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John Payne on working with Steinman, ELO, ASIA

Posted by:
Daniel 11:10 am MST 07/21/07

Interview at Hotel Hankyu International, Osaka, Japan
Interviwer: Takashi Togawa(Honey FM)on April 3rd, 2007
C^r[A[F@ː@@(Honey FM)

How did GPS start?

John: In January 2006, half way through the recording of Asia album that was to be called eArchitect Of Timef we suddenly found that the band had fallen to pieces. Jay Schellen, Guthrie and I unanimously decided that we were going to start a new band. We wanted it to be different to Asia but to still have elements that we had learned over our time in the band. We came a cross a sound we were comfortable with quite quickly, heavier and more progressive and with longer songs.

Over the previous ten years I had become frustrated with record companies saying gWe want this song for the radio so can you make it four minutes long and then we can edit it down.h It always seemed that top 40 radio was constantly changing and we were never going to be played on top 40 radio. So, we said letfs do exactly what we want to do, letfs make the music we love and just be ourselves on this record. I think that decision and then the addition of Ryo Okumoto on keyboards really cemented the sound of GPS.

Please tell us about the debut album eWindow To The Soulf.

John: The recording of the album was a lot more fun than I expected it to be because it was obviously a surprise that Asia finished when it did and with the previous album eSilent Nationf we had gained a lot of popularity in America, South America and Europe. We actually did the most touring on that album that Asia had ever done. I expected the recording of eWindow To The Soulf to be a bit of a downer but it turned out the other way. We had a lot of fun recording it and everybodyfs creative input was equal. We wanted to record the way the classic bands like Zeppelin and Free recorded, just to please ourselves and if nobody bought the record then OK.We wanted to be true to ourselves.

Guthrie: I think itfs funny that this album sounds so much more modern than a lot of the Asia stuff to my ears and yet we arrived at this sound by going back to a more Seventies feel.

How was eWindow To The Soulf recorded?

John: It was actually recorded in two halves. We recorded as a band at Paramount studios in LA in a great room called The Cave. We later found out that both Hendrix and Frank Zappa had used this room. At the time, we had our own studio in LA and all of the overdubs were done there. Guthrie did all of his guitars in three weeks. The album was recorded without keyboards whilst we looked for the right person. We spoke to a number of people including Rick Wakeman, who was interested in doing the record but just too busy at that time. The head of our European label suggested we try Ryo Okumoto out and so we set a few days aside to lay some guide keyboards. Within two days, Ryo had recorded all of the keyboard parts for the album. It was pretty good experience.

How about the albumfs songs?

John: As usual, the songs were written on an acoustic guitar. I worked out the theme and the melody of the songs and then they were brought to Jay & Guthrie and we rehearsed them and put the arrangements together. As important as the lyrics are, they generally come later in the song writing process. Albums should, I feel, be a little diary of where you are in your life. It should be a snap shot of what is happening in your life at that time. There isnft a lyrical theme running through the album, itfs more a collection of observations.

The vocals on eWindow To The Soulf are a little more powerful than your work with Asia. Why do you think this is?

John: I was always aware during my time in Asia that the comparisons were there between the band and other bands of that genre like Foreigner, Styx and so on. These bands were known for their vocal harmonies and smooth melodies. It was a conscious decision on this album to be more contemporary and push my voice in higher keys. This was too show people what my origins were and what I sounded like before I Joined Asia. I had a band at one time with Michael Schenkerfs keyboard player Andy Nye and ex Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr so I very much had hard rock influences and I wanted those influences to show through a little more on this record.

How did John Kalodner come to be on the album sleeve?

John: I had spoken to Geoff Downes about possibly having John Kalodner appear on the front cover of the proposed eArchitect Of Timef album. We wanted a Leonardo Da Vinci kind of character for the front cover and I said to Geoff that Kalodner would be perfect and, as Geoff knew him, he should call him up and ask him to do it.

Geoff said no because hefll never do it and it kind of got left there. When we were putting the concept together for the front cover we wanted a kind of svengali figure watching a TV and taking in all of this information and I thought that Ifd ask John Kalodner to do it. I contacted his office and he wasnft there but eventually he got back to us and said hefd love to do it. It was great.

Were some of the songs on eWindow To The Soulf originally planned as Asia songs?

John: Yes, some of the songs were originally written for Asia. If they had been recorded as Asia songs, they would have been shorter with bigger harmonies and smoother production. We decided that, with a few days rehearsal, these songs could be made to sound very different to Asia songs. About 50% of the songs were actually written for eArchitect Of Timef.

If it had been completed, how would eArchitect Of Timef have sounded?

John: It would have been basically in the style of previous Asia albums but we had made an attempt to stretch the songs a bit longer and to make the sound more retro, a bit more seventies. The actual track eArchitect Of Timef was completed with Ryo playing keyboards, though I donft know if it will ever be released. Itfs a very long track, about eight or nine minutes long. Maybe one day it will be released.

The album would have sounded like eSilent Nationf?

John: No, I donft think so. The drummer on eSilent Nationf was Chris Slade who, although a great drummer, was very straightforward in his approach. When we came to record with Jay Schellen drumming, he had just come out of a band called Conspiracy with Yes members Billy Sherwood and bassist Chris Squire and he was very keen to play in different time signatures. Jay is very influenced by UK, so I imagine eArchitect Of Timef would have been a mixture of classic Asia and UK.

Tell us about Joining Asia in 1991.

John: I had been working with Andy Nye and Clive Burr in the Passion and we played at the Marquee club in London. Afterwards I was approached by David Arden, Sharon Osbournefs brother, and asked to join ELO. Jeff Lynne had left about a year before and I

went over to New York for six months to work with Jim Steinman.

Just prior to making a new ELO album, there was a big court case over the ELO name so I came back to London. At this point, I was asked by Geoff Downes to join Asia as bassist and vocalist. I was initially a little unsure as I had never played bass and suing before but it was something I really wanted to do so I accepted the offer and joined Asia.

Tell us more about ELO.

John: It was a very interesting time. I was a huge ELO fan. I am one of those musicians who loves the whole studio experience and I enjoy the new technologies that you work with in the studio environment. Jeff Lynne is one of the studio greats so to be asked to join ELO was like being asked to join the new Beatles. Sadly, I never got to release anything with the band, though there is a track on one of the eArchivaf records called eALOf which stands for the Asiatic Light Orchestra. Working with Jim Steinman was a great experience, too. They were good times and it was nice to write in that style.

Source: http://www.dingwall.jp/artist/gps/interview.html

URL: John Payne & Guthrie Govan Interview

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