Bryn Schurman: You’re listening to the Eleventh Hour on Sun, and I am here with Chris Herin of Tiles. Now I must say that I am terribly disappointed to find out that this was not a concept album about aviation or the printing industry.
Chris Herin: Yes… we’ve had a lot of fallout from that. (laughs)…
BS: But seriously, the new album is Fly Paper. There are a lot of guest artists on there… Hugh Syme is on there even as a… Now I know him mostly as a graphic artist, but a keyboard player as well? Did you have to twist his arm to get them to play on there?….
CH: Not from a musical standpoint, but just trying to wedge ourselves into his hectic schedule. That was kind of a challenge…..
Hugh actually is an accomplished piano player and back in the early to mid 70s, he played in the Ian Thomas band and that’s where he began his connection with Rush. Because Rush and the Ian Thomas band were managed by the same company and they got to be friends and tour together…..
BS: I must say there are couple of Rush connections on this album: first of all, the album cover by Hugh Syme, puns in the artwork, and produced by Terry Brown.
BS: Do you have the Morse code for DTW [Detroit Metro Airport] anywhere in your songs?
CH: (laughs) No… we certainly started using Terry – it’s been almost ten years ago – when he mixed our second CD and clearly, we knew of him through his work with Rush and Fates Warning. But then, as we kinda moved along through our recording career, we used him for his skills and not just his name recognition. So as a band that sometimes has to fight a bit of a… too much Rush influence stigma, it’s been kind of a double-edged sword. You know, using Terry for certainly his outstanding skills in production and engineering, but also trying to deflect some of the criticism that we’re simply using him because we’re bent on having all kinds of Rush connections, I suppose…..
BS: You have Alex Lifeston doing some guitar stuff for you on the song “Sacred and Mundane”. Was this all some sort of elaborate Sleepless in Seattle set up to get Alex and (Terry) back together?
CH: Um… no, actually. And having said what I’ve just said, it clearly doesn’t make necessarily good artistic sense to actually bring a member of Rush into the whole mix, but… The story goes like this: sometime last year we were talking to Terry about some guest artists. We’ve had some areas on the CD where we thought it could benefit from maybe an outside perspective. You know, a little off-the-wall guitar solo or keyboards, or some vocal texturing stuff. And Terry’s brother, who works over in England as a producer and engineer, has worked recently with David Gilmour, so our first overture to Terry was to maybe contact his brother and see if David Gilmour, the guitarist in Pink Floyd, would be interested in playing. And Terry thought that was probably pretty unlikely, so we didn’t necessarily pursue that but he offered up along those lines. He said, “You know, all through these years I’ve stayed in touch with the all Rush guys and, what do you think if I gave Alex a call to see if he’d be interested.” So, sure enough he was and Terry went over to Alex’s studio in Toronto and they spent the day doing everything you hear on Sacred and Mundane.
When we talked to Alex… We met up with him in Detroit before the Rush show and he said it was great to reunite with Terry and they had a good time. Whether or not that bodes for any type of reunion, I certainly couldn’t say.
BS: I understand you had a video shoot for this as well.
CH: We did. We shot all the rough material and are still kind of waiting on the final version of the video. It’s actually the single version of Sacred and Mundane. Which is, as you mentioned, the song that Alex played on, though he is not in the video. It was supposed to be out prior to the release date on January 29 but time is slipping away from us…..
BS: Do you have any touring plans for this year?….
CH: We are starting out kind of locally in the southern Michigan and northern Ohio region and are trying to put together an itinerary for at least the Midwest and Northeast United States. I know that doesn’t mean much to your Florida listeners, but that’s kind of where were starting. If the response to everything goes well, and certainly were willing and able to branch out if the opportunity comes our way…..
BS: I saw on your web site that you have a CD release party coming up March 9. That seems a little far out from the actual album release. Does that have anything to do with the Discipline reunion?
CH: No actually, it’s more due to internal workloads and stuff. We had wanted to kind of do it mid-February but we couldn’t get the venue we wanted. So we figured “Well, within the first six weeks of the release date is probably the best we can do.” Which is why we scheduled an in-store appearance February 2nd just to surface and do a little personal promotion the week of release.
But Discipline has actually been rehearsing for a number of months now in preparation for their appearance at Nearfest X and you know, it’s certainly a great opportunity for us to have them knock the dust off and join the release party festivities with us. They’ll play for about an hour and it’s sort of good to have those guys back around.
BS: Does the new material work in a different way live than how it was recorded?
CH: Yes. It’s quite a challenge, as you can imagine, to cover all those parts with just three guys and a singer. It’s almost a little bit like the Led Zeppelin scenario. So I mean, there may end up being a couple songs that we don’t feel we could do justice to. But having said that, the songs always start with us playing live in the studio, so there’s a basic framework of the arrangement that we think kind of delivers the song and then part of the studio process is to overdub more guitars and keyboards and vocals and stuff. So the songs always remain valid compositions, even in the stripped-down type fashion. We use some keyboard foot pedals and actually for the release party, Matt Parmenter from Discipline will sit in and play some keyboard and guitar of stuff to augment the sound.
We did specifically go into Fly Paper with the philosophy that the recorded document of the song tends to outlive any particular live performance so we felt that we should do full justice to whatever arrangements we thought the songs called for, whether or not we were possibly scratching the song off the potential live set list…..
CH: Maybe a little bit more information than you were looking for.
BS: No, that’s cool. I imagine getting the wall of guitar sound is a little harder with one guitarist, one bassist?.
CH: Yeah bass, guitar, drums and some keyboard embellishments and stuff.
BS: But you don’t play to a DAT or anything like that, right?
CH: No, we actually play the keyboard pedals for some pedal tones and facsimiles of melody-type parts, but no DATs. We will drop in a keyboard sample here or there, if it’s kind of a washing, non tempo-reliant type part. You know, a band at our kind of independent-club level, you don’t always have the best monitor system at your disposal, so those few times that we’ve actually tried to lock in with some sequencers or something. It’s just not reliable enough to go that route.
BS: Any final words for the listeners?
CH: Thanks for giving us your attention and checking out Tiles. There’s samples on our web site and samples on our myspace page. In this day and age, you can download probably anything you want for free, so that’s a great opportunity for people to try out something that they may not necessarily be willing to spend $15 to outright buy. But then, of course, like every other band in our situation, we ask that people, if they actually like it to go out and buy the CD. Hopefully it’s a good value still in this day and age, because you get all Hugh Syme’s very interesting and thought-provoking artwork along with the CD of course.
BS: Coming back to the artwork… my promo copy’s kind of hard to see but what is the newspaper that is the airplane. Is that an actual mockup of something?
CH: well, there’s nothing embedded in the actual text. It is actually the Toronto Globe and Mail that he (Hugh Syme) folded in his studio. He had actually hung it from some string in order to take the pictures, so he folded that himself.
BS: That’s real dedication.
CH: Yeah. You know, Hugh puts a lot of time into it. Clearly, we don’t have the budget that say, Dream Theater or Rush does when they work with him, but he’s a very conscientious guy and he puts a lot of time and effort into the art. So there are some, as you said, some puns and some second and third layering of different meanings and it all kind of ties in, between the inner art and the cover and some of the stuff he did with our band photo in the booklet. I suppose you’re at a little bit of a loss, only having the cardboard sleeve promo. The real artwork looks a little bit better, it’s not quite so sepia brown. For whatever reason, the inks and stuff that they use have soaked into the cardboard.
So it was less about aviation and more about… kind of the concept between the paper airplane floating over the landscape. Another thing about the artwork you’ll see is on the tray card there’s an actual fly on a piece of paper. So there’s the usual Hugh Syme secondary.
BS: All right, thak you for your time, Chris, and good luck with your new album.