|by Ray Ashley
as realized by the Cinema Inferno Orchestra:
Ray Ashley: ADG Tapping Guitar, etc.
Freedom Electric: Drums
Dema San Tuna: Organ
Jim Speer: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Amy Ksir: Oboe, Flute
Paul Mimlitsch: Warr Guitar-loops
Hear an MP3 of Nag Champa right now! (courtesy of touchstyle.com)
On CD only, For your copy, you can buy it right now with your credit card at Amazon.com (click the Amazon to take you there for purchase information and also sound samples of each song)
Dialog 1; Cinema Inferno; Prelude; 24 Dollar Island; Dialog 2; Pyramid of Five; Taireva; Dialog 3; Nag Champa; Dialog 5; Crazylegs
This CD in its entirety was the featured CD January 22, 2000, on The Trip with Clay Gaunce (WRFL 88.1 FM, Lexington, Kentucky)
Read the review from Progression Magazine
"I love it! It's great!" - Mark Warr (world famous luthier, builder of Warr Guitars)
"This leads off with a reflective oboe/clarinet duet that launches into a classically-structured near-hour of moving, hypnotic, emotionally performed, challenging, inventive, frequently transcendent Return To Forever/King Crimson/Santana/Esquivel/Arto Lindsay/Mahavishnu Orchestra/Nektar-inspired prog-rock buzz performed with genuine heart and a genius soul. The combined forces of Dema San Tuna (organ), Jim Speer (clarinet), Amy Ksir (oboe/flute), drummer Freedom Electric and touch-guitarist/composer Ray Ashley climax nicely on a 23-minute, Fripp-fried acid-wash called Crazy Legs." ~ Al Muzer Aquarian Weekly 4/19/00
"My daughter loves your Cinema Inferno CD. She was dancing for almost the entirety of Crazy Legs last night. She is 3 1/2." - P.W. Seattle WA
"I like it, especially the variety and the way the running order and the music seem to develop (Dialog 1...). My wife likes it too...and she hates everything that isn't Carly Simon." - S.H., Rocky Hill, NJ
"I think this album is destined to be a cult classic, with its intoxicating retro-psychedelia vibe, killer ADG tones, and excellent mood-complimenting production. Its compositions vary from fusion to short oboe and clarinet duets to the spirited shonabop of "Taireva" to "Pyramid of Five"; the centerpiece of the album, it blows away all psychedelic space rock I've ever heard with its intrepid spirit and time-warp atmosphere. This album needs to be heard by more people." - William Bajzek (composer and Warr Guitarist from Blacksburg, VA)
"Cinema Inferno can best be described as a musical collage, with influences of traditional, classical, jazz, 'space music' and 'hippie jam' evident." - Review on Amazon.com (A listener from New Jersey)
"Five alarm fire!" - Review on Amazon.com (a listener from Albany, NY)
of Sound: A Conversation with Ray Ashley
by Seymour Cloud
Seymour Cloud: So this is a solo outing...
Ray Ashley: I'd hardly call it solo, I think there is a complete band here.
SC: But the Three Hour Detour, they're finished?
RA: Hardly! I just found myself in a situation, in early 1999, where the other members of the band were busy with their other projects - and anyway, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I was doing a lot of composing. I needed an outlet for all this composing, and as it turned out, I had been writing this music all along with certain performers in mind - I just did not know it yet. Now its ironic, that Joe and Helene were very busy making the new Broadside Electric record, and some of the musicians I tapped for this project also happened to be with Broadside -
SC: I guess it cuts down on the contractual problems, you all being on the same label -
RA: Yes, that's true, we're all in the same stable, so to speak - so as this turned out, it was a side project for some members of Broadside Electric, brought together with the rhythm section from The Other Way, plus two special guest artists - all playing my music.
SC: The Side Project from Hell?
RA: (laughs) You could call it that, but I don't really know how this band would get along considering that they have never all been in the same room at the same time.
SC: Wow, I'm surprised to hear that. At times it sounds like a room full of musicians in a jamming free for all
RA: Well, that was the intended sound, and I am glad that the music left that impression upon you. We definitely were going for a live feel, and the tracks were recorded in a very 'live in the studio' manner. The thing is that they just weren't all recorded live in the studio at the same time. Take the track Pyramid of Five for instance. Freedom and I recorded the basic tracks, in one take, at one time. I gave specific instructions to Paul and Amy as to the manner in which they were to improvise. Then on the day that they came in, I gave them one take, to get their parts down. They also tracked at the same time, so that they could play off of each other, and also off of the basic tracks. In a perfect world, all four of us could have fed off each other, but that wasn't feasible with our production schedule. Anyway, I was thrilled with the results of this structured four way improv, the way it came out. That is what the Pyramid of Five symbolizes - a great pyramid of sound, with four musicians each standing at a corner of the pyramid. If you are standing at the corner of the pyramid, there is all this stone in the way, so you can only hear the musician on your right, and the musician on your left, but none of the performers can hear the whole performance.
SC: Then why Five?
RA: The fifth participant is the listener, sitting on the top of the pyramid.
SC: That's pretty heavy, man...
RA: Yes, a lot of these Ideas are expressed in the lyrics of Tommy Hall with the 13th Floor Elevators, on their first two records. You should really check them out. One of the things I was trying to do was to capture that psychedelic garage feel, in a free-improv rock format. I know I am not the first person to have attempted this, but I think that I have something new to add to the genre here, especially with regards to instrumentation. If I didn't believe that I wouldn't have made the record.
SC: With regard to the instrumentation, I like the way you worked with the woodwinds. Did you write out specific parts for them, say, in the Dialogs?
RA: Yes, the Dialogs were all written out pieces, but I gave them free hand in interpreting the dynamics, tempo, etc. I do that in most of my written-out concert music, as much as I can. That is the way it was in the baroque era, where the performers actually got to improvise to some extent and put more of their personal stamp on it. I think a lot of modern composers are way too specific in prescribing how each millisecond of the music should go down. In Pyramid, Amy had even more free hand in her part. I gave her certain written out guidelines, but she was free to depart from them at any time - which I am happy to say, she did quite a bit.
SC: How does that compare with the parts Paul played?
RA: I gave Paul even more free hand. He was given a demo tape of the basic tracks and I said "Paul, give me a good drone to flesh this out." He is very good at that. I have jammed with him many times and I knew he would find the mood in a second. He really is one of the best undiscovered loop artists in the country today. He also appears on the new Broadside record.
SC: Dema's organ parts are also very tasty.
RA: Yeah, he really has that understated, late 60's kind of vibe on the Hammond, playing singular lines that make good counterpoint with the guitar, as opposed to the power chord Hammond approach, which I didn't want on this record.
SC: The Prelude is a nice piece, where did that come from?
RA: That was a short piece that I originally had written for publication in the Touchstyle Quarterly. I think it brings out the sound of the ADG guitar really well, in a solo context with no overdubs.
SC: Let's talk about the album's title, Cinema Inferno - is there a theme to this record?
RA: I'd say there is a loose theme of fire - primal energy turned into music. To begin with, there is the drumming of Freedom Electric. I have always likened playing with her to standing next to a bonfire. Once she gets going she really is a relentless source of energy. Secondly, there is the short-lived band we used to play in called the Smoke Detectors, so that is a fire connection. I had at one time considered getting that band together for these sessions, but it didn't quite work out. Still, the Detectors could easily do all these songs in concert. Next there is the luthier Mark Warr, who designed and oversaw the construction of my guitar - and of course he built Paul Mimlitsch's Warr Guitar. Mark Warr is a fireman out in California, a professional fireman, but when he is not busy fighting fires he has all this time on his hands. Most of those guys go fishing in their time off but not Mark, he spends all his free time building guitars. As a final FIRE connection, there is the song Nag Champa. Nag Champa is that hippie incense, that goes so well with Patchoulli. Incense is a way to use fire to make aroma, change the mood, set the stage for other things...
SC: How about the Pyramid?
RA: Well... I suppose the Egyptians used to build fires around the pyramids... or something... (laughs)
SC: Yeah, something like that.
RA: Oh yeah, there is one other fire connotation. The song Crazylegs - the name comes from this incident where I got really bad sunburn - get it?, BURN - on both my legs. I was burned so bad I couldn't walk for a week. One of my friends said "man, them's some crazy legs!". One other thing about Crazylegs - though its not nice to give away too many details about what goes on in the studio - that track was the first thing that we set to tape. It was supposed to be a warm up take, Tommy started rolling tape, and what you hear is what we got! The spacy stuff at the end was added later. Most of the tracking went that easily. Nothing took more than three takes to get right, and several of the songs were done in just one. When you track that way, you do lose something, that relentless pursuit of total perfection - but I wanted to make a record with some spontanaity, which I believe is priceless.
SC: Taireva - does that have anything to do with fire?
RA: Actually, no, Taireva is a traditional Shona song, with deep metaphorical meanings that I don't address because we don't sing it. I hope we did it justice, my version is very skeletal. The oboe part that Amy plays is the vocal line. I played some mbira, but it is mixed really low. I think the groove of the bass and drums is the real focus of the song, though.
SC: Any plans to do this material live?
RA: Well, we'll have to see about that. Hopefully at some point we'll all be in one place at one time. Or else the four of us that live in the east will have to fly out to the bay area to do a show with Freedom!
SC: Either way, I hope to see it.
SC: Thank you for your time, and good luck with the new record.
RA: Thanks again, you've been most kind.