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“It's a funny little thing that I realized on this last tour. I was talking to [keyboardist] Mike Keneally and [bassist] Bryan Beller about some song we were doing off the new record. We were talking about harmonic clusters, and I said, ‘You know, this is something I really want to do. It may look like a conflict of melody and harmony, but I’d like to see how far I can push it.’ I said, ‘Eighteenth-Century counterpoint is really great, but we're in a whole new world now, and I'm going to go in the opposite way as far as I can.’
“I wasn't thinking that I was making a bold statement or I had come to some great moment of clarity about the way that I like to compose, but I remember thinking about what I said, and I thought to myself, ‘Really?’ I went back and started looking at some of my songs, and I went, ‘Wow, this is a good way for me to understand just for myself what I've been doing.’
“I got a push in high school from my music theory teacher, Bill Westcott. I remember the day he sat me down at the piano and said, ‘Listen to this.’ He was playing these two chords that were moving in contrary directions, and he was trying to explain some modal thing to me. I remembered listening to that and going, ‘Damn! You know, that's not 18th-Century counterpoint. That's not what we've been studying and working on.’ He said, ‘Yeah, obviously not. As a matter of fact, it's completely against it. These are things you can do. You can go against.’ It was a sound I was waiting to hear, obviously, because it shows up in all of these records.
“I think the title track starts off with a bold statement, possibly one of the boldest statements an electric guitar player can possible make. In other words, if you listen to everybody else's records from the ‘80s, it’s ‘Listen to me. I'm a great guitar player.’ I start out, the iconoclast, and I say, ‘Screw everybody else. What everybody thinks is a bold statement, I am going to come out in a completely different way.’ What do I do? I come out with these cluster chords that right from the start say, ‘What key am I in? Go figure it out for yourself.’ It's funny. It just seemed like the most fun and interesting thing for me to hear. I wasn't scheming – I didn't even know the importance of what I was doing, nor did I think there was anything important about it.
“When I listen to the high-res 96k remastering of the record, it's almost like I’m sitting in a beautiful antique car: ‘Wow, the luxury of yesteryear. Look at the detail everybody put into everything.’ At the time, of course, it was stark and modern sounding to us, but I look back on it and it sounds patina-ed almost, or like it's got a bit of antiquity to it now because of how we did it, just the analog quality of it.
“We were purposely going against the grain. I literally showed up at the studio with no amp. I think what we wound up with was a Pro Reverb or something like that. We recorded everything quietly except for maybe one song; for that I brought in a Marshall that I had been using in The Squares. Around this time, I was so sick of the cult of vintage. I had been teaching at a guitar store, and day after day people would come in and say, ‘Oh, look at this. It's a '54 but it's got a '56 screw.’ Or ‘I'll pay you double if it has the right screw.’ All these people were spending more money than I thought I'd ever see, and they couldn't play for shit.
“I thought, ‘This is where it's going? People are obsessing about the vintage quality of things, and they're not actually playing anything? They've got no style, nothing to say.’ So I was like, ‘I’ll just show up and use whatever amps are in the closet. I'm gonna use this little Scholz Rockman. How about that?’ That was just me refusing to go along with the crowd.
“It's funny how the whole thing worked out. It was fun. The sheer joy that [engineer and co-producer] John Cuniberti and I had listening back to a song like The Enigmatic – knowing that no one else would be brave enough or stupid enough to record it, to spend actual hard-earned money on music like that – it just made us happy.”