Images Of Eden just presented their 3rd album, the 3rd chapter is called Rebuilding The Ruins. Singer Gordon Tittsworth was so kind to answer my questions about Images Of Eden, their new album and the other projects / bands he's involved with.
Out Of Nowhere came Images Of Eden, that was in the late 1990's and your first album was almost a solo effort, called Chapter I in 2001. Now 10 years later it's Rebuilding The Ruins. Please enlighten us about the story of this part of the journey!
Wow... very ironically, I left a band called Out Of Nowhere in 1999 just before forming Images Of Eden. That band was a wound I'd rather not open again ;-).
This 3rd chapter, Rebuilding The Ruins (RTR), picks up exactly where Sunlight Of The Spirit (SOS) left off, but taken many levels higher (song structure, delivery, concept, etc.). RTR is also a full concept CD rather than just a thematic progression as on SOS. As for the story of RTR, there are too many details to really get into. I'd rather have the listener walk away with their own interpretations. I will say that the story was written as a concept but with just enough 'holes' in the storyline to leave the interpretation open. It was hard to walk the tightrope between detail and obscurity. I may post the real story sometime down the road. I don't know.
Dennis is in the band from the early days, how much influence does he have on the song writing?
Dennis has been a picture perfect band member to work with over the years. I have learned so many things from him as a musician so it is pretty safe to say that he had more influence on my writing than I probably even know, and more than I have probably given him credit for. When it comes to song structure, he had more input on Sunlight Of The Spirit, though. His contributions gave the CD a great hybrid of early prog-rock vs. my prog-metal influence. As for Ruins, his contributions were a little less due to some logistics, but he wrote all of the solos and gave feedback on various arrangements.
But you also have some new faces in the band. Please tell us a bit about these guys!
Yeah, Chris Lucci has teamed up with us on drums as well as being the producer of the CD. He is the power-drummer of the TX, USA-based prog-metal band, All Too Human, to which I have subsequently joined. Dean Harris is in a local band called Awaken and is a great piano player / keyboardist.
When did you start working on the new chapter? And how long did the recordings take?
I actually first started getting rough lyric ideas for Ruins during the Sunlight Of The Spirit recording sessions. I casually worked on them for about 2 years while we were playing live in support of Spirit. As time went on, I noticed the lyrics start to form a loose story, so I started filling in the 'holes' of the story. Then I nipped and tucked everything until I had a completed piece of work, lyrically. This process took about 2+ years (which included rough 'blueprints' of how the music was going to progress from beginning to end). After the lyrics / blueprints were complete, I knocked out the entire CD, musically, in about 4 months. I would just start playing (guitar, keys, etc) until I felt I was really locking into something, then I would immediately know in my head what song the music was going to be for... then I just felt each change / progression out until each song was complete. The next thing I know, I have a 74 minute CD.
Once the CD was completely written, I sent the rough MP3 mixes, click tracks, and rough drum guides to Chris Lucci (in TX, USA) to record drums. Chris started recording drums in mid-2008 and had everything finished around Feb, 2009. It took me from Feb to April to recording the guitars (rhythm, acoustic & bass) with a little bit of keyboards. Then came Dean's keyboards / piano and my vocals, which took about 5 more months. Dennis recorded guitar at his place so that was not really attached to the time table. At the end of the day, recording took close to a year and a half for the 4 of us. We could have had it done sooner, but our full time jobs kinda got in the way, lol.
Who had the idea for the artwork? Who realized it?
I had a VERY rough concept so I scanned a bad sketch I did, then emailed it to Dennis Mullin, who is a graphic artist by trade. I told him that I was open to his thoughts / suggestions. He came back a few weeks later with the entire layout. I really liked the layout a lot and after very minor tweaks, it was completely done.
You produced the album together with Chris Lucci, looks like the cooperation on the production went well... Sunlight Of The Spirit was also produced by the band, do you feel comfortable producing? Do you consider to produce other bands? Or the other bands you are involved with?
To clarify, Chris Lucci was the main producer of Ruins. I contributed notes / guides and some direction, but he's the real talent behind the production. I know enough about production to give a band a decent demo-quality product ;-) but nothing professional (yet). I plan to hone my skills over the next couple of years because I'd love to be able to produce the next CD. As it stands, Chris has the talent to do it professionally. My expectations were far surpassed when I heard his work for the first time.
You did Tribal Scars as a kind of appetizer last October. Why did you pick that song?
We partnered up with an amazing 'manager, agent, PR guy, marketing / promoter guru, musician, jack of all trades, etc' named Hellmut Wolf. Unfortunately, the IOE / Hellmut Wolf relationship had to take a brief hiatus for legal reasons which I cannot speak about (no fault of either of us), so we will start working together again in a few months. We combined our heads to craft a very detailed plan of attack for Ruins, starting with a single and video. It was between Tribal Scars and Rebuilding The Ruins, but after discussing it, Tribal won because it was more radio-friendly. Also, I had a much better, true to life concept behind it. Hellmut has done a lot for us in a short time, and really pushed us to help make things happen. He is an amazing ally / team member in this business and we don't want to take the journey without him.
You also did a video for Tribal Scars and it starts with a short message that you dedicate the video to the soldiers. Please tell us about the video shooting under the bridge!
After I decided on the visual imagery of the video, I had a few ideas in mind for cool locations and decided to scout them out. We recorded at a factory / industrial setting where they melt down metal and pour it into huge molds, etc. I remember playing the song through about 15+ times while the 'real' audio was blasting through a bass amp behind Chris Lucci's drums (which were also at full volume). It was an awesome day and also very powerful, considering it was 9/11. Also, because we were doing the video about the soldiers returning (or not returning) from war, used footage of an American Soldier who lost his life due to the very event that happened 9 years ago that day. It was an honor to do it and I really think we all felt something cool living through us that day. I will never forget that shoot.
Did you get feedback from soldiers and their families?
Actually, yes. I think the video / concept hit home with many people, particularly the family friends of Corporal Jonny Porto (the soldier who lost his life) as well as from the filmmaker of the footage of Cpl. Porto's funeral (Barb Brown). Believe it or not, we seemed to get more of a powerful reaction from civilians (non-military). I was actually very pleased about that. US citizens sometimes take for granted what our soldiers have done (and are doing) for us. It was a big reminder and I think it opened some eyes.
A band which have been an influence is Queensrÿche, they are among the bands who had the chance to play for the troops. Would you like to do something like that?
I would love to and consider it a huge honor. We'll see what the future brings.
I know that producing a video isn't just time consuming, but do you plan to do another video for Rebuilding The Ruins? If so, which song will you pick?
Great question. I would love to do another video and for the title track, Rebuilding The Ruins. Our videographer, Mike Tobias, is ready for when we are. The only problem is that I have a big storyline attached to this song and it may be WAAAY out of my budget. I can envision a mini-movie in the 'Peter Jackson' film-making style, but more in an Ancient Rome / Greek setting. Although, we really did well with the small budget that we had for Tribal Scars so I may be able to come up with something. Again, we'll see what happens.
Have you already started gathering ideas for the next one?
For the next CD, yes. Weirdly enough, I have already pinpointed the theme, etc and cover art concept. I'm a firm believer that I need to actually live and breathe the stuff I write about before I can make the delivery convincing. The last couple of years have opened my eyes to mortality (life's progression) and not taking life for granted (personal reasons). Some time went by and I started seeing that life was moving forward right in front of me a little too quickly and that I didn't (wouldn't or couldn't) make time to acknowledge the people in my life who are very close to me. I vowed to change that at the end of 2010 and really pay closer attention to what really matters. The tentative title that I'm (currently) going with is Heroes Fall. This will NOT be a 74 minute release like Ruins.
'Vocalist for hire' your MySpace states... What makes it interesting for you to work with other bands? And how do you choose which jobs you take?
I LOVE working on other projects. It challenges me to do new things and open my mind (specifically Dread The Forsaken). If it had not have been for Dread (more importantly, Mauricio Liborio), you would not be hearing the heavier IOE (My Stigmata, Rebuilding The Ruins, etc.) The 'for hire' gigs have also brought me to see other parts of the world (and new cultures). Honestly, it is the VERY best thing I have ever done, musically.
As far as jobs, I always reply to every inquiry then talk everything through with the band / artist. I have found that many bands want to try to get something for nothing. I never mention a fixed price because it depends on the band, the project (full-length vs. a couple of songs), but I want to make it affordable for the bands without cutting myself short. I know all too well what it means to work on a fixed budget. You have studio time, mixing, mastering, artwork, pressing, promotion, etc. so I try to work personally with bands to make it happen. I also assist each band in promotion once it is time to be released. Hey, if my name is on it, I'd like to see it do well.
Did the jobs made you become a member of Dread The Forsaken / All Too Human?
Yes, actually. Dread started as a 'for hire' gig, but immediately turned full time once I got to Guatemala and met Mauricio and Vinnie. These guys are like my brothers now.
All Too Human... long story. Okay, I have been a fan of ATH since 2004's Entropy and have also been friends with bassist Maurice Taylor since then. When Matt Kaiser (drummer for IOE - Sunlight Of The Spirit) left, I needed a drummer to do Ruins, so Maurice suggested Chris Lucci from All Too Human. I was a HUGE fan of his playing and felt privileged to have him on the project. Well, he jumped on it and he took the project many levels higher. Once we got to the point where Ruins was mostly tracked, Chris called a meeting with the rest of the guys in ATH about bringing me on board. It was a no-brainer for me. I found myself going from being a fan of the band, to an actual member. That was huge.
You are also involved in Dread The Forsaken and All Too Human, what about the other guys? I know Dennis is part of Iluvatar... Are they also involved in other bands? And how difficult is it to split up time between the bands?
Chris Lucci is also with me in All Too Human. Dennis Mullin is in Iluvatar (www.iluvatar.com - new CD coming sometime before the Mayan apocalypse, I hope), L. Dean Harris is in a prog-cover band called Awaken. Vinnie Perez of Dread The Forsaken is in a few drum projects in Guatemala. Mako of DTF is a full time producer and heads a psychotic techno-grind core project called Evilminded, etc, but........... we all make everything work somehow. It has not been challenging yet. I'm hoping it will only help, possibly with coordinating the bands to play one big festival together or maybe even going on short tours together.
What about playing live? Anything on the way?
Since the CD was just released, nothing is on the schedule yet. However, that will be in the works over the next 6 months. We will be working all of our contacts worldwide (press, radio, promoters, bands, etc.) and see what we can make happen. I'm looking forward to getting back out there.
An All Too Human album is on the way... What else? What is your schedule for the next months?
Chris Lucci is also in the process of mixing All Too Human's Juggernaut. We will be releasing the first single, Thorn In My Side in about 2 months, then the CD to follow later this year (let's hope). I'll plague the cyber landscape with that info so stay tuned. ***FYI - for fans of All Too Human - do not expect another Entropy! Juggernaut is less 'prog' and much more straight-forward metal with some 'balls & chunk'. I need to set that expectation right up front.
As most of you know, my Guatemalan band, Dread The Forsaken, also released our debut CD, Unbound, on Nightmare Records this past November. Definitely check it out at www.dread-rocks.com. The history behind DTF is a long story itself. We are already working on material for DTF #2 (TBD).
I have also teamed up with a German musician / composer / multi-instrumentalist, Steve Brockmann, and MA, USA author / lyricist, George Andrade, to play the lead character, Owen, in their project called AIRS - A Rock Opera. Very cool project and story, which is based on the upcoming novel by George Andrade. There are many great musicians / vocalists contributing to this so I'm honored to be a part of it. I don't have a release date yet but stay tuned.
Most recently, I did vocals for an OH-USA based thrash / power metal band called Spiritus Mundi. The brainchild behind this project is a multi-instrumentalist named Michael Wopshall. This project was really intense. I had a bit of a rough / frustrating 2010 due to multiple unavoidable shit sandwiches being shoved in my face (nothing music-related). This project was therapeutic and could not have come at a better time. The CD is called American Dystopia and is by far, the most aggressive / angry projects I have done. I needed some good vocal-healing time after this one. I pretty much roughed up my mid-register and needed to step back for a couple of months, but it was all worth it. Anyway, think of a mixture of Slayer, Overkill, Carnivore's Retaliation CD with a sprinkle of Nuclear Assault, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. Yeah, I know - the polar opposite of Sunlight Of The Spirit... We all evolve ;-). Anyway, I was extremely intrigued by the lyrics here. Some may call them a bit 'conspiracy theorist' due to the extreme opinions towards politics and organized religion. I prefer to describe them as "the truths and hypocrisies that religion and the government deny, sweep under the rug and lie to the US people about... then pass off as 'conspiracy theories'". It's one of those CDs where the lyrics just piss you off because they are so true, and no matter how loud we as citizens scream, nothing ever seems to be done about it! Again... stay tuned.
Anything you want to add? Something I should have asked?
I don't know. I rambled like hell. Here are some links to chew on.
www.alltoohuman.com (not updated since 2008. Hang tight.)
Also, thanks very much for doing this interview and also thanks a million to Bjørn for the great review of Rebuilding the Ruins.
RIP- Peter Steele (Type O Negative / Carnivore)
I have to thank Gordon for enlightening us and it looks like we will soon hear a lot more from the Keystone State. Next in line is All Too Human's new album... Stay tuned!