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Kevin Moore and Jim Matheos Interview

Discussion in 'Inside Out Music' started by Grey Skies Fallen5, Mar 10, 2003.

  1. Grey Skies Fallen5

    Aug 14, 2002
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    Here's a copy of the OSI interview I did last week with Kevin and Jim. Enjoy!!

    OSI Interview

    When the news that a new prog “supergroup” was forming consisting of the monumental talents of Fate’s Warning’s Jim Matheos, Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy, DT alumni and Chroma Key mastermind Kevin Moore and Pain of Salvation frontman Daniel Gildenlowe there was an electric sense of anticipation for what was to come. Early on in the project it became apparent that Gildenlowe and Moore’s writing styles weren’t going to mesh well and it was decided to focus on Kevin’s direction as well as utilize him as the project’s vocalist. To be expected, most prog fans reactions consisted of much hand wringing and gnashing of teeth. Gildenlowe is arguably one of the best vocalists out there right now with a Mariah Carey-wide range and incredible stylistic variety. To choose Moore over Gildenlowe as a vocalist, to some, seemed like passing up a gourmet meal for fast food. That is until one hears the CD…

    OSI’s debut is moody and pensive, rich in dynamics and textural soundscapes. The progressive elements are layered and unobtrusive- impossible time signatures and snakey guitar lines merge with undulating synth melodies and Moore’s sonic surgery to create an entirely unique listening experience. OSI owes as much to Pink Floyd, Radiohead and King Crimson as it does to Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Chroma Key. Moore’s vocals are ethereal and haunting, a perfect compliment to the brooding and complicated lyrics that infuse this disc. Although seemingly limited in terms of passion and range, Moore manages to convey a great deal of emotion with his laid-back approach and vocal effects treatments. Additionally and not to be overlooked is Gordian Knot’s Sean Malone who puts in the final touches with his tremendous bass and stick work.

    This music defies categorization and would probably be at home as a thematic backdrop for any number of modern films or television shows. The following interview takes place in NYC at a hotel near Time’s Square.

    Walk me through it from the beginning, how did you start writing back and forth?

    K.- I was in Costa Rica and Jim was sending me MP3s of guitar, keyboard and bass tracks and he was like ”Do whatever you want.”

    J.- And not expecting him to do whatever he wanted…

    (both laugh)

    But pleasantly surprised?

    J.- Oh, absolutely. It was great for me. It was so refreshing to send something out and I kind of had it in the back of my mind that he was going to add some nice keyboard patches over it and it came back completely different than I had imagined it but like you said, “pleasantly surprised” to hear my own material come back as something new that I could listen to objectively, it was great.

    Is that something that you find within your own band you don’t have that opportunity as the focal point, as the main writer that you have more rigid parts that don’t get manipulated as much?

    J.- Yeah, for whatever the reason I think we’ve just become comfortable doing things that way, so things get written and pretty much stay that way.

    Is that a question of maturity or the fact that you’ve played together for so long?

    K.- Immaturity. (laughs)

    Mike mentioned in his studio diaries that this was the first time he really took direction in the studio. How did that go?

    K.- “Can you try this?” (folds arms and heaves a big sigh, both laugh)

    J.- I think it was tough for him, he’s used to being in control and doing things the way he wants but I think to his credit he took direction and he had a hard time with some of it but I think he’s happy with the end result.

    K.- Yeah, and just that fact that after he recorded the parts I asked him if I could mess with it after the fact and he was like, “Yeah, break it down, tear it up.” I think he had a hard time actually having somebody stand at the board saying, “Can you try this, can you try that?” He wasn’t used to that. So it was frustrating for him but he did it and I think he was happy that he did. You know he tried different stuff and a lot of times simpler stuff.

    J.- Definitely got him to go in places he hasn’t been before.

    It seems in terms of the three of you, for Jim and Mike this was a really different project but for Kevin- from Chroma Key to this isn’t that big a leap texturally.

    K.- I think it just seems like that because I sang on it.

    J.- I would agree with that.

    Did you feel challenged on the material, that you were going in a different direction yourself?

    K.- I did, I loved it, like the song “OSI”. I was never able to work with heavy guitars on my own before and just having Jim send me his guitar parts (was great).

    How was this different from working with Fate’s?

    K.- Well Fate’s I knew it was, “play these parts” and Jim wrote most of the parts and most of it was just sound programming and once in a while a solo and (smiles) I knew my place. And here I didn’t know my place! (both laugh)

    How did you feel about Daniel Gildenlowe’s early involvement in the project? Was it a rough transition when you decided to not work with him?

    K.- That was just Jim working with him, I never really dealt with it. We didn’t work with his music or anything, never really wrote anything for him. It was soon after the beginning, we were still trying to figure out who was going to be involved with the project.

    Where do you get your ideas for soundbites and how do expect the listener to respond to things that may be so obscure that your just getting the texture of these words? There’s the section in “Space Dye Vest” that carries so much emotion but it isn’t obvious where it is from. Where do you want to take the listener with soundbites?

    K.- It’s the same way I do the lyrics, just like mumbling along to the song and then deciphering what I’m saying. I think when I’m trying to place samples it’s sort of what fits rhythmically, because a lot of times a spoken word sample will have a pace to it and it will really click with the tempo of the song. Sometimes it might be really appropriate contextually as far as what the person is saying so that is also a really important thing.

    When you pick your soundbites, do they come to you first or do you have a piece of music and then kind of fit it in?

    K.- No, I sample a bunch of stuff first that might be good for using and then when I’m working on songs I’m like (snaps finger) “Ah, right here, this would be a good place.

    What does OSI stand for?

    J.- Office of Strategic Influence.

    There seems to be a political statement going on here.

    (Both laugh)

    How do you feel as artists, you have a very unique platform to say things that don’t get said in the media, how do you feel about that responsibility?

    J.- I’m a bit leary of it myself, I don’t like to approach political subjects from a lyrical point of view when I write lyrics. I think it’s a dangerous thing because you have a lot of people who might listen to what you are saying and take it as the truth without really researching it on their own just because they look up to you and that’s not a position I want to be in really. I like people to decide for themselves so it’s something that I stay away from but I think the way that Kevin approached it on this album, he’s not doing it in a preachy way I don’t think.

    K.- I try not to talk about politics because someone might believe…(pauses) me. (both laugh) Anytime you’re talking, “Yeah I have an opinion, I feel it’s important.” For this record it wasn’t like I have this political agenda or I want to change the world or I’m gonna change… Dream Theater fans (both laugh). I’m realizing more and more that one of the reasons making music is so important to me is because I have a hard time communicating in other ways. That sounds trite but you have something you are feeling all the time but it’s not being communicated to anybody, you can’t communicate it to friends because it’s not really words or anything, it’s sort of a feeling but when I make a Chroma Key record or something like that it really seems like that’s what I’m feeling and people pick up on it and they are like, “Oh, that was really cool, what were you thinking?” (laughs) And that was what I was thinking. So with this, after Sept. 11th it affected everybody, it affected my family a lot, my brother is a fireman in NYC so he was working at the towers and I was totally apolitical before this, politically naïve and I still am. I was like, “Whoa, what the fuck is going on in the world?” just learning little bits of stuff as I went along. Just watching CNN and that general feeling that they only have one side of it.

    (At this point Jim has to leave to take care of his hotel room but we continue on without him)

    Your lyrics in gerneral are very poetic and you don’t just come out and say the obvious. There’s always some nuance there that is very valuable.

    K.- I like different kinds of lyrics too, when something is really explicit and nailing things and when you know just exactly what they are talking about I really like those kind of lyrics but I don’t write like that. I don’t know why, I think it’s like what I was saying before, when I’m writing I’m trying to express something I can’t really express in words it’s mostly the music, the sound of it. And that’s more important than the lyrical content and I think you can’t really be, it’s not really an exact science for me because I’m not a poet.

    I think some people would disagree with you, especially compared to what else is out there.


    A lot of people want to know if OSI is something we are going to see live?

    K.- We haven’t talked about it yet. We never played the songs together at the same time except for “Set the Controls…” the cover song, Mike and I played it together in the studio. I think for it to happen as a live thing would be a huge production, time and expense but everything is possible.

    Is this a one off project?

    K.- They’ve already asked for another OSI CD and I enjoyed doing the first one so I’d like to do another.

    How was it being back with Mike again, was that awkward?

    K.- It was just a week, during the middle of the project so, nah, it wasn’t awkward I mean I hadn’t seen him in years and years and…(quickly) yeah it was awkward. (laughs)

    There’s a certain romance about that period of Dream Theater when you were with them. To many people “Images and Words” is the high water mark for prog-metal, because of the blending of the lyrics, the pop element is outrageous and the instrumental performances are amazing- a lot of people want to go back to that…

    K.- Except for me! (laughs) I don’t agree with you. That’s not a high-water mark for anything for me. The thing about progressive rock… I think I enjoyed working with OSI because I could use my progressive roots and I’m far enough away from it to play with it and they were very cool about letting me be irreverent with it, like chopping it up and it was sort of “Don’t take this too seriously.” Even the performances that you are hearing aren’t the performances that Mike was playing exactly. Sometimes I think that progressive fans, they think this music is way above other forms of music. It’s either this or Back-Street Boys or something like that, I see it on the message boards all the time, “What do you like, Brittany Spears?” It’s like “Dream Theater rules!” Well, have you heard anything else? It seems that in the eyes of prog fans it’s such a measurable quantity, the quality of a band’s music, the technical prowess of the players, therefore it’s superior, don’t you sense that?

    Absolutely, it’s the gunslinger attitude from the ‘80s with guitar players. You’ve got technical chops but no soul, there’s no communication there. However as a soloist, I think you are one of the best synth players out there. I thought your melodies were extremely interesting and very fluid. Why did that style loose it’s attraction, why don’t you express yourself in that way anymore?

    K.- I’m trying to think why I did it before, I guess because that’s what it is with progressive music. That’s how you set yourself apart from other people or other bands, pop bands. It’s not by writing a better song, it’s by being flashy really. Doing really intricate, fast solos. Just as flashy as I could possibly do, I always wrote it, there weren’t that many times that I actually improvised maybe little parts live. Just because that was the progressive model and you’re supposed to do certain things and when it comes time for your solo you’d better do something that people are gonna like, when you play it live people should be looking in your direction. (laughs) But I never thought I was a great keyboard player, you know there are tons of people better than I am at that kind of stuff. I wasn’t into it like John Petrucci was, I was sort following those guys’ lead. I don’t know, it was fun but if you look at in terms of what it does for the music or the song, it doesn’t do much. I guess I’m more interested in the song and the textures and the mood of the song and how is the solo going to contribute to that? Plus it’s a different thing, progressive metal is supposed to be exciting and I don’t do stuff that I want to be exciting I don’t think. I think if anything is supposed to be exciting or adrenaline rush kind of stuff, it works more in the Dream Theater genre. Stuff I’m doing, “Ah, don’t play a solo there, just like get on with the song.”

    What would you like people to get from this project?

    K.- Well the general audience is going to be a prog audience, they are going to be the first ones to buy it and hopefully others will as well. Just a sense of having fun with it, progressive rock has been around for so long and we have to stop taking it so seriously and really have fun with it. It really is interesting and there are so many possibilities but just from taking it so seriously it’s going nowhere now it’s getting flat like jazz. (laughs) Now it’s becoming a museum piece, an artifact. I think the way to get out of it is to stop being so reverent and just have fun with it.


    It was a real pleasure to sit down and chat with these two fantastic musicians. Getting a feel for Kevin as a person and his sense of humor has really given me a deeper sense of appreciation for his music as well. As we were riding the elevator down to the lobby I remarked as an afterthought to him-

    I really liked the video on the CD for “Horseshoes and B-52’s”. It reminded me of Darren Aronofski.

    K-. Who?

    He directed “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream”.

    K.- Oh, I don’t like him. (slight grin) He’s pretty progressive.
  2. ProgMetalFan

    ProgMetalFan In the attic

    Jan 3, 2002
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    Very entertaining read. Thank you for sharing it.

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