I know, this title sounds pretty worn out. Many rock musicians have worked with symphony orchestras and performed their songs in orchestral arrangements. Nevertheless, I will do it as well… This blog is for those of you who want to know more about the background of the whole project. I actually wanted to write more tour diary entries for the Rail Tracks-Tour but there was too much going on… I still hope to finish the “Rail Tracks Tour Diary 2013” one day… Anyway, let’s start:
Thanks to my parents, I grew up listening to classical music. My heroes were composers, such as Verdi or Puccini, Strauss or Beethoven. I spent hours listening to operas and trying to conduct my imagined orchestra. When I was 7 or 8, I discovered film music through the movie Titanic; I bought a lot of soundtracks and got to know the music of many composers. John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith (I still love his soundtrack to “The Mummy”), Danny Elfman, Marco Beltrami, to mention a few. A lot of this genre is based on classical music. I remember that some of my classmates laughed at my taste of music, as in this time it was popular to listen to “Trance” or “Bravo Hits”… You know… Backstreet Boys, Tic Tac Toe,… the 90ies! But I was proud to listen to the type of music I loved. It was only four years later that my brother introduced me to the music of Peter Gabriel. I didn’t really like his music when my brother showed it to me – I remember, he showed me the song “Darkness”. At the same time, I fell in love with Tim Burton’s movie “Big Fish”; Danny Elfman wrote the soundtrack. Guess what song was used for the trailer? Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill”. So I thought, he can’t be that bad if his music is used for a Tim Burton movie. Only a few months later, I went to Peter Gabriel’s live concert in Zurich and wrote my first rock song the day afterwards. When I look back, it looks like a pretty natural way from classical music to Peter Gabriel. If you check out the early Genesis stuff, you will see that it’s actually classical music. Further, I think that my interest in operas helped me to understand the complex Genesis and PG songs. Moreover, they might have inspired me for conceptual work. Up to this day I find it very important that an album tells a story, even though it is not composed as a “concept album” like Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
However, since I started writing rock music, I felt like collaborating with an orchestra. I have recorded many demos containing an – artificial – orchestra. Two years ago, I started working on a project called “War Poems”. I looked for poems written by soldiers on the internet and found an impressive and touching one called “A Soldier’s Dream” written by Billy Little. When I read the words, I already had the melody in my mind. So I recorded it in my home studio. It turned out to be a pretty symphonic song based on piano but with a big string section and a choir added to it. We decided to put it on our second album “Lost in Limbo”. Billy Little, the author, was extremely touched by the result and attended one of my shows in England. When I sang this song in front of him, it was one of these unforgettable moments that make me proud of being a musician. It was further in this moment that I decided that I would definitely do this project called “War Poems”. I called up a friend of mine, Sebastian Vogler, who is an amazing violin player and whom I’ve worked with several times. He was interested in this project and forwarded my request to the conductor of the orchestra he is playing in. Sometimes, life is extremely funny… I have known this conductor, Michael Schläpfer, since I was a little boy. We met for a coffee and talked about a lot besides the project. I always think that if you work with someone, you should be able not only to talk about business but also about other stuff. We felt that this project could really work and we decided to do it. So I went home and started working on the arrangements… I didn’t know back then how much work it would be. But now, three days before the first show, I gotta say, it was definitely worth it!
The rehearsals started in September 2013. I remember the first rehearsal… I was trembling and worried that the orchestra probably would not like the music or that the arrangements could not be played or were full of mistakes, etc. I do not have any experience in writing arrangements for symphony orchestras. I once wrote a short arrangement for a concert band but that’s it… Anyway, what a moment to hear the songs played by 50 people! All the musicians seem to have fun and they are great to work with; Very professional and fun at the same time.
Only three days to go… There are always some last details to check before show time.
This week has been full of promo work. Michael and I had a busy time giving interviews on TV and radio stations and in newspapers. I’m really exciting about the shows coming up this weekend – it’s a dream come true for me; and I hope to share it with you!
9th Nov: Tonhalle Wil, 7.30pm
10th Nov: Tonhalle St. Gallen, 5pm
Link to TVO interview:
A lot of people are involved in this project and it would not be possible without them. I’d like to thank everyone for supporting and encouraging me on this exciting path!
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!