A series of essays wherein I explore the numerous musical identities of my favorite musician: from child prodigy to teen idol to guitar hero to singer/songwriter to award-winning in-demand film composer.
Featuring news/updates and commentary/analysis of Trevor's career and associated projects.
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Thursday, July 9, 2020

A(nother) conversation with the Maestro

Note: the next entry in my Changes review series - disc three: Wolf - will be published next Friday.  This entry is another component in my overall contribution to the promotional cycle for the boxset.


It's been over a decade all-told that I've had various encounters with Trevor and I'm pleased to relate to you now our latest meeting of the minds: an interview specifically for Rabin-esque.

I was given the opportunity to phone Trevor at The Jacaranda Room and this past Tuesday we had a 90-minute chat regarding Changes and other related subjects.  Due to technical limitations on my end I wasn't able to record the conversation but I'm going to cover the highlights, as I believe we had an interesting and enlightening exchange (but admittedly I'm biased).

As always, Trevor is one of the nicest guys to interview, incredibly gracious and generous with his time (and patient with my various tangents) and wholly engaging as a conversationalist.  I am entirely grateful he agreed to talk to me about the boxset's contents and topics regarding his career overall.  He was once again very complementary regarding my encyclopedic recall and remarked that I should write a book.  I told him I was very busy writing all the essays for this blog but I appreciated the vote of confidence!


The new normal.
We began the interview with a discussion of what is going on in the world right now, and I said I knew he had another layer of worry along with all the things everyone is worrying about because of the associated strife in South Africa.  Trevor acknowledged his homeland is always on his mind and believes the next six months aren't going to be an easy time for anyone in the world.

A giant in his field.
I also brought up the passing of esteemed film composer Ennio Morricone, and we discussed Trevor's favorite Morricone score, for the 1986 film The Mission.  I posited that I felt it was rather influential on later composers, such as the work of James Horner.  He then related to me that he had an "encounter" with Horner regarding his score for the 2003 film Radio, elements of which strongly resembled themes from Remember the Titans This was not the only time Trevor would see his work borrowed by others (more on that later), but he attributed this kind of thing to what he refers to as "temp-itis" meaning the director's reliance on the use of a temporary score during the editing process.  Another example was Teddy Castellucci's score for the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, which contained elements resembling the scores of Remember the Titans and National Treasure.  The composer paid Trevor a visit and confessed that director Peter Segal really wanted more of that type of music in the film, and he cracked under the pressure, "borrowing" quite obviously (to the point of The Bruck considering litigation, according to Trevor).  Not surprisingly did Segal then select Trevor to score his next film, 2008's Get Smart.

Trevor remarked he believed Morricone had been highly influenced by classical composer Edward Elgar, quipping: "If you're going to steal, it might as well be from the best."

Working man.
He related to me the work he performed for Renny Harlin, whom he said called him with a request to "fix" the score of his latest project.  I asked Trevor which of the films currently listed on IMDb he had worked on, and he confirmed to me it was The Misfits, which is currently in post-production.  When discussing the progress on his new solo album, he stated that he's still at about 60% completed but he believes he knows the essence and the overall shape of the work now, and has 3-4 pieces he's really happy with, so the direction is set and he can devote himself fully for the rest of the year.  When I asked him about considerations of remote recording for guest players due to ongoing logistical limitations caused by the pandemic, he replied that such a process is "cumbersome" and one he does not willingly wish to engage in.

In regards to other projects, Trevor said he had been approached by producers for a Broadway show but was ultimately not interested.  As far as appearing with the L.A. Philharmonic he stated that originally Brian Lane and Larry Magid were willing to organize and finance the event but whatever plans and negotiations were thus far accomplished have been stalled by the pandemic.

I asked Trevor, now that ARW is concluded as a project, if "Fragile" would see any kind of official release and he said he had no desire to release it and didn't think it had any particular relevance in hindsight given that the band is over.  He wasn't even certain it should have been recorded in the first place but thought it would at least serve as a starting point in their endeavors even as they ultimately couldn't manage to record an album due to logistical issues.  He confirmed to me that it was realized strictly between the three of them: with Rick recording his piano parts in England, Jon recording his vocals at The Jacaranda Room, and Trevor providing all other instrumentation and vocals.  Jon contributed lyrics to the bridge (because, as Trevor noted, Jon likes the "freedom" to add things into an existing structure), but Trevor had already written the melody (and had different lyrics originally), so the ARW version of the song would be credited to both Trevor and Jon.  I asked about the origin of "Fragile" and Trevor replied he wrote it as a favor for the showrunner of Agent X; it was composed after the scoring was completed because Herron wanted a song but Trevor was not specifically compensated for writing it, thus he retained the copyright.

The arduous journey from reluctance to cooperation.
By his own admission, Trevor did not make it easy for Rob Ayling to put together Changes, it took much cajoling (as it did with the 90124 project); Ayling paid him a visit in Los Angeles and Trevor gave him access to all his ephemera just to get the man off his back, so to speak, and indicated what he has in storage is quite a jumble.  Shelley assisted with the process of looking through everything.  So all of the inclusions were suggested by Ayling, and we can appreciate that Trevor finally overcame his reluctance to be his own archivist after a fashion and acquiesced.  The photos for The Making of Wolf booklet were among those items he had saved and were thus discovered by Ayling, and luckily must have been safely stored away for the past 40 years.  Trevor noted that at first he couldn't understand the appeal of something like 90124, but agreed in part because he knew there was an ongoing evolving narrative regarding the origins of 90125 and his part in it, and so wanted to produce the originals to prove his point.

What could have been.
This led me to ask about something from the original press release for Changes and that was allegedly the inclusion of demos recorded with Roger Hodgson (which took place in 1990).  Trevor stated he couldn't quite remember how many songs they worked up but it was probably "almost an album's worth" and "The More I Look" was also one of those songs (which later appeared on Roger's 2000 album Open The Door).  I remarked that as a fan I was happy the demo version of "Walls" was included on 90124 because one of the things I love about the song is the beautiful close harmony Trevor and Roger perform on it, and the thought of an entire album like that would have been a wonderful thing to hear.  He agreed, stating he believes the project to be one of the real missed opportunities of his career and considers Roger to be like a brother, noting how happy he was to see Roger again during touring in 2016 and 2018.

Soft focus.
I expressed my appreciation for the film music composed by Trevor Rabin promo disc being included in the boxset and for general sale, revealing to Trevor what I paid for an original copy in years prior.  I asked if he had chosen the track listing and he said he did, stating that in some cases he was working from earlier versions of the themes and that's why some of them have different titles.  He also noted a lot of editing was involved in putting the tracks together and I replied because of that my research into their origins took me quite a while!  When I stated my theory regarding why it was created, to position Trevor away from being considered as the Action Guy in the industry, he agreed, noting that he seemingly moved from genre to genre - from Action Guy to Sports Guy, for example - in terms of the scoring projects which came his way, but was ultimately desiring to score all kinds of films.  He expressed that he had a previous interest in scoring a fully-animated feature (and I reminded him that the first time we spoke in 2009 I made a plea for him to do just that) but said that now it would likely be too complex a project for him to undertake.

An early innovator.
We talked a bit about Trevor's penchant for being on the cutting edge of music technology - I noted that it was pretty amazing he predicted the rise of bedroom recordings a couple decades before they became the norm - discussing the recording of Talk and Trevor stated he would like to perform a remix of the album but because the multitracks exist on more than one type of media (both analog and digital), such a project would be very difficult if not impossible at this point.  He acknowledged he would have done some things differently, especially in regards to the drum sounds.  I brought up the seeming disclaimer included as a "PS" in the credits: "Caution" Extreme Digital Dynamic Range and he replied that Victory (perhaps Phil Carson himself) included that without his knowledge and if he'd seen the liner notes prior to release he would have insisted it be removed.  Trevor recalled that when he first moved to Los Angeles in 1981, living in a house he rented from Manfred Mann's Earth Band vocalist Chris Thompson, he set up a studio in the garage to write and record demos and there were other musicians he knew who also had home studios at the time.  But the recording industry at large had mounted a seeming war against such endeavors, threatening suits and other legal action against artists working from home...which all seems rather ironic in our present-day circumstances.

All the way live.
I wanted to discuss the inclusion of the '89 performance at Boston's Paradise Theater, expressing to Trevor that he has a different perspective on concerts than fans do.  His fans - whether they attended one of the shows on the club tour or not - desire the total experience of a performance.  We don't think of it as "a very long performance that takes a lot of listening" (as he stated in the PROG interview) but rather listen to it as if we were there.  I noted that I have audience recordings of two other shows in addition to Boston and L.A. and even though it's the same setlist, I appreciate the subtle differences between each show.  I enthused that he created a great setlist and had a great band.  Trevor said that once he was convinced to include the bootleg of the radio broadcast he was happy with the decision, noting the broadcast recording is more "raw" and has a "completely different vibe" to the Los Angeles show.  I asked him about whether it was possible to release the full recording of the L.A. show and he replied the multitracks no longer exist, but seemed to indicate that there might be soundboard recordings of some of the dates still in his archives.

Facing up to Face To Face.
Having just recently composed a ginormous essay about the making of said album, I proffered my theory about how having to record three albums at the same time, but two in particular, may have contributed to Face's overall lack, shall we say.  Trevor allowed that it might have had something to do with it but it was primarily that he had never felt the kind of pressure in making an album which he experienced during the writing and recording of Face To Face.  So suffice to say he didn't perform well overall, in his estimation.  He agreed with me that Rene's Call Me is a great album, and we talked about "Paying My Dues" and reached a consensus that its' similarity to "Owner" was not purposeful but likely just a type of experimentation Trevor was desiring to pursue at the time as regards arrangements.

Van Rabin...?
I brought up to Trevor the oft-discussed similarity of the opening for "Hot For Teacher" to "Looking For A Lady - (Wolfman)" and this prompted a story about another "borrow" -  the opening riff from "Eyes Of Love" which you can hear in the track "Baluchitherium" from the 1995 Van Halen album Balance.  Trevor happened to hear the song during a televised football game and contacted Eddie Van Halen about it, recalling that back in 1989 he had gone out to see Steve Stevens performing at The Roxy with Eddie and Steve Lukather and Eddie had told him he enjoyed Can't Look Away, seemingly joking that Trevor shouldn't be surprised to hear something from it on the next Van Halen record.  And so, two albums later...Trevor remarked to me that he was shocked I wasn't familiar with that story.  "I can't believe I'm telling you something you don't already know!" he exclaimed.

Trevor stated that once he and Eddie talked about the "borrow" they worked out an agreement for Trevor to be compensated.  Trevor stated that he didn't actually mind being borrowed from as long as there was some acknowledgment involved.  Later, when relating the sequence of events to Paul Linford, his assistant remarked on the other seeming borrow and once Trevor listened to "Hot For Teacher" he realized that it was a far more obvious lift.  So he has no doubt in his mind where the intro to "Hot For Teacher" originated.

Besides a long acquaintance with Eddie, Trevor had other encounters with the band, such as when he was invited to see Van Halen perform in London at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978, and spent time backstage being "talked at" by notorious motormouth David Lee Roth.  As long-time fans are aware, Trevor was considered as an opening act for the band, but for various reasons it never came to pass.  He also told me he had been approached at least twice about producing an album for the band during the Hagar years, noting that Sammy is "a really nice guy."

More boxes?
I asked about the purported plans for another boxset of his film music and Trevor explained that while it's a good idea, it's also a very difficult project to accomplish from a logistical standpoint, especially when it comes to licensing.  I told him about the essay I wrote for the blog in 2016, stating that a score anthology/compilation in celebration of his 20th anniversary as a film composer would be a wonderful idea.  I laid out the whole concept, and Trevor thought it was interesting, but likely ultimately remains unconvinced...probably.

Encounter with The Purple One and other adventures.
I am one of those people possessed of an irrepressible curiosity regarding certain ventures, and having touched on the making of Big Generator, I then said: "And while you were there at Sunset Sound mixing the album, so was...Bob Dylan!"  I confirmed to Trevor that whatever he recorded with Dylan at one of the sessions for Down in the Groove, it never made the album.  He appreciated me telling him this because he had no idea himself.  I explained to him that according to my research the making of that album was also quite fraught with contention, is not regarded too highly overall, and so it's not necessarily a bad thing that he didn't make the cut.  But contrary to my speculation, he said Elliot Roberts had originally contacted him regarding Dylan's request, he never had any interaction with the album's producer Beau Hill.  And also during those months of mixing one day he crossed paths with a member of Prince's entourage, who summoned Trevor for a (brief) encounter.  Apparently His Royal Badness didn't think much of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" - shooting hoops out back while wearing his custom-made Andre No. 1 4-inch heel boots.

"It was very weird," Trevor said.  "Yep, that's Prince alright," I replied.