Interview with Henning Pauly for Rockreviews

Interview by Mage

First of all, congratulations on the release of the new Frameshift album "An Absence of Empathy". It's a great album, which doesn't lose its appeal too soon. Both compositions and vocal performances as well as the concept are intriguing... although the concept is mainly created by the ProgRock Records' president Shawn Gordon, you had some say regarding it. How much did you actually contribute to Shawn's concept?

Shawn's concept was rough and included the topic for 3 or 4 songs and we sat down together and came up with the rest. We threw out some of the mystical aspects that it originally had and tried to keep it grounded in reality. He had the ideas for the two torture songs and the concept that the guy would later torture himself and he knew he wanted a big epic battle song. There was never any music I had to work of of.

After you had wrapped up the concept, how soon did you decide upon the singer? Was Sebastian Bach already the first choice, or was James LaBrie the initial choice but he (due to his solo project) directed you to Sebastian Bach...

Geoff Tate was the vocalist we wanted for it origianlly, but after the first few songs turned out rather heavy we talked to James to find out what he thinks and who he would propose. James never wanted to be a candidate for it because he had his own stuff going on...I want to work with James again, there is no question about it, but this was not the album to do that. James himself established the contact with Sebastian Bach once I mentioned that he would be good for it.

I've got to admit, Bach's vocal performances on this album are great... you can actually hear sides of his voice that haven't been recorded before. I'm a sucker for diversity and on this album it can be heard both in terms of vocals as well as compositions. How do you approach songwriting as a whole? I reckon you compose before writing the lyrics, since you had some help from Matt Cash, Adam Evers, Sebastian Bach and Shawn Gordon regarding lyrics and vocal melodies.

Sorry to start this answer off negatively, but I did NOT have input from Bach in regards to lyrics and melodies. Once he was in the studio he changed some MINOR things around, mainly leaving out words like "the" or "I" or "me", but the album was entirely written before Bach came in the studio.
You are right, however, that I write the music first and then I sit down with Matt and Adam and we write lyrics and melodies. This isn't always the best way to do it and I think you end up with more coherent songs if you just sit down with an acoustic guitar and two guys in a room and write the whole songs before you start recording it, but this material just wasn't conceived this way. Because of the topics that were outlined for the songs I approached it like a film score where each piece of music has to convey a certain emotion. It's relatively easy to write like that because you just write to a nonexistent picture and you also write the lyrics like that because you need to talk about the thing that you set out to talk about.

Could you reveal what's the story behind the project name "Frameshift"?
What is it meant to signify?

Frameshift is a form of genetic mutation. There is deletion, subtraction, crossing over, substitution and frameshift. Well, I am sure there are others, but it's one of them. The first album was all about genetics and evolutionary concepts and I wanted a name that related to it.

During the recordings you had few visitors to the studio... For example, Michael Sadler passed by with his wife Gwen and that's how they got included on the album... Is it just a fortunate coincidence, do people really pass by your studio every now and then?

No, we knew Baz was a fan of Sadler's and Michael is just the nicest guy in the world. We called him and asked him if he wanted to come out and hang for a bit and he did. He only had a few hours and he drove for like two hours to get there. This was supposed to be for Sebastian to meet him and although he knew he was there, Baz didn't show up until after Michael had to leave. I was highly embarrased because he came out all this way. He is such a great guy and I just felt dumb. We used the time however to record Michael and Gwen for the Gangland vocal sections.

By the way, do you have any favourite songs on this new album? Although the material is rather equally amazing, the one song that probably made the biggest impact on me was "Blade" with its freakish sections...

I have favorite parts in all songs. I love the orchestration and the sheer over the top brutality in "Blade". That song is just so over the top that it's funny. I love the simplicity of the riff in "Just one more" and the synth line on the chorus. I am proud of the groove on "This gonna hurt". I think the chord progression on the chorus of "When I look into my eyes" is way cool and the chopped up radio static used as a rhythmic element on "Human Grain" was a lot of fun to do.

You've always handled all the productional matters by yourself... the new Frameshift is no exception, and it does sound rather good. Are you self-taught or have you studied production skills somewhere?

I have a degree in "Contemporary Writing and Production" and "Music Synthesis" from Berklee College of Music which gave me a good set of fundamentals. I played around with all that stuff in the last few years and I think my stuff got progressively better...but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Have you ever thought of producing artists other than those you're involved with?

Yes, but they'd have to pay me and the studio and there would have to be label behind it backing the band or the artist because otherwise it would get too expensive.

As a musician and even as a producer, who do you consider as your biggest influences?

In the 80's corner we have: Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Poison, Cinderella, Skid Row, Whitesnake...etc...all the good stuff
Metal: Megadeth, Metallica, know...

Recently what has inpressed me: Evanescence, Linkin' Park...oh..and fuck yeah...the new Tesla album kicks some serious balls...

Influences in prog:
Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Kansas, Rush, Yes, Transatlantic, Marillion...the key groups basically...

Individual performers:
Guitar: Steve Morse, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Mike Stern, Pat Metheny...
Bass: Stu Hamm, Neil Stubenhaus...more the studio kinda guys...
Drums: Abe Laboriel Jr., Dennis Chambers, Simon Phillips...the groove people...
Keys: Neil Morse, Keith Jarrett, Phillip Glass, Rick Wakeman...usually people from the Jazz world...

Producers and Arrangers: Donny Nolan, Walter Afanasief (writes and arranges for Celine Dion and Mark Anthony among many others), Trevor Horn, Paul O'Neill, Dan Huff...

My altime favorite CDs...
Hanson's second album - This time around
Zakk Wylde - Book of Shadows
Mick Jagger - Goddess in the doorway
Keith Jarrett - The Koeln Concert
Mike Stern - Odds or Evens
Steve Vai - Sex or Religion
Joe Satriani - Flying in a Blue Dream
Spock's Beard - V
Dream Theater - Falling into Infinity
Quest for Camelot - Original Movie Soundtrack

There are more...but I can't remember right now...

You have described the music on the new Frameshift album as a heavy approach to film scoring. That brings us to soundtracks... you've actually written some music for films in the past. Have you done that lately?

I have had a few offers for student films and stuff like that, but I just don't have the time at the moment.

Are there already plans for a third Frameshift album? I reckon a new Chain album will see the light of day earlier... could you reveal some of your upcoming projects?

Well, I am working on Matt Cash's modern country album right now and then Shawn Gordon, Matt Cash, Adam Evers and I will produce a punk-rock album in only one weekend. This will be fun and the band will be called "Psychic for Radio" and the album will be titled "Four out of five dentists"

After that I'll get back to finishing Babysteps which is a double CD rock'll be around 140 minutes of music featuring...

Matt Cash - Chain / Frameshift
Jody Ashworth - TSO
Jill Gioia - TSO
Michael Sadler - SAGA
James LaBrie - Dream Theater
Maya Haddi

Guest Musicians:
Al Pitrelli - Savatage / TSO
Ian Chrichton - SAGA
Jim Gilmour - SAGA
Alan Morse - Spocks Beard
David Ragsdale - Kansas
John Zahnder - John Oliva's Pain

Thanks a lot for your time... in case you have something to say to the fans around the globe, feel free to do so.

First of all I am very lucky to have thanks to the people out there that dig the music. Secondly I want them to know that anyone is welcomed to write me an eMail, the adress is on my website, or join my message board and if I ever stop posting there myself or answer eMails then please shoot me or stop buying my stuff because at that moment I became big enough of an asshole to not understand anymore that I am actually employed by the fans. They pay the bills. NOT the label, NOT my's the fans who hire me to write more music because without them I would be nothing as an artist.