Orange Tulip Conspiracy Necessitates Musical Unpredictability

By Scott Morrow
March 25, 2009

As one of the principal songwriters in Estradasphere, guitarist/composer Jason Schimmel has always loved combining disparate styles in new and jaw-dropping ways.

But with Estradasphere on hold and a wealth of solo material, Schimmel now leads Orange Tulip Conspiracy, a similarly constructed but substantially different enterprise.

OTC’s music worms through prog fusion, psychedelic rock, 1950s-style jazz, avant metal, Romani melodies, and much more. Its debut album, released last September on Mimicry Records, is nearly as diverse as an Estradasphere disc, but it’s more focused from song to song.

Online editor Scott Morrow speaks with Schimmel to discuss this album’s creation, the next album’s sound, and the logistics of his nationwide May tour.

Orange Tulip Conspiracy: “Ignis Fatuus”
Orange Tulip Conspiracy: \”Ignis Fatuus\”

Did these songs originate out of Estradasphere’s downtime, or were they older and always meant for another project? Was there anything specific that you wanted to accomplish with this mix of styles?

These songs were always meant for another project. I’ve always written way too many songs to be used by just Estradasphere. Though these songs seem new to most people, I actually have been working on some of these since the early Estradasphere days — it has just taken me this long time to finally finish them off and make a complete record.

Since I have always been very interested in many different styles of music, it has always been hard for me to write in just one style. I like to mix things up and give the listener a unique experience — an unpredictability that keeps people on their toes, so to speak.

After your coast-to-coast US tour in May, what are the plans for Orange Tulip Conspiracy? If a future recording is in the works, how might it sound?

Well, for the first time ever, I have actually written an entire new record before setting out on a tour. The goal is to perform these new songs for an audience to get a feel of what is going to work the best.

By doing this, we can take a song and transform it into something greater by feeding off the audience’s natural reaction to the music without a previous point of reference. That way we can add or subtract things based on real musical experiences.

In the past, I have always written the music first, then made the record, and then finally set out to play the tunes from the record live. What happens is that the playing on the record is very stiff and tight in comparison to how we usually play the song after we tour on it. So I want the looseness and freedom that comes from the confidence of having played the songs many times before setting out to record them.

Directly following the tour, I mean literally the day after the tour ends, we are heading into a studio to record this new album. I am very excited to finally see this new process unfold on a recording.

The new record will sound similar to the first one in that there are many different types of compositions. Avant rock, groove, improv, jazz, and ambient are some of the first thoughts that come into my mind. There will also be a a few covers on there as well.

In addition to many other guests, almost all of Estradasphere (past and present) helped record this album. How does the live presentation of Orange Tulip Conspiracy differ from the studio version?

OTC’s live presentation could be considered a much more organic version of the record in that it is just five musicians playing the songs. With the recording, I had the liberty to have all sorts of various orchestrations coming in and out, massive production changes, drastic arrangement alterations, etc., which I don’t have the liberty to completely accomplish in a live context.

In the live setting, I play guitar and bazouki (8-stringed Greek instrument) and do some vocals. [Former Estradasphere member] John Whooley plays tenor and baritone sax, keys, and vocals, Luke Bergman plays upright and electric bass, Zach Cline plays rhythm guitar, and [current Estradasphere / God of Shamisen member] Lee Smith plays drums.

A solid and bombastic rhythm section holds it down while electric guitar and sax cover most of the lead aspects of the music. This is augmented by another guitar that plays most of the harmonic aspects of the music.

Will this solo project continue as a major priority if Estradasphere gets back into full swing?

Yes, I think that OTC will be a major priority for me regardless of whatever bands I am playing in at the time. The reality is that I need another outlet for the plethora of material that I compose. No one band can satisfy all my needs as a musician and creative force.

There are all sorts of compromises and considerations that music goes through being in a democratic band situation. I think that it is very healthy for me to have a project where I can focus all my attention.

– Scott Morrow

By Scott Morrow March 25, 2009
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