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From Johan:
Q: I read somewhere that you did arrangements on some of the tunes on the last Spirit album "California Blues" , but you're not credited on the cover.Were those songs left out? As far as I know, there were different unreleased versions of this album , one called "Blues From The Soul" or.....?

A: Randy sent me a tape of a song called "Love from the Heart" and asked if I had any ideas for it. It was really a nice piece, mostly guitars and Randy's vocals, and it sparked a lot of arrangement ideas from me, which I recorded and sent back to him. If it was not included in "California Blues", it's probably because it ended up sounding quite a bit different from the rest of the material, and at that point just didn't fit in.

Q: How did Randy California's death affect you?

A: I think like everyone who had been close to Randy, my first reaction was pure disbelief. He was an incredibly strong and strong-willed person - someone you just knew could survive anything. We all felt that he would be discovered in a day or two, sitting on some deserted beach, tired but alive. When the reality finally hit, there was a deep sense of loss. Loss of Randy, who had been at times both close friend and collaborator, and loss of a great player who's best music was probably still ahead of him. Finally, there was a sense of unfinished business. When Randy died, any future thought of us playing together in Spirit or in any other form died with him.

Q: In the seventies, you worked a bit with Joe Walsh playing on Joe's "You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind" and "But Seriously Folks...." albums and he played on several of your solo ones. What are your memories from that period , and do you ever hear from Joe these days?

A: I run into Joe infrequently (I believe he now lives in San Diego). But it's always great to see him, especially since he has straightened so many parts of his life out. Those Miami days were wonderful (we recorded and lived in Coconut Grove during that period). We did our work at Bill Szymczyk's studio and it was like a clubhouse for us. At the time the vibe in Miami was hot - everything from K.C. And The Sunshine Band to Eric Clapton and The Eagles was coming out of there. My own favorite memory was of recording the tracks for "But Seriously Folks...". Joe wanted it to be a totally different experience, so he and Bill chartered a 72 foot power yacht called "Endless Seas" and installed a makeshift recording studio in the main room. We left Miami and cruised up and down the Florida Keys, working out Joe's tunes. Whenever we pulled into a little harbor, the other boat owners would lose it. We dubbed ourselves the "Boat Weirdos" because that's exactly what we were (believe me, Joe and Joe Vitale could get WEIRD). The one track we kept for the album was "The Theme From Boat Weirdos".

Q: In the late eighties, you did a short tour with Spirit again "Legends Of Liberty" ( correct me if I'm wrong!). I think there were also some plans for a new Spirit album at that time that included you. What ever happened to that project?

A: The "Legends for Liberty" tour was really fun for us and the band sounded great. The next thought was "why not record?" For some reason, it just never happened. Probably people got busy with their lives (I was doing film work, Randy and Cass had tour commitments with Spirit, and Mark was about to join Heart) and it sort of went away.

Q: What do you think of the current music scene?

A: I can always find something to get excited about: The new Moby, Fat Boy Slim, some of the techno stuff, some of the new female artists. I love Kid Rock. Even the new Limp Bizkit has some cool musical moments . I'm not especially big on rap.

Q: Is there any great unreleased material with Spirit,Jo Jo Gunne, or solo?

A: Yes, there are some super unreleased Jo Jo tracks from '92 that may see the light of day.

Q: What advice can you give to aspiring musicians?

A: Make the music that moves you. Get with fellow players who share your vision. The world will eventually find you.

Q: Is there anything we fans can do to help get your solo and Jo Jo Gunne albums reissued on CD?

A: Absolutely. The record companies are doing extensive net research these days. Internet activity can influence decisions on re-releasing artists. You can e-mail them or just talk it up on the net. It makes a difference.

Q: What is your favorite Jay Ferguson album?

A: Probably my first - "All Alone In The End Zone" ( please see my previous answer about this).

Q: If you went into the studio to make an album today, what would the music sound like? Are you still writing songs?

A: Good question. If John Hiatt and Moby had a baby, that could be the sound. Seriously, I think a marriage of root guitar rock ( I'm thinking Little Village/ early Jo Jo Gunne) and the right electronic elements (NIN, Fat Boy Slim) could be interesting. Lyrically, it would be very Californian. Anything from the vanishing SF Valley to the meth labs in Barstow to old Hollywood.

Q: How did the 1992 Jo Jo Gunne reunion happen?

A: Steve Lukather from Toto called up one day, saying how he and the rest of his band had been such big JJG fans. One thing led to another, and suddenly we were in the studio with Luke producing and Niko Bolas engineering, doing four new Jo Jo tunes and redoing one older one ("Before You Get Your Breakfast".) The tapes came out great, but the timing wasn't right record company-wise. They all came back saying they loved the stuff, but didn't know what to do with it. Now we seem to be in a musical climate where a new JJG record may actually happen.

From Shayla Morrison:
Q: Since your parents dragged you "kicking and screaming" to the piano as a kid, did you do the same for your own kids, or did they naturally develop an interest in music? Also, if either of them wanted to follow in your footsteps and become a "rock star", how would you feel about it , knowing the business as you do?

A: Thanks for your question. As a matter of fact, I didn't drag my kids into music ("kicking, screaming" or otherwise). I guess I'm a believer in finding your own passion. That isn't to say that they haven't been exposed to music; they've had musical instruments and taken lessons, but it just didn't catch fire for them, and they moved on to other interests. If they chose careers in rock? God! Knowing what I know, having seen what I've seen of the business, I would have some major trepidations; but I would support them all the way.

From Leigh Crutchfield:
Q: I've noticed that you seem to like islands from some of your songs. Is there really a Thunder Island , and if so, where is it located?

A: Thunder Island is an invention, with the idea that everyone is invited to fill in their own Thunder Island - real or imagined. My personal Thunder Island experience involved meeting the girl I later married.

Q: How do you write a soundtrack? Is it done by watching film, or looking at a script, or some other way? What is the actual process?

A: Almost all of my scoring ideas come directly from the film image. Typically, I'll run a sequencer while viewing for the first time and record ideas on the fly as the film progresses. It's a great way to get an instinctive, non-analytical take. That intial sequence usually becomes the source for 75% of the score. The rest may come from collaborating with the director, etc. I am a believer that texture and tempo, even more than melody, serve most picture best; so early on I try to create a sonic pallette particular to that film. Themes come next. The intial sketch for a scene (usually piano) is later arranged and spread out amongst instruments from that pallette. Tempo and dyamics are inherent in any scene. The composer's job is to be aware of them (both the external and internal). Sometimes you follow them, sometimes you enhance them. Often you're asked to solve problems in the film (make an actor more convincing, telegraph what is not physically on the screen, even make bad cuts more fluid). The final arbiter is the director. Doing my job right means following his or her vision, supporting and expanding it, and hopefully offering pleasant surprises in the process.

Q: What or whom first inspired you to decide to write soundtracks?

A: I've always loved film. Like Danny Elfman, I was swept away by some of the classic adventure film scores. Later it was European film music. Still later, it was Michael Mann's new vocabulary of rhythm and techno in Miami Vice (as well as pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis). That's when I realized I wanted to work in film music.

Q: Which soundtrack that you've written is your favorite , and why?

A: My favorite may still be one of my earliest - "Best Seller", a film that starred James Woods and Brian Dennehy. It's a totally electronic score, done on analog synths with a primitive sequencer. I was new to scoring, going on instinct. I threw a lot of stuff at the screen, and it actually worked.

Q: Your songs seem to be influenced by many different styles of music. How are you able to avoid making them sound too similar after writing so many?

A: I have no idea. I guess it's the case of everyone working with the same twelve notes of the scale and still writing new music. I think if you're willing to keep listening your music will keep growing.

Q: How do you write your songs? Do you start with a melody , or lyrics first? Do you always do it the same way or is the process different for you with each song?

A: That's a long answer. Unlike scoring, I approach songwriting from a dozen different angles. Sometimes it starts with a melody, sometimes just a title, sometimes a rhythm track, sometimes a newspaper article or something on TV.It can take hours or weeks to finish a song. I wish I were more disciplined about it. Come to think about it, that's one of the key differences between songwriting and scoring - a deadline. A deadline can be wonderful for focusing one's thoughts.

Q: Have you written or performed any more songs since "Pictures Of You" on "The Terminator" CD in 1984?

A: None that have been released.

Q: Have you performed any other songs on soundtracks other than the previous one and "A Man Needs A Woman" on "Roadie" in 1980?

A: No.

Q: Were either of these songs used anywhere in those movies , and if so, in which scenes?

A: In both cases, the songs were used in the film as "source" music. "Source" music is music playing as an integral part of a scene - for example, muzak in a supermarket or music from a jukebox. In one scene in "Terminator", my song is playing on a someone's Walkman headset. I mean, it is impossible to tell WHAT is playing, just that something is coming out. In "Roadie", my song plays from a radio in one room while a Godzilla movie blares from a TV set in another (!).

Q: You've stated in a previous answer that you won't rule out performing live in the future. Will you consider performing some of your solo material possibly in conjunction with a Jo Jo Gunne reunion , as you did on your "Live" album? Maybe even some Spirit tunes?

A: Yeah. I think at this point a live show would be "a body of work" performance. Ideally though, more than half of such a show would be new material.

Q: I've always admired your stage clothes and sense of fashion style that I've observed on your solo album covers and promo pictures, etc. Where did these clothes come from , did you pick them out yourself and do you still have any left that you could or still do wear occasionally?

A: Still have some of the old outfits, but probably would not be caught DEAD wearing them today! I chose a lot of them, and my wife created some of the best ones.

Q: When you do decide to perform live again, will you consider doing any touring or will it be a "one time only" show?

A: Ideally, it will be a limited set of club dates (House of Blues, for instance) on both coasts, possibly with shows in Europe and Japan.

Q: Do you have an agent or manager or do you do this function for yourself?

A: I'm represented by an agent as a film composer.

Q: Were you once part of a bluegrass group called The Oat Hill Straddlers?

A: Actually, it was "The Oat Hill Stump Straddlers". I played five string banjo. It was my first performing band.

Q: What was your favorite time as a guest player on another musician's album and why?

A: It's a toss-up between playing with Joe Walsh on "But Seriously, Folks..." and John Cougar Mellencamp on "Uh Huh". Both guys were classic, crazy American rockers, and both experiences involved immersion. With Joe it was Miami and boats, with John it was Indiana and race cars.

Q: Did you ever write any songs for the Australian group Radio Birdman or collaborate with them in any way?

A: No. I'm not familiar with them.

Q: You've stated that your favorite solo song that you've written is "Shakedown Cruise". What or whom inspired you to write it?

A: That song was a total fever-dream writing experience. I have no idea where that came from - maybe watching Captain Blood too many times?

Q: When do you guesstimate that you'll be finished with the musical project that you've mentioned in previous answers?

A: There are still too many things up in the air to make a guess right now.

From John Eklund:
Q: Can you give us some insight into what studio equipment that you use? Especially , do you have (or had in the 1980's) any favorite synthesizers?

A: My studio is really a hybrid, probably reflecting so many years of recording. I've got analog gear (including a 2" 24 track) and the newest 24 bit digital recoding system - and it seems like everything in between. A good collection of guitars. Lots of sound modules: digital samplers from Akai and Roland, anaologue modeling synths, FM synthesis modules, a collection of Proteus units from EMU, digital grand piano modules, classics like the mini-moog, Prophet VS and Oberheim Expander, and semi-classics like the Korg M1 and Roland D550. Current fave unit in terms of sheer usability is the Roland JV1080 w/ expansion cards. My past fave is my dearly beloved and sadly sold Prophet V.

Q: In your film scores, some details are very sophisticated - like a kind of arpeggios of bell sounds (creating a "bubbling" sound) that you sometimes use (reminds me of Vangelis). Have you developed any sort of "standard tricks" to accomplish such effects?

A: Sorry I can't pinpoint that particular sound, but it probably involved a digital delay. I think delays (long and short) are some of the most effective and under appreciated tools for enhancing sound.

Q:When working on a film, how important are time codes and action synchronized scoring to you, as opposed to creating music that retains its musicality to sound "good" on its own?

A: Good question. I think that over-synchronized scores (and I've done my share) can be end up oddly lifeless and and uninspiring. Yet, you still have to respect key visual moments on the screen and hit some of them exactly. I guess I've tried to evolve a style that knows when to play emotional continuity through certain sequences (which builds a scene) and knows when to slam dunk others (which can pay a scene off). I do know that over time I have become much freer with my synching. Time Code (SIMPTE) is critical in keeping your ideas exactly locked to picture where you intended them. It's like the drum beater in the Roman Galley, telling all your little black boxes when to row.

Q: The 90's have seen a decline in synth scores in big screen movies. On the other hand, its widely used in TV scoring and production music , perhaps more than ever. But it seems that some big names like Harold Faltermeyer,Giorgio Moroder, Sylvester Levay and Jonathan Elias are turning elsewhere. How has it affected your career? Are more directors/producers demanding orchestral work now than in the '80's?

A: Yes. The pendulum has definitely swung the other way. Now, acoustic sounding scores are much more in demand, even if they are electronically generated. Directors and producers want the sound of real players, if not the actual performances. Composers in the early 90's had to adapt or suffer the consequences. Some of the best electronic composers fell out of favor just because they were known for their particular sound and couldn't shake the label of "synth composer." For me, it was a case of expanding my studio pallette to include acoustic sounds (hence a lot more samplers), and drawing more on my classic training to reproduce performances realistically (there's nothing worse than someone playing a great sounding string sample like a Hammond B-3) But, the pendulum keeps swinging, and now techno has injected a lot of great, raw electronic sounds and beats back into scoring. It's actually a wide open time now, with genre bending and mixed acoustic/electronic pallettes making for some cool scores.

Q: Will the "Best Seller" soundtrack ever be released on CD? (Correct me if I'm wrong , but wasn't it out on LP fron Manhattan/Capitol Records in 1987?).

A: Some of "Best Seller" was included on a "Best of Hemdale Pictures" soundtrack CD a few years ago, but the complete score was never released. Once again,there are interested parties, but the legal aspects have to be dealt with first.

Q:Will there be a soundtrack for the TV series "Viper"?

A: There was a soundtrack planned and actually put together but when the series failed to get renewed for the 1999-2000 season that was dropped.

Q: Any information on any other older scores of yours being released on CD?

A:Sorry, but none are planned at this moment.

From John Fulton:

What REALLY happened that night with Neil? And what happened as a result of it?

A: Well, the story has been told in various versions. I can actually plead some ignorance, as I was playing to one side of the stage and missed some key moments. But as far as I understand, Neil stepped out onto the stage unannounced, with guitar, to join us on our last song. It was obviously meant as a tribute to the band and a celebration of a good concert. He stepped up to share a microphone with a surprised band member on a chorus. Somehow, that particular band member took Neil's appearance (at which the crowd went wild) as an attempt to upstage us and to steal the show (!). Instead of welcoming him, he pushed him away from the mike and kept pushing him toward offstage. I think Neil, the rest of the band, and the audience were all equally astonished. Neil didn't need any more of a message - he left the stage. The band sort of fell apart. Some members kept playing, some walked offstage. Everyone was royally pissed. It was ugly. Backstage, Neil couldn't have been more magnanimous. '"Hey, it's okay. No big deal"', etc. But in the band's dressing rooms there was a lot of, shall we say? , heavy venting. The long term result? More than anything for me it was the realization of just how unstable, and emotional the band was becoming.

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