Unweaving Unwoven

An Interview with Frameshift's Henning Pauly (Interview by Davide Guidone)

Last October, I spoke briefly with Henning Pauly about the then upcoming Frameshift project. With Unweaving The Rainbow now out, the album that features a prominent guest in the form of vocalist James LaBrie, and getting good reviews, receiving a 4, 4.5 and two 5s (Keith and Dave) from these pages alone, I was afforded the opportunity to pick up where Henning and I left off, and speak more about Unweaving….

Davide Guidone: Can you do a little intro to Frameshift? And what are your thoughts about it?
Henning Pauly: Unweaving The Rainbow is an album I wrote and produced for James LaBrie with the intention of showcasing his vocal talents, and for me that meant a lot of harmonies and choral passages and also to approach the writing from a vocal perspective. For me it was the chance of a lifetime and an amazing opportunity to get my name out there. I took a lot of chances with the instrumentation, and the great diversity of styles on the album gave me some sleepless nights because I did not know how the progressive rock community would react ... in my wildest dreams I couldn't have expected the response we are getting. I hoped we would create an album that people like, but to be compared with Dream Theater and to read reviews that call the album the newest thing to happen in prog in quite some time, simply blows my mind. The topic is very complex ... Chapters of books by Richard Dawkins ... evolution ... I never really thought that the fans would get too deep into it, but they are. I read several reviews that really analysed the lyrics and they really got it. It is a huge honor for me to know that Professor Dawkins himself listened to the album and approves of what we did.

DG: When we talked in the last interview, you hadn't recorded the vocal tracks yet. Now, what is your consideration about James' job?
HP: James is a great guy - Period. His work ethic is amazing. He is very focused and I have never met anyone who knows his voice is such great detail. After working with him for two weeks and becoming friends I am really looking forward to working with him again if that opportunity should ever arise, because now we can jump right into the creative parts instead of breaking down barriers first ... you know ... getting to know each other, etc...

DG: Is it a coincidence that both Frameshift and Reconstruct [the album with his band Chain] are based upon a concept about evolution?
HP: Different people are motivated by different things and for me it is evolution, behaviour, sociology and anthropology ... so I write about it. But don't be scared, I'll be taking a break from that topic for a while and the next two projects are not related to evolution.

DG: How did you come to the idea of using of Richard Dawkins' works as the basis of your theme?
HP: Through the work of Douglas Adams, I found Richard Dawkins and his writing opened my eyes to a whole new world to explore around us and see [that] the workings of evolution is the most mundane [of] things. It's all around us ... trees ... animals ... people ... behaviour ... go to a bar and look at men hitting on women ... that's simple mating behaviour; we try to call it something else, but it is a very basic instinct. Dawkins makes the world around me understandable and therefore easier to live in, at least for me. I am passionate about that, so I wanted to put it into music, which is the other thing I am very passionate about.

DG: The lyrics aren't too simple to understand. Do you agree?
HP: Yes, I do. But if someone is interested in the topic and knows a thing or two about it, they will get it and it will mean something for them. For anyone who doesn't care I would hope that they can still enjoy the music and just ignore the lyrics.

DG: I believe that on the album there are some tracks that can be the natural evolution of the Falling Into Infinity ballads, like "La Mer."
HP: I don't think that "La Mer" has anything to do with anything that Dream Theater has ever done. This track is very minimalistic and doesn't really show off anything but James' voice. It has a lot more space than any Dream Theater song I know. But you hit one thing. Falling Into Infinity is my favourite DT album. I know the band is not happy and that the fans also don't like it as much, but I like the hooklines and the arrangements the most.

DG: Some people say that James doesn't sing as good as he did in the past. In my opinion, it depends on the kind of music he plays. If he likes the music, he still sings great, like on Unweaving The Rainbow.
HP: Well ... James wouldn't sing anything that he doesn't like, I know that much. He sounds great today because he is in great shape and takes care of his voice. He also simply enjoys singing and the music itself, so that really helps to get a great performance. The album was written for him so everything was tailored to make him sound great and I am happy that the fans can hear that.

DG: On the album, there are many loops and samples. I suppose that this represents the present and the future for the prog music. What are your considerations?
HP: I don't know if this is the future, but for me that was a problem I had with a lot of new releases ... they just didn't include any of the very cool production approaches that have been utilised in the rock world today. Marilyn Manson has had a lot of great ideas and there is so much that one can do with music today and I just thought that, since prog should be "progressive," we kind of have to push it forward and not follow behind all the other styles. There is a lot to learn from other styles and I would think that we can use some of it without losing what makes our genre unique.

Frameshift has had a lot of good ratings and a great distribution around the world. This thing will let you have a very important exposure.

HP: I could not be more happy with the response. We have gotten a few reviews that were not so good, but the reviewers all started their review by saying that they don't like James' voice ... so, I ask myself, are they writing about an album written for him?

DG: To me, your style as guitarist is a mix of John Petrucci, Steve Vai and Allan Holdsworth. Did I miss mark? Or miss anyone?
HP: Steve Vai has been a big influence for me. The Holdworth influence you hear is probably because of my legato playing, which acutally comes from Joe Satriani. He has been my biggest influence when it comes to soloing. Petrucci has probably been an influence, but not consciously, and if so, he has influenced my rhythm playing, not my soloing. Steve Morse and Mike Stern also have been important.

DG: I know that you also used to write music for film scores. Can you tell me some movie soundtracks where you appeared?
HP: I just scored a short film called Elevator Etiquette, which is Cha Cha music. I scored a movie last year called Treacherous Highway. Nothing major, but I enjoy doing it.

DG: Can you explain why you moved from Germany to the United States some years ago?
HP: I moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. After that I moved to Los Angeles and now I live an hour east from LA in the San Bernardino Mountains, close to a Mountain Lake ... I have a little house and live here with my two dogs Boo and Fenni.

DG: Do you keep in touch with your friends from of Chain?
HP: Yes, we are in constant contact; in fact, Stephan (keys) was here in January for two weeks to work on the new material, and we wrote a killer song. Stephan and Christian (bass) play in a new band together and their material is amazing. They are called Transmission (www.transmission-online.de)

DG: And speaking of Chain, in the last interview you told me that the next release would have been called Chain.exe. When will it be published?
HP: I am working on it right now and it's coming along great. When the label wants to release it is not clear, but I am hoping for May.

DG: The name let me think of a huge use of computer sounds ... Am I wrong?
HP: Yes, you are wrong. Frameshift is my playground. Here, anything goes and I can get as techno and freaky as I want to go, but Chain has a band sound. We are incorporating some world sounds on the new new album, but Chain is not the place for loops and gimmicks like that. I know that this is what people liked about Frameshift, but Chain has to work on a different level and although I would love to use some of my tricks I am holding back and distinguish it from my work with James.

DG: You're working with James Labrie on another project, aren't you? My thought goes to Baby Steps.
HP: James tracked his songs for Babysteps ... killer. I am working on that parallel to the new Chain album, but looking at how much material it is to write and produce, we have pushed the release date far back ... no specific date yet ... but let me give you some stats...
2 CD's - 32 tracks - 140 minutes of music
Cast: Jody Ashworth (TSO), James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Matt Cash (Chain), Jill Gioia (TSO), Maya Haddi, Charles Chemery
Those are the vocalists ... we'll also have a special guest appearance by Al Pitrelli (Savatage, TSO, Megadeth) who will play a few guitar solos.
It will be an amazing ride, but just like Chain, this is more of a band sound with Orchestra and no loops or electronics. But compared to Chain, Babysteps will be very piano heavy, just like TSO and Savatage.