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Interview with AOR
01 January 2014
AOR: Interview with Frédéric Slama
Frédéric Slama’s AOR Project is back with album number twelve, available on AOR Heaven. Once again featuring an all-star cast of guest vocalists and musicians, ‘The Secrets Of L.A.’ continues in the heavier direction that began on the previous album ‘L.A. Temptation.’ Ant Heeks got in touch with Frédéric to find out more.
The newer AOR albums, are much heavier than their predecessors; why have you decided to move away from the Westcoast sound of the earlier albums?
I started my career recording more Westcoast oriented albums with a lot of guests certainly, but as I went along, my second love, Melodic Rock, was always on my mind. So year on year I’ve decided to get closer to the sound of my musical heroes like Toto, Journey, Survivor, Giant, Bad English or Foreigner. With ‘The Secrets Of L.A.’, I’ve taken the AOR sound one step further in the heavy department to have a pure AOR album with a harder approach. And I think with my good friend and AOR partner, Tommy Denander, we succeeded in putting the Melodic Rock map on this new album. So far the reviews have been awesome so I really think people will enjoy this harder sound, but still with the very melodic touch of my previous albums.
What is the inspiration behind all of the AOR album titles, and what are ‘The Secrets Of L.A’?
The great L.A. scene of the 80s has always inspired AOR. So it’s a tribute to the city of the angels to have the word "L.A." in each one of my albums. It also reminds people that they will get what they pay for (if they don't illegally download it, ha! ha!). With AOR and "L.A." in the title, you can imagine the big spaces, the scenery, the ocean, the good music and many other cool things people like so much about California. ‘The Secrets Of L.A.’ have different meanings: first that everything is possible in life and also that I can get the best musicians and singers around to make a great album, with more rock than ever that hopefully will be remembered. But ‘The Secrets Of L.A.’ have other secret meanings also and you will have to discover those by yourself, ha ha!
Can you explain your writing process? What inspires your lyrics, and do you write a song with a specific vocalist in mind, or do you write the song first and then decide which vocalist should sing it?
As a professional songwriter for the last twenty five years, the melody and lyrics are the most important part in a song for me. I’ve written hundreds of songs for Japanese and European artists in many different styles and I work closely with a Japanese publisher who asks me for songs every month. You can have the best singers in the world but if the song is average, it will stay that way. The lyrics are particularly important for me because not only do I always try to have perfect rhyme, but I try to tell a whole story with a beginning and a conclusion. I try to find words that sound good but that you don’t see often in Melodic Rock, and I always try to find a cool title for each song. I try to find ideas from American culture from the 30s or the 50s too and always try to deliver a strong message in each of my compositions. Of course each song is not about a serious subject and can have a lighter message about life or love. Too many times you see great Melodic Rock albums with top singers always singing the same kind of lyrics with no real meaning, and that often don’t even rhyme or have the wrong number of syllables in them. I lived in L.A. for ten years and I was a pro member of the national academy of songwriters, so lyrics are vital for me. Sometimes you see great songwriters who have to write so many songs in a month that all these songs end up being almost the same garbage. I guess their ego is satisfied, even if quality is not primary for them? How can you write 15 good songs in a month? Someone will have to explain it to me, but for me it’s impossible. Usually I write songs with specific singers in mind and I do my best to get them. It's not too hard for me now since this is my 12th AOR album and I’ve worked with more than 150 top names, if you include my solo albums.
How do you record? Do you prefer to have the vocalists and musicians in the studio with you, or is the internet a necessity to be able to work on this type of project?
The best way is to record in the studio with the musicians like we all used to do in the 70s and 80s. This is my favourite part of the process and I try to privilege that. Of course it’s not always possible with the crazy schedule and the distances between musicians, so the internet has some advantages. It’s important to have a close contact with each and every musician and singer and I do my best possible to make them feel comfortable during the sessions. I take my hat off to my AOR partner Tommy Denander, who has been helping me these last ten years, making my dreams come true!
Is there a possibility that you will ever be able to bring AOR to the live stage?
Yes, I'm planning a few big shows for 2014/2015, but you have to realise it’s not easy to have a dozen legendary musicians and singers at the same time on the same stage. So it will take time. But once AOR has played live the first time, nothing will be able to stop it. Also, I’m open and ready to play big festivals with a smaller line up to cut the costs, but every musician involved will be the top of the crop! I hope to tour in the U.K. soon, my favorite country in the world. Fans have to be a little more patient on that, but in the meantime they can check the latest news about the AOR project on my website: www.slama.101.fr
What would you say was your biggest strength; as an artist; a writer, a producer or a musician? Did you set out to become proficient at all three, or have you developed one particular skill while working on another?
I’m learning my craft every day with the best musicians and producers in the world. I know I have a great strength as a songwriter and I’m trying to break the rules a little bit, with original deeper lyrics and melody lines reminiscent of the 80s with a contemporary touch. As a producer as well, I know I’m very much a perfectionist and that the tiniest detail counts for me, but I want the best possible in every field. As a keyboard and guitar player, I know I’ll never be Steve Lukather, Neal Schon or Tommy Denander, so I do my best to progress at my own pace and technology is always helpful in that case in the studio!
What is the next project you will be working on?
I’m already finishing the next AOR CD with Tommy Denander, with bigger names and an even harder approach. And I’m also producing a very talented girl for a new project that will be out in 2015. Of course, I keep writing songs for artists all around the world who want to have something a little bit different too. I’m always open to offers and suggestions so don’t hesitate, if you have a project and need some songs, just drop me a line. I’m also working on another album that will be very different from AOR, but still Melodic Rock, and that should see the light of day also in 2015. And, of course I hope to see all my Melodic friends around the world when we play live with AOR for those few selected dates next year. I hope that the Fireworks readers will support my work and will get the CD. People who knew AOR before should be really surprised by the change of direction and sound and I hope you will enjoy this quality release, which has no fillers, only great tracks with top singers that will blow you away! I hope to meet all my Fireworks friends soon at different concert venues and hopefully for some AOR shows. Keep on rocking and don’t hesitate to say hi on Facebook or through my website www.slama101.fr