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Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

ERIK NORLANDER INTERVIEW

Erik Norlander is a prog-rock keyboardist, composer & producer with over 30 albums to his credit, including his own solo band, with vocalist wife Lana Lane, his band Rocket Scientists, as a member of Asia Featuring John Payne & numerous guest appearances. He also toured with the supergroup Big Noise that included Joe Lynn Turner, Vinny Appice, Phil Soussan, Carlos Cavazo & Simon Wright. Norlander has crafted a playing style drawing straight from the 70's heyday of prog-rock & not painting himself into any particular corner such as prog-metal, with pitch bending & vibrato recognizable features. In 2009 Norlander re-imagined many of his favorite compositions from over the years, released as The Galactic Collective. In 2012 he took the project to a new level with 2 DVDs, simultaneously released, featuring different facets of the project. The Definitive Edition gives an insider's view of the original recording sessions plus with casual interviews about each song & a technical look at the many synthesizers. It includes a CD of the original release & an additional CD, Echoes Of The Collective, sharing unreleased alternative versions. Live At Gettysburg features the entire project performed live in Gettysburg & Cleveland in 2011 & includes 2 CDs of the shows. Both are released by Norlander's own Think Tank Media & feature guests from his other musical outings. Michelle Moog, daughter of the synthesizer pioneer & inventor, contributes linear notes & an introduction to the concert. Former Emerson Lake & Palmer keyboard tech, now working with Norlander, August Worley also contributes linear notes. This interview focuses these new releases.

I was first introduced to the music of Erik Norlander though Asia Featuring John Payne. I was researching the band at the time for inclusion in a biography I'm writing on a former guitarist when I saw Payne & Norlander were coming to Manhattan for a one off acoustic show. I only knew Norlander as a name I'd read ... but its hard to ignore a keyboardist whose computer needs to be rebooted in the middle of a solo & takes to the task with nothing but a big smile. As I got to know the band more I discovered Norlander's music, in addition to that of his wife Lana Lane. Personally, I find so many current prog-pianists fly over the keys trying to sound like a guitarist, with the result being just a lot of fast notes with no direction or mood & sounding like dry scales played fast. The piano is not a guitar, but so many players struggle to make a piano sing on its own terms & with its own unique vocabularly & traits. But, I grew up with Emerson, Moraz, Wakeman & Bill Evans, so I'll confess I love texture. Thus, there's a reason Norlander has become a respected name to many who think like me. & thus, there's a reason I regularly have promoted his work, even over that of his more famous peers Derek Sherinian & Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater. For me he's the 'quiet one' in the group, not so out front in the mainstream media, but his music speaks volumes & I feel often far more rich than the often metal & funk directed work of his peers. Let alone a lack of record label pressure has allowed him a realm of creativity the others don't always have. But, then, I must confess again that as a lifelong sci-fi fan I enjoy the cosmic-fantasy-sci-fi themes strung through his projects. I won't deny the talent of his peers, but for me Norlander is the keyboardist that everyone should check out & is keeping the flame alive of the past. It was a pleasure to be asked if I would be interested in talking with him about his new DVD releases. Ironically, when he was in NYC I passed him going into the bar & hesitated frozen wondering if I should say nice playing or not. I was also hesitating on my decision to pass up a much sought for & delayed interview with Payne in that same moment. I believe he asked me if I was going into the bar or not to join the crowd. I think I mumbled no. Next time he's in town I'll say yes. I should also mention his wife is a cook & a can of her jam was in my cupboard for awhile. It really wasn't a bribe, I just happen to like to cook too.

And check out the dedicated Gonzo artist page for Asia featuring John Payne, and for Erik solo

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