The Chain Gang Re-linked

Interview by Davide Guidone

The links in the chain were forged in 1994, when Henning Pauly (guitar), Stephan Kernbach (keyboards), Thorsten Hannig (drums) and Christian Becker (bass) were teenagers in Germany. The links became separated a year later, and it would be another seven years before the material written then would be recorded. The man responsible for the reconstruction of the band, Henning Pauly, relates the story below to Davide Guidone, and talks about the just released album Reconstruct.

Davide Guidone: This is the first release from your group, Chain. I know there is a strange story behind the publication and the production of Reconstruct. Can you explain the story to us?
Henning Pauly: Back in 1995 there were four guys in Germany playing prog-rock. They wanted to be like Dream Theater. BUT, they couldn't find a vocalist, so they played and rehearsed for more than a year, writing a lot of material and never once played live or recorded. The only recording that exists of this period is a tape recorded during a rehearsal. In 2002 I found this tape and discovered that we wrote some nice music back then. So, for Christmas, I wanted to present my old friends back home in Germany with a CD of what we did back in the days. I spent most of the year working on Reconstruct and at the end brought in Matt Cash to write vocals with me and sing them. Matt is an outstanding writer and a very good friend. I flew home to Germany and gave the guys their Christmas present. Technically this is where the story should end, but in January www.progrock.com got a copy and started playing it on their station which led to getting signed with their label. The rest is history.

DG: Reading the press information, one would think this is another prog-metal CD like the many that are already published. In your opinion, why is this one different from others?
HP: In many respects it is like many other prog-metal CDs. BUT there are some things that set it apart, I hope. Many reviewers say that it is between prog-rock and prog-metal. I agree with that because I am not a huge prog-metal fan, unless you consider Dream Theater prog-metal ... I guess it is, but there is more melody to it and less cliché. Reconstruct has some production elements that are uncommon to prog-metal, especially Chapman-Stick-like tapping parts.
The vocal lines and hooks are also not average. Matt Cash is not your average metal shouter ... he is a pop vocalist and therefore brings something to the table that you don't hear in this genre often.

DG: If I have understood well, Reconstruct is a concept album about the evolution of the human being. Isn't it?
HP: It is about the history of evolution on our planet, from before there was life, through the evolution of life and us, past our existence into a time when the planet will have a chance to regenerate.

DG: If you had to review this album, what would you say about it?
HP: I would probably mention that it is a full 75 min. long and has 17 tracks. It is a concept album about evolution. 7 of those tracks are "Earthscapes," which are not really songs, but more soundscapes like you would find in a film score, which function as storyline elements. I would point out that there are many vocal harmonies and some cool hooks. Also, that the solos are all tasteful and never showing off .... some reviewers called it "no useless wanking," which I like...

DG: Are you satisfied with it?
HP:I love the album ... I love the guys in the band, I loved to bring back this old material and I am thankful for all of it because of what happened next... Frameshift [a new project of Pauly's featuring Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie -ed] ... I had lost touch with prog rock and got out of the scene years ago ... producing Reconstruct has shown me where my true passing lies and what I seem to be good at. It also has reunited me with the guys in the band ... we speak frequently on the phone, since they are in Germany and I am in LA... two of them, Stephan Kernbach ( keyboards) and Christian Becker (bass) even started playing in a progressive rock band again [Transmission] ... together, which makes me very happy because those guys deserve a good band ... they are awesome musicians.

DG: What do you think of the job your label, Progrock Records, is doing? I guess Shawn Gordon and Jerry George are very kind. Do you agree?
HP: I owe Shawn and Jerry more than I could possibly write here. They are not in it for the money, they are true prog rock maniacs ... fans at heart and they love the scene and the music ... they are professional and dedicated. The label is brand new and they are already making waves. If they expand their distribution network, they could become the next big label in our genre ... and I am very proud to say that Chain's CD has the number PRR001 on it.

DG: Do you believe that in the future this album will be sold with a worldwide distribution?
HP: With the exposure that Frameshift will be getting, I am certain the demand for Chain will go up and people will want to get their hands on this CD. It is already available in Germany and Japan and you can find it on several websites.

DG: What are the influences for this release?
HP: The main influence back then was most certainly Dream Theater's Awake. There are film scoring elements ... it is tough to say what else ... maybe some Yes, some Rush ... Satriani ...Vai ...

DG: I read about your new project, called Frameshift. And you will play with James Labrie! The voice of prog-metal! What can you say about this album?
HP: There is an awful lot to say about Frameshift. I wrote a complete 80 minute album for James LaBrie, no instrumentals ... all pieces have vocals ... it is taking the concept of Film Score meets Progressive Rock to the next level. All I can say is that it is prog rock like you haven't heard before and it is James singing in ways that you haven't heard before. It is also a concept album based on evolutionary ideas, but this time no story; each song is based on a chapter of a Richard Dawkins book ... today's leading neo-Darwinist writer.
Check out more info at: frameshift.progrockrecords.com.

DG: How did you get the idea of working with James?
HP: Jerry George from the label hooked us up. I pitched some stuff to him and he loved it, so I got to work and wrote the whole thing (with the help of Nik Guadagnoli on some songs and Matt Cash from Chain for lyrics ... Stephan Kernbach from Chain wrote one chorus !!!)

DG: What are you planning for the future?
HP: Dude ... my schedule is full. Frameshift will be done in a couple of weeks, vocal sessions start tomorrow ... well, since it is 2:00 am now I would say today...
Around January we'll release Babysteps, a Rock Opera. It will be double CD featuring Jody Ashworth (from the Trans Siberian Orchestra), James LaBrie, Matt Cash and two female vocalists... Babysteps sounds similar to TSO, but branches out more and will have more intricate arrangements ... we already did some rough vocals with Jody and once this guy starts singing you are most certainly in TSO land ... it will be great.
Right after this Matt and I will finish the second Chain CD entitled chain.exe. It is already half done and the other half is written, we just need to record it. It will have a 35 min. epic on it called "Cities." This one will not be a concept album. It also has a cover of the Saga song "Hot To Cold."

DG: That's all! I hope you'll understand all the questions. Sometimes my English knowledge is not perfect!
HP: Thanks for this interview ... I hope whoever reads this has fun with our music and stays tuned to the other projects we are working on ... it will be a ride.

DG: Do you have something more to declare?
HP: Yes ... I am going to bed James is coming tomorrow and I had almost no sleep this week because we have been writing lyrics all night ... good night.

DG: Bye and thank you very much