CHARLES BROWN
Wind Of The Eastern Sea
(Charles Brown Music)

 

Guitarist / composer Charles Brown has remained a popular exponent of progressive instrumental rock guitar music for the past fifteen years. Bursting on the scene with his 2000 album Mystics, Charles has released a number of extraordinary instrumental albums over the years, including his acclaimed album Journey In A New Land, which was featured on mwe3.com back in 2007. In 2015, Charles returned in a big way with a CD of all new prog instrumentals called Wind Of The Eastern Sea. Combining all types of guitar performance—from hard rock and jazz-rock fusion to classical guitar—the album is also the heaviest album yet from Charles. As Charles describes it, Wind Of The Eastern Sea is kind of a suite of tracks that blends right into each other. What is apparent is that there’s so many different guitar styles merging into one, that there aren’t many genres of guitar not covered here. Speaking to mwe3.com about his interest in progressive instrumental fusion, Charles explains, "I listen to all styles of music: rock, jazz, classical, country, blues… Since most of what I do falls into “progressive” music, there is a greater response outside the USA, mostly in Europe, where prog music is more popular. Instrumental music is more accepted in the progressive genre, but, I do enjoy vocal music, which I get to do with the other band I'm involved with called Yarrow." As he has done on his other albums, Charles also features several other musicians on Wind, including keyboardist Steve Espinosa (keyboards and bass), although Charles also handles drums in addition to his playing all the electric and acoustic guitars and Roland GR-30 guitar synth. First rate engineering by Charles’ long time associate, guitarist Bill Boerder is also noteworthy. No doubt Charles’ background as an audio engineer plays a role in getting such a stellar sounding mix of rock and hard rock guitar sounds. After hearing Wind Of The Eastern Sea, it makes sense to learn that Charles’ favorite guitarists are Richie Blackmore and Alex Lifeson of Rush. With so many incredible CD releases now to his credit, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that Wind Of The Eastern Sea is the best album yet from Charles Brown. www.cdbaby.com/charlesbrown


mwe3.com presents an interview with
Charles Brown


mwe3
: How’s things with you in Denver? Is that where you’re from originally? What other cities and states interest you or is it all downhill after visiting Denver?

Charles Brown: I've been in Denver since 1980. I played with various bands throughout the 80's and 90's, and even spent time on the road playing around Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Arizona.

mwe3: Tell us about your 2015 album Wind Of The Eastern Sea and how you came up with the title? Do you call it a “suite” because the tracks are somehow connected and/or were they written around the same time? There’s so many great riffs throughout the album so it all sounds connected to my ears!

Charles Brown: Wind Of The Eastern Sea is inspired by a famous Chinese Painter named Xiu Behong. The main suite is comprised of a collection of pieces written in C tuning. It's in the same vein as progressive groups like YES, or Emerson, Lake & Palmer, or the Who’s Quadrophenia that combine songs into longer concept-type pieces.

mwe3: Would you say Wind is your hardest rocking album yet and are you willing to draw any comparisons between Wind and your other albums? Who else plays on the Wind CD with you and who did you work with on the CD to achieve such a sonically appealing sound?

Charles Brown: Wind Of The Eastern Sea definitely has some pretty hard rocking material, which is a result of my influence by Deep Purple and Ritchie Blackmore. My Friend Bill Boerder does guitar solos on a few tunes, and Steve Espinosa did some of the keyboard work. I also revisited a previous song of mine: “Nuclear Burn” that features Matt Bassano with blistering keyboard work in the vein of Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater.

mwe3: Where and when was the music on Wind Of The Eastern Sea written and recorded? Bill Boerder did a great job on the engineering. Is Bill featured on the CD pics inside the booklet? What can you tell us about the recording studio you record in and do you have a favorite recording program to get the best results for your music?

Charles Brown: I've been working on Wind Of The Eastern Sea for close to the past couple of years. We did some of the recording at Bill Boerder's studio with Pro Tools, he is shown inside the CD booklet, and I did a lot of my recording on my Pro Tools system as well. The keyboardist, Steve Espinosa recorded his parts on his own system, and I took those and imported them into my Pro Tools setup for the final mix.

mwe3: Last time we spoke around 2007, when you released Journey In A New Land, you were telling me about your guitars such as the ‘70s Strat and the Les Paul Standard. So what guitars are you using on Wind Of The Eastern Sea album, both electric and acoustic? What classical guitars are you also fond of playing and recording with and how about amps?

Charles Brown: The guitars on Wind Of The Eastern Sea are mainly my 70's Strat, and Les Paul. I also used a Gibson SG I got recently. My classical guitar is a Yamaha, and my acoustic guitar is a Vega, made by Martin, but it's their cheapo line!

For amps, we used Marshall Plexis, and vintage Marshall 50 watt Master Volume. Bill Boerder, who played solos on a few tunes, used a Paul Reed Smith guitar, and mixed in a Fender Princeton and Mesa Boogie combo amp along with the Marshalls.

mwe3: What other genres of music and other art forms are you influenced by? What’s been the response to your music in other countries outside the US?

Charles Brown: I listen to all styles of music: rock, jazz, classical, country, blues… Since most of what I do falls into “progressive” music, there is a greater response outside the USA, mostly in Europe where prog music is more popular. Instrumental music is more accepted in the progressive genre, but, I do enjoy vocal music, which I get to do with the other band I'm involved with called Yarrow.

mwe3: What made you want to close the Wind Of The Eastern Sea album with a remake of your song “Nuclear Burn”. Is that a remake track you redid with keyboardist Matt Bassano? Can you give some history on that track?

Charles Brown: I thought the keyboard work on it was great, so I wanted to revisit and tweak it up a bit with Pro Tools. That song was from around 2000, when we were really influenced heavily by Dream Theater and the new wave of prog bands at that time.

mwe3: What’s the recording process like for you? Say for instance on the first track on the Wind album, “The Awakening”, how many tracks and how many guitars are on that song? Did you record a drum track first to get the groove going? It was a great idea to segue that first track right into track 2 “Dragon’s Triangle”. Is that where the “Suite” part of the album comes into play?

Charles Brown: Usually I start with a guide track that gets the rhythm down. Then I just start adding everything else. Sometimes I like to go more for a “live” feel, but I like the control of adding things individually and layering the sound. When I came up with Wind Of The Eastern Sea, I knew it would be a concept type piece, so I approached the recording with that in mind.

mwe3: You have stated that Richie Blackmore and Alex Lifeson are big guitar influences, but the instrumental edge in your music is very original to my ears. Are there other instrumental guitarists doing instrumental rock like you’re doing it?

Charles Brown: I'm definitely heavily influenced by Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple/Rainbow, but I'm also very into Pat Metheny and the way he creates soundscapes and melodies. I think that kind of influence as well as using the guitar synth is a big part of my sound.

mwe3: What guitar synths do you like best? When did you first start recording with the guitar synth and how do you feel that instrument evolved over the years? Can you explain what a guitar synth is and how you record it on your albums and how it contrasts with a regular guitar sound?

Charles Brown: I use the Roland GR30 guitar synth, which I've had since the late 1990's. I'm very inspired and influenced by the guitar synth work of players like Pat Metheny, Al DiMeola, and John McLaughlin. I use it mainly to add textures and layers, and to accentuate melodies. The technique used on guitar synth is different than a keyboard synth, so I think it has a unique sound.

mwe3: What else is new and interesting for you in the guitar and gear world in 2015? Seems like with so much computerized apps everywhere, do you find that attention to real musicianship is becoming a bit of a lost art form?

Charles Brown: It's incredible what kind of gear is available these days. I love playing with all the new toys, but, what I want to get next is a hollow body jazz style guitar. I'm absolutely nowhere near the level of someone like Pat Metheny, but it would be a nice addition to compliment the more rock style guitars I have. I think with all the digital gear available these days it's easy to get lost in just making sounds, but I think musicianship is still important, and there are still many, many incredible players out there these days.

mwe3: Over the years, you’ve been featuring the artwork of Jilean Sherwood, who designs the covers of your CDs. What is the latest art piece featured on the Wind CD cover? Her website is amazing!

Charles Brown: I'm not sure if this current one has a name. I just describe the name of what the CD will be, and she designs something. Her work has definitely become an important part of my sound and style.

mwe3: You don’t have a very widespread exposure on the internet. Are you disappointed that so many artists are complaining of their music being stolen online? What ways can we better protect artists from theft of music on all of these streaming sites and elsewhere?

Charles Brown: I try to concentrate on just a few things, mainly CDBaby.com where my solo projects are available, and yarrow-band.com which is the band I'm currently involved with. You have to have an internet presence these days, but it is frustrating that your music probably will get stolen much of the time.

mwe3: Do you listen to other new guitarists these days or mainly to the classic rock guitarists you’re so fond of, such as Richie Blackmore and Pete Townshend of The Who? I was thinking your track “Nothingness And Eternity” was so cool it sounded like something from the Who’s Quadrophenia album!

Charles Brown: I usually end up listening to my old favorites, but, I do try to check out new stuff when I can. Being classified in the “prog” genre, I'm always listening to a variety of music.

mwe3: What else have you been busy with lately? Are you doing much writing and/or teaching or other guitar related things and are you still working with the band Yarrow and what can you tell us about that band?

Charles Brown: I'm trying to get Wind Of The Eastern Sea out to the niche audience and music sites that focus on progressive music. I'm also trying to concentrate on the other band I'm part of, Yarrow. They do mostly blues and classic rock, with vocals, so it's a totally different thing than the progressive area I do with my solo projects.

mwe3: Are you looking towards 2016 with any new plans as far as music, composing, performing and all things guitars go?

Charles Brown: I'm working on some recording things with Yarrow that we can add to the website. As for my solo projects, I'm thinking of doing another CD that features multiple styles, but, still incorporating some progressive elements, much like my very first CD Mystics. Kind of like coming full circle!



 

 
   
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