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Patrick Moraz Interview: The Extraordinary Keyboardist & Composer/ Prior Member of ‘YES’ & ‘The Moody Blues’
September 15, 2014
-Interviewed June 24th 2014
Swiss native Patrick Moraz is the extraordinary keyboardist and composer for no less than two legendary rock groups … ‘YES’ (1974-76) and ‘The Moody Blues’ (1978-1991). His first solo album entitled ‘The Story of i’ was hailed by many critics as a musical masterpiece.
Moraz was also one of the performers on the recent ‘Cruise to the Edge’ which also featured … ‘YES,’ Steve Hackett, UK, Queensryche, Tangerine Dream, Renaissance, Strawbs, Tony Levin and a host of other progressive rockers.
Patrick Moraz has several upcoming and surprising releases to watch out for including … "The M.A.P." ("The Moraz - Alban Project”)which will feature Lenny Castro on percussion and John Avila from ‘Oingo Boingo’ on bass, Patrick Perrier, and Matt Malley. A CD entitled… ‘A way to Freedom’ due in the very near future, and a Cantata in the final works for SATB Choirs in 7 movements, paying homage to ‘Our Planet.’
PATRICK MORAZ: began his fascination with the keyboards at a very young age. He attentively watched and listened to Romanian concert pianist Clara Haskil while living at the same house in Vevey, Switzerland. Moraz attended the Conservatory of Lausanne and studied Harmony and Counterpoint (the Art of the fugue). Patrick’s father managed restaurants which included theaters and stages, and Patrick was able to meet such music luminaries as … Louis Armstrong, Maurice Chevalier, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.
In 1964, Moraz was contracted to be a scuba diving instructor and an organizer of shows and concerts at Cadaqués, and the village of Port Lligat in Spain, which was where surrealist painter Salvador Dali was living at the time. Moraz was able to go on the property of Salvador Dali and organize parties. Patrick became friends with Dali and his wife Gala. He also had the rare opportunity to be in Dali’s studios to watch him work.
At the age of 16, Patrick Moraz became the youngest person to win the prestigious “Best Soloist Award” at The Zurich Jazz Festival. A few years later he opened concerts for jazz legend John Coltrane in Europe.
Over the years … Moraz perfected his proficient musical skills and embarked on a longtime journey of composing scores for Motion Pictures and Television including … (1969- Long Live Death, 1971- The Salamander,1971- Supergirl - Das Mädchen von den Sternen (TV Movie), 1973- The Awful Manners, 1973- The Invitation, 1974- The Middle of the World, 1975- The Wonderful Crook, 1980- The Lost Way, 1987- The Stepfather (music composed by), 1990- In the Eye of the Snake ).
In 1973, Patrick moved to London and formed the rock trio ‘Refugee’ with Lee Jackson (The Nice) and Brian Davison (The Nice). After releasing their critically-acclaimed debut album and a successful tour of Europe, the band split-up.
In 1974, Patrick Moraz was invited to join ‘YES’ as their keyboardist. Moraz was an essential factor to the success of their masterpiece release ‘Relayer’ which many ‘YES’ faithful consider to be their best album to date. The classic ‘YES’ lineup of …Jon Anderson (Vocals), Chris Squire (Bass), Steve Howe (Guitars), Patrick Moraz (Keyboards), and Alan White (Drums) toured extensively and worldwide for the ‘Relayer’ Tour while performing to some of the largest audiences in the bands history… including 135,000 ‘YES’ fans at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia on June 12th 1976. ‘YES’ members were encouraged to release solo projects which led to Patrick’s debut solo album ‘The Story of i’ (1976).
In 1978, Moraz was hired by THE MOODY BLUES to take part in a promotional world tour for their comeback album ‘Octave.’ After contributing to ‘Octave,’ original keyboardist, singer, songwriter, and founder of The Moody Blues, Michael Pinder, left the group. Patrick Moraz officially became the new keyboardist and full-time member of The Moody Blues in 1980.
Patrick Moraz solo releases …1976 - (The Story of I, 1977 - Out in the Sun, 1978 - Patrick Moraz, 1979 - Future Memories Live On TV, 1980 – Coexistence, 1983 - Music for Piano and Drums (with Bill Bruford), 1984 –Timecode, 1984 - Future Memories II, 1985 - Future Memories I & II, 1985 - Flags (with Bill Bruford),1987 - Human Interface,1987 - Les musiques de la Première,1989 - Libertate (re-issue of Coexistence),1994 - Windows of Time,1995 - PM in Princeton, 2000 – Resonance, 2003 – ESP, 2009 - Change of Space, 2012 – PianissiMoraz (compilation from Windows Of Time, Resonance and ESP), 2012 - Live At Abbey Road (1987 "live"), 2012 - Music for Piano and Drums: Live in Maryland (11/9/1984 live with Bill Bruford))
I had the rare and wonderful pleasure of chatting with Patrick Moraz on his birthday. We talked about ….Patrick’s exciting new music projects … ‘Light My Fire-A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors’… Being a member of ‘YES’… The ‘Relayer’ album … Being a member of ‘The Moody Blues’ … Predator’… ‘Cruise to the Edge’…‘The Story of i’ album …Salvador Dali …And much-much more!
Here’s my interview with legendary band member of ‘YES’ & ‘The Moody Blues,’ progressive rock & classical keyboardist/pianist/composer/songwriter … PATRICK MORAZ
Ray Shasho: Hello Patrick …Happy Birthday!
Patrick Moraz: “Thank you so much!”
Ray Shasho: Are you in Los Angeles today?
Patrick Moraz: “Yes, my wife and I have been here in California for the past month and a half working on several productions in a very good studio. It’s a lot of work because I’ve just been asked to potentially participate in the recording of a piece with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. So everything is good!”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, when do you expect to release these current productions you’re talking about?
Patrick Moraz: “The current production that I am finishing should be released by the beginning of the fall. We’re finishing it this week and putting on the finishing touches. It’s a project for a really-really good friend of mine who is also an excellent drummer. I composed all of the music and the arrangements. There are also some luminaries like Lenny Castro on percussion and John Avila from ‘Oingo Boingo’ on bass, and of course I do all the keyboards and music.”
“But today it’s the release of the classic tribute to ‘The Doors’ for which I participated. I play on “L.A. Woman” and the CD is entitled ‘Light My Fire-A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors.’ It’s an extraordinary release with a fantastic lineup of legendary musicians. Personally I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise … a fantastic array of keyboard players, drummers, singers, guitarists, and so on… to celebrate and pay a true musical homage to The Doors. The tune I was associated with… “L.A. Woman,” was chosen by the record company to be the first on the CD and that was a very good surprise for me. I performed on the track with Ted Turner of Wishbone Ash and Jimi Jamison of Survivor (RIP 1951-2014). I think he portrayed the best Jim Morrison voice on the whole album.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick you’ve always been one of my favorite keyboardists so I was naturally disappointed when you departed YES. I’ve always believed that the YES lineup during ‘Relayer’ was magical … instrumentally and lyrically at their very best.
Patrick Moraz: “Probably not as disappointed as me. (All laughing) I understand because it came as a total surprise. We’re talking thirty eight years ago when that happened, but I had two and half years with Yes which was absolutely fantastic. Would you believe we connected again recently, not only when I saw them at Ruth Eckerd Hall in April, and it was a great show, I was able to go backstage to say hello to everybody and even Steve Howe came out and gave me a big hug. Then this year with ‘Cruise to the Edge,’ it was fantastic to see them and collaborate on the same ship for a week. I was also asked to do an extra concert on the ship performing with acoustic piano and that went extremely well. I’ve never been on a cruise ever so you can imagine my surprise when I saw this huge ship and the thirty other bands that had signed up including … Renaissance , Marillion, Queensryche, Tangerine Dream, even Tony Levin a good friend of mine who is the bass player for Peter Gabriel …so it was really a fantastic journey.”
Ray Shasho: I watched a You Tube video of you and Annie Haslam (Renaissance) performing the ‘YES’ Relayer classic “Soon” together on the cruise.
Patrick Moraz: “Oh absolutely, yes. That was an impromptu version of the song; we had planned to do it but never had the possibility to rehearse it. Although I had gone to see her concert with Renaissance in May, and the fact that we were able to do that was just incredible. She has such a beautiful voice, so for an impromptu version of “Soon” I think she did fantastic.”
Ray Shasho: I was fortunate enough to see you in concert with both ‘YES’ and ‘The Moody Blues.’ In 1976, I watched you perform with headliners ‘YES’ at RFK stadium in Washington D.C. along with Peter Frampton, Gary Wright, Ace, and The Pousette- Dart Band in front of over 45,000 people.
Patrick Moraz: “That’s right and we had also just played JFK Stadium. I remember the D.C. concert and an amazing thing was Steve Porcaro (The Porcaro Brothers) was in Gary Wright’s band and later formed Toto. Our management at the time had signed Peter Frampton one year before he was number one on all the charts and that was a big edition to help fill all the stadiums. To fill stadiums every other day and especially during a Bicentennial year with all the celebrations going on was absolutely unbelievable. We were also in Chicago that year and had 83,000 people. How was it for you in the crowd when you were watching the band …was the sound good?
Ray Shasho: I was standing on the floor and on top of boards about 20 rows from the stage. The acoustics were remarkably good; especially for the ‘Relayer’ album …it was an incredible show!
Patrick Moraz:“I remember for those gigs we used Clair Brothers Audio Systems based in Pennsylvania. We had 16 different PA systems all added together. Onstage my monitoring system was made out of what we used to call the F4 …just huge speakers, I had three of them man. So the sound onstage was just unbelievable, sometimes almost deafening, but really-really good.”
Ray Shasho: When I chatted with Jon Anderson about ‘Relayer’ and its inspiration from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Jon said … “It was a combination of the war as we understand it and where would we be ... can we live beyond war, and then I had to jump in the real chaos and savagery of war in order to come out at the other end with ‘soon, oh soon the light’ to wake us up emotionally and spiritually.”
Patrick Moraz: “I think the title… ‘Gates of Delirium’ was influenced by a book I was reading when I started to rehearse with him and the rest of the band, especially the first weekend I got invited to join the band, it was also the weekend that Nixon resigned, so I remember it very well.
We were discussing news happening and so on… Jon was telling me about that Tolstoy book ‘War and Peace,’ and I was reading a comic book, “DELIRIUS” (by Philippe Druillet) a very good cartoon but a very serious designer created from France, and that guy was actually working for a magazine and he wrote a book. The book had just been released and I was reading that to take my mind a little bit away from all the rehearsals and the seven albums I was going to have to learn before we went out on the road. Also all the things I was to contribute to “The Gates of Delirium,” “Sound Chaser” and “To Be Over” in the next six weeks. So I’m pretty sure that ‘Delirium’ came from those discussions I used to have with Jon Anderson, and I showed him the book of course, he couldn’t understand it because it was all in French. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with the current keyboardist of ‘YES’ Geoff Downes recently as well… very nice guy with an incredible musical past as well with The Buggles and Asia.
Patrick Moraz: “I saw him on the cruise. Personally I think he did a fantastic job helping to recreate the three albums that were featured on the last couple of tours. With the new singer Jon Davison who is able to reach those notes and has a very good spirituality in him. I think Jon Anderson should be really happy and proud to have his music and songs re-performed the way they are now. I think it’s an honor to him every day.”
Ray Shasho: I was upset when Jon was let go from the band and all that transpired, and I told Chris Squire that when I spoke with him… I have to admit, I do miss Jon Anderson as the frontman of ‘YES.’
Patrick Moraz: “Of course … he’s one of two creators of the band at the time. I think his spirit will live forever because he was the creator of so many songs and most of those lyrics and melodies. I understand what you are saying but I think people will be absolutely happy and surprised by their new album with Jon Davison …‘Heaven and Earth.’
Ray Shasho: Patrick, you performed on Chris Squire’s ‘Fish Out of Water’ solo album.
Patrick Moraz: “That’s right; it was also my first playing encounter with Bill Bruford.
I also did “Music for piano & drums” (1983) and “Flags” (1985) (Moraz - Bruford Albums)
when I was still a member of The Moody Blues. I also contributed to Steve Howe’s album. In 1975 … I think I was very busy because we all had decided to do solo albums after ‘Relayer’ and the first tour. In the winter of 1975, I was contributing to ‘Fish Out of Water’ and arranging the chamber orchestra for Steve’s first solo album ‘Beginnings’ and preparing my recording as well, and I even did a cameo in Alan Whites video for his ‘Ramshackled’ album.
Ray Shasho: Your solo release… ‘The Story of i’ (1976) was a magnificent album.
Patrick Moraz: “I had a lot of fun doing it; it took about four months to record. I was also able to give that first professional gig to one of the greatest bass players the planet has ever known… Jeff Berlin. He actually played on both sides of the album. The official name of ‘The Story of i’ was actually just ‘i’ and that’s why I had that logo which was the ninth letter of the Etruscan alphabet. It was actually by intention in the first minute of the opening piece of ‘i’ …there’s a large vocal section that we sang …John McBurnie and his girlfriend who was also in the backing vocals and all of us in the studio sang… ‘i’! That was actually the personification of the title of the album. But the record company told me … “Patrick, what do you want to do with a title with just a letter and a logo like that? The album is great and we love it but since you wrote the story call it ‘The Story of i.’” He said, “With ‘i’ we’re not going to do any business.” Of course nowadays we’ve got iPhone, iMusic, iPhoto …i everything! I should have trademarked it. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: ‘The Story of i’ album is an intriguing concept and story.
Patrick Moraz: “It’s actually the concept of life and the afterlife and in a way an aspect of reincarnation that I was unveiling through that story. I wrote all the liner notes and did the cartoon on the original version of it when it was on vinyl. It really helped me as a plan to compose and arrange everything; I wanted to make it a whole piece of music in fourteen movements … or two pieces of music in seven movements each and I think that was well translated on vinyl. Of course recently it has been remastered and released, and I think it came out really well on the CD.”
Ray Shasho: You also inherited a Brazilian influence which you shared on the album?
Patrick Moraz: “Exactly! After the second tour with ‘YES’ in 1975 which finished in late August, I flew with my engineer to Brazil and all over South America. Even on the plane journey I was writing music and getting some ideas. When I arrived in Brazil I was able to find sixteen Brazilian percussionists, and each one having a different function. Later, I moved to Brazil and lived there for five years; even my daughter was born in Brazil. I was also able to learn how to speak Portuguese.”
Ray Shasho: “I watched you perform with ‘The Moody Blues’ for the ‘Long Distance Voyager’ Tour in 1981.
Patrick Moraz: “After I did my second solo album called ‘Out in the Sun,’ with that long piece at the end of it called “Time for a Change, “which actually has some of the flavors of what I had recorded and composed for “Awaken,” in ‘Going for the One’ from ‘YES,’ I was associated with them two years previous to the recording of ‘Going for the One’ and I had prepared with them all the material including some of the biggest tunes. In early 1977, I was able to secure the record contract for ‘Out in the Sun,’ which I wanted to be completely different and more liberated. Then I moved to Brazil for a year and half and was preparing my third album and was going to record it in Brazil and also Geneva, Switzerland. Then some agent called me, actually in Miami, and asked if I wanted to join a certain band, they didn’t say who it was.”
“When I arrived in Rio, I was staying in a hotel at that point because of logistics, and then on the telex machine I understood it was The Moody Blues. I immediately got their album and already new some of their material, especially from ‘Days of Future Past,’ which is actually the title that has been retrieved by X-Men nowadays in the movie. So I was invited to come to London on the 17th of July in 1978, a couple of days after the end of the Montreux Jazz Festival where I played. I was able to secure a place to play at the festival so it would help me in my travels and to meet The Moody Blues in London two days later. I was fortunate enough all these years to keep my roadie in London with my equipment in top shape. I used to always joke that I was probably one of the first musicians to say… ‘Have Keyboards, Will Travel’ (All laughing).”
“I arrived in London and met with The Moody Blues and they were very nice and within the next hour we managed to play three or four tunes including “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Nights in White Satin,” and “Legend of a Mind” the song written by Ray Thomas about Timothy Leary who eventually became a very good friend in the late 80’s. The first two years I was with The Moody Blues as a session man of course and I learned all the material and so on. We had the idea of recording and they asked me to join them in the studio at the very beginning of the 1980’s. From then on, I was able to stay with them another ten and a half years and record five studio albums including the first one with them…‘Long Distance Voyager’ and ‘The Present’ several years later, and ‘The Other Side of Life’ after that. Those ten years as a member with The Moody Blues were absolutely fantastic and I really enjoyed every note that I ever played with them in the studio and onstage. I am very proud of having been a member and probably the only musician who has been a member of both groups …’YES’ and ‘The Moody Blues.’”
Ray Shasho: You played several mellotrons while onstage with both groups?
Patrick Moraz: “Absolutely! When I was with ‘YES’ I had in a way …designed for the mellotron makers to make me a double mellotron. I was the first to have a double mellotron. I remember with ‘YES’ I had three mellotrons and when I joined The Moody Blues I actually had four mellotrons onstage. They call it the Ancient Sampler because it was all analog, each key could produce three different sounds from A, B, and C, but since there was (35) keys on each mellotron keyboard you could have up to (105) sounds, which was extremely useful at the time. I’ve used the mellotrons not only with every Moody Blues album that I’ve done but also with some of my solo albums, and even the solo albums that I was able to play as instant composition in front of TV cameras. I’m talking about ‘Future Memories I and II,’ these were extraordinary for the time because there was no computers. When I joined The Moody Blues as well there were no computers or programs as such, so the mellotrons were the key instruments, also to be able to reintroduce and give the interpretation to their best known hits. And to play all the parts that Michael Pinder had played, who was a fantastic mellotron player, great musician, and remarkable gentleman. Unfortunately I hadn’t had the time or pleasure to meet for a long time, I only met him for a few minutes at the NAMM show in the 90’s. But the Moody Blues recognized the fact that other instruments were as important, I had an array of synthesizers, electric pianos, and moog synthesizers of the time … I had so many instruments it was just unbelievable!”
Ray Shasho: You must be embracing today’s technology in so many ways while working in the studio … do you record from home nowadays?
Patrick Moraz: “Yes I do, I’m fortunate enough to be able to have somewhat of an expansion of my array of keyboards and computers and what I call the ‘space station,’ because I use Apple computers and have some Thunderbolts and screens …I use mainly Logic and Pro tools.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, I understand you knew Salvador Dali, what was he like?
Patrick Moraz: “It was in 1964 and I was engaged by a company in the north of Spain around Cadaqués which was the village or the town where Port Lligat is situated, a few miles northeast, but on the sea, and that’s exactly where Salvador Dali was living. So I was engaged for two reasons …to be a scuba diving instructor and also to organize some shows and concerts. I was playing piano, vibraphone and so on… and I was able to go on the property of Salvador Dali and even organize some parties for several months. We became friends and he was also speaking in French to me although in Spain. He would be saying surrealistic phrases to me and that’s how I got immersed into his creativity. I was fortunate enough as well to go and mingle with the people who used to come around as well, but mostly with Salvador and his wife Gala. I was probably one of the rare people to be allowed in one of his own painting studios and watch him work. It was extraordinary!”
Ray Shasho: I noticed a photo on your website with you on the set for the first ‘Predator’ movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger … that had to be awesome!
Patrick Moraz: “It was absolutely phenomenal. That picture was probably taken at the beginning of 1987. Joel Silver wanted me to fly to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where they were filming in the jungle and that’s where I met Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Carl Weathers, and I spent about four days there. The day I arrived at Puerto Vallarta, Joel Silver was exuberant and the first thing he said to me was, “Patrick, I heard your music in New York and I was amazed,” and he said, “Guess what the good news is? The budget for the movie has been increased from 17 -million to 30- million dollars,” (Laughing) so it was a real celebration."
"There was about 300 people all positioned in the jungle which was pretty thick above the mountains of Puerto Vallarta. Everybody was arriving by jeep or helicopter. The next day they were filming a scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers and there was also a scene including some parrots and chameleons. The parrots worked out fine but the chameleons would not change, so they flew in three chameleons in a helicopter from LA. Originally one of the assistant directors to John McTiernan the director, wanted to spray the chameleons but the ASPCA from Mexico said, “No-no Senor, you cannot do that.” We were laughing about it at the dinner later that night. Remember the scene when they attacked the guerrilla soldiers at their camp? I was almost a cameo appearing from the back, so they asked me to put on army fatigues because I was so close to the shooting.”
“I was supposed to be finishing the score for ‘Predator’ but The Moody Blues were going to Australia and having been with them for already nine years I didn’t want to let them down. The Producer Joel Silver had asked me to finish the score for ‘Predator’ during that period and even fly to somewhere like Romania or Czechoslovakia and finish the score with some aspect of a symphony orchestra. Eventually they changed that because I was not able to complete the score, I had done the temporary score for ‘Predator’ and I had just finished the full score for another movie called ‘The Stepfather’ with Terry O’Quinn.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to perform or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Patrick Moraz: “I would immediately say Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart would be the most unbelievable in terms of the music. Also Stravinsky because he actually used to live in the town where I was born and forty years before that where he started to write ‘The Rite of Spring’ and had already written ‘The Firebird’ which was one of the music that we used to come onstage with ‘YES.’ He was also one of the main influences for some of the music that I have done. I would also have to include John Coltrane.”
“In terms of the movies … I would say Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, and Spielberg … or somebody of that imagination caliber, creativity, and genius …also some aspect of French directors like François Truffaut who had a big influence on me when I was a kid.”
“If there was only one spiritual entity which has always guided me my whole life it’s God.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, anything else you’d like to promote?
Patrick Moraz: “I’d like to mention my ‘Windows of Time’ album recorded in 1993 at Full Sail University. I recorded it over a period of 72 hours, but recorded over 14 hours of piano, and nine months after that I was able to …with the help of a very good sound engineer and programmer to extract the essence of that music and make it into a one hour album. It’s the first CD at exactly 60 minutes or 3600 seconds … My subsequent solo albums … ‘Resonance’ which is all piano and ‘ESP’ which is more classically oriented.”
“I’m working on so many new projects … "The M.A.P. ” ("The Moraz - Alban Project”) is going to be a very big surprise for the listeners and fans. I also have most of the music for my upcoming CD entitled ‘A way to Freedom’ due in the very near future. I’ve also got some very interesting poems presented in different languages, and a Cantata in the final works for SATB Choirs in 7 movements which pay homage to ‘Our Planet.’ So, I’m really-really enjoying what I’m doing.”
Ray Shasho: Patrick, thank you so much for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible music with ‘YES,’ ‘The Moody Blues’ you’re brilliant solo projects, and the sensational music you continue to bring.
Patrick Moraz: “Having an interview like yours on the day of my birthday is a gift from God. I’ve really enjoyed your questions so much and I hope we can meet when I come to Sarasota in the not so distant future.”
Very special thanks to ‘the great’ Billy James of Glass Onyon PR
COMING UP NEXT… Legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) … Robin Trower (Legendary guitarist and songwriter)… Don Wilson guitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures.’ … Country Music’s shining new star -19 year oldMary Sarah … And Folk/Rock singer & songwriterJonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”).
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