Posted on September 19th. 2018
Questionnaire by Stefan on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
With a whole lotta honor, I welcome someone for whom I have great appreciation due to his comprehensive service in US Metal music. Gordon Tittsworth played in several bands and remarkable fact, this guy is actually a multi-instrumentalist started Images Of Eden back in the day as a solo project. Delivering all the musical activities by himself requires a lot of effort and a whole range of musical skills. The brainchild of Images Of Eden and comrades just released a new album entitled “Soulrise”, a brilliant effort where he and his fellow band members shine like a shimmering diamond. Let’s talk about that and many during the next interview…
Stefan: Hi Gordon, a warm welcome here at Metal To Infinity and first things first, congratulations from the heart with the great “Soulrise” album ! My intention is to speak about it later on, first I’d like to take you back to memory lane, the start of Images Of Eden. Actually started by yourself as a solo project, from where came the idea to start a one-man band?
Gordon: Thanks so much, Stefan! Yeah, IOE basically began from scratch. I started off with a collection of 12 songs, a session drummer who knew a guy who owned a studio, and a co-worker who was good at Photoshop. That was all I had, LOL. So, we literally started with nothing. But, I took what I had, played all instruments (except drums), and fully produced the first IOE record in hopes of forming the full time lineup. From there we put together the live lineup and started playing shows. Of course, this lineup changed a bit before we started working on Sunlight of the Spirit. So… that’s how it started.
Stefan: All instruments handled by your hands, how did you cultivate the musical skills to make this happen?
Gordon: I started playing guitar at 13, then quickly learned bass from there. At the same time, I was fascinated with drums so I gained working knowledge on them. At age 16 (in my high school band) I started singing. However, I do so out of frustration more than anything because we had auditioned SO many singers and none of them could do what we needed them to do. It took a while to ramp up on vocals but it was the best decision I could have made. Around 25, I taught myself keyboards and gained enough knowledge to hold my own for a bit. So, learning all these instruments was the best thing I ever did, musically, and probably the only reason IOE survived so many lineup changes. Every time I had to start over with the lineup, it was easy because I could fill in any gaps with any musicians I did not have at the time.
Stefan: Back in 2001, you released a self-titled debut album, what did this product had to offer… how would you describe the style of yesteryear?
Gordon: I think any debut album from a band illustrates their “un-filtered” creativity, and that is exactly what “Chapter I” was…. No expectations, just the music I had in my heart, and this set the bar for later releases. It was a bit more stripped down and with simpler arrangements than later releases, but I am still proud of that release and put it on from time to time. It takes me back to a really good place in my head.
Stefan: Images Of Eden’s second piece appeared in 2006, released no longer as a solo effort due to a few musicians were added to the line-up. From where the decision adding new blood to the ranks?
Gordon: This was the obvious next step after I formed the live line-up… to do the next release. It also made things easier because I did not record everything. We had a good lineup at the time and I had been writing for the 2nd release while we were playing live (2001-2004), so once we rehearsed the songs to the point to where we felt they needed to be, we jumped into the studio.
Stefan: Had the addition of a number of new members an important influence on the music style?
Gordon: Not really from a writing standpoint, but yes from a recording standpoint. I would always write from my heart/ inspiration that hit me, etc, but it was clear when you listen to Sunlight of the Spirit and Rebuilding The Ruins, that the style/ production was different. On Sunlight of the Spirit, the musicians on the CD (Dennis Mullin & Matt Kaiser) were more influenced by bands such as Rush, Kansas, Genesis, etc (70s prog) so the vibe of the release reflected that. I would have much preferred (in retrospect) to have spent more time on this release. I wanted a much heavier album than what we got, and I also would have spent more time on the vocals, but I still love it because it is a snapshot in time.
Stefan: Next “Rebuilding The Ruins” came out in 2011 and once again, more new members joined forces, although a few left the ranks. Tell me about that please.
Gordon: Yeah, this was a bit frustrating at the time but turned into a blessing in disguise. At the time, the 3 other members (Dennis Mullin, Matt Kaiser & Bryan Wierman- joined on bass guitar after “Spirit”) wanted to piece the 3rd album together at practice. Being with a unit that was more into prog-rock, fusion, etc, I started seeing IOE going in a different direction than what I wanted, so a change was inevitable. But after very little time in rehearsal, the drummer and bass player quit and the guitarist was unsure where he stood. So…. again…. I had to reform. This was the blessing in disguise because I could once again take IOE to where I wanted us to be. I added Dean Harris on keys, recruited Chris Lucci from TX-based prog-metal band, All Too Human and I took back playing rhythm guitar. So, when you compare Spirit with Ruins, you will hear a heavier CD with Ruins and better production. We also had more time to spend on Ruins and was not constantly looking at the studio clock hearing dollar signs going “cha-ching” every hour.
Stefan: Finally we come to the essence of this interview, the awesome brand new album called “Soulrise” ! First on, same story to mention as some guys left while other stepped into the Images Of Eden core. Among the new ones, you welcomed drummer Steve Dorssom, your fellow band brother in Born Of Fire as well. What’s the story behind my friend?
Gordon: When I was brought into Born of Fire to do the Dead Winter Sun album in 2013, I IMMEDIATELY connected with Steve Dorssom on a huge level. We co-released the album doing all of the legwork together. We quickly realized that we worked perfectly together and saw eye to eye with everything, literally! After this, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was the guy I needed to bring into IOE to reform for Soulrise. This came about because Chris Lucci turned out to only be the session drummer for Ruins and did not continue in IOE. After Steve joined, things started really going well, but there was some internal “housekeeping” that needed to be done before the lineup would be complete. The bass player at the time (no name mentioned on purpose) could not/ would not make the time to track his parts and also brought some external negative energy into the band that really started bringing us down.
Also, by this time, IOE took a much heavier approach and it was clear that Dennis Mullin did not want to continue. Also, Dennis’s style seemed to no longer mesh with this heavier direction, so we parted on excellent terms, but the bass player… not so much. That said, Steve and I talked about replacements and he had the perfect bass player in mind (Eric Mulvaine) and I had the ideal guitarist (Carlos Urquidi). So within 24 hours, we had these guys on board. NOW things felt 100% complete for the first time since the IOE inception.
Stefan: As a big fan of Born Of Fire I’d like ask about the current status of the band… new album in the works?
Gordon: Unfortunately, not. I am very happy to say that I am officially 100% Images of Eden. No more “for hire” work and no more side projects, and I am not even entertaining anything else.
Stefan: Well, as you could read in my review for the new IOE album “Soulrise”, I’m excited with this way end result ! It took seven years but it was well worth the wait to me Gordon, really outstanding release and good to see that, finally, you guys signed a record deal with Pavement Entertainment. How did the collaboration came about?
Gordon: It was amazing how it happened. Legendary producer, Bill Metoyer, mixed and mastered the album, and he was the one who got the attention of Pavement Entertainment. To take you back, I have been wanting to get Bill’s attention for 25 years but never could, then Steve connected us (during the Born of Fire days) and Bill ended up doing the mixing/mastering. So, needless to say I was incredibly pleased! Once the album was mixed, Bill worked with us in getting our material to approx. 8-10 labels. We had a list we wanted to hit, but of all of the labels, Pavement was the perfect match for us. I say this because our new sound/ direction is more of a modern hard rock/metal sound (with classic and prog elements). We are NOT targeting the prog scene and are specifically targeting the modern scene because we feel we have something extremely unique to offer, and Pavement is just that- a modern hard rock label with access to the mainstream media, so this is perfect for us. After working with them for months now, we can honestly say that they have been the best label we have ever worked with (IOE and other projects combined).
Stefan: I have never understood why you were never approached before by a record label, do you have an explanation?
Gordon: Well, we released “Sunlight of the Spirit” and “Rebuilding The Ruins” on Nightmare Records, and Lance King has been great to us over the years. He gave us a great platform to launch from. As far as labels “approaching us”, that is difficult to have happen in this day and age. Unless you are a “bubble-gum mainstream producer-created auto-tune pop act used as a money-making puppet with the intention of being shoved down the throats of the 13-20 years olds”, you do not get “approached” anymore unfortunately.
Stefan: But okay, you made it and the band deserve it… what type of label is Pavement Entertainment, which bands they have on the roster?
Gordon: Awesome label! Kinda stated this a bit above but they are specifically a modern hard rock/ modern metal with bands such as SOiL, Candlebox, Tantric, Powerman 5000, etc and have been absolutely phenomenal to us! We have never had this kind of support/ assistance in getting our material out to the world.
Stefan: Do you already have plans for the future with the label or is it something like a one way ticket to glory?
Gordon: Hopefully this will be a long-term, multi-release relationship (IOE/ Pavement) but we need to prove ourselves first with “Soulrise”. If (or I should say, “WHEN”) this does well (because we will do whatever we need to in order to make that happen), we will talk to them about releasing the next album. Honestly, the label shopping piece of an album release is the most nerve-racking/ frustrating part of the experience, so fortunately, that is covered now.
Stefan: “Soulrise” looks and sounds very professional, who created the eye-catching cover artwork?
Gordon: Yes it is! We are extremely happy with it. The cover was created by an amazing artist- Jan Yrlund at www.darkgrove.net. I saw the actual cover/ concept design in my head then sketched it out and sent my idea to Steve. When Steve and I talked about it, we knew this was the cover, so I forwarded my rough sketch and notes to Jan. When he sent us the first version, it was spot on and exceeded our expectations! We do not plan to ever use a different artist again if we can help it. Jan completely captured exactly what we wanted. We are also very pleased with his entire layout (back, panels, etc).
Stefan: Mixed and mastered by the legendary Bill Metoyer, from where the collaboration?
Gordon: Kinda got ahead of myself and explained this above, but Steve introduced me to him through the Born of Fire record. After that, I HAD to work with him. I know he could hit a home run with this album and get the production we wanted.
Stefan: Produced by drummer Steve Dorssom and yourself, I need to say both of you delivered one hell of a fantastic job guys ! Where the album has been recorded, how long did the recordings last?
Gordon: This is unique. All 5 of us live in different areas- Gordon Tittsworth (York, PA), Steve Dorssom (Phoenix, AZ), Dean Harris (Baltimore, MD), Eric Mulvaine (Traverse City, M I) and Carlos Urquidi (Chihuahua, Mexico). We all recorded our parts locally where we live then I collected all of the tracks, made sure they were formatted correctly, etc then sent them all to Bill when done. The tracking process happened in stages but from beginning to end, it took about 4-6 months, I think. There were so many moving parts happening that it is hard to say.
Stefan: IMO, Images Of Eden just released its best effort up-to-date… everything sounds just perfect. Are you agree with me or do you have a few things that you want to do better in the future?
Gordon: I totally agree. I spent more time writing/ recording “Soulrise” than all of the previous albums combined. We knew this one was special so we made sure it was exactly what it needed to be. I would not change anything at all, and now that we have the full-time ideal lineup (after many members came and went) AND now that we have the tracking/ mixing process down (with Bill Metoyer), the next album (“Angel Born”) will go much smoother. I also have a feeling that the recording process will get tweaked further if that is possible.
Stefan: You’re already read my review I guess, may I ask for your opinion?
Gordon: Loved it! Yeah, you nailed it. Funny thing is that we still get compared to the classic/ prog-bands that we all know and love. I have been working to get away from that but I have to accept that there are enough similarities that the comparisons are still there. Oh well…
Stefan: Lyrical wise, can you guide us through a few of the songs?
Gordon: We write about all of the issues, trials and tribulations that we all face every day and how our faith gives us all the hope, inspiration, perseverance, strength and courage to get beyond them. We also tailor the lyrics to appeal to a worldwide universal fan base, regardless of what you might believe.
The lyrics on this release are extremely unique and different than what has been seen in the hard rock/ metal world. I know that is a bold statement but if you read the lyrics, it will become clear. The entire album is a “conversation” and the lyric narrative has been specifically formatted this way.
Stefan: In what way you would describe the new album Gordon – to what type of people you’d like to recommend “Soulrise”. Do you mind to name a few bands to compare with?
Gordon: I would call this a modern hard rock/ modern metal release (with modern/ chunky/ heavy production) but with classic metal and progressive elements. It is difficult to pinpoint who we sound like because we have an original vibe/ feel. But, if I had to pick a few bands, I would say we are a mix of Alter Bridge/ Tremonti, a hint of Sevendust at times but with classic influences such as Iron Maiden/ Queensryche. All of this but with a very uplifting vibe/ feel and a unique lyric approach.
Stefan: How has the international media reacted so far?
Gordon: We have all been blown away by how well it is being accepted, from here in the USA to international exposure. It is exceeding our expectations.
Stefan: Can we speak of a world-wide distribution, please give up an address where to order this majestic release, and more.
Gordon: Sure, you can find it at any worldwide distribution hub that handles physical and/or digital release- Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, FYE, Spotify, etc. I know that there are different distributors in different parts of the world so check your main hubs where you would normally find music.
Stefan: Do you think that, with the release of “Soulrise”, doors to the international circuit will open soon?
Gordon: I do think so, and they already have, so we are very happy. I feel as if more doors will open as time goes by.
Stefan: Approaching the end of our conversation I’d like to know some of band’s live activities, do you guys have lots of gigs in prospect… maybe a trip to Europe?
Gordon: We have 2 dates in Mexico playing the Exodo fest and will be playing the main international stage. We are also talking about a full US tour next year. We need to let this thing work its way all throughout the world a bit more because this will most likely trigger more dates. We would love to play Europe and the festival circuit. In due time….
Stefan: Hopefully, one day, we’ll meet each other in order to catch up an Images Of Eden live performance. I’m sure that you guys are ready and strong enough to walk upon the stage of BIG world-wide festivals as well ! As always, the pleasure was mine having a talk with you and wish the entire band nothing but the very best… Any last words before we close the curtains? Thanks again brother !
Gordon: Well, I hope so, brother! Check us out at www.imagesofeden.com for any/all updates and to like/ follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel. All of our info/material will be posted at these outlets.