JL: Many of your songs are on the longish side, is there a typical style for composing that you use?
Music first? Lyrics first? Examples?
DB: Generally the music does come first, however I also may have some concepts or lyrical ideas that will help shape
the music. I think my classical training comes through in that I tend to think in terms of “movements”. When I start writing a
song I try to place itin the bigger picture of where the album is going and so I do really view the entire album as a single work. Even the
song order is very important and has been carefully thought out. That said it’s rarely a straightforward process for me. I do a lot of experimentation with the various parts and look for potential connections. For example near the end of the song Hypostatic Union, there is a reprise from the end of Already, Not Yet. That really came about through experimentation, knowing that I wanted to connect those pieces together into a larger movement but wanting it to flow naturally. I find that many times I need to try lots of different ideas until I get the one that just works. Thankfully this process itself is something that I really enjoy and so not only am I happy with the end result but the journey itself is rewarding.
JL: What about the really long ones…do you tend to hear them in that fashion or are they sort of pieced together in stages? Examples?
DB: I would say generally that I start with some basic ideas and then build upon them. Many times, while there might be a larger concept that is guiding the process, the actual ideas themselves are built piece-by-piece, idea-by-idea. Many times I will have some basic ideas that I will record demos of on my computer and then distribute to the guys in the band. Then Richard, for example, might write a bridge or instrumental section that helps glue together parts of the song. Even though I do the bulk of the song writing it really does end up being a team effort as everyone contributes and shapes the end result. As all of us also come from different backgrounds I think it also brings a diversity to the music. Richard will write a part that I would never even think of and Tyler will incorporate some rhythms that I just wouldn’t have even considered otherwise.
JL: Let’s talk about doing live performances. Has there been much opportunity for that?
DB: Unfortunately there haven’t been any real opportunities to play live as a band yet. Part of the reason is that we all have such different schedules and all of us keep quite busy. That’s not to say that we will never play live but at least for now, it hasn’t been a priority for us.
JL: Do you see a future playing live more often? I ask because we’re in an era with the internet and all where some musicians are quite happy just creating their music in the studio with no real thought to going live with it.
DB: We definitely are more of a “studio band” at this point and it is where we are most comfortable. However, all of us do enjoy playing live and we all have quite a bit of experience doing so in various bands over the years. I have thought about what it might take to play the songs live and I think we can pull it off. It would require a fair bit of work but I know we would also really enjoy it. My hope is that as we continue to make music we will start to have more opportunities to play live. Our current thinking is that after we finish the next album we will start to be more intentional about live performances. Of course we haven’t really begun to work on the next album yet and so these plans could certainly change.
JL: With the new album out…what’s next on the Greylevel agenda?
DB: Right now we’re taking a little break after all the push leading up to the completion and release of Hypostatic Union. However, in the fall I’m planning to go back into writing mode and start to work on some new music for the next album. At the moment I’m trying to decide whether we do a concept album and if so what sort of story we want to tell. I would like to have some lyrical ideas at least in place to help guide the song writing.
JL: Last question then…if you were stuck on a dessert island and had only 5 discs with you…which five would they be? And why those ones in particular.
DB: Now that is a tough one but I’ll give it a shot. I would pick Keith Jarrett “Vienna Concert”, Genesis “The Lamb”, Mark Hollis “Mark Hollis”, Arvo Part “Te Deum”, and Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”. Now most of those albums aren’t considered prog and so I guess I need to explain myself. I think I would pick those albums for their overall impact on my life and also their timelessness. Those are albums that I listen to again and again and never grow tired of. In addition I think each of them is all quite different and so they would be perfect for different moods and different times of day.
JL: Well, Derek thanks for taking the time to chat…all the best.
DB: Thank you Jerry, it’s been a real pleasure to chat with you. All the best!