Some bands are simply a collection of talent, others transcend their parts to become something more. SiX BY SiX is more than just a collaboration between Robert Berry, Ian Crichton, and Nigel Glockler, it is truly a band that is pushing the boundaries of what three men can do in progressive rock. Robert recently returned to the site for the third time to talk about this project and much more.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Robert Berry –
On the origins of SiX BY SiX – 3.2 (his previous band) for me was a dream come true. Working with Keith Emerson. Then, of course, during the recording of The Rules Have Changed, we lost him, was very sad for very sad reasons. It did so well, that the record company said, “Hey, we can’t tell you how well it did, but we have Whitesnake, we have Yes, we have Styx, we have everybody, you did really well, we need a follow-up album”. I said, “I don’t wanna do one, Keith’s gone”, and they said, “Don’t you have any other songs?” So I said, “Well, I got the one”. So I did that album, but that was it. My manager, Nick and I were talking, and he said, “So what are you gonna do? You’re not gonna do 3.2?” I said, “No, that’s part of my history. The band 3.2, with Andrew Colyer, Jimmy Keegan, we’ll play, but there’d be no new material from that”. He goes, “That’s it?” I said, “Well, be honest with you, I’d like to find a guitar player and go in that direction, but I wouldn’t know where to start to find a guy like Keith Emerson that has amazing parts that I can make songs out of”. Keith didn’t write the whole song, he’d have these bits that were so Emerson-like that you couldn’t resist them, and they just made a great song, I made it around his great parts. Nick called me back, my manager, the next day, he goes, “What about Ian Crichton?” I said, “Wow, I wouldn’t have thought of that”. I’m thinking, how do we put Jeff Beck (and others) and put them all together, make a Frankenstein monster? I said, “Oh my God, I don’t know Ian but he’s perfect. He plays parts, he doesn’t just do power chords and ripping solos. He plays incredible, his tone is great”. He goes, “Let me see what I can do”. (He) finds Ian and Ian is very interested in talking to me. Evidently, he must have been a big fan of mine. That’s all I can figure. Followed my every move. Well, he was really interested. We just hit it off. It was just so organic and natural, he sent me a few things, bits, like Emerson, a little bit of guitar and this, and then I went, “Oh my God”, and a song just flew out of me. The first one was called, “Yearning to Fly”. The record company said, “We’re not signing anybody”, sent him four songs, including “Yearning To Fly”. “Yearning to Fly” was what got us signed, “Yearning to Fly” was the first single. I’m probably ruining all the questions you have to ask. The first song was the one that opened up all the doors and then, of course, the video came out and everybody liked it, but more importantly, I felt like everybody wants us to do well. I’ve never had that. They’re all like, “Oh man, this is great, this has to happen, can’t wait to hear the album”. 1:06
On why he enjoys the trio format – I think it has to do with who I consider the main guy. I might do a lot of it. I record it, I mixed it, I write the lyrics, the melodies, and stuff, and some of the chords, the songs, but the main guy in that 3 band was Emerson. He had a distinctive style that was unique. I don’t care who tried to copy and anything else you can tell when Keith Emerson is playing, it just has this thing. It’s a style and sound and everything. Ian Crichton is that secret ingredient to SiX BY SiX. He’s got that thing where when you hear him and that tone and those parts, you might think of a couple of guys, but when you really hone in on it, you go, “Oh yeah, that’s only Ian Crichton”. He just has that manager. For me, that’s the secret ingredient, I like to work around it, if you add some more people in to bring more things to the stew, let’s say, a lot of times it’s just too much. Even your biggest bands, and go back to the Beatles. There were really two songwriters. As great as (George) Harrison was, and he had great songs, but the bulk of it was two guys working together. All kinds of bands. A lot of them only had one songwriter in the band, Dennis DeYoung, I always thought he was the only songwriter in Styx. But there’s that magic ingredient. Nigel (Glocker) is a great writer too. We wrote all the songs before, and Ian and I said, “We gotta get the right drummer”, and I said, “I work with Nigel back in GTR, he’s a heavy hitter, but he loves prog music.” Ian said, “We’ve been touring, I’ve seen him before, I don’t know him well”. But when we added him and gave it that foundation, a heavy-hitting, solid thing to base of three-piece band off of. If you have a guy that’s all over the place and not holding it down, it’s hard for the main instrumentalists to really take off without some kind of strong foundation. Nigel is like adding Cozy Powell to ELP or Allen White to Yes. They brought in a certain element of really solid “smacking them hard” that was just a driving force. 4:17
On if he tried to write to the band’s strenghts or if he knew they would be able to bring together his songs – I like a heavy-hitting solid drummer, and I’ve worked with a couple of them in my life. Simon Phillips did some things with me on an ELP tribute and stuff, he’s incredible, David Lauser from Sammy Hagar’s band, who’s in Alliance, and December People with me, heavy hitter. I can name a few other guys that are just incredible. Then I could name a couple that are kind of lite and waffley and stuff, and it just never worked for me. So I wasn’t writing for Nigel, but Nigel was the number 1 choice in the back of my mind. I know he’s in Saxon and then they’re still huge in Europe, but I don’t know, I just felt that he was the right guy from day one. We’d thrown some other names around. I’m forgetting the exact question, but I didn’t write for them. For someone to be their best, it has to come from them. So those really hard parts of music and solos, it has to come from Ian. I can’t say, “Well, here’s a part I want you to play a solo on”, I wanna get that from him and work it into the song. Most of the things he sent me would be like introductions, some parts to put into the verse, and then the solo sections, and then I wrote everything else like a big puzzle piece around it. He even said to me, he goes, they’re on tour, Saga, he goes, “God I got to work this stuff back up here”. I said, “You know why?” And it’s not hard for him, he’s been doing it for 40 years, “You know why that’s more difficult than SiX for you? Because SiX comes out of your mind and your fingers, it’s what you would do naturally. Saga, you’re playing with the keyboards and doing things”. Sure, he’s designing his own parts, but it has to match the keyboard. So he’s writing his stuff to match them, too. (Now), everything is based around Ian’s guitar. 7:38
On what inspired him lyrically for this record – I will say that Ian opened me up a little bit when we first started talking, and he said, “Yeah, you know, and I love those 3.2 records), I love the stuff you’re doing”. He goes, “I like it when the lyrics are a little psychedelic”. That wasn’t my thing, my thing is very positive, and trying to say, if you can get from point A to point B, you fail or succeed, you’re still moving forward kind of stuff. I thought about it, psychedelic, I thought, “You know what? I’m not gonna make that third round when I try to make everything makes sense”. Lyrics tend to pour out of me. A lot of times, they’ll be placeholders that sort of fit, but don’t have quite the right meaning, they sound really good to the ear. I always revise this the second round when I’m doing the vocals and try to make sure all the congruent and blends. Then a lot of times at that point, I’ll look at the lyrics and go, “Okay, this has to all be first person, second person, the story has to flow”. I didn’t do that this time. I’m gonna leave it whatever it is, and I try not to analyze that after that, because to me, that’s the psychedelic part. Okay, I didn’t cinch it up so tight, sort of like Ian’s guitar style. You don’t have to cinch it up so tight with Saga, it can be open, you got noise, you’ve got this crazy stuff, and the next single is coming out. I just left it a little more open because to me, it did mean the right thing, I just thought maybe to you, the line wouldn’t follow through unless I fixed it up. But I haven’t found that to be the case. You’re the first one that says the lyrics are one of the stars of the album, so obviously, it’s still getting across, but I don’t wanna think about it too much. I don’t wanna analyze it. 10:14
On the companion graphic novel – I was contacted by this guy, he’s worked with Peter, Gabriel, Steve Hackett, working with a guy from Star Trek doing these graphic novels, and he was a fan of the music, 3.2. He got a hold and emailed during Third Impression, the last album with Keith, and said, “Have you ever thought about doing a graphic novel? I love your music”. Well, put that in the file there, interesting. Well, this thing with Ian and Nigel, I’m feeling so excited about it because I listened to it, for me, it stood the test of time, it’s got all the stuff I love, there was Steve Howe and Keith Emerson, all those little bits. It has all the stuff I love doing with Gary Pihl and David Lauser in Alliance, the hard-driving, its powerful guitar stuff. It’s got all those and then it has its own thing that I can’t really explain and I hate maybe has the time. J.C. Baez is his name, I sent him an email, “Are you still interested in this?” He goes, “Yes, I’m doing a show with Steve Hackett pretty soon in LA. Let’s talk about this”. We talked. He started drawing something, sent a few drawings, I’m like, “Wow, this guy is the real deal. They’re amazing”. He says, “I need a story”. I’ve never written a story before, like a rock opera. I said, “Give me a week to think about this”. I sat down and I took the songs and I changed the order of two of them from what’s on the album, be a little bit different, and just like the songs and the lyrics for this album, it just flowed out. A week later, I had a story about a guy who sees ugliness and destruction in the world, but it’s really him not influencing the circle of his that he can reach in his life in a positive way. He just sees the negative. What they call contrarians, everybody’s arguing. Everybody has their own opinion and they can’t find the middle ground, and I don’t have to agree with you to find the middle ground or say, “Yeah, I can understand why you think that”. That’s the way I am. So this guy travels through all this stuff, war, through demons, all this stuff, through these songs, and comes out the other side realizing it’s his own mind, that sees negative and sees darkness. All of a sudden he’s seen that other people take their circle of influence and do something good because that’s all we can do. We can do some real good with our friends, our homeless in our immediate area, whatever it is in our circle of influence, he realizes that. I got the story done and I’m like, “What’s going on with me?” With this stuff I’m so excited about it. Energized. I sent it to J.C. and he goes, “Wow”, and he does these graphic novels, he goes, “That’s a great story”. He starts drawing and he’s sending me two pages a day, and then that’s the roughs, and even on Rebecca’s going, “Well, this guy’s really going good with the roughs”. That he does them in ink and get some darkening in, and then he sends them to the colorist, he has three different guys doing coloring on this thing, and I got it back and go, “Oh my God”. It came alive. He’s almost half the way through, we have about six weeks till he has to go to print it, he’s making it happen. I’ve never been involved in anything like that. It’s an honest-to-goodness rock opera in a graphic novel. The songs fit it so well. Especially “Reason To Feel Calm Again”, things people haven’t heard, “Live Forever”, right in the middle of it, a little pallet cleansing, acoustic piece. It fits, you’ll see. Just like the songs were written, Ian sends me little bits, song is like, “Wow, where that from? There was nothing 10 minutes ago, and then a couple hours later (it’s a song). The graphic novel turned out the same way with the story and how the songs actually fit together, which wasn’t the plan when I wrote them. 12:27
On the future of SiX BY SiX – Nigel will always have Saxon, they’re playing right now, but they don’t play it that much. Ian will always have Saga, they’ve just done another six shows, they did four a month ago, they maybe have a couple of more down the road. Plenty of time for SiX BY SiX to play. I’ll always have my 3.2, which is like the Live at Progstock DVD, my history working with Steve Howe, Keith Emerson, everybody I’ve worked with and we play that. I’ll always have them. We decided, we have a three-record deal, we’re gonna do this as a real band, we’re gonna take it out and who knows, and we might be as big as The Beatles. 17:05
On what a live SiX BY SiX show would look like – There is a very different mindset on that. I think we’d be cheating our audience who owe a responsibility for having longevity in this business without playing a little bit of “Wind Him Up”, segued into the best Saxon tune, segued into a little bit of “Desde La Vida” or “Talkin’ Bout”, from 3. I’d like to do a little six-minute thing right before we do our last song. I think people would love it. Ian says, “Not gonna happen. I want this to be SiX BY SiX”, he’s so excited about it, “I want us to have our own identity”, but we’ll discuss it more when we’re talking about touring next year, we’ll just see how everybody feels. My wish is that we will do a little fragment of everybody’s history, even if it’s a three-minute song. We have a three-record deal, so we definitely want to tour. The record company is super positive. We got the best email from Thomas Waber, the president of InsideOut, and from what I know, I know him a little bit, but what I’ve heard, he never sends this kind of emailed anybody, but it was really good and he’s really up on it. It’s going to go on, at least six years for three albums. 18:15Stream Metallica’s entire 2022 tour on nugs.net. Stream official concert recordings all tour long.
On how they came up with the name – That’s sort of interesting too. We had a list of about 100 names on a piece of paper and every one of them was taken. I didn’t matter what. If they’re taken by bands that have maybe a couple hundred fans or Facebook followers, something that’s not that big. I found that 6 foot 6, in something I was reading was the length of human DNA. I went, “Oh, that is perfect for what I love. That’s a positive thing, human DNA”. I look it up, a band had it, but I sent it to the guys first, they all loved it. A band had it, I think it might be a hip-hop, pop band or something, (they) had enough followers we didn’t wanna do it. The reason I first came up with it, because I like the way the S in Saxon and Saga looks to start, and I like the way the X looks in Saxon. Six has both. So I thought, we talked about it and I said, “What about SiX BY SiX?” Ian said, “You know, we have two eyes, two legs, two arms, two balls”, and he goes, “I like it, let’s do it”. Ian was really the designing factor, because he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, SiX BY SiX, sounds good, doesn’t it?” It means nothing but it sounds good. So that’s what what happened. 19:50
On appreciating the success he’s seen over the past five years – I have a really lousy theory about success, you’re only successful to yourself, if you’ve reached that goal, you could put up there. My goal up here was to have three or four songs that were hits on the radio that I could go on and play every summer at outside shows for three months. For people, that was a period of their life that they resonated with, like Greg Kihn with “The Breakup Song”, everybody goes, “Oh, I know that song”. I didn’t get that. I’m also a firm believer in, I’d rather wonder what I’m getting for Christmas than open the present. So it’s a little bit like that for me. It keeps me writing, recording, wanting to reach those four songs I get to play. Even if it’s one, if I get to play them every summer, I’m good. I don’t feel the success, but I do feel the longevity of being able to make a living staying in music, and I feel a big responsibility to anybody that likes my music to do the best job I can. Especially on the 3.2 tours where it was two hours of my history, which I was uncomfortable doing at first, but after people come up with everything from an old Hush album from ’79 to sign and saying, “That was a part of my life”, and I felt different about it. I felt like I had influenced that circle that I could reach in a nice positive way. So I don’t feel successful. I feel more excited about this than I have since 1988. I wanna be successful with this, but even if it was the Beatles, I probably would say, “Well, you know, I don’t have those four songs I can go out and play every summer”. But I’m not a guy that can coast and can relax until I’m forced to. If they take off a leg, maybe I won’t be able to stand on stage anymore, but I’ll still be up there. If they cut off the fingers and now I can’t play, I can still sing. It’s all gonna move forward. “What can I do tomorrow” is my motto, and I just feel like I’m probably doing more right now than ever. The studio is really busy, there’s a vocal session right now that I’ve stopped while Tom, the vocal producer here is working with her, Vivian, and then I have a prog band I’m producing the next two weeks, on top of lots of interviews and PR stuff, graphic novel and the album’s out August 19th. We have another single coming out August 5th, which I’m really excited about, and I’ll actually ask you a question. This next single is “China”. You’ve heard the album. As you know, and you said, I write positive lyrics. This is not against the Chinese people whatsoever, but it’s a comment on the Chinese government because they’re slowly infiltrating the world, and this song says, we see you. 21:55
On the song “China” – It’s coming out as a third single, which is very different. It’s the hardest rock part of SiX BY SiX. You’ve heard “Reason To Feel Calm Again”, you know the really musical stuff we got going on. I can’t wait for people to hear that song. That bagpipe guitar that Ian does, how did you get that sound? But “China” is either gonna chase people away because it’s harder rock than they want, but they’re gonna go, “I’m glad they’re taking that edge, and now let’s see what else they have on the album”, we’ll see. 25:03