Jean-Christophe : Hi Neal, how are you ?
Neal : Very good, I’m fine !
Jean-Christophe : You’re going to release the second Neal Morse Band album. How did Neal Morse become The Neal Morse Band and why ?
Neal : I’ve been working with Mike for a long time. I was looking musicians to create a band that would be as strong as it could be with vocals and instruments in every way. So I went on Youtube auditions and I found Eric and Bill.
Jean-Christophe : After The Grand Experiment, your next album is a double concept album, The Similitude of a Dream. Can you tell us a few words about the story, which is inspired by The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book written by John Bunyan ? Why did you wish to tell this story ?
Neal : Well, I wasn’t sure that it was the direction we should go. Somebody sent me the idea on internet a year ago, and this idea stayed in the back of my mind. In december, I remembered the suggestion of making a progressive rock album based on The Pilgrim’s Progress. I had some ideas that I really liked so I read the synopsis of the story online, I didn’t own the book and I had never read it. So I began to look at the storyline and put ideas on my phone. I sent all these ideas to the band before we met in january (Mike wasn’t there because he was busy). We wanted to take these ideas and shape them on, because that was raw ideas. For example we took the chorus idea I had for ‘City of Destruction’ and in the room all together we wrote the verses and the bridge, things like that. We began the work with this general template and it became pretty obvious for us, after these four days in january, that it was the direction where we should go.
Jean-Christophe : The new Neal Morse Band sounds more eclectic than ever with old prog sounds (Genesis like), jazz guitar and classic instruments. Did you want to write something very different this time ? There’s no epic title as usual but a lot of shorts ones, can we talk about a single track one hundred five minutes long ?
Neal : To me it’s a one hundred five minutes piece. Although there are a lot of really good hooky sounds on this album. What I really like about is how song oriented this album is.
Jean-Christophe : We hear violins, trumpets, sax, percussions… Can we say that The Similitude of a Dream is a prog symphony with all these guests musicians ?
Neal : I always liked to incorporate a lot of orchestral instruments in my work. Back to Spock’s Beard they were french horns, trumpets and flute and it’s always cool to incorporate this kind of things. I love classical music and what I like in prog music is to add that kind of elements.
Jean-Christophe : Mike said that “THIS is THE ALBUM of mine (& Neal's) careers”. Are you proud of the result ?
Neal : I don’t know, maybe I need the way for the smoke to clear a little bit, I know that Mike thinks that, and I am glad that he thinks so. I think it’s one of the best albums I’ve been involved with, but maybe I need to play it live for a while and feel it out. I really try not to compare albums, to me it’s like comparing children.
Jean-Christophe : How long did it take to write and record The Similitude of a Dream ? The band used to release albums in a very short time, was it different ?
Neal : It was different. For The Grand Experiment album I didn’t bring anything in before, some other guys did, so we had a lot of stuff in the room. This new album was a kind of conglomeration of a lot of kind of things. I had stuff pre-written that I brought and the guys had things that they wrote. It was different than The Grand Experiment but not so different than how Transatlantic works or even Flying Colors. There’s a lot of writing in the room but sometimes people have some ideas that pretty flashed out to begin with and if it’s good, it’s good. The point is to make the best record you could make, it doesn’t matter so much how it’s made.
Jean-Christophe : Another question about this old prog album coloration. Do you agree that The Similitude of a Dream sounds more english classic prog than past albums, even if there are also U.S. sounds like ‘Freedom Song’ in the album ? What are your thoughts about that ? Is this something you had in mind when you wrote this album ?
Neal : Not at all. I don’t know. To me that stuff is really in the ear of the listener, how it is perceived. We didn’t have this in mind when making the album.
Jean-Christophe : It’s incredible to discover Paul Whitehead’s painting in the booklet. What made you choose Paul for the artwork ? The nostalgy of 70’s ? Or some other reasons ?
Neal : That was Randy’s baby. Randy Georges knows Paul Whitehead who lives in L.A.. We wanted something different with this album, and Randy said “Hey, why not Paul Whitehead ?”. I agreed that we should do something different because the album is different. We wanted to do the best, audio, video, artwork and everything. I think Paul Whitehead’s painting is very special.
Jean-Christophe : Yes it is, really.
Jean-Christophe : I take that interview’s opportunity to get news about Flying Colors and Transatlantic. What about them ?
Neal : There is a Flying Colors writing session, it’s going to be happening in december for a coming album next year, that’s our goal, and there are also Morse Fest 2015 Extravaganza six discs, crazy wonderful DVD and Blu-Ray coming in march, and also Testimony One on vinyl coming next year.
Jean-Christophe : You will play in Europe in 2017, is it difficult to organize such a tour with the planning of each one ?
Neal : With great difficulty and an incredible skill (laughs). It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of help from different sources, and I am really thankful for the people who felt to get together and do these concerts and projects, DVDs and Blu Rays. It’s hard to figure out how those people will get credit for that. It’s a wonderful thing.
Jean-Christophe : We have a specific question about your tour. We’re from Strasbourg, not far away from Basel in Switzerland and you used to play at the Z7 in Pratteln each time you come in Europe, why this particular place ? Each time, Mike says “it’s so good to come back at the Z7”.
Neal : Oh good ! There’s a big support crew. I’ve been there playing since the very first beginning of Spock’s Beard and the guys on the place and the team are always really supporting us. Plus they have a washer and dryer (laughs) !
Jean-Christophe : What could you say about your long career: Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, The Neal Morse Band. What are the best events of your musical life ?
Neal : Ho man ! I don’t know. I’ve been in so many high beautiful places. I think the last time I played with Spock’s Beard in London was pretty powerful, and the Snow concert recently at The Loreley was great. Playing with Transatlantic on the Progressive Nation tour was a great moment, doing the Yes set with Jon Anderson at the end of the Prog Cruise was an amazing moment. This album is a really high point, also playing the Testimony tour was amazing. There have been so many great moments, The Morse Fests, all of them, but 2015 filled with special moments with my daughter dancing and my son singing and playing percussions, it was a very blast time.
Jean-Christophe : So you have a happy musician life full of great moments meeting people.
Neal : Indeed and I’m very thankful for that.
Jean-Christophe : Is there something you would like to add for our french readers Neal ?
Neal : Yes, we love french people and we love playing in France. We never had a bad gig there. The french audience is just great.
Jean-Christophe : Thanks for your time and answers, see you on tour in 2017.
Neal : Cool guys thank you !
Rédigé par Jean-Christophe le 22/11/2016