The highly original progressive sensation Condition Red was formed in 1999 by Lars Eric Mattsson, and the original lineup featured:
Lars Eric Mattsson – guitar and bass
Alex Masi – guitar
Derek Sherinian – keyboards
Alexander King – keyboards
Eddie Sledgehammer - drums
Ella Grussner – vox and violin
Torgny Stjärnfelt – vox
Esa Pietilä – sax
The self titled debut album was released in 2000 and received very positive reactions but as Lars was too busy with other projects it took three years until the band reunited for the second album which was quite different from the debut, this time mostly based on shorter songs
and there was a lineup changed as well.
Ella Grussner did all the vocals while Gerald Kloos played the drums and Alexander King did all the keyboards.
Condition Red also recorded three covers for the Lion Music tribute albums “Blackmore’s Castle – A tribute to Deep Purple and Rainbow” and “The Spirit Lives On vol2 – The Music of Jimi Hendrix Revisited” : “Black Night”, “Still I’m Sad” and “Villanova Junction”. In 2016 Condition Red also covered Antonio Vivaldi for the album “Lion Music Presents: Antonio Vivaldi – A New Season”.
In 2015, 12 years after the previous album the first sign of life from Condition Red was seen with the release of the single “Tomorrow Never Knows”. At this time the band was hard at work on their third album “Illusion of Truth” (Released May 20, 2016). The band had been slimmed down to a trio which now featured:
Lars Eric Mattsson - guitar, bass and vocals,
Alexander King - keyboards
Eddie Sledgehammer - drums
“Illusion of Truth” is a full blown progressive concept album that fuses prog rock of the seventies with more modern at times heavier influences, but the 70-ies feel is never far away.
The band has chosen not to reveal the subject of the album at this time, but I do have my ideas…
Most importantly though, this album is top notch work and is highly recommended for all fans of progressive music.
I spoke to Alexander King and Lars Eric Mattsson about the new album as well as a few other subjects that came up.
Discography (Lion Music)
Condition Red (2000) II (2003) Tomorrow Never Knows (2015 single) Illusion of Truth (2016)
Please tell me why it took 13 years for you to have the third album out:
Alexander: Lars and I have both been extremely busy with a ton of other projects and we did not even know if there would be a sequel. I guess I wanted it more and way back in 2007 Lars promised there would be another one some day but the years went by until we got in touch regarding the remixed/remasters of our two previous albums. Actually a few files had been damaged which forced Lars to record new vocals by himself to one of the songs off the second album. I think that was the point when we started discussing what we should do. Lars had this lyrical idea for the whole album about a subject he was very much into at the time and I said, okay just do it!
How would you like to describe your new album “Illusion of Truth” ?
Lars: Well, it’s an amalgam of many different styles of progressive rock leaning towards the music of the 70-ies we love so much. There are some touches of fusion and metal and everything in between ☺ To us, it’s all just music anyway. We did not really aim at making the music complicated just for the sake of impressing anyone, and we also included some stuff that is fairly simple and not too over produced. Personally I think this album holds some of the best guitar tones I have recorded to date and I think I managed to come up with some really cool ideas. I love the more vintage feel of the keyboards from the Rhodes for example and there is even a mellotron flute on the album’s closing tracks.
Please walk us through the songs on the album and tell me a little bit about each of them.
01. Changing (Lars:)
Lyrically this song is the centerpiece of the whole album. The music is all in 5/4 and while some parts were really easy to come up with and perform others were quite a challenge. I play the sitar behind Alexander’s wonderful Rhodes electric piano during the verses while the choruses are full blast everything including my seven string Boel MC7 guitar. The middle section with just acoustic guitar and vocals turned out really well I think. There is both a Rhodes solo and a jazzy guitar part where the guitar is all alone in the middle of the song and for this part I used my pink Paisley Telecaster.
02. Never Be The same (Alexander:)
This one is quite interesting with it’s simple structure I think. Lars’s acoustic guitar keep the beat going while the harmony is created by two cellos and my Rhodes piano. We really made good use of that one on this album. I think I used the Nord Lead for the synth solo.
(Lars) – and I played the outro electric guitar solo on my Jeff Beck Custom Shop strat.
03. Let it All Come Out (Lars:)
To me this songs’ verses are built on some kind of Band of Gypsys Funk while the choruses and the mid section riffs are more prog metal I guess. I had to fight quite bit with the vocals on this one, it’s actually much more difficult that it may sound. I love the way we made the solo section build and then coming down again with the violin solo before the vocals return. The song’s ending sequence features a wall of 8 rhythm guitars playing the same thing, I was going for that Abbey Road vibe with reverse guitar fills as an additional spice.
04. Labyrinth (Lars:)
This is an all instrumental in 7/4 for which I have had the basic melody quite a while. I guess it’s a bit “out there” with it’s unusual scales and harmony but I love it! I recorded the guitar on this one very fast. I used the Coral electric sitar for the rhythm track.
05. It’s Not a Crime (Alexander:)
This is definitely the most important track off the album. I think it manages to build very nicely with all the different parts following each other and adding new dimensions one by one. There are quite a lot of different instruments on this track though not too many appears at a time. If you listen to Lars’s guitar solos on this track you will discover that he is using far less distortion that usually, something I talked him into ☺ This is the kind of the track that seem to take forever to complete and actually you might end up adding stuff indefinitely unless you have very good discipline as we do ☺
06. All On Our Own (Lars:)
At first this tune had a very strong Pink Floyd feel but then I changed the chorus vocals to make it stand out more. Honestly I had a hard time deciding what I though about this song as it ended up sounding very far from what I had heard in my head before having recorded anything. Now I am okay with it and I think my guitar solos turned our really well with their relaxed feel.
07. Shake Off (Alexander:)
Okay so here is our Return to Forever funk tribute I guesss ☺ Actually we were going for that 70-ies fusion kind of sound we love so much. Lots of vintage keyboards on this songs, Electric piano, clavinet, Hammond and a little bit of moog of course. This one was made for the stage and I hope we will get a chance to do just that.
08. Everywhere I look (Alexander:)
This one might sound very simple but we put a lot of work into getting the grove just right on this shuffle like song, which for us is almost a pop song I guess ☺ The song we recorded originally was a bit longer but Lars decided to cut out some instrumental parts he felt was not adding anything and I must say it was the right thing to do. I played a Steinway grand and my trusty old Hammond on this one.
09. Can’t Sell Your Lie (Lars:)
I had a clear picture with this one, I really was going for a very naked arrangement with as few instruments as possible and I think it turned out quite well. The whole song idea came up from playing with a blues band in which I had made this totally original arrangement of an very old tune from the fifties in which I had added a lot of chord shapes not originally there. I like the way this song is taking it’s time to get to the point without any rush.
10. Final Beginning (Alexander:)
Just like on the second album we close with a soft instrumental keyboard tune. On this one I play the Steinway and a mellotron flute plus some other minor things. Originally we also used a mellotron cello as well but we did not like the sound of that so we replaced it with a real one and while there is almost no guitar on this song, the little wah wah stuff Lars does add just the right touch.
Please talk me a little about the recording process and what kind of equipment you used.
Alexander: Initially there were a lot of rough ideas sent back and forward between Finland and New York while we were setting up the structures of the song. I have to mention though that Lars does not really do any rough demo versions, it’s always something that could be used in a final version. Personally I don’t mind doing something really quickly that just gives you an idea. The Drums were recorded in Sweden and Lars recorded some guitars in Spain and the remaining guitars and bass in Finland while I was finishing my parts here in New York. I have to add that we recorded quite a few things that were deleted as we went for arrangements that would not include unnecessary parts cluttering the mixes. The stuff we sent back and forward while recording were jus simple wav files but as we both work in Logic it would have been easy to swap the whole arrangements, but we actually never did.
Lars: I recorded my 1974 Rickenbacker bass through an API Channel Strip, my vocals through and LA-610 mkII tube amp and my electric guitars through and Empirical Labs mike-e, the acoustic guitars also went through the LA-610. I used quite a few different guitars, mostly Strats like a 1961, a Jeff Beck Custom Shop, a Mexican made with Seymour Duncans and my heavily modded strat with true temperament neck. I also used a MC7 Boel Seven string and a Telecaster for the jazzy chord solo on “Changing”. I used a Mesa Boogie amp mostly.
Are you planning to tour with this album?
Alexander: We have actually had a few offers but it seems like it would be a financially impossible projects considering that we would need to hire some very good players, so it’s not too likely it’s gonna happen, but you never know…
What goal did you have with making this album?
Lars: It took us over ten years to get to the point where we decided we would actually make a third album, I have been really busy with a ton of projects but I did promise Alexander a lot time ago that we should give it a shot. The Beatles cover single we did (Tomorrow Never Knows) was just a small test to see if we would enjoy working together again., and we actually did it super fast. We were to get a new singer for the album but it was just so convenient to do the vocals by myself. I actually wrote the lyrics as I recorded them, so I never wrote them down. I knew what I was after anyway and I think this process worked much better. I knew from the beginning that if we were to do another album it would have to be very good and also really unique. That is why we agreed on making it a concept album about something real. At this stage we will not reveal the subject.
How do you feel about the music business of today?
Lars: It’s very difficult as there are way too many bands and not far enough interest amongst the listeners to pay for music anymore. I don’t like neither the subscription models where you don’t own any music buy just pay for the possibility to listen nor the way bands have to beg their fans for money through crowdfunding. For me personally owning the music I like is important. Having said that I do realize that formats are changing and while people bash digital files, for me it does have an advantage. I more or less only listen to music in my car, so having everything I like available in an ipod or iphone is perfect.
What do you think of the younger musicians of today?
Alexander: there is so much talent out there that it’s unbelievable. Things have become very much easier as there are YouTube videos explaining everything you might possibly want to know. On the other hand, many young guys are too lazy to put in enough hours practicing. Life is probably too easy these days.
Lars: Agree, there are kids out there that can play unbelievably good but we also live in an era where becoming artists are fostered into becoming a copy of their idols. No one, and I do mean no one will become a true artist by imitating their idols or appearing on shit like American Idol.
What lies in the future of Condition Red?
Lars: Actually it partly depends on the reactions we get on our new album, however I had too much making this album to not want to continue. I really would like to take our music on the road, but as we mentioned earlier on, it’s not that easy…
Alexander: I absolutely loved making this album, and I do have lots of ideas….
In what way would you say that your album differs from everything else that is out there?
Alexander: wow, wthat a question :-) well, I do think that our new album is totally different with all the various influences we have collected during our lives and we are also probably neother prog rock nor prog metal but something in between,a dn then there is the fusion stuff... and the blues...
How do you think music business can survive the times we live in where it's all practically free?
Lars: well, artists can't survive, that is a fact. I see this everyday. I can not change the world, only accept what it has become. Personally I have been doing music for a very long time and at this time in my life I am only playing and recording because I enjoy it. I don't really try to do what would be the most successful things. I like challenges, and each year I try to bring something new to my music. When that hunger has gone away I will probably quit.
INTERVIEW BY LINDA BELLO