band known as Tiles has long been a favorite in the world of
progressive rock music. The group celebrates 20 years of superbly
produced prog-rock music with Off The Floor,
their first official live album. Even though Off The Floor is
live, its actually a kind of best-of cut live in the studio.
Coming out of the Detroit area, Tiles defines the spirit and independence
of the D.I.Y. progressive hard rock sound by combining a mix of complex
prog-rock, garage rock, heavy metal, a Motown pulse and even some
jazzy underpinnings. Describing the Tiles sound, guitarist Chris
Herin explains, "Everything is grounded in a progressive
rock aesthetic; which to us means anything goes within a 'rock' format.
We certainly don't claim to be breaking new ground, and we don't labor
over how to change our music. It tends to morph as we change as people,
develop new interests and become better musicians and songwriters."
Fans of top-tier rock bands such as Rush, YES, Kansas, Blue Oyster
Cult and others will enjoy Tiles. Superbly produced by Tiles and Bob
Phillips and mixed by the legendary Terry Brown (Rush), Off The Floor
is a solid showcase of the bands history and features great
performances from long time Tiles members Paul Rarick (lead
vocals), Jeff Whittle (bass), Chris Herin (guitars)
and Mark Evans (drums). Tiles fans should note that Off
The Floor will soon be followed up (in early April 2014) by
Off The Floor 2, a companion album (which will include
a bonus disc of select tunes from the band's 2005 Tiles appearance
at the "Rites Of Spring Festival". www.tiles-music.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Chris Herin of TILES
What led you and the band to release a best of / live document for
Tiles and what were the key events in the making of the Off the
CHRIS HERIN: It was really a combination of things. First,
back in 2010 it was apparent we wouldn't have a new studio album finished
for a few more years. So maybe the time was right to do a proper live
album to fill the growing gap since Fly Paper was released
in 2008. Second, our 20th anniversary was looming and maybe we should
do something to commemorate this milestone. Nowadays live albums don't
generally sell well and are usually spun off from a live video. However,
we felt producing a live DVD would be a huge distraction from our
next studio album, so..., we coupled the idea to do some live recordings
along with the concept of a 20th anniversary retrospective and figured
an old-fashioned live CD still had merit under the circumstances.
We could record our favorites that have been in our live set over
the years, add a few new bits and offer something a little different
than the studio versions - since we tend to improvise and stretch
out some of the songs.
Although we released a "live bootleg" from our European
tour with Dream Theater, these were 2-track soundboard recordings
and couldn't be remixed. They certainly sound good, but we wanted
to record ourselves in a multi-track format and have the songs remixed.
We decided to record "live in the studio" with a small audience
because setting up recording gear in a club seemed like the hard way
to go - especially if we weren't also recording the visual aspect.
In the studio, we only needed to gather a few friends to play for
and feel confident we could focus on our performance without worrying
about things going wrong with the actual recording process.
everything went so well we dug out more tunes and did two (and a half)
sessions - meaning we've got Off the Floor 2 scheduled for
release April 1, 2014. We also took advantage of the opportunity and
wrote a new arrangement for "The Wading Pool" complete with
flute, bass and keyboards. It was nice bringing in a couple special
guests: Keith Kaminski of the Motor City Horns on flute (who tours
with Bob Seger) and our go-to guy Matthew Parmenter of the band Discipline
on violin and keyboards. Overall, our goal was to make Off the
Floor more than just a run through of the songs.
For Off the Floor 2, in addition to the main track list of
ten songs, we selected four songs (nearly 40-minutes) from our appearance
at the 2005 Rites of Spring Festival to include as an additional disc.
We chose songs that aren't on either Off the Floor - "Facing
Failure," "Ballad of the Sacred Cows," "Paintings"
and "Window Dressing." We're really excited a live version
of "Window Dressing" got recorded since we only played it
live twice! It's also cool to have Pat DeLeon, our drummer from 1997
through 2005 - and on Window Dressing - represented. The second
CD will also have the two promotional videos we did for each Off
the Floor disc.
mwe3.com was writing about Tiles way back in 2004 when the band was
signed to Inside Out Music when you released Window Dressing. What
was it like working with Inside Out back then and in what ways have
the band evolved or changed over the past ten and now twenty years?
CHRIS HERIN: Inside Out Music has done exceptionally well over
the years. I think the key to their success is they've always been
music fans first and that's helped them deliver such a great catalog
of music. Also, look at their dedication to great packaging. The quality
of what they release is always excellent.
We signed with them in 1996 and our second CD Fence the Clear
was the 14th album they released. All of our releases are available
on Inside Out including our 5th CD Fly Paper (2008). With any
luck, they'll pick up the option on our forthcoming studio album Other
Arrangements. Both Off the Floor discs are released through
our own label (Standing Pavement) since it made economic sense to
release them ourselves.
I suppose every band claims they evolve in some manner and I guess
we have too. I'm not sure how much is simply because of our changing
interests, us changing as people, or as artists striving for something
new and better. A band in our position might as well do as we please
since financial success is not a factor hanging over our heads. I
mean, we're not under pressure to keep the gold records coming! I'd
like to think we've gotten better over time and learned to capitalize
on our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. The most important thing
might be learning how to get out of our own way and not stifle the
creative process. That's why we continue to use a producer - and are
fortunate to work with someone of
Terry Brown's caliber. We're firm believers in the old adage "you
can't see the picture when you're in the frame." I know most
bands have "visions" and don't like a lot of outside intervention.
They want a producer to work in the margins, which to some degree
I certainly understand. However, I've found that an objective 3rd
party can take the music to a better place. But, this means the band
has to "let go" of some control and put trust in someone
else - which is what collaboration is all about.
Musically, our evolution is sometimes devolution. For example, we
came off Presents of Mind's dense arrangements, then took a
stripped down approach on Window Dressing. From a song writing
perspective, we tend to channel elements of the music that is capturing
our interest at the time, or try new song writing approaches. For
example, "Hide in My Shadow" off Fly Paper was mostly
written on mandolin. I write the basis of many songs on my small Tacoma
travel guitar. Jeff writes many of his parts on acoustic guitar. We
also come up with songs based around Mark's drum patterns (which,
aside from lyrics, is how a drummer gets writing credit!).
However, clearly everything is grounded in a progressive rock aesthetic;
which to us means anything goes within a "rock" format.
We certainly don't claim to be breaking new ground - and we don't
labor over how to change our music. It tends to morph as we
change as people, develop new interests and become better musicians
Whats the musical chemistry between you and the other members
of the Tiles group? Seems like you and drummer Mark Evans were the
founders? Would you say the band is more influenced by hard rock or
CHRIS HERIN: Our chemistry is really quite good. We share lots
of common ground yet possess yin & yang type personalities, which
keeps things interesting. We share many of the same musical influences
and perspectives and have quite a diverse set of interests. Progressive
and hard rock of course, jazz, classical, metal, pop, etc... I suppose
the influences we bring into Tiles are probably 50% prog, 30% rock
and 20% everything else. Mark and I have a long history dating back
to the mid-1980's when we met at Central Michigan University. We stuck
together and kept forming bands until one of them finally lasted!
mwe3: Theres a great instrumental track on the Off
The Floor collection called A Minor Interlude. How
does instrumental rock fit into the Tiles recording sound?
CHRIS HERIN: Bassist Jeff Whittle wrote "A Minor Interlude"
so that live I could change guitars, get the mandolin ready, and prep
the keyboards for "Checkerboards." Jeff is a prolific writer
of, I guess you could say, musical vignettes. Some get swallowed up
into the song writing process and others stay as standalone compositions.
Many of our favorite bands have done instrumentals - or are instrumental
bands (like the Dregs, etc.) and certainly the progressive rock heritage
demands instrumental passages within vocal tunes. They're fun to compose
and fun to play. We like to use the short passages in a similar way
as Jethro Tull. Little breaks in the action.
What is the song writing process like in Tiles and how do songs evolve
from sonic idea to finished project?
CHRIS HERIN: Oops, I guess I answered part of this question
a little earlier, but I should add that even though I'm the "songwriter"
for the band, everything gets processed through the entire band. Meaning,
as we learn what I present things can, and do, get changed. I use
many of the riffs and bits of music Jeff writes and sometimes we swap
parts in and out of songs as they develop. Also, sections of music
can change depending on what Mark plays. I've learned not to be overly
possessive and let various "influencers" work to make the
song better, hopefully. There are times though when I invoke "songwriter
privilege" and put my foot down on something!
mwe3: What guitars are you playing on the Off The Floor
CD and what are your favorite guitars, amps and other devices
do you use to enhance your guitar tones? What is your guitar / band
practice time like?
HERIN: I used my 1990 Paul Reed Smith for everything on "Off
the Floor 1 & 2." I use a Les Paul, ES-335, Stratocaster,
Telecaster and the PRS in the studio; but live the PRS covers a wide
range of tones. I've used a Mesa Tri-axis ever since our tour with
Dream Theater. Playing through John Petrucci's rig was an "ear-opening"
experience and made me an instant convert to Mesa amps and cabinets.
I also modeled my set up off Steve Morse's stereo set-up where he's
got a dry signal in the center with the left and right stereo effects
on each side (of the dry signal). Live, I use a Lexicon multi-effects
unit but in the studio, I usually leave the effects up to Terry during
mixing. Although, I'll sometimes color the tone with some of my old
The other major part of my sound is Elixir Strings. New, they have
a great presence and brightness; they last a long time and age gracefully.
I kept a set on my Tacoma Papoose for nearly three years! They had
such a unique tone I hated to change them, but the peg heads were
starting to rust!
I've been using the Mesa TA-15 head a lot lately too on the new album.
Great tones and versatility - and it's easy on my aging back!
What we do during band rehearsals depends on whether we're working
on new songs or preparing a live set - and sometimes a combination
of both. We also spend time jamming and even working up an occasional
cover song for fun. Personally, I seem to spend most of my time writing
and these days I tend to practice technique when I have an immediate
problem to fix! I still work on classical guitar tunes which helps
keep my fingers and mind in shape.
What tracks on Off the Floor stand out in your mind as representing
the best in the Tiles sound? How about the prog-metal track Dragons,
Dreams & Daring Deeds? What album is that track from and
how was cutting live in the studio compared to the original album
CHRIS HERIN: Well, the "best" of Tiles is really
something for people outside the band to decide. It's not as if we
have a history of hits to help us choose - like Elton John! Sometimes
our favorite songs are never played live due to instrumentation -
like my personal favorite "Reasonable Doubt" off Presents
of Mind. Certainly, we have our favorites and I think we gravitate
toward playing those songs live.
Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds is from the Fly
Paper album and is one of my favorites. I recall it came together
relatively easy in the studio and we didn't have much trouble working
it into our live set - although
there are some tricky bits and seat-of-the-pants moments. We always
record live in the studio, as a band, even though we're only after
the final drum tracks - which means we can always play the basics
of a song as a complete composition. Some songs (like "Dragons"
or "Checkerboards") we seem to have an affinity for and
can usually spot the difficult ones early on ("Markers"
comes to mind).
mwe3: Where and when was Off the Floor recorded and
what was the recording process like? Were computers used a lot in
the making of the album? Who else worked with you to get the sound
in the recording, mixing and mastering process?
CHRIS HERIN: Off The Floor (1 and 2) were recorded over
three separate sessions: January 8, 2010; February 6, 2010; and a
shorter session April 24, 2010. We recorded locally (Detroit) in what
you could call a "soundstage" setting at Sound Escape
Studio with Robert Phillips engineering and helping co-produce.
We set up as we would for live performance - vocals coming through
a PA and each of us had monitors too - so there were instruments bleeding
into all the microphones. This gave poor Terry Brown fits during mixing
as he had to compensate for different instruments being in microphones
where they shouldn't be. As I mentioned earlier we corralled a few
friends and fans to watch and listen to the proceedings so we could
have someone to play for. We'd play each song a couple times and pick
the best version. We nailed a few tunes on the first take and didn't
bother with a second take. Oddly enough, a couple of our "staples"
which we usually don't have problems with caused all sorts of trouble;
"Patterns" being the worst offender. I even remember sifting
through all the board tapes from the tour with Dream Theater looking
for a good version of "Patterns" - 9 times out of ten that
song rolls out of us without a problem, until we need it to.
Anyway, we recorded the songs (digitally using Nuendo software) then
set them aside while we concentrated on some new tunes. We didn't
revisit them until 2011 when Terry Brown started mixing. Then both
my parents passed away within months of each other and I had to step
away from the band and tend to a lot of family business. Although
we did occasionally work on new material, it wasn't until early 2012
when we asked Terry to finish mixing, had Peter Moore (Terry's favorite
mastering engineer) master, roped Hugh Syme into doing the cover,
got the packaging and release details together and finally released
Off the Floor on September 3, 2012.
Tell us about that great artwork for the Off the Floor CD album
artwork? Tiles always had amazing cover art for their albums.
CHRIS HERIN: Thanks, but all credit goes to Hugh Syme. His
body of work speaks for itself. We feel strongly that artwork enhances
the presentation of the music and brings a visual element that helps
inspire the listener's imagination. Or..., simply put, looks cool
and interesting! This is why we budget a little extra for Hugh Syme.
He always adds little nuances and secondary meanings. It's been a
great privilege to work with Hugh, Terry and Peter on all our projects
mwe3: What are you looking forward to in 2014 as far as writing,
recording and live shows and tell us about the next Tiles release
coming up soon.
CHRIS HERIN: Well, there's the two-disc limited edition of
Off the Floor 2 scheduled for release April 1, 2014. Now that
Other Arrangements is about 60% finished, we've talked about
getting a live set rehearsed and playing out in support of the Off
The Floor albums. We'll keeping recording throughout 2014 and
hope to have the new album wrapped up in the fall. We're doing vocals
and guitar overdubs right now and have a few special guests to get
organized. We've finally succumbed to temptation and created a traditional
concept album. Other Arrangements is a story. It has a start,
a journey and kind of an ending. Musically, there are recurring themes,
reprises and an almost symphonic structure with the pacing of the
songs' peaks and valleys. We are even embracing a little electronica!
So, after a few years out of circulation the next few years will see
more activity out of the Tiles camp. I've also been recording some
of my song writing backlog and hope to release a series of EPs starting
in 2014. The songs feature Matthew Parmenter (Discipline) on vocals,
Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats, Edwin
Dare) on bass, Terry Brown on drum programming and Hugh Syme on keyboards.
Thanks for the interview opportunity and keep up the good work with
Thanks to Chris Herin @ www.Tiles-Music.com