With a recent 2CD monster Controlled by Radar, the progressive fusion trio McGill/Manring/Stevens prove that there is no end in sight to their musical creativity. Pete Pardo caught up with guitarist Scott McGill to discuss the making of the CD, including the details on why it became "one side electric, one side acoustic."
Sea of Tranquility: Controlled by Rader has attracted a huge buzz, not just in the progressive rock community, but also with the jazz fusion and guitar audience. Did the album meet the bands expectations?
Scott McGill: Yes I think so. We wanted to make the music happen organically and I believe we were sucessful . It seems as thought we're all happy with the sound and the content of the discs. And you're right Pete, the record(s) seem to be resonating with a few different audiences while keeping a distinctly homogenous sound. Aside from progressive rock, jazz/fusion, and metal fans, people who follow jam bands and world music have responded to it as well. The 2nd disc has been played on stations that program acoustic music exclusively which makes me
happy. I think we lived up to all of our expectations and goals.
SoT: The music mainstream would say that releasing a double CD is commercial
suicide, but in the prog genre it is actually pretty common. Was CBR always slated to be a 2CD set? Can you talk about how the two distinct sides came about?
SM: The idea for a 2 disc release-one electric, one acoustic, was from Ken Golden of the Laser's Edge. We had 6 days to do it and we went in with no pre-written material so the writing and recoring happened back-to back. The sessions were very long-usually 15 hour days or longer. I brought a number of different instruments in-fretted and fretless electrics and acoustics, nylon string, 12
string and a large number of effects pedals - Vic had a lot of exotic percussion as well as different drum kit set-ups, brushes, etc., and Michael brought in electric and acoustic basses. The idea was to create variety in
both discs musically, texturally, and emotionally. Two discs were envisioned from the start and there was left-over material we didn't use.
SoT: There's a lot of different sounds coming from your guitar these days. What types of effects and new gear are you experimenting with?
SM: I have gone to using analog floor effects pedals for the most part with the exception of my Rocktron Intellifex which I use for special things like micro-tonal harmonizations. The amplification is all Koch gear now which for me is the best around. I
use their 4 tube pre-amp pedal as well as their amp heads and cabinets. For
effects I have all Line 6 Modeler Pedals which emulate a huge variety of vintage effects. I have the phase shifter on as a basic sound. For the CD, I used that, ring modulation, various analog synth sounds, leslie speaker,
seeker/auto-wah, backwards guitar loops, chorus, and ultra-long tube delay. I also use a Boss Super-Shifter pedal to jump notes either up one octave for synth-like leads and chords, or down one octave to emulate a bass. On "Puff Johnson", I accompany Michael's ring modulator lead while playing "fuzz bass"
with that pedal. I also have a couple Charlie Stringer pedals-a ring modulator/wah, and a backwards tape pedal which are very intense. All of the effects are really the vintage stuff-60's, and 70's. They sound the fattest
and coolest. Real bell-bottom flare and polyester stuff for sure. I'm also now experimenting with de-tuned sounds and vintage flangers.
SoT: "Cash from Chaos" is one of my favorite tunes on the CD-what tunes are the
SM: That's a favorite of mine too! From the Electric CD, I like "Lumumba"
based on Congolese freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba, "Argentine Scalp Massage", and "Puff Johnson". Standouts on the Acoustic side are "Madinat ash Sha'b", "Montana Reailty Company", and "A Winter's Tale" which for me was the closest thing to a religious or spiritual experience while recording music. I
felt emotionally drained when it ended. I listen to it now and I feel it's an accurate picture of who I am.
SoT: The band itself has taken on a more etherial and atmopheric sound on many
of the tunes on CBR, and I hear more jazz and less metal than on previous releases. What has been influencing the band these days? I hear lots of Oregon and Shakti coming through the music.
SM: This just seems to be the natural evolution of the group. Everytime we get together to play music we seem to let the music play itself. None of the members of the band tries to dictate the "direction" or the "sound" of the music and we never discuss "what we should sound like" or any other nonsense like that. In fact we usually meet, talk about other things, plug in and
play. For me, I feel as though my musical voice is changing and growing. You can't help but improve playing with these guys-they're the best in their respective fields. I love Indian music and had done a lot of research into
Hindustani ragas when I was in college which comes through on certain tracks. What makes me happiest is that no matter how diverse our material gets, it still sounds like us. We don't "model" tunes to "sound like so and so". We say "Let's try something slow and heavy" or "Let's do something meditative with fretless acoustics and exotic percussion". The direct or indirect musical influences on this release might be Zakir Hussein, Trilok Gurtu, Led Zeppelin, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, McCoy Tyner, John McLaughlin, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tool, and Miles Davis. That doesn't cover it, but it might be a starting point.
SoT: That's quite a list!
SM: Oh yeah!
SM: You know, the more I think about it, I'm not sure if there is a direct musical influence or influences steering
the band. Although those groups you mentioned earlier are ones that we like, there is no direct connection there. We all have so many disparate musical inspirations that we
have in common that it's really all about the chemistry between the members of the
group. Lately i've been getting into pianists Joachim Kuhn and Gonzalo Rubalcaba so that might have an effect on what i'm doing technically at this point, but that might change at any time. I think all three of us are like
that-whatever is in the air at the moment is how that band sounds at that time. It's all
organic for us- we lift nothing. The band has it's own sound and personality no matter what we do or what instruments we use.
SoT: Your two musical partners, Michael Manring and Vic Stevens are monster players. How do you feel about having such talent in this trio?
SM: I told an audience in New Jersey recently that when I was starting out on the guitar, I always dreamed of playing with the highest caliber of players. I
think I'm there. These men are the best at their respective instruments and are warm and caring human beings. I can't help but improve as a player and a person being around them.
SoT: Can you tell us a little about the recording you did with A Triggering Myth recently on their CD Forgiving Eden?
SM: Rick and Tim are great and that record is great. Vic and I played on all of it and it was an amazing musical experience watching it all come together. The CD is melodic, harmonically profound, and dynamically very interesting. They let us do our own thing on it and the results were
fantastic. Rick and I keep in touch and he has been a great friend to me. For anyone who's on the fence about getting it, do yourself a favor and get it.
SoT: I agree, it's a strong piece of work!
SoT: The trio have been playing some live gigs recently-how has that been going?
SM: The 2 week tour we did came off nicely. The audiences have been receptive
and we're planning on doing more in the not too distant future, schedules permitting of course.
SoT: Besides MMS, what other projects are you working on right now?
SM: The band itself is looking into recording this fall. On the side, I recorded some solo parts on a band named Zeroesque's debut CD which came out good I think. Great players and a strong disc for sure. I also did solos on three tunes on
Time Machine guitarist Gianluca Ferra's new solo CD that I think will be out this fall as well. Fantastic player and deep material . There are other things I'm working on such as a guitar book, solo and duo acoustic material, and
some other projects as well in conjunction with online lessons at my website.
SoT: So a new CD is in the works for later this year?
SM: Hopefully we'll record another one this fall. I can't wait to get back with
the guys. We've had some time off so I'm trying to iron out some wrinkles in my day to day existence. That's quite a project in and of itself!!! In the meantime, I just keep practicing....