Jason Merritt, Getty Images Musician, songwriter and record producer Linda…
- Posted on Nov 8th 2011 5:00PM by Jason MacNeil
Courtesy of Roger O'Donnell
But earlier this year O'Donnell returned to the Cure for a series of 'Reflections' shows in Australia where three early albums ('Three Imaginary Boys,' '17 Seconds' and 'Faith') were played in their entirety each evening. And while he's quite happy to be back in the fold -- 'Reflections' events will be staged in New York and L.A. later this month -- the moments leading up to night one at Sydney's Opera House were definitely filled with some trepidation.
"When I got back onstage for the first time with the Cure in Sydney I felt like I was going up to be executed," he tells Spinner while in Toronto for the North American debut of his 'Quieter Trees' suite with Toronto's Corktown Chamber Orchestra. "Seriously, I felt sick. Once I got up there it was alright but they performed one of the albums as a three-piece so I had to watch them do that from the dressing room. It was like watching somebody build the scaffold and then you go on and get on it."
But prior to joining the Cure again O'Donnell was busy constructing the proverbial staging on own solo project entitled Quieter Trees. The piece is a suite he wrote for a chamber orchestra and inspired by Bigger Trees Near Water, a rather large 2007 painting by acclaimed British artist David Hockney.
"I'd been a huge fan of Hockney my whole life," O'Donnell says. "I have always just loved his work and I like his embrace of technology. He's always interesting and on this creative journey and striving to push boundaries."
O'Donnell went to see the roughly "50-foot by 20-foot" painting when he returned to London after playing with the Corktown Chamber Orchestra in early 2010. 'Quieter Trees' consists of six movements with each describing a different portion of the work.
"I sat down in front of it and just thought that it was so huge and so massive wouldn't it be amazing to create something massive in music," he says. "Then I thought, 'Orchestra massive, painting massive.' Why don't I just describe the painting in music?'"
"It's quite an abstract concept to describe," he adds. "If you're a painter and you look at the sky and you see that it's blue then you find the blue and you mix the colors to match it. If you look at the sky and it's blue and you want to describe that in music or with an instrument, where do you go?"
Despite the challenge in trying to convey images aurally, O'Donnell says the actual writing process wasn't an ordeal time-wise.
"It didn't take any longer than any other projects that I've done writing," he says. "Most of the songs I wrote in an afternoon, only a couple of them I revisited. One of them I didn't think was any good and I then I came back to it a week later and I liked it, so then I finished it.
"The main thing about this whole project was that it was my idea from the beginning. I made it all happen and there was nobody else involved. I carried it every step of the way. So that's been nice, it's been quite fulfilling."
Perhaps just as fulfilling or rewarding was seeing young students perform the suite earlier this year at London's Center for Young Musicians. O'Donnell -- who didn't perform the piece in London personally -- said the experience was very inspiring.
"They don't take complete beginners but they will take any grade from one up," he says. "Kids don't get a very good reputation these days, do they? Especially with the riots going on in London so to see 11 to 18-year-olds giving up their Saturday afternoon to come and learn an instrument and some of them are really incredibly talented.
"And they give so much back. To have that privilege to be part of their education, you know, for it to be maybe the first thing that they ever performed was something that I wrote. To have these kids performing, it was incredible."
While O'Donnell performed the Toronto concert in a church setting, he'll be performing in larger settings later this month when the Cure play a string of 'Reflections' concerts in New York and Los Angeles. O'Donnell says rehearsals for the 'Reflections' concerts were "very intense."
"A lot of those songs had been played either very rarely or some of them never," he says. "I think I played each song at least 30 times before I had got into rehearsals. There was a lot of pressure because it was being filmed and you know there's not a lot of room to relax in those kinds of situations and enjoy the moment.
"I was also very surprised at how quickly they [the songs] came back, they're there somewhere in the murky depths [points to head] and there's a lot of them in there because we know a lot of Cure songs. We must have a repertoire of 75 songs or more that we could play at any time without too much problem."
While there's no confirmation the Cure will release a 'Reflections' DVD, the group are releasing a two-CD (and digital) 'Bestival Live 2011' set from earlier this year on Dec. 6 in North America. All profits from the album sales go to the Isle of Wight Youth Trust.
The concept of playing three complete albums in concert isn't new to the Cure. The band released a 'Trilogy' DVD in 2003 culled from two 2002 Berlin shows where they performed 'Pornography,' 'Disintegration' and 'Bloodflowers' front to back each night. O'Donnell says for him the 'Trilogy' concerts were easier in comparison to the 'Reflections' shows.
"That was easy even though the songs were much harder to play," he says. "Both 'Bloodflowers' and 'Disintegration' are both quite complex keyboard albums and these [albums played at 'Reflections' shows] are not. But we had been touring and I had been in the band for six years so that wasn't difficult."
While quiet on possible future projects the Cure might have on the horizon, O'Donnell says he's approaching the Cure and the songs with a different perspective and respect.
"I had a new appreciation for them and it's just so nice to play those songs again," he says. "The ones that I was involved in recording when you play the songs you think about when you were recording them, what was going on, the story behind it, how many times we've played it and what's happened. When you're onstage and playing something off 'Disintegration' and you're playing with Robert and Simon [Gallup] and Jason [Cooper] it's incredible."