Given the band’s penchant for eight-minute prog-styled epics, expansive guitar solos and high-minded oh-so-heavy lyrics, I had believed that the moniker FINAL GRAVITY had something to do with a rocket coming down from space. It turns out that that is what is called GRAVITY’S RAINBOW. I was prepared to make a comparison between re-entry and the fellas from FINAL GRAVITY getting back together after a lengthy hiatus but I had to abandon that angle when I learned that the band is named after a beer brewing term. FINAL GRAVITY – the brewing term – is when water, barley, hops, and yeast come together and form a tasty beer. This is analogous to the band whose members have fused their respective influences such as metal, prog, hard rock and alternative into a sonically compelling brew.

ROCKWIRED spoke with guitarist MIKE CLARK of FINAL GRAVITY. Here is how it went.

How do you feel about the finished album?
We’re all really happy with it. It took a while to put together. It was about two years in the making and we definitely put a lot of work into polishing everything. It all really came together in the end.

Explain the genesis of the group.
CHARLES MUMFORD – the bass player – and I met a while back after he had put up an ad looking for a guitar player. The influences that he listed were bands that were right up my alley like KING’S X, RUSH and METALLICA. BILL MOORE (vocalist) and JOHN CHOMINSKY (the drummer) were going to Penn State University and they were playing in a band with this friend of mine who originally lived out in LA and had just moved to Pennsylvania. I flew out there one year and we got together and jammed and actually played a couple of parties out there. After those guys graduated school the two of them decided to move out to LA and they ended up staying with me just to get on their feet. JOHN and I started working together on songwriting and we formed the band in the nineties with JOHN, myself, and BILL on vocals and CHARLES playing the bass. We did that for a while and then we had our respective careers taking off. That made it hard to focus on the band all of the time. We were kind of dormant for a while. Then JOHN and I started working together again in 2007. One by one, we started coming back together. Three years ago, we were all at a party and we all said ‘Hey! Why don’t we give this a go again?’ and here we are a few years later and we’ve got our CD out. We’re all very thrilled to be doing this again.

Talk about the members of the band and what it is that you think each of them brings to the table not just musically but personality-wise that makes it all work.
BILL MOORE is our vocalist and he is definitely a good front man. He’s also a really good songwriter that brings a more emotional feel to some of the songs. He helps tremendously in rounding out our sound. He is really great in getting support for the band and following through with things. JOHN CHOMINSKY is a rock solid drummer and a good writer. He and I do a lot of writing together. It’s an interesting partnership because I tend to be influenced by a lot of progressive rock and go for a lot of longer type songs and JOHN has more of an ear for melody and accessibility. It’s a delicate balance of keeping things accessible while keeping things interesting. JOHN also owns the recording studio where we did a lot of work on the album. His engineering skills have been totally beneficial. Our bass player CHARLES MUMFORD is also a very interesting songwriter who is really influenced by a lot of progressive metal and progressive rock yet he writes these really compact, dense yet accessible progressive metal songs. We’ve gotten a lot of notice for some of his songs like PARALLEL LIVES and LAB RATS. In addition, CHARLES is currently training to become a professional video editor and we really benefited from him being able to put together a video shoot for us recently. We just recently released our video for the song LINE ‘EM UP. We’ve got another one in the pipeline for the song IN THE DARKNESS in the next month and a half.

I was actually about to ask if there was video. Your songs sound like they would lend themselves well to that kind of thing.

Talk about how music began for you as an individual.
When I was thirteen, I asked for a keyboard and an amplifier for Christmas. I sort of had a general interest in wanting to do music and at the time I thought that the keyboard would be a cool thing. The amp that I got ended up being a guitar amp so I thought that since I had it, it would be a cool idea to get an electric guitar. My birthday was just around the corner so I asked for a guitar. This was around the time that I was really into alternative/new wave stuff – which is different than what I got into later on. I got the guitar and I started taking some lessons and I think the first couple of months were kind of tough. One day, I had a substitute for my regular teacher and instead of learning AMAZING GRACE, this guy taught me LED ZEPPELIN songs. I was just desperate to learn to play a real song. Around this time, I was really getting into a lot of hard rock stuff like LED ZEPPELIN and progressive stuff like RUSH. Eventually, I got a new guitar teacher and he taught me the pentatonic scales and that was when guitar playing really opened up for me. That was when I really started to learn a bunch of tunes and really started going for it.

How does songwriting happen in this band?
It’s really kind of a mixed bag. Some of the songs on the album were written individually. I wrote about three or four by myself but I also collaborated with JOHN. The song LIGHTNING AND RAINBOWS is one of the first songs we ever worked on together. BOTTLE OF LOVE was another collaborative effort. We also have full band collaborations where each of us brings in ideas. We will take what we have and get together and jam. So songwriting is either an organic group thing, a partnership between two members or it is done individually.

Which way do you prefer?
I kind of like going either way. It just depends on the song. Sometimes, I have a vision of a song in my mind from beginning to end. Once that happens, I want to hear the song the way that I imagined it. With the collaborative band approach, you end up going in directions that you never would’ve though of on your own. I think I really enjoy both approaches and I think the songs definitely benefit from both.

Using a song from the album – give me an example of a song taking on different direction as it was being created by the band.
The song IN THE DARKNESS is a good example. That song is one of the newer ones on the CD. It was probably written about a year ago and it started out as a lyric and a vocal melody idea by our drummer JOHN. We all got together and he had a general idea of what he wanted the chord structure to be. He sang that and I came up with an introduction that was kind of influenced by RUSH. I started playing in that style and that evolved into a more straight ahead chord progression but with a more progressive rock guitar arrangement. Then, through collaboration with the band we ended up having a pre-chorus approach that I would say is influenced by bands like U2. Then, the chorus was pretty much straight ahead rock n roll. The intro for the guitar solo was created by the bassist CHARLES MUMFORD and then the bridge was a group effort. When you put all the parts together, you realize that none of it was something that either of us could’ve come up with on our own. It all came out of experimentation.

In reading about you guys, it sounds like you all come from very different musical backgrounds. Tell me the benefits and the detriments of that.
The benefits are the diversity. We really have a diverse sound on our CD. We have everything from an eight minute progressive-type song like ROOM 19 to a heavy, four-minute pop tune like BEEN WASTED. It’s kind of interesting because it doesn’t get boring playing the material because there are so many different styles and I think we’ve managed to appeal to different groups of people. I would have to say that our strength I also our detriment as well. I think each of us has our own backgrounds and ideas and there are times when I would like to be doing more of these eight minute progressive rock epics. That to me is where it gets interesting because we do have to compromise in terms of bringing our ideals to the group but I think we each have a fair amount of room to have our voices heard.

What would you like a listener to come away with after they’ve heard it?
For me personally, I would really like for them to pay attention to some of the tings that we are saying lyrically. A couple of my songs like LINE ‘EM UP and ROOM 19 are very politically oriented and express some strong beliefs that I have. I think that is one of the things that I would like for them to come away with – an awareness of those lyrics, whether they agree with my position or not. I would just like for people to try to understand where I’m coming from.

What kind of place do you think you are coming from as a songwriter?
That’s an interesting question. I think that my primary sensibilities – musically speaking – are a summation of the influences that I’ve had. I’ve had a long time love of progressive rock, hard rock and instrumental rock. I studied with a guitar player named GARY HOEY for about a year and he was just an amazing influence on my playing in terms of technique and musicality. Musically - I ‘m trying to bring musicality and variety into the music. I like for every little part of every song to have a little twist to it. Lyrically, I really try to express ideas that I have. In a few of the songs, I’ve felt very strongly about the political statement that I was making and I’ve got personal songs that address certain events in my life.

Do you really look like that guy from RUSH?
I don’t think that I do now. I was at a party a while ago and I was just jamming with some people and we ended playing some RUSH songs and at the end, the bass players girlfriend came up to me and asked “Are you ALEX LIFESON?” I have no idea where that came from. I don’t know that I ever really looked like him. It’s just a funny story.