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Topic: Roswell Six
Posted: September 21 2010 at 12:05
Roswell Six is a US based project organized by Shawn Gordon from Progrock Records, combining the creative skills of writer Kevin J. Anderson and composer/keyboardist Erik Norlander to create a novel approach to the art of concept albums: To base a concept album on the book of an acclaimed author and to let same author actively contribute in the production of the music based on his novel. Rounding up the core members of the project is Andersons wife Rebecca Moesta, contributing her writing skills as an acclaimed author; Norlander's wife Lana Lane and bassist Kurt Barabas (Amaran's Plight).
The end result is a lavish production with a number of well known guest stars; with a book tie-in that one might assume author and musicians alike hope will lead to synergetic effects in terms of sales for both. As the book in question is the first in a planned trilogy; expect additional releases from this project if the first one proves to be a success.
I therefore sent Roswell Six an interview sheet through Shawn at ProgRock Records and they returned the answers.
Your biography has been covered in your ProgArchives profile. A biography that leads me to the first questions in this interview. Why did you choose the Roswell Six name ?
This was one of those things that just sort of happens.Kevin had just taken a trip to Roswell New Mexico and had sent us a funny picture of him, Rebecca and a photoshopped alien. Erik was just putting together some demos and needed a name to use and there were 6 of us at the start of the project so he used Roswell Six which ultimately ended up being the name of the project later as we were use to it. There was some discussion of using "The Roswell Six" or just "Roswell Six", but obviously we settled on the latter.
Roswell Six is a synergy between the art of sound (music) and the art of literature. In practical terms, how does this synergy work in practical terms ?
In the case of the first album and book, we took a story thread from the book and expanded on it for the album, so while the story stands on its own, if you've read the book it delves more deeply in to the main couples relationship. In the 2nd novel and album, we've been a bit less specific and we're dealing with different characters in different situations more, as opposed to a literal time-line. What's fun though is if you've been paying attention to the lyrics and then you're reading the book, you'll notice lines pop up in the book that were used as lyrics. Both music and literature engage the imagination, but they do it differently, so this engages you in a more complete fashion.
Which books has the two Roswell Six albums been tied into ?
The first book is "Terra Incognita: The Edge of The World" and the second book is "Terra Incognita: The Map of All Things"
The list of involved musicians, authors and label managers is pretty long (see the Myspace page). How is the selection process here ?
Part of it is a master plan and part of it 'just happens'. When we first started we had 2 groups of people to identify, one was the vocalists, the other was the players. We started with a 'wish list' of vocalists then figured out what characters the album would need and then approached the ones that fit the characters, not everyone said yes and even of ones that said yes, some actually didn't work out once we got their voice on tape with the music, so there were some last minute changes in some cases. For the players, on the first album, there were several composers that were considered and ultimately Erik Norlander was chosen and the musicians were selected out of the stable of people that both Erik and Shawn had worked with, but we ran in to that issue of peoples schedules and ultimately it ended up being all musicians out of Shawns stable. Henning Pauly was one of the people considered for the first album but given the tone and his schedule it was felt that Erik would bring the closer sound to what we were going for.
When the second book was done and the second album being thought about, we realized that this was going to be heavier as we're dealing with war and armies and not two separated lovers, so Henning really excels at that big, bombastic, heavy kind of music. Since Henning is such a high level multi- instrumentalist, it didn't really make sense to have someone else play the same part that he just played, so he did all the music and we ended up having more guest vocalists this time instead of guest musicians.
Over to your first albums. Please tell us more about your first album Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon from last year.
There are multiple story threads in the book so we decided to take the story of Criston and Adrea and focus in on it and their separation and the adventure that Criston goes on. There are 2 songs that are kind of similar, Letters in a Bottle and Merciful Tides where the couple have written letters to each other, so one is sung by Michael Sadler and the other by Lana Lane. This gives you a sense of the sense of longing between the couple. We also express the sinking of Cristons ship as an instrumental, we thought it would be kind of silly and difficult to write lyrics about a sea monster sinking a ship, so we expressed it through music. The booklet has connective text before each set of lyrics so you're getting an actual story along with the lyrics.
Please tell us more about your second album Terra Incognita: A Line in The Sand from this year.
This album is less time line story oriented and focuses in on various events that aren't necessarily chronological other than the first and last songs. Each song of course has a story and characters, sometimes we're with the soldiers, other times with the Queen or the Soldan- Shah. This time the big epic instrumental is to portray the actual battle, and like the first album, writing lyrics about swords and killing people can be rather cumbersome, so we did it all through music and I think once again we got the mood of it without using words. Musically we're using some ethnic instrumentation in addition to the orchestration and heavy guitars and a lot more percussion types of things, which we didn't use on the first album.
Roswell Six will release some more similar albums. Has the work on the third album started and if yes; how is the work going ?
We do intend to do more albums however we haven't decided yet if we'll do the 3rd album simply because everyones schedules are so tight, but we'll decide for sure this month some time. If we don't do this one, then we'll likely do a more scifi oriented one with a later book.
How is your creative process from coming up with a theme/riff/idea to you get it down onto an album ?
First we come up with the overall story we want to tell. Then we break it down in to the song themes that will tell that story. Once we have those themes, that will dictate the mood of the music for the most part and we write the lyrics that the music is then written to.
During that process there will be some tweaks to the lyrics to make them flow better or more singable. Writing lyrics is a fair bit different than writing a book.
Just to give those of us who are unknown with your music a bit of a reference point or two: How would you describe your music ?
The first album is rather in the vein of 70's symphonic prog, lots of keyboards and some classic synth sounds with great melodies and vocals, we've literally seen people brought to tears on Sadlers performance of "Letters in a Bottle" which has beautiful acoustic guitar work by Chris Brown and a touching violin line from David Ragsdale.
For the second album, Henning went for a much more modern approach, there are no keyboards on the album, it is all orchestration and guitars. Because Kevin is such a big Rush fan, each album has a song that is kind of a nod to Rush. Everyone got the one on the first album, but we've been surprised that no one seems to get the one on the second album. I'll break the suspense and tell you it is "Whirlwind" which to me sounds like a lost Rush song.
What has been the reactions so far to this innovative and hopefully very successful adventure ?
Overall the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, the bad reviews seem more to have an ax to grind than valid criticism. Bad reviews are fine, but to just say you don't like the vocals doesn't really explain what it is you don't like. Are they out of tune? Are they too loud/soft? You see what I mean. That has happened in the prog community, but in the scifi/fantasy world, it's just been over the top good with a lot of interest and coverage in magazines, fanzines, blogs and such around the world and we've opened a lot of people to things they weren't aware of. Financially, you'll never get rich doing prog, but it has met our expectations.
If this goes well, do you see a synergy between a record + another artistic product as the way forward for today's rather bewildered music industry ?
Part of what inspired this whole process was when Kevin and Shawn noticed how much overlap there was between progressive music and scifi/fantasy literature. Of course this isn't a surprise to anyone that are fans of the prog genre, but there are a large number of scifi/fantasy fans that are oblivious to the vibrant prog community and all the fresh music. The first meeting between Kevin and Shawn a few years ago opened up a whole new world of music for Kevin, and we're finding a lot of scifi/fantasy fans have been excited about the artists these albums exposed them to.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview ?
If you haven't tried out the albums or books yet, give them a shot, you can hear full songs from both albums at www.myspace.com/roswellsix and see what you think. The books will keep you busy for a while, and if you pay attention you'll find lines from the lyrics used in the book as well.
Thanks for taking the time to interview us.
Thank you to Roswell Six for this interview
The books and the author's Kevin J. Andersson's homepage is
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