HuffPost Video Premiere: Robert Schwartzman - "Second Chances"
Robert Schwartzman's new video for "Second Chances,"--a featured song on his recently released solo album Double Capricorn--is premiering on The Huffington Post. Schwartzman has fronted the alternative pop group Rooney for the past decade, and this video was directed by childhood friend, Max Goldblatt, with appearances by Weezer's Brian Bell and brother/actor Jason Schwartzman.
"Max (Goldblatt) and I grew up together making short films in my backyard," explains Schwartzman. "I've always loved his passion for films and ability to execute an idea with limited resources, so it's great to have finally collaborated on a music video together." The song was inspired by a trip he took to Tibet, during which he spent time with Tibetan Monks and lived in a monastery. The full details in Schwartzman's words are on http://www.robertschwartzman.com/about/.
"When you see how other people live in other parts of the world, you appreciate how many good opportunities we have in our country," Schwartzman continues. "It frustrates me when I see people here who take things for granted. I wrote the song as a kind of a wake-up call for those people to get it together. I think we all have chances." FYI, Schwartzman is donating all proceeds from this album to the Tibetan Healing Fund which helps woman and children in rural Tibet receive medical care.
A Conversation With Trevor Rabin
Mike Ragogna: Trevor, thank you so much for your time. We've got lots to talk about, but let's start with what inspired you to record you latest album, Jacaranda?
Trevor Rabin: Well, obviously, having been in Yes for many years and then taking a long, extended move away from that to do film scores and my desire to work with orchestra, which I trained for, was pretty intense, and having done that now for fourteen years or so, I was very ready to do an album where I was playing, and playing hard. Near the end of 2007, I started getting the idea for what I wanted to do, and it's taken that long because I would do an intense three or four weeks on it, and then take a break because I was getting into another project and then come back to it. I kept doing that for a number of years, and then last year, I really disciplined myself to not really do a lot else but finish the album.
MR: It seems like an incorporation of so much of what you've been doing over the years, including your film scores.
TR: Yeah, you know I would think genre wise, I really went in with no preconditions for myself. I just wanted to go and play instruments I love playing so dearly and work with some fantastic drummers that I've always wanted to work with, and Tal Wilkenfeld was a tremendous bass player. I just played stuff that I really don't get to do on film or really in the Yes environment, so that was really the thing, and also not to be shackled by record executives' briefs and ideas.
MR: Yeah, exactly. Record companies sometimes like to mold projects themselves.
TR: Yes, exactly. I really only started presenting this once I was very close to the end.
MR: As opposed to Close To The Edge...see what I did there?
TR: (laughs) Don't go there!
MR: Since we're not going there, can we get into how you jumped on board with Yes' 90125?
MR: How did that all come together?
TR: You know, a year or so before 90125--and 90125 was really the demos I did some time later--how it all started was some years before that, I was producing Manfred Mann's Earth Band in England, and David Geffen's company came over to, I think, look at Manfred for release in America and met with me, and to cut a long story short, we met and met again and met again and I moved to LA on Geffen and started writing here with the view of doing an album. Basically, I wrote was to become 90125. Once I had gone through kind of the majority of it, I was ready to record, and the Geffen company and John Kalodner, who's still a very good friend, suggested I join up with some other named musicians to help boost the initial promotion of it. I really wasn't into that. I just wanted to do a solo album, so after a lot of disagreement and stuff, they dropped me. I went out looking for other record companies to do it on, and Ron Fair, who was, at the time, the junior A&R guy at RCA, was really, really into it and was really great with it. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out, and I couldn't do it. One of the people who got back to me was Phil Carson from Atlantic. He had a couple of things he was doing. He was very interested in doing it just as an album, and he said that Keith Emerson and Jack Bruce--and I had worked with Jack--were looking to put a band together very casually. And then Chris Squire and Alan White were looking to put a band together, and I ended up with Chris and Alan. And then we did the album, and a much longer story short, Jon heard the stuff and liked it, and he then became the singer.
MR: So you had the lineup of Yes right there. There were a couple of songs that you brought into the mix that you were working on previously.
TR: Basically, the material on 90125 was written during the writing period when I was brought over. I wrote most of that stuff during the Geffen period.
MR: And, of course, your release 90124 was the demo versions of what became 90125.
TR: Right, exactly.
MR: Any other thoughts about 90125?
TR: Yeah, that was really a work of love, and a traumatic album. There were times when it was like I couldn't figure out how I was going to get around certain problems and sleepless nights, and then come back the next day and really kind of pound it out and have disagreements, and then come back the next day and then get another idea. It was definitely a labor of love.
MR: And of course you had that giant reunion with Yes where every member who's ever breathed oxygen in the band got together.
TR: Right, right. That was, as Rick (Wakeman) calls it, "The Onion Tour." Instead of the Union tour, he calls it the onion tour. It was a very contrived thing by the record company. What came out of it, though, was really quite an amazing show. I think we put on a really good show, and one of the surprising things that Chris Squire didn't think would happen was Rick and I just got on really famously well, and still do to this day.
MR: I also wanted to ask you about your film scores. You have an amazing amount of work since 1976's Death of a Snowman.
TR: Yes, now that film is really peculiar because I was in this band Rabbitt, who were pretty huge in South Africa, and they wanted people from the band, kind of similar to what's going on now with guys that are in bands doing films here. I really was excited by the idea, but in those days, there was no midi or anything like that; it was just pen to paper. I'd stick reels on a sheet up in the Holiday Inn and watch it and write music to it, so it was very different to what we experience today. You know, there was just that one film, which was my guinea pig if you like, and it was less than adequate, but certainly, it got me involved in it. So when it got to the end of me with Yes--we had done a thousand shows or something--I just thought, "I can't get up and play those songs for a while," and that's what led me to doing movies. Once I had done one or two, I was really enjoying it, and I was very lucky to get some fantastic clients, and forty movies later, here we are.
MR: Some titles include Con Air, Jack Frost, Remember the Titans...
TR: Yeah, I really enjoyed doing that one. It was funny because they used that music in Barack Obama's acceptance speech, and there was a whole lot of humor that went down with that.
MR: Speaking of humor--Trevor, I love this credit--you did Snakes on a Plane.
TR: Oh yeah, that was so much fun! I'll never forget, one day, the director calling me and saying he couldn't make it to the meeting, and I asked him if something was wrong, and he said, "No, surf's up!"
MR: (laughs) When that classic line is delivered about the "Mother effing snakes, etc..."
TR: Oh yeah, Sam Jackson!
MR: That's one of the best ridiculous movie moments ever.
TR: And it was such a great cultish thing because if you went and saw it in a theater, there were people throwing rubber snakes around. It was really quite a great little event.
MR: You also did the National Treasure movies.
TR: Yeah, I've done, I think, thirteen movies with Jerry Bruckheimer now, and those were two of his, and it's always approached with a real amazing amount of support. Whatever I need musically, there's never any compromise.
MR: Nice. I remembered one more movie that you were associated with, which was Armageddon.
TR: Yes, yes.
MR: When you were watching that, were you going, "Did I just see that scene?" (laughs)
TR: It was amazing. I had done Con Air, but Bruckheimer was saying that this was really a huge budget, and I'd only done a couple of movies, did I think I could do it? I said, "Let me write you something and see what you think," and he said, "Yeah, we're looking for the world anthem" as he put it. I wrote the theme for Armageddon, and he said, "Well, yeah, I guess you can do it," and that was the theme. I came home, wrote it, and it took me about a week to get it the way I wanted it just as a mock up and handed it in, and he was happy. But that was a big project. It was long.
MR: Now, the song "Rescue" was with the film The Guardian that you also worked on, right?
TR: Well, it was one of the themes in The Guardian, and I just thought it would really fit into this album. So I rewrote the arrangement, rewrote some of the parts and redid it, and added guitar to it and restructured it, and I think it worked out all right.
MR: Getting back to Jacaranda, you have some interesting players on the album.
TR: Yeah, I know! I had so much fun with it. You know, Lou Molino I've played with for quite some time, so I knew how great he would be. Lou is a tremendous drummer, and my son is in this band Grouplove, who are doing tremendously well, and I borrowed him from them, and he came and played, and he's a fantastic drummer. I said to him, "Look, the track I want you to play on is in 7/8." And thinking I was going to have to sit with him and go through it, he said, "Just play me the song," and the first take was just phenomenal. He just came to 7/8 like it was 4/4, like a fish in water. It was unbelievable.
MR: He's got the music genes, right?
TR: Well, he's certainly got something. I mean, he was really great on it. And then with Vinnie Colaiuta, I've always wanted to work with Vinnie, and when he came, he was just the nicest guy in the world, and then he sat down, and it was unbelievable. I'm still pulling my jaw from the ground. He's really a remarkable player.
MR: And you also had bass player Tal Wilkenfeld, who you mentioned earlier.
TR: She worked with Vinnie, and it was Vinnie's recommendation, and I couldn't have been happier. She was just fantastic! It was me playing a lot, so it was great to get these great players to counter all my crap.
MR: Plus vocalist Liz Constantine is on the track "Rescue."
TR: Yeah, I've worked with her quite a lot, and she's worked on a lot of movie stuff, and one of the things I really love about her voice is it's an instrument. You know, you can just get her to sing a vowel and she'll make it literally into an instrument.
MR: Speaking of Yes... (laughs) Sorry, I suddenly remembered you--Yes--got a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental for the album Cinema.
TR: Yeah, we got it for Best Rock Instrumental, and it was funny because we were nominated for a lot of Grammy's that year, and I think the band, if we were going to get anything, might get it for something like "Owner of a Lonely Heart." So it was a surprise when we got it for this kind of jam that we did.
MR: Now once again getting back to Jacaranda, it's labeled "jazz," but I'd call it "fusion." I feel like that genre is coming back in some respects, not like it's been gone, but...
TR: I'm so happy to hear you say that because I didn't know what genre to even suggest it was. I've started saying it's an instrumental album with a whole load of different things on it.
MR: Overall, what was the creative process for Jacaranda like?
TR: I only came up with the name for the album close to the end, not right at the end. As far as writing it, I kind of just had this feeling of what I wanted to do, and I just started writing, and even though it sounds more like a collection of different things put together, it was all kind of written with the same album in mind. I always knew when I was doing, for example "Market Street," I knew it was going to go on the same album as "Zoo Lake," even though "Zoo Lake" is a very different thing. It was always intended to be on the same album, and it's definitely a collection of different kinds of ideas.
MR: Did you apply any film scoring concepts to recording the album?
TR: Well, I definitely think having done so much film now, and also having been in a very live band whose performances were very important and the entertainment value of performing, I think all those things put together and the colors that you have to see in your head when you're doing film and eventually just with your eyes led me to a different way of looking at it and a different way of writing to what I had done before.
MR: What is your advice for new artists?
TR: It's really quite strange because the old cliché is to stay true to yourself, and it doesn't hurt to be able to read music and understand it from that point of view. Although it's not essential, it certainly hasn't hurt anybody. My son is in a band Grouplove, who is doing really, really well, but I look at it, and it's such a different business to the one I was in when Yes were doing well, and we had 90125 and sold millions of records and stuff. His band is doing great, but there's so many different things they get involved with along the way. He does Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel and Letterman and all that, but then he also did the iPad ad or iPod advert, and that helped the song. And they're doing Coachella and all these festivals. I think you have to be able to juggle a lot of different ideas to function in the business today, whereas in the old days, albums and records or even CDs were the relevant thing. I think the focus was a little easier and a little more singular.
MR: The landscape has certainly changed. Going back to the group Rabbitt that you were in, what are your thoughts looking back at those years?
TR: With Rabbitt, that was in apartheid South Africa, and it's such a different world to anybody you would even think of in the rock world, so anything we did was the first time being done, although it was only the first time in South Africa, and it elsewhere had been done. It felt a bit like a pioneering thing because you didn't know how anything was going to be received because it was always the first time. It was the first time a white band had had that kind of support from a record company and that kind of promotional budget and really the first time a band had gone on a major, large theater tour with big staging, whereas with Yes, it was obviously done on a big scale, but we kind of knew what we were going to do.
MR: I have to ask you how many times you've throttled Trevor Horn because people keep coming up to you on the street asking when are you going to reform The Buggles?
TR: That only happened a couple of times! He's a very good friend of mine, so when it does happen, sometimes I get into a joke and I say, "Well we're trying to form a thing called Babbitt, which is a combination of Rabbitt and The Buggles." People look at me completely confused, but the people I'm with laugh.
MR: Yeah. What is in the future for Mr. Jacaranda as far as maybe touring, etc.?
TR: Well, that hasn't come up. This has really been so quick, trying to finish the album, getting the first video done, which is almost done, and actually, I've already starting thinking about material for a next album. So I really haven't thought beyond that right now. It's quite an exciting time.
MR: Any words of wisdom?
TR: Please, if you listen to this album, and I hope you do, have an open mind, close your eyes, turn it up, and enjoy it!
MR: Trevor, this has been wonderful, and I really appreciate your time.
TR: It was a pleasure, Mike. Nice talking to you.
1. Spider Boogie
2. Market Street
3. Anerley Road
4. Through The Tunnel
5. The Branch Office
7. Kilarney 1 & 2
8. Storks Bill Geranium Waltz
9. Me And My Boy
10. Free Thought
11. Zoo Lake
Transcribed by Kyle Pongan