RPWL is not your typical art rock band. Not only has this German group been creating progressive music since 1997, but also theatrical and thought-provoking conceptual themes to go along with it. And that’s on full display with their ninth album, Wanted, out in the U.S. on April 1. Vocalist/keyboardist Yogi Lang took the time to give us a deeper understanding behind the concept of Wanted, as well as to discuss what inspired RPWL’s latest work and the misconceptions of being labeled “prog.”
Wanted is a rather ambitious concept album, creating a story playing off of Plato’s theory of “absolute freedom.” What inspired RPWL to create such a concept and express it through music?
Wanted is like a follow-up of the last album. Beyond Man and Time was very theoretical and so it was right after the tour when I thought about bringing the main idea into our here and now. If you take a look at Beyond Man and Time, it was a story full of pictures, thoughts about our life and our role as individuals thrown into this world. One of the main thoughts behind this story was a thing we called: “freedom of the spirit,” a chance to free ourselves from all the old patterns of belief, from all the myths of a controlled human being, to free ourselves from the industry of religions. A possible answer to the questions of a modern way of life. With Wanted, we really tried to bring the story into reality. We found the substance that takes you out of Plato’s cave into the light! Of course there are many institutions who are not very interested in such a concept called “freedom of the spirit.” Knowledge as a main ideal is the key for a change in our world, but at the same time it’s poison for our system! How can you keep the sheep under control if you change belief into wisdom and knowledge? It would be the end of the industry of our world religions as we know them today!
In the story of Wanted, we find the substance for an ultimate liberation of the spirit of all illusions and now the persecution begins. The ruling elite acts as always; they try to criminalize us. That has always been the main weapon to fight everyone that doesn’t fit to the system and to rid of them. So we take our last option: becoming illegal and going underground! Now we do everything to give people the possibility to return to a self-determined human; in a global attack we add the substance to water supplies all over the world. The fruit will be a new culture of thinking in a new dawn of the human race, the beginning of the walk out of Plato’s cave.
What were you hoping to express through this concept that you felt RPWL hasn’t been able to in the past?
The story has more narrative levels. Us being hunted by an industry that tries to keep people away from knowledge is only one. But there are a few others, and there’s another fascinating one in my opinion; your duty to act in your ethical understanding in combination with running out of legal options. It is the decision between leaving the path of being human and leaving the path of our social concept of power relations. In our story, we are convinced of the need to overcome restorations of old concepts, repainted versions of old failed models in order to get closer to a new idea of what a human being could be in the future. Is that already terror? Or is it just against the interests of a ruling elite? You see, it’s a really interesting question.
Another level is the fight between belief and knowledge. These are opposites when belief is either the reason to stop you asking for knowledge or is the source of information. I know this may be a bit provoking, but if you think how many people would describe themselves as Catholics without knowing who wrote their bible. I mean, we could have the knowledge if we wanted to, but who cares when you can belief these are the words of the lord. Or take other subjects like politics: people that vote without knowing any manifesto of the parties. I mean, we could read it, but who cares when the pictures are nice or the promises are sweet? I think most of these behavior patterns are still from former times when a king ruled the land and the only expectation was that you do what you’re told to do. But this is not the way of life to overcome today’s problems! We need to return to a self-determined human. Our ability to learn is the evolutionary revolution that “man” is. So… Do you wanna try a pill?
I know RPWL started out as a Pink Floyd tribute band. In what ways (if at all) did playing Pink Floyd’s music live inspire RPWL’s approach to creating concept albums?
Hard to say… Pink Floyd was the music I grew up with, so it influenced me more than any other group I think. But the decision to do a concept album was more the consequence of the lyrical content. The story behind Beyond Man and Time or the new album Wanted simply had to be a concept album. It was the only way to tell the story.
Do you find that there’s a certain stigma that comes from being labeled “art rock” or prog? How do you feel RPWL overcomes that?
I think that “prog rock” or “art rock” is like any music category. Doesn’t matter which kind of music you’re doing, everyone has to deal with music being categorized. Our problem was a bit different; since our very beginning, we haven’t been conformed enough. Not metal enough, not a typical prog band…well at least we do our thing, whatever people may call it in the end.
How does RPWL hope Wanted will be received in a live setting? Are there any plans to create a theatrical adaptation to the album?
Yes, like the last album Beyond Man And Time, our new one Wanted was thought as a combination of lyrical statement and emotional music. The climax of the album will definitely be the live concert! There will be a lot of music but also a lot of video and acting.
When can we expect RPWL to perform in North America?
In fact there are plans to come to the States again. But nothing really confirmed yet, so let’s see. It would be so cool because every time we’ve been there we had such a great time!