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The SLOW DANCE-Project

The origins of The Ant Band

info & order | track by track | review | interview | Slow Dance project

Four middle-aged men start a joint project in October 2013:

They want to rehearse an instrumental piece for a single performance within less than six months. That doesn't sound particularly spectacular at first glance; only when you take a closer look at the circumstances you can get an idea of the challenge behind this project: The piece in question is the first part of the first part of Slow Dance, the beginning of the Anthony Phillips album of the same name from 1990, which consists of two approx. 20-minute instrumental suites. The four musicians with very different backgrounds hardly know each other or only briefly - what happened that this "crazy idea" could become reality?

Ant mit MartinMartin Brilla remembers:

"At the beginning of October, the fan club announced that there will be an ANTHONY PHILLIPS event in Welkers in March 2014 - with Ant himself. For me as a long-time fan it was clear that I couldn't miss it. There were some people in the forum who were happy like me. With anticipation alone, however, it should not remain."

The announcement of the fanclub is to everyone's surprise:

As you know, Anthony does not play live to audiences (anymore), so there will not be a concert with him. We still want to bring his music live to the stage of the civic centre, though. […] We therefore ask all you musicians out there: Listen to Ant Phillips' albums and try to find a song to play for all of us in March!

Martin's original favourite is the Scottish Suite from the album Private Parts & Pieces II - Back to the Pavilion:

"I have always found the opener Salmon Leap fascinating. But you would have needed a real band - with drums and bass (there's someone called Mike Rutherford playing it on the album). In addition, the demands on the keyboard player seemed to me to be not insignificant, which is why I flinched from it. Then I came to Slow Dance."

Proben beim Event Sascha Krieger remembers the call in the German forum:

"The daring Martin Brilla, who was washed with all the waters, had the sweet idea that one could easily play this little masterpiece of Phillips' work, which was only consisting of about three notes, with two people after two rehearsals on two occasions at the fan club meeting. Won't be that hard. It's not Varese. I saw it the same way and we all quickly agreed: It runs."

In addition to Sascha, Peter Musto and Thomas Waltner register, the latter even offers his apartment in Solingen for rehearsals and quickly becomes musically active:

"He had transcribed everything, which pleased me, because this saved me a lot of work that would inevitably have required listening out," Martin reports. "But then the perfectionist in me came through: He hadn't quite hit the so important chord sequences at the beginning, which are so important because they have a formative influence on the chord sequences, which are also taken up again later. So at Christmas 2013, as a consequence, I couldn't help to write down the chords for days, exactly as they were in the original. This was particularly difficult because the sounds were so wonderfully 'wafting' and they were mixed with wind noise. At the end of Christmas Day I had 'already' finished the first 30 seconds..."

Thomas admits unapologetically:

"Shortly before Christmas I had played the piece through together with a friend, and there were still some mistakes, things I had written down wrong. Mainly wrong signs at the end of the piece, but also a few times chord names without crosses (actually so conspicuous that one overlooks it again...)."

Noten In view of the score, Peter now has an idea what to expect - there will be no getting around rehearsing together. Since he lives in Berlin, this is of course a problem for him due to the distance. He therefore suggests that Thomas' friend should take part in the rehearsals instead of him, but the friend does not want to. Thomas therefore hires Tom Morgenstern shortly after Christmas, of whom he knows that he plays guitar and also lives in the Rhineland area. This means that rehearsals are no longer a major logistical problem, except for Sascha: "Solingen. Was 'around the corner' for the others, for me it could as well be on the other side of the world. So a three-hour ride. But on the other hand – like another merciless Ying and Yang strike - I live only 20 minutes away from the navel of the (fan club) world. Around the corner from Welkers. Magic foam."

Three months have already passed; the first line-up change has taken place and they have not yet rehearsed together. However, the date is set: on 12 January, the four of them are due to meet in Solingen for the first time. Meanwhile, Martin has finished the essential parts. However, Tom is still waiting for his tablatures at the beginning of January, because he cannot read notes. When he finally gets them one week before the rehearsal, he finds out: "They were practically useless. Of course, Thomas was a trained keyboard player and didn't know much about fingerings for guitarists. I also noticed that Ant plays a lot more in the original - instead of single notes there were arpeggios that required full chords. So I had to work on the parts myself in a very short time. Finally, I was also asked if I happen to play keyboards, because they needed another one for the end. I came up with the idea to bring my 'YouRockGuitar', a device reminiscent of a guitar that can be used to remotely control a synthesizer via MIDI."

Sascha doesn't know how to read notes either and he finds out the chords for himself:

Aufnahmen„Luckily, Tom had taken over the lead guitar and the other guys had taken over the keys and wind instruments and I was able to walk on the paths of Mike Rutherford and so I could always stay in the background. I didn't even have to play bass pedals. Perfect. At the rehearsals, this had the advantage that I was able to witness in amazement, how wonderfully Thomas had the whole piece in view, in order to push it into our minds, incredibly patiently and in love with detail - as 'clone master' of Ant, so to speak.
Breaks consisted of biscuits and coffee and tea. It was almost like being at the legendary cottage! Only on the 4th floor, in Solingen and... well, not the cottage. But nice anyway. Further advantages: Thomas was a fan of old keyboards and old equipment. So there was always something to marvel at.“

There are only three or four rehearsals with all four musicians. Sascha has to pass a few times because of the distance and immediately the other three notice that there is an important link missing, because his guitar part, apart from the intro, runs through the whole piece. The rehearsals without him are therefore less effective. Only at the penultimate rehearsal the four of them manage to play through the piece without any mistakes for the first time.

In retrospect, Martin regrets not having had more time:

"I would have preferred to 'compress' the entire album into 10-15 minutes of composition and then present this summary live. That would have been a fantastic challenge for me. Whether I would have mastered it is another matter. Given the tight deadlines, it would only have worked in any case if I had started work immediately. And took leave to have enough time for it. Which, of course, was completely illusory as a self-employed person. But one can still dream...“

AuftrittSascha likes to think back to the two performances in Welkers:

„There's a video of it and I think we did really well. And Ant liked it too. It's just great that he took the time to say a few words after each performance. As a musician, this is something you really appreciate after spending time and, in my case, miles of it.
Snapshot Day 2: After I make the wind sound during the intro on Thomas' synth, I tear the flute down with my open jacket when I go back to my stool. Ouch, ouch, very embarrassing. The performance seemed to me something.... in Hessian, they say, 'Huddled'.“

Already during the event, the four musicians come up with the idea of recording the piece "properly" - Tom's attic studio is a good place for this. An appointment is quickly found, and only three weeks later they meet up again. Thomas considers three possibilities for the arrangement in advance:

"1. Playing exactly the same way as at the gig.

2. Working out a few more details (for example, recording the third guitar part as a third voice at the beginning, not leaving out the chords; playing flute, playing keyboards from me completely in the middle, recording the flute/oboe duo just before the end actually with flute and recorder). Those things that we couldn't do live.

3. Trying out other sounds; e. g. use Martin's sampler at the end (would sound more realistic like strings). Or I'll bring the Mello and we'll double things up. With Mellotron it would sound more "retro", like from the time of Geese & the Ghost. Could be interesting, but maybe it doesn't fit so well. It will definitely sound very different from the Crumar string synthesizer or Martin's JX 3P, warmer, vintage, but also a little bit more out-of-tune. We'll see if it fits, or if some chords just don't sound good (the single notes of the violins sound in C# somehow slightly crooked, unfortunately) - or if you try out different sounds. I have cello, 3 violins, flute (which sounds quite different from a real one), church organ and the mixed choir. Exactly, the famous one... ; -)

We could try some funny things out there. Since the number of tracks is unlimited, we can record everything and decide what works and what doesn't when mixing. Or what sounds most interesting. Since we are well-practised, it shouldn't take forever to record the tracks individually, even if we want to be very accurate. I'm pretty sure of that."

Ant mit Tom On Sunday, April 13,2014 the studio session takes place. The Mellotron makes it (in parts) without scratches into the attic and without any major breakdowns, the basic tracks are played live together by all of them, after which they do countless overdubs. Sascha plays two tracks with Tom's 12-string Ovation and also has one hand free for the shimmering synth sound at the beginning, he and Thomas operate the Mellotron alternately, Martin adds a piano, Tom adds his fretless Fender Jazz bass and finally Thomas unpacks his glockenspiel. Then the day is already over, leaving almost 30 recorded tracks in Pro Tools, which are to be mixed at some point.
But Tom first wants to completely rebuild his studio and make it suitable for 5.1 surround sound. In the weeks after that, however, the first thing to do is to edit the stereo recording of the live performance. For this, Tom can use some synth tracks from the studio recording, which unfortunately were lost in the live soundboard recording. Thomas masterfully cuts the videos filmed by three cameras and releases the result on YouTube in December 2014.

This seems to be the end of the project. They occasionally meet at concerts or other fan club events, but mixing the studio recording does not have a high priority.
The fact that it was completed almost four years later is due to the sad circumstance that Thomas Waltner died unexpectedly a year ago, just a few days after his 52nd birthday. Again Martin is the initiator here - at the beginning of the year he suggests to release the recording together with the short clips that Sascha and Thomas made during the studio session, just in time for Thomas' first anniversary of his death on February 13, 2018.

Sascha deserves the closing words:

Thomas Waltner R.I.P„Of course, one could now say how nice it was to meet Thomas and that no one can take away the memories of this time and that it was a shock, of course. It is and it is true, but I found it to be a very great injustice and a poor testimony to... I don't know if you call it 'destiny' or 'the Lord', that Thomas had to leave at this age. A big mistake on the one who's in charge. Irony of fate - Thomas liked 'mistakes'. He told me that he would always prefer the 'faulty' sound of a real Mellotron to the 'perfect' sound of a digitally reproduced Mellotron sound. The mistakes would bring the sound to life. That's a good point.
Speaking of Mellotron: It was an honour with Martin, Tom and Thomas to haul Thomas' faulty but alive and not at all light Mellotron up the stairs of Tom's house. If possible, I'd say, 'Anytime again!'“

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