October, 2011: Paul Jerome Smith (Fireworks Magazine- August Issue #47)
March, 2011: Claudia Ehrhardt (http://www.ice-vajal.com)
March, 2011: Stefan Sileghem (Metal To Infinity)
Interview by Paul Jermone Smith (Fireworks Magazing- Issue #47, August, 2011)
Paul Jerome Smith meets band mastermind Gordon Tittsworth and uncovers the story behind the progressive metal juggernaut ‘Rebuilding The Ruins’ and its two precursors...
PJS: At the beginning of 2011, Images Of Eden were an unknown quantity to me. Having had my interest in the combo stirred by a request for me to review their latest album ‘Rebuilding The Ruins’, I duly undertook the due diligence (okay; “research”!!) and discovered that there had been two earlier albums: ‘Chapter 1’ and ‘Sunlight Of The Spirit’. In order that I might explore the development of IOE, I was sent both of these along with a review copy of the new release. ‘Rebuilding The Ruins’ is neither the sum of the earlier parts nor the natural successor to these. It is food and drink to anybody who is really into progressive metal but comes across as a much heavier, and far more intense listen than ‘Sunlight Of The Sprit’ and which itself was a big step forward when compared with the debut. Gordon Tittsworth regales me with an overview of the past ten years, and the band’s development over that period…
GT: Well, there’s a lot to say about this… First off, I started the project with a collection of 12 songs, a graphic artist and a studio drummer with a recording studio contact. I had almost nothing else, literally: minimal cash flow, zero know how when it came to getting a CD released and so…Steve Kilgallon (drummer) and I went into the studio and did the entire CD. He tracked the drums, then I pieced everything else together over the period of the next 18 months. It took so long because I had a lot of things happening simultaneously in life. “Once the first CD was complete, I decided to start seeking out the band line-up. The first CD was just called ‘Images of Eden’ or ‘self-titled’ and did not actually have a ‘formal’ release. That didn’t matter to me. What mattered was getting the band together and hitting the stage… And we did. It took about 2 years of a revolving line-up to get the final (or so I thought) members of the band (Dennis Mullin on guitar, Matt Kaiser on drums, Bryan Wierman on bass, and myself). During the two years of playing out, I wrote material for the second CD, ‘Sunlight of the Spirit’. We were really pumped about this because it would be the ‘first’ CD that would have a full blown release, even though we still did not know fully what to do. It was during the writing process of this second album where I noticed that the lyrical material sort of picked up from the end of the first CD, so I ran with it. Once we finished recording ‘…Spirit’, I then decided to just refer to the first CD as ‘Chapter I’, since it was essentially that. After we finished recording Spirit, I busted my ass trying to figure out how to do a successful release so to cut a long story short, we hooked up with Mark Blair Glunt of Silent Planet Promotions to do full blown promotion and Lance King of Nightmare Records to do the release/ distribution.
We played out live in support of ‘Spirit’ for about a year, but I quickly became displeased shortly after its release in that our current live show formula was not working: so I decided to make some much needed changes internally. I was actually in the process of writing material for ‘Rebuilding The Ruins’ during this time. After several conversations about the focus and direction of the band, Matt Kaiser and Bryan Weirman stepped down, leaving just Dennis and myself. At that time, Dennis was unsure of how much he was going to hang in there due to having to take “multiple steps back” only for a chance to move forward. This left me in a rough spot, so I thought hard about how I was going to move forward with IOE. After a conversation with my friend Maurice Taylor (All Too Human), I realized that even though it seemed as if I was starting over (as in Chapter I), I was way ahead of where I was back then. I had a ton of contacts - press, radio, musicians, promoters, as well as a home studio, so I dove into ‘Ruins’ really hard. I recruited Chris Lucci (drummer of All Too Human), Dean Harris (keyboardist) and also talked Dennis into hanging in there. I finished writing for ‘Ruins’ in Spring of 2008, just in time to hit the studio with a vengeance.
Now, we have a full line-up but are a bit spread out, geographically. That doesn’t matter to me because when the time comes to hit the road, we have the ability to make it happen. I am fortunate enough to have scored some amazing musicians so I am not worried. “This all being said, no one can predict what will happen for the next CD. I am almost used to a revolving line-up (smiles). The one constant is that I will be writing the material and coordinating the concepts, and so on. I realized early on that this is the only way to make sure you do not lose control. I have put too much blood sweat and tears into IOE to do that.
PJS: The review I published in Fireworks last time alluded to the differences in approach and sound of the three albums. I had spotted that there is an underlying theme linking them – basically the inhumanity of the human race– and that the second and third releases take up a story from where the previous album left off…
GT: Very perceptive, Paul! There is a MAJOR irony in how IOE started. My lyrical content was overtly positive and depicted a “perfect world” as I would like to see it, but this perfect world was actually attainable. The irony is that the positivity stemmed from all of the massive negativity that plagues the world. All you have to do is turn on any news programme on any station (radio or TV) and you’ll know what I mean. The positive energy came from shutting out that part of the world and finding an inner peace, but it does not exist in the outside world. So, onto ‘Chapter I’…
Here the lyrics were written just after a very dark period in time for me. It described a new found peaceful world and everything that I had gained after this dark time. They were very sincere and pure and written with my heart on my sleeve. I consider this CD to be the only uninhibited self-expressive piece of work from IOE. I say that because after this, I felt I had to “out do” each release…. And still feel that way to a degree.
‘Sunlight of the Spirit’ was started with no real intentions only than to make a bigger/better CD than ‘Chapter I’ and with more dynamics. The material was written to actually be heavier than how it was translated onto the recording. However, I am still very pleased because I love the song writing and the entire message/vibe of the album. This release is basically about moving forward and forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made. To really move on, we need to let go of the wrongs of our life (to others as well as ourselves) and “clean the slate”. The final track of the CD, ‘Midnight’s Tide’ was named after a previous band I was in that fully allowed me to write in a totally uninhibited manor. Funnily, five songs off ‘Chapter I’ were actually written in Midnight’s Tide. Anyway, sorry, I got sidetracked….. this song is about forgiving yourself and knowing that dark, painful times in life can be temporary and we can choose to let go of the pain, if we are determined.
‘Rebuilding the Ruins’ again picks up where ‘Spirit’ left off, only this time, my goal was to produce and release a much bigger and heavier CD than ‘Spirit’. Well, with a full-blown concept, 74 minutes of running time, and unlimited studio time, I feel we definitely achieved that. It is hard to get into the concept of Ruins’ because I could write a several paragraph concept story, but to summarize - it is about the strength and wisdom that it takes to move on in life and rebuild what has been lost or broken, no matter how much pain we go through. It is also about taking forward the knowledge we’ve gained, to help those who need us. Not only do I believe we should do this in life, but almost that we are obligated. I know I’ve had people pick me up when I’ve fallen in the past (figuratively and literally). Also, there will come a time where life comes full circle and we make peace with everything/everyone around us so that we have no regrets and know we made an impact… in a sentence - going from hell on Earth to the top of the world before moving onto the next plane of existence (afterlife).
PJS: You come over as a very caring, spiritual, but quite frustrated individual, Gordon…
GT: Wow! Again - very perceptive! Yes, I am an extremely passionate person. I always wear my heart on my sleeve and I am not afraid to show it. At the same time, I am very frustrated, so good call! Firstly - I feel like as a human being in a western civilization/culture, we’re enslaved/ bonded by societal roles and expectations. Our lives seem to all be predetermined, from the day we’re born through childhood/school, getting a ‘good’ 9-5 job, getting married/having kids, getting old then becoming a full time ‘customer’ (not ‘patient’) to the medical profession. I have a VERY hard time accepting this predetermination (in a word) and it is part of what frustrates me. Thankfully, I have alternative long term plans (of which I cannot speak about right now).
Secondly - I feel as if the music industry has failed. This requires no explanation. All you need to do is listen to any mainstream rock radio station here in the USA or watch any USA music awards ceremony and you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean by this.
Thirdly, religion has failed me. I consider myself a Christian but I have experienced a lot of resistance due to the extremely conservative evangelical ‘Hypo-Christians’ as I call them. The ones that feel they need to preach and convert everyone and push their beliefs down the throats of everyone. These people give people like me a bad name.
All of this being said you can now see how and why I focus the lyrics of IOE in a more positive way! I have found that the more positively I write, the happier I have become in life. It’s a win/win for me. Just recently, I had to go on record (which I was not terribly fond of doing) to say that IOE is not a Christian-metal band, but rather a universal, Spiritually-influenced band. I say this because we do have Christian followers, which I am pleased of, but the message is more general in a sense, and speaks to the positivity/ peace that anyone can find, regardless of one’s religion.
PJS: Taking a more general direction in our conversation, I comment that Gordon has been in the music business a long time, and that IOE is not his only current band…
GT: Yeah, I have been VERY fortunate to become involved with other amazing projects. I am totally blessed with the calibre of musicians that I have in my corner, and who are also amazing people as well. With the risk of going on a tangent for too long, I’ll just say that I have a Guatemalan based modern metal band called Dread The Forsaken– see www.dread-rocks.com. I flew to Guatemala twice to record the debut CD, ‘Unbound’. Check out the site for more info. I have also joined Texan-based prog/power metal band, All Too Human. I was a big fan of these guys before being asked to join, so it was an awesome honour.
Along with these three full time projects (IOE, Dread and ATH), I have recorded 5 songs on a rock opera called ‘AIRS- A Rock Opera’ by Steve Brockmann and George Andrade - more amazing people to work with. I also tracked vocals for a thrash metal CD called ‘American Dystopia by Ohio- based band, Spiritus Mundi. I just finished working again with George Andrade and another guitarist, Barry Thompson on a history-based prog-rock CD called The Anabasis. The title is ‘Back From Being Gone’- and is another great project.
I just signed on to be the music coordinator/director of a short documentary film called ‘Harlem In Havana’. This is going to be a very refreshing departure for me. I always wanted to do film scores so now this is another dream come true.
So, yes, I stay busy!!! I’d have it no other way.
PJS: Before bringing the conversation to a conclusion, I wondered what Gordon’s perspective of myself and other reviewers suggesting that ‘Rebuilding The Ruins’ might have benefited from being a little shorter, because of its underlying intensity was…
GT: Yeah!! Absolutely. It is painfully obvious that a 74 minute, very lyrically deep, concept album would not be easily swallowed by the masses. When I say this, I am referring to the entire concept. It is safe to say that no one has understood the CD (well, not that I know of) for what it truly is. However, it has received a ton of great reviews regarding the music/vocals, structure, etc, but not for the story, which does not surprise me. People just do not have the time in life to sit down and give repeated listens to a 74 minute CD trying to decipher all of the metaphors/ imagery, so I totally understand it being over peoples’ heads. Also, this was one huge beast of a CD to write, record, and so on. I know Chris Lucci and I are still burnt out from it (grins broadly).
So I have already started writing the next CD and I can tell you right away that it is going to be a departure from ‘Ruins’. I plan on keeping a shorter, more accessible CD, both musically and lyrically. I was told by more than one person that the true, human emotions that were felt on ‘Chapter I’ and ‘Spirit’ were lost in translation on ‘Ruins’. But then again, several reviewers gave me props for really delivering an emotional vocal performance. Either way, I get what some have said about the human emotion being lost a bit. So, I FULLY intend on bringing back the passionate, heartfelt emotion on the next CD. I’m about 65%-70% finished with the lyrics.
PJS: What next for IOE?
GT: Well, you already know half of the answer… I will also go on record now to say that unless ‘Ruins’ does ‘well’ and I do not have any idea what that means yet, I will most likely be changing the overall direction. To date, IOE has been a progressive hard rock/metal band. This is primarily due to my progressive vocal influences (Geoff Tate, John Arch, Ray Alder and all of the greats), but I have actually really been getting into modern metal vocalists a lot more lately - Dave Draiman, Chad Gray, Myles Kennedy, Ryan McCombs, Sully Erna, and the like. I did a bit of internalizing and really wondered why I chose “prog-metal” as opposed to the many other sub-genres. Realistically, I am playing one of the most difficult styles of rock/metal (or music for that matter) and to an extremely limited, specific niche audience. I’m doing a HUGE amount of work to play to such a small worldwide fan base, so small that we all almost know each other within a degree or two of separation. Many of us know each other personally. So… WTF am I doing? I have asked myself - ‘Doesn’t it make more sense to play a genre that has a broader fan base and is more accessible, and more FUN??’ I say more fun because I can really let loose playing straightforward traditional metal, modern metal or power metal. Simply put - I’m not spending most of my time focusing of the vocal lines going all over the place while counting weird time signatures in between lines. Prog-metal is like a science project on stage, playing for 20 dudes and 2 of their girlfriends who they bribed into coming out to the show that night. I really think Dread The Forsaken opened my eyes to this.
I know what people will say ‘So, now you sellin’ out? Very simple answer - I don’t sell out. Selling out would be to turn yourself into something you’re not only to make money. I have been a HUGE fan of traditional-metal, power metal, modern metal, etc my entire life so I will really benefit more from going down one of those paths than to continue to play prog-metal and keep spinning the same wheels. It’s not like prog has been the only influence. I will also have more fun as well travelling a different path. This all being said, we’ll see what time brings AND how ‘Ruins’ does. I can’t promise anything at this point… but you heard it first here (smiles).
PJS: Well, Gordon, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I will be following your progress and that of IOE (and of your other projects) with keen interest from here on in…
GT: Thanks very much for all of your interest and support. The music biz needs more people like you in it.
Interview by Claudia Ehrhardt- www.ice-vajal.com:
CE: Out Of Nowhere came Images Of Eden, that was in the late 1990's and your first album was almost a solo effort, called Chapter I in 2001. Now 10 years later it's Rebuilding The Ruins. Please enlighten us about the story of this part of the journey!
GT: Wow... very ironically, I left a band called Out Of Nowhere in 1999 just before forming Images Of Eden. That band was a wound I'd rather not open again ;-).
This 3rd chapter, Rebuilding The Ruins (RTR), picks up exactly where Sunlight Of The Spirit (SOS) left off, but taken many levels higher (song structure, delivery, concept, etc.). RTR is also a full concept CD rather than just a thematic progression as on SOS. As for the story of RTR, there are too many details to really get into. I'd rather have the listener walk away with their own interpretations. I will say that the story was written as a concept but with just enough 'holes' in the storyline to leave the interpretation open. It was hard to walk the tightrope between detail and obscurity. I may post the real story sometime down the road. I don't know.
CE: Dennis is in the band from the early days, how much influence does he have on the song writing?
GT: Dennis has been a picture perfect band member to work with over the years. I have learned so many things from him as a musician so it is pretty safe to say that he had more influence on my writing than I probably even know, and more than I have probably given him credit for. When it comes to song structure, he had more input on Sunlight Of The Spirit, though. His contributions gave the CD a great hybrid of early prog-rock vs. my prog-metal influence. As for Ruins, his contributions were a little less due to some logistics, but he wrote all of the solos and gave feedback on various arrangements.
CE: But you also have some new faces in the band. Please tell us a bit about these guys!
GT: Yeah, Chris Lucci has teamed up with us on drums as well as being the producer of the CD. He is the power-drummer of the TX, USA-based prog-metal band, All Too Human, to which I have subsequently joined. Dean Harris is in a local band called Awaken and is a great piano player / keyboardist.
CE: When did you start working on the new chapter? And how long did the recordings take?
GT: I actually first started getting rough lyric ideas for Ruins during the Sunlight Of The Spirit recording sessions. I casually worked on them for about 2 years while we were playing live in support of Spirit. As time went on, I noticed the lyrics start to form a loose story, so I started filling in the 'holes' of the story. Then I nipped and tucked everything until I had a completed piece of work, lyrically. This process took about 2+ years (which included rough 'blueprints' of how the music was going to progress from beginning to end). After the lyrics / blueprints were complete, I knocked out the entire CD, musically, in about 4 months. I would just start playing (guitar, keys, etc) until I felt I was really locking into something, then I would immediately know in my head what song the music was going to be for... then I just felt each change / progression out until each song was complete. The next thing I know, I have a 74 minute CD.
Once the CD was completely written, I sent the rough MP3 mixes, click tracks, and rough drum guides to Chris Lucci (in TX, USA) to record drums. Chris started recording drums in mid-2008 and had everything finished around Feb, 2009. It took me from Feb to April to recording the guitars (rhythm, acoustic & bass) with a little bit of keyboards. Then came Dean's keyboards / piano and my vocals, which took about 5 more months. Dennis recorded guitar at his place so that was not really attached to the time table. At the end of the day, recording took close to a year and a half for the 4 of us. We could have had it done sooner, but our full time jobs kinda got in the way, lol.
CE: Who had the idea for the artwork? Who realized it?
GT: I had a VERY rough concept so I scanned a bad sketch I did, then emailed it to Dennis Mullin, who is a graphic artist by trade. I told him that I was open to his thoughts / suggestions. He came back a few weeks later with the entire layout. I really liked the layout a lot and after very minor tweaks, it was completely done.
CE: You produced the album together with Chris Lucci, looks like the cooperation on the production went well... Sunlight Of The Spirit was also produced by the band, do you feel comfortable producing? Do you consider to produce other bands? Or the other bands you are involved with?
GT: To clarify, Chris Lucci was the main producer of Ruins. I contributed notes / guides and some direction, but he's the real talent behind the production. I know enough about production to give a band a decent demo-quality product ;-) but nothing professional (yet). I plan to hone my skills over the next couple of years because I'd love to be able to produce the next CD. As it stands, Chris has the talent to do it professionally. My expectations were far surpassed when I heard his work for the first time.
CE: You did Tribal Scars as a kind of appetizer last October. Why did you pick that song?
GT: We partnered up with an amazing 'manager, agent, PR guy, marketing / promoter guru, musician, jack of all trades, etc' named Hellmut Wolf. Unfortunately, the IOE / Hellmut Wolf relationship had to take a brief hiatus for legal reasons which I cannot speak about (no fault of either of us), so we will start working together again in a few months. We combined our heads to craft a very detailed plan of attack for Ruins, starting with a single and video. It was between Tribal Scars and Rebuilding The Ruins, but after discussing it, Tribal won because it was more radio-friendly. Also, I had a much better, true to life concept behind it. Hellmut has done a lot for us in a short time, and really pushed us to help make things happen. He is an amazing ally / team member in this business and we don't want to take the journey without him.
CE: You also did a video for Tribal Scars and it starts with a short message that you dedicate the video to the soldiers. Please tell us about the video shooting under the bridge!
GT: After I decided on the visual imagery of the video, I had a few ideas in mind for cool locations and decided to scout them out. We recorded at a factory / industrial setting where they melt down metal and pour it into huge molds, etc. I remember playing the song through about 15+ times while the 'real' audio was blasting through a bass amp behind Chris Lucci's drums (which were also at full volume). It was an awesome day and also very powerful, considering it was 9/11. Also, because we were doing the video about the soldiers returning (or not returning) from war, used footage of an American Soldier who lost his life due to the very event that happened 9 years ago that day. It was an honor to do it and I really think we all felt something cool living through us that day. I will never forget that shoot.
CE: Did you get feedback from soldiers and their families?
GT: Actually, yes. I think the video / concept hit home with many people, particularly the family friends of Corporal Jonny Porto (the soldier who lost his life) as well as from the filmmaker of the footage of Cpl. Porto's funeral (Barb Brown). Believe it or not, we seemed to get more of a powerful reaction from civilians (non-military). I was actually very pleased about that. US citizens sometimes take for granted what our soldiers have done (and are doing) for us. It was a big reminder and I think it opened some eyes.
CE: A band which have been an influence is Queensrÿche, they are among the bands who had the chance to play for the troops. Would you like to do something like that?
GT: I would love to and consider it a huge honor. We'll see what the future brings.
CE: I know that producing a video isn't just time consuming, but do you plan to do another video for Rebuilding The Ruins? If so, which song will you pick?
GT: Great question. I would love to do another video and for the title track, Rebuilding The Ruins. Our videographer, Mike Tobias, is ready for when we are. The only problem is that I have a big storyline attached to this song and it may be WAAAY out of my budget. I can envision a mini-movie in the 'Peter Jackson' film-making style, but more in an Ancient Rome / Greek setting. Although, we really did well with the small budget that we had for Tribal Scars so I may be able to come up with something. Again, we'll see what happens.
CE: Have you already started gathering ideas for the next one?
GT: For the next CD, yes. Weirdly enough, I have already pinpointed the theme, etc and cover art concept. I'm a firm believer that I need to actually live and breathe the stuff I write about before I can make the delivery convincing. The last couple of years have opened my eyes to mortality (life's progression) and not taking life for granted (personal reasons). Some time went by and I started seeing that life was moving forward right in front of me a little too quickly and that I didn't (wouldn't or couldn't) make time to acknowledge the people in my life who are very close to me. I vowed to change that at the end of 2010 and really pay closer attention to what really matters. The tentative title that I'm (currently) going with is Heroes Fall. This will NOT be a 74 minute release like Ruins.
CE: 'Vocalist for hire' your MySpace states... What makes it interesting for you to work with other bands? And how do you choose which jobs you take?
GT: I LOVE working on other projects. It challenges me to do new things and open my mind (specifically Dread The Forsaken). If it had not have been for Dread (more importantly, Mauricio Liborio), you would not be hearing the heavier IOE (My Stigmata, Rebuilding The Ruins, etc.) The 'for hire' gigs have also brought me to see other parts of the world (and new cultures). Honestly, it is the VERY best thing I have ever done, musically.
As far as jobs, I always reply to every inquiry then talk everything through with the band / artist. I have found that many bands want to try to get something for nothing. I never mention a fixed price because it depends on the band, the project (full-length vs. a couple of songs), but I want to make it affordable for the bands without cutting myself short. I know all too well what it means to work on a fixed budget. You have studio time, mixing, mastering, artwork, pressing, promotion, etc. so I try to work personally with bands to make it happen. I also assist each band in promotion once it is time to be released. Hey, if my name is on it, I'd like to see it do well.
CE: Did the jobs made you become a member of Dread The Forsaken / All Too Human?
GT: Yes, actually. Dread started as a 'for hire' gig, but immediately turned full time once I got to Guatemala and met Mauricio and Vinnie. These guys are like my brothers now.
All Too Human... long story. Okay, I have been a fan of ATH since 2004's Entropy and have also been friends with bassist Maurice Taylor since then. When Matt Kaiser (drummer for IOE - Sunlight Of The Spirit) left, I needed a drummer to do Ruins, so Maurice suggested Chris Lucci from All Too Human. I was a HUGE fan of his playing and felt privileged to have him on the project. Well, he jumped on it and he took the project many levels higher. Once we got to the point where Ruins was mostly tracked, Chris called a meeting with the rest of the guys in ATH about bringing me on board. It was a no-brainer for me. I found myself going from being a fan of the band, to an actual member. That was huge.
CE: You are also involved in Dread The Forsaken and All Too Human, what about the other guys? I know Dennis is part of Iluvatar... Are they also involved in other bands? And how difficult is it to split up time between the bands?
GT: Chris Lucci is also with me in All Too Human. Dennis Mullin is in Iluvatar (www.iluvatar.com - new CD coming sometime before the Mayan apocalypse, I hope), L. Dean Harris is in a prog-cover band called Awaken. Vinnie Perez of Dread The Forsaken is in a few drum projects in Guatemala. Mako of DTF is a full time producer and heads a psychotic techno-grind core project called Evilminded, etc, but........... we all make everything work somehow. It has not been challenging yet. I'm hoping it will only help, possibly with coordinating the bands to play one big festival together or maybe even going on short tours together.
CE: What about playing live? Anything on the way?
GT: Since the CD was just released, nothing is on the schedule yet. However, that will be in the works over the next 6 months. We will be working all of our contacts worldwide (press, radio, promoters, bands, etc.) and see what we can make happen. I'm looking forward to getting back out there.
CE: An All Too Human album is on the way... What else? What is your schedule for the next months?
GT: Chris Lucci is also in the process of mixing All Too Human's Juggernaut. We will be releasing the first single, Thorn In My Side in about 2 months, then the CD to follow later this year (let's hope). I'll plague the cyber landscape with that info so stay tuned. ***FYI - for fans of All Too Human - do not expect another Entropy! Juggernaut is less 'prog' and much more straight-forward metal with some 'balls & chunk'. I need to set that expectation right up front.
As most of you know, my Guatemalan band, Dread The Forsaken, also released our debut CD, Unbound, on Nightmare Records this past November. Definitely check it out at www.dread-rocks.com. The history behind DTF is a long story itself. We are already working on material for DTF #2 (TBD).
I have also teamed up with a German musician / composer / multi-instrumentalist, Steve Brockmann, and MA, USA author / lyricist, George Andrade, to play the lead character, Owen, in their project called AIRS - A Rock Opera. Very cool project and story, which is based on the upcoming novel by George Andrade. There are many great musicians / vocalists contributing to this so I'm honored to be a part of it. I don't have a release date yet but stay tuned.
Most recently, I did vocals for an OH-USA based thrash / power metal band called Spiritus Mundi. The brainchild behind this project is a multi-instrumentalist named Michael Wopshall. This project was really intense. I had a bit of a rough / frustrating 2010 due to multiple unavoidable shit sandwiches being shoved in my face (nothing music-related). This project was therapeutic and could not have come at a better time. The CD is called American Dystopia and is by far, the most aggressive / angry projects I have done. I needed some good vocal-healing time after this one. I pretty much roughed up my mid-register and needed to step back for a couple of months, but it was all worth it. Anyway, think of a mixture of Slayer, Overkill, Carnivore's Retaliation CD with a sprinkle of Nuclear Assault, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. Yeah, I know - the polar opposite of Sunlight Of The Spirit... We all evolve ;-). Anyway, I was extremely intrigued by the lyrics here. Some may call them a bit 'conspiracy theorist' due to the extreme opinions towards politics and organized religion. I prefer to describe them as "the truths and hypocrisies that religion and the government deny, sweep under the rug and lie to the US people about... then pass off as 'conspiracy theories'". It's one of those CDs where the lyrics just piss you off because they are so true, and no matter how loud we as citizens scream, nothing ever seems to be done about it! Again... stay tuned.
CE: Anything you want to add? Something I should have asked?
GT: I don't know. I rambled like hell. Here are some links to chew on.
www.alltoohuman.com (not updated since 2008. Hang tight.)
Also, thanks very much for doing this interview and also thanks a million to Bjørn for the great review of Rebuilding the Ruins.
RIP- Peter Steele (Type O Negative / Carnivore)
Interview by Stefan Sileghem- Metal To Infinity
As in wrote in my review for the new Images Of Eden’s new album entitled “Rebuilding the Ruins”, Progressive Rock and Metal music became a real world wide hype. No matter where you live in the world, you always have the chance to support your own local progressive scene. To speak for my homeland Belgium, well we have a few very good Progbands in the field but honestly spoken the scene ain’t that strong as for example in America… to me the ultimate Mecca for those into Progressive Hard Rock and Metal music.
"In 1999 Images Of Eden appear out of the blue and took us by surprise right away. As founder, songwriter, guitarist, bassist and keyboardist of his own band, Gordon Tittsworth is a musical genius deserving nothing but the very best in the past but with the arrival of Images Of Eden’s new CD he surely reaches the top of the mountain. I want to talk to him right now, an honour to me and I'm pretty curious to the answers he’d like to give to my questions.
Q: Hello Gordon, what’s up brother – hope all goes very well in the USA at the moment.
A: Yeah, man! All is well. “Rebuilding The Ruins” the just hit the stores last Tuesday so the last couple of months have been very busy doing promo. Also, I just scrolled through this whole word document you sent me. This may take me a while ;-). Very cool.
Q: Where exactly is Images Of Eden located and how’s the Rock and Metal scene there the last few years? Some interesting bands to announce?
A: We are based out of the Baltimore, MD/ York, PA-USA region. For those overseas, it is about 1-2 hours from Washington, DC. The local scene here for original bands is pretty bad. It’s not like Europe and South America. The thing about the bulk of the US audience is that they don’t care about original music. They’d rather go to the club and hear 3 hours of modern rock cover songs. When we first got out there in 2001, the scene was on its way downhill, then basically died. Oh well, as an original band, you just have to dig a bit further to find your venue and audience. It’s just a bit more challenging right now.
Q: As founder of the band, I'm sure you will tell us about the early days of existence, right? Where the intention came from setting up a band like IOE?
A: I started the band after leaving a band called Out of Nowhere. I realized it was time to bring my own vision to life without it being compromised. I recorded “Chapter I” with a friend of mine on drums. After that, I just kept writing, and without any conscious intention, the chapters started linking together, so I ran with it. I can say that I never really set out with a goal other than to write and play some great music based solely on inspiration. But, once I see each chapter start to form something visible, I go with it and run with the ball. I let stream of consciousness-style writing guide me. This is what we get.
Q: Did you played in other bands before the birth of Images Of Eden?
A: Wow, yeah. I had a really great time playing in bands growing up. It was cool to just jam with friends and have FUN with no “agenda” behind playing/ writing, etc. I was in a primitive prog-metal band in high school called Burning Ambition where I played guitar and sang. We were all good friends and really had a blast. We all went different ways after high school.
A few years after that, I formed a project that I really loved called Midnight’s Tide. We were a power trio where I sang and played guitar. That was the first band where I really felt total uninhibited creativity coming out. Actually, 6 songs from Images of Eden’s “Chapter I” were written in Midnight’s Tide. I later wrote a song in Images of Eden called “Midnight’s Tide”. It was inspired by the times I had and how I grew in that band… It was basically just a snapshot in time for me, looking back on the days of “Tide” and how far I’ve come.
Q: Man – besides the founder and singer of the band, you are also in charge for the rhythm guitar duties, bass lines and additional keyboards on the new album “Rebuilding The Ruins”. It must be hard labour to practise all these instruments – how your daily work schedule looks like?
A: Funny thing- I learned all of the instruments over the years, but primarily write on guitar (some piano as well). When I go to record each song, I do each instrument at a time. Basically, I play ALL rhythm guitar at once, then ALL bass, etc. I do this because, well, you’re right- I have to practice up on each instrument before tracking. I guess all of the instruments are like riding bikes.
Q: Where the lyrical content of the songs are based on?
A: Pure inspiration and life experience, just told in a positive way. I don’t like to focus on negativity because I feel like when you are constantly singing about negative stuff, you tend to practice what you preach and become more of a negative person. I know this first hand because the original lyrics to “One Last Hero” on “Chapter I” were really hateful and against someone I had a lot of animosity for at the time. I would get pissed off every time I read or sang the lyrics. Instead, I turned it around into a positive, then I felt much better. That’s kinda when I made the decision to shy away from negativity.
Q: Between the lines and according through your own mind – who can be considered as the best Progressive Hard Rock / Metal band at the moment - why?
A: Good question- Fates Warning was and is my all time favorite prog-metal band. I also really liked Pyramaze when Lance King was with them. No BS. I know Lance is my label contact but they haven’t been the same without him, in my opinion. I still like Matt Barlow but to me, Lance was the voice for Pyramaze.
Q: To Me, Images Of Eden is obviously inspired by top acts like Fates Warning, and Queensryche mainly – an explanation please.
A: Well, yeah. They are 2 huge influences, so if the comparison is there, it is genuine. Throw Iron Maiden and Type O negative in there as well. To me, Peter Steele (Type O) was the most passionate writer in the history of metal and no one can ever come close. His passion and emotion was one of the biggest inspirations of all time to me. TON got me out of the darkest time of my life. Sadly, we lost the man last year. I noted a dedication to him in my liner notes.
Q: The debut album “Chapter I” hit the record stores in the early days of March 2001 – this was an independent release produced by yourself I guess, right? Only two members to complete the line-up – what to tell on this album Gordon?
A: This was a great recording session. I basically had a session drummer, graphic artist for the artwork, and a local studio. My goal was to do a fully self-produced CD in order to form the band. It was really just a one-man effort and I actually accomplished what I set out to do.
Q: Consisting out of only two members means that playing for a live audience had been excluded – each band longs to walk the stage sooner or later I suppose.
A: Actually, after Chapter I, I quickly formed the band and we started playing live within months, so that really worked out for us.
Q: Did you received a positive form of feedback on this debut?
A: The CD was never officially released to the world, but rather locally where I’m from (and regionally I suppose). We did receive some great feedback on a smaller scale. After the next CD (Sunlight of the Spirit) was released, I just sort of made Chapter I available to the world. Why not, right? It was also at that time where I started calling it “Chapter I”. Before that, I referred to it as the self-titled, but in reality, it IS Chapter I.
Q: Late 2006 it was time for a second album called “Sunlight Of Spirit” – released through Nightmare Records, the ultimate label in Progressive hard Rock and Metal… where the collaboration came from?
A: I was in between jobs in 2002 and had some time to kill. It was the perfect time to write the CD. I had all of the lyrics done as well as a good CD “blueprint” (musically) so I just pieced it all together over a few weeks (with the exception of a couple of songs). Once it was finished, we set out to release it on a different label that found us (before we found Nightmare Records). I gave them some autonomy to “make things happen” but we ended up getting screwed over by them (no names mentioned). At this point, I knew it was time that I take full control of IOE so this type of thing would NEVER happen again. I guess that is why I am the way I am with things. Oh yeah….. then Nightmare Records released it. Good times!
Q: Drummer Steve Kilgallon left and had been replaced by Matt Kaiser. Also Dennis Mullin joined forces as lead guitarist. Feel free to introduce the new guys Gordon.
A: To back up, Steve was a long time friend from school and more or less volunteered his drumming to Chapter I just to give me a big push in getting the project out there because he really believed in me. Very cool of him.
After that, Dennis was the first full time member that joined, and has been a picture perfect band member to work with over the years. By far, the most versatile and one of the best guitarists I have ever known (I must also mention Clint Wilson from All Too Human and Mauricio Liborio from Dread The Forsaken).
Matt Kaiser joined after 2 other drummers did not work out. He was a great drummer but decided to move in a different direction. It was a good era working with him.
Q: We at MTI webzine gave the album a well deserved, very good rating but I’d like to ask for your own feelings on the album. Better than the first one, comparable or whatever, spread the word please.
A: “Sunlight of the Spirit” was definitely a good progression from “Chapter I”, but I believe we were still a bit “wet behind the ears” during that time. I say this because with Chapter I, we were huge fish in a smaller pond because we were only compared/ critiqued on a local/ regional scale, and due to the minimal (at best) original talent in my hometown, we were literally at the top of the food chain. However, once we launched “Spirit” worldwide, I quickly saw the talent that was out there, and I realized that we should have spent more time on it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disappointed in it, but I think that it would have been tweaked a bit more. I will still always look at it as a great snapshot in time for me.
Q: Now a couple years of existence – what to say on Images Of Eden live experiences Gordon?
A: It has been a roller coaster. We’ve had some amazing shows and then some not so great shows (crowd-wise). Just like every band- sometimes you get lucky and clean house and sometimes, you get screwed by the club, promoter, etc. and end up having a “live band rehearsal”. No real complaints, though.
Q: Just before the release of the new album “Rebuilding The Ruins”, IOE released a single entitled “Tribal Scars”. Produced by yourself and Chris Lucci who was a new member in the band it seems. What happened within the Images Of Eden ranks throughout the passed years?
A: After Matt Kaiser quit in 2007, Bryan Wierman (bass) sort of slowly followed him. At that time, Dennis was unsure of how much of a step back he wanted to take only for a chance of moving forward again. So, I basically started from scratch as I did with Chapter I. Only this time, I had a TON of contacts, musicians, promoters, press/ radio, etc. in my corner, so I knew I’d have a much better chance.
So, I contacted Chris Lucci and he and I essentially did the whole frickin thing! As time went on, Dennis ended up being on board and we utilized all of our resources to re-form and re-energize. Believe it or not, I was very happy to see Matt and Wierman quit because I saw the band going in a direction I was not happy about - more of a prog-rock direction and I started to feel I was losing the reigns again, which will never happen. I’ve put WAY too much blood, sweat and tears into this to not be in the driver seat. Don’t get me wrong. They were great guys to work with, but I knew something needed to happen.
Q: The tracklist of the single features a CD / radio edit version of ‘Tribal Scars’ plus a unreleased song ‘When Heaven Sleeps’. What was the main reason why unleashing a single just before the release of a third, new effort?
A: The goal was to get the video and single out there as promotional tools, mainly to warm everyone up to the release of the CD. I thought it would be best to have the 2 versions of “Tribal Scars” available as a single so I just sort of threw in “When Heaven Sleeps”. This is a tune I wrote about my experience in 2008 when I travelled to Guatemala to record the Dread The Forsaken demo. It sat on the shelf until now. I thought it would be a cool time to let it out there. You may also notice that the instrumental version of “When Heaven Sleeps” is the title track to Dread The Forsaken’s “Unbound”. Shhh… Don’t tell anyone ;-).
Q: The wait for a new full length was quite long to me Gordon, from 2006 up to 2011 a period of deadly silence descended over the existence of the band. What happened during these years of absence?
A: LOL! Yeah, it was a long time. Actually, if you look at the calendar of events, it wasn’t too bad. I had to essentially write the CD (74 minutes worth), reform the band, find the studio, producer, do the actual recordings, get the label info together, wait until the North American distributor was ready to release it (bypassing the “major label” releases), etc. I’m going to try to get the next one in well before 5 years.
Q: Since the first of March 2011, Images Of Eden’s brand new masterpiece “Rebuilding The Ruins” is a fact and the final result is fantastic man, I really mean what I say by now. Generous compositions reaching a pure form of perfection – I want you to introduce this new album Gordon.
A: Thanks! I really appreciate that. This CD again takes place where “Sunlight of the Spirit” has left off. This was the first CD where we did not have to pay for studio time so we could take as long as we possibly needed to record it and get it right. This really worked out because I had a lot more time to experiment with instrumentation/ vocal layering, and I really think that contributed to the overall quality/ sound. When you’re tied to a clock and always looking at cost and cannot seem to really focus on getting things “right”. We always tend to “settle” when having to pay so much for studio time.
This all being said, Ruins was an absolute BEAST to write, record, etc. We spent more time tracking the CD then we spent recording an mixing the 2 previous CDs. That gives an idea of the caliber of this one. Also, the storyline, progression, etc was for more in depth than the previous.
Q: Can you tell me where the title of the album is based on?
A: I had a few working titles while writing the lyrics to CD but did not decide on “Ruins” until I started to write the music for it. All signs pointed to “Rebuilding The Ruins” being the title. Basically, the story is an uplifting/ positive one about overcoming obstacles and gaining strength (much more to it than that, but you get the idea) and coincidentally, I started writing the music after Matt Kaiser and Bryan Wierman left, so I essentially had to “rebuild” the band from a “ruin”. Kinda worked out well.
Q: Mastered by Grammy-nominated producer Eric Zimmermann who’s well known for great works with bands like Fates Warning, Suicidal Tendencies among others. Where the collaboration came from actually?
A: Actually, Eric is a friend of Chris Lucci. Chris worked directly with Eric when he mixed the CD then Eric basically took over and did the mastering. I was very happy with the final product. It’s also very cool to have the name of a Grammy-nominated producer on the CD.
Q: Your way of singing on “Rebuilding The Ruins” is awesome all the way out. Barely reaching high pitched vocal lines, still very clear and fully understandable… you delivered a magnificent job based on the singing parts only. Also in charge for the rhythms guitar sections / bass lines / keyboard works and there ain’t no signs of musical lacks to detect. This is the result of a musician in very good shape, right?
A: I really appreciate that! Funny, I actually learned how to play all of the instruments over many years (guitar, bass, drums, keys & vocals). I started off as a guitarist when I was 13, then learned bass and drums around 16/17. I took formal vocal lessons at 18 then picked up keys much later. I really think that playing instruments is like riding a bike, you never forget, but may need some practice when jumping back on. My primary instrument is the lead vocal but I utilized all of my skills at the other instruments to make it all happen.
I can say that the best thing I have ever done, musically, was to learn all of the instruments. As you can see (or hear, rather), it helped me out a great deal! Also, it helps out that you do not have to rely on as many people when you know how to do almost everything yourself. I have found that relying on people only holds things up. Not everyone has the same motivation, unfortunately. I was actually relying on someone to play bass on Ruins (because I wanted to include this person) but all this did was drag out the process longer than it needed.
Q: What is the job of the other guys in the band Gordon? Damn right you have a brilliant deliverer of shred tactics in the ranks. Dennis Mullin is his name and I'm sure he’s having a great time within the IOE ranks, ain’t that right?
A: This CD recording was a bit more unconventional in that I did everything I “could” but had Dennis and Dean record what they were masters at. This was more due to some time constraints. Dennis did all of the lead guitar, Dean did most of the piano and some lead (Children of Autumn) and Chris did all of he drums (and mixing). We will all play our respective parts live, though. I have a “fill-in” bass player that will play bass.
Q: “Rebuilding The Ruins’ is one of the longest lasting albums I’ve heard since a very long time. A running time of more than 74 minutes is a must for true music lovers. How long it took to create an album like this?
A: Well, the first thing I did was write all of the lyrics. I casually wrote them over the course of 2 years, then I dove into the music, which only took about 4 months because I had most of the CD mapped out, musically. After that, we had to actually record this monster, which took a solid 18-ish months, then mixing. I’d say from the day I started writing lyrics to the day I got the copies in hand, it was about 5 years. Of course, this was not a 100% dedicated task. I also have a full time job, family, etc. so it was pieced together over the course of that time.
Q: What’s your favourite track by the way and why?
A: Hard decision… I’d say it would have to be a tie between “Crosses In The Sand” and “Sunlight of the Spirit Part IV- Images of Eden”. I’d say Crosses because it really showcases the musicianship, vocals and song writing and really is a quick roller coaster that covers a lot of ground in a short time. Also, Spirit IV because it is the finale of the story and really builds to a great ending. Where could I have gone from there, huh ;-)?
Q: The front cover art look great as well – who’s the one behind it?
A: I had a VERY rough concept so I scanned a bad sketch I did, then emailed it to Dennis Mullin, who is a graphic artist by trade. I told him that I was open to his thoughts / suggestions. He came back a few weeks later with the entire layout. I really liked the layout a lot and after very minor tweaks, it was completely done.
Q: The album will be available in Europe through Nightmare Records, is that correct? Any other places where people can order the album?
A: Yes, the CD is available worldwide with no real limits. It is available digitally everywhere (ITunes, Rhapsody, etc.) but physical copies are in many worldwide distributors. If you cannot find it at a local store, always search online. There are a ton of retailers where it can be ordered. If nothing else, go to www.imagesofeden.com/discography3.htm. Order it there and we will ship it anywhere in the world.
Q: Which thoughts cross your mind while looking back to an existence of more than 10 year? Are you totally agree with everything you’ve done or reached so far?
A: Actually, there is no book on how to really make it in this business. I think I really learned a lot by trial and error which resulted in wasting some time. I can always look back and say that I could have done things better but I always made the best decisions based on the info I had at the time. I was also distracted by random acts of poor advice from time to time, some of which I ignored. I’m glad I did because I don’t think I’d be where I am if I did not go with my gut feelings.
Q: One thing in your life you absolutely wants to see become reality – what would that be?
A: Doing this (music) full time and not having a 9-5 desk job. My company is pretty cool but this is a no-brainer. Maybe that’s why I’m so deep into so many musical projects.
Q: The summer festivals start within a couple of month – do you have any plans?
A: Right now, I’m hitting up many of the festivals that I have contacts for in my database. I hope we can get out thee for some fests. We’ll have to let time tell. If anyone is interested in having us, please email me.
Q: Okay Gordon, it was a true pleasure having this conversation – again, thanks for the delivery of such a great, new album. Regards to the rest of the band and nothing else to say than keep up the great works brother.
A: Stefan, you have been amazing to work with here recently and I thank you very much for this opportunity. I’m very happy that you hold the CD in such high regard. It makes everything we do totally worthwhile.