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Exclusive Interview with James Byrd April 2001
By Andy Craven

As this interview is so long it has been split into 4 parts.
| PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 |

Flying Beyond The 9' is finally upon us, it must be a relief that its finally seeing the light of day after some 2 1/2[?] years in the making?
Yes, a big relief. This album was not only a difficult album to create musically, but also a major business hassle. Between the beginning of the writing of the album, and the final mix-down, there was a dispute with my label JVC, and an end to the relationship with my management company. Problems due to waiting for actual studio time to become available during critical phases of the recording itself, and due to my request to be released from my contract with JVC, there was no money. It seemed at times that the album would never be finished, and when it when the demos were finished, shopping the album proved frustrating. Label after label expressed no interest in the album. If there were even remotely similar comments as to why we were being rejected, I certainly would have begun to doubt some musical/artistic aspect of the album and consider that something could have been better. But the bottom line on the rejections: They were just "all over the map." One label would say "This is extremely well done, but does not fit with our "death/doom" roster. while label another would say "This is really extremely well done, but it’s too progressive, people won’t understand it, people can't dance to most of the songs". Yet another label would say "This is far too musically polished". Yet another label would say "This music is too hard/heavy for our tastes". One label claimed in their 'Mission statement' : "Our goal is to be on the cutting edge of music and technology in every facet of our business. We continue our quest by searching for talent in a variety of categories. We look for the soul, the ability, and the originality of the artist to take their instruments/performance to the next level. If you are highly talented, unique, and ready for the next step, we would like to hear from you." This same label then wrote back and said; "There is no doubt that you are an amazing guitarist and musician, but we’re looking for music that’s a bit more quirky sounding." So much for their 'Mission statement'! This particular label's response was absurd. Consider that their roster contained more artists of similar direction to my own than any other label I'd yet seen. I took that comment "Quirky" as both totally disingenuous, and just plain hypocrisy to be blunt. The fact that it was run by a well respected musician in the same field as my own, only added to my utter disbelief that something this lame would have been said by people who knew me by reputation through Yngwie Malmsteen’s recommendation already. Apparently they consider guys like Eric Johnson "Quirky" enough to be on their roster. Can you believe this? I don't know why such a stupid response was sent after I sent them 3 of the best tracks on the album, but shame on them for a letter like that for THIS material. They know who they are. So I was really ready to throw in the towel and just put the album onto MP3.COM and sell it there myself. But I still didn’t have any money to finish the album to the standard I was determined to attain.

Meanwhile, Yngwie had just finished War to End All Wars, and he had an upcoming release date of November 2000. I had heard from both him personally (by phone) and also read his interviews where he claimed that his new album was very "influenced by Queen", and would feature intricate vocal arrangements, amazing production in a half million dollar personal studio and the most commercial material of his career. The description (musically anyway) sounded almost identical to what I felt I was trying to achieve from a far earlier beginning (1999). I was getting quite depressed at this point actually. I love Yngwie as a personal friend, and a player, but I have always felt immense frustration that although I released my first album (Fifth Angel) all the way back in 1984 (and tracked the first half it in 1983), and was influenced originally by many of the same artists as he was. I feared that my being so much more obscure as an artist was going to once again leave a wrong public impression, once I managed (if, really) to get my album out; That impression being that I was some kind of "Johnny-come lately Yngwie influenced guitarist". It's been said before a few times by people on the internet in forums (Though NOT by any one in the mainstream/"respectable" press), and it's been personally aggravating at times to be entirely honest. The truth would be known only to myself, and a handful of fans going all the way back to the early 1980’s; That being, that I had been playing music influenced by Blackmore, Hendrix, Uli Roth, and Al DiMeola since the 1970's, and never even owned an Yngwie album until YEARS after I'd released 'FIFTH ANGEL' (I received "Trilogy" for Christmas from Ken Mary when it came out, and loved the album btw).

I seriously considered just quitting playing music altogether last year. No money (Thanks for all those royalty checks Shrapnel), no manager, no deal worth accepting, and some of the stupidest rejection letters you could ever imagine, and an approaching deadline of Yng’s release, WTEAW, done on a major budget. I was NOT happy. I thought that the universe was converging upon me screaming "Just quit Byrd, you don’t stand a chance in hell between all of these factors". Over the summer of 2000, I got my first P.C. and began to look at the various options being provided by the internet in terms of hopefully getting my music out there. I found MP3.COM before it became the major-label "bandwidth base" it now appears to have become (after the lawsuit by Sony Music). With the actual rights to my previous album "James Byrd’s Atlantis Rising, Crimes of Virtuosity" under my own ownership (The smartest thing I EVER did business wise was NOT to have signed a recording agreement with JVC, but to grant a license of my work for 3 years) again, I remastered the album, and put the songs onto MP3.COM. I felt I had nothing to lose in doing this, and the album went top ten in progressive metal there in less than a week! Amazing. JVC had broken all their promotion promises despite the album being a "featured album" on Masa Itoh's radio hour in Asia. This (MP3.COM) was the first time in my life that I had a visible, and direct "feedback mechanism" to see whether my music was "Marketable" or not. Watching my first up-loaded song go all the way up to #2 on the charts there in 10 days, and remain there for 9 straight weeks gave me the conviction to finish Flying Beyond The 9. In fact that song (Metatron 444) is STILL top 20 after 11 months as an MP3.COM download, and 7 other tracks are still top 40 there. One "In My Darkest Hour" is sitting at #7 as of late march. A man can only work in isolation and deliberate separation (Label's bad intentions IMO) from his fans for so long. Years of being on Shrapnel, and then a serious ethical problem which developed with JVC’s handling of our agreement had brought me to the point of seriously just giving up music entirely. Before I put the last album on MP3.COM, things were bleaker than hell, and very shortly after my immediate success there at MP3.COM, I was a guy who knew the truth: The people at the labels were total morons. It was only going to take one guy who wasn’t (A moron) to make all the difference in my world. And if by chance I couldn’t find him or her, then by God, I was going to finish my album myself and put it out. I just didn’t care about "label support" anymore at all. I now had something within me that no one was ever going to destroy again with any assistance from me: I had internal credibility, read that "by my faith alone". The money was still a problem, but you know, when you REALLY have faith in yourself, it’s contagious.

How much did Flying Beyond the 9 cost to make (if you don’t mind my asking)?
I can’t tell you what the new album actually cost to produce in money. It’s true cost was time and faith, NOT money. And not just my own, but Michael Flatters' and Brian Hutchison's faith as well. These two people stood behind me 110% , and with the final assistance of a gentleman named Lasse at a small label in Finland (Lion Music) we got it done. I believe there was no compromise to either quality or vision on this album. For me, this was a first since Fifth Angel days with Terry Date co-producing.

How did you hook-up with Lion Music for a new deal?
The way I ended up on Lion was interesting. It began with their approaching ME after hearing me on MP3.COM. They emailed me and asked me if I would play on the Jason Becker Tribute "Warmth in The Wilderness". I was honored to say yes, and did so immediately. About a week later, I thought to myself "Well, do I tell them about the new album I’ve been working on and see if they were interested? Or should I just stick to my plan to release it myself? It was actually a tough question for me. I didn’t want to give Lion Music the wrong idea about the Jason Becker Tribute and WHY I was doing it. I thought that my mentioning my own new album might have given them the idea that I wanted something from them (a deal) for doing the tribute. I didn’t. Jason –God bless him. I really wanted to be a part of helping him any way I could. I had in fact, just recently gone to his website to see how he was holding up (long before ever hearing from Lion Music). So It took me a week of soul searching before I finally wrote back to Lion (I’d already said yes to the Tribute for Jason) and I said "By the way, I have a new album that been nearly finished for 2 years, would you like to hear it?" They said yes. I sent 3 songs from the original JVC demos. We made an agreement very quickly and within just two weeks, I had been given enough of an advance to pay my engineer and begin the final work to finish FBT9. Part of my engineer’s payment was actually one of old Strats. So it was not a big advance, but it was enough to do the job given the commitment of Brian and Michael.

So then, after "all this", Brian Hutchison was still "in"?
Yes, very much! Brian Hutchison (Byrd FBT9 Engineer) had been helping me with the album’s engineering off and on since 1999. Michael Flatters also had been recording vocal parts as I needed them done from the same time. What I needed (to finish the album to the standard I’d set my mind to achieve), was to "lock-out Brian Hutchison Productions" studios entirely until the album was completely finished and mixed. I didn’t want anyone else using the studio and disturbing the connections or settings on the mixing console. This is how it's done when it's done RIGHT. This meant that during the final recording/mixdown of the new album, Brian couldn’t make money recording other bands in his own studio. This sort of thing (Lock-out) is actually typical if you’re on a major label who’s given you more than $100,000 to make an album. But it was very problematical for a guy like me with no money and only a small advance. Brian, God bless him, was never in this music for the money. He’d have to be nuts. He IS nuts, but that’s another story:). Lion Music had the one attribute that no one else apparently did in all of this: Ears and musical integrity. Unlike the label who made lofty mission statements about "Quality being our only goal" and then sent me the "Looking for something a little more "Quirky" letter, Lion Music was like a breath of fresh air. Although the advance was small, it was enough to pay Brian and finish the album as I’d wanted to. I gave Brian the ESP Strat because he’d worked so long and hard, for so little, I’d have given him 10 if I had them.

Sounds like you’re pleased this time with a recording?
Brian’s skills at engineering are self evident on FBT9 I believe. The actual studio is anything but a multi-million dollar facility. It’s just a nice little home studio with the usual Mackie board, some tube compressors, a few ADATS, three Hard Drives, and very good monitors. Perhaps $30,000 worth of gear. A far cry from a "major label" studio? Yes,to be sure! But in the end, I believe the real test of whether an album will sound great, or like sheer rubbish, has remarkably little to do with having a half million dollars worth of equipment at one's disposal. Good results are about having good ears, and paying very careful attention to detail. It's fulfilling, but hardly "Fun". Brian’s work speaks for itself in capturing the music on this disk. The one thing we did have that were just superlative, were microphones made by his own company, ADK. I'm sure he'll tell you more about them if you ask him. We also had multiple sets of monitors. This is SO important to getting the mix right, I can't over stress it. We also had very good software, thanks to the generosity of Sam Bawani and others (like personal friends at Lucid Technology who gave us A to D converters of superior quality). So this album’s good sound is the result of faith not only by me, but some very good people who gave of all their time and resources to make sure it was right for us. I’m deeply touched that this was done for me. They understood that I seriously needed to get it "right" this time.

You have stated that 'FBT9' had to be the ultimate album of what musically is all 'Byrd' and that it had to "set a standard for which future releases will be judged against. What did you hope to achieve with 'FBT9' that you didn't with your previous albums?
It had to draw from musical inspirations from 'my own well' , so to speak. It was "self-influenced" in so many ways really. I spent a lot of time listening off and on to my entire catalogue, and being very harsh with myself. But there were little things that I liked and began to consider "Byrd trademarks" (musically speaking). I made a very deliberate effort to both use, and to "amplify" them on the new album. There was a lot in my past music that I was frankly very unhappy with. I felt that I had overdone the guitars on all of my records, both in terms of the number of solos, and the actual number of overdubs. I also decided that I didn’t like my guitar’s production in the past on several albums. And overall, the production was never what I was after when they were done. I think my previous albums had too much reverb and delay, and the entire musical/sonic picture was striking me as muddy and difficult to listen to. I'd actually like to thank a couple of critics for making me reconsider my past use of effects during production. Good music critics can be truly valuable to an artist whose intentions are improvement and hearing-out suggestions. Thank the good Lord that I at least have control to the degree of NOT being pushed by people with ulterior motives (Like getting onto MTV, yeah right!).

I’ve heard that you hate hearing your own work. Why? What do you mean?
This is when I’ve finally finished an album, yes it’s true. I’ve usually put so many hours into recording and especially TRYING to mix it, that I lose perspective and am burned-out on it all. And as I said earlier, producing and mixing are not "Fun" in any sense of the word. It's literally mind-numbing. After more than a few hours of listening and adjusting, one develops "Reverb blindness" which is akin to snow blindness. You just stop hearing the reverb and effects. You add more and more thinking "it's not there, I can’t hear it at all". The same thing happens to E.Q. "perspective", and the result is a less than optimal, or BAD sound if one’s not VERY careful and smart about the WAY they work. The only way to avoid this is to really take your time: Weeks of working on it, while taking frequent breaks. No more than 2 or 3 hours of work at a sitting from working on the mixes. This was MY way this time.

So in other words, your "Just sick of it"?
YES! My experience in the past had always been that after finishing an album, I was so completely sick of hearing it, I’d not listen again for at least a year or two. All I can hear once an album is just finished, is every single little flaw in the performances. It's (the studio mix-down) like a microscope, and given the time spent with that highly focused view, one loses all perspective on the music. And reviews CAN be important in helping an artist improve his albums. I’ve never been happy with my production, and I think perhaps this is the record where the most important lessons were learned by me as to why. Yes, I’ve had absurdly low budgets to work with in the past (Like $4,000!!!), but this is also no big budget album, and I think it worked out perfectly this time. I'm certain that the press will let me know if it didn't?

How does the recording itself differ from your previous works?
I intentionally used far fewer actual guitar tracks in terms of overdubs this time. In fact there’s only one Rhythm guitar! It’s "split" into stereo. There is no reverb or processed "effects" of any kind on the Rhythm guitar track. For my lead guitar, there is only the lightest amount of concert hall reverb on my guitar solos. I wanted the guitars to be totally "articulate" and crisp. Having to "Place" them within more than 70 tracks of orchestration made this an absolute imperative to maintain "detail" in my playing.

Do you think your playing has changed over the years/albums?
Yes and no. Over the years, I’ve gotten faster and faster in my playing, and at a certain point, "Processing" the guitar’s sound just stops "working" and creates a big wet "mess". I concluded that this sounded even worse to a typical non-guitar playing listener than it did to me. I’d been hearing not only on my albums, but other’s albums as well, this "over produced" approach on the guitars alone. I took a very difficult course of action with this production in that there really wasn’t ROOM for "Production" if I wanted every note to be heard with real clarity. My guitars themselves played a very important role in this as well I believe. My own design is the best guitar I've ever played. I know this hardly sounds modest, but it's still true. I had to actually play better to achieve the quality I was after this time, and this was entirely due to the lack of effects on the guitar's recorded sound.

Did any players inspire you to change tact?
Certain people were inspiring me. Mostly Strunz and Farrah and Paco Delucia. Notice that these were acoustic players. Playing well on acoustic guitar is the greatest challenge there is for a guitarist. The WAY my guitars are set up in terms of extremely clean and bright pickups, very little overdrive from the amplifier, HUGE strings (They begin at .050), an extremely high action at a full one-quarter inch at the twelfth fret on the high 'E', made my actual level of physical difficulty in hitting the notes clearly very challenging. I also chose NOT to use the wah wah pedal on the album for similar reasons.

Firstly, although I LOVE to express myself with the crybaby WAH-WAH, I felt as though I wanted to avoid comparisons to Uli Jon Roth in my playing on this album. I LOVE Uli’s playing, and he indeed was an early influence. But our actual use of the pedal was actually very similar to my ear when I went back and listened to him again (for the first time in many years). I didn’t set out to do this "approach". we just had the same sort of feel on the use of the wah-wah.

So you were being accused of being a rip-off of Uli Jon Roth?
Only by some internet board posters here and there, but my own label say "Uli" in their description. I can’t BLAME anyone. People seem to need "labels" for some reason. Often people misunderstand WHY two players get compared and or accused of influencing each other: I liked Uli Roth the first time I heard him back in 1977. This was because his approach and my approach were already NATURALLY similar. It was never a question of "Copying" someone, it was much more a question of seeing a "reflection" in a mirror of sorts, and liking it. I think (Psycologically) when we see something in someone else which seems like something in ourselves, it's either pleasing, or you utterly hate it. I –personally- loved what Uli Jon Roth "did". His direction was to my ear, "Hendrix meets classical music." In later years, to my ear, his playing began to change. It reminded me in some ways of Brian May. Well, my playing was as well, and I had been an incredibly serious student of both Hendrix and classical composers. But honestly, the end of my "Uli Study" was his Scorpions period.

So the "approaches" were arrived at independently in many ways?
Yes. But apart from that, I also found that although the wah wah was very expressive, it took away the "thickness" of certain notes in a way I began to find irritating. It just was not appropriate for THIS album for so many reasons, the most important being clarity in a HUGE mix.

It’s sounding like a very clear, unaffected sound was the real priority here.
Absolutely! I have been trying to find a certain guitar sound for many many years, and that quest never ends. I wanted it "FULL", but not "humbucking" or "Gibson" type "fat". I was also after a certain sort of brilliant "sparkle" on the top end of my tone as well. What I REALLY wanted from my electric guitar sound, was a great deal of the sonic attributes found in a good steel string acoustic guitar, PLUS it had to be "Electrifying" in sound and powerful: Sustain in other words would come from my hands, sheer volume, and not "distortion" or "fuzz" boxes. In the end, I had to design and build, and patent my own instruments to truly achieve this goal. I wanted nothing on the new album to interfere with the purity of my guitar sound.

So what’s the guitar/amp set up actually like as recorded with on Byrd FBT9?
It’s just my guitar, a ten foot chord, a 1966 50 watt vintage Marshall (Bone stock btw), a 1966 Marshall 8X10 cab with alnico "blue" speakers and (very hard to find), a cheap reissue DOD 250 overdrive box with carbon type batteries, and a single microphone. It doesn’t get any simpler than that without going "Un-plugged".

'FBT9' certainly is a step beyond what you have done before, yet retains all the classic Byrd trademarks fans love. How did you get to the ‘next level’ with the intricate arrangements yet strong hooks and melody lines?
As I said earlier, there were elements of my catalogue I liked, and elements that had to go. There were also some new (For me) influences as well. What I liked about each of my previous albums (If you’ll indulge me for a moment):

Please, do continue...
Fifth Angel: Songs! Memorable vocal melodies. I thought that the vocal lines really were very good on that album. I also loved the drum sounds and rhythm guitar approach which was very simple, yet in your face and very aggressive.

Atlantis Rising: Songs again. I didn’t think the vocals were equalized as they should have been on that album (too bright), but I liked the melodies very much.

Octoglomerate: This album is my favorite in so many ways. Yet it’s also incredibly "Non-commercial" in it’s sheer strangeness at certain points; There were some VERY unusual chord changes and arrangements on that album, and a couple of them were actually directly taken by me and re-worked for my new album. Am I allowed to "steal" ideas from myself? I think so, and there is actually a long and historic tradition among classical composers of doing just that.

So you "Ripped yourself off"? !!!
(laughing) YES! The actual chord progression of the title track "Octoglomerate" (intro) was taken verbatim by me and reworked into "Unity –while you were sleeping" as the verse on FBT9’s track "Unity". This track in the end, was the single most difficult thing (Intellectually speaking) I've ever had to assemble in terms of odd meter counterpoint . Just playing in an odd meter can be difficult enough. If you look at the total structure of 'Unity', you’ll find that not only are the meters continually shifting between 9’s, 7’s, 6’s, and then compound 6/8 over 4/4 rhythm guitar with an additional measure of 5 added during the chorus break points. This bloody thing is FOUR Point counter pointed at all of it’s most difficult points! It was a complete nightmare to learn once it was written, and it nearly drove Brian and Michael nuts to correctly PHRASE their performances.

FBT9 - Do you consider it "Prog" music?
No. Well yes. It’s some "Other kind" of music or something. I'm NOT generally a fan of "Prog" because it can sound so "unnatural" often. I believe that phrasing is EVERYTHING next to SONGS in terms of the order of importance. It's not easy in odd-meter or you wouldn't notice a big part of the 'prog' sound. This was yet another goal I set for FBT9: Yes, it IS VERY progressive, but I don't believe it has that "disturbed" and "disjointed" sound that's always bothered me on most prog albums. You tell me? Did I not achieve a certain naturalness here, or am I misguided in a self-serving assessment?

[Ed Note: Rhetorical question by Byrd, James continues... ]

That aside, additional "musical devices" were used that I’ve personally never heard anywhere else. I’m NOT saying they didn’t exist. Just that I’d not heard them. The tri-tone with key centered bimodal melody during the B to C sections of the chorus for one thing. True bi-modality within the tri-tone. Relative-key modalism within bi-modal progressions. The so called "Tri Tone" has (historically speaking) been regarded as "The devil in music" (in a literal formal statement of Catholic dogma) by the Catholic Church. It also has the potential to be one of the nastiest, ugliest sounding intervals of all. To make it flow freely while "Centering" it via resolution at each turn (with bimodality) and actually making it sound haunting, beautiful and ethereal, is my proudest musical moment as a composer.

Was this "musical device" used anywhere else on FBT9?
Yes. In FACT, nearly somewhere in EVERY song! Then of course there are the lyrics to this track we were speaking of (Unity): It’s very difficult to convey the true message, but it’s about time. Another "trick" of "musical device" was making lyrical references actually fall on those very same lyric numbers in the meter's length in numbers.

What is the central theme of "Unity" (while you were sleeping), I mean in it’s words?
Religion, and a time of coming unity that has a potential which will put final enmity between God and man for an eternal judgment is the topic. I really don’t want to delve too deeply into the literal meaning of the words. I feel that those who are meant to understand them, will by God’s grace. It's "Biblical". TO ME anyway. Yet those who REALLY know my personal beliefs to any degree (and this is the first time I’ve truly begun to address them in public), also know that my views can't be fit into, or under a label of any sort. I'm not a "Christian" in any typical understanding of the term. (As everyone at Heaven's Metal Magazine found out in a very unfortunate way, but that is another story and can already be found on the internet).

How would you describe your beliefs then?
I am a serious student of the Bible, it's history, it's alterations and deliberate use of certain words which literally have no literal single word translation into English or ANY modern tongue save for perhaps Hebrew. These certain words were used for political reasons in the distant past. I'd accept christian (small 'c') and admit, I don’t feel like a very good one not a very good one from MY personal perspective. But God does indeed love me anyway I hope and "believe". If I'm "hell-bound", I believe it’s my actions, not my lack of a denominational devotion or creed. I'll finish any arguments with my self-proclaimed "SAVED" Christian friends then and there perhaps. I believe I love God. I say this NOT because I'm a well behaved man, or because I have a group of people who've created a consensus that says "Yes James, you'll be in Heaven because you've agreed to our fundamental 27 precepts critical to your salvation". I say this only because I hate cruelty and corruption. I long for justice. Not man's justice, we all know what a joke THIS has become. No, I mean true justice. God’s justice, and God’s alone. And I've diverged here because Flying Beyond The 9 is an attempt to convey this idea, with NO intended cruelty to anyone. It's part of an ongoing story, and it's deeply personal, yet I tried my best to make it "Universal". Most of my work always has been. The only "label" I’ll accept for my "beliefs" is "Unitarian".

Did the music dictate the lyrics or vice-versa?
This is difficult to answer without seeming glib, and overly short, but so be it. Both music and lyrics come to me as one.

Lyrically the albums touched on a number of topics. I hear amongst others: hope for the future, war, respect and dues, religion etc… is there a concept theme to the album or did it just happen that they all tended to tie in?
Yes, there is indeed a concept. But not perhaps a formal concept. If theirs is to be regarded a "Concept proper", then it’s all the result of something quite beyond any "personal" or conscious will of my own. It is best described I think, as "the collective" , filtering through me what some call "God", in as unimpeded a manner as possible. I know my God by name as "Metatron". Others know him by other names. No, I didn’t mean "him" in any "male" sense of the word btw. My beliefs may seem strange, or even weird, but I am NOT "New Age", nor a "follower" of anyone or institution. Before ANYONE anywhere attempts to put me into some crazy cult, or "box", I belong to no religious group whatsoever. I have come to have some very strong personal convictions about what can be described in many many ways, but here are a few: Universal intelligence, Pantheism, destiny which intersects at what I refer to as "Alpha-Omega points", and an ultimate CHANCE for a future human destiny in which we "evolve" beyond what we consider (today) to be "physically Human". It’s a VERY long conversation really, and I don’t know that I’ll have the time (Nor for that matter will everyone care to hear about it) to go into it in depth. But either I have knowledge about certain events unfolding, or I’m entirely mad.

The last six years, and innumerable events, multiple witnesses to these events (444’s for example), have convinced me that it’s not madness on my part by any means. And were I to even to attempt to divulge/explain more of it now, I would personally become a bit nervous about it. I’ve seen some VERY strange things happen when I’ve said the wrong things, to the wrong people, at the wrong time. I do hope I’m not coming off as a TOTAL lunatic here, but perhaps this is not the time or forum to really tell the strange story of "The 444’s". Some day I intend to, and in great depth. Something tells me that when I feel it's time, there will no longer be any need to explain it all. Everyone who's supposed to "see", will understand what I've briefly referred to here. We are (as a species) evolving spiritually in a literal way, and to speak certain particulars at the wrong time, can go against the order established by The Watchers, or what others call "angels". Elsewhere, others have found what I have and HAVE written of it. My "experiences" were entirely independent. I learned of other "believers" much after my own faith was established.

So how does "Flying Beyond The 9" relate to all you just spoke of spiritually?
Flying Beyond The 9 for me, fits and conveys the entire message of this current time without disturbing anyone’s personal freedom to believe or not believe the message it contains. It's NOT a religious message in any usual understanding of the word "religious". I can't state this strongly enough. I am NOT a "Guru" to anyone, nor do I EVER wish to be. Each of us is meant to find "The Way" in utter freedom, and although signposts may be erected along the way, and I may feel "directed" to "Post" some, I for one will not be forcing my personal view of their meaning against anyone’s free will. FBT9 is a "signpost" lyrically. Yes, the world does indeed need to be saved. But I am not so deluded to think that I'll be the guy who does it. "God" will, and he speaks to anyone who will listen, and this voice is entirely realised in one's heart, not the by "directive" of some self-proclaimed "Leader". I speak ONLY from MY heart, not someone elses words, at least in THIS world. Some will perceive "God's" presence within this music, others may not. And some (little doubt on my part here) will chose to actively hate it's message out of fear of it's "Unorthodoxy" from a dogmatic perspective. It's message is not going to "Fit" many preconceived notions, and I've seen too many instances of people being literally told to "Go to hell" for daring to let their OWN inspirations become available and expressed. Save your efforts if you feel I need praying for for those sorts of reasons. I'll take all the prayers I can get if they're rooted in love. But far too often in my opinion, they are not "LOVE", but rather a "Herding" together of fearful people who's fear of what is different, quickly leads to real hate. Action follows. Violence. Murder in God’s name.

Consider then before I leave this topic: 60 MILLION people died at the hands of "The Church" from 325 AD to the 16th century. They died deaths of unbelievable pain and humiliation, and it all began with religious "Debate". How many people today know this fading history? If THAT doesn't clearly illuminate The real identity of the so-called "Anti-Christ" for some one, well, there's no more to be said to them is there. No.

The album features a superb vocal talent in Michael Flatters, how did you hook up with him and what role did he play in FBT9?
I met Michael through another vocalist named Steve Benito (Original Heir Apparent vocalist). Michael’s "role" was to understand the songs in personal freedom (I never told him what they meant btw), and then to sing them with conviction and love for their message. I BELIEVE WE ARE all "ACTORS" IN "God’s drama". He understood these songs perfectly, and he sang with his heart out and "open" IMO. I was VERY technically demanding of him. He had freedom, yet in reality, his freedom was paradoxical because he was singing what I wrote and directed down to the last nuance. But was it really me? We went over this earlier didn’t we. The paradox here is that it was so easy. Remember "Radar" from the television series M.A.S.H.? It went THAT way most of the time.

So you’re saying, "There were no "problems"?
Yes. No REAL problems. The only "difficulties" encountered were due to MY constant pushing of him to "keep going Michael", when fatigue was setting in on him. He really didn't have enough time to finish all his parts without working 8 to 12 hours a day when he was here. At the end of the last two sessions, things lightened up a lot, and we worked fewer hours. We had a very good time too: Sending out for various exotic foods and renting videos on the last few nights. In the end, he was the easiest person to work with I’ve ever produced on an album.

Brian Hutchison played a large role in the creation of FBT9, what was it that he added to the project that helped make it what it is and how did you hook up with him?
He apparently knew who I was and liked what I did. Which always surprises me btw. I've never felt "Famous" and certainly wouldn't say I am. He walked up to me in a Guitar Center and asked me "Are you by any chance James Byrd?". It turned out that we had mutual friends, and we spoke at length about music and our personal inspirations and hopes. He ended up giving me a cassette tape of his own solo material where he’d played every instrument: Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Drums. I invited him over as I live only a few blocks from the store, and he played me his music. I was floored really. It wasn’t so much a matter of "Chops" on a particular instrument. It was the highly dramatic nature of the music. The sound itself was superb. When he told me that what I was hearing was a combination of midi and a live guitar performance recorded direct to minidisk, I said "I’d be honored to work with you". It was really quite brilliant stuff, very different from anything I’d ever played (Or probably will for that matter). He just has such a vast knowledge of virtually every instrument at a high capacity of sophistication that I knew I’d found "The guy". The material he played was reminding me of Emerson Lake and Palmer, U.K., Pink Floyd, and even Beatles at points. Obviously Flying Beyond The 9 is a Byrd album, but in all honesty, I’d be very honored to play on one of his albums some day as I found it very challenging harmonically and so different from what I do. NOT having to engineer this album was so damned nice. I recall once being criticized in a review for "Wearing all the hats", referring to how poor the production on one of my albums was (The Apocalypse Chime). Well, the reviewer was entirely right, the production of that album SUCKED. Damned if I ever "wore all the hats" because I wanted to. I couldn’t AFFORD a "real" engineer. Yes, I’ll never deny that in my way, I am a total control freak. But if you ask those who’ve worked with me what I’m like as a human being, I have few worries about anything negative being said about the WAY I deal with it. There’s never any reason to abuse people or yell at them, and in all my years recording (27 I believe) I can’t recall anything of that nature ever happening. In the end, I just believe as humans, we realize and admit our limitations. My limitation was engineering to my own satisfaction.

One of the biggest areas that hit me with this album was the production. Sonically it is massive, I know you have been unhappy with various aspects on previous releases, how did you get this album to sound so good?
GREAT! Ask Brian. I could tell you much of it, but he deserves to answer the question really. It would not have happened without him.

The symphonic orchestration is pretty complex and could have been a sonic mess, yet it enhances all the tracks rather than overpowering them, how did you manage to get the perfect balance?
It’s in an understanding of several things:

1st - I avoided overlapping certain instruments which had similar frequencies.

2nd - I wrote parts that either utilised similar motion, or contrary motion. One can’t have everything moving the same way in the same ranges at once.

3rd - I avoided adding certain things at certain points. The great temptation with 70 plus tracks at your disposal (90 on Avianti Suite), is to use them all at the same time. I spent a lot of time listening to various classical composers, and tried to learn from them.

4th - something HAS to "give" in the actual mix. I tried to find the right balance. Too much rhythm guitar volume and the "depth" was lost. Not enough rhythm guitar volume and the power and aggression was lost. It’s always a compromise in the end you know. I did the best job I could and Brian and I worked as a team. It was very exhausting really. We’d do mix after mix of a song, and I’d take it out to the car and listen, Then home and listen. Then on the worst boom box I could find I'd listen again. The perfect mix would sound good on everything from a pile of junk car stereo, to a good home system and everything in between. I did this with every track over a one month period. Maybe I am "mad as a hatter" after all? I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t care to hear the album again! I hope that it was all worth it for the fans. I hope THEY will want to hear it many times over the years. I’ve heard enough to last ten lifetimes;)

What made you decide to add orchestration to the music? Was it what you heard in your mind to accompany the music or was it an afterthought?
OH no mate! THIS was not an "afterthought"! It came FIRST along with the vocal line/lyric. Not only did I use only one rhythm guitar on the album, it was the LAST part added, and for that matter, written. The parts I’m playing on the guitar are entirely dictated by the vocals and orchestration. I found many new ways of approaching composition in general with this album. In a sense, my role on Flying Beyond The 9, is almost as though "I’m a guitarist who plays in someone elses band" with the support of a symphony. It was all very intentional. I’m sick to death of "Riff" based rock albums that sound like they took about 5 minutes to write. Hey, some GREAT records got made that way, save any hate mail please! But I wanted to find a higher level of maturity in composition and depth, especially production. "Banging out guitar chords for singers with note-books and pens" isn’t going to be my direction. It may have BEEN my direction when I was 18, but hell, I'm 40 now! This is 2001. I don’t even care if people call this album rock and roll frankly. It just is what it is. To me, it’s music. My music, period.

Another key aspect that hit me was the song style. These tracks are more accessible than some of the work on albums like ‘Crimes Of Virtuosity’ and ‘The Apocalypse Chime’ and seem to follow more of the standard verse / chorus / bridge type progression. How did many of the tracks turn out more ‘commercial’?
I made a very definite decision NOT to utilise the typical harmonic minor/phrygian "shredfest" chord progressions so often associated with what have generically come to be known as "Neo-classical" metal most of the time. I wrote the majority of the songs on FBT9 either in Major keys, or very unusual keys (at least for "metal") to distance myself from what I’ve come to view as a very boring and "over blown" sound. Yes, there is the occasional use of harmonic minor in one or two places on the album, but there are SEVEN "Church" modes, as well as a whole host of synthetic modes: Enigmatic, Super Harmonic Minor, etc. . Now if one views chords as colors, lets say (For example) that E minor is black or burnt umber. If a musician chooses to play harmonic minor over this back ground color, we now have (If we ‘assign’ bright red to harmonic minor just as an example) a picture in red and black. Fine, I have nothing against these two colors, they’re perfectly lovely colors. But to do a whole damned album of red and black pictures? Oh, no thank you! ENOUGH already. So the new album uses literally EVERY ‘mode’ known, including synthetics and chromatics, and it does so over certain chord structures that are occasionally quite strange. That it sounds "More commercial" to your ear, well I wouldn’t mind if everyone felt this way because I’d like to reach as many people with the album as possible. But really, you can’t please everyone, and I honestly tried hardest to impress myself first.

My guess as to why that this album seems "More commercial" to your ear, is because the order in which parts were written, determined their impact. If we’re talking about SONGS, then the vocal must be the center of everything, and this was my priority with FBT9. I made the last album "Crimes of Virtuosity" because I wanted to go "completely over the top" with sheer aggression on the guitar. Get it over with and to a degree, out of my system. I feel that after that album (C.O.V.), with it’s intentionally "retro" "genre", I made my final stand of sorts amongst the likes of players like my friend Yngwie. Not because I don’t like what he does, he’s BRILLIANT. I just needed to get it over with if this makes sense.

Are you trying to say you’ve abandoned "Shred"?
Yes, you can take it that way if you like. But I assure you, I have NOT abandoned playing the best guitar I can possibly manage to play on this and hopefully many future albums. And when appropriate, VERY fast. But I am sick to death of the whole "Oh check out how fast this or that guy is" mentality. Who really OUGHT to give a shit anymore? Well, I don’t, and haven't for years. I just want to feel completed as an artist. For me this means writing songs, arranging them, writing words, orchestrating, producing, and then playing the hell out of my guitar if it happens to be called for. It isn't always called for and that is the truth as I've come to see it. Again, I’m 40 years old now! It was time to grow up in certain musical respects. And I believe with all my heart, if this album DOESN'T end comparisons to Yngwie's music, nothing EVER will. I respect the hell out of him, I like him a great deal personally, I totally admire his dedication, I deeply appreciate his support of my music, I enjoy his style when played by HIM, and in many ways, we both feel like brothers to each other. But I AM ME, and FBT9 is my best effort to further that concept among anyone remotely reasonable who will LISTEN to the music and read my words. This is nothing like an Yngwie album, an Uli Jon Roth album, or in my opinion, anything ever released by a supposed "shredder" or guitar virtuoso.

I am not a "shredder", so please don't think to equate what I do, with what this term has come to mean (at least to myself and apparently MOST of the public) before you listen to this album. I have had enough frustration just to finish it and present it to my friends and supporters to believe that I deserve the benefit of the doubt here. To me "Shred" is not a nice way of describing music or playing. I think you know what I mean?

Despite the ‘commercial’ appeal of many of the tracks there is a definite underlying progressive slant, yet you manage to avoid many of the overused prog clichés. Is this a genre that appeals to you?
I am so HAPPY this was noticed! "Prog"? Well, it’s a silly name isn’t it;) Makes me think of "Frog" and Star Trek" (laughing). I know there’s a certain typical "Prog" sound that’s been around a LONG time, since the 70’s in fact. Like anything else, it can wear thin. It’s that "monochromatic" analogy again. But much so-called "Prog" is in my opinion, very self indulgent and tiring to listen to. I honestly don’t sit around and listen to bands or guitar players, you know this. So I would say that although there are "Prog" influences here and there on FBT9, I don’t think this album really fits into any particular categorical limitations one might wish to impose upon it for the sake of descriptive ease. I do enjoy certain aspects of Symphony X (Amazing singer, amazing production, great playing all around) and Spock’s Beard. And to me, these bands are in a league of their own under the "Prog" banner, and don't feel personally that the label does them justice. It's just amazing music, and happens to be complex. But again, although I’ve HEARD these bands, I don’t sit around analyzing them or listening for ideas. I would say that FBT9 is in fact a highly progressive album. But it’s precisely because of what it’s NOT, rather than what it is. And the real element which makes it truly progressive in my opinion, is that although it doesn't seem typically "prog", if you really listen hard to what’s going on, (and when) in these songs, they are technically very complex. Some how it manages to be complex without SEEMING complex. This was my entire objective as a writer. I really believe that grounding the center of the album around the vocal melodies was "the trick" to achieving a very progressive album that's also very listenable and almost "pop" sounding in some ways.

One area that might surprise a few fans is that there is less guitar on this album. You seem less inclined to throw in lots of fills between vocal phrases preferring to let the rhythm guitar do the majority of the work during the main framework of songs, what led to this downplay in guitar?
Less? Not really. Different priorities in my view actually. I decided that additional "solos" wouldn’t make the songs any better. I also think that the rhythm guitar parts stand on their own very nicely in these places, and DO make the song better. I put a LOT of thought into the rhythm guitar parts and their performances on this album. There is SO much more to playing good guitar than just soloing. Again, I guess it comes down to taste, but in the end, I asked myself: "Why add yet another solo/lead guitar fill?" I didn’t have a good answer. That everyone else seems compelled to do it didn't seem like a good enough answer to me.

To my ears your solos benefit from it and they make a bigger impression as a result, in a word the album sounds very ‘live’, it also puts over the impression that this album was written with the ‘songwriter’ hat on as opposed to the ‘guitar player’ hat…is this a good way of summing up the album?
Yes, I agree entirely with this assessment. THIS was precisely what I wanted to convey. It certainly WAS "the song writer's hat", and I agree about the solos as well. My goal as a musician/guitarist is first and foremost, to communicate with people. I can't sing, so I "sing" with the guitar. It's my entire philosophy about GOOD guitar playing. My philosophy about communicating with the guitar as my "voice", is that it's no different than were one to be speaking of literal singing: #1, no one gives a damn how "fast" someone can sing, #2, no one in their right mind would sing exactly the same word over and over again, and IF there's going to be a guitar solo in a song, it has to make the song better for everyone who'd be listening. My other goal as a guitarist was, remains, and will remain a continual quest to avoid repetitive playing AND writing at all costs. It means a life time of study of music itself with the guitar as the notebook I happened to chose. I hate guitar playing that repeats the same stupid "Lick" again and again. I've been a very vocal critic of this approach, but I'm not going to openly criticise any particular players by name. So you tell me: What is "Fast"? It could be argued that alternating between only two notes, but playing them at a rate of 1200 notes per minute is fast. And what does it mean? Nothing. Now what about a REAL musician who plays "Lazy 8th's" for 15 minutes over dozens of chord changes, meter changes, mode changes, and never once repeats himself? Lets say it was only 300 notes per minute in terms of speed. Is this "Fast"? Hell, I don't know. But it's BLOODY GOOD isn't it.

Well, my never ending quest has been to approach every song I play on (Speaking of the guitar here) from the perspective that whether improvised, or worked out, a good guitar solo ought to stand as a composition, and a good one at that. It should fit the song, and between songs, the approach taken ought to be different every single time. I'm working towards a point in my playing where "Modes", scales, the very concept of pattern becomes less and less meaningful. I spent years to learn them, now I will spend years unlearning them. Music itself exists only between the past (memory) and the future (anticipation).

As a matter of metaphysical reality, it has no "Current" existence, only as polarities between these two points. There also does indeed exist something coined by a now departed friend of mine, Howard Roberts: "The Big Now". Does this seem to be a contradiction to what I just stated? I'll clear it up as best I can; Yes, it does "exist", but ONLY existentially and entirely within the mind/spirit of the listener (If we confine this to music). You will know it when you experience it as a listener. It’s "spiritual". I know it when I hear David Gilmour play his "solo" on "Comfortably Numb". It's a form of connection with a listener so deep, that an "arrow" goes straight into the heart of the listener. Listening is much more than "hearing" when it happens: It's an "experience". It happens literally one note at a time. Jimi Hendrix could communicate in "The Big Now": When a single note vibrates in a way that creates this event, it's a resonance. A resonance of the note with the actual spirit of the "receiver". We can become receivers if we have the gift of recognition of this experience. And if we can recognise it, theoretically, we may also have the gift to make the move from receiver, to transmitter.

I believe that the best communications come about when one can become a natural transmitter, and it's not a "Goal". It's not a goal as Zen is not a "goal". It's "achieved", but not by will, but a true absence of ego. Sorry to become so metaphysical, but for me, music which moves people is truly religious as an experience for me.

‘All Of Me’ features no guitar at all, what led to this and was the track written away from the guitar?
All of these songs were written away from the guitar. But in the end, putting guitar on this track would have destroyed it’s character and message. When I feel as though a set of words convey something as important and utterly personal as these do to a message, I’m not going to play a guitar on it if it detracts from those words. I believe playing guitar would have done this. I consider myself a song writer Andy, and even without a guitar part, I’ve believe I’ve still done my job here.

I know you do not listen to a lot of rock music, but were there any acts that had any influence in this album?
I’d say Queen did. Not that I think that this album sounds like Queen, but vocally, especially the way the vocals are intertwined and the use of 7th's, 13th's and other non-standard harmonies, I think people will hear not "influence", but "inspiration" from this aspect of Queen's music. There are also an insane amount of vocal tracks and harmonies throughout the album and it's very thick sounding. I DID want "slick" production, but also direct production. I believe Queen represented this concept brilliantly.

Guitar wise you used your handmade ‘Super Avianti’® exclusively. The change in tone is definitely anything but subtle, was this instrument responsible for bringing some of the tracks to you?
Perhaps "Avianti Suite". I will say that when you’re totally inspired by your sound, it’s very very nice, and often does result in a better performance. My guitars are set up in such a way that frankly, they're very difficult to play. The action is quite high, the strings are very heavy, and the sound is very dry. But being inspired by THAT "difficult to play" was a goal because I knew that it would get the best possible sound across, even if it was physically more difficult to do. So yes, they're a joy to play, but not for "ease of action". I doubt anyone else would feel comfortable with the actual set-up of my action and string gauge choices.

So that (for want of a better word) a 'Harder' and also ‘Higher’ action would bring out the soul more?
Mostly the TONE, but Yes, in the end. For me, it's a form of intentional "struggle" with the instrument that needs to be there to sound and project at my best. I hate guitars with super-low action and flat finger boards. For me, it's like trying to build a house while standing on ice. Impossible! It's horrid, and my playing on these sorts of instruments gets completely out of control. They're to easy to "drive fast" on, and there's no "Fight" with the guitar anymore. I want to "feel the road" to use an automotive analogy. I don't want an automatic transmission, and I don't want power steering either. I want to feel what I'm up against if this makes sense. And yes, I do occasionally drive insanely fast, but again, music is not a race. I step on the gas when I FEEL it, not all the time.

You have also added a number of new guitar textures that I have not heard before, where did they come from?
My hands and the guitar itself, along with my choice of a "vintage" Amp and no use of effects. This allows me to create many additional subtleties with my fingers and hands alone which really come through more clearly now. The sound is incredibly dynamic. If I play softly, the sound is clean and very sweet. If I play harder, it becomes more aggressive and filled with new harmonics. The actual tone is always "shifting" depending on the "handling of the instrument" with the left and right hands. It presents the difficult challenge of keeping the sound "even". This clearer sound also enables me to learn to find entirely new "textures" you spoke of. So it’s with the hands alone, and I now have actual control over a wider range of dynamics. It's made me (I think) a much more expressive player and also much cleaner sounding player. It didn’t make it any "easier" to be "effortless". Yet it DOES in the end. A paradox? YES!

‘Avianti Suite’ is a perfect showcase for your solo guitar skills, where did the inspiration for that tune come from?
I just heard this amazing piece of music in my head while asleep (It happens all the time this way). I was determined and committed myself to learn to play it first. Then to capture it with real conviction true to every note that hung in my head. It (The guitar part) is one continuous take from start to finish. It was an entire "Live" take. In other words, the guitar as solo instrument amidst 90 tracks was not a "pieced-together" performance using technology. The performance was not the first take mind you! Maybe take 35 or 40? But one continuous take. I rehearsed every day, 3 to 4 hours a day, for over 2 weeks to do that. I must like challenges! I wanted continuity above all else. You lose "continuity" when you "assemble" guitar solos with punch-ins and editing. Since there was no drummer, anything less than an end to end performance, AS IS, would NOT have gone unnoticed in terms of phrasing. "FEEL" was everything apart from the right notes. Without a drummer, it had to be one take to have the continuity I felt the music deserved. I must be a masochist. I got it into my head that "Classical discipline" would improve my skills immeasurably. It was no damn fun in all honesty, but again, it was extremely rewarding when I "Nailed it" and played it back. Hearing it on playback WAS fun once it was right. I was elated really. "Finally"!

Have you any favourite performances on the album?
Yes, but I’d rather not influence any future listeners with my opinions here. Now that it's finished, it belongs to others now. Of course it's "Mine", but I'm just going to let this one land where it lands. All in all, I really like the whole album, and I’d have to get silly and nit-pick to do it anyway.

Can you give me a quick overview of what each track means to you, either lyrically or musically?

This is a message from Metatron to humanity about the coming spiritual changes. It’s actually anti-apocalyptic on one level, yet not on another. I think it’s message of hope, and also a warning. It's fairly self evident in it’s message about the state of things now, and to come. I wrote the words and melody prior to the whole Y2k fiasco (as it turned out to be). It was meant to make people realise that "the light's will still shine", and "the end" is not now. It's also a message of hope in that angels are watching each and everyone of us, and at certain times (444) speaking to our hearts and spirits, assuring us that our futures are in their hands, and no matter how it looks from our perspective, in the end, it's all very very good.

This gets down to some of my personal beliefs, one of which is definitely reincarnation. It’s written at times in the 2nd person, and other times in the form of the 1st person. It’s about the myriad of "dark and unrepentant souls who return to earth as ordinary looking people for many thousands of years. They exert an evil influence on this planet's history past, present, and future. It’s set from a beginning point of origin, that being the Atlantean Empire. These "Dark Hearts" are in fact nearly all of us, for we've all been here before, some more often than others. We have a destiny of eventual salvation from our own evils because in the cycle of rebirth, we are given opportunities to learn new lessons with each new life cycle. The time period in which events are referred to in Dark Heart, is a time of man's reliance upon his own devices and technologies as his own "plan for salvation" as in a "Better world through technology alone. It is destined to fall under it's own weight because the "ships" lack a moral compass as their guide. Instead, they are relying upon their human king and his earthly power. The period of history begins 14,000 years ago, and it's ending has both already occurred, yet the cycles of rebirth in ignorance continue, and these "men walk among us today". Some are ordinary people, many are in positions of immense political power. But as I have already alluded to, it's all of us in various degrees of advancement or decline, spiritually speaking. We ARE all "fallen angels" in my view or we’d not still be here. The Bible speaks of a judgment upon the world by destruction through water. Plato writes in detail of this event. The Myan Calendar begins with the same event. I have read into the accounts by various cultures of this first apocalypse, and their almost identical accounts and dates convince me of it's factual nature. It really happened.

I penned this while watching my city (Seattle) burn during the riots. I don’t like violence that’s senseless, but the violence that’s unseen is the most senseless of all. I have long been an opponent of the W.T.O. and all it stands for. These words are very self evident. The World Trade Organisation represents the least repentant souls, who's agenda is identical with those of the Atlantean Kings who abused the gifts of technology through "one world government", and ruled until 11,550 years ago. FBT9 is all interlaced together topically in my mind. In the final "conflict" (Which spans many human lifetimes to play-out), the cycle of judgment comes through it's circle, and once again, a disaster for humanity awaits. Not for cruel vengeance, but to once again advance man's spiritual state in renewed hope for a "just" world through personal sacrifice.

Guys at record companies who destroy countless lives and dreams with nary a thought of the true consequences of their greed. It’s Epic isn’t it. To me, these are the most spiritually ignorant, yet perhaps most innocuous appearing group of fallen beings here. Their level of awareness is so low, that their own desires are easily quenched by controlling and feeding upon the worlds lowest orders, both socially, economically, and in all ranks of status. "Rock stars" are created illusions who's comfortable existence and grand life styles, are the proverbial "carrot on the stick" under the noses of 13 and 14 year old children. These people will stoop lower and lower to fill their lust for ego gratification and power, even if it takes a demographic that’s underage to do it. That their entire marketing strategy" is a lie, goes without saying but I said it anyway. I wrote this track for every artist I've personally known who's also never been paid, and I know a lot of people. And yes, we all know that includes me. Apparently the kids understand a part of the equation: They know enough to know that they read of artists not getting paid, yet they are charged $17.00 for a piece of plastic that’s worth 50 cents. The missing $16.50 cents belongs to someone. But does it belong to a child who only understands that he can't afford $17.00 for an album? No. Does it belong to the record companies who won’t pay an artist, unless the artist can afford to sue them? No. It belongs to the countless artists who've dedicated their lives and time, usually their ability to pay their rent and eat, because THEY borrowed the money to make the record the label sells for $17.00. And they're starving on every level because they're just not being "allowed" to pay back the original "Loan" -read that 'recording advance'. Selling a CD for $3.00 isn't the answer unless you're the consumer. I spent 2 and a half years of my life making this album. Every album has countless hours of blood sweat and tears put into it's completion before it reaches the market place. Will anyone seriously look me in the eye and tell me that just because the medium (50 cents worth of plastic) is cheap, my very life is also? That the WORK contained on that 50 cent disk is it's only value? If so, then The Mona Lisa is worth $12.00 for the canvas and frame. People might think I'm bitter. They're right, shouldn’t I be? But not only for myself, but for the unbelievable levels of selfishness and oppression allowed to serve this multinational corporate SCAM.

That it is allowed to go on effecting tens of thousands of lives, that IS bitter, and SHOULD be "bitter". So if by chance you don't care about anything other than a "Pollyanna world" where you get what you want, damn the rest of us, then not only do I have no sympathy for your position, but personally stay away from my face with your self-justified views, or I might just punch you. I'm sorry, but I am not a "Turn the other cheek person TWICE". I believe in social justice and that those who work, whether in sweatshops, shoe factories, or for record companies as artists: NOT ONE human being should be "enslaved" at the hands of national indifference to what is ethically right.

Written in the 2nd person. I almost subtitled it, but there’s already enough subtitles on the album. It could have been called "Letters from God". Recent events in my life (Wonderful!) lead me here to formally dedicate this song to my intended and soon to be wife: Kelly Purcell. God does send angels, thank you God:) Kelly "sweetheart", you are everything to me.

The REAL Anti-Christ revealed to those who really want to seek his abode, and to know the shocking truth. He's no "devil in red with a pitch fork". He has been many, and rules from one office. Each "incarnation" has had a unique mission within several organised religions. I know much much more, but I'm going to save it.

This is a song about man’s hope in the "Heaven to come". I love this track personally. It begins to "jell" the duality of good and evil dealt with on this album. It’s the long hoped for period of peace on earth.

Written in the 2nd person again. Jesus, murdered by religion 2001 years ago. Still murdered again and again, every day with the nails of dogma. What would he say if he could speak to "The Church" using his name? Not too happy about all this, is he.

Just music. I literally heard this music in my sleep in a dream, exactly as it now exists. From the great spirit of aesthetic, to my head, to yours. I'm thankful for this gift to me and that I found my way in transferring it from "Out there" to tape decks. This is for me, WHY I make albums.

You have also contributed to the Lion Music Jason Becker tribute album – Warmth In The Wilderness – what did you contribute to that project?
I played about a minute and a half long solo on "Outro Jam". I didn't try to "Impress" anyone with constant speed. It does have some fairly fast playing as it begins, but towards the end, it actually slows down. I believed this would work, because as a compilation of performances by many guitarists, I have no idea who would play the next solo after my own, or what their approach would be. I thought (And I hope) that I was able to provide the next player with a musical ending which would allow him/her? to have a fresh start and a chance of their own to build their own solo as they saw fit beginning from my slower ending and resolution. I have heard so many of these compilation "Shred-fest" things (Always Shrapnel it seems, and one listen was MORE than enough usually) that I noticed that as a "format", there CAN and usually are problems with each guy playing a million notes, and then each guy’s solos just run into the next guy’s. I think it's horrid sounding. So I slowed way down and smoothed my way into 8th notes and repeated a little motif (Picardy 3rd) that I hoped would make someone else's job a bit happier.

If you could sum up ‘FBT9’ in a few words what would they be?
Me, un-self conscious, highly focused, and at times, very very musically joy filled. It's by and large a very uplifting work IMO. I'm not saying who here, but someone I played Avianti Suite for actually began to cry upon hearing it. One listen is worth a thousand words (And I apologise for the fact that I've far exceed those words here, but this interview was very special to me this time). If you like it, well buy it! I don't know if I'll become wealthy through music, but if I can get this album AVAILABLE, perhaps I'll be able to continue to make albums that grow in quality. It's been a 17 year learning curve for me as to HOW to actually make an album and make it hopefully better each time. This album marks the first time since FIFTH ANGEL that I feel I've reached a quality goal in production and sonic impact, that was lost for years due to a lack of money to make the records properly. I didn't actually have any more money this time, but I had real love, and invaluable expertise from Brian and Michael. I honestly will tell you: THIS album has met my own standards. I hope (that I've conveyed) that these do in fact actually mean something which can be trusted. God knows, everyone's latest album is "Oh it's my best", so when one is honest, that honesty is often lost on a rightfully cynical public who's tired of self-serving B.S. served on a platter of MTV "Gratitude". Final word? See for yourself.

Finally what’s next?
I’m already working on it, but seriously, I can not talk about it. I have no certain knowledge that it will actually happen because I'd just be one of many artists. But I hope it does because I REALLY want to see it come to fruition and be a part of it. If and when it does, no one will know for probably a year or more. It involves a LOT of different people and work, so I am always wary of "Murphy's Law" lurking in the wings. I do have faith though. I believe this particular project I'm being so mysterious about here (sorry!) will happen.

Thank You James.
Thank You Andy, it’s been an ultimate pleasure that I've been given such an extensive forum. To my fans, God-bless you all. Your letters have meant the world to me and I'm not sure I would have gone on with FBT9 without them. And last but not least, the Fan Club. Yes it's small, but I love you all for being there and taking an interest in my life and art. Finally, thank you 444. I know your love and although I've had fear, it's been of myself, not you. Want to learn more? http://www.fourfourfour.com Again, I don't "Follow", belong to, endorse any one "religion" exclusively or believe that anyone follow anything but their own heart. It's just a web site. I didn't find until YEARS after I knew what I know. They know it too.


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