Vol.41 Steve Morse / December 2014

Steve Morse

Photo by Jim Arbogast

Flying Colors has just released their second album “Second Nature”. The band consists of members such as Steve Morse, Mike Portnoy, and Neal Morse, who all have separate commitments with other projects and bands, which would make you think of Flying Colors as a mere project. Nevertheless, Flying Colors has released their self-titled debut album, followed by a live album titled “Live In Europe” and now their second album “Second Nature”, successfully delivering all of their works with extremely high quality of songwriting and performance, proving Flying Colors to be not just another project. Steve Morse talks to MUSE ON MUSE about Flying Color’s “Second Nature”.

Photo by Jim Arbogast

Interview / Text Mamoru Moriyama

Translation Louis Sesto (EAGLETAIL MUSIC)


Muse On Muse : You toured Japan with DEEP PURPLE this spring. How was the tour and shows in Japan?
Steve Morse : It’s always pleasant to go there, especially to be reminded of the very special culture that is Japan.

MM : What do you remember most about your last visit to Japan?
SM : I remember Mr. Udo, our promoter, hosting us with great dignity, and the audiences reacting more openly during the shows.

MM : You currently play for DEEP PURPLE, STEVE MORSE BAND and FLYING COLORS. How do you differentiate each band within yourself?
SM : In each situation, it’s all about the piece of music. I don’t really treat each one differently, although, for example, when I play Highway Star, it brings out a totally different playing style than one of my instrumentals.

MM : Let’s talk about FLYING COLORS…”Second Nature” has just been released 2 and a half years after the “Flying Colors” debut album. What was the concept behind this new album?
SM : It’s just the band being comfortable writing music together. We decided to just let the music ‘breathe’ more, without trying to edit it down. We know that this record is for the listeners that like to tune in and listen to details, also.

MM : What is the meaning behind the album title “Second Nature”?
SM : Well, it’s our 2nd album, therefore, the play on the word ‘second’. Also, second nature refers to something that one does that is done without much concentration, it is automatic and natural.

Photo by Jim Arbogast

MM : In the previous interview we did, you told us that the songs on the first album were basically written on the spot during recording. How was it for this second album?
SM : I continued to recommend that we just bring in ideas instead of songs. So, no matter what, the band would change the ideas to fit our sound.

MM : The songwritng credits are listed under the whole band FLYING COLORS. Can you tell us how the songwriting was actually done? Was there more input from certain members? Did someone in particular work more on lyrics and/or melodies? Etc…
SM : Well, Casey and Neal do the lyrics, I throw out lots of musical ideas, also Casey and Neal, too. Mike and Dave help keep us on track, Mike is really great with organizing possible arrangement ideas as we go, since he is very quick with his ideas.

MM : “A Place In Your World” reminded me a bit of the STEVE MORSE BAND with your trademark guitar phrases. The guitar parts behind the vocals also add a great color to the song. What is your perspective on rhythm guitar playing in regards to enhancing the vocals within a particular tune?
SM : I think that the rhythm parts should be complementing the vocals, but also give energy and personality. The melodic ideas that I play between Neal’s vocal phrases are like an instrumental answer, or duet, with what he is singing in the verses.

MM : On the guitar solo for “Cosmic Symphony – II.Serching For The Air” we can hear a sweep picking-like technical phrase. Was it sweep picking, or did you do this by alternate picking?
SM : Yes, I finally incorporated some sweep technique into my solo. With the sound I had going during the solo takes, I found it to be kind of funny, so I just continued it to the end. Everybody in the band liked it so much that I continued to play the same solo during the live shows that we just did.

MM : I’m sure it takes a lot of practicing to be able to acquire excellent picking skills like you have. What would be your word of advice when engaging in such practice?
SM : I think that practicing is essential in order to be able to call upon your technique when it is appropriate. However, our playing shouldn’t sound like we’re practicing scales, so be aware that some melodic direction gives the kind of solo that people remember. If you use a drum machine, or metronome, when you practice, it will help you measure your progress and also give you a better internal ‘clock’ for timing.

MM : Each member of FLYING COLORS has separate bands, and I’m sure the project itself has only limited time to record and tour. Despite that, the band has already released 2 albums and 1 live album / DVD, which are all very well made. How do you view the band’s cohesiveness?
SM : We all respect one another, and are glad to get together, since the emphasis is totally on the joy of the music. For me, it is a chance to write music with others that are amazingly talented, and do it in a style that fits in well with my musical history.

Photo by Jim Arbogast

MM : Please tell us about your gear. What guitars, guitar amps, effectors, foot pedals did you use for this recording?
SM : I used my Music Man Steve Morse signature model (4 Dimarzio pickups), and my Music Man Y2D (3 Dimarzio pickups). My amp was my usual ENGL SM 100 (signature head). I used the TC electronics flashback delay pedals (with my ‘toneprint’ loaded in), and their tuner pedal. I also used a Kealey compressor pedal for all the clean and some of the crunchy rhythm parts.

MM : Lately, there are many precisely made modeling amps available in the market. What is your opinion on the recent trend of modeling amps?
SM : I actually have one that is very well done, it’s a Kemper. I really see the usefulness of these things, but I will always use my old school amp/speakers if I have a choice. But someday, at a small gig, or doing a demonstration, I would be thankful to have my sounds loaded in one of these, to make the logistics of setting up and moving the equipment more efficient. At the moment, I’m still willing to pay a lot for the ability to have a little bit more perfect sound with the real thing.

MM : Do you use DAWs for songwriting or stocking ideas? How do you do your songwriting and/or how do you stock your musical ideas?
SM : I use Cubase 7.5 for everything, because it’s easy to go from an idea to a useful demo, or even to a master track. Like the modeling amps, when these digital DAWs got so good, they became too easy to incorporate……especially since I can use a simple laptop with Cubase and get everything I need with me.

MM : Lately, there are many artists that are releasing their albums on vinyl again, just like you guys are. How do you view this current trend regarding vinyl?
SM : I think it is nostalgia, it reminds people of a time when music was more of a treasure….When an album was a big event, something large enough to read in the dim light while you listened to 1/2 of the album before flippin it over. Music is so easy to get on a little set of earbuds that people now are doing so many activities, they don’t usually sit and enjoy the many subtleties that some music has. Vinyl eventually wears, and gets scratches, so the listeners that buy these are the real hardcore listeners: they won’t be distracted while these vinyl records are playing.

MM : What do you have coming up next? Tell us about your upcoming schedule. Any plans for a solo album?
SM : I don’t really know for sure, but I’ve been working on some pieces with my son, who is an excellent player, and a quick mind for writing. We hope to record an album together with some vocals and heavy instrumental sections.

MM : Please give a message to the Japanese fans.
SM : Thank you for your high energy and love for music, while also being polite and respectful of each other. Thanks for supporting live music!


Steve Morse official site http://www.stevemorse.com/
Steve Morse facebook https://www.facebook.com/stevemorseguitar
Flying Colors official site www.flyingcolorsmusic.com
Flying Colors facebook www.facebook.com/flyingcolorsofficial