After leaving Spock’s Beard for reasons everybody already knows, Neal Morse very soon released a fantastic new solo album called “Testimony”(for review see our archives) and proved that he is quite capable of making a prog rock album by himself. I interviewed

Neal several times before already but this is the first time after he left his former band. I will not ask him why he left SP, other magazines dealt with that already, but I am more interested in his new album ; so here we go…

Martien : “So, Neal, first of all congratulations with your new album. You must be really pleased with the result, or not?”

Neal : “Thank you, yes actually I am very happy with this new album. I am really satisfied, it feels good to have finished this album. It sounds good and lots of people seem to like it, so yeah, this time I am satisfied. You know that normally I always had some second thoughts about a new album; you know like: this could have been better, or we should have done that guitar solo in another key, whatever. There was always something I complained about, but maybe I was just insecure and that is over now because I changed my life style and I look at things in another way.”

Martien: “Of course you do, so is “Testimony” the story of your life?”

Neal : “In a way it is…. You know I had a hard personal struggle the last two, three years and this is naturally reflected in the lyrics of my new album. Of course I left a lot of things out, such as what I ate for breakfast, or that sort of stuff…Religion changed my life and therefore this album deals with that rather big chance in my life. I look at the world in a different way now and this has a very serious impact on my music. Maybe lots of people cannot understand this chance but I still hope that they will listen to my record and try to understand what I went through and how this chance turned out to be very good for me.”

Martien: “The lyrics are very religious, are you not afraid that some listeners think that you have become a preacher instead of a musician?”

Neal : “I hope not; of course I am still a musician. I chose my words very carefully, so that listeners could make their own interpretations, and that I am not preaching. I was/am touched by the Lord and I tell my story about that, what you as a listener do with that information is up to you….”

Martien: “There are also lots of emotions on this album, are you not afraid that sometimes the lyrics become too personal?”

Neal : “Again a good question, but that is up to the listener. I tell the truth about what happened to me. God deals with everyone, but with everyone in a different way. The result however is the same; he rules you whether you like it or not, and each individual has to deal with that in his own way.”

Martien: “So, how did you approach this album, did you have the same procedure as with the Spocks Beard albums, or did you work in a different way?”

Neal : “Well I think I did this work almost the same as for the album “Snow”. I wrote the lyrics and the music together and in the end it was a big puzzle that I had to fit in the right way to make it a good album. I listened to some pieces over and over again till they fitted together like I had in mind. You know that the writing process is easy compared to the production process. I wrote and composed all the material in 2,5 months; it came out like a flow of ideas!! The last part is the actual hard work, but it was very exciting this time and again I must say I am very pleased with the result.”

Martien: “So, “Testimony” is “Snow Part 2” ? “

Neal : “I hear that a lot lately but that is not the case. It was definitely not my intention to do that.”

Martien: “You uses a lot of instruments on your new album, how are you going to do this on stage? “

Neal : “By recruiting very skilled musicians, hahaha….. I know what you mean, it will be very difficult but I have already “composed’ a very good set of guys who will be joining me on tour. Mike will be playing the drums, then Randy George on bass guitar, Eric Brenton on violin, acoustic guitar and pedal steel! , Mark Leniger on percussion and sax, Rick Altizer on guitar and I am still looking for a cellist to take along, of course I will do a lot of the strings on my keyboard.”

Martien: “17 th November you will be playing in Tilburg, what can we expect?”

Neal : “I am really looking forward to be going on tour again. The Netherlands, especially the good old “013” in Tilburg, always have a special place in my heart. We are going to record a dvd of our live show there, so that is going to be exciting. We will play the entire “Testimony” album with an intermission; it is going to be a sort of musical theatre event, a real stage play…. As encores I will probably choose some Spock’s Beard or Transatlantic epics.”

Martien: “Could you have made this album with Spock’s Beard as well?”

Neal : “I really don’t think so, musically speaking perhaps, but lyrically no. It is a pure solo album of

Neal Morse and I do not think that I could “force” these guys into believing the religious lyrics I wrote for “Testimony”. If you are in a band, then the band should decide about the music and the lyrics and not just one person; certainly if you are dealing with such personal topics like my “religious struggle with life”. No, I think that this could not have been made by the “old” Spock’s Beard.”

Martien: “Is there a chance that you will return to Spock’s Beard?”

Neal : “Not at this moment, but there are no closed doors. We are still friends and you know the old saying: “never say never”, but not in the near future, no…”

Martien: “With the limited edition of “Testimony” you included a bonus cd with a.o. a song called “The Fang Sings” , who is the Fang? “

Neal : “It is Mike Portnoy of course, he is always in for something weird, funny, strange; it’s typical for him to do something like this; it’s just a joke.”

Martien: “What is your favourite song on “Testimony”?”

Neal : “You always ask the hardest question at the end……. It is very difficult to pick one song because the whole album is very dear to me. So what is yours, then…..”

Martien: “I like all the instrumental songs very much and “It’s All I Can Do”, is also one of my favourites….”

Neal : “Good choice!! Ouverture no.3 is also one of my favourites and I am really looking forward to be playing that sort of stuff live, so I hope to meet you in Tilburg on 17 November.”

Martien: “Sure, thanks for your time.”

Neal : “Thank you for your kind words.”

INTERVIEW BY: Martien Koolen
(c) 2003 RockUnited.Com

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