Forever In Transit released a spectacular album last year “States Of Disconnection”, and Dan is going to release a follow up EP soon titled “Reconnection”. I wanted to get the world to see how Dan is, his creative mind works, what his influences are, and in general get his music out there that should be heard by more people. He’s a really cool dude, hope you dig the interview and maybe gather some quality information and advice. Oh, and by the way he’s graciously given us the new EP as well! Enjoy everything!
TMR” Explain your journey as a musician…..when you started, your first instrument….give everyone a glimpse into your artistic journey.
I started playing piano when I was 5 or 6, and started drums and guitar when I was in high school. I didn’t really get into composition until well into high school – maybe junior or senior year? I had a lot of great friends in school who are very talented and pushed me to challenge myself more and more. I started transcribing video game soundtracks and making piano arrangements for a website and that’s what really got me into composition! I didn’t start playing metal until I was almost through high school – was more of a jazz and film/game score guy – and had been in a couple of bands that became progressively more progressive until I decided to pursue Forever in Transit as my main creative outlet.
TMR: How and when did you become a multi instrumentalist? As long as I’ve known you, that’s what’s wowed me the most outside of your talent. It’s great to see artists that want to tackle more things, and try their best at many things rather than stick to just one.
I started playing piano at a young age, but I wanted to play in concert band in middle school. I tried mallet percussion since there was a lot of carryover from piano. When I got into high school, the band director wanted me to take drum lessons to become a more balanced percussionist and I stuck with them through college – my drum teacher, Kevin Soltis, still teaches in Buffalo and has been one of the most positive influences on my playing to date! Guitar and bass I sort of picked up along the way jamming with my brother and friends in school. I didn’t really start to take guitar seriously until I began playing in rock and metal bands in college. I’m most proficient as a drummer and keyboardist.
I view myself more as a composer than as a performer of any one instrument, so I learned how to play each instrument just because I needed to out of necessity to write! I’m not the sort of person to settle in my comfort zone, and that’s why I love Forever in Transit – it’s a no-holds-barred creative outlet and I can keep pushing and expanding and realizing my sound!
TMR: Do you think you’ll have any shows for Forever In Transit?
I would love to put a live show together, especially as I release more material. The biggest challenge is that there are so many musicians involved, plus I play all of the keyboard and drum parts myself in studio. I would need to find either a drummer or keyboardist, and make sure that I have all of the vocals covered. Backing tracks for the keyboard parts are an option, but I’d much rather hit the stage with a full lineup! As I’m finishing the material for the next FiT LP, the line-up is starting to gel. Re:Connection features Eric Richardson on guitar, adding a lot of cool textural and atmospheric tones and effects, as well as Jeremy Schroeder, who contributed most of the guitar on States of Disconnection.
TMR: Explain how you came up with the name for your band and why it seemed to fit.
I spend a lot of time working with sound design and recording ambient soundscapes. I recorded the very first track of States of Disconnection, the ambient opener Forever in Transit, on New Year’s Eve a few years back. I’m terrible at naming things, but the impression I got hearing the song played back was of something sort of suspended in the air, never quite reaching its intended destination. To me, “forever in transit” implies a focus on the journey and of growth rather than a fixation on the end goal or destination. I think it is a very appropriate name for this project because I intend for it to represent my growth as a composer and in a broader sense as a person. I’ve met a lot of talented musicians and artists along the way and I want to feature them in the project as well. It’s a vehicle for the lessons I’ve learned along the way, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. At its core, FIT is about taking the listener on a sonic journey without regard for established convention.
TMR: You recently started to try to sing. What motivated you to try? And what vocalists do you love and inspire you vocally and lyrically?
I’ve always wanted to try singing – there’s something that is just so intrinsically captivating and expressive about a great vocal performance. Also, I’ve had a hell of a time trying to find vocalists that are a good fit for Forever in Transit. Initially, I felt that I would benefit from practicing singing, learning the mechanics of the voice and how to write “proper” vocal arrangements, and then to have the parts I write performed by a session vocalist. I took private vocal lessons for a while and I feel I’ve really improved with practice. Again, I view myself more as a composer than as a performer, so I began singing to write better music! I think I will always have other vocalists fronting the material for FIT, but if nothing else, I can contribute a lot more. The vocal section of “Fractal Shards” is the first I’ve really contributed vocally to any project I’ve been a part of, and I think it turned out well if I may say so!
As far as my favorite vocalists, I’ve always loved Chino Moreno from Deftones. He has such an ethereal voice and his sense of melody is very unique. Daniel Tompkins from Tesseract is fantastic as well – easily among the best live vocalists I’ve ever seen. Other vocalists that come to mind are Devin Townsend, Daniel Gildenlow from Pain of Salvation, Einar Solberg from Leprous, and Greg Puciato from The Black Queen and Dillinger Escape Plan.
TMR: Go into further detail about your astonishing debut album “States of Disconnection” and its themes and lyrics. Describe your album for the people that haven’t heard it yet.
States is conceptually rooted in the theme of connectivity – how we engage with the world around us, including our sense of identity and community, and how we frame our reality. Specifically, each song deals with a lapse in connection in some way. The World That Never Was explores how people tend to project into or escape into narratives – novels, video games, television series – essentially contextualizing their sense of reality with a work of fiction. Level All Waves deals with the information overload that is so pervasive in modern society, and how it can numb us to extreme events as well as warp our sense of self and how we view those we perceive as “other”. Glass Bridge was originally intended as a metaphor for one’s life goals and the treacherous, fragile path we have to walk to realize those goals. One wrong step, the bridge goes down. Trial By Fire deals with humanity’s attempt to understand its own place in the universe, from a more existentialist standpoint, rationalizing our own existence. It is one individual’s life-changing search within themself for these answers. The title track deals with the pain of separation, as one is separated from their friends and families – disconnect from a more interpersonal standpoint. It ends with a more positive sentiment that disconnection is not necessarily a permanent or final state.
From a musical standpoint, it is an amalgam of the diverse forms of music that I’ve explored growing up, and my attempt to integrate those sounds into a cohesive whole that represents where I’m at as a composer. With the exception of James Jagow’s guitar solos on Honor and States, I composed all of the music as well as lyrics. I drew influence from progressive music, especially Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree, New Age and Ambient forms, fusion and world music. My songwriting has also been heavily influenced by game music, which a whole diverse world itself! The way I approached writing the instrumental side is by viewing each instrument as a cog in a greater machine, rather than allowing any one instrument to take the forefront. This was my first effort writing entirely on my own, so I felt that approach would be interesting in that I was the only ego in the room! I feel that unless a band has incredible chemistry, that interwoven approach much harder to pull off.
TMR: What bands have inspired you the most as an artist?
Dream Theater was my gateway into prog, and I have learned an invaluable amount of information from them by listening to/studying their material – everything from arrangement to synth sound design and constructing more long-form, instrumentally heavy songs. What I love about Dream Theater is that their music always seems to take me on a journey, and that as adventurous as they can be, they maintain cohesion and their own sound. That is exactly what I want to achieve as a composer! Octavarium was I think the first album I heard from them start to finish. Panic Attack from that record is one of my favorite covers to play on drums!
My biggest artistic influence at this point is Cynic. They have such a unique blend of death metal, jazz fusion, world, prog – you name it – and their ethos and integrity as artists is admirable! To me, they one of the most ground-breaking bands in the prog scene, not to mention all of the other projects that the members of Cynic have contributed to! They are my benchmark for artistic freedom and a forward-thinking, convention-eschewing mentality. I had the incredible opportunity a view years back to take a few songwriting lessons from Paul Masvidal, Cynic’s vocalist and guitarist. Carbon Based Anatomy is I think my all-time favorite song.
TMR: Who are your favorite drummers and keyboardists?
Favorite drummers: Sean Reinert, Mike Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Craig Blundell, David Garibaldi, Matt Garstka, and Baard Kolstad
Favorite keyboardists: Diego Tejeida, Jordan Rudess, Hiromi Uehara, Ludovico Einaudi, Nobuo Uematsu, Kevin Moore, and Daniel Pizarro
**Favorite at time of this interview and the first that come to mind! There are so many incredible musicians out there – far too many to list!
TMR: Can you go into detail about the track you’re debuting “Fractal Shards”? And what made you want to dip into the instrumental side of prog this time around?
Fractal Shards is a track that I wrote and demoed out around the same time I was finishing States of Disconnection. It is inspired by the rendering of fractals – an often simple pattern is repeated unto itself, with no apparent structure initially, until after enough iterations a complex shape emerges. This is a component of chaos theory, where the initial conditions and patterns of repetition have profound implications on the system later on, like the butterfly effect. This idea is represented by a large number of fairly simple, repetitive layers. The track begins without any apparent structure, then as more and more layers come in, and the different parts are arranged together, the track evolves and develops a cohesive structure. The challenge I made for myself was to create a track that was interesting and engaging to the listener despite the repetitive nature of the song.
Musically, I was heavily inspired by post-rock(bit of a phase!) as well as unconventional long-form prog tunes like Porcupine Tree’s Voyage 34 and Riverside’s Eye of the Soundscape. I wanted to expand on the sonic pallet I was using so far for FIT, especially by exploring more diverse and effected guitar tones and getting more into synthesis and sound design. Eric delivered on all fronts in that regards – he has a great collection of guitar pedals and other gear and is fantastic at designing tones. Coupled with Jeremy’s technical savvy and flexibility, all bases were more than covered from the guitar standpoint. I performed most of the keyboard parts using my Roli Seaboard, which is a keyboard controller with a continuous silicone surface allowing for vastly more expression compared to a standard keyboard. It’s my favorite piece of gear I own! I decided to record Fractal as an interim release along with another unreleased track I had written around that same time, while working on the next full length album. I’ve compiled these two tracks as a release called Re:Connection because, for me, it was a revisiting of the years I spent working on States of Disconnection. As far as dipping into the instrumental side, that is honestly vastly more natural for me than writing with vocals in mind!
“At the earliest stages structure is unclear
Without warning, sudden changes appear.
A system of spiral complexity
An unstable system of calculated error
All semblance of order derailed – It will eventually fail.
Each step amplified by the last
A thousand fractal shards in a system of disregard”
- Fractal Shards, Forever in Transit
TMR: Who are some of your favorite bands that are newer or underground that you think are going to make a serious impact on the music scene? Namedrop, son!
There are a ton of great prog bands coming out of the Boston area – Native Construct, Thank You Scientist, Bent Knee, Astronoid, and In the Presence of Wolves – and each one is breathing a bit of new life into the scene. For example, NC has ridiculously tight orchestral arrangements, TYS incorporates horns and violin into their sound, and Astronoid has this totally ethereal yet melodic approach to their sound. Other innovative prog bands that come to mind are Earthside, Agent Fresco, White Moth Black Butterfly, Disperse, Persefone, and Vola. One trend that I’ve been enjoying the past few years is how much more attention is being paid to arrangement and sound design, which really serves to push the envelop as far as what a “conventional” band can sound like and achieve.
TMR: What albums are you looking forward to and what are your favorites so far in 2019?
I can’t wait to hear Devin Townsend’s new album, Empath. I’m sure it will be a trip! At the time of writing this, I’m currently listening to Dream Theater’s Distance Over Time – I’m about halfway through my first listen and so far it’s been very fun and refreshing! Apparently Leprous is working on a follow-up to 2017’s Malina – stoked to hear more from them! Also, Paul Masvidal is releasing a series of mini-albums this year titled Mystical Human Vessel – I’m incredibly excited to hear it.
TMR: Your favorite albums of all time?
Pretty much everything Cynic has released, Porcupine Tree’s last few albums, Haken’s Affinity and The Mountain, Deftone’s White Pony, Dream Theater’s Octavarium, Six Degrees, and Dramatic Turn of Events. Megadeth’s Rust in Peace and Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell were my gateway into metal. Mastodon’s Crack the Skye. Isis’ In the Absence of Truth. Blood by OSI. Play With Fire by the Reign of Kindo. The first four Devin Townsend Project albums. A lot of Coheed and Cambria material would make the cut too. There are too many to name, and I guarantee I’ll think of dozens more to include by the time this is published!!
TMR: You can only bring ten albums with you on a lengthy road trip…..whaddya got?
- Carbon Based Anatomy – Cynic
- Fear of a Blank Planet – Porcupine Tree
- Hand. Cannot. Erase. – Steven Wilson
- Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence – Dream Theater
- White Pony – Deftones
- In the Passing Light of Day – Pain of Salvation
- Affinity – Haken
- The Alchemy Index – Thrice
- Blackwater Park – Opeth
- Fractured – Lunatic Soul
TMR: Your favorite piece of gear you own? Anything on your wishlist currently?
My Seaboard, hands down!! It’s essentially an ultra-expressive MIDI controller with a continuous silicone playing surface. Currently looking to upgrade my drum kit, probably a Tama Starclassic in some kinda of green or blue finish. I’ve been hoping to pick up some sort of analog hardware synth soon as well! Maybe a Korg Monologue or one of Arturia’s synths.
TMR: You collect vinyl & albums like any other artist….go into detail about your collection. Any new purchases?
I got into collecting vinyl about two years ago, and I think at this point I have about 100 albums. I managed to find a copy of every release Cynic has put out to date including their EPs, Retracted and Carbon Based Anatomy which were really limited runs! I found a copy of Carbon from a seller in Ukraine which thankfully was in great condition! Last year Thrice put out a 10th anniversary version of The Alchemy Index which is just gorgeous. The Alchemy Index is a series of 4 EPs each themed to the four classical elements, each of which has its own songwriting and production style. Fire is raw and aggressive, whereas water is much more mellow and ambient, for example.
TMR: Any advice for aspiring artists and musicians you have learned along the way you’d like to share?
Write as much as possible. Don’t procrastinate and wait for inspiration to strike. I approach creativity more as something I open myself up to, and setting aside consistent times, almost like a regular 9-5 job, maximizes the chances that inspiration will manifest. Obviously most of us cannot commit 40 hours a week to one artistic pursuit, unless it is one’s profession, but setting aside a designated and consistent time with clear cut goals goes very long way towards getting the most out of time spent. In my opinion, it isn’t so much about the total time spent as it is the consistency and quality of time spent. Also, understand that you cannot realistically do everything yourself. I have been fortunate to have had incredible instructors as well as close friends that share my passion for music. If you need to reinvent the wheel at every stage, you may end up with a unique end product, however it will take 10x longer to get to that point than it would to have had objective input or instruction in the required skills. On the other hand, I also find “sandbox” practice sessions – no goals, no expectations, just play and create – to be useful for breaking down creative barriers as well. Try setting a timer for an hour and seeing what you can create before the timer stops. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll accomplish as well as how focused you can be despite the lack of goals or parameters! Last year I released a mini-album of ambient tunes that all started as “one-hour songwriting experiments” I highly recommend checking out The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield! It’s an exploration of creativity as well as overcoming the resistance we face with any creative/artistic endeavor.