I had the great pleasure of having a phone conversation with Yogi Lang, the lead singer of RPWL. World Through My Eyes is the latest CD from this former Pink Floyd Tribute band. The band now has 4 albums and has continued with each to progress and enhance their name as a progressive rock act. World Through My Eyes is by far their most adventurous CD to date.
Sea Of Tranquility: World Through My Eyes Has a very different sound from your earlier CDs. Was there a conscience effort to escape the "Pink Floyd sound" that you were known for?
Mr. Lang: Yea we tried to.
SoT: So you are doing that on purpose or does it just happen?
Mr. Lang: It's tough to say because we go to the studio and we try to be open minded, you try to act with open emotions and so you check what comes out from you so it is always hard to say because now that we are finished you can think about what influenced us but it is always hard to say what influences you when you are making an album. That's the thing, often musicians don't know from who they are influenced.
But I hope so, you know. It's just what we try to do to be open-minded and act with open emotions, the result is that the music is open-minded too.
SoT: I'm always curious then how the songs grow with a band like yours where the music is intricate and flows. Do you go into the studio with songs already prepared or do they evolve with each and every take?
Mr. Lang: The work for World Through My Eyes was quite different from the other albums, like Trying To Kiss The Sun and Stock.
Of course Stock was something very different because if you know Stock then you know Stock was just a compilation of previously unreleased material. So World Through My Eyes was more conceived of trying to get to something,
But what was different was the thing that we really tried, and Stock gave us this opportunity to do, because we had some kind of cut and did all the old things in Stock so we could do something very, very new. So we could go into the Studio and in the beginning of the year 2004 it was more or less we discussed more than we played. We tried to come to the songs and tried to come to the subject more with the lyrics than with the music and with all these discussions, the music came in. And so for the first time I have the feeling that our music just grew together over the months of making it. So this time the lyrics were first and the music just grew to it.
Yea, when I listen to it, I hear it, I hope the listener hears it too, that there is some kind of emotion in the lyrics and emotion in the music and that is what we focused on with the compositions and that's why things seem really, really together.
SoT: World seems to really have a focus, can you explain a little "Ramayana" and the thematic elements of the new CD?
Mr. Lang: Well the subject we discussed really a lot about and this is a thing I always wanted to write about is just a simple love of spirituality and the thinking of our western society and this is something that has been on my mind for a very long time. You know it is very helpful when you open your eyes and see other civilizations; their values of living and morals and even of their history, all of these things that are really important for our mental and spiritual being.
That is why I just at this Indian mythology, it could have been something else, but, you know, I read this book called "Ramayana", it describes some values and morals that are, at times, things you're not used to. So it was just refreshing to my mind. So this was the thing with getting this Eastern text and in general it had an effect in my eyes on where the human race has lost a little bit control over what I think is the most dangerous thing, Money. It's not that Money is the Devil, but that we are getting the Devil out of it. It's just that Money has replaced our religion. This is just what I thought about when I compared what religion has been to us and what our mental state of mind has been years before and now. So this is more or less the subject for World Through My Eyes.
I think it is a shame that up to the 21st century we learned to destroy a world that we still can not feed. This is the thing that shows us where we are going to.
SoT: That was an excellent description. What are some of your other musical influences or groups that the band might be interested in?
Mr. Lang: This time we really tried to be open minded, of course you are always influenced, but I think the thing that influences you most is very simply the music that you grew up with. You know, I am a kid of the late 70s, so you know, that is still the music that influences me. It's the music of the big bands, of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, the maturity they had, the fact that they had something to say in their lyrics. I think Yes is a wonderful example that shows how lyrics can go with music together to show one emotion.
I think this is one thing that the band has in common. That music and lyrics should go together. This is the reason we met and why we perform music together, because that is the thing we feel when we hear and play music.
But you know, four musicians and four worlds that we see through our eyes, and when we are doing music, our drummer is more into modern, what you would call progressive rock, and our bass player is probably the only one who loves the 80s (laughs).
So it is a wonderful mixture, when we are playing and we rehearse, but this is what a band is and should be. Many views joined together; otherwise it is simply a solo album.
SoT: One of the things that you have been known for is your live shows. Is there a tour planned to promote World Through My Eyes and is there any hope of RPWL playing in the United States?
Mr. Lang: We would like to go to the states but it is always the same, it is hard to come to the states, even if we have the chance, because you have to find a way that you get rid of your equipment, because that is the part that is very, very expensive to get your instruments to the states.
Of course we are planning a tour, and the tour is mostly confirmed. It is the first time we really go all over Europe, with England, Spain, France and Belgium and the Netherlands. Maybe there is a chance in summer to come to the States.
SoT: Are you going to be doing Clubs or Festivals or a combination of both?
Mr. Lang: In Europe we are doing clubs, if you are better known, like in Poland, we will be playing big clubs, but with other places, we were only in Spain one time, we will be playing smaller clubs.
You know, we were surprised; we began playing music together because we wanted to play live. It is an easy thing for us just to do smaller clubs because we are just plugging in our instruments and we play. If we are playing larger clubs we can do it with Quadraphonic or maybe a video show. Both things are very appealing, playing in a small club and you are standing eye-to-eye with your fans, it a great thing, it's just something different to play big areas.
SoT: What are your opinions about live performances? Do you try to be true to the CD, or do your live shows contain improvisation and experimentation of the set list?
Mr. Lang: (laughs) That might be some surprise for our fans when they hear music for the first time live. Okay, with some songs it's very useful; it depends on where the music developed. If the music developed in the studio very technically, could be with some songs, then of course the live performance could be the same. But there are many, many songs you are writing with the acoustic guitar, and then you go in the studio and the song changes with the possibilities you have in the studio, and that is good for some reasons, but when you go back to stage you are still standing there with an acoustic guitar so you can't play it like you did before.
And that is the case with World Through My Eyes, World Through My Eyes is developed in some amazing way in the studio, we didn't expect some things that happened with the song. I had the desire not to make an album with Indian instruments played on a sampler, so we got in touch with a studio in India. We called and I tried to get in touch with a studio that understands the lyrics. The first thing I did with the studio was to discuss the lyrics of World Through My Eyes. This was an amazing fact. When you record with different studios and the song develops, it is nearly impossible to play live as the song is on the CD.
If you do it, it is some kind of strange, maybe the same with the last Peter Gabriel tour. It was an amazing tour of course, but if you do it like on the CD, and this is what he tried to do, I don't know if for me as a musician when I hear that and the Macintosh computer runs and you see the guy playing to a playback. It's strange.
And of course when we play quadraphonic we have an effects tape that you need, but of course it's an effects tape. But if the music comes from a computer it's just like being in a studio. So I could invite the fans to come to the studio and listen to the music, and that would be rather better than trying to install a studio on a stage or worse case would be just put a CD in a CD player and standing on stage doing something, maybe drinking tea. (laughs)
SoT: On "Roses" you got Ray Wilson to sing, how did that come about? I think that is the first time you used a guest musician of his stature?
Mr. Lang: Yes you are right. We were recording Roses and it was the first time for me that I was standing in the studio and thinking, this is not the voice that I want to have for the emotion to the song. I couldn't add what I wanted to add to the song. I thought a lot about, and I knew Rays voice, because I saw the Calling All Stations tour in Germany. I was really amazed about this wonderful emotional voice; he has a wonderful voice of course. Roses deals with the fact that if you are reaching another state of mind that you will be alone and nothing will be the same, your friends may not be your friends, because you are something new and all that you see through your eyes won't be the same anymore. And this feeling of loneliness is perfectly conveyed by Ray's voice. He did an amazing job.
I met him at a concert and I gave it to him and I said, "listen to it and maybe we can do something together", and he said "yes", but I didn't know if he would do it. I met him three days later and he said, "that's a wonderful song, I understand what you mean and I've tried singing it". What he did in the studio was mind blowing. I think it developed into a wonderful song. He could add exactly the emotion that I wanted to have on this song.
SoT: I think everyone knows that has this album, the 10 minute title song stands out in the way it progresses. How did this song come about? How long is the writing process for something like that?
Mr. Lang: If you have a feeling that World Through My Eyes took a little longer than the other tracks, then you are right. The song started with this picture I had in mind sitting alone in a grove thinking about, and seeing the world in all its grace. We always think we need technique to do life better but what we did is take the opposite of this. Nature is in all its grace without anything. You don't need anything to add to it. This is the feeling we had when we started with the first verses. And then I wanted to add something that showed the difference between Eastern and Western thinking and this is the reason why the song changes and gets this western rhythm with eastern instruments. This is an idea I discussed with an Indian musician who played the Sarod on the track. It was very amazing what happened. You have this eastern groove and then it completely changes to a western song and you were on the grove and you saw the world in all its grace and then you are standing in a big city made of money.
And this was the thing that was really amazing until you see how the lyrics and the same instruments, the music for World Through My Eyes would have never have been what it is if it wasn't for the lyrics. So this song is made of lyrics, and made of spirit. And this is what I love with this album.
SoT: Are there any plans to record any of the concerts and maybe to record a live DVD or album? Any plans for 5.1 recordings of World Through My Eyes?
Mr. Lang: Yea, for the first time, we got a TV show in Germany, and we are just thinking of recording it and using the pictures and doing a DVD. Yes, for the first time we are thinking about it. When we do it, yes, we'll just do it during this tour. Just recording, there is one televisions station show called ROCKPALAST for rock bands and they are recording the TV show. If we do it, we just do it. We'll see.
We did a 5.1 recording with Stock, and that was why it was so important for us. Of course it was just a compilation but we could do some new things on it. We did a DVD, but in an audio version, with a 5.1. The reaction we got was just people surprised that there was no picture. And so it was hard to explain that we just did the music to get it in 5.1. So what they did is turn on their TV sets and try and figure out what 5.1 is. Of course this is the wrong way to do it.
So what we did was an enhanced CD, this was better because first of course you have the hybrid where you can use it in a SACD player for 5.1 players and use it in a normal CD player. The SACD is a special edition where we flipped the last song and added a new song that isn't on the album version. You can play it on a normal CD or you can play it on a SACD you can play it in a higher quality.
SoT: Well I appreciate you taking the time to share your view of World Through My Eyes.
Mr. Lang: Thank You.
interview by Steve Ambrosius