TOURNIQUET: Gazing at Music

HM Magazine veteran Lee Haley had a chance to catch up with Tourniquet’s Ted Kirkpatrick about the long-awaited new album. Here’s their conversation.

Lee:  What was the inspiration behind Gazing at Medusa?  

Ted: I’ve always liked Greek mythology and Hindu mythology and all that stuff. I thought, “What is it that I hear more from fans than almost anything else?” It is that they feel defeated. They feel defeated in life.  Whether they are a believer or not, it’s very easy to get down and you get excited one week and then the next week a bunch of stuff happens, and you just feel defeated in life.  That’s why I wanted to use that verse, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I was kind of looking around for different images and I thought, “Boy, the story of Medusa would be really cool for that, you know.” Staring down or gazing down at Medusa. So, I looked up hundreds and hundreds of images and found this one that really jumped out at me from a guy in England, and I go, “Bingo! That’s it!”

Lee:  If I reach inside of your mad scientist brain, regarding the album title in relation to concept and flow of the songs–how does it all pull together and work together?

Ted: It’s kind of a concept album. I mean it’s very spiritual. The songs are very overtly biblical. There’s still a lot of allegorical stuff that deals with the huge issues of life. Medusa the album is all-encompassing of life’s journey and what it’s all about, and I think it has a real general theme of encompassing all of what the bible talks about and what life is about. Starting with Medusa we can be victorious. The songs just went from there about life and death and the pressure of evil in our lives and doing the wrong thing and all that.

Lee: It definitely has a common thread. But truthfully, that’s the beautiful thing about art, especially within a vehicle like a concept album. It’s truly about the discovery and revelation along with the listeners’ interpretation, and typically the artist wants the listener to figure it out on their own.


Ted:  Exactly! That’s exactly right!

Lee:  You mentioned this briefly, but please expound, because it’s obvious you are a big history buff. You mentioned Greek mythology, Hindu mythology, as well as biblical origins, and theology. Where do you lean, or is it all of it?

Ted:  Yeah, I guess it’s all interesting to me. I studied at the University of Texas at Austin. I took a class in Hindu mythology, so that was very interesting–all the Hindu gods and all of that.  Now, obviously it’s not what I believe. It’s interesting to see what hundreds and millions of people see as their “gods” and just comparing it to the God of the Bible, the one true God that Christians believe in.


Lee: Right. Absolutely! It’s interesting that you can see other religions. There’s so much of what we know as our true God in there and sometimes you wonder why they don’t understand that? They’ve got their own culture and traditional beliefs.

Ted: Yeah, and they grow up with that and their parents believe it, and they believe it, so I guess that’s what missionaries are for, right?

Lee: Yeah. Really.  

Lee:   Was coming up with this album concept a long process? Are you constantly studying history?

Ted:  It’s not one of my things that I studied. I mean, I guess study really never ends, just because you’ve graduated from high school or college. I guess after that when it’s our own time, we tend to study the things that we are passionate about. For me the word study, how I would guess that Tourniquet fans would imagine would be things like the animal realm. I can name over 3000 types of animals off the top of my head. And classical music. I have entire symphonies memorized in my head. Every note.  So history would not be at the top of my list. There are other things with which I’m endlessly enamored. I am still fascinated by tornadoes, for example. I’ve studied hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage of the damage and the tornado footage that’s still of interest. But back to your question, it did take a long time to come up with the title Gazing at Medusa. For some bands, I think the albums are somewhat straightforward and simplistic or about partying or whatever. With Tourniquet, I think that people have come to expect that there’s going to be an allegorical sense to the titles of the songs, the album, and artwork. That album cover to me is a very arresting image, so the whole idea is to draw you in. Gazing at Medusa. What does that mean? I mean, why would someone want to gaze at Medusa and turn to stone? Actually, quite a bit of thought really went into this. This title didn’t come to me for quite a long time. I would also say the same thing about Antiseptic Bloodbath. It took me a long time to eventually hit on that. I mean, Lee, you probably know that with Tourniquet we’re into things that are very original, in terms of the lyrics that have been beaten into the ground–wrong to right, into the light, into the night, out of the light.  All the cliche lyrics that have been beaten into the ground. Not only lyrics, but the song titles are very important to me.

Lee: Yeah, it completes the whole picture.  You know?

Ted: Uh huh. Right.

Lee:   It’s like watching a movie. Part of me wants to know the end of the movie, but you have to watch the entire movie to gain your own understanding. The whole process is about discovery and revelation. I want to get to the end, but the ole cliche rings true. It’s the journey, not the destination. What I got out of it is there is a recurring theme of the judge and the jury, and redemptions. It may not be the case, but it seems even relevant to current modern day slavery and sex trafficking issues, and even immigration. I’m not trying to get political or anything. A lot of the overtones to me are like, man, this is so relevant to what’s going on right today.

Ted: Yeah, yeah I agree. I think that that’s a great analogy too that you said about the movie. You just can’t fast forward to the end of a great movie and expect to fully understand. I mean it’s not just about the punchline, there’s much more to it than that. It’s about the story and about the journey that the song takes you through. That’s a great analogy.  

Lee:  Its the whole discovery process.  It’s the way that you view things.

Ted:  Well one thing that makes me feel good as a songwriter, and I’ve seen this now multiple times in reference to Gazing at Medusa, is that people know its been out for however many months. People say, “You know, I listened to it at the beginning and it was about this for me, and now three months later, I find that this has been uncovered and I relate to it in my life now in a totally different way than when I first heard this song.” To me, that’s really exciting, because the lyrics and meanings change through time as people understand the lyrics more, and what the song is about. It’s not just about one thing. I mean like you said, it may be about sex trafficking or immigration and then it may involve our justice system and the lack of stiff enough penalties to prevent people from harming innocent people and innocent animals. It definitely goes through a journey.

Lee: To shift gears here, how did the introduction of Ripper (Tim “Ripper” Owens) and Chris Poland (Megadeth) evolve into this project?   

Ted: The music was pretty much finished and Deen Castronova (former drummer for Journey and Ozzy) got involved. He’s not only a world-class drummer, but he’s an incredible singer. He originally was going to do the whole album. He wanted to do the whole album and we wanted him to do the whole album, but he just got insanely busy. So, he did the title track which I thought was phenomenal and then he just ran out of time and had to go on tour with his band, The Dead Daisies with John Corabi.  He’s a very busy guy, and has known about and always respected Tourniquet for a long time, and I have appreciated his work as well. When Deen couldn’t do the whole album I thought about Ripper. I had heard some of his stuff when he was with Judas Priest. Talk about a guy with many different voices! This guy can obviously sing four octaves up, which some of the Judas Priest stuff required when he was in that band, and he can do some of the lower stuff. I mean, he is a metal singer. He is metal through and through, so when I heard one song I was like, “Can we have you do the rest of the album, Tim?” He was able to arrange it. I am really, really thrilled with the vocals on this album. We are thrilled to have Chris Poland and Ripper both on this record.

Lee: Did you do all the guitars for the demo and instrumentation, vocals, scratches, and what not, or did you get with Aaron and hash it out? What’s the process?  

Ted:  Well I wrote everything on Gazing at Medusa. All the songs and all the lyrics and then I demoed it out. I just did crummy guitar tracks over it and then I did just scratch drums on it. Then I sent it to Aaron. He’s been in Tourniquet so long that he’s got a fantastic ear for hearing what I’m going for. He’ll play it back on the phone. He’ll play the riff, and I’m talking these are complicated riffs with a lot of notes in it, and it’s like, “yup, that’s it.” It’s not just about playing the notes. It’s about where the bend is–is it staccato, or is it legato? Is it drawn out? Is it slide up or slide down? Is it a hammer or is it a pull-off? I mean all of this stuff working together is part of the riff. It’s not like, ok, this notes A, this notes C, then it goes to D. It’s much more involved than that.

Lee: In terms of the spiritual aspect of this project, are you aware if Tim or Chris Poland are believers?  

Ted: I’m not really sure. Due to the fact that this was basically done coast to coast on that level, meaning file sharing, digital, and so forth, we didn’t have a lot of facetime, meaning face to face interactions.  But, in terms of Chris Poland’s and even Ripper’s display of attitude, character and conviction, including belting out the lyrics that I wrote; they certainly were Christlike in those terms. And they know me and what I’m about.  And Tim knows the Christian thing. He’s sung tons of Black Sabbath songs, and Dio’s Disciples and what not, so he knows what’s going on. Now as far as believers, Deen is a total believer.

Lee:  Really, I had no idea. Interesting.

Ted:  Oh absolutely he totally is.    

Lee: That’s great to know!  I do appreciate your time today.  Any last words or parting thoughts?


Ted:  I think this was great. I really appreciate the concentration and focus on the new album Gazing at Medusa.  So we’re good. I’ve really enjoyed it.

{Editor: Here’s some photos of Ted with the guys who played as Tourniquet in Europe recently.

From left to right: Les Carlsen, Aaron Guerra, Ted Kirkpatrick, Max Dible, Andy Robbins.]

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