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Utopia's Powell taps Milwaukee talent for first CD in 26 years

Former Utopia and David Bowie keyboardist Roger Powell (at left, above) is releasing his first solo disc in 26 years. So, what does that have to do with Milwaukee?

Well, "Fossil Poets" -- Powell's first release since his 1980 record "Air Pocket" -- was recorded with local producer and musician Gary Tanin (at right, in photo above) and Milwaukee guitarist Greg Koch.

"I met Roger Powell in the early '70s when he was a clinician for ARP Synthesizer Company," recalls Tanin, who is an accomplished keyboardist and songwriter himself and has worked on many projects as a producer, arranger and mastering engineer.

"He was doing a road show presenting demos for the new ARP 2600 programmable synth. He joined Todd Rundgren's band Utopia soon after that. I reconnected with him in the mid-'80s when I was writing software reviews for CMC, a magazine for Computer Musicians. Roger had written one of the first sequencer programs for the IBM-PC. We stayed in touch on and off."

In the meantime, Tanin and Koch were mainstays of the Milwaukee music scene and Powell went to work for Apple, where he was involved in the creation of Final Cut Pro video editing software.

Two years ago, Tanin reconnected with Powell by sending him a copy of some just-completed projects.

"He was really interested in the Xpensive Dogs record 'Dog Eat Dog' and how that was accomplished (via) the Internet collaboration with the Japanese artist Toshi," Tanin says.

Not long afterward, Powell was interested enough to make a trip to Milwaukee to meet with Tanin, who brought Koch into the project.

"We had a great meeting, he played me some of the pieces he had been toying with for a few years," says Tanin. "He left me with the source material and let me have at it. I came up with some song ideas from his source parts and built them into arrangements. I sent the ideas back to him for approval. I then called Greg Koch and told him about the potential project. Greg and I were experienced in the process and he was thrilled to be working with such an icon of an artist as Roger Powell."

The record, which will be released in fall by the Ryko-distributed Inner Knot/DGM Records, was -- at least in part -- another long-distance collaboration for Tanin, who -- as he notes -- is experienced in such projects.

"Greg and I would sit down with my skeleton arrangements with melodic structures that I had played into the songs as reference lines. Greg would come up with some of his own ideas, and in fact shares writing credits on some of the songs. Once we tracked those parts I would edit and re-construct the parts into semi-final results, which went back to Roger for input/approval.

But, Tanin says, most of the recording was done in person, even if all three parties weren't always present.

"Actually the back and forth via Internet/e-mail was just for the approval of direction and changes. The tracking all occurred in either Roger's studio in Northern California or GT Labs in Milwaukee. Roger Flew out to do overdubs in Milwaukee as well. During final stages we came up with production changes and pre-mix ideas together as well at my studio. I made a trip to California to produce Roger's recorded parts last summer. Roger came to Milwaukee in October to do the final few overdubs and pre mix."

While the disc will be released as a Roger Powell solo record with Tanin credited as producer and Koch as a guest musician, according to a press release announcing the release of the "Fossil Poets," Tanin says there's already been talk of future collaboration.

"Roger and I have created a partnership for the 'Fossil Poets' project and future releases as well. Obviously, Roger has many musician friends that he'd like to include on future records, but I think the core group will remain. The recent announcement by Inner Knot of an album deal for this record is very exciting for all of us.

"I think this record is his best solo release. I'm thrilled to have been part of making this really impressive record."

The "Fossil Poets" Web site is fossilpoets.com. The Inner Knot/DGM site is disciplineglobalmobile.com.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Sept. 27, 2006 at 5:39 p.m. (report)

Alex DeWolf said: Cosmic Furnace is my favorite electronic music album ever. I hope the new one aspires to that level.

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OMCreader | Sept. 19, 2006 at 12:19 p.m. (report)

weavil said: very excited about this awesome collaboration of powell and koch! EXCELLENT to see a stateside boy hookin' up with a Utopian

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OMCreader | July 7, 2006 at 11:39 a.m. (report)

butantimonyandthallium said: >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> burstingwithfruitflavor this is cool and all, >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Ya think?

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OMCreader | June 26, 2006 at 9:31 a.m. (report)

scm17 said: Powell was amazing in Utopia. Haven't heard much from him since then. Looking forward to what he has put together. I'm sure it will be great.

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OMCreader | June 24, 2006 at 8:34 a.m. (report)

Zoro said: I think Roger's playing style is the "S**T!So it will always be current!

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