A4D Wiki
Art Rock Circus
Background information
Origin Las Vegas
Genres Hard rock
Progressive rock
Years active 1994–present

Art Rock Circus is a progressive rock band that originated with the purpose of performing the John Miner inspired rock opera Heavens Cafe in Las Vegas during 1996. The band recorded both a studio and a live album by the same title and later released both recordings in 2000 on the Tributary Music Label.

Key members

  • John Miner (guitar, vocals)
  • Nolan Stolz (drums)
  • Kelton Manning (bass guitar)
  • Milo Keysington (keyboards, Moog)


Heavens Cafe

Release date 1996
The nucleus of Heavens Cafe was created from left over tracks and outtakes from the Mantra Sunrise recording sessions in California. The band separated due to non-musical commitments and Miner moved to Las Vegas Nevada. After a year of writing and composing supplementary material, a concept album was recorded with new musicians. The original Heavens Cafe album was used as a constructive framework for what became a live staging of Heavens Cafe in Las Vegas.

Heavens Cafe Live

Release date 2000
After a meeting with the promoter and financier Mike Lewis, a cast of 34 dancers, actors, musicians and lighting/sound specialists collaborated and secured dates and the Flamingo Theater, Huntridge Theater and Charleston Performing Arts Center. The first run was directed by Kristine Keppel, a veteran performer from the Folies Bergère, along with choreography by Charis Wallace who had recently finished work with Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway.

The story and concept revolved around the main character, "Lark", who after living a decadent lifestyle on earth, is forced to examine his prior life as the "Classical Man", his alter ego "Kral" (Lark spelled backwards) his potential better self while being instructed by his "Guardian Angel".

The music is generally considered progressive rock due to its complexity, use of odd time signatures and John Miner's unusual alternative guitar tunings.

In 2004, Art Rock Circus performed Heavens Cafe again in Los Angeles in conjunction with Insurgo Theater. The line-up from those performances included Ken Jaquess of K2 on bass guitar.

A Passage To Clear

Release date 2002
A Passage to Clear was a n alternative to a larger staging of Heavens Cafe. The recording was again a concept album with the intention of there being performances with actors and dancers, but the live project was postponed and eventually shelved as other projects and live band performances took priority. The vocalists Karyn Anderson and Karen Renee guide the album's storyline amidst Miner's further fascination with odd metered music sonic experimenting. The album was generally well received by the progressive rock community and was called "one of the most years most addictive releases of 2002" by Progression Magazine.

Tell A Vision

Release date 2005
Miner recruited new members for Art Rock Circus in early 2003, collaborating with the drummer and writing partner Nolan Stolz to release the double CD Tell a Vision in 2005. The project was Miner's most ambitious to date from a standpoint of composition, performance and production. It was recorded at various locations around Las Vegas and had a much larger cast of musical contributors than any earlier Art Rock Circus project including former performers from the Las Vegas Heavens Cafe production. Milo Keysington was particularly inspirational to the project because he presented Miner with further material that would ultimately become the next Art Rock Circus album. Tell a Vision was generally considered one of the more important progressive rock releases of the year 2005 and in June the entire album was played in its entirety on the longest running progressive rock radio show at the time, The Trip, hosted by Clay Gaunce.

The band continued to record and perform under the Art Rock Circus name. Miner also played guitaron the album K2 Book of the Dead released on Prog Rock Records featuring the songwriter and bass guitarist Ken Jaquess and the guitar virtuoso Allan Holdsworth.

In 2010, Art Rock Circus collaborated with the spiritual artist Mystikka Jade for a short film, Consequences of Infinity, that combined imagery developed by Jade into a high speed analog animation presenting a series of previously static spatial patterns high in luminance while being intrinsically tied to the music. There are also film sections of the band integrated into the film.

Variations On A Dream

Release date 2013
The recording sessions for Variations on a Dream began in 2006 after Keysington presented Miner with material he had written over the previous six or seven years. Miner was impressed enough with the material that he committed to recording the album and helping to further develop the concepts in a more progressive way. After reworking the rhythm section completely and adding extensive guitar parts, the album started to take shape more as an Art Rock Circus record than the original solo project it was intended to be for the Tributary Music label, particularly after Miner, Stolz, Manning and Jaquess joined the project with Miner producing. "It would not have made sense to release it as anything else but Art Rock Circus," said Miner.

The album was not released until 2013, mainly due to Miner moving back to California, building a new all-analog studio and marrying the first granddaughter of the music composer Phạm Duy.

The Tributary Studio

After several years of construction, Miner's vision for a proper analog recording space was realized in 2014 just north of San Francisco. Inspired by 1950s and early 1960s jazz recordings, the building was constructed for the sole purpose of capturing sound in "as natural a state as possible". The acoustic properties were based upon the specifications set forth by the Ancient Greek philosophy that the Golden Ratio for sound acoustics approximated a 3 x 2 x 1 proportion for ideal acoustic conditions.

All further projects would be recorded under these conditions using "reel to reel only" without the use of digital manipulation, outboard gear, outboard compression, artificial reverb or other digital processing effects, mainly to avoid overproduction and to keep the musicians more focused on performance while avoiding digital errors.

Construction was completed in 2014.