DEDE BOOTH: Adaptation and Acceptance

Dede Booth

Boston-based prog rock multi-instrumentalist Dede Booth has recently returned with the release of a new studio album entitled ‘The Expansion Effect.’ In an interview for Prog Sphere, Dede speaks about the release, its message, and more.

Define the mission of your project.

“The Expansion Effect” is like the Big Bang for humanity. It aims to connect to our introspective darkness in order to embrace the light that emits from that darkness; both in and around us.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming album “The Expansion Effect,” and the themes it covers.

The overall theme of the album is about adaptation and acceptance; how we can make room for difficult experiences in order to have more space for the things in life that are meaningful to us. In my process of wanting to dive into these themes, I first started thinking about all the ways we can create expansion in our lives, both literally and metaphorically. Some of these aspects of expansion explore the acceptance of uncertainty, leaning into the existential dread within the human condition and accepting that condition as a necessity for finding our own sense of “light”, expanding beyond the day-to-day grind of everyday life and appreciating the “smallness” of ourselves within the universe, and expanding our methods of communication as we discover more and more ways to connect.

The Expansion Effect

What is the message of “The Expansion Effect”?

The concept for “The Expansion Effect” came to me while I was wrapping up my last album “This Strange Confinement”. That album dove pretty deep into the dark side of the human condition. It was an emotionally heavy album to say the least and I wanted my next album to be more about how we as humans adapt to our conditions and learn how to accept what’s in and around us. Expansion is a process of making room and allowing space to be present. While the record itself is more of a selection of songs than a true concept album, I wanted it to explore a variety of ways in which we practice expansion.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

The blueprint of each song is more muscle memory than anything else. I write my lyrics while I’m coming up with each songs’ progressions and chord structures so the lyrics on the page seem to be enough for me to remember the overall layout of a song. When I’m writing in all the other parts in the studio I’ll make note of tempo/time changes and chord structures, but beyond that I don’t notate my music. I work in Cubase and instead of saving each session as a demo, I’ll write over them and mix and produce as I go until a rough draft feels final to me.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Very much so. I grew up listening to albums that sound best when listened to from start to finish. So even when I’m not writing a concept album I want my album to have the same flow as one. I want there to be the feel of a story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. In the case of “The Expansion Effect” the album starts reflective and slightly melancholic and as the album progresses and each song conveys how we learn to adapt and accept our experiences, by the end of the record we’ve reached a place of optimism.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Once the ideas for this album came to me then I began writing the blueprint. I always start on acoustic guitar, just trying to come up with chord progressions and vocal melodies at the same time. Once I have a progression and lyrics down and I feel as if I’ve gotten all the tracks I need to make a cohesive record then I go into the studio and start writing and arranging and bringing in the progressive elements that I love so much in music. So a bunch of parts end up becoming electric guitar or synth parts and I’ll work that out, then I’ll write and record drum parts, and then lastly I’ll track vocals.

How long “The Expansion Effect” was in the making?

It took me about 4 months at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 to write the blueprint. Then I put it down for a month or so in order to get a “fresh set of ears” before heading into the studio and arranging it the way I wanted it to sound. Coincidentally back in March I was planning to begin recording the album which was the start of lockdown, so the timing worked out pretty well. I spent 6 months tracking and mixing everything and then another 4 months in post-production.

DB

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the album?

I’m mainly influenced by progrock. I grew up being inspired by Dream Theater, Marillion, IQ, and Spock’s Beard, and then over the years Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson, Riverside, Anathema, and Ulver really became a big influence on me. But I’ve got a metal side to me as well which is usually what influences my lyrics. I love what bands like Enslaved and Oceans of Slumber are doing. And in the past year, I’ve been reconnecting to the roots of prog, namely King Crimson, early Genesis and Yes, and Gentle Giant, and I finally had time to discover bands like Arena and Saga as well as newer bands like Magic Pie. I’ve also gotten into post rock bands like Mogwai, Caspian, and God is an Astronaut. I love stuff that sounds cinematic, so those elements tend to find their way into my music as well.

What is your view on technology in music?

My views are probably somewhere in the middle with the technology debate. I’m still a person who mainly listens to music on CD or vinyl and continues to enjoy discovering bands by reading magazines and following labels. But I get the importance of technology and think it’s really cool how anyone can put their music out there and just sees what happens. Artists aren’t exactly dependent on labels or management companies anymore, but at the same time the internet is over-saturated with artists. So while someone like me can self-release music, the chances of reaching lots of people are still slim because so many people are taking the same approach as me. I think it comes down to just using what works for you, and it’s great that there are different options to choose from.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

At the risk of sounding cocky, I do. Music is my vessel but really what I’m trying to accomplish is externalizing thoughts, feelings, philosophies that are going on in my mind and putting them into some sort of creative product with the hope that other people can relate to the material in some way. Making music is both a creative outlet and a therapeutic outlet for me. I also see it as a language that I’ve been learning to speak for almost as long as I’ve been able to talk. In a lot of ways music is a language I’m more comfortable using to express myself than the spoken word so I think overall its purpose for me is to express things that are hard for me to talk about.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m quite comfortable and pleased with the pace I’m going at and am already working on the content and storyline for the next album which is intended to be a true to form concept album. I have a tentative plan to get into the studio to start recording in late summer/early fall of this year, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve got some music videos coming out for “The Expansion Effect” and some other ways to promote the album like streamed performances and stuff like that, so I don’t want to jump into the next project too quickly. There’s definitely more music and heavy themes to explore!

The Expansion Effect is available from Bandcamp here.

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