Tag Archives: mark mcCrite

Rocket Scientists Refuel

rocketscientists-refuel_cover_sqr_rgb_1000x1000Rocket Scientists are the California prog-rock band founded in 1993 staffed by Erik Norlander (keyboards, vocals), Mark McCrite (guitars, vocals), and Don Schiff (bass, viola, cello, mandolin, plus). Their new release comes some 22 years after they began, the aptly titled Refuel. This, and the sister EP Supernatural Highways from earlier last year, demonstrate that the band is focused on compositions over noodling, on content over form. This is, above all, “listenable” progressive craft – songs build and flow naturally, and themes of renewal in the lyrics are relatable. For aficionados, you will hear the chops, and all the things we expect from skilled musicians who are reaching beyond pop, but above all the songs take center stage.  Erik himself emphasizes this in the liner notes and states the case for song craft above all else.

The band is in top form on this record. Songs like “It’s Over” –one of Mark’s best pieces, are driven by drummer Gregg Bissonette’s propulsive beats, which are key throughout. Mark’s lead vocals express the melody with lyrics that adhere as across the album to the theme of transitions – of shedding the past and chasing new beginnings – refueling for a new day:

I wish that I could just start over
And feel alive again
Wake me up to face the new day
One more chance to shed my skin
‘Cause it’s over

rocketscientists_2014_promo_firstupBass player Don Schiff penned two fine instrumentals and adds beautifully to the acoustic bits with lots of viola, cello, and mandolin. His playing on both fretted and fretless Stick continually impresses – highlighted nicely in their videos. This plus guests players on trumpet and trombone really round out the sound of the band.

Mark’s opening instrumental, the title track “Refuel” gives the group a chance to showcase their playing, with a fine central melody also expressed via chorus that includes Lana Lane, who also sings lead with Erik on the final track. The second song, “She’s Getting Hysterical” and following rocker “Martial” both written by Erik, are some of his best compositions, something impressive to find on a late era record by any band. All in all this one will certainly be considered by listeners to be a fantastic addition to their collection.

I caught up with Erik this week to get some more color on the new release:

[D]: What led you to pursue this next Rocket Scientists project at this time – is there a sense of special causality?

[Erik] We launched this recording project at the end of 2012 with the idea of doing something new to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first release, which would occur the next year in 2013. So Mark, Don and I all started writing music and passing around demos, and we did a lot of recording throughout 2013. As you know, we ended up writing a bit too much for a single album, or at least for a cohesive single album regardless of length. So at the beginning of 2014, we released the Supernatural Highways album, a 30-minute all-instrumental EP that was really Part One of this greater project. We shot a 26-minute video for the main song, “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways,” at the very end of 2013 — right between Christmas and New Years if memory serves — and then released it on the same day as the album in early 2014. We then took the first three quarters of 2014 to finish the rest of the recordings, which became the Refuel album, a full-length album in the modern sense with both vocal and instrumental tracks. More of a “traditional Rocket Scientists album,” if such a thing exists!

rocketscientists_2014_promo_0808_bigI made the decision to not announce either album too early or even talk about them too much while they still being created. I saw so many other artists — friends and strangers both — that talked so much about what they were *going* to do, what great music they were *going* to release, all the great musicians they were *going* to work with. It all got really stale to me, even a bit irritating. We could throw around some clichés like “talk is cheap,” “actions speak louder than words,” all that kind of stuff. But that was really my mindset. I didn’t want to *talk* about what was coming, what I was doing. I just wanted to DO it. I wanted to complete the work in the way that I wanted it done — no compromises, no deadlines, no release date promises — and once it was safely wrapped up and off to the manufacturer, THEN announce it. This approach shocked a lot of people, and the first 2014 release surprise even some close friends! Obviously after the Supernatural Highways release, I did have to mention that there was “more music coming,” but beyond that, I made no promises and provided no details. It may have cost us some sales in the end as this is not the way albums are promoted in the traditional sense. There is always a run-up of some kind, some advance promotion, etc. But these are strange days we are living in, and the old rules don’t seem to apply anymore. So why not try something new!

[D]: Now in your third decade in Rocket Scientists, how has your writing process matured with Mark, Don and your other collaborators?  What part of this comes when you are together vs. writing separately?

[Erik] In the past, the songwriting process would often be that one of the guys handed me an idea, and I finished it. I took it the final distance and turned it into an actual song. Sometimes that just meant writing lyrics, sometimes some musical elements like a clever bridge or interlude, or sometimes adding a complete song core section like a chorus. It was very much a serial process. Now on Refuel, there is actually little *writing* collaboration. I think the only song that has two writers credited is “It’s Over,” which is primarily a Mark McCrite song that Don Schiff added to. The rest of the compositions are singularly penned, and all three of us individually contributed important songs to album.

rocketscientists_2014_promo_0844_bigThat might sound *less* collaborative than before! But what came during the production process was where the real collaboration happened. We worked as a group or two at a time as myself and Mark, Mark and Don, Don and myself, all three incarnations, and during those sessions we built on each other’s songs and expanded each other’s vision with a true band spirit. I don’t think any of us felt like “session players” when we were working on the others’ songs. We all had total liberty to flesh them out as we imagined. And that made for a fantastic collaboration in the end. Even the long video for “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways” was a total collaborative effort. We discussed some concepts and how to execute the thing without bringing in an expensive film crew, and I think what came out of that is a very honest, very sincere music video that really represents we musicians doing what we do!

[D]: How did the demise of “Asia Featuring John Payne” play into the timeline and recent events?  How so also your work with the Galactic Collective?

[Erik] The “Asia Featuring John Payne” project continually promised new original material for 6 full years … and in the end only released one original song after all that! I had such high hopes for the band. It was supposed to be the point at which the “Original Asia” and this new band, “Asia Featuring John Payne,” diverged and did their own things, forged their own individual futures. That’s what I signed on for, in any case. But it just didn’t go that way, and I’m afraid John Payne took a different path than what the fans — and of course some of the band members including myself — wanted and logically expected. I did give quite a lot to the project, and a big part of that was songwriting. But as literal years passed and no original material was released, I had to make the hard decision to start re-purposing my compositions for something else. I wrote a song called “Believe” for the Asia project that I ended up re-recording for the Lana Lane — El Dorado Hotel album. And then the lead track from the new Rocket Scientists — Refuel album is “She’s Getting Hysterical.” This is a song I wrote for Asia Featuring John Payne in 2007 right after joining the band. It was never pursued. There are other tracks on Refuel that could have easily gone into the Asia direction, “Cheshire Cat Smile” and “The Fading Light” definitely have that kind of harmonic and melodic structure. But I wrote those songs much later into the life of Asia Featuring John Payne, and I simply didn’t offer them to the band since I had so many other compositions hanging in limbo there. You can only beat your head against a brick wall for so long until you realize that the brick wall is not moving, you are not getting anywhere, and hey, this hurts!

rocketscientists_2014_promo_0071_bigAs far as The Galactic Collective, that is the project that keeps on going and going! This started off as a studio project in 2009 where I wanted to re-record 10 of my favorite instrumental compositions from various albums but do them all with a singular, unified approach as a new instrumental album. That’s where the “collective” part comes from! It is truly a collection of songs that was re-imagined. The album was quite well-received, and I put together a live band with the three main musicians from the studio album. We played some good dates including the 2011 Rites of Spring Festival (aka RoSFest) where we recorded the Live in Gettysburg album and DVD. After that, I set about recording the next project, the Lana Lane — El Dorado Hotel album that was released early in 2012. But something strange happened. People kept offering me gigs for “The Galactic Collective.” It was a fine set of music, and music that I really enjoyed performing. So I actually did several little tours of The Galactic Collective in 2013 and 2014 that took us all over the US and even down to Mexico — not once but twice! — for several shows there. The last run down to Mexico was for three theater concerts in late 2014. Mark McCrite joined me on that tour as the guitarist which worked really well as we were just wrapping up the Refuel album after some pretty intense work together throughout the year.

Q: The focus of this release is the songwriting not the gadgets, but just to be sure, are there any notable new instruments to speak of or any left behind that fans or musicians would be interested in knowing about?

[Erik] There are some great new instruments that came into the Rocket Scientists galaxy for the 2014 releases, but none of them are synthesizers! I still rely on my classic keyboards like the Moog synths, the Hammond organ, the Mellotron, the Rhodes, and hey, the grand piano. But the new things that came to these productions actually are via Don Schiff and Mark McCrite! In the time since the last Rocket Scientists recording (2007), Don Schiff taught himself the cello and viola. He had of course played upright bass / contrabass, so it was perhaps more “adapting” to the smaller stringed instruments rather than learning something totally new. But Don dove in with both feet and came back to the band with this whole new tonal and arrangement technique. I even loaned him my mandolin, which he used on the Refuel album quite a bit and is still at Don’s studio today. And I have no plans to ask for it back anytime soon! Don also has a new Emmett Chapman invention, the half-fretless NS/Stick. Don has been playing the original prototype of the NS/Stick since 1998, a fretted 8-string instrument. But Don had been discussing ideas with Emmett to create a new version that would have the 4 lowest strings fretless and the top 4 strings fretted. Emmett of course built another amazing instrument here, and Don played it quite extensively on both Supernatural Highways and Refuel. Then Mark McCrite brought some new guitars to the sessions. He had some new acoustic guitars, of course, even including an acoustic baritone guitar! Those sounded great as we would expect from Mark, but the real surprise was this fairly straight-ahead Les Paul Gold Top guitar with P90 pickups. Something about that particular guitar and Mark’s playing style really interact in an amazing way, especially for his lead work. He still brings out his 70s Strat for when that sound is called for, but this Gold Top Les Paul is really something special.

[D]: The third video for this album is coming out shortly – how do videos today impact your ability to get the music out there and heard? Any plans to perform live soon?

[Erik] I have no plans to tour as Rocket Scientists, but you never know what happens, what offers hit the table – so I should never say never! But, I decided instead to put a great deal of effort into several music videos for the 2014 albums. Don and Mark really supported that idea, and so we pursued it fairly aggressively. The beginning of 2014 saw the 26-minute video for “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways” which was self-produced by the band. Then for the Refuel videos, I enlisted my friend, Erik Nielsen, who shot the Asia Featuring John Payne “Seasons Will Change” video and had joined us on some of The Galactic Collective tours. Erik Nielsen had recently partnered with an excellent screenwriter-director-producer friend named Heidi Hornbacher, and the two them basically formed a production company. I asked them to create videos for the Refuel album, and so far the results have been great! We released the “She’s Getting Hysterical” video first, at the very end of November 2014, and then we followed that up with the “It’s Over” video just before Christmas. We’ll release the next one in January, and then another one after that for which we’ve already shot the footage!

I do intend to continue touring with The Galactic Collective musicians, although the name will have to change once I start introducing new material there since “The Galactic Collective” really refers to that specific body of work.

Here’s hoping a chance to present Refuel does arise and we see more of the Rocket Scientists out of the lab, into a clinic near you! In the meantime, this new release is highly recommended.

Rocket Scientists Planning New Launch

6PAN1TErik Norlander (keyboards), Mark McCrite (guitar, vocals), and Don Schiff are the core members of the progressive rock band Rocket Scientists. The group’s first album was 1993’s Earthbound, – since that time the band has released a number of albums and videos over the years each building on a legacy of quality prog art.

Earlier this year they released a fantastic EP called Traveler on the Supernatural Highways that is part of a broader album coming soon from the band. The EP consists of one long epic instrumental work – the multi-part title track, followed by a smoking hot version of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” If this recording is any indication, the new album is going to be their best yet.

I spoke to Erik and Mark this August at his home studio in remote Placerville, California just west of Lake Tahoe. We were surrounded by many vintage and modern day keyboards, and started with a question about his use of these instruments:

__________


Erik_keysD: Although you use these vintage keyboards on your own work and on Rocket Scientists albums they all still sound so contemporary – how do you achieve that?

EN: I’m not really a collector – I just like classic keyboard sounds, and the best sounds I can get.  If you’re a guitar player, no one is going to think twice about you playing a Les Paul Goldtop- it’s a classic guitar that’s been around, what, 50 years?  But then if I play a synthesizer that’s that old or even 20 years old – suddenly I’m “going vintage.”  Actually I’m just going for great sounds, and I happen to love the Minimoog and Rhodes sounds from the 70’s and my Hammond organ, which is from 1939.

MM: It’s similar to how many people are into pressing new music on vinyl because they like the sound of vinyl, and it’s not like that’s retro – it just sounds a certain way.

EN: That’s exactly it – I’m not trying to go retro, I’m not trying to sound like Yes in the 70’s – I love that – but I don’t want to do that again – I want to make new music, and when I make new music like the Galactic Collective with all these instruments, I go for sounds that seem current.

There’s an interesting thing about bass sounds I use like the modular Moog bass.  I recently got to know Michael Boddicker who was a major session guy in the late 70’s and 80’s – played keys on Michael Jackson’s Thriller – tons of films, he’s on a million things.  We were talking about big Moog sounds and listening to some of my stuff and he said, “those great big stereo basses you do – we couldn’t do that in the vinyl days – the lathe wouldn’t cut it with the modulation that low.”  That’s why the Moog bass on a lot of those older albums doesn’t sound as big as what I’m doing now.

D: I never hear a shrill keyboard sound out of your stack.

EN: We work hard to not do that!

D: The guitar sounds very fresh and the drum fills are so tight

Erik_Mark_RSEN: I think our generation is unique in that late 70’s and 80’s prog music went in a more metal direction, and then you had Dream Theater which is really on the metal side – so that became part of our musical vocabulary.  I guess like any artist, you pick what you like and don’t like – we take some and leave out the rest.  No Swedish death metal voices here.

MM: Its almost like prog music split up – what retained the “Prog” label was the more metal sounding work, but I hear a lot of progressive influences in things like Radiohead, and for some reason, that hasn’t attracted as much of the prog audience.  Crowded House is one of my favorite bands – they are kind of Beatlesque, but they also have a lot of elements you’d hear on old Moody Blues records – I see it as all part of the same legacy.

EN: Greg Stone back in the KLOS days said the first prog album was Sgt. Peppers, and I agree with him.  I think it was released the month before I was born!

D: Erik, how much work does it take you now to dial in the sound you want for a solo or for a particular song – a lot of fine-tuning and effort?

EN: The smart-ass answer is it takes 47 years to dial in that sound!  I can do it very fast now but only because I’ve spent my whole life learning how this stuff works and how to dial it in.  It’s about building up sound libraries – digital instruments and analog instruments like this [points around his studio] and knowing exactly how to set an envelope.  Last night we were working on this track, and Mark said I should do some Buchla modular sound effects, and I went directly to get that sound.  It wasn’t a question of “let me load up 50GB of sample libraries and go through them all, or let me pull these 10 instruments out of their cases and see what might make this sound.”  Fortunately, I go right to it and know how to achieve it.

Erik_A6This instrument here – the Alesis Andromeda – which I helped design – was really the first truly analog polyphonic synthesizer of the modern era.  You started with the Minimoog, then we got into instruments you could play polyphonically – instruments like the Prophet 5 and the Yamaha CS-80 and the Oberheim keyboards and that grew and grew until digital became more practical to use, and then you started putting samples into keyboards.  Eventually by the mid to late 80’s, analog synthesizers completely fell out of favor.  I remember buying 3 Minimoogs from a rental house in LA for $300, which would now be worth 30 times that.

By the end of the 90’s I pushed to make a new modern analog polyphonic synthesizer.  The guy who owned Alesis, a guy named Keith Barr who passed away a few years ago, he was the designer of the famous MXR guitar pedals, like the Phase 90 and the Distortion Plus, the little MXR stomp boxes that you see on every guitar player’s pedal board for the last 30 – 40 years, and he was an amazing analog designer.  I convinced him to design some analog chips needed so it could fit in a smaller keyboard.  So we built this Alesis analogue keyboard – and that’s actually how I met Bob Moog and his daughter Michelle.  When I had the green light to do that project, Keith was designing the chips, but then we needed an analog design engineer to design the circuit boards, and I said, “let’s get Bob Moog.”  He was already building the new Minimoog Voyager at the time, and I didn’t know about that, so he was not able to work on this project, but he was able to advise from a distance!

Erik_TheWall
The Wall

D: Erik, when is “the wall” needed as opposed to one of your smaller Moogs?

EN: Functionally there is very little it does that a modern synthesizer can’t do – it is modular by nature which means you can patch it together in ways that you can’t patch a Minimoog or Moog Voyager, but that generally just gets you bizarre sounds – Dr. Who sounds and things like that.  For the actual musical tonal sounds, the difference between the modular Moog and any other synthesizer is essentially just quality.  There’s something about the discrete electronics and the build quality and the hand wiring and all that voodoo.

Erik_Wall1There’s multiple voices – multiple sounds at one time that are possible.  It has a little sequencer built into it – I can also send it sequences from the computer – more modern stuff which I do all the time, and you can play it by plugging in any keyboard into it via its MIDI interface.  I do have the original Gate / CV which was the original way to interface a keyboard to a synthesizer – so even the keyboard was modular – just a controller – telling the synthesizer what note to play and how long to play it.  You can do that from a keyboard, from the instrument itself, from a sequencer, so I do all of the above.  It’s set up to do 4 sounds or voices at a time.  For example, live, I’d have one voice that would be sequenced, one that would be for a lead sound, one for a drone that I would set up. I wired it up so I could trigger the drone from the modular itself – the whole idea of a drone is you have just one note that you hit and you let it go on while you do your spacy intro or break-down. Walking up to this big wall of synthesizers and triggering that sound is fun to do in concert as ultimately it’s a show – you gotta be involved.

You can also see the blinking lights, which I had custom built, which helps tell the audience when that instrument is being used.  Otherwise it’s just a big black wall with wires coming out and the sound could seemingly be coming from anything.  When I’m going to a keyboard and soloing and you see the lights on the modular come up then suddenly you know I’m playing it – this engages the audience in the instrument.

Erik_onhermajestyssD: At what point do you decide on an acoustic instrument vs. a keyboard sound?  For instance, the horns on “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” are real.

EN: I think there is a time to use electronic instruments and a time to use acoustic. And when you are doing a James Bond song, you have to use real brass!  I’ve got great brass sounds – as good as any keyboard player, but when we were going to do that track I thought – I’ve got to have real horns.  I worked with these guys on the album Hommage Symphonique, which was a covers album – it has a version of “Conquistador,” (by Procol Harem) and we used them again.  When it came time to do “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” there was no question we had to have the horns.  Mark had been a fan of that song as long as I’ve known him.

MM: When we did the UFO theme, I was like “dude, another sci-fi song? Can we do a James Bond song this time?”   Lana also covered “You Only Live Twice” and “From Russia With Love.” Don’t get me wrong – I love the sci-fi stuff too, but I’ve been a fan of Bond music since I was 5!

D: Mark, for your instruments, do you collect guitars, or focus on a few?

MM: I find myself going more for the acoustic guitars.  I have a really old Martin guitar that I love, and a beautiful Guild 12 string – I just got a baritone acoustic Taylor.  I went to see David Gilmour for my 40th birthday and was surprised that a lot of the slide guitar on “Breathe” and so many others was him actually playing the lap steel, so I went out and bought one.  I was really torn – the collector in me wanted to get and old 50s Rickenbacker or a Supro that looked like a toilet seat but I listened to the newer Chandlers and decided I’d rather have something really clean and really hi-fi.

EN: I bring out my old Guild when Mark flies up here from LA to record.  It wasn’t an expensive guitar, but it’s one of those magical ones where everything is just right on it.  It’s not pretty, but it sounds great.

MM: I have a 16 year-old daughter who plays in bands, so lately I’ve been buying basses for her – she’s got nicer ones than me now.

Erik_SH3D: On the latest Rocket Scientists EP – the long piece “Traveler On the Supernatural Highways” – how did you guys put that track together?

MM: It started out as part of the album we’re working on now and there were pieces of this track that we were trying to figure out as far as what the sequencing would be on the record – and it became obvious that all these instrumental pieces belonged together and so we decided to split it out and get that out there first.

EN: Originally we wrote them as movements of a larger piece, and on the full album we thought about doing “part I” then a vocal song, then “part II” then another vocal and so on – and it just felt jerky going back and forth – it sounded better as one epic symphonic piece.  We decided to put it together as one thing.  If we put that on a regular album we felt it would overshadow the album or itself be overshadowed – we did not set out to do an EP, but that’s how it came out.

MM:  The project started when we realized that 2013 was the 20th anniversary of our first album release so and we wanted to do something to honor that.  We decided the best way would be to make a new album… though we kind of missed our deadline!  The Supernatural Highways EP and the album we are working to complete now are all one album really – recorded last summer – we just ended up with over 2 hours of music which would not fit on one album.  The first bit is out now and the rest will fit on the coming album, which at this stage has no title.

[Ed note: watch the band playing this new track “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways” live, in studio, on You Tube is an excellent way to become more familiar with the band, their style, and immense capability as purveyors of quality prog music.]

D: When is the new album expected?

EN: We plan to release the full album this year not too long from now.  Mark is doing the last bit of tracking – some harmony vocals [points out vocal booth.]  Then I’m going to mix it – then over to mastering engineer, Maor Applebaum.  He’s turned into a major guy – the “new thing” for our kind of music – he’s done Billy Sherwood, the new Yes, some metal – he’s just awesome.  He will latch onto something and won’t let it go – saying for example, “Erik I can work with this but you really need to change the mix because the bass is doing this in the wrong way – I can master better if you give me the right mix!” I really appreciate that quality.  So, this goes over to him soon.

MM: I’m really excited about the new record!

Erik_DonD: Don Schiff couldn’t be here today – what can you tell me about Don?

EN: Don Schiff is the third element in the Rocket Scientists machine. His style and approach are a big, if not obvious, part of the band’s sound. Don comes from a jazz background. His father was a sax player and band leader, and Don cut his teeth in the music business by being the house bass player at The Las Vegas Hilton … which ironically is where the “Raiding the Rock Vault” show now plays, the Vegas show that featured my old band mates, John Payne and Jay Schellen. Don played with every major act that came through the Hilton including Elvis – yes, really! He learned the vital role of the bass in all different styles of music, how it can make or break the groove. Don also loves classic Motown and what I would call “vintage pop R&B” stuff like Blood, Sweat and Tears and early Chicago. So you inject that approach and influence into a band like Rocket Scientists, and the results are really unique. We’re a prog band that grooves! Oh, and of course Don plays these wonderful, bizarre instruments from genius inventor, Emmett Chapman: the Chapman Stick, the NS/Stick, and now the new “half-fretless” NS/Stick that he is using all over these latest Rocket Scientists recordings. You can see that one in the “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways” video on YouTube. Half of the neck is bright stainless steel, so it’s easy to spot that bass!

Erik_GregD: Another musician on the record who also jumps to the fore is drummer Gregg Bissonette.

EN: Gregg Bissonette is from Detroit, and he started out playing with Maynard Ferguson, the jazz legend, and then from there, he did the natural thing and joined David Lee Roth’s band!  Since then he’s just become one of the most in demand drummers in the field.

MM: He did the Supernatural record by Santana as one of his big things – he did the last ELO record and toured it, Joe Satriani, James Taylor, a ton of those Baked Potato gigs, etc.

EN: It’s easier to figure out who he has not played with!

Erik_MarkD: Mark, who are some of your influences?

MM: I think of myself as the Adrian Belew type that pulls a prog band in a pop direction – Beatles, David Bowie – Neil Finn is one of my heroes along with Jon Brion, Wendy and Lisa from Prince’s band, and all of Steven Wilson’s stuff.  Actually, I met Steven at a festival show Rocket Scientists played with Porcupine Tree back in 1999 and I’ve helped him out with some guitar gear over the years.  I’m a big King Crimson and UK fan, along with Sylvian / Fripp.  I have 3rd row center seats for the upcoming Crimson show in Los Angeles!

D: Mark, what are you going for in your vocal delivery and how have you developed your style?

Erik_ODaysMM: I’ve never really tried to articulate it before, but I guess I’m just going for honesty and emotion.  It took me a long time to really find my voice.  When I first started singing, I equated a great vocal with great pitch, and was pretty disconnected from the lyrics I was singing. When Erik produced the vocals for our first album “Earthbound,” he helped me to focus more on vibe than pitch and helped me to find a much stronger delivery, but something was still missing. While I liked those vocals, I didn’t think they sounded like me.  I befriended Kevin Gilbert around that same time and his biggest criticism was that I was over-singing and should consider using way less vibrato.  I started experimenting, but really didn’t like where I landed on the “Brutal Architecture” album – the vocals were honest, but they were too stark and I think they were ultimately a bit weak.

Neil Finn
Neil Finn

After that, I played for a while in a side project called River with an amazing singer named Pat Meyer, and also began playing in Lana Lane’s touring band. They’re both simply born with an amazing natural gift and I learned a lot just from watching them operate. I finally started focusing more on dynamics and tuned into a style I’m comfortable with on the third Rocket Scientists CD “Oblivion Days,” which I have stayed with ever since.  I’d like to think I’m borrowing bits from Kevin, Neil Finn, Justin Hayward and Buck Dharma.

Erik_RS_VideoD: How do you guys decide when something is going to be Rocket Scientists or an Erik Norlander solo track or something better for Lana Lane?

EN: The answer is astonishingly simple.  When Mark and I work together, it’s Rocket Scientists.  When we do a Lana Lane album, it’s very vocally oriented and centered around Lana. We write the songs that way, and create the production that way.  My solo stuff is really just me – writing and arranging by myself.  The other musicians are almost session musicians.

MM: I think it’s also a mindset – you think about it differently when you are creating for another medium or a different band.  I’ve written a lot of things for Lana, in general I always have an idea of what the final product is going to sound like. By imagining her singing it in my head, the writing just goes a certain way.

The new EP has been out now through the summer and comes highly recommended.  Again, expect an album shortly that will be the Rocket Scientists best yet, full of the kind of driving, modern progressive music one would expect from these talented musicians. A supernatural highway well worth traveling.