Chris Opperman worked with Mike Keneally (orchestrating Mike's "The Universe Will Provide") and with Steve Vai (orchestrating and taking part in the performance of "The Aching Hunger"), but you might also know him from his impressive solo albums.
As Chris will be performing at Zappanale, I thought the time was right to ask him some questions.
UniMuta : Hi Chris, last year your released "The Lionheart" (I'm listening to it right now!). It's a beautiful album, and you've obviously spent a lot of time on the sound, on the instrumentation. When you're composing a piece, do you already have the different instruments in your head? How does it work?
Chris Opperman : In the case of The Lionheart, a lot of the arrangements were based on the sound of that specific ensemble because we had been playing the tunes live for years. However, I would often consider things like, "It might be nice to have Jen Kuhn play a solo here," or "When Frank Macchia takes his solo, why don't we have the drums burst into double-time for some extra excitement?" A lot of those kinds of ideas were worked out in rehearsal or at shows. When composing some of the larger works, like "The Porpentine," I would usually write the next section on the piano, program it into Finale, and then paint all around it. Then sometimes things are totally accidental. There are a couple of instances where someone made a mistake in the session and engineer Neil Citron and I decided to keep the mistake and then I'd edit the score accordingly.
UniMuta : Again, you've surrounded yourself with an impressive batch of musicians. How did you / do you find them?
Chris Opperman : At this point, musicians are generally referred to me and I have a pretty large roster of people to call on. There have been some isolated incidences where someone has let me down, but thankfully those occurrences are few and far between.
UniMuta : I really like "The Lionheart". It's a very versatile album. It has a lot of suprises, and I haven't even mentioned 'The Porpentine' yet, the magnum opus. It completely absorbed me.
Chris Opperman : That's fantastic! I'm so happy you've enjoyed it so much!
UniMuta : I was pleasantly suprised to find out that you dedicated 'The Porpentine' to the great Neil Gaiman. I have his "Black Orchid" somewhere, and "Mr.Punch". Two projects that he did with Dave McKean. Tell me a bit about your fascination with graphic novels. Who has impressed you lately?
Chris Opperman : "Black Orchid" is very cool, but I haven't read "Mr. Punch" yet. When I was a teenager, my two jobs were working the door at a comic book show and selling comic books for another dealer at various other shows including the Chicago Comic-Con, so comic books have always been a part of my life. Well, you can't go wrong with Fables by Bill Willingham and (mainly) Mark Buckingham. 106 issues in and the series is still going strong. Mark Waid's Irredeemable I found interesting, and Mike Carey's The Unwritten is truly unique. Almost all the comics I buy are from Vertigo, except for Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo which is published by Dark Horse. But my list of comics that I read is pretty short.
UniMuta : And then, of course, there's Zappanale. Will you be performing? Solo, or as a guest? What can we expect? (and what do you expect from the festival?)
Chris Opperman : You can expect a lot of surprises! I will be performing a set with Project/Object and Bobby Martin and we'll be playing a combination of original pieces and music by Frank Zappa and others. I don't want to give away much more than that! What do I expect from the festival? I expect to see some amazing performances, meet some interesting people, and enjoying a wild celebration of the music and the man Frank Zappa.
UniMuta : I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for your time & see you soon!
Chris Opperman will be performing at Zappanale on Sunday, August 21, 2011 !!
Better be there.