By Georg Forchhammer.
A lot of musicians are saying that Jay Graydon is the musicmaster in many ways. His guitarworks, producing, songwriting has been used by many famous artists. He has written top ten hits, and today he is working on more albums and is re-releasing his backcatalogue of albums with himself, Planet 3, Airplay and more. Over the years he has been involved in many classic west coast music releases and is one of the musicians that you always talk about when your mind is on this musicstyle.
– West Coast music had its glorious days in the 70’s and the 80’s, and in the late 90’s this style of music has become trendy again.
I might assume that it has become trendy again as quality melodic pop music stands the test of time. Further, in this era, not much melodic music available.
– There are some names that seem to go along with west coast music, and when it comes to guitar players, the name Jay Graydon always seem to appear. You have been an important exponent of this music style. How do you feel about that and will you go on working for the west coast music?
I love the fact I am connected to the style. I had no idea that the music would get a specific heading since during the era, the musicians of the era were doing what all eras do – we were trying to do something different and thankfully, it turned out to be melodic. We all fed upon each other’s lead and simply tried to make it grow musically.
– You have been producing a lot of albums and I have read that the Steve Kipner (Knock The Walls Down, ´79) album was your first production. On the “Airplay For The Planet” album tou mention different musicians who have inspired you, and I’d like to know who inspired you as producer?
No one in particular. I picked up concepts from producers along the way when doing record dates but no major influence. It is a very individual thing.
– The Kipner album does not sound as if it has been produced by someone for the first time. The Graydon sound is already very characteristic.
Even though the Kipner album was my first commercial release, I had been recording demos for years. Just like my productions, I was the engineer, did most of the arranging, etc.
– How was it to co-produce with David Foster on ‘Airplay’ (it sounds as if it must have been a lot of fun)
David and I worked together all the time in that era and we thought alike. The production was cake and so was playing the stuff. I liked doing guitar overdubs with David since he would come up with great lines! We may have over produced this album (too much sonic information) but we were young and maybe trying a little too hard. In any case, the album is surely not at a loss for musical ideas. The hard work was doing my vocals. I wanted the stuff in tune and I never considered myself as a good singer. Other than that, the album was fun to make.
– The release “Airplay” is a masterpiece for many west coast enthusiasts, but funny enough a lot of them first discovered it years later, often because other ones referred to it. How was it when the album was released, do you remember any highlights from that year?
Airplay received little record company promotion in the states and David and I did nothing to promote. Simply bad business and the album totally stiffed!!! This was not the record company’s fault in full. We could have worked the record doing a tour, etc. but David and I were too busy writing and producing acts that sold big numbers. We blew it!!! Ironically, the album became an underground pop success in Japan and many other countries. It still sells well in some territories.
– “After The Love Has Gone” was first heard on “Airplay”. Then Earth, Wind & Fire made a world hit of it. Was the song originally written for “Airplay” or did you have it in mind for another band?
David showed up at my house one day and said he was just at Motown [itching the JP Morgan album he had produced. He was in the middle of playing a song on piano for them and forgot the chorus. He started rambling and that became the chorus of AFTER THE LOVE HAS (IS) GONE! So when David came over, he played me the chorus on the piano and I thought is was outstanding! I then came up with a melody/chord changes idea for the verse. We did the usual hacking around until tying in the idea to the next section. I clearly remember that when we had finished the “B” section, we ended up on a B maj 7TH chord. We were looking to tie into the in chorus The original chorus David had played must have been in a different key. In any case, the chorus starts on a minor chord and David played C min 7th As the first chord for the chorus!!! It worked great!!! The common tone of Eb regarding the B Maj 7th and C min 7th chords was a huge melodic tie in!!!
At the time David was producing an album for Bill Champlin thinking he would record the song. We called Bill and had him come over and write the lyrics. David recorded two different masters with different rhythm sections (probably lost forever unless David would search out the master). About a month later, David started writing songs with Maurice White for the Earth Wind And Fire album , “I Am”. David played the song and Maurice loved it! David called me and said we need to talk to Bill as it will need to be pulled from Bill’s album. We got together with Bill and since he has good business sense, Bill agreed it should be pulled from his album. At the time, the AIRPLAY project had not come about. I think we recorded after the EWF release. Not sure but I think this is within the logical time frame. Note the AIRPLAY version has the correct melody in the chorus. The EWF version seems to make the listener to think the high harmony vocal part is the melody. The version on my album “AIRPLAY FOR THE PLANET” also includes the correct melody in the chorus. I like this version best since I used the best of all arrangements of the song! It is like the perfect version in organization. This is not to say others have great moments, instead, a summery of the song at that point in time.
– The same question could be asked about “Nothing You can Do About It” which also was a hit for The Manhattan Transfer.
“Nothing You can Do About It” was written for the AIRPLAY album. After the album had stiffed, I was looking for a new home for the song and played for the Transfer. Alan wanted to record the song so we did. I needed to make it sound different so I used a bunch of synths. I seem to remember I hired Greg Mathieson to play the parts. I humbly state the AIRPLAY version is more exciting.
– After having made the “Airplay” album, did you, Tommy Funderburk and David Foster consider making a “real” band, like e.g. TOTO, with concerts and maybe more albums?
As mentioned, we should have done so but it did not happen. In retrospect, this saddens me and probably my fault. Regarding a follow up album and more, we were offered a deal with Warner Bros. Again, we blew it working on other projects.
– Is it imaginable that David Foster and you might reunite Airplay and record new material?
The odds are good that will never happen but never say never.
– On the album “A Heart From The Big Machine” with Planet 3 you play the guitar in a different style?
I played very agressively for the most part since the album was POP ROCK. I wanted to play some occasional fast “chops” lines in solos. Ironically, when starting the album, I was talking to Dean Parks and he mentioned to check out the Paul Gilbert guitar instructional video which I did. This guy has major chops an I incorporated a few of his fingering shapes but altering the scales as to fit my style. Since then, I have forgotten the concept since my playing these days is more melodic.
– I also want to add that I very much respect your answer, when all the other interviewers ask you which of your solos are your favourites. I think it’s up to us listeners and fans to decide which Rake solo we love the most.
– Talking about solos, I think one of the things that makes you very special is the way your solos become their own melody within a song, for example: Christopher Cross’ ‘Never be the same’. I couldn’t imagine that song being played with another solo. Actually, on Christopher Cross’ live album from ’98, the song is played with ‘your’ solo. It’s the same with Marc Jordan’s ‘I’m a camera’. And I could go on and on and on…
Man, when playing a solo, just trying to offer a good performance with quality notes.
– It is not just your solos that people are talking about, it is also the brilliant vocalsound you record and produce, what are the secrets?
Most artists think I work them too hard as I want vocal to “feel” great and be in tune. I have been known to tell them that in 20 years or later, you will listen to the albums and will thank me for the hard work. Yea, in this era, pitch can easily be fixed in pro tools or the like. In the past, I did use a harmonizer to correct pitch when I had to but very difficult on account of data seam glitches. Long story and no need since in this era, any singer can sound in tune.
– Are you working on a new solo-release?
The odds are good I will record another pop album in the future. At this point in time, we are working on releasing catalog stuff that has not been available for a while. I will list product available as well as what is going to be avalible.
BEBOP – New jazz album. Check the web site for details.
AIRPLAY FOR THE PLANET – a rerelease but with a new song and new mastering
PLANET 3 MUSIC FROM THE PLANET. A new song and new mastering.
RAKE AND THE SURFTONES SURFERS DRIVE WOODIES. 18 songs and new mastering.
In the near future, we will be releasing a PLANET 3 GEMS UNEARTHED never before released. I am going to look for demos for songs in the AIRPLAY era and more. This may end up being an album!
– Any other plans you can tell about the next Graydon album?
Regarding the next pop album, I will get around to this in the near future. No plans of the players etc. at this point but you can bet they will be very talented as usual.
– On your homepage you have revealed that a new pop album from you can be expected within a year or so. Can you tell us anything about it
The next release is a Planet 3 album entitled GEMS UNEARTHED never before released. It will be available in the beginning of next year. Planet 3 fans will love the CD! More raw with major energy! There are also a few songs that are alternate versions from the original P3 album! I became very excited when putting this CD together!!!
– Has your musical direction changed since “Airplay for the Planet”?
As you know, I recorded RAKE AND THE SURFTONES (surf music) and then BEBOP (jazz). Since I have experience in many areas, I can switch gears as needed and it is time I think about another pop album.
– On your latest album, “Bebop” which is a jazz album, you say in the cover notes that it actually was recorded “by accident” because you had to test a new ALESIS ADAT-recorder. Even though you have produced artists like The Manhattan Transfer and Lou Rawls, Graydon fans wouldn’t have expected a jazz album from you. What kind of reactions have you had to the album?
Musicians get “bagged”. I am known for pop/R&B music and jazz only in production. Trying to surface as a jazz guitarist has caused a marketing problem BUT it seems fans have found there way to the CD
– In the cover notes of your latest re-release of “Airplay For The Planet” you thank a lot of great musicians who have influenced you through the years. Among those, Michael Omartian. Lately he has produced albums for country artists like Larry Stewart. The New Country music style has become very popular during the last few years. Is that a musical style you have thought of producing and playing?
I love quality country music! The feel and pitch is impeccable. Know that LA producers do not get offered such gigs.
– What instrument do you use to make the Graydon sound?
When doing record sessions for a living in the 70s, I played a 1963 Gibson 335 for most everything. That era of 335s have a wider fingerboard than other 335s manufactured around 1966 and beyond. I occasionally played a 1964 Fender Strat and an early 70s (maybe late 60s) blue Paisly Fender Telecaster. These days, I play my Bossa signature electric guitar. Check out my web site for more details on the guitar (as well as much more).
Regarding acoustic guitars, I played an Ovation and then switched to a Martin D35s. The Martin has a very wide neck which made it very easy to play open chords. I play an Alverez Yari nylon string guitar. A studio guitarist needs many guitars such as an acoustic “high string”, 12 string acoustic and electric, 6 string bass, electric sitar, dobro, mandolin, etc. I have these guitars but rarely used.
Regarding amps, in the 70s, I mostly used a early 70s Fender Deluxe highly modified by Paul Rivera. In the 80s I mostly used a Fender Twin 2 (highly modified by Paul Rivera), and Boogie Mark 3. In the 90s, many amps such as Marshall JCM 900, Bogner Extasy, 1956 Fender 4/10 Bassman. Currently, I use my signature series which is the RAKE HEAD and JAKE COMBO. Check out my web site for details.
Many other amps were used along the way and I should mention that I used an early 60s Fender Showman 15 with a 1964 Fender tank reverb for the RAKE AND THE SURFTONES album. This album is very amusing as it is true surf music in the 1960s style of stuff like the Ventures
– Is there any chance of seeing you and your “All Star Band” in Scandinavia in the future? (I know that you have played in Sweden back in, I think, ’96 with great success!!)
I love playing live!!! Lets hope a promoter reads this and offers a tour!!!!!!!!