Robert Berry - Robert Berry Band

August 2, 2001

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a musician. I started out in my area playing in cover bands. You know, in high school and things. Then I had a band called Hush in the '80s and we got a record contract and toured a bit. From then I got picked up by Geffen Records and I got a band together with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer which was a big band from the '70s I guess, called Emerson, Lake, And Palmer.

Who were some of your main influences?

Mostly the English groups. I wasn't as influenced by the American groups. I mean The Beatles were one. That was a long time ago. Bands like Yes and Genesis. They're called progressive rock groups. These days it's a little different. All the music's changed so much. I'm inspired by even things like Britney Spears. It's changed a lot. When I first started, it was the music that was very complex. It was hard to play and hard to write.

Why do they refer to some bands as progressive rock? What exactly is progressive rock?

Progressive rock is more complex. It's sort of based on more like classical music. It has movements. It has instrumental passages. It's just not a song format that's like a verse and chorus. It's more like writing a symphony.

Kind of like what you did for the soundtrack.

Yeah that came into account. Soundtrack music is a little bit different. It's more mood inspiring. In the progressive rock stuff, a lot of it's based on just the energy of it and the complexity of it. But yeah, it came in very handy doing the soundtrack.

How did you get started in the music business?

My dad had a band and my mom was a singer for his band. I had no choice. It was just around me. I was gonna be a musician I guess, no matter what.

You were in a band called 3 with Emerson and Palmer. When did you guys form that band and how long did that last?

That was altogether a couple of years. It was 1987. I had actually gone to England to work with a guy named Steve Howe. He is the guitar player for the band Yes which was one of the bands that I idolized when I was young. When I finally got to play with Steve Howe and his band, we had a band called GTR, and from there I hooked up with Carl Emerson and Keith Palmer while I was in England. That's how I got together with them and started this other band, 3. We had a record deal with Geffen Records and actually had a single that went to #17 here in the United States.

You've worked with a number of different musicians. Is that something you enjoy doing?

I am a studio musician. I have a studio. I do lots of different kinds of music. I worked with Sammy Hagar for four years playing bass for him while he was with Van Halen and after he was out of Van Halen. Yeah, I really enjoy different styles of music. That also comes in handy with the soundtrack stuff, because to create a mood with soundtrack music, you have to pull from different styles.

Sammy had a band called Tres Curzanos.

Yes. I was a member of that from '93 to '96 or '97. Something like that.

He always has a lot of different things going on at the same time.

Oh yeah. It's fun since I can play a lot of different styles and I play a lot of instruments also. I've managed to hook up with people not only as just a musician but as a songwriter and whatever. Taking up the slack kind of guy.

You've worked with Bruce Fairbairn who produced KISS' Psycho Circus and was working on, was it an album with Yes when he died?

I believe so.

What was he like to work with?

He was very gentle. I found to be easy going. He was a trumpet player which surprised me. He's producing all these heavy rock bands and he came out of a classical trumpet background. I just connected with him on a music level. I found that we had a lot in common. It was nice.

I understand that you have a band called The Robert Berry Band.

Yes, my local band. Yeah. Those are the guys that get to play all the material I've done with the famous guys I've worked with. We do shows around. We open for major groups. We just did a thing with Ronny Montrose and The Starship. Then we'll play the songs from the Sammy Hagar era, the Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer era, the whoever.

Sounds like fun.

It is because I get to run the gamut of what I've done.

You've also released a number of albums with a band called Alliance.

Yeah. Right before I moved to England, this is when Sammy Hagar left the Sammy Hagar Band and the band was still together, they had called me and wanted me to come in as a singer/songwriter. Sort of keep the Sammy Hagar Band going. It would be a different band of course than Sammy Hagar. Couldn't use his name without him there. I had decided to go to England so I couldn't do it. But Gary Peel, the guitar player, who plays in the band Boston now and David Lauser who is still Sammy's drummer with his touring band he has now, they tried a few things and nothing seemed to work out the way they wanted it to. When I got done with my thing in England, they were still looking for people and they called me and said "are you still interested"? I said sure. That kind of came out of Sammy going to Van Halen. It took three or four years for us actually to get it together because I moved to England. Put together by John Kalodner of Geffen Records. I should say that too. John Kalodner who is a very well known guy. He sort of put that all together for us and that's how we really hooked up. He hooked me up with Carl Palmer too. He really did a lot for me.

Sounds like a good guy.

He's great. He's the guy that brought Aerosmith back together and cleaned them up. Put all these acts back on the map with good material and good performances. He really has an ear and an eye for that kind of thing.

You've recently done a soundtrack for Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series. Are you a big fan of fantasy novels?

You know, I wasn't until I did this. I was amazed. The president of Magna Carta Records, Peter Morticelli, called me and he's a big fan of Robert Jordan's work. He said "have you ever heard of these books"? I said no. I'm a musician. I'm working day and night in the studio or I'm playing live. Writing songs. I don't really read that much. He says "you ought to check this out. I think we ought to try to do a soundtrack". So I got an overview book called The World of Robert Jordan's 'The Wheel Of Time' which was really interesting and talked about the whole world in general. That got my interest going. I didn't completely read all the books but I got into reading a lot of them to get inspiration. How the books were different from each other. The characters. Then I talked to a lot of people like Peter Morticelli and also these people that asked me to do music for a CD ROM game on The Wheel Of Time. Some of these fans are really into the book series and just got a feeling for what it all meant to them and sort of put all the pieces together like a puzzle. How the soundtrack would all come together. Before I did this, I guess to answer the question, no I wasn't a fan of the fantasy novels but now I'm amazed at how many people are into them and how many there are.

Oh yeah, there's a whole genre of them.

Do you read them?

No, I never have. I'm more of a horror fan. Mysteries, thrillers.

This moves a lot slower than that. It's amazing the way these whole worlds are created and the way all the pieces work. I think that's what draws people in. Sounds like a soap opera where you just wonder what's gonna happen in the story. It's like a motor. There's all these gears and all these valves and tubes. They all make these things work and the way they all fit together. It's amazing the way this guy has built this world.

Is this based on medieval times? I notice a lot of these fantasy characters are dressed in armor and stuff.

Yeah, it's kind of based on that although it is a whole made up world. Medieval times are actually real to our...

I just wondered if they were loosely based on that particular time period.

I think they pull inspiration from that too, yeah.

That was an interesting time period in history.

Oh definitely. Since you're a horror fan. Lots of good torture back then.

The CD has been described as a Celtic Pink Floyd. It does remind me of Pink Floyd.

I actually wasn't expecting it as I sat down to write. I sort of explained how I got into this and did research with people and the different books. Then I put it together just the way I write a song. I took all these feelings, inspirations, and ideas from what I've read and I just started writing. Do you write at all, besides the articles?

No, actually my mother is the writer of the family.

Where our inspiration comes from, normally, I think no one knows. It's just in us. Then it comes out.

I'm such a hyper person, I really don't have a chance to sit down and put a story together. I might do that someday.

If you're really into it and you get all these inspirations or these ideas from things, you'd be amazed how it just sort of flows out of you if you let it. You just have to let it go down on the page. It's like me with a song. I just have to let it come out and start playing the music and let it take me somewhere. That's what happened with this. I wanted to have the thunderous kind of soundtrack sound. A big sound to it. But I also wanted to create a mood plus the Celtic thing. I know you're talking about medieval times and things like that. In my mind that's where it connected a little bit. The Celtic thing. Mandolins and things. Then when it was done, I really just thought it was a Celtic soundtrack and that's when someone said "you know it's got a little Pink Floyd feeling". Once they sort of pointed in that direction, I thought yeah it really does.

You wrote all the songs yourself?

Yes. Lief Sorbye wrote a couple with me. He is the leader of a band called Tempest.

You performed most of the songs yourself?

Yes, I play a lot of instruments.

How many different instruments do you play?

A lot of people ask me that. The basic ones. I play drums, I play keyboards, I play guitar, I play bass guitar. Then I studied trumpet in elementary school and I majored in music in college and when you do that, you have to play a lot of the different instruments. You're not proficient but you know how to play them.

There are a lot of different instruments that are different from the norm.

Yes. Sometimes you can pick something up, and I've had so much music and I've played so many different types of styles, that I can maybe pick up an instrument and get it to squeak a little bit. Get something out of it, even though I don't really know how to play it.

That's definitely a talent.

Yeah, just something I like to do. I guess it's like a guy that can rebuild a car.

The titles of the songs, are they titles out of the book?

It's interesting. When Peter Morticelli and myself sat down and started to formulate the ideas on this, he was a big fan of these and he had ideas on what titles the songs should be. So he gave me those titles. That's where I started, even though at the point, I didn't know what I was going to write about. He had a list of titles there, so I used them on different pieces.

Are there any songs on the CD that really stand out to you?

I think the track that Lisa Bouchelle sang, "Ladies Of The Tower", I like the way that came out. The vocal pieces were a little tricky. I didn't want to make them too complete, I still wanted it to be the works of the overview of all the books. Her voice is powerful but it's sexy too. It has a good combination for that song there. I'm really pleased with the way that came out. I'm pleased at the whole thing. I think it's powerful soundtrack music that is listenable on it's own besides reading with the book. I think that was a good piece. She did a nice job on that.

It's definitely nice and soothing. Will you be doing other projects such as this?

Right now we're actually talking about a second Wheel Of Time album. I have just completed a Christmas album for the Magna Carta label which is interesting. It's another project that was taking all your classic Christmas carols and doing them like these bands we've talked about. Pink Floyd and Yes. This Christmas album is called The December People and it's based on these Christmas carols like "Silent Night" done by Pink Floyd and it's a great album. When you hear it, it's just kind of fun. Some of the Christmas things are just Perry Como or even if Bruce Springsteen does something, it's a little bit light. This is a serious Christmas album but done with these songs that you've heard since you were a baby. I think it's going to be a good one. I'm sure you'll get a copy of that because it's something they're really going to promote.

Have you been working with the Magna Carta people for a while?

Yes I have. I've done quite a few tribute albums for them and I've produced the band Tempest. Tempest is on their label. We've done four albums. I've done quite a few productions for them.

What tribute albums were you on?

They did a tribute to Rush. I did a song with a guy named Eric Martin. He's the singer from Mr. Big. I did a Genesis tribute album. Did a song called "Watcher Of The Sky", an old Peter Gabriel song. A Yes tribute album where I did the song "Roundabout". A Pink Floyd tribute album actually. I did "Brain Damage" on that. Jethro Tull which is part of that Celtic thing a little bit. They have some of that in them.

I understand that the same guy who designs the book covers also designed the CD cover.

Yes. He's a talented guy and I'm lucky that they got him actually to do this. The whole thing of course, the idea and the concept, had to be okayed by Robert Jordan in the first place. He thought it was a great idea. But until I got it done, he didn't hear any of it. I didn't check it every inch of the way with him. I just wrote it, I did enough research, and I do some things for Miramax Films so I've done a lot of this orchestration type of thing. I think I nailed it so we sent it off to him and he thought it was great. I believe the artist was the same way. He thought it would be a good thing and he wanted to be involved in it. Which was nice. He ties the artwork cover with the whole series. It's nice to be a real part of it instead of just some guy put out an album because he wanted to.

Any other comments?

I don't know if there's been a soundtrack to a book before. It was an interesting project. I'm real proud of the way it came out. I'm hoping we can do another one of these. I'm looking forward to getting feedback from people and seeing what they think. Most of the people are listening to it as an album because they like the music because they like soundtrack stuff or they like, like you said, Pink Floyd type of things. They're in the spaciness of it I guess but some people are actually connecting it with the readings of the book and these fanatics, they're like Star Trek fans, are really into these books. I'm finding they really like the music. They feel that it fits and that's nice for me. It makes me feel like I did what I set out to do.

Makes me want to go out and buy a book and see what it's like.

That's good. We're hoping it works both ways. Of course I want the album to stand on it's own but if it inspires some people to get into the books or visa versa. If people are into the books and say "gee I gotta check out this soundtrack to a book. What the hell is that"? That'd be great.

Robert Berry