Peter Friestedt interview, June, 2003

By Georg Forchhammer.

The album took everybody with storm and many said that this was one of the best west coast album released in 2002. The album “L.A. Project” are featuring Bill Champlin, Joseph Williams, Bill Cantos, The Yellowjackets, Michael Ruff, Abraham Laboriel, Brandon Fields, Ralph Humphrey and many others. Songs on the album are co-written with many of the musicians featured on the album, and all nice and smoothly arranged by the swedish musician Peter Friestedt. G. Forchhammer from Blue Desert are having a close talk with Peter Friestedt about his “L.A. Project”.

-First of all, congratulations on you great album!

Thank you very much Georg,

-Your album has indeed been met with very positive response from the west coast music lovers. How has that reaction been to you, and did you expect this?

I have been blessed with nice words from many people regarding the CD, it means a lot to hear that somebody else like the music. I never expected any of this and every time I hear someone say something nice it brings me a lot of joy. I also feel that it definitely was worth the three years of hard work that it took putting this CD together.

-Back in 1998 you decided to go to Los Angeles to study at Los Angeles Music Academy. Why L.A.?

It felt natural to study music in LA since many of my favourite musicians live there and the music that I grew up listening to is still alive and under progress in this town (fusion/west coast). To say that LA is the centre of entertainment business is no exaggeration.

-What are your preferences to West coast music?

I like the way you mix jazz harmony with pop arrangement. Another important part is the laidback groove that is connected with this music. I guess it comes as a reflection of the Southern California life style. The crossover music that David Foster, Bill Champlin and Jay Graydon did in the early 80’s is very hip in my opinion. I do hope that my music creates hope and a positive feeling which are elements in the west coast genre that I enjoy a lot. West coast music combined with funk, blues, jazz or gospel is really nice so that it doesn’t get to clean.

-You have Bill Champlin, Bill Cantos, Michael Ruff and Joseph Williams singing on the album. That itself is amazing! Did you have these artists in mind when starting the project?

Yes, they were all first calls for the album and I am very happy that they all agreed to participate. It is a great honour to have them on The LA-Project. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

-Have you had thoughts about doing live gigs with the songs from the L.A. Project – I mean, a lot of the artists on your album are busy with their own careers, and they live a bit far away from Sweden…?

The main focus this first half year since the release has been on promoting the CD and trying to make it available to people in different places around the world. Obviously it would be hard to feature all the artists on a tour. There might be some logistic problems getting a tour together but I am an optimistic person so let’s see what happens.

-Did you talk about doing gigs in L.A.?

No, not yet.

-Do you subsequently have any Scandinavian artists in mind as “replacements”?

I have already talked to Stefan Gunnarson about joining the band in case of a tour. I did meet Niels from Owit music earlier this spring and I have heard good things about them from Michael Ruff so we’ll see. I think 2004 will be an exiting year regarding this subject.

-You are living in Sweden, and in this country there are many artists playing west coast and AOR music. Were you influenced by some of these artists before you decided to take your own music to L.A.?

Not really, I have always been more influenced by American artists when it comes to west coast music. I do know that there are a lot going on these days though and a lot of the hot producers of what you call the Swedish sound on the top charts in the world are big fans of west coast music, so there is hope.

-The music tradition and mentality is different in USA and Europe. Bill Cantos says that he was very impressed with you just contacting your favourite artists and working alongside with them. Actually, he was proud to be one of them.

-In Scandinavia it isn’t good form to say that you are really good at something. The reason for me to mention that is, that I have got a comment from Bill Champlin who says that you are not only good but even better than you think yourself. What is your comment on that?

I am moved to hear those words from Bill, I don’t know what to say. It means a lot. To me Bill is the ultimate musician. He knows it all and to have him singing on four songs on the CD was wonderful.

-Common for both Bill Champlin and Bill Cantos is that had a really good time working on your project, and it certainly shows on the album.

-Listening to your album certainly brings back good old West coast memories:

-The intro groove in “Living in your eyes” is a clear reminder to the classic Kenny Loggins hit “Heart to heart” from his “High Adventure” album (1982). Did you have that song in mind when arranging your song?

I might have had that track in the back of my mind, I did listen to “Heart to heart” the other day and the first bars definitely reminds of it so I call it a homage. The song is a tribute to the old west coast tunes in general.

There was a certain chemistry in the studio when we recorded this song that is hard to describe, I remember thinking to myself at the last chorus of the song, I don’t ever want this to stop. This song is one of my favourites on the CD and Bill sings it wonderfully with that funky back up.

-On “Only Prayer” Michael Ruff sings with the presence and intensity as on his debut album “Once in a lifetime” from 1984, and Joseph Williams’ performance on “Got to find it” is as convincing as he was in the TOTO years and on Jay Graydon’s “Airplay for the Planet” (’93). How did you get those two artists ‘on board’ the project?

I agree with you, they both sound amazing, Bill Champlin did invite Joseph to sing on the CD and I think it was Ralph Humphrey who called Michael on Hawaii. I just met Michael a month ago here in Sweden, I finally got the chance to give him the CD, he had heard a lot of great things about it and we both agreed that it would be fun to work together again not to long from now.

-On “Take a little chance” Abe Laboriel plays a great bass solo. There wouldn’t happen to be a Koinonia fan hidden inside of you?

Abraham is one of the most inspiring musicians I have ever met. He has an incredible time feel and to watch him play live is something extra ordinary. He has so much energy and spirit. Koinonia was a great band, no doubt about that.

-A number that falls a bit out of the album’s context is “Storyteller”, an instrumental song that you play together with The Yellowjackets. Never the less, it’s a great song. Did you write this particular song with The Yellowjackets in mind? To me, it seems to have reminders to their great “Mirage a trios” album from ’83.

The way I arranged the tune with Jimmy Haslip and Bob Mintzer playin’ those unison lines in the bridge is really inspired by the Jackets. If it sounds like “Mirage a trios” I am very happy since that is one of their finest works in my opinion. Russell Ferrante also helped me go through some of the arrangements and came up with other advices. The Yellowjackets are my favourite band when it comes to fusion music along with Weather Report.

-A few weeks ago, you told me that your album was the most played West coast album in Paris. Had you expected that?

It got to Paris as an import record from Japan and people had to pay 30 euro for the CD. We are trying to correct this at the moment and it looks like Mathieu at Next Music will distribute it in France later this summer.

I was very happy to hear that west coast fans in France enjoyed it.

-West coast music had its glorious days in the late 70’ies and the early 80’ies. However, since the early 90’ies, a lot of artists like Bill Champlin, Bill Cantos, Jay Graydon and David Foster have returned to that style. How do you see the future for West coast music?

I do have a lot of hope for the future of this genre. There are people in Japan, Sweden, Denmark and France who are doing a great work to help this music stay alive. Also in LA I found out about the big smooth jazz scene. People are talking about west coast music as something really hip and cool these days so the future looks very bright.