MusicDish e-Journal - January 26, 2020
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Rockenfield/Speer e-interview
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
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Well, progressive music finally gets a little more clout. What happens when you mix Scott Rockenfield (Queensryche drummer) up with Paul Speer (famed composer/producer), and add a lot of studio time? It just could be an instrumental album of the first order. Luckily I caught up with them in this vast, electronic universe of ours, and they wisely conversed a little... (

[Ben Ohmart] Okay. 'Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America.' So says the CD booklet. But where is it, and what's your relation to it?

[Paul Speer] It is located in central Idaho on the border between Idaho and Oregon. I grew up near there and spent a lot of time on the Snake River.

[Ben] I commented in my review that tracks like 'Seven Devils' and 'Chant of the Fathers' remind me incredibly of Dawn of the Dead, and a few other horror soundtracks. If you could distance yourself from the music a moment, what would you say the CD said to you?

[Scott Rockenfield] Well, Paul and I are both fans of "dark and moody" music. It says Hells Canyon, Hells Canyon, Hells Canyon. Maybe we will get the opportunity to score the music for a horror or sci-fi film someday as that is something we would like to do.

[Ben] Speaking of instrumental music, since there is so much of it around (games, movies, TV, plain ol' CD's, etc), is there a time to use it to underscore, and a time when it should stay on its own? For instance, why did Hells Canyon need to be a CD and not a Charmed episode?

[Paul] We are recording artists and instrumental music is what we do. Most of Hells Canyon wouldn't be appropriate as a soundtrack as it is too aggressive musically to work under dialog.

[Scott] However, we feel that we can do a very good job at tailoring our music to fit with the right images. The video album TeleVoid is a good example.

[Ben] Musically, what are the influences at work here? Who are you pulling from; who are pushing against?

[Paul] We like musical hooks and cool grooves. Many styles and artists influence us but our primary goal is to sound like us and no one else. Something we don't want to do is make music that doesn't set us apart from other artists doing similar music.

[Scott] Ditto.

[Ben] Would you call this a progressive rock album? Prog seems to be left out of the Billboard charts a lot. The occasional instrumental creeps in, but for the most part Can you see HC making it to the charts, or is this more for the fans and your own inner musical expression?

[Paul] We feel progressive rock best describes the style. Prog is somewhat "under the radar" so it is unlikely Hells Canyon would ever chart.

[Scott] When Paul and I first met we realized that we had similar musical interests, which was to express from within. To do as we felt would please us. We create what we like to listen to.

[Ben] Did you both huddle together for all of the 11 songs here, or did one of you bring in something specific, which was then layered by the other, and on and on? Tell me about the artistic muscle involved.

[Paul] We do most of the writing together but often start with an idea that one of us comes up with.

[Scott] Yeah, we both work very well with reading each other to be able to take one of our ideas to the end. It's a beautiful relationship.

[Ben] I noticed on your electric website that you're giving away an mp3 download of the month. At this time, it's 8th track, 'River of No Return'. I'm just curious what you both think of mp3s. And can you tell if the free downloads are helping to spread the word?

[Paul] I don't have strong opinion of MP3's though they seem to be good for independent artists and bad for the big labels. I think there are a hassle to deal with, all the time it takes to download and dealing with getting files into a player. I know people are downloading from our site but I don't know how much it helps sales.

[Scott] MP3? Isn't that one of the characters from Star Wars??? (ha ha)

[Ben] There are a few sentences or a paragraph on each instrumental on the CD. JUST enough to give the listener's eye a prod toward what's going on in the track. But: is there any other info you can give out about the stories to the songs? Failing that, how about a good session story!

[Paul] All of my previous albums are instrumental and I find that working with a concept that creates a visual image is good so the listener has some kind of foundation.

[Scott] Paul had a very good idea in the beginning about the concept for this record. I found it to be very inspirational to write music for.

[Ben] Are you going to be touring this set live? Where and when? If so, will it be all instrumental? How do the audiences take to that?

[Paul] We are planning to put together a live act and perform material from Hells Canyon and our previous album, TeleVoid. There are some vocals and they would be on tape.

[Scott] We'll probably test the waters with some gigs in the Seattle area. Only time will tell how the audience will react.

[Ben] One of my favorite tracks is 'Red Torrent'. There's something about it that conjures up pictures and feelings of Halloween (the holiday) to me. What would you like the fans to get out of this disc? And what should they be doing while it plays? Ironing? Making love? Shooting corpses in the head? What?

[Paul] I enjoy making music that works well while driving. Though some people have said they like listening while they work as it creates an energetic mood without demanding attention.

[Scott] I have always felt that "LOVE" makes the world go 'round, but I will leave the interpretation to the individual listener.

[Ben] Anything you'd like to say before you go back to the Canyon? Thanks again for the e-talk.

[Paul] Ben, we really appreciate your interest in our work and giving it some exposure.

[Scott] Much obliged!!!! Peace......

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Rockenfield/Speer - Hells Canyon - Rainstorm Records (2000-10-17)

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