As we (and everybody else in the prog rock world) announced back in November, Transatlantic’s fifth album The Absolute Universe will be unleashed on February 5. This album will arrive not just in multiple formats, but also in multiple versions: the 60-minute, 14-track The Breath of Life (Abridged Version), the 90-minute, 18-track Forevermore (Extended Version) and The Ultimate Edition box set (both versions on LP and CD, plus a 19-track 5.1 version on BluRay).
Having had the privilege of hearing the abridged and extended versions, I’ll testify that The Absolute Universe thoroughly satisfies my craving for that special Transatlantic blend of prog past, present and future. Everything that I love about the band is there, to (and sometimes beyond) the point of gluttony; I’ve come away from each listen delighted, thrilled and moved. So it was another real treat when, the week before Christmas, I got to chat with Neal Morse about this new music. (Neal also talked to Bryan Morey about his latest solo album, Sola Gratia, a few months back.) In this interview, Neal tells us how The Absolute Universe came together, why a double album wasn’t enough, and more.
So first, thanks for talking to me! I have been a Transatlantic fan for a long time back. SMPT:e was actually the first thing I ever heard with you involved in it, and that got me back into prog after some time away from it.
And then I saw you guys in 2010 in Chicago, and that was a great, great, great show! I enjoyed that so much.
That would have been The Whirlwind?
Yes, exactly right.
Was that at Park West? Yeah, that was a great night!
Yeah, it was Mike’s birthday.
Right! And they got us Giordano’s [“Chicago’s Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza”] for after-show food! [Chuckles] I remember the really good pizza! It was a good night.
Yes, it was a great show. I missed you the last time through [touring the Kaleidoscope album]. But now you’ve got this new album coming through the pipeline, The Absolute Universe. And I guess my first question is: how does a new Transatlantic album happen? Was there a certain person or a certain thing that kickstarted the process? How did it come about?
Well, let’s see. I think it started with me! I think I emailed everybody, if memory serves, but that was a long time ago. It would have been near the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019, I think. I started the conversation, and then we started talking about schedules. At first, it’s like “hey, do you wanna do it?” and everybody was like, “yeah, we’d like to, but …” We had to find the right time when everybody had time for it, which wound up being the end of September 2019 in Sweden.
I remember starting to write some demos for Transatlantic in March, I think, of 2019. And I think we went round and round about where to record and when to record for many months, till finally it was like, “OK, if we’re gonna do this, it needs to be in this window of time.” And so, we all convened in Sweden and worked on it for about two weeks – wrote and recorded what I would call the template. Not the keeper track, but the template for what became the long version of the album, Forevermore.
We left there in early October, and then Mike came here into Nashville to do his keeper drums. He would have done them in Sweden, but we ran out of time. In fact, we were still changing the album and writing it right up on the last day, when we had to go to the airport. And everything kind of fell into place right at the end; it was pretty amazing.
Anyway, Mike came here, did his drums in November. Then I did my parts in December and January, and then I left to go to Australia to play some shows and take a vacation in New Zealand. And that’s where I got away from the album, and I started working on my solo album Sola Gratia.
And then I listened to the Transatlantic album again in March, I think it was. And I kinda had the feeling like – and this is really unusual for me, cause a lot of times I want to make things longer! But I felt like maybe this album would benefit from some editing! So, I started editing some things out. I thought maybe some of the guys might like it as well, because when we were writing it in Sweden, several of the guys were wanting it to be a single disc, and they really didn’t want it to be a double.
Anyway, I sent off this edit with, I think, the subject line that read, “Am I Crazy?” I thought they might just dismiss the whole concept right away. But not everybody did. Some of them were like, “maybe this is a good way to go.” So then, we went round and round about that for a couple of months, trying to decide what was the best thing to do.
We were still trying to figure that out when Mike had the idea of releasing both! And then once we agreed to release both, then the idea was to make the versions as different as possible.
Continue reading “Neal Morse on Transatlantic’s The Absolute Universe: The Progarchy Interview”