Hobbit - 2003 Interview Part 4

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edited December 2020 in Interviews all

INTERVIEW: Hobbit [Part 4] (Sep 2003)
The Hobbit Story - Part Four
Written By: Lee Bradfield

Here we go, fellow melodic rockers - this is what we've been building up to with the first 3 parts of the Hobbit Story, a track by track overview of the reunion album two years in the making. Gene and Turk share their insights about the inspirations and creative process for each track, plus many entertaining anecdotes, giving us the inside track to this remarkable concept album that is AOR and yet so much more. Without further delay, here follows a guided tour through the first original Hobbit recordings since 1985 - in the words of Gene and Turk ,
We spent over two years writing and recording this project, but it didn't start out as a vision of what it became. We just wanted to write and record, and it's odd how everything seemed to take shape into the entire piece. Early in 2002, we got the vision to create a non-stop total creation with all the dialog. We used a couple of Roland 1880's and worked both together and separately on the songs.

All but one song was built around a click track. You can imagine the challenge to maintain track sheets and data with two separate recording studios. Anyway, we evolved into a very productive lifestyle over this period, and kind of surprised ourselves. So each song was it's own file and eventually ended up as a stereo mix. The process took 23 revisions to the master sheets.

A new file called 'collection' was created and each song mix was placed into it in the proper location. All of the dialog, sound effects, etc were then added to the collection, to tie everything together. This process was a creative challenge all its own. Not only did it produce good transitions, but the short 'songlets' too.

We then downloaded each usable track from each song and from the collection, into the system at Rosewood Studio in Tyler Texas (Over 700!). With the superb help of JB Patterson, we were able to optimize the sounds, tightness, dynamics, and overall flow to the final version. Many iterations to song mixes, collection locations, effects, etc, etc were made to get AFTO where it is.

Turk and Gene pretty much write the lyrics to the songs that they sing, although there is always helpful input from both sides. Gene's are the lighter and Turk's are the darker songs and lyrics. Gene's lyric and phrasing style is generally more mystical and uses metaphors here and there, to relate to our own lives. Turk's lyric style is more descriptive and filled with the lore of Middle Earth. This contrast lends itself to the inherent themes within Tolkien's work.

Richard adds guidance and colour to these things. In addition to his lead vocals, Turk is the storyteller or narrator throughout the journey. It's something we started long ago, even in concerts. Besides these parts, he also did a great rendition of orcs, ents, wizards, and even Sauron himself (digital effects helped a little!). If you're good, you can decipher every one of these. Anyway, here are some random thoughts about each song's creation and recording.

The beginning to the CD is certainly bizarre, but we wanted to establish up front that this is not a typical project. Turk had been saying this phrase for a month or so; we just had to find a place to put it. The song started out as an acoustic piece over at Turk's one evening. Turk had the initial riff, and Gene pretty much wrote the rest.

As the song developed and we added the electric guitars, it was apparent that it had a lot of punch. Turk actually played the lead guitar, but Richard added the stuff at the end. Gene did the lead vocals and keyboards. Turk's vocal lines weave around Gene's real well. It's almost like two lead singers. One of the last things we did was to spotlight that goofy line 'when you had more hair'. It's a real good opening song, yesssss?

The whisper 'open the book' turned out to be a classy transition, with a lot of meaning. Ironically, combined with the one at the end, there is a powerful theme. Part of this song actually started out in about 1979, as another title, and never finished. Turk just kept pushing to get this one in the collection. Gene added the beginning parts and wrote new lyrics in Tolkien style.

We edited the song into two minutes, and it flows well. Here's the first place where we reference previous Hobbit songs - 'it's time we get two feet tall'. Again, Turk's vocal parts really added dynamics to Gene's. The live audience has been a common part of our previous album releases. This one's from a gig at the Agora in Dallas. You can even hear Terry and Gorilla!

The intro to this song is the first of Turk, the storyteller, that goes throughout the entire work. Here's another one that has roots back in the early years, but done quite differently now. It's the first heavy driving song, and is a good fit here. Turk's vocals are very powerful and spooky at the same time.

It's also the first of many songs that we modified some vocal sounds, by shifting the pitch real low. The bass solo was always great when we did this one live. Richard did all of the guitar work on this one, with many layers of the J Station sound; and maybe it's Richard's best lead work.

Gene came up with this one, and it's a very Yes influenced song with an unexpected middle part. The lyrics are a bit reflective and laid back, with a catchy melody. Kind of makes all of us want to be 'under the trees on Bagshot Row'. The Tull influence in the middle part takes off into almost a new song, but the glide back into the last chorus is cool. Thank goodness for click tracks.

Gene did the guitars and keyboards on this one. The line 'when Saturday comes we'll take a walk in the woods, and make up a song' is reflective of that day in McAndrew's Wood when Gene and Turk came up with 'Through The Looking Glass'. The last line flows into Turk's dialog as the theme of AFTO.

Richard came up with most of the music part of this one, and it dates back to the first few songs we wrote after the reunion started in late 00. For a long time, this was like the flagship of our project. Gene's lyrics and vocals are intended to make the point that we all need a fantasy adventure, a voyage to a magical place, and that the works of JRRT are the wind and the way. Pick it up and read it!

Richard did the guitars and Tammy added some great keyboards. The chorus has a kind of Pink Floyd feel. Turk's bass lines are hypnotic in this one, as well as some great background vocal parts. Rusty's drums are elegant and powerful. The melodic part after the first chorus was actually created last, and was kind of inspired by Michel LeGrand's 'Summer of 42'. In the end, Gene's flute part is one of many transition pieces between songs, and surprisingly leads to..

This is also one of the early 12 string guitar songs written after the Hobbit reunion began. The lyrics tell of being settled in the Shire, as many of us are, only to rekindle the desire to have an adventure one more time. Gene created this one, and did all the guitar work.

The middle part is another venture into a dramatic melodic change, only to realize 'there I stood before that fire, but I could not decide'. Sometimes it's a great perspective in a song to write it in first person. The vocal crescendo at the very end was Turk's idea. We struggled with producing this song, the first version was faster and more electric; but like the way it turned out.

This may be the most unusual song in the whole AFTO collection. Turk and Richard constantly ribbed Gene when he came up with it, that it was like a washboard jig band from West Virginia, but we all like the way it came out. It's introduced by the frog choir, of course. Gene played the 12 string, keyboards, and a real dulcimer. Turk's bass parts are very catchy. Rusty's percussion really set the song apart, although it took several takes to get it right. How about the reference to 'Intensity'?

The bird whistle was the same one used in 'Television', but that big bullfrog is a first. It kinda lands in your lap! The Tull influenced lead break ie 'old man willow' line that Turk added is a hoot, after shifting the pitch down. One of the last things we added were the whistling parts, and held Turk at gunpoint to do them while we all fell out. All in all, it's a bizarre song about a bizarre character in the book.

The storyteller provides a good transition into the darkest creapiest song in the collection, after all that's how Mirkwood is. Richard came up with most of the music in this one, with fusion, lyrics, and vocals from Turk. Richard did all of the guitar and keyboard work in melodic fashion.

The intro into the lead guitar solo is a good hook. We have both real cello and guitar synthesizer cello in this one (see the liner notes). The middle part gets hypnotic, and the sounds of woods and creatures throughout make this one it's own adventure. It ends with Turk's trademark growling and laugh!

Out of the darkness and into the light - what better place than this. We tried to pick an order for the songs that followed a chronology as well as balanced the whole collection, and there were many iterations to this order. Richard came up with the initial chord pattern, and Gene the chorus of Rivendell on the first night of our reunion back in October 2000, but it was a while before we actually began writing the song. Gene tends to build lyrics with metaphors, and this one's a good example. 'It's not too far away' means simply that it's in the book.

Both Gene and Richard played guitars and keyboards. The part after the first chorus is very classical influenced, and a direction that Gene explores the most. That party in the middle is reminiscent of 'Midyear's Eve', and is one of our favourite parts. We were pounding beer and having a great time one night and put this together. Gene and Turk just talked a lot of goofy stuff on about 4 tracks, with a pitch shift effect. Bet you can't understand all of it!

This transition piece of pomp rock music provided a good path to get from the lighter Rivendell to the darkness of Moria. Initially it's a Yes influence, with the vocal weaving, but smoothly moves into a driving groove. The panned echo parts before and after this one are so easy with digital recording! The last thing we did with this piece was to add the Orc curse.

Richard and Turk wrote this one entirely, and it is a powerful song. Turk's lyrics and vocals really take the listener through that frightening journey in style. Richard's guitar work is some of the best on the collection, especially that melody at the ending. We took all of Turk's vocals through the J Station, to give it that dark power. Most of the time that we recorded together, we had a blast. This is the song where Turk discovered his perfect 'Barliman singing drink' - Jack Daniels and Sierra Mist.

Here's another musical transition, that Richard produced. He used a Martin 6 string for this piece, and the sound is excellent. Turk's bass lines are a great compliment to the melodic patterns with the keys. Tammy added the keys. Check out the Ent voice, and see if you can decipher, it's a description of the place. This one flows seamlessly into Whispers, with the help of that thunder.

Rusty actually initiated the writing of this song, but the musical contribution is mostly Richard and Turk's. After singing 'Elven tongue' for months, Gene finally wrote the lyrics. Richard's guitar sounds and patterns give the song a groove like no other in the collection. The fast parts in the middle provide a good contrast, like the vocal blending of Turk's verses and choruses.

What a great performance he had imitating Gollum's talking in the middle part - we just about fell out that night. While we were still writing the song, Rusty added some hilarious rap in that part. We flipped it backward and it's perfect. We tried to capture the ultimate schizoid, Gollum, in this song and did pretty good.

Gene came up with this one. The riff on 12 string kind of set the whole song up and it was written in a very short time. His lyrics and vocals have a mystical feel that sets the song apart. Kind of odd having three minor chords in a row isn't it? Actually, part of the song started out as something called 'Fallen', about the Pelanor Fields.

Anyway, the keyboard parts really take this one to a different level, and were done by Richard, Gene, and Tammy. Richard's lead guitar parts have a very unique sound for the project, and fit the style of this song well. Finally, the ending has a 'low spark' flavour and is pretty unique for Hobbit. Turk added some cool percussion into this part, especially the odd tambourine hits.

This one was also born on the 12 string Yamaha and has some good dynamics. The electric guitar parts and drums really make this a nice melodic rocker. This is one of only about 5 that we cut live with the drums. The lyrics are about Eowyn, and it's interesting how she seemed to fit into where they were going even before there was a theme. She couldn't stand to wait on it; she chased it, remember? The bell and backward cymbol are good subtle effects. Richard's guitar solo is real melodic. Turk's vocals and whispers weave real good with Gene's lead vocal.

The intro to this song is pretty dramatic, with the 'monk voices', something that Turk and Tammy created. The voice of Sauron started out as just 'ole Turk, but JB found a really good pitch effect to give it that evil sound. This one is another Richard and Turk creation, and is a driver. That guitar riff at the beginning is a good hook.

The lyrics are great in this one, and in Turk's style, true to the lore. It was a memorable night when he recorded the vocal tracks in this song. All of Richard's guitar work, like the others, is in stereo through the J Station. The many tracks blend together into a good overall sound. Rusty had a good night recording the drum tracks too.

Another one minute transition song, this one starts with a Rachmaninov piano melody. It's another one that was written in a single inspirational evening. Gene played it all but the bass, which Turk created in his melodic style. The lyrics are very reflective and hopefully capture how Frodo must have felt at the time. Originally this led into Emptiness, but we liked the overall balance better here.

This one was written at the same time as 'Hey Bombadil', believe it or not. We haven't done many songs in -+ time, and it's a fresh feel for the project. The guitar solo and chorus fills are a real addition to the song. The pauses and repeats in the last chorus were Turk's idea, and we like the way this one turned out.

The keyboard parts are subtle, but add a lot. Gene's lyrics and vocal provide a lot of dynamics to an otherwise mellow song. Everyone declared his ad libs in the middle part to be 'Motown'! Again there is a little classical melody in the middle part; this time from Dvorak. One of the last changes we made to Emptiness was the cello accents in the verse riff.

This song was written back in January of 1978, and included on our 'Join The Celebration' release; but produced much better for this project. We felt that it fit AFTO so well that we had to record it again in 2003 style, with Turk doing the lead vocal. The dialog before this one was his first effort in this area. Back in the early days, when we played this song, Turk wore a huge wizard hat and it was a hoot on stage. We actually rewrote the verse parts in this version, to better fit Turk's vocal style.

That middle instrumental part was obviously inspired by Kansas, and has always been one of our favourite parts. Richard's guitar work is great on this one, but it's Turk's vocal that sets it apart. Gene's added chorus part at the end was not part of the original version, and may be the catchiest piece in the collection. To be honest, it was a real struggle to produce this song because we wanted to give it Turk's vocal dynamics but still keep Gene's melodic style. We like the way it turned out.

Here's the final transition 'songlet', beginning with a melody from Mendelssohn. His 'Hibrides Overture' was about the sea, and oddly turned out to be a great introduction to 'Havens'. Anyway, from here it escalates through oboes and cellos into a heavy guitar piece that at one time was the beginning to 'Faggots in The Fire'. Only Hobbit fans from way back will remember this. The ending swirl of guitars and pick drags settles into the ocean sounds that set up the final song.

We always thought of this song as the ending to this entire creation. Richard came up with most of the music to this one in early 2001, and it's beautiful. He and Tammy added most of the great keyboard parts, and this song is a statement because of it. It's the only one done without a click track. This may be Turk's most outstanding bass work of any song.

Gene's lyrics and melody present a fitting end to AFTO, right there at the Havens. Each of us share the same opinion: our favourite part of All for The One is the last 15 seconds. That melody with the bells leaves you motionless, as the ocean dies out. We struggled to come up with a final whisper that provided an emotional but triumphant ending. It was Turk who discovered the contrast to Gene's earlier one by simply saying 'close the book'.

[Part 1] - [Part 2] - [Part 3] - [Part 4]

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