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Progressive Rock Interviews

The Alea Dilemma

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Danny Brymer and Ryan Sloan of The Alea Dilemma from 2016
Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?
Danny Brymer: I grew up around music my whole life. My dad was a guitar player, and his whole side of the family were musical, so I guess I caught the strain! He was always involved in playing on the church’s music team, so I would observe. I finally picked up the guitar seriously at age twelve, and he taught me my first chords and licks. I played in church and in various bands in high school and also studied guitar with Ron Jarzombek of the legendary tech prog metal bands Watchtower and Spastic Ink in San Antonio, Texas. Though I didn’t exactly become a tech prog metalhead, my technique improved drastically. I then went off to study at Colorado Christian University where I met Ryan. There I got into jazz and classical guitar, as well as classic prog music. We had a prog band called “Strativarium” from 2007 to 2009, and after it broke up, I went home to New Braunfels, Texas, got married, and got my masters in Music Composition and Theory from Texas State University. During this time I was playing bebop jazz in a couple of groups and playing with The Aaron Clift Experiment as well as releasing my first solo jazz fusion album. After graduating, I got a job teaching music at a college in Sedalia, Missouri, and Ryan had moved fairly close by six months prior and we decided to start another band and release and album which brings us up to date.

Ryan Sloan: I grew up playing violin in elementary, middle and high school. My parents gave me my first guitar when I turned 16, due to my growing interest in guitar driven music, namely Metallica. I was predominantly self taught on guitar, only taking a few lessons from Kansas City session guitarist Matt Shoaf. I was always drawn to bass, whether it was in the orchestra or rock band setting, so it became my main instrument while attending CCU. Prior to moving back to Kansas City, I was a founding member of the band Pride in Pieces, which falls into the alt-metal category.

If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Danny Brymer: Oh boy. Well, I do a ton of teaching in music, so I might be teaching English or History or something. Or maybe writing or something else that gets my creativity going. Whatever I would be doing, it would have to be creative. I would love to write a novel or something, but with all I have going, I have no time for it. Maybe one of these days…


Ryan Sloan: Professional wrestling.... And I'm not joking.
How did the name of the group originate?

Danny Brymer: I initially thought of the term, aleatoric, and stylized it as “Aleatorik” which is a term for chance music, in which the outcome and musical flow are not predetermined. Ryan liked the concept, but thought it was not quite right yet, so he went to the root word, “alea” which means dice or chance and somehow, I don’t exactly remember how, but I got coupled with “dilemma” and that is how it came to be.

Ryan Sloan: I'm a massive “Futurama” fan. The idea came to me after watching an episode called "The Farnsworth Paradox."

Who would you see as your musical influences?
Danny Brymer: Initially I was attracted to the rock guitar heroes like Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Moore, and Eric Johnson and bands like Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, and Whitesnake. In college, I got big into jazz and started with Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny, and Scott Henderson and went back in time to Ted Greene, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Berney Kessel, and all those jazz cats. The horn and sax players like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Michael Brecker, etcetera were also very influential as were piano guys like Chick Corea, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock. I got really into the LA session players like Steve Lukather, Michael Landau, Dann Huff, Carl Verheyen, and Larry Carlton as well. Then there are the proggers like Yes, Kansas, King Crimson, ELP, and Dream Theater. I studied a lot of classical music and was particularly attracted to the works of Bach, Chopin, Stravinsky, Debussy, and Olivier Messaian. So it’s a big amalgamation of many different things.

Ryan Sloan: I take small bits from a lot of bassists to make my own approach. My short list doesn't get too far from most other bassists. Jaco, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clark, Geddy Lee. Lately, I've been developing my right hand technique to resemble Gary Willis. I'm also really in?uenced by rock and metal music. Jason Newsted is a big in?uence on me. He was never ?ashy in Metallica, but he played just enough to create a tight sounding arrangement. If they'd just turn up the bass occasionally, other people would hear it, too.

What's ahead for you?
Danny Brymer: We’ll keep playing shows, of course, around here and expanding past the borders of the Kansas City scene into the surrounding regions. And we have plans to start writing some material for a second album which will hopefully be out mid-2017. We’re going to take more chances with this second album and have some “out there” ideas without losing the melodic sensibility that we have been becoming known for.

Ryan Sloan: We also want to increase our online presence, to supplement the live show.

I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

Danny Brymer: Artists love to say that their music defies categorization, but there is a value in attaching a few key terms to your music with the understanding that the label will not tell the whole story, but that it needs to be listened to in full in order for comprehension to be realized. For me, I see it as the marriage of the power and energy of rock with the harmony and exploration of jazz with the artistic and aesthetic objective of symphonic classical music. If you were to define that with a simple term, eclectic art rock or eclectic progressive rock might cover the bases. The majority of the music is composed by me with Ryan acting as an editor and co arranger in addition to his own original ideas as well, as so it is also a reflection of our own musical voices.

Ryan Sloan: I just tell people we're prog. Some people get it, others don't.
Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Danny Brymer: I would love to sit and jam with Steve Lukather and Pat Metheny for sure. McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea would be fun to sit in with too. I’d love to trade solos with Wayne Shorter as well. And then I’d muster up the courage to ask them to give me a lesson!

Ryan Sloan: I've never been one who wants to play with someone famous for the sake of playing with them. Mostly because I know I'd turn into a massive fan boy and just want to watch them.

Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

Danny Brymer: It can be both. We live in the internet age where anyone can put stuff out, and the streaming makes it easier for an artist to be heard. You don’t even have to download anymore with the on demand streaming. On the other hand, it is hard to make money off of record sales that musicians are having to do more grueling touring than ever before, because album sales and publishing royalties are not what they used to be. It’s a double edged sword for you. I also feel that it has in a sense cheapened the music non-monetarily. I used to wait in anticipation for my favorite band’s new album to come out and get pumped up with the release of the first radio single. Then I’d rush to the record store and buy it, then run home to pop it in my CD player while reading the insert and letting the music take me to another place. We don’t do that anymore. We Spotify and YouTube stuff while doing other things and don’t take the time to truly let the music take over as we used to.


Ryan Sloan: I think it hurt initially, but more because the industry didn't adapt. Had it not fought the change, it would be a non-issue by now.

In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?

Danny Brymer: I don’t have any problem with that. If I did, it would be pointless to combat it since YouTube makes everything available in minutes. Some of my nights aren’t the greatest performances, and being the perfectionist I am, I’ve cringed at the things I know I could have done better, but it is what it is. It allows other people to find our music and it is a record of our history. So I have no issue with that.

Ryan Sloan: No, I've never had an issue with it. I've always loved watching videos from the crowd. It feels more authentic than a polished live DVD. When it's us being filmed, it lets us take notes on where to improve performance-wise.

If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Danny Brymer: Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. We’ve lost enough brain cells already. Enough said. 


Ryan Sloan: Barney the Dinosaur. I have had it out for him since I was six years old.
If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Danny Brymer: I’d probably have Steve Lukather on guitar and occasional lead vocal, Tal Wilkenfeld on bass, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Chick Corea on keys, and Richie Kotzen on lead vocals and maybe occasional second guitar. There would be chops and feel and a wide variety of styles would be touched upon, keeping everything rocking and energetic. I think it’d be a killer band to see live.

Ryan Sloan: The Winery Dogs. They've got all I need to say "Yes, I'll buy their record."

If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Danny Brymer: Another hard question! Well if this was my epic birthday party, and I had all the money to put together a festival I’d have a combination of prog, rock, and fusion artists. From prog, I’d have Dream Theater, Neal Morse, Dixie Dregs, Kansas, The Aristocrats, Animals as Leaders, and Spock’s Beard. From rock, I’d have King’s X, Toto, Eric Johnson, Andy Timmons, Van Halen, and Joe Bonamassa. For fusion, I’d have Scott Henderson, Allan Holdsworth, Robben Ford, Steve Lukather, Aquarium Rescue Unit, Wayne Krantz, and Steely Dan (though they are not exactly fusion).

Ryan Sloan: I have to add Porcupine Tree or Steve Wilson to that list. Riverside and The Dear Hunter need to pop up on that one as well.

What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Danny Brymer: I’ve been listening to Carl Verheyen, Eric Johnson, Michael Landau, and Steve Morse here lately. I recently got turned onto Adam Rogers who is a great modern bebop player, and I’ve been getting into Brent Mason’s stuff as well. I don’t remember the last CD I bought, but I do plan to buy the new Dream Theater album. Also since Keith Emerson’s unfortunate passing, I’ve been digging through ELP;s catalog and especially my favorites like their debut, Tarkus, and Brain Salad Surgery.

Ryan Sloan: The Many Colored Death's album. It's like Kings X meets Soundgarden. They're out of Columbia, Missouri.

Have you read any good books lately?
Danny Brymer: It’s been a while because of my busy schedule, but the last book I read that I really enjoyed was Hidden Order by Brad Thor. I’m a sucker for political conspiracy type novels, and that one was a great read from start to finish.

Ryan Sloan: I've never been a reader. I see the value in books, both ?ction and non, but I have attention de?cit disorder and can't focus for long periods of time. I get my reading in by visiting museums and spending time at as many exhibits as possible.

What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Danny Brymer: Outside of local shows, it has been a while since I’ve been to a national level show. Quite sad actually since having kids starting in 2012, my concert attendance has been very dry in regards to national acts. My favorite local show I’ve been to lately was of The Many Colored Death, who Ryan mentioned earlier.

Ryan Sloan: My answer is the same as Danny's.

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Danny Brymer: I was really into the LA session players for a while, still am for that matter. And because their recorded output of their own is a little limited, I’ve gone into their session discography which has included the likes of Michael Bolton, Richard Marx, and other artists I don’t like to admit freely that I’ve listened to. If you get past the cheesy lyrics and arrangements, the guitar parts are tasteful and those 80s tri-chorused tones are beautiful.


Ryan Sloan: (whispering so nobody hears).... Creed.
What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Danny Brymer: When I was in college, I was playing with their jazz big band and it came time to do a piece that I was the featured soloist on. I switched guitars and after the big intro I came in, but nothing came out. I soon realized that I wasn’t plugged in so we had to start all over! I wonder how many people saw me unplugged and were just waiting for the moment of realization!

Ryan Sloan: I yelled at a sound guy once because I thought we were getting our set cut short unfairly. I never made that mistake again.

If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Danny Brymer: I’d probably eat with Beethoven, George Washington, and Martin Luther.

Ryan Sloan: Shakespeare, Einstein, Beethoven

What would be on the menu?
Danny Brymer: Gourmet deep dish pizza.

Ryan Sloan: Chipotle, BBQ, or sushi.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Danny Brymer: Stay tuned for new music and performances and check out our new album if you have not already!


Ryan Sloan: Also, support local and unsigned music! It's where we all start!

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 2 at
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