Exclusive interview with Nick Van Dyk (Redemption)(Guitars)

Nick: Let me tell you, this is the first time since being diagnosed that I have consciously thought about something fifteen years down the road. It's nice to do...

Picture by: Patrick Matthies – www.vividexplosion.com


Interviewed by Denys (Site Founder/Senior Staff Writer) Myglobalmind Webzine

Myglobalmind: Thanks so much for taking the time Nick answer some exclusive questions about Redemption and your new record This Mortal Coil.!!!

Myglobalmind: First of and foremost before we get into the actual bulk of the interview, I like to take the time to state how much respect I have for you personally after the ordeal you had to deal with with your illness. Can you give us an update on your condition and how are you doing?

Nick: Thank you for your kind words and inquiry into my health. As of now, I have completed two years of my three years of what is called “maintenance therapy” — essentially smaller doses of weekly chemo plus a bunch of pills that at designed to kill off any straggler cancer cells that didn’t get with the program earlier. I remain in complete remission and if I make it another year, the likelihood is that my doctor will pronounce me cured and I will be able to discontinue most, if not all, of my meds.

Myglobalmind: I’m so happy to hear that and hope that you continue with great health. Before we get into your album “This Mortal Coil” which was officially released September 26th, let’s take a step back into the last release for a minute. Snowfall on Judgement Day and your new album as well, both are very hard hitting progressive metal records, the music was a lot darker then the previous releases, did the songwriting and music on the new release represent some of the internal emotions you we’re dealing with at the time? I know you said partly deals with reflections on morality. Can you explain?

Nick: I didn’t want this CD to be a about me and my cancer. At the same time, as you might imagine, it’s hard to go through this without being impacted to some degree. It was not as though I felt driven to write something in a cathartic sense; it’s more just that I felt reflecting on mortality would be a good topic for a CD and one upon which I now felt qualified to comment. Redemption has always, lyrically, been about relationships: our relationship with ourselves, our relationships with others, and our relationship with the world around us.

These lyrical themes work for us because they are themes common to everybody and they provide a means for the listener to connect insofar as they are experiences to which everyone can relate. Now, the topic is our relationship to our mortality. This is something we all must face at some point — unless of course we die unexpectedly in our sleep. Whether it is though the death or illness of a friend or family member, or through a diagnosis like the one I received, sooner or late we all have to come to terms with what it means to be mortal. So that is what this CD is about.

As for it being dark, I tend to think it is as dark as it needs to be and no darker. Redemption has always combined aggressive riffing with strong melody, and dark moods with positivity. This record is no different, other than perhaps emphasizing a heavy guitar tone, which frankly I have always sought.

Pictures by: Craig Simon – www.craigsimonphotography.com

Myglobalmind: I have always been able to assimilate the lyrics in Redemption’s music to be very personal, dealing with fears, triumphs, emotional chaos and the delicateness of human life in general. Is easy to relate to personal lyrics like those of your band. How did you approach your new record when it came to the writing?

Nick: As I mentioned above, I didn’t want this to be about me and my diagnosis — I wanted the theme of confronting mortality, to which everybody can relate, to be the lyrical focus. So when I wrote the lyrics, it was with this in mind. I had some help from Chris on the song Let It Rain which teetered on the brink of being too personal; he helped with some tweaks to the lyrics that kept it broader.

Myglobalmind: Is there any particular meaning behind the name of the album? And if you could elaborate on what the fans can expect to hear from the new record if you can?

Nick: The title comes from Shakespeare and refers to the travails of everyday life. In that context, Hamlet is wondering what happens next, essentially, when we rid ourselves of these through death. I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition with the symbol of the caduceus, which is of course part of the metaphor with the cover art (along with an Icarus / fallen angel motif).

As for the sound, I think it is a natural continuation of Redemption’s interest in combining very heavy music with strong melody. I do think it is the heaviest sounding record we have done, owing in large part to the production work of Neil Kernon.

Myglobalmind: How is this album different then “Snowfall On Judgement Day”, or my personal favorite “The Fullness of Time”?

Nick: We do try to evolve with each release. But we are not one of those bands that seeks to completely reinvent ourselves with every release, so if people are expecting something to sound violently different from our previous work, they will not find that. We do, I hope, continue to improve as musicians and I continue to improve at songwriting, so I hope each record is better than the last from that standpoint. Guitar solos are a real emphasis on this record — Bernie plays some amazing stuff. The sound is heavier, as well.

Myglobalmind: Tracks like “No Tickets To The Funeral” and “Dream From The Pit” are great epic tunes full of emotions. I always said Redemption’s music is like listening to a roller-coaster in distress, takes you in many directions but in the end it balances itself out. The heaviness of the music with it’s more melancholy parts blend in very well with the lyrics. How would you describe the sound of the band on this new album?

Nick: Again, not wildly different from what we have done before. There is a lot of dark material and messages, both from a heaviness standpoint and a more brooding standpoint, but there is always an undercurrent of positivity in our music and a sense of resolution. You are not the only person to describe it as a roller coaster and I take that as a huge compliment because it means ours listeners are engaged and the music is meaningful to them, which is of course what it is all about.

Myglobalmind: Do you have any personal favorite songs on the new record?

Nick: Dreams from the Pit and Noonday Devil are my two favorites, although I like Perfect, No Tickets to the Funeral and Departure of the Pale Horse quite a bit as well.

Myglobalmind: How was it working with Neal Kernon who has previously worked with bands like Nevermore,Nile, Queensryche and Deicide amongst others producing the band’s upcoming record. Definitely a very versatile producer. How did this come about?

Nick: I have known Neil socially for some time and we had talked about working together at some point. The schedule worked out this time, and I think Neil’s background which includes everything from classic progressive rock to modern heavy metal to pop was a great fit.

Neil is a workaholic and a perfectionist and I appreciate both those traits so it made working together pretty easy, apart from all the calamities that kept throwing themselves at us (failing hard drives, failing Internet connections, crashing computers, pro tools systems not working any longer, lightning strikes knocking out the studio, etc.)

Myglobalmind: Neil asked you few years ago if you we’re interested in creating a “Rage For Order” for the next century? What do you say to something like that?

Nick: Well, in my case I said “yes, it would be an incredible honor to work on something like that with you.”. 🙂

Myglobalmind: What kind of ideas we’re been thrown for the new record and how did Mr Kernon help shape the band’s sound on this release?

Nick: The record was more or less composed in draft form before Neil was engaged, but the first step was sending him everything and have him help with arrangements. He made some fairly small but important changes, like repeating the bridge after the solo in No Tickets, and getting the chorus to show up earlier in Dreams from the Pit.

During the recording, and especially the mix, of course, Neil’s fingerprints are all over the record. He was able to get a very heavy guitar tone which had been elusive for me in the past — it is a challenge to maintain the beefiness of the guitar when you have a very active bass part, and also busy double kick. But I think we achieved it this time around.

Myglobalmind: Are the songs loosely connected together on the new record, would you consider it a concept album?

Pictures by: Craig Simon – www.craigsimonphotography.com

Nick: Somewhat. More than our other works, I think. You could say it is a concept album about facing mortality. It’s not a rock opera, obviously.

Myglobalmind: What surprising things can Redemption fans find on your new album?

Nick: I’m not sure there will be surprises but I do think people will really take notice of Sean’s bass and Bernie’s soloing. They are both more prominent in the mix than they have been the past.

Myglobalmind: If I was to ask you to describe how the end result of the new CD was, what would you say? Are you pleased how it turned out?

Nick: I think it was Geddy Lee who said you are never finished with a CD, it is simply taken from you. That is certainly the case here. I know both Neil and I would have killed for another week. And as a perfectionist, it will be some time before I can listen to it and hear something more than the things I would change — a level here, an effect there, that sort of thing. Ask me again in six months! 🙂

Myglobalmind: James Labrie of Dream Theater lend his vocals on the track “Another Day Dies”, on your last record, no guest musicians this time around?

Nick: Actually, the very talented Gary Wehrkamp from Shadow Gallery makes a guest appearance on a keyboard solo at the end of Begin Again.

Myglobalmind: How would you describe Ray Alder’s vocals on your new record?

Nick: People say time and again how Ray is the perfect vocalist for Redemption because of the emotion in his voice and the way he makes the lyrics real for the listener, and i couldn’t agree more. We pushed his voice on this record — he sings a higher note than he has sung on a Redemption song, and we have eleven vocal tracks on the song Perfect — and I think it works tremendously.

Myglobalmind: Sometimes is hard for a progressive metal band to evolve in the genre due to the nature of the music, but you guys manage to keep on intricately evolve on your sound from your debut, how do you manage to do that? What’s your secret?

Nick: I’m not sure there is one, really. I mentioned that we try to evolve, and I try to continually improve my songwriting and we hopefully become better musicians and more cohesive as a unit the longer we okay together. Beyond that, it’s a matter of wanting to emphasize certain things in our music as we continue to progress.

Myglobalmind: The band has managed to release a title in between 2 years span, how hard is it when the rest of the band is doing other projects, for instance Ray Alder in Fates Warning, to re focus back on planning a next record?

Nick: Schedule conflict, particularly Ray’s, is something we work hard at to keep from becoming a problem. It isn’t always easy but we are managing. I have said from the beginning that as a huge fan of Fates Warning, I never want to be in the way of that and we are sticking to that.

Myglobalmind: Would you say that “This Mortal Coil” is your best album to date?

Nick: Honestly I am too close to it right now. On the one hand, if a musician hopes to continuously improve his songwriting and performance, every record released should be better than any of his previous stuff, right? At the same time, there are some songs from my library, whether it’s Sapphire or Black and White World or whatever, that are very special songs. When you have something like that, it’s lightning in a bottle and you are happy to get it when you can. What I can say is that I’m confident This Mortal Coil is another solid contribution to Redemption’s catalog — at some point it will be up to personal preference.

Myglobalmind: I see the band has booked and played a few dates overseas already in support of the new album, any hopes of gigs here in the USA locally?

Nick: We will play a few US dates, yes. It is very difficult, mostly for economic reasons but also due to scheduling, to do something major.

Myglobalmind: What do you do when you’re not working on music, touring, etc?

Nick: I am a frightfully busy executive with a major media company. It is a demanding job and since it pays for my music hobby, it comes first.

Myglobalmind: What has been the highest achievement that Redemption has attained since their inception? A live setting, meeting any of your musical heroes, whatever comes to mind feel free.

Nick: It would be hard to top opening for Dream Theater to thousands of people every night. On the other hand, we just came back from our first headlining tour in Europe and some of the shows — particularly Germany — were amazing and inspiring. Of course we’re talking much smaller shows — several hundred not several thousand — but they were there to see us, knew every word of every song, etc. It was thrilling.

Myglobalmind: I know you have been asked this before, but what’s your take on the music business especially on the Metal genre? It seems because of the digital era we are in, that so many labels are going down in flames and even hard working bands like yourself find it hard to make a successful profit even when touring?

Nick: Frankly, the music business is no longer functional. There is no way for smaller bands, or their labels, to make a living at it any more. It is what it is, the consumer has voted. We will see whether the consumer is happy with what they have in a few years’ time.

Myglobalmind: Do you think it will get better?

Nick: No, honestly. The bottom has fallen out at this point so I don’t think it will get any worse, and i do think bands will do whatever they can, like VIP packages or selling credits on DVDs, that sort of thing, so we have probably found equilibrium right now but it ain’t pretty.

Myglobalmind: Who has been your biggest musical influences?

Nick: I started out a heavy metal fan near the end of the NWOBHM, so you have Iron Maiden and Priest and of course Sabbath with and without Ozzy and the more obscure bands. And I grew up in a suburb of San Francisco during the birth of the thrash movement so throw in Megadeth and early Metallica and Testament and that stuff. Then I got into more progressive music so add Rush and Kansas and Genesis to the mix. I would also have to single out Savatage in terms of orchestration and emotional delivery, particularly the early Paul O’Neill stuff.

Myglobalmind: What are the plans for Redemption, do you think you guys can stick around for another 15 years?

Nick: Let me tell you, this is the first time since being diagnosed that I have consciously thought about something fifteen years down the road. It’s nice to do that and have some confidence that I will still be around! 🙂

We will continue as long as I think we have something valid to say musically and as long as our fan base is large enough to make releasing records more than just an exercise in vanity. We are having fun so there is certainly no reason to stop right now. 🙂

Myglobalmind: Any final words to fans of the band in anticipation for your upcoming album?

Nick: As always, we want to thank our fans for their interest and support. We have an enthusiastic fan base and it is extremely energizing to us. Thanks!!

Myglobalmind: Thanks a bunch Nick for taking the time, congratulations on the new album and wish you and the band tons of success.!!!

Nick: Thanks, Denys! It was a pleasure speaking with you.

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