Having absolutely devoured every sound in his debut solo album “Calling All Dawns”, HPM were dying to chat with Christopher Tin and lucky us, we were able to get a few questions to the musical maestro. Here’s what he had to say:
There are so many different conceptual sides to “Calling All Dawns”, where did they all come from such as the life/day cycle and the decision to use 12 different languages?
I’ve always been a fan of concept albums–I think it comes from growing up listening to bands like Pink Floyd and The Who. Albums like The Wall, Tommy, etc. demanded that the listener appreciate them in total, and not just by skipping around track to track. I wanted to create something like that. I can’t remember where the idea to do a song cycle about the life cycle came from, but the idea to do it in 12 languages certainly came out of an urge to do something unifying, that stretched across cultures. We’re really not so different as a people, are we? We may speak different languages and pray to different gods, but there are certain elements of the human condition that we all share. We all love. We all hate. We all live; and then we all die. And even though we’re in disagreement about the details about what happens next, we all live on in some way.
Why also did you choose religious scripts and lyrical poetry as lyrics for each piece?
It comes back to the idea of pointing out the similarities between cultures, and not dwelling on the differences. Half the songs are sacred; half are secular. Secularity is as much a part of this world as spirituality. Much of the world is not religious, yet has varying philosophies on what happens after death–why not give voice to them?
Were there any cultures or languages you’d have liked to have visited on the project?
Absolutely! I have ideas for a follow up album that I’d like to start working on after the dust settles on Calling All Dawns. There are certain ensembles out there that I would love to work with; for example, I’d love to work with Le Mystere De Voix Bulgares, the celebrated Bulgarian women’s chorus. I’d love to do some more with West African singers, Arabic singers… perhaps touch upon some more South African languages, like Zulu, Xhosa or Sotho. Oh, and maybe I’ll do a song in English, too. I hear that’s a popular language.
How did it feel to record in such a large scale at Abbey Road Studios which is steeped in such grand history?
Pretty grand, I would say! But I was actually only in Abbey Road for a little over a day. It may sound crazy, but we recorded the orchestra for the entire album in a single day. I booked the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for 7 hours, they came in, and recorded all 46:40 of the album, mostly on the 2nd or 3rd takes of each song–they’re that good! After the sessions were over, though, we took a little time to take a tour with one of the assistant engineers. I got to see the speakers that they mixed Dark Side Of The Moon on, got to play the Mrs. Mills piano, the tack piano that Paul plays on Lady Madonna and Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da… it was a blast.
There is a particular warmth to the album which is always joyous and uplifting. Was that a conscious decision and how did you go about achieving that?
I tend to go for warmth in my music, and to achieve that you make a series of decisions throughout the entire process to help achieve that goal. It starts right from the very beginning, when you’re choosing what notes you write. It carries through to the orchestration, when you choose what instruments to use to support the vocals–do you double the strings with trombones? Clarinets? How do you mark them dynamically, so that they support the strings without overshadowing them? Then you hire an orchestra. Which one do you want? Different orchestras have different sounds to them. The strings in London sound different than those in Los Angeles. Then you pick a studio and an engineer. That one was easy–John Kurlander, former head of Abbey Road, was my guy for recording at Abbey Road, which has a wonderfully warm sound. Then you mix and master. In that final step, mastering, we took an interesting route–we actually transferred all the digital mixes to analogue tape, and then re-digitized it. Tape actually imparts a certain warmth and glow to the recording, and I think you can really hear that in the final product.
So far the press have loved the album. How does it feel to have such wide acclaim for your work?
Great! This album took almost four years of my life to create, so it’s nice to know that people seem to like it.
Are there any particular moments on the album you feel most proud of?
There are 8 bars in track 10, “Hamsafar”, that I really like actually. It’s the second half of the second verse–I wrote a ton of counterpoint in the orchestra and backing vocals, and put a ton of detail into that passage. Most listeners probably won’t hear it, but it makes me smile to know it’s there.
Are there any other plans for Christopher Tin and/or “Calling All Dawns” in the near future?
After the album’s initial release, I plan on making some additional products available. I’ll be releasing the full score on my website, for example, for anyone who just wants to dig into the notes. And then I’m thinking of making remix packs available for some of the songs, for anyone who wants to do some remixing. I’m all about fan generated videos, remixes, mashups, art, etc. In fact, I hope to be featuring some fan-generated work on my site in the near future. [Ed – I may take you up on that!]
Christopher Tin’s album “Calling All Dawns” is available at his website: www.christophertin.com