Henning Pauly - Chain.exe and other stuff

Interview with Marco Piva from Movimenti Prog

HENNING PAULY is the young (he’s not 30 yet, being born in 1975) leader, composer and guitarist for Chain, a mostly German prog rock band with an American vocalist. Chain has recorded two CDs, “Reconstruct” and “chain.exe”. Furthermore he and his brother Eduard (AKA Eddie Marvin), also a member of Chain, have recorded a CD under the name of Frameshift (“Unweaving the Rainbow”) featuring James LaBrie (Dream Theater) on vocals and Nik Guadagnoli on additional bass and stick.

Henning Pauly is also one of the minds beyond ProgRock Records.

At the time of the interview Henning was in Germany so we could get a few answers out of Eddie who usually never talks to the press. As you will find out very quickly, he doesn't take himself too seriously.

First of all, thanks to Henning Pauly for allowing us to sink a little bit deeper into his and Chain’s history and career.

Q: When did you start playing guitar, did you imagine you’d have moved to the USA and became a professional musician?
Henning: I started playing guitar on January 6th 1990. I got a simple nylon string acoustic and from that point on could not stop playing and planning my carreer. I never thought that it would actually work. So many kids like me have the dream of doing this for a living and I was well aware of the chances. I just thought if I could write and arrange any kind of music I would be happy, I never dreamt that I would be writing my own music and get paid for it. In 1997 I moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music and in May 2000 I graduated with a summa cum laude in "Contemporary Writing and Production" and "Music Synthesis".

Q: Who are your musical inspirations?
Eddie: Chuck Norris

Henning: Soooo many...really depends on the style. Here are a few...John Williams, Megadeth, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, Hanson, Mick Jagger, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Savatage, TSO, Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, Edward Shermour, Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Rush, Zappa, Whitesnake, Art of Noise, Marilyn Manson, Saga, Marillion, Magnum, Linkin' Park...do you want me to go on?

Q: Which musical posters did you have on the walls of your room as a kid?
Eddie: Bay City Rollers, Manfred Mann

Henning: Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Whitensake, Skid Row, Poison, Vai, Satriani, Guns'n'Roses, Metallica

Q: Which is your favourite song ever?
Eddie: Brazil (from the movie Brazil), My brain is like a sieve (Thomas Dolby)

Henning: If I really have to pick than it would be "Way beyond empty" by Zakk Wylde from Book of Shadows.

Q: Which is the latest CD you bought for yourself?
Eddie: I don't have a CD player

Henning: Really, he doesn"t have one. He loves vinyl and spends loads of money on that...
Me, I bought the new Shadows Fall album, but I didn't like it too much. I just saw the ads for it and had no clue what the music is like so I bought it. I didn't expect it to be so hard and fast. I really like the melodic guitar parts, but the vocals and the drums just don't do it for me.

Q: Is there any band you’d suggest us to keep an eye on, a band you think will be “the next big thing”?
Eddie: Jim-Bob McFucker and the gay Priests

Henning: Transmission, the new band from Chain band members Stephan Kernbach and Christian Becker. I played with them on a gig in Germany this December and they are just phenomenal. They are currently recording their first album which I will be mixing soon. Their melodies are killer and every musician in the band is great.

Q: Is there someone without whom you would never be the successful artist you are?
Eddie: I am not successful.

Henning: Definitely...my guitar teacher Kuno Wagner, my teachers at Berklee, especially Donny Nolan, Richard Evans and Tom Rhea, Shawn Gordon from Progrockrecords and my bosses Mickey Donlon and Warren Scheibe...my family, Christy Leschinsky, Boo and Fenni.

Q: Why did you need to move to the USA in order to have your try for success?
Henning: I moved to the US to study at Berklee and my teachers convinced me to move to Los Angeles for one year to see if I could find a job and make it in the music business. I never really wanted to be famous or get a record contract, I knew the chances for that were slim, but I could not have forseen the collaboration with James LaBrie and the things that happened because of it.

Q: Is there something you have done in your artistic career and you aren’t glad of, something you think was a mistake?
Eddie: No

Henning: No

Q: Is there any recorded album performance you are ashamed of, for any reason (playing badly or silly riffs, or whatever)?
Eddie: Choose your weapons...you wanna duel or something?

Henning: I am ashamed of a lot of things and some of them are even on the Chain.exe DVD because I consider them a part of my development and they were as important in making me the musicians I am as the stuff I am proud of. There are a few things on my albums I would do differently now but I don't want to give away the parts I don't like because that ruins it for the fans. Every time a musician talks about things he doesn't like in his music it stays with me and that's all I can think about when I hear the song I previously liked a lot.

Q: Have you always written songs? Can you remember the first song you wrote? Has it been recorded somewhere and somehow? How is it different from what you write now?
Henning: It sucked. Writing music is a craft and it needs to be learned and it takes a lot of experience...I can still improve and learn a lot. I think I have just begun to get into it and I hope I get a lot better...my first songs, naturally, were really bad...chords...form..lyrics...very bad.

Q: Which is your favourite song amongst those you wrote yourself?
Eddie: I don't write songs.

Henning: I have written so much music in the past 10 years that I probably forget a whole bunch...lately I really like some of songs I wrote for the second Frameshift album. The CD is called Human Grain (www.humangrain.com) and this time the vocalist will be Sebastian Bach. James LaBrie arranged for the two of us to work together, so it's not like he got replaced and we will definitely work together again, but for this album Sebastian is the right man. It is very heavy and very dark, at least compared to how I usually write. It is a concept album about human violence. Other than this new album I'd have to say that I like "She looks like you" from Chain.exe a lot. It's a song that has been re-written and re-arranged for years before it came to the final version that is now on the album and because of all the work that's in it I feel very strongly about it. We have also performed it with just one acoustic guitar and one vocal and it works great, no matter how you arrange it.

Q: Is there a song – any song – you would like to have written yourself?
Eddie: Happy Birthday - it's not public domain and every time someone sings it or performs it the guy who wrote it and his family see a lot...I mean...A LOT of money. So...I'd like to see that kinda money...

Henning: I often wish I could write like other people because I hear their music and feel that I could have never come up with this stuff, but on the other hand they write like they do and no like me. Generally, I wish I could be more of a pop-rock songwriter and write songs like Jon Bon Jovi or Hanson, because these guys write killer hooks and they really know their craft.

Q: How was Chain born?
Henning: Stephan Kernbach formed the band in 1994 and we played for a year, but without a vocalist and then the band split up. We never played live and the only recording of these times was one tape from the practice room. I found that material a few years ago and decided to produce the album that was written eight years earlier because I really liked the stuff.

Q: Could you tell us the stories behind the two Chain releases to date, “Reconstruct” and “chain.exe”?
Henning: Reconstruct takes you on a journey through time, evolutionary time. It deals with humanity and the fact that we, like so many species before us, won't be here for ever. Chain.exe is not a concept album and the songs deal with totally different issues. "Citites" is about traveling around the world to get a better perspective and appreciate the place you live in from a different point of view.

Q: How was the Frameshift project born?
Henning: The label asked me if I wanted to work with James LaBrie and I jumped at that chance. I wrote some songs that I thought would show his voice in a new light and challenge him as a vocalist and he loved them so we went ahead and made the album. When the concept for the new album came up (it was Shawn Gordon's idea) we tried to find someone who could keep up with the level of vocals we had recorded on the previous album but also fit the topic. We needed someone with a very agressive voice. James heard the music and we talked about it...he then put me in touch with Sebastian Bach.

Q: Did you write the Frameshift songs with LaBrie’s voice in mind or did you write them before knowing he’d be the vocalist of the project?
Henning: All the songs were written for James to show off his voice in the best possible way and also to put him in a different musical context.

Q: If you are asked, which musical genre would you say you play?
Eddie: Loud

Henning: Tough one...prog...sometimes prog metal, sometimes neo-prog...sometimes just metal and then other times I think about my music with more of a Disney film score approach. Other times I treat it like the film score of an epic war movie...

Q: What is the future of prog metal?
Eddie: Louder

Henning: I really don't think that there are many prog-metal bands out there. Many sound like the usual suspects...Dream Theater ripoffs. Then there are sooo many neo-classical bands and sadly, for me, none of them sound as convincing as Malmsteen, who repeats himself, but at least he does it really well and most of these other bands sound like him, just not as good. I would hope that progmetal learns something from modern metal and simply makes it good. Korn, Linkin' Park, Manson...they all have great elements, but they don't have people who play their instruments on the level of prog bands and their vocalists don't sound that great...combine their sound with more complexity, great vocals and virtuoso playing and you have a pretty good cocktail.

Q: Some critics claim that progressive metal does not exists as a genre: the music bands like Pain of Salvation or even Dream Theater (or Chain) play is simply heavy metal, while progressive music is only the one played by Emerson, Lake and Palmer or King Crimson. What do you think about this statement?
Henning: It is off course complete bullshit. Progressive Music is not defined by how heavy it is but by it's subject matter, songwriting and complexity. Jethro Tull is folk music but it still counts as progressive rock. Dream Theater has all the elements that a band like Yes has, they just play a little bit faster and use heavier and more aggressive sounds and production. There are far greater differences between DT or Chain and normal heavy metal than there are between us and Yes. Many people who went on to do film scoring have played in progressive rock bands because it lays a foundation for the complex arrangements this style of compsoing demands. It is more likely for prog to sound like classical or film scores than for metal because of the depth that our genre adds. This does not mean that heavy metal is not apealing. I love Megadeth and Metallica. It would hurt those bands to get more complex.

Q: Do you know any Italian prog band? What do you think of them?
Henning: Sorry, I don't know any. I have heard that there are several that are pretty good, but I did not have the pleasure to hear them yet.

Q: What is progressive music in your opinion?
Eddie: Loud

Henning: Anything that takes a proven musical concept and expands on it. Classical music had a lot of influences in prog and a different spin on classical is progressive. Our genre often has long introductions and the subject matter usually revolves around issues of humanity or science instead of dealing with the problems of an individual. This can often get pretentious and it is important not to cross that line. Long songs are common in progressive rock since the musical development of the song is more important than it's ability to be played on radio. What is and what isn't prog is tough to say because there are many gray areas. I would say that if it makes you think and challenges you it could be considered prog. Either the music is complex and takes a while to sink in or the lyrics and the story are something to think about and then it works on that level. So...prog is music for people that want to be challenged.

Q: Can you please tell us what you think about the following guitarists:

Jimi Hendrix
Eddie: I know of him.
Henning: He was instrumental in starting a musical revolution. He influenced the guitar players that influenced me. Personally I don't care too much for his music, I can't really explain why.

George Harrison
Eddie: Not Ringo
Henning: Same as Hendrix...the Beatles were very important to many styles of music, but they never did much for me.

Al Di Meola
Eddie: I got an album.
Henning: Great Player. I only have Friday Night in San Francisco but that one is really good.

Robert Fripp (King Crimson)
Henning: Very innovative and a hero to my guitar teacher, but every time I buy a Crimson album I am disappointed because I consider myself an arranger and I love well arranged music. The basis of their music is to have a lot of improvisation and it doesn't work for me on that level.

Adrian Belew (King Crimson)
Henning: Same thing...

Steve Lukather (Toto)
Henning: The tone master...great player with a great versatility.
Eddie: (sings) Africa

Tolo Marton
Henning: Don't know him.

Eric Johnson
Henning: Holy crap...serious tone and a good writer.

Joe Satriani
Henning: One of the biggest influences for me. He understands the importance of melody and writes great music. He is great at balancing shredding with melodic writing.

Steve Vai
Henning: Pure genius. Not everything he does is easy to digest, but he comes from the Zappa-school of music and that usually results in makeing music that is so way above our heads that it is tough to comprehend for the average person. He has also been very important for me although I think one car hear the Satriani influence more in my playing than the Vai influence.

Yngwie J. Malmsteen
Henning: Listened a lot to his stuff but never played like him. I am not much for arpeggiating. Yngwie has invented the neo-classical style and is still the one who does it better than anyone else. He sadly suffers under a lack of development and a highly inflated ego, but as a guitar player in that style he is untouchable.

Franco Mussida (PFM)
Henning: Don't know him.

Steve Howe (Yes)
Eddie: I know him...yes.
Henning: Very important in our genre, but he had to share a lot of air with the keyboards and therefore never stood out that much.

Steve Hackett (Genesis)
Eddie: Genesis was very influential to me.
Henning: I love later Genesis, but I was never realy aware of Steve Hackett.

David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
Henning: I sadly have to say that I don't know much Pink Floyd, but I know they are very important and inlfuential in many ways.

Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
Eddie: (sings) boah boah boadudahduh
Henning: The master of layering guitar, something I also love to do. I love the Coverdale/Page album he did with David Coverdale.

John Petrucci (Dream Theater)
Eddie: Nice guy.
Henning: I never learned any of his parts or solos, but I love his playing, with exceptions. I think on Train of Thought he lost sight of what counts a lottle bit and played way to many notes and thereby sacrificing melodies. He is without a doubt one of the most important guitar players in progressive rock.

Steve Rothery (Marillion)
Eddie: Yes.
Henning: I love Marillion, the Fish years. I don't care much for the new stuff. What I love about all the musicians is that they don't show off and make the music work through good writing and clever arrangements.

Alex Lifeson (Rush)
Eddie: Silly Hair.
Henning: He is a strong rhythm player in my eyes and works really well in the context of Rush, especially his clean sound is very distinctive. Rush has been a big influence on me, but not necessarily because of Alex Lifeson.

Andy Latimer (Camel)
Henning: Sorry, don't know.

Willie Oteri (Jazz Gunn)
Henning: No clue.

Q: Regardless of genre and age (and of being dead or alive), can you imagine your “ideal” band? I mean, the band you would like to hear playing (not to play with)? You can include yourself or not. The basic line-up of this hypothetical band could include a vocalist, two guitar players, a bass player, a keyboard player and a drummer. Then, you can add anything you like (more vocalists, percussions, horns, fiddles, whatever).


Peter Sellers / Bjork - Vocals
Harpo Marx (of the Marx Brothers) - Keys
Angus Young - Drums
Rick Allen - Guitar
Jojo Ma - Bass
Bela Lugosi - Guitar


Vocals - A quintett of James LaBrie / Sebastian Bach / David Coverdale / Eric Martin / Meat Loaf
Keys - Stephan Kernbach / Piano - Keith Jarrett
Guitar - Joe Satriani
Guitar - Steve Morse
Bass - Neil Stubenhaus
Drums - Abe Laboriel Jr.

Q: Finally, as an Italian TV anchorman uses to say: ask yourself a question and answer.
Eddie: Why do white cats always have to go under cars? (he says as he cleans oil off his white cat Gary)
More Camouflage !

Henning: What are the names of your dogs?
Boo and Fenni

Well, thanks again to Henning Pauly for his time, and good luck for the future!

Marco Piva per MovimentiProg