DPRP Tiles

This is an interview with Chris Herin, guitar player of progressive rock band Tiles. Tiles is from the Detroit area featuring Pat DeLeon (drums), Jeff Whittle (bass), Paul Rarick (vocals) and Chris Herin (guitars, keyboards). The band has released 2 albums so far, 'Tiles' in 1994 and 'Fence The Clear' in 1997. Recently Tiles have done some splended gigs as support act for bands like Fates Warning, Judas Priest and Blue Oyster Cult. The reactions they received on these gigs were very positive. At the moment Tiles are in the studio finishing their upcoming new CD 'Presents Of Mind'. Enjoy the interview with Chris Herin from Tiles, a band that deserves more attention!


René: Janssen (DPRP): The first CD from Tiles, simply entitled 'Tiles', was released in 1994. How long had the band existed before the release of your debut CD?

Chris Herin (Tiles): I wrote most of the songs which appear on the 1st CD during the Winter and Spring of 1992. At this point there was no band - just the drummer, Mark Evans, and myself. We began recording the basic tracks in the Summer of 1992. Tiles gradually formed as the recording process progressed. We generally began looking for a vocalist and bassist as soon as the recording began. It wasn't until late 1992 that we discovered our vocalist Paul Rarick. But we didn't get to audition him until early-1993. He officially joined Tiles February 1993. Bassist Jeff Whittle officially joined the band around October 1993. 'Tiles' was completed in December 1993 and released in May 1994. We spent the time in between rehearsing and actually becoming "a band" before performing live and promoting the CD.


René: : Where does the name Tilesv come from - and does it mean something special?

Chris : We didn't officially take the name Tiles until October 1993. It took a while to come up with a name. We wanted something short - and a name that didn't dictate a particular style of music. We approached the selection process very systematically. Each of us brought in lists which we sifted through, voted on, and narrowed down to a few favorites. Tiles was eventually selected because it was pretty much the best of what we had come up with. Whether that's good or bad I don't know! I had pulled the word out of a Led Zeppelin song called "Out On The Tiles". Although we're all Zeppelin fans to some extent, Tiles wasn't chosen as a tribute or anything. The song just brought the word to our attention.
From a business standpoint, we also wanted a name we could trademark. All of our research indicated that
Tiles was available for trademarking in the entertainment categories, so... Tiles became our name.


René: : On the first CD we hear Kevin Chown on bass guitar, but only as a special guest. Can you tell me more about this?

Tiles Chris : I ran across Kevin as we were searching for a bassist. Unfortunately (for us), he had just joined a band from Toledo, Ohio named Edwin Dare. However, we ended up getting to know each other and it seemed like a good idea to involve Kevin as a studio musician - at least to keep progress going on the recording. He was exactly the kind of bassist we were looking for - so why not use him? He was finishing up his parts just as we started working with Paul. Kevin is such a good all-around musician, we decided to expand his role and he helped co-produce the vocals. We were having scheduling problems with the studio we had been working at, so Kevin introduced us to Chris Andrews at Stages Recording. Kevin and Chris had done a few projects together and had a good working relationship - so the whole situation just kind of fell into place with Kevin moving into the production area once his bass tracks were finished.
Recording was almost completed when
Jeff auditioned for the band. Jeff was actually a bass student of Kevin's. As we continued to search for a bassist, Kevin kept his eyes open too and eventually put us in touch with Jeff. So, as we struggled with how to present everyone's contributions in a fair manner, we came up with the idea to call Kevin a special guest, use Jeff's photo in the CD, and give special thanks to Jeff in the liner notes. We thought it would reflect poorly on Jeff to list him as a member of the band, yet someone else played bass. So..., that was our solution.


René: : On the second CD, entitled 'Fence the Clear', Kevin is again a special guest on bass guitar. But, this time time Jeff Whittle is the real bassist on this CD. Can we say that Jeff is a full member yet?

Chris : As you know by some of the previous answers, Jeff was indeed a full-time member on 'Fence the Clear' and played on all the songs except "Changing the Guard". The basic tracks for "Changing the Guard" were recorded during the sessions for 'Tiles', which is why Kevin plays bass on the song. We simply ran out of money and couldn't afford to finish the song for the 1st CD. The song did go through an updating process - mostly involving the guitars - and vocals weren't cut until the 'Fence The Clear' sessions. Kevin's bass part and arrangement was ok, so there was no reason to re-record it - and Jeff didn't mind keeping the original track.


René: : 'Fence The Clear' was mixed by Terry Brown, famous for his work with Rush and other internationally known bands. How did you get in contact with Terry and how did it feel to work with him?

Chris : I noticed that Terry had mixed the Rush tribute album for Magna Carta. This gave me the idea to give him a call to see if he'd be interested in mixing 'Fence The Clear'. Until then, we hadn't really thought of bringing in someone else to mix. I called up Rush's management and they passed a message onto Terry. Terry called later that day and we discussed the possibility of his involvement. I sent him rough mixes of the songs, a copy of our 1st CD, and a press kit. He called back a week later saying he liked the stuff and would be interested in mixing!
So, as a long time
Rush fan (especially of the Terry Brown era), it was exciting to work with him. I would occasionally get a slight feeling of "wow, this is Terry Brown mixing our CD!" when I'd think of all the great albums he's helped create; but, since we had our own business to take care of, I had to keep my mind on the task at hand. Terry would relate interesting stories or experiences regarding Rush, IQ, Fates Warning, Max Webster, and other acts he's worked with, during breaks and dinner. He's extremely hospitable and dedicated to doing the best job he can, regardless of a band's "stature".


René: : Are you satisfied with the results?

Chris : Yes, very much so. Any lingering doubts I may have regarding 'Fence The Clear' are minor (it seems like there's always something you'd do different once it's done!) and unrelated to Terry's involvement. I think he did a great job mixing. Songs like "Cactus Valley", "Another's Hand", "Changing the Guard", and "Checkerboards" draw a person into the music - into the story or emotion of the song. There's a lot of depth and movement in his mixes.
Fence The Clear The band's philosophy at the time was to stay a little more faithful to our live instrumentation than on
'Tiles'. In hindsight, this plan may have sold some of the songs short from an arrangement perspective. There could have been more backing vocals and keyboards to add or underline different moods or textures. But..., don't get me wrong! We think all the songs are good and worthy of listening - just that maybe some arrangements are a little too "stripped down". Although songs like "Patterns" and "Beneath The Surface" are meant to rock, without a bunch of keyboard parts in the way. It's all a learning experience. We've just finished mixing our 3rd CD, again with Terry, and it's turned out great. We knew how Terry worked and could plan for it throughout the recording process. We also recognized what we wanted to improve upon as a band - based on our experience recording two CDs - and worked to bring out the best in the song, no matter what that took to accomplish. 'Fence The Clear' was a difficult CD to make from a consistency standpoint. My wife and I just had a baby, Kevin Chown moved to California during the recording (and has since returned), Paul was working about 70 hours a week while trying to record vocals, and there were generally lots of minor illnesses to work around during the Winter. But ultimately, we feel 'Fence The Clear' stands on its own as a complete work and has helped us progress toward a Tiles sound and identity.


René: : I think that you are one of the most under-rated prog bands at this moment. The reviews I've seen have all been very good, but I think that sales for both CDs are a little disappointing so far. Am I right?

Chris : In both cases, yes. 'Fence The Clear' sold better than 'Tiles', but both CDs have had their share of business misfortune. Dream Circle in Germany released 'Tiles' but ended up changing distribution soon thereafter. The CD received excellent reviews, but was ultimately hard to find. The change in distribution threw off the timing between advertisements, radio airplay, and the cd's availability in stores. People were seeing ads and hearing songs on the radio, yet couldn't find the CD anywhere to buy it! It was very frustrating. 'Fence The Clear' also fell between the cracks in several countries, especially Italy and France, but was generally easier to find. There were a few concerns by the label that the artwork was not representative of the music inside - which they felt hurt sales. Our music is marketed to a metal/hard rock audience, and the label felt the cover did not effectively appeal to this market. InsideOut Music has generally done a good job for us and we are pleased to have them release 'Presents Of Mind' this Fall. They also cannot understand why 'Fence The Clear' did not sell much more just based on how good the reviews were. It's just one of those things I guess! But, with Hugh Syme (Rush, Megadeth, Aerosmith, Queensryche, etc.) doing the artwork for 'Presents Of Mind', I doubt anyone will have concerns about the cover negatively impacting sales. What I've seen so far is very interesting!


René: : The new CD, 'Presents Of Mind', is scheduled to be released in Europe in early-November. 'Fence The Clear' contains 2 really perfect tracks: "Changing The Guard" and the almost 15-minute epic "Checkerboards". Can we expect a big change on the new CD, or will it be in the vein of these songs?

Chris : Hmm..., only 2 good songs. We need to do better than that! We are very satisfied with 'Presents Of Mind'. It's probably a combination of our two previous CDs with the growth you would expect from experience. Certainly it's heavier like 'Fence The Clear' but with more keyboards, vocals, and acoustic instruments. The songs range from being complex and aggressive to subdued and powerful (I think). It rocks pretty hard from start to finish - even Terry Brown was extremely complimentary. After listening to 'Presents Of Mind' for over a week now, I still have not discovered anything in the recording that bothers me - even slightly. Which is very unusual!


René: : Tiles hasn't technically "toured" so far, but you play quite a bit around your hometown and nearby areas. You have opened for Judas Priest, Fates Warning, Blue Oyster Cult, Night Ranger, King's X, Steve Morse, and others. What can you tell us about these gigs? How did the audience respond to Tiles?

Chris : In general, audience response has been very good for our opening shows. We get asked about the Judas Priest show quite often since it seems like an unusual pairing; however, we recognized that the audience was there for heavy metal so we played our heaviest songs like "Token Pledge", "Patterns", "Beneath the Surface", "Another's Hand", "Dress Rehearsal", and "Cactus Valley" - and the audience response was great! We were a little nervous going into the show, and pleasantly surprised at the positive response. We didn't really know what to expect. It just goes to show that fans shouldn't be lumped into liking homogenous styles music. The members of Judas Priest were also very friendly and complimentary. This show has turned out to be the biggest highlight of all our 'Fence The Clear' performances. The other shows you mention all went well. We have a good draw in the Detroit area so a decent number of people are there to see us - and that helps. About the only show that didn't go well was when we opened for Firehouse. The crowd was completely disinterested. We even opened for a Doors cover/tribute band and the crowd response was fantastic. So you never know how things will turn out...


René: : So can we expect some more live performances from Tiles after the new CD is released? Is there a chance that you will do some gigs outside of the U.S?

Chris : Well, we've actually got a few small headline shows booked for later in August to get back into the swing of things. We will definitely perform as much as possible to support 'Presents Of Mind'. We do hope that Tiles can tour Europe soon. It's really based on the sales of our CDs. If 'Presents Of Mind' sells well, then there's a good chance we can do a couple weeks of touring in the Spring of 1999!


René: : Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you want to say to the people who haven't heard the music of Tiles yet?

Chris : Thanks for taking the time to ask about Tiles - and publish these questions on the DPRP. The DPRP is definitely one of the most informative progressive rock sites on the web! I check it out at least once a week!
We realize there are many great bands from all over the world releasing CDs all the time. CDs are expensive and very few people can afford to buy all the discs they probably would like to. Music is not a competitive sport, although bands do have to compete for attention and sales. We try not to get trapped in the "quest for success". This is why we create music that we enjoy and would purchase ourselves - we never second guess what direction the music takes, as long as it's a true and honest reflection of what the band is. We don't cut corners on quality. We spend as much time and money as necessary to do the best job we can - essentially to make ourselves happy. The by-product is that by pleasing ourselves, we have created something that holds up pretty well in the marketplace.
Hopefully, people will eventually hear and read enough good things about
Tiles to inspire them to purchase one of our CDs. We then hope they like it enough to buy other CDs in our catalog, or help generate some positive word of mouth. Check out our web page at www.tiles-music.com for updated information on the new CD, newsletters, show dates, photos, and other fun stuff!


Paul Rarick - Chris Herin - Jeff Whittle - Pat DeLeon
  Official Homepage Of Tiles

Review 'Fence The Clear' on CDelight

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