Delivering the full experience!
With their sixth studio release ‘Pretending 2 Run’ Detroit, Michigan based quartet Tiles delivered a real masterpiece extraordinaire. It took a bit of patience for the fans, their last studio-CD ‘Fly Paper’ was released in 2008, but it was worth the wait. The 2-CD clocks a hefty 96 minutes and it takes a bit of time and effort from the listener to understand what this record is all about. It is a musical journey where the mood changes quite a lot. There are short tracks, instrumental pieces, a great choir performance, many guest spots (including Mike and Max Portnoy on drums, guitarist Kim Mitchell and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, just to name a few) and impressive epic songs. It is a real musical adventure that has taken the band years to write and record. Guitarist Chris Herin (the other band members are singer Paul Rarick, drummer Mark Evans and bass player Jeff Whittle) talks with your favourite web magazine about the birth of ‘Pretending 2 Run’ and also looks back on the past. And he makes a promise as well…
Photo by Paul Dzendzel
I remember your first release in 1994 on a small German label called Dream Circle. How do you look back at the beginning of Tiles in those days?
,,We certainly appreciated that label for putting us on the map. They picked up our first album that we released by ourselves here in the US. It was a license deal with that label and they managed to do a distribution deal with Polydor. But I think the label got into some difficulty and we managed to get a deal with Inside Out, who at that time was also starting out. Our second album ‘Fence The Clear’ was the 14th release on that label. The label has done a lot for the progressive rock movement. Guys like Neal Morse and bands like Spock’s Beard were able to make a career for themselves. Our first years were good. We had some great songs that still hold up. I still listen to our old albums. The only thing I want to criticise is that maybe our lyrics were sometimes not up to scratch. It was fun. We were able to release records, every three to four years and toured with Dream Theater.’’
There were always some time gaps between your albums. This time it was a gap of eight years between studio releases. It is that you released the live albums ‘Off The Floor 01’ and ‘Off The Floor 02’ in between. Otherwise people may have forgotten about you or started thinking that Tiles did not exist anymore…
,,Just around the release of ‘Fly Paper’ in 2008 the American department of Inside Out was disbanded and taken over. I think our album got a bit lost in the transition over here. I am not complaining about that. There was a lot of turmoil around Inside Out who were taken over by SPV. The label managed to survive, but our record did not get a lot of a profile, although the reviews were good. The record did not seem to grab the people’s attention, which was a little bit unusual. We thought people would at least check it out, with Alex Lifeson of Rush making a guest appearance. I think that discouraged us a bit. It did sell okay I guess, but we started to think that nobody needed another Tiles album. We held that thought for about a year or so while we played live shows in The States. After that we started to think what we would do next. There were no internal problems, but we came to a point that we were contemplating our future. We started writing and experimenting but slowly. There were some other issues. For instance my parents passed away and some of the guys in the band lost their jobs. Those things kept us from making progress and recording. Later on we started to realise that we needed to do something and that is how the live albums came about. As a sort of a sign to our fans that we had not retired. After that we really felt the need to stretch and make the best possible record that would make our presence felt. So it took a lot of time to write and experiment with songs and sounds. We needed to do something big. Eight years is a big number but it sure does not feel like that at all. At a certain moment we had a good momentum going and had about 75 minutes of good music. The concept that we were writing grew and developed. At that moment we decided to break the album into two CD’s. We needed to add about twenty minutes and we had a lot of good songs to choose from like for instance ,,Weightless’’. It is not that we used any fillers to complete the album. It became a double CD because the story and the concept required that.’’
Chris paints quite a picture there about the birth of ‘Pretending 2 Run’. Producer Terry Brown has for almost twenty years been the man at the production helm for Tiles. At what point did he enter the scene for the recordings given the fact that Terry was also heavily involved with the arrangements of the songs?
,,Early 2013 he was brought on board, because around that time we started recording. But between 2010 and 2013 I worked on some demo tapes with him. I would go to his house in Toronto, Canada. He would program the drums, I would play guitar and sing a bit as well. So the contact was always there. Furthermore we have send him quite often some demos that we recorded so he would have some idea what we were doing. That is the advantage of digital recording I guess. But he started to do his thing when we went into the studio to record the drums. We played him the songs and he would edit, arrange, anything he thought was good for the listener. This is by far the longest project we have undertaken. For ‘Fly Paper’ and ‘Window Dressing’ we had a certain amount of time to record and finish the product. Now we recorded whenever we could. He came down to Detroit a few times, we went up to Toronto, we were all over the map. We even recorded in Toledo, Ohio, Terry was there every step of the way. It was a complicated thing. We had guest musicians, so many different instruments, there was a lot of logistic stuff to arrange. We could have never done it without Terry’s skill and ability. That is for sure.’’
You guys must have blown your recording budget a billion times…
,,The good news was: there was no budget! We spent more money that we should have done. We could not spare any expense if we wanted to deliver the full experience. People will move on quickly if your record is not up to scratch. That is why we made such an effort. We were able to be fairly economical as we had a good price from the studio were we recorded the bulk of the album. We are hoping that a lot of people will buy the album…’’
When you look at the song writing throughout your career it strikes me that singer Paul Rarick does hardly write at all! How does he pick up the vibe that you are trying to put across? Do you provide him with a certain framework?
,,I give him demo tapes with me singing. When there is a part that goes out of my range I will play it on guitar. The great thing about Paul is that he is a good interpreter in the vein of a Dean Martin of Frank Sinatra. I am not comparing him to these guys but they did not write their own music or write lyrics. They just interpreted the songs and that is what Paul does. We have collaborated on some melody ideas in the past for which he got writing credits. It is the way it is. He does not write. That I sing on the demo tapes has contributed to the fact that I have a lead vocal on this album on the song ,,Stonewall’’. It was something that just developed. I was not comfortable with that but when Terry Brown says it sounds great and it is okay by him and the band I just have to go with what they say.’’
Photo by Anthony D’Angelo
‘Pretending 2 Run’ has been a real journey for the band, but now it is a journey for the listener. There is so much going on that you have to have patience, have some willing and eager ears and invest time into the record…
,,Albums like ‘Thick As A Brick’, ‘The Wall’ and ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ have an enduring effect on people. Generation after generation discover those albums. We hope that our album has that same effect on the listener, although I am not saying or pretending that we are as good as Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd. The key to achieve that is detail. If you discover new things each time you listen to the record that is great. We do not want to create an album with songs that all sound the same, although there are people who want that. If you are looking for that this album may be not for you. We have already received a couple of reviews where people do not like the amount of variety on this record and have stated that maybe we did not know what we want to do. But we did know what we wanted to do. We wanted to give people that journey. Like any journey you take there are ups and downs, some parts are more exciting than others. We know we are a progressive rock band and we know we are not going to be on the radio. We know that metal heads or pop fanatics are not going to buy our album. But if you are willing to invest the time, you will have a good record. Our goal was to do what would interest and excite us as a listener. We wanted to provide that variety and excitement that makes you go back to the album time after time again because there is more to discover.’’
Indeed, there is a lot to discover. Being in the business for a long time does Chris Herin have any real expectations if you are talking about sales and so on, because this release is by far the one in which the band has invested more blood, sweat and tears than ever before?
,,I am hoping it resonates with people. It is out of our hands now. We have to rely on people taking a chance liking it and listening to it. It also comes down to the record company and publicists letting people know that it exists. This is our first album in twenty years that has got nothing to do with Inside Out. We talked to them with this album in hand. They said their release schedule was jam packed and that they were not able to spend enough time on it. They suggested to get in touch with The Laser’s Edge Group, good friends of Inside Out label owner Thomas Waber. We got in touch with them and it has worked out great. Their promotion is very good. They will get this record the attention it needs and from that moment on it is up to the people. I do not know what to expect. We have received some great reviews for our old albums but then ‘Fly Paper’ was received a bit less, while we thought we had delivered a good record. So it is hard to have an expectation. Anything can happen. We are hoping it does well enough so we can to do some shows and make a new album later on.’’
As long as you promise us not to take another eight years to make that new album.
,,I can promise that.’’
Check out Tiles official website and their official Facebook page