A few weeks ago, I got the Alliance album Missing Pieces and after listening several times, I really loved the album. So I wanted to help the band and present them. The band members are all very well-known for their work with other bands like Nightranger, Boston, Sammy Hagar Band and the others... I visited the www.robertberry.com page and send an email to request an interview. Robert replied immediate and I sat down and thought about it... When I typed my questions and sent Robert surprised me again and answered within one day! I really appreciate this and I hope I have the chance to see the band live and talk to this great musician personally... I hope you enjoy the interview!
Please tell me a little bit about the past of the band. How you got together with the other members?
Alliance was originally put together by John Kalodner of Geffen Records. When Sammy Hagar left his band behind to join Van Halen, Kalodner felt that a new singer should come into the band. It was a strong, working unit with a history. Jesse Harms was a member then and he contacted me about getting together. I was heading to England to play with Steve Howe at the time so, I declined the offer. After I had spent 2 years working in Europe, eventually with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, I came home and David Lauser contacted me and said they still had not found the right combination. We got together at Sammy's house for a jam and it just seemed to click.
Every one of you is busy working with other acts. How you manage to get together to work with Alliance?
We are very busy but we consider Alliance a priority in our music careers. We send tapes back and forth for writing ideas and then get together at my studio when we have at least 5 songs to record. This gives us a lose schedule but still some kind of structure.
Where are your musical influences? Roots?
My musical influences are very wide. I have been working in studios since I was very young so I have been exposed to all types of music. I had 10 years of classical piano lessons, took trumpet in elementary school and have taught myself many instruments. I also majored in voice in college. My first real influence was the Beatles. I got into the English bands quite heavy, Zepplin, Yes, Moody Blues. I started out playing progressive music because I liked its complexity but record companies steered to be toward a more packaged style. I still produce all kinds of music in my studio. From country to techno. I love it all. I just like to hear it done right.
Hush's self-title album been re-released by Escape in 1998. I think many people don't know your former band. Please tell us a little bit about! By the way, I really like the album!
Hush was my first professional band. We started out as a cover band playing progressive copies, like Yes and Genesis. I learned about live performance from that band. I would do everything from building the PA system to figuring out how to make the flash bombs. It took my quite sometime to realize what I really should be working on was the songs. The album that Escape put out was never released. Our first album Hush/Hush was released in 1978. It had some success in the US and we toured exten&sively to support it. When we got off the road and started in on the 2nd album (Hush 79') the company was starting to have financial problems. They filed bankruptcy and went out of business. We didn't have the resources to get our masters back on the 2nd album, so we had to forget it. We tried but the heads of the company were long gone. It wasn't until Escape inquired about us ever having a follow up album that I thought about remixing and releasing it. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it sounded.
Why you choose Alliance as a band name?
Because of us all living in different states and the different styles of music we have in our histories, it seemed like the perfect fit.
What is the difference for you between the debut and Missing Pieces?
The first Alliance album was compiled over 4 years and shows how we were developing toward a style. The 2nd album brings all that to a focus and I feel presents itself as a real band sound. What do you think between the two? It is hard for me to say more than that. I just do what I do. But I definitely hear a cohesiveness to this album.
When I read your lyrics they are partly very poetic. Do you see yourself as a poet? Do you write poems?
First of all, I take that as a huge compliment. Thank you. I would like to think of myself as a singer/ songwriter. The lyric is the hard part of writing and I am very proud of the subject matter on Missing Piece. It is easy to write about the same old thing, all the time but I think this album has some interesting subject matter. I don't write poems, but I do write music and lyric as a whole. Then I go back separately to the lyrics and try to make them read as if they are not in a song. So if you read the album booklet you will get the feeling just from the words. I guess that is a bit like a poem.
The song Do It For Free is written by Sammy Hagar and J. Harms. How you got to records this one? Why Sammy Hagar didn't use it?
That was on Sammy's last album Marching To Mars. When I played with Sammy from 1995 to 1998 he would bring these new songs he wrote to Cabo Wabo and have David and I learn them right before we went on stage. After 3 nights of playing Do It For Free, I fell in love with the song. I really thought it was a great piece of music. Then Sammy's album came out and I thought the song sounded lousy. It just didn't have what I thought we had at Cabo. So I asked the guys if they liked the demo I had worked up and they did. So we did it for this album. It also pays tribute to Sammy who is someone we all have in common.
Usually in this musical genre the words just deal with love. It's A Long Way To Go deals with a totally different subject. How you came up with that idea?
This Kosovo thing really hit me. It seems so easy to watch the news and when the news is over the thought process is over. The song all started with the line &qout;holdin' their children, man, that could be my girl." There were these images on the TV of mothers holding there children and I thought how it would be if it were my daughter. I thought, I wouldn't stop thinking about that after the news was over, if it was closer to home. And from there I just developed the lyric around identifying how war has touched us all closer than we think. I am really proud of that lyric but I am surprised you picked up on it. Most of the people I talk to don't seem to get the depth in that song.
Will you use different topics in future?
I am always trying to think of things to write about. It all depends on the inspiration you get from what is around you at the time you are writing.
I like the cover artwork very much. How came up with the idea? And who did it?
Well that is all under the direction of Halil Turk at Escape Music. He has a guy at a company called Crusoe. This guy has lots of good ideas and Halil gives him some instruction and he goes from there. He sends his ideas to me and I make a few suggestions but mostly he is on his own. I like to work with people that are truly talented in their own profession. If I was good at artwork I would do it myself. But then of course I wouldn't be into my music like I am.
What's about playing live? Is anything planned?
We have been trying to get to Germany to do a few shows but so far the expense has kept us from doing that. We want to do our first shows in a place were we can support our albums. Any help we can get in that direction would be greatly appreciated. We would love to support a tour over there.
Do you think that this kind of music will become more popular again? Other musical styles returned, there is a retro trend...
Well, I am not sure where they put us as far as retro. We try to stay true to a late 70's type of sound with a bit of Y2K thrown in for the alternative edge. Something old and something new. I do believe if people listen to our lyrics and the power of the music that it should cross some time barriers and appeal to the current audience.
How is the situation for your music in the States?
The US is very trendy. We don't even try to promote Alliance here. If we want to stay true to what we do and do it the way we want to do it, then we must stay away from the American record companies. They would ruin what we have. It is too important to us to do it the way we see it. I am very proud of this album. I think it is my best album lyric wise and vocal wise. For me personally that is the most important part of it. To express my musical feelings as they come out of me. I have other musical releases in the States. I have just finished the soundtrack to a CD-ROM game called Wheel Of Time. I wrote all the music for that and it is starting to be a very big seller. I also do a lot of trailer music for Miramax films. Keeps me busy.
You have your own studio now. Does it make working easier for you?
I have had my own studio since I got out of high school. Just now I have the best of everything equipment wise. Songwriting and recording has always been a one step process for me. I write and record a demo all at the same time. Then I go back and adjust it as I find better pieces to fit in. My studio is booked so much that sometimes it is hard to find the piece of mind to sit down and write, but I manage to write at least one album's worth of songs I would release each year. Plus all the music I do for Miramax and other original music projects.
Do you use the studio just for your own band / project? Or do you work there with other bands? If yes, do you produce them? And who recorded there?
I produce a lot of bands here. Just last year I did the new Tempest album, Softball for Japan, the latest Pangaea CD, The Wheel of Time soundtrack album, two Mother Goose Rocks kids albums and a host of other projects that keep me booked all year long.
What do you think about the Internet?
I think it is a great place to research things and also to organise your thoughts for interviews, like this. Much more complete than a phone or in person interview. It gives you time to think and write from the heart. As if it were a song.
There is your own homepage and there is also Alliance presented. Do you do the homepage on your own? Or do you just give the information?
My assistant Pat Moore does my web page. He is a great friend and very good at this web stuff. I am lost when it comes to HTML. Again, leave the job to someone who does it professionally. He check all my mail and send on the important stuff and is always updating something for me. He also is the manager of my studio Soundtek Studios.
Do you think the Internet helps bands, which are not part of the actual trend?
It helps anybody that can get people to their site. That is the trick. It must be advertised in someway to get people to come to the site and look at your information.
ELP released many very good records and everyone in the band is a great musician. How was it to work with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer?
There are no two better musicians in the world. They treated me with respect and as an equal that at that time in my career was a blessing. It was a great time in my musical career and I still talk to Keith quite often and to Carl about twice a year.