En español / Interviews

Interview with Andrea Bilous (Proggers on Facebook)/ Entrevista con Andrea Bilous

proggersIn my opinion, one of the most puzzling prog communities online is Proggers, a Facebook fan page with over 40,000 fans. Every day, new posts are added, highlighting both classic and new prog songs and albums. The birthdays of famous prog legends are celebrated. Fierce debates rage about the best era of King Crimson or the best drummer for Dream Theater.

It’s not puzzling to me that there are so many prog fans out there, necessarily. Nor is it puzzling that a prog fan page could have so many active participants.

What’s puzzling to me is that this fan page is completely a volunteer effort. I’m an American, dangit – anything worth doing should be generating revenue!

Equally puzzling is the mysterious figure behind the page, Andrea Bilous. Seeking out a few answers to my questions, I reached out to Andrea and she was generous enough to grant an interview, despite a strong personal philosophy to make her work about the music she is passionate for and not to highlight herself.

What I discovered is a pure and true prog fan who seeks no recognition for herself and gets joy simply out of promoting and reliving memories of good music. It was amazingly refreshing.

Andrea is in Buenos Aires and speaks Spanish natively but also English, so my brother Thomas acted as a translator for the interview. The following is the English translation of the interview, followed by the Spanish original.

12570824_1055384154513343_2141655738_nArthur: There are over 40,000 fans of your prog fan page, but you seem to focus directly on the artists and not yourself. How about you introduce yourself to those who don’t know you?

Andrea: Really, my main idea or desire is simply that prog continues to be promoted. So this great passion to achieve this resulted in me opening this page. If I had to define myself, I would say that I have always been a passionate music fan, as far back as I can remember. I am grateful for my older brothers that brought prog home for me to hear. I grew up with some incredible bands. It’s impossible to remember a moment of my life without an accompanying song. It’s difficult for me to talk about myself. I think I had pretty clear idea of what I wanted to communicate about prog, and I looked for the way to reach the largest amount of people (without having to pay for postage) with not only videos, but information and photos that, at first, I really liked. Really, what I do is driven by lots of feeling and nostalgia, I would say. My personal life has been mixed in a few times, very few. But I think the vision that I have for prog is what Proggers is doing, so there isn’t really a reason to talk about me, because really, I’m not anyone- I’m just a fan, one more fan of Proggers with a huge desire that prog as a genre can get to many more people.

Arthur: You feature a wide variety of artists on your page, but I’m guessing you have some favorite prog bands that stand out above the rest. What are some of your favorites?

Andrea: I like a variety of different bands: Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Rus, Camel, Jethro Tull. I love King Crimson, Pink Floyd, I adore PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi)…Everything myself or my administrators post, I really enjoy. I have these “moments” and I need to post to be able to take what I feel inside and share it with someone else. Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Steven Wilson Band, Pain of Salvation, Ayreon, Dream Theater. I love a lot of bands and solo artists. My biggest weaknesses are: King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson (all of his projects besides Blackfield), Marillion, Pain of Salvation (although the band has taken a turn that I don’t really like…we’ll see if the next album is any good) and Ayreon (I profoundly admire Arjen Lucassen). I love Dream Theater, up until the self title album. And I must mention the unequaled genius of Neal Morse. I die when I hear Translatlantic. And lets not forget my beloved Rick Wakemen, of whom I was in love with since I was 15 years old. Bill Bruford is another incredible musician. The list continues., It’s a long list, because I listen to a lot of music, and a lot of what the various members of bands have done as solo artists. And there are lots of bands that aren’t quite “known” yet that are wonderful, and that is not limited to the prog world.

To finish (and I think this answer is turning into a book) I love a lot of music and bands. It’s impossible to hear Roundabout and not be moved by Chris Squire’s bassline, or hear ‘Malignant Narcissism’ and not adore Geddy Lee, and it’s this way with all the various instruments. It’s the act of hearing and rediscovering with the passage of time.

Arthur: Do you play, compose, or perform music yourself?

Andrea: I play piano. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything, but it was more to admire the instrument and not as much to compose. I also sing, when my family isn’t asking me to stop and telling me to please be quiet.

Arthur: Have you had any brushes with progressive musicians in real life? Any favorite concerts that you’ve seen?

Andrea: I have seen many musicians and have been able to speak to them a few times, in little conversations before and after the shows. Through messages, I’ve spoken to Erik Norlander, Lana Lane, Arjen (Lucassen). They’re wonderful musicians (Lana is an incredible artist) and they are very nice about answering messages. They’re great people. It’d be hard to pick my favorite concerts. I really enjoy concerts, and I cry a lot during them, because the music speaks to my soul. My husband makes fun of me a lot for this. I cried when I saw Rick Wakeman do The Six Wives of Henry VII in 2012. I cried so much, because of the nostalgia I felt for my youth and memories of high school, waiting in class to go home to listen to music. Next, although it sounds a lot different, but it was pretty incredible to see Daniel Gildenlow. Many of the kids at the concert coudl have been my kids…and to be so anxious like them- it was pretty powerful. Moments after moments, and they just keep coming. I haven’t been to a concert that I haven’t liked. I have to admit that after the presentation of The Raven That Refused to Sing, we left the theater and my husband and I walked for a while, and after a long while, began to talk. It was hard to process everything we had just been given in that magnificent concert. We needed that silence to be able to think, “What just happened to my brain? Back to reality!”

Arthur: What is the music scene like in Buenos Aires?

Andrea: There is a lot of really good music in Buenos Aires. The Argentine loves music, and we are pretty good at appreciating it. As far as fans of progressive rock, we’re not a huge population, as is the case in most places, I think.

Arthur: What do you think is unique about prog fans that makes them stand out from other fans?

Andrea: A fan is, first of all, a fan. As far as prog goes, I think those that listen to prog are able to listen to more demanding music. After many years of hearing prog, it’s harder to listen to music that is more shallow. But, in prog, there aren’t people who are on top of others, whether it’s a fan or a musician. A lot of the time I’ve heard that they speak badly of the atmosphere that prog fans create, by saying it’s wooden and cold. I don’t think it’s like that. But, I’d say prog fans are more detail oriented, or maybe meticulous? I feel like, in my case, I am. The only thing I sometimes see is that sometimes when a band goes in a different direction than what the fans are expecting, they can be a little more critical or harsh to them. I’ve seen it in Proggers. But, I have seen a lot of people close off to prog, but if an artist boxes themselves in, well…they’re not prog. But, I think we’re lucky in that this closed vision has changed quite a bit these days, and we’re all better off.

Arthur: Any controversies or challenges involved with running such an enormous page?

Andrea: I have enjoyed it enormously. It might be the time I put into it. But I’ve followed my feelings. Yes, I’ve had some rough moments, but I focus on the good ones. And the best moments are when people tell me about a band I didn’t know about, and I’d say, this is the mission of Proggers! And I feel really happy when that occurs. And also, the many beautiful messages of thanks. Many have told me that they have gotten emotional thinking about different memories. I’ve always told the administrators to share what they know, and to search out new things, but most importantly, to put their heart out there with their post and it will do well, as long as it genuine. And I think this captures Proggers well.

Arthur: You don’t seem to get any money or other compensation for running your page. Yet you seem to keep up with lots of birthdays, as well as featuring a huge number of artists. What keeps you motivated? Do you have help with the work of your page?

Andrea: I don’t get a cent for what I do. It’s all for love and for passion, and if there’s any compensation, it’s precisely that someone tells me “Thanks to Proggers, I found out about this band, or I went to this concert, or I bought this album”. It’s just knowing that someone else loves or is interested in prog. That’s enough for me. I’ve had lots of administrators, and I’ve occasionally had a few directives that have resulted in disagreements. Some left for having a different vision than mine, and some left because they didn’t have time. The time has always been a big determinant. Lately, my dear friend Vicky has been helping. This is because a while back I had decided to close the page- actually, I’ve thought this a few times, because of time constraints, or my mother’s health problems, you know, personal things, and just generally because I can’t dedicate the time needed, I’ve said a couple times, “I’ll close it, it’s met its purpose.” But then, I decide to keep it.

Arthur: Any recent artists you think we should be checking out? Any upcoming releases you’re excited for?

Andrea: They are not so recent… like Haken, Riverside…I do love Iamthemorning, they deserved to win in the last prog awards IMHO.

Whatever project led by Arjen should always be looked forward to, because they are just simply fantastic. Steven Wilson’s projects. Thinking about things that, according to me, should happen, lol: Bands that do not try to sound like Porcupine Tree. I love PT but there is only one. Daniel Gildenlow should start his own solo projects. Definitely, more Opeth, more talented Mikael Akerfeldt… and a miracle: Genesis back together!! These things are in my dreams!!

About the new Pain of Salvation album. It is gonna be good, I just hope it’ll be as good as their albums during the BE era.

Last thing. I feel happy when a fan thanks me for a band they did not know.

Spanish Original:

Arthur: Tienes mas que 40,000 ‘likes’ por la pagina Proggers, te enfoques en las artistas y no en tu vida propia. ¿Qué tal si te introduces al mundo para los que no te conozcan?

Andrea: En realidad la idea o el deseo mío es precisamente que el prog siga siendo promovido. Entonces esa gran ” pasión ” por así decirlo hizo que abriera esta página . Si tuviera que definirme diría que soy apasionada por la música desde siempre,desde que recuerdo.. Agradezco a mis hermanos mayores que trajeron el prog a casa . Crecí con grandes bandas. Es imposible no recordar un momento de mi vida sin que recuerde una canción…. Se me hace dificil hablar de mi. Creo que tuve claro el hecho de comunicar lo que se de prog desde que comencé y de que busqué la forma de llegar a más gente ( sin nunca pagar por ningún posteo ) a través no sólo de videos,sino de información y de fotos …que en principio me gustaban mucho a mí…En realidad lo que hago es con mucho sentimiento y nostalgia ,diría…si..mucha nostalgia. La vida personal si se mezcló algunas veces,muy pocas…pero creo que la visión que tengo del prog es lo que hizo Proggers,entonces no hay necesidad de hablar de mi,porque en realidad,no soy nadie,…solo un fan ,un fan más de Proggers con enormes ganas de que este género llegue a mucha más gente.

Arthur: Tienes una gran variedad de artistas que aparecen en tu pagina, pero me imagino que tienes algunas favoritas que prefieres mas que los otros. ¿Quienes son?

Andrea: Mis bandas favoritas son varias : Gentle Giant, Yes,King Crimson,Genesis,Rush,Camel, JT. Amo a KC,Pink Floyd,.. adoro a la PFM… Todo lo que posteo o postean administradores,lo disfruto ampliamente. Tengo esos ” momentos de “…y tengo que postear porque necesito sacarlo de adentro. Porcupine Tree, Marillion, SW band, Pain of Salvation, Ayreon, DT. Son muchas bandas y solistas. Mis enormes debilidades son : King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson (todos sus proyectos menos Blackfield) Marillion,Pain of Salvation ( aunque la banda ha dado un giro que no me gusta,vamos a ver si el proximo album es realmente bueno) y Ayreon ( admiro profundamente a Arjen Lucassen). ah y olvidaba Dream Theater,pero hasta el album que lleva el mismo nombre.. y el genio inigualable de Neal Morse ,y muero por Transatlantic. y sigo olvidando : mi amado Rick Wakeman, de quién estuve enamorada,jaja,realmente enamorada desde los 15 años…. La lista sigue y sigue,Bill Bruford,es otro músico increíble. Sería muy largo,porque además escucho mucha música,y mucho de lo que han hecho de solistas…y hay muchos músicos que no tienen la inserción por así decirlo,que son maravillosos ( y no solamente del prog)

O sea…..para resumir, y creo que esta respuesta me llevaría un libro ,jaja.son muchos músicos y bandas…es imposible escuchar Roundabout y no conmoverse ante ese bass line de Chris, o malignant narcissism y no adorar a Geddy…y así con todos los instrumentos. Es ese escuchar y descubrir y re descubrir con el paso del tiempo …

Arthur: ¿Tocas algun instrumento o compones musica?

Andrea: Toco piano,hace tiempo ya que no hago nada,pero no era de componer,sino de admirar, y canto,cuando no me censuran en casa y me dicen,callate por favor,jaja

Arthur: ¿Has conocido a algunos artistas de rock progresivo en la vida real? ¿Cuáles son algunos de los mejores conciertos que hayas visto?

Andrea: Conocer,en el sentido de verlos en vivo y hablar en algunos casos ,cosas breves del momento,antes o después del show. Via mensaje,Erik Norlander,Lana Lane, Arjen,son músicos maravillosos ,Lana es una artista fantástica,y son muy gentiles en contestar mensajes,son muy buena gente. Conciertos favoritos,umm difícil elegir. Disfruto mucho los conciertos y lloro mucho,porque me llega al alma,jajaj. Mi esposo me hace bromas sobre eso. Me emocioné mucho al verlo a Rick hacer The Six Wives of Henry VIII en el 2012…lloré mucho mucho,mucha nostalgia de mi adolescencia y recuerdos de la secundaria,esperar llegar a casa para escuchar música… Luego,y aunque suene muy diferente,pero fue muy emocionante,ver subir al escenario a Daniel Gildenlow. Muchos chicos presentes tenían edad de ser mis hijos….y estar tan expectante como ellos…Fue muy fuerte.Son momentos y más momentos y no terminaría nunca. No hay concierto que no haya dusfrutado…si debo admitir,que luego de la presentación de The Raven that refused to sing…salimos del teatro y caminamos con mi esposo y al rato,comenzamos a hablar. Fue dificil incorporar todo lo recibido en un concierto magnífico….necesitabamos ese silencio para pensar : uh ,,,qué me pasó en la cabeza ? ..Vuelta a la realidad,jaja

Arthur: ¿Que tal el ambiente de musica en Buenos Aires?

Andrea: Hay mucho y genial en Buenos Aires. El argentino ama mucho la música,y al músico,somos excelente público. En cuanto al progresivo mismo,es poco ,como en todos lados creo

Arthur: ¿Hay algo unico de los fans del rock progresivo que les hacen parecer diferente que los fans de otros grupos?

Andrea: El fan es fan en principio. En cuanto al prog…quien escucha prog,se pone más exigente en cuanto a lo que escucha. Después de varios años de escuchar progresivo,no es fácil aceptar una música hecha más a la ligera. Pero en sí el prog no pone a nadie por encima de nadie,ni ser fan,ni nada. Muchas veces he escuchado que se habla mal del ambiente de prog,que es acartonado y frío…y no creo que deba ser asi…..Pero si,somos mas detallistas,meticulosos quizá…o no…En mi caso,lo soy. Lo único que a veces me parece.es que .cuando un músico o banda da un vuelco algo distinto a lo que los fans estaban acostumbrados……..quizá hay más crítica,o sean más duros……lo he visto en Proggers….Como también he visto que muchos se cierran al prog ,estrictamente prog y si no encaja ,pues……no es prog. Por suerte esa vision tan cerrada ha cambiado bastante hoy en día para bien del género también.

Arthur: ¿hay controversias o dificultades de manejar una pagina tan enorma?

Andrea: Yo la he disfrutado enomermente. Quizá el tiempo que dediqué …mucho …pero hice estrictamente lo que sentía hacer, Si tuve momentos no muy buenos,pero solo recuerdo los buenos … Y lo mejor para mi son esos comentarios que dicen que no conocía a tal o cual banda y agradecen…y digo,pues,esa es la finalidad de Proggers ! Y siento muchísima felicidad. Y los mensajes .tantos y tan hermosos , de agradecimiento…muchos me han dicho que se han emocionado recordando…… Sienpre les he dicho a los administradores que obviamente vuelquen lo que saben,que busquen,pero que definitivamente pongan “el corazón” ahi el posteo no falla,porque uno es genuino,y creo que eso es Proggers.

Arthur: Parece que no recibe dinero o compensacion por manejar la pagina de Proggers. Pero parece que estas muy actualizada con los cumpleaños de los artistas, y tambien una gran cantidad de artistas. ¿Qué te motiva? ¿Tienes ayuda en manejar la pagina?

Andrea: No recibo un centavo . Esto es “Por amor ” .por pasión,y si hay compensación,es precisamente que me digan .. ” Gracias a Proggers descubri tal o cual banda o fui a un concierto o me compre tal album….Es saber que a alguien más le gusta o le interesa el prog. Ya está eso es suficiente para mi. Tuvo muchos administradores,siempre yo lideré dando directivas,que muchas veces generaron desacuerdos. Muchos se fueron por tener una vision distinta a la mia, o por no tener tiempo. El tiempo fue siempre muy determinante. Actualmente,está Vicky ayudando,una gran amiga. Y esto es así porque hace poco había decidido cerrarla. En realidad varias veces,por cuestiones de tiempo,problemas de salud de mi madre,cosas personales y porque no puedo dedicarle el tiempo que necesita la pagina me dije …la cierro,cumplio su objetivo……pero una vez más…..sigue adelante.

Arthur: ¿Hay algunas artistas recientes o nuevas que debemos escuchar? ¿Algo que estas anticipando?

Andrea: Cualquier proyecto liderado por Arjen ,siempre debe ser esperado con ansias porque son sencillamente fantásticos…proyectos de SW…

Gracias por tu tiempo,hay errores de tipeo,es que es tarde,pero aproveché para contestar ya que ahora tengo tiempo. Quedaron muchas bandas e interpretes sin mencionar …Frank Zappa, Peter Hammill,VDGG, Gong, Magma,Spock´s Beard… pero bueno,sería muy largo. Muchas gracias por tu tiempo.-

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