/ composer Paul Bremner is recognized as one of the top prog-rock
guitarists recording today. A founding member and lead guitarist in
the band IZZ, Bremner is currently turning on the prog crowd
with his 2016 solo album called The Witness. The
album features nine tracks, topped off by a five part CD closer entitled
Last Exit Before Toll. The Witness features Brems
in the studio backed up by some excellent musicians including Pauls
band mates in IZZTom Galgano (keys), John Galgano
(keys, bass), Greg DiMiceli (drums), Brian Coralian,
Anmarie Byrnes (vocals), Laura Meade (vocals) and other
fine players. As in Izz, Brems has his hand right on the pulse of
the prog-rock interplay on The Witness. The album was superbly
recorded and engineered by Tom Galgano in New York. Speaking about
his wide song writing influences and the making of The Witness,
Brems tells mwe3.com Since I wrote all of the music and
lyrics, I consider The Witness to be a solo album. I am very happy
that all of my bandmates are on the album, definitely giving it an
Izz flavor. I enjoy listening to many different types of music, so
I suppose its natural that I try to write music with a wide
variety of moods and emotions. At the core is Paul Bremners
guitar work and songs, yet with so many great singers and musicians
adding to the albums exquisite sonic vision, its clear
that Izz fans and fans of progressive rock overall will totally enjoy
The Witness. www.izznet.com
mwe3.com presents an interview
mwe3: What inspired you to write and produce The Witness and
how did you decide on the album title? When was the music written
and recorded and how did you decide on the title The Witness?
Bremner: After finishing my first solo album, I continued to write
new material and decided I would really like to start another one.
The music was written and recorded over the last several years. I
looked through the song titles for a possible album title, and felt
that The Witness was the strongest.
mwe3: Do you consider The Witness to be an Izz offshoot
album especially as the Izz band are all over the album? It sounds
like The Witness has got that Izz prog-rock uniqueness. Thats
especially apparent after hearing the lead off track From Here
I Can See The Horizon. What can you tell us about Anmaries
excellent lead vocal and that track overall?
Paul Bremner: Since I wrote all of the music and lyrics, I
consider The Witness to be a solo album. I am very happy that
all of my bandmates are on the album, definitely giving it an Izz
flavor. "From Here I Can See The Horizon" was the first
track written for the album. I remember writing the song with Anmarie
(Byrnes) in mind, and her vocals on the song are fantastic.
mwe3: You have so many great guitar sounds on The Witness.
I think track 2 Pilot Fish just grabs your attention
right away with your wah-wah guitar sound. What inspired Pilot
Fish, both musically and lyrically? Tom from IZZ contributes
some excellent vocals on that track and theres a great second
half of the song that is very instrumentally focused with a cool lead
solo. Do you like tracks with multi-parts to feature different parts
within the same song?
Paul Bremner: Glad you like Pilot Fish Robert.
Very often I come up with a chord sequence and a line or two of lyrics,
and just build the song from there. Obviously Im not writing
about the actual Pilot Fish
the song is a metaphor.
Maybe just leave it to the listener to decide what it is about. Yes
I do like tracks containing different sections
mwe3: Did you feature different guitars and effects on different
songs? What was your go-to guitar on The Witness, both acoustic
and electric guitars? Do you have a guitar endorsement and what amps
did you record that album with? Speaking of wah-wah, what are your
favorite pedals and strings and picks of choice?
My go-to guitar was my beloved Fender Stratocaster that I bought in
1984. The different effects came from my line 6 pedal board. For acoustic
guitar, I used John's Takamine. I also borrowed a Mitchell twelve
string from a friend. All electric guitar stuff was recorded direct
from the pedal board - no amps! I dont have a guitar endorsement.
I try different brands of strings and don't have a favorite. I really
like Dunlop's Eric Johnson picks.
mwe3: Warm is a little different from the heavier
tracks as its a kind of love song. Do you like writing love
songs compared with the harder and deeper rock tracks? Tell us something
about Laura Meades excellent vocals on that track. She really
carries that track lyrically. What acoustic guitar are you using on
Paul Bremner: I enjoy listening to many different types of
music, so I suppose its natural that I try to write music with
a wide variety of moods and emotions. Again with "Warm",
I very quickly knew who I wanted to sing the song. Laura turns in
a gorgeous performance. We have performed the song live a number of
times, and it always gets a great reception. I used the Takamine on
mwe3: For me the early highlight of the album is the track
Vistas and the way it blends into called Are You
Ooh Yah?. Are those tracks connected in a way? Vistas
is the best song Ive ever heard about reincarnation in a long
time. What inspired Vistas and what are your thoughts
on reincarnation in general? With all these great artists dying these
days, the song is quite inspirational. Short, but inspirational! Would
you consider a remix on that track? Also, Johanna Farrand takes the
lead vocal on that track. What can you tell us about Johanna and is
she an Izz band alumni?
Bremner: Those tracks were not intended to be connected at all.
"Vistas" wasn't inspired by anything in particular. I'm
very glad you like it. I suppose I'm a bit on the fence about reincarnation,
but am a strong believer in the afterlife. I don't think I would do
a remix on that track, but maybe one or two others on the album. Johanna
is not an Izz alumni. She and I used to be in a cover band. She has
a lovely voice and I definitely wanted her to be part of this album.
mwe3: Are You Ooh Yah? kind of lightens up the
mood a bit! Is that Izz at its best? A jam-rock song with exotic alien
vocal sounds is a genius move! Theres some great soloing in
the second half.
Paul Bremner: I'm very fond of this track. The track grew from
the alien vocal sound as you call it... it was a sound on an old guitar
pedal I used years ago. It was a blast for me to play bass on this
mwe3: Sad is the saddest song Ive ever heard!
Is it autobiographical or were you writing about someone in particular?
Again, theres some great guitar soloing within the melodies
and choruses. Tom and Laura turn in a great vocal here as well. Is
it hard to write such a deep song about sadness?
Paul Bremner: Thanks Robert! I remember that this song actually
started out as a piece of poetry and I quickly realized it could become
a very moving song. I was probably just trying to write a very emotional
piece and "Sad" was the result. I don't think it was hard
it was very satisfying to do.
mwe3: The title track The Witness comes in the
middle of the album. Its a great hard-rocking track with deep
lyrics. What inspired the song The Witness and why did
you decide to call the whole album The Witness? Are we all
witnesses to what is going on with the world these days? Just for
Paul Bremner: Same story as before Robert, nothing inspired
the song. I got a couple of lines of lyrics that I liked and this
gave me an idea of where to go with the song. I went with the idea
that it's about a man who has premonitions of the future, usually
very unpleasant stuff and occasionally he is involved in the events
he foresees. I feel that it has a supernatural quality to it.
Lost In A Memory has a kind of 1970s feel to it and its
different from the other tracks in some ways. Did you try to create
a different sounding, more upbeat and commercial type of track here?
Kind of sounds a bit like The BeeGees in the 90s! But still
its an appealing sounding song! Any inside story on that track?
Paul Bremner: There is a cool story behind this track. It was
written around 1989/1990! I always liked the song a lot and decided
to finally record and release it. Thanks for the Bee Gees reference
I'm a big fan!
mwe3: No Remorse is an instrumental track that
has a kind of boogie rock and a Steve Morse kind of feel to it. How
do you feel about writing instrumentals or are they not as effective
as a solid rock vocal and hook. Did you set out to create a jam with
Paul Bremner: I enjoy writing instrumentals, but I tend to
mostly write songs with vocals. Having said that, I have a few classical
guitar style pieces I would like to record one day and a Celtic piece
that I left off The Witness.
mwe3: Last Exit Before Toll is a 5 part track
thats really harrowing. What brought that one on? Is it about
someone in particular or a near-death experience in general? The song
really takes you on a journey! Do you consider Last Exit Before
Toll to be one song or five different songs in one? Again, the
song makes a strong suggestion that Izz are the best American prog-rock
band making records these days!
Paul Bremner: Another hopefully interesting story. I had a
couple of songs that I was going to contribute to the ongoing Izz
concept that featured on our last three albums. I decided to make
them part of my album. The track grew very naturally, ultimately ending
up at over twenty minutes! I consider the song to be one piece, comprised
of different sections
in true prog rock style.
mwe3: How about plans for the next Izz album and other possible
releases and even concerts or new writing and producing?
Bremner: There is another Izz album bubbling under at the moment,
hopefully that will be out later in the year. There is some tremendous
material there, some of it taking Izz in some interesting new directions.
I have a lot of leftover material and would love to start another
solo album. We have an upcoming gig at The Bitter End in New York
City, and a performance in Chicago in October is looking very likely