Intelligent Music Project interview

Intelligent Music Project

I was very honored when producer, composer and songwriter Milen Vrabevski agreed to grant an interview, regarding his latest and best endeavor so far: Intelligent Music Project III “Touching The Divine”. He took the time out of his busy schedule to answer several of my intriguing questions about their latest release, and how it all came together musically and idea-wise.

(Also, check out their awesome and thought provoking videos for “Sky” and “Mind Reflections” from their latest album, down below.)

Milen & Joseph-18How did your involvement come about with bassist Nathan East, guitarist Tim Pierce and singer John Payne for Intelligent Music Project III?

There was a time I used to work with another stardom trio on a previous IMP (II). It was John Lawton (Uriah Heep), Joe Williams and Simon Phillips (Toto at that time). As I did enjoy every moment of this collaboration and their full creative input, I started thinking of adding even more value to any next step of mine in this direction. I had already had ideas for the IMP-III project, and as Si was playing the role of a co-producer for IMP-II; I shared them with him. He was very helpful, as always. What I’d always wanted was to have John Payne as a singer, and Nate on the bass. Simon introduced Tim to me, contacted the rest of the guys, and here we are now – having this tremendous all-star band!

Joseph-20What was it like when you first jammed with Nathan, Tim, and John for this album? Was there an instant chemistry as far as the realization of the songs for “Touching the Divine”?

Yes, indeed, and what a thrill it was…! I concluded I did not need to go to live gigs any more. I was lucky enough to see all three plus Joe Williams jamming with me live, playing and singing my music, it’s fantastic. It’s a dream come true. Then I got Tim and John Payne at my studio in Sofia, together with the current lead vocalist of Nazareth – Carl Sentence. This really was the dream team I’ve always wanted. They all liked the material, the concept, and gave their best to interpret it through their prism, and make it sound perfectly well. What was most touching was their sincerity… I had the pleasure to have my favorite musicians share my ideas and professionally format the message of the album. What one gets is an incomparable experience…

SimonIn what way is your songwriting style different to that of the typical rock band?

Starting with the fact I am not a musician and my exposé differs from what you’ve got on the market these days. I never sit behind the piano or take the guitar to ‘compose’ music. My mind is full of spontaneous ideas, as I definitely have something to say. Upon sensing the music idea, I am not searching for the lyrics. They come very often as a visualization of a dialogue with your beloved ones – your wife, kids, friends and relatives. You’d like to share something important with the love of your life, or having set up standards for your kids to grow up with, or to reveal what’s left unsaid among your friends through your life. Then you experience the divine part: to just take note of what’s sent from above.

John PayneVery often I just want to hear what’s banging in my head. I get no peace of mind until we record it. Soon it appears, and I am about to accomplish a whole concept album. My CDs are not a collection of songs, as I write the whole album at once. All my CDs have a certain message I would like to share. And instead of reading lectures on a certain topic, I prefer to convey ideas through music.

How did you convey your musical vision to everyone involved here, into composing the inspirational songs featured on “Touching the Divine”?

We recorded the whole album as a demo version with my friends in Sofia – my music co-producer Ivo, and our guitarist Plamen. I start recording my ideas accompanied by Ivo’s drums, guitar and piano. We added instruments as per my ideas for the arrangements, but based on my studio mates’ huge experience and knowledge. I wrote most of the main intro and solo themes. When I am ready with all the lyrics, I sing the whole album through, and play some piano and acoustic guitar parts. Ivo plays all rhythm sections, keys, strings (from the sound bank), shares bass with Plamen, who also plays all guitars from riffs to solos. Then we give this demo material to all stars I’ve selected, to say if they’d be OK to work on it. When they approve it, we give them time to get it prepared. Joe is most diligent in this sense. He always gets in the studio with notes printed out, and ideas how to add value to a certain phrase or block harmonies. Simon is always most dedicated, producing what he and the rest work on, strict and pedantic, always ready to share ideas of how to make the whole thing better. John was careful about every nuance, and used to record nine hours a day in the studio… Nate and Simon recorded the whole rhythm section in one breath.

Nathan EastIn your opinion, do you believe this to be the most solid line up of well-known musicians to ever jam together on a rock music project?

To me, this was one of the best constellations ever formed. I am so proud of it, and grateful to Simon for helping me in setting it up. It made great sense to the all-star band to contribute to translating the message of the album to audience. This atmosphere, needless to say, is unique.

What inspired the spiritual yet emotionally touching lyrics on “Touching the Divine”?

My family in the first place, as they’re my biggest fans – there is hardly anything more motivational. Love is our bond to the Divine. It is the prerequisite we’re able to hear all signals from deep within our souls. It makes us constantly connected to our better half and eternity. I am not chasing a career in music, and would love to see my kids grow up with my ideas about the essence of life. Through music my wife, my friends, anybody would better understand my vision about positive approach, and working practices. My music is expected to be in favor of the revelation of the Divine part in every one of us.

Milen & Tim guitarsI very much enjoyed the video for “Sky” and the song as well, so did you all participate in the sky diving trip as a whole group?

Not really, but it was put together perfectly well, as precisely as I expected it to be. I love this combination of translating to the audience the atmosphere from the studio jamming and main idea allegories …



What are your overall feelings about your own performance on this album?

I allowed myself to record the acoustic guitar part of track 14, and there’s this minor inclusion of my backing vocals in a couple of pieces, just for the choir effect, nothing else. It provided the level of the musicians, and this is more than enough. I knew I would successfully interpret my own idea of a guitar part in “Mind Projection”, instead of teaching any of the musicians to play it. The audience then can make the judgment.

Would you like to share any last thoughts about Intelligent Music Project III?

If we get more international recognition, I will upload the album in I/net, so that it is accessible to all fans for free. It would be good to know, a sense that society needs for this type of music (a concept with a definite message) first. As this music is very personal and sincere, I would suggest to those, who decide to listen to the whole CD, not to read too much about it. Just relax and feel it. If I did my job well, one should thereafter get the awareness of being spiritually purified and free…

Interview by Sarjoo Devani

Photos Courtesy of Intelligent Music Project

Simon & Joseph & Milen


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