Lisa LaRue Interview: The New 2KX Prog Album “Fast And Blue”

Talented musician, graphic designer, tribal member and Director of language, history and culture of the Keetoowah Cherokees, leader of the 2KX band, Lisa LaRue talks about the new 2KX progressive rock album Fast and Blue.
Formed now as a permanent band, 2KX is: Lisa LaRue – keyboards, John Payne – vocals, co-producer (former frontman of ASIA 1992-2006, currently with “ASIA Featuring John Payne”), Steve Adams – guitars, bass (prog duo ARZ), Merrill Hale – drums (ARZ), Michael Alvarez – Cello (known best for his collaborations with Erik Norlander amp; Lana Lane).
Guest musicians for the album are Mitch Perry, Don Schiff, Michael Sadler, Ryo Okumoto and
Maxi Nil.

Q: The title of the album is Fast and Blue. Why “fast” and why “blue”?
A: This album originally started as a Chinese zodiac theme but it turned into something completely different when we realized we were forcing ourselves to continue within this concept.
I went through some very bad personal experience last year. It was right in the middle of the time when I was trying to write and to get things done. It just set me back so much. I called John (Payne) needing someone to talk to about this personal situation, because I consider him a very close friend. The first thing he said was:”You know, I’ve been thinking about how life can change so fast and just out of the blue. I think you need to write a song about this Lisa, and this is probably the best time to do it, be aggressive and it will be the best one, putting these energies into it”. So, within two days I had written Fast and Blue. It’s how something bad happened but it changed things for the better.

Q: Tell me a little about each song. What inspired them?
A: The opening song is Mystery of the Rose. It is about the symbol of the rose and its presence in the different cultures somehow linking them together. There is a lot written about every song and its concept in the 24-page magazine we offer with the CD/DVD Limited edition, so I will read a little bit from it:
“The five petal rose, the Rosa Rugosa is the earth’s oldest variety of rose and has been associated for centuries with the Knights Templar and the mystery of Maria Magdalena…
…. When the Cherokee people were forced to march from their homeland from what is now Southeastern US to Oklahoma, their tears is said to have grown into what they are now known as “Cherokee roses”.
That is a little example of how I tried to connect how from all over the world symbols of different things have meaning, so I found a common theme there and that goes throughout the whole album.

The second one – Prometheus
It is actually inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frakenstein, a book I’ve always been fascinated with.
I wanted to make a prog song that is more aggressive, has more energy to it, so I shared the idea with Steven and he suggested the name of the song. Because the full title of Frankenstein is: Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. I started thinking then about the symbols and links between them. In the Cherokees belief system, in our religion the sacred fire is something that is always there, never changes. It was given from God to us to keep and maintain. Prometheus is the bringer of fire to the mankind in the Greek mythology, so there’s the connection.
For the video of Prometheus – I googled some films about Frankenstein from the public domain, and it turned out that the first movie was produced by Thomas Edison. It was long enough to fit exactly the second half of the video, and for the first half I found a film made by Atlanta public schools about the history of fire: from the caveman fire to the first light bulb being an artificial fire. It happened to be as long as the first half of the song. And with Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb doing the first Frankenstein/modern Prometheus, things just click together. The song is very long – 18 minutes, divided into two parts. Ryo Okumoto plays the keyboards on the second half. The first half where I play is more symphonic, and the second half is very aggressive, moving, rocking, and Ryo just nailed it with what he did.
Tryptych is the only song that is not connected to anything else. Steve wanted to do something more organic that is down to the roots – classical guitar, cello, piano. No electronic stuff. He introduced the title, because it’s the three of us – guitar, piano, and cello.
Jam Jeham Nima is a Persian phrase, found it referenced after I thought it would sound like a real cool name of a song. I decided to research it, and the first thing that popped up in my Google search was a name of a publication that was going to be published by John Howard Payne. While he was touring the United States trying to get subscribers and backers for this to be published, he came to Cherokee country while we still were in the Southeastern United States, met our chief John Ross and they became very close friends. This is when Chief Ross commissioned him to do the history of the Cherokee. He gave up Jam Jeham Nima to do the history of the Cherokee and eventually wrote 14-volume history of the Cherokee. And I thought:”That’s not a coincidence. But what does that phrase mean? It means “a cup that holds the knowledge of the world”. And the Persian kings were said to have had this cup at their disposal at all times. The more I read, the more I came to see connections with the Bloodline theme, the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar… so the theme was coming out on its own. For this song John recorded about 19 vocal tracks of a 13th century Benediction chant, which he interpreted in a different melodic way than the original but the Latin is accurate.

And because the phrase is Persian, the song has a kind of Middle Eastern sounding elements.
Lament of the Cherokee amp; Ruins of Home : It is a name of a poem by John Howard Payne. It is about the Cherokee being removed from the homelands, having to “leave the graves of my sires”, which is very important to me and part of my job as historian is to protect those graves. John Payne read the poem and did it in one take. Then accidently shift changed his voice pitch and we left it like that.
Recurring Dream: After I came up with a concept about the song, I found a Lev Tolstoy quote which describes exactly what I wanted to say. To sum it up into my own understanding, it is like our whole life is our long soul life that lasts forever: no beginning, no end. But perhaps these lives we live on earth many, many times, are like little recurring dreams that happen throughout that long life of our souls.
Q:How could you make this album with so many musicians without even getting together in one studio at the same time? Did you give them any directions or you just shared the concept and let them do their part?
A: I don’t tell them what to do, might say something like” would be nice to put a sitar” but other than that, no. In the kind of work we are doing, the Musical Director is a lot larger than me or anybody else, it is more of a Universe. I want what comes through your heart and your mind to come out through your hands. And even though some of us had doubts about how it was going to work, when we heard the finished product, we saw how everything just falls together when you allow the Universe to be the Musical Director.

How it All Began :
Lisa started playing when she was 3 on a little Magnus chord organ. The musical Camelot made a great impression on her, so while listening to the soundtrack, she decided that music was what she wanted to do: to orchestrate, to put all elements together. Later she went to school for graphic design and now makes all the art for her albums. Lisa fell in love with the music of ELP, Yes, Kansas, Asia, and then started playing in cover bands. Until a concert changed her life:
“I remember when I took a road trip with my friend Jane to go see a concert of ASIA. It was a small town so we happened to be in the same hotel (there was only one hotel there). The elevator door opened and there was Carl Palmer standing in it. I got on, and then I said the first stupidest thing I’ve ever said:”Are you Carl Palmer?” I was going to ask him sign something but my pen didn’t work, so he said: “Call me in the morning, I’ll sign something for you”, and he gave me his room number. My friend and I didn’t sleep the whole night. When I called him in the morning, he asked me if I’d had breakfast and when I answered “No”, he said:”Meet me downstairs”, so we had breakfast. We sort of became friends, he asked a lot about me, encouraged me. Years later I got a hold of him, I called:” Remember me? Lisa…” Yes, he said, and got me passes for the show and there I met Will Alexander, he was Keith Emerson’s keyboard technician. Every keyboard player in the world has worked with him, it seems.

There I met Keith Emerson, my hero. I said the second most stupid thing I’ve ever said: “I’ve waited all my life to shake your hand”, so he smiled:”Well here now, shake it again then.”

And then a couple of years later I got a record contract. I requested to work with Will on that so they hired him. I went to LA and stayed with Will and his wife. Keith and I got to be really good friends for a long time after that; we talk on the phone and exchange gifts. And through that I met Geoff Downes and I’ve done some work for him when Asia reformed with John Payne in 1992. I did some graphic design and different work like that and Geoff invited me to come down to Florida. It was Miami; there was a hurricane relief benefit where they had their Aqua CD release party. So I went and that was the night I met John Payne. I had the feeling that I’ve known him already, just like everyone else playing on this album. You feel this way with some people.

I think we have people in our lives who we can reach out to because maybe we’ve known them before in some other life, or maybe it is their DNA memory, maybe your ancestors and their ancestors knew each other… all these questions you don’t know the exact answers to but … as it is in the album, sometimes things are mainly about reaching out to resources that you have in your life in a time of distress because it can change so fast and out of the blue.