Transatlantic interview (Neal Morse)

"People who get this music will never forget it. They'll have these moments that are touching their heart and soul"

08/01/2014 @ 12:15
Every time that the four creative forces behind the spacecraft of Transatlantic are joining to create a new album, progressive music celebrates. Now, they're back with their fourth album called "Kaleidoscope" and they offer yet another amazing journey for the fans of their music. Mr. Neal Morse, was on the other side of the phone line, ready to speak about this new masterpiece, its creation, the unique chemistry of the band members, the upcoming tour and what this music means to those you get it.

TransatlanticHey Chris! How are you doing?

Hi Neal! I’m fine. How are you since we met in Athens?
Oh, everything is good man!

Glad to hear and it’s always a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with you and of course listen to new music from you...
Thank you...

Now, I want to know how do you feel knowing that you’ve recorded the best album of 2014, haha?
(laughs) Wow! Oh, thank you! I’m sure that definitely that’s a matter of opinion (laughs)

Transatlantic - KaleidoscopeI don’t negotiate that (laughs) Ok, what I really want to say is that you have yet another masterpiece with Transatlantic, another masterpiece in your career, so my congratulations for "Kaleidoscope"...
Ok, thank you again...

I’d say that "Kaleidoscope" is as Transatlantic as it could be, yet it also contains some elements that could be described as departures from your core sound. Do you agree? Where does it stand in your opinion in comparison to your previous albums?
I love it. I’m still grateful for the work it has in it. It has so many killer ideas and these great players. I feel really blessed. I think it’s the same thing, but I think we dwelled into some different areas than we’ve done before. I think we’ve grown as people and as musicians and I think it shows up on the CD.

Would you like to mention something specific that was kind of new territory for you music wise?
Hmm, let’s see. I think Mike played here some jazz stuff to the guys. We got into a little more to the King Crimson areas; there are some heavy bits, which are different from what we’ve done before. I got into some spacey stuff that was different from anything I’ve ever done before.

In my opinion, Transatlantic gives real meaning to the word 'supergroup', as the combination of the four of you always manages to bring something different and something that none of you would be able to accomplish without each other. You have a unique chemistry. What makes this group of people so special in your opinion?
Well, I don’t really know exactly. It’s like the chemistry in a relationship. How does it work? I don’t know. I really don’t! We know that it works and we know that it’s special. We know that when we get together and we start playing special things happen. It’s a really interesting group of elements or ingredients you might say. Transatlantic is its own particular dish, with unique ingredients that make it up and when it comes together there’s an explosion in your ears (laughs). It’s amazing!

TransatlanticWas something different this time around? I guess most of the work was done at your place when you met as usual, but "The Whirlwind" was quite unique, so something must have been different, right?
Well, we did go about it in a similar way that we’ve gone about all the other albums. You know, I started doing some pre-production work; I started writing and demoing stuff several months before. Everyone sent around their demos and their bits and we all checked them out and Mike listened to them and figured out the best parts of each demo and how they might work together, which is really amazing and he’s gifted at it. Then we just got in a room and went on with it and this is what came out. I try not to compare albums too much, it’s like comparing children. I think they’re all cool and I’m just really grateful for having this one and how this one came out.

Taking the tracks one by one, "Into The Blue" seems to be close to the first two albums. It’s so beautiful overall, but what stands out is the participation of Daniel Gildenlow, as many fans wanted this to happen. Could he be considered kind of the fifth member? How did you decide to give him this small role?
That was Mike’s idea to have Daniel sing that part. I was a little bit concerned... a part of me didn’t want to give it up, cause I really loved that part, I really wanted to sing it. When Mike suggested it, I said 'well, let’s listen, let’s see what Daniel can do on it'. Of course, when I heard it I was 'Oh, dude. That is killer! Let’s ask him to sing the next verse!' That was great, you know. That’s how it happened and it’s a wonderful addition to the album.

Transatlantic"Shine" is a track that begun from the sessions of "Momentum". What made you think it would fit so good for Transatlantic and how did the other guys change it? I really would like to know the journey of the transformation of a song from its initial idea to what we finally get to hear...
Well, it depends. Some of the songs stay close to the original and some of them are changed entirely, they’ll be transformed and it’s always a little bit different, unless a guy likes the song just the way it is. Like, I think "We All Need Some Light" we pretty much did it like the demo for example. On "Shine" we changed the introduction. Basically, they listened to the song and said 'I like this part, I don’t like this part, let’s change this part, let’s keep this part'... you know, that kind of thing. And I was gonna go like 'yeah, I’m not attached to this either, let’s change this part'. And then we added the guitar solo in a different key, that was kind of a Roine thing and then I had to go back to the song and end it. So, you know, it’s pretty easy for us, because we generally agree on what’s good and that makes it pretty simple.

Well, yeah I guess it’s helpful to agree with all this music. Now what would you think if I told you that I get an Eagles feeling on that song?
A 'what' feeling?

An Eagles feeling. You know, the ones with the terrible song...
Oh well! An Eagles feeling? From "Shine"?

Yeah, I don’t know why...
Ok, I didn’t know that (laughs).

TransatlanticAlso, it’s the first Transatlantic video clip. It’s really nice, yet quite simple and what I really appreciated is that you didn’t have to edit it, so as to be 4 or 5 minutes long. How important can a video clip be for a band like Transatlantic?
I don’t know! We’ll find out. We haven’t really done it before. I felt good about it, we felt it was a good idea and it seems like it’s getting a lot of good reviews, getting a lot of interesting. Hopefully, it will be something that works well in the end. We all really enjoyed doing it. We did it in London in an abandoned church and the crew was awesome and so it’s all good.

"Black As The Sky" is a really great and diverse track. It brought "Mystery Train" to my mind from the first album. Also it’s quite anthemic isn’t it? How would you describe this song?
That came about from Pete’s chord progression... Pete had this chord progression, only this chord progression and I began to play then synth melody over it and then I would leave space in the verse and Roine would sing it. I didn’t know what Roine was thinking until he sent me his vocals. And then we were like 'well, we need a chorus' and we wrote the chorus in the room. Then, all the rest of the song we kind of jammed it out. That really bizarre section in the middle with all these strange time signatures, Mike just played his drums with all the weird timings and then I started with a synth and went bar by bar and played the synth melody into it. Then we kind of laid down the basic tracks. Then, of course, right along we recorded the whole thing and got it all correct. Then we just jammed the rest of it...

Transatlantic"Beyond The Sun" is basically a solo effort of you with wonderful cello by Chris Caramichael and pedal steel by Rich Mouser, who are both connected with your solo career. Is this mostly a piece of yours than a Transatlantic song? Did you feel you need song like that in the vein of "Bridge Across Forever"?
I don’t know... It just kind of came to me. I was on a flight... I had just done a gig in Canada, with the Neal Morse Band in May, right before Transatlantic was gonna get together. I just kind of felt that song... when I heard that song I was thinking of my dad that passed away... It brought Transatlantic to my mind, because my dad passed away three weeks before "The Whirlwind" sessions. So, with Transatlantic coming alive I was thinking about that and, you know, we ended up having "Beyond The Sun". I think it’s a beautiful addition this song...

The title track "Kaleidoscope" is the blueprint of this album in my opinion and I guess that’s why you named the album after it. It’s simply an amazing 30 minute long journey, with a lot of wonderful things going on. What is it about really?
Well, I don’t know (laughs). It’s really a bunch of different pieces that we kind of threw together. I think that’s the whole idea of the kaleidoscope thing - a lot of different things that are swirling around. You have the "Lightning" theme, which is like a spiritual picture of the Holy Spirit, could be like electricity and like lightning. That’s my thought. And then Roine’s "Black Gold" section is kind of a religious, political commentary and that’s kind of an interesting thing. Pete’s section is a soul searching section and then we go to this other part about how you can’t be satisfied with some these things in this world, how you can’t be satisfied with money and things like that. And then we go to this insane instrumental... I don’t know how it really makes sense, but somehow I think it works. It does in some way!

TransatlanticThere’s a keyborad solo on the 12th minute that I really enjoyed... What is it? Don’t know why but I did really like the way it sounds, haha...
This sort of a jazzy part? Yeah... I was thinking of early Weather Report, the keyboard player, Joe Zawinul. I remember him using sounds that were sort of like that. He influenced me on using that keyboard sound, as I was going for a bit of a jazzy part.

I haven’t heard the covers of the special edition, but I can’t wait for them. Especially, the ones on Yes, Elton John and Moody Blues. Which one turned out to be your favorite and how did you end up with these songs? Was it Mike’s work?
We got together and everybody picked a few. I picked "And You And I" and Mike picked "Nights In White Satin", Roine picked "Indiscipline" I think and Pete picked The Small Faces' "Tin Soldier". So, we all got together, catch up and played these cover songs. It was a lot of fun...

As you may already have figured out, I really love your lyrics and especially on "The Whirlwind" as they are deeply spiritual, but in a very unique way, so I’d like to know more about the lyrical themes this time around...
The main lyrical of "Into The Blue" is encouraging someone who feels that God has left him behind. That he’s still calling you, he’s still there for you. That’s where I was coming from with the lyrics on that one. "Shine" is about reaching out in love even through darker times. You know, even while the moment is slipping away from us we still seek to shine in a world for the Lord. "Black As The Sky" is about kind of black, political motivation and the motivations of man in the difficult things that happen. "Beyond The Sun" like I said is about heaven and seeing your loved ones again. And "Kaleidoscope" is about a variety of different things.

TransatlanticYou’ll be hitting the road soon and as I can see you play larger venues, which means that you are growing as a name, right? Also, I hope we can still count on the 3,5 hour shows, firstly because it’s a trademark of Transatlantic and secondly because I’m coming to Berlin to see you...
Oh yeah? Come on! Come on, you’re gonna love it!

I’m pretty sure about that. So, can we count on that three and a half hour set?
I prefer the secrecy! I don’t know. I really don’t, honestly, how long the set is gonna be, but it’s gonna be a full night of prog. You can count on that.

Do you feel that Transatlantic are getting bigger and bigger? Is the world asking more of Transatlantic?
It seems like all around the world people are responding in a greater way, but I don’t know... we’ll see how it turns out. I try not to think about that kind of stuff so much. I really just focus on music as much as possible.

I remember watching the Documentary of the "Whirl Tour" DVD and I was really impressed by the amount of work you had to do with the keys and the layers. Is this as difficult as it seems to bring out a Transatlantic tour?
Oh yeah. A Transatlantic tour is a really difficult task. You have to program all the sounds and get everything in your head. You have to get it like it’s your second nature, so you can do all this stuff -and it’s a hell of a stuff- without thinking about it, because there are so many things that are going on and are distracting while you’re playing live.

TransatlanticI’m going to claim once again that Transatlantic is the best thing that happened to progressive rock music the last 15 years. Where would you see it going from here? I think that if you become more active you could become a classic rock band, if you get what I mean. Could you see it getting bigger with time?
I don’t see it. I mean, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know how it will go. We hope to reach more and more people and to do more of the music we feel compelled to make.

Do you believe that more people nowadays -in lack of a better word- 'understand' this music and not just listen to it?
There’s a certain element of people that they just don’t get it. I always accept that. It’s always gonna be like that. But, to the people who get it, they’ll get it and they’ll never forget it. They’ll have these moments that are touching their heart and soul. And that’s all about being a musician, that’s all you want to do.

Before we close I’d like to take you back to the Athens show. Firstly, my apologies for making you sign all this stuff, haha.
That’s all right man, no worries!

I know you enjoyed it, but tell me what you really remember from it?
I think it was one of the best shows I remember being a part of for a long time. I felt really good about it. I felt really blessed. The audience was amazing and the band was killer. To me it was a really blessed time.

TransatlanticWe were the blessed to see you...
Thank you.

Also, I’d like to know if the sessions for your next solo album are going well. I think it’s the first time you kind of work with a band for a solo album, right?
Yeah, we had these sessions a couple of weeks ago and it went great! We loved it.

I suppose it won’t be ready by the end of the year, right?
No, I don’t think so, but we’ll see what happens. We’re working on it.

Ok, thank you for time Neal.
All right, God bless you.

Thank you very much...
Take care brother.

Chris Karadimitris