07 September 2010

20 Questions with...Yogi Lang of RPWL

RPWL began life as a Pink Floyd tribute band back in 1997. Covering songs from favourite groups has a long and time-honoured tradition in rock music…quite frankly, it seems cover bands often have a greater degree of success (or at least, wide spread notoriety) than some of the original bands. Thankfully for us, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the musicians involved in that first line-up…Phil Paul Rissettio, Chris Postl, Karlheinz Wallner, and Yogi Lang (the R, P, W and L of RPWL). 2000 saw the release of the band’s debut studio album God Has Failed, marking a new beginning for the melodic German progressive rock band.

2010 then marks 10 years of original RPWL music…6 studio albums, 2 live albums, live DVD’s, and this year, their first career spanning retrospective, The Gentle Art of Music. This album happens to have been released on a label of the same name, founded by the band to give them better control and support of their future product.

The members of RPWL are busy outside the band as well, with Kalle Wallner’s Blind Ego and former member Chris Postl’s Parzival’s Eye getting time and attention as well. This summer, another side project will arise from the RPWL ranks, as vocalist/keyboardist Yogi Lang will be releasing his solo album debut No Decoder. Between this solo release and the RPWL compilation, it seemed a great time to sit down with Lang and get the inside scoop on his new album, how it felt to revisit the past in a new light, and what the future might hold for the band.

(NB: this interview was conducted prior to the events closing out August 2010, including the departure of bassist Chris Postl from RPWL.)

1. Tell us a little bit about the decision to start your own label for the band, Gentle Art of Music Records.

Yogi Lang: The crash of SPV Germany and the change of the whole music business was reason enough to reorganize ourselves. With Soulfood Music (Europe) and eOne (USA) we found good distribution partners for our label and of course it's a good feeling to pull the strings behind the scenes on your own. Apart from RPWL we tried to build the whole thing also for other artists. If you think of all the solo projects: Kalle with “Blind Ego” and Chris with “Parzivals Eye”! And don't forget I'm going to release my solo album this year. So you see, the label is not only reserved for RPWL. Of course this is really much work at the moment but it's the right way for guaranteeing the freedom to do whatever we want regarding our artistic freedom.

2. RPWL’s latest release is a 2 CD compilation, also named The Gentle Art of Music. What made this the right time to put something like this together?

YL: The 10th years anniversary was the perfect reason to do this double album. A way of taking a look into the past and the future at the same time and of course the 10th year is not the end of the story.

3. How did you come to select the tracks you did for the compilation?

YL: With the compilation disc we wanted to take a look at the musical path that we followed. This is the reason why we did it in a chronological way. Listening to this side is like a time travel through 10 years of our music. It is also a nice way of getting in touch with the band for the first time.

4. Are there tracks you wish you could have added to the set, but were unable to because of space limitations?

YL: At least we feel very comfortable with our choice. The only other way of doing it would have been a box with all the albums we did! Maybe a good idea for the 20th years anniversary ;-)

5. The second disc of The Gentle Art of Music revisits tracks from the band’s career in a different light. How did this idea come about?

YL: A simple best of wouldn't reflect our musical experience through all those years. There are songs that are perfect as they are. Other songs are just a way how you could play or produce them. So we decided to do a double album. One disc as a simple compilation in a chronological order. Listening to this part is like a time travel through the last 10 years of the band. The second disc contains songs that we wanted to do in a different way. We re-recorded them in a semi acoustic way with a lot of friends. It was a lot of fun to work on the songs again.

6. Did you enjoy the challenge of making these songs fresh again?

YL: Of course there are many ways of producing or recording a song. We decided to do the whole re-recording in a semi-acoustic way and it was a real pleasure for us. So it was not a challenge but more the chance to show the songs free from being involved in a musical concept of an album.

7. Going back a bit…RPWL worked with Ray Wilson on the song ‘Roses’ from World Through My Eyes (this song is included on CD 1 of The Gentle Art of Music). How did that collaboration come about?

YL: I heard Ray singing the “calling all stations” tour and was deeply impressed. When we recorded “Roses” in the studio I had the feeling that this song was perfect for Rays voice. He was able to capture all of the feelings the song needed. I met him right after a solo concert he did in Germany and gave him the demo of the song. 3 days later we got a call from him that he wanted to sing the song. I still love his interpretation of the song.

8. Are there other artists you’d like to work with, either on another RPWL album or a solo release, that you haven’t yet?

YL: It depends on the songs or the lyrical content of an album. It is always a very special thing to involve other artist. They may add other aspect or feelings to the songs.

9. You have a solo album coming out in November. What was the motivation behind No Decoder?

YL: One thing was that Kalle with “Blind Ego” and Chris with “Parzivals Eye” already showed their input to RPWL. It was time to complete what I think RPWL is all about. Of course I also was curious what happens if there is no band and I can do the songs my own way.

10. How did you pick the musicians whom you are working with on this release?

YL: Sometimes I really enjoy live engineering without being caged by the studio walls. In one of those moments I heard a guy called Torsten Weber from a very famous European Doors cover band playing guitar and during the show I thought this was the kind of guitar I wanted to have on my album. I asked him to work together and we recorded the whole album. For bass guitar I asked Guy Pratt. I mean, of course he played with Pink Floyd, David Gilmour or Roxy Music, but primarily he is an extraordinary gifted musician. He played the whole album and so I had a wonderful band in the studio. But there are also a lot of other friends playing on the album! I'm really proud of what we did!

11. Are there any hints or teasers you can provide, or do we just have to wait?

YL: When the time is ripe ;-)

12. Do you plan on doing any shows to support No Decoder?

YL: In fact I never thought about that. But I had a couple of requests so that I'm thinking about it at the moment. But next big thing is of course the new RPWL album. Let's see what's coming up.

13. The band is playing live at Whittier, California’s Calprog festival. If it were possible, would you play shows in the US more often?

YL: Of course we would. It is always very special to play in the states. A beautiful country with a huge rock 'n' roll history. I mean, who doesn't want to play there?

14. What is the biggest obstacle for prog bands in touring?

YL: Maybe that nobody knows what prog is or people have strange expectations what kind of music a prog band plays. I still don't know why we are prog and in fact we are borderliners regarding music classifications and real prog hard liners. I think people really have to know you unless they come to a live show but that's what all bands have in common, doesn't matter if they're doing jazz or hip hop or whatever.

15. What kind of impact has downloading (legal or otherwise) had on the band? Does it change how you look at future album releases?

YL: It has a direct impact on the ways of distribution of a product. The music market is still changing and it's hard to see to where it leads. Of course it was easy to control a market that is based on hard copies of products. It is definitely a problem to control a market that is based on downloads. Music detached from any physical worth, just the intellectual property. I think it's the discussion about music and its value. But it's one thing to think about that and the other to do what you truly believe in. So we will do music anyway- regardless of whatever the future brings.

16. What would you say has been the biggest moment in RPWL’s career (live, album release, whatever)?

YL: The moment when we decided to start playing live even before RPWL was planned to be a band.

17. What’s up next for RPWL?

YL: After a couple of live shows we will do our new album. We already have a few ideas. I think that we're going to start recording at the end of the year.

18. What would you like to achieve musically that you haven’t yet?

YL: That's hard to say. We had such a great time during the last 10 years. I'd be happy if we still had the chance to do the music we believe in. And then, in 10 years, we're going to do our 20th anniversary. That would be nice!

19. When you’re not busy with RPWL or your solo music, what do you listen to for pleasure or relaxation?

YL: I do not listen very much to music for relaxation. I mean, I listen to music the whole day! I'm glad when it's quiet outside the studio. But of course there are moments when I listen to my old vinyls. Then it's not only the music but also all the memories that come with listening to the tunes. Listening to music is not only a very special way of communication but also a possibility for re-experiencing things in the past.

20. Do you have any final parting words for our readers today?

YL: We're really looking forward to coming to the states again. Hope to see many of our friends at CalProg festival and to those who won't be able to come: we hope we'll be coming back soon for more shows! Thanks to all of you!

Find out more:

No comments: