Page 2 of 2Do you write differently on different instruments?
TOM: In every case, it's always slow, but it shows up in the final product. In other words, if I write it on the piano, I record it on the piano. I can't think of anyplace where that isn't true.
When a new piece clicks in do you automatically know which song you're going to use it in?
TOM: No, I don't usually think in terms of specific tunes or partially completed tunes. usually it's a matter of a chorus and a verse working well together, or a chorus finishing off a verse that I had at the time. There are occasions where I have different places for the same song to develop into, like verses that are very similar or two different choruses that can't be used in the same tune, and I won't know exactly which to go to. In other words, I'll end up setting a few things down quickly, all at once. On Third Stage, "My Destination" wouldn't work anywhere in "Amanda." The changes are different at the end of the verses, and "Destination" doesn't travel the same route, so I couldn't use it on "Amanda." But I really liked it, so this one time I decided intentionally that I was going to do this thing both ways. Lyrically, the song is still about Amanda, but from a totally different viewpoint, a more mature viewpoint. Musically, I feel that way about it, too. I put it on intentionally to finish that side as sort of a wrap-up.
Did any vocals come out quickly on Third Stage?
BRAD: I remember the vocals going down fast for "Cool the Engines." That was probably my favorite song to sing as well, maybe because it's the most up tempo song on the record. So we were looking for something that was a little freer with the vocals. It was meant to be a rock tune, more or less, so we could have a little more fun with it.
Thinking of your voice as an instrument, which song was the most challenging?
BRAD: "Hollyann" was kind of a tough song to sing. I don't know what the range is there, but there were a couple of ungodly leaps that I had to make in that song. Plus I think that particular song was probably a very important one. As much as they all were, I think that was a pretty personal statement that Tom wanted to make.
Which is your favorite vocal performance?
BRAD: I like the way "My Destination" came out. I particularly enjoyed singing the bridge to that song. There are some good lines there to work with.
Which Boston songs have your favorite vocal or harmony parts?
BRAD: One that I particularly like is "We're Ready." I wouldn't call that the ultimate harmony song, but I do like the parts that we worked out and the way they came together. So I enjoyed listening to the vocal harmonies on that song. "Don't Look Back" I liked a lot. That was probably my favorite from the second album. One that I used to really enjoy doing live was "Long Time," partly because it was the kind of song where I could vocally stretch out. There were long passages without harmony parts, so I could play with the vocal a little bit.
After a song has been written, do you then duplicate it on tape as you hear it in your head, or is the song written as you're putting it on tape?
TOM: The important parts of the song, the chord changes and the melody, are generally known at that point. However, I have been known to change both after it's already on tape. When I work on it, it's for the first time and I'm running a master tape or I'm running a copy of the master tape, and I'll sit down, for instance, to play a lead guitar line and I will never have heard the song before. A tape deck is in my hand and I'm playing to it. Usually, I will have something in mind to start, but if it doesn't work out too well, then I'll start experimenting, and the first time I play something I like, that exact track is the final take. I stop, dub it onto the master, and I never play it again. Occasionally, I won't like something about it, and I'll do another one that's similar, with a different twist or what have you, but the very first time I get it, it goes on. The same thing is true with the vocals. Brad's so good, he can do a line exactly the same and change just a little thing in it. But the first time he gets it so it's what I want to hear, then that's stopped and it goes on the tape. There's never a learning process where he sort of learns the song and rehearses it, and then lays down the track. That never happens. Nobody has to learn anything. The very first time it's played that it sounds the way I envision it, or the way I like it, that's the one that goes on.
BRAD: Of course, I've been working with Tom since 1970, and that's when we first started recording in the studio. So over a period of time, I think we've gotten used to one another and I feel like I have a fairly good sense of what he's looking for, and he has a ebony porn pretty good sense of what I'm able to do.
Do you envision your songs being played by a solo performer, say a guitarist or pianist?
TOM: I don't think of that at all. Frankly, when I'm working on this stuff, I don't care if it's impossible to play on a guitar and a piano together. My only objective is to get the sound onto the tape in the way I want. If that meant that I had to play piano notes and guitar notes alternating on every other note for five hundred beats, that's what I'd do. I always figure that when it comes down to performing the thing in a live situation, I'll find a way to be able to make that sound. But when I'm recording, it's no-holds-barred. I don't care if it means tuning a guitar up or down a half step or a couple of steps that's the least of it. I would do that at the drop of a hat. Afterwards, I often learn how to play the pieces, usually for my own amusement. But, I manage to come up with some pretty good renditions playing it on a single instrument. The piano is always more flexible.
Is there anything you learned about the creative process as a result of taking so much time to record this album?
BRAD: I'm sure I picked up a lot just from spending as much time in the studio as we did. I don't think I would be able to make a record that way because I don't think I would have the patience. What's amazing to me is a song like "To Be a Man," which has harmony parts that are not strictly the straight 1-3-5 vocal parts, which are the things that occur to you immediately. Often I'd be working on a song where we'd be working out the harmony parts and I would give Tom the most obvious one, and it wasn't the one that he was looking for. Maybe he wasn't exactly sure either. Often there were points where I would've stopped and said, well, let's do it this way, and we never would have come upon the parts that we ultimately did. It was very interesting for me to see that the best things aren't always immediately obvious. That is where I think if Tom hadn't spent the time and really gone over the possibilities, he wouldn't have come across these different ideas. I think the songs are better for it.
What have you been doing since the Third Stage tour ended? Is Boston Four in the works?
TOM: Absolutely. I have a ton of new song concepts and ideas in varying stages of completion. There's also several pieces of music from a few of the guys I've been playing with. I think it will be a lot more up tempo and more straightforward rock 'n' roll. I probably have enough starts on material for two or three albums. My immediate objective is to get one good one. However, right now I'm working on finishing the studio I hope to record the album in. It's been a year and a half long project. It wasn't coming together and finally I decided I was going to have to stay down there and be on the site all the time, with sketches and answers. There's a crowd of people here doing everything from equipment modifications to building isolation booths. I've been following it myself one on one to try and push it through and get it up and running. Whenever I can, I'm driving nails, soldering and screwing screws myself.
So would you hazard a guess as to when the next album might be out?
TOM: Forget it.
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