Congratulations on the release of Corona Time In Amerika, how does it feel?
It is a culmination of a lot of different musical genre interests, a lot of different social and political circumstances here in the US and it is the ultimate pandemic production….an album which brought the musicians in the band together at a time when the world was confining everyone to seclusion and isolation. It feels miraculous that a new band was born out of a strange time and that the record came together so organically and easily. Not that it wasn’t a lot of work, but it was joyous work and has lead to a follow up album which is being recorded as we speak.
What’s the story behind it?
As a child growing up in the 1960’s in Washington DC, I had a front row seat to all of the explosive issues, protests and riots of the era. My parents were involved in the civil rights movement and I experienced it first hand….that kind of thing sticks with one.
Zoom in time to 2016 and my mixed race daughters who had grown up here in Los Angeles, suddenly had complete change of reality with the election of Trump and all of the racism which had always been just under the surface in this country suddenly came to the surface and their everyday lives changed overnight. That paternal anger at seeing one’s own children subject to racism from an era fifty years ago caused me to immediately start writing music. “ Land of the Free, Home of the Slave” came first. Followed by “ I Will Breathe With You” which I wrote after being at a rather violent Black Lives Matter protest a block from the White House. That, in a nut shell are the basic ingredients for the story behind the album and to a degree for the story about the band….not absolutely everything I write for the group is political, but that is a theme of what we are about. Social and political themes and how the world affects us as people individually and as humans is the story of Fascination Curve.
It’s a 20 minute epic piece! What was the easiest and most challenging part of recording it?
The title track Corona Time in Amerika started life as a poem I wrote about the absurdities of the rise of the right wing at a time when a global pandemic, the summer of riots over racial justice and the most basis democratic foundations of government being eroded. A poet friend said you have to make this into a piece of music and it came together fairly quickly. The interesting part of the writing and composing process was marrying the humor and rather sly tone of the lyric with what was obviously going to be a long piece of music with a lot of different moods and dynamics. I have always loved the long song forms of progressive rock and it is composed in an almost classical way where musical themes and melodies reappear time and again throughout the piece with variations and reharmonizations.
The musical language is quite varied, everything from r&b to prog rock to jazz ….all with a pinch of Zappa.
Recording this was not difficult because everyone in the band has a very common core of musical influences and preferences. The parts I give the guys and girls in the band to play are road markers with varying amounts of detail but always with the caveat that everyone should feel free to make it their own and if they hear something they want to try, go for it! It keeps things fresh and exciting both for the musicians as well as for the music.
It’s part of a bigger body of work of the same title, what’s your favourite track on that project?
That’s a tough question for a composer to answer. All the tracks are like children and are loved and cared for and coddled and scolded equally. It’s also difficult to say because the pieces are stylistically varied. Apples and oranges….today I would say I have preference for Sometime Somehow but that could change by this evening.
You’re a supergroup with an incredible CV separately. How did Fascination Curve come together?
I have been doing studio sessions with Gregg Bissonette and Mha for 26 years. I know that because one of the first sessions I did with them I had my two month old baby girl in the control room.
And everybody in the band knows each other from years and years of working in the LA studio scene. The fact that they all have played with legendary bands and legendary performers is more of an extra little bonus than anything else. The main thing is that to a person, they are first and foremost really lovely people, who also happen to be first rate musicians who all share a common musical language…we all have the same record collection! And everyone is Interested in helping to create a new sound based upon music traditions we all love and all share.
How we all came together I guess is my fault for having the notion of writing an album of material based upon the historic and histrionic times we find ourselves in. And this group of humans is an honor to share time and space with, and an honor that they grace this music with their inventiveness and virtuosity. An incredibly easy group of musicians to write for and play and record with. Marc is such an inventive guitarist who never plays licks but thinks melodically in his great soloing and thinks orchestrally in his rhythm guitar tracks …. a musicians musician, not just a guitar player. Not to mention his lovely voice which adds a layer of velvet to the mix of vocals. Ken is one of the most profoundly gifted singers and background vocal arrangers anywhere…I can give him a vocal part or line to sing and he comes back with a chorale. The same with Amy…and she and Ken are sonically like a choir from the heavens. They have worked together so much that where Amy begins and where Ken leaves off is sometimes a lively and lovely impressionistic blur. One aspect of Fascination Curve is that there are no lead singers….and consequently , no back up singers. Everyone is singing…features of certain people come and go, solo voices, duets, everyone is part of the vocal mix.
Gregg Bissonette and Mha also have been playing together for their whole lives so there just isn’t a tighter drums/bass unit in the planet. Gregg is such a maestro of the drums and drumming styles that I can give him the weirdest direction and he understands exactly what I mean…and then proceeds to just kill every track he plays on. I once said to him, “ It’s like Gene Krupa and Ringo but then on the bridge, like Bill Bruford “ And he totally got it.
What were your influences starting out?
Bach, gospel music, Norwegian Traditional folk music, Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Keith Jarret, Weather Report, Yes, Javanese Gamelan, Jean Sibelius.
What were the early writing sessions like?
Since I wrote all the music the sessions happened everywhere….in bed, taking a walk, playing piano or guitar, jotting things down that suddenly pop into my head….and , of course, sitting and doing the work for hours in the studio. For whatever reason, all these tracks popped out of my mind pretty easily once I got started and realized after the first piece that there is a lot to Express here on a lot of different, but related subjects.
When you hit a brick wall creativity wise how do you break the deadlock?
Luckily, I have never had writers block. There are ideas all around us if we don’t have one ourselves.
COVID impacted the creative industry in a big way what kept you motivated?
The pandemic enforced a regimen of solitude to varying degrees to everyone in the world. A lot of suffering, a lot of pain, and a lot of heroic deeds by healthcare workers and all manner of unseen valor by normal people.
The aloneness can also provide space in which to think about one’s life, one’s work and one’s values. I realized that I wanted to revisit the idea of making music that has a longer envelope of time in which to experience the music, both as a player and as a listener. The sound byte attention span of 30 second bits of automatic music is not good for the soul. And so, I returned to some of my rock and prog rock roots to find some space in the music. We are losing our concept of time and space in the elektronet world of the constant barrage of mini bits of instant gratification. A more nuanced and adult approach to music is needed.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I am writing so much music at the moment that I tend not to listen to things actively because it can derail my composing. That being said, I have been listening to a lot of 20th century French organ music, Durufle and Messiaen. Also old Little Feat ,a bit of old Genesis and Beatles Revolver.
What’s next for you?
I just finished recording a new single with Fascination Curve entitled “ No Going Back” and just put an music video out for that. It concerns itself with the assault on women’s rights here in the US and the long history of getting where we have reached. Musically sounds like Peter Gabriel meets Sky Stone with a pinch of Queen.
And the writing for the next Fascination Curve album is done and several tracks have been recorded. Upwards and inwards and onwards.