Archive for the 'history' Category

Mastermind: Insomnia – 5 years on

February 23rd, 2015 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,video

February 19th, 2015 marked the 5th anniversary of Mastermind’s 7th full length studio album release – Insomnia – featuring vocalist Tracy McShane’s album debut and Jens Johansson returning for his third outing with the Berends brothers progressive rock outfit. The darker, heavier sound is something of a departure from previous titles, but continues an evolution that began with the explosive instrumental fire of Excelsior, morphing into the female fronted symphonic prog-metal of Angels of the Apocalypse, and evolving yet further into something unusual and quite unique. This was a 21st Century Mastermind for sure, yet many elements of the Berends signature sound are still present and identifiable.

However, Insomnia almost never saw the light of day. After a long and arduous search for a suitable new label, the album was eventually released worldwide by Lion Music in Finland, run by Swedish guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson. Changes in personnel, changes in the record business, broadband internet, the global economy, all contributed to the delay. Most of the recording was done years earlier between 2002 and 2004 with two songs released as a preview on the Broken EP of 2005 along with several live tracks. Almost a full album in itself. The band gigged often during the early 21st Century building a receptive new audience on the live circuit, so a lot of the material road tested and gaining traction with new fans.



Some of the older prog fans didn’t really follow, but overall the album was well received and critically accepted (reviews) with many folks applauding a fresh new approach and some even calling it the best Mastermind album to date. Things being as they were, however, with departing members and frustrations with the business side of things, the band had ceased performing live by early 2007 and the album was released without proper live support even though the songs were being performed live during the preceding years.

It was never intended for this to be the last of Mastermind’s album output, but without finding suitable new players and no real support from the outside, Mastermind slipped into a coma of sorts and has been on indefinite hiatus since 2007. Bill and Rich continued to perform as The Berends Brothers Band and Bill Berends stepped out on his own with an instrumental solo album in 2012 and continues to create new music, some of which was – and yet may still be – destined to become Mastermind VIII. This my still happen at some point.

So it is somewhat with mixed emotion that we view things 5 years on. We made a good album that not enough people heard and it’s a shame we couldn’t manage to go out and support it live. For those who have listened and purchased a copy, we thank you for your support. Everyone else, get listening! As for the future… anything is possible.

Mastermind: Insomnia on CDBaby

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Mastermind III: Tragic Symphony 20th Anniversary

November 20th, 2014 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News

November 2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of Mastermind III: Tragic Symphony, the band’s third studio album. First released in Japan on Nov. 9th, 1994 on the Zero/EMI label, and a few months later in Europe, the USA, and Korea by various labels, Tragic Symphony was the first Mastermind album licensed and released worldwide, bringing the band to a much wider global audience. For many, this was their first introduction to Mastermind.

Twenty years ago today, on Nov. 20th, 1994, the original trio line up presented the premier live performance of the album in its entirety at ProgScape ’94 at Stephens Hall in Towson, MD to a receptive and enthusiastic audience. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this album a milestone in the history of Mastermind.

Home movie teaser of the Stephens Hall performance, 20 years ago today.




click for larger image

PS: The possibility of future lives shows is not out of the question, however, regarding the previous blog entry, the promoter was promising more than they could deliver and nothing came of it. Unfortunate, but never say never.

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911

September 11th, 2013 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News,video

September 11th, 2001… I will never forget that day. Ever. I was awakened by the sound of Tracy McShane screaming out of my answering machine “Billy, Billy!! Turn on the TV!!!” I turned it on just in time to watch the second plane slam into the south tower. No words can describe how I felt as I watched the towers collapse, live on TV. Absolute horror.

Much of the Insomnia album was written and recorded in the time between that fateful day and the “shock and awe” attack on Bahgdad which I also watched in horror, live on TV. The days that followed were very surreal and unsettling. I tried to put it out of my mind.

Listening to this music takes me right back to that time and in many ways I feel like I have ignored it because of that – still wanting to put it all of it out of my mind. For those who never made the connection – and surprisingly, not one single review ever did – that is why the twin beacons were included on the inner sleeve artwork. It was the zeitgeist, the dark shadow that malingered over everything. We went as a band to ground zero not long after the attack, saw the beacons, witnessed the destruction up close. It felt… personal.

Although this piece of music Last Cigarette wasn’t written specifically with 911 in mind, it was always in the back of my mind. Looking back, I think it probably best captures how I was feeling at the time and even though it’s been 12 years now, it’s still hard for me to listen to sometimes. Along with some other personal issues, it was a very difficult time. I didn’t want to deal with it and because of that, combined with dramatic changes in the music business, it took years to see the album released.  Insomnia almost never saw the light of day.

Musically speaking, this is my personal favorite on the album. The guitar solo-turn-duet with Jens Johansson’s brilliant counterpoint is probably my favorite musical moment. Looking back now with some objectivity, I still think we made a good, solid album. Life goes on.

-Bill Berends 9/11/13

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Video archives – Electric Factory with Joe Satriani

June 20th, 2013 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News,video

Some video from back before the digital revolution, a few clips from the Electric Factory concert in 1997 opening for Joe Satriani. The playlist should run thru all four videos for you.

More to come. Enjoy!

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June 2012 Update

June 20th, 2012 | Category: blogging,history,Mastermind,music,News

I can’t believe it’s been a full year since I’ve made any kind of commentary on the state of Mastermind. Since we haven’t been actively performing live I guess there isn’t much to talk about, but I do update things more frequently over on my personal web site. Please take a moment to visit and check the News link for the most recent updates on billberends.com

Our most recent Mastermind release Insomnia (2010) received a lot of nice reviews and we all thought it was a pretty good album! But with the state of the record business today combined with no live support, I don’t feel like it reached its potential. A shame really, because there is some nice stuff on it. If you still haven’t purchased a copy, I hope you will consider it. Visit the Mastermind store for details. Prices have recently been lowered as well.

2012 marks the 25th Anniversary (!) of the first Mastermind release Volume One and I would like to do something to commemorate the occasion. Twenty five years is a long time and although I am certainly not in the same headspace as when we first set out, I am still proud of these works. I still hear from fans all around the world and am extremely grateful and appreciative of their continued interest in what Mastermind produced. It is gratifying to know we reached so many people over the years. Thank you all.

Over the past 25 years there have been many changes: in personnel, in approach, in purpose. The saturation of the prog-rock market place. The never ending battle with other people calling themselves ‘mastermind’. You would think the internet and Google search didn’t exist in some parts of the world! But these morons severely diminished our ‘brand’ value in the market place. Unfortunately. Trying to accommodate other people in an effort to hold a band together. It is exhausting. But more significantly, changes with the music buying public in the 21st Century have made it extremely difficult to get ahead with recorded music which makes the challenge of presenting new original music all that much more difficult. All of these things have been contributing factors to our apparent disappearance.

Mastermind as a living, performing entity basically came to an end in 2007 after twenty years due to the loss of personnel. That was really the final blow in many ways, although we did go on to release another album in 2010. I just didn’t have the mental wherewithal to begin again from scratch. Combined with the geo-economic limitations of finding new players and difficulties getting the Insomnia album released properly, I needed to shift gears and step back from the situation. However, that doesn’t negate our past as if it never existed.

If someone were to approach us with an economically viable proposition I’m sure we could pick up and be rolling again in no time. Just putting that out there. But it isn’t something I have been actively pursuing for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is Rich simply doesn’t have the time these days, and going out and playing all the old tunes again doesn’t really appeal to me as much as creating something entirely new.

Having said all this, I haven’t stopped making music for one second. Rich and I went on a tangent for a few years playing classic rock locally as The Berends Brothers Band and it was good fun. For a while. It took me back to why I began playing music in the first place and concentrating solely on guitar has made me a better player I think. We can still do that at the drop of a hat… but after five years, once again I feel like it is time to move forward.

I have to admit I am pretty disappointed with some people who I thought were friends and supporters, deserting us simply because… what? Because we tried some new things? Adding something new to the equation doesn’t delete the whole formula. But that’s just the way it goes I suppose. We’ve also met many new, enthusiastic fans and friends over the past few years, so I guess it equals out. I’m sure we’ve confused a lot of people along the way.

This really isn’t a lament so much as reflecting, although there are some things I regret. Ultimately, I would much rather struggle with creation than be stuck regurgitating the past. Do that thing that you do. Giving recitals, essentially. Even if that creation doesn’t fit neatly into a prefab marketing niche. I guess that is my cross to bear for following the muse.

Wrapping up I will mention a few things in the works. My first “Bill Berends” solo album is nearly complete and I plan to get that out there this year sometime. I also have a vast wealth of new material in waiting as well as writing new music on a fairly consistent basis. I just need to work out a reliable method of presenting it without simply giving it away for free. I don’t accept the ‘new paradigm’ and refuse to do that. I’ve worked too long and too hard.

There IS some new music also, that is obviously meant to be new Mastermind material. Either a final chapter or a new beginning. Hard to say which at this point. We started demoing it a a while ago, but things kind of ground to a halt for various reasons. One way or another, I intend to see it completed. I also intend to at least present some of the archives before the end of the year to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Mastermind band. How things will pan out in the future remains to be seen, but I hope some of you will come along for the ride. Again, many thanks for your interest in my music and Mastermind.

Bill Berends

ps: drop us a line, leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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Rare track

June 16th, 2011 | Category: downloads,history,Mastermind,music,News,video

While recording a new Mastermind track exclusively for the upcoming Lion Music Japanese tsunami benefit album I was reminded of another track we recorded many moons ago. An instrumental entitled “Miles To Go Before I Sleep” exclusive to the 3rd Cyclops Records (UK) label sampler and never released anywhere else. It seems as relevant to us now as it did 15 years ago. Since it’s a youtube world, here’s a quick video to keep your eyes happy as well…


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9VhJWwHo8Q

We have now made this track available again for the first time since 1996 on our bandcamp download page… http://mastermind.bandcamp.com/track/miles-to-go-before-i-sleep

We hope you enjoy it and also hope you will check out the tsunami benefit album, primarily because it is a very worthy endeavor! But also because, much like this track, it is another exclusive instrumental piece we are quite pleased with and want you to hear. It might almost seem like these one-off recordings mark turning points in our musical direction… could be!

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Time sure flies…

May 10th, 2011 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here about Mastermind, so it’s time to catch up. We are pleased the Insomnia album received so many nice reviews! But reviews aren’t sales and we hope more of you will pick up a copy. It is a good modern sounding rock album with plenty of our old progressive tendencies mixed in. Some people think it is our best work, others think we strayed too far off our original path. Regardless, we think it’s a good and pretty unique sounding record, so we hope you’ll check it out at least. There are lots of sales links, or purchase direct, in the Mastermind store and, if you read some of the earlier blogs there are places online you can give it a listen (youtube *cough cough*) before purchasing.

In terms of live performance, we’ve still been playing together, Rich and I, just not under the Mastermind moniker. People wonder what has happened with the band and I suppose some explanation is required. It basically boils down to you can only do the same thing for so long. As the past few albums attest, we have been exploring different musical elements. That combined with the difficulties of finding and keeping good people to work with as a live band, it was just all too much really. As much as I really do enjoy a bulk of the music we’ve produced over the years, not all of it is something I want to play night after night even if we could get it together and, the female singer thing is not something I really want to continue with. At least not in the ‘frontman’ kind of capacity. It distracts from what it is I really want to do musically, regardless of how you feel it may or may not add to the band. So we fell into kind of a state of limbo with no clear direction. I am the first to admit… that sucks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if each Mastermind album is kind of a compositional opus, say something akin to a symphony or collection, then I’ve written some music that features a female voice. But I’ve written far more music that does not. So I beg your indulgence and hope our old fans will hang with us and new fans are not too upset. The core of Mastermind is, and always was, my compositions combined with Rich’s drumming style. Period. Anything and anyone else beyond that is subject to change at any time. So if you can wrap your head around that you’ll have a much better understanding of what it is we do. It’s always been like that, no matter how it may appear otherwise. OK, let’s move on…

As lots of folks know, especially locally, we’ve been performing as The Berends Brothers Band doing a variety of mostly old cover music that we simply enjoy playing. It gets us out, makes a little money, and more importantly, it has allowed me to explore different things to rediscover just what it is I loved about playing music in the first place. It’s made me a much better guitar player I think, and we’re exposing people, especially younger people, to music they probably have never heard performed live. Plus it’s a lot of fun to have the flexibility to play anything and switch up the repertoire at whim. So we’ve launched a new web site for that band which I’m sure will grow as time goes on: http://berendsbrosband.com

I’ve also been playing with G. Calvin Weston, a killer jazz drummer from Philadelphia in a band called Treasures of the Spirit performing a repertoire of music from The Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s been good for my chops and my journey of musical rediscovery. That kind of overlaps into what the Berends Bros Band is doing to some degree in that The Berends Bros reaches into fusion-like territory quite often within the context of the music that we play. Come out and see either band and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

In terms of Mastermind we’ve recently recorded some new music, just Rich and I, more in the vein of some of our older stuff and have contributed a brand new instrumental track to our label Lion Music’s Japanese Tsunami benefit album. I will post a separate entry about that right above this one. So do not despair, Mastermind isn’t finished yet, we just needed to reevaluate where we were and where we were headed. To some who were fans of the 2005 era line up this may be a disappointment, for others it could be considered a return to form. In any case new music is on the way and I am finally feeling somewhat inspired again.

So visit the schedule page on my website for upcoming shows. There is also a Bill Berends solo record in the works that musically speaking, probably falls somewhere in the middle of all this… a bit bluesy, a bit progressive, a bit hard rock. I think it’s good stuff and hope to see that released sometime this year. Otherwise, thanks again for your continued interest in Mastermind and if at all possible, if we can get it together, we will be back sooner or later!

Bill

billberends.com
berendsbrosband.com

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The Ride of the Valkyrie – Live In Tokyo

October 24th, 2009 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,video

This performance at Shibuya On Air West (Japan) became the Live In Tokyo album. Now after all this time you can actually see it! Hooray for the internets. More to come. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNpTAvjMdn4

Stop by youtube leave a comment and subscribe to our channel. Thanks!

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September Update 09.09.09

September 09th, 2009 | Category: history,internet,Mastermind,music,News

09/09/09! Wow, time sure flies… I haven’t blogged here in months. Probably because nothing concrete has been going on in the world of Mastermind the band, but lots of little things have happened over the last few months, so here are some quick updates…

We’ve got a new download page at bandcamp.com which is very user friendly. There you can listen (free) and download Mastermind in a variety of formats [mp3, VBR, ACC, Ogg, Flac, Apple Lossless] for just one low price. The URL is easy to recall: mastermind.bandcamp.com and 100% of your purchase price goes directly into our artist Paypal account which is nice.

There is also an option to pay whatever you’d like above the suggested price if you’d care to help fund future endeavors. We hope some of you choose that option! There are web widgets under the “Share” link so you can stream Mastermind tunes anywhere on the web. Very cool.

The complete Mastermind catalog is still at Mindawn and we’re pleased with them, but we want to reach more people – so check out mastermind.bandcamp.com – you’ll like it. We’ll have more titles online soon. The Broken EP is also now available as mp3 from Nimbit too, another site with a widget. Check that out on our digital download page.

Since we are without a record label a the moment, getting this online thing going is really our best shot at carrying on… so we do hope you choose to make a purchase! That’s the best way to show your support and improve the odds of us getting back on our feet again. Thanks.

Next up, I’ve started billberends.com in order to keep other music and personal rants out of the Mastermind legacy so to speak. Not much there now, but there will be. I have completed an instrumental guitar solo album as mentioned previously which I hope to release within my lifetime. If anyone would care to kick in a little funding to get things rolling, do get in touch!

I’ve also set up a blog to talk about guitars (and whatever) at billberends.blogspot.com and a new youtube channel for anything else comes that to mind at youtube.com/billberends so go have a peek. The first thing I did was a little shred video… I have some video ideas for the guitar album coming. It’s a youtube world.

There’s a new Mastermind Facebook page too. Facebook is the new Myspace it seems, so stop by and add yourself. Write something nice on our Wall there. Let us know you care!

Most significantly tho’ today – and I find this hard to believe myself – it’s been ten years to the day since we finished mixing Angels of the Apocalypse our last full studio release. I never expected that to be the last hurrah and still don’t feel like it was… we did finish another album, but never managed to get it released for a variety of reasons. The good news is someone has expressed an interest so there is hope it may eventually see the light of day. That would be great. Plus, we have begun recording new material as well.

Anyway… after all this time I am still amazed by the people that come out of the woodwork to express their appreciation for the music we’ve made over the years. Some are long time fans, others just discovering us, but it has been a steady flow. So I will never say never. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another ten years! Regardless of what the future holds, I thank you for your interest in Mastermind. Till next time…

-Bb

ps: a couple Berends Brothers Band gigs this month too. Hope to see you there!

[UPDATE: Mindawn went out of business without a word. Everything still works I think. -Bb]

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Mastermind classic video on Youtube

April 19th, 2009 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News,video

There are several new videos now playing on our Youtube channel. First up is classic Mastermind power trio footage from the 90’s… most people haven’t ever seen this material performed live so we figured we’d put it out there. Brainstorm is broken up into three parts (Youtube has a ten minute limit) so watch it via the Mastermind (classic) playlist and it plays the segments straight through in sequence.

The new playlists separate the various things we do so fans of the prog-rock stuff don’t have to wade thru the bluesy stuff and visa versa (tho’ we think it’s all good stuff). For fans of the ladies of Mastermind, more recent video will be up soon but we thought it would be nice to go back to the beginnings first. To see the new uploads just go right to the Mastermind (classic) playlist. Subscribe to our channel to be notified when new videos go online.

There is tons of this footage going back almost 20 years. Since it’s all analog video it isn’t quite digital quality but you’ll get the idea. Reminiscing how cool some of the the early material is, you can expect we’ll be doing some new stuff in a similar vein.

Let us know you enjoyed it, give us a few stars while you’re there!

More to come!

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