by Christophe Pauly
– Photojournalist —
Hardrock Haven’s Christophe Pauly recently caught up with prog-rocker Neal Morse. Morse was kind enough to talk with Pauly about his current and past projects.
Hardrock Haven: My first question is about your creativity. I listened to your music since I discovered you with the Transatlantic Live in Europe album and DVD and since that time, I’ve been so surprised by how many albums you did and by the quality of them! It’s unbelievable when you compare it to some artists who make an album every 3 or 5 years (without any quality sometimes …). Every time I buy a Neal Morse’s (or side project) album, I know that it will be even better than the previous! How and where do you find so much inspiration?
Neal Morse: Well, it just comes. I don’t know, sometimes during the writing season there is so much music that I’m hearing it can be difficult to lay it all down and figure out a way to work it all into one album. So, as you know, I think ultimately all good gifts come from God. So the short answer is that’s where I get my inspiration. But, the longer answer would be to say that I get inspired by all kinds of different things; it could be a book I’m reading or a conversation I just had or a thought from church or a line from a movie…you never know where something good will come from.
Hardrock Haven: Your last studio album Testimony 2 was a very great suite for the first one (which is my preferred). Could we expect a third part?
Neal Morse: I don’t know. When I did a Testimony 1 I never thought I would do a Testimony 2. So anything is possible.
Hardrock Haven: You’ve published your autobiography with that album (which is a very great source of inspiration and makes us ask questions about ourselves, life, music business and God even for those who don’t believe in anything). It’s a very good lesson for those who want to succeed easily in music. How did you keep that motivation during those years? And what’s for you the key to success?
Neal Morse: Oh my god…that’s a big question. I don’t have any keys to success in the music business…the only thing I can say is when I truly gave up trying to make it in the music business (i.e. writing the first Spock’s Beard album) is the time that I had my first success in the music business. So, I don’t have any words of wisdom particularly about that except that you should do what you love the most and hope for the best. However, REAL success only comes from one place. Can you guess what I’m talking about?
Hardrock Haven: You talked about some tragic moments too in this book (with your daughter for example) and your feelings about God in those moments and how he helps you every day. How do you think your life would have been without him?
Neal Morse: Well, I know what my life was without him because I lived it for many years. And, although I had fun at times, I was left feeling rather unfulfilled and depressed. So, I’m sure that is where I would still be had it not been for the Lord intervening and delivering me from many things.
Hardrock Haven: You have worked with Randy and Mike for a while now for your solo albums. How does it work? Do you consider them as your music family? And how did it evolved? Do you have sometimes tensions or does everything run by itself when you’re together?
Neal Morse: The only tensions that we have between the three of us is who can get a word in. Sometimes there’s so many ideas flying around that it’s hard to catch a breath. It has, for the most part, been a very graceful, easy collaboration between the three of us and that’s why we keep coming back to make records together. Those guys are packed with ideas and I’ve learned to trust them as much or more as I trust myself with musical ideas.
Hardrock Haven: I saw you performing with Spock’s Beard and they sang on your previous album. When Nick decided to leave the band, why didn’t you choose to rejoin it?
Neal Morse: It wasn’t anything that was ever considered really. I think they’ve made a great choice with Ted and I wish them all the best. Can’t wait to hear their new album!
Hardrock Haven: Since his departure of Dream Theater, has anything changed between Mike and you? Do you feel him less stressed?
Neal Morse: To me, Mike is a very consistent guy. I know he’s gone through a lot lately, but in our friendship he’s always treated me with respect and kindness.
Hardrock Haven: You had less time to record Momentum (as Mike had other projects). How does the recording process works usually? Do you let them improvise some parts or do you prefer to impose a direction?
Neal Morse: It depends. If we all agree something’s good and correct just the way I wrote it then we track it that way, but, if the opposite is true, then we may improvise a whole new section right there on the spot. It’s more difficult with my solo albums because we do not allot as much time as we have for Transatlantic and Flying Colors for example, but we always find enough time to do what we need to do and also record some covers.
Hardrock Haven: You’ve released a new Christmas album. What does Christmas mean to you?
Neal Morse: Christmas is a lot of fun in the Morse house. Lots of singing and decorations and celebrations of Jesus. It’s a beautiful season really.
Hardrock Haven: Why did you did it now? Did you feel it was time to do it?
Hardrock Haven: Neal Morse: Last year my wife and my friend Chris suggested that I make a Christmas album. They thought that I was going to make some kind of nice, mellow, easy to listen to, acoustic kind of a Cd. But, as I started to explore some of these Christmas songs I had a bit of an explosion of proggy ideas. Then, people like Roine Stolt, Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Steve Hackett, and Pete Trewavas because involved and the album took on a very different shape. It’s really cool and people seem to be enjoying the Prog World Orchestra record.
Hardrock Haven: The Flying Colors’ album was a great experience for you and the fans. What do you think of that tour?
Neal Morse: The Flying Colors Tour was really awesome in a lot of ways! The musicianship was phenomenal and I fell more and more in love with Casey’s voice as the tour went on. We really gelled into a band, it was awesome.
Hardrock Haven: Do you think about a second album?
Neal Morse: It is being discussed, but I don’t know when it will happen. I’m pretty sure there will be a second one, it’s just a matter of when.
Hardrock Haven: Will you come in Europe (and particularly in Belgium) for a solo tour? Perhaps with Mike and Randy?
Hardrock Haven: What about a new Transatlantic album or tour?
Neal Morse: Yes, that is also being discussed for 2013. We hope to have more solid information for you soon.
Hardrock Haven: And finally, what do you want to say to your fans as the new year is coming?
Neal Morse: Thank you all very much! I’m sure 2013 will bring a lot of great music and changes to our lives. I should be coming around at least once during 2013 so I hope to see you then! God bless you!
Hardrock Haven: Thank you very much for your kindness and for doing such a beautiful work! See you soon on tour!