Dark Reflections – Widetrack Creates Haunting Virtual Realm on ‘The Unwakening’ Album

Widetrack’s Ron Tippin and Zach Tippin

For Widetrack’s Ron Tippin, a new type of “mirror” reveals our hidden truths in a vast technological world.

That “mirror” doesn’t reflect our human faces, but instead displays our evolving digital personas on social media and the Interweb through multiple computer, tablet and phone screens. In a sense, we’re residing in a parallel world while interacting with one another in a dream-like state.

“The idea of The Unwakening is how we immerse ourselves in this digital landscape, and it just makes all our worst tendencies come out, and we just wallow in it. All of our wisdom just goes out the window and so does our better nature,” said Ron Tippin, Widetrack’s vocalist, guitarist and drummer.

Ron Tippin explores this haunting concept throughout Widetrack’s new otherworldly 12-track, alt-prog album, The Unwakening, which dropped yesterday. As part of a Waterford father-son duo with 16-year-old bassist-guitarist Zach Tippin, he travels through a dozen digital tales to uncover the conflicting dualities of our personal and online identities.

“I look at a show like ‘Black Mirror,’ and I’ve read the reviews, and people say, ‘Oh, I get it, digital media is bad.’ Well, it’s not that simple. It’s a fantastically great tool, it can connect us in ways it never could, and it’s the stuff of my childhood imagination,” said Ron Tippin, who released the album to coincide with his son’s 16th birthday.

Together, father and son plunge headfirst into a ‘Black Mirror-esque’ realm filled with an angry online influencer who trolls social media, online forums and discussion threads to create a polarizing digital culture. Each haunting track on The Unwakening chronicles the influencer’s rapid rise to power and eventual decline in a fickle virtual universe.

“I started thinking about if this person got everything he ever wanted, what would that world look like, and I got this idea that this guy ascends to power, and he gets so many followers, he becomes this huge demagogue, and he rises to a position of power, and the world just goes to hell,” Ron Tippin said. Continue reading “Dark Reflections – Widetrack Creates Haunting Virtual Realm on ‘The Unwakening’ Album”

‘Prime Mover’ – My Journeys with Rush’s Neil Peart

Neil Peart performs with Rush at a 2010 Rogers Bayfest in Sarnia, Ontario.

Editor’s Note – Brian Stratton reflects on his lifelong love of Rush and Neil Peart’s untimely passing.

By Brian Stratton

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen

– Prime Mover

I never got to meet Neil Peart, though I did see him many times. Nonetheless, I feel like I know him through his lyrics, and consider him a companion of sorts. It was his lyrics that first appealed to me when my brother played some Rush music for me. The science fiction and fantasy themes were ripe for my young imagination. Over time, I grew to appreciate other themes in his lyrics, about human nature, loss, triumph and all the events that make a life worth living.

As most people know, Peart enjoyed journeying on his motorcycle between tour dates, or on his own time. It gave him time to explore, think and write about life. In fact, I feel that the overriding theme of all his lyrics, whether fantastic or realistic, is about one’s journey through life. Indeed, “anything can happen” in life and often does.

On that note, here are some moments where Peart’s lyrics, Rush’s music and my life all intersected.

Rush’s Alex Lifeson at Rogers Bayfest in 2010

Drawn like moths, we drift into the city

– Subdivisions

I’ve always been drawn to Detroit. For me, it was the big city where my dad worked at Channel 4 and anytime I got to go there when I was growing up was exciting. Probably none more so than the time in 1990 when my family attended Channel 4’s holiday party and then went to Trappers Alley in Greek Town to do some shopping. While wandering around the many levels of the mall, I found a Harmony House store, and in it Rush’s “Caress of Steel” CD. At the time, I was reading Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring,” so it was no surprise that I was attracted to the cover art with the necromancer on it.

When it was time to go home, we found that our car had been stolen. More tragically for my teenage self, my copy of “Fellowship of the Ring” was in the car at the time. At least I had “Caress of Steel,” with its songs about wizards and mythical fountains, to console me. However, all ended well, and our car was found a few weeks later, complete with my book! Not one to hold a grudge, I still love Detroit and look forward to going there to this day.

When we are young
Wandering the face of the earth

– Dreamline

Sometimes it’s the small stops on a larger journey that make the trip complete. At the end of summer in 1991, we were on a family trip to Colorado to visit my brother during his first year at the Air Force Academy. It was my first time out west, and I finally got to see mountains! It was awe-inspiring and profoundly moving for me.

Now, the trip happened to coincide with the release of “Roll the Bones.” This was the first new album that the band had put out since I became a fan, so getting it was a big deal for me. My parents said we could stop and get the CD on the way home from the airport. I remember landing back in Michigan and how vividly green everything was in comparison to the reds and browns of Colorado. A quick stop to Harmony House (again!) in Novi was the perfecting ending to a great vacation.

Continue reading “‘Prime Mover’ – My Journeys with Rush’s Neil Peart”