Nathan Mahl - Parallel Eccentricities
Mostly recorded and mixed in December 1982, I remember staying at the studio (30 minutes from Ottawa) with the band over a weekend and being totally immersed in the vibe of this recording session. Most of the gear was our own, save a Baldwin grand piano and a pair of Leslie cabs. Back in those days (we were 22 years old!) the band was a democracy, so we'd sit down and discuss arrangements and tactical approaches. But the money was never democratic. I had shopped for a record deal for a couple years already, and prog was not sellable. So I decided to auto produce the disc and release it myself. I borrowed the money to record and manufacture the disc from my then-wife.
The 5 songs were selected from a repertoire of about 20 compositions, largely based on the length of them. "Moral Values part 1" opens the disc like a slap in the head, with lots of changes and aggressive playing. I liked the fact that both Mark and myself sang the lead vocals, taking turns expressing the bipolar lyrics, with Dan also adding a few quirky comments. The watery sound of the grand piano comes from patching it through the Leslie cabs in stereo. "Slowburn" is more of a straight ahead jazzy number, until halfway through, when it becomes a rocking freak-out, allowing each player to display his own imbalance. "Orgasmik Outburst part 3" is more of a prog opus and attempts to express, without words, why I believe that sex and music are interchangeable. "Schizophrenia" is a rock number written by Don Prince, to which I added the lyrics. It was easy for me to come up with lyrics like that, since at the time I worked for the government, and I definitely didn't belong there. "No Vacancy" was Dan's compositional contribution to the disc, which I helped finish and wrote lyrics to (actually dictated to Dan while driving to Montreal to see a KC concert in 1982). I thought this song was a good closer to the disc, ending it with more of a fusion flavour.
All in all, this first disc was a great experience and mostly fun for all. Selling it was a lot harder than expected, and eventually took its toll on the band.
Mahl Dynasty - Borderline
Although Nathan Mahl had reformed in 1989, and had rehearsed for a year with a totally new repertoire, and actually performed live once, then broke up again, and immediately reformed with a totally different line-up (except me), and rehearsed for yet another full year, I found myself wanting to record a second Nathan Mahl disc. Wanting to proceed with the same approach as "Parallel…" (self-release), I proposed to the band that I borrow the money to make this disc. This idea was rejected by half the band, yet I set up recording sessions anyway and began recording what was to be NM's second disc. After one session, I realized that it wasn't going to happen, so I set up the sessions with just the drummer and myself, and recorded some improv jams to which I added all the overdubs by jamming with myself afterwards. This became "Borderline". The 15 songs on this disc were selected from hundreds of such jams. It was all just good fun, not taking ourselves seriously, and exploring spontaneous creation.
Nathan Mahl - The Clever use of Shadows
A lot has been written and said about this disc. Personally, I find that it is my band's most static and untight disc. "Borderline" was deliberately untight, but "Clever" is untight because this line-up never had a common vision. Add to this, personal conflicts. It was while recording this disc that I realized that democracy had no place in this band, if we were ever going to release another disc.
Guy LeBlanc - Subversia
Whilst the transitional period of replacing NM's guitarist was under way, I decided to make my first real solo disc.
I rented the studio of Phil Bova, who was the engineer for Parallel, and it was great fun to record with him again, especially in a setting of a small cottage overlooking a lake.
"The First Lie" was a song I wrote for Nathan Mahl. It was one of José's favourites, so I asked him to play on it.
"Joyride" is totally fusion, so I never considered it for Mahl. I loved Paul's and Scott's improvs so much, I decided to opt against the duelling soloist bit, and mixed their parts together, creating a flurry of musical mayhem.
"A Question of Authority" is my musical tribute to Frank Zappa.
"The Cold Truth" is my idea of a horror story soundtrack, ala H.P. Lovecraft.
"The Trial" is a heavy-rock operatic number, complete with a pompous protagonist and lavish costumes.
"Subversia" is my tribute to the land of my birth, Acadia. So is Home, the last piece on the disc.
I remember a couple of phone conversations with Scott McGill, discussing the arrangements and guitar parts I wanted him to do based on the work tape I'd given him. Basically I wanted him to do mostly soloing, since a lot of the support arrangements I could do myself. So when he flew in from New Jersey for a weekend, and we went to the studio, I hadn't heard anything that he had planned to record. Phil just rolled the tape where I wanted Scott to play, and I think that all the parts that are on the disc were first takes. I was so impressed with his attitude and the way he went exactly where I wanted him to go with the songs; for me it was a totally joyful experience.
Nathan Mahl - Heretik volume 1: Body of Accusations
The creation of the trilogy's story was inspired by the book "The manufacture of madness" by Thomas Szasz, which is a psychiatric textbook. My interpretation of this book led me to create a story about individuality and alienation, as seen through the eyes of 2 completely different schools of thought.
Volume 1 sees the return of Mark Spenard on guitars to the fold of the band. It also sees the departure of Alain Bergeron on drums.
I composed so much material for this trilogy that only about 50% of it appears in the final presentation. The first volume took the longest time to release, simply because I had to pause halfway through to go on tour with Camel.
The songs on the first disc have a definite aggressive edge, which is fitting since the subject is aggression against individuality.
If I am to allow for a little self-criticism, it would be in the production aspect of the final product. This was my first experience as a studio engineer, and this has been a learning experience, as all things are.
Nathan Mahl - Heretik volume 2: the Trial
This disc marks the return of Dan Lacasse on drums (so now we're talking about 3/4 of the original line-up).
Also, American author Michael McCormack (whom I met whilst touring with Camel) contacts me and proposes to write a book about me and the making of volume 2. We'd become friends quite rapidly, and kept in touch after my return from the tour. So he came up from Louisiana and stayed at my home for about 3 weeks while I recorded volume 2.
Musically, volume 2 is a tad more laid back than the first one (at least at the beginning). It's also more allegorical and formulaic, since the lawyers and judges are on display here. The heretik is succumbing to hopelessness, and hardly utters protest in his own defence. He only does so in his own head, which is really his own last refuge.
This disc also signals the departure of Claude Prince on bass, who is insulted by certain passages of Michael's book, and disgruntled at my constant refusal to lead a democratic band (whatever that is).
My daughter Natasha, who played recorder on volume 1, now sings on "Moral Values part 2", the only interjection for the heretik's defense, in a fadeout that leads to...
Nathan Mahl - Heretik volume 3: the Sentence
Which fades in from the ending of volume 2, again with Natasha singing the defence until she is cut off by the final assault which lasts over 50 minutes, and ends with the execution of the heretik, and the sad lament of my other daughter Kaleigh, who is hauntingly searching for a place to lay some flowers for her executed father.
Guy Dagenais played the bass on volume 3, and he did a marvellous job indeed. For personal reasons at the time, he chose not to continue with the band beyond this disc.
I've pissed off a few reviewers with this disc, who seem offended by the fact that I expect a listener to sit through a single 54 minute piece of music... I don't get it... most movies are at least 90 minutes... if they only knew that I really expect a listener to sit through all 3 discs at a time... I mean... that's the whole story, after all... :-)
Oh, and for the record... I LIKE V-Drums ! No, scratch that... I LOVE V-Drums !!! Don't get me wrong, I also like real drums. But... I generally don't like the sound of most recorded real drum kits. I guess that makes me a bit of a heretic, or certainly not a purist.
Musically, this last chapter of the trilogy is a double-barrel assault on the senses, as aggressive and complex a piece of music as I was capable of at the time.
Nathan Mahl - Shadows Unbound
So... I've just completed a trilogy... and in the meantime disowned "Clever Use of Shadows". How about... re-do that disc, but the way that I'd originally envisioned it in 1996? And with the original NM line-up, to boot.
Great idea. Almost.
I like this disc way better than I ever did "CUOS", and it was a lot of fun for me to record with my old bandmates (all of them).
But we're not 22 anymore, and we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
So... if this band is gonna do anything more together, it has to go forward !
Like, can you say G-I-G, boys and girls?
My favourite song on this disc is easily "Misleading Agenda", its pacing and energy and meaning and attitude.
The title track has regained energy and majestic pomposity, as well as a sense of fun.
This whole album is the kind of shit that makes ME dance and laugh out loud.
Guy LeBlanc - All the Rage
Warning... this is the kind of album one makes when one goes to hell and back.
The songs on this disc are all about different facets of escapism; being anywhere else than in one predicament or another. Even the 2 songs that constitute the Steppenwolf Suite, "The Immortals" and "The One who Knows", explore the alternate reality of the protagonist's perception that his ideal exists within sight, but just beyond his grasp.
This was the first disc (and actual occurrence) where I played acoustic and electric guitars. I literally taught myself to play it as I wrote it. The French song "Ailleurs" (Elsewhere) was entirely composed on acoustic guitar.
I've read in several reviews of this disc that apparently I processed the vocals on the title track, to make them sound raw and nasty... let me assure you that the only processing used on the voice was whisky, cigarettes and pain.
I did process the voice in "One Sky", patching it through a Leslie cabinet.
Oh, and I DO NOT program drums.
I play them in real time, on a keyboard :-)