2KX is a progressive rock band with AOR crossover, featuring a very talented array of musicians who are veterans in the music industry and have worked with the best. After a 2 year hiatus, 2KX reconvened for this EP, with both Progressive Rock and AOR versions of the same epic message. We caught up with front-woman, Lisa Larue of 2KX and got to know the group and their music a bit better! Enjoy the inteview below!
Entertwine: Could you give us some insight into your musical background?
2KX: As a young girl, I started playing keyboards by ear at age 3. My grandmother used to take me around to play in shopping centers, departments stores, church, etc. As a young teenager, I was exposed to the music of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and then knew I wanted to be a progressive rock keyboard player! Since then, I have made 7 albums, scored a modern dance production, and various other things in the music industry.
ET: How have you been able to successfully conquer so many challenges in order to pursue your dreams?
2KX: I think my dreams were also my destiny, so it only required tenacity, hard work, and thick skin. Add that to meeting the right people (kind, sincere and passionate about music, as well), and everything started falling into place. It takes lots and lots of hard work and keeping up with the ever-changing industry!
ET: What prompted the creation of your progressive rock band (2KX)?
2KX: By 2009, I had made several solo albums, and wanted to bring more people into the fold, so I created a project band called “Lisa LaRue Project 2K9.” There were certain folks within that project that I had an immediate synergy with musically, and it was decided we would then form a permanent band. Since Project 2K9 stood for ‘2009,’ and the idea for making a permanent band came in 2010, the name changed to ‘2KX’ permanently.
ET: How did you meet each of your band members?
2KX: I met Steve Adams and Merrill Hale by reaching out to them through an email. I had heard their progressive duo, ARZ, and was stunned by Steve’s flexibility and virtuosity on the guitar. Merrill and he and Steve had worked together in several other bands, and had a real vibe between them. He was an excellent drummer, adding some interesting Neil Peart (Rush) kind of things in the more symphonic and prog pieces, and I asked him to be the permanent drummer. Don Schiff is an extremely well known and well versed NS Stick player and bassist, and we had many mutual friends. We even discovered we had worked with the same percussionist in the same studio at about the same time in 1995. It was through one of our mutual friends, but I honestly can’t remember which one!! (I’m sure I will get an email from them now HA). Michael Alvarez was also involved in several forum groups and liked the same types of music, and we started communicating several years back. I asked him about adding some cello parts as a guest on 2KX’s last album, Fast and Blue and the same synergy was there….. so I asked him to become a permanent member. Our new lead vocalist, John Baker, is my husband. But that’s not why he got the job. He is also vocalist for progressive rock band Forever Twelve, the former vocalist for prog band Mars Hollow, and another synergistic person with the group.
ET: Could you tell us a bit about each member?
2KX: Steve Adams is a guitarist who can play a mean shredding machine, a beautiful classical piece, jazz, you name it. And write them, too. He has a progressive duo with drummer Merrill Hale called ARZ, and is also guitarist (and Merrill the drummer) for very popular Portland Zeppelin tribute band, Ramble On. Mike Alvarez has played with prog keyboardist Erik Norlander, and numerous other musicians and is currently working on some solo material. He has a mean electric cello in addition to the traditional one, and a great ear for that perfect note in a perfect moment. Don Schiff is known the world over as an NS Stick player, and has played with everyone imaginable from Elvis (THE), Tina Turner, to yes, 2KX. John Baker, as stated above, is also the vocalist for Forever Twelve, the former vocalist and guitarist for prog band Mars Hollow, and was previously a member of The Little Girls (who had one of the first videos on MTV), The Christian Love Band (Christian Love, from The Beach Boys), and various other bands. He is also a professional audio engineer, an award winning audiobook director, and has worked with some amazing people in the audio and music industries.
ET: What can you tell us about the time you’ve spent in Los Angeles, California? How has the area influenced you (and your bandmates), both personally and musically?
2KX: I’ve spent lots of time in Los Angeles, first in 1995 when recording my first album and includes great memories like helping jumpstart Herbie Hancock’s car at a friend’s house, to working on several other album projects, to attending awards ceremonies when I was nominated for a Hollywood Music Award, and later when 2KX was nominated for a Los Angeles Music Award. My husband, John Baker, lived in LA for 28 years, and during our courtship and early part of our marriage, we lived there together. It hasn’t influenced me much, other than opened my eyes to some great food experiences and some opportunities to see some legendary places. Don Schiff lives in Los Angeles, as well. Mike is further south in San Diego, and Steve and Merrill reside in Portland.
ET: What life experiences and events led to the writing and recording of your new album “Sussuration”?
2KX: The track Sussuration was inspired by thinking about how the wind sounds different in each season of the year, based on the foliage and weather factors. John took the idea from there and wrote lyrics about how spirits are all around us – thus sussurating through the trees, around us, all of the time. That is why the song is in 4 movements, one for each season. The radio edit/ballad section of Sussuration is one of those movements. There are two videos – one of the full length track, and one of the radio edit. Lemniscate was written in honor of a tragic boat accident in which a large number of children perished. It is a tone poem that illustrates through sound, that terrible accident. Michael Sadler of the band Saga does some guest vocals on that track, and that song was mastered by John Payne, of the band Asia, who has been a frequent guest on my projects as well as co-produced our last album Fast and Blue with myself and Steve Adams.
ET: You produced and mixed this album yourself, correct? What was it like to have such a prominent role in every area of making this record come to fruition?
2KX: I have always produced my own work, and mixed everything except for Fast and Blue, which was mixed by John Payne (Asia). I learned a LOT from John, and felt comfortable getting back in the mixing seat, as it were. Even though I put the band together, and have prominent roles, every member of the band is just as important as the other, and I always give each member the opportunity to suggest changes, etc.
ET: What led you to choose Adam Ayan to master the record?
2KX: My very first album in 1995 was mastered by Bob Ludwig, who is THE man when it comes to mastering. On other albums, John Payne has mastered, but he is currently commited to some other projects. Since I put every bit of energy I had into this to be the very best, I wanted to have the final polish be the very best it could be, too. We discussed Bob Ludwig’s company “Gateway,” and also Bernie Grundman, who had mastered some of John’s solo work in the past, and decided to go with the legend themselves, Gateway. Adam is the ‘other’ mastering engineer at Gateway in addition to Bob, and has won numerous Grammy’s, has mastered a huge long list of platinum and gold albums for people such as Rush, Linkin Park, Carrie Underwood – just about every genre there is. We contacted Gateway, and Adam was available within our timeframe and totally up for doing the job. We felt very blessed.
ET: What was it like working with Keith Birdsong (of Star Trek fame) on the album’s cover artwork? How did this collaboration come to pass?
2KX: Keith is a total sweetheart, a real artist. I mean a REAL artist. Can you believe he did that illustration with colored PENCILS? Keith lives in our town in Oklahoma (where John and I live), is a Native American tribal members as I am, and had a studio in the same building as the vintage clothing store I own. He and John had become great friends, and I asked him if he would be interested in doing the illustration. Instead of doing something new, he suggested this illustration he already had completed, as it was a very, very special piece to him, and it had not been used in another project. He said he felt it fit the mood and message of the lyric perfectly, and when I saw it, I agreed. It can be seen animated at the end of the full-length Sussuration video.