Eric Blackwood and Pete Trewavas of Marillion and Transatlantic fame joined the forces together back in 2011 for a music adventure that would explore the creativity of the two of them. But as they say, the actual reason for their teaming up together was just a lame excuse for hanging out and goofing about, while spending time in luxury locations.
Although with all that (un)seriousness, Edison’s Children went forward and recorded two studio albums: 2011′s In the Last Waking Moments and last year’s The Final Breath Before November, two albums that are concept based.
Prog Sphere has recently talked with Eric and Pete about working together, inspiration, progressive rock today, among many other things.
Have you managed to make any new discoveries in terms of songwriting on the latest album?
Pete Trewavas: The short answer is yes. Every song is unique so in that respect each song or idea a new discovery.
In a broader and much more interesting realisation, Eric and I have really grown as a writing partnership to the point that, when ever we have any time to just play guitar together and kick back and explore ideas, no shortage of music pours out. This can be frustrating as we end up with too many ideas to work with at any one time. Not a bad problem to have really?
Eric Blackwood: And I think we’re just getting started. We haven’t even really begun to explore how far we can take. We have so many songs on the drawing board that needed tweaking and finishing, we haven’t had nearly enough time to just sit around and write for the pure sake of it. I think that time will come over the next two albums.
What evolution do you feel The Final Breath Before November represents comparing to In the Last Waking Moments…?
PT: I think this is a more mature album than the first as well as being a more complete body of work musically and lyrically. With “Last Waking Moments” we were not as sure which direction the music should necessarily take and we’re probably guilty of trying to show too much of what we can do. This album was more restrained in that respect with us keeping to the songs and musical passages the complement each other.
EB: I think the string arrangements and the arranging in general has matured as well. There was certainly more focus here and I think that while we were quite happy with the 1st album, TFFBN made us realize that Edison’s Children has the capacity to really become something.
PT: As I briefly mentioned earlier we have a great chemistry while working and writing together which is probably the part we both enjoy most. Exploring ideas and bouncing pieces of music off each other. A good example of that would be “The Morphlux.”
However along side this we both write for Edison’s Children individually as we spend most of our time on opposite sides of the Atlantic. “The Longing” for example is one of my favourite songs, which was penned by Eric and I wrote “Where Were You?” We collaborate on each others songs when together sometimes writing extra sections or orchestrating and enhancing each other’s work. It’s a very flexible and fluid partnership that we have forged thus far.
EB: When we’re not tweaking and editing, both of us will pick up a guitar and start messing around and coming up with bits. Sometimes one of us will hear something and say… hey play that again, Pete or I will grab a mobile recorder and we’ll capture the lick or bit or sound. Sometimes it happens right away like A Million Miles Away, where we had that little bluesy guitar lick in the morning and we had the entire song finished by dinner time. Other times, we’ll save it for a rainy day like “Silence Can Be Deafening”… the 1st section of Silhouette… which we began on Pete’s first sessions with in the U.S. 3 years ago, but didn’t make its debut until the second album.
The album features a 67-minute long epic Silhouette which is divided in 13 suites. Give me a snapshot of the topics you explore within it and on The Final Breath Before November?
EB: The whole album is a haunting one (and a true one…) about a spirit who ended his life too early and is now captured in this sort of in-between of life and after-life… forced to look at what he could of done with his life but gave up too soon. The “ghost” can only look upon the world he should be a part of and see it all happening around him but not be able to experience any of it (as you hear him hauntingly singing it’s my head…) or control it in any way. A lot of it has to do with not taking advantage of what’s given to you. Life … making the most of it… not letting the little things that you have to do, keep you from doing the big things that make your life complete and special. This guy is lost forever but we still have choices. Sometimes even if we think it’s the wrong one, we need to seize a spontaneous moment to make your life something that you can look back on and say… hey at least I did it… whether it be persuing that girl or guy that you like and letting them know your interests… or jumping out of plane… or traveling halfway around the world to see a concert… or dining in a restaurant that may be a bit beyond your means. Whatever it is. I’m not necessarily saying be irresponsible but I am saying don’t be so responsible that you miss out on the things that could have made your life something special.
Did your writing approach for The Final Breath Before November change drastically compared with 2011′s In the Last Waking Moments…?
PT: Essentially, no. From my point of view I am a very of the moment kind of writer and musician as well I think.
I things when an idea pops into my head that I can’t ignore or in the case of one of Eric’s ideas, if something is presented to me the first idea I have is the one I like to use as a way forward and is usually the strongest or correct approach. I don’t like to spend too long analysing what could be one of several different ways to play a song, until we are at the arranging stage or even just looking for those elusive moments that tie albums or bodies of work together. That is the time after weeks and sometimes months of work realising ideas in to fully arranged and recorded songs when I love to take a few themes and embellish them or re-arrange them for new sections.
EB: I think perhaps if there was any change, it was just to be more focused on where the story was going and make sure the album flowed in a way to keep you “in the journey” from beginning to end.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when writing TFBBN?
PT: The biggest challenges we have and will always have is time and distance from each other.
As I said we work best and fastest when in the same room. And while we can and do work remotely via Skype, DropBox, etc etc, it is a much slower process and not as interactive.
The other major challenge is again related to time and that is simply to of us working to write arrange and record all the parts for an album takes a lot of time. You can liken this to the difference between making a feature film and making a feature length cartoon.
We have to write every part and record every note of everything. This does give us absolute control which I think we both enjoy, but is frustrating from a time point of view.
How does the album name effect the showcased material? What does it represent?
EB: Think about it. The Final Breath BEFORE November… is the very last seconds of Halloween, when the evils have reached their tempest. This album is about a real haunted spirit which is a very long story but I really did encounter and this spirit was not a nice one. It was a very disturbed and darkened one and to be honest… when I see all these ghost hunters and chasers on TV I wonder whether they’ve actually met one, because of they did… they wouldn’t want to meet another. This was a truly tortured soul who had no hope and no chance of redemption (or at least didn’t think so). “The Morphlux” and “What Did You Want?” really delve into the sadistic “things” that are torturing this spirit by those who are thriving in the final breaths before November hits midnight. This spirit has also come to the realization that he is no longer able to feel the things he loves any longer. He can just lament the fact that he has to be a spectator to the world that he wants so badly to interact with again but never ever can.
You grab inspiration from many distinctive aspects of music. How do you go about channeling this inspiration into writing?
PT: This seems to naturally happen. We both have a love and enthusiasm for lots of styles and kinds of music so we cover lots of bases but over the time we have been working together we have found quite a lot of common ground.
EB: Yeah I think what this album represents is a look at many forms of music. Though it will be labeled as “Prog”… there are elements of Classical Music, Harder Alternative, Middle-Eastern sounds, Pink Floyd like tapestries, Softer Rock… there’s so many things going on yet seem to all work seemlessly together.
Provide some insight into your chemistry that leads to what is to be a final product – an album?
EB: I think we just get along so well that when we start to write together we feed off each other. Partially because we come from different lands so to speak and we can appreciate the differences and also because we have so much in common musically. As soon as we tap into the chemistry between us, the magic happens.
What kind of gear you used for recording your albums?
PT: We based ourselves initially on Cubase software (though mixdown is usually on Pro-Tools) VST instruments, Mostly VG 99 Guitar Synths via a couple of Godin guitars. We used a Golden Age Pre 73 preamp for vocals and Bass. Bass Gtr wise, I used Warwick Thumb basses a Court G4 bass and an old Squire jazz bass.
EB: MXL microphones, but most of the instrumentation whether Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic and all of the other unique instrumentation was though the Roland VG-99/Godin Guitar system.
With a band like Edison’s Children, are there any limitations to how far your sound can stray from the sound you established or traced with your music?
EB: I don’t think we put limitations on anything because no matter how far we stray, it always seems to sound like “Edison’s Children”. I think we have a sound together that is inate between the two of us, and whether it’s hard, soft… weird… whatever, it still seems to sound like us.
How do you know when a piece is complete?
PT: Music is never really finished in the writers or composers mind. It gets released because of deadlines and schedules but you always tinker with your music whenever you play it.
From the listeners point of view the recorded version, usually the first… is the definitive version.
However with re-masters and re-mixes, even this definition is becoming a grey area.
EB: When it gets to be 67 minutes long.
What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?
EB: Pete likes to run every morning… several miles in fact. He finds it very inspiring and much of the album are things that is written in his head while is running. He’ll come back with a great idea and grab a guitar and put it down on tape. I work a lot in the movie business as a Special FX/prop guy. I do on scene stuff with the actors (not Visual effects in some back room) so I’m on movie sets experiencing the insanity of Hollywood all the time. The music does I think tend to sound like a soundtrack to a movie but with words and “musical visuals” to make you feel like you are being taken somewhere for 80 minutes of your life. That’s why we recommend if you listen to this… don’t put it on your computer stereo while you’re at work and think the 1st few times around that you’ve heard the album. Maybe you have, but haven’t “HEARD” it. You need a good set of headphones and an un-interrupted hour and a half with dimly lit lights or candles and let us take you where this is meant to go. Or take a car trip, somewhere where you’ll just be driving amongst some beautiful scenery and let us infect you. We’ve gotten so few negative comments but the few that have been received, when you read them, you can tell this person hasn’t really experienced it. They just put it on in between several other albums probably on shuffle and it made no sense. However if you give our music its proper due, you’ll understand why there are so many “Children of Edison” all of a sudden and why hundreds are saying that it is in their top 10 albums ever.
The soundtrack of the award-winning film DeStressed, directed by Garry Pastore and Fokke Baarssen, features music by Edison’s Children, Marillion and Eddie Testa. How did it come to this collaboration?
EB: Garry is actually my brother. He has always followed my musical career but I think he was impressed very deeply by the music that Pete and I have come up with. I’ve done soundtracks in the past for Growing Down in Brooklyn and documentaries and they’ve gone very well. Garry felt that the music that Pete and I would write for the film would take his project to another level and I think together we’ve all done something very special.
Your music indeed feels as a great match for a movie soundtrack. Do you often feel that visual side of your music? Especially when writing a new piece.
PT: We write in a wide-screen kind of way and talk about music using visual descriptions and references. Also the length and arrangement ideas we like to apply to our music tends to favour the feel of film music. I like to think people could listen to this album in the dark and run their own images through their mind from star to finish.
Sadly I’m not sure how many people have that kind of time in their lives these days.
You performed live. What is the response of the audiences on your music?
PT: The shows I have been involved in were in Montreal around the time of the last Marillion convention, as well as together opening up for Brave where we performed a few songs in Holland, Montreal and England. As you would probably imagine we had a very favourable response. We are lucky in respect of the fact that we had an audience that were prepared to listen and take a chance on us. That was a great start for the us as a band and also the first album. However from now on we are in the situation of keeping up the high standard set by the first album and keeping our musical integrity in place. I think the second album is moving us in this direction and am extremely happy with the way things are going.
Are you working on any new Edison’s Children material at the moment? How do you see your music evolving in the future?
PT: Funnily enough we are working on a few and ideas songs to go along with a single release we are looking in to release in a few weeks.
As far as the future. We do have songs and ideas that are earmarked for the next album. However that is a fair way off at the moment but have have a plan in place and a good idea of the musical direction we see that album taking.
EB: The single Light Years will have enough new material and album mixes from Jakko Jakszyk (current lead singer of King Crimson and lead singer for some of Steve Hackett’s recent material) that no one has heard yet that it will almost seem like a new album. Should be exciting for the fans when that comes out.
What is your view on today’s progressive rock scene? Are there any modern progressive bands that you listen to?
EB: There are a few bands out there who have caught my attention lately. Iluvatar is coming out with a new album and we love them. Riverside is quite a terrific band and I love a lot of the darker side of Lunatic Soul. DeeExpus and Pete Harwood’s and Marc Atkinson’s Riversea are really quite awesome. I’m just getting into Freedom to Glide… um Gazpacho, Anathema, I like a lot of Colin Tench’s projects. Lifesigns with John Young and Robin Boult, Artemia, Formativ, Shadow Merchant, Murky Red… Rocket Moth, John Wesley and Steve Rothery all have new albums that either just came out or are coming out. Lots of great new music out there…