David Lanz Interview: Part 1 (Current and Upcoming Projects)

This is the first part of an interview with New Age composer and pianist David Lanz and covers the background of his latest album "Cristifori's Dream Re-Envisioned."

David Lanz Interview: Part 1 (Current and Upcoming Projects)

I had the pleasure of doing a Skype interview with David Lanz on January 18, 2013. In Part 1 we will discuss his latest album, “Cristofori’s Dream Re-Envisioned,” in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his iconic 1988 recording of the same title. To read more about David’s career and to order CDs and songbooks please visit his website.

EKLUND: What inspired the original “Cristofori’s Dream” album and did you ever suspect that it would become such a hit?

LANZ: Not a clue! I just knew that I had written a piece of music that I really liked, and I was really excited because I was going to have my first actual string arrangement done for one of my pieces, you know other than what I called the “Yamaha Philharmonic.” So that was exciting. And actually I was more excited about being able to make contact with Matthew Fisher from the Procol Harum rock band. This was years before we met, but it was really exciting to know that I was going to have this iconic musician on one of my albums. It was the 5th or 6th album I had recorded for Narada and I thought every one of them was really good, so I just never knew which one was going to be the one. Paul Speer and I had done an album called “Natural States” that had been really popular on the radio. And I wasn’t really hearing anything on the “Cristofori’s Dream” album that had that same kind of pop vibe, but the way it turned out every song got played on the radio off that album.

EKLUND: Do you have a favorite track from the original “Cristofori’s Dream” album?

LANZ: Oh, it depends on the mood I’m in.

EKLUND: So what inspired you to re-record the album after all these years?

LANZ: Well, I thought it would be a fun kind of experiment really, just to see how the music held up. A couple of those songs I had never stopped playing. There were at least 4 or 5 recorded versions of Whiter Shade of Pale and Cristofori’s Dream. The other songs had done pretty well on the radio, but I was trying to think of a way to make a 25th anniversary record special. It had already come out 10 years after the original, Narada put it out and re-mastered it and they added a bonus track that I didn’t like at all.

EKLUND: What was that bonus track?

LANZ: It was Madre de la Tierra. [Laughs] I like that song, but could you pick a song that doesn’t have a mistake in it! But that’s just my own perspective.

EKLUND: Is there anything specifically on a musical level that sets this new recording apart? Anything that you changed about the compositions?

LANZ: Well I wanted to keep the title track “as is” because to me that was almost like a classically written song so I didn’t want to mess with that. And a couple of the songs I wanted to open up for improvisation, which I did, like Spiral Dance and Summer’s Child. I had kind of created these simple songs that made it easy to add on with improvisation. Whiter Shade of Pale I had played it so many times in live shows that I ended up cutting the song—I actually wanted to make a shorter version of that song to contrast “Return to the Heart” and the original one. That’s why I cut out some of the fun stuff in the middle just because I had already done all of that so I wanted to make it different and more succinct. Then there was one piece on there that I had never actually played on the piano, which was Freefall, so that was challenging. Plus I think it’s either in D-flat or A-flat, I don’t remember.

EKLUND: It’s in A-flat originally.

LANZ: Yeah, not the friendliest of keys, but I had fun playing that and actually enjoyed playing in that key. So that was basically it, just opening a few things up. Oh, and Green Into Gold, was really long on the original recording, and I cut that down a few minutes. It needed to be cut down, it was kind of just on and on and on and for the original recording. That was fine since we had other instruments including synthesizers, percussion, and such so it held up in that context, but in the solo context we needed to cut at least a couple minutes out. I probably spent as much time creating the liner notes as I did on the actual recording. I definitely spent a good amount of time on the recording but I wanted to try—you know the term is “value added”—when someone buys a CD what are they going to get other than the recording that they could download on iTunes. So that was fun, it was kind of an exercise in personal archaeology. I have all these boxes of memorabilia—going through all of the photos, the reviews, and all the stuff. So that was kind of fun to go through all that information. I also chatted with Matthew Fisher in England, and Steven Ray Allen who had done the original arrangements, and my producer. I called some of the folks at Narada and chatted with them just to kind of get a sense of how things were back in 1988. It was fun taking stock of my brilliant career [laughs] and it was a good way to put some closure on that part of my life, even though ironically now that the album is kind of new again now I’m out there talking about it again. But at least I felt like I had done everything I could to give the album something new and put a different look on the experience. There’s a video on my homepage for Here Comes the Sun produced by my good friend Bob Mueller who is really brilliant. That’s what he does for a living, he does 3D photography and all kinds of video editing—he’s quite an artist. So he spent a couple days filming me, we talked about the album going song by song and he’s going to animate it and do all sorts of fun things. That will be a nice little promotional piece I’ll use at some point.

EKLUND: Can you tell us a little bit about the cover art of the album? Who came up with the concept?

LANZ: Believe it or not I actually came up with the whole concept. Those are the things that you’re usually supposed to have an art director for, but I just started to imagine “what would it be like to kind of look the part?” I mean I’ve already got the hair right? So I contacted a friend of my Rosanne Olson, she’s kind of a world-famous photographer. She did the album cover for the Christmas Eve Songbook which is fairly dramatic. Actually it’s the same backdrop! It’s a hand-painted backdrop, so I knew that she had some really neat scenic pieces. And then I thought about how Cristofori was a harpsichord builder so I should be sitting at a harpsichord not a piano—I’ve already got plenty of photos of me sitting at the piano—let’s do something a little different. So I kind of dreamed up this idea and then all the pieces fell into place and then we found that harpsichord. I don’t know if you’ve really looked at that harpsichord it’s amazing! It’s a Colmar/Ruckers hand-painted instrument worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s a whole story about how I tracked that one down! But it ended up costing me $0 to have that shipped over and used. I kept trying to give the owner money and he didn’t want anything—he’s a really interesting man. I was in the flow and everything came together easily. A friend of mine who has a studio opened that up to us for no charge to shoot the cover which is great since I’m not with a label anymore I have to pay for everything which gets expensive trying to keep your career up in the air.

EKLUND: I didn’t realize that it’s your own personal record label that you’ve been releasing recordings under now.

LANZ: Yeah, but I was recently approached by the label that released the “Painting the Sun” album and that’s the next project which is a collection of solo piano pieces which is pretty much ready to go. I just have to finish some of the writing and arranging them but the ideas are intact. But yes, all of the Beatles albums, the Joy Noel, and the new Crisitofori’s Dream album I put out on my own label.

EKLUND: So the next project is just solo piano?

LANZ: Yes, I think so. I always listen to the music and think “it would be cool to do this or add that” but I’m really trying to stay away from other musicians for this project. I may bring in my friend Walter Gray to play some cello because I really think they complement each other. My friend Gary Stroutsos who plays all the flutes I’d love to do another album with him. In fact I’m playing on an album of his that is similar to my project with the music of the Beatles, but his project is covering the music of Jethro Tull. He’s doing some really interesting arrangements of that.


Jennifer Eklund
Written by Jennifer Eklund
Jennifer Eklund holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music from California State University, Long Beach. She is an avid arranger, composer, and author of the Piano Pronto® method books series as well as a wide variety of supplemental songbooks. She is also a Signature Artist with Musicnotes.com with a large catalog of popular music titles for musicians of all levels.

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