Interview by Denys, posted on 04/13/2010
Interview with: Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) (Guitarist)
Myglobalmind: Thank you so much Gary for taking the time be with us today and answer some questions for the fans of Shadow Gallery!
Gary: My Pleasure Denys!
Myglobalmind: Congratulations on the success of Digital Ghosts your 6th Studio release, what type of feedback have you received from other publications and around the world?
Gary: People are very kind. We are lucky. We rarely have specific expectations about what people will think of our latest record, but this time it was a little more predictable. Having losing a singer and starting a record with a new lead vocalist we knew the headlines were going circle those important changes. In General, people were respecting the changes in our situation and listening to DIGITAL GHOST for what it is. We were happy to receive very good ratings and press in most parts of the world.
Myglobalmind: Shadow Gallery has always been known to take their time in between records, but usually the outcome is outstanding and in this case is no exception. Can you explain the groups thought process behind the length of time between Room V and Digital Ghosts?
Gary: A lot of pre-planning. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to start something, and to that end, I usually begin the pre-production of a record with a large notebook and/or spreadsheet file. I start gathering anything and everything I can. In this case it was on Christmas night a few years ago. I made a list of all of the people who might be involved, with their contact information and a list of any tidbits of possible songs to use. I jotted down a direction of the record, and general ideas I want to accomplish with a new record. Instead of working on the record, I work on this list and add to it until it is time to
get a schedule together. Then it is another year before much of anything final gets done, mostly because everyone in the band is so busy doing other things it is hard to get a momentum going. I started working on music and encouraged Brendt to do the same. IN fact Brendt had already written a piece of music right after Room V was released and this became the song VENOM, so I knew we had that. I wrote music for something I called “CLiffhanger Part 3” and did a demo here in my studio. After I sent it to Carl, he added lyrics but it was not about the Cliffhanger story. (based on songs started on earlier SG records). This song became PAIN and what you hear on the final version is mostly the demo in fact. From there we had a start and built on it from there slowly. Once we were rolling, it was hard to stop.
Myglobalmind: Let’s talk about the new album Digital Ghosts, when I first heard it initially I felt the sound had evolved, even though there was still the trademark SG sound in places I thought the writing was more deep, the harmonizing was stronger than ever and the sound seemed heavier than previous works, is that a fair assessment?
Gary: Thanks. If it is your assessment, then it is what you think.. I guess I won’t disgaree with you (laughs). We hope everything evolves for each record of course. We did make more of an effort with the harmonizing to allow individual voices for each harmony rather than have everyone sing everything all the time. The fun part are the vocal arrangements. In many or most cases Carl starts the melody and then brendt and I write counter-melodies or harmonies that are their own individual lines and often I will sing the counterpart or harmony I wrote and Brendt will sing the ones he wrote. It was so much fun.
Myglobalmind: We noticed that this time around there was more group vocals from other members of the band, was this done in order to give the record a stronger more explosive feel to match the instrumentation?
Gary: Naturally, after Mike died, we had some options on how we were going to proceed. My first reaction was that I did not want to bring in someone to replace him and that we three (Carl, Brendt and myself) should do the singing, maybe add a guest singer or two. Carl really wanted a lead vocalist instead of us singing… We ended up compromising and did all of the above. Often, Brian’s vocals were only coming in on the verses, so we might leave Carl singing a pre-chorus alone, then have the chorus parts sung by Brendt, Carl and myself.. Basically it was about vocal arranging, and we always do this – and so do most other bands, but this time we tried to do things outside of the mold, and certainly let it sound like there are 4 lead vocalists at times.
Myglobalmind: Is there a deeper meaning behind the title of “Digital Ghosts”?
Gary: It is as deep as you want to take it. In essence, when things or people appear to be gone, the digital representation of the partial collectiveness of the accomplishments in people’s pasts remain. Wait… what did i just say? no…wait, scratch that, maybe there is no meaning behind any of it (laughs)
Myglobalmind: With success comes adversity, perhaps one of the biggest challenges to overcome was the passing of the late Mike Baker your former vocalist. Now only was that a big loss for the music scene but he was a tremendous person and one sure some fans proclaim would be hard to replace. How did the band manage to overcome this tough time and then search for a new singer?
Gary: Ahhh we did what any lazy group would do. We did nothing, or procrastinated at best. At first we paid respect to Mike and his family of course and took some time off from recording, but then after resuming, we just worked on the music and figured something would work out. I never really had any strong sense of worry, I always knew something would just land in our laps when the time is right, and it did.
Myglobalmind: Brian Ashland your new vocalist does a solid job on Digital Ghosts, we thought he did not try to replace Mike’s style; he brought his own flavor to the table. What unique qualities did the band look for in looking for a new front man?
Gary: Oh I don’t know – just someone who did not sound like a million other guys. I realize that at times Brian can sound like Geoff Tate at times and I am sure this is not intentional, but we knew that going in to the record. Brian has much more than that though, he has a style and a sense and great musical approach to what he does probably because he is a heck of a songwriter, guitarist etc… in fact he almost did not want to audition because he said “I am not a lead singer, I am a guitar player who sings a little.” We convinced him otherwise and hopefully he has convinced the people listening to the record as well.
Myglobalmind: Gary being that you’re an excellent guitar player, which musicians have been your main influences over the years?
Gary: My first influence was simply the idea of not knowing how to play and feeling like deep inside I did. This drove me a lot. I played for fun and for many many hours on end. At first I learned almost no songs, I just made up my own songs from the first day i grabbed a guitar and improvised anything from day one and still play this way. I received a great deal of influence hearing a local guitarist named Chris Alia play at my house one afternoon and became obsessed from that point on. I never knew anyone could play like that and yet also knew I would be able to. From there I enjoyed the originality of Eddie Van Halen and enjoyed playing Van Halen – my first “songs” I learned I guess… that and the first Ozzy records with Randy Rhoads. This led me to Ynwgie Malmsteem and Steve Vai and then Eric Johnson.
Myglobalmind: Have you had time to listen to any new records lately? If so any one comes to mind that stand out?
Gary: ya know, i rarely do, and this is a little sad. I do not listen to music much. I have a lot of inspiration in my head just based on ideas – mathematical ideas I guess, or production ideas.. I do not seek out new music at all, and usually end up back with Rush, Yes and bands like that. Mostly I like songs, and if I play CDs or something on my ipod, it is a playlist containing a vast array of songs- anything from what I just mentioned to Coldplay, Queen, Jellyfish, Extreme, or bands or artists that I am recording or producing in the studio.
Myglobalmind: One of the biggest questions we always get about the band is when are you guys going to tour. Recently it was announced that the band would perform on the Triton Power Cruise on April 30th to May 3rd. But now we know it got cancelled, we we’re sorry to hear that because I know you guys we’re excited about it. I know that you have expressed your thoughts on this matter in the past, but because of the bands busy schedule with jobs and family is hard. What are the prospects of a tour as we stand now?
Gary: We are looking towards shows in Europe right now.
Myglobalmind: Shadow Gallery is considered one of the most consistent progressive metal bands out there, what is the secret to your success?
Gary: haha, maybe it is that we are not around each other all the time, so we do not get mad.. we have a good time, we record with no pressure or worries (except when I am spreading the schedule stress around to keep everyone on track and moving without delays).
We balance Shadow Gallery with many other things in our lives and for me SG does not come first, My family does. Sometimes there has to be a temporary priority, and don’t get me wrong – It is always a good deal of work, but it is great fun too! The truth is that I respect Brendt and Carl so much and what they write that I am a fan of their work. This makes me always want to work with them. Basically I consider myself very lucky to be elevated by their talent.
Myglobalmind: Thank you so much Gary for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers and fans of SG. We wish luck on future endeavors and congratulations on a great record and look forward to the next one. The last word is yours.
Gary: Thanks. The last word is NEXT?
Please visit http://www.shadowgallery.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/officialshadowgallery
Myglobalmind Webzine Review for Shadow Gallery – Digital Ghosts