Systems Theory is an internet project that started at the rec.music.progressive usenet newsgroup. It consists of Greg Amov, Steven Davies-Morris and Mike Dickson. The project performs a highly cinematic progressive-electronic / world music / prog-rock / fusion hybrid, welding high-tech modern electronica, dark ambience and acoustic ethnic styles with spacerock aggression, a dash of free-jazz exploration, and some old-fashioned symphonic-prog bombast. So this makes Systems Theory an odd "Indie / Avant / Experimental" band, though it could just as easily be classified as "Electronic", "Cinematic" or "World-Fusion".
The official project web-site is located at: http://systemstheory.net
Greg's solo soundclick page is at: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/8/gregamov.htm
Mike's Mellotron samples page is at: http://www.blackcat.demon.co.uk/tron/
Step back to spring 1977...somewhere in America there is a woman who insisted that Greg Amov should meet this fellow in her history class, one Steven Davies-Morris. She arranged this meeting one fine morning before the two gentlemen's respective 10 o'clock classes. At 9:32am in the Cafeteria of Grossmont Junior College, the two shook hands for the first time. Neither of them made it to their classes for the rest of the day. There simply was too much music that needed discussion. Thank you, dear lady, wherever you are!
"Usurper" - circa 1977.
The first incarnation of what is today Systems Theory. This band was hard-edged rock a la Wishbone Ash and UFO, with Kansas-ish prog-rock aspirations. Greg felt a little left out, simply because there wasn't a lot in the way of "power chords" that he could play on his violin, but he adapted, adding guitar and synth to his arsenal.
"Cerberus" - circa 1977 to 1978
The second incarnation, evolving out of "Usurper", formed by Steven and Mark Dittman. Steven and Greg began the song writing collaboration which has continued up until today. There was less emphasis on cover tunes, and those that were in the repertoire were pretty cool FM-rock a la Rush, Styx, Yes, Jethro Tull, Argent, Procol Harum, etc.
This was also the first attempt they made to record tracks for an album. Several weekends, and one week-long recording session at a house in Lemon Grove produced a set of master tapes (now lost) with the first incarnations of "Spanish Sketch" and "The Witch" among others.
"Silent Watcher" - circa 1979
After the splintering of Cerberus, Steven had joined a new 100% progressive rock outfit. Disagreements over musical direction [stupid now, in hindsight] led to this splitting into two units, one of which kept the name Silent Watcher, and the very cool band t-shirts with a Bogart-like character smoking a cigarette. The final incarnation of this band, before Greg left to get his music degree at Cal State Northridge, saw Greg guesting on violin. Some recordings were made, but what happened to the tapes is anyone's guess. (hello, dumpster...)
During this time Steven was introduced to computers, being successfully prodded by Greg's Dad into thinking about programming as a career. This shaped the employment directions of both Steven and Greg, as well as ultimately influencing the name of their current collaborative incarnation.
During this period, the ambitious boys attempted to finance their progressive rock projects by writing a set of pop-music tunes for the then very hot Kristy and Jimmy McNichol. Steven disavows all knowledge of such classic works as "Three Wishes" and "Five And Dime Lovesong", but Greg still has the original handwritten lead sheets and threatens to bring them out into daylight.
"Systems Theory" - 1984/1985
Greg was back from college, broke, and like every true music major, essentially unemployable. Steven had finished a two-year computer-science degree and was working as a programmer. For Christmas 1984 he gave Greg photocopied manuals from a Pick operating system computer (Microdata Reality 3.2B) and told him to read them as many times as was necessary to join him in his new line of work. Some 15 years later, both of them are professionals in the Pick/multi-valued database arena. In 1985 Steven decided that the time had come to put aside the music aspirations, leaving Greg to continue writing new-age/ambient music for direct to video VHS projects.
"Systems Theory" - 1997 though today
The discovery by Steven of PC based music tools led to his decision to begin composing again, after helping friends in Under The Sun work on their own demos. Once he had a few (mostly bad) pieces written, he approached Greg about resurrecting Systems Theory as more than just an idea. It took two years, but Greg eventually got on board with the program.
Not even a two man project is an island: the chaps enjoy the assistance and support of various other excellent musicians in the Los Angeles/Orange County areas of Southern California, and all the way across the states...even as far afield as the UK. Mike Dickson, Mellotron and Hammond maestro in Edinburgh, joined up in 1999, first as a sideman, but later as an equal member. His contributions have been invaluable in shaping the Systems Theory sound. This trio is the core of the Systems Theory project.
In addition, Greg's wife, Diane, has provided flute for a few tracks, and flute samples that have been programmed into compositions by Steven. Paul Beecham (ex-bassist of Thieves Kitchen) and Kurt Barabas (bassist of Under The Sun) have recently provided bass samples used in newer compositions. Violin teacher Cyndee Lee Rule has appeared on two tracks for the debut album. Brian Daly and Dun Strummin have provided guitar work for a couple of tunes. Michael Futreal of The Offramps provided dulcimer for one tune.
No. We get asked this all the time. We're an internet project with members in the US and the UK. That's not likely to change in the forseeable future. It's a bit hard to rehearse with the North Atlantic Ocean in between!
Draw a hexagon and put these names on each side: King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Can, Jade Warrior, Mike Oldfield, David Torn. Inside the lines put 20th century classical, free-jazz, spacerock and world-beat. The fusion of these reference points, with the "inside the box" labels as added texture, might give you an idea of the music produced by the synthesis of Greg, Mike and Steven's ideas. We are a "fusion" project, and we understand how hard that makes us to categorize (and market). But it also allows us to create a very interesting musical hybrid where the lines blur between genres, producing avant-space-jazz, ambient-metal-improv and world-noise-prog, etc.
Mike owns a Mellotron M400, a Hammond T500, and various cheap synths (Casio mostly). All tron and organ voices are real as opposed to digital emulations (which vary from OK to fairly useless). He also uses a PC with various soft-synths and ACID Pro. Mike is eyeing (as always) more Mellotron tape frames.
Greg owns a MaGa 5 string electric violin, a no-name mandolin, a no-name electric guitar, a Rhodes 73, a Roland XP30, a Korg 61 polysnth and an Ebow. He also uses a PC with various soft-synths, Cubase and ACID Pro. He is eyeing a Fender Stratocaster.
Steven has currently sold off all his equipment except for his Roland rack keyboard module, a cheap Casio keyboard, a no-name acoustic guitar and a no-name electric guitar. He also uses a PC with various soft-synths and ACID Pro. He is eyeing a Carvin electric guitar, a Carvin bass and a Martin acoustic guitar.
For those interested the running order for the officially released demos sets (given away over the internet; promoted via usenet newsgroups) are as follows:
1) Under Oriental Skies
2) Breakdance In Hell
3) Where Titans Sleep
4) Strange Obsession
5) The Boy Who Gazed At Stars
1) Silent Service
2) One Step To Freefall
3) Serengeti Surprise
4) The Cool Vibe Of Asia C.
5) The Reluctant Plumber
6) Red Sun Fading
Burn these with 0 seconds gap between songs.
The "first look" tunes are in-progress works, pieces being considered for the 2nd album. These are "candidates", so feedback about them in of great interest to us. Currently posted to soundclick that might be on the 2nd album are eight demos:
All Night Bender
Car Crash Messiah
East Of Trincomalee
No Deli In Delhi
From the original demos sets, we'll probably include these tunes on the 2nd album (along with a couple of pieces not posted to soundclick):
Red Sun Fading
The Reluctant Plumber
There are other finished tunes in the can, but we'll sit on them -- keep our cards close to the chest -- until we decide to put them up here as part of the "first look" approach. Two of them will almost certainly make the 2nd album, so we'll have to reject quite a few of the current crop of "candidates", placing them into a potential pool for a 3rd album.