Interview with Fred Monster of the Majestic Magazine website which unfortunately does no longer exist.
Can you tell me something about yourself? How did you get involved in music, how long have you been playing, which instruments do you play?
As so many others I started making music at school. During the music lessons I used to get behind the drumkit, initially to make lots of noise and for
the pure fun of it. But after a few lessons from the music teacher, that knew how to play the drums, I started to take it a little bit more serious.
At a certain moment I'd been saving some money to buy my own drumkit. With high expectations I went to the music store only to find out I didn't have
enough money to buy me a drumkit. So I bought a guitar.I've always been a stranger to logical thinking (laughs). From that time on I practiced the
drums at school and the guitar at home. A few months later I bought me a drumkit as yet and I started practicing the drums at home as well.
I met a bassplayer back in 1987 and I became the drummer for the first band I ever played in, a hardrock coverband. After that I've been playing as a drummer in bands that covered all kinds of different styles. I wrote songs for all of those bands, but there always were songs that weren't used because they didn't fit into the style of the band or for all kinds of different other reasons. While playing with Alibi, ., I was already trying to form a Toto-ish coverband, together with a few friends of mine. The band was called Jake To The Bone, after the same titled Toto track. Unfortunately the band never really happened. In Jake To The Bone I used to play the guitar. It's during that period that the Toto Tribute project came to a start.
How did you come to the idea of recording a Toto tribute album?
Well, I haven't made up that idea myself. There's a mailinglist on the internet where Toto fans meet and discuss about the band and at a certain
point someone mentioned the idea to cover Toto tunes by sending MP3 files to each other, just for the fun of it. One member of the list would do guitars,
another one the drums and so on and so on. Technically this turned out to be too complex and someone, maybe me, I don't recall, came up with the idea to each form bands in your own region and record some covers. A lot of people showed interest and soon we were talking about a complete album. So I asked a few befriended musicians in my neighborhood to record some songs with me. The members of that "band" were the drummer, Mark van Dijk, and keyboardplayer, called Michel Rigter, of Jake To The Bone. Coincidentally we could use the studio of a friend of mine for a couple of weeks and we recorded 5 songs in 3 days there. A German keyboardplayer came by during that time and played on two of the songs as well. (Take My Hand en I Will Remember). Moreover a Swedish band has recorded 3 songs, Ed James is recording a song and two more bands are busy recording as well. With a different line up Michel Rigter and myself have recorded two more songs, Child's Anthem and Hey Little Girl. Toto only played that last song live, during 1978 I think, so that was never released before. We hope this'll be a nice little extra for the fans. The idea was to let Bobby Kimball sing that song, but he returned to Toto at the time, so that wouldn't be sensible. Besides, he's a very busy guy, of course. Now John Taglieri has sung the song. And Phil Vincent has done a tremendous job on White Sister by the way.
Who are your main influences, both bands and musicians?
I mainly listen to guitarists with a melodic style, like John Sykes, Neal Schon and Dann Huff, which automatically means I see the bands they're in as my influences. The bands they play in give them the chance to perform their melodic kind of playing. Compositionwise I'd say I pick up a lot from a lot of different styles which I put into my music, although the endresult is actually always Hardrock or AOR. To me good songwriting is more important than trying to become the best guitarist in the world. I think a lot of great guitarists are very average songwriters and I actually think that's a waste of talent. With me, the song comes first and only as a back up for the vocals. Talking about that, I coulnd't have wished for better vocalists on both the Toto Tribute and my solo album.
How did you get in touch with John Taglieri, Phil Vincent, Paul Lancia and Michael Bormann? And how did you get them to sing on your albums?
You can add Ed James to that list now, by the way. Actually it all started when I contacted Nicky Baldrian through e-mail. He listened to my songs at my MP3 site and, without me knowing it, started contacting people of which he thought they would fit into my music. I don't sing myself, so I was looking for a good singer. Unfortunately the one Dutch singer I really wanted for the job, wasn't available. His name is Okkie Huysdens, he's sung formerly with The President and he's a famous producer now. Anyway, John and Phil were the first ones that mailed me and agreed to sing on the albums without even hearing my material. After that I've had contact with quite a few other singers, even a few very well-known ones, but either they were too busy recording their own stuff or they wanted to get paid. And while I'm not being backed by a record company and I really can't cough up these kind of amounts it didn't work. Michael Bormann also mailed me because of a tip of Nicky's and he also liked to cooperate but at the moment he's very busy with his own band, Jaded Heart, and his solo album. So he hasn't had the chance to sing on one of my songs yet. Paul Lancia also mailed me and he was very interested in working with me as well and Ed James reacted to the Toto Tribute press release. I listened to his material and I wanted him on board, something he fortunately wanted himself as well. He really wanted to contribute something and it's about to happen as well, as he's recording a song at the moment. At the moment I'm talking to some more singers but as long as it isn't definite I can't give you any names. In fact I didn't have to do anything special to get them involved. I agreed with most of them that, in change for the their collaboration I will do some guitarwork on their albums. At the moment I have the Phil Vincent song "Torn" over here for which I'll be doing the guitar parts.
About the sound of you solo CD, what's it gonna sound like. More Toto influences or.
On my solo album you'll find the influences that have made me the musician that I am now. In my heart I'm a rocker, so it's all about solid rock. Hardrock, AOR, Heavy Rock songs with Blues influences, like Kingdom Come and Blue Murder for instances. Maybe something in the vein of Extreme. and a few ballads. There'll be two covers on the album as well. One of them will be a cover of a tune from Dutch band Diesel, that had a few big hits in the US in the early eighties. The other will be a rock version of Randy Crawford's "One Day I'll Fly Away". I think it's hard to pigeonhole my music and as a matter of fact I don't want to do that at all. The songs are real songs, with great vocals and melodic guitarwork. No egotrips, just great melodies. My solo album has to be finished towards the end of next year. Although I don't have a record deal I just put the deadline there. Maybe there'll be an interested label one time, but even that won't be a reason to hurry. These songs are the result of fourteen years of writing. They've kind of become my children, you know? I only want the best for them, so I'd rather take some more time than just throw something I don't completely like on the market.
With vocalists like the ones playing on your albums it shouldn't be hard to find a label that's interested. Are there any interested parties yet?
Not yet. It has never been my aim to get a record deal for my solo album immediately, I want to have the best possible album ready before actively talking with record companies. If a record company wants to sign me before that time that will probably mean that I get more resources to improve the quality of the record, but as I said before I need total control over the processes, which means no deadline from a record company also, as well as complete creative freedom. It can be done, Phil Vincent and Song Haus music proof that to me. I'd hate to be just one of the xx acts on a label and still getting nowhere, while having a great album ready. The idea of the Toto Tribute has never been getting a deal for it. We financed the album ourselves but that's not really an issue, since we were fulfilling our dream. This is still a fan's based project so we'd like to keep the purchasing costs of the cd as low as possible, which probably wouldn't be possible if a record company was behind this release. Besides that I think that selling 100 copies (which is the amount we're going to make of it) of such a record isn't interesting for a record company. I'm not sure what we would do if a record company was to contact us about wanting to release the album, though.
Which Toto period is your favorite?
I love the first three albums, especially "Toto" and "Hydra", but Isolation is still my favorite. The first album I bought was "IV" but I really only became a fan when I bought the older albums. "Seventh One" I like too, but on the other albums there are just too much weaker songs which to me disturb the balance of those albums. "Mindfields" was a very consistent album I think, but it's just not "Isolation" to me, that one will always be my favorite. Fergie Frederiksen is someone I would love to work with, but I'm afraid that will stay a dream forever.
Do you write easily? I mean your solo album's the result of fourteen years of writing. Are you such a perfectionist or don't you have enough time?
Both perhaps (laughs). I haven't thought about recording a solo CD until I left Alibi, so that's when I actively started recording my songs. When I decided I wanted to do that I listened to my old demo's and to the Alibi songs I wrote and selected the songs that I liked most. So I have written a lot over the years, but many songs were just not good enough. I'm a perfectionist when it comes down to recording the songs. Writing them goes quickly most of the times, but recording them takes a while, especially since I have a regular job and have to record my music in my spare time. I always have to choose between recording a song or writing a new one, and because I want to record the already written songs first there's just too little time for writing new ones, right now.
As the years go by, does writing songs get easier for you?
Well, I notice that the quality increases with the years, and that listening to more than just hardrock is a very important thing to do, since those influences blend easier than when I was younger. Now, I'm not afraid to use funk, blues, metal or pop influences while when I was younger I didn't have the guts to use them. The most important thing to me is that I'm not that anxious anymore to become the world's best guitarplayer or a superdrummer, but that I get way more satisfaction from writing a good song or recording a guitar solo that touches people.