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David Minasian

With: David Minasian



Serge Marcoux - October 2020

Profilprog (PP): Hello David and thank you so much for giving us time to answer our questions.
DAVID MINASIAN (DM): Thank you, it’s great to talk with you!

PP: A great part of the progressive community, myself included, discovered you with your previous and excellent album “Random Acts of Beauty”. Still, you have two previous records that go back to 1984 and 1996. Would you be kind enough to tell us about them please?
DM: I recorded “Tales of Heroes and Lovers” independently back in 1984 out of frustration. Record companies in Los Angeles at that time were not interested in progressive rock to say the least, so I went ahead and did it without them. The album didn’t do much although we did manage to get a video for one of the songs on MTV. The album was somewhat similar to Anthony Phillips’ “Sides” LP, which featured one side of progressive material and another side of shorter songs. After that, I recorded an album’s worth of material for a CBS affiliate in the late 80’s with a very talented singer named Chris Lloyds which was very pop oriented, but that album never got released. Then in 1996, I teamed up with another singer Wlliam Drews for an independent album called “It’s Not Too Late” which marked a return to my more progressive roots. And then in 2010, I was able to finally record the album I always wanted to - a no holds barred progressive rock album… “Random Acts of Beauty.”

PP: Since we are going back in time, before talking about your new opus, I am sure our readers will be interested to know more about your fascinating journey. You began classical piano at five but later, you choose filmmaking. Please tell us a little about that journey and what made you go toward that field?
DM: I did indeed begin piano at age five, and at age eleven I began making films. So both of those endeavors became my passions. I earned a college degree in film production and have worked in that field ever since, travelling all over the world, doing hundreds of projects. It was a good choice to make because it’s much easier to earn a living in film than in “progressive” music. But I try to find time to record music whenever I can.

PP: Your cinematic course was marked by music in many ways and, if I am not mistaken, it began with a video from your first album, “Tales of Heroes and Lovers.” What other experiences significantly brought back music to your life?
DM: Shortly after directing that first music video, I began producing videos for other bands such as Three Dog Night. Eventually, I would get the opportunity to work with a number of my favorite artists including Camel, The Moody Blues, Steve Hackett and Alan Parsons which has simply been wonderful. It’s important to me to be able to enjoy the music of the bands I’m working with since I will be hearing their music over and over during the editing process in post production, and I would hate to have to listen to music I don’t really like for hours on end (laughs).

PP: In 1996, you were asked to produce and direct the concert video “Coming of Age” for CAMEL, one of my favorite prog bands. Please tell us how it happened and what was the influence on your musical path?
DM: At the time our paths crossed, Camel were looking for someone to help them try and salvage some amature footage shot by a fan from their 1991 tour. I suggested we shoot something new instead and this led to the filming of the “Coming of Age” concert. Simultaneously, we began work on the historical documentary “Curriculum Vitae.” That was the beginning of a relationship that would last more than 20 years.

PP: Over the years, your collaboration with CAMEL and ANDY LATIMER would develop in many ways and produce fruitful results. How many projects have resulted from that collaboration?
DM: In addition to “Coming of Age” and “Curriculum Vitae,” there have been three additional concert films: “The Opening Farewell,” “In From the Cold” and “Ichigo Ichie” which we filmed in Japan. Also there were three compilation DVD’s: “Footage Vols. 1 & 2” and “Moondances”, and the remaster/re-edit of “Total Pressure.” So it looks like there have been nine projects altogether so far. Wow!

PP: All fans of ANDY LATIMER have noticed his uniquely beautiful guitar playing on the song “Masquerade” from 2010 album “Random Acts of Beauty.” Would you say that each of you had an influence on the other at that period?
DM: At the time, I told him I had been wanting to do an album but had kept putting it off because of my busy schedule, and he told me just to get on with it. So I recorded and sent him the first track which was “Masquerade” to get his opinion and that is when he kindly offered to play on it. And for that I will always be grateful. I think his contributions to the track are frankly some of the best work he’s done in recent years.

PP: Your involvement in music on film and video, and your producing, directing, and composing work would eventually lead to another great collaboration with an artist that represents a lot in your musical awareness. Please relate to us what THE MOODY BLUES are for you and how you met and began working with JUSTIN HAYWARD?
DM: It was the Moody Blues’ album “Seventh Sojourn” and the Hayward/Lodge LP “Blue Jays” that inspired me when I was a kid to try my own hand at writing music. In 2013, I began my directing work with Justin on the “Spirits… Live” concert film which we shot in Atlanta. That DVD reached #2 on the Billboard charts and was later picked up for broadcast by PBS. From there we did two more DVD’s for PBS - “Watching and Waiting” and the award winning “The Story Behind Nights In White Satin” before releasing the “LIve In Concert at the Capitol Theatre” DVD. And it was at this time that we began to collaborate on song writing. Since then we have filmed a couple of his concerts in New York and Florida and are currently working on a new music video.

PP: You decided to open your new album “The Sound of Dreams” with the song JUSTIN HAYWARD and you composed a few years ago that we can hear on his compilation album “All the Way.” It is a good idea to give additional life to it but tell us why and how do you see it blending with the other songs?
DM: Justin recorded “The Wind of Heaven’ with his producing partner Alberto Parodi at Alberto’s studio in Genoa, Italy back in 2016 utilizing a few midi keyboard tracks from me. After it had appeared on “All the Way” he kindly allowed the song to also be placed on “The Sound of Dreams” LP. I felt it was the perfect track to open the album.

PP: Both of you have created a song with a real MOODY BLUES feeling and sound to it. Was it re-recorded or modified for your album?
DM: “The Wind of Heaven (Prologue)” which opens “The Sound of Dreams” is a longer version that includes a section that had originally been recorded but edited out of the “All the Way” version. I also managed to add a few overdubs including harpsichord and pipe organ, but most notably I added flute and mellotron to the restored section. I believe the “Prologue” version of “The Wind of Heaven” to be the definitive version of the song, in my opinion.

PP: Does “The Wind of Heaven (Epilogue)” come from the same writing session?
DM: It was the same writing session featuring Justin Hayward, Alberto Parodi and myself but a completely new recording session featuring Annie Haslam, Billy Sherwood, Justin Minasian, Geof O’Keefe, and myself. The “Epilogue” version has a number of chord and melody variations, not to mention a heavier, more progressive arrangement. Annie did a fantastic job, and this is the first time since 1989’s “The Angels Cry” that Annie has recorded a Hayward track.

PP: ANNIE HASLAM, of RENAISSANCE fame, sings on that song and another one, “The Sound of Dreams (First Movement).” How did you convince one of the great voices of prog to give that exquisite taste to the album?
DM: I had seen Renaissance a number of times back when I was a kid during their heyday and was most impressed with their ability to fuse classical and rock music together with stunning arrangements and beautiful melodies. Our drummer Geof O’Keefe knew Annie and introduced her to me. She was very happy to participate in the project and got very involved, co-writing “The Sound of Dreams (First Movement)” with me. The title track is also the first time Annie Haslam and Steve Hackett have ever appeared together.

PP: Talking about invited guests, you also have PJ Olsson from THE ALAN PARSONS LIVE PROJECT, singing on the first single, a remake of “So Far from Home.” I guess you met him while filming THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT in Europe and Tel-Aviv. I am curious, and probably not the only one, to read what you have to say about that experience and that song?
DM: My producing partner Trinity Houston and I filmed two shows with the Alan Parsons Live Project last year in Europe and an additional show in Tel Aviv where the band was accompanied by an 80 piece orchestra. Footage from that show was used in the production of a music video for the song “One Note Symphony” that was made in conjunction with NASA in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing. It was during this time that we got to know PJ who ended up working out this truly amazing vocal arrangement for “So Far From Home.” He also appeared in the song’s music video that was filmed on location in the Rocky Mountains and expertly directed by Trinity Houston.

PP: The last guest singer is JULIE RAGINS from PEAR DUO. Am I right to say that you met her through her role doing backup vocals for THE MOODY BLUES?
DM: Julie has been a good friend for a long time. Her powerful lead vocals and harmonies on “Room With Dark Corners” are certainly one of the many highlights from the album. She is a multi-talented musician whose elaborate keyboard work, in addition to her vocals, is on full display at any of the Justin Hayward solo shows.

PP: “Room with Dark Corners” on which she sings is a little different. It has a kind of folk feeling to it. Did it come naturally, or did you intend to compose something close to her tone or style?
DM: I had originally planned to put this song on the previous album “Random Acts of Beauty” but it didn’t really fit on that album and there was really no one who could sing it. So I’m glad we held it for this album because I think Julie was the perfect fit.

PP: Since we are looking at some of the special guests on the album, let us talk about two other ones. BILLY SHERWOOD has numerous collaborations in his career. But his actual involvement with YES is how you met him if I am not mistaken? How was he involved?
DM: Billy is local to me here in Los Angeles. It was actually Annie Haslam who introduced me to him. He’s a great guy, but I’m afraid he was underused on this album. Of course we’re all familiar with his extraordinary bass playing as a result of his work with Yes and Asia, but he’s actually a master of guitars, keys and drums too!

PP: In the prog and guitar world, STEVE HACKETT does not need any presentation. But from your perspective, did someone present him to you or, again, did you meet him through your work in the musical field?
DM: I had met Steve several years ago backstage at one of his solo shows. We discussed working together for many years before we were finally able to make it happen. Working with him on this project has been an absolute joy, and I truly believe his solo on the title track is one of his best. And that’s saying a lot!

PP: A musician that has played a big role on “Random Acts of Beauty” and “The Sound of Dreams” is your son JUSTIN. It must feel very special to play and create with him?
DM: He’s amazing. He is a very talented musician who can play just about any style. He has a great attitude and is a joy to collaborate with. He was only 20 years old when we recorded “Random Acts.” In a way I felt kinda bad for him at the time. That album featured legend Andy Latimer on guitar on the album’s opening track, and then Justin was supposed to come up behind that and keep the guitar playing on the remainder of the album at the same level after the bar had already been set so high. But you have to admit, Justin did an incredible job. His solos on “Blue Rain” and ‘Summer’s End” are breathtaking, and his co-writing of “Frozen In Time” is simply stellar.

PP: How and when has that musical chemistry occurred?
DM: It started with the first album. The first song we worked on together was called Chambermaid. I had no idea whether or not this collaboration was going to work, but as soon as Justin started playing, I knew we were going to be good to go. I was blown away. It was like having Stee Hackett or Andy Latimer in the room with you. He has this ability to know exactly what to play on any given song without me even saying anything. Is it genetic? Who knows?

PP: On the previous record, he played guitars and collaborated on a composition. On this one, I have seen (from Prog Archives) that he added bass and keyboards to the guitars. He also composed the excellent, longest, and rockiest song “Twin Flames at Twilight.” Can a future project bring an even closer collaboration?
DM: We hope to begin working on a new album together right away. Justin did an amazing job on both “Random Acts” and “The Sound of Dreams” and I’m looking forward to our next collaboration.

PP: The album was released on the 11th of September and is called “The Sound of Dreams.” Should we consider it a gift to help sooth our feelings and emotions during a difficult year? Did you have something special in mind?
DM: Lyrically, I wanted to be able to inspire people to simply follow their dreams. Musically, I wanted to change things up a bit by bringing these prog legends together to help me create a sound that I wouldn’t normally be able to create on my own. It’s a sound that pays tribute to the 70’s heyday of prog while at the same time sounds totally new. Once again, I tried to come up with some of the strongest melodies I could think of, and I do hope that this album can bring some level of comfort to listeners during these troubling times.

PP: On your Facebook profile, I could not help but notice this description, Filmmaker, Composer, Writer, Part Time Brain Surgeon. Part time brain surgeon! Do you also have that talent or is there some kind of story behind that?
DM: It’s an inside joke. But it does have some hidden meaning. There’s a song on “The Sound of Dreams” called “Hold Back the Rain” which has a line that says “whatever we choose, we can achieve.” That line is there to inspire everyone not to be afraid to follow their dreams. I suppose the idea of being a brain surgeon sort of represents the idea that anything we want to do, no matter how difficult it might seem to be, is within reach.

PP: DAVID, thank you so much for the beautiful music and please come back to our ears before 2030. Take care and the last words are for you.
DM: Well, I plan to get back to you with some more music long before 2030.

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