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Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery)

Interview with Gary Wehrkamp from Shadow Gallery
by Mike Novak at 02 February 2010, 10:02 PM

SHADOW GALLERY was not only one of the first Progressive Metal bands that I discovered; they were also one of my first Metal bands, period. They were actually one of the first Progressive Metal bands, forming all the way back in 1985. Their debut was released in 1992. When I was offered the opportunity to interview guitarist/keyboardist Gary Wehrkamp, I gladly accepted. Who knew that I would get such well-thought out and insightful answers to my questions? I was fascinated by the answers and learned quite a bit.

Hey Gary, to begin the interview, would you mind talking about how SHADOW GALLERY was formed? How did the members meet each other and how did you determine what style of music that you would play?
The band evolved from a metal band in the late 80’s called SORCERER. Mike Baker, Carl Cadden-James and Chris Ingles were performing originals and covers to audiences in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Guitarist Brendt Allman came on board and the writing changed direction to something of a more progressive nature. This was good timing when Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records was forming a new label called MAGNA CARTA. Drummer Kevin Soffera and myself joined after the release of the debut album.

Which musicians and bands served as major influences when you all were starting SHADOW GALLERY?
We all had common tastes that included 80’s metal bands: IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, METALLICA and also 70’s progressive bands: QUEEN, ALICE COOPER, PINK FLOYD, RUSH and KANSAS… and a good touch of more technical guitar players like Vinnie Moore and Yngwie Malmsteem.

Are there any bands or musicians that have released music since the beginning of SHADOW GALLERY that you would cite as a strong influence on the band’s sound?
Not as much as the material that was out before that time, but to some extent many things shape our influence, whether it is Kate Bush, or AYREON

Like many fans, I was shocked and saddened to learn about the death of Mike Baker at the end of last year. Some bands decide to hang it up after the death of such an influential band member. Why did you decide to continue SHADOW GALLERY?
We had already taken the music so far as a band, and knew we had more to do. We could have changed the name and made a new band, but what is the point of that? We decided that since we were right in the middle of working on a new record that we knew Mike loved, we would finish it - in part - for him…

For the record, I am quite glad that you continued as a band, especially after having heard "Digital Ghosts". Before we talk about that album, tell me about Brian Ashland. Where did you find him and what about him made you decide that he was going to be the next singer for SHADOW GALLERY?
We started by not looking or searching for a new singer, and put this issue off for a long time. Once we had realized we were ready to approach that stage in the recording we agreed we would look, but were hoping not to hold auditions. I felt confident the answer would be provided. One day I had a phone conversation with Carl about our ideas of finding a unique singer, not someone who sounded like 1000 other typical Metal singers… We were looking for specific type of voice, as in many ways, this is what we felt Mike had. I was reminded of being in touch with Brian 4 years earlier after hearing a demo he did. I told Carl I would try to find him, and we agreed not to look for anyone else until I gave Brian a call first. Brendt and I searched far and wide through the internet to re-find him only to realize there was no way to be in touch with him, but serendipity stepped in when we were all shocked to learn that he worked with Carl and neither of them knew it. I believe this type of good luck will continue to happen with SHADOW GALLERY. Call it fate or convenience, but Brian was the only real choice - not to replace Mike - you do not replace a friend, but to carry on and allow the rest of us to continue making music the way we always have.

Moving on to your newest album, "Digital Ghosts", is there a story, concept or theme that runs throughout the album?
It is not really a concept. It is not tied to "Room V" or other records but instead it contains standalone songs that have a loose thread between them and this is centered to ideas like loss, coping with not having something in your life that was once there, and desire to have the things you want in the face of their absence. In many cases these lyrics were borne from personal things Carl was going through in his life, so there is a more personal reflection in the lyrics, but it manages to cross-relate to itself in many ways.

How did you get Ralf Scheepers and Clay Barton to sing on the album?
We asked them. We were looking at Ralf to sing a guest spot on the "Room V" disc actually but did not get in touch with him. This time we were luckier, even more, so when he turned in a great performance. Clay is very talented as well, and came up to the studio and was turning out great vocal takes in no time at all.

A few months before the release of the album, there were rumors that DC Cooper was going to be the new singer for SHADOW GALLERY. Obviously someone else wound up getting the job, but was there any basis to those rumors at all?
They were people running with a simple fact. At the time, we only announced that DC would be a guest singer and then when Mike died, everyone assumed DC would be the new singer - I do not know how it got so stretched out of hand…Maybe some people speculated this and posted it, and others read and believed it. We did work with DC in fact. He was going to write lyrics, vocal lines and sing on the song "With Honor", but he ended up being very busy in Europe and was not able to get to this in time. We pressed forward and finished up the writing ourselves. When he returned, he offered to do something else, and we had only the vocal spot on a song called "Stingray" to give him. This is a normal SHADOW GALLERY song, but did not fit with the rest of the album, so in response to our record companies in Japan, we offered this song to them to fulfill a contractual obligation of having another song. So this song is released on the MARQUEE/AVALON disc.

As far as I know, SHADOW GALLERY has never toured as a band before. Are there any plans to do a tour or play some shows in support of this album?
Yes, We are going to perform on the ’Triton Power Cruise’ with many other wonderful bands. This will be a very special event for everyone attending. We have no other shows booked beyond this one at this time.

What are some of your other projects that you are involved with outside of SHADOW GALLERY?
I did a lot of guitar work for the project ROSWELL SIX on the release of "Terra Incognito", which was released on ProgRock Records in the spring (2009). I have been busy with a lot of local projects as well, and have my irons in a few other places, but have decided not to over-clutter my agenda through the end of this year so I can concentrate on SHADOW GALLERY promotion and trying to get us together on stage. I have a few projects in the works for 2010 that you will hear about this spring.

I was a big fan of one of the projects you were involved with called ROSWELL SIX. How did you wind up being chosen to contribute to that album? I knew ProgRock Records label owner, Shawn Gordon and we were talking about this project and the idea of it all a year or so before it got underway. Once they were rolling, he put me in touch with Erik Norlander and I tracked my parts here in my studio and posted my files for him to import there. It was a great working relationship and I really enjoyed getting to know Erik and what a wonderful and giving person he is.

In SHADOW GALLERY, you are listed at playing guitar and keyboards. If the band were ever to perform live, which instrument would you play?

Who are some of your personal influences, both in terms of musicians and also bands?
I mostly influenced by the same people from years ago - Yngwie Malmsteem, Steve Vai - Basically anyone who knows that in order to fully realize your potential, you have to go over the top and give your all and then keep going…

Which album and which songs of SHADOW GALLERY would you consider your personal favorites, and why?
The entire first album - I can appreciate this as a fan, and sometimes wonder - is this how music fans hear SHADOW GALLERY (all of the records)? I mostly enjoy the moments in the songs that make you think, and sometimes the band has managed to poetically combine the music and lyric for a unified and powerful delivery. I never talk about this- not about music I am involved in creating, but I still find those moments… such as the lyrical sections like "no bag of gold can save their soul it’s like they never feared but now the end is near the flames start leaping" from "Ghost of a Chance" \[from the album] "Tyranny". When I hear this, I understand the emotion of the combination of the words and the music- they are saying the same thing and this transcends the notes and words alone. The song "Queen of the City of Ice" also achieves this, and there are similar emotions from songs on each of the discs… so I am re-inspired by those moments, and usually it is the work of someone other than myself, but at that moment, I become greatly moved and can really admire the work that Carl and Brendt especially, have brought to this band.

Could you share some recommendations of modern bands that you really enjoy for our readers, which they might not know about?
It would probably be better if your readers gave ME the recommendations as I am not too up on new and modern bands.

What do you see happening for the future of SHADOW GALLERY?
Hopefully we can spend as much time as we can on stage before getting into a new record.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.


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Edited 24 January 2022

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