The ecstatic state derived by the listening of the debut album from the all-star band could not leave my doubts and curiosities unanswered for a long while. That's why I humbly approached two of them to fill those gaps and please devotees of Progressive rock and Science Fiction/Fantasy's info yearning with one stone.
(Answers by Kevin J. Anderson and Shawn Gordon)
-Sincere congratulations on the result! What was the major difficulty in producing the album and making the artists so cohesive, especially the vocalists?
[Kevin] From the beginning this was a unique project and the fact that we came from different parts of the creative landscape seemed to draw us together. Shawn Gordon was a fan of my writing, and he had also worked with many of the musicians on his record label. Similarly, Erik and I were mutual fans. Chris Brown, Gary Wehrkamp, and Kurt Barabas had all corresponded with me about my books (and I enjoyed their music); James LaBrie read the novel THE EDGE OF THE WORLD before singing his part. Everybody really jumped into this as a team effort. The major difficulties were faced by Erik and Shawn, pulling together performances from all over the US (and even the UK).
-Did all the musicians and singers contribute to the songwriting?
[Shawn] No, the music was composed by Erik with direction from Kevin and Rebecca as they had the vision. All the musicians were given the freedom to inject their style in to what they were playing, as were the vocalists.
-Could you introduce us to the less popular members of the band, Dave, Mike and Martin?
[Shawn] If by “popular” you mean “well known”, I would contest that David Ragsdale is extremely well known as the violinist for Kansas and his extensive work on other peoples albums (note of the interviewer.: true, I meant uncredited in the biography and in the booklet references). Martin Orford is also extremely well known as the keyboardist from IQ, Jadis and John Wettons band. Mike Alvarez however is probably not so well known. He’s a big Prog fan, and Erik got to know him years ago through that, and then I met him through Erik basically. Mike has done some cello on some of my own work and on one or two of Erik's projects.
-Are there musicians or singers you wished you had involved but they refused because busy or uninterested?
[Kevin] The only person we approached who didn’t end up on the final album was Steve Walsh from Kansas. I had originally suggested Steve because I had long been a fan of Kansas, and indeed much of this fantasy series was inspired by the classic “Point of Know Return” album. But he’s basically retired now, though Shawn just re-released his “Shadowman” CD. It all worked out for the best, though -- Erik suggested using John Payne instead, who was a pleasure to work with and delivers a tour-de-force performance as Captain Shay.
-How long did it take to record everything and did they all come to California or was there someone who sent his demo recorded tracks separately?
[Shawn] Erik started composing in early summer 2008, it was November/December 2008 when we started recording the other instruments. Everyone pretty much recorded in their own studios, but Erik did come to the last day of drum recording to do the final overseeing and was able to go by John Paynes studio to work on the tracks with him. Fortunately everyone involved had a good studio to work with. Mike recorded his Cello at my studio, and Michael and Kurt recorded his vocals and bass at Kurts studio.
-One of the faults of the album is the rhythmic section, sometimes tucked away during Lana’s vocals. I betcha disagree…
[Shawn] Anyone can always make a negative observation about some element of any recording, no matter how “perfect” it might be. There are a lot of instruments going on and mixing is a real trick of balancing volume and frequencies. So yes, I disagree, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.
-Why such a monicker? Is there a hidden meaning behind it? Who chose it?
[Kevin] My wife (and coauthor of the lyrics) Rebecca and I were taking a vacation to Roswell, New Mexico and we planned many of the songs on the CD during the long drive across the desert to see the famed site of the supposed UFO crash. Lana Lane had also released a song “Destination Roswell” on one of her earlier CDs; since there were six of us in the original formation of the group, Erik chose it as a code name for the project. We liked it so much, we kept it.
-The CD length can barely overcome 78 minutes unfortunately. Did you forsake some songs or did you even have so many that you could’ve released a double CD but you reputed it a dangerous choice for a debut band, commercially speaking?
[Shawn] When we came up with the album, we figured out what story we wanted to tell and then did a little outline of each song, so the tracks were all clearly defined. We actually did trim about 90 seconds out of “The Sinking of The Luminara” for the regular release, but the whole track is available on the Japanese version. So to answer your question, the album is as long as we wanted it to be, there isn’t any extra material floating around. When you work on a concept like this, you’ve got really defined parameters, you aren’t just jamming and writing songs, you are composing for a very specific purpose.
[Kevin] No, that’s exactly the way we planned it from the start. We outlined the 13 tracks, and Erik wrote the music; we didn’t know what the length would be.
-Will it be possible to see you live, at least occasionally?
[Shawn] We talked about trying to pull some stripped down version together for Dragoncon, but with everyones schedules it just isn’t feasible, so I doubt will ever see it live.
-You gonna shoot a promotional videoclip?
[Kevin] We’ve got some fan videos that have been cobbled together, but since the tracks were all recorded separately, in different studios across the US and in England, there wasn’t a time when the members all played together to be filmed for a video.
-Some might object it’s opportunistic to make an album like yours now that it’s a period that Fantasy is selling a lot…
[Kevin] That’s not particularly fair. I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy novels for twenty years now and hitting international bestseller lists for fifteen years. My work is part of the *reason* why SF/F sells a lot around the world, and so it was perfectly natural to develop this music project in tandem with a big new book I was working on. If my next big project had been science fiction, we would probably have done a science fiction album.
Note that the novel THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is over 600 pages with a great many storylines, characters, and dramatic events. We chose one of those plotlines that was best able to be adapted to the musical parts -- we already stretched the CD to nearly the maximum length possible. If you want the full story of “Terra Incognita” you need to read the novel as well as hear the music.
-When will the official website be launched, I mean not the one on Myspace?
[Kevin] The MySpace page is the official website. It has links to all of the primary websites of all our band members, and MySpace offers the ability to put up our sample tracks and a player.
[Shawn] There really isn’t anything to be gained by doing a web site outside of the MySpace page, we’ve got all sorts of good blogs and audio and pictures there, and as Kevin says, links to anything related you might be interested in.
-What are your plans for Roswell Six? If there is a sophomore album, will the line-up be confirmed?
[Shawn] Kevin is already done with the book, I need to see how the response is to the first album, it only came out a few weeks ago, so sometime this summer I’ll make the decision and then see who is available within the available window. I know everyone *wants* to do it, I’m getting emails and calls from the guys all the time asking.
[Kevin] We have all been loving this project immensely, and there’s a very good likelihood we’ll do it again, but because of the caliber of talent on the “Terra Incognita” CD, many members are off on concert tours of their own or working on new CDs. As I write this, I’m nearly finished with the second novel already. The timing will be a challenge.
-Thanks a lot for your detailed answers.
MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - July 2nd , 2009
Line-up on this record:
Lana Lane (also in Joshua, Lana Lane), Michael Sadler (also in Saga), James LaBrie (also in (Dream Theater, Mullmuzzler, Winter Rose, Frameshift, John Macaluso & Union Radio, True Symphonic Rockestra, guest for: Ayreon, Fates Warning, Shadow Gallery, Henning Pauly and Tim Donahue), John Payne (also in Asia)- vocals
Erik Norlander - keys (also in Joshua, lana Lane, Rocket Scientists, Expedition Delta)
Gary Wehrkamp (also in Shadow Gallery, Explorers Club, Star One, Expedition Delta, Amaran's Plight), Chris Brown (also in Ghost Circus) - guitars
Kurt Barabas (also in Under The Sun, Amaran's Plight, guest for Glass Wolfe)- bass
Chris Quirarte (also in Prymary, Redemption)- drums
David Ragsdale - violin
Mike Alvarez - cello
Martin Orford - flute
-Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon (CD - 2009)