Marco Minnemann Talks New Collaboration with Tony Levin + Jordan Rudess
Marco Minnemann is an accomplished drummer and multi-instrumentalist. For his latest project, he recently teamed up with legendary bassist Tony Levin and Dream Theater keyboard innovator Jordan Rudess to record a new album under the name Levin Minnemann Rudess.
The new self-titled album, featuring songs written by all three musicians, is out now. It is available as a regular CD or a deluxe edition that features high-quality audio files, an extra track, a DVD with special band footage, and interviews with all three members. The first 1,000 copies will even be autographed.
In preparation for the album release, Marco spoke with Noisecreep about how the project came together, the songwriting process and the gear he used in recording the disc.
How did the three of you come together and decide you wanted to do this?
Well, Scott Schorr, who is the supervisor of a lot of what Tony Levin's projects include ... he did the Bozzio Levin Stevens project, and also the Levin White Torn project. And all of the sudden, I received an inquiry, which I was very very very happy about. Basically, as soon as Scott started writing me about this, and Tony joined in, I said immediately yes.
I've worked with Tony Levin before on several occassions, and it was always fun. And I always admired his work. Yeah, so there was first of all the two of us. We were looking, actually, for a third person. And so when Tony and I started separately writing the music, we were then looking to accomplishing the third guy. We didn't even know it was vocalist, instrumentalist, or whatever. So, when we asked Jordan and he joined in, we were complete.
Given the name of the song 'Marcopolis,' I'm led to believe you took the lead in writing it. Is that the case? And in general, did one person take the songwriting lead on the album, or was it mostly collaborative?
Actually, first of all, 'Marcopolis' was not my initial idea. That was Tony sending me, actually, a bass riff and ideas. And then I started working on that one at home. I think he wrote this with my input in mind, what I could do to this track. I came pretty much with composed music, to it. I wrote quite a few songs. Let me see which ones I wrote, again. I actually wrote 'Ignorant Elephant,' 'Lakeshore Lights,' 'Descent,' 'Mu,' 'Orbiter' and 'Service Engine.' So these are the songs that I actually brought to the table. And then we also collaborated on things.
But yeah, I have to say we worked in our separate homes. And pretty much 'elaborated' these songs there, on our own, and then brought it to the table, and had instruments replaced, or added things. Especially in the case of Jordan, since he was the last to round out, he basically turned a lot of things around. And kind of had a lot of input, so we started rearranging things. So that was very beautiful. But this is basically how that happened.
Did you all have an idea of what you wanted this project to sound like? If so, how close to that idea did the finished album come?
Ah, that's interesting, because I did have, I can only speak now for my songs. I had an idea with the songs called 'Orbiter' and 'Descent' to make it more like a sequence kind of thing. Like, basically a space ship, first of all being in orbit, and then kind of descending. So the vibe, I was very much, you know, particular about the vibe. These were the only tracks where we forth and back for a while to kind of really nail the entire concept. Other than that, I gotta say, it was pretty much a group effort and, everybody showed respect for each other because every musician brought fantastic things to the table.
There are some gnarly guitar sounds on there. Did you use a lot of different gear, or did you stick to a set rig?
I used actually, for guitar sounds, a Suhr amp ... a Badger amp, then also, a Kemper amp, which I have at home. And these are fantastic devices. And I also use a lot of special effects, you know, that come from Wave plugins that I use, or the United Audio things. I like to come up and work on sounds that are kind of unique. I'm always interested in uniqueness.
I'm also incredibly proud that I, or very happy, I must say, that I can be also the guitarist in this project. And also even deliver vocals on the song 'Service Engine,' so that was also very very very cool, because that's what I usually do with my solo records, where I play all of the instruments. And all of the sudden, being asked, or having other guys in this project actually liking the ideas, taking my guitar parts, or vocal parts, or even soundscapes, this project's made me quite happy.
How did the recording process work, especially with you playing guitar and drums? Did you all come together to record, or was there a lot of sending song files back and forth?
Yes, absolutely. That's what we pretty much did. We were never in the same room recording. It was really a snowball-effect kind of thing. You know, like, delivering the song, sending it around, getting the next element done, sending it back again, correcting maybe a few things or having another input, and then finally sending it to another source for mix-down. Very very exciting, and very cool. I loved it.
Are there any plans for a tour? And do you think this project is a one-off deal, or can fans expect this to be an on-going project?
I am not sure of the tour plans. We have to kind of, you know, get us all together and kind of, basically work around our other schedules. I have the other band Aristocrats, and I also work with Joe Satriani and Steven Wilson. So there's many things going on in my solo projects as well. But I, well, you never know. You never know. If something opens up, let's see how we can work it out. And, as far as for a new album, or a next project, let's have this one released first, I'd say. But these people are so wonderful, you know, to work with. I would never say no.