dana portuguez

Band: The Pagan States

June, 2006

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While going through Myspace one day, I realized that they host a variety of talented bands. I found pages for the famous bands we all know and love, and for up and coming bands trying to get their music out there to the masses. It is a brilliant way to find talent you may never have come across otherwise. The Pagan States is one of these bands that you can definitely appreciate the first time you give them a listen.

The first song of theirs I listened to on Myspace was the psychedelic sounding “Pipe Dreams” which provides you with a trippy 60’sish listening experience. I found it to be a great song to listen to while just relaxing at home or just getting a little bit loose.

The second song by them “Skeleton” was my favorite of the three offered on the site. It has a very rockin’ beginning and emotional lyrics to go along with it. The melody of the song alone will draw you in.

The third song they put up for listeners is “Harshmellow”. The band puts an old school feel to their music which blends with their serene melodies and soothing vocals.

I had the priveledge of interviewing this very talented band for all of our readers. After reading about them, I urge you all to take a listen to their music. You won’t regret it!

PaganPages: Where are you guys from?

The Pagan States: By birth or by blood, we’re from all over the globe. Ireland, England, America, Germany, and Sweden are all represented in The Pagan States.

PaganPages: How many members are in your band? What are their names and can you tell us a little about each of them?

The Pagan States: We’ve got three levels to the involvement and creative process. We have the States, which are myself (Randal Prater), Gary Hunt (drums), and Peter Sawtell (guitar). Those are what you could call the core members, at least for this album. Then there are the Cities, which are Ben Thompson (cameo vox on two album tracks, plus he sings and plays guitar with us live) and Daniel Keiran (cameo vox on one album track). Finally, we have the Towns, which are Martin Adams (live vox and guitar) and Claudia Groom (live guitar).

To geek up the mix even more, the live set is split into two waves, Old Wave and New Wave. The first half of the set is the Old Wave, which is myself, Gary, Pete, and Ben. The New Wave (myself, Gary, Martin, and Claudia) takes the second half.

PaganPages: What brought you all together?

The Pagan States: I had a band/project called Creeping Myrtle (www.creepingmyrtle.com) that lasted about ten years. Gary and Pete were in the middle era of that band. After they left, I felt like the music was still valid, but the fun completely disappeared. So, I was happy when Myrtle ended for good. Then, after I had a nice diversion touring for a year with Graig Markel (www.graigmarkel.com) and Verses on Venus (www.veiledvision.com/v/) as their bass player, I decided three things: 1) I thought it would be a cool experiment to write a new batch of songs on bass instead of guitar. 2) I needed to sing for my supper again after being silent for a year. 3) I wanted to work with Pete and Gary again, but this time to include them in the writing process. Really, I wanted a second chance to start something new while keeping the creativity and the fun at equal levels.

So, we wrote and recorded a full album that way. Then we got Ben and Dan to come in and help us finish writing the final three songs on the table. They added some lyrics and vocals and gave the crayon box some colors that weren’t there before. Dan lives in Sacramento and has a bit o’ the ol’ stagey frighty. So, his involvement ended there. Ben is still in the live mix as we rehearse for the CD Release Show. We filled in the gaps with Martin and Claudia. Martin used to be in Laudanum, and Claudia was in My Diva and Juned. Gary and I both thought those three bands were the best Seattle had to offer in the 90s. We went to a bunch of their shows. So, to be working with two of our heroes for the live set is quite nice indeed.

PaganPages: How long has your band been around?

The Pagan States: We’re brand new. The debut CD will be coming out soon and the CD Release Show in Seattle will follow soon thereafter.

PaganPages: Are or have any members been in any other bands?

The Pagan States:We covered Creeping Myrtle, Laudanum, My Diva, and Juned. Gary used to be in Sahara. Pete used to be in Powder when he still lived in England. Ben and I used to be in The Weather with Daniel. Plus, we’ve all got current irons in other fires. The Pagan States is far from an exclusive club. There are other bands, projects, and madcap hi-jinks we dabble in. The prayers for teenage stardom ended miles ago. Writing a good song is the real buzz for us. It’s good to spread your wings and work with a variety of artists. It keeps the muse happy and healthy.

PaganPages: Pagan States is an interesting name, who came up with it? What is the concept behind the name?

The Pagan States: Thank you. I have to take credit for that one. After the last presidential election, it occurred to me that the pagan states, or the non-bible-belt states, were the only ones who voted for Kerry. One of those states was Washington State, where we’re based. Upon that realization, it dawned on me that The Pagan States would be a great band name for us. So, I immediately called Gary and Pete separately and asked what they thought of that moniker. Both of them said “Perfect.” So, that’s what we are.

PaganPages: Is there any main influence behind the bands sound? I noticed a Beatlesque quality to the music.

The Pagan States: The Beatles are a huge one for us. John Lennon is my all-time hero. We all have different tastes, so a lot of various things get tossed in the mix. We’ve also heard people say they detected a Pink Floyd and Joy Division influence, both of which would be accurate. I think it’s fair to say we cherry pick from our favorite parts of the 60s to the present day. We like great harmonies and wobbly guitars and stuff that compliments the ol’ silly smoke (wink wink).

PaganPages: Many bands have personal issues with each other due to being in close and constant contract with one another. Do you guys have any of these issues? How do you deal with them?

The Pagan States: Back in the Myrtle days, that answer may have been yes. I probably wasn’t a barrel o’ fun to be around back then. All the songs we were recording and performing were written by me. So, that couldn’t have been very rewarding for the others. But, we’re all older and slower, and I’ve learned to share in the creative process. So, I feel like everything is hunky dory now. We’re thick as thieves, and we can all be creative and have a good laugh at the same time.

PaganPages: What do you think the secret to keeping a good band together is, so that they do not end up like any of the great bands that have broken up? (ex..beatles)

The Pagan States: Well, one of the great bits o’ wisdom that comes with age is that everything has a beginning and an end. A birth, a death, and a natural cycle. The trick is to make it great while it lasts and never take anything for granted. We’re okay with the notion that someday this is going to end. So, with that level of comfort and understanding, maybe we’ll be the dog and pony show that lives forever – ha!

PaganPages: Is there any special “Rituals” the band does before going on stage?

The Pagan States: I’ll let you know after we play the CD Release Show. For me personally, a nice cup of Throat Coat tea so I don’t sing like a frog is a pretty good idea. Not a very “Rock n Roll” answer, I’m afraid.

PaganPages: Is a tour in the works?

The Pagan States: I doubt we’ll play too far out of our comfort zone. There was actually talk about only doing the one show and then calling it a day. But, I hope that we play out a bunch. Like I told the others, I’ll play as many gigs as you want me to in 2006. But, as far as recording goes, I’m pretty eager to start working on my own record. Really, we’re all a bunch of studio rats. I think I might like playing live a bit more than some of the others. I like a nice balance. A year of recording and then a year of playing shows. That’s my idea of a good time. Keeps the proverbial grass green.

PaganPages: Where can we get a CD or tour info?

The Pagan States: The first place to look should always be www.paganstates.com – but, that site is a work in progress. You can also get the CD from our label Doldrum (www.doldrum.com).

PaganPages: Does the band have any contact addresses for fans? or websites?

The Pagan States: Please direct your adoration to love@paganstates.com or check us out at MySpace (www.myspace.com/paganstates). We love praise, especially when it comes from someone other than our mothers. So, bring it on. Mope Rockers like us need all the lurve we can get!

The Pagan States were a pleasure to interview. Laid back and fun to chat with. Randal, you are a barrel o’ fun now and we love tea!! Brew us up a cup! We will be keeping an eye out for your tour in our area. We recommend, readers out there, that you do the same!

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author bio:

Dana Portuguez