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Fireworks Magazine Online 69 - Interview with Frédéric Slama’s AOR
18 April 2015
Interview with Frédéric Slama's AOR
Try not to blink – otherwise you're likely to miss another album by the restless French musician, songwriter and producer Frédéric Slama, who makes a return with yet another star-studded AOR release!. The line-up that's contributed to 'Return To L.A.' is no weaker than in the case of its predecessors, including the likes of Jesse Damon, Bob Harris or Paul Sabu. To get into the details behind the release, Alexandra Mrozowska caught up with busy-but-eloquent Frédéric for a little bit of interrogation.
It didn't take long to release yet another AOR album. How do you manage to maintain quality of the recordings in such a haste?
Wel, at the risk of sounding immodest, I've been at the peak of my creativity during the last few years and I'm recording new songs all the times so I had many in stock, and enough good songs to release another album pretty quickly after the last one. You have to remember that during the '70s and the '80s a lot of artists used to release at least two albums per year, sometime even three or four including a live album. At the same time I want to keep a high level of quality and I don't release half the songs I record. It's like playing chess, you have to think ahead, that's why my 2016 album is almost finished and I'm already working on the 2017 one. No, you won't get rid of AOR that easily! (laughs)
The new AOR album features participation from the likes of Paul Sabu, Jesse Damon of Silent Rage or Rick Riso. What do you think these particular artists brought into the project?
They all have something special and I've been a big fan of these singers for years. I've worked with most of them in the past and I consider them as friends (I hope they do too ha! ha!). Paul Sabu is a legend. He should have his statue in every city! He worked with the biggest bands in history as a producer and writer and released a number of impressive solo albums that are classics now. I love his voice. He gives everything he's got in the delivery of the vocals for the benefit of the songs. I've always admired Jesse Damon (who even wrote for Kiss, may Iremind you in case someone is not following). He has an incredible voice and a sense of rhythm few singers have. It was an honour to work on 2 songs with him for the new AOR courtesy of my good friend Paul Sabu (him again)! Rick Riso is becoming with each passing year the new Glenn Hughes... I promised him I would say that for a big check! (laughs) No seriously, Rick might be a little less known but his vocals are huge and I've been using him in my AOR albums for more than 10 years now. With him I know the job will be done to perfection. I have to mention too the fabulous Tommy Funderburk (who worked with Airplay as well as King of Hearts and even Whitesnake), the wonderful Erika, one of the top Swedish singers who released classic Hard Rock albums and the extraordinary girls from Chasing Violets, Sarah & Mélissa Fontaine who are by far France's best Melodic Rock singers!
Was there any difference in what's inspired you lyric- and music-wise?
Yes I wanted a slighter harder edge than the previous album 'L.A Connection' though I'm still far from Iron Maiden. But I suppose people who buy an AOR album wants to hear good Melodic Rock, otherwise you can lock them in an asylum. The lyrics are among my best ones and tell stories with a real beginning and a real ending with original ideas, so there is substance in these songs (...well, I hope). I buy a lot of CDs and when I hear all these fantastic bands that come up with stupid lyrics, no theme in their songs, or things that I've been done 30 years ago, I'd like to roll up in my grave if I was dead, and sometimes I wish I was when I hear these kind of lyrics. But as you know I still have at least 50 more AOR albums to release, so that would have to wait!
How do you think 'Return To L.A.' can be compared to its immediate predecessors 'L.A. Connection' and 'The Secrets Of L.A'? What are your personal favourites off the new album?
Compared to the 2 previous albums there are 2 ballads, one sung by Mélissa & Sarah Fontaine (I just changed the order of their names discreetly, so the readers don't get bored too much...) and Erika who sung the second one. So I suppose the whole approach of 'Return To L.A' is closer to classic Melodic AOR. But at the same time the songs with Paul Sabu gives a harder edge to the album. I've tried to please the fans of this style of music by bringing them a variety in the songs, in the theme of the lyrics and in the singers that gives a special colour to each track. And it seems that the AOR fans rates this album among their favourites ever, so I guess they won't chase me out of town tarred and feathered!
Sung by Erika and the duo of Sarah and Mélissa Fontaine, respectively, the tracks 'Burning Rainbows' and 'Love Remains The Same' gravitate towards Pop rather than Rock. Do you think are the boundaries set between music genres matter at all?
They have always been power ballads in Melodic Rock. Look at Whitesnake 'Is This Love', one of their biggest hits is flirting with pop. And there are many examples like this in Rock music. But concerning these 2 songs, they are more Westcoast influenced than pop. Closer to a Toto ballad than Lady Gaga I can reassure the readers! (laughs) These two songs also have huge guitar solos by Tommy Denander and are definitively Melodic Rock or my name isn't Mr. AOR anymore! (laughs)
Apart from you and Tommy Denander, also Paul Sabu was involved in co-production process of 'Return To L.A.'. Any comment on that?
Paul knows exactly what I want (apart from women, money and drugs) so he knows perfectly well what to do to please me in term of arrangements, ideas or sounds. We discussed a lot the direction I wanted to give to 'Return To L.A' and after giving him one million dollars he thought all my ideas were pure genius ha! ha! Paul "The Legend" Sabu has worked with everybody from Shania Twain to David Bowie so he can adapt easily, that's what makes him a top musician & producer.
If to look back a bit, would you say you're satisfied with the development of the project and the direction it's taken throughout the years?
How could I be not satisfied? I've released 14 AOR albums, played with more than 150 top musicians & singers that are all part of my musical heroes and I see that the fans still love the AOR projects with his variety of singers. I started on this idea of bringing many guests as soon as 1984 with my 1st solo album 'Secret Obsession' (now out of print, if you got one, you're now a millionaire, you can leave your wife). I've met fantastic people, most of them became friends but there is still a long way to go, many albums to come, maybe different projects with different names I had in mind for years alongside the AOR project...
The best AOR album and the best line-up so far was...
I was waiting for the trick question and I was thinking I'm almost at the end of the interview and Alexandra forgot it, I can relax now! But you're a good journalist and now I'm trapped like a rat in front of a cheese and I have to choose between my AOR babies! Why did you do this to me? Why...?! (laughs) Maybe I could try to say I love them all the same cause they are part of me, but no one will be satisfied with this answer and your readers will go to bed having nightmares without knowing which AOR is the best one ever. So I'm going to take a big risk and say... 'The Secrets of L.A'! Yeah you see I didn't say "the last album" like all artists in the world would say, but the one from 2013. But that must not prevent you to buy 'Return Of L.A' which is pure Melodic Rock at its best with fabulous singers and musicianship from my buddies Tommy Denander and Paul Sabu among many others.
In Fireworks #62, you talked with my colleague Ant Heeks about the possibility of bringing AOR to the live stage and some big shows in the pipeline. Any update on that?
Yeah I lied to get rid of him and end up faster the interview (laughs) Did I say that out loud or in my mind? More seriously I had many offers from festivals to bring AOR to the stage, but most of them have a very tight budget and at the same time would like all the biggest stars to be featured in an AOR show, which is impossible of course cost wise. But I'm talking right now to a couple of festivals promoters and hopefully there will be some AOR shows with a fabulous line up in 2015 in Europe... and if the great Bruce Mee puts my pic on the cover of the next five issues of Fireworks, it will be even easier. What about it Bruce...?
With AOR, you're used to work with many different singers per album. But if you had to stick with only one singer performing your songs until the very end of your career – who would it be?
Can I say "you"? But I don't think you sing so I will have to choose someone else! This one is very tough for me because I like all these singers more than anything in the world so I don't know how could I choose just one? Plus it means I will never work again with the other ones and they will run over me with their cars if they see me crossing the street! All I can tell is when I was young, for me the perfect singer was Lou Gramm and I imagined all my songs sung by him. Of course everybody's older now and I have to go back to my retirement home so the nurse can feed me, if you don't mind! (laughs)
Apart from AOR, are you involved in any other projects as a songwriter or a producer?
Yes I'm still writing songs for French artists (under a pseudonym, I'm not that crazy) and also for U.S and Japanese bands. I'm working with a girl on her first solo album for 2016 – but I can't tell you her name otherwise I would have to kill you – and also on at least three other projects with different singers ranging from Westcoast music to Hard Rock! And yes, I know I will have to dress all in black leather with some chains around my neck, But I think Sabu can lend me some stuff, so I should be good! (laughs)
Is there anything you'd like to add in the end?
I released this new album 'Return To L.A' by myself cause I was fed up with some labels telling you what to do, paying you peanuts, talking to you badly and not even doing a good promotion of the albums they release! It's time the artists says "no" to people who don't care about them anymore. The industry has changed but the artists have now a freedom and a power they never had in the past. I never sold as much CDs during the last couple of year than 'Return To L.A.' cause I did everything that should have been done to promote my music. If you love the artists, please buy the CDs. It's a small gesture but it will allow the artists to go on. A lot of people who loves AOR/Melodic Rock support the bands they love by doing so and I really admire them not letting us down. I do exactly the same with my fellow artists. So if you like Melodic Rock with an edge, and want to hear singers at the peak of their form, please buy the new AOR CD 'Return To L.A'. I would be almost ready to give everyone and each of you $100 to do so! I said "almost"! Don' t dream too much my friends and keep on rocking! Download or get the CD directly from the artist at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/AOR1 and I might include you in my will (laughs)