Frameshift Interview with Roady Crew Magazine

Firstly, what can you say about the worldwide response to “Unweaving The Rainbow”?

I was completely overwhelmed. I never thought that this rather eclectic combination of styles would be something the fans would respond to positively; but, a long list of reviews showa me that it was actually something the fans liked. Many actually said it was the best thing JLB has done, and that is definitely an amazing compliment.

“Unweaving The Rainbow” presented the amazing voice of James LaBrie and great songs. What’s your opinion about “Unweaving The Rainbow” nowadays, since there is some time since it was released and you worked on a new album afterwards?

I love James' performance on UTR and I strongly believe that we have some great songs on there. Although, in retrospect, the production could have been stronger. The circumstances surrounding the mixing sessions were not in our favor, and I would just love to go back to make the mixes as good as I think the songs deserve.

When and how did you feel that was the right time to start working on a new Frameshift album?

When the label said, "Work on a new Frameshift album."

The concept for “An Absence Of Empathy” was initiated by Shawn Gordon, based on an idea of a partially written storyline for a Zicardian album. What can you say about the first steps for the “An Absence Of Empathy” concept?

Shawn and I tried to come up with at least two or three songs out of the original concept that we could use to write some demos for in order to present it to a vocalist. At that time, we talked about Geoff Tate. We took it from there and refined the concept which then later led to our realization that he would not be the preferred vocalist for the album. It was apparent that we needed someone with an entirely different vocal style... someone with more aggression in their voice. Who else would be a better candidate than Sebastian Bach.

With the initial idea in hands, the whole story behind “An Absence Of Empathy” was developed. What can you say about “An Absence Of Empathy” concept and the whole idea about the glorification of the violence in the worldwide media?

The album is not about the glorification of violence, it is simply about the fact that the media is dominated by reports of human violence. Shawn and I sat down for long periods of time to really find out what this album was supposed to be about. It itself should definitely not be glorifying violence-- we wanted to make that very clear. It is moreover an exploration of the violence that is in any and all of us, and trying to find an answer to the question of what particular violence each of us are capable of; and what events would be necessary to bring them to the surface.

On the last album you had James LaBrie, an icon in the Progressive Music! For “An Absence Of Empathy”, you chose Sebastian Bach, an icon in the Hard & Heavy Music… How was the opportunity to have Sebastian Bach singing in a Frameshift album?

From when I was a teenager, he has been one of my favorite vocalists and I've always considered him one of the greatest rockstars out there. The guy can sing, there's no question about that... and he has not disappointed me in that regard on the new Frameshift album. Working with him and spending time with him, on the other hand, has tainted the view of the "rockstar hero" I had in my head; and, in some ways, I wish I could have kept the naive image of him as one of my heroes instead of knowing the person Sebastian Bach.

Having Sebastian Bach sing on a Progressive Music album is a very uncommon idea, but the final result in “An Absence Of Empathy” is really amazing and his voice fit perfectly on the sonority. How was the musical interaction between Bach and you in the making of this new album?

There was very limited collaboration, if any at all, because I wrote the music, and then Matt Cash, Adam Evers, and I wrote lyrics and melodies. Up to this point, we did not have any input from Bach although we requested it on numerous occasions. This means that the whole album was writted when Bach came to the studio to sing it. He wanted to make a few minor changes to some lyrics, some of which I was not in agreement with; but, we made them anyway to keep him happy. But, the bottom line is that he was hired to sing on the album, not to be a co-writer.

Many songs, like for example “Miseducation”, “Push The Buttom” and “I Killed You”, and many other passages in the other songs remember a lot the Hard Rock style of Skid Row because the unique Sebastian Bach voice. How much of Sebastian Bach ideas can we hear on the “An Absence Of Empathy” songs?

Very, very few. His voice is unique enough by itself to remind you of Skid Row no matter what he sings because his voice was Skid Row. I have a very analytical mind and I do approach every album as a new challenge. When working with someone as well-known and talented as Bach, I make sure that I listen to a lot of stuff he has done so that I understand his strengths and weaknesses as best as I can. This enables me to write music and passages that are molded to showcase his abilities. If things do sound like Skid Row, the reason is not because I was trying to sound like Skid Row, but because that particular writing style works best for Bach's voice.

I know it’s a tough question, but how do you compare the work with Bach and LaBrie in general terms (performance, final result etc)?

Working with James is very relaxed and friendly, and although there are always tensions in the studio, James keeps the atmosphere very light and professional. Vocally speaking, James is dead-on every note and has more stamina behind the microphone than I have ever seen on any vocalist. Sebastian can only sing what he feels at that particular moment and the type of voice he can produce is dependent on the time of day and also his mood-- making things harder to get done. His more emotional approach results in tracks that make you feel that particular emotion.

How was the studio work for “An Absence Of Empathy” and the mood during the recordings with Sebastian Bach and Eddie Marvin?

Eddie's just a cool guy. And he respects the way I write for drums. He loves to play the parts that I give him and tracking his stuff is usually a no-brainer. Working with Bach is very stressful, and the tensions run high. I had to hold back many times to keep myself from freaking out; I simply wanted to get the sessions completed.

What your opinion about “An Absence Of Empathy” final result and which songs are the album highlights in your point of view?

I think the album as a whole is very even and I know that you would hear this from every artist, but I don't think we have a bad song on that cd. I hate to give out personal favorites because that makes it look like I don't like the other songs, but if I had to pick, I really like the riff in "Just One More."

Do you have plans to tour or play special gigs for “An Absence Of Empathy”? It would be great play some gigs with Sebastian Bach, do you agree?

Touring with Frameshift would be too expensive, and I have a lot of work to do in the studio for upcoming projects-- and I simply cannot tear myself away from the work. Due to the unforeseen and sad complications with Bach and his misunderstanding about writing credits and several other issues, I would not want to share a stage with him. Frankly, I don't think there's space on a stage next to Bach due to the size of his ego.

What can we expect from Frameshift career from now on? Do you intend to have a new singer on the next album or keep the “Sebastian Bach formula”?

The idea of Frameshift is to take a vocalist out of their natural habitat and push them a little bit further than they've gone before. It is not about changing the style completely, but about expanding on it; and, making someone who is usually just a lead vocalist sing full choir passages. So, for the people who really really like this album, they might possibly be disappointed by the next album because it will feature a different vocalist and it will be written and arranged to feature that vocalist's strength. This might mean that it will not sound like AoE or UTR at all. Frameshift, for me, is about challenging the vocalist and myself; exploring uncharted territory-- that's what keeps it interesting, at least, for myself.

Hellion Records released both “Unweaving The Rainbow” and “An Absence Of Empathy” here in Brazil and you reached a lot of fans here. What do you know about Brazil and the Brazilian fans?

I have seen Rush in Rio and the sheer number of fans cheering for a progressive rock band blew my mind. I know that cd sales don't reflect those numbers but that might be due to the economy and not because of the fans. So, I am very happy that in your country, progressive rock and the music we make receive a high level of respect.

Please, Henning, leave a message for your Brazilian fans.

I understand that cds in Brazil are very expensive and that being able to afford my product is tough; but, from discussions online and reports from other sources, I know that downloading music in Brazil is huge. I, as an artist, am very saddened by that because the message that I get from it is that the fans love my product and want to enjoy it, but apparently not enough to make sure that the person who spent a year creating it gets paid his dues. What that means is that if sales are down, there might not be any more albums, although the fans really like what we artists do. What I'm trying to say, and I know you don't want to hear this, is that downloading is a crime-- and there's no other way to see this.

I's also like to invite anyone who reads this to my website... and join the forum and hang out with us. I am on there everyday, and we talk about whatever floats your boat-- whether it's about my albums, or how much your balls itch.

To finish the interview, we have a special section in Roadie Crew Magazine and I would like to know the best five Metal (in general terms) albums you have heard in your entire life.

Zach Wylde-- Book of Shadows
Megadeth-- Youthanasia
Tesla-- Into the Now
Ozzy- No More Tears
Linkin' Park - Meteora