England-based guitarist Jon Durant returns in 2011 with his
his most impressive recording to date, entitled Dance Of The
Shadow Planets. Commenting on the title of the CD Durant
adds, Dance Of The Shadow Planets is a line borrowed
from Shalimar The Clown, Salman Rushdies epic novel set
in Kashmir. The shadow planets represent love and hate, and the dance
is their interplay within us all, and their influence over our actions
on a daily basis. These themes are woven throughout the nine tracks
of this recording, exploring passion, tension, chaos and magic.
Durant is a true guitar master of what some aficianados call the futuristic,
sonic edge of instrumental New Age jazz-rock. Back in 2004, Durant
released his fifth solo album entitled Things Behind The Suna
stellar trio album with King Crimsons Tony Levin and drummer
Vinny Sabatino. That album was followed up in 2007 with the CD release
of Floodagain featuring Levin and Sabatino. For his seventh
solo album, Durant enlists the aid of top players including Colin
Edwin (fretless bass), Caryn Link (violin) and Jerry
Leake (percussion). In the spirit of genius Euro guitar heroes
such as Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal, Durant creates intense, gigantic
sounding, invisible sonic glaciers that simply tower overhead. Like
Fripp and Rypdal at their instrumental best, Durants daring
instrumental music will leave you stunned and speechless. Mixing together
a staggering array of sequential sonancies, Durant approaches his
music much like a scientist looking for the best possible outcomes.
And while Durant had not yet played with this particular group of
musicians, he adds, The whole point of this was to play it live.
It needed to be a real group dynamic, and it needed to be spontaneous.
Rock fans who thrilled to the instrumental side and sound of progressive
bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd back in the 60sas
well as jazz-fusion fans looking to set sail on uncharted musical
watersare both strongly advised to give a listen to Jon Durant's
sonically majestic sounds on Dance Of The Shadow Planets. www.AlchemyRecords.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: After the critical acclaim of both Flood (2007)
and Things Behind The Sun (2005), both recorded with Tony Levin
and Vinny Sabatino, you went for a kind of different sound with a
new lineup of players. What did you set out to achieve on Dance
Of The Shadow Planets and how do you describe the chemistry between
you and this line lineup of players?
DURANT: The first thing is that I wanted to record the whole record
live with everyone together in the studio. Also, I had
written the music with the idea of having Jon Hassell doing his very
unique trumpet work. Unfortunately, while he was intrigued by the
idea, the timing didnt work out so I had to find a way to replace
him. And because his thing isnt something that any other trumpet
player could do, I was searching for a different voice to fill the
void. In a fluke of timing, Caryn called up to say hi,
not having spoken for a while, and I immediately knew that she was
the answer. She has such a unique and cool approach to the violin,
and it was exactly what I was looking for.
As for Colin Edwin, wed been communicating for a while. Id
really liked his work outside of Porcupine Tree, his solo album and
his Ex-Wise Heads project. And he really enjoyed my records, so when
I started writing this material, I realized the bass lines I was composing
were perfect for him. Fortunately, the timing was perfect for himas
Porcupine Tree are on a much needed breakso he was able to fully
immerse himself in the music.
Then, about a month before the sessions, Vinny had a conflict and
I needed to find a replacement, and fortunately Jerry Leake was available.
I had played with him on a Randy Roos gig that we both sat in on,
and Id heard him with Club DElf and really thought hed
fit perfectly. As soon as he heard my demos, he asked if Id
been writing for him, so clearly it was a good fit.
The chemistry was incredible, right from the start. We set up on a
Sunday night, and my plan was to set up, go get dinner and let everyone
get to know one another. Randy suggested that we try one of the tunes,
so we started with Forbidden Ardor. The second take is
whats on the record. The whole record went that wayin
two days we cut all the basic tracks.
mwe3: The title Dance Of The Shadow Planets is quite intriguing.
It sounds quite befitting your mercurial guitar performance and ensemble
sound to say the least!
JD: The title actually comes from Salman Rushdies book Shalimar
the Clown. I was really taken with the image of these shadow
planets that represent love and hate within each of us, and the way
the forces play off each other. Couple that with the imagery of Kashmir
and you get the setting that is very much a part of this music.
mwe3: Youre renowned for what you term your Cloud Guitar
sound. How would you describe the Cloud Guitar sound on your CDs and
how do you capture that highly ambient, electrifying, near stratospheric
guitar sound on disc?
The term cloud guitar refers to the way the sounds hang
in the air like clouds, with no discernible beginning or ending. I
achieve it by utilizing a series of delays and reverb, often with
other effects as well, coupled with volume swells. Its become
an integral part of my playing and while I do it live, and play over
the top, on record I record them separately so that we can have more
control over mixing.
mwe3: How has your choice of guitars changed over the years and what
amps, pedals and other sonic effects help you enhance your sound?
Are there any new developments in the guitar world that currently
JD: On my first couple records, I was playing a PRS Custom 24, which
I really loved, until I got my hands on a Klein electric guitar. Once
I started playing the Klein, I didnt play anything else for
nearly 10 years. But eventually I felt a need to move on, and began
to look at other instruments again. On Flood, I also used a
reissue 57 Les Paul Goldtop on a couple tunes, which I like,
but not having a whammy bar left me feeling like it wasnt right
for me. Then I decided to get back to playing PRS, and now its
all Im playing. I used a limited edition Custom 22 Semi Hollow,
and Custom 22, and an Experience 24 with a rosewood neck that I really
As for effects I use a bunch of different things. On this record I
used a Lexicon MPX-1 and a Jamman, plus a Moogerfooger Ring Mod, and
a Boss DD7. Ive recently picked up a Dwarfcraft Shiva fuzz box
that does some really cool and crazy stuff and Im enjoying that
enormously. My amp is a Mesa Boogie MK V.
On new developments, I really havent spent much time looking
at things, mostly because the money very quickly gets ridiculous,
so I try to keep my gear purchases minimal.
mwe3: What other instruments do you use to enhance that perfect sonic
edge? In the past you worked with different guitars, including 12
string, and even mellotron.
JD: I love the 12 string as an additional texture. I used it a lot
on Flood, and there are some sprinkles on Boonyi,
which is the only tune we didnt track live on the new record.
I used a mellotron sample on Flood that I played on guitar
synth, and Ive also done things like playing a Duduk sample
on guitar synth as well. On the new album, given its live nature,
I tended to avoid all that and simply concentrate on the guitar itself.
mwe3: How does Dance Of The Shadow Planets differ from your
earlier albums and what was it like working with sound man Randy Roos
at Squam Sound on the new album?
JD: On prior albums, I had recorded my parts and demos of the bass
and drums/percussion. Then Vinny would come down and wed work
out his parts before finally getting Tony to replace my bass parts.
Which is an OK way to work, but I really wanted to capture the spirit
of a group playing live this time, and I think it really comes through
on Dance Of The Shadow Planets.
Having a brilliant engineer like Randy allowed me to not have to worry
at all about the sound, and just play. Randy is an amazing musicianI
studied guitar with him back in 81-82whom Ive admired
for many years. And, his studio (Squam Sound) was perfect for setting
the band up, where we could all have visual communication, and everyone
apart from Jerry was in the room together. To communicate with Jerry,
when he was on the floor in his room playing tablas, we set up a mic
so that I could tell him what was coming up. It worked great.
mwe3: Your music is described as sonic instrumental rock for jazz
fans and artful fusion for rock fans. How do you balance your love
of both fusion instrumental and the more adventurous instrumental
rock genre that your albums feature?
One of the things I have always tried to do is make music that I enjoy.
I figure that if I dont like it, how can I expect anyone else
to? So I blend elements from everything I hear into something that
I hope seems fresh and new. So there will be elements from, say Jeff
Beck, next to Steve Tibbetts along side Porcupine Tree or Sigur Ros.
And it never really sounds like any of them specifically, despite
their impact on me. I just interpolate the elements that resonate
with me, which arent necessarily those that someone else might
get from the same music.
mwe3: You sometimes feature a number of near indigenous world music
instruments on your albums. How would you describe that combination
of ancient sounding instruments with your generally futuristic approach
JD: Especially with percussion, I really feel like you cannot replace
the organic feel of say, the tabla, played by a master like Jerry
Leake. Electronics are fun, but they simply cannot replace the vibe
that these percussive instruments create. Ive also explored
using things like the duduk, which is a really cool reed instrument
from Armenia. I have a couple decent samples which I played on guitar
synth which created a really nice feel on one of the tunes on Things
Behind The Sun. And the music I have always enjoyed most is that
which blends the musics from around the world into something new.
So, I will likely always be bringing these different elements together.
mwe3: What music and artists influenced you most early on in your
career and what artists do you listen to these days? Also can you
say something about any current or upcoming activities for your Alchemy
JD: My earliest influences musically was the prog-rock scene from
the 70sYes, Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, etc.
Fusion went right alongside with Weather Report, Mahavishnu, and Randy
Roos. From there I got really into the ECM recordings, especially
Terje Rypdal, Eberhard Weber, then Steve Tibbetts, Bill Frisell and
David Torn. Along the way there was also a fair bit of Tangerine Dream
and Brian Eno thrown in, so somehow it all got mangled up a bit! These
days I listen to a lot of Porcupine Tree, and still a lot of ECM stuff,
old and new. As for Alchemy, unfortunately, the current economic climate
has made it impossible for me to release work from other artists.
There are lots of things Id love to doRandy Roos being
a great example, hes got some amazing stuff hes done recently
with the bassist Victor Bailey.
mwe3: I hear youre planning a rare performance at the EquinOxygen
festival on October 1st. Can you say something about that show, for
instance wholl you be with and music youll be performing.
Also can you let us know about any other upcoming plans?
This festival came up as a nice surprise for me. I hadnt anticipated
that Id be asked to do an electronic/experimental music festival,
but I think its going to be very cool. Im going to be
playing with my son, Harrison, who is quite a good young guitaristhes
15. Well be doing some new material that weve been creating
for two guitars and an iPad. Its given us an opportunity to
explore some things that combine our mutual interest in electronic
music, and do some pretty outside guitar stuff. Hes got some
really cool things hes doing, which I think people will really
enjoy! From there, I have no idea what will be next. Jerry and Caryn
would love to do some live work with the material from this record,
but Colin wouldnt be able to do it, so wed have to find
an alternative. Well see. It would be very cool if we can pull
Thanks to Jon Durant @ www.AlchemyRecords.com