Showing posts with label #The Moody Blues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #The Moody Blues. Show all posts

Monday, September 15, 2014

PATRICK MORAZ: An Extraordinary Keyboardist & Composer/ Prior Member of ‘YES’ & ‘The Moody Blues’ -Interview

By Ray Shasho

-Interviewed June 24th 2014

Swiss native Patrick Moraz is the extraordinary keyboardist and composer for no less than two legendary rock groups … ‘YES’ (1974-76) and ‘The Moody Blues’ (1978-1991). His first solo album entitled ‘The Story of i’ was hailed by many critics as a musical masterpiece.
Patrick Moraz is busier than ever these days. He was recently featured on the new CD ‘Light My Fire-A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors,’ Moraz performed on the opening track … “L.A. Woman” with the late Jimi Jamison (Survivor) and Ted Turner (Wishbone Ash).  

Moraz was also one of the performers on the recent ‘Cruise to the Edge’ which also featured … ‘YES,’ Steve Hackett, UK, Queensryche, Tangerine Dream, Renaissance, Strawbs, Tony Levin and a host of other progressive rockers.

Patrick Moraz has several upcoming and surprising releases to watch out for including … “The M.A.P.” ("The Moraz - Alban Project”)which will feature Lenny Castro on percussion and John Avila from ‘Oingo Boingo’ on bass, Patrick Perrier, and Matt Malley. A CD entitled… ‘A way to Freedom’ due in the very near future, and a Cantata in the final works for SATB Choirs in 7 movements, paying homage to ‘Our Planet.’

PATRICK MORAZ: began his fascination with the keyboards at a very young age. He attentively watched and listened to Romanian concert pianist Clara Haskil while living at the same house in Vevey, Switzerland. Moraz attended the Conservatory of Lausanne and studied Harmony and Counterpoint (the Art of the fugue). Patrick’s father managed restaurants which included theaters and stages, and Patrick was able to meet such music luminaries as … Louis Armstrong, Maurice Chevalier, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.

In 1964, Moraz was contracted to be a scuba diving instructor and an organizer of shows and concerts at Cadaqués, and the village of Port Lligat in Spain, which was where surrealist painterSalvador Dali was living at the time. Moraz was able to go on the property of Salvador Dali and organize parties. Patrick became friends with Dali and his wife Gala. He also had the rare opportunity to be in Dali’s studios to watch him work.
At the age of 16, Patrick Moraz became the youngest person to win the prestigious “Best Soloist Award” at The Zurich Jazz Festival. A few years later he opened concerts for jazz legend John Coltrane in Europe.

Over the years … Moraz perfected his proficient musical skills and embarked on a longtime journey of composing scores for Motion Pictures and Television including … (1969- Long Live Death, 1971- The Salamander,1971- Supergirl - Das Mädchen von den Sternen (TV Movie), 1973- The Awful Manners, 1973- The Invitation, 1974- The Middle of the World, 1975- The Wonderful Crook, 1980- The Lost Way, 1987- The Stepfather (music composed by), 1990- In the Eye of the Snake ).

In 1973, Patrick moved to London and formed the rock trio ‘Refugee’ with Lee Jackson (The Nice) and Brian Davison (The Nice). After releasing their critically-acclaimed debut album and a successful tour of Europe, the band split-up.

In 1974, Patrick Moraz was invited to join ‘YES’ as their keyboardist. Moraz was an essential factor to the success of their masterpiece release ‘Relayer’ which many ‘YES’ faithful consider to be their best album to date. The classic ‘YES’ lineup of …Jon Anderson (Vocals), Chris Squire(Bass), Steve Howe (Guitars), Patrick Moraz (Keyboards), and Alan White (Drums) toured extensively and worldwide for the ‘Relayer’ Tour while performing to some of the largest audiences in the bands history… including 135,000 ‘YES’ fans at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on June 12th 1976. ‘YES’ members were encouraged to release solo projects which led to Patrick’s debut solo album ‘The Story of i’ (1976).

Keyboardist Rick Wakeman returned to ‘YES’ while Patrick Moraz was asked to depart the band prematurely. Moraz released his second solo album ‘Out in the Sun’ featuring singer and songwriter John McBurnie in 1977.

In 1978, Moraz was hired by THE MOODY BLUES to take part in a promotional world tour for their comeback album ‘Octave.’ After contributing to ‘Octave,’ original keyboardist, singer, songwriter, and founder of The Moody Blues, Michael Pinder, left the group. Patrick Moraz officially became the new keyboardist and full-time member of The Moody Blues in 1980.

During his stint with The Moody Blues, Moraz recorded two acclaimed solo albums with original ‘YES’ drummer Bill Bruford … (‘Music for Piano and Drums,’ and ‘Flags’).

Patrick Moraz left The Moody Blues in 1991 to pursue a solo career.
The Moody Blues releases w/ Patrick Moraz 
1980/81 Long Distance Voyager, 1982/83 The Present, 1985/86 The Other Side of Life, 1987/88 Sur la Mer,1990/ Keys of the Kingdom

‘Long Distance Voyager’ spawned the Top 20 singles … “Gemini Dream” (#12 U.S. Hit in 1981) and “The Voice” (#15 U.S. Hit in 1981).
‘The Other Side of Life’ spawned the Top 10 single …“Your Wildest Dreams” (#9 U.S. Hit on Billboard Hot 100 in 1986).
‘Sur La Mer’ spawned the Top 30 single … “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” (#30 U.S. Hit on Billboard Hot 100 in 1988).

Patrick Moraz solo releases …1976 - (The Story of I, 1977 - Out in the Sun, 1978 - Patrick Moraz, 1979 - Future Memories Live On TV, 1980 – Coexistence, 1983 - Music for Piano and Drums (with Bill Bruford), 1984 –Timecode, 1984 - Future Memories II, 1985 - Future Memories I & II, 1985 - Flags (with Bill Bruford),1987 - Human Interface,1987 - Les musiques de la Première,1989 - Libertate (re-issue of Coexistence),1994 - Windows of Time,1995 - PM in Princeton, 2000 – Resonance, 2003 – ESP, 2009 - Change of Space, 2012 – PianissiMoraz (compilation from Windows Of Time, Resonance and ESP), 2012 - Live At Abbey Road (1987 "live"), 2012 - Music for Piano and Drums: Live in Maryland (11/9/1984 live with Bill Bruford))

I had the rare and wonderful pleasure of chatting with Patrick Moraz on his birthday. We talked about ….Patrick’s exciting new music projects … ‘Light My Fire-A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors’… Being a member of ‘YES’…  The ‘Relayer’ album … Being a member of ‘The Moody Blues’ … Predator’… ‘Cruise to the Edge’…‘The Story of i’ album …Salvador Dali …And much-much more!

Here’s my interview with legendary band member of ‘YES’ & ‘The Moody Blues,’ progressive rock & classical keyboardist/pianist/composer/songwriter … PATRICK MORAZ
Ray Shasho: Hello Patrick …Happy Birthday!
Patrick Moraz:  “Thank you so much!”
Ray Shasho:  Are you in Los Angeles today?
Patrick Moraz: “Yes, my wife and I have been here in California for the past month and a half working on several productions in a very good studio. It’s a lot of work because I’ve just been asked to potentially participate in the recording of a piece with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. So everything is good!”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, when do you expect to release these current productions you’re talking about?
Patrick Moraz: “The current production that I am finishing should be released by the beginning of the fall. We’re finishing it this week and putting on the finishing touches. It’s a project for a really-really good friend of mine who is also an excellent drummer. I composed all of the music and the arrangements. There are also some luminaries like Lenny Castro on percussion and John Avila from ‘Oingo Boingo’ on bass, and of course I do all the keyboards and music.”
“But today it’s the release of the classic tribute to ‘The Doors’ for which I participated. I play on “L.A. Woman” and the CD is entitled ‘Light My Fire-A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors.’ It’s an extraordinary release with a fantastic lineup of legendary musicians. Personally I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise … a fantastic array of keyboard players, drummers, singers, guitarists, and so on… to celebrate and pay a true musical homage to The Doors. The tune I was associated with… “L.A. Woman,” was chosen by the record company to be the first on the CD and that was a very good surprise for me. I performed on the track with Ted Turner of Wishbone Ash and Jimi Jamison of Survivor (RIP 1951-2014). I think he portrayed the best Jim Morrison voice on the whole album.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick you’ve always been one of my favorite keyboardists so I was naturally disappointed when you departed YES. I’ve always believed that the YES lineup during ‘Relayer’ was magical … instrumentally and lyrically at their very best.  
Patrick Moraz:  “Probably not as disappointed as me. (All laughing) I understand because it came as a total surprise. We’re talking thirty eight years ago when that happened, but I had two and half years with Yes which was absolutely fantastic. Would you believe we connected again recently, not only when I saw them at Ruth Eckerd Hall in April, and it was a great show, I was able to go backstage to say hello to everybody and even Steve Howe came out and gave me a big hug. Then this year with ‘Cruise to the Edge,’ it was fantastic to see them and collaborate on the same ship for a week. I was also asked to do an extra concert on the ship performing with acoustic piano and that went extremely well. I’ve never been on a cruise ever so you can imagine my surprise when I saw this huge ship and the thirty other bands that had signed up including … Renaissance , Marillion, Queensryche, Tangerine Dream, even Tony Levin a good friend of mine who is the bass player for Peter Gabriel …so it was really a fantastic journey.”
Ray Shasho:  I watched a You Tube video of you and Annie Haslam (Renaissance) performing the ‘YES’ Relayer classic “Soon” together on the cruise.
Patrick Moraz:  “Oh absolutely, yes. That was an impromptu version of the song; we had planned to do it but never had the possibility to rehearse it. Although I had gone to see her concert with Renaissance in May, and the fact that we were able to do that was just incredible. She has such a beautiful voice, so for an impromptu version of “Soon” I think she did fantastic.”
Ray Shasho:  I was fortunate enough to see you in concert with both ‘YES’ and ‘The Moody Blues.’ In 1976, I watched you perform with headliners ‘YES’ at RFK stadium in Washington D.C. along with Peter Frampton, Gary Wright, Ace, and The Pousette- Dart Band in front of over 45,000 people.
Patrick Moraz: “That’s right and we had also just played JFK Stadium. I remember the D.C. concert and an amazing thing was Steve Porcaro (The Porcaro Brothers) was in Gary Wright’s band and later formed Toto. Our management at the time had signed Peter Frampton one year before he was number one on all the charts and that was a big edition to help fill all the stadiums. To fill stadiums every other day and especially during a Bicentennial year with all the celebrations going on was absolutely unbelievable. We were also in Chicago that year and had 83,000 people. How was it for you in the crowd when you were watching the band …was the sound good?
Ray Shasho: I was standing on the floor and on top of boards about 20 rows from the stage. The acoustics were remarkably good; especially for the ‘Relayer’ album …it was an incredible show!
Patrick Moraz: “I remember for those gigs we used Clair Brothers Audio Systems based in Pennsylvania. We had 16 different PA systems all added together. Onstage my monitoring system was made out of what we used to call the F4 …just huge speakers, I had three of them man. So the sound onstage was just unbelievable, sometimes almost deafening, but really-really good.”
Ray Shasho: When I chatted with Jon Anderson about ‘Relayer’ and its inspiration from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Jon said … “It was a combination of the war as we understand it and where would we be ... can we live beyond war, and then I had to jump in the real chaos and savagery of war in order to come out at the other end with ‘soon, oh soon the light’ to wake us up emotionally and spiritually.”
Patrick Moraz: “I think the title… ‘Gates of Delirium’ was influenced by a book I was reading  when I started to rehearse with him and the rest of the band, especially the first weekend I got invited to join the band, it was also the weekend that Nixon resigned, so I remember it very well.
We were discussing news happening and so on…  Jon was telling me about that Tolstoy book ‘War and Peace,’ and I was reading a comic book, “DELIRIUS” (by Philippe Druillet) a very good cartoon but a very serious designer created from France, and that guy was actually working for a magazine and he wrote a book. The book had just been released and I was reading that to take my mind a little bit away from all the rehearsals and the seven albums I was going to have to learn before we went out on the road. Also all the things I was to contribute to “The Gates of Delirium,” “Sound Chaser” and “To Be Over” in the next six weeks. So I’m pretty sure that ‘Delirium’ came from those discussions I used to have with Jon Anderson, and I showed him the book of course, he couldn’t understand it because it was all in French. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with the current keyboardist of ‘YES’ Geoff Downes recently as well… very nice guy with an incredible musical past as well with The Buggles and Asia.
Patrick Moraz: “I saw him on the cruise. Personally I think he did a fantastic job helping to recreate the three albums that were featured on the last couple of tours. With the new singer Jon Davison who is able to reach those notes and has a very good spirituality in him. I think Jon Anderson should be really happy and proud to have his music and songs re-performed the way they are now. I think it’s an honor to him every day.”
Ray Shasho: I was upset when Jon was let go from the band and all that transpired, and I told Chris Squire that when I spoke with him… I have to admit, I do miss Jon Anderson as the frontman of ‘YES.’ 
Patrick Moraz: “Of course … he’s one of two creators of the band at the time. I think his spirit will live forever because he was the creator of so many songs and most of those lyrics and melodies. I understand what you are saying but I think people will be absolutely happy and surprised by their new album with Jon Davison …‘Heaven and Earth.’
Ray Shasho: Patrick, you performed on Chris Squire’s ‘Fish Out of Water’ solo album.
Patrick Moraz:  “That’s right; it was also my first playing encounter with Bill Bruford.
I also did “Music for piano & drums” (1983) and “Flags” (1985) (Moraz - Bruford Albums) when I was still a member of The Moody Blues. I also contributed to Steve Howe’s album. In 1975 … I think I was very busy because we all had decided to do solo albums after ‘Relayer’ and the first tour. In the winter of 1975, I was contributing to ‘Fish Out of Water’ and arranging the chamber orchestra for Steve’s first solo album ‘Beginnings’ and preparing my recording as well, and I even did a cameo in Alan Whites video for his ‘Ramshackled’ album. 
Ray Shasho: Your solo release… ‘The Story of i’ (1976) was a magnificent album.
Patrick Moraz: “I had a lot of fun doing it; it took about four months to record. I was also able to give that first professional gig to one of the greatest bass players the planet has ever known… Jeff Berlin. He actually played on both sides of the album. The official name of ‘The Story of i’ was actually just ‘i’ and that’s why I had that logo which was the ninth letter of the Etruscan alphabet. It was actually by intention in the first minute of the opening piece of ‘i’ …there’s a large vocal section that we sang …John McBurnie and his girlfriend who was also in the backing vocals and all of us in the studio sang… ‘i’! That was actually the personification of the title of the album. But the record company told me … “Patrick, what do you want to do with a title with just a letter and a logo like that?  The album is great and we love it but since you wrote the story call it ‘The Story of i.’” He said, “With ‘i’ we’re not going to do any business.” Of course nowadays we’ve got iPhone, iMusic, iPhoto …i everything! I should have trademarked it. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: ‘The Story of i’ album is an intriguing concept and story.
Patrick Moraz: “It’s actually the concept of life and the afterlife and in a way an aspect of reincarnation that I was unveiling through that story. I wrote all the liner notes and did the cartoon on the original version of it when it was on vinyl. It really helped me as a plan to compose and arrange everything; I wanted to make it a whole piece of music in fourteen movements … or two pieces of music in seven movements each and I think that was well translated on vinyl. Of course recently it has been remastered and released, and I think it came out really well on the CD.”
Ray Shasho: You also inherited a Brazilian influence which you shared on the album?
Patrick Moraz: “Exactly! After the second tour with ‘YES’ in 1975 which finished in late August, I flew with my engineer to Brazil and all over South America. Even on the plane journey I was writing music and getting some ideas. When I arrived in Brazil I was able to find sixteen Brazilian percussionists, and each one having a different function. Later, I moved to Brazil and lived there for five years; even my daughter was born in Brazil. I was also able to learn how to speak Portuguese.”
Ray Shasho: “I watched you perform with ‘The Moody Blues’ for the ‘Long Distance Voyager’ Tour in 1981.
Patrick Moraz:  “After I did my second solo album called ‘Out in the Sun,’ with that long piece at the end of it called “Time for a Change, “which actually has some of the flavors of what I had recorded and composed for “Awaken,” in ‘Going for the One’ from ‘YES,’ I was associated with  them two years previous to the recording of ‘Going for the One’ and I had prepared with them all the material including some of the biggest tunes. In early 1977, I was able to secure the record contract for ‘Out in the Sun,’ which I wanted to be completely different and more liberated. Then I moved to Brazil for a year and half and was preparing my third album and was going to record it in Brazil and also Geneva, Switzerland. Then some agent called me, actually in Miami, and asked if I wanted to join a certain band, they didn’t say who it was.”

“When I arrived in Rio, I was staying in a hotel at that point because of logistics, and then on the telex machine I understood it was The Moody Blues. I immediately got their album and already new some of their material, especially from ‘Days of Future Past,’ which is actually the title that has been retrieved by X-Men nowadays in the movie. So I was invited to come to London on the 17th of July in 1978, a couple of days after the end of the Montreux Jazz Festival where I played. I was able to secure a place to play at the festival so it would help me in my travels and to meet The Moody Blues in London two days later. I was fortunate enough all these years to keep my roadie in London with my equipment in top shape. I used to always joke that I was probably one of the first musicians to say… ‘Have Keyboards, Will Travel’ (All laughing).”

“I arrived in London and met with The Moody Blues and they were very nice and within the next hour we managed to play three or four tunes including “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Nights in White Satin,” and “Legend of a Mind” the song written by Ray Thomas about Timothy Leary who eventually became a very good friend in the late 80’s. The first two years I was with The Moody Blues as a session man of course and I learned all the material and so on. We had the idea of recording and they asked me to join them in the studio at the very beginning of the 1980’s. From then on, I was able to stay with them another ten and a half years and record five studio albums including the first one with them…‘Long Distance Voyager’ and ‘The Present’ several years later, and ‘The Other Side of Life’ after that. Those ten years as a member with The Moody Blues were absolutely fantastic and I really enjoyed every note that I ever played with them in the studio and onstage. I am very proud of having been a member and probably the only musician who has been a member of both groups …’YES’ and ‘The Moody Blues.’”
Ray Shasho: You played several mellotrons while onstage with both groups?
Patrick Moraz:  “Absolutely! When I was with ‘YES’ I had in a way …designed for the mellotron makers to make me a double mellotron. I was the first to have a double mellotron. I remember with ‘YES’ I had three mellotrons and when I joined The Moody Blues I actually had four mellotrons onstage. They call it the Ancient Sampler because it was all analog, each key could produce three different sounds from A, B, and C, but since there was (35) keys on each mellotron keyboard you could have up to (105) sounds, which was extremely useful at the time. I’ve used the mellotrons not only with every Moody Blues album that I’ve done but also with some of my solo albums, and even the solo albums that I was able to play as instant composition in front of TV cameras. I’m talking about ‘Future Memories I and II,’ these were extraordinary for the time because there was no computers. When I joined The Moody Blues as well there were no computers or programs as such, so the mellotrons were the key instruments, also to be able to reintroduce and give the interpretation to their best known hits. And to play all the parts that Michael Pinder had played, who was a fantastic mellotron player, great musician, and remarkable gentleman. Unfortunately I hadn’t had the time or pleasure to meet for a long time, I only met him for a few minutes at the NAMM show in the 90’s. But the Moody Blues recognized the fact that other instruments were as important, I had an array of synthesizers, electric pianos, and moog synthesizers of the time … I had so many instruments it was just unbelievable!”
Ray Shasho: You must be embracing today’s technology in so many ways while working in the studio … do you record from home nowadays?
Patrick Moraz:  “Yes I do, I’m fortunate enough to be able to have somewhat of an expansion of my array of keyboards and computers and what I call the ‘space station,’ because I use Apple computers and have some Thunderbolts and screens …I use mainly Logic and Pro tools.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, I understand you knew Salvador Dali, what was he like?
Patrick Moraz: “It was in 1964 and I was engaged by a company in the north of Spain around Cadaqués which was the village or the town where Port Lligat is situated, a few miles northeast, but on the sea, and that’s exactly where Salvador Dali was living. So I was engaged for two reasons …to be a scuba diving instructor and also to organize some shows and concerts. I was playing piano, vibraphone and so on… and I was able to go on the property of Salvador Dali and even organize some parties for several months. We became friends and he was also speaking in French to me although in Spain. He would be saying surrealistic phrases to me and that’s how I got immersed into his creativity. I was fortunate enough as well to go and mingle with the people who used to come around as well, but mostly with Salvador and his wife Gala. I was probably one of the rare people to be allowed in one of his own painting studios and watch him work. It was extraordinary!”
Ray Shasho:  I noticed a photo on your website with you on the set for the first ‘Predator’ movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger … that had to be awesome!
Patrick Moraz: “It was absolutely phenomenal. That picture was probably taken at the beginning of 1987. Joel Silver wanted me to fly to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where they were filming in the jungle and that’s where I met Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Carl Weathers, and I spent about four days there. The day I arrived at Puerto Vallarta, Joel Silver was exuberant and the first thing he said to me was, “Patrick, I heard your music in New York and I was amazed,” and he said, “Guess what the good news is? The budget for the movie has been increased from 17 -million to 30- million dollars,” (Laughing) so it was a real celebration." 

"There was about 300 people all positioned in the jungle which was pretty thick above the mountains of Puerto Vallarta. Everybody was arriving by jeep or helicopter. The next day they were filming a scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers and there was also a scene including some parrots and chameleons. The parrots worked out fine but the chameleons would not change, so they flew in three chameleons in a helicopter from LA. Originally one of the assistant directors to John McTiernan the director, wanted to spray the chameleons but the ASPCA from Mexico said, “No-no Senor, you cannot do that.” We were laughing about it at the dinner later that night. Remember the scene when they attacked the guerrilla soldiers at their camp? I was almost a cameo appearing from the back, so they asked me to put on army fatigues because I was so close to the shooting.”

“I was supposed to be finishing the score for ‘Predator’ but The Moody Blues were going to Australia and having been with them for already nine years I didn’t want to let them down. The Producer Joel Silver had asked me to finish the score for ‘Predator’ during that period and even fly to somewhere like Romania or Czechoslovakia and finish the score with some aspect of a symphony orchestra. Eventually they changed that because I was not able to complete the score, I had done the temporary score for ‘Predator’ and I had just finished the full score for another movie called ‘The Stepfather’ with Terry O’Quinn.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to perform or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Patrick Moraz: “I would immediately say Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart would be the most unbelievable in terms of the music. Also Stravinsky because he actually used to live in the town where I was born and forty years before that where he started to write ‘The Rite of Spring’ and had already written ‘The Firebird’ which was one of the music that we used to come onstage with ‘YES.’ He was also one of the main influences for some of the music that I have done. I would also have to include John Coltrane.”
“In terms of the movies … I would say Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, and Spielberg … or somebody of that imagination caliber, creativity, and genius …also some aspect of French directors like François Truffaut who had a big influence on me when I was a kid.”
“If there was only one spiritual entity which has always guided me my whole life it’s God.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, anything else you’d like to promote?
Patrick Moraz: “I’d like to mention my ‘Windows of Time’ album recorded in 1993 at Full Sail University. I recorded it over a period of 72 hours, but recorded over 14 hours of piano, and nine months after that I was able to …with the help of a very good sound engineer and programmer to extract the essence of that music and make it into a one hour album. It’s the first CD at exactly 60 minutes or 3600 seconds  … My subsequent solo albums … ‘Resonance’ which is all piano and ‘ESP’ which is more classically oriented.”  
“I’m working on so many new projects …“The M.A.P.” ("The Moraz - Alban Project”) is going to be a very big surprise for the listeners and fans. I also have most of the music for my upcoming CD entitled ‘A way to Freedom’ due in the very near future. I’ve also got some very interesting poems presented in different languages, and a Cantata in the final works for SATB Choirs in 7 movements which pay homage to ‘Our Planet.’ So, I’m really-really enjoying what I’m doing.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, thank you so much for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible music with ‘YES,’ ‘The Moody Blues’ you’re brilliant solo projects, and the sensational music you continue to bring.
Patrick Moraz: “Having an interview like yours on the day of my birthday is a gift from God. I’ve really enjoyed your questions so much and I hope we can meet when I come to Sarasota in the not so distant future.”

Very special thanks to ‘the great’ Billy James of Glass Onyon PR

COMING UP NEXT … Legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) … Robin Trower (Legendary guitarist and songwriter)… Don Wilson guitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures.’ … Country Music’s shining new star -19 year old Mary Sarah … And Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”).

Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Michael Pinder Exclusive: The Moody Blues Founder Admits to Seeing UFO Formations

 By Ray Shasho

An interview with The Moody Blues legendary keyboardist Michael Pinder

Michael Pinder was affectionately labeled “Micky the Moonboy” as a youth for his preoccupation of the moon, stars, music and electronics. But who could have predicted that a silly nickname perhaps more suited for a sci-fi cartoon superhero would actually forecast his destiny. Pinder’s fascination with the cosmos and a life-changing realization that we are not alone in the universe became the basis for composing intricate and surreal musical masterpieces.

Michael played Hymns on the piano in Church every Sunday at his Colonel’s request; in return Pinder received an early discharge from the British Army. Pinder asked for the early-out after hearing The Beatles “She Loves You” on the radio. Ten days later, Pinder was back in Birmingham, England. He quickly found a job working with Streetly Electronics where he learned the mechanics of the Mellotron. Michael Pinder would become an illustrious keyboardist and trendsetter for the instrument.

In 1964 … Michael Pinder (piano, organ and vocals) and Ray Thomas (tambourine, flute and vocals) formed The Moody Blues along with members …Denny Laine (guitars, harmonica and lead vocals), Clint Warwick (bass guitar and vocals) and Graeme Edge (drums and vocals). The R&B/Rock/Pop Birmingham band scored a Top 10 hit in the U.S. with “Go Now” (1965) from their debut album The Magnificent Moodies.
The Moody Blues became part of ‘The British Invasion’ and supported The Beatles on their final UK tour in December of 1965. They followed the tour with their first trip to the U.S. appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show.

In 1966 … after the departure of Denny Laine and Clint Warwick … The Moody Blues reformed with old friend John Lodge (bass guitar and vocals) and Justin Hayward (lead vocals and guitars) who was recommended to Pinder by Eric Burdon of The Animals. The band had an awakening after a disgruntled audience member visited their dressing room complaining about their music. The group immediately changed their musical direction and style, hence … the commencement of one of the most amazing transformations in rock history.
Meanwhile …Michael Pinder suggested to his friend John Lennon that The Beatles use the Mellotron on Magical Mystery Tour and they did. Pinder’s Mellotron influence is undeniably detected on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Pinder and bandmate Ray Thomas were also invited to play harmonica on the tracks… “I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill.”

“In 1967 …The Moody Blues first attempt at a dissimilar musical direction had consummated with an awe-inspiring masterpiece entitled… Days of Future Passed. It would be the first Decca/Deram Records release in stereo. Michael Pinder’s Mellotron ingrained a brave new transcendental manner and Progressive Rock was born. The proficient players of The Moody Blues were also accompanied by The London Festival Orchestra while creating the band’s first concept album. Days of Future Passed spawned two of the band’s biggest commercial hits with its new lineup … “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” Pinder wrote the tracks… “Dawn is a Feeling” and “The Sunset.” Pinder’s dramatic reading of “Late Lament” added a mind-blowing conclusion to a superlative album. Producer Tony Clarke’s influence also had a huge impact on the group.

The Moody Blues subsequent release … In Search of the Lost Cord (1968) was recorded without an orchestra … although Pinder’s ingenious performance on the Mellotron often sounded like a symphony. Pinder composed “The Best Way to Travel” and “Om” on the album. “Ride My See-saw” became a commercial hit for the band.
In 1969 … The Moody Blues released On the Threshold of a Dream. The group’s signature sound became exclusive to the rest of the rock world. Pinder had considerable songwriting duties on the album with … “So Deep Within You,” “Have You Heard (Part 1),” “The Voyage,” and “Have You Heard (Part 2).”
Inspired by the 1969 moon landing …To Our Children’s Children’s Children was their first album released on the band’s newly formed Threshold Records. The band followed the critically-acclaimed release with … Question of Balance (1970). Pinder penned … “How Is It (We are Here)” and his proverbial classic … “Melancholy Man.”

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was released in 1971. For the first time, the entire band lyrically collaborated on “Procession” the opening track. Michael Pinder also penned the final track on the album entitled … “My Song.” The release spawned yet another Top 40 hit with … “The Story in Your Eyes.”
Also in 1971 … Pinder played tambourine on John Lennon’s Imagine album on the track … “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama.”
Seventh Sojourn released in 1972 brought an end to the classic Moody Blues era. Michael Pinder penned … “Lost in a Lost World,” and “When You’re a Free Man.” The album also spawned… “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band) and became one of the bands highest charting hits reaching #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the U.S. Pinder also substituted the Mellotron with its precursor the Chamberlin.

In 1976 …Pinder released his solo album entitled … The Promise.

After a lengthy hiatus, The Moody Blues released Octave (1978). Michael Pinder departed the band during the sessions but contributed… “One Step Into the Light.” Pinder was replaced by YES Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz. Without Pinder’s Mellotron and Chamberlin influence, The Moody Blues intricate progressive period was over.
The Moody Blues continue to tour and record as a band with Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge (the only original band member left in the group).

In 1994 …Pinder released his solo effort … Among the Stars (a private mail order release).

MOST RECENTLY … Esoteric Recordings has released Michael Pinder’s 3-Disc CD & DVD set of ‘The Promise (1976) & Among the Stars’ (1994) plus new bonus material featuring Michael’s sons (The Pinder Brothers) and Ray Thomas (The Moody Blues) on flute.

I had the rare pleasure of chatting with Michael Pinder recently. We chatted about his remarkable days with The Moody Blues, his relationship and influence on The Beatles, and UFO’S!

Here’s my interview with legendary Moody Blues singer, songwriter, keyboardist, Mellotron pioneer, and technological beneficence to the music world …MICHAEL PINDER.
Ray Shasho: Hi Michael so glad that you could be on the call today. How’s California weather treating you?
Michael Pinder: “Actually it’s not a bad day, there’s hardly any clouds with a little bit of sunshine and it’s about 68 degrees.”
Ray Shasho: I think we’re both lucky because the rest of the country is really suffering … Michael, Esoteric Recordings has released your 3-Disc CD & DVD set of ‘The Promise (1976) & Among the Stars’ (1994) plus new bonus material featuring your sons (The Pinder Brothers) and Ray Thomas (The Moody Blues) on flute.
Michael Pinder:Yes, Mike and Matt, two of my three sons are on the album. They recorded four albums as The Pinder Brothers and have their own business teaching music. Matt does a lot of gigs playing bass, like with Kevin Russell’s Cream of Clapton. Dan is the third son in Los Angeles; he’s a film editor in the movie business. I have a talented family. My dad played piano and banjo and my mom sang a little bit. Because my dad was a piano player, I was exposed to a lot of early music from the 20’s, 30’s 40’s, 50’s. But after the Elvis period and the first time I heard The Beatles first tune …that was it, the signal for me. I was in Germany at the time in the military. I happened to be in good with the Colonel at the camp because he was very religious and every Sunday morning he would send for me.”

“One morning he said, “Pinder, I understand you play piano?” I was playing for the guys in the Mess. He said, “How about playing a couple of Hymns for me on Sunday? I said, yes sir, no problem sir. I also found out that there was a guy who played bass and a guy who played drums. The Colonel gave us the equipment to play and he said all I want you to do is to play a few hymns on Sunday mornings. So there I am in Germany and I’m listening to the radio on Saturday morning and I heard The Beatles “She Loves You” for the first time …and that was like, oh yea! I thought, I’ve got to get out of here, but I was already signed up for quite a few years. So I went to see the Colonel and I told him what was happening. He said no problem and within about ten days I was back in England.”
Ray Shasho: That’s an amazing story… why did the Colonel give you an early discharge from the military?
Michael Pinder: “The Colonel was the camp. I played for him every Sunday morning because he was very religious. He said thank you for all the music you’ve played for us and we’ll take care of you. Prior to that, I had a band called The Rocking Tuxedo’s which was my first band. Ray Thomas also had a band and we sort of got to know each other. By the time we got to about the third Beatles hit (All laughing), Ray and I decided to put a band together and we called it The Moody Blues. The reason we called it The Moody Blues was because my mom ran a big seven bar British Pub and the name of the beer company was called Mitchells & Butlers …M&B. I thought we could get on the circuit because they had probably about a hundred different pubs. So I thought “Mood Indigo” because the song stuck with me as a kid and we were playing blues tunes. So that’s how I came up with The Moody Blues.”
Ray Shasho: During the British Invasion …the early Moody Blues had a very different sound and musically ahead of their time, much like The Animals, Yardbirds, and Rolling Stones. I guess not being from Liverpool and hailing from Birmingham may have had something to do with it too?
Michael Pinder:Yea exactly, we were all on the road but all took a different direction.”
Ray Shasho: What was it like touring with The Beatles?
Michael Pinder: “It was absolutely fabulous! It was just them and us. There was a guy who was like a comedian that would open the show and his name was Pinder … I can’t remember his first name.”
Ray Shasho: At what point did you begin playing the Mellotron?
Michael Pinder: “When the Colonel let me off because I heard The Beatles song … I was looking for a job. There was a company located about three miles from where I lived and was born. I read their ad in the newspaper saying they wanted somebody that had mechanical ideas and knew music. So I applied for the job, got it, and it turned out to be a Mellotron company.”
Ray Shasho: I’m really fascinated with the Mellotron as a musical instrument … an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replaying keyboard. It basically plays a tape when you press a key. But you altered it in some way when you began playing it?
Michael Pinder: “What I did … on the left hand keyboard there would be rhythm sections and things like that, the right side was used for soloing. I didn’t need the cheesy rhythms so what I did was took those out and put another right handed version in the left and created two mellotron’s … one on my left hand and one on my right.”
Ray Shasho: Michael, you became a trailblazer for the Mellotron.
Michael Pinder:I was lucky enough to turn The Beatles on to the Mellotron. I called them and they sent four Mellotron’s to The Beatles.”
Ray Shasho: It would have been awesome if you had actually played the Mellotron on the track … but we should all still thank you for your very critical contribution to “Strawberry Fields Forever?”
Michael Pinder: “Yes (All laughing). I did play harmonica on “I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill” … me and Ray both. They had every kind of harmonica you could imagine. Ray Thomas and I were also lucky enough to get on the final Beatles UK tour.”
Ray Shasho: You also played on John Lennon’s Imagine album?
Michael Pinder: “I played tambourine on “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama.” I turned them on to the Mellotron but when I got there all the tapes were hanging out and nobody knew how to handle it. I couldn’t play Mellotron on that so I grabbed a tambourine, got on the drummer’s high-hat, and went for “I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier Mama.”
Ray Shasho: Was Days of Future Passed …The Moody Blues Sgt. Pepper’s?
Michael Pinder: “I would say so. It was apparently the first stereo record that Decca ever did.”
Ray Shasho: Michael, you were so inspirational and important to the success of The Moody Blues, and composed so many intricate and beautiful arrangements, for instance… "Have You Heard/The Voyage/Have You Heard (part two)" from the album On the Threshold of a Dream. Where do some of your songwriting ideas come from?
Michael Pinder: “It comes from the heart, mind, and things that I’ve listened to over the years.”
“I was born in 1941, at the end of 1945 my mom called me in from the garden while I was collecting spiders. She called … “Michael, I want you to meet somebody,” and there was my dad. He was a sergeant in the military and had just gotten back from France. So she introduced my dad to me … I had never really seen him.”

“My dad used to do deliveries and would bring big crates home so we could break it up and light the fire with it. So we had one in the garden, it was kind of like a coffin without a lid on. I would get a blanket and a cushion and just lie in there and couldn’t see anything except the sky. That was one of my favorite things to do and just watch the skies.”

“When everybody was at work and the older kids were all at school … I used to get a privet stick, strip all the leaves off and turn it into a bow. Then I’d put it behind the little spider webs, onto the web, then go to another one and put it on there … and then watch the spiders fight. There weren’t any spiders left in my garden so I’d go across the street. “So I was in the neighbor’s garden picking spiders off the web and watching them fight. The neighbors weren’t at home. I turned around and there was this guy standing at their front door. He looked like Michael Rennie from the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. So I turned around and this guy was standing by the door of the house. He points and says, look up there. I looked up and saw formations of different types of spaceships. Then they both sort of disappeared, it was one of those miraculous things. So I’ve always been into the outer space thing. It’s one of those things that stay with you your whole life.”
Ray Shasho: Was that the only time you witnessed a UFO?
Michael Pinder: “In 1966 … with the first band, we were coming back from Manchester around midnight and we always wanted to get back to London before dawn, otherwise we’d have trouble getting to sleep. We were coming down from Manchester on the day they opened the M6 motorway. So we’re driving home about one o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting in the back, and I’d put my head back and look out the back window and look at the stars. So we’re driving and probably doing sixty miles an hour. There was this red light and I said, I don’t remember that radio station around here. So I told the guys to pull over and we got out. We all looked over the top of the car and there was this red ball kind of thing moving across the freeway that turns into a square … like a red dice. As it approached us, it got bigger and bigger, and we were all sort of bathed in this blue light. We ended up getting home three hours late and wondering what the heck was that? …So that really solidified my nickname of “Micky the Moonboy” as a kid. I was always interested in the moon. …Read Zecharia Sitchin … he’s the guy!”
Ray Shasho: Michael, any regrets on leaving The Moody Blues?
Michael Pinder: “No, I don’t because I was really quite happy with what Ray and I achieved. We had what we wanted… we conquered it.”
Ray Shasho: Do you still talk with your old bandmates?
Michael Pinder: “I talk with Ray a lot; we’re still the best buddies. We’re the guys who started the band.”
Ray Shasho: I was part of a family retail electronics business in Washington D.C. and we were among the very first in D.C. to carry Pong, the Atari 2600 console and all the game cartridges. After you left The Moody Blues you actually went to work for Atari?
Michael Pinder: “Yes I did for awhile. I was demonstrating for them. I think I still have my original Pong and Atari in the garage (All laughing).”
Ray Shasho: Graeme Edge lives about 15-20 minutes from me. He’s made headlines in the National Enquirer most recently …did you read it?
Michael Pinder:Yes… misperforming in back of a car. He kind of deserves what he gets.”
Ray Shasho: Michael, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Michael Pinder: “I think I’ve already gotten to play with who I’d want to play with and that’s The Beatles. When we did the last Beatles tour in the UK that all made sense. Do you remember the song…“Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkin? …Paul gave the song to us first. I told Paul thanks a lot but it’s not quite us. So it turned out to be a one hit wonder for her and I could kind of sense that. But we were so lucky to have played with so many great bands… especially The Beatles.”
Ray Shasho: Michael, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and hopefully will continue to bring.
Michael Pinder: “Ray I appreciate you calling and giving us the chance to chat about it. Cheers!”

Esoteric Recordings releases a Deluxe 3 Disc CD &DVD Set by Moody Blues founder and keyboard player Michael Pinder. -Purchase ‘The Promise/Among The Stars’/DVD set at
Michael Pinder official website
Michael Pinder on Twitter
The Pinder Brothers official website
The Pinder Brothers on Facebook
Ray Thomas official website

As always ...very special thanks to “the great” Billy James

Coming UP … My interview with guitarist Wayne Swinny of SALIVA, Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys, the legendary Judy Collins, Jesse Colin Young, and Travis Barker of Blink-182.

This article is dedicated to my Brother Harry who has always been a devoted fan of The Moody Blues.

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at

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