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INTERVIEWS THOMAS KUGLER
THOMAS KUGLER BRINGS LILITH -THE ROCK OPERA TO LIFE
AND LIVES TO TELL ROCKWIRED ABOUT IT
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSHAsk most people who LILITH is, and two things will come to mind; SARAH MCLACHLAN'S LILITH FAIR and the BEBE NEUWIRTH character in the long-running NBC series, CHEERS. However, you will get a few people (religion and mythology scholars, anyway) who will tell you that according to Hebrew myth, LILITH was the first wife of ADAM. I could at least say that I knew this much about LILTH but that was only because I heard SARAH MCLACHLAN explain in it in an interview on VH-1 at the height of LILITH FAIR'S popularity. I knew nothing about the story.
I was about to get an education.
I received a copy of the 24 song, double CD LILITH -THE ROCK OPERA in the mail. It is certainly one of the more ambitious recordings to ever make it to ROCKWIRED. LILITH is a story of revenge. It is an epic tale of the first woman scorned, punched up with power chords. Created from the same clay as ADAM, LILITH comes to life as a lusty creature with a will as strong as her male counterpart. Due to her nymphomaniacal nature, GOD sends her to Hell where she is to become SATAN's Bride. The spot of ADAMS wife is filled when GOD takes ADAM'S rib and creates EVE. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose as LILITH and SATAN bring about the fall of ADAM and EVE. In doing so, sin is brought in the world.
LILITH - THE ROCK OPERA was written, composed and produced by one THOMAS KUGLER whose respective backgrounds in both classical music and rock are strongly evidenced in the recording of this soon-to-be-staged rock opera (Early 2006 at Hollywood's WRITE ACT THEATRE) After establishing himself in the LA music scene as a performing singer/songwriter and guitarist, KUGLER set himself apart from the rest in 2000 when he released EVENSONG - A VAMPIRE ROCK OPERA. In 2001, EVENSONG made it to the stage at the JEWEL BOX THEATER in Hollywood with KUGLER in the director's chair. He produced this show as well.
To start off with, I just want to say that LILITH is great! In this age of faith-based this and faith based-that this take on the creation story is quite refreshing. You couldn't have picked a better time for this.
What made you want to tell this story? Why LILITH?
Well, I had done a previous rock opera. It was a vampire rock opera called EVENSONG and we had staged that in 2001. Everyone who came to see it really enjoyed it and it got this wild enthusiastic response. I had put out the music for it a year earlier on my own label and I didn't have a publicist at the time. I was really naive at the time. So then I figured that I've got this great idea for this LILITH story and that I would try to do what I had done before and then some after going through that whole experience. I was also looking forward to doing a better job with the production this time around. I've released the CD (LILITH) on an actual label this time (TRUE CLASSICAL CD's) Basically, I've been giving this a much better shot than I had before. Why LILITH? I just think that she's this really fascinating character that I think most people don't know of. They may know the name of course from THE LILITH FAIR but they really don't know who she was. She was the first woman created for ADAM before EVE. She is sent by GOD to Hell before she can actually become the bride of ADAM and instead becomes the bride for SATAN. She's a very powerful and sexual woman who ends up giving birth to these sinful creatures and brings sin into the world through that. She was the original women's libber!
She was the original woman scorned. The recording for this CD sounds like a massive undertaking. Where and how was it recorded?
We recorded it at a home studio. The guy who runs it, JUSTIN BURRILL,(The guitarist for W.A.C.O -The Wild Acoustic Chamber Orchestra) has it fully equipped with top-notch equipment. We could just go in there and feel like it was somebody's home rather than that nervous feeling you get in more professional studios where you're always thinking abouthte clock running. I think everyone who came in could feel at ease when each of them was doing their parts. JUSTIN was just top notch on the boards . I'm really pleased with what we've got. The CD came out great for it's modest beginings. It really came out sounding like something.
Where did you find the vocal talent for this recording? Were they people you had worked with before on EVENSONG?
A number of them were. When we did the CD of EVENSONG, It was me and my friends from other rock bands doing the lead roles. This was before I had gotten into the musical theatre end of things. When we put EVENSONG on the stage, I w ent through the process of casting actors and had the privilege of meeting some really talented people. Musicial theatre people have these amazing powerhouse voices. They're used to projecting without microphones. A number of people on the LILITH CD are people I worked with on the stage show for EVENSONG. There were a couple of lead roles this time where I had to hold auditions because I didn't have anyone from the old talent pool. For the roles of LILITH and SATAN, I had seperate auditions and they both came out wonderfully. I couldn't have asked for better.
Are there any performances on this recording that stick out for you in particular? Are there any that are favorites of yours or do you all of it?
I like all of it. There are a few I think are good radio single tracks like SWIMMING IN INFINITY and ANGELS BE WITH ME TONIGHT. The track I LILITH - the introductory song to the character of LILITH - I think is one of the most full realized songs on the CD. I also like the instrumental FORSAKEN, which is the intermezzo two-thirds of the way through. I think that one came out very well. I did the lead guitar solo on that one myself. Just to toot my own horn for a minute - all of the rest of the solos on this CD, I had delegated out to other musicians, but on that one, I figured "It's my album ...I'll do that one." I had fun with it.
Now was musical theatre always your goal or was there a succession of bands before this?
There was definitely a succession of bands. I had been playing rock since I was a teenager. I also studied classical music and went through the whole music theory program at my college while studying classical guitar. I had gone through a succession of bands, including my most recent band FANG OF LOVE, which still plays off and on. I kind of reached a point where I realized that there were so many bands out there in LA doing the same thing. I spotted what I'm doing now as a way to stand out from the rest of the pack. I got the idea to do a rock opera and just went from there. The CD came first, then we did the staged show for EVENSONG and that brought me into the realm of musical theatre. I was always following the model of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. That was released as an album first, then a stage show and then a movie. That's what I'd like ot see happen with this project.
LILITH will be coming to the stage this spring. Are you going to have the performers from the CD perform for the stage or do you have others in mind?
It'll be as many of them as I can bring back. The way it is with good singing actors is that they are in demand. If they are committed to other projects at the time, then I'll just have to understand that.
What's it like to commit this sound to a CD and then put it up on stage with actors? What is that experience like?
That was great. It would be great if we could do the music live but it would just be more logistically difficult to do that at this small do-it-yourself level where you can't really pay people much - if at all. Everyone is basically volunteering their time. If you have to get this cast together in for rehearsals, when they can fit it into their schedules and on top of that rehearse a band it would really be difficult. With EVENSONG, we used pre-recorded music with vocal tracks muted so the singers could do their parts live. It took the pressure off of me as far as not having to go in there and be up-to-snuff with my parts every night. I produced and directed the show last time which is what I'm planning on doing this time; working with the singers and getting their parts just right. It was great to see EVENSONG all come to life with the lighting and the costumes and the staging and everything. I'm really looking forward to that again.
You're pretty much my first real introduction to theatre in LA. What's theatre like in a town known more for television and movies?
There's a lot of small theatre going on here. You have this whole talent pool of actors, directors and so forth out here in Hollywood trying to make it in TV and Film. The ones who are good are the ones who going into these small theatres to hone their chops and get better at what they do. It does kind of create conflict because when you have people who are really good in the theatre who get a role in a tv show or a movie, the small theatre suffers and it's something that they're always fighting against. And of course there is the larger theatre where there is money involved. If you can actually pay someone, it's easier to get someone if you need them. There's a lot of small theatre all around town and it has the reputation of not being that great but there's some really good stuff too, because you have this element where it's not about box office and ticket sales. There's room to be a little more experimental. It's got a lot to offer.
For LILITH specifically, what do you want an audience member to walk away with after seeing it?
Hopefully, they would see this Creation story from another point of view. I had the idea of sort of tieing this back to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. I'd like for this to be to the Old Testament what that was to the NEW TESTAMENT, where you show different aspects of this story from another point of view and at the same time your doing something creative and entertaining with the music and the songs and the performances. Of course you want the audience to be entertained and hopefully they can see this story from another angle with LILITH written into it.