Florida-based prog rock lover Barry Weinberg launched his most recent album “Samsarana” back in January, a record, which in the musician’s own words, should inspire its listeners. In an interview for Progarchy, Weinberg discusses what it took to come up with this ambitious project.
What made you go to release “Samsarana” under your own name? Does it feel more personal that way?
I was original going to release Samsarana under the name of my production company: DRP: Dream Reality Productions, but under advisement from my co-producer/sound engineer, we decided to call it “Barry Weinberg’s Samsarana.” Other than the drums (performed by Glenn Welman out of South Africa), I performed everything on the album…and, as the album is semi-autobiographical, it is definitely very personal to me.
How do you usually describe your music?
Eclectic! Crossing the boundaries of Progressive Rock, Blues, Heavy Metal, and Orchestral music, this concept album is a “musical novel” telling a powerful human story of life’s challenges, redemption and self-actualization.
I explored many genres of music on this album. The main theme of the album is the polarity/duality of life’s experiences, so in many of the songs I combined contrasting sounds and feels to express that duality. In some songs I combined classical acoustic guitar with heavy distorted heavy metal sounds and in one song I transition from a folky, Bob Dylan-esque sound into a 90’s grunge groove. It was a lot of fun finding ways to combine different, almost antagonistic musical styles in a way that worked.
What is your writing process like?
It was like simultaneously writing a novel, composing and arranging a film score and painting a picture all at once. When starting this project, much of the music and lyrics were already written, but as I started recording, the music evolved beyond what I originally intended and new songs emerged to fill the gaps in the overall story of Samsarana.
The first thing people wonder when they hear about the album is “what kind of music is it?” Is it rock? Is it metal? Is it folk? The answer is yes. Besides the actual music and lyrics, I put a lot of attention on which style would best convey the message and mood of that song or “Chapter” in the story of Samsarana. In fact, in some songs I combine genres and even transition from one to another. For example, “Endless Sea” starts off as a Bob Dylan-esque folk song evolves into more of a Bob Seger-y rock song and in the middle becomes an all-out Grunge Metal breakout. It was a lot of fun to not be attached to any one genre and just express what needed to be expressed in the way it needed to be expressed.
Recording each song was like painting a picture. I’d first lay down the foundation with the basic tracks of percussion, bass, rhythm guitar and keyboards, if there were any. Then I’d add the lead guitars and vocals. I’d then listen to the song and in the context of the overall story, I’d add textures and effects to enhance the mood of the “scene.”
Each song carries the story forward and between each song are sound recordings that bridge one song to the next. Another dynamic of the overall story is the influence of polarity in our lives. Love and Hate. Life and Death. Good and Evil. Therefore, I wanted to express this polarity using counterpoint between tones and genres between songs and sometimes within a song. For example, “Come Out and Play” is a fun, hard rock song about teenage crushes and the confusion we have as kids about what love is. This is followed by “A Passage of Time” which is a song I wrote for my wife when I proposed to her. This song is an acoustic, classical guitar and my voice. No effects, no other tracks. Very different than “Come Out and Play.” This play of polarities is expressed throughout the album.
Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?
What inspires me most are stories of individuals who are small and become Great. Stories like the film, “Rudy” about Rudy Ruetigger who played for Notre Dame… or Frodo in “Lord of the Rings.” Also, People who start from nothing and accomplish great things in the world. You read stories of how Metallica or Pink Floyd started with nothing except a vision and passion and they became the biggest stars in the world. There’s a quote that always inspired me from motivational speaker, Les Brown, “You don’t have to be Great to get started, but you got to get started to be Great!”
The biggest influences to my work are Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Queensryche Ayreon, Rush, Metallica and Andrew Lloyd Weber.
What is your favourite piece on “Samsarana” and why?
My favorite piece on the album is “Endless Sea.” It was inspired by my time I spent with the Okeechobee ranchers during the filming of “Florida Crackers,” a documentary film I wrote the soundtrack and score for between 2006 and 2011. I love the different elements of the song from the early Pink Floyd-esque intro to the Metallica-like breakout in the middle. It’s also the turning point in the Samsarana story when our main character begins to realize who he is in his enlightenment experience.
What makes “Samsarana” different and what should music lovers expect from
I grew up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and this was a revolutionary time for music. During this time, bands didn’t put out songs….they put out albums. Albums that you put headphones on to listen to…and you listened to in their entirety. The albums were not just a collection of songs to sing to… they were experiences. It was my intention to create that kind of musical experience. Samsarana is subtitled, “A Cinematic Rock Experience” and was written as a musical novel with each song a chapter in the story. It explores many genres of music and has a lot of depth of meaning and it is my hope that the listener takes the time to delve into the depths of Samsarana and with each listen they will find something new.
What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your
It is my intention that my music inspires people to explore their own lives and contemplate how best to live to their full potential and break free of their own “Vicious Circle.” I also see this inspiring people who have put off their lifelong dream, deciding to take action to make it happen. This is why I chose to name my production company, Dream Reality Productions. Making this album was a dream I’ve had since I’m a young boy and now at 50, I made a decision and made it happen!
Are there any plans to promote the album live?
Right now I’m working diligently to spread the word through social media to get the album out to the people. I have no immediate plans to tour or perform the album live, but I do see in the future a big theatrical production of the album. . Since I performed all the vocals and instruments on the album (except for the drums), I have to first get a band together.
I’m also starting to feel the spark of an idea of my next album. Stay tuned!
Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Pink Floyd – Animals
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
For more info about Barry Weinberg and to purchase “Samsarana,” visit Dream Reality Productions.