Search
Close this search box.

share

An Exclusive Interview with Jonathan Mover, ProgJect’s Dynamic Drummer

ProgJect

I had the immense pleasure of engaging in conversation with none other than Jonathan Mover, the mastermind drummer behind the sensational ProgJect. This unique supergroup is not just a band; it’s a gathering of some of the finest talents in the music industry, with member portfolios that read like a Who’s Who of legendary acts including Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Asia Alice Cooper, GTR, Steve Vai, Edgar Winter, Spock’s Beard, The Tubes, Zappa Plays Zappa, and Marillion, to name a few.

The current lineup, featuring stellar artists like Mike Keneally, Ryo Okumoto, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Pete Griffin, along with Jonathan Mover himself, has made waves by announcing an exciting run of tour dates across the US and Canada in June of 2024. ProgJect is poised to take audiences on an epic journey through the classics and epics of the giants of progressive rock – Genesis, YES, King Crimson, and ELP, while also tipping their hats to the likes of Gentle Giant, Rush, Pink First, U.K., Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel, and more.

Adding to this remarkable tour, prog legend Bill Bruford, celebrated for his work with Yes, King Crimson, U.K., and Genesis, along with Anil Prasad of Innerviews, will grace the stage for the final two shows in NYC and Glenside, PA. These special nights will feature “In Conversation with Bill Bruford,” providing insightful discussions about his illustrious career, followed by an autograph and photograph session. For the remainder of the shows, guitarist Travis Larson will set the stage for what promises to be an unforgettable experience.

As we sit down with Jonathan Mover, we’re eager to peel back the layers of this extraordinary project, uncover the inspirations behind this gathering of prodigious talent, and glimpse into the future of ProgJect. Stay tuned as we dive deep into the rhythm and mind of one of progressive rock’s most celebrated figures.

LotsOfMuzik: Jonathan, welcome to LotsOfMuzik, how are you?

Jonathan: Thank you. Yeah, it’s a pleasure to be here. We’re good. Where are you located?

LotsOfMuzik: I’m in Venezuela right now.

Jonathan: Ah, fantastic. Okay. it’s been many years since I’ve been there. Yeah, things are good. We’re just taking a break from rehearsals, getting ready to start next week in Chicago. And very excited to get out there and play again with a slightly new lineup and some really great new material.

LotsOfMuzik: Fantastic. I imagine you’ve fielded this question numerous times, but I’m intrigued: What’s the tale behind the creation of this band and? What inspired you to bring the concept to fruition?

Jonathan: It was really this, I got a last minute call to go on tour a few years ago with the Genesis Tribute Band, The Musical Box. And I wasn’t very familiar, but they had some drummer problems just a visa issue, and they called me on a Tuesday evening and asked me if I could tour with them if I was interested. And I said, yeah, sure. You know, send me the schedule, send me the set list, let me look at it and, you know, I’ll give you a call. And he said, the first day is tomorrow. So, I flew across the country, no rehearsals. I knew most of the material from my childhood, but of course, you know, they had different arrangements. But, you know, I’ll tell you, we got on stage and in the first 30 seconds of playing that material, the joy from my childhood and the fire that was in me for playing prog when I was a teenager, it came back immediately. And, you know, even though I was only filling in for a couple of weeks until their drummer got his visa, playing with them every night was just such a joy. And, you know, going over that material and playing that material that, I dreamed of playing when I was a child. It was like in the snap of a finger. I was 15 years old again in the basement with headphones on, practicing and dreaming of playing the part of Chester Thompson. And so, after a couple of weeks, their drummer came through and I found myself back in Los Angeles saying that was just too much fun, and too much of what I wanted to do 40 years ago that I kind of forgot about. You know, I’ve had a wonderful career, a very blessed career, and I’m not putting down, playing with Joe Satriani and Aretha Franklin and Alice Cooper and, and Fuel. It’s been wonderful. But when I found myself on stage playing, you know Back in New York City or Robbery, Assault and Battery, I was like, oh my God, I remembered all over again the real reason why I loved playing drums from the beginning. So I got back to Los Angeles and I said, I have to find a way that I can continue doing this, but I didn’t wanna play in a tribute band for one artist, and I didn’t want to go down the road of what most tribute bands do, which is fine. You know, they dress like the artist and they play the same equipment and they learn the same drum fills and everything. I wanted to just pay tribute to an entire genre and play it with pro musicians that we could give it our own spin and kind of take it down the road that we wanted to. And so that’s how it came about. And I was new to Los Angeles at the time, and I didn’t know a lot of the people, so I called a couple of friends and I just said you know, this is my idea. And do you know anybody from the “keyboard world” and “guitar world” and “bass world that, you know, might be interested, that have a prog background? And the first person that was mentioned to me was Ryo. And I gave it, we actually bumped into each other, but he was ready to do it immediately. And, you know, once I had that in place, everything else was pretty easy. But that was the idea. It was after, you know, at 57 years old playing music that made me feel 15 again and reminded me about how much I loved it. And that’s what did it.

LotsOfMuzik:  I was about to ask you about how did you the selection process of the band members and how that came to be.

Jonathan: Well, my friend had recommended Ryo. And the crazy thing about this how I believe this was just meant to happen. Look, I was going out to see Brand X that night because I had played with Percy Jones many years ago. And the friend of mine that I was with, we were having dinner, and I told him about everything, and I said, you know, do you know any keyboard players? And he said, oh, I played a gig with Ryo Okumoto a few months ago. Do you know him? And I said, no, I wasn’t familiar with him. And he sent Ryo a text and he said, you know, I’m having dinner with Jonathan Mover. He wants to put together a prog tribute band to play Genesis, ELP, Crimson, U.K. Are you interested? And Ryo wrote back right away, yes, I want to do it. Tell him he found his keyboard player. So we finished dinner and we walked across the street to the venue, and when we got in line, who’s standing in front of me, Ryo. So it was meant to be. After I had Ryo, the first person I called for guitar, actually was a great friend of mine, a great player who plays for Saigon Kick. His name is Jason Beeler. And although he’s known more for, you know, heavier rock, he’s a monster player and a singer. So I called Jason and he said, I have no idea like what odd time signatures are, and I never listened to this stuff growing up, but I love playing with you, so I’ll do it. Send me some material. So Jason came on, and then I had asked a friend of mine from the east coast who’s really into prog, you know, is there anybody you can think of for vocals or bass? And he recommended Matt Dorsey and Michael Sadler, and I just called each one, and they both said yes right away. So we all met up in Los Angeles at my facility, because I used to have a big production place with sound stages and film stages and recording studios, and we started putting it together, and it was pretty immediate. And then Covid hit and time went by and things changed. Jason‘s from the East Coast, and he got busy playing with Jeff Scott Soto, which is another gig he has. And we auditioned a few people. I made a few calls, and miraculously Mike Keneally loved the idea and wanted to do it, and he came in and took it, and it was just magical. So we went out and did, yeah, that’s how it all came together.

LotsOfMuzik: That’s so cool, Jonathan, and in drafting the set list, how were the songs chosen?

Jonathan: You know, honestly it’s not a dictatorship, but I just basically put together a list of all of my favorite songs that I always wanted to play that I thought the audience would love. And aside from some of them being complete, some of them are also medleys that I put together because I wanna play so many songs, but there’s only so much time in the evening. So, you know, we have a Crimson Medley, and we do some Crimson, we have some Yes. Stuff we put together Genesis, Bruford, U.K. It’s all stuff that I’ve just always wanted to play, and I’ve yet to have anybody in the band say, we don’t want to do it. They’re all very excited about it, and they love the challenge. And that’s pretty much how it comes about. And it’s only because I love all of this music, and I wanna play so much of it. If it was up to me, we’d play a five hour show, but as it is right now, we play almost two and a half hours <laugh>, and it goes by like that, but, you know, the venues and everybody have deadlines and curfews, so, you know, we have to finish usually by 11 o’clock at night. So two and a half hours is about as the max that we can do right now. Mm.

LotsOfMuzik: You mentioned earlier that you were rehearsing and paused to do the interview, can you share any particular hurdles that the band faced during the rehearsals and how you overcame them?

Jonathan: You know, that’s an interesting question because I’ve been asked that many times also. What’s the most difficult thing to play? You know, technically I can happily say what these guys that I’m playing with, nothing is too difficult to play. The most difficult things or what takes the most work is the vocals, because we’re trying to do two-, three- and four-part harmonies sometimes just like the bands and trying to do the vocals in Gentle Giant. I mean, those guys were unbelievable musicians. They were also incredible vocalists. You know, the most difficult thing is unlearning and relearning something that you’ve been listening to for 40 or 50 years. So for example we have a Bruford medley, so there are five of my favorite Bruford songs all put together. It’s: Hell’s Bell, The Abingdon Chasp, the Age of Information, the Sahara of Snow, and Lands’ End. So all the guys in the band know those five songs, but they know those five songs for the last 30 or 40 years, the way they heard them. I put them all into Pro Tools and I chopped them up, and I put ’em together, and we’ve got some metric modulation, so one goes into the other very smoothly because they’re at different tempos. And so everybody has to forget what they’ve known for the past 40 years, and now they have to listen to it brand new and remember the changes. So I think that’s probably the most difficult thing, is to unlearn and relearn something that’s been so familiar for so long. But they’re great. I mean, we’re all having such a fun time doing it, and the audience loves it because they’re expecting something and they get something completely different, and it’s like, oh my God, I remember this. And then, oh my God, they went into that. So I think that’s probably that’s the biggest challenge, learning the material in a new way.

LotsOfMuzik: Given the diverse tastes of prog rock fans, what strategies do you use during performances to ensure the setlist resonates with and engages your entire audience?

Jonathan: You know, there’s no strategy other than playing what we’re playing and how we’re playing it in the sense of we’re doing, we’re playing everything. We don’t have backing tracks. We don’t have you know, any tricks or anything like that. We’re all playing all the instruments, and we’re just putting it together in sections so that, we hit them hard for 30 minutes, and then we let them breathe a little bit, and then we do something else. But there’s no real set strategy other than… the way that I think about it is we have what I call the Big Four. And the big four are Genesis, Yes. King Crimson, ELP. So they are about half of the set, and then the other half of the set is a mixture of all other stuff that we wanna play that is not secondary, but not as big as the Big Four, for example Gentle Giant, U.K, Kansas, Rush, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel. Last tour, we did some really crazy American Prog that a lot of people didn’t know about. So, we put together a medley that had The Tubes and Utopia with Todd Rundgren, Crack the Sky, Happy the Man. So, I don’t think that there’s any particular strategy other than, you know, we’re just presenting what we wanna play, how we wanna play it, and the audience seems to love it, so we’re not really thinking about it in any other way. The only thing that we haven’t done yet, which we will do for next year, is a full light show, you know, to get the band up and running. You know, because we’ve changed some people around. We’ve modified the set; we’ve got some new equipment. Now that we’ve really all come together, especially with Alessandro Del Vecchio as the full-time lead singer, it’s time to focus on the strategy of the visuals. So that’s going to be the next step and probably the last step the missing piece to the puzzle, you might say. And that’s what we’re gonna be working on next. And I think with the visuals next year, it’ll be ten times better.

LotsOfMuzik: That’s great to hear. Given the expertise everyone brings to the table, is there any insight or lesson you’ve gained from collaborating with such accomplished musicians?

Jonathan: Oh, I think I learned something from everybody, and I think hopefully everybody learns from each other. You know, you learn how to learn, find the right balance between interpretation and the integrity of the original, and then how to present it best. And what I really love about playing with this caliber of musician is it makes me play, that much better. I think everybody is looking around saying, wow, I mean, look at the guys I’m playing with. We all must be at this level. And so I think that’s it. It’s a combination of bringing everything together and finding out what works best. Because, you know, even with the bands that we’re playing, what was recorded in the studio and how it comes off live can be two very different things. And it’s the same for us because there’s lots of things that they did in the studio that sound incredible, but there’s overdubs or there’s a million notes, and you have to really keep everything contained. So I think we’ve all worked together and we’re all working together very well to make sure that everybody’s parts, you know layer inside and work well with each other. And yeah, I mean, it’s all about finding a cohesiveness so that everybody sounds great as a whole, but everybody also shines individually. And I think that’s what’s so cool about this is because we’re playing so much material from so many different artists. We all get to shine in different ways. And yeah. It is a lot of fun, man. I mean, it’s <laugh>, you know, wiping the smile off of our faces every night that we’re playing. And that’s what we hear from every audience, we play to so many people after the show that we’ve never seen somebody smile so much because it’s just so much fun. This music is amazing. And we all grew up dreaming of playing it one day, but by the time we all started playing professionally, a lot of this music was over. You know, I mean, even though Genesis and Yes. And everybody continued, there’s a big difference between what Genesis was doing in 1973 and 1974 than what they were doing in 1983 and 1984. So it’s great. It’s so much fun.

LotsOfMuzik: How do you decide when it’s time to refresh the setlist, and what factors contribute to adding or removing songs from the performance roster?

Jonathan: You know, every time we go out, we refresh it a bit. And it’s really difficult to choose not what to play, what not to play, because, you know, It’s hard. It really is. And we would… I was talking to Keneally about this a couple of days ago that I think next year because we’re gonna be playing even more in the States and internationally, I think we might start to do different sets throughout the whole tour so that we’re always playing all one night in Chicago, we’ll play one set, and then the next night in St. Louis, we might play half of the same set and then different tunes for the other part. Because there’s just so much great material to play. It’s, it’s difficult to decide what we’re not going to play, honestly.

LotsOfMuzik: And reflecting on your career, how does the concept and reality of ProgJect resonate with your artistic journey?

Jonathan: I’m really happy with doing this now because it’s like, I’ve come full circle. This is what I started out with, and, if this is what I end with for the next five or 10 years, I’ll be very happy. You know, like I said before and this can come off sounding disgruntled, but I don’t want it to sound, bad or negative. I’ve had a great career. I have no complaints. I’m very happy with the people that I’ve played with and the records and the tours that I’ve done. But in all honesty, in the last 10 to 15 years of everybody having a Pro Tools rig in their computer at home and everybody thinking that they’re an engineer and a producer, and a mixer and a composer, the great sessions that I’ve played on, are becoming less and less, you know? I’ve done some good recordings, but I also have people reach out to me saying, will you play on my record? And I say, send me the material, let me hear it. And then I hear the material. And either the material is not that great, or the recording of it, and the process of them putting it together is not that great. And I have… there’s nothing worse than spending a lot of time on great sounding drum tracks or very creative drum tracks that I’m happy with. And then I upload it to somebody. Because everything now is done by the internet, and I hear the records six months later and they either change the parts and my drum parts don’t work the same way, or the drum mix sounds terrible, or they mix it themselves and it doesn’t sound like a real record. So, you know, being able to do this right now is really great because I’m full-time playing the music that I love in a way that I love it with a band of extraordinary musicians that I love. And that is better than going into the studio right now and playing on something that doesn’t thrill me anymore. I’ll always drum on somebody’s record if I know it’s going to be a good result. And I like the music and I like the person and the other musicians, but it doesn’t happen as often as it used to. So I’m really happy to be doing ProgJect at this time in my life because the period of 20 or 30 years that I had of doing all these great records with Fuel and Satriani and Franklin and Shakira and all of those sessions, it just doesn’t happen that much anymore for me. And so this is a joy, this brings back a lot of pleasure to drumming again that I wasn’t getting out of just playing on some records that did not move me musically or, you know, emotionally.

LotsOfMuzik: Looking ahead, does ProgJect have, have plans to explore creating and performing original work?

Jonathan: You know, that’s another question that gets asked all the time. I think it’s possible. The only thing is I would not want to detract or take away from the concept of ProgJect, which is, paying homage to all of these bands and musicians and songs that we love. 

LotsOfMuzik:  Maybe incorporating one original song here and there.

Jonathan: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s what I’ve thought. Maybe we’ll try a song and see how it goes, but, it would be strange, not difficult, but it would be strange to do, let’s say a whole record of 45 minutes of material, and then what do we do when we tour, you know? So yeah, maybe one song a year or something like that when we’ve got some time to work up something new that might be fun. Yeah. I’ve been thinking about it, and there’s no shortage of ideas and there’s certainly no shortage of talent. We would just need the time to put into it, to see what develops. Because right now everybody’s off doing their own things, but then we’re on, there’s time to tour, we get together for a week, and then we’re rehearsed, we get ready, we go play, and then when we finish, everybody goes and does their own things. So we would have to take the time to be able to map out, let’s see how this goes and, and let’s see how a song develops. And yeah, I would say there’s a good possibility of something like that happening within the next year or so.

LotsOfMuzik: The tour kicks off next week and runs through the end of the month. Are there any discussions about extending the tour with additional dates?

Jonathan: Yes. so this first little tour that we’re doing, which is just a couple of weeks, was really to get the visa and the immigration status for Alessandro Del Vecchio to come over and be okay. So we got his multi-year visa. We’re good. So we do this leg, and then we go to the UK and Europe for the month of September, and then late October into November, we’re back here in the States doing a little bit of Midwest and mostly West Coast, and that’ll be it for the year. But next year we have a lot more in the States and Canada and, and more internationally. You know, we’ve been contacted by a couple of central and South American agents about doing dates and Australia and Japan also. But that would be next year. Yeah.

LotsOfMuzik: Awesome. Hopefully something near Venezuela, so I can attend <laugh>.

Jonathan: Yeah, that would be great. Absolutely. 

LotsOfMuzik: Prog rock is known not just for its musical complexity but also for its visual stage presentations. How will ProgJect incorporate visual elements into the live performances?

Jonathan: That’s what I was mentioning before is now that it took a few years to come together you know and find the guys that are in it right now, that, in my opinion, is the best formation we’ve had. And we can expand the repertoire with Alessandro because he is got such a wide range of vocal ability. We didn’t have that before. So now that musically we’re solid with everything that we want to do, it’s time to work on the visual. So yes, for next year, we have a lot of ideas of special effects with video screen and some things that’ll happen on stage with us that will be hopefully as intricate as the music that we’re playing.

LotsOfMuzik: Have you considered adding a live streaming component for fans unable to attend the shows in person, perhaps in future legs of the tour?

Jonathan: We do want to record audio and video at some point this year, that we can at least put together maybe a DVD/BR or a downloadable, you know, something like that. The live streaming thing is interesting, but, you know, it hasn’t taken off for anybody. You know, unfortunately, to put my business hat on, livestream loses money. People just don’t wanna pay to watch a video concert when they can watch YouTube for free. So, you’re better off, you know filming with five or six or seven cameras with a nice audio mix and then putting something together and releasing that. So we’ll definitely be doing that. But if we end up in the right venue that offers live streaming, and it wasn’t something that we would be putting together as a production on our own, we’d be open to doing it. But I know through Covid, everybody tried to live stream and it did not work. You know, there’s just no money in it. People don’t wanna pay.

LotsOfMuzik: I am a fellow drummer and enthusiast, I was wondering, do you have any plans to offer online lessons or tutorials?

Jonathan: You know, I used to do more teaching years ago. But aside from drumming, I’ve also had a very busy business career. I owned one of New York’s biggest recording studios for almost 20 years. And then I started Drumhead Magazine, which was also full-time. And then I moved my studio to Los Angeles about seven years ago, and opened up this big facility out here, which incorporated film and video and audio and everything. So I’m not doing that anymore because I finished the lease and now I just wanna concentrate on ProgJect. But if I find myself in a situation where I’ve got some more time, then yes, I will go back to it. ’cause I do enjoy that. And I’ve got a lot of people that ask about it. But the last two or three years coming out of Covid and getting ProgJect up and running has been beyond full time. So I haven’t had any extra time, but I would like to again. Yes.

LotsOfMuzik: I understand. And lastly, Jonathan, looking beyond the tour, what are the plans for you and the band?

Jonathan: Just to keep on doing it really, you know, we all love what we’re doing and we all love the music, and we get along really well. Everybody just wants to keep on playing. And, you know, if we can, in all seriousness, if we can get a good seven to ten years of touring every single year for maybe the next decade, we all want to do it. So as long as the audience is out there, we’re gonna be playing for them.

LotsOfMuzik:

That sounds great. Any last words that you want to share?

Jonathan: A big thank you for allowing us the opportunity to play this music that we love so much. And as long as we know that people are out there, we’ll come out and find you. So, we hope to see you out there, you without you guys there’s nothing for us to do. So it’s all about playing live, and it’s all about the experience of sharing that with everybody. And it has just been amazing. So, we really hope wherever you are, that will be able to come out and you’ll be able to come and see us because that’s gonna keep us going.

LotsOfMuzik: Excellent. Thank you very much Jonathan for your time. And I hope to see you soon on the road, and I appreciate your time.

Jonathan: Yeah, same here. Definitely keep in touch and hopefully next year we’ll be in Venezuela and many other places in the world, so we’ll meet up in person. We look forward to it.

LotsOfMuzik: Great. Sounds good. Alright, man. Take care

Jonathan: Thank you. Bye-Bye.

LotsOfMuzik: Bye-Bye.

Get your tickets to the show here: https://www.progject.com/main/#tour

ProgJect flyer

ProgJect’s two-plus hour show includes: “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, “Firth Of Fifth”, “The Cinema Show”, “Larks Tongues In Aspic, Pts I & II”, “21st Century Schizoid Man”, “Roundabout”, “Siberian Khatru”, “Karn Evil 9: First Impression”, Have A Cigar”, “Money“, “In The Dead Of Night”, “Alaska”, “Closer To The Heart”, “Red Barchetta”, “Solsbury Hill”, “D.I.Y.”, “Aqualung”, “Locomotive Breath”, “Cogs In Cogs”, “Hell’s Bells” and more…

Tour Dates
*6/20/24    Chicago, IL  –  Reggies   
*6/21/24    Hamilton, ON  –  Bridgeworks   
*6/22/24    Quebec, QC  –  Salle Octave Cremazie  
*6/24/24    Sydney, NS  –  Highland Arts Theatre 
*6/26/24    Montreal, QC  –  Theatre Fairmount  
*6/27/24    Portland, ME  –  Portland House of Music  
*6/28/24    Arlington, MA  –  Regent Theatre 
+6/29/24    NYC, NY  –  Sony Hall 
+6/30/24    Glenside, PA  –  Keswick Theatre  
* Guest Support – Travis Larson
+ Guest Support – Bill Bruford

Current Lineup:

  • Alessandro Del Vecchio (lead vocals)
  • Mike Keneally (guitar, vocals)
  • Ryo Okumoto (keyboards)
  • Pete Griffin (bass, vocals)
  • Jonathan Mover (drums, percussion, vocals)

Follow ProgJect:

https://www.facebook.com/ProgJectBand

https://www.progject.com

Are you a band, artist, or record label interested in having your music showcased on our page and social media platforms?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

most read

Subscribe to our updates

Most Viewed