So how did this band get started? Well contrary to the popular belief that I had run out of excuse’s for not doing a solo album and had a $7000 limited edition Chris Squire 4001 Rickenbacker bass gathering dust. The true genesis for the East of Lyra project began back in 1982 with the Cloven Hoof song “Starship Sentinel”.
The original band members and I were heavily influenced by the amazing prog rock band Rush and so I decided to test myself and write a song, that had inflections of their style but still had enough of the classic Cloven Hoof trademark sound. We were delighted at how the track finished up and so I began writing songs in a similar vein.
Over time the band sound evolved into a hard aggressive uncompromising form of heavy metal . Sure the music still had epic time changes and prog rock sci fi storylines but there were certain parameters that the band could not go beyond. True heavy metal had great bandwidth but to explore greater light and shade of grandiose musical themes then a new band would have to emerge in order to keep the purists happy.
I always had a dual passion for both the Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock genres. Chris Squire from Yes was always my all time bass playing hero. Unorthodox time signatures and staggering musical passages of light and shade inherent of the music of Yes was inspirational. Black Sabbath of course were my heavy metal heroes so this duality of conflicting musical styles had always coloured my sonic landscape of taste.
In many ways Cloven Hoof could easily have mutated into what East of Lyra are today. Over the years I had amassed a wealth of ideas that I considered too prog rock sounding for Cloven Hoof so I kept them to be used at a later date. The time and band personnel had to be right in order to bring these archived songs to fruition.
Over the last few years I had been working with Chris Dando, who has a studio in the Heart of the West Midlands, UK. Chris was responsible for recording Cloven Hoof album tracks and I found him to be an outstanding musician and fantastic studio engineer. Chris’s work colleague Ben, was a fine multi instrumentalist and they were both a joy to work with. As a keyboard player and singer Dando was a nigh on genius and it was these qualities that got me thinking about the all out prog rock band idea.
I had the basis for a group right there and when Mark Bristow was used as a session drummer for hoof it all seemed to be coming together beautifully. Bristow was a human metronome and could play challenging time changes with ease. The missing piece of the jigsaw was to get an outstanding lead guitarist who could play with great passion and feel. Chris said he knew a guy who could fit the bill perfectly for Cloven Hoof so why not try him on the new project too?
This turned out to be Ash Baker. Ash really knew how to use the guitar to enhance a song perfectly. Not only that he turned out to be a fantastic showman on stage too. I found that out on an extensive Cloven Hoof USA tour where he really shone.
After we had demoed up enough songs for the new album I immediately contacted Paul Birch at FM Revolver Records, Cloven Hoof’s old record label. We had always had a fine relationship and he said that if I ever wanted to do a solo album then he would always be interested in having a listen.
We arranged a meeting and Paul introduced me to Calum Richardson the label Manager. They loved what they heard and we were offered a record deal on the spot. Not bad for a band that didn’t even have a name yet! Eventually I came up with the moniker East of Lyra and as Rush fans will know it is a line from their Cygnus X1 song my homage to Alex, Geddy and Neil.
So there you have it the story thus far. This project is more than a solo work because it features a fine band of musicians who have expanded on my initial musical ideas in their own inimitable style and we have made the songs our own.
East of Lyra is a testimony to 21st Century prog rock. Hope you like it because there are plenty more where that came from!
Lee Payne (…somewhere in England 2019.)