July 3, 2020
First of all, thanks for offering to interview me, George. I suppose I would introduce myself as an artist who has an appreciation for many elements of music and sound. At heart, I’m a progressive/art rock fan, but I love to incorporate elements of many other styles including electronica, jazz-fusion, hard/heavy rock, classical and spa music. I’m also a big believer that the human ear doesn’t only love to hear music, but also loves the textures of various sounds and sound effects. Those “non-musical sounds” can range from being beautiful to mysterious to haunting and everything in between. Sounds, as well as music, very much help tell the story of a composition and serve to paint a picture for the listener. This, I think, is even more meaningful with instrumental music where there are no lyrics to tell a musical story.
Definitely Pink Floyd for sonic texture, wide expanse and palette of tones. I also think Pink Floyd’s creative genius can also be found in how they infused their music with sound effects to convey musical messages. Beyond Pink Floyd, I’d say the other two key inspirations for the Gammalon sound would include Rush (prog. rock influence) and Pat Metheny Group (ambient jazz fusion and Americana jazz influence). But there are so many other more subtle musical influences on these Gammalon albums, from Frank Zappa to Metallica to Tangerine Dream. Also, a good deal of the music is inspired by the imagery of great cinematography, particular from such artists as Stanley Kubrick and Godrey Reggio (Koyaannisqatsi). Much of the instrumental music that I’ve written is sort of a surreal musical landscape of soundtracks for real and dreamed up films, short scenes and even still images. I love creating an aural landscape that conjures up images in the mind of the listener.
Although I’m a guitar player primarily, I’m really inspired by piano/ keyboard players. I sometimes think that keyboard players don’t get the same recognition that guitar players do in contributing to the overall sound of a band. Regarding Pink Floyd and Pat Metheny Group, sure David Gilmour and Pat Metheny are huge influences on me, but as much and sometimes even more so are their colleagues on piano – Richard Wright and Lyle Mays, respectively.
The Gammalon Instrumental Music and Sound project and related storyline was born out of an inspiration to be more creative and interesting than simply delivering a “Chris Scholtes solo project.” I’ll try to be as succinct as possible on the premise: Gammalon is our world 100 years in the future where only 4% of the population remain alive. A nuclear energy facility in Japan was targeted for attack by some doomsday cult in the year 2087. The “Incident” as it’s known across the multi-CD story, sent gamma radiation across the Pacific ocean to California and the rest of the US via Pacific trade winds. The setting is in downtown Hollywood, CA around which surviving colonists have erected a protective wall and named their pioneering community as “Camp Pacific Freedom” (CPF). The wall protects them against a portion of humans who did not die from radiation, but instead have “gamma-morphed” into raging, violent facsimiles of their former selves. Our central characters are colonists and musicians, Peter Shen (gtr, keys), Elena (bass, keys) and a new drummer on each album (they all keep dying in bizarre ways – kind of a humorous nod to the legacy of Spinal Tap drummers). Gammalon is also the name of their band that has taken up residency in the Radio K.A.O.S. radio station on the Sunset Strip, a tribute to Roger Waters (NOTE: Radio K.A.O.S. is a Roger Waters solo album released in 1987). It is here where the central characters have recorded their albums. With each album release, Peter pens a memoir on the current status of daily life and strange goings on in Gammalon and CPF. His ongoing memoirs are captured in the liner notes of each CD and serve as periodic windows to that world.
The feedback has been very positive and there is even a location on the new website for praise for each album. I’m just about finished the third album, tentatively titled “The Periphery of Imagination” (due out by September 2020), and the demo for that album has already received an excellent review from Dave DeMarco who wrote extensively for Atlantic Music Monthly.
Technology is often a double-edged sword. Technology gave us Pro-Tools and Logic Pro X, digital audio workstations and the like, but technology has also made it difficult for artists to make money on new music. The money’s made in performing live and selling T-shirts. Websites are becoming more interactive and social media is really a great way to maintain contact with fans, which appeals to me.
Just last week I was introduced to a band called Night Wish from Finland by one of my brothers-in-law. Holy smokes. I was blown away. They are not a new band, but are new to me. Their style is symphonic-metal. There are full-on orchestral passages and metal guitars, beautiful soaring female vocals and a sort of renaissance type flair in certain songs/passages. Very powerful and moving music. I do have to admit that my biggest affinity for music is 70s AOR in general.
Such an inspiring and humbling question. I think that since so much of the Gammalon Instrumental Music and Sound project reflects cinematic elements that it might be fun someday to compose and arrange scores of music for film and movies.
Well, I suppose like most musicians, my life changed at the age of 6 when I first heard the Beatles, and specifically for me “Day Tripper.” So, certainly John Lennon (or all 4 of them) comes to mind, but he would not be the right partner with me for Gammalon’s style of music. So, I would go with: Lyle Mays, Richard Wright, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart with Bob Ezrin producing.
Q: Why do you still have a Roland Boss ME-5 from 1988 on your pedalboard? A: The Boss ME-5 Guitar Multiple Effects was the first multi-effects floor unit the company produced. The Compressor, Overdrive/Distortion, Equalizer, Chorus/Flanger, and Digital Reverb/Delay effects it used simply employed the internals from the made-in-Japan Boss modules offered at that time (specifically the CS-2, DS-1, OD-2, RV-3, EQ-1, CE-1, DD-2, and BF-2). Because of these vintage pedals being embedded in the unit, these have become increasingly sought after. Like all multiple effects pedalboards, the great part is having the ability to use these effects together to create and edit customized patches and call them up on the fly. I actually own two ME-5s. One is a backup.