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OSI Interview

A Conversation With Vocalist/Keyboardist Kevin Moore


OSI Vocalist/Keyboardist Kevin Moore

OSI Vocalist/Keyboardist Kevin Moore

Inside Out Music
Ever since his split from Dream Theater, Kevin Moore has marched to the beat of his own drum. He played for Fates Warning for a while, then started his own solo project Chroma Key, and joined Jim Matheos for a new project, OSI. Now on its third album, the band has featured some of the best musicians in progressive metal, including drummers Mike Portnoy and Gavin Harrison. Moore spoke to me recently about the new album Blood, his approach to vocals, and the future of Chroma Key.

Dan Marsicano: Can you tell me a bit about the history of OSI?
Kevin Moore: This came about six years ago when Jim Matheos was about to start a solo project and asked me if I was interested. I was, and he started sending me ideas. I started coming up with melodies in the recording room. He was looking for a vocalist at the time, but as I kept on writing, we figured that I would do the vocals and make it sound presentable. Now we’re on our third album and we work together long distance, mostly exchanging files on the Internet.

Let talk about the new album Blood. How did the recording process go this time around? Was it any different, the same as the past two records?
The working method was the same, which is Jim sends me ideas, from just a guitar riff to elaborate, almost completed songs. Then I ask what I can do, and I mess around, complete a verse and add a chorus, do editing, add some vocals, and send it back to him. That’s the way we’ve been working since the beginning. The only thing that is different is that it went smoother because we got on a roll and we’re more fluid together. The drums we recorded with Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree. We collaborated with him the same way Jim and I collaborate; just exchanging files. He recorded in his own studio in England and we went back and forth for a while.

How did the band decide on using Gavin Harrison?
That was mostly Jim. Jim usually makes the personnel decisions. Jim is a huge Porcupine Tree fan and he just asked him if he was interested and he was.

What are your lyrical inspirations for Blood?
Usually just personal experience. I don’t sit down with a direction of where I go. It always comes from the music. I don’t write lyrics that just hang around waiting for a song. I come up with melodies and I start mumbling and I try to figure out what I’m saying and then try to make it make sense. Usually, it’s just about what’s wrong with me (laughs).

What sorts of dynamics do you and Matheos have that keeps the partnership going strong?
We have different tastes; there’s a conflict because of that, but it’s not a personality conflict. It’s a musical conflict where we want different things to happen and have to work it musically. That’s pretty much the only thing that makes OSI relatively original. If it was just one way or the other, like the singer-songwriter stuff, electronic music or progressive metal, there’s a lot of people doing those things already. We managed to work with each other. We won’t reject ideas so much as change them. The worst thing that we would do is that if I don’t answer Jim’s email within a day or so, he sort of gets the idea that I’m trying to think of a nice way to say that we should try something else.

Do you feel that you work better in that environment, where two heads are butting against each other?
No, I don’t think I do (laughs), but it’s not a personality thing. It’s just two genres butting against each other, but I like playing progressive music in the way that I’m allowed to. We don’t really butt heads at all; we get along pretty well.

Are there any special guests on the album?
Yes, there’s Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), who sings on “Stockholm,” Gavin Harrison from Porcupine Tree plays drums, and Tim Bowness, who sings on the bonus track “No Celebrations.”

The special edition of the album has three bonus tracks. Can you go into details about what those tracks entail?
There’s one that an extended version of a song called “Terminal” that has a long middle section that we edited. It still has something interesting drum stuff where Gavin just plays steady beats with variations on it. We had some mercy on the album version, but on the bonus CD, we don’t have any mercy and we just let it go. That one is called “Terminal (Endless).” Then there is the Tim track “No Celebrations” and an Elliot Smith cover song called “Christian Brothers.”

What kind of mindset do you have when you approach vocals, compared to the keyboards?
It’s something different. When I do vocals, I have to settle down. I don’t really have to do that when I’m doing keyboards. Usually, when I’m writing vocals, I’m writing melodies, programming, and lyrics at the same time. There has to be given some mind space for that. With keyboards, you’re just hacking away.

What is it about the keyboards that draws you in and makes you want to play them?
I’m not sure, I don’t know if I want to play the keyboards (laughs). It depends on the instrument. I think it’s more about creating the sounds than performing on the keyboards themselves and wanting to hear different sounds. Keyboards are a pretty direct way of doing that.

Do you ever feel that your former association with Dream Theater gives off a perception to others about you as a musician?
Most people who have ever heard of me know me from Dream Theater, so I never complain because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the projects and the solo stuff I’ve done. So yeah, I guess there is, but it has benefits by allowing me to work.

You have a solo project, Chroma Key, which you started after leaving Dream Theater. What is the status of that project at this time?
I’m looking at it. I’m not sure. We just finished this project and usually I take a little break from writing. So as soon as I start writing, I’ll see what direction I go in.

What is the one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I do some photography and a little bit of painting, very little. Maybe that’s not really so surprising, since everybody does that (laughs).

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