Following his time in Magenta, The Reasoning were put together by Matthew Cohen as a platform for his own songs and as a band that would be his vision. I confess the debut album, ‘Awakening’ knocked me out the first time I heard it, a combination of great songs and melodic rock with a progressive aspect, performed with an energy and passion that was almost irresistible. They were also a terrific live band, one or two of their gigs at the Robin in particular were some of the best I’ve ever seen there. A combination of line up changes and ill fortune eventually led to the band’s finale at The Trinity Live Festival in 2014 and since then Matthew has busied himself with the short lived Ghost Community project and had a major part in organising the Trinity Live fund raising events in Leamington and London, which have raised a lot of money for charity as well as offering some fine music. Now a few years later, he’s announced one final show for the band, entitled ‘The Last Hurrah’, a way of saying goodbye and putting the band to rest. It will be a different line up of the band, with some old and some new musicians, taking place at the scene of some of the band’s best gigs, The Robin, on September 29th. We spoke to Matt about why he arranged the show, how the show was put together, his memories of The Reasoning, and what the future holds for him musically.
Midlands Rocks: It’s about five years now since The Reasoning came to an end. Why have you chosen now to do this show?
Matthew Cohen: It was going to disband at the end of 2015, because after ten years, I intended to do a 10th Anniversary tour, but I wasn’t given the option to do that, so to save face and spare other people’s embarrassment and blushes, I went out and announced it was over. For me the band imploded. I felt I didn’t get the option to say ‘Goodbye’ to my band. I started this band in 2005, I’d left Magenta, took out a loan to fund it, and I put a lot of money into the band, all the blood, sweat and tears, the trials and tribulations of running the band and in 2015, it came to a halt when someone left the band for whatever her reasons were. In 2015 I wanted to say goodbye to my band, Not taking anything away from anyone else who was in the band, they were all a part of it, they can take away whatever they want to take away from it, I’m not denying anybody anything, but from my point of view, I was not allowed to say goodbye to my band because of someone else’s actions.
This is what this is, a celebration of the band, and do you know, the fans weren’t allowed to say goodbye to the band, either. So after I’d got through the initial sadness, I decide last year that ‘do you know what? I think it’s time to say goodbye’ and allow people to hear these songs one last time, like I wanted to play them one last time. That’s what this last hurrah is all about.
So it’s one final show at The Robin, but because of circumstances, it’s a comparatively new line up, apart from yourself on bass, Keith Hawkins on guitar and Jake Bradford-Sharp on the drums
Well, it’s a show, although the only original member of the band is me. Jake is a long serving member of the band, played on two albums, and the DVD, then Keith played on one album. Aside from that, I’ve just assembled a brilliant bunch of musicians, but it’s not a band. It’s just a line up to play Reasoning songs, and I hope I’ve made that clear from the beginning. It has to go out as The Reasoning, because I’m saying goodbye to The Reasoning. It’s not a new line up, it’s a bunch of fantastic musicians who are joining me to have the last hurrah and have a great time. That’s all I ever wanted for the band, just to have a great time.
So as well, as Keith and Jake, how did you pick the other people to play with you?
Well, Athen, on keyboards is a friend of Keith’s which is a no-brainer, Andrew Demczuk, vocalist, was initially going to be in The Reasoning, and we auditioned him at the time, but he couldn’t do it in the end, and we ended up using Sebastian, but Andrew’s also going to be part of some other stuff that me and Keith are doing. Emilee, our female vocalist, was introduced to me, she’s an American, from California, she’s a fluent Russian speaker, studying Russian over here. She was based in London, moved to Wales, we were introduced and became friends. I had two other singers lined up, and they pulled out for various reasons, then Andrew came into the fold, then after I met Emilee, she told me she was a singer and I asked if she fancied giving it a go. I remember her doing the audition, we did it in my house, she was singing ‘No Friend of Mine’, and I turned away as I didn’t want to put her under pressure, she sang along to the track, and honestly, I can’t even describe it, it was like hearing the original vocal. Emilee has a very different voice to Rachel as far as range and power, but she’s able to emulate it perfectly. I remember when Keith first heard her he went ‘What the…’. She’s able to pull off that voice and she’s amazing, she’s such a great person on top of that as well, she’s got a great look and a great attitude and this amazing voice.
This gig is all about the female vocal, and the male vocal, apart from when Dylan was in the band, has always been, about backing up the female, but Emilee can hold her own, she’s fantastic.
I genuinely look forward to hearing her. But now you’ve got this line-up together, you also have some guests to play with you on the night.
Yes, we’ve got Paul Davies, ex-Panic Room and Karnataka). He actually called me one day, asked how I was doing, we hadn’t spoken in years, and he said ‘you know we were always going to play together’, which were, and he said’ what are the chances of me getting up and doing a couple of songs at The Robin’? and I went ‘yeah, game on, you’re in!’ and it was done. He’s gone from being on three songs to seven songs, because I love the guy, he’s such a genuinely great, great guy, but what a player. Him and Keith on stage together, I’m going to play the most minimal amount of notes I can and just watch those two play off each other.
That’s going right back to the early days of the band, isn’t it, with Dylan and Vinden?
Yes, definitely. We might have some other people turn up on the day, and I might go ‘come on up’, but as it stands, I think Paul’s going to be the main guest for this one, and we’ll see what happens after that.
How do you go about choosing a set list, when you’ve got four albums and a couple of EPs to choose from?
Easy. It really is easy. When I wrote the first set out, about nine months ago, I’ve changed three songs. It just makes sense, because there’s a flow, and the way I want the set to flow, there were three songs that didn’t fit into that for me, and so they were easily replaced. The big ones are the opening track, and the two encores. Then everything in between, you kind of know. You’ve got to build it and build it, you’ve got to have a bit of a break, from the musicians’ point of view, also from a punter’s point of view. We’re not a death metal band, if you’re just assaulting them all the time, it’s too much. The set flows beautifully, and everytime I listen to it, I kind of go ‘yeah, I wish I was watching that.’
Without spoilers, obviously, would you think there’ll be any surprises for people? “Oh, I didn’t think they’d play that!”
That’s hard to tell, because if you canvass people, and ask them what they think, people are going to name certain songs and go ‘Hmm, they’re never going to play that’. But then we can go ‘we will play that, but it might be in a very different way’. ‘Surprises’, I think it’s a big enough surprise we’re actually playing, but if you go with expectations, I think you’re bound to be disappointed.
This is something of a unique show, though, isn’t it? You go to see some bands, you’re going to expect to hear certain songs.
People are going to expect certain songs, and I’m going to give them those certain songs. I have to doff my cap to all the albums and make sure they’re included. I don’t think there’s going to be any point in sticking anything in that’s going to be completely left field, it would make no sense to me. There’s no point, for instance, in sticking in ‘The Forest of Hands and Feet’, it would be a waste of time. You want people to sing along, not go, ‘I don’t know what that song is, what album was that off?’ We got an hour and a half, and in that hour and a half I want to cover every single album, but make sure that we’re including stuff that people hooked onto in the first place, why people got into The Reasoning. If I don’t stick in ‘Dark Angel’, you know people will go ‘why the fuck didn’t you stick in ‘Dark Angel’? We’re going to play songs that we’re going to enjoy playing and that people aren’t going to be looking at us and going ‘what the fuck is that?’ Playing obscure stuff if you’re Deep Purple, Dream Theater or Iron Maiden going on tour, you can do that, you can pull things out. This is one show, there’s no point sticking in left field songs and people paying their money to go ‘I didn’t know what that set was’. Waste of time. It’s got to be us-pleasing and people pleasing, because that’s what a gig should be.
So as for the rest of the show, it’s not just The Reasoning, you’re making it an all day event, bringing in a fair degree of value for money in my humble opinion.
Absolutely. £17.50, four bands, finishing at nine o’clock. If people want to head off they can, for transport, the last bus, or whatever, but if they want to stay on and get pissed with us. They can.
The bands we’ve got on, This Winter Machine, they’ve just released their new album, and it’s going down a storm, people are loving them. They’re a great bunch of guys, they’re doing good business and more power their elbow. Then you’ve got Circus, with Steve Tilling, a super, super guy, with an incredible line up hind him, and his album’s amazing. That’s going to be very exciting to watch.
And Jump of course, I’ve known John Dexter Jones since I was in a band called Unbroken Spirit. He gave us one of our first shows. I called him at one of his shows, introduced myself I’m Matt Cohen from Unbroken Spirit, can we have a support spot, please?’ He had no idea who I was, and yet he said yes. I’ve done a few gigs with him now, and for them to be involved with this is a very precious thing for me.
It’s a varied line-up, it’s something a little bit different, there’s something for everybody.
Moving away from the gig itself, when you look back over the life of The Reasoning, what do you think are the highlights of your time in the band? What are the good memories you can carry with you?
For me, I left Magenta because I needed a voice, which is why I formed The Reasoning. What do I take away from The Reasoning? I take that I took something from ground level up, with the help of others, I’m not dismissing anybody, because I couldn’t have done it without the people I had around me, that has to be acknowledged. But I took this thing, and we did a lot of great things. Personal highlights? I have to say Bristol Colston Hall supporting Marillion, I think that was our second or third gig, petrifying, but o of the most beautiful situations. The High Voltage Festival, Walking out on that stage and seeing six and a half thousand, seven thousand people, who were genuinely excited about seeing us. That blew my mind.
Going on tour with Fish was great. When we did his convention with Fish, playing the Marillion Convention. Our first proper headline at the Borderline, when we sold it out. There are loads of little things, but unfortunately for me, the path of The Reasoning was always peppered with sadness and sorrow. It was not a happy journey, but I came away knowing I did everything I could to make it happen, and not just for me, but for everybody. Bands, for some reason, have this situation where everything becomes far more personal, and I’ve never understood it, and to this day, I still don’t. But I’m proud of everybody, and proud of the fact at I could deal with it. And throughout it, there was a lot of sorrow, we can’t forget the fact that we lost a guitar player and I lost one of my dearest friends on this planet. God, there was so much sorrow in this band.
Personal highlights are just personal highlights, this was a rough journey, so this gig will also be a personal highlight, because as I said, we get to say goodbye properly.
So when all this is done, and the door is finally shut on The Reasoning, what then for Matthew Cohen?
My story is going to be that I’m going to step away from being a boss for a while. I’m going to be part of a band that I’ve been very excited about being a part of. I’m going to explore my heavier progressive side, which I always wanted to do. As people may or may not know, I’m going to be a part of a band called Nine Miles Down. They are a metal band, but they have a lot of progressive tendencies. They’ve got great pedigree, they’ve got incredible players, and it’s going to push me in a very different way, and I need that, I need some new adventures.
I need not to be a boss for a little while. I’ve never really felt part of a band before, even with Magenta, although I loved being in that band, because it was someone else’s dream. The Reasoning was my dream, but with Nine Miles Down, it’s run by other people, yet they very much want contributors to it, not just in songwriting, but in how things work as a unit, and that’s unique for me and something I dearly want to explore. The guys, Andy, Eddie, Nick, and Rob, they’re all super people, when we get together and talk, I feel at home. It’s a new situation for me, I have to check my boss side and not think so far into things. I’m just a bass player, and finding that balance for me is very exciting and I can’t wait to do it.
I will do other things, I have an album in planning that I will do eventually, but when that will be, I don’t know. But at this moment in time, when The Reasoning finishes, my time is purely dedicated to Nine Miles Down.
When will we get the chance to see you play with them?
I’ll let them release all the details, and when and if I have news I’ll put it out. I can’t really say at the moment. But I haven’t felt this excited since I formed The Reasoning. What Nine Miles Down are doing, what they’re producing and what their outlook is, they’re pushing me as a player. I always wanted to be pushed as a player. When you write your own songs, you can kind of fall into a particular way, but with these guys I’ve got to up my game, it’s a different vibe, a different flow, a different way of thinking, and I need that at this moment in time.
So finally, as we look to Sunday, what are your feelings as the Last Goodbye gets closer?
This ride has not been easy, but it’s been made easier by the fact that every time we played, we’ve been surrounded by people, when you look out and you see people singing along, see people wanting to engage with the music, and there’s nothing better than that. So for me, the thanks are to everybody who took a chance on us and stuck with us through thick and thin and all the bullshit. The ride wasn’t always enjoyable for me, but what made it enjoyable was the people who joined us on that journey, because that made it all worthwhile. From when we got out to play for people, you could see that they turned up because they wanted to hear our music. You can’t ask for more than that.
The Reasoning’s Last Hurrah, supported by This Winter machine, Steve Tilling’s Circu5 and Jump, is at The Robin on Sunday, September 29th. The show starts at 2.20pm, and tickets are available from the venue.