TILES
Pretending 2 Run
(Laser's Edge)

 

Back in 2013, mwe3.com spoke to Chris Herin, guitarist / composer with the Michigan-based progressive rock band Tiles. That 2013 album, Off The Floor is now followed by a 2016 Tiles album release on New Jersey-based Laser’s Edge called Pretending 2 Run. Featuring Herin and the classic Tiles lineup with Mark Evans (drums), Jeff Whittle (bass) and Paul Rarick (lead vocals), the all new P2R double CD studio set has all the trademarks of a modern day prog-rock classic, including contributions from a number of musicians, including the Tiles band with key cameos by fabled prog pioneer Ian Anderson, drummer Mike Portnoy, jazz fusion guitarist Mike Stern, Colin Edwin and a host of others. Recorded in Ontario, with other contributions sent via the internet, the double CD set was produced by Terry Brown, a producer who has worked with Rush. Discussing the wide sweeping concepts of P2R in the following interview, Chris Herin tells mwe3.com, "Pretending 2 Run didn’t start out as a double album, but we certainly had accumulated plenty of songs. Eventually we realized we had nearly 75-minutes of music, but didn’t want to make a single disc that long. So we could either leave songs out or add a couple and expand the album to two CDs. From an artistic standpoint going to two discs was a good decision. I was able to add a bit more drama and depth to the story and musically we could grab a couple more tunes from our backlog. Personally, I like spreading the story over two discs; you can listen to one or the other, or both in one sitting." Setting the trend as one of America's finest 21st century progressive rock bands , Tiles reaches even greater sonic heights with Pretending 2 Run. www.tiles-music.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
Chris Herin of TILES

The “Pretending 2 Run” Interview


mwe3: Pretending 2 Run is the long-awaited follow up to Tiles’ two live albums Off the Floor, Volume 01 (2012) and Volume 02 (2014). Plus, we have to go even farther back (2008) for the band’s previous studio effort Fly Paper. Did you originally plan to release P2R as a two CD set or did it just grow organically? It looks like the band had a vast outpouring of creativity.

Chris Herin: Pretending 2 Run didn’t start out as a double album, but we certainly had accumulated plenty of songs. I had sketched out the basic concept, identified several of the recurring motifs and assembled about nine songs as the album’s foundation. Then, as the storyline continued to develop we would pull songs from our stockpile depending on what mood or energy level was needed – or what grabbed our attention. We were conscious of the music telling a story in its own right. Eventually we realized we had nearly 75-minutes of music, but didn’t want to make a single disc that long. So we could either leave songs out or add a couple and expand the album to two CDs.

From an artistic standpoint going to two discs was a good decision. I was able to add a bit more drama and depth to the story and musically we could grab a couple more tunes from our backlog. We chose “Weightless” and “Friend Or Foe” – which both are strong songs, so it’s not like we added second-rate “filler” to stretch things out. Personally, I like spreading the story over two discs; you can listen to one or the other, or both in one sitting. There’s a natural break or intermission between ‘part one’ and ‘part two’; whereas a maxed-out single disc can seem too long.

mwe3: The cover art is great. How does it serve the concept of Pretending 2 Run? From what the press release says, the album is a song cycle of “a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal.” Is there an overall concept or a way to connect the songs and ideas or does it all just flow naturally? As a matter of fact, the entire booklet is filled with great photography. Where was that picture taken of the band by the escalators from and how does the turtle on the cover fit into album concept – is it a real photo?

Chris Herin: Our central character in the story is “pretending to run” from his problems. He suffers a tragedy and has retreated into darkness and isolation. But a strange thing gradually happens and his subconscious will to survive won’t let him give up. So no matter how much he wants to avoid or escape his predicament he can’t. He has to face reality and confront his newfound demons.

Throughout the story he battles conflicting “fight or flight” emotional responses. He constantly feels an overwhelming urge to ‘run away’, but something is stopping him – forcing him to persevere. He gradually builds inner strength, but doubts, fears and false starts haunt his progress. There are many hurdles to overcome he has difficulty figuring out what to do. This is the up-and-down and back-and-forth journey of the album. So overall, Pretending 2 Run represents the human will to survive, triumphing even when the temptation to give up is overwhelming – hence our use of the Latin phrase ad astra per aspera.

There’s also a bit of a double meaning to Pretending 2 Run where sometimes people mistake activity itself for true action or progress… like being on a treadmill. You’re running but not really going anywhere. At some points in the story our main character thinks he’s headed in the right direction only to discover he is not. As enough time passes the uncertainty of his future is replaced by awareness and resignation as he must now come to terms with what’s happened and exist within a new reality.

I suppose Pretending 2 Run is simply about the struggle of life... survival. Although the concept is delivered within a certain set of circumstances, the story can translate into parallel situations we all tend to experience: the difficulties and confusion of ‘living’. But most importantly it’s a journey of hope. Granted it’s a bit unsettling and messy, but eventually there’s some kind of hard-won victory. You’re definitely not going to hear happy-go-lucky pop music escapism, that’s for sure! Pretending 2 Run is a challenging album and kind of risky from a commercial standpoint. Will people dig in and invest the time? I don’t know, but I firmly believe good music, good art and good writing that challenges its audience delivers the greatest reward. On the other hand, I’d like to think the songs are still engaging without the listener having to dive into the weeds. But anyway…, regardless if Pretending 2 Run sinks or swims, it was really the only album we could make.

The cover of Pretending 2 Run has a lot going on even though there are just three images. I like the simplicity, tension and multiple layers at work. You can let your imagination go since the cover offers many possibilities to think about. There’s a sinister feeling of deception and rejection... and even uncertainty, which allude to the album’s story line of betrayal and struggle for redemption.

Aside from the obvious fact that a turtle can only ‘pretend to run,’ the distraught young girl is also on the threshold of ‘pretending’ as she stops short of chasing her pet down the escalator. Will she keep going even though it looks dangerous and risky? Is it worth it? Maybe the sly smirk on the turtle’s face suggests he is only pretending – fully intent on coming back? Or maybe he is willfully ‘running away’. These impressions telegraph a variety of parallels and metaphors as listeners associate the Pretending 2 Run story with the clues in the cover and images in the booklet.

The artwork in the booklet relates to the lyrics they’re associated with. I think Hugh came up with some thought-provoking depictions of the concept and emotions behind the songs. Also woven into the artwork are symbolic references to the iconic British TV series ‘The Prisoner,’ which hint at the human tendency for self-imprisonment, our instinct for survival and the illusion of freedom. Hugh and I were chatting one day and he mentioned ‘The Prisoner’ (which I wasn’t familiar with and need to catch up on). We both recognized some thematic connections with Pretending 2 Run so he incorporated a few ‘Prisoner’ references into the artwork. There’s some fun stuff hidden if you look close enough!

Regarding the origins of the artwork and photos…, I’m not at liberty to divulge inside information. Everything looks real to me! (lol)

mwe3: How long did the entire P2R project take to create - from writing and recording to producing and releasing it? Which tracks came first and were other tracks added to the mix as the album progressed, sort of as a way to build upon the album? Did you write in the studio or did you go in with all the tracks?

Chris Herin: I’d say for the most part we began tackling our sixth studio album in earnest in 2010. The entire project began with the song “Pretending To Run” and from there I began writing the story and sketching out songs. Jeff also provided a tape of his musical bits and pieces of which I used quite a few. Overall, we spent over two years writing, experimenting, rehearsing and revising. We always go through a strenuous arrangement process where we learn the song as I had written it – but scrutinize and explore different tempos, grooves, structures, etc. In some cases, Jeff or Mark will suggest deleting or adding musical ideas. Because we did a lot of experimenting there were a few songs that didn’t maintain our interest and were eventually abandoned, but besides “Pretending to Run” some of the initial core songs were “Voir Dire,” “Drops Of Rain,” “Midwinter,” “Small Fire Burning,” “Battle Weary,” “Fait Accompli,” “Uneasy Truce,” and “Pretending To Run (Reprise 1 and 2).” Clearly these just provided the general arc of the story. We kept adding songs as the album took shape, but we pretty much had everything prepared prior to recording - except “Weightless” and “Friend Or Foe” - as I previously mentioned.

We didn’t write songs from scratch in the studio, but certainly we rewrote a few parts here and there and developed the arrangements. Songs are always works-in-progress! Once we got into the studio with producer Terry Brown he went through a detailed preproduction process where everything underwent another round of refinement – to make sure song structures flowed. Although we can get a bit busy here and there, our goal is never to be complicated hoping to impress; but rather to create interesting music that delivers the appropriate energy and emotional content. This is where Terry’s outside perspective is essential since we can get carried away. Good producers save the artist from themselves!

mwe3: Progressive rock fans are in for a treat with Pretending 2 Run since there are some stellar contributions from groundbreaking music greats such as Ian Anderson and guitar heroes like Mike Stern and Kim Mitchell and drummer Mike Portnoy. Did you set out to recruit these legends or did they come on board as the album developed?

Chris Herin: Most of the guests came on board as the album developed, although, early on I had designs on Matthew Parmenter contributing lead vocals to help represent the different “states-of-mind” of the central character. Generally, we knew we had to deliver an album that would not only generate attention, but would also hopefully make a lasting impression. One of our goals for Pretending 2 Run was to experiment and expand our palette when it came to the arrangements. We did not limit ourselves in any way, stylistically or instrumentally.

Once the basic tracks were recorded and we began developing the arrangements, the ideas for special guests, the string section, choir and other opportunities came up. Throughout the entire process we constantly evaluated the continuity of the music and what the songs needed to convey a musical story as well as support the album’s lyrical concept. For example, it wasn’t until the middle of the project that we had the ideas for the spoken word sections, field recordings and the connecting interludes in between many of the songs. Also there were several places in the story line where the central character reaches a low point which provided the opportunity to use the choir pieces I had written.

Over the years we have done shows with and met many excellent and sometimes even ‘well-known’ musicians with whom we’ve become friends and acquaintances. We have done a few collaborations in the past which have always been rewarding and fun - Alex Lifeson of Rush was definitely a highlight on Fly Paper!. But this time around we did end up with a rather lengthy list of notable and familiar names: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Stern (Miles Davis, solo), Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson Band), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs), Max Portnoy (Next to None), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster, solo), and Joe Deninzon (Stratospheerius) – and locally our guest list includes many of our friends from the Detroit area: Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith), Keith Kaminski (Bob Seger), Mark Mikel (The Pillbugs, solo), Matthew Parmenter (Discipline, solo), Ryan Arini (Hell Rides North), Matt Cross and percussionist Sonya Mastick.

There were many different reasons for collaborating with various musicians based on what we wanted to accomplish with the arrangements. People like Ian Anderson, Mike Stern, Kim Mitchell and Keith Kaminski delivered fantastic solos, while Mike and Max Portnoy – along with Kevin Chown – contributed a different energy that we thought helped the diversity and dynamics of the entire album. Adam Holzman brought his keyboard chops to the longest and maybe most progressive tune on the album; plus, he created a selection of textures and soundscapes that we used to assemble segues and atmospherics to link songs.
Colin Edwin worked his sound design magic on “Small Fire Burning” and “Friend Or Foe” and Jeff’s friend Matt Cross from Orange 9MM came up with the programming for “Pretending To Run” and “Midwinter”. All these keyboard and “sonic architecture” sounds are things we don’t otherwise readily have at our disposal. The same goes for bringing in the string quartet, Sonya Mastick on tablas and congas and working with the choir.

Especially rewarding was collaborating with our friends Matthew Parmenter and Mark Mikel as guest vocalists and arrangers. They are both immensely talented and added unique perspectives and variety to the songs.

mwe3: Is there a way to connect the dots so to speak when comparing Pretending 2 Run with other Tiles albums? Can you describe the evolution between the various Tiles albums to show differences and continuities? When did you form Tiles? It must have been like a dream way back in the 1990s! Do these past 20 years seem like a dream for you too?

Chris Herin: Well, I suppose whenever you look back over a long period of time things do seem a bit dreamlike, since time sure does fly! Actually, way back in 1992 our initial objectives were simple: put out an album, play around the Detroit area and sell a few copies. We didn’t have grand aspirations, really. It wasn’t until we started receiving very positive reviews, which led to our first CD being licensed and released by Dream Circle/Polydor in Germany – and also released in Japan – that we thought about writing and releasing another album. I had originally figured we’d do one CD and just have a bit of fun.

Our first CD tiles could be categorized as melodic hard rock with a few progressive liberties. The follow up Fence The Clear was heavier and we stretched out musically; we indulged our progressive whims to a greater degree and stripped down the arrangements to be consistent with our guitar/bass/drums instrumentation. Presents Of Mind turned out to be a blend of our first two recordings. We reintroduced more studio production but continued to focus on blending melody, musical complexity and moments of true improvisation. Window Dressing was our ‘epic novel.’ We felt empowered by the success of Presents Of Mind and felt accepted by the progressive community. So we wrote longer songs with multiple parts and introduced a lot of stylistic variety. We also thought we’d fight the trend of sterile and stereotypical sounds and recorded in a large room with lots of ambience. We purposely stayed away from over-polishing the performances to keep them sounding spontaneous, like “people” had actually made the music, not technology.

Fly Paper is the direct descendent and culmination of everything we had learned up to that point. In hindsight we felt like maybe we had been a bit too raw and austere on Window Dressing - and maybe a tad long-winded. So we trimmed back the song lengths a bit and really concentrated on vocal arrangements and making sure the songs developed logically to hold the listener’s ear. Obviously, we didn’t hold back our progressive tendencies and still stretched out musically in a lot of places. We have always had a special guest or two on our albums since Fence The Clear, but with Fly Paper we became bolder about introducing different elements and textures. Alex Lifeson takes over on guitar for “Sacred & Mundane”; Alannah Myles sings vocal harmonies on “Back & Forth”; and Matthew Parmenter sings harmony lead vocals and plays keyboards, as does Hugh Syme. We felt the extra musicians made a positive impact and it was a lot of fun collaborating!

This mindset continued and was essential to arranging a concept album like Pretending 2 Run. I knew we’d require a wide range of emotions and would need to convey the various perspectives of the central character. As the story developed, and got longer, it became especially important to introduce a variety of textures and atmospheres – “arranging 101” I guess you’d call it. The special guests brought their personalities and musical identities to bear in service of the big picture. As a band, we abdicated our “positions” – so to speak – if that’s what the song demanded - and who are we to argue!

mwe3: Are the pop hooks in the complex Tiles arrangements just as important as the high level of prog-metal musicianship and dynamism throughout the album? “Drops of Rain” is a good example of the Tiles sound as there’s an excellent hook, plenty of harmonies and complex arrangements. How does “Drops of Rain” fit into the Pretending 2 Run concept? Seems like there’s lots of complex lyrical ideas on that song. “The battle lost between what was done and what should have been…”

Chris Herin: “Drops Of Rain” alludes to clues in the moments leading up to the revelation of betrayal and the immediate aftermath, as our central character initially, and without success, tries to assimilate what is happening and unknowingly begins his descent into a state of shock. So the song is a key piece of the storyline’s early development. And, as I hoped to accomplish with most of the songs, it also stands on its own since the lyrics reflect how hindsight helps us piece together the cause and effect of events.

Melody is important regardless of most every musical style though beauty is in the ear of the beholder. We do, of course, branch off into a bit of complexity or improvisational indulgence but memorable vocal melodies are essential even in progressive rock. We always look at each song as a self-contained journey where there are ups and downs and sometimes abrupt changes in textures or dynamics. Musically, “Drops Of Rain” goes way off into left field for the angst-ridden solo section. Mark has a Buddy Rich groove happening and the chromatic bass part has no tonal center. So I re-harmonized the vocal melody and went a bit ‘outside’ with the guitar solo. Actually, I wasn’t quite sure it fit, but Terry was enthusiastic about it. It certainly takes the listener to a different place and provides contrast, that’s for sure.

mwe3: You’ve mentioned that the instrumentals on P2R are like bridges that connect the songs. What do you look for in an instrumental track and where do you feel instrumental music falls into the realm of progressive rock music? Why doesn’t instrumental music get more respect? Come to think of it, Ian Anderson was one of the first to introduce instrumental music to prog ears. I’m thinking of Tull’s visionary covers of Roland Kirk and JS Bach!

Chris Herin: Many of our favorite artists and styles are “vocal-less” – so to speak – or have lengthy musical passages. Jazz, classical, fusion and of course many progressive rock bands have instrumentals – they are a significant part of the genre. P2R has a couple instrumentals (‘Voir Dire,’ ‘Refugium’ and ‘Uneasy Truce’) and quite a few songs with long instrumental sections (‘Taken By Surprise,’ ‘Midwinter,’ ‘Weightless’). Although the album has a lyrical concept it’s also composed as a musical journey. Stories can be told without words and that was one of our goals as we wrote the album.

Quite a few songs are connected by effects and soundscapes to help transition between moods, but also to thread the songs together as a continuous journey. They act as a trail map. Adam Holzman, currently in Steven Wilson’s band, provided us with 10-minutes of Moog textures and atmospheric soundscapes. I gave Adam three emotions: anger, nervousness and somberness to represent. Terry and I edited and combined them into various segues and interludes. Two of these transitions ended up being longer so we gave those titles that reflect what’s happening in the music and also the storyline.

I’m not sure instrumental music is actually disrespected, as much as it’s a little harder for it to break through to the average music consumers who typically favor vocals and lyrics. Certainly, there are many successful instrumental acts and hit songs since melodies can be conveyed by any instrument. I suppose extensive musical passages are a hallmark of progressive compositions because they add to the expansiveness and adventure of the songs. A lot of music fans welcome complexity and a bit of a challenge in their listening experience. For me a lasting bond forms with music of depth since it reveals new things with repeated listens – although I like a good slice of ear candy too!

mwe3: Some writer said that disc 1 and disc 2 are different in that disc 2 is more experimental. Is that a valid point even though when disc 2 starts off with a track featuring Ian Anderson, it’s hard to complain! Are there differences in the way you structured the tracks on two albums?

Chris Herin: Well, we’ve also had a few people say Pretending 2 Run is too long! I don’t know if disc 2 is more experimental or not. If it is, it’s a coincidence... There are really only seven full-length songs plus three short instrumentals and a couple reprises that explore the mindset of the central character and advance the storyline. I suppose if someone isn’t interested in the plot, songs like ‘Meditatio,’ ‘Other Arrangements’ and ‘The View From Here’ seem like filler; however, these are all essential moments in the emotional trajectory of the story and set up the songs that follow. The two reprises bring the music full-circle and the story to its conclusion. If Pretending 2 Run was a collection of songs and not a concept album then I can understand the criticism that maybe the interludes disrupt momentum. But they are included to serve the story and I’d like to think that as people get more familiar with the album they better understand and enjoy the variety and dynamic range of the music. Besides, who doesn’t occasionally like a bit of ambient or choir music! If the album really is too long you can always listen to disc 1 or disc 2 and ignore the other – since after all, the 2-CD album was barely more expensive than a single disc!

mwe3: What is it like recording with two lead vocalists in Paul Rarick and also Matthew Parmenter? How did they share the vocals on the album? Can you give an example where Paul and Matthew share or compliment the lead vocals on a specific track?

Chris Herin: Of course, Paul is the lead vocalist in Tiles and Matthew is our special guest. We played our very first show as Tiles with Matthew’s band Discipline way back in 1994, so we’ve known him for a long time. Matthew has made guest appearances on almost all our albums; but for Pretending 2 Run his role expanded as we needed to vocally represent first, second and third person perspectives of our central character. And of course Matthew was able to lend a hand and contribute backing vocals and arrangements.

In interviews, Paul has remarked that collaborating with Matthew was a rewarding and motivating experience. I certainly felt that the creativity and personal dynamics between all of us delivered excellent results. It was a lot of fun and the contrast between both voices worked well. Notably, "Pretending To Run," "Small Fire Burning", "Weightless" and "Friend Or Foe" particularly benefit from Paul’s and Matt’s collaboration.

mwe3: On disc 2 “Weightless” is a definite highlight with its soaring guitar lines and catchy hooks. Is the song about dying or reincarnation, or possibly the hot air balloon pictures on the lyrics page?

Chris Herin: I can say for sure it’s not about the hot air balloons! Those are simply a metaphor for “weightless” – which is a song about rising above trials and tribulations – or maybe taking the ‘high road.’ There’s certainly a purposeful effort to leave room for individual interpretation though. Don’t let me dictate what the song means to you!

mwe3: Tell us about working with Laser’s Edge on Pretending 2 Run. Ken Golden is always ahead of his time when it comes to finding new sounds. I remember meeting him in 1989. Also, what was your recent show in NYC like playing with IZZ and District 97? IZZ and Tiles are among the two best prog bands in the US today. What are some of your memories of that DROM show?

Chris Herin: It’s been fun and rewarding working with Ken. As we weighed the options for releasing Pretending 2 Run once it was clear Inside Out’s immediate release schedule was full and our cash flow needs couldn’t wait, Ken was our first choice. He’s a music aficionado, has a following for his labels and has a great promotional team. The album has done very well under his guidance. If anything, we probably tested his patience as we struggled with some post-production challenges which delayed the release date!

The District 97 shows were fun – they’re such an excellent and unique sounding band. It was especially nice to see IZZ again after so many years, they played a great set. 3rd Degree, who I also like, was also on the bill so it was quite an impressive night of progressive rock! Unfortunately, we went on last and by then the soundman had tuned out, fallen asleep, or something; because he certainly didn’t care about doing a good job. We had no monitors, played in the dark and he didn’t even sit at the soundboard – then we got our set cut short. So my memories of the other bands are good; but for us – not so much. I suspect we didn’t make many new fans!

mwe3: Why do you think there’s not so much respect for progressive rock as there is for example for jazz or classical music still?

Chris Herin: I suppose it really comes down to how you define “respect” and against “what” you measure the popularity of progressive rock. Obviously prog is not main stream but it is certainly alive and well and a thousand times more prevalent than when we released our first CD in 1994! Jazz and classical are both examples of music whose peak popularity is behind them, yet they still thrive. Patrons and sponsors are important financial factors for them, but so is crowd-funding for even established rock bands these days. Times are always changing…

mwe3: “Friend Or Foe” is another highlight, this time featuring Colin Edwin. What did Colin Edwin bring to the track sound-wise and how did you meet him? I was just remembering his great albums with Jon Durant in Burnt Belief. Is “Friend Or Foe” a hopeful song or a song about dealing with mistrust?

Chris Herin: “Friend Or Foe” is definitely a favorite of mine too. It’s a song about mistrust – trying to figure what’s going on in the face of inconclusive or suspicious behavior. Colin contributed what he calls his palette of “subtle interventions:” sliced effects, distorted loops, e-bowed bass, clay pots and found sounds. It was inspiring to sift through Colin’s imaginative programming and “moments” to help create the slow building crescendo of “Friend Or Foe”. He also worked his magic on “Small Fire Burning.”

I met Colin in 2014 at Progtoberfest in Chicago after Tiles performed. He was there performing with John Durant in Burnt Belief. I became an instant fan and bought both CDs and I pre-ordered their new album too. Having been a Porcupine Tree fan since Signify I obviously knew who Colin was and struck up a conversation – mostly about Burnt Belief though. He’s the perfect English gentleman and was willing to check out a couple of the songs we were working on. Colin liked them and agreed to contribute and we certainly appreciate what he brought to the tunes! Hopefully, we can collaborate again.

mwe3: As progressive rock is a venerable art form, do you find Tiles fans are now of all different ages? 50 years ago, progressive rock was just an idea in the minds of a few different people and now it’s an industry that has succeeded beyond all possible wildest dreams. Who knew! Do you keep your eyes and ears open for new bands or are there still enough legends alive to keep you interested in the classics? I guess when guys like Ian Anderson and Jon Anderson and Steve Hackett “retire” it really will be up to you and the younger generation prog-rockers to keep the torch lit. Is that where the P2R track “Battle Weary” comes from? “Leaving an exile, self-imposed…” Are we humans all eventually battle weary?

Chris Herin: There is an astronomical number of young and “not-so-young” progressive rock and metal bands these days. In fact, there is no lack of bands/artists in any genre that’s for sure! I do stay informed and like quite a few new bands like Haken and I’ve been listening to Edensong’s excellent new album, which is on Laser’s Edge. I still keep up with the classic ‘old guard’ and also the second wave of prog bands like Dream Theater, Opeth, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse, Anekdoten, etc.

I do have one complaint as five decades of progressive rock bands continue to make music which is certainly a good thing… I wish headlining bands would stop doing the “evening with…” format. As a fan, I understand wanting to see a long show; but the lack of support/opening bands really hurts perpetuating and nurturing the genre. There are few better opportunities to introduce new bands than putting them in front of a like-minded audience. The irony of course is many of the bands that gained widespread popularity did so because they were opening acts! I don’t mean to imply that the “evening with…” format isn’t embraced with the best of intentions for the benefit of the fans – but in my opinion there are some “big picture” unintended negative consequences.

Stepping off my soapbox and finally getting around to your question about “Battle Weary”… It’s primarily the point in the story where our character is worn out. He’s at a crossroads and must decide what’s next. Maybe there’s a bit of compromise with reality he has to accept letting go of the past to have a future. Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, you can take the song out of the storyline and it stands on its own for your own interpretation. I suspect the concept of being ‘battle weary’ applies to an unlimited number of circumstances!

mwe3: “Fait Accompli” is a classic track. It’s so different from the other heavier tracks. What is our destiny, are they all different? Tell us about those gorgeous strings on that track – would you consider writing more songs like this or is it simply too catchy and poppy for the prog-rock audience? “Ghosts of injury, resting in their place…” Do you think if you wrote more songs like this you’d get more airplay on safer radio stations? Can you be more commercial without sacrificing your prog-rock reputation? For some reason, “Fait Accompli” has a definite Tull vibe!

Chris Herin: Thanks for the compliment! We strive to create albums with diversity – although this isn’t always perceived as a good thing in today’s market place. “Fait Accompli” simply deals with acceptance in the literal meaning of the term: ‘a thing that has already happened or been decided – those affected have no option but to accept.’ Musically, our friend Mark Mikel did a great job on the strings and Terry sifted through an overabundance of my backing vocals to create the perfect arrangement. It’s dense and powerful but doesn’t get cluttered.

When I played the song (in its rough demo stage) for Mike Portnoy he immediately chose it for his son Max to play on. He loved the vibe and melody – which does have a bit of a 6/8 Tull or Badfinger feel. Mike also plays on the instrumental bridge sections so Tiles has the distinction of presenting the first recorded Portnoy father & son appearance. I was at Mike’s studio for the recording and Max totally zeroed in on the perfect Nigel Olsson (Elton John) vibe which gave the song a great backbeat groove.

I certainly can’t write songs “to order,” so the fact that “Fait Accompli” possibly has mainstream accessibility is more coincidence than anything else. This isn’t surprising because I’m a fan of melodic rock anyway. I definitely feel a connection to all the songs I write, meaning they come from a genuine place – regardless of the style. Certainly, some songs will resonate with different people in different ways since music boils down to personal taste, but I’m certainly glad you consider the song a highlight and potential hit single!

mwe3: Has there been any significant news in the guitar world for you? What were the go-to guitars you played on Pretending 2 Run and how has the choice of what guitars to play changed for you over the years? Someone said it’s not the guitar but the hands of the guitarist that creates the sound. What do you think about that?

Chris Herin: Absolutely! A guitarist’s sound and style is in their fingers, as conduits of the heart. I don’t think too many musicians would argue that point regardless of what instrument they play. I keep an eye on what’s happening in the world of guitars and equipment, but I have a pretty stable arsenal and set up. For Pretending 2 Run I primarily used a Gibson ES-335, Fender Stratocaster and Paul Reed Smith guitars – double and triple tracking rhythm guitar parts. Terry is very good at delivering great guitar sounds and offers a lot of suggestions as we try different combinations. He doesn’t radically change what’s coming out of the amp, but uses a bit of EQ and compression to get the right sound for the track and its placement in the mix.

I also used a Les Paul and Telecaster here and there and a wide variety of acoustic instruments such as banjo, mandolin, 6 & 12 string acoustic guitars, and I even dusted off my trumpet in a couple places. I used my Mesa Tri-Axis and TA-15 for amps, but didn’t record with a lot of effects. I did put a 1979 MXR distortion+ in the signal chain as well as my friend Jeff Kollman’s boutique “Kollmanation” distortion pedal. In general, though I’ve been using most of this equipment since recording 2004’s Window Dressing, so things haven’t really changed that much over the years!

mwe3: Now that Pretending 2 Run is available and getting such good reactions from the press and fans, will we have to wait another eight years for a new Tiles album? Will a masterpiece such as Pretending 2 Run be hard to top? Are you always writing music and seeking out new avenues of expression as a composer and guitarist? Where will Tiles be a year from today?

Chris Herin: It’s not possible to predict when the next Tiles album might see the light of day. I’d like to think it won’t be eight years though! Certainly bringing a project as ambitious as Pretending 2 Run to a successful conclusion and getting such a great response is very gratifying, but it’s a bit early to start thinking about the next album. We have quite a bit of promotion to do and hope to play as many shows as possible. We need to sell as many copies of P2R as possible! Of course, I am always writing songs and as a band we always jam on ideas, but for the time being we’ve got to concentrate on playing live, which is probably what we’ll still be doing a year from now!

For the past 15-years or so I’ve drawn quite a bit of musical inspiration from the world of art, especially the impressionist and postimpressionist era. I find artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Sisley, etc. very motivational and I’ve attempted to translate their visual approaches and painting techniques into my songwriting, our arranging and instrumentation.

I suppose in many ways Pretending 2 Run will cast a long shadow on the next album, but we’ll just have to forge ahead and do the best we can!




 

 
   
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