In our interview with Frank Bornemann of Eloy -we discuss
his newest album: "The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre Part 1".
We also ask some questions fans have wondered about for a long time. In addition, we ask Frank about some intriguing ideas regarding the band. If you're a die-hard Eloy fan, you won't want to miss this fascinating interview!
I'd like to thank Martin Kleemann ( -Frank's record company representative ) for facilitating this interview. Without Martin's help this interview wouldn't have been possible. Many thanks Martin! And to Frank himself, for taking the time to address these questions. In this case, both Frank and Martin went way beyond the "call of duty" to fulfill a long- time fan's request ( -see below ). It's this special rapport with fans that makes Eloy a truly special band indeed!
"Creative Tech Nerds" ( CTN ): Can you tell us about the new album: "The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre Part 1" ( -due out Aug. 25th, 2017' ) and how it's progressing? Are all the basic tracks recorded ( -with just the mastering still left to do? ).
Frank Bornemann: The album has been recorded, mixed and mastered. I hope you like it.
An ambitious two-part project, "The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre" delves into the fascinating albeit short life of "Joan of Arc" and is the outgrowth of Frank's extensive research into the subject. Perhaps unique to Eloy's entire career -the work required bringing in entire choirs, string players and special instrumentalists. Beyond the two- part album itself, an actual "rock opera" ( -utilizing a French cast ) is being planned for the stage ( -once the completed work is avail- able and the texts have been translated ).
CTN: Telling the story of Jeanne d' Arc ( "Joan of Arc" ) through the medium of rock music ( -and making it interesting to a rock audience ) is quite a daunting challenge. Can you tell us what inspired you to do it?
Eloy fans may be surprised to learn the level of research you've poured into investigating the life of Jeanne d' Arc. Can you tell us what triggered your interest in her?
Frank Bornemann: I actually really did invest a lot of time in getting this work off the ground. There were many conversations with qualified historians to get the details of her story and I read countless works of literature, even the documents on the legal process in order to get a profound knowledge. Naturally, I visited all the locations and places of significance to her story -and that really inspired me and gave me deep insight into the events, which can't be gained from reading books alone. Joan of Arc is a unique and at the same time mysterious historical figure that triggers powerful interest in everyone who occupies themselves with her short but moving life.
It's impossible not to be fascinated by her as soon as you penetrate deeper into her story. For this reason, this work, of which I've only now completed the half, is a vocation.
Frank and band mates in the studio ( -during the 90's recording sessions that lead to their "Visionary" album ). "Summernight Symphony", one of the album's tracks -originally written for a Parisian singer -was appropriated by the band after all. Some fans consider the song to be a particularly moving one.
CTN: Okay, now let's get into the current band line-up and guest musicians you've brought in to work on the album. While I haven't located a list of the musicians playing on the album, I assume it's Eloy's recent "core" ( -of Michael Gerlach on keyboards and vocals, Klaus-Peter Matziol on bass, Hannes Folberth on keyboards and Bodo Schopf on drums and percussion ). Is this correct?
Can you tell us a little about each of Eloy's "core" band members and about the guest musicians and singers you've brought in for this album?
Frank Bornemann: The line-up of the band on this album is unchanged apart from one position.
Bodo Schopf isn't on it. He now lives on the Italian island of Sardinia and the circumstances didn't permit him to fly over for every session. The drummer on the album is Kristof Hinz. He's a fantastic drummer from my hometown of Hannover. The core line-up is as always: Klaus-Peter Matziol on bass, Michael Gerlach on keyboards, Hannes Folberth on keyboards, Frank Bornemann on vocals and guitars. For the various roles and vocal parts, entire choirs, string players were needed as well as instrumentalists for special instruments that the band didn't play. It'll be a surprise!
The many faces of Frank Bornemann: band leader, guitarist, vocalist and Jeanne d' Arc scholar! With the completion of "The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre -Part 1" ( -first half of the two album project ) and with the prospect of a staged "rock-opera" on the horizon, perhaps we should add "playwright" to Frank's ever expanding roster of job titles. These days Frank's a very busy guy!
Mike Belcher ( MB ): Is the band ever going to do a full-blown US tour -perhaps including St. Louis, Mo. ?
Frank Bornemann: I don't know, because firstly, the production of Part 2 of the rock opera is pending
and that could take a while again. I'll be able to make plans again when the production is completely finished and the work has been concluded.
MB: Do you have a large success rate of record/ CD sales in the US?
Frank Bornemann: Our records, with the exception of "Inside" and "Floating" in the early 70's, have always only been available on "import" in the US, so I really can't judge that. I know that we've got fans in the US and I really appreciate their interest in our music.
While popular in Germany and Europe, Eloy's music is rarely played on rock-stations in the United States. This despite a small but dedicated US fan base. To help change this, I've created my "Music From the Cutting Edge" webpage -to help innovative bands like Eloy reach a wider US audience ( -and hopefully get them increased airplay on US FM rock stations! ). Click the "Music From the Cutting Edge" link to check out this webpage. Tell your friends about it! With enough response we may get US rock stations to play Eloy's music. It's regrettable that FM rock stations like St. Louis' KSHE 95 FM haven't played Eloy's music for decades!
CTN: Unfortunately, here in the US, very few rock-stations play Eloy's music. To help change this, I've constructed a new webpage entitled "Music from the Cutting Edge of Rock". It will give US music lovers a chance to discover worthwhile bands like Eloy. It will feature band "profiles", links to their official websites and links to the interviews I do with the bands ( -like this one for instance! ).
Unfortunately, this may be the ONLY chance many American music lovers will ever have to discover Eloy's music. The radio-stations here simply won't play the music. But maybe we can change that with my "Music From the Cutting Edge" webpage!
Frank Bornemann: I am aware of the radio situation in the US. But I also know that progressive rock or art rock, as it's also known, was never really a big topic for radio. The scene for this music genre has always been outside the radio stations. In this respect I really appreciate your support. Every time I hear that a broadcaster introduces and plays our music, it makes me very happy, even when it's a small broadcaster.
It was the summer of 76'. Me and Mike had graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas. We drove down to Johnson's Shut-Ins for a few days of swimming, camping and freedom! I clearly recall hearing Eloy's music waft out over our campsite at dusk ( -part of the "mix-tape" Mike had put together for the trip ). As our campfire crackled and burned, I looked up at the star filled Ozark sky and thought to myself: "Does life get any bet-ter than this?" It was a question in need of no answer. Thanks for that memory, Eloy. Your music helped to "imprint" that memory into my mind forever. Really good music will do that! -Tomm ( CTN ).
* JOHNSON'S SHUT-INS State Park is located about 125-miles south of St. Louis. It' a natural playground of ancient polished granite ( -through which the cold waters of the Black River are squeezed through a maze of chutes, pools, sluices and cascad-ing waterfalls ). The perfect antidote for Missouri's hot summer days! If you haven't already been there -you owe it to yourself to go. Be sure and bring an iPod "mix" of Eloy tunes with you!
MB: Being a German band, are there two versions of the albums when you go to the studio ( -one in English and one in German? ).
Frank Bornemann: No, so far there have only been albums in English, and that also goes for the new album. However, there will be a version of this work in French, because it's going to be staged as a rock-opera in France with a French cast. But that'll take place when the whole work is available and the texts have been translated.
MB: Are the members of the band friends? Do you get along well or are you like a somewhat dysfunctional family and have actual arguments that hurt?
Frank Bornemann: Yes, that's quite accurate. Although we now live quite far apart in different locations, we've got a friendly relationship, even if we don't see each other very often.
Eloy in concert! In recent years Eloy has included back-up singers ( -and occasionally American guitarist Steve Mann -pictured here left of Frank ). Whatever the line-up, you know you're in for a great show when Eloy takes the stage!
MB: On the artwork for the album covers, I notice a very strong similarity in style to the "Yes" ( band ) covers. By chance, is the same person doing work on your covers?
Frank Bornemann: We've had various cover designers over the decades. One of them, Rodney Matthew, had really quite a similar style to Roger Dean, who designed the YES album covers.
MB: How do you still have the stamina at our age to still write, play and perform the way you do? I know we are close in age -I'm going to be ( 59 ) the last day of June.
Frank Bornemann: I'm still in pretty good physical shape, because I do sport every day and am still very fit. I'm more worried about my band colleagues.
Leading a legendary band ( -with a massive catalog of albums ), researching future projects -like Part 2 of "The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre" and organizing "spin-off" endeavors ( -like the com-ing French stage play version of "The Vision" ) is bound to take a toll on the body. Frank keeps fit with daily sport.
MB: Who do you like to listen to musically? What bands, singers, song writers? Any favorites?
Frank Bornemann: I listen to lot of very different music, but I have to admit that I'm enthusiastic about very few current bands or artists. There were better times in the history of music.
CTN: Mike's question ( above ) prompts a similar one from me. Have you ever considered participating with some similar bands ( -like "Hawkwind" and Arjen Anthony Lucassen's "Ayreon" for example ), in some large outdoor Festivals ( -where fans could hear ALL THREE bands play on consecutive nights -with Festival days left open for fan Q & A sessions, autograph signings and similar activities involving the bands and fans )?
As the editor of CTN, I'm discovering there are LOTS of Hawkwind fans ( -like me ) who are ALSO big Eloy fans! I think Eloy, Hawkwind and Ayreon fans would consider such a Festival to be a "once in a lifetime" event. I think event organizers and record companies would have no trouble selling-out such a Festival. I certainly know I'd like to go! And the "cross-pollination" of fans experiencing all three of these bands in a single location would only GROW the fan base of ALL THREE bands!
Is this Festival idea something that you and Eloy would ever consider participating in?
Frank Bornemann: The idea is good, but really difficult to implement, because the organizers generally don't want to get involved. It's a bit of a shame really.
While Frank is understandably reluctant to pick a "favorite" from Eloy's catalogue of albums -you're sure to find fans with impassioned views on the subject. Mike for example, is a big fan of "Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes" and "Visionary" while I'm a fan of their "Planets" album. Different strokes for different folks!
( Left ) Cover Art from the "Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes" album.
MB: Out of all your works, do you have a favorite? I have so many, but have to go with "Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes" and "Visionary". The track "Summernight Symphony" is deeply moving to me. The bass is most awesome, the sound incredible, vocals beautiful, production "spot on". This track gives me chills -a good thing! Can never get tired of this track.
Frank Bornemann: It's virtually impossible for me to name a favorite from my own music, and when I try, I change my mind too often. Thanks for the compliment about "Summernight Symphony". I actually wrote the song for a singer from Paris, but then decided to use it for Eloy after all.
MB: And on a very personal note: since I'm a bassist myself ( -Mike has played in local bands like "Energize" and "Kabbage Fish" -CTN ), what type of effects does your bassist use? I love that sound! What type of head, bass and cabs is he using? ( -Mike uses old-school SWR and pre-Peavey Trace Elliott with a Jackson 4-string and a Schechter Stiletto Studio 5-string. He also uses an Ashdown Sub Octave Plus stomp box and an Ash- down Envelope Filter ).
Frank Bornemann: I'll let "Matze" ( Klaus-Peter Matziol -Eloy's bassist ) know about your comments on the bass when I see him.
Frank Bornemann on stage. While the band's roster of music- ians has changed over the years, the current line-up for "The Vision, The Sword and The Pyre -Part 1" is: Klaus-Peter Matziol -bass, Michael Gerlach -keyboards,
Hannes Folberth -keyboards, Frank Bornemann -vocals, guitars, Kristof Hinz -drums, PLUS: entire choirs, string players and special instrumentalists. A surprise indeed!
MB: When recording in-studio, do you prefer digital or analog? And if you use analog -do you
prefer valve or solid-state?
Frank Bornemann: Analog simply sounds better, with or without a tube. Today we're forced to combine both of them.
MB: ( Mike closes with ): Thank you so much for the music, the stories, the true works of art. Be well and God bless!
CTN: To which I'm sure CTN readers and Eloy fans everywhere nod in silent agreement.
Long live Eloy!
-END OF INTERVIEW
At the start of this interview ( "Backing Notes" ) I mentioned that Martin and Frank went beyond the "call of duty" to fulfill a longtime fan's request. That fan was no other than my friend Mike ( -mentioned in the"Eloy Mem-ories" piece above and responsible for several of this interview's Q's ). Mike's request had been to get a signed copy of Eloy's "Visionary" album. I was doubtful that Frank would do it. However, to my surprise Martin tells me Mike should receive his signed copy around the beginning of August! For Mike ( -a fan since 1975' ) this is a "dream come true". Thanks to Frank and Martin. You're the BEST!
-As selected by Mike Belcher