Ten years ago when Midland's Timothy Boychuck first composed his epic rock-opera known as HEAL, performing outtakes and selections first at the Review's 2001 Music Awards ceremony, and later as a full-blown theatrical production at the Midland Center for the Arts, little did he know that it would set a standard in local songwriting that a decade down the road would become legendary in terms of the artistic levels of achievement that it realized.
When he recorded HEAL at Rick Armstrong's Big Bear Studios in Midland with The Timothy Hyde Project, alchemy of musical detail, passion, and professional accomplishment took Boychuck's vision to an entirely new level of rendering, largely due to the divergent range and generations of talent on display with the group itself, which featured the input of young guitar virtuoso Dave Kellan alongside musicians such as Dr. Ben Mayne on keyboards and Boychuck himself, whom carry 'day jobs' far removed from the rattle & hum of the performing stage.
Thematically, HEAL functions as a compilation of 15-songs that explore the various human conditions of Fear, Rage, Abuse, Sadness, Hope and Salvation from the ostensibly incongruous perspective of a canine animal. Similar to the way the Broadway classic Cats succeeds - by looking at diametrically opposed dualities of the human condition such as grace and greed, cruelty and kindness that is embedded within the human condition from a dog's perspective, Boychuck managed to hold a mirror up to the self-centered nature of humanity in general to allow us insight into ways we can grow to become positive forces upon the canvas of a world that often seems bleak.
To commemorate and celebrate the 10-year anniversary of this landmark work, The Timothy Hyde Project is revisiting HEAL with a special series of performances on Friday & Saturday, April 27 & 28 at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library, 1710 W. Saint Andrews in Midland. Tickets are $15.00 in advance and $18.00 the day of the show, with proceeds to support the Humane Society of Midland County.
While 27 separate artists performed on the recorded version of HEAL, the core collective of The Timothy Hyde Project will digest the musical nuances of this work for the 10-year anniversary, including Boychuck, Kirk LeClere, Dave Kellan, Dan Deitsch, Dr. Ben Mayne, Georgia Abbott, Melissa McClain, Dave Emmel, Walt Salata, Jim Rosborough, Earl Tiffin, Dave Hatfield, Cory Bergeron and Joe Garrison.
Recently I sat down with Boychuck and Kellan to discuss the experience of revisiting this epic rock opera after letting its legend incubate for the expanse of a decade.
Review: When you first started writing HEAL did you have any idea it would evolve into such a fully realized original rock opera?
Boychuck: I had a vision for it and I wouldn't really call it a story, because I don't think it has an actual story line. It's more a series of vignettes telling different short stories that are basically put to music. By using the perspective of a dog to view different conditions in the world, a parallel to the human condition is created. For example, with Stray you have a dog that is lost with no home, and I paralleled that with a homeless man that I actually saw in the city. It's not a pleasant site and one of those 'wake up call' moments.
Review: What inspired the whole process of creating HEAL?
Boychuck: I was sitting with a friend, Bill Moneypenny, and had just left this Christian rock band that I was performing with. Bill had a studio and we co-wrote a song and the idea for HEAL was actually his. We were sitting over a couple of beers at the old Levi's in Midland and he jokingly said, 'Let's write a rock opera about a dog'. It was supposed to be some creative theatre and Bill's a funny guy, so initially it was going to be a Weird Al kind of thing; but I'm not that way. So as I was working out all the songs and stories, it turned into a much deeper work. We call all relate to the vignettes in HEAL to some degree. There's a story in there about all of us.
Review: So how did the idea of doing a 10-year reunion for HEAL come about?
Boychuck: It's been a topic of recall for about two years now. Every now and then I'll get together with the crew and finally everybody said, 'Yeah, let's do it again.' Everybody was committed to revisiting it and it was exciting to get Dave Kellan on board, because while he played on the CD he never did the original live performance at the Center.
Review: When you started re-approaching the work did you look at songs differently or start interpreting them differently from when they were first recorded?
Boychuck: Some of the songs we're actually doing differently. I'd say with about four or five songs we've re-arranged it, mixed it up, and on a couple of songs we re-invented the song in completely different chords. It's still a great challenge, but this time around all of our musicianship is much better, as is our appreciation for the work. And again, adding wonderful musicians like Dave Kellan has really spiked it up. Plus one of our members actually started adopting a few dogs through the Humane Society.
Review: What are your thoughts about working with The Project and revisiting this rock opera, Dave?
Kellan: It's pretty exciting. Back when we recorded at Big Bear ten years ago, my band Gutbucket was up and coming and it took a lot of my time, so I didn't have a lot of time to invest into Tim's project. I was glad to do some guitar leads on the recorded version, but unfortunately, I couldn't contribute more back then.
Tim and I wound up going to New Orleans and we're real good friends now, so its exciting to revisit and be a part of it. We're getting into this funky thing and redoing some of the tempos on the material and it's working incredibly well.
HEAL is cool and that song in particular, the take on the words 'Heel' and 'Heal'. I honestly don't know anybody who wrote a rock opera and would have the balls to put it out, but Tim did and I'm glad to be a part of it. Tim's a great lyricist - some of the best lyrics I've ever read.
Review: Are you still writing, Tim? Are you constantly working on new material?
Boychuck: I've written a lot since Heal and I tried another Rock Opera after that; only the energy wasn't there. I still had a day job to keep, even though my passion is music. But yeah, I've probably written about 500 or 600 songs since then.
Review: 600 songs? You're kidding me. You're a one-man Tin Pan Alley! Why don't you put them out?
Boychuck: It takes a lot of time to develop a song and get a group of people to understand where you're going with it. I'm not the greatest musician and can plunk out the skeletal version of a song, but then you have to describe the feeling for each song. Most of my songs have lyrical depth, but you need the depth of the music to go with it and I haven't been able to convey the energy and musical depth of the new songs to my satisfaction.
But yeah, I write every Sunday on the same guitar I bought back in 1983. I always have a different musical idea every Sunday. Usually I do the lyrics first, although my musical structures are probably rather dated. I'm kind of stuck in the 1970s and '80s.
I'm very excited about the way we're revisiting the songs of HEAL, though. Dave or Ben Mayne often come up with ideas and the band blows me away. New Orleans put a whole different spin on the way I look at music, although I still love Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice and Pete Townsend a lot.
But yeah, I've got another Rock Opera finished about a relationship gone wrong called A Dull Tourist Affair (aka: Adulterous Affair)
HEAL is a remarkable musical creation, generated and created entirely by local talent that in essence tells the tale of the Prodigal Son and the phases of his life, from abuser to abused through the perspective of 'man's best friend'. It is powerful, magical, and you are highly encouraged to attend these upcoming performances of HEAL REVISITED.
Only 225 seats are available each night and the first 50 tickets sold for each night will also receive a copy of the original HEAL CD released in 2004. Tickets can be purchased by going to HEALREVISITED.COM and are also available at the Humane Society of Midland County and Tim Boychuck's State Farm Insurance.