Frameshift - The Gene Machine

an interview by Carl Begai (

Hot on the heels of Dream Theater's stellar new album Train Of Thought comes a project featuring singer James LaBrie called Frameshift. The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, producer, and Chain mastermind Henning Pauly, the Frameshift debut Unweaving The Rainbow is a low-key high calibre release that shows LaBrie in a different light and has left many a Dream Theater fan in a double-take neck brace. LaBrie's collaboration on the project is a coup for Pauly, who had set his sights a mile above the creative mountain and caught major air a third of the way into the climb. A mile-a-minute Pauly explains how things came together.

"When I contacted James about doing the album, I sent him two very different tracks because I wanted to show him what I could do with epic elements and with modern loop-based ideas. I wanted to show him the two sides of the spectrum I was thinking about, and the email I got back said 'I absolutely love this music, it's amazing, there's lots of stuff to work with, let's do it.' I was like, 'Doh!' (laughs)."

Unweaving The Rainbow is a kick in the ass for prog rock fans, as it fairly wipes out what has become a traditional path for the genre's present day flag bearers (see Enchant, Vanden Plas, Threshold). Dream Theater fans - the ones paying the closest attention, at least for now - have likewise been hard hit, especially those that were bowled over by Train Of Thought's dark and heavy direction.

"This album is all over the place," Pauly agrees. "In fact, it's so all over the place that I was very afraid that people would pick and choose certain songs and say the rest didn't do anything for them. There are lots of people that like the heavy Dream Theater stuff, so songs like 'Spiders', 'Message In The Mountain' and 'Arms Races' might appeal to them. Then there are people that like the Spock's Beard sound, or Yes, or Rush, and there are elements of those bands on the album as well. I thought it was too diverse, but people are loving the album more than I expected, and they're loving it as a whole piece of work."

The album's diversity, Pauly says, comes from experimenting with all types of music over the last several years.

"I have so many different musical influences. In fact, I only just got back into progressive rock. I've done jazz stuff, I've worked on Disney soundtracks, film scoring, big band material. I mean, I've got albums from Christina Aguilera and frigging Britney Spears on my shelf. One of my favourite albums of all time - and I've got no problem saying this - is Hanson's second album. The songwriting, the performances, the production is so mature and catchy as hell. Of course, now prog rock fans will stone me for admitting to that (laughs). The thing is, all these elements are what make up Frameshift, which is why it sounds so different."

"James is such a great vocalist, but he's never been given the opportunity to experiment like this in Dream Theater," Pauly adds. "He's known for his vocals, so it's kind of absurd that he's never had the chance to explore this territory before. I'm very happy to hear that he's pleased with the end result because he took a big chance on working with me. When I was mixing the album I was thinking 'Oh my God, I hope I've done this right,' because there was always the chance that people were going to say it's just not happening. In the reviews that I've read and the messages on the website, a lot of people have said this is James' best work ever, and that blows me away. I'm almost embarrassed to repeat it, but there's one magazine that said Unweaving The Rainbow is the album Dream Theater should have made. It's quite the compliment to both of us, but I'm wondering what the other Dream Theater guys think about that (laughs)."

Given the positive vibe surrounding Frameshift, Pauly doesn't rule out the possibility of working with LaBrie again.

"James and I had spent two weeks together, 12 hours every fucking day, and on the day he left James said it had been fun, and that if Frameshift does well we should do another one. You spend that amount of time with someone you know and you want them out of your frigging life, so for him to feel that way meant a lot to me. I'm up for a second Frameshift album, but it would be different from Unweaving The Rainbow because I'm not the type of artist who repeats himself."