JULY 2003 - with

Phil Jackson

ZEITGEIST Progressive Rock Magazine – PARADOX ONE -

(also check out Phil Jackson's review of ROCK WIDOW in ZEITGEIST Music Magazine 6/03)


First of all why the title 'Rock Widow' and the funereal images on the sleeve?

I wanted to dedicate this cd to the many bands, bandmates, musical colleages and lifetime friends I've played with over the years. They were on my mind, and in my heart, throughout the nearly six months of recording it took to realize this album. I even invited several special old "partners in crime" in for cameo musical appearances on the cd.
I regard the times I spent with bandmates - whether in some garage rehearsing - or on the stage performing - or during grueling recording sessions, etc - as among the finest moments of my life. It's where I've had many peak experiences & profound personal & professional relationships. In sum - it's what I did with my life.

As for ROCK WIDOW'S "funereal" and "widow" imagery - LOL - I've been doin' it so long I've often felt "wedded" to rock, and "married" to many of my longtime music-making partners. I daresay I've also shared a lifelong romance with music itself - as an art form... as a way of life.

Ok - you can see how much this has all meant to me. And as you know - All things must pass. I've grown older, and as I move on I have to put some of the more youthful aspects of being involved in rock music behind me. Many of the people I've made music with are no longer musicians... some are no longer even alive... None of the bands mentioned in the cd's dedication booklet still exist... and many of the songs written while I was in those bands were forgotten about and never even recorded.
So... as I move on into my own future, it was also time to put some of this past of mine to bed... to record it for posterity... to come to terms with it... to give it a "proper burial". And who better to hold the funeral, after such a long marriage, then the Widow herself? She's the only one who can tell the tale as she lived it, and if she didn't tell it, no one else would anyway.
How did you get into the music of Charles Ives? Taking Schonberg's quote in the review you have entered complex territory.

I love "Twentieth Century" classical music. While in college, I discovered Ives's songbook of 120 songs. I fell in love with them and have sung over 20 of them in recitals, accompanied by piano. Now I like to take them into my own rock-inspired world. Ives displays the same inventiveness, daring, genius, beauty, etc in classical music that I've always appreciated in good progressive rock music.
Arranging your songs to get just the right combination of instruments and sounds is obviously a very high priority for you. What is your background training in this?

I think i use classical music - esp the symphony orchestra and chamber music as my starting point. I studied orchestration, conducting & composing in college - and played in several orchestras as a flutist for several years after college. I could observe firsthand how the classical composers put their music together.

It also helps that I come from the "progressive rock" tradition - in that we think very carefully about song arrangement and orchestration. Album's like YES's CLOSE TO THE EDGE and CRIMSON'S LARK'S TONGUE IN ASPIC are masterpieces of economical rock-instrument orchestration. It's very important to try and say the most with the least - to NOT over-duplicate musical parts. Many bands and musicians make the mistake of thinking "more is better. "No - "less is better". In fact - "less is MORE".

In putting a work together, I try to NOT say EVERYTHING at once. Let the music DEVELOP as the piece progresses. Let it unfold.

As for arranging the orchestration - it is an almost unendurable & very painstaking process of trial and error for me - testing each sound, each octave, each volume, each combination of timbres, each e.q., each effect, etc, etc - until it's right. Every time I add a part to a piece, I test out just about every patch on every synth in my studio (or every stomp box in my guitar arsenal) - until one tone "speaks" to me as the right sound for the part.
Are there any other classical composers who have interested you?

MANY - and from all periods. Prokofiev I think is my personal favorite. Also Stravinsky, Ives, Bartok, Holst, Roussel, Haydn, Beethoven, Telemann, Berg, Puccini, Messiaen, Massenet - there are too many to list. I am also an avid opera fan (rock and opera are SO alike -in SO many ways)
Some of your music would be ideal for films. What exactly does your production company produce?

Thank you. I do write music for films. I just finished the instrumental score for a murder/slasher flick called DEAD GUYS, and am now working on a haunted house vampire score for an upcoming film called DAS HAUSE. I particularly enjoy composing dark, scary music. There's a page on my website that lists films I've composed music for. Several songs from my cds have also been featured as cameos in films. Producers somehow came across them and contacted me to use them.
The opener on 'Rock Widow' sounds semi-autobiographical. Without wishing to be at all voyeuristic - is this the case? (You don't need to answer this one)

Yes it is. "You Don't Wanna Know" is the story of my life. You needn't feel embarrassed about asking. It was the last song on ROCK WIDOW I wrote. In fact, the album was finished, but it still needed that one song to sum up it's concept. "You Don't Wanna Know" turned out to be the perfect "first song" for the album. It captures the complex & bittersweet emotions I felt reflecting back on a life in Rock that is at once both a waste and a joy. All it does is tell the truth. I don't know if "explaining" the lyrics here would do it justice, attract listeners or repel them. Am happy to just let it tell its own story.
Many of your songs are intensely personal and passionate. I believe the 'godless' album got you into a bit of trouble with the establishment.

Yeah, I guess my songs are "personal & passionate". I have found this to be a good starting point for making a song original, unique, and "true". It kind of "forces" me to find fresh original chords & sounds - as theyt have to accompany thoughts & feelings that only I could think & feel. There are way too many generic songs out there, wherein the songwriter/lyricist simply rehashes WHAT HAS WORKED FOR OTHER LYRICISTS or WHAT THEY THINK people want to hear, or WHAT THEY THINK they should say - instead of WHAT IS TRUE for them.

One bit of "trouble" I got in over "godless" is that a group in our fine U.S. State of Alabama got together to have the cd banned in that state for it's title - and labelled me "a modern Anti-Christ". I was touched and honored to be that for them (!) They never bothered to consider the IRONY I was going for in choosing that title.
Would you care to elaborate on what you mean by 'godless'?

There were several levels at work in choosing that title. One comes from my favorite philosopher Nietzsche, who understood that new ideas from creative individuals are always first mistakenly perceived as being "evil" by the mainstream. As good example of this is what the Catholic Church first thought of the ideas of Galileo & Copernicus.

A second is that the term "godless" is a favorite "catch-all" derogatory term used by fundamentalist, conservative right-wingers to demonize anyone that is different from them, or thinks differently from them - as in people who differ from them politically, religiously, sexually, ethnically, etc - ala "commies", "fags", "heathens", etc - and as I am a gay man I thought I'd just call them on that. My attitude on this subject is also clearly expressed in the rock anthem (Click here to Listen)"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on ROCK WIDOW.

A third is that I knew the name "godless" would shock - like a mohawk on a punk does visually - and I was just being insufferable, as we artsy types tend to be...
Environmental issues are also of great concer to you and one of my favourite songs of yours is 'J'accuse' from 'Elegies'.

Yes - Environmentalism is of great concern to me. It is THE single most important cause in the world today. Frankly, I'm sick and tired of pissing away all the worlds resources & money on hate-filled-full-of-ourselves-testosterone-wars and destruction.

Our "religions" are just institutionalized excuses to hate each other. At this point I care more for plants and animals than I do for humans. Humans just wreck things. It's what they do. In fact, it's what they do best.
Jack Bruce has obviously been an influence on you. What would you say are your main influences and inspirations both literary and musical.

The music from the Brit Invasion of the mid-sixties, the ensuing psychedelic music of the late sixties, and the ensuing progressive art-rock movement of the late sixties to early/mid seventies are my main rock influences. Then some resurgence of influence via the Police, Grunge-rock, U2, Gabriel, etc. I also luv the girl-groups of the early sixties.

Was never really too big on punk, metal or new wave. And I despise what rock music has devolved down to today. Is mostly all ca-ca now.

As for Jack Bruce - yes - I love his stuff. He's one of the very greats, and very underrated. I also LUV CREAM.

Literary - hmmmm.... lots of poets.... lots of ancient Greeks.... Lots of 60's artists like the Beatles & Joni Mitchell, lots of sci-fi writers....
What exaclty is 'The Boys From Paradise' all about?

It's an autobiographical take on my own young psyche - capturing my teen-age mind set - as I discovered the love of rock music and the love of being in a rock band. As per the lyrics - I really was like that - and really felt that way. I was a sensitive & spooky young man. And as a queer teen-ager, naturally there was a unique emotional & psycho-sexual dynamic to my being thown into the mix of an original band with other guys.

But even beyond that - there's a lot to being in a rock band, for any teen - gay or straight - that's very cult-like, quasi-religious, peer-oriented, full of intense male-bonding, secretive, boys-club-no-girls-allowed. It's not unlike how teenagers make a little world out of their sports or their cars, etc. And I'm just reminiscing on that world in "The Boys from Paradise".

LOL - The funny (or scary) thing about me is that... in a way I never grew out of it.
What are you future plans, Robert?

Now that I have "buried" my past, so to speak, with ROCK WIDOW - I am now concentrating more on composing, composing for film, producing, and teaching. I have my own recording studio - URBAN PRODUCTIONS - where I record my own music, as well as music for clients.

There is also a big work in my near future. It will either be an opera or a rock opera. I want to explore vocal music beyond the regular "song" form. I'll keep it's proposed title and subject matter a secret for now.

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