Fireworks Magazine Online 50 - O.S.I.

O.S.I

When you have a line-up that consists of guitarist Jim Matheos of Fates Warning, keyboard player and singer Kevin Moore of Chroma Key and ex Dream Theater, and drummer Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree you can be sure the results must be something special. Despite their day jobs in some of the best modern prog rock bands on the planet this is not a rock buddies vanity project. What started out as a one-off album project has continued to grow and blossom, and this is now their fourth full length album. On their previous records they roped in some other big names in prog such as Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Joey Vera (Fates Warning) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) to help out, but this time everything’s been played and sung by the core trio. It’s a mix of ambient keyboard textures and hypnotic vocals, counterpoised by strident metal guitar. Arguably, it’s their best and most cohesive record to date. They’re truly progressive and original in a genre that’s littered with imitators. Duncan Jamieson caught up with Jim Matheos to find out more about their scorching new record ‘Fire Make Thunder’.

The new album ‘Fire Make Thunder’ sounds great! I know OSI started off as a one off project and now you’re on your fourth album. What’s the appeal of this making music with this band for you?

I feel there are less boundaries, style wise, with this band. There’s more freedom to explore and challenge myself, and I continue to like the end results.

In the past you’ve worked on your own and swapped files by e-mail for the other to tinkle with. You’ve likened the music you make as OSI as an audio ‘Rorschach Test’. Was this how you approached the recording of this record too?

Yes. Although, as with the previous records, there was some final writing, arranging, and recording during the mixing process.

Some people bemoan the influence of technology in music, but the particular music you make uses a lot of technology and the way you record remotely wouldn’t be feasible without embracing new technology. Do you enjoy recording this way?

Yes. It’s a matter of choice, not necessity.

On different songs you can hear who might have had the main idea for a song. For example the like of ‘Cold Call’ and ‘Indian Curse’ sound like they came from Kevin Moore whereas ‘Winds Won’t Howl’ sounds like it came from Jim Matheus Can you give us an idea where some of the songs came from?

Most of our songs are true collaborations. Determining who did what, or where an idea came from is not as easy as matching the song style to the style that each of us is predominantly known for. That’s one of the things that’s appealing to me about this band.

There’s a terrific production sound. It sounds really expansive, creating broad soundscapes and fairly bounces off the walls. How do achieve that?

A lot of it happens in the writing process. Sometimes rather than starting with a riff or chord progression a song can start with a sound that one of us has come up with. Most of the production ideas and sounds are finalized by the time we get to mix.

You’ve got Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree playing drums, as he did on the last record. He sounds great, especially on the closing song ‘Invisible Men’. There aren’t the guest stars that there were on the previous albums. Did you make a conscious decision to keep it to the three of you this time?

No, not really. We just found that we had written and recorded all the songs and there was no room or need to have any additional performers.

While, I suppose unconventional, Kevin’s vocals work a treat, as they fit and help shape the mood of the music. Do you enjoy the singing element of the record and at what stage of the recording do you put down the vocal tracks?

I love Kevin’s vocals. He will usually put something down early in the writing process to give us a guide and then go back and re-do them for real once the music is completed. There have been songs though where he has written and recorded vocals while we were mixing!

Over the course of the records you’ve moved away from the political lyrics of the first album to more personal lyrics. Following the lyrics is not always easy (in a good way). Is this intentional? Could you shed some light on some of the themes of this record?

Well, as I don’t write the lyrics, I can only interpret them as well. It’s clear, as you mention that they have taken a more personal turn since the first record.

It’s an interesting album cover too. It looks like it might link to the ‘Indian Curse’ or ‘Big Chief II’ track. Is that the case? What is the idea behind the album cover?

We really just left it up to the artist, Brent Stegemen, to come up with his own ideas. We gave him some music, lyrics and a rough idea of mood and tone, but this is his work.

Up to now OSI has been a studio only band. What would it take to be able to see you as a live entity?

It’s something we continue to discuss. I think the possibility of any large scale touring is off the table, at least for this record cycle. But, we’re looking at maybe doing a live in the studio performance and/or some limited live dates in 2012.

Apart from OSI, what else is on the horizon you in the near future? Anything with Fates Warning or Chroma Key ahead?

Not sure what Kevin has planed for Chroma Key. I’m working on a new Fates Warning now. Eary writing stages. We hope to record it this summer.

This and more than 20 other interviews can be found in issue 50 of Fireworks Magazine, available from ...

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