/ 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 performancefrom
hard rock and jazz-rock fusion to classical guitarthe 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 theres
so many different guitar styles merging into one, that there arent
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,
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, its 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
an interview with
Hows things with you in Denver? Is that where youre 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? Theres 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 Whos Quadrophenia that combine songs into longer
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
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.
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.
What other genres of music and other art forms are you influenced
by? Whats 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
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: Whats 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 Dragons Triangle.
Is that where the Suite part of the album comes into play?
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 youre 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
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
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.
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
mwe3: Over the years, youve 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
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 dont 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?
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 youre 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 Whos 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
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
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
mwe3: Are you looking towards 2016 with any new plans as far
as music, composing, performing and all things guitars go?
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!