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Articles Home » Interviews » Zorn, Lec - 2001 Very First Interview
 
Zorn, Lec - 2001 Very First Interview
INTERVIEW: Zorn, Lec (Jul 2001)
The ever resourceful Steve McAtee.. just who is Lec Zorn?

Lec Zorn, where the heck have I heard that name before? There's every likelihood that you haven't, 'cause it's not real. Lec Zorn is the project band name behind one of the biggest internet fans of melodic rock, Steve McAtee. To all Kansas, Shooting Star and Styx fans out there, many of you will already know of Steve's work behind the scenes with these bands, combining fan clubs and tribute websites in their honor, as well as knowing many of them personally. Well, what you probably didn't know, is that Steve is an accomplished musician, and has roped in a few melodic rock heavyweights to complete the picture on the forthcoming Lec Zorn album. Lee Bradfield took the time to quiz Steve a.k.a Lec Zorn, and in turn, took the time to digest this very complete (?) interview. Thanks Lee, and thanks Steve/Lec, um yeah (July 2001)

First off Steve, thanks for the interview.
You're very welcome Lee! And thanks to you for taking the time and having the interest to interview me!

Let's begin with that name 'Lec Zorn', where does that come from and does it apply to you or to the whole band?
I've never liked my real last name - McAtee - much (though I started taking a little pride it in when I found out that it means 'son of the scholar' in the Gaelic language!) and besides that, people have a hard time guessing how to pronounce it. I didn't want that problem if I ever became famous. So in 1995, when I decided to pursue a musical career, I started looking for a pseudonym. While driving in Louisville, Kentucky (I live in the suburb of New Albany, Indiana), I often drove past Zorn Avenue, off of Exit 2 on Interstate 71 (I'm going to have a picture of one of those signs on my album, somewhere). I thought it was a really cool name! Futuristic and powerful sounding, simple and easy to pronounce at a glance - no guessing games required.

At first, I was going to call myself Steve Zorn, but I decided to change my first name as well because there are already so many Steves in music. To the extent that a few years ago, Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine did an all Steve issue! So I decided to use a different first name as well (On a side note, my real full name is George Steven McAtee. My father insisted that I have his first name, but my mother, who was far more responsible for my upbringing, called me Steven and I started abbreviating that to Steve around age 15-16). I came up with several ideas. One, humorously, was Kato after Kato Kaelin, who rose to international fame as O.J. Simpson's house guest! This was partly because I earned that nickname after often being a house guest of some friends near Chicago one year (In the aftermath of a horrendous relationship, which is another story for another day, my therapy was going to as many Kansas concerts as possible and I often went with this family!) and partly because so many girls were crazy over Kato (In addition to trying to reach true melodic rock lovers with my music, I'm going to try to get some female fans with my image. I think it's possible to do both.).

But I decided that Kato sounded too airheaded. I then thought about Alec, a name that I really like and isn't very common, though my six year old nephew has it. But I decided I wanted something that was extremely rare, monosyllabic, and instantly memorable. In short, I wanted my name to be very short, unique and powerful sounding so that people will remember it. Then, in late 1998, I was co-hosting a local radio talk show along with my brother and one of his friends (It lasted only 8 episodes largely due to my brother's sudden move to the Los Angeles area to pursue an acting career.). I was originally going to use the name Steve on the show, but when practicing, I noticed that when I said 'This is Steve,' the s sounds in 'is' and 'Steve' slurred together. I didn't like the way the slur sounded, nor did I like the awkward sounding pause that I had to insert to avoid the slur. So I started searching for a name that didn't start with S. And I also used the criteria that I was using for my musical name. I started going down the alphabet and thinking of every monosyllabic name I could think of that started with every letter. Finally, when I got to L, I though of Lec and instantly thought it was really cool. It met all of my criteria, so I adopted and embraced it!

At the time, I couldn't think of anyone named Lec, but I later realized, and it was even later pointed out to me by several people, that Polish political leader Lech Walesa pronounces his first name the same way! I've gotten mixed reaction to the name Lec Zorn, but I don't mind. What I would mind would be if people thought it was boring. That would tell me that people would likely forget it. No one has ever given me that kind of reaction toward it, which tells me that I've done my job well and people will remember the name, whether they like it and/or me or not. It reminds me of the story of the name Loverboy. Originally, they were trying names like the Dean-Reno Project and people would just nod their head and say 'Uh-huh.' So they adopted a name that definitely would provoke a reaction. And they went on to sell over 10 million albums. I would gladly settle for a fraction of that, but it is my goal to make this the biggest selling independent debut album of all time. Though as it turns out, it might not be independent after all. Two of Europe's top five melodic rock record companies are interested in it, I'm happy and proud to say!

And to answer the second part of the question, the name Lec Zorn applies only to me. I don't have a band in the sense of people permanently working with me, though I hope that those musicians who perform on this album will also perform on my future albums. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Though I work with many other musicians, I am a solo artist. I love the freedom that I have this way - having complete artistic control over my albums and being able to pick whoever I want to perform on my albums rather than being limited to the members of a particular band. Having said that, I want to emphasize that I am in no way an egomaniac or a power hungry tyrant. Those who work with me will probably tell you that I'm as easy to work with as anyone they've ever encountered in the music industry. It's just that the thought of one of my songs being changed in a way that I don't like is very negative for me. I've met a lot of people whose musical tastes are very similar to mine and many of them are among my closest friends. In fact, probably 98% of my friends are people who I met through music. But I've never met anyone whose musical tastes are 100% identical to mine. Maybe 97-98%, but not 100%. I like the assurance that no one will ever prevent me from releasing a certain song or make changes to my songs that I don't like. All of my music comes from my heart. It all relates very deep experiences I've had and together my songs encompass a very wide range of emotions. For those reasons, I'm very possessive of my music.

Still, I think that collaborating on material with another artist could be enjoyable and a source of musical growth for me and my collaborator. I would consider joining a band under the right circumstances - I would have to be joining people with whom I had a lot in common musically and who were easy to get along with. And the band would have to be a part-time thing for me. I would never give up my solo career. Looking around and seeing all of the all-star projects out there - The Sign, Seventh Key, Explorer's Club, Mullmuzzler, to name a few - whose members made those albums and promptly went onto their other projects rather than being stuck together, I think I could really enjoy being part of such a project.

You've managed to rope in some heavyweight AOR musicians to play on your album, how did you go about assembling this virtual supergroup?
When I decided back in 1995 that I was going to make an album, I knew that I wanted it to contain some of my favourite musicians. Part of it was knowing that it would help me commercially but even more than that I hoped to get the highest quality musicians possible in order to help me achieving my goal of making the ultimate melodic rock album. And there were dozens of musicians who I had fantasized about working with. If I were able to work with even one or two of them, that would have been a dream come true. Especially to have that work preserved on CD. So I started taking mental notes of artists who I wanted to work with. Considering the literally thousands of hours I've spent listening to melodic rock music for nearly two decades and the 1,000+ CDs that Mai-Helen and I have, the lists grew to be pretty long. But I decided not to inquire about the availability of any of those artists until I was close to recording. Then, early in the year 2000, I was on Ebay looking for more stuff related to the music group Survivor (not the TV show or the Destiny's Child song, both of which have made by Ebay searches much more complicated!), probably one of five favourite artists of all time and a huge influence on my music. I saw a listing for a CD by a group called Intruder that was compared to Survivor as well as Night Ranger, another fave of mine. I bid on and won the CD, titled 'Dangerous Nights,' and upon playing it for the first time, I discovered the Survivor influence in the opening seconds. The first song, 'Hearts on the Loose,' is almost a complete remake of Survivor's 'Jackie Don't Go.' But the music quickly become very secondary to me, taking a distant backseat to the vocalist, Tracy White.

I instantly had a new first choice to sing on my album! I was competely in awe of his voice, which is identical to Dennis DeYoung's! I've heard fewer than 10 singers in my whole life who have that combination of an outstanding range, power and emotional delivery. I rate Tracy up there with Dennis DeYoung, Freddie Mercury, Steve Perry, Jimi Jamison, Mike Reno and Michael Sweet as the greatest singers of all time. Last June, I sent an e-mail message to the two addresses listed in the album's liner notes, inquiring about Tracy's availability for session work. Within a day or two, I got a response from Intruder guitarist Stephen DeAcutis who asked me for my phone number, saying he would give it to Tracy. I did and another day or two later, I received a voice message from Tracy, who left me his phone number. I called him back and was extremely happy that he was interested in doing the album. He also told me that he was in the band Shotgun Symphony, who I had heard of but didn't own any albums of. But when he mentioned the band's name, a lightbulb went off in my head and I grabbed a Frontiers Records CD, thinking they had a song on there. I was right! It's a song called 'Sea of Desire.' I had gotten that sampler in Oslo, Norway the previous December but had only played in I think once and was having a conversation with Mai-Helen at the time and not paying that close attention, so I didn't remember Tracy's vocals. After Tracy and I had been corresponding for several months he, knowing that I was still considering several guitarists, recommended to me his friend and fellow New Jerseyan Mike Walsh of the band Departure. Tracy and Mike worked together on the Foreigner tribute that was recently released by Escape Music, titled, simply, 'Foreigner Tribute.' I had never heard Mike play but Tracy compared him to Steve Morris of Heartland, so I was sold!

Especially considering the added convenience of Tracy and Mike being able to record together. That would enable me to finish the album sooner. Tracy put me in touch with Mike and shortly afterward, I got a copy of the Departure album 'Free Your Mind,' an above average melodic rock album, very '80s styled. I liken Mike's playing more to Neal Schon and Jeff Watson than Steve Morris's, but that's still a big compliment! And then for my drummer! Well, you know that story! But for the readers, you introduced me to the band Dakota last Autumn and I got their album 'The Last Standing Man' shortly afterward. I liked the album so much that I visited the band's web page where I learned, much to my pleasant surprise, that their great dummer, Eli Hludzik, is a student at the University of Cincinnati, just two hours away from me!

Then, shortly afterward, another light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I should try to attain Eli's services for my album! I found his phone number on the UC web page and called him, leaving a message on his answering machine and telling him about myself, that I was a big Dakota fan thanks to you and that I was interested in him playing on my album! He called me back three days later and said yes! I'm very pleased to have gotten the musicians I wanted and hopefully I will be able to in the future as well! I like that you refer to this as a 'virtual supergroup!' Of course, this is officially a solo album as I'm calling all of the shots, but certainly the presence of Tracy, Mike and Eli will make this an even much better album. And with all of the all-star projects that have taken place in recent years, the timing for this seems particularly appropriate! And I'm very happy and proud to have assembled a line-up that can hold its own with any supergroup!

These musicians have been in renowned bands, that should have a positive effect on the album's commercial prospects. Are you looking to include that angle in your marketing plans?
Oh yes, definitely. I will be contacting the coordinators of every web page related to the artists who are performing on my album and asking them to please mention my album on their page and on any related e-mail lists, etc. In addition, I'm going to contact every melodic rock web site that I can find and tell them about the album and who is on it. And I'm going to do the same to pages whose coordinators and readers would likely be interested. For example, Mike and Tracy are both on the new Foreigner tribute album, simply titled 'Foreigner Tribute.' I'm going to contact every Foreigner page that I can find. Perhaps some Foreigner fans really like Mike And Tracy's performance on the tribute album and would like to hear some more of their work. Also, I'm going to market the album to Bon Jovi fans as Tracy's remake of the Bon Jovi classic 'Runaway' on the Intruder 'Believer' album has surely made him several thousand fans in the Bon Jovi camp. And that's just a few examples. My primary motivation for hiring these nationally known performers was because I thought their virtuosity would greatly enhance my music. Besides that, it's really cool to have someone of whom your a big fan playing songs that you wrote. But it's a very nice bonus that Tracy, Mike and Eli's names carry a lot of weight in the melodic rock community. That will only increase the sales of my album.

Having followed the music business closely for nearly 20 years, I've seen the extraordinary importance of marketing and promotion. I've seen so many fabulous albums dead on arrival, even some that were released by major record companies, because of poor promotion. Shooting Star's 'Silent Scream' might be the best example of that. That should have put five or six songs in the top 10 and yet almost no one has ever heard that album. In contrast, I've seen plenty of mediocre to bad albums that were smash hits because of great promotion. I think one of the biggest problems that artists have is that most of them, no matter how great they are at making music, have no clue when it comes to promotion and marketing. Fortunately, I'm a rare exception and I'm going to do everything in my power to make this album the a hit. I'm not going to put it in the hands of an apathetic and/or incompetent executive. My album very well might be the most promoted album in the history of the internet. And having the internet is a huge advantage for me. Just a few years ago, getting myself widely noticed would have been a monumental task, almost impossible. But the net has greatly reduced transaction costs and made it possible for me to reach my target audience at a very low cost. Back around 1995, I felt like I was the only melodic rock fan left in the world. Now I know that there are many thousands out there and through the net, we're able to get overcome grunge's stranglehold on the airwaves.

How important a role do you think new AOR record companies are playing in keeping great music in stores everywhere?
They're playing a very important role. If you took them away, there would be almost no new melodic rock in stores at all. Unfortunately, the companies that are regularly releasing new melodic rock albums - such as Frontiers, Escape, MTM, AOR Heaven and SPV - still haven't made much impact here in America. I rarely see any of their albums in stores here. But in Europe, they seem to be having much more success. I go over there once or twice a year and always see a lot of their albums in the stores. I'm not sure why, but melodic rock overall seems to have much more of an audience right now in Europe than in America. Maybe the rich classical tradition of Europe makes the people more receptive to melody. Another thing I've thought of - I haven't listened to a lot of European radio, but from what I've heard, it seems to be less format dominated than here in America. Unfortunately, American radio has gotten so commercialized that it's now about business and little else. It's common to see a big conglomerate own several stations in the same town, all of different formats, and just play the stuff that is on the charts for that format.

I think that's one reason why people's musical tastes tend to be rather narrow over here, sadly. From what I've heard in Europe, it seems like on a station, there's a little more variety. Also, every time I go over there, I hear some songs that I haven't heard on American radio in many years. I do get very frustrated by the sorry state of American radio. Especially since I have to listen to it for many hours every day at work. So you can imagine how great it feels to get home and listen to a great piece of new melodic rock! But back to the role of the companies releasing new AOR - while I'm glad they're making progress in getting it inthe stores and hope that will continue, it's important to also recognize the tremendous growth of CD sales on the internet. In this year, about 85-90% of my CD purchases have been online. I've found several great melodic rock order services through which I can easily find almost all of the new albums that I want, place the order and have the CD 2-3 days later. I love the convenience of that. And since I know I'm not likely to find these albums in stores, except when I go to Europe, it's by far the best option for me. It saves me lots of headaches and frustration that I would get traveling in vain from store to store, looking for certain albums.

Tell us about the bands that have influenced the songs on the album, and also your favourite AOR albums?
I think Survivor is the biggest influence on my album, partly because of timing. I was a moderate fan of their's until I purchased a cassette of their 'When Seconds Count' album for $1.99 in a cheapie bin in late 1989/early 1990. I was amazed at the fabulous songs on that album. I started buying their older albums and realized that they had so much great material that sadly failed to become popular. Many of their songs I like more than their several American hits. Survivor and Shooting Star, in my opinion, should have been the two biggest artists of the '80s. Unlike Shooting Star, which never managed to get more than a cult following, Survivor had some good success - 8 of their songs made the top 40 in Billboard. But about 25-30 deserved to. But anyway, I held off for years on buying the 'Premonition' and 'Caught in the Game' albums because I couldn't find them on CD. I had lots of chances to buy them on vinyl and cassette, but figured I would find CDs of the albums eventually. And as it turned out, I got them both on CD in late 1999, when I was writing for this album. To me, they felt like new albums and I played them a lot. I'm sure any Survivor fan would notice the influence. But I want to stress that I'm not cloning their songs either! Besides Survivor, I detect influence from Asia, Kansas, Styx, Shooting Star and Genesis. Eli also told me that my song 'Going the Distance' reminds him of Journey. I had never thought about it, but after thinking about it, I understand how one could make the comparison.

As for my favourite AOR albums? About 1-2 years ago on a Shooting Star e-mail list that I'm on, a bunch of us made out lists of our 10 favourite albums of all time. Here's mine - 1. Asia - Asia; 2. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Black Moon; 3. Survivor - When Seconds Count; 4. Shooting Star - Silent Scream; 5. Genesis - Duke; 6. Night Ranger - Big Life; 7. Kansas - Vinyl Confessions; 8. Kansas - Drastic Measures; 9. Asia - Alpha; 10. Giuffria - Silk + Steel. Asia's self-titled album has held the number one spot with me non-stop since about 1987. It's the only album other than my album to which I would give a rating of five stars on a five star scale.

In the early 90's, pro grunge / alternative journalists were predicting the end of classic melodic rock and AOR, but there is still a loyal audience of hardcore AOR fans that make it possible for melodic bands to keep thriving in the studio and on tour - does this give you hope for the prospects of your album and the genre as a whole?
Yes, very much so. I have far more confidence in this album being a success than I did when I decided back in 1995 to make it. At that time I felt like I was just about the only melodic rocker left in the world. Grunge had almost completely taken over the AOR stations in America by that time and my favourite artists largely either stopped making albums or released them with small companies with little money behind them. And to make matters worse, many of those melodic rockers who continued to release albums sold out to grunge in futile attempts to gain commercial acceptance. And at that time, I was competely unaware of any new melodic rock artists or record companies. But after I made some European pen pals and especially when I got on the internet, I discovered that there are many thousands of melodic rockers still out there, all over the world. And now there are some young people who are discovering melodic rock as well.

It's great that the internet has given us melodic rockers so many forums with which to discover great new music and make friends with people all over the world who share our passion for the greatest art form ever! And it's great to have an escape from all the grunge and alternative stuff! And like I said earlier, through the net, I'll be able to reach my target audience easily. And the same goes for other melodic rockers, especially those who know a lot about promotion and marketing, as I do. Hopefully the momentum of the growing melodic rock underground movement will continue and get melodic rock back to big commercial success. But even if it just stays at its current level, there's a very significant audience - certainly enough for artists to make healthy profits.

Please take us through some of the tracks on the album, what we can expect them to sound like and which bands people are likely to be reminded of.
The album will start with its title track, 'It Began in the Underground,' a sympho-synth intro piece - the kind of song that draws to mind the house lights going down one by one, the audience roaring, smoke rising from the stage and the band finally appearing. The title comes from the opening line of one of my favourite songs of all time, Kansas's 'Incident on a Bridge.' Even though this is my debut album, I never even considered self-titling it. The title is very important to me as its an important reminder that everything that ever made it big, without exception, started small. And that's where I'm starting now - melodic rock is still far in the underground and having not released an album before, I had to start from the bottom. But I'm starting to see some glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel. The album has already generated a fair amount of pre release publicity and hopefully it will grow from there. But from the very beginning, I kept on remembering that even Nirvana and Pearl Jam started at the same point and believing that with hard work, faith and perseverance that I could eventually make it. And that even if I failed, I could at least be proud of my effort and not have any regrets later in life about not trying when I had the chance. So anyway, the song 'It Began in the Underground' will lead into the song 'Genesis,' which is meant to signify the beginning of my career rather than a band that has had a fair amount of influence on me! The song 'Genesis' is an instrumental collage of songs that appear later on the album. But in the collage, the songs will be performed in a more symphonic manner. I got the idea for this piece from the introduction of Kansas's 1982 MTV concert, which was later released on video cassette as 'The Best of Kansas Live.'

I love a lot of straight ahead melodic rock but I also love some progressive rock as well and that influence shows up at several points on the album, particularly on these first two songs. Next up is the album's first vocal song, 'Long Time Coming.' It's a very autobiographical song about the long road that I travelled to get to this point. It was a long and trying process of trial and error. I'm sure that many people would have given up long ago. Musically, the song is an intense mid-tempo rocker with heavy guitars and big keyboards. It captures my feelings as I look back on my life and everything that led up to this point. Next up is the album's only straight ballad, 'Keepers of the Eternal Flame.' It's a duet with Tracy and my girlfriend, Mai-Helen. I got the idea for a duet from the Jimi Jamisons's Survivor song 'Empires,' on which Jimi shared the lead vocals with Lisa Frazier. For years, most duets in contemporary music have been adult contempoary styled. It was interesting to hear a duet in the AOR/power ballad style. I thought it worked very well and that I should give it a try. Musically, the song is sort of a combination of the Styx and Survivor power ballad sounds. It might be my favourite song that I've ever written. It's a close call between that and the album closing 'Going the Distance,' which I'll get to later.

'Keepers of the Eternal Flame' is the only song I've ever written and one of only about 7-8 songs ever to bring tears to my eyes. I sure hope that it hits others the way it hits me! And I'm particularly pleased to have the song on the album considering that even in the dramatic increase of melodic rock albums released in the past few years, I've heard very few songs in this style on those albums. It seems that after grunge took over, most melodic rockers got self conscious as if to say 'Ooh, we're afraid to make another power ballad. People might think we're a bunch of wussies!' Fortunately, I have no fear of such a label. In fact, if it came from a grunge/alternative fan, I would wear it like a badge of honor! Besides, I know that there is still an audience for the power ballad. In fact, melodicrock.com, which along with your page has helped tremendously in advancing the melodic rock revival, has a feature called 'Killer Ballad of the Month.' How I would love for one of my songs to have that distinction someday!

As for the song's lyrics, they deal with the deep closeness and intimacy of a couple who are finally able to spend time alone together after a long wait. I think I've succeeded at portraying the deepest feelings of love, affection and passion on the part of both the man and the woman. Anyway, I hope that 'Keepers of the Eternal Flame' is widely embraced by those who dearly miss the power ballad! I hope the song will fill the void for those people! But of course, I'm much more than a balladeer and will be ready to rock when that song is over! The next song, 'Fighting Chance,' revs it up again! The song is a Survivor-styled mid-tempo hard rocker with a strong emphasis on rhythm. It's the hardest rocking song on the album, in fact, and some people might even classify the guitar dominated introduction as metal. I've noticed that on albums that contain a power ballad, the next song is often very hard rocking, as if to remind the listeners that they are listening to a rock artist!

With me, I have no reservations about doing ballads, but at the same time, I don't want people to think I'm Air Supply, either! I strive to have a good amount of variety in my music and I hope this is a good way to do it! I put a lot of thought into the song order on this album. Lyrically, 'Fighting Chance' is an optimist - which I am to the extreme - trying to bring hope to a pessimist. It's about people who are involved in the same movement and one trying to stop the other from giving up, even when faced with long odds. That brings us to 'You Keep Me in the Dark,' one of the faster songs on the album. This is a hard rocker but also very keyboard oriented and with a clear sentimental feel. It's written about a relationship I had in which the woman abandoned the relationship after her ex-boyfriend entered her house on Valentine's Day 1998, saw she and I romancing each other and attacked me.

In the aftermath of the incident, she wouldn't communicate with me about what she wanted to do with our relationship, hence the title. I tried to figure out what was going on in her mind, but silence is the one thing that I'm not very good at interpreting. She didn't shut me out of her life but she withdrew her affection and became rather cold, empty and distant. I thought that maybe she would snap out of it, but after about four months, I concluded that it was time to go on with my life. The song captures the confusion that I felt before I came to my conclusion. 'You Keep Me in the Dark' is followed by its sequel, 'Starting All Over Again.' This is a more positive, upbeat, high spirited rocker with a strong hook and a good mix of guitar and keyboards. The song is about my recovery from the previous relationship. The lyrics address the hardship I went through but also point to optimism. While it's always a let down to think that you might have found the one and when realize that you haven't and that you have to start all over again, as the title says, the song contains a strong message of optimism as I moved on in the hope of finding something better. The song expressed the determination that I felt to recover and get it right next time, breaking the cycle heartbreak that my love life had been up to that point. 'Starting All Over Again' is followed by 'Perseverance,' a mid-tempo, keyboard dominated instrumental, reminiscent of Kerry Livgren and Geoff Downes. This is the oldest complete song on the album. I wrote it in March, 1998 over two days. The title came from my sheer determination to complete the song rather than put it off. But it's also my overall philosophy on life. The song had a steady rhythm and sharp keyboard attack most of the way but has a slower and sort of fanfaric ending.

And finally, to close out the album, is 'Going the Distance.' It reminds me of Asia most of all, but as I said earlier, Eli said it reminds him of Journey and I notice the similarity after he mentioned that. All along, I decided that this song was going to be my finale. It's a very hard hitting song of positive emotion. It's a song of hope about a man of deep conviction who fights the odds and sticks to what he believes in no matter what, holding on to the slight hope of going the distance. The song is largely autobiographical, but could be about anyone who has ever fought hard for his cause regardless of the trends. The song is very keyboard dominated and is one of the faster songs on the album most ofthe way. It slows downs into an orchestral synth section after the guitar and keyboard solos before building into a big climactic finish. This song will probably be my closer in every concert I ever perform also. I really believe that it will leave people on a major emotional high. In addition, the CD will feature demos of 'Starting All Over Again,' 'Perseverance' and 'Going the Distance.' And it will conclude with an interview with me, conducted by my friend Jeff Matheus, the president of Pendragon's American fan club. I got the idea for the interview from Kerry Livgren, who did interviews as bonus tracks on his 1996 re-issues of 'Seeds of Change' and 'Time Line.' I thought it added a nice personal touch and it also gave me more insight into the album, which enhanced the music for me. Apparently Kerry's bandmate Robby Steinhardt agrees as he followed suit with an interview on the Steinhardt-Moon album 'Moonshot.' And I hope that the interview on my album will enhance my music for people the way that Kerry's and Robby's did for me. And that is the complete 'It Began in the Underground' album!

I believe there's a treat on the album for Styx fans who were let down by their disappointing 'Brave New World' album. Tell us about that?
I'm dedicating 'Keepers of the Eternal Flame' to every Styx fan who felt snubbed by 'Brave New World,' which I consider to be the most disappointing album ever by any artist. I can accept an artist who changes for the right reason - for artistic growth. In fact, at least three of my favourite bands made big and sudden stylistic changes that resulted in great albums - Shooting Star with 'Silent Scream,' Kansas with 'Drastic Measures' and Little River Band with 'Playing to Win.' But Styx was clearly selling out to the grunge/altnerative crowd. I very strongly believe that Styx owes a big apology to all of its die-hard fans, such as me, who rushed out to buy 'Brave New World' on the day of its release without having heard a single note of it. To be so loyal to a band that for years I bought every album they put out even before I heard any of it - both Styx and solo/related groups - and to build up your faith in the artist and then find out that they're more interested in pleasing the ripped up flannel shirt wearing crowd than pleasing you - I really felt like I'd been stabbed in the back. And I relished watching the album's much deserved commercial failure. Styx was colossally naive if they believed that they would be embraced by the grunge/alternative fans.

A record store owner and melodic rock fan who I know made an excellent point - he said that most grunge fans are angry youths who want to listen to artists who are older brother type figures. They don't want to listen to guys who, like Styx, are in their 40s and 50s and - God forbid - their parents thought were cool! And what makes their sellout even more mind boggling is that in 1996, the Styx-Kansas tour was the second most attended tour of the year, behind only Kiss's much hyped reunion tour of its original line-up. That should have made it obvious to Styx that many people like their classic sound more than the stuff on the charts today! And another thing that made the sell out particularly disheartening is that the band sang so much in the past about holding tight to what you believe in. Those lyrics, that filled me with hope when I was growing up, seem so empty now. But anyway, as for my treat for Styx fans - tens of thousands of Dennis DeYoung die-hards have loved and looked forward to his power ballads for years. And to get a Styx album without one was a huge disappointment. His song 'While There's Still Time' is a very well written song, by far the best on the album, but it was done acoustically, dramatically reducing the Power that it would have had if it had been done the right way.

So I'm going to go to all of the Styx web pages that I can find and say, basically, 'If you were as disappointed with 'Brave New World' as I was and you want to hear a ballad the way it's supposed to be done and the way that Styx used to do it before they sold us out to the grungers, check out 'Keepers of the Eternal Flame' on my album.' And by that point, I'll have sound samples on my web page. And I am also going to assure all of the fans that I make that I will always stay true to them and to myself with my music, regardless of the trends. I want the name Lec Zorn to become such a trusted symbol of melodic rock euphoria that my fans know that they can always buy my albums without fear that I've turned on them. I'm not saying that all of my albums will be exactly like the ones before. I fully expect to branch out and growing as an artist. But there's a big difference between branching out and selling out. That's why I made the distinction above between Shoting Star's Kansas's and Little River Band's changes as opposed to Styx's change.

Are you planning to take this music to the live stage, and if so when?
I very much want to tour and, in fact, that's my ultimate career goal. I would like to tour the whole world and perform powerful, high energy melodic rock concerts that positively impact many people and leave them on a high. And after seeing so many great aritsts tragically become oldies acts in recent years, I've vowed to always perform lots of new material at every concert. Another thing regarding my possible live performances is that I plan to follow the Pearl Jam precedent and offically release a CD of every concert I play. Of course, I am not a Pearl Jam fan, but that was a great idea of theirs. With the emergence of easily concealable DAT recorders, bootlegging is obviously hear to stay. Somebody is likely to make money of of every show that you play, so it might as well be you rather than the bootleggers. And besides, I like the idea of giving my fans an opportunity to have a high quality recording of the concert they've attended. That's a great souveneir. I've been to 113 concerts and to my knowledge, only two songs from one concert have ever been officially released. Those were Shooting Star's 'Summer Sun' and 'We Can't Wait Forever,' which were recorded on February 5, 1993 at Bogart's in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA and ended up on their 'Shooting Star Live' album. Back to my possible touring, I want to add that while I very much want to tour, I would only tour on my own terms.

I wouldn't do 200 shows a year or anything close to that. I think 50-75 would be a good number. I would probably become both mechanical and burned out if I toured to the extent that some artists do. I don't ever want to reach a point where I'm just going through the motions. And besides, there are so many other things I want to do in life besides tour. Also, if I tour, I plan to stay in control of the business and promotion side as much as possible. And I will be fan friendly. I will allow my fans to take pictures of the concert and will do my best to always sign autographs for them. I've been treated coldly by some of my favourite musicians and I would never do that to one of my fans. I also will only play at venues where people of all ages are admitted.

Would the studio lineup be on stage with you?
I would love for that to happen, but it's too soon to tell. If I play live, certainly I would invite Tracy, Mike and Eli to be in my live band. But we're all very busy and have our own careers going on, so that might be hard to arrange. I don't know what any of our schedules are going to be like in the future or what it would take to make a tour economically feasible. There are so many factors that will determine if I tour and who will be in my live band. We'll have to wait and see what happens, but certainly, it would be great to play live with the people on my album.

You've come from a background of fandom, publishing fanzines and maintaining websites for classic AOR bands. Tell us more about that.
I have been publishing a fan magazine for Kansas called Audio Confessions since 1996. It's a fun hobby. In addition, I have a web site for both Kansas and Shooting Star. The address is http://www.geocities.com/stevemcatee. If my memory serves me correctly, we first met through that page, didn't we? My Kansas/Shooting Star page contains mostly analysis of the music of those artists. I thought that would be a nice contrast to the other pages on the net for those artists. I started it in 1997 during a stretch in which I had a lot of free time, but I've been very busy from 1998 to present and haven't had time to update it much since then. But I plan to keep the page up and running. People still discover the page and e-mail me telling me that they like it.

There's quite a story behind the keyboard you play on the album - take us through that?
I bought one of the keyboards that I'm playing on my album from none other than Van McLain of Shooting Star. It's a Yamaha SY-99. The band was having a clearance sale on their web page last year and I bought that keyboard as well as a bass guitar from Ron Verlin, which I'm using to record all of the bass guitar tracks on the album. And there's a little history behind that bass guitar. It's the one that Ron is playing on the cover of the Shooting Star 'King Biscuit Flower Hour' bootleg CD. Back to the keyboard, ironically, shortly after I bought the keyboard, I got a program from Europe's 'Prisoners in Paradise' tour and in it, Mic Michaeli is pictured playing the same model!

Do you see this continuing with more albums in the future?
Barring a catastrophic occurence, definitely. I want very much to make my living exclusively through music and even if I can't, I still plan to always write, play, record and release it. Music is a drug to me. I don't use tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs at all. I get high on music. I consider music to be the ultimate expression of emotion and I want to be involved with it for all of my life. This album has now been almost 2/3 of a decade in the making, but I think the process has taught me enough so that I will be able to make future albums much more quickly. My goal is to release an album of new material at least every two years as long as I'm physically able. I'm 30 now, so if I can keep going until the age of 80, that would be at least 25 albums of new songs. So that would be about 250 different songs. And hopefully there will be plenty of live albums in there, too. That's a lot to look forward to and I hope I achieve all of it, to quote my all time favourite songwriter, Kerry Livgren, 'before you walk, you've got to stand!' And in my case, standing is getting this first album finished and released! But after all these years, it feels good to finally be talking about my album release in terms of months rather than years.

Thanks for the interview, Lee, let's do it again sometime! I will now close with a message to your readers - thanks to all of you for your interest. I hope to keep you as satisfied listeners for many decades to come. I will do my best to always release nothing but great, filler free, melodic rock albums. And I promise to never sell out. I'm in for the long haul and would be honored to have you along for the ride. - Steve

A big thanks to Steve McAtee, and we look forward to his colloboration with Mike Walsh, Tracy White and Eli Hludzik on .... Lec Zorn!

Check it all out at: www.leczorn.com

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