by Sandy Auden
It's sex, stories and rock and roll for author Kevin J. Anderson, ProgRock
Records boss Shawn Gordon and all round talented musician, composer and producer
Henning Pauly as they talk about the making of the Terra Incognita:
The Line In The Sand rock CD and its intimate connections with Anderson's
new novel The Map Of All Things.
Here Be Sea Serpents, high adventure and a quest to win a war with an all round experience that not only provokes the imagination but also surrounds the reader in dramatic melodies and riffs. Riding the success of their first fantasy novel/rock CD combination, author Kevin J. Anderson and Shawn Gordon from ProgRock Records have released their second rock CD, A Line in the Sand composed by multi-instrumentalist and producer Henning Pauly, to complement the adventures in Anderson's novel The Map of All Things.
The novel is the second volume in the Terra Incognita series and focuses on the clash between the lands of Tierra and Uraba and their respective religions. The series tells of the endless spiral of atrocity and retribution and further retribution; and in The Map of All Things the unrest has escalated from a few skirmishes to a full blown crusade.
There's a different feel to this second CD as Anderson explains: "While the first CD -- Beyond The Horizon -- had a sweeping symphonic feel because it revolves around the spirit of exploration and sailing ships, the second one is about the crusades and the ever-expanding spiral of hatred between two lands and two religions... so the music is much edgier, harder, heavier. 'Spiral,' the first song we put together, has the key refrain, 'You killed our fathers, so we kill your sons. How can you say you're the innocent ones?'
"Another difference from the first CD is that this one tells a part of the story that isn't in the novel, so listeners will get an extra plotline."
That new story features a several main characters in the books: Soldan-Shah Omra from Uraba (sung by Steve Walsh (Kansas)), Queen Anjine from Tierra (sung by Sass Jordan (Album Rock's female vocalist of the year)), Mateo, the royal guard who is also in love with the queen (sung by Michael Sadler (formerly of Saga)), and the young Tierran soldier Simon (sung by Nick Storr (The Third Ending)). The CD delivers ten powerful rock tracks that sound simply sublime in the car with the volume cranked up, the windows wound down and the vocals soaring through the air.
Managing all the singers to bring those vocals together were composer Henning Pauly and ProgRock record label owner Shawn Gordon. For Gordon, this is his second time around with Terra Incognita: "The first one, Beyond The Horizon, was very satisfying at the end of the day, was very well received and has sold well, so it made sense to do the next one. At the time we made the decision it was dicey because it had just come out, and I didn't have the luxury of a lot of time to think about it. Fortunately things went well and I made the right decision."
While the music is still credited to the group The Roswell Six, a number of the singers and Erik Norlander, the composer, from the first CD, were unavailable this time round. Fortunately, Gordon is a talented organiser. "For musicians, Erik is a keyboardist, not a bass player or guitar player, so we got musicians to cover that. Henning is a top level multi-instrumentalist, he graduated suma-cum-laude from the Berkley school of music, so it didn't make sense to have another guitar player play the parts that he just played. He also knows how to orchestrate and has all top level sample libraries, so again, it didn't make sense to have other people play those parts.
"For vocalists we'd always assumed we'd either keep the exact same group or swap everyone out. Janis Ian was slated to do the female vocal since before we started the project, but we did talk to Lana Lane and John Payne about doing the new one. They were both very busy with touring and recording, so we figured we'd just go with a new cast.
"Ironically, Payne was on the first album because I couldn't get Steve Walsh, who was just too busy touring with Kansas and working on their new DVD. This time around it was Payne that was busy and I was able to get Walsh to do it. So the fact that Sadler is the only one on both albums is more of an anomaly than anything else, we just love his voice so much, he does such an awesome job of getting into these characters. His performance on 'Letters in a Bottle' from the first album literally brought a few people to tears."
In terms of new people on the project: "The main person is of course Henning," continues Gordon, "and he's someone we had discussed for the first album, but because of schedules and stuff, it didn't work out. This time it did and it was just a matter of deciding on what voices fit each character. Everyone on this album but Sass Jordan is someone I already knew one way or another, so it was easy to talk to them and figure things out. Even Sass wasn't terribly hard to reach and we came to an arrangement pretty rapidly.
"What a lot of people don't understand about these projects is that they tend to evolve and grow rather organically, rather than there being a huge big brother master plan to begin with. I tend to do a lot of things by the seat of my pants. It's kind of exhilarating really."
Henning seems to understand Gordon's seat of the pants approach. "Henning has been on my label since just a few months after I founded it. We did the two major Frameshift projects together, one of which I wrote the story for, and I've been in the studio with him for a half dozen albums. We know how to work with each other, we can be totally honest with each other and we can argue and get over it a minute later. He'll even say to me, 'I just need to bitch about this and get it off my chest, then I'm done with it'.
"So there weren't any ulcers on this project in that regard, Henning really nailed it. I think we only had one song that we needed to rework to fit the flow of the album better, but everything else was pretty much spot on out the gate."
Pauly was certainly a significant contributor to the project: "I wrote the music (which includes melodies), played all the instruments, produced several of the vocalists, engineered, mixed and masted the CD...
"So, I didn't write the lyrics, that much is clear, although Kevin, Rebecca (Moesta, Kevin's wife) and I worked on some passages together to make them fit better. Also I didn't sing, except for a backing vocal part. Here's how it worked...
"Kevin and Rebecca sent me the lyrics, I studied them and then we talked on the phone.... about what the song is about, the character who sings it, the characters motivation and feelings, where it is in the storyline and where it will end up on the album, which has a big effect on what kind of song it should be, and then they tell me what kind of music they envision. They might say something like 'epic' or 'orchestral' or maybe 'think Rush'. So, they gave me a rough direction which I then had to merge with what the lyrics allowed for in terms of speed and time signature.
"I also had to make sure that musically it stayed fresh, that we didn't repeat certain time signatures or types of orchestration and keep the album interesting, but as a producer, that is my job, to keep the big picture on mind. Kevin does that very well with books and I have a lot of experience with the big picture within the confines of a 70 minute CD, so we worked well together."
Naturally, the first CD, Beyond the Horizon, played it's own part in the new album process too. "Kevin asked me to listen to the first CD and I said that I didn't want to do that," reveals Pauly. "I had heard three tracks and that was enough for me to know where the production was and what type of sounds were used. It also showed me that the focus was clearly on the keyboards.
"I wanted to start fresh and although I had used a lot of synthesizers before (that's what I studied), I made a conscious decision not to use synthesizers. I wrote orchestral arrangements and used Piano on two tracks. There are also two tracks with a pulsating bass, but no Mellotrons, Hammond Organs or Synthesizers.
"So, it wasn't hard to take on a project with a past history. I just knew what I didn't want to do in order to clearly distinguish my work from what Erik did, draw a clear Line in the Sand, if you will..."
Before they could even cross that line into recording the music, there were challenges to overcome as Gordon explains, "A good friend of Kevin's, Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Janis Ian, was going to be the Queen character on the album. She was heavily involved and helped with lyrics and such, but when she got the songs, she was the first one to raise her hand and say, "Hey guys, this is way heavier than what I do, I really don't think I can belt it out like you need," and she was right. She's a great singer, but this needed Janis Joplin kind of balls on it, and that is a huge testament to Janis' integrity as an artist, she wanted what was best for the end product.
"At this point Kevin and I went through a ton of names to try and figure out who might work out, there is always the dilemma of a 'name' versus a vocalist that might not be known. Henning threw out Sass Jordan's name and we talked to her. She was totally in to it and gave us an amazing performance."
After that the challenges were familiar to Gordon. "You're dealing with human beings, not machines," he says, "so the challenges are all pretty much outside the music itself, like people getting sick, or getting busy. The writing for Kevin and Rebecca was probably easier as they were more used to the process and writing lyrics at this stage, but from my perspective of just managing everyone and the tasks, it was all the same as the first CD."
Meanwhile, Kevin Anderson was juggling writing and music. "As I was writing the second Terra Incognita book, I received rough music from Henning for various tracks... and that music inspired the writing. Some of the phrases in the lyrics wound up in the prose for the book, but mostly it was a parallel process. Oddly enough, because I wrote both Book Two and Book Three during the creation of the CD, there may have been more influence on the third novel, The Key To Creation."
Anderson applied his novel writing skills to organise the lyrics. "I plotted out the tracks/songs just like I'd outline the chapters in a novel, and then Henning knew the overall plan. Some of the songs were written first, just because that's the way the lyrics came out. The song 'Spiral' was the first one done and Henning used it as a sample to show his stuff -- and he blew both me and Shawn away.
"The main difference in the lyric process on this second CD is that Janis Ian co-wrote the lyrics on two of the songs -- 'The Crown' and 'Need' -- with me and Rebecca. That was amazing, because she's such a great lady and such a legend in the business. We've been friends for several years, and also just wrote a short story together. I was thrilled to have her pitch in with this project. (Yes, I'm being all fanboy again.)
"Other than that, Rebecca and I did all the writing. Some of the songs came primarily from me, others were mostly Rebecca's creations, but by the time they were done, they were true collaborations."
Anderson was also involved in other areas of the music process. "Henning was extremely interactive. I had liked his music for a long time (Chain and Frameshift), so I knew his instincts were very much along the lines that I wanted. We would talk on the phone at great length, brainstorm the type of music each song needed, and he would look at the lyrics and build the music around it. Sometimes we would need to retool the words to fit with the song.
"I know what I'm doing in telling the parts of the story, and Rebecca is a genius in turning my clunky lyrics into a good song -- Henning is an expert in writing the music, and he certainly didn't steer us wrong."
Anderson's writing experience was useful as Pauly explains, "When you start off with lyrics and someone who has a vision of what it could sound like, you already have a direction. I had to find out what a good phrasing would be for the text I was given and then come up with a melody. This all had to also fit the character that was singing it and work well for the specific vocalist. It was not always easy and I did get stuck on a few things, asking myself ..."how the f@$k am I going to do this?
"There was one song where I could not make the chorus work that Rebecca wrote for it and I called them to talk about it... so, together, we came up with a new chorus which sounded great on the phone, but then I got stuck on it again... The rest of the song worked great, so I wanted this to work... I got stuck... I then wrote a chorus on my own, hoping that I had truly understood the character and Kevin's intention. I sang it for him and he immediately liked it, we then changed the lyrics a bit but we finally had a song."
The rest of the composition had a lot of thoughtful effort put into it too. "Since we are talking about two religions confronting each other and those religions representing our western and middle eastern belief systems, it made sense to use scales from these two different worlds," Pauly continues. "Kevin wanted to use more obvious tools to show the different origins like specific instruments, but I wanted to do it all with a set of instruments that are commonly used in rock and metal. I didn't really want this music to be dateable. I wanted to challenge myself by trying to get the themes in there not with using gimmicks, but rather do it all with harmony and melody and maybe even rhythmic hints. Kevin was soon on board with that approach.
"For example, for Omra I used a middle eastern scale and drop D guitar tuning. Mateos' tracks don't make use of the modern drop D, but rather try to stay in normal E tuning and also use the key of E, so intuitively you might hear a different vibe between the characters. Or... listen to the chords of the 'Barricade' chorus, they are the same chords as used in the verse of 'My Father's Son'... And so on..."
While Pauly composed, Anderson and Gordon were off sorting out other necessities. "I was pretty much in charge of the CD booklet," says Anderson, "I worked with the artists Lee Gibbons, Bob Eggleton, and Richard Ware to get the right paintings for the songs, and I wrote all the text in addition to the lyrics, the added pieces of the story."
Gordon was off arranging people at short notice again: "Having Charlie Dominici (Dream Theater's original lead singer), and Arjen Lucassen (Guilt Machine, Ayreon) do vocals was very much a last minute thing that came up," says Gordon. "I was also trying to convince Henning to let me play a tambourine solo on the instrumental, but he wasn't having it."
Eventually, all their hard work came together and A Line In The Sand was done. Looking back, some memories stand out more than others for Gordon. "I remember the moment when I first got a rough of 'Barricade' back from Steve Walsh. I had just woken up, it was about 6am and I'm checking my email and I have this link from Walsh. The beginning of this song just had a spoken 'A Line in the Sand' at the beginning, but Steve took it to a whole other level, he came up with all this amazing vocalization and it just literally gave me chills to hear it. I think I woke the kids up because I turned it up so loud. It was at this point I realized that Steve was truly in to this project, I mean I knew he was a veteran in the studio, but this was beyond what I was expecting."
Anderson agrees with Gordon. Anderson had gone to his, "favorite lodge in Moab, Utah, in the red rocks canyonlands, where I spent a week hiking and dictating many chapters in The Key To Creation. I was reading email on my laptop in the lodge at night, while it was snowing heavily outside, and I got a message from Shawn, with the file attached of the song 'Barricade' complete with the brand new final vocals from Steve Walsh.
"Now, Steve Walsh from the group Kansas had been one of my seminal influences since the mid-70s when I was in high school. In fact, the Kansas album Point of Know Return is all about sailing ships and sea monsters, and was very much the influence for this whole trilogy. So, I was already very pleased to have Steve singing on the CD -- and there I was in Moab, Utah, after a day of hiking and writing chapters in Terra Incognita, with the headphones on, playing the opening track on the CD and hearing Steve's vocals singing our vocals.
"Yeah, that moment kind of stands out."
For Pauly, it's more than just one moment: "I love Sass Jordan's performances in particular. Her voice gives me goosebumps and I'm thrilled to have had her sing on my music."
And finally, with two great rock CD's under their belts, are the Gordon/Andersons team going to do another CD to go with volume three of Terra Incognita? Gordon's keen but, "it all comes down to schedules again, I know Kevin has a bunch of books he is working on and Henning is trying to finish the new Frameshift album along with all his studio work producing bands, and I'm trying to finish my own dang album. If we don't do it for book three, we'll likely look at doing it for some other book of Kevin's in the future, but something that is more sci-fi than fantasy based just to mix it up. Don't tell Kevin I said that."
Anderson can also see timing issues but doesn't want to stop here. "I'd love to complete the trilogy, but the practical fact is that I write the novels much faster than we can produce a CD. Right now I'm finishing the fourth edit of the completed manuscript of Book Three, The Key To Creation...and we just came out with the second CD.
"However, I love the unique art form -- nobody else is doing novel/CD crossovers to such an extent. In fact, I don't think it has ever been done. Shawn and I have already talked a bit about maybe doing something similar for an upcoming novel or series. Roswell Six will hit your stereo speakers again, never fear."
Until then Pauly wants everyone to enjoy the CD and, "to remember as many melodies as possible. I don't want them to have the 'oh no, not again' moment when the CD player in the car starts playing the CD over again. Also, it would be really cool if really hot women would think how great it would be to have sex with the guy who wrote that music... "Well, a man can dream, can't he?" (five points for the sci-fi fan who can tell me where that quote is from: email me at henning at henningpauly dot com)"
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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