The Tea Party are re-releasing their iconic album Edges of Twilight (my personal favourite from their catalogue) on September 4th. I chatted with Jeff Burrows (drummer of the Tea Party) and discussed the re-release and the upcoming tour.
C.M. You and the band are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Edges of Twilight by re-releasing the album on September 4th. Congratulations on reaching this milestone. What’s the experience been like working on the reissue of Edges of Twilight?
J.B. It’s pretty cool. It’s interesting to see where we were so long ago. When you have nothing but music and nothing else and your only worry is making rent, and you live and die by the various thread of music you’re creating, there’s something there that, it’s intangible, but it’s there. And you can’t get that once you start having a family or big people problems. It’s like the last hope of being an old ridiculous teenager. And you get that from that album. It’s funny, no one had anything to do but music back then. Zero commitments. You were married to the music. The experience has been cool and nostalgic. Re-creating it, is something completely different. It’s very unique and fresh and it’s kinda cool that the record label is going out and trying to find b-sides and dig up old material and contact the BBC to get a recording we did with Bruce Dickinson. Some of the demos were good enough to release.
C.M. The first time I heard of The Tea Party was in 1993 when I saw the video for “The River”. I immediately was drawn to that song. I went out and bought Splendor Solis and instantly became a fan. When it came time to record your follow up album to Splendor Solis, what was your thought behind it. Did you have a lot of material ready to be recorded or did you basically start from scratch? How did Edges of Twilight start?
J.B. It started when we were on the road. When we were touring the first album, that’s when we started seeing the growth. And that was the beautiful thing about being a young rock band in Canada in the early 90’s. From our friends from I Mother Earth, Our Lady Peace and Moist, everybody kinda watched everyone grow at the same time. At one point we were playing songs on television that weren’t recorded or weren’t on an album yet and that’s the crazy shit we would do back then. Even if the record label wanted us to play stuff off the album. We were 3/4 of the way written into the sophomore L.P. and then by the time we got home, everyone took a week or two off. It was interesting cause with this record, we had these ideas incorporating all these string and percussion instruments but we didn’t have the funds to do it, and the means to record it. Once we got the budget for the album and EMI wanted us to go to L.A. to record the album (no argument there) we had almost laid it out. We had pieced it out quite well. A lot of pre-production on paper, as to how things are going to roll out and how we want to build this part. Like on “Sister Awake” for example, in the very beginning there’s a percussion ensemble that I put together. When were demoing that, I said “why are we even gonna try doing this right now”? We know what we want to do. I need Timpane’s. I need Doumbek’s. I need Djembe’s. I want all of this stuff.” Once we were there, that’s when the songs became a full piece.
C.M. I understand you and the band will be hitting the road and going on tour to support the album. Can you tell me a little bit about the tour?
J.B. The tour is coinciding with the re-release. It happens the day of the re-release. We’re kicking it off in our hometown of Windsor, (which we’ve never done). Goes through Ontario into Quebec and out west. Essentially, it’s an evening with The Tea Party. That’s something new. We’re doing two sets, the first set is the whole album (Edges of Twilight) starting with song one all the way to the very end. Then it’ll be a 20 minute intermission and then come back and do a 45 minute set of whatever. Probably a couple of songs off the last album, the hits everyone wants to hear and then maybe some stuff we’ve never played before. I think this tour is geared towards the hard core fans that really wanna hear Edges. If you’re a hard core fan you’ll probably know some of the deeper material off albums that were never on radio and that you would love to hear live.
C.M. What are your favourite songs from “The Edges of Twilight” to play live?
J.B. Um, it’s more of the ones we don’t play that much. “Walk With Me” is a killer song.
C.M. “Walk With Me” is one of my favourite songs on the album. For me, once that chorus kicks in, it does something. Can you recall how that song flourished and why you decided on including a hidden spoken word at the end of the song?
J.B. That song actually came about with the drum pattern that kicks off the song. We worked on it quite a bit. Again that was the beauty about being on the road all the time. Soundcheck after, soundcheck we hammered it out. The spoken word stuff is just cool (laughter).
C.M. Ethnic influences are present on the album. Besides the drums, what percussion instruments did you play on the album and were you familiar with these instruments before you recorded the album?
J.B. I was familiar with the sounds. There’s so much out there and very different from where we grew up in the Windsor/Detroit area. It was “Rock Radio” and we found some cool radio stations in Detroit which were much like 102.1 EDGE in the 90’s. But in the 80’s there was nothing like that in Detroit. But Michigan had this kick ass radio station, and that’s when we could get into more of the melodic music and some of the world percussion music and then some of the world music influence, coming in on the public radio stations.
C.M. Edges of Twilight is getting released on CD and Vinyl. Will both formats include the same material or something different on each?
J.B. The cd’s got the remaster and the b-sides and the live stuff. The vinyl is a double album because we did a real good quality one. So there’s an A,B,C and D side.
C.M. All songs were written by The Tea Party on this album and I believe on every Tea Party album. How important is it to not use any outside collaborators?
J.B. Well, we’ve always kinda been like that. It works well for us. It’s not important, but it feels unnatural and it’s not like a boys club and we’re better than anyone else. It’s just always been like that.
C.M. The cover of the album is a statue by William Westmore Story called Angel of Grief. Was that used for any particular reason?
J.B. It was perfect for it. It’s been used so much since. It’s been used on many different albums and posters. But when we found it, there was no internet.
C.M. Do you practice on a regular basis?
J.B. I practice different things and different patterns. I do so much anyway that I don’t have time to sit down everyday. Being a father of three, playing in Crash Karma, The Tea Party, I do a holiday album for Charity every year and I work through my collage in Windsor. I’m busy man, (laughter).
C.M. Where can I find the holiday album?
J.B. sleighinghunger.com. Something should pop up out there.
C.M. What career milestone has been the most meaningful to you?
J.B. There’s been quite a few. Playing Sarsfest was pretty outstanding in 2003. sharing stages with the likes of Page/Plant, NIN, RHCP, Pearl Jam, ACDC and Rush. That kinda blows me away. Playing in Australia is always great. Playing in Montreal is great. Too many to choose.
C.M. Do you remember how long it took to record “Edges of Twilight”?
J.B. I think it was broken into two sessions and a third mixing session. When you’re that young you just go for it. You go lay it down and get it done. We didn’t even play the clicks back then.
C.M. Do you use the click now?
J.B. I use a click now but I don’t play to a click live. When we record, we use a click. It’s easier for editing purposes and it sounds that much better. I’ve learned to dance around the click. I know when to push and I know when to pull back.
C.M. How would you go about playing these songs live? Do you plan on using touring musicians to play the percussion parts or will you manage with just doing it all yourself?
J.B. We’ve never used players added into the band. No. We toured with a symphony though and we used a different symphony from each town. That was amazing. That wasn’t to cover up parts though. We actually had string parts written by our friend Eric Roulette out of Montreal. We’ve done things like that. But never to cover up parts. We’re kinda like an impressionistic painting where you have to squint your eyes and pull out the primary colours and that’s what gets played.
C.M. Besides having success in Canada, The Tea Party has a solid foundation of fans in Australia. Can you pinpoint what contributed to your popularity down under?
J.B. Australia is a country that doesn’t pay attention to what anyone else tells them to like (for example America or Britain) if they like you they will champion you. We never had the big american machine behind us and we just went there and kinda did what we needed to do. They fell in love with us. If you can pull it off live and you have that experience with the audience and they have back for you, you develop something. We’re grateful for it and it’s nice to see that they’re their own people.
The Tea Party will be playing in Toronto at Massey Hall on September 26th.