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Berklee students cover rock for "Under the Influence"

Under the Influence cover.jpg

Part of the Berklee College of Music‘s philosophy is to provide an environment where aspiring musicians “learn how to integrate new ideas” and “adapt to changing musical genres,” according to the Boston educational institution’s Web site.

That line of thinking is reflected in the playing of the Berklee students and alumni who appear on Under the Influence (Heavy Rotation Records), a recently released covers album featuring their versions of songs by The Pixies, Radiohead, R.E.M. and others.

“There’s more to Berklee than just jazz,” says producer Paul Kolderie, who was approached in late 2010 by Berklee professor Jeff Dorenfeld and his son about participating in the project. “I liked the idea of a radical cover record using students who, for the most part, knew nothing about these bands.”

Kolderie, on the other hand, knows plenty about the bands whose work is reinterpreted on Under the Influence — in fact, he’s worked with Radiohead and The Pixies. Armed with gear from his personal collection (including a microphone that Thom Yorke once used), Kolderie convened with the musicians at Mad Oak recording studios in Allston, Mass.

“My job was just to keep it moving and not get bogged down,” Kolderie says of the sessions. “I let [the musicians] arrange the songs in whatever style they chose. I wasn’t interested in redoing a song the way it was originally, so the radical rethinking was welcome. There were a few places where I had to drag the bands back toward the original a bit, though. You’re not allowed to change the chords of the chorus!

“Everyone really played their asses off and brought a great spirit to the project,” he adds. “I thought Da’Rayia‘s take on the Gang of Four‘s ‘Not Great Men’ was very cool, and the version they did of [the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘] ‘Give it Away’ was nicely inverted. And of course, the Berklee String Metal Ensemble was a real freight train of sound [on their two tracks]!”

— By Chris M. Junior