Editor’s Note: Quite honestly, Into The Great Divide’s progressive rock/metal instrumental album has completely flipped the script on what progressive rock should be as Zack Zalon and Mike Mangini do an impeccable job of having fans of the technicalities of prog-rock salivate while restraining themselves to serve the song, which allows them to make an incredible masterpiece. They take the concepts of the classic “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell and completely conceptualize it into a masterpiece. Zack Zalon played multiple instruments on Into The Great Divide’s record, along with recruiting legendary drummer Mike Mangini of Dream Theater to allow Into The Great Divide to absolutely lay it down thick. Find Into The Great Divide at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Tell us about We See Dragons digital agency, I have read that you have helped out with several major companies such as National Geographic and Virgin! If you could give a quick plug, that would be great!
Zack: Sure, I’ve been building high profile digital products for over 20 years, and have been really fortunate to work with some of the biggest brands in the world on their digital initiatives. I ran Virgin Digital for about 7 years, and started We See Dragons with my team to help companies bring their digital product ideas to life. Overall, there’s not much difference between my ambitions in digital and my passion for music, they’re somewhat interchangeable, both of them focused on using creativity to help tell stories that people can connect to.
Madness To Creation: We reviewed Into The Great Divide as “the best progressive rock album of this decade”, not kidding you on that, what role did Joseph Campbell play into the conceptualization of this record?
Zack: That’s awesome! The Joseph Campbell narrative of The Hero’s Journey was really influential, it provided me a fantastic starting-point for the story I wanted to tell. I think there are common themes that connect us together as people, stories that feel like fundamental truths, and the Hero’s Journey is certainly one of those. It’s a story of a choice to take a bold step; a journey through the difficulties of such a choice; an example of failure; and then the use of that failure to build the strengths necessary to finally succeed. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, and it’s something truly universal. My goal was to find a way to build on that narrative, and to use it as the foundation of an instrumental concept album that would still have context and meaning for the listener. I hope I succeeded.
Madness To Creation: What did you learn from Mike Mangini in this record?
Zack: Well, for one I learned that he’s beyond the sickest drummer I’ve ever seen. He’s incredibly prepared and professional, he works as hard as anyone I’ve met and takes his playing very seriously. He’s the embodiment of the adage that practice makes perfect, and it’s really inspiring to see that in-action. But he’s also got this incredible attitude, he’s so confident but so humble too, and has such a gracious and inclusive sense of humor. He’s a true badass.
Madness To Creation: Favorite prog rock band and prog rock musician and why?
Zack: So hard to say. I guess my biggest prog influence would be Rush, but there are so many other artists that have influenced me over the years, many of them not prog at all. Kansas; Pink Floyd; Queen early on. Definitely early Priest and Maiden. But then there are guys like Steve Lukather and Dann Huff, they are literally the best alive at using guitar solos to tell stories inside of a song.
Madness To Creation: What goes into the writing process for a song? What inspires you to write?
Zack: I really enjoy composing, but for me I have to have something to actually write about, some underlying story to tell. I can’t just whip up a song, I have to know what the point is prior to sitting down, it’s just the way I process things. For the album, I had the entire narrative written out before I started writing any music, and with that I was able to build each track as a specific representation of what’s supposed to be happening in the narrative at that point.
Madness To Creation: What do you think you have to offer that some instrumental bands don’t quite offer?
Zack: That’s a hard question for me to answer. There are so many amazing instrumental artists around. But I’d certainly like Into The Great Divide to be known for creating stories inside and around the music, if there’s one unique area of ‘purpose’ for the music it would be around storytelling.
Madness To Creation: What are the plans to support this record?
Zack: Right now the goal is just to keep reaching out to new fans wherever possible, the response has been much bigger than I could have imagined, so I’m just going to continue to enjoy this part of the experience. But long-term the goal is to follow the record up with new manners of telling stories with music, and to connect with the fans in what I hope are creative and compelling new ways.
Madness To Creation: Message to the fans and favorite record of yours?
Zack: Message to the fans is: thank you so much for all of your support, it’s been amazing to see the response and hear about the impact the album has had. And favorite record? Impossible to limit to just one!
And there you have it! Please check out the song stream to “Tests & Enemies” below!
Fans can check it out on Spotify below!