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Articles Home » 2006 Articles » AOR - 2006 Interview with Frederic Slama
 
AOR - 2006 Interview with Frederic Slama
THE ATTRACTION OF AOR

Interview with: Frederic Slama
Written By: Gdazegod
Date: 27 February 2006

You can picture it now. Palm tree lined boulevards, the gentle breeze blowing in off the Pacific, endless sunny days, gorgeous girls, and flip-top convertibles all playing the latest tunes from downtown Los Angeles FM stations.. From the era of the sixties we had surf music courtesy of the Beach Boys and Jan And Dean. Into the seventies and radio really took a hold and a genre was created that fully represented the city and its lifestyle. This genre became known as west coast.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, folk in Japan took to this genre with enthusiasm, and to this day it remains a popular category of music over there. Japan wasn't the only place where west coast was proving popular. A certain gentleman called Frederic Slama was doing his best to popularise west coast music in his native France. As a professional journalist, Frederic was prominent in giving a high profile to west coast, AOR and hard rock music during the late seventies. It was admittedly, an extremely fertile era in that genre, with many fantastic new artists and a plethora of albums to choose from.

Not only was Frederic involved in writing about music, he was a musician himself. From my perspective as a professional writer myself, this would appear to be the dream job. However, many years later, Frederic has finally ditched the pen for his guitar pick, playing music won out over journalism at the end of the day. Frederic as many of us know, is the man and the name behind the band/project AOR. A great name indeed (only second to glory daze in my opinion!). As we talk with Frederic it is February 2006, and his latest album 'L.A Attraction' has just hit the market. Released by MTM Music, Frederic is right in the middle of promotional work for it, and we join him for a few words.. 'Glad to talk with you George.' I asked him about how things are going initially. 'Yes I'm doing a lot of promotion at the moment for this sixth AOR album, from Sweden to Japan.'


Yes, just harking back to that comment I made before.. from where I sit, you must have had the 'dream environment' a few years back, to be able to write (as a journalist) and to participate in music. Most of today's breed of musician/internet professional would kill for a job/environment like that.. combining the two? (I know I would!!) 'Yes it was quite a privilege to do both at the same time' agrees Frederic, 'but nowadays, living entirely from my music is even more rewarding. That is my dream come true! Of course the music market is worse than ever with CD's at high prices and the piracy of music, but as a songwriter I'm doing quite well. I write a lot of songs for French, American and Japanese artists.'

I know that you've given up journalism now, but back in the day, what sort of articles were you writing about? 'I specialized in writing about mainly westcoast and AOR, but also hard rock' he says. 'I popularized this kind of music in France during the late 70's through thousands of reviews, hundreds of interviews, radio shows, special west coast nights in clubs in Paris and a lot of other things that opened the way for this kind of music to find its place in France.'

Yes, journalism was the preferred occupation of choice in the Slama household. Frederic's father was in the press industry himself, so it seemed only natural that he would follow suit. With press work and journalism being so prominent in your family, would you envisage going back to that sort of work in future? 'I don't think so, but never say never' chuckles Frederic. 'It's a great job but journalism has changed a lot since the 70's/80's, as has a lot of other things on this planet. If I can, I would prefer to continue to write songs, produce artists etc.. it's more the dream life I'm looking for.'

Well yes, it's lovely when you are in the position to make changes like that. I just wish some people would get on and do it, rather than talk about it. Gonnabes Wannabes is what I call them, though Frederic is less stinging. 'It's always important to do what you like in life' he says, 'even if sometimes you have to make some sacrifices to pursue your goal. But if you don't step on anyone and stay honest within ourself and to others, nothing is impossible.'

As the Editor of GLORY-DAZE, I have recently taken a swipe at press magazines, and their gross negligence of reporting quality articles on melodic hard rock and AOR. I asked Frederic (seeing as he was an ex music journalist himself) whether he had a comment about the decline of our favourite music genre being so poorly represented in the magazine press. 'A lot of people don't listen to melodic rock and AOR anymore, because they are not given the opportunity to listen to this kind of music' he says. 'Most of the media worldwide are controlled by big corporations that are only interested in promoting famous artists from major labels because they have a vested interest in it. They sell you an artist like they sell you soap. The media are great at manipulating people and telling you what to listen, what to buy, what's hip or not. People have to make the effort to search for something else (books, music films, news) and they should be aware there's a lot of great artists to be discovered if they want to break the chains they are tied to. Luckily from Australia to France there are people curious enough to look for good music and keep this style alive. If melodic rock was played more on main radio, a lot of people would buy the CD's and go see the artists in concerts. Good melodies will never be a thing of the past and will always be popular' says Frederic enthusiastically.

While we are on that same thread, I asked Frederic whether the Internet News sites for music are much more popular now than magazines, to the point the latter may eventually disappear off the map one day? 'Well, it's possible that the new generation of kids who were born with the Internet only may want to get their news and music from the web' he says. 'That's why it is important to show our children that the touch of a book or a cd with the cover, lyrics, artwork etc is something still very important. We must keep contact with these things. It's not a good thing that everything will be dematerialized and digitalized so that our children won't even know what a magazine is, or a book, painting or a CD.'

I remember growing up as a kid in New Zealand, the beach lifestyle so much a part of my upbringing back then, as it still is today in this country. I looked further afield and saw also similarities to Australia, Hawaii and California. For Frederic too, it's obvious that the 70's and 80's timeframe in Los Angeles appealed to him and so many others. But it has changed, unfortunately not for the better. Why is that? I put that question to Frederic. 'Simply because the world has changed and the cool way of life of the 60's and 70's (and even the 80's) is gone for good' he suggests. 'Everyone is coming to California with his/her culture, his/her problems etc... and people since the 80's were not looking to fit into the California way of life but to impose their lifestyle on others. So L.A is now what was New York was 10 years ago. Just another city with a lot of artists and cool people still living there, but the carefree life is unfortunately gone for good. Unless every human on this planet is willing to make an effort and not think solely about himself or his direct interest' he adds.


I guess also that the 9-11 incident may have put many people off about living in the USA, particularly with the restrictions of the Patriot Act and overzealous Border Security added on top of that. 'That tragedy confirmed that no place is safe in the world from terrorism and stupidity' says Frederic. 'I mean, the only goals of those guys is to kill their fellow man. That's why we should educate people more and that's why it has certainly discouraged a lot of people to live in the States because it's not safe anymore and every illegal alien is under suspicion now. The USA is not the only place to have this problem I might add. It's becoming a world problem so we have to take the future in our hands if we don't want to live in a world of chaos. I believe we can all do it if we really want to.'

I am wondering then whether the album title 'L.A Attraction' means that you still have some fondness for the place, despite not living there anymore? 'Yes I still like L.A because it reminds me a lot of good times even if it has changed a lot. It's a city that is part of me and I believe a lot of positive ideas for our world can still come from California.'

Though I love the genre immensely, I am finding that West Coast music is very marginalized now.. Look around, you don't see too many releases coming out. I asked Frederic whether that was true from his perspective (who better to ask I say !), or am I looking in all the wrong places.. 'There are a lot of West Coast re-releases in Japan where people are still crazy about that kind of music' he informs me. 'For exemple a label like Cool Sound, which released my four latest cd's in Japan, do a lot of reissues of classic west coast from the early 80's. There are even majors like Universal or JVC Japan who still do a lot of west coast releases too. But as for the rest of the world, you're right, there's not much going on for real west coast music. It's more melodic rock or hard rock that is still popular in Europe or in the States, but thousands of people from all over the world still rush to buy the Japanese imports when they come out. So there's still a market for that style of music, but if the press and the radio helped west coast, it would sell more of course.'

With your new album, this is the first appearance for MTM Music. Did you have to shop around or did they come to you? 'I had previous contacts with Mario Lehmann and my good friend Tommy Denander has already issued several CD's with them. But this time I had a lot of choices from different labels. I chose MTM because I liked what I heard.'

The label seems to be developing some cool acts on their roster, who are playing in a west coast style. Crossfade, the guy from Switzerland Jay Miles, Tor Talle (Northern Light), as you mentioned.. Tommy Denander and Radioactive, and shortly Bennech Lyngboe of Main Attraction. The label obviously thinks that there is still some mileage left in this genre. 'From what I've heard they are looking to develop more west coast music' says Frederic. 'With the success of the Crossfade album (Goran Edman), it gave them a good reason to do so. They want to release quality artists in different styles but Mario seems to really like west coast music more than hard rock these days.'

As always, Frederic has gathered a core group of people around him for 'L.A Attraction'. I asked him how the album stacked up against his previous efforts. 'Well , this is the first time I have had so few guests' he laughs, 'but they are all fantastic musicians and I don't need 40 stars (like in my previous cd 'Nothing But The Best') for each album. This one was more melodic rock oriented, so I needed to have less guests so that the CD could be more coherent.' Yes, I was gonna ask that, because in my review, I stated that it sounded more like edgy AOR/hard rock than pure west coast. 'Yes the AOR sound has changed since those previous albums, and I wanted to take more of this album in that kind of direction' he confirms. I've always loved west coast and hard-rock so this CD is more my rock side, though you can find some hard edged songs on my previous albums too!'


Did you split your time between Europe and the USA for this record or was it done entirely in Tommy's studio up in Stockholm? 'I travelled a lot for this album. Between the States, England and Sweden' he says. It's always interesting to have the best arrangements and sound possible so I travel a lot to do that though it's true more and more records are done over the Internet and by computers these days.'

I've had a scout around, and seen some excellent press for the album. Naturally that is something any artist would be pleased with, Frederic is no different. 'Of course it's always pleasant to have great reviews, but like the bad ones, you must see how it was done, who wrote it and why. It's often the sole opinion of one person that can decide on future sales. But fans are getting smarter and know that some journalists are simply bought with presents, CD's and sometimes even with money, so even the biggest sites of melodic rock are not free from being manipulated by some labels. Luckily there are still a lot of good journalists who are honest about their reviews and understand that it's not always good to say that an album is bad, even if it is. In my opinion if a good journalist doesn't like a CD he/she must be honest about it, but never discourage the fans to make an opinion for themselves. After all, the artist did try to do their best to record the music in the first place.'

And to our friends in Japan, your music is held with affection up there, any feedback from there yet? 'Yes the cd is doing really well in Japan once again. This is the home for west coast music and often west coast artists get into the japanese charts.'

Some people might accuse the sound of the album being too close to that of Radioactive because of Tommy's involvement, and considering we are so soon after that release. Surely there must be some differences that stand out? 'The Radioactive cd 'Taken' is great (I wrote 2 songs and played in it) but it has nothing to do with - in terms of sound and style with the AOR album. Radioactive is closer to hard-rock while 'L.A Attraction' is closer to classic melodic rock bands from the 80's like Foreigner, Survivor, classic Toto or even The Eagles.'

On a different note, what are you currently listening to that our readers might find interesting? 'I'm listening to a lot of music everyday. Here are some great releases I warmly recommend: Blanc Faces, Ambition, Bruce Turgon, Steve Dorff (pure westcoast genius), Paul Sabu 'Heartbreak' and Place Vendome. Plus a lot of classic stuff from the 80's like Franke & The Knockouts, Rainbow, Balance, Survivor, Van Stephenson, David Roberts, Airplay, Venice, Mark Winkler, Hardline, Jude Cole, Dakota, FM, Bad English, Boston, Rick Springfield, Maxus, Nielsen-Pearson and hundreds of lesser well known bands that are as great as the famous ones! By the way if you check my website (www.slamaor.com) in the links section you will find a link to a great French Toto website where i'm doing a rarities corner on cd with all the great treasures of westcoast on CD. The direct link is: 'http://perso.wanadoo.fr/lemondetoto/le coin des raretes alpha.htm'

And over the next few months, what does your work activity entail music-wise? 'I will record new songs with different stars I haven't worked with in the past' he says. 'There will be also a great new track with Fergie Frederiksen on an MTM compilation in April and I will keep writing songs for any artists interested in my style.'

Our readers would hope that your ongoing communication with both Tommy Denander and David Roberts will result in a little fire being lit so that their project can start rolling once again. Surely a follow-up to the wonderful 'All Dressed Up' is a must-do project for Tommy? 'Unfortunately I think this project won't see the light of day for different reasons. In the meantime I've heard that the David Roberts CD will be reissued again this year in Japan! That's the only good news about David I can give you for now' says Frederic. Ok, but I think you need to keep bugging both parties. A follow up David Roberts album would be the icing on the cake for many of us. 'Yes it would be great, but I don't think he could ever retrieve the magic of that album, even if Tommy was the perfect person to do this job' suggests Frederic. 'Tommy has always loved David's music and he is certainly the best arranger and guitar player around but more than 25 years after the event, things have changed, so I don't think they could resurrect exactly the magic of 'All Dressed Up', but it would certainly be a jewel if they decided some day to really record a second album together. The perfect team!'

Ok, Frederic, thank you very much for your time. Our readers certainly appreciate your words and thoughts! 'Thank you George for your very interesting questions and keep on the good work on your great website. And don't hesitate to say hi thru' mine : www.slamaor.com.

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