Frameshift - The Devil in the details

Interview by Carl Begai

Back in BW&BK #86 we announced former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach had teamed up with Frameshift mastermind Henning Pauly to record a new album, An Absence Of Empathy. Unfortunately, the feature that was supposed to appear in the following issue failed to materialize due to ďmixing problemsĒ that ultimately pushed back the release date. Since then it has come to light that the problems were in fact not technical in nature, but a case of Bach butting heads with Pauly over writing credits and publishing. To make a long and messy story short, Bach felt he should have been credited for the changes he had reportedly insisted on in some of the songs, Pauly disagreed, and the matter became a legal affair involving lawyers and public slagging via the internet. At the time of this writing (end of May) things hadnít been resolved, with Bach pushing An Absence Of Empathy as his comeback in spite of the conflict and Pauly being more than a bit livid at the way his work had been tainted. Itís the music that matters, however, and An Absence Of Empathy is positively brilliant. Fans of the first Frameshift album, Unweaving The Rainbow (featuring James LaBrie of Dream Theater fame), have been raving about the dark edges Pauly has added to his unique brand of prog metal on the new one, and Bach fans have been blown away by hearing the man singing his guts out in a new environment.

While we could present a play-by-play of Paulyís and Bachís little war, perhaps it makes more sense to celebrate what is a classy piece of work. Most of the following interview was done in the midst of the recording sessions, before Bach decided to play hardball and Pauly became disenchanted.

Thus we start with Paulyís decision to take on Bach as a vocalist, a risk considering Bach doesnít come from the world of prog metal.

ďThatís the whole point,Ē says Pauly. ďIt was a case of taking a vocalist that can really sing and putting him in the middle of this; kind of a fish-out-of-water thing. Itís not totally out of his realm, of course, but it is different. One of the things Iíve done is construct vocal harmonies like choir passages, and he tells me the notes sound wrong because theyíre harmonies and heís thinking like a lead vocalist. He comes in, sings, and his reaction is usually ĎHoly shit, Iíve never done that before.í He sounds amazing, from the low stuff all the way to the screams. The first Frameshift album is total prog, a very positive, happy album, and this one in a complete turaround in that itís very heavy and very dark. I constructed it less for prog metal fans and more for the Ďnormalí metal crowd.Ē

Once Bach confirmed he was on board, Pauly began writing with him in mind specifically.

ďSebastian doesnít like to hear that because heíd rather do stuff that isnít written for him, but I like to write things where the voice is strongest. Things that work well for him donít work well for other people. To be quite honest, I was concerned about a few of the songs because they were things that were out of context with Sebastian, like the synthesizer parts. The song ĎThis Is Gonna Hurtí, for example has a hip-hop groove, and Linkin Park was my inspiration. Without vocals on it, it freaked him out, but once Sebastian added his parts the song became a metal tune. There were some minor re-writes of the songs to suit Sebastian, but nothing that destroyed my original idea or intention.Ē

ďThis album is going to hit you in the face a lot harder than the first Frameshift album,Ē Pauly continues. ďMy playing, the vocals, the mix, everything, and what Iím really proud of is that there isnít one song that can be considered filler. From the very beginning, when I was writing the lyrics and melodies I was very confident that we had a great album.Ē

While the current conflict between Pauly and Bach has led to Bach criticizing Paulyís character, he has been careful not to carve on the album itself because he knows it features some of the best work of his career. Case in point from our initial chat:
ďDude, we are creating some incredible music, thatís for sure,Ē says Bach. ďIím a little surprised by what Iím pulling off because I havenít worked with a producer since Bring ĎEm Bach Alive in í98, so what Henning is doing for me is teaching me how to do harmonies that Iím not capable of thinking up in my own head. When I was 15 playing in Kid Wikkid, my father begged me to go to Julliard to train. They knew about me as a singer, my dad had it all set up, but I just couldnít do it. Things were happening, so I didnít want to go to school. Now, with my voice and Henningís knowledge, heís teaching me about singing harmonies using sevenths and ninths, and to me when Iím singing them they sound wrong. I have to tell myself to trust him because Iím doing shit Iíve never done before, and when he plays it back itís un-fucking-real!Ē

ďItís so satisfying,Ē Bach says of the creative process for Frameshift. ďMy whole thing in life is to do new things, and that has to do with the fact Iím an Aries. I know thatís fucking silly, but every time I read about being an Aries it says we like to create new things, we get bored quick, and thatís true of me. Itís surprising to some people that Iím part of this, but if you listen to ĎIn An Empty Roomí youíll find itís not too out there for me. Everybody has this one image of me of being crazy, wild, getting into fights and shit, but Iím so fucking disciplined Iím boring (laughs). It doesnít matter how I feel; I come in and get the job done.Ē

Bachís reasons for agreeing to do An Absence Of Empathy?

ďOne thing I would hope people would understand about my career after so many years is youíve got to expect the unexpected,Ē says Bach. ďThatís my whole modus operandi. If an interesting idea comes my way, thatís the one Iím gonna pick. I always get asked, ĎAre you going to reunite with Skid Row?í, and the next comment is, ĎEveryone else is doing it.í Well, thatís the fucking reason I donít. Iím a fucking rebel to the core, dude, and I donít understand when people say ĎMotley Crue is getting back together; why donít you?í Iím not in fucking Motley Crue! That pack mentality makes me insane! I donít have that, I just donít. Iíve got to satisfy myself as an artist. I have to break new ground or itís boring. I need to make music that Iím proud of, and Frameshift is it.Ē

Coming full circle, both Pauly and Bach stand by the album but not one another. A request for a follow-up interview with Bach went unheeded, but Pauly offered the following: ďLegally there is nothing happening. The songs will be registered with ASCAP and they will rule over the credits. This is NOT about money, but about ego, and Sebastian has more than a healthy dose of that. He loves the album and wishes he had written it, it hurts him personally that an elementary school teacher (Matt Cash) and a dude that no one knows wrote it and he could just sing it. He wants it to look as if it's his solo album, which it is NOT. Legally, he can have all the airplay royalties; I don't care. This will not go to court. The worst that will happen is that ASCAP will have to rule. The whole dispute is over less than $200, which ridiculous considering how little money we are talking about, but that's what Sebastian doesn't understand... among other things.Ē