Sunday, 12 August 2012


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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