Peter Friestedt – L.A. Project 2 interview, November – 2008
Will Minting talks with Peter Friestedt about his L.A. Project 2.
Will: We’ve been chatting for months but have only just sat down to discuss your latest CD. This is long overdue.
Peter: Yes, and it’s all your fault Will! Anybody would think you’ve been busy!
Will: I’ve been enjoying your LA PROJECT 2 CD for several months now. I played your CD to Bobby Kimball a few weeks ago, and he agreed with me that it’s one of the most intelligent albums of the last couple of years. In fact, it’s one of very few albums that my girlfriend lets me play in the car from start to finish, so it’s got to be good!
Peter: Thank you! It makes me very happy to hear! I really wanted to make a diverse album with many different styles and I took away songs that were to similar to each other, I also worked with co-writers to get away from some of the traps that you may fall into when you write all the material yourself as oppose to how I did the first record where I wrote all the music by myself except for one track!
Will: Yes, and I’m sure that’s part of the appeal. A collection of songs featuring different combinations of writers and musicians. That’s an awesome cast you assembled!
Peter: I’m honoured to have all these musicians contributing to the music! To have both Joe Williams (TOTO) & Bill Champlin (CHICAGO) plus the rhythm section of Abe Laboriel and John “JR” Robinson is a treat! Then I have to mention the extraordinary vocalists/pianists/writers Randy Goodrum, Michael Ruff, Lou Pardini & Bill Cantos! It takes a lot of scheduling and preparation to pull off a record like this one! Working with such cast is very inspiring! I got to know many of them either through friends or my publisher in Sweden! I am very happy for being able to gather this great crowd and they are dear friends!
Will: I’m sure everyone will be intrigued to know how a quietly spoken guy from Sweden met these LA session greats.
Peter: Well it all started back in the late 90’s when I moved to LA, I won a Jazz competition between the universities of North California and got to know Ralph Humphrey and Mike Shapiro who helped me put together those first sessions with cats they knew! Anyway one thing led to another and I had this demos that I played for Bill Champlin (Chicago) of a songs that later became “Livin’ in your eyes” & “Time to play” and he was very nice and encouraging and helped out writing and arranging those songs up at his studio!
Will: The Toto and Chicago influence is significant on your LA Project 2 CD. You mention that Lou Pardini’s band were also an influence. Your CD is very atmospheric and also quietly spiritual.
Peter: The spiritual atmosphere was something I was aiming for especially on songs like “Closer to home” and “There ain’t Nothin’! I also try to transfer a positive message/vibe with the music! With the world looking like it does right now with financial crises and people having trouble to put food on the table we need to find some place of refuge and maybe music can help with that in a way. There are also songs like “One More Night” and “Where To Touch You” that has a huge TOTO flavour! The chorus of “One more night” was written when I was nineteen, I found it on an old cassette tape and thought wow. The songs features Joseph Williams(TOTO) singing those tracks with vocal performances reminding of the old TOTO days! Then there are tracks like “Cheyenne” with Bill Champlin that has a Chicago meets Steely Dan kind of vibe. Randy Goodrum wrote that lyric in a very Donald Fagen Nightfly vibe!
Will: Absolutely. Those influences come through very clearly. Also, Bill’s distinctive timbre really makes it special. What a great tune that is. Bill Champlin told me: “On the first Peter Friestedt CD, I co-wrote a song with him and went to sing it, overdubbing is what I expected, and walked in and there was Jimmy Haslip, Russ Ferrante and a handful of other greats ready to cut the song live, wow, ok. We finished that and they had another tune to cut and Peter said, “Bill, you wanna’ write this one, too?” I said, “Cool”. While they were rehearsing it I banged of some lyrics in the booth and that one was done. It was a kick. The next album, the tracks were cut and I co-wrote a few things, one I sang lead and one Joseph did. We did the bkgs, and that was it. Peter seems to be able to put together pretty cool people for his CD’s and the boy can play that thing.”
Peter: Obviously Bill is a favorite vocalist of mine and a dear friend. It is a pleasure to work with Bill and I’m thankful for all his contributions and help! Regarding the lyric for Cheyenne, I came up with this extra bridge to the song a week before recording it with Bill Champlin in LA. I couldn’t reach Randy at the moment so I sang the melody on his cell phone answering machine the day before I was catching the flight to LA. Then the same day I was going to Bill’s for vocal overdubs Randy e-mailed me the pre chours lyric and I featured that in the booklet of the CD since it was done it that way! Those Cheyenne lyrics you see in the liner notes is Randy’s handwritten jottings!
Will: Considering you’ve put together such a first-class project, you’re very humble about it.
Peter: I feel very blessed to have been able to do these records.
Will: Come on, your peers have said some very complimentary things about working with you. Joseph Williams told me: “I remember the LA Project 2 sessions as a great time (as usual). We worked at Bill’s (also as usual) and had many laughs. If it’s the session I remember, Bill recorded my entire lead vocal with the instrumental track going to “Tape” … so we had to redo the whole thing. It is a common mistake, and it’s happened to me more than once. We laughed it off and did it again. Not a big deal (but funny)! I love working with Bill and always will. The same goes for Peter. He is so talented and I always feel blessed to work on his albums.”
Peter: I’m very honored to hear this.
Will: I guess you wrote on the guitar?
Peter: Not Cheyenne, that song was written all on piano! But songs like “Closer to home” and “Waiting for you” were both written on guitar.
Will: So you’re a keyboard player too?
Peter: Hmm well I wouldn’t say that, I know all the chords and I love composing on the piano but no I wouldn’t call myself a keyboard player…I play some piano on the new record, for instance on the David Paich inspired chorus of “One more night”!
Will: What is your favourite memory of all the recording sessions?
Peter: There are many but being at Bill’s Goldmine studio up in Woodland Hills producing my two favourite singers Bill Champlin & Joseph Williams was fantastic, they are also some of the craziest guys so there are a lot of jokes and laughter when working with these musicians! They always come up with the most wonderful background arrangements and take it to places you didn’t think of! I remember Bill coming up with a dominant 13-9 chord after the first chorus on Cheyenne and we all went crazy since it was very cool! Bill joked about it as “that was what got us out of business 15 years ago”! Of course it is on the record! Seeing Abe groovin’ in the studio playing my songs…that felt kind of amazing! We had booked the studio for 6 hours but we were done in less than four! These guys are very fast and if you’ve done your homework well with written out charts and are getting your ideas through then you just go in there and slam it off! It is something you learn to take care of, you need to be well prepared before going into the studio so that everything runs smooth during the tracking and the other musicians will appreciate this alot! Then of course you feel a little sad that it is all over that fast as just wanna hang around jam all week with these cats! Abe and Lou had played “Love is gonna getcha” many times before we were about to record it but for JR it was the first time ever hearing the song that day, he just nailed it on his first take! What you hear on the CD is the very first take of the song. Abe said “man. it felt so good, I forgot that we were recording” and he played those extra lines on the outro that we just had to keep though it is not how we thought it would end!
Will: Abe Laboriel senior grooves when he plays. I saw Abe performing with Larry Carlton in the Baked Potato many years ago. The room truly rocked! You have to feel it!
Peter: Oh yeah, Abe just has a fantastic groove and he is Mr Timing…love his playing for that and he is just such a positive and spiritual person.
Will: Randy Goodrum told me: “Once a decade, maybe, I meet and work with someone like Peter who’s music pulls fresh lyrics and ideas out of my brain from a place no one else can get to. I’m extremely proud to be on this record, both as guest artist and writer.”
Peter: Wow. I’m speechless to hear Randy say this!
Will: How did you meet Randy?
Peter: I met Randy in Stockholm through our mutual publisher Janett! Writing songs with Randy is a treat in every sense! Like the lyric he wrote for Cheyenne, it has this wonderful Steely Dan like story that fits the music very well, I am very proud of that song and how it turned out on the CD! Check out his and Jay Graydon’s new records JAR by the way, great stuff!!
Randy´s performance on “Careless mockingbird” is stunning! Randy was a special guest at the release party of the first LA PROJECT in Stockholm 2004, We did a version of TOTO’s “I’ll be Over You” and Randy introduced it on the night: “Me and Steve Lukather once wrote a song intended for Julio Iglesias …Some people…” and the crowd just sang along!
Will: What guitars and amplifiers did you use to get all those fantastic sounds?
Peter: I love my 60´s reissue Fender strat with EMG pickups but I also got this new endorsement with Passkey Guitars/Japan who built me this nice 3/4 body strat that reminds you a little of the old Steve Lukather Valley Arts guitar!
Will: And any boxes of tricks which you’ll admit to using?
Peter: My Xotic pedals that I also endorse, they are part of my pedalboard that is being upgraded right now with the T.C. Nova Delay and the Arion Chorus Mod from Toshio Horiba as well, the Arion is the sound that I used on Randy’s “Careless Mockingbird” on the new record!
Will: Which studio in LA did you choose to record the basic tracks?
Peter: We used the same studio on both the LA PROJECT CDs! It is an old 70´s kind of studio called Entourage on Magnolia Blvd in North Hollywood. It’s a really nice place…very old school and the nice thing about the recording was having all the musicians there at the same time, sitting next to Abe and JR who groove the roof down is really an incredible feeling and that interaction is something that is not as common on records made these days! John “JR” Robinson drums were decorating the whole studio even though the guys from Drum Paradise weren´t half way done! I think he brought like only 12 snares.
Will: Only 12? You would think that someone like JR would come prepared! Hahaha.
Peter: No matter if it is Michael “King of Pop” Jackson or Peter Friestedt recording, he’ll make the effort! It kind of shows JR’s spirit and he is for sure one of the top drummers in the world!
Will: No doubt about that. John “JR” Robinson was also very complimentary about you: ”It was a pleasure working with Peter. The music was inspirational and hip. There’s an amazing collection of artists that contributed to this work of art. This CD is a must for all musicians.”
Peter: Very nice to hear that from JR!
The CD is available at ZINK Music www.zinkmusic.com or www.cdbaby.com for US customers! It is very exciting with this new label that Stefan Polzer has created. Zink is releasing music like LA PROJECT 2 and JaR’s “Scene 29”!
Will: You captured some great sounds. It’s a very “live” sounding CD.
Peter: My engineer Ronny Lahti is a big part in that, he is just a sound wizard, sometimes I come to him with this 85 track protools session and wonder how on earth he will find a way to get all those tracks into the mix, he just throws it all up in the air like a magician and then makes the tastiest mix you would ever dream of! He always wants to start working early in the morning as he knows I am very, very picky about everything in the mix and it never matters how early we starts, we never get out of the studio until the light of the next day is rising, I feel a little sorry about that but that is how much I care about the mixes, and Ronny just makes the effort!
Will: Dedication’s what you need! How were the LA PROJECT 2 release shows? I heard some tracks from one of the shows on the radio.
Peter: Very cool! The radio recorded one of the shows and aired it for over a million listeners this summer! We had Lou Pardini joining us as he happend to be in Sweden at the moment! Lou is a dear friend and an incredible, soulful singer! It was a pleasure to work with Bill Maxwell, Tommy Funderburk and John Pena as well on the Stockholm gig along with the Andrae Crouch singers! We did a couple of songs from the Airplay record with Tommy Funderburk and a few of Lou Pardini´s greatest hits like “Just to see her” & “Talk about it”, just a blessed evening!!
Will: I hear that you have some plans to tour in early 2009?
Peter: Yes, that’s in the works right now. I hope we will get out and tour Scandinavia and the south of Europe next year with some special US guest or guests!
Will: Thanks Peter, this has been a great pleasure. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Peter: I hope everyone will check out the new LA PROJECT 2 CD! It feels wonderful with all the great reviews and words about my music/the record and I hope it won’t take 6 years til the next one! I am going to Stockholm next week to write new material with Randy Goodrum! I hope to start record new tracks sometime after new year and thanks to you Will, there might be another TOTO singer involved in the LA PROJECT 3! Looking very much forward to that and thanks Will for everything you do.
Will Minting, November 2008