Richard Page interview, December – 2008
By Georg Forchhammer
First of all, congratulations with what I’d call your ”come back song” ”I Always Cry at Christmas”, which you have just launched on your new website, richardpagemusic.com and on iTunes.
Even though you have been active in the music business all through the years, I think that most Richard Page fans (including myself) had given up the thought of you recording your own material again. What motivated you now – and why did we have to wait so many years?
It just seemed like the right time. My wife suggested that I record the song myself instead of giving it away to another artist.
What reactions have you met on this fantastic new song – and the fact that you are “back on the block” again?
The reaction has been very positive. Judging from the comments on YouTube, it seems like people are really happy about it.
Have you and your co-writer on the Christmas song, Walter Afanasieff, written more songs together – or are you planning to do so?
Absolutely, Walter and I have written a few songs together. We plan on writing more when we can find the time.
I’d like to look a little into your career after the Mr. Mister years. In 1994, you and Patrick Leonard recorded the 3rd Matinee album. How did you two meet?
Pat called me after Kevin Gilbert and he parted ways. We got together and wrote two or three songs the first day and really hit it off. The rest is history.
In your career, the 3rd Matinee album is the least spoken about. One might even say that there is something “secret” about it, even though it is a fantastic album. Do you agree in that?
I just don’t think that the album got the kind of push from the label that is needed to make people aware. I’m always happy to hear that people love the album though, even if it’s a small audience.
Did you consider recording more albums with Patrick Leonard?
We moved on to other things after that.
Two years later, in 1996, you released your first – and still only – solo album “Shelter Me.” Before that, you had always worked together with others. How was it to be on your own?
I enjoyed it very much. These were songs that I have been holding on to for many years with the idea that I would one day record them as a solo artist. It was a very creative time. I had many of my friends play on it and I think it made a lot of people happy.
Among west coast music lovers, “Shelter me” is considered to be one of the best albums in the 90ies. What were your expectations to a solo career after releasing that album?
I had hoped to continue but the record company I was with just didn’t help much. So I went back to writing for others as that has always been something I enjoy and helps pay the bills.
Talking about secret albums before, in addition to “Shelter Me”, you also recorded an acoustic mini-album containing 4 acoustic versions of songs from the real album and a fantastic version of the Mr. Mister smash hit “Broken Wings.” What’s the story behind that mini-album?
It was the idea of the record company to have something a little different for people who loved Mr. Mister.
How was your musical career going after “Shelter Me”? Did you give any concerts? Did you plan recording a follow up album?
I played a few charity concerts, but really I didn’t pursue another album.
Throughout the years, you have written a lot of songs for other artists. Did you ever consider recording some of them yourself?
Yes, some songs I feel more compelled to do myself, like “I Always Cry At Christmas” for example. Others don’t really fit my style.
Just after the release of the first Mr. Mister record, “I Wear The Face,” you were asked to become lead singer of TOTO and Chicago. Weren’t you tempted by these offers?
I was very flattered to be asked but the timing wasn’t right. I really believed in Mr. Mister and wanted to see it through.
You have worked together with a lot of artists through the years. Among those, the famous Weather Report keyboard player Joe Zawinul – on 2 albums, I believe. Coming from two very different parts of the musical world, how did you come to work together with him?
I was a huge Weather Report fan and I called Joe one day and asked if he needed a vocalist. He didn’t know who I was, but his son did. So we got together and hit it off nicely. I’m honored that he wanted to work with me. What a talent! He is missed.
In 2006, the famous keyboard player Peter Wolf – among a lot of things known as keyboard player for Frank Zappa – gathered a super band for a concert in California, including you, Bobby Kimball (TOTO), Tommy Funderburk (Airplay, King of Hearts), and other great musicians. Among lots of songs, you also played some of the Mr. Mister hits. How was it be back on stage again and performing these songs after so many years?
It was fun.
To date, you’ve recorded nine fantastic albums with major record labels. All received critical acclaim, yet only one — Mr. Mister’s “Welcome To The Real World” — became a huge commercial success. To what do you attribute that and has your perspective changed with regard to working with the majors?
Many factors lead up to the success of Welcome to the Real World so it’s hard to say why. People were ready for what we were writing and recording then. My idea of how important a record company is have changed over the years. I don’t think it’s necessary these days to be tied to one. The internet has opened up a huge door for finding an audience.
Your brother, who is helping you with this, told us jokingly that he’s had to drag you kicking-and-screaming into the 21st century. I speak for all of your fans when I say how exciting it is to see you creating a new web presence, but I have to ask, for a veteran such as yourself, who has had a career of major labels handling all the marketing and promotion, is this transition difficult?
My wife Linda has had to do some dragging too! Sure it’s difficult because it’s so new. Musicians everywhere are re-thinking how they reach their audience. But it’s exciting and liberating too. I have a family and a career as a writer/producer so I get pulled in a lot of directions. It’s great to put some solo stuff out there, but it has to be at a pace and schedule I can work with. This will allow me to do that. What’s encouraging is hearing from the fans. Apparently they’re still out there, but without the internet, who would have guessed?
So are you turning your back on the major label system altogether?
Well, never say never I guess, but I think the labels are becoming less important. For example, a century ago here in the states, the railroads had a monopoly on transportation. Then airplanes and interstate trucking came along. The railroads were in a perfect position to dominate that too but the railroad execs blew it because they were thinking they were in the train business and not the moving-stuff-from-here-to-there business. This allowed competitors to get into the game and today the railroads are struggling. That same kind of thinking is what’s hurting the labels. If you’re thinking, we’re in the CD delivery business you’re going to have trouble staying relevant. Artists tend to be more forward thinking and many are taking their careers into their own hands and finding new ways to interact directly with their audience. This is a great development for music and art in general.
On your website, you say that you will be uploading new songs from now on. Do you have any plans on releasing a new solo album or touring?
Touring? Wow. If Linda and Rob had to drag me before, they’d really have to do some dragging to get me back out on the road! I’m not committing to anything at this point, but I will say this, We’re not ruling out anything. Albums, podcasts, autographed fishing poles, you name it, but just like any business, Richard Page Music has a bottom line. If we can figure out a way for this to make enough money to pay the overhead then we’ll keep it going.
Any final thoughts?
I think the future of the music business, maybe even the entire entertainment industry, is in the hands of people like you; the sites, the social networks, the communities of fans around the world. The artists will do what they can, but we need folks like Bluedesert.dk to keep it alive. Labels have been able to keep an iron lock on the business because they had all the money for the insanely expensive production, marketing and promotion you needed in the past to produce a hit, get it in front of people and make it stick. That’s all changing. Individual artists and bands don’t necessarily need all that capital anymore, but they do need great music and dedicated fans to spread the word, pay for it, and enjoy it.