CARY HEUCHERT
Hourglass
(Oddiyo Records)

 

Back in 2015, Vancouver Canada artist Cary Heuchert stunned the music world with his psychedelic folk-rock masterpiece Blue Rain. After the first CD pressing sold out, Cary remastered and re-pressed Blue Rain in 2018 with a bonus track and liner notes by this writer. The world has truly been turned upside down these past 5 years but, at least for music fans, the good news here is Cary Heuchert is back in 2021 with a new CD called Hourglass. Continuing on in a blissful, semi-psychedelic aura of what can be described as a musical deja-vu, Cary trips the light fantastic with ten new songs that also depicts Hourglass as a very personal singer-songwriter inspired album. Hourglass contains clear rock edges, yet it’s also modern progressive ‘Acoustic-cana’, spliced with Cary’s multi-layered vocals and multiple electric guitar / keyboard embellishments. Hourglass echoes the heady, late ‘60s days of early Pink Floyd balanced out with a dash of that classic, late 1960s acoustic prog era of Arthur Lee and Love - brought to life in the artist’s inspired muse. Though some tracks are indeed acoustic / electronic, track 7 “Together” is a thoroughly rocking track with Cary’s electric guitar work driving the song onwards. Although he can be a self-contained artist, Cary keeps good company on Hourglass with Grant Ball combining his sympathetic drumming along with Collin Wade keeping the beat on bass. Actually, Cary played bass/fretless bass on five songs with Grant, and Collin only guested on three. Also appearing as guest artists on the song title, “You Are the World to Me” is keyboardist Tony Pagliuca, the legendary pianist of the 1970s Italian prog-rock band Le Orme, with Cary adding, “I’m a huge Le Orme fan, and I feel it’s an honor and advantage to have him on the album.” Jay Semko, of the Canadian band, the Northern Pikes, adds backing vocals on “Forever And So Far” and Miles Hill, a renowned Canadian jazz musician plays fretless bass on “When Fortune Smiles”. As expected, Cary is well versed in all things prog and his stately combination of synth and mellotron adds depth to the sonic diversity. A good example is the title track “Hourglass”. Combining a memorable melody offset by a cutting-edge fuzz-tone guitar solo turns the song into a modern-day retro prog classic. The sonic deja-vu vibe here makes Hourglass a kind of self-induced musical seance to Cary’s songwriting mentors like Kevin Ayers, Jim Pembroke, Arthur Lee and Marc Bolan, the latter on a surprising, T-Rex induced, lo-fi glam/blues track here called “I Don’t Want To Say Goodnight To You”. Sometimes Hourglass sounds like a long-lost prog artifact album from 1968, yet even with the vintage stereo effect in full force, the album moves fast and provides quite a pleasurable listening experience. With the release of Hourglass, Cary Heuchert is undeniably bound for continued audio excellence.

 


 

mwe3.com presents a new interview with
CARY HEUCHERT

mwe3: Your new CD Hourglass just came out in Spring of 2021. How would you describe your musical approach on Hourglass and can you compare the differences between writing and recording Hourglass and 2015’s Blue Rain album? You really rise to the occasion as the reviewer expression goes. On Hourglass I guess you had a lot of pent-up expressive musical energy to let out!

Cary Heuchert: All ten songs on Hourglass were composed in a period of six months during mid to late 2015. With Blue Rain, the material spanned many years, from 2006 to 2014, and I had to decide which songs to include on that album. Hourglass was different. I had a clear theme in mind, and approached it more as a concept album, which made the writing easier, but the recording process took longer.

mwe3: You told me how much your personal life improved after getting married along the way. That’s very apparent on Hourglass. When was that? How has she improved your musical moods this time around?

Cary Heuchert: Yes, my personal life both changed and improved since the beginning of 2015, when I met my new girlfriend, who later became my wife in 2018. Actually, I had never written love songs for anyone before, especially a specific person in mind. It was a new experience, and helped give the songs a certain energy and momentum. As I mentioned, they were all written during 2015, in our first year together. Kind of a snapshot of a new relationship. A renewal of sorts, hence the title: Hourglass.

mwe3: The lead off track “This Is The Time” is a little Jim Pembroke influenced would you say? That stark scary sound like “Sane Again” from Starpose. When was “This Is The Time” written and recorded, what’s the message in the song?

Cary Heuchert: Interesting you should say that. “Sane Again” is one of my favourite tracks by Wigwam, and from the Starpose album. Yes, similar to that song, it is a suitable opener. “This Is The Time”, originally called “Now We Are Here”, is realizing that even though we may come from different places, have different personal histories, our eventual connection is important and should be celebrated. Ideally, to make each day meaningful. A bit of a Zen approach, I suppose.

mwe3: “The Sea Of Faces” starts off slow but really picks up in intensity. Also tell us about the weird vocal technique you recorded? The reprise with the alternate ending is great. Also, what synths did you use on the track? How many tracks are on that track?

Cary Heuchert: Yes, “The Sea Of Faces” continues the voyage of “This is the Time”. From Earth into the cosmos, with sweeping synthesizer white noise, using my Moog Grandmother and Moog Mother-32 modular, glissando bass sounds, and Mellotron female choir. The weird technique is actually my backing vocals backwards, as well as three other lead vocals of mine. I wanted to create an otherworldly atmosphere on this song, perhaps influenced by early Van Der Graaf Generator. Along with “Together” it is the most elaborate track of the album. Around 20 tracks were used on it.

mwe3: “You Are The World To Me” is another love song for your wife. Tell us about working on the piano sound with Tony Pagliuca. How did you meet Tony? I know Le Orme is one of your favorite Italian prog bands from the 1970s. Also, your mellotron is a good accompaniment to Tony’s piano. Tell us about the Tron sound you get on the track and on elsewhere on the whole album. It’s just amazing how the digital world was able to recreate the just about near exact Tron sound of the early pioneers like Mike Pinder. What is that Chinese word you write in the lyrics?

Cary Heuchert: Yes, this is the song which got the ball rolling. As I mentioned before, I had never written a love song for anyone before, but my wife, being from China, mentioned to me that May 20th is a special day for lovers in Chinese culture. So, I had the idea to write a song for her, which I did, on that very same day. It was one of those songs that seemed to write itself! “5-20” (the date) translates into Mandarin as “wu er ling” which sounds like, “Wo ai ni”. It means “I love you” in English. This explains the inclusion of Chinese lyrics: “Wo shou wo ai ni” (“I say I love you”) in the song. After recording the basic tracks of “You Are The World To Me”, I added strings from my Mellotron Micro 4000D. I then noticed it ended up sounding a bit like an Italian Prog song to me, reminding me immediately of something Le Orme would have done. Since Tony Pagliuca was a long time contact of mine on Facebook, I decided to send him a message, asking if he could play some beautiful piano on my song. He said he would listen to my recording, and see what he could do. Within a few weeks, he sent me his recorded piano accompaniment, which just fit right in. He said he loved the song! Actually, it really touched me deeply when I first heard the combined results. I’m very grateful that Tony could appear on my album. He is one of my favourite keyboardists and composers in Italian progressive rock.

mwe3: “Waiting For You” sounds influenced by The Doors. Did you want to create a dreamy picture of your life? How did you layer and record this track? Grant does a great job on the percussion. Did you want a spooky soundscape, even though it’s still a love song?

Cary Heuchert: Dreamy... daydreaming... yearning... It’s that feeling you have when you are missing someone, and then when you finally see them again, you don’t want that time to end. As the lyrics say: “Time passes too slow when we’re apart, but when we’re together it is flying by”, and yet, before you know it, you’re waiting again. On this track, Grant recorded his cymbal swells first, along with my electric guitar. After that, I decided to add a real clock ticking, and by using a Roland Space Echo, have it speed up or slow down by vari-speed. The song, just by chance, was already set at 60 bpm, so the clock idea was a natural choice. After that, Grant overdubbed exact drum rhythms to match the clock ticking away.

mwe3: That Donovan sound I was mentioning to you earlier I guess can be traced back to my hearing “From The Corner Of My Eye”. Did you want a magical folk music sound for that track? Tell us about the acoustic guitar and mellotron effect.

Cary Heuchert: Well, magical would definitely be the right word for this song. Actually, it could be a premonition. In late January 2015, early one morning, I wrote the basic melody and chords for it on guitar, and for some reason, I sang the words “From The Corner Of My Eye” during the first demo, not really knowing what they meant. Later on, that same day, I would connect with my future girlfriend for the very first time. About four months later, after we had become a couple, I completed the lyrics for the song, finally understanding the title. On the recording, I wanted to keep the arrangement simple, without any drums, and the combination of acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and Mellotron flute really made it fall together beautifully. As I am a sentimental and romantic person at heart, this is the one lyric I’ve written, which still brings a tear to my eye, every time I perform it. One of the most personal songs on this album.

mwe3: “Forever And So Far” has that Arthur Lee and Love influence I mentioned to you. Would you say that track has a kind of Baroque sound to it? Did you write it on piano?

Cary Heuchert: This song, as with all the tracks on Hourglass was written on guitar. I added the piano as an afterthought, because it needed something, especially in the bridge. I originally wanted to have some accordion throughout the song, and give it more of a French-Canadian sound, like the McGarrigle Sisters or Fairport Convention (“Si Tu Dois Partir”). However, I haven’t played an actual accordion since I was around 9 years old, so the piano was an easier choice, and I think it worked well. My wife said it’s her favourite part of that song! I then asked my good friend, Jay Semko, a well-known Canadian singer-songwriter from my hometown of Saskatoon, to add some harmony vocals on it. Perhaps give it kind of a slight Everly Brothers vibe. At least that was my intention.

mwe3: I guess “Together” is the closest Hourglass gets to a full-on rock track. Of course, the drums never overtake your guitar sound. What kind of drums did Grant use on this track, and what tracks feature Grant’s other rock drumming, I guess there was not too much bass drum. Although it builds, the bass / drum never overpowers the tracks which is guess is a good thing that makes it more listenable. Maybe a remix version?

Cary Heuchert: Yes, I wanted a real rock song on this album, to show variety, and “Together” could end up being my rock anthem! (lol) Interestingly, the final key change, up to A major on “Forever and So Far” matched the song key of “Together”, which naturally linked both songs. Grant played his Ludwig drum kit all in one take, which I recorded using separate mics for both overheads and kick drums, later adding more drum overdubs during a second session. There are also three layered electric guitars in the first section guitar solo, and Mellotron strings and brass join the electric guitars on the second solo refrain and closing section. Perhaps, I was influenced by such Moody Blues rockers like “Ride My See Saw” or “Gypsy”.

mwe3: “I Don’t Want To Say Goodnight” is like a T.Rex boogie track. Or maybe Gary Glitter or The Move / Jeff Lynne. Was Marc Bolan an influence? He died so young, tragically.

Cary Heuchert: Actually, I was trying to emulate John Lennon from his “Rock ‘n’ Roll” solo album on this, but it ended up sounding more like T. Rex! Marc Bolan was a huge influence on me in my mid-teens. His untimely passing affected me deeply, almost as much as Lennon’s, just a few years later. It’s interesting that you mention Jeff Lynne, because I used “Illusions In G Major” from “Eldorado” as the template for song placement of “I Don’t Want to Say Goodnight to You”. It was also a retro rock n roll number, and the eighth song of the album, right before the main title track.

mwe3: “Hourglass” makes a great name for an album and a title song. Tell us about the great electric lead guitar you get in the song? When did you write that song? What’s the meaning behind the lyrics?

Cary Heuchert: “Hourglass” was one of the last songs I wrote for the album. It summed up my feelings about meeting someone new, and how it could give a sense of renewal and motivation. Starting again, turning back time. Like an hourglass does, which symbolizes an ancient time machine. How the right person can give us more time, and make us feel even younger and happy again. The recording for this track went quite smoothly. I added the guitar solo later, going directly into the board. Just one take, during a late night 1:30 am recording session, adding a ghostly layer of second guitar for extra texture.

mwe3: Is “When Fortune Smiles” the closest thing to a kind of Blues, ala John Mayall? Or maybe Peter Green? Are you playing a kind of slide guitar sound?

Cary Heuchert: Yes, “When Fortune Smiles” is a blues tune, but with a psychedelic twist. I played glass bottleneck slide on my Martin Backpacker guitar, and the other guitar was my usual Ovation Tangent acoustic. The scat vocal was intended to be a guide vocal, but I liked it so much, that I kept it as the vocal track throughout the song. My friend and former classmate, Miles Hill, a phenomenal Canadian session musician/bassist from my hometown of Saskatoon, also living here in Vancouver, provided his jazz bass expertise to the song. I also wanted to keep the arrangement sparse, again without drums, and provide an acoustic bookend to the album, complimenting the opening track, “This Is The Time”. Both songs are lyrically similar regarding the pathways of time and destiny. Where are we going? Tomorrow only knows.

mwe3: So why did you remix “Hourglass” at the end of the album? What are the differences? It’s a pleasant surprise as a bonus track.

Cary Heuchert: I did two mixes for the title track, simply because I felt the experimental ending suited the album. As a single, keeping it simple would be better for radio airplay.

mwe3: I hope we get through 2021 in one piece. Would you like to make any worldly, other-worldly or musical predictions as we march towards 2023 or you can start with 2021 if that’s easier to realise.

Cary Heuchert: Well, even though I get older, I still keep my hope. 2020-21, will teach us something, and the world will undoubtedly change forever in some ways, as it usually does. I feel artists are being rejuvenated, and just like the turning of an hourglass, it could be time again for more experimental phases of music in the new decade. It’s a great time to be an independent musician. I keep hoping for a better, creative, and more intelligent world, and do my small part to continue to learn, discover, and contribute something positive while we go forward together in time.

 

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