Jerry Lucky: I have to start by talking about the apocryphal story where you take the note from your dad to your piano teacher…why don’t you tell it to us…but I want you to expand on it. Why did your dad give you the note?
Doug Rausch: My story is an unusual one, for someone who considers music his life calling. I have always referred to the fact that I didn’t quit piano (early on) as a “fluke,” even if “fluke” isn’t quite grammatically correct here. At age 12 I had an epiphany and was quick to make up for lost time; but until then, I was indeed just like most other kids - hated piano, didn’t practice, and viewed it as a chore. Things were going downhill pretty quickly. As noted in my extended bio, RAUSCH actually did come within a nose-hair of quitting…
But you are right, there is much more to the story. There are reasons that things went the way they did. I could write a book on how my upbringing ironically fuelled the fire that moved me to be…well, not a “waste of space in time,” as the song goes. While on paper a typical middle-class family situation, let’s just say that there was never a dearth of inspiration. This goes well beyond the scope of “Interview #1”… so at the risk of sounding like your typical American teenager, I will go on to say merely this: it takes effort to understand a person. Some may require more effort than others, but when arriving at such a pivotal decision for a child as “piano is not for him [or her],” it is very important to look beyond the surface and make sure all factors are taken into consideration. The moral to the story has to do with communication; I was never asked! [laughs]. One day this envelope was just shoved into my hands, and that’s the day I learned I was going to have to wait an entire decade for my thoughts, feelings, and opinions, to count. Funny how being “written off” can give way to relentless drive and over-inflated sense of purpose!
JL: If there is an emotional theme here…it seems to be that Doug Rausch is no quitter?
DR: He is not. *sighs* If you were to spin that question another way, you might ask something like “what does Doug Rausch fantasize about?” The answer might be, “quitting!” [laughs]. After all, fantasies often exist to provide an outlet to help offset reality; in my case, to help relieve so much self-imposed pressure! In reality, I’m not sure I could quit if I tried – and don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I want to. But I have always felt glued to a life-long roller-coaster ride that I couldn’t get off if I did want to. For better or for worse, my resilience is hard-wired. It’s exhausting and possibly even a little sad, really; I had a 4.1 GPA in school because I didn’t know how to get a B Plus, if you could wrap your brain around that. Maybe this gives the impetus to all the volatile “bipolar” themes I feel so propelled to write about. I’m up, I’m down, I’m up, I’m down. The “back-and-forths” are often counted by the hour, let alone the day. But through it all, I’ve always maintained, I am NOT going to clog up the works with one more song about “Get in the bed, b!#*h.” That’s not my calling - and come hell or high water, I’m going to stay committed to fulfilling what is. Music is the ultimate therapy, and at the core of it all, I want to help people. It’s why I’m here. Again, it took till age 12 to get hit with that lightening bolt, but I’m just thankful I did.
JL: I noticed on your MySpace page you list the mM7 chord as going to save the world…explain?
DR: Well alright, I suppose there are two callings to be juggled…helping people, but also helping music itself. Fortunately for me, I find that music has the potential to accomplish both goals simultaneously; not only that, but I believe that the 2 are intertwined. This is the core of RAUSCH.
Rock music has experienced far too little of that oh-so-tasty minor-major 7 chord (along with a few of its friends!), especially recently. They say it’s all been done before - well if it has, it hasn’t been done enough. I want to remind people that when music speaks to the heart, there’s an opportunity for a heightened experience if the brain comes along for the ride… I believe that exploration in a musical sense – meaning in addition to merely the technological - is in fact a critical component towards ultimately saving music (and thus, people).
As for musical exploration itself, I’ve never been the guy who’s all about a million time signature and tempo changes; sure, they will naturally happen here and there, but my real passion is for how CHORDS enhance the emotional experience. After all, notes behaving (or misbehaving…) together is what gives us music in the first place! I did an analysis (which finally made its way to my blog, if you are interested) on all possible combinations of chords in minor, of which I found there are 31 (excluding the mM7 and half-diminished, which are so vast in and of themselves, they will be forthcoming in their own studies, and also excluding the flat 9 in minor). I would like to make myself clear: this is not a side-effect of “missing the point,” as any detractors might be quick to retort. Rather, the first thing I wanted to do was just make all options available to the artist. Where the artist goes is always his or her choice in the end. Maybe that’s why I got into music; it’s the one place where a control freak can finally have his way.
Let’s use the metaphor of a painter. Chords are colors. You may not like certain colors, but certain things become appropriate – and downright helpful - at certain times. How can you consider using “cerulean” – or just plain blue, for that matter – if you don’t even know the color exists? My exhaustive chart was to create awareness. To say, “Hey, you don’t have to use all these chords and colors, but let’s have fun! Let’s play! Let’s swish all these flavours around in the mouth and just see. Maybe you’ll find one you like!” This all seems so obvious to me, and yet 99.9% of music just clings to its 3-5 chords. I am quick to say, I love simple music too – I’m as much a Tom Petty fan as I am a Dream Theater fan – but, well, I guess the thesis statement is, if music itself is to survive this very scary hole it’s gotten itself into, we’ve got to be able to have our cake and eat it too! Intellectual can be emotional, and vice-versa. Music is at its finest when both are working together. Somewhere along the line, that concept got lost…banished, really.
JL: Getting back to your early days…you were taking piano lessons at age eight…what were your earliest musical memories?
DR: I remember
actually being ASKED by my mom if I wanted to take piano lessons – imagine that! The very first thing on record would be me sitting
in a bathtub (I think I was 6 or 7) and my mom shouted in “
Would you like a 2nd one? If I haven’t completely lost everybody yet – here’s where most hardcore “prog” people just really
scratch their heads – of all the things that could have been that one big catalyst early on, for me it was Bon Jovi. I will never
forget being who-knows-how-young and hearing the 2nd verse of “I’d Die for You.” The drums were what really made me think my heart
was about to explode out of my chest. Then came “Stick to Your Guns.” Then “Sante Fe.” I was listening to the “wrong” music given
the younger generation I was in, but I could not help it; the emotion in this music was, to me, second to none. Then I heard “
Little known fact, I actually wanted to be a drummer, back in the very beginning. I would go on to fight the infamous RAUSCH family battle. It lasted four long, gruelling years, and in the end I lost. “Not in this family” would I ever learn to play drums, and instead I was forced to play trombone. FORCED. People look at me funny when I say that, but I swear I’m not making that up. Thus begins a long traumatic story that twists and turns its way beyond the scope of this interview.
JL: So how is it that progressive rock music came into your life? Do you have a prog-rock moment?
DR: Let’s say “year,” more than moment. I wanted to familiarize myself with as much
music as I could; but from Day 1, what moved me like nothing else was the divine result of epic emotion and musical exploration when
they are combined. I listen to
JL: As someone who’s been schooled in music, what’s your approach to writing a piece of music? How does it come together, the music, the lyrics, the arrangement etc.?
DR: Funny you should ask… I’m in the process of writing a huge blog about this – but you won’t see it until dougrausch.com is in full swing, so I’ll be happy to give you the following preview: I HATE that question! Well not your question – heh – but the tried and true cliché mainstay of “What comes first, the music or the lyrics?”
The answer is NEITHER. To be honest, I have no idea how, for example, Elton John (or George Gershwin!) could write only half of a song. For me, lyrics and music are so often joined at the hip; I like to say there is a secret radio playing in my head and, like a thief in the night, I steal the songs from myself and go to work. Only after that is when I play around with chords and see what kind of spices the recipe calls for; but I can’t emphasize enough, nothing is forced. If you find yourself scratching your head a bit - given the considerable density of some of the songs – don’t worry, much of it is a pain to record. I hear the song immediately, but faithfully rendering it to the canvas, now that takes a lot. Especially when you are dealing with the clashes that result from unconventional overtone combinations bumping into each other all the time! That’s what gave way to nearly rivalling the Chinese Democracy record itself as far as epic delays are concerned…but when I’m done, the hope is that we’ve got something truly special on our hands.
In any event, it’s all about the “seed” or “soul” of the song. Without that, there’s nothing. I only work from something that I was blessed to “receive from above” in the first place. It’s why I’m here.
JL: How did you come in contact with Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) and Rich Mouser (Spock’s Beard). What attracted them to your music, or was it the other way around? Were you familiar with their work before?
DR: I’m blessed to say it was mutual. Well, that’s not to say they were fans of RAUSCH before RAUSCH was RAUSCH – but
through a mutual friend, I went to see
JL: You’ve done some live work…tell me about that…and will you be doing more of that with the release of your CD?
DR: Absolutely! I’ve played a lot of gigs, but finally people are going to get to see RAUSCH as RAUSCH was always meant to be. This isn’t the sort of campaign where you can just slap a group of garage players together and in a few weeks be “all systems go” within a matter of weeks. It’s amazing how long it takes from the point with which you visualize something fully, to the day it becomes reality. At least, if your vision is as involved as mine! After slaving for YEARS (and I mean years…) in the studio crafting this beast, at long last we are ready to transition from Studio Mode to Live Mode. Once the live machine is up and running, it will be unrelenting. We’re rallying the troops as we speak, and thank God it won’t be much longer before the fans get to experience the whole thing as it was intended – they’ll finally get their missing puzzle piece.
JL: I know its early days…but what’s the response been to the new CD?
DR: Mind-blowing. For a brand new artist just starting out these days, I don’t need to tell you how all-but-impossible it is – especially for someone who is unwilling to be “processed” into someone else’s mold. Today, someone with a unique long-term vision is out of luck in the early stages. Labels can’t afford (time as well as money) to develop careers right now. So with all that said, people are buying the ALBUM! Has it gone platinum? NO. But I am encouraged to be experiencing such a healthy reaction for someone literally starting from the ground up. The quality of fan is top notch, and if some of those people do their jobs and get the word out, the quantity element will take care of itself [laughs]. I’ve developed some serious friends out of this! Still, we’ve got a loooong way to go.
JL: So where do you see this going? What’s your musical mission?
DR: That’s a fair question, given the loftily labelled “SAVE MUSIC HISTORY” campaign that’s found its way into the fabric of my promotional efforts thus far. I don’t want to sound over-bloated and pretentious, but someone’s gotta put music back on its tracks again. I am heart-broken from so many gargantuan-effort-“greatest album of all time”-type opuses being but a blip on the radar of music. Sometimes I think artists do it to themselves by not having a more “commercial vehicle” (i.e. a 4 minute or less song to compliment all the epics) with which to showcase their artistic integrity, and maybe it’s just that they aren’t as rattled by the whole thing as myself. But I would love to help make it right. It’s a “chicken or the egg” / catch 22 that I plan to win. “There isn’t a big enough market for ‘prog’,” I hear too many people say. I understand wanting to wear a badge of honor, but how about redefining what commercially marketable music IS? Defeat the catch 22 at its own game. I know I sound like a broken record pointing at Queen all the time, but Queen DID it. They injected artistic substance into a commercial vehicle and had SUCCESS. Is what I’m doing like nothing you ever heard before? That’s not the point; I want to pick up the forward evolution of where rock left off back when it was really evolving musically – but also push it forward so it’s not a nostalgia trip. I know all that the enemy will counter with, but this day I fight!
JL: I have to ask, because I’m a parent…what do your parents think of your accomplishments so far? Have they seen you live yet?
DR: Mom is proud and will be in the crowd. Dad…we’ll you’d have to ask him.
JL: Lastly, if you were stuck on a desert island…what 5 discs would you have with you and why those 5?
DR: Nice coincidence! Well o.k., I hope this doesn’t stir up too much controversy amongst the purebred prog-heads, but I’ll answer it honestly, since these albums have a VERY special place in my heart…again, to explain further would take a book….1) Bon Jovi: “Keep the Faith” (my bible), 2) Dream Theater: “Metropolis 2: Scenes From a Memory” (the masterpiece), 3) Guns N Roses: “Use Your Illusion 2” (you just can’t out-Estranged Estranged), 4) Pink Floyd: “The Division Bell” (I hold no post-Waters prejudice), and 5) The Entire Queen catalog
Doug Rausch is a young man on a mission...of that
there is no doubt. They say that 'creativity is born out of adversity.' If that's true Rausch is a living example. His passion for his craft is plainly evident in his responses to my questions below. Making music that is out of the mainstream is not for the faint of heart. If you are interested in what it takes to make music from the heart...read on.