"On the Record about Off the Floor"
By Chris Herin

Off the Ground
A long time ago...Mark Evans & I started recording songs (just the two of us) at the Old Schoolhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After the sudden simultaneous departures of our lead vocalist & bassist we found ourselves without a band. Undaunted we decided to keep writing songs while searching for a couple new band mates. As the months continued to pass, however, it became obvious like-minded musicians were not plentiful, available, or both!

About a year earlier Gene Simmons had signed us (as Standing Pavement) to a production deal with Simmons Records. Besides being a big morale boost we absorbed bits of Gene's sage advice: (1) pick a short band name and (2) don't make excuses make things happen. Which explains why I was in the studio waving my hands, nodding my head & gesturing... cueing Mark from section to section of each song. There was no band but we didn't need one, just yet.

By the time drums & most guitars were recorded (for twelve songs) we still lacked a bass player & vocalist. The next work-around for this stubborn obstacle was to find a guest bassist. I combed the musician ads for bass instructors thinking if someone was teaching they should be fairly good. We were searching for an agile player to create active & inventive parts. It was a refreshing change of pace when this strategy worked in more ways than one. Besides contributing his inspired musicianship Kevin Chown would eventually lead us to Jeff Whittle; his premier student.

With the basic tracks nearing completion we were running out of ways to maintain momentum. Bringing in a guest bassist was one thing; but the idea of using a guest vocalist didn't feel right. Vocals are a big part of a band's identity. Locking us into a sound we might not be able to sustain seemed risky. Fortunately, our tactics & patience were about to pay off. While in the studio with Kevin I happened upon a (very) brief & cryptic ad in the local music paper: "vocalist looking for band." We were amused by the lack of information. Not even the slightest hint of what style of music. Although neither optimistic nor enthusiastic, I eventually (as in a couple months later) got around to responding. Ironically, of course, at the other end of this ad was the end of our vocalist search.

After two years of searching we finally found Paul and here we are nearly 20 years later...

Off the Floor
For the longest time we couldn't decide if we should commemorate our approaching anniversary. We'd talk about it once in a while, lose interest, and then get back to work on new songs. Well, finally Jeff lost patience with our perpetual indecision & demanded we do something..., anything. It didn't have to be elaborate... maybe just a plain ol' live CD would be ok?

Although live CDs aren't fashionable we still liked this idea because: (1) a concert video wasn't in our budget, (2) it seems important to have a proper live recording, and (3) it serves as a "career" retrospective. Highlights from the past twenty years but delivered in a new way. The songs are adapted for live performance where we take liberties interpreting & stretching out parts; feeding off Mark's seat-of-the-pants improvisations & Jeff's driving energy.

Other than our three-week European tour opening for Dream Theater in November 1999 Tiles has never been a touring band; but with this kind of consistency we eventually delivered some of our best performances ever (as captured on our "Presence in Europe" bootleg). Conversely, we'd rehearse tirelessly for a festival or other "single" performance & never feel that same level of confidence on stage. So as we considered options for bringing Jeff's project to life it made sense to draw from these experiences...

Since all we wanted was live audio then all we really needed was a "soundstage" plus a small audience to keep us on our toes. And that's what we did for "Off the Floor;" which, aside from the tile-related play on words, is a studio term for recording a song as a complete performance without adding more parts later.

Having a controlled environment allowed us to get comfortable & focus on the music. There's still the occasional "jazz" note, tempos may drift ever-so-slightly, strings don't stay in tune, or keyboard samples slip a tad out of sync. But we didn't fix all these little imperfections that make live music interesting. "Off the Floor" is a collection of songs delivered with the heightened energy that comes from playing in front of people & the self-awareness of being recorded.

On the Record
Disclaimer: Admittedly, we chose not to endure the same pressures or constraints under which "most" live CDs are recorded. So it seems fair to admit a couple songs did require second takes; and one song proved surprisingly stubborn & needed a third take! (You'd never guess which one...) There also were a few minor fixes on a gimpy chord or two (it's always the guitar player, isn't it?)... But, what can you do? Maybe someday, we'll record multiple nights while on tour then pick from the best!

For nearly twenty years the words of Gene Simmons have stuck with us: find a way around road blocks. But for "Off the Floor" the voice of experience told us to take a different road altogether!