UNIVERSAL MIND PROJECT – Worldwide Musical Collaboration
June 7, 2016, 2 years ago
Progressive power metal band, Universal Mind Project, began in 2012 by guitarist/composer Michael Alexander. Initially created as a project between musicians from all over the world, it soon morphed into a full-fledged band. On its debut album, The Jaguar Priest, Alexander recruited a host of talented guest musicians including Nils K Rue (Pagan’s Mind), Mark Jansen (Epica, Mayan), Charlie Dominici (ex-Dream Theater), Mike Lepond (Symphony X) and others, to add to the overall flavor of the album. Universal Mind Project’s musical inspiration was a collaborative effort that has achieved satisfying results, as Michael Alexander explains to BraveWords writer Kelley Simms in the following interview.
BraveWords: How did the band form? Was it initially just a project?
Michael Alexander: “Yes, initially it was a project that I was putting together with Charlie Dominici, Henrik Båth and Alex Landenburg. My idea was to release a short EP containing the tittle track of the album "The Jaguar Priest,” which is originally an 18 minute piece. Soon after I was done with the song, Elina came into the project and joined forces to share not only music and lyric ideas, but also encouraged me to do a full album, which of course it was easy to convince me! It all started to happen from here, with myself, Elina, Henrik and Alex, shaping the concept of the project, inviting Mike LePond taking care of bass for some tracks and Emanuele Casali responsible for the great work with the keyboards throughout the songs. It was obvious that we already knew we were in for the big picture, which was finish a full length album. Through the process, new friends came along to the project, like Mark Jansen, Nils K Rue, Diego Valdez and Alessandro Bissa, that plays an important position regarding drums in the album. This is the way things were developed, conceived by a simple idea offered as a one-time EP project, UMP is now a solid band and we expect to hit the stages in the near future.”
BraveWords: All the vocals on the Jaguar Priest are top notch. How hard did you work on harmonies, lyrics and vocal placement?
Michael Alexander: “I worked on the compositions to offer a vast range of space throughout the songs for vocals. I composed each track knowing beforehand which particular vocalist I was gonna have singing, this enhanced my inspiration in trying to come up with a song where the vocalist can sound like his own style, and at the same time, different from what they do in their own bands. Elina was mainly in charge of the lyrics, creating alone with the great harmonies already written for the tracks together with Henrik.”
BraveWords: How was working with all the guests, and did you have specific parts or songs written specifically for them?
Michael Alexander: “It was very easy, friendly and collaborative. We worked online throughout the process, where I sent them finished demos that we put together for them. And within that spectrum, they added their own signature to each track, making each one of them unique. Yes, there were some parts where I had a particular idea to follow, I talked with the guys, and we built it together in a way where all parties would be happy with the results.”
BraveWords: The growled vocals of Mark Jansen mixes very well will the cleaner vocal harmonies. How did you get him to participate on the record and did you think his vocals would work as well as they did?
Michael Alexander: “I met Mark Jansen back in 2014. I presented the project to him and we started working on the song ‘Truth’. This being the first track on the album that we decided to add growls. And I was also very curious, so far you have heard of him the most together with female vocals, like in his band Epica. But I wanted to include him with clean male vocals as well, and it matched greatly with our vocalists. He appears in three songs on the album, ‘Anthem For Freedom’, ‘Truth’ and ‘Dreamstate’. During and after the process of the album, Mark and I stayed in touch, and we recently hooked up in Germany with him to shoot the first official video clip of the band.”
BraveWords: Nils K Rue nails it on “Bargain Of Lost Souls,” what’s this song about and how did you go about composing it?
Michael Alexander: “This song might be one of the darkest and heaviest for me on the album. The theme is about the corruption of the systems in human rights perception, but also seen from a universal perspective. On this planet earth, your body is submitted together with your heart and your mind to suffer the consequences of material nature. But I believe we have a soul that it can also be corrupted by some other form of life or universal law. The lyrics of this song talk about this, about a corrupt leader that negotiates with lost souls, in short words, the weak masses. And I totally agree with you, Nils’ voice is outstanding! Nils is diverse and can touch you with a ballad, or add energy in a power song. He also possesses a particular vibration in his voice that is distinctive. When myself and Elina finished this track, I immediately knew what vocalist we needed for this song!”
BraveWords: Charlie Dominici’s vocals on "The Jaguar Priest" also sounds fantastic, what was your reaction to hearing the final mix?
Michael Alexander: “Charlie is the first vocalist that I started working with in UMP. I love his voice since back in the day when he was in Dream Theater. He is fantastic with lyrics and harmonies, and on ‘The Jaguar Priest’ song, he did amazing work, also contributing greatly with the direction of the story behind the concept of our album.”
BraveWords: Your guitar work is outstanding throughout the album, who are some of you influences?
Michael Alexander: “Thanks! I have many, since I enjoy different forms of music. When I was 16 to 17 years old, the year that I started to play guitar, Yngwie Malmsteen’s music, (Steve) Vai and (Joe) Satriani was the only thing that my stereo reproduced. They being my guitar heroes at the time and still are. David Gilmour, Andy Latimer, Eric Johnson, Vinnie Moore, Michael Romeo, Dimebag Darrell, John Petrucci, are my some of favorites as well.”
BraveWords: The production, cover artwork and packaging are all professional quality. What are the benefits of being signed to Inner Wound Recordings?
Michael Alexander: “We worked with the great Simone Mularoni at Domination Studios, who did the mix and master of the album. The results are fantastic. Once the band had the album done, I contacted our friends and partners at Inner Wound Recordings, they signed us and we became part of their family. The label immediately started working on the preparations for the album's artwork, contacting Jan Yrlund from Darkgroove to make the art work and it all started to happen for the band. Being signed, it means your music gets exposure and you get support from the label. It’s something that you don't have if you are an independent musician. We are proud to be part of IWR family!”
BraveWords: What’s next for UMP including touring plans, and what do you hope to achieve or accomplish in the future?
Michael Alexander: “For now, just to continue promoting the album and then start planning our tour dates for the near future. We have received quite amount of requests by the people that want to see UMP live, and we will be working on this. So stay tuned, we might play very soon near you!”