Prog's New Face

Deadwood Forest isn't your father's progressive rock band

Guidry founded the band in 1992 and writes most of the lyrics, while Mignano arranges most of the material. Going against the prog stereotype, Guidry does not write songs based on characters in Lord of the Rings, which he has never read. Rather, he pens literate, emotionally heavy tunes. For example, "O.C.D.," off Mellodramatic, is a description of his struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

On the other hand, "The Pioneer," the opening track, is a full-on Mellotron rocker, featuring "the most gratuitous thing we could do," Mignano says: flowery strings that swell, then drop off into Guidry's somber vocals as he strums an acoustic guitar. It's an instant hook. Although much of the album is distractedly reminiscent of Pink Floyd (circa The Wall, thanks in large part to Guidry's voice, which is a dead ringer for David Gilmour's), there are plenty of innovative perks of the 21st-century variety to be found: drum 'n' bass beats that break out in the middle of flute solos, Hammond organ tones that float alongside Robert Frippian noodlings and crazy percussive effects throughout that give the entire record some... hipness.

In 230 hours of recording with producer and underground neo-prog legend Mattias Olsson, whose former band Änglagård, from Sweden, is widely regarded as one of the superstars of '90s prog, Deadwood Forest tried to avoid as many clichés as possible. "We listened to a lot of Kraftwerk while recording," Olsson says, referring to the very non-progressive krautrock band. "Though you won't hear it." While still employing enough telltale prog devices -- or "booby traps," Mignano says -- to hook purists, the band avoided both irony and sincerity. "Sincerity is death," says Mignano.

Deadwood Forest (from left to right): Ryan Guidry, Mitch Mignano, Kurt Coburn and Andy McWilliams.
Tim Murray
Deadwood Forest (from left to right): Ryan Guidry, Mitch Mignano, Kurt Coburn and Andy McWilliams.

Deadwood Forest plans to start playing local gigs by the end of March. It has, according to Mignano, invested a lot of money in equipment, all in preparation for a tour that will also feature an obligatory light show. "Hopefully the [music] will be shocking or interesting enough for people to notice," Mignano says.

A large part of "prog life," as the band puts it, is buying stuff. Every portion of the band, from its stage show to its sound to its album cover art, matters. This fact is not lost on the members of Deadwood Forest. "Go to San Francisco and see the people who are stuck in the past," Mignano says, referring to ProgFest's typical crowd. No one he talked to had heard of Tortoise, yet these same people would buy "the third album by the brother of [ELP's] Keith Emerson's dog ... which sounded like crap."

Olsson says he doesn't think there is any prog movement afoot but admits there is "a grassroots network of people discovering similar passions for a type of music that falls into the 'prog' category." He believes there might be a new audience for prog because alternative rock is now mainstream, and fans are looking to connect with something less marketable and sound-bite-able.

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