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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Interview - Jeff Whittle of Tiles, PART 1-Nov. 08
    Posted: November 25 2008 at 19:00
Tiles bassist Jeff Whittle sits down to answer some questions about the band's new album, the recording process and all the guest performances.

This interview will be broken down into 3 parts. The first two parts are the lengthy discussion with Jeff and the last one is a collection of questions sent to the whole band to answer, including individual questions for each of the other members.

PART 1
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ProgArchives: So can you give us a quick run-through of your musical career up to this point?

Jeff Whittle: Well, I started playing bass when I was… I want to say 15 or 16, probably a little bit later than most people, I guess. Fluke accident. A friend of mine got a bass guitar for Christmas – and his sister’s boyfriend played guitar, and he wanted to be in a band with him, so he got a bass – but it was left handed, and he never switched the strings around to it just kind of sat in the corner. I’m left handed in everything that I do in life except for guitar and golf… I’ll let you decide which [laughs]. So I picked it up one day and I didn’t know much expect for I know guys like Steve Harris play with their fingers rather than a pick, so I just did that walking motion with my index and middle finger. I could physically do it, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. That was the start of it. I just loved it once I picked it up and his sister’s boyfriend showed me a couple of little things, but he didn’t really know what a bass player did, he just showed me a couple of guitar lines on the bass. So the next Christmas I went out and found a used bass and my mom bought me this used bass and it was this horrible… [laughs] this horrible bass. So I begged my dad for an amplifier and for a while I just played without one, so I wasn’t even plugged in.

So from there I went to high-school and our highschool band was a rock band, it wasn’t really jazz or anything and when we stated we were doing Woolly Bully and by the end of my senior year we were doing Pink Floyd and Zeppelin! So that was pretty cool and from there I went and took personal lessons myself from Kevin Chown, he lived here in Detroit but he’s now out in LA doing lots of cool stuff. He just did some bass stuff for Chad Smith who’s got a solo project out called The Meatbats I believe, and he was doing some stuff on there with a guitar player named Jeff Kollman. Kevin was a guy who taught at a store locally here, and he was awesome! He was a younger guy who was hip on slapping and tapping and stuff like that. He had a ton of theory and a great ear and he showed me the ropes on how to tackle some of this stuff - and it was him, through a weird set of circumstances… Tiles, who was then “Hand Over Fist” had put an ad in the paper looking for a bass player. Chris and Mark had been writing material that ended up on the first Tiles disc… actually, no! They saw an ad that Kevin had in the paper about bass students and when they called to talk to him and he was brought in as the fill until they had actually found a bass player. Then he ended up going and producing the first album and I think he actually co-produced the second album, Fence The Clear. After Kevin had done his bass lines they offered him the bass job, but he was already involved with a band in Ohio called Edwin Dare, an amazing group which also featured Jeff Kollman on guitar. So he recommended me for the job. I guess some of the stuff that I had written that I was playing for him he thought that I would fit that genre, I don’t know.

So anyways, he recommended me and I auditioned, I guess three times and on the third time they had me out they offered me the seat. I’m a little bit younger than those guys, I don’t know if that had a role in it or not. So that’d the long twisted story of how I ended up where I am. I’m kind of the only one… my mom and dad both love music but neither one of them played any instruments, so I always jokingly say we’re the first generation because my brother’s a drummer. So we’re the first generation of musicians in the family. And hopefully there will be another.



PA: Fly Paper has been out for just about a year now. How do you feel it stacks up to your other albums after this amount of time?

JW: Well, we’ve been pretty open about Window Dressing… Window Dressing wasn’t received very well. Most media people - which is unfortunate, we felt this was our most adventurous work – but a lot of people flagged us for starting the album off with a longer song. I had a hard time figuring that one out considering, um, I don’t know: Yes’s Close To The Edge, Rush’s 2112 [laughs] all these great prog albums that started out with the long songs. The opposite to that would be like Genesis and Supper’s Ready because the long song can end the album too. We went with the title Window Dressing and why not start it out with the song? So we took a lot of sl*g from that and I think the only thing that we should have done differently on that album was to maybe name each section. Maybe that would have made more sense at the listener standpoint. Because the first 4 and a half minutes was like an overture, I don’t know that I’d call it an overture, but maybe give it a title. Anyways, there’s a lot of musical stuff in there that happens later on. But I personally feel on that album… we worked out butts off and we also, on a recording note, we recorded that at a studio here in Detroit where Kid Rock did a lot of his early stuff and it’s known for this massive recording room and it’s just this old, old building in the middle of Detroit and we wanted to use that space, so we used a lot of microphones around the room and Terry set those up. For the piano piece, all the buses and stuff that you hear – we just stuck a microphone out the window! So you’re really hearing a lot of natural sound and I think maybe that recording doesn’t stand up with today’s standards because everything is so compressed nowadays and everything is so up and… so maybe if you play Window Dressing against another album maybe it doesn’t sound as current. But that’s what we wanted, we wanted it to sound as though you were in that big recording room with us, that was the thought. Anyways, that worked or didn’t work depending on who it was.

Fly Paper has been much better received, people seem to really enjoy the album. A lot of people are saying we’re back to what we were doing on Presents Of Mind and Fence The Clear. I don’t know if that was a thought going into the album, to be honest with you, we just kind of wrote what was coming out and the songs just kind of came together. So yeah, I haven’t got any definite sales figures but I know that the shows that we’re playing, we’ve been playing quite a bit and people are enjoying the album, they’re picking it up and we’re getting really good feedback on it. Every album, of course, has negative reviews, but we’re getting less on this album.

It’s kind of an odd band for us because we get lumped into prog, which is great, we all love that, but I think the really die-hard prog people don’t think we’re progressive enough and for die-hard rock people were too progressive for that. So I don’t know where Tiles is. We get asked all the time about prog and I love that kind of music and listen to it all the time, and so do the other guys. But it’s sometimes frustrating because the die-hard prog people don’t want to review the album or they don’t give it a great review because it’s not progressive enough. But at the same time we’re not going to force our… we’re not going to rearrange songs just to be more ‘progressive’, we do what we do. We put it out and if it’s not progressive enough then… I guess I apologize and you can go listen to Foxtrot by Genesis or something.

PA: [laughs] The progressive community man, they’re all crazy.

JW: I gotta tell you, one of the first reviews we got, I think in the first month. We had this girl review our album and the site is all this really heavy, heavy metal, right? Maybe it’s because InsideOut has a little bit of heavier bands, but she starts her review out with, “I don’t even like this style of music.” … Well then why in the f**k are you reviewing it!? It was bizarre! So she goes on and she sl*gs it and she says there was moments of good or whatever. Then, like a month later, we were in her top 10! … I don’t know.

PA: [laughs] Some reviewers are just out for the kill. That annoys me sometimes

JW: The age of the internet has allowed everybody to be their own reviewer whether they know what they’re doing or not, because it’s out there now. Hopefully people don’t let… people who do that for a living and that’s what they do and they’re credible, that’s different… but when you see Joe Shmoe and he’s posted this review and you don’t know who he is and he lives somewhere in Minnesota and he’s a hermit who has everything sent to him… and now everyone’s opinion is out there which is good and bad – the bad thing is that one bad review can make its way around very, very fast. So that’s the good and bad thing. As an artist there’s nothing you can do about it so you have to live with it. The good side of it is that you can go to our website and hear little sound clips and make up your own mind and hopefully you dig it.

I just hope people don’t see someone who you don’t even know saying, “Tiles doesn’t do this or that” and you think we’re no good. On the other hand, if someone says, “Oh yeah, Tiles is effing great!” then hopefully that will make you want to go out and buy it.

PA: Looking on your website I saw you got a review from Ian Anderson about the record… what was that like for you?

JW: That was incredible, man! Because that just showed up in my inbox! We’ve talked to Ian over the years and we’ve met him a couple of times. Actually we tried to get him to play on Window Dressings and it got so far as that he got the sections of music that we wanted him to record but he was prepping for a tour and the timing was just wrong. That’s just what happens. But he really liked what we were doing on Window Dressings too and offered some good words. But with Fly Paper I was blown away! It was amazing, and it was very nice of him to do that. That of course goes on your confidence when someone as talented as Ian will write something like that for you. It doesn’t do anything but build you up and make you think, “Wow, we are really doing something that’s good”. I didn’t even expect that. I was at work and I checked my e-mail and I was like, ‘What!? Is this a joke!?” and I had to call Chris up and ask him if it was real – it was great! Mike Portnoy did the same thing on Presents Of Mind which made me think, “Wow, we are doing something.” It’s always good when people that are so successful in the business – Ian didn’t have to do that, he didn’t have to do that and we totally appreciate that fact that he did, when somebody goes out of their way to do something for you, that’s awesome. As a member in the band it just made us feel really good that someone of his stature digs what we’re doing.



PA: And on this album you also had a track where Alex Lifeson did some stuff for you

JW: That was amazing. That was another moment where the timing was just really good! Chris had just mentioned to Terry as a joke about trying to get David Gilmour to burn a guitar solo onto the record because David had just done his album, On An Island, so we just said, “Hey! Maybe he should come out and play for Tiles as a promotion” as a joke. That just snowballed into… Rush was doing their pre-tour rehearsals in the area and Terry phoned up Alex, or we sent over 3 songs to him and Alex liked them and he actually chose that song to play on. So in that case our timing was really good. So Terry went over to Alex’s studio and they worked on it… I don’t know for how long, I think about 8 or 9 hours and that was the first time they’re worked together for about 20 years! So if nothing else, when Tiles breaks up… falls apart, we all die… whatever [laughs] – we were able to get Terry and Alex to work together.

Terry said it was just awesome and Alex really liked it. I think he played his ass off! He did the melody guitar there, I guess you’d call it the melody lead right off the bat. He put in a bunch of acoustic guitars in the bridge and in the middle section he put this really cool feedback guitar in there. So he didn’t just ‘willy-nilly’ this guitar solo, in all reality he didn’t even play a guitar solo, per se, he did a lot of texturing. We were just blown away when we got it. Because when somebody does that you never know if they’re just going to put in a guitar solo or a rhythm piece if that’s all they have time to do. That was not the case here, he did some amazing stuff and it just changed totally how the song sounded. One day I’d like to release the versions without Alex on there for people to say, “wow, that’s awesome!” and see what he added. Nobody really had to change any of their parts because the song was pretty much done, he just added to what was there, what existed.

The same thing with Alannah Myles when she sang. Terry had worked with her on her last album… I’m not sure if he produced it or mixed it, he may have just mixed it. But he had been working with her and we had this backing vocal part in the song Back & Forth and Paul had just done the vocals and Terry said, “Well, maybe I could get Alannah to do this part” and he sent it to her and she liked it. She had never sang with a hard rock group before but she came in and didn’t just give an “ooh” and an “aah” and then leave, no she came in and did some three-part-harmonies and some really neat stuff! That again, when I heard that I was just so stoked when I heard that, same with Alex. With Alex I was just so shocked that he would want to be a part of something like this band, “Tiles? Who’s Tiles?”. And Terry was really excited. He thought the stuff Alex stuff was amazing. He didn’t know either and when he showed up he talked to Alex and said, “okay, what’s our time frame, what are we looking at here?” and Alex said, “Oh, no, I’ve blocked off the whole day!” So that’s really cool that he was able to do that. We were able to get some pictures and meet with Alex for the first time before their Detroit show and we gave him some Titlelist Pro-V-1s and we wanted to put ‘Alex Lifeson’ on there, but I said to the guys, “Well I don’t really know how good of a golfer he is… what if he sucks and puts ‘Alex Lifeson’ balls all over the course?” So we didn’t want that and we put ‘Tiles – Fly Paper’ on there and gave him the box of them. I mean what can you do to say thank you? The guy probably gets gifts everywhere, so… and he’s a golfer so we gave him what we feel is the best golf ball out there. We did what we could to say thanks and then with Alannah, we took her out to dinner and she was a lot of fun to hang out with, so that was good.

It was amazing, dude. I wish I could have been there for Alex’s stuff and Alannah’s stuff, and unfortunately we weren’t able to because we had other things going on and we were still able to thank them afterwards. Maybe it’s a good thing that we weren’t, so that you didn’t have a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ kind of thing. I’m sure Alex, on something like that, would work better with just Terry so they can do that brainstorming thing. But still, you wish you were there. But I’m happy with what we got!



PA: So why did you decide to record this album in Toronto?

JW: Well Terry had his studio up there and it just made it more convenient. For Window Dressings we did all the recording here in Detroit, expect for some of the vocals and a little bit of the guitars which were mixed in Toronto. So for this one it just made it a little inconvenient for us, but it was more convenient when we got there. Everything was there. Terry knows the room, the studio he has is great. There’s just something when your engineer and producer knows the room and the gear it just made it more relaxed. To be honest, recording wise I had a lot of fun, and I want to say it was really easy because we recorded things a lot differently but I had a lot of fun and we recorded totally different this way, we would go to the studio and do the backtracks just songs 2 at a time. I think one time we did 3. We’d go there for a weekend or three days and our only goal was do get the bass and the drums for those songs done. Then if there was time we’d do other things, maybe a rhythm guitar or something, but that would be our goal. It made it a lot of fun, because we’d have two songs ready and then a week later we were recording them.

To me there’s a different energy there. I think one of the problems on Window Dressings was that we maybe over-rehearsed those songs. Between writing and recording it had been over a year before we recorded it. With this stuff we wrote it and then BAM, we were recording it. If there was a change to be made… this is how I feel, I don’t know about the other guys – but if there was a change that needed to be made, maybe Terry would say, “I’m not really feeling that. I wasn’t married to that bass part” but it didn’t matter because I hadn’t been playing it for that long. With Window Dressings we had been playing that stuff for so long! You kind of feel attached to that. Not to say we didn’t change because we did do a lot of redos on Window Dressing, but it became more of a hardship and frustration thing where on this if there was a change to be made it wouldn’t throw me into a tailspin as much because I had just written the part, like a month ago, if that. So we played a lot of things by feel and just by what sounded good – we had a lot of hand percussion added in.

My friend Matt Parmenter of Discipline, he thought there was a bit of a “world music” vibe on some of the songs because of all the percussion and all the different guitars that we used and bass wise a couple of parts that I played, like some of the latin-y type parts that are on there. I’m not sure if we were going for that vibe, but when we were putting the album together that no rocks should be unturned. And if we wanted to try the mellotron thing on “Markers”, that was originally part of that song. It was for me when I did my demos of that song for myself. I don’t have a melltron myself, I just did it with my piece of crap keyboard, and I just played and after the song was finished I said, “well I did have this intro that I wrote for the song,” and I played it for them and they liked it. So the song was done and we were still adding stuff on, but it wasn’t even a question because we liked how it sounded so it was just like, “Oh that sounded good, let’s add that!”. So we had that in there, he actually had the mellotron stuff on his keyboard when they went to go record that, so. Even the rotary keyboard in the bridges there, that was something that Terry had heard and he wanted that kind of Wurlitzer effect. So that was pretty cool and it’s just stuff like that that happens.

Matt was doing the backing part on Crowded Emptiness, that was something we didn’t even plan on. I took Matt to Terry’s studio to do the keyboard stuff that we was going to do, and he just said, “hey, I really like that song and I have this backing part that I’ve been singing for a while and I just want to try it out.” So he did! And that ended up on there. So that was just another thing where it was like, “yeah, let’s just record it and if it sounds really good then we’ll do that.” He sang it, it sounded great, we kept it and that was that!

The same thing happened with Hugh Syme, he came to do some pictures for the artwork… and I forget which song it was… but it might have been Sacred & Mundane,  but there was a song that he wasn’t originally going to keyboards on, but Terry was doing a mix on it, he had it queued up and when Hugh heard it he immediately said, “I need to play that”. So while we were washing out hair and stuff him and Terry were working on this keyboard part! It was crazy! So that was really cool and again, it was something that we didn’t expect to happen and… yeah, it did [laughs]. There was a lot of really cool moments on there. It might have been Sacred & Mundane, the song that Alex played on which was the one that Hugh added to. I think it was that one because I think Terry really liked that song and was playing it for him. So that was really cool. I hope I answered the question [laughs].

PA: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, you did!

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More to come in Part 2 and Part 3!

Thanks to Jeff for sitting down to answer our questions. Tiles' new album, Fly Paper is out now.


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 26 2008 at 08:47

Another great job by our resident interviewer.  I really enjoyed reading this interview and getting additional insight into this great Michigan band.  I have had the pleasure of seeing them play live 3 times this year, and will see them again a 4th time in a couple of weeks when they play with King's X.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 26 2008 at 12:46
Man i've got to get "Fly Paper" now. Didn't know Alex was on it,and Allanah has such a great voice too. I can't believe he called Finnforest in Minnesota a hermit.LOL Jim's gonna kill me for that. Anyway all these Toronto connections brings FATES WARNING to mind when they worked with Terry in T.O. I must say i'm a huge fan of "Presents Of Mind" and "Fence The Clear",but i guess i'm one of those who had trouble getting into "Window Dressing".
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 26 2008 at 23:17
Originally posted by sinkadotentree sinkadotentree wrote:

Man i've got to get "Fly Paper" now. Didn't know Alex was on it,and Allanah has such a great voice too. I can't believe he called Finnforest in Minnesota a hermit.LOL Jim's gonna kill me for that. Anyway all these Toronto connections brings FATES WARNING to mind when they worked with Terry in T.O. I must say i'm a huge fan of "Presents Of Mind" and "Fence The Clear",but i guess i'm one of those who had trouble getting into "Window Dressing".


I can't believe he said what he did about online reviewers.  Shut the site down Max, apparently if you don't review "for a living" you're not credible.  Kind of a slap to the many fine amateur reviewers here.  Confused

Also, as a Minnesotan and an aspiring hermit......where's this dude from....Michigan?  Pfffff.





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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2008 at 09:15
Unfortunately as i look around the web "Fly Paper" is getting the same kind of reviews as "Window Dressing" did,so he may be a little put off with reviewers which isn't really fair.I was happy to see Kim Mitchell plays some guitar on this one.Wish the reviews were better though.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2008 at 09:18
Well, for whatever it is worth Fly Paper is one of my favorite albums of the year.  I think that he described it well in the interview.  It is too progressive for non-prog fans, but not progressive enough for prog fans.  I find it to be a very good listen though.  I have yet to write a review on it yet though.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2008 at 11:08
Yes! Some positive feedback. Thanks rushfan4. To me it sounds like a great album when i read this interview,but the reviews i've seen rate it as a fairly average release. But like you say it maybe doesn't please the prog and non-prog fan totally,it's sort of in between. I did find one raving review though.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 27 2008 at 14:41
I met Jeff three years ago at Calprog 2005 and he is a classy gentleman who tells horrible jokes and stories that have no ending. LOL
 
He is very passionate and kind hearted as well.  Then Tiles drummer, Pat DeLeon, told me Jeff used to have hair down to the middle of his back and he cut it off and donated to children with cancer.  I enjoyed Tiles set that day but I don't care for the vocalist at all. I really feel he hurts them more than helps them.  Chris Heron, Jeff and Pat were absolute monster players but we were almost cringing when the singer opened his mouth.
I haven't heard the new one but I will pick it up just in fond remembrance of the time we spent with them.
 
 


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2008 at 14:39
Hi Everyone:
 
Thanks to Mike (King By-Tor) for transcribing Jeff's ramblings - I can't believe there are 2 more parts (well, actually..., yes I can).  It's a little known fact that we pay Jeff "by the word."  I'm just kidding of course... Jeff really wouldn't have to talk as much if the rest of us would talk more LOL.
 
Anyway, we mean no offense with the "amatuer" reviewer comment.  These kinds of reviews are really what makes the whole music environment fun.  Some of the most interesting, descriptive, and astute reviews come from people who dedicate their free time to writing about independent and underground music.  My / our issue is simply with the "cheap shot" or "vendetta" reviews (and of course every band in existence is in the same boat).  These people pollute the environment & prevent others from giving a CD a chance.  They offer no true criticism - only words like "suck," "lame," etc...  I guess they're looking for "control" or "power" since what purpose does this type of criticism really serve anyway?  It's just crapping on something & tearing people down.  I can just see these people at work or school being on the receiving end of their own kind of criticism.  I imagine they wouldn't like it... 
 
Most artists appreciate constructive criticism; it's how you learn and grow (hopefully). 
 
Anyway, I anxiously await the next installment... You have to feel sorry for King By-Tor though; that's a lot of typing!!
 
Chris     
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2008 at 14:44
The way Jeff said it I was thinking he meant Amazon-ers who give everything either a 5 or a 1. I wasn't offended anyways! I'm surprised no one has gotten offended over the fact that for the second time I called everyone in the progressive community crazy

Thanks for the understanding Chris, your bassist had me going for about an hour . I'm just looking for a clear day in my schedule to finish up transcribing the second tape.Hopefully early next week!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2008 at 15:33
 
 
 Listen, what Chris said is true. I really meant no disrespect to any one who is truly passionate about thier job/2nd job. (Remember TILES is our 2nd job) But, when you spend the amount of time and money on a project as we and many other bands do, it really blows when those cheap shot reviews come in and squash momentum. Of course, bands cannot respond to these reviews as you will only be "adding fuel to the fire." So, I guess a bit of my frustrations came out. They were not pointed at anyone in perticular, I was just rambling. So, if you were offended, obviously my comments were not meant for you because, only someone who was truly into thier job would even care about what I said to begin with.
I am sorry "Finnforest."
As far as the Minnesota comment, I just thinking of a town that has a football team that has won at least one game and meant nothing by it.
 
 
 
 
 


Edited by jeffrey1 - December 02 2008 at 15:35
All the best,
Jeff
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2008 at 16:09
Hi Chris and Jeff, Nice of you guys to drop by.  I have seen you guys live 3 times this year now, and I am really looking forward to the gig next week with King's X.  And don't worry, I might be deranged and I might be a stalker, but I am not a deranged stalker. Wink  Thank you for the tickets.  This show is going to be a blast. Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2008 at 23:05
Great of Chris and Jeff to drop into our crazy worldLOL. I have "Fly Paper" on order guys and i'm really looking forward to it.Hey with all the Canadians on it it has to be good!Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 16 2008 at 22:59
Originally posted by jeffrey1 jeffrey1 wrote:

 
 
 Listen, what Chris said is true. I really meant no disrespect to any one who is truly passionate about thier job/2nd job. (Remember TILES is our 2nd job) But, when you spend the amount of time and money on a project as we and many other bands do, it really blows when those cheap shot reviews come in and squash momentum. Of course, bands cannot respond to these reviews as you will only be "adding fuel to the fire." So, I guess a bit of my frustrations came out. They were not pointed at anyone in perticular, I was just rambling. So, if you were offended, obviously my comments were not meant for you because, only someone who was truly into thier job would even care about what I said to begin with.
I am sorry "Finnforest."
As far as the Minnesota comment, I just thinking of a town that has a football team that has won at least one game and meant nothing by it.
 
 
 
 
 


Hey Jeff....we emailed a while back, but sorry for not getting back to you here timely.  Thanks very much for taking the time and having the class to say what you did.  I know it must suck to get the occasional negative review on a site like this when you've worked so hard, but hopefully the buzz generated by the more positive reviews outweigh the others and have a net positive.  Take care and best of luck with the band.

As for the Minnesota thing.....how those Lions doin??Wink

-Jim
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