal and everyone in Metal Church are going 'wow, that's cool', and I'm pleased with their support.

Any plans for a tour?

Kurdt:  Yes of course if we get the chance, I would love to open for somebody, but we'll have to work something out, time is a factor also.

Danny (left) and KurdtI see on the album you have Mellotrons, and how long have had one?

Kurdt:  Absolutely, I heard one and I thought I gotta get one, they are amazing with all their sounds, a nice and weird machine. I've had one about a few years now, and I've been collecting tapes and putting sounds down. Everything on the album is all analogue, no digital at all!

I see. I know many keyboard players such as Martin Orford and Tomas Bodin, and they tend to use samples say from CD-ROMs and so on.

Kurdt:  Wow, they are both great players, and it's great to hear how the true players get their sounds. But I'm content with having fun with the tapes! (laugh)

Are there any plans to do a follow-up album with Presto?

Kurdt:  Absolutely yes, I'm writing most of the time anyway, but I'm going to sit back and see how Peace Among The Ruins does, and see if there is an audience for it, but another album to follow it would be so cool.

When you first started out in bands, it was like the thrash sort of music, and did you think you would be doing something like Presto?

Kurdt:  That's right, it was the first generation punk stuff like The Pistols what caught my eye back then, so my first bands were like the thrash metal and punk type styles, but as a little kid I grew up with The Beatles and the 60's pop. Then the prog of the early 70's when I was at school made a big impact, so it was like all the kids were buying Sex Pistols and stuff like that, I was too, but I hid the Rush, Kansas and YES albums between the punk albums I bought from my local record store (laugh) So Presto would happen one day, yes.

(laugh) Yes, I've been there too! So how would you describe Presto Ballet's music?

Kurdt:  A Retro-Progressive/Rock album, and not a modern Progressive album not say like The Flower Kings or Spocks Beard. I think today's music leaves me a little flat.

Do you think the 'Prog' scene is healthy these days and with bands like Van Der Graaf reforming, I think helps this statement.

Kurdt:  Van Der Graaf reformed? With Pete Hammill?

Yes, I see them in a few weeks time!

Kurdt:  Wow, that is great, I love their Pawn Hearts album, one of my favourites! But the scene is still there, and there will always be a space for prog I think in general, but how big it will get, I don't really know. If we continue to make good music then who knows?

Are there anymore projects that you are involved in?

Kurdt:  Well, besides Metal Church, Vanderhoof and Presto, no, too many there, (laugh) maybe space for one more (laugh) Metal Church


Kurdt:  No, I've been on the road a few months, and now I have some time to myself, I'll write another Metal Church album then see what happens then. I'll see what Inside Out want us to do also.

Inside Out have a few releases out, and some bands have nice sales such as Symphony X with many thousands, how do you think your album will do?

Kurdt:  I have no real idea, but as before, it is a new venture for me so we'll see.

If you could have been in a band from the 70's, who would have it had been.

Kurdt:  Rush without a doubt.

So with the Dream Theater thing, like prog meets metal, they broke the mould, what do you think will happen next?

Kurdt:  Dream Theater came along and re-wrote the rule book, and took prog to a new angle, they are just too damn good!

Yes, like in '95 when Spock's Beard first appeared, and it was like the new Gentle Giant had come around again.

Kurdt:  Spocks are great too, I was shocked when Neal Morse had left, but Nick has done a great job on vocals.

So Kurdt, to finish off how do you see the future of prog in general?

Kurdt:  Well, it up to the bands I think to keep it going, and if you see Pete Nicholls, I'd love to do a record with him! But in general, it has some great bands still around, and some new ones appearing, old ones reforming, so it's a cool thing to be in.

Well thanks for your time Kurdt, nice talking to you, and on behalf of Hairless Heart Herald, we wish you good luck and many sales with Presto Ballet.

Kurdt:  Thank-you to you too, and lets keep in touch for sure.

Danny Mayo



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