As usual, thanks for dropping by fellow progheads! Been a whirlwind summer so far and I for one hope the festivities continue endlessly. After checking in with Scarlet INside and Bent Knee, I decided to take the Concert Closet to visit one more prog band who recently released an album. Trekking across the USA for a look at the left coast, I find myself back in Oregon for an interview with Chris Rudolph and Timelight...and of course some indulging on their eponymous debut album...
As is the case with most of us "logical OCD types," I prefer to start at the beginning.; I believe a small taste from the Timelight buffet is in order to get things started. The new release opens with a deep, hard-hitting piece called "The Law of Identity." Layers of guitar begin to hit you as the song opens...gently at first--but watch out for the head-butt! Drums saunter in as gently as Andre the Giant playing the Tooth Fairy while vocals seem to reign down from above the cacophony. Keyboards? ...wait for it...boom! Timelight builds a song the old fashion way; one hard-hitting note at a time. Now to get a bit deeper...
Closet Concert Arena: First off, congratulations on the new album. I've been wearing out my copy of the CD and the music is really deep; there is an outward darkness that seems to have shafts of light cutting through. Was this a difficult album to mix?
Chris Rudolph: Thank you Vinny, I appreciate your support of Timelight. Mixing the album was challenging; making the Timelight album was a complex process that had to accurately reflect our musical vision. The production of an album, and I do mean production in the sense of creating something from nothing as a musical artist, is akin to creating a painting. The empty screen of the recording project is a blank canvas. Recording the music tracks is just the first step; more color is added during the mixing process. Certain sounds get enhanced while others are reduced or even removed. Timelight's music is dynamic. There are heavy--or as you say--dark sections bordered by mellower or brighter segments. Balancing all those sounds and tones did make for interesting mixing. The goal was to have as much clarity as possible while at the same time an "open" sound that was not overly compressed. We wanted the tones to be distinguishable even in the midst of a complex musical arrangement.
CCA: The album, in typical Timelight fashion, is laden with heavy riffs and ornate, multi-layered sound. Where do you draw the inspiration for the music and what artists/bands do you feel have had the most influence on your style?
CR: Timelight's inspirational influences fall into three categories. First, the most obvious...bands from the "glory days" of prog, Yes, Rush, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, ELP, and many others are among the most important bands that inspired each of us to pursue this music genre.
Second would be the progressive and metal bands of today; Tool, King's X, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Karnivool, and Riverside are but a few of the many I could mention, including some great lesser known prog bands bands doing fantastic work.
The third category is more abstract, but essentially encompasses music and artists not classified as "progressive rock." French impressionist pianists like Gabriel Faure and Charles Koechlin, classical guitarists Ralph Towner, John Fahey, and Alex DeGrassi. Also the harmonic conceptions of jazz improvisers too numerous to list here...1970's big band jazz and jazz fusion; all would fall into this category. Inspiration for Timelight truly is everywhere. There was never a specific goal to sound like any one band or create a specific style. We write the music first; the compositions we create dictate the style--not the other way around. We remain true to our musical integrity, so within an album, and perhaps even a single composition, our "style" shifts in different directions. In a previous review you described our music as a "prog melange;" that fits quite well. Every serious musician is influenced in some way by those that came before regardless of style or genre. One of my favorite quotes is from the late great jazz trumpeter Clark Terry, who said; "Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate." Just three words, but so powerful. Timelight strives to innovate by blending genres while not being beholden to the specific boundaries of one style or another.
CCA: The album has a bit of a jazzy/fusion feel at certain points; "Mountain Trilogy" for example has a Chick Corea/Weather Report meets Transatlantic/Beardfish feel...can listeners expect even broader expansion as Timelight continues to grow?
CR: "Mountain Trilogy," especially the second and third movements, capture that style nicely. This composition is by Ron Murvihill, Timelight keyboardist. You will definitely be hearing more of that and more of Ron's influence on the next Timelight recording. Before Ron joined the band we had been together as a trio about a year and I had already written most of the band's core material for the first Timelight album. Once he joined the band Ron contributed some great parts for "Genomes" and "Normalcy Blindness" as well as composing the entirety of "Mountain Trilogy." The next album will be reciprocate in the sense that Ron has written the bulk of the compositions; there are two more we are writing together. So yes, without giving away too much, there will be more of that keyboard driven style on the next Timelight album.
OK; my curiosity is piqued...let us check out Ron's brainchild, "Mountain Trilogy." The opening piece has that smooth, jazzy feel Timelight seems to wear like a favorite old sweater...the drum work manages to wrap itself around those keyboards while vocals swoop in, leave their mark, and move out. The guitars arrive just in time to pull you in deeper as the music swallows your head slowly and deliberately. Time changes and mood swings highlight this piece as you sweep across the prog garden, riding high and floating free...
CCA: In addition to Timelight, you have also released music as a solo artist--very good music I might add. Are you still pursuing both avenues?
CR: I'm glad you enjoy my solo work. I released my solo CD at the end of 2012. For that album I sang all the vocals and played every instrument except the drums; Steve Lauer recorded the drums. While I was pleased with the final production, my specific goals are to make the best music possible...and as much as I enjoy working solo, I prefer the band context with other musicians. It is my belief and particular experience that working with musicians who are true masters of their respective instruments results in the best music possible vs. a "one-man-band." Case in point; by any rational criteria you conjure up, the Timelight album is a superior effort as compared to my solo work. That was the goal--to do better; otherwise what's the point? Without getting too specific, as a general rule I prefer the group efforts of my favorite progressive rock bands to the solo work of their respective band members. There are glaring exceptions--of course--but the synergy between band members is so much greater than the sum of its part so to speak. So while solo albums are a part of my future, they are not a priority at the moment.
CCA: What is the bond that holds Timelight together...apart from playing their respective instruments, what contribution to the whole does each member bring?
CR: We all love progressive rock; we have been listening to it since our youth and it still inspires us...simple as that. I might also add that we all like science fiction...and good coffee...
CCA: Why Timelight; what was the inspiration behind the name of the band?
CR: Timelight is a made up word that does not exist in the Oxford Dictionary. The interaction of time and light are at the heart of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. That sounds way cool for music nerds who also happen to love science fiction and good coffee...it might even make for a good band name. Nowadays it is almost impossible to find a good band name everyone likes that isn't already taken and the domain name is still available. The best way to get ahead of it is to make up a word, so we did. There are also some band name generator programs on the web, which might explain the the name chosen for "Neutral Milk Hotel." Timelight had no success with this approach however.
CCA: What track on the album is the most personal for you?
CR: I believe that as both a composer and listener it is more interesting to decipher and derive one's own interpretation of what a song conveys in both music and lyrics. There may be common themes running through the lyrics; something that might convey a personal meaning for one person or another, including the composer. That being said, there are songs on the album with special meaning for me. However; that is filtered through my personal existence and inspiration. I prefer to let the songs speak to the listener in a way that conveys a unique perspective for them.
CCA: If you could play a live gig with anyone, who would you like to be on stage with and why?
CR: I would love to play with Steven Wilson; he is such a complete musician and I have the utmost respect for him. I have always been a big fan of Porcupine Tree, and Steven's recent solo works are absolutely superb. I think "The Raven That Refused to Sing" might be one of my all time favorite albums. I also admire how, as a mix engineer, he has taken some of my favorite recordings; "Close to the Edge" as one example, an album I have listened to thousands of times, and made it sound new and fresh. As both a musician and a producer who can integrate so many styles and artistic concepts into his unique vision, there is no equal for me. I know I would learn so much just working around him, seeing his approach and way of doing things.
CCA: Any touring in the works to promote the new album?
CR: No touring planned, but it would be great to be able to get out and share the music live. We all have day jobs that render touring impractical. We have had a number of great internet prog rock radio stations recently feature our music and add Timelight to their playlists. Given the current state of the music industry, internet radio is a wonderful option and perhaps the best way for Timelight to share our music.
CCA: What other music industry hats does Chris Rudolph wear?
CR: My primary focus is creating and producing the music of Timelight. I do enjoy the process of mixing audio. Generally speaking I like the challenge of taking raw recordings and turning them into something better--maybe even something quite good. In the future I plan on doing freelance mixing for bands.
CCA: What else does the world need to know about Timelight?
CR: Timelight is musical integrity; we produce music for music's sake, period. People need to know Timelight is a band committed to producing quality music not confined by the boundaries of commercialism and music industry economics. Timelight, like so many great lesser-known prog bands, is keeping progressive rock alive and well--and we will continue to do so.
That, as they say, is a wrap fellow progheads. Timelight is a band on a mission...namely to keep nourishing the prog garden and through it the minds of the faithful listeners. I chose to wrap the interview with a cut from the album that was quite appropriate given the emotional and honest outpouring from Chris; "Teach Us What You Love." As is Timelight's signature, the song opens on all cylinders and wanders through the prog garden, both taking and giving back. The vocals waltz across the top as if buoyed by a floating foundation of drums, keyboards, and guitars so entwined with each other you can't drown. The wisps of organ are a treat for the auditory senses; a bonus to keep you alert and focused. Learn more about Timelight at Timelight. Please check out more of their music and purchase the album at Timelight Bandcamp. Keep up with their music and find out what goes on behind the scenes at Timelight Facebook. Of course you can also find Timelight's latest outbursts and musings on Twitter @timelightband. Like a fine wine, Timelight is best savored and sipped again and again...
Timelight is the thinking person's prog band...much to dwell on and ponder long after the laser has left the disc. The prog garden is made wider and broader by bands like this; unafraid to stretch boundaries, refusing to conform, and simply eager to search out something new for the next studio session. The search for all things prog has brought me into contact with great people, exceptional artists, incredible bands, and folks who are focused on and dialed into the music--not the lights, fancy stage props, or anything that would draw your ears away from the sound.
If you get nothing else from this blog, I hope you sense and appreciate all the different nuances and variations the prog garden has to offer. Timelight is but one growth in some extremely vast and very rich acreage. And now, as is my custom, I am off to continue my search for all things prog...until next week...