Interview with Rob Reed
What Rob did next, after the Kompendium and Magenta albums, Magenta’s bass player Rob Reed is releasing an album that is very personal to her him, a Mike Oldfield and Tubular Bells inspired epic called “Sanctuary”. DPRP’s John Wenlock-Smith caught up with Rob recently and he had this to say about this new album
RR: Yes completely opposite where Kompendium had a cast of thousands with lots of different guests playing on it but this one is well just me really apart from three girls doing some non-word backing vocals the rest is me.
JWS: I’ve heard the album, several times; thoroughly enjoyed it and I even played it simultaneously with Tubular Bells
RR: Laughs Ok
JWS: It is definitely not the same
RR: No No It’s not, if it was I’d be taken to court, Tubular Bells is the template really, it’s a long form instrumental album, to be honest since Mike Oldfield made those first three or four albums nobody including him has gone back to that format and done something similar and that’s one of the reasons why, because I am a huge Mike Oldfield fan that I wanted to make music in that style really
JWS: It takes reference points from Mike Oldfield stuff and you have a very similar guitar sound
RR: Well that comes to listening to Mike Oldfield from the age of seven and being completely influence and a fan boy really, that’s how I’ve always played guitar with that vibrato and that sound, something I’ve grown up with and adapted to my playing
JWS: The whole album progresses through various stages and moods, is there a theme or a thread that holds it all together
RR: There are various musical themes and motifs that are hidden throughout it all , after quite a few plays you will pick up on these themes and there’s a path trod to make sure you didn’t get bored and that there was always things happening and surprises musically to keep you interested through the two sets and that was the battle, the hard bit to not sound like Tubular Bell because it’s the same instruments being used , the same collection of instruments I worked on the melodies and the tunes as that’s where it will stand or fall
JWS: It’s something that you need to listen to repeatedly so that those themes and motifs can emerge and link up so that you understand it; it’s not that you’re giving a road map but that people find their own way through it
RR: It is and I think that’s the sign of a good album , the kind of album I liked where you don’t instantly get bored with it quickly if something is really accessible, some of the best albums are that ones that develop and that you discover over three or four plays
JWS: Yes I’m with you on that one for sure, it is a very intriguing idea, one man and his many stringed instruments and keyboards and bits of percussion to go and create something that is totally instrumental apart from the vocal chants
RR: For me it was, when I started it at the beginning of last year I’d just finished the Kompendium and the latest Magenta album, all massive productions, drum kits the kitchen sink everything, and I though what am I going to do next?, I’ll give this a go and I tried it and I was amazed how good it sounded having everything “Real” these days you tend to use samplers and synthesizers if you want a tubular bells, marimba or a vibraphone you go to you sample library and there it is you know but I was amazed how much better everything sounded with everything being real I switched off all the repair things you can do on the computer, I hand played it all, leaving in all the little mistakes and timing discrepancies and it made all much more organic really
JWS: That’s the word I was going to use Organic, we hear a lot of manufactured music with auto tune and protocols so to actually go back and do something completely, with everything being “real” and not sampled is a rarity
RR: Well it is and I was just amazed at the sound of it all, when you sample something there could be twenty people in a queue and they all play the same note and they sound exactly the same but when twenty people get on a guitar it will sound totally different with each person. With the Mike Oldfield records and his guitaring , he had a way of communicating in his playing without words at the end of Ommadawn there’s this great fiery guitar solo on side one and you can almost hear the despair in that guitar and I think that was something I tried to achieve on this record, to communicate an emotion without words
JWS: There are passage where that’s been achieved, there is some great guitar work in there but it’s not just for the sake of it every note has a purpose
RR: Well it is, it’s melody I’m just a massive fan of melody and that’s the hard bit, you can’t cheat on it all the big bands, Genesis Yes and Pink Floyd especially Pink Floyd and Genesis there was never loads of widdle and 100 miles an hour playing it was all amazing melodies; Steve Hackett’s guitaring, he was never a speed merchant, he went for melody all the time that’s what people and musicians can sometimes overlook when you learn to play the instrument and you play as fast as you can and people will be impressed, but it’s the songs and the melodies that people connect with that’s what took so long on this album, reworking sections over again and being ruthless so that it worked and to be honest this is one of the very few albums I can listen to and not find a fault and wish “I hadn’t put that in there” where everything’s earned its place
JWS: Do you think that’s because of the way you’ve put it together as a concept piece despite whatever flaws you may have left in
RR: Yes, I just worked so hard on it but enjoyed every second of making it when you’re working with other musicians you’ve always got to wait for someone, a drummer or whoever to turn up but with this album I could just get on with it there was no hanging around and it was organic, it was real and heartfelt completely and utterly what I wanted to do
JWS: You got Simon Heyworth and Tom Newman involved (the original Tubular Bells production team) that must have been quite a bold step almost?
RR: It was and the reason was, I’d nearly finished the album before I bought them on board and played it to them but I knew that it would add a certain pastness to Mike Oldfield and I knew I was so close to it having worked on it for a year and a half that I wanted to play it people who I thought would give me an honest opinion and people whose opinion I would really value and who were in a position to comment truthfully on the work as a whole, if it was too close to the bone to Mike Oldfield and all this kind of stuff. So yes it was a bit bold really and I was quite apprehensive I sent part one to Tom Newman thinking this could quite easily backfire and I thought I have to do it luckily he came back and was blown away by it really, he said well done it does sound like Mike Oldfield all these same instruments but you’ve got these melodies that make it work and it’s so well played, To be honest if he’d turned round and said to me this is rubbish I would have binned it I would have pressed erase on my hard drive and it all would’ve been gone, I’d have been crying but I value his opinion and he was in a position to pass judgement on it
JWS: It’s a good thing he didn’t say that then isn’t it?
RR: I know, but he was really complementary, we spoke on the phone about it and he said you’ve captured something on there with emotion like Mike used to on his and for me that was amazing, Then he just got involved in the last bits of the mixing and the production and helped with the arrangements when I was stuck especially to sign it off and to finish the album he would come in and give me these wise old words really, put me in my place and set me on my way. It was great to have him on board and Simon Heyworth who did the mastering the 5.1 mastering, again he said he closed his eyes and it was like being back in the manor in 1973, He said it was one of the best 5.1mixes he’d ever heard, It meant a lot to me
JWS: I bet it does sound good in 5.1
RR: It’s like a totally different album, I wish that everyone could hear it , I drove down to Simon’s place in Devon where he did the mastering and he has this amazing 5.1 set up and I just sat in the middle of the room eyes closed with massive grins on our faces when it finished , it sounded so good and the format of the music lends itself to a 5.1 mix you have all the instruments around whereas with normal rock band music you’ve got to put the drums in the front and all that kind of stuff, but with this there were instruments everywhere and it envelopes you it just sounds stunning
JWS: So a different experience
RR: Completely and I’m trying to think of a way to do performances or shows live so that people can actually hear it, 5.1 albums haven’t really caught on yet you have to have a good set up and it has to be set up in a certain way, you’ve actually got to sit and listen not doing anything else just sit there, as you should really with music, sit there and take it all in
JWS: If you just consign it to the background that’s what it becomes, background music
RR: Yes that’s it and with this album it definitely demands attention and three or four listens so I hope people can buck the trend and actually do that really, like we all used to
JWS: You mentioned shows, when will that be?
RR: I’ve had it scored out, an orchestral score so it’s ready to go, it needs 12 or 13 people to do it I’m hoping before the end of the year or definitely the beginning of next year to do a couple of concerts, you couldn’t turn up at a festival with that many people a set of tympani and Tubular Bells and everything it would have to be more of a classical venue for the acoustics and things but it’s something I want to do
JWS: Well let’s hope that comes off as it would be inspirational; I’ve got a Mike Oldfield DVD where he performs Part One of Tubular Bells live
RR: I have that too, and that’s a great way to do it, In the round with all the musicians facing each other , I’d love to do that but you’ve got to find players who are sympathetic to it and that are prepared to learn forty five minutes worth of material and not get lost
JWS: So this album “Sanctuary” is out on the 21st July isn’t it? Have you had much feedback from elsewhere yet?
RR: Yes it’s been really really positive, a lot of Mike Oldfield fans have heard bits and they’re all excited at the moment we’ve these videos we’ve shot which are out as promotion but they don’t give the full story of it, for me I’ve got to do it, to let people hear bits of it but until you hear it all you won’t get it really from a 4 and 1/2 minute sound bite
JWS: All it does its whet the appetite…
RR: Yes but you need to hear the bit before so that that works too, I was pulling my hair out thinking how am I going to do this? It’s a tricky one, unfortunately even with radio now, back in the days when it was John Peel who played the whole of Tubular Bells on his show, that’s the classic story, but no one’s going to do that these days, play 20 minutes of music really, so It’s just down to word of mouth and so far it’s been really positive
JWS: Well Rob I’d like to wish you all the best with this when it released thanks for talking with us
RR: Thanks John