The Road To `Random Acts of Liberation’
23 years after the release of the debut album `Imbroccata’ , the progressive rock/metal band Dilemma recently marked its territory with the release of the long awaited follow up `Random Acts of Liberation’, an excellent and adventurous sounding album. Being under the radar for many years nobody really expected the band to make a serious comeback. But when Dilemma was asked to do a special one-off reunion gig in 2011, things started rolling again and that particular show sparked the band to start serious working on a new album. Although there were a few bumps on the road during that process, Dilemma kept moving forward to finish the writing and recording sessions. And they even got themselves on a European tour with the all star band Sons Of Apollo before the album was released. HeadBangers LifeStyle got in touch with drummer Collin Leijenaar and keyboard player Robin Z and asked a few questions about the road to `Random Acts of Liberation’.
The origin of Dilemma goes back to the mid 90s, what makes that Dilemma is still around in 2018?
C: ,,The debut album of Dilemma, `Imbroccata’, was released in 1995 through SI Music/RoadRunner Records. Right after the release of `Imbroccata’ the original drummer, Frank van Essen, started to play with Iona, so I replaced him, and Paul Crezee replaced original guitar player Toll. A year or two later bass player Case left the band and was replaced with current bass player Erik van der Vlis. So with exception to Dec, this line-up has been together since the late 90ties. In that period we worked on two new albums, but due to the bankruptcy of our label that music was never released. And then band members married and got children and got busy jobs. So basically life happened and slowly Dilemma faded away. But then in 2011 we got asked by the Dutch progressive rock magazine ‘IO Pages’ if we wanted to do a special one-off reunion concert on their annual music festival at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer (The Netherlands). Luckily everyone was into doing it. During the rehearsals we experienced that same Dilemma chemistry we felt all those years ago and a lot of musical ideas popped up, so we knew that there was still more music to be made together. We decided to revive the band and started writing new songs. But in the midst of recording a new album, our original singer decided to part ways with the band. We then decided to fully re-write the album and hold auditions for a new singer. That took a long time, we auditioned many singers and in the process re-wrote the songs a few times, ditched other songs, and wrote new ones.’’
Dec Burk [Frost/Audioplastic/Darwin’s Radio] replaced Danny Butler, the original singer, why is Dec the right guy for the job?
C: ,,When we started to look for a new singer, we knew he or she had to nail it on vocals but also had to be a great musician. It took us quite a few auditions without the right outcome, before I thought of calling my British friend and singer/guitar player Dec Burke, if he was interested in guesting on our album so at least we could finish the album, without any ideas on a future together. Dec immediately jumped on the invitation and came to The Netherlands to work on the album.’’
RZ: ,,Dec is the right guy for the job because of so many reasons. He digged the music and added his personal touch to it. He has a great voice and is a brilliant guitar player. He shares our love for proggy pop, rock and metal music. He tells bad jokes that are still funny. When Dec came over to our rehearsal studio for the first time, we felt like being a band together in less than an hour. During the recording process it felt like all pieces of the puzzle fell in the right place. And last but not least, we have loads of fun together. That was something the four of us had missed for a very long time.’’
Finally a new album! What has `Random Acts of Liberation’ to offer to the fans of melodic and progressive rock?
RZ: ,,Just like on our debut album, we like to cross the borders between melodic and progressive rock. We also like strong pop structures and melodies, but always combined with surprising twists and instrumental challenges. We believe that these choices define our sound and make us stand out between other progressive or melodic rock acts. This combined with a clear and layered production led to an album that is meant as ear candy for listeners that like to hear something else, without getting lost in freaky experiments. What we hope to offer with this album is what we hope to offer as a band: a distinctive and recognizable Dilemma sound.’’
Collin, you are not only the drummer of the band but you also produced the album. Wasn’t that a hell of a job, since Dilemma is not a simple 3-chord rock band?
C: ,,Yes it was, but also a fun job! Whatever music I make, in the end I always search for more than the obvious things. I like to experiment with different time signatures, chord progressions and sounds. Doing the same thing more than twice… well why should you? I mean twice is enough, let’s change it up the third time.’’
Which albums, bands or/and producers, are of any inspiration or even a blue print for you as a producer?
C: ,,Many albums where an inspiration but throughout the period we worked on ‘Random Acts Of Liberation’ a few stand out like The Intersphere – ‘Hold On Liberty!’ and two albums by Carpark North: ‘Lost’ and ‘All Things To All People’. But also so many other tracks or albums from artists all around. I like music that is not one dimensional, but has multiple layers, where some parts or melodies are almost inaudible, but adding something substantial to the whole. Every time you listen you can focus on a different part, or suddenly a little effect of melody stands out that you have not heard the first time you heard the song. I like music that grows on you. A voyage of discovery within the music. Of course the first time people hear our songs, they need to catch them by the balls, but after that the songs need to keep growing on them. And I’m also into EDM: Deep House, Progressive House and Trance. That’s also a big inspiration for me. But even the day-to-day sounds that you hear when cycling through the city, walking in the woods or when swimming in the sea inspire me. And when they do, I like to record them with my phone. Throughout the album there are multiple ‘urban recordings’ used I recorded during trips, vacations or tours. I love to create new sounds with odd recordings. And maybe the biggest inspiration is silence. The absence of sound. In these days it is very hard to be in a place and hear nothing. We surround ourselves with constant sound. Whenever I am in a place of almost silence I need to take it in. It can be a forest on a quiet Sunday afternoon, or even a few minutes before the next take in a very well insulated recording studio. Sometimes I really look for those moments. Being in total silence will at first shoot up loads of thoughts and to-do lists to nearly an overwhelm, but when you work through it and keep pressing into this meditative state, an inner peace emerges, that brings rest, peace and a lot of inspiration. Love it!’’
Why is the album mixed and mastered in America by Rich Mouser? And did his `fresh’ look on the album have any influence on the end result?
C: ,,First of all, being an almost 100% Dutch band, I knew the main important thing was to NOT sound Dutch. I really wanted to have an international sound and feel. We are all-in with Dilemma, so we wanted to bring out everything that was needed to achieve the best results. I knew Rich from my time with Neal Morse and we became friends. He was the live mixer for a Neal Morse European tour and he mixed the album of my other band Affector. He is a real sound genius and I felt that he would be the right person to mix and master the Dilemma album. We all cleared out our savings account, bought plane tickets and flew to LA to work on the mix. We where staying at Rich’s studio, we where 24-7 in the studio working on the album. A magical time. Not only musically, but also to reconnect with the guys, and deepen our friendship. We gave Rich a sort of carte blanch. What ever he felt doing we would try out. In the end we re-recorded a bunch of parts, added more layers of parts, effects and Rich also played additional guitars on the album. So yes, Rich is an important influence on the album. As a producer you sometimes have something in your head, and it is great that somebody can create that sound exactly. Rich is of the analogue stamp, so the whole record is mixed on his beautiful analogue mixing desk, and mastered on 2” tape.’’
The competition in the prog rock scene is big, how did you make sure Dilemma stands out with the new CD?
C: ,,Well, the music had to be good. We knew that our songs where good, so we really went in deep. We took all the time we needed, but also really invested a lot of our money and resources into making this album be great. Not being content too soon, just go deeper. We re-recorded this album a few times, kept re-writing the songs until they really felt good. No album fillers, but each song should stand out on it’s own. But then the music needs to be heard. I look at Dilemma not only as a band of friends, but also as a product that needs to be sold. So there is a lot of marketing to do. And in these days that is something not only for the record label, but as a band you really need to invest time and resources into marketing, both online and offline. Just making this album is no guarantee that people will actually listen to the music. We really work on that. People will first need to get to know you before they get to like you, and then trust you before they might buy your music. Of course the music itself needs to be good, that’s the core, but if you don’t have ‘systems’ in place that reaches the right crowd that get’s them to listen to your music, no one will hear it. It can be Instagram or Facebook ads, press, reviews, recommendations etc., you can get really creative with this. For us it was great that I could ask a lot of my music contacts like Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Bill Evans and Arjen Lucassen to listen to the album and give a recommendation. I mean, having celebrities positively promote the album will raise a few eyebrows and will people take interest in the music. That was step one for us. Getting those recommendations. And then we red Mike Portnoy’s raving review of our album, that it’s one of his favourite albums of 2018! That was so awesome! Then Mike even invited us to go on tour with him during the second European leg of the Sons Of Apollo tour! Awesome! And that helped us with our next step as well, ‘cause you really need to tour if you want to get your music heard. It’s one thing to have a good album, but you need to win the audience over in a live setting as well. And looking at the responses during the tour, we did that.’’
How do you look back on the tour with Sons Of Apollo and is it a significant milestone for the band?
C: ,,Yes, that was a major milestone for us. Eleven shows in six countries in about two weeks. It was the first big tour with this line-up with a nightliner tour bus and our own crew. It’s really addictive [smiling]. It was an amazing experience. It was such an honor to be asked by Mike Portnoy to join this tour. But then you have to make it happen. And how awesome it is when in the middle of the tour you hear Mike say on his Instagram, “These guys are kicking ass every night”! But it was hard work to get there, as the tour happened before the release of the album so no one in the audience knew our music. The audience did not come for us, did not know us and in certain venues they did not even know there was a support act, so every night we had to really start from zero and build-up the audience to like our music and performance. And luckily with great success. We got so many awesome responses from the people attending the shows. It really helped building the name and anticipation for the upcoming release.’’
What is next?
C: ,,Currently we are busy with everything around the release of the album: interviews, promo, ads etc. And we are booking new shows. We are talking to a few bands to see if we can open for them on their coming tours and are working on getting shows on festivals. And also we are slowly started writing new songs for a new album. Still in very early stages, but with this chemistry we have amongst each other, our third album will be here sooner than it took us to come up with album two. [Smiling]
Follow Dilemma on Facebook and visit the website here.
Read the review of `Random Acts of Liberation’ here
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