Fireworks Magazine Online 74 - Interview with Redemption

REDEMPTION

Interview by Ian Johnson

The Progressive Metal band Redemption have had, shall we say, more than their fair share of personal tragedies; health problems that have affected family and band members alike. So much so that guitarist Bernie Versailles is still not able to take part in the band's activities due to his illness. That the band have fought tooth and nail to keep going through all this is testament to the human spirit. Band leader Nick Van Dyke talked to Fireworks about their new album and what music means to him and Redemption.


Redemption Interview



Your last album, 'This Mortal Coil', had a very dark lyrical and musical feel. Was this in part informed by the horrible things that were happening to the band and your families, with the well documented health issues? I ask because the new album 'The Art Of Loss' seems to be much more upbeat and positive musically and the lyrics speak of healing and hope.


That question is very accurate and an astute observation for a number of reasons. I think our lyrics have always been, how can I put it, of a weighty kind, and yes they have had dark overtones but I have always tried to keep a positive edge to the songs as I have written them, even on '...Coil'. When I told Ray Alder (vocalist) what the new album's title was going to be, 'The Art Of Loss', he said to me, 'Don't you think that's a bit bleak, even for us?' [laughs]. I explained that even though it had a darkness to it, it also had a positive message as well. Personally for me, the main problem with '...Coil', and it was mentioned a lot at the time, is the production. We used Neil Kernon, who is a truly gifted producer, but for whatever reason his style didn't fit our music at all; so the sound we had in our heads never got translated to that album. On this one we're back working with Tommy Hansen, who really understands us, and I think that Ray, who has been working and touring a lot with Fates Warning , has never sounded so good. All these elements coming together and the better times in our personal lives has helped the new album have a more positive and uplifting sound.

Whilst this isn't a concept album, is there a theme running through the songs because, as I mentioned, they all seem to speak of love, healing, forgiveness and hope?

It's funny you picked up on that. When I started to write the songs I didn't have a theme in mind but as I wrote the music and lyrics all my ideas seemed to boil down to one thing, which is that every decision we make in life seems to be driven by one thing, and that is love; whether that be the love of your wife and kids, love of a parent, brother, sister etc, the passion you put into your work or just the love of friends. So much of what we do in life is about love, even the title of the album is about love in a way and the art of how we deal with its loss. So the songs are about the fear and hope of having, losing and re-finding that most powerful of emotions - love.

Talking of songs about love, 'That Golden Light' speaks of love and hope and for me is the least Redemption-like song you've ever done but one that still screams out Redemption when you hear it, if you know what I mean?

I do and I love this song because it's so open to interpretation and it could be about many things. For me it's about being in love and then losing that person but realising that you can carry on and that in the end love will find you once again. That's my interpretation of the song, yours and anyone else's who listens to the song could, and probably will, be different. It's a simple song, though I don't like using the word simple about finding love and having relationships. It has one of those melodies that wraps itself around your brain when you hear it and it is probably the least complex and least dark song I've ever written, but like you said, it still shouts Redemption when you hear it.

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'At Days End', the epic twenty minute plus finale to the album, is a real tour-de-force and you and the band have thrown everything you can into its matrix. How long does a track like that take to write and record?

Well in a way, from start to finish, it took two full weeks to record the song. Weirdly though, at home I have a library of songs that I've been writing and working on for many, many years, long before Redemption ever came into being. And 'At Days End' was an idea that didn't morph into a full song, which a lot of my ideas do, so I put it to one side. Then at various times over the years I would dig it out and work on bits of it, adding in heavy guitar riffs that reminded me of Slayer, or parts of ideas that were inspired by Stravinski, just to see if I could make it work as a song. Then I'd get frustrated and again put it back in the 'to be completed' box. The actual recurring melody, the first thing you hear Ray sing on the song, was something I'd written twelve or more years ago, which suddenly fitted. So that shows how long I've been working on this track, but when it was finished it still took two weeks to put it all together, and I have to say we're all really proud of what we've done on that song.

Why the Who cover of 'Love Reign O'er Me'? What does this song mean to you?

Personally, I think it's one of the greatest songs ever written. It stirs emotions in me that I hope some of our own music does in others. We didn't choose it because it had love in the title and fitted in with the overall album theme, we just love the song. We have done covers before and we always try to choose something you wouldn't expect. However, we did think that we needed two voices to carry it off and Ray agreed. I'd mentioned to our good friend John Bush of Armored Saint about working on something together a couple of years ago and he said, 'Yeah, no problem. Call me.' So we did and he came to the studio and nailed it, he really delivered the goods and he and Ray sound so good singing together.

The album features a lot of guest musicians, like Chris Poland, Simone Mularoni, Marty Friedman and Chris Broderick. Was this always going to be the case or mainly because of Bernie's continuing illness that forced this issue?

Using John had been in the pipeline long before Bernie's tragic situation came about. The other guitar players came in because of Bernie's illness and nothing more. Bernie is and always will be a member of Redemption. We discussed the new album with him and all he wanted was that if we used guest guitarists, that they all had to be great ones. The people we got to work with are some of the best. Simone is just amazing but when he did his solo on 'Slouching Toward Bethlehem', which is easily one of the best solos I've ever heard, he attached a note to his file that said 'Nick, don't ever ask me to play that again. I don't think I could.' [laughs]

With the band's well documented on going problems, will touring be a difficult for you and the band?

Actually we have a few tricks up our sleeves which should, fingers crossed, get us out on the road very soon. We'd hoped to get to Europe this summer but to not lose financially big time, we'd have had to have gotten on the bills at all the big festivals that are on over there during the summer months and sadly we just missed our window of opportunity for that. So instead we'll play in the States late summer/early fall, after Ray finishes up with the new Fates Warning album. Then after that we're going to make sure we're on the bills of all those festivals next year because we love playing to a European audience because they really seem to love what we do.

Finally Nick, a question I always try to ask a musician who has been in the business for many years. Did you think you'd still be making music all these years later, when you first started out on the road to being a musician?

If you'd told me back in 1996, that's when I first met Ray Alder, that I'd be in a band that would tour the world, that I'd have supported the great Dream Theater and played at some of the biggest music festivals in the world. And then told me that I'd still be making, writing and recording music in 2016, I would have said you were mad, completely insane. I'm therefore so blessed and lucky to have been able to do what I do, for nothing but the love of being a creative artist. Let's face it, there is no money in the music business these days and if you do it for that reason, making money, then you'll have a career that lasts about a week. Do what you do for the love of it and for your fans however and what you do can last a lifetime.

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