MFTJ, a band featuring Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Devin Townsend), and Scott Schorr (Producer of Levin Minnemann Rudess, Levin Torn White, Tony Levin’s Stick Man) have released their self-titled debut album. Described as an “instrumental prog soup flavored with art-rock, hip-hop, hard rock and psychedelia”, its an inventive and fun release with killer musicianship. It’s out now to purchase and stream from Schorr’s Lazybones Records label and features Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson) on a track. Check it out! Continue reading
To say that Marco Minnemann is one of the greatest drummers in the world would be an understatement. Putting together an impressive body of work in progressive rock, and metal with a who’s who of bands a bands and projects such as The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, Adrian Belew, Levin Minnemann Rudess, Necrophagist and many more, Marco ought to be even more of a household name. Perhaps owing to his humility and his German roots, Marco is a rarity in this business: proud but well grounded, appreciative for everything his talent has brought him in life. Promoting his new solo album, EEPS (Lazybones Records) Omar Cordy traded some thoughts with Marco for Ghost Cult via email.
How long was this project in the works?
I’m always writing music. It just belongs to my universe it seems, hahaha. So once there is enough material for an album ready I choose the songs for the right vibe and mission and then the thing will be completed. Eeps in particular was written and recorded mostly during the road in 2013 and at home January-February 2014.
As the sole creative force, what was the writing process like?
I usually write from a theme that sort of either way falls from the sky, in the form of a guitar riff, melody or groove, … Or from a vibe a purposely want to create. These things I never force, I just grab the best ideas when they show up and then build on it.
The songs I’ve heard have a very loose feel to them. Was a click track used or did you just “go for it”?
Half and half I’d say. I mainly use a click track, to keep a possible sequencer option open.
But I do like a feel that sounds ‘lively’, not to be confused with un-tightness , hahaha ;-)). I in fact like precision in playing and recording, but I leave a loose feel or also bleeding into microphones on certain tracks, as long as a groove feels right.
Did you use Roland V drums and or DW drums for the recording?
I used 2 different set ups: A DW cherry wood kit and a DW Jazz custom kit, both recorded in different rooms. On the track Eeps, the intro is in fact a Roland TD 20.
I dig the up-beatness of ‘OC/DC’, it feels like a playful 60’s era song. It just seems happy. Was that what you had in mind when you choose to make it the 1st video?
The first video was done by Scott Schorr and a friend of his. He also runs the label Lazybones Recordings and helped greatly with this album here.
And thanks for your nice words on OC/DC. That song was really just a fun experiment, playing everything in one take pretty much without giving a shit and detuning all instruments. I just wanted to see if that approach works and how it would sound like. So it’s just basically ‘controlled chaos’. But I’m happy that some people got it.
You’re mainly known as a drummer, will we be seeing more guitar session work from you in the future?
I’ve been playing guitar on my albums for almost 20 years now. So, ‘yes’, you’ll hear more guitar from me. For example on the LMR project (Levin Minnemann Rudess).
Do you find playing guitar makes it easier to write for yourself or with others?
Absolutely. When I write music on the guitar I really just focus on the drums later to compliment the song. Also when writing for the Aristocrats as an example I basically write for a ‘stringed’ trio.. And writing on a guitar on bass then, definitely helps to translate into the music that the trio is going for.
At this point in your career do you still find time to practice or are you too busy working with others?
Well, I think that composing, recording and performing really is an ongoing process, isn’t it? But I do practice things that I’m interested in and want to be able to explore of course. Also, I really play everyday, music just belongs there in everyday life it seems. And I feel like I’m missing something if I haven’t had a certain dose of it. Like food.
What other projects have you worked on recently that we should be on the look out for?
Hmmm, I’m touring with Joe Satriani right now. Then also with the Aristocrats. Recording wise there’s a new Steven Wilson album in the making. A new Aristocrats album and also Joe’s new recordings. So…, life won’t be boring it seems for a while ;-)).
What was your first concert you ever played?
My first concert I ever played was when I was 12 years old, my drum teacher at that time wanted me to go onstage and play a few songs. Man, and I was soooooo scared. I just sat there thinking ‘don’t fuck up… Just make it though the song… C’mon you can do it’. And then after I played a little solo spot within the song arrangement, people started to applaud. That’s when I basically ‘woke up’, and I saw all these smiling faces looking at me. And then all of sudden I didn’t want to leave the stage anymore, hahaha. It felt so rewarding that people brought the energy back in return to what I’ve worked for. So that moment pretty much defined that music is passion and a dedication for me.
Behold this fiendish masterpiece from the bowels of hell! Ghost Cult Issue #13 is here! Packed with the most interviews we have ever unleashed at once! Featuring an interview with our cover artist Ihsahn, as well as other in-depth dialogues with Ayreon, Biohazard, Russian Circles, Scar The Martyr, Ulcerate, Sepultura, Vista Chino, Red Fang, Puscifer, Death Angel, Levin Minnemann Rudess, Glorior Belli, and Vulture Industries. Live concert reviews from around the globe including Baroness, Katatonia – Cult of Luna – Intronaut and TesseracT, Heidenfest, Incubate Festival. Plus metal album reviews, and a guest editorial from venerable music journalist Neil Daniels. Check it out here!
Tony Levin is the dean of progressive rock bassists. In his storied career he has been most closely associated with Peter Gabriel, and his smash success of the mid-1980s. As one of the most innovative players ever, Tony has also been aligned King Crimson, as well as other musical luminaries. Tony just added one more feather to his musical cap with his stunning collaboration with Marco Minnemann and Jordan Rudess in their eponymous band. With their debut album they are rewriting progressive music history, and once again Tony is front, center and way down low. Ghost Cult caught up with the venerable Mr. Levin via email, while he is on tour in Europe.
Please tell us how Levin Minnemann Rudess came together to make this album?
The idea started with producer Scott Schorr coming to me to do another ‘project’ recording, with some of my favorite musicians. I’d done one a year ago with Alan White and David Torn, that got some nice attention from the progressive rock fans. So, I chose Marco (whom I’d toured with a bit, in Eddie Jobson’s UKZ band) and Jordan Rudess (from Dream Theater, and we’d done two Liquid Tension Experiment albums together) as a couple of wild players… and I was ready to be surprised by the outcome.
What was the writing process like? Was it more improvisational, or did you all come in with some pieces to work on?
Usually, in this situation, you start out doing some jams, and then use them, or write around them. This time though we started with composing sections, first I did, then Marco — and before long, we had more material than could fit on the CD, and it was GOOD stuff. So though Jordan and I did some jamming, intending to add Marco later, that couldn’t make it onto the record (we did include the video of it in the Deluxe Edition with DVD.)
The important thing to me isn’t how the pieces are formed, it’s the quality of what you end with — I’ve been in other situations where jams led to great tracks — so I’m really happy with this release that I still enjoy listening to all the tracks, and will for some time.
Like much of your work, the bass is equally a lead and supporting instrument on this album. Do you work out some of you more solo-y parts ahead of time or did you record them live on the spot?
Different on different pieces. Some of the stuff I wrote had bass or Stick (or cello) featured in some of the sections — never all of them, because it’s important to me to leave room for the other guys to add their own flavor to the piece.) On other pieces, instigated by Marco, there were bass ideas of his, that I just copied, or a little space for me to come up with something.
I’m okay with the bass being both supporting and lead on the album, but it’s not important to me that it take the lead – just that the level of the music is high, and that my bass playing supports what the band and the compositions are about.
I love the classic sound of the LMR band as a power trio. Marco played guitar on the album, so any thought to adding someone for future live dates or for a next album?
Good point — the guitar added a lot. We have no plans for a tour right now (because we’re all very booked up with other tours!) But we’re hoping there will be a follow up album before long, and that we’ll tour when that comes out. Whether we’ll add another player for that tour will be decided when the time comes.
When LMR eventually plays live, do you envision the songs being performed more freely for experimentation?
Wow, you’re good at thinking off into the future — we haven’t discussed that at all. I know I love improv – whether it’s completely free form, or based on themes – so my vote will be to do some.
I didn’t know you played the cello! What other instruments are lurking around your home studio that may show up on an album someday that would surprise your fans?
I have lots of basses, and a couple of Chapman Sticks, all in my studio, but aside from the electric cello, that’s about it — those are more than enough to keep this bass player challenged!
You have played on countless, classic albums. Do you have an album, or a particular era of a band you consider among your finest work?
No, I don’t. I don’t spend much time thinking back on what albums I’ve done (usually only when doing interviews, in fact!) And I’m also not big on picking favorites… of albums or bands or players. I have a lot of respect for all the players, and artists, and albums that have moved me with their music — whatever the style of it. That’s where a lot of the inspiration comes to me to try to make my own playing and writing as creative and progressive as I can.
Since you are already working with Jordan again, is there any chance you will do another Liquid Tension Experiment album someday, or is that off the table since Mike split with John and Dream Theater?
We’ve got no plans for that – haven’t discussed it even — but using your metaphor of the table, I wouldn’t take any creative music ideas off the table… let’s keep them all there, and hope they come alive.
You were really on the forefront of blogging and social media from the music world. What about that medium is the thing that is most valuable to you as an artist?
I discovered back in the 90’s that on my website I could let music fans see what it’s like behind the scenes on a Peter Gabriel or King Crimson tour — even showing them my photos of themselves — the audience — which I try to shoot at each show.
Since then, progress in digital cameras in web speed has allowed much bigger photos than I started with, but what’s remained the same is the great opportunity to take down some of that wall that exists between performers and their audience.
Nowadays social media have blasted the wall down – so it’s not a radical idea for bands to communicate with their fans.
I know you are hitting the road now with Peter Gabriel soon. When can we expect some LMR dates to pop up?
This tour with Peter will only be for a month – but next year is looking pretty busy for me — pretty soon we’ll put our heads together and choose a schedule for the next recording period. Right now, we’re just basking in the new record, how much we like it, and how great the reception has been so far, from the people who are hearing it.
What advice can you give to a young musician starting out on bass or the stick?
I’m not a great advice guy… more of a student than a teacher. I guess I’d just speak from my own experience, and say that having the chance to play music, with cool players, and sometimes whatever music you want to play – it’s a really special thing. I’ve appreciated it more and more as the years have gone by. You get focused on how many people came to the show, or how many cd’s you sold – but it’s worth keeping in mind how lucky you are to just be doing it, if even for yourself.
Super-groups are everywhere in 2013, but nowhere more-so than in progressive music. It seems the milk of creativity is bringing some of the best names in the world together, is producing killer new albums. One such group is Levin Minnemann Rudess, and their stellar, new album LMR (Lazy Bones Recordings). Continue reading