Rush is a Band

A blog devoted to RUSH:
Neil Peart, Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson

Fri, Nov 22, 2019

Chris Herin of Tiles and Terry Brown talk Fly Paper, Rush

Sat, Feb 2, 2008@5:25PM | comments

Tuesday saw the release of Fly Paper - the new album from Detroit progsters Tiles. Alex Lifeson plays on the track Sacred and Mundane, Terry Brown produced it, and Hugh Syme did the artwork and played keyboards on a couple of tracks. As I'd mentioned earlier this week, both Tiles guitarist Chris Herin and producer Terry Brown were kind enough to answer a few questions for all of us here at RushIsABand.com.

First up, Chris Herin. Chris discusses Rush, their influence on his music, what it was like to meet Alex Lifeson, and how Tiles hooked up with Terry Brown.

RIAB: How did you become a Rush fan and what’s your favorite Rush album?

CH: It was March 1976. I went to a friend's house to work on a science assignment - but it ended up being the catalyst for my musical development. He played Secret Treaties by Blue Oyster Cult; 2112; Kiss Alive; and a variety of Ted Nugent. I didn't really gravitate to 2112 until exactly the 3rd listen. Then it hit me. It was the power and the energy... Geddy's voice and the intricacies of the drums - and of course the guitar playing. It was heavy - but not a "distorted" heaviness that is prevalent today. I saw my first Rush concert from the 3rd tier of Cobo Arena in Detroit January 10, 1977. I barely made it because I couldn't drive and had to find someone who could! The ticket was $6.50... and I've been a fan ever since.

Favorite Rush album(s)? 1975 - 1982... with a nod to Counterparts, Vapor Trails and Snakes & Arrows. I like all Rush albums, don't get me wrong... the songwriting and musicianship always deliver; I just prefer the progressive-polyrhythmic-fusionish material to more straight ahead melodic pop-rock songs.

RIAB:What specific influence has Rush had on your music and personal playing style?

CH: Rush hasn't been the huge songwriting influence as people suspect. Yes, they're clearly part of my musical cellular structure - but blended in with Elton John, Led Zeppelin; Jethro Tull; Kansas; Rabin-era Yes; and other influences. I have an extensive background in jazz and jazz fusion. So when Rush went in that direction between 1977 and 1981 I really took a fancy to that aspect of their playing. I always find it interesting that so many Tiles reviews claim we sound like late-80's early-90's Rush... which is decidedly not the era of Rush that influenced me.

However, I did spend untold hours learning the guitar parts to every Rush song from 1974 to 1984... (once the keyboards really took over there wasn't as much guitar to latch on to). For some reason, I found myself in bands where I needed to find a way to fill out the sound - so Alex's use of arpeggios, pedal tones and suspended chords became a part of my playing vocabulary.

RIAB: How did you hook up with Terry Brown and what’s he like to work with? Do you plan to continue working with him in the future?

CH: After our first CD we were looking for a way to take our professionalism to the next level. We approached several "name" engineers about mixing our second CD "Fence the Clear" and Terry was the most responsive. Of course, working with him was a great experience and lead from one project to the next. He simply has a great set of ears and an ability to keep things organic and realistic. He has a sonic philosophy that his contemporaries from the 1970's share. It's what makes Led Zeppelin, early-Elton John, Hendrix, Cream, Queen and other recordings from that era timeless. It's less about perfection and more about emotion and communication. We're focusing on promoting "Fly Paper" right now so we're not sure what the future holds for a potential Tiles #6 - but certainly working with Terry is always a possibility...

RIAB: I know you were able to meet Alex before the Detroit show last year. What was that like and what did you chat about?

CH: Alex is a humble guy – he plays guitar and writes songs in a band that's revered all over the world; but he doesn't exude any of the standard celebrity vibe. He may as well have been chatting to us about landscaping or plumbing... he's the proverbial "regular guy". We talked about amps, guitars, golf, working with Terry (he was unsure how the session would go since they hadn't worked together in so many years – but he had a great time with Sacred & Mundane...). It was encouraging for him to say that he could hear Rush was an influence of ours – but that we had taken that influence in different directions.

RIAB: What are your tour plans for the upcoming year?

CH: We are discussing options with a booking agency to tour through the Midwest and Northeast US this spring – besides doing a bunch of shows in southeast Michigan. It all really depends on how well "Fly Paper" is initially received, since that tells the record company if there's enough interest in the marketplace for us to draw an audience... Certainly, we're willing and able to tour Europe again if the opportunity arises.

Next up, legendary Rush producer Terry Brown (aka Broon). I had about a thousand questions floating around in my mind for Terry, but I managed to whittle it down to 8. :) Terry talks about working with Tiles, working with Alex after nearly 25 years, Snakes & Arrows and what he's currently up to.

RIAB: Since the end of your working relationship with Rush back in the early 80s you've worked with a number of talented artists including Blue Rodeo, Fates Warning, Matthew Good, Alannah Myles, Voivod and - of course - Tiles, who you first worked with on 1997's "Fence the Clear". How did this come about and what qualities did the band and their music possess that first attracted you and caused you to continue working with them from that point forward?

TB: Our first introduction was through a phone call from Chris Herin - we had a good conversation, Chris making me aware of his band and their wish to have me mix their up-coming release. He sent me old and the new material - I liked what I heard and agreed to do the mix. We had a great time working together and the relationship developed over the years and CDs. TILES are all good players who are willing to do their music, their way, with no compromises - it works for me.

RIAB: What in particular about Fly Paper sets it apart from earlier Tiles albums, and what was your favorite part about working on it?

TB: We made a conscious effort to be leaner and meaner on this CD - thank God, because in the end it became quite the production, but very focused - I think. We did less pre-production this time around thereby keeping things more spontaneous when cutting beds off the floor - we also had the luxury of spending more time in the studio to cut tracks.

RIAB: How did the collaboration with Alex Lifeson on the track Sacred and Mundane come about? Was there something about this song in particular that you thought Alex could add something to? Or did Alex gravitate to this song on his own?

TB: I approached Alex to see if in fact he would be up to playing on FlyPaper - he said, "of course" and then I forwarded him three tracks that we thought would be most suitable - the original intent was to have Alex do a solo for one of the tracks, but he was more interested in texturing a track. We got together and Alex jammed along with Sacred and Mundane and asked me what I thought - well... it needed little discussion since it was killer to my mind; I love what he came up with.

RIAB: It had been about 25 years since you'd last worked with Alex Lifeson (am I right on this?). From your perspective, how has Alex's style and approach to music changed over the years? Or has it?

You would be correct there... 25 years - incredible! Alex has matured
and perfected his effortless style of punchy, complex playing, but I
would not say he has changed. He is still pumping out the excitement as witnessed on the last tour and, of course, on Sacred.

RIAB: Many have touted Rush's latest album Snakes & Arrows as a "return to form" in that it incorporates a lot of musical elements from earlier eras of Rush. Do you agree with this statement? Their new producer Nick Raskulinecz - a huge Rush fan himself - is often accredited with pushing the band in this direction; pushing them to embrace their past while still moving forward. What do you think of the album and in particular the job that Nick Raskulinecz did?

TB: Well, firstly this is a guitar record - that's good! Guitars all over it, mandolins and backwards feedback - great sounds. In fact I asked Alex who was playing keyboards - "that's guitars" he said with a grin. Nick did a great job and was totally into the band, I like it.

RIAB: My all-time favorite Rush album (favorite album period!) is 2112. I've heard you mention in other interviews that you'd like to do 2112 in 5.1. I believe Alex Lifeson had stated something similar in an interview last year. What are the chances of this happening?

TB: Very minimal I would say! For two reasons: Alex is pretty keen on mixing 2112 himself and secondly I don't feel 5.1 works without pictures. Although I love Dark Side of the Moon and Yellow Brick Road - to name but two that withstand repeated listens in 5.1. It's really all about melody and production and 5.1 is not going to change that significantly.

RIAB: Progressive rock has experienced a sort of "reawakening" in recent years with the success of newer bands like Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, Coheed and Cambria, Muse and many others. Are there any newer bands out that you particularly like and would potentially like to work with at some point?

TB: Run With the Kittens are without doubt my favourite "new" band, but not progressive in style, just in their approach to melody and lyrics (Jim Carrey meets Frank Zappa!).

RIAB: What projects are you currently working on and what future projects are planned?

TB: I am currently working on a Hindu Chant CD and have a progressive guitarist to mix in March - both very cool projects.

A very big thanks to both Chris and Terry for answering these questions. To learn more about Tiles and their past and current projects be sure to check out their website here. And to keep up on Terry Brown and all his projects, visit his website at this location.

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