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David Minasian

Vorige maand viel ik van verbazing van mijn stoel toen ik de CD 'Random Acts Of Beauty' van David Minasian in mijn CD speler stopte. In de openingstrack hoorde ik namelijk de gitaar van Andy Latimer. Dat uit duizenden herkenbare gitaargeluid. Ik was totaal verrast om een bijdrage van mijn favoriete gitarist te horen want Latimer is al enige tijd ernstig ziek. Ik had dan ook niet durven hopen ooit nog iets nieuws van hem te horen. Minasian is een goede bekende van Latimer: Minasian was verantwoordelijk voor de regie van de live DVD 'Coming Of Age' van Camel. De twee hebben contact gehouden en van het één kwam het ander. En daar zijn wij als luisteraars natuurlijk erg blij mee. Voor mij als groot fan van Latimer al meer dan voldoende reden om contact op te nemen met Minasian om uit de eerste hand te vernemen hoe een en ander tot stand is gekomen. Dat zijn debuut CD sowieso de moeite waard is, is natuurlijk een prettige bijkomstigheid. Mijn gesprekspartner heeft gelukkig ook alle begrip voor de aandacht die niet alleen uitgaat naar zijn cd – en de geweldige bijdrage van zijn zoon Justin – maar vooral ook naar de terugkeer van de Engelse maestro.

Door: Wim S. | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

Hello there, how are you? Where are you and what are you doing right now?
Actually, at this very moment I happen to be 30,000 feet in the air flying from Los Angeles to Boston (about a 3000 mile journey) to meet with some folks about a film project I'll be producing next year. But don't worry, music is still very much on my list of priorities.

Congratulations on the release of your first solo album. Why did you decide to record a solo album right now?
I've been meaning to record something new for quite some time but just kept putting it off. In January of 2009, Andy Latimer called to discuss the new DVD called 'The Opening Farewell' that I was putting together featuring Camel live in concert. During this conversation the subject of me doing a new album came up and he said, “Come on Dave, just do it.” So with his encouragement I finally got my studio set up in June of 2009 and began recording.

What are you, a film director making music, a composer making films and videos or a musician doing everything? Or perhaps none of the above?
Well, I'm not really sure. I began classical piano training when I was five years old and then began making films when I was twelve, and I have loved doing both ever since. During the 1980's when I was trying to determin my career path, I attempted to get a record deal. This was in the days before the internet and you couldn't really market yourself effectively; you had to be signed to a record company. Well, trying to get a recording contract with a bunch of prog demos during that particular era simply wasn't going to happen. Ultimately it was a lot easier for me to find work in the film industry. So although I did record a few albums and soundtracks in the years that followed, I mainly concetrated on films. But music is something I really enjoy and I absolutely loved recording 'Random Acts Of Beauty'. Fortunately, the response to the album has been fantastic and it looks like I'll be doing a lot more music in the future.

Of course we all know you as the director of the highly acclaimed Camel DVD, 'The Coming Of Age'. A beautiful recording of a band in great form. Can you tell our readers a bit more about your work as a videofilm director? How did you get in touch with Camel?
Over the years I've produced and directed more than five dozen film and video projects including seven DVD's for Camel Productions. The first one for Camel was of course 'Coming Of Age' which was followed by 'Curriculum Vitae' and most recently 'The Opening Farewell' featuring Andy Latimer, bassist Colin Bass, drummer Denis Clement, and the amazing Tom Brislin on keys. Our paths crossed back in 1996 when Andy was trying to salvage some amateur footage that had been shot during Camel's 1992 tour and I offered to help out. We weren't able to do anything with that footage but we did make plans to work together on future projects.

I do not wish to hurt your feelings or be rude, but for me your album is all about 'the return' of Andy Latimer. As a big fan I thought I would never hear him play again. And suddenly there is an album by David Minasian and who plays guitar on the first track? Yes Andrew Latimer. Please, tell me more about how that came about?
You're not hurting my feelings at all. You have to understand that as a longtime admirer of Camel, I'm just as thrilled as you are to hear Andy playing again. The first track I recorded for 'Random Acts Of Beauty' was 'Masquerade', the twelve minute opener. I sent the basic track to Andy in July of 2009 to get his opinion and that is when he very, very kindly offered to play on it. When he finished his parts, he sent them to me over the internet from the UK to California and I proceeded to sync them up with the rest of the instruments. My heart was pounding the first time I played it back. To hear his beautiful guitars and vocals blended together with my keyboards, bass and vocals was a truly amazing experience and I of course will always be grateful to him. But as wonderful as it is to hear Andy play again, it's more important to me that he is feeling a little better these days.

How is Andy doing; can we expect more from him in the future? Is he fully recovered or is it still hard for him to do anything? When I hear him sing the last stanza of 'Masquerade', I think I can hear the voice of a tired man?
According to the most recent newsletter from Camel Productions, Andy is doing better and is beginning to focus his attention on music once again. The newsletter goes on to say that Andy and Denis are even writing some new music together, so who knows, might we see something new from Camel in the future? Regarding his vocals on Masquerade, I think Andy was simply stepping into the character of the song. When he sings “life is just a Masquerade”, he's reflecting the weariness of having to live in a world where people aren't always themselves. So I believe it was done for effect rather than the result of tiredness.

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The music on your album sounds very romantic. It is like listening to classical music, baroque or music from the renaissance. I think that is mainly because of the frequent use of the harpsichord and mellotron: it gives the music a sort of medieval touch. Is that the music you particularly like or do you just like to play those type of instruments?
I grew up playing classical piano and many of the pieces I learned as a kid such as Bach's 'French Suites' were from the baroque period. The Mellotron has always been one of my favorite instruments, inspired by the likes of Mike Pinder, Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman, and Woolly Wolstenholme. And I've always loved the harpsichord as well – I use to really like it when the Moody Blues or Focus or Elton John would use it. Previously, I had sort of thought of the harpsichord as a novelty instrument that should only be used occassionally. But when I began recording 'Random Acts Of Beauty', I completely discarded that notion and ended up playing it on every track! Both the Mellotron and harpsichord, along with piano, cello, oboe, and soaring guitar leads have now become a part of my “sound.” Since there are numerous long instrumental passages on the album, I needed to create a unique, identifiable sound that could be recognized even when I wasn't singing.

Songs like 'Blue Rain' and 'Summer's End' remind me a lot of the music of Alan Parsons Project, especially vocal wise. Is that a band that inspired you? Instrumental tracks like 'Storming The Castle' (the only track in which the music becomes heavy) and 'Dark Waters' are more standard symfonic rock like old Genesis, Moody Blues and a bit of Pink Floyd, do you agree?
Musically, I think 'Blue Rain' has a bit of a Moody Blues feel to it while 'Summer's End' sounds like something Barclay James Harvest might do. But you're right, both songs have an Alan Parsons Project (Eric Woolfson) or David Gilmour vibe about the vocals – at least that's what I've been told. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a terribly dramatic singer – Peter Gabriel or Freddie Mercury I am not! But I do think my voice blends in alright with this style of music. Certainly Alan Parsons along with the other bands you've mentioned, plus Yes, Renaissance, Jethro Tull, Strawbs, Focus, Kayak, and of course Camel all had an impact on me growing up. And I'm sure fans of these bands will find something to like about 'Random Acts Of Beauty'.

Your son also plays on the album. Justin is just twenty years old and he impresses with beautiful and very mature guitar playing. Obviously influenced by the great master (Latimer), especially soundwise. Can you tell us a bit more about Justin? Does he want to stay and play music with his father or can we expect different things from him in the near future?
Poor Justin, I felt kind of bad for him. Here you've got legendary Camel guitarist Andy Latimer kicking off the album with a twelve minute tour-de-force and then young Justin is expected to come up behind that and keep the momentum going after the bar has already been set so high! But I have to say Justin did an amazing job. He has an incredible style and technique of his own and has studied all the great progressive bands. His guitar leads on 'Random Acts Of Beauty' are unbelievably beautiful and melodic yet at the same time very powerful. One of the great things about working with him is that he seemed to know just what I wanted without me saying anything. And he's a good writer too – he co-wrote the fourteen minute epic 'Frozen In Time' with me. He'll definitely be appearing on the next album and I wouldn't be surprised if you also hear something from him with his own band in the future.

Do you plan to give any live concerts in the US? Which venues do you intend playing? Are there any plans to come to Europe as well?
There are no tour plans yet but I'm certainly open to it. Songs like 'Summer's End' or 'Storming The Castle' could have a tremendous impact live. But we're going to need to find a bass player first since I did bass on the album but won't be doing it live. And it would be nice if we could get an oboe and cello player on board as well since those parts are so extensive on the album.

What will be the next thing you are going to do? Are you going to do some video/DVD in the near future or do you focus on music right now?
Probably both. I hope to begin writing a new album after the first of the year and have scheduled another film project as well.

Anything you like to add to this interview, David?
I would just like to thank everyone who has been so encouraging throughout the whole process. Letting me know how much you enjoy 'Random Acts Of Beauty' makes it all worthwhile. If you've got some time, stop by and say “hi”.

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