Age music trendsetter and famed studio engineer / producer Tom
Eaton made more than a few ripples in the music world with his
early 2016 album abendromen and he follows up near the close
of 2016 with another album of all new material called indesterren.
With its surreal soundscapes and hypnotic electronica, indesterren
is kind of a sister album to abendromen. This is not electronica
in the spirit of late 1970s Euro-flavored synth-rock but instead,
Eaton is fully versed in the art of beguiling, nocturnal sonic imagery
that is, at times, gothic sounding in nature. As he states on the
back of the CD, indesterren is the second album in the abendromen
series, so, clearly both albums are interconnected, musically
and recording wise. Speaking about releasing two albums during the
same year, Tom tells mwe3.com 'abendromen (evening dreams) came
first, and once the wheels were turning, indesterren (into the stars)
showed up pretty quickly. Over the years Ive kept videos of
piano improvs Ive done, and so I had a well of material to draw
from once I was in record making mode, and new ideas just kept coming.'
Even though the twelve track indesterren
near weightless, like air, Eaton puts it all together with his acclaimed
studio mastery on a number of instruments that he plays throughout
the CD, including piano, synthesizers, guitars, fretted and fretless
bass, accordion, omnichord and acoustic and electronic percussion.
Several guest artists appear including flugelhorn master Jeff Oster,
who appears on a track here but its really to Eatons credit
that the instruments are so immaculately woven into the overall sonic
tapestries that you cant often discern one from the other at
times. Tom Eaton has created a name for himself as a producer and
engineer for some of the most acclaimed New Age and jazz artists recording
today. With so many fascinating musical ideas brought forth on both
abendromen and now indesterren, lets hope Tom
Eaton furthers his musical legacy on future solo albums. ww.abendromen.com
an interview with
the indesterren interview
mwe3: Two albums in one year is quite an incredible achievement.
Was indesterren written and recorded during the same period
as abendromen or did one come out of the other? Its
unusual to find two albums by the same artist coming out the same
year. Are you going through a period of musical prolificness and how
did you decide on the title indesterren as you have a penchant
for unusual album titles!
abendromen (evening dreams) came first, and once the wheels
were turning indesterren (into the stars) showed up pretty
quickly. Over the years Ive kept videos of piano improvs Ive
done, and so I had a well of material to draw from once I was in record
making mode, and new ideas just kept coming. As the album that came
to be titled indesterren took shape over the summer and early
fall of 2016, I realized that I had to get the album out before the
end of the year because Waltz For The Seven Sisters, (the
seven sisters is the other name for the constellation Pleiades), was
written for my seven year old who turns eight in December. My boys
helped me choose the album title from a few I had worked out, and
most of the titles of the songs refer to night sky wonderings. The
boys also chose the color of the artwork, and helped me with some
of the design as well.
mwe3: Even the album artwork for indesterren has a feel
of a series of album releases. Tell us about the abendrommen series
and is there a plan for the series? How many titles would you like
to release on this series and would you consider expanding on the
musical directions in the future?
Tom Eaton: At the moment I am really liking this particular
zone and though I expect each album to have a slightly different personality,
there is definitely a series concept. My older boy has a boxed set
planned once there are a couple more! If music shows up that is outside
the bounds of the concept, which is still loosely defined as evening
dreams thats fine with me, and Ill find some home
for those outliers, but the series will have the consistency of the
piano surrounded by electronics, electric guitars and basses in a
night time zone.
mwe3: What are some other ideas that separate your two latest
albums? Were there any other sonic differences you explored, other
compositional differences or even different gear and was the music
on indesterren recorded later thank the abendrommen CD?
Tom Eaton: I dove deeper into my synth collection on indesterren,
allowing myself a little more range than I had given myself on
abendromen. I have always been a synth nut, and letting those
sounds come into the foreground more made sense with this set of songs.
I was surprised and really pleased that DJs played the drone/guitar
loop pieces hidden at the end of abendromen, so I allowed myself
some space to stretch out into more ambient zones on this record as
songs emerged and faded away. The bonus, ambient tracks on indesterren
are more developed than the ones on the first album, too. I was
revealing more of my voice in both the more dense direction
and the less dense direction.
On abendrommen you played a Yamaha EX5, a Roland JD800, a Kawai
K5000 and a range of other keyboards as well as a Diamond electric
guitar. What other instruments are prominently featured on indesterren
and can you tell us about some of the unique special effects that
you used as I know you like to flavor your songs with unusual sonics.
I was also interested in your work with the Fractal company. What
else have you done with Fractal and did you use the guitar sounds
a lot on indesterren?
Tom Eaton: Every guitar sound on both records is from the
Fractal Axe FX unit. It is a major part of my creative process at
this point. There are many sounds on the records that sound like synths
that are actually processed guitar. Fractal has used my studio on
a number of occasions to do cab packs which are collections
of digital impulse responses of certain amp cabinets and microphones
that they make available to their clients, including artists such
as U2, Keith Urban, Metallica, Steve Vai, etc... Its a blast
working with them. The Yamaha EX5 is still pretty prominent, but all
kinds of things show up on indesterren, probably 20 or more
different synths in different spots. Some old friends like the Roland
JX10 and D550 were in the mix, a Novation SuperNova, Korg Wavestation,
Emu Orbit 3, and even a Kurzweil K2000 snuck in there for a few notes
I am partial to the feel of Roland synths for this zone I seem to
be in. The Kawais - the K5000 and K5 in particular, can be shimmery
and clear and so I go there for that, but the Rolands have a softness
to them that my ears really like. So the JX10 and D550 I mentioned
were used, plus the Roland Alpha Juno, Juno 60, Juno 106, and my trusty
JD800. As for unique effects
well, there are more moments of
backwards and fractured piano on this album, and crickets in a number
of spots. Theres a raven that shows up a few times, too. There
are obviously lots of delays and reverbs going on all over the place
from various bits of hardware and software. The end of track one,
The Red Blazer goes off into space music zone and all
kinds of things show up there: singing bowls, omnichord, arpeggiators,
random noise generators, crickets and more. I play the fretless bass,
which is a gift from Tony Levin, quite a bit more on this album, too.
And even though much of the percussion thats going on in the
rhythmic tracks is programmed, there are lots of acoustic sounds blended
in: real shakers, real tambourine, real cymbal swells and hits, obsidian
chimes and these beautiful shimmery strings of little bells.
mwe3: Some of the indesterren tracks are more built
up or multilayered than others. Tell us about working with Jeff Oster
on track six, Venus. Much of the indesterren album
was recorded by you in the studio, although there are a couple tracks
featuring percussionists. What other challenges did you face recording
indesterren on your own?
Eaton: Well, the percussionists were my boys
so they were
pretty easy to work with. They played a bit of percussion on one track
each and I love hearing their parts in the songs. Huck played tambourine
on vervagen and he chose the sound. We have probably ten
different tambourines in the studio and he chose where to play it.
I would have chosen the 2 and 4 in a typical fashion, but he put it
on the downbeat which works so well! Cal played the crash cymbal on
midnight clouds and the great bear and again he chose
the cymbal and where it should go. He also helped me craft a little
breakdown before the biggest cymbal hit to create a dramatic moment
for it to happen. It was great to have them in on the process and
to be able to put them in the credits! Really there were no challenges
beyond my own self-criticism
For a couple decades Ive
spent equal time working with clients and alone on music so I am used
to being responsible for everything. I was psyched that Jeff Oster
was willing to contribute a horn part on venus and actually
that track was the first one written for the album. Jeff has such
a great sense of melody and space in his playing so I knew hed
elevate the track
and he really blew me away. That track is
the densest one on the record, though midnight clouds
gets close. Gravity was the last one written and is probably
the simplest one on the album but remains really satisfying to me.
My favorite track is vervagen which seems to me to be
a lost 80s pop song just waiting for Elizabeth Fraser to show
up and sing on it... which would be heaven, by the way.
mwe3: In the indesterren liner notes you credit both
Jeff Pearce and Tim Story who you say inspired you to release your
own music. What are Jeff and Tim doing these days, music wise, and
what other artists are you following and listening to these days and
can you recommend some new CD releases?
Tom Eaton: Jeff continues to make some of the most beautiful
ambient albums Ive ever heard. He is a brilliant musician and
composer and has been an amazing sounding board for me to bounce ideas
off. I was stuck for a melodic lead sound in Waltz
and Jeff suggested accordion
which made perfect sense once I
had the accordion in my hands but never would have occurred to me
so thanks, Jeff! He actually asked me to master his most recent album
Follow The River Home and I was thrilled to be a part of it!
Jeff and I argue over which of us is the bigger Tim Story fan
and that should say something. Tims music, especially the three
albums he released on Hearts Of Space (Beguiled, The Perfect Flaw
and Shadowplay) are possibly the most perfect minimal yet melodic
ambient albums Ive ever heard. Long ago, when I was making mostly
electronic music with every synth going full bore, Tim suggested to
me that I should limit my musical palette to try to create a smaller
universe of sounds, some kind of recognizable set of colors that would
be my voice. This series of albums is exactly that. Initially I was
concerned that I was too close to his world as I was working on abendromen
but he encouraged me to stay with it and let the music out there.
There is so much new music coming out all the time
have been in my car recently. I drive 5 hours each time I go to Wills
studio, so I spend a lot of time in the car. The newest albums by
Tigerforest, Amethyste, Charlton-Weingarten, Damon Albarn, Ken Elkinson,
Tom Moore and Sherry Finzer, and a few that Ive worked on as
Fiona Joy, Jeff Osters LIVE! album, Lawrence
Blatts new one, too.
How is Imaginary Road studios doing? Are they always looking for new
projects and how is Will Ackerman doing these days? Is he more label
intensive or spending more time on his own music? Hes worked
with so many great guitarists over the past twenty years. Also how
would you compare your studio, Universal Storage with the Imaginary
Road studios? Do you get the same sound from both of them?
Tom Eaton: My entire life these days is working with Will at
Imaginary Road. Weve done more than 50 albums together in the
last 6 years and we continue to be busy, which is a blessing and a
joy. Will is doing really well, hes writing music for a new
Will Ackerman album, working within the FLOW group started by Lawrence
Blatt, Fiona Joy and Jeff Oster, and producing artists who travel
to us here in Vermont. Our studios are very different and very complimentary.
Wills is in an incredible idyllic spot on a mountainside in
Windham County, Vermont. The front and back walls are glass and you
feel like you are in the natural world while recording. The recording
room sounds great, he has an amazing Steinway B piano and some
insane Neumann mics that are beyond belief. My studio, Universal Noise
Storage, is more of a typical commercial studio with drums, amps and
that kind of thing. And of course a lot of keyboards! I do much of
the post work for Imaginary Road albums at my place because the control
room and all the speakers at my place are very very familiar to my
ears, so the two studios are really functioning together in all the
work we do.
mwe3: Whats your latest take on the internet and music
/ artists rights and performance royalties and what impresses you
most about online music coverage these days?
Tom Eaton: I spend my life making albums for others really
and spend very little time thinking about being an artist and how
that world works. I should think about it more, but Id rather
use my down time to make more music than think about the marketing/promotion
angles. Probably not the best decision from a business perspective,
but certainly the right one for my health!
mwe3: What other musical projects and CD releases did you work
on in 2016 and what other projects are you looking forward to in 2017?
Tell us more about the FLOW album as well as working with other
artists such as Fiona Joy and Jeff Oster. Both Fiona and Jeff each
made such great albums in 2016.
Tom Eaton: FLOW started life as FLO, with Fiona Joy, Lawrence
Blatt and Jeff Oster planning to come to Imaginary Road to do an album
together. They invited Will to join in as well and the name was complete.
Its been a blast. Working with the four of them has been fascinating
as each brings a very developed solo voice to the project but there
was no real hurdle to making the group sound like a whole rather than
four differing perspectives. A testament to each of them, I think!
Lawrence made a great album in 2016 as well, Longitudes and Latitudes
was number one on the ZMR charts for September.
year was VERY busy for Will and me with new releases from Lawrence
and Fiona as you mentioned, and Todd Mosby, Ann Sweeten, Kathryn Kaye,
Richard Carr, Louis Colaiannia, Jim Gabriel, Raphael Groten, Steve
Rivera, Joe Heinemann, Matteo Palmer, Gary Schmidt, Lynn Yew Evers
and Jeffrey Seeman
all recorded mixed and mastered by me. Weve
got new albums in the works by Vin Downes, Denise Young, Matthew Reith,
David Lindsay, Kathryn Kaye, Raphael Groten, Gina Lenee and Neil Tatar.
In addition, I mastered a number of albums that were not recorded
at Imaginary Road, like Osters Live album, Pearces
Follow The River Home, Erik Scotts In The Company
Of Clouds, Keith Gehles Space and Time and Shambhus
Soothe. I am sure Im forgetting someone, so apologies
obviously there is a lot of new music being made!