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Robert Berry

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview With December People's Robert Berry from 2001
MSJ: What can you tell me about this December People project -- where did the idea originate, how did you recruit people to play on it, how did you pick which songs to do...also which bands to pay homage to?
The December People is a concept that I've been wanting to work on for a long time. I've done a few Christmas songs for the local radio and I find that most of the stuff they would play would be pretty watered down music. So my idea was to do a music first, Christmas second type of slant to the same old holiday classics. Give them new life by using proven classic band styles. Hopefully adding a few twists and turns to keep it interesting. I do a series of kids albums called Mother Goose Rocks that is the current hits of the day turned into kids songs. This was somewhat borrowed from that. The president of Magna Carta, Peter Moritcelli and I discussed the idea and he felt it would connect to all listeners. This was to be an album of Christmas songs done in many well known classic band styles. I chose the singers by the way I felt their voice would fit the song. John Wetton and Steve Walsh are two of my favorite singers and I was honored that they would do a track. They really got into it once they heard the band tracks. Just listen to Steve on We Three Kings. Stunning. I chose the songs because they were favorites of mine. The same with the artists. Yes, Genesis, Sting, Led Zep, Beatles, Kansas, King Crimson, Peter Gabriel. And my favorite puzzle on the album Queen. That was a hard one to get together. Also the ELP track was quite a piece of work. All these are bands I covered in my first band Hush. Then as my career moved along I was able to work with a lot of these guys. So this is kind of my greatest hits list and my buddy list.
MSJ: What else has been on your plate for projects the last couple of years since last we spoke?
I have produced 3 Mother Goose Rocks albums along with A few Tempest projects, a movie soundtrack out of San Francisco, Trailers for Miramax films like Rounders and Halloween H2O. And a very interesting concept album for the book series by Robert Jordan called The Wheel of Time. First time I've written a soundtrack to a book series. It is very heavy but a Celtic / Pink Floyd mix as far as sound. I keep very busy at my studio Soundtek here in California. Just added my second Pro Tools rig besides the big analogue stuff. I recorded the December People mostly on the 2" analogue and then transferred it to Pro Tools for the mix. I have a system in my guitar room so I did most the mix there. I'm very proud of the sound of this album. It was not easy keeping everybody together and focused. Sven, Klaus and Rudolph being the toughest. Oops! got a little sidetracked there. Supposed to be a big secret who played on the album. These record company contracts are tough these days. (LOL)
MSJ: Are there still other artists with whom you would like to work?
Oh yes. Want to do something with Paul McCartney. Good luck hey? Trevor Rabin, Lou Gramm, anybody from Genesis. I would actually love to get together with Steve Howe or Carl Palmer again. They were both very important in the development of my career and I enjoyed every minute of our working together.
MSJ: If you hadn't become a musician what do you think you would be doing by now?
Funny story about that. Just last year my two guitar players in my local band were talking about how their stock options would be worth about a million in 7 years. They were going to retire from their hi tech job and play music full time. Well this year you know where hi tech is. Right in the dumper those stock options. I might not retire in 7 years a millionaire but I have spent my time with a smile on my face and many albums to show formy efforts. Plus, when you love what you do like I do, who wants to retire? Music is all I could have done. My dad had a band and a music store. My Mom sang in my dad's band. I was doomed from the beginning.
MSJ: How are you going to be spending the holidays?
Holidays will be at home with my wife and 2 kids. Over to Grandma Berry's house on Christmas Eve and then a stop at my in-laws on our way to ski at Lake Tahoe. I can use the break. This December People album really took off. I thought it might but you can never tell about these things.
MSJ: What projects are on the horizon for you?
A new album for Lisa Bouchelle on Magna Carta. Kind of a sexy rockin' thing.
MSJ: What have you been listening to lately?
I listen to a bit of everything. Sting, Limp Biscuit. Oh yeah you heard me right. I love the sound of a lot of the current rock music. There's some new things happening out there. Tool is a very good band. Of course I still listen to Peter Gabriel, the Beatles, Zeppelin. A lot of the CD's I study are the latest hits for the studio sound. I spend so much time creating music that I don't have that much time to listen to it.
MSJ: I know you work with a lot of musicians in your studio functions. Anyone new that we should really know about?
This year has been spent mostly on the tried and true artist that I have worked with in the past. I have a few new projects for next year but I won't let those out of the bag just yet. The first 3/4 of 2001 was a great time. The last 1/4 has been very difficult for all of us. I plan on making 2002 great again. So to leave 2001 one with this December People album is definitely heading in the right direction. I am very proud of this project and have plans to do many more.
MSJ: Any final words?
Thanks for your interest in December People. I was hoping that you would get the humor, the craftiness and the tribute aspects of this work. From your questions I think you have. It was a labor of love and something I will always be proud of. I hope that your readers will get a smile on their face when they play it for many Christmas' to come. Looking forward to a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 4 at
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