MSJ: The new Ajalon CD is quite a departure from your previous efforts, can you expound upon that?
Wil Henderson: We weren't looking to reinvent ourselves so much as we simply felt it was time to push our abilities as far as they would take us. What really makes This Good Place special, from my perspective, is that once everyone decided to go in this direction, we all just relaxed and allowed the end result to emerge in whatever shape it ended up taking. Furthermore, I actually took a year-long hiatus from the band during this project to complete my work on a research project related to disaster and mass-casualty nursing. Looking back, I think that it was one of the best things to happen to Ajalon because it forced us to bring in other musicians and vocalists, who in turn presented fresh ideas and approaches. For Randy, Dan and me, trusting each other was easy because we have known each other for so many years. But to not only bring in fresh eyes, ears and voices, but also to allow them to infuse their respective personalities into the music, was an entirely untried and radical approach for us. As far as I am concerned, the result is quite lovely. The contributions of Rick Altizer, Jonathan Sindelman, Alan Genatossio, and Robyn Dawn (among others) have given Ajalon's music tremendous flexibility and depth.
Randy George: We took a completely different approach to writing it. Having our own studio and the time to develop the ideas was a big plus. But I think a lot of it was we started out working with drum ideas from the ground up which took the music into more adventurous territory. We get a better sense of Dan’s voice in the music which really gives it a lot of depth. Coupled with the guest contributions that Wil mentioned… and you have This Good Place.
Dan Lile: The way we recorded the first two CDs was me playing drums to songs that had already been programmed, so it already had a more established rhythm in place which I used as a starting point. This time I came up with a lot of the rhythm ideas first and we developed the songs around them. It gave me a chance to create more of the rhythmic structure of our sound.
Dan, which drummers have had the most impact on you?
Dan Lile: Ian Paice (Deep Purple), Neal Peart, Bill Bruford, Phil Collins - I really like their dynamic and pioneering styles. I’m also very much into guys like Dennis Chambers, Simon Phillips, Narada Michael Walden and Billy Cobham to name just a few.
Wil, your writing style has become somewhat more poetic, what was your main inspiration for these songs?
Wil Henderson: The “poetic” style that you describe might be the result of my having changed my approach to lyric writing for the purposes of this CD. My approach to writing lyrics has always been a little strange. When I write, I can't force anything- it never works when I do. I have to relax and simply allow the lyrics to “fall onto the page” in whatever form they end up taking. Some songs have taken shape in a few minutes; lyrics for other songs have taken months (or in one case, years) to complete. This Good Place was a tremendous challenge for me because for the first time I wrote with a particular overall concept in mind that is, the theme of the whole project, which was Christ Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son - and as if that wasn't challenge enough, I had to accomplish it within a finite period of time. Because of this, I had to actively “pull the words out of my head” and arrange them to fit the concept rather than take the former, more passive approach. At the same time, I wanted to evoke the vivid imagery that characterizes my writing - only the lyrics on this CD are perhaps more vivid than is typical for me. It was fun to try writing this way, and I am pleased with the results.
I’m sure there have been more projects in the world of Randy George. You seem to be involved in a lot of things. Can you catch us up?
Randy George: Well I have been busy working on the Ajalon CD for the last few years, but I also produced a remake of a classic Phil Keaggy song which I released on CPR 3. CPR 3 is the third in the series and was released last year. In addition to that, I have been producing some independent one off things for some clients. I have also been busy with Parallels - The Music Of Yes which is our Yes Tribute band in Seattle. So between doing shows with them and trying to bring the Ajalon CD to the live stage I have been pretty busy.
If you weren't involved in music, what do you think you'd be doing?
Wil Henderson: I currently have a full-time career as an ER nurse, so of course I would continue that. I am also a clinical instructor for a local university. (Being called “Professor” is kind of fun!) As far as my creative side is concerned, I enjoy woodcraft. I have designed and built furniture for my family, and I'm currently building a 20-foot wooden sailboat. If I wasn't involved in music, I would probably be doing a lot more of that. It's a good outlet and very satisfying.
Randy George: I have no idea... sleeping probably.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Dan Lile: I think it is both. It takes a lot of effort and money to come out with a CD and to have someone downloading illegally is a crime same as stealing. However, I do not have a problem with downloading music if it is paid for up front.
Wil Henderson: I think that downloading helps unsigned and independent bands, and that it hurts bands that have been signed to major labels and are thus under pressure to bring in large amounts of money. Then again, I personally think that the major labels have always been the single greatest hindrance to individual creativity and musical integrity. Before the advent of the internet, the major labels were the only avenue by which a band could ever hope to reach a large audience. What the Internet provides is the opportunity for any band to get their product out to a worldwide audience without going through the “creativity meat grinders” forced upon artists by the major labels. If the major labels can't compete with an open, easily-accessible and free market, it's nobody's fault but their own. The labels need to change with the times or die out, just like any other business. I certainly won't feel sorry for them, considering the stranglehold they put on aspiring artists.
Randy George: I suppose that will always be subjective. I'm not sure there is any real proof that it does help, but the exposure is always good. I think most people who download stuff rarely go out and buy CD's so I would be hesitant to say that it is helpful in the long run. If it worked that someone would download a song or two and say "I like this" then go out and buy the CD then that would be a good thing. I think that's the exception rather than the rule.
In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Randy George: I think that is a double-edged sword. On one hand it's great to have something people are passing around and looking at, but the quality ranges from poor to fair and that doesn't help when you have all the rough spots out there glaring for all to see. The reduced sound quality can make it sound worse than it really was.
Wil Henderson: Well, now we are talking about intellectual property and the legal protection thereof. The advent of video-capable cell phones has made it possible for thousands of people to obtain their own bootleg recordings of the same concert. (I have yet to hear about concert venues confiscating all cell phones before a performance and returning them after the performance is over.) Ultimately, I think that this is a case where the prevalence of technology has made it nearly impossible for the music industry to protect intellectual property. The only means by which a band can effectively thwart the recording of live shows is to stop performing live shows. I don't see that happening any time soon. My position is that as long as the recordings are not being sold for profit (thus violating intellectual property laws), it's really not a big deal.
If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch-nemesis and why?
Wil Henderson: My musical arch-nemesis would be Kanye West and others like him. Kanye West embodies the antithesis of musical creativity. He embraces and promotes values and practices (violence, self-worship and the degradation of women, for example) that corrode a healthy society. He publicly tramples on others, without regard to the people harmed by him, just to get his own face in the picture. He erodes the collective IQ of any given group by just showing up. Stated succinctly, Kanye West is a crass, narcissistic, blathering idiot- and probably the single most persuasive argument against the continued existence of the major recording labels that give people like him a large audience.
Randy George: Rappers and Gangsters... need I explain further?
If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it?
Randy George: Well I would have to play bass... I suppose Peter Gabriel would sing, Dennis Chambers on drums, Alan Holdsworth on guitar and Jordan Rudess on keys.
If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view, who would be playing?
Randy George: Genesis, Rush, Yes, Steve Hackett
What’s ahead for you?
Wil Henderson: There are a lot of things going on with me right now on all fronts. Of course, I want to continue working with Dan and Randy. Professionally, I am considering pursuit of a postgraduate degree (not that I can afford it) so that I can become a tenured professor at a nursing program. There are some opportunities opening up for me regarding my nursing career as well. Not knowing what lies around the next curve is part of the grand adventure as I see it.
Randy George: I plan to continue to bring Ajalon's music to the live stage. I am really into playing more live shows for a while. I am also planning to finish my second solo CD.
Finally, are there any closing thoughts you’d like to get out there?
Randy George: Ajalon will be performing in concert at RosFest 2010 in GettysburgPA. Keep an eye out for some other lives dates forthcoming from Ajalon. You can check out the new music at www.myspace.com/ajalonband. We wish to thank everyone for their continued support and special thanks to MSJ for supporting Ajalon over the years.
Wil Henderson: I want to thank all the people who have followed Ajalon and cheered us on for the past sixteen years. I sincerely hope that our newest project is a blessing to them and that as they listen, they catch a glimpse of a God who loves them dearly.