Lee Payne Interview

I had the pleasure of speaking to Lee Payne the founder of the legendary Cloven Hoof earlier today, to talk about a brand new project he’s been working on entitled East of Lyra. East of Lyra have a new album coming out later this year, and have a single entitled ‘Where The Heart Is,” which is out now. Read on to find out more:

1.    It’s been a while since we last spoke, how have things been? What’s been happening since we last spoke in 2017?

 Wow there has been so much happening to the band it is hard to list everything. The most important event In 2017 was we made the “Who Mourns for the Morning Star” album. It featured a new Anglo American line up comprised of George Call / Lead vocals, Danny White / Drums, Luke Hatton / Guitar, Chris Coss / Guitar and yours truly / bass. WMFTMS was a life changing record. The opus was incredibly well received by old and new fans alike getting 10 / 10 reviews.

It enabled Cloven Hoof to tour the USA for the first time as headliners coast to coast. We had to do back to back tours playing 70 dates at a time without a day off due to popular demand. It was real road warrior stuff.We played huge festivals like Sweden Rock and Bang your head in Germany. These were cool because Cloven Hoof appeared with bands like Black Sabbath, Alice cooper and Accept. It is always fantastic to meet your peers and hang out with the best musicians in metal.

In many ways we are in our golden period because we have played more shows worldwide and have gotten the best reviews of our career. The fans have stayed with us all these years because we value their support and respect them totally. They know we always give 100% and keep striving to get better with each release. The whole band love to hang out with the fans after the show and pose for photos with them. Cloven Hoof sign any autographs the fans require, we are nothing without them.The band just completed a new album called “Age of steel” and it is a total killer. Pure Steel records will be releasing it next year and we can’t wait for you to hear it. 

2.    Could you talk us through the thought process for East of Lyra, what made you want to explore the project now?

I have always had a duel passion for true Metal and Progressive rock all my life. When I was a kid my idols on Bass were Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) and Chris Squire (Yes) in equal measure. I suppose that duality has shaped my writing within Cloven Hoof to some extent that is why we were not just a straight forward metal band. Our power and aggression are metal but the music has epic time changes and lyrical depth that are associated with prog rock. “The Gates of Gehenna” song is the perfect example of this.

The song progression dispenses with the verse, chorus, verse chorus, solo then end chorus infinitum. Instead it is a series of musical movements that tell a story of someone selling there soul to the devil. I treat many songs like mini movie scenarios set within a heavy metal framework. It gives great depth to our compositions and someone called our music thinking men’s metal… I like that definition a lot!

That said when I got the opportunity to record a solo project I wanted to explore the prog rock idiom in further detail. it would be pointless to make a straight ahead metal album as Cloven Hoof fulfils all my heavy metal musical aspirations. 

3.    What sort of themes are you exploring on East of Lyra, and how does it differentiate from Cloven Hoof?

The progressive rock idiom gives us a blank canvas to paint on. Hoof’s style is now well defined and the bandwidth of metal has certain parameters that are established. To go beyond what the genre requires you are in danger of alienating fans, so Lyra being a whole new separate entity infuses us with a whole new creative freedom.

The concept album approach is the order of the day with East of Lyra and we can play a 22 minute track without fear of getting accused of being self-indulgent. The track “Siren Song,” is a work such as this and it will take up a whole side of the vinyl release. It deals with the story of the Marie Celeste and gives our imaginative take on explaining what happened to the entire ship’s crew who disappeared without a trace.Cloven Hoof has released concept albums of course like “Dominator” which focused on the dangers of genetic engineering. But it has a very heavy aggressive delivery. East of Lyra’s approach is multi layered and more pastoral at times.

There is greater light and shade to the various musical passages and there are some very strange time signatures inherent in our work. Lots of 7/8 and unorthodox soundscapes are explored. Like twin horns on the same goat Hoof and Lyra have similarities but the overall delivery is very different. Cloven Hoof are heavy metal to the bone and East of Lyra is an unashamed Progressive rock band. If you like Rush and Yes then check the album out, you will love it.  

4. Why did you choose “Where The Heart Is,” as the first single from the project?

The label thought the song best encapsulated East of Lyra’s overall direction. It was a short and dynamic track featuring some pretty cool playing. The chorus is immediate and catchy so that was why it was picked I guess. The track “High and Mighty,” was a contender too along with “Stand Up,”. It could have been any of those 3 to serve as a good taster to what the album will contain. I like the song a lot and it is so good to play in rehearsals, it keeps you on your toes.

5.  It’s mentioned on the site that “Starship Sentinel,” off of Cloven Hoof’s first EP was a prelude to the current work with East of Lyra, could you elaborate on that? 

The starting point for the progressive rock project was a Cloven Hoof song called “Starship Sentinel,” off the “Opening Ritual EP”. The first band line up were great fans of Rush as I was, so I decided to write a song influenced by Geddy, Alex and Neil but still keeping within the confines of our trademark sound. I knew the guys would love the track and it would lend contrast to the EP so we played it live on stage throughout our early years.

There was a great temptation to write further songs in this style but my vision for Cloven Hoof was to remain an out and out aggressive yet epic metal band. We were pioneers of power metal I guess due to our speed and complicated song structures.Over the years I had accumulated many song ideas that suited a prog rock band so I saved them till the opportunity presented itself. For the past few years I had been working in a studio back in England called vault studios. Chris Dando and Ben Fitzharris were the owners of the place and they were fantastic producers and engineers. All the recent Cloven Hoof albums were recorded there so I had a great relationship working with those guys.

Dando has a great voice and played keyboards like a genius so it got me thinking about the possibility of working on a prog rock band together. Ben played great guitar so we had the nucleus of a band there and then. A superb drummer called Mark Harris Bristow was recruited by Dando to join the band and he was a human metronome. Bristow was so good I had to get him to join Cloven Hoof also, now all we needed was a killer lead guitarist.

Ash Baker came highly recommended so we tried him out and he blew us all away with his soaring lead guitar and crunchy riffing style. Ash too impressed me so much that i knew he had to be in Cloven Hoof full time too. Mr Baker is amazing live and his stage craft and high energy performance wowed the audiences across the USA earlier this year. So there you have it… East of Lyra was born! We recorded the album over a 6 month period this year and we are all really proud of our debut opus.
I hit on the name “East of Lyra” through the song Cygnus off the Rush farewell to kings album. Rush fans will know the lyric line well…“I set a course just east of Lyra And northwest of Pegasus”.A grateful homage to the awesome band from my good self, I hope we will do them justice. 

6. Finally, where do you see East of Lyra heading? 

We hope to do a few live shows next year to fit around Cloven Hoof’s hectic touring and recording schedule. We have already agreed to do a charity show for Brian Mear and his worthy cause Mear fest. We will make our debut for him at a special prog rock festival he is organizing. Other shows are on the cards of course and various people are working on them to fit in with our busy diary. If people like the new album then there will be another Lyra album in the pipeline.

There is a wealth of material to draw on so we are confident we can release a few albums if the demand is there. I certainly hope so because the East of Lyra project is very exciting. If you like Rush, Genesis and Yes then check out the album in December because I am sure you are going to love it. 

Keep playing it Loud! Lee \m/

Watch the video for the first single from East of Lyra ‘Where The Heart Is,” below:

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