TOM EATON
indesterren
(Riverwide Records)

 

New Age music trendsetter and famed studio engineer / producer Tom Eaton made more than a few ripples in the music world with his early 2016 album abendromen and he follows up near the close of 2016 with another album of all new material called indesterren. With its surreal soundscapes and hypnotic electronica, indesterren is kind of a sister album to abendromen. This is not electronica in the spirit of late 1970s Euro-flavored synth-rock but instead, Eaton is fully versed in the art of beguiling, nocturnal sonic imagery that is, at times, gothic sounding in nature. As he states on the back of the CD, indesterren is the second album in the abendromen series, so, clearly both albums are interconnected, musically and recording wise. Speaking about releasing two albums during the same year, Tom tells mwe3.com 'abendromen (evening dreams) came first, and once the wheels were turning, indesterren (into the stars) showed up pretty quickly. Over the years I’ve kept videos of piano improvs I’ve done, and so I had a well of material to draw from once I was in record making mode, and new ideas just kept coming.' Even though the twelve track indesterren CD is near weightless, like air, Eaton puts it all together with his acclaimed studio mastery on a number of instruments that he plays throughout the CD, including piano, synthesizers, guitars, fretted and fretless bass, accordion, omnichord and acoustic and electronic percussion. Several guest artists appear including flugelhorn master Jeff Oster, who appears on a track here but it’s really to Eaton’s credit that the instruments are so immaculately woven into the overall sonic tapestries that you can’t often discern one from the other at times. Tom Eaton has created a name for himself as a producer and engineer for some of the most acclaimed New Age and jazz artists recording today. With so many fascinating musical ideas brought forth on both abendromen and now indesterren, let’s hope Tom Eaton furthers his musical legacy on future solo albums. ww.abendromen.com / www.ThomasEaton.com

 





mwe3.com present an interview with
TOM EATON
the indesterren interview



mwe3
: Two albums in one year is quite an incredible achievement. Was indesterren written and recorded during the same period as abendromen or did one come out of the other? It’s unusual to find two albums by the same artist coming out the same year. Are you going through a period of musical prolificness and how did you decide on the title indesterren as you have a penchant for unusual album titles!

Tom Eaton: abendromen (evening dreams) came first, and once the wheels were turning indesterren (into the stars) showed up pretty quickly. Over the years I’ve kept videos of piano improvs I’ve done, and so I had a well of material to draw from once I was in record making mode, and new ideas just kept coming. As the album that came to be titled indesterren took shape over the summer and early fall of 2016, I realized that I had to get the album out before the end of the year because “Waltz For The Seven Sisters”, (the seven sisters is the other name for the constellation Pleiades), was written for my seven year old who turns eight in December. My boys helped me choose the album title from a few I had worked out, and most of the titles of the songs refer to night sky wonderings. The boys also chose the color of the artwork, and helped me with some of the design as well.

mwe3: Even the album artwork for indesterren has a feel of a series of album releases. Tell us about the abendrommen series and is there a plan for the series? How many titles would you like to release on this series and would you consider expanding on the musical directions in the future?

Tom Eaton: At the moment I am really liking this particular zone and though I expect each album to have a slightly different personality, there is definitely a series concept. My older boy has a boxed set planned once there are a couple more! If music shows up that is outside the bounds of the concept, which is still loosely defined as “evening dreams” that’s fine with me, and I’ll find some home for those outliers, but the series will have the consistency of the piano surrounded by electronics, electric guitars and basses in a night time zone.

mwe3: What are some other ideas that separate your two latest albums? Were there any other sonic differences you explored, other compositional differences or even different gear and was the music on indesterren recorded later thank the abendrommen CD?

Tom Eaton: I dove deeper into my synth collection on indesterren, allowing myself a little more range than I had given myself on abendromen. I have always been a synth nut, and letting those sounds come into the foreground more made sense with this set of songs. I was surprised and really pleased that DJs played the drone/guitar loop pieces hidden at the end of abendromen, so I allowed myself some space to stretch out into more ambient zones on this record as songs emerged and faded away. The bonus, ambient tracks on indesterren are more developed than the ones on the first album, too. I was revealing more of my voice in both the “more dense” direction and the “less dense” direction.

mwe3: On abendrommen you played a Yamaha EX5, a Roland JD800, a Kawai K5000 and a range of other keyboards as well as a Diamond electric guitar. What other instruments are prominently featured on indesterren and can you tell us about some of the unique special effects that you used as I know you like to flavor your songs with unusual sonics. I was also interested in your work with the Fractal company. What else have you done with Fractal and did you use the guitar sounds a lot on indesterren?

Tom Eaton: Every guitar sound on both records is from the Fractal Axe FX unit. It is a major part of my creative process at this point. There are many sounds on the records that sound like synths that are actually processed guitar. Fractal has used my studio on a number of occasions to do “cab packs” which are collections of digital impulse responses of certain amp cabinets and microphones that they make available to their clients, including artists such as U2, Keith Urban, Metallica, Steve Vai, etc... It’s a blast working with them. The Yamaha EX5 is still pretty prominent, but all kinds of things show up on indesterren, probably 20 or more different synths in different spots. Some old friends like the Roland JX10 and D550 were in the mix, a Novation SuperNova, Korg Wavestation, Emu Orbit 3, and even a Kurzweil K2000 snuck in there for a few notes in “vervagen.”

I am partial to the feel of Roland synths for this zone I seem to be in. The Kawais - the K5000 and K5 in particular, can be shimmery and clear and so I go there for that, but the Rolands have a softness to them that my ears really like. So the JX10 and D550 I mentioned were used, plus the Roland Alpha Juno, Juno 60, Juno 106, and my trusty JD800. As for unique effects… well, there are more moments of backwards and fractured piano on this album, and crickets in a number of spots. There’s a raven that shows up a few times, too. There are obviously lots of delays and reverbs going on all over the place from various bits of hardware and software. The end of track one, “The Red Blazer” goes off into space music zone and all kinds of things show up there: singing bowls, omnichord, arpeggiators, random noise generators, crickets and more. I play the fretless bass, which is a gift from Tony Levin, quite a bit more on this album, too. And even though much of the percussion that’s going on in the rhythmic tracks is programmed, there are lots of acoustic sounds blended in: real shakers, real tambourine, real cymbal swells and hits, obsidian chimes and these beautiful shimmery strings of little bells.

mwe3: Some of the indesterren tracks are more built up or multilayered than others. Tell us about working with Jeff Oster on track six, “Venus”. Much of the indesterren album was recorded by you in the studio, although there are a couple tracks featuring percussionists. What other challenges did you face recording indesterren on your own?

Tom Eaton: Well, the percussionists were my boys… so they were pretty easy to work with. They played a bit of percussion on one track each and I love hearing their parts in the songs. Huck played tambourine on “vervagen” and he chose the sound. We have probably ten different tambourines in the studio and he chose where to play it. I would have chosen the 2 and 4 in a typical fashion, but he put it on the downbeat which works so well! Cal played the crash cymbal on “midnight clouds and the great bear” and again he chose the cymbal and where it should go. He also helped me craft a little breakdown before the biggest cymbal hit to create a dramatic moment for it to happen. It was great to have them in on the process and to be able to put them in the credits! Really there were no challenges beyond my own self-criticism… For a couple decades I’ve spent equal time working with clients and alone on music so I am used to being responsible for everything. I was psyched that Jeff Oster was willing to contribute a horn part on “venus” and actually that track was the first one written for the album. Jeff has such a great sense of melody and space in his playing so I knew he’d elevate the track… and he really blew me away. That track is the densest one on the record, though “midnight clouds…” gets close. “Gravity” was the last one written and is probably the simplest one on the album but remains really satisfying to me. My favorite track is “vervagen” which seems to me to be a lost 80’s pop song just waiting for Elizabeth Fraser to show up and sing on it... which would be heaven, by the way.

mwe3: In the indesterren liner notes you credit both Jeff Pearce and Tim Story who you say inspired you to release your own music. What are Jeff and Tim doing these days, music wise, and what other artists are you following and listening to these days and can you recommend some new CD releases?

Tom Eaton: Jeff continues to make some of the most beautiful ambient albums I’ve ever heard. He is a brilliant musician and composer and has been an amazing sounding board for me to bounce ideas off. I was stuck for a melodic lead sound in “Waltz…” and Jeff suggested accordion… which made perfect sense once I had the accordion in my hands but never would have occurred to me… so thanks, Jeff! He actually asked me to master his most recent album Follow The River Home and I was thrilled to be a part of it! Jeff and I argue over which of us is the bigger Tim Story fan… and that should say something. Tim’s music, especially the three albums he released on Hearts Of Space (Beguiled, The Perfect Flaw and Shadowplay) are possibly the most perfect minimal yet melodic ambient albums I’ve ever heard. Long ago, when I was making mostly electronic music with every synth going full bore, Tim suggested to me that I should limit my musical palette to try to create a smaller universe of sounds, some kind of recognizable set of colors that would be my voice. This series of albums is exactly that. Initially I was concerned that I was too close to his world as I was working on abendromen but he encouraged me to stay with it and let the music out there.

There is so much new music coming out all the time… things that have been in my car recently. I drive 5 hours each time I go to Will’s studio, so I spend a lot of time in the car. The newest albums by Tigerforest, Amethyste, Charlton-Weingarten, Damon Albarn, Ken Elkinson, Tom Moore and Sherry Finzer, and a few that I’ve worked on as well… Fiona Joy, Jeff Oster’s LIVE! album, Lawrence Blatt’s new one, too.

mwe3: How is Imaginary Road studios doing? Are they always looking for new projects and how is Will Ackerman doing these days? Is he more label intensive or spending more time on his own music? He’s worked with so many great guitarists over the past twenty years. Also how would you compare your studio, Universal Storage with the Imaginary Road studios? Do you get the same sound from both of them?

Tom Eaton: My entire life these days is working with Will at Imaginary Road. We’ve done more than 50 albums together in the last 6 years and we continue to be busy, which is a blessing and a joy. Will is doing really well, he’s writing music for a new Will Ackerman album, working within the FLOW group started by Lawrence Blatt, Fiona Joy and Jeff Oster, and producing artists who travel to us here in Vermont. Our studios are very different and very complimentary. Will’s is in an incredible idyllic spot on a mountainside in Windham County, Vermont. The front and back walls are glass and you feel like you are in the natural world while recording. The recording room sounds great, he has an amazing Steinway B piano and some insane Neumann mics that are beyond belief. My studio, Universal Noise Storage, is more of a typical commercial studio with drums, amps and that kind of thing. And of course a lot of keyboards! I do much of the post work for Imaginary Road albums at my place because the control room and all the speakers at my place are very very familiar to my ears, so the two studios are really functioning together in all the work we do.

mwe3: What’s your latest take on the internet and music / artists rights and performance royalties and what impresses you most about online music coverage these days?

Tom Eaton: I spend my life making albums for others really… and spend very little time thinking about being an artist and how that world works. I should think about it more, but I’d rather use my down time to make more music than think about the marketing/promotion angles. Probably not the best decision from a business perspective, but certainly the right one for my health!

mwe3: What other musical projects and CD releases did you work on in 2016 and what other projects are you looking forward to in 2017? Tell us more about the FLOW album as well as working with other artists such as Fiona Joy and Jeff Oster. Both Fiona and Jeff each made such great albums in 2016.

Tom Eaton: FLOW started life as FLO, with Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster planning to come to Imaginary Road to do an album together. They invited Will to join in as well and the name was complete. It’s been a blast. Working with the four of them has been fascinating as each brings a very developed solo voice to the project but there was no real hurdle to making the group sound like a whole rather than four differing perspectives. A testament to each of them, I think! Lawrence made a great album in 2016 as well, Longitudes and Latitudes was number one on the ZMR charts for September.

The year was VERY busy for Will and me with new releases from Lawrence and Fiona as you mentioned, and Todd Mosby, Ann Sweeten, Kathryn Kaye, Richard Carr, Louis Colaiannia, Jim Gabriel, Raphael Groten, Steve Rivera, Joe Heinemann, Matteo Palmer, Gary Schmidt, Lynn Yew Evers and Jeffrey Seeman… all recorded mixed and mastered by me. We’ve got new albums in the works by Vin Downes, Denise Young, Matthew Reith, David Lindsay, Kathryn Kaye, Raphael Groten, Gina Lenee and Neil Tatar. In addition, I mastered a number of albums that were not recorded at Imaginary Road, like Oster’s Live album, Pearce’s Follow The River Home, Erik Scott’s In The Company Of Clouds, Keith Gehle’s Space and Time and Shambhu’s Soothe. I am sure I’m forgetting someone, so apologies in advance… obviously there is a lot of new music being made!



 

 
   
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