interview for DPRP by Martien Koolen
frameshift, a new progressive super group is born ...
Frameshift is an exciting new progressive rock project written and produced by Henning Pauly of Chain and James LaBrie of Dream Theater. The fifteen songs on the album called Unweaving The Rainbow are a mix of metal, ambient, techno, orchestral, rock, pop, loop-based music. In 2002 Henning Pauly discovered old tapes of recordings made during a rehearsal with his old band Chain. He listened to the tapes again and found it worthwhile to reconstruct and reproduce these songs. Matt Cash recorded the vocals and when the record was done Henning presented it to the band. They really loved the material and Henning sent a copy to an Internet radio station, and with this he started a chain of events that no one could have foreseen. Reviews started to come in and the response was overwhelming. The guys behind the label of Chain were in tight with James Labrie, who had frequently told them to let him know if they heard of a project he might be interested in. They initiated the communication between James and Henning, and several months later Frameshift was born. Recently I had a talk with James about Frameshift and Dream Theater of course……
MARTIEN: James, first of all I would like to ask you a few questions regarding Dream Theater, as this is your “main job”, and then we’ll move on to the Frameshift album. How was the European “An Evening with Dream Theater” tour, which you just finished?
JAMES: The European Tour went absolutely fantastic. The crowds were huge and everyone I spoke with loved the shows.
MARTIEN: Best/worst gig?
JAMES: I can’t say there was any gig that was the best or worst. All the shows seemed to be right how we wanted them to happen.
MARTIEN: The new album “Train Of Thought” seems to have divided the critics (who cares??), but also the fans. Some really like it while others almost seem to “hate” it; what is your opinion about that?
JAMES: When you release and put out an album of this nature, where the immediate musical element that hits you is heavy, hard and relentlessly hitting, it is going to be controversial. Some are going to want to hear more of the inter-playing of elements; be they progressive, classical, jazz, etc. If you do take the time to sit with this album, you will hear most of the elements you have come to know Dream Theater for. The only difference is the elements that are there are very intense and powerful. Some might find the technical and complexity a little too much of an exercise but if you put it into perspective you will see that it made sense for the type of album that we wanted to make. We love it and obviously you are not going to win with everyone. That is the subjective reality of music.
MARTIEN: Is it your favourite DT album?
JAMES: My favourite DT albums are Images and Words and Scenes from a Memory. Make no mistake, I love this disc too.
MARTIEN: Again there was some criticism about your vocals. Does that still bother you, or do you think, hey, what the h…..?
JAMES: These people are pathetic and need to move on. I say get a life and maybe work on making your life a better one instead of thinking the answer lies in cutting someone else up to raise your miserable spirit.
MARTIEN: Great answer. Okay let’s move on the Frameshift album. How did you come into contact with Henning Pauly?
JAMES: I was contacted by Jerry George, an A&R guy from Progrock records. He asked if I would be into doing some vocals on a tribute album. I told him I don’t do any more tribute albums, but if he heard or knew of any new and upcoming talent that I would be interested in let me hear the music. Well, he turned around and got me some music by Henning Pauly. Needless to say that I was intrigued immediately. The rest speaks for itself.
MARTIEN: Did you like the idea from the start?
JAMES: Well, the idea from the start was to get me to do an opera like disc. And I said I wasn’t sure how I felt or if I wanted to do another one at this time. So Henning started to approach the music as an album concentrating on the vocals being presented more in the vein of Queen; with its triads and accapella. The music was to be progressive but more in a song sense and not so instrumentally driven, even though those elements exist.
MARTIEN: So the songs on the album are perfect for your voice, am I right?
JAMES: Absolutely, Henning and I made sure all would fit like a glove. The songs just seemed to lend themselves to myself and Henning constructing very easily, beautiful melodies.
MARTIEN: You co-wrote almost all the songs, where did you find the time, the ideas add the inspiration?
JAMES: If you like something enough, you will find the time. Like most musical endeavours I tend to sit down late at night and during the afternoons.
MARTIEN: Some of the material reminds me of the Leonardo-project, or is this just coincidence, or maybe my imagination?
JAMES: I would say that is more a personal interpretation. To me I think Frameshift’s “Unweaving The Rainbow” has its own musical signature and doesn’t sound too much like much else.
MARTIEN: The album is musically very diverse. Do you think that DT fans will also like the album? Or is it maybe meant for another audience?
JAMES: Well, I know for a fact that DT fans love it. All have given it rave reviews. I can’t see how you couldn’t. It has all the ingredients that a progressive head can’t ignore and immediately grow fond of.
MARTIEN: It is a concept album. Were you already familiar with the works and theories of Richard Dawkins?
JAMES: I wasn’t before, but just before the recording began I read a book of Richard Dawkins called “River of Eden”. Very profound and interesting theories. I am not a believer in evolution, but knew it was important to sit on that side of the fence in order to record my vocals and sing the album with a sense of commitment, sincerity and conviction.
MARTIEN: Was it not hard/difficult material to sing, e.g. the acappella parts?
JAMES: Not at all, I loved it and would love to do more in the future.
MARTIEN: Is “Unweaving the Rainbow” a one album project?
JAMES: Henning and I have already been speaking about following it up with another one. The reaction has been incredible and I think it makes sense to another and continue the ride and even better it.
MARTIEN: Could you perhaps explain the title?
JAMES: I think that question should be pose to Henning. I am not sure how his mind works sometimes, ha, ha, just kidding. Do ask him this question. It was his thought and idea from the beginning. It obviously ties in with the mystery of the rainbow and life can easily fall into that realm. We are dealing with the diversity of nature and where and why it is today, what it is.
MARTIEN: Will there be a Frameshift tour?
JAMES: I don’t see that in the near future. Beyond that anything is possible.
MARTIEN: Will there be more side projects of you in the near future?
JAMES: Yes, I have an album I did with Tim Donahue “Madmen and Sinners”. It will be out sometime in April, very cool, like Sabbath and Rush. I also did the lead role for a project from Arjen Lucassen called “Human Equation”. A conceptual album, lyrically and musically. I am joined by many great singers; great music.
MARTIEN: I never knew you were a Queen-fan, what do you like about their music?
JAMES: What is not to like? Freddie is majestic with his voice. The emotion, power and sincerity are unmatched by any singer of today or ever for me. You have Brian May, who is an incredible guitar player and very innovative with his sounds and guitar designs. Their music always had a sense of adventure, experimental and powerful. It was like an orchestra and a choir coming together.
MARTIEN: Last question, when will we see/hear Dream Theater in The Netherlands again?
JAMES: Hopefully sometime late summer or early fall.
MARTIEN: James, thanks for your time and for your answers. I really love the Frameshift album, so please make another one.
JAMES: You’re quite welcome and I am glad you love the Frameshift. I am very proud to be a part of it and do think Henning is one rare talent.
Take care Martien, speak soon.
Frameshift at ProgRock Records
Read our Review of Frameshift's "Weaving The Rainbow" !
All images © 2004 ProgRock Records