Explorers Club

"Raising The Mammoth"

released in 2002

 

 

1.
Raising The Mammoth 1 (part one) Passage To Paralysis (SW)
2.
Raising The Mammoth 1 (part two) Broad Decay (SW)
3.
Raising The Mammoth 1 (part three) Vertebrates
4.
Raising The Mammoth 2 (AKA Prog-O-Matic) Gigantipithicus (instrumental)

 

The Explorers Club on this Expedition is: Drums: Terry Bozzio Bass: John Myung Guitar: Kerry Livgren Guitar: Marty Friedman Guitar: Gary Wehrkamp Keyboards: Trent Gardner Keyboards: Mark Robertson Vocals: Steve Walsh Vocals: James LaBrie Additional Guitar: Jeff Curtis Additional Bass: Hal 'Stringfellow' Imbrie Produced By Trent Gardner Mixed By Terry Brown "The idea of the Explorers Club project is to have a different concept each time," explains Gardner, "a way for me to write for other musicians and to kind of go outside the bounds of the stuff I do with Magellan. I don't really anticipate any Explorers Club projects to be similar to each other. Raising The Mammoth is so much different from Age Of Impact in terms of some of the emphases with more ensemble stuff and more keyboard solos. There are definitely longer stretches of music. It's really a format for me to have carte blanche on whatever I want to do. And I see the personnel evolving each time as the music requires." Offering a bit of commentary on the shade and hue of the tracks themselves, Trent opines that "without sounding too cliché, the first one 'Passage To Paralysis' is the heavier, more epic-sounding one. 'Broad Decay', to me is more of a Pink Floyd-ish and simple, straight-ahead thing to feature Steve. It's almost like a progressive rock ballad but it's got a little bit of r+b too. With 'Vertebrates', I was looking for something that was more organic, something that maybe evoked a bit of old Genesis, but was pretty simple and definitely more acoustic-sounding, with an instrumental contrast where you had a big chunk where it was just vocals and simpler instrumentation. This stuff will wear on you after awhile if it's just blaring all the time. I wanted to have some way to have the album breathe a little bit. And the last piece 'Gigantipithicus', which is the longer one, 20+ minutes, that one is just your typical progressive rock band not knowing when to stop (laughs)." Indeed, as befits the mild warnings from Gardner, each track really is synergistic to the whole, none sounding hurried, but each sounding a little uneasy, eccentric, isolated, alone, part of a prog reality that existed perhaps within the oeuvre of bands from other countries (France, Italy, not the music, just the emotional effect), or on obscure British rarities. Certainly one feels the impending and inviting doom of a Van Der Graaf Generator, a real sense of impassioned thespian mission and vision, especially within the slight but sustaining shiver of 'Broad Decay'. You don't hear pathos delivered through such benign toolings too often anymore. It doesn't kill you with a beating. It applies an intravenous overdose while smiling and disseminating bits of small talk. Steve Walsh is a big part of that song's formula, as well as opener 'passage To Paralysis'. "Steve put in a lot of work on these and really took it very seriously which was greatly appreciated," muses Gardner. "He added some interesting things. On 'Broad Decay', I thought he did a great job there, pulling everything he could out of those lyrics. There are also some technical things he added which were great, just little studio tricks, cross-fades and little embellishments you can do. He's got a great guy he works with, David Manion, who helped engineer his vocal parts. And actually without David, it would have been hard to get Steve's performance represented, because he did a lot of tracking and a lot of layering, that sort of thing." "The second I heard where these songs were going, I knew that Steve was the guy for the first two tunes," continues Trent. "I just knew they worked. I knew he had the vocal chops to do this stuff. And having worked with him on his solo album, I knew how easy he was to work and what he could pull off. Steve is a very open-minded guy. It's just amazing. I would send him a guide vocal part where I'm singing all these things and he's so open to hearing that. But at the same time he'll put the Steve Walsh signature on it, adding those little things that only he does. He's so professional! He's really just no concern. I have no problems with him at all." And in the musical department, Trent and his Club found a new way to bridge physical distances and get everything just right. "On this one we did an extra layer, actually charting it out. We hired someone to transcribe good huge chunks of this thing so that the musicians could see what I had in mind specifically. And that really helped the project long. It's something I never really have done on a regular basis and definitely not to this extent; having a transcription of the music. It really helped speed up the recording process." Working with monster (mammoth) drum legend Terry Bozzio was, as usual, a snap, both Trent and Terry being consummate professionals. But as we've perhaps only subtly revealed, this is more of a keyboard album. As a result, it's no surprise that two of Trent's favourite moments on the album are keyboard-oriented. "One of my favourite deals is actually the beginning of the album where it's almost classical but super dissonant; I think that comes from the ELP thing. It reminds me of something off of Brain Salad Surgery; or Magellan on acid, I don't know (laughs). It's just, 'What the hell is he thinking!?' (laughs). I just decided to go as far outside the pale as possible and just not worry about the length of the tunes or anything like that; just let go; no boundaries. So that was one of my favourite keyboard moments. The other keyboard moment I like is at the end of 'Vertebrates', where the drums come back in. That keyboard solo there was actually Mark Robertson, and gosh, it's great because every few measures he changes keyboard sounds and it builds there really nicely. He steps through what must be eight or nine keyboard patches. It's just killer. He switches from violin to piano to different electronic-type patches but it's done in a logical way." And where can we hear ex-Megadeth fret-burner Marty Friedman? "He's all over the thing. For example, pretty much all the guitar leads, that's Marty. But actually, the stuff that is a little more Queen-like, some of that is Gary Wehrkamp from Shadow Gallery. But Gary's focus on the album was rhythm guitar parts. But occasionally he'll add a three or four-part guitar harmony or something to fill up the guitar end of things. He did a great job of doing that. I think it complemented Marty well. Marty likes to play a lot of his leads in harmony and he does the really fast deals. I'm not sure how he does it, but he does it in harmony, which is great. But Gary's contribution was definitely vital. Kerry Livgren's main contribution is on 'Broad Decay'; you'll hear these little tasteful guitar fills that happen there on that piece. And on 'Vertebrates' you'll hear a little bit of acoustic work that he did. He added some subtlety to it that was definitely needed." Vision, firepower, an appreciation and deep knowledge of art rock history... these are the ingredients that have made Explorers Club - and indeed all of Trent Gardner's diverse, elegantly constructed records - such deep listening experiences for the discerning, thinking man's rock fan. Assembling an army of musicians such as those documented above to carry out the Explorers Club material is the back half of what makes a project like Raising The Mammoth such an immense success. Now it's out of his hands and into yours, Trent sending us off with this last sage-like bit of advice to his fans and prospective fans: "Buy multiple copies of this thing. But then again, I always say that (laughs)." (from the MagnaCarta Website)

Steve: "..this being Trent Gardner's work, I really have nothing meaningful to say about it. His lyrics speak for themselves..."