Lec Zorn's debut album is a dream for lovers of highly polished AOR/melodic rock
and fans of bands like Survivor, Journey et al. Lec has also managed to assemble
some top draw guest musicians including members of Departure, Phil Vincent,
Tommy Denander and more.
What are you currently up to? (E.g. recording, gigs etc.)
I'm currently in the early stages of making my second album. I've finished one
track so far and am hoping to get back in the studio in January and have the
album released by the end of 2008. I've also written a song for Ron Paul's
presidential campaign, which I hope to get recorded and released in time for the
major primary elections. I'd like to tour but right now I can't afford it. One
of the advantages of being the head of my own project is that I have complete
The downside is
that to do a tour, I have to pay for it all myself! I've thought about doing
some unplugged shows but decided not to because I simply don't think my music
would sound good enough that way. Rather than risk serious financial losses, I'm
instead using the money from selling my first album to pay for my second one. I
think that's a much more productive investment of my money.
However, I have
applied to perform at several major melodic rock festivals scheduled for 2008 in
various parts of the world; mainly Europe. I'm also currently performing bass
guitar in concert for a soft rock artist named Chris Sullivan, who is based here
in Indianapolis. And I'm pursuing several bass guitar vacancies and other
Could you take
us through the songs on the album (e.g. story behind the songs, song writing
"Lecoverture" - I love the introductory music of the Kansas MTV concert, which
was released on video cassette as "The Best of Kansas Live." It's a symphonic
style collage of several of their songs. So I decided to do such a collage to
open my album.
titled it "Genesis," to refer to both the beginning of my career and the band of
that name, which is one of my favorites. But Eli Hludzik referred to the song as
an overture, which gave me the idea of "Lecoverture," based on the Kansas album
"Long Time Coming" is an autobiographical look at the long, hard road I traveled
to get my first album done. When I was a few weeks away from entering the studio
to start the recording, I thought back to so many events, both good and bad, and
it was very bittersweet.
At that time, I
had no idea that it would take me another six years to get the album out! Some
songs I write through a lot of hard work. This one came to me almost instantly,
when I was sitting at my desk at work. I first got the hook in my head and at
that time, my idea of the song was something much faster. But as I quickly built
the rest of the song around the hook, it seemed natural to slow it down.
"Second Chance" is my favorite song that I've written so far and again, I wrote
it in my head while sitting at my desk at work. I had the intro/verse keyboard
riff and loved it. And I had a chorus in mind that I thought was pretty good,
but it didn't blow me away.
But a few days
later, I came up the chorus and that's one of the extremely few times I ever
blew myself away with my writing. It was the kind of pop hook that I've loved
since I was a little kid and has been sorely lacking since the grunge era began.
And the optimistic lyrics - about my reconciliation with one of my
ex-girlfriends after almost five years of bitter estrangement - I think are a
great match with the music.
"Play the Game Tonight" - A man named Bill Evans, who at the time worked for
Kerry Livgren's Numavox Records, announced on the People of the South Wind
Kansas e-mail discussion list plans to coordinate a Kansas tribute album.
He asked me for
recommendations of artists. Of course, I recommended myself and he not only
accepted, he also gave me permission to contribute "Play the Game Tonight."
Besides being one
of my favorite Kansas songs, I felt I had a lot of myself to add to it. I had
thought years earlier about covering that one; taking everything that was great
about the original and adding to its power and intensity.
And I'm very proud
that the feedback I've gotten from Kansas die-hards about my cover of the song
has been 100% positive and a few have even said my version tops the Kansas
version! I'm not saying it does; I'm only telling you what some people have
said! Sadly, the tribute album got shelved and I now doubt that it will ever be
released, but having gone through the time and expense of recorded my track for
the album, I decided to go ahead and release it.
"Eternal Flame" - Being that I was trying to re-create the '80s melodic hard
rock sound that I had so deeply missed, I very much wanted a power ballad on
this album. Especially because so many melodic rockers quickly abandoned that
type of song once the grunge era began. And after several years of songwriting,
I discovered that, though I wish it were different, ballads aren't my strong
Peterik's and Dennis DeYoung's but not mine. But one night while I was sitting
at my synthesizer with headphones on while watching an XFL game with no volume,
experimenting with different patterns, I came up with the intro up to the
introduction of the bridge and loved it.
The song underwent
several changes over the next few months but the part I came up with that night
stayed all the way. Lyrically, it's nothing out of the ordinary, just a story of
two people who are very deeply in love and want to share themselves with each
"Fighting Chance" - is a product of my inclination for being an eternal
optimistic. Having a positive attitude has been an essential part of my getting
through life. Without hope, I think I would have had a pretty miserable life.
And melodic rock music has long been a part of helping me to stay positive. Over
the years when I've been down, I've often turned to melodic rock to life me up.
I actually got the hook of "Fighting Chance" in my head on the way to church and
within a few weeks, built around it pretty easily.
originally was supposed to be a series of piano chords but when teaching the
song to Eli, I got the idea to use the "Eye of the Tiger" style guitar power
chords. I have always loved the part of "Eye of the Tiger" - as well as the rest
of the song - and have never heard a similar intro, until "Fighting Chance."
"You Keep Me in the Dark" came to me about as quickly as any song ever has. I
was experimenting on my synthesizer and came up with the keyboard riff. Building
around it came very easily and naturally.
The song is about
being in a relationship with someone who is a poor communicator and the
frustration it causes. I thought about dropping this song from the album because
I started to feel that it was too simple. But I changed my mind instantly upon
hearing Mike Walsh's guitar work on it.
"Starting All Over Again" was one of the first songs I wrote. That was around
late 1999/early 2000. I also wrote that one in my head while sitting at my desk
at work, over a period of several days. I kept adding little parts to it. It's
one of my favorite songs that I've written and I think, maybe better than any
other song on my album, it captures that sound from the '80s that balanced
muscle and melody and added a few little extra things that made a big
enhancement over the typical verse/chorus formula.
And the lyrics go
back to the theme of overcoming adversity. It's about thinking you've found the
one you want to spend the rest of your life with, than losing it and having to
start all over from the bottom again, but yet trying to keep a positive attitude
through it all.
"The Rush of Passion's Fire" is very possibly the darkest song on the album. I
wrote it in the Summer of 2002, coming out of a devastating break up with a
woman to whom I was engaged. I got the hook in my head suddenly while standing
outside of my apartment. And it wasn't just the melody that came to my head, but
also the catch phrase "we telegraph our hearts' desire," which I got from
Survivor's "American Heartbeat."
But as the song
evolved, I turned it into "The Rush of Passion's Fire," another Survivor lyric,
from "I Can't Hold Back." That line resonates very strongly with me. I built the
song very quickly about the hook. The song is about not giving up on love, even
being repeatedly hurt in it. I know a lot of people who give up on love or leave
a relationship out of fear of getting hurt again. I've lost three women because
they left me for that very reason.
But I know that I
can never give up on trying to find love. I know that if I don't risk getting
hurt, I'll never have the chance to experience happiness. And if I close my
heart, I have nothing to look forward to but misery and emptiness. And while
it's a very dark song, it does not express hopelessness but rather expresses a
glimpse, however small, of optimism. My music doesn't deny the existence of
suffering, but it, unlike much of the much from the grunge era and beyond,
offers the hope that things will get better.
"Perseverance" is the oldest complete song on my album. Back in March of 1998, I
was sitting on my bed with my synthesizer, experimenting and trying to write a
keyboard solo. Up to that point, I had almost no success writing anything I
liked. But as I experimented, I came up with an idea for a whole song and it
continued to evolve. And in less than 24 hours, I had the complete song.
I consider that
experience to be a breakthrough; greatly increasing my confidence that I could
become a great songwriter. It wasn't merely that I finally wrote a complete song
that I loved but also that I wrote a complete instrumental song that I loved.
It's harder to write a great instrumental song, as you can't get away with as
much repetition, so after writing that one, I knew I could write great music
with vocals, too.
In particular, I
amazed myself with the fanfaric, progressive style, coda. I doubted I had it in
me! As for the title of the song, it reflects my determination to stick with the
song and finish it once I got it in motion.
"Going the Distance" - Late in 1995, the year I decided to make an album, I got
the verse of this song in my head. But for about three years, I didn't think of
anything spectacular to go with it.
In 1998, while
experimenting on my synthesizer, I came up with a keyboard riff that I loved and
I realized it would fit well with that verse. But I still didn't have a bridge.
I imagined the song without a bridge, but decided it sounded incomplete.
Finally, in 2000,
I came up with the bridge and finally decided the song was ready! Lyrically,
this one goes back to the give-it-all-you've-got theme. And I think this song
has the potential to leave a lot of people on an emotional high, as my favorite
music does to me.
"Second Chance (Alternate Take) - I originally slated Tommy Denander to perform
on "Second Chance" but for several months after he had received the tapes that I
sent him, he was unable to work due to illness. This was late 2002/early 2003.
At that time, I
was hoping to get the album out in the Summer of 2003, so I got Michael
Riesenbeck, who had offered several times to help with my album, to perform on
the song. Tommy ended up finishing his tracks a few months later and both
recruited some of their frequent collaborators to help out. The end result was
two very different versions of the song, so I decided to use them both.
What made you want to start playing and making music?
I've loved melodic rock music passionately for over a quarter of a century and
after a few years of listening to it almost every day, listening to it was no
longer enough. I felt compelled to write and record it.
That's what I want
to do as a hobby and a career, more than anything else. In the last few years,
I've concluded, seriously, that melodic rock is in my DNA! I can't think of any
other explanation for still being into it so heavily here in late 2007; 16 years
after the grunge era began!
How did you get so many guest stars on the album like Tommy Denander, Eric Rango,
Phil Vincent etc
It was a long, slow process of studying the melodic rock scene, saving up money,
making contacts and, through those contacts, making even more contacts. When I
first started making the album, I knew that I wanted it to include at least one
person who was well known in the international melodic rock community.
It would be a
dream come true for such a person to perform one of my songs and for that
performance to be preserved on tape. And the presence of such a person would
bring my album more publicity, which is particularly helpful for a debut album.
So I saved up
money and started making a mental list of musicians who I wanted to hire to be
on the album. The first person I contacted was Tracy White, who I discovered
from the Intruder album "Dangerous Nights." Tracy not only agreed to do the
album, he also recruited his friend and fellow New Jerseyan Mike Walsh of
Departure to play guitar on the album.
I contacted Eli
Hludzik after hearing him with Dakota and learning that he was at the time
attending the University of Cincinnati; then just a two hour drive from me. He
and Ivan Arnold, an engineer at Canyon Studios in Louisville, Kentucky, where I
recorded my tracks for the album, are the only two musicians on the album who
recorded their tracks in my presence.
responded to an ad I put on MelodicRock.com and recruited his longtime vocal
collaborators Pierre Wensberg and Chris Demming. I met Michael Riesenbeck when I
inquired about being on the Toto tribute "Fanfields," which he coordinated. I
was too late to be on that album, but Michael and I kept in touch and he offered
several times to contribute to my album.
I finally accepted
his offer and he also brought Eric Ragno, Lars Säfsund and Phil Vincent into the
project. I was particularly lucky to get Tommy and Lars, both of whom became
more popular after recording their tracks for the album.
Who are your musical heroes and why?
First and foremost, Jim Peterik, because his music is largely the soundtrack of
my life. His songs, in addition to being musically excellent, are so real. They
cover the broad spectrum of human feelings and emotions with amazing accuracy.
I've been through in life, especially in love, both good and bad, is reflected
in one or more of his songs. And besides that, he's an amazingly prolific and
natural writer. One of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed musically
took place when I was hanging out with Jim backstage on 6/11/94 at Rib Fest in
Louisville, Kentucky; right after a Survivor performance. Jim nervously asked me
for a pen, telling me that he had a song in his head that he didn't want to
lose. I gave him a pen and he wrote down some numbers on a piece of paper.
finishing, he gave me back the pen and told me that he assigns a different
number to each note! I can write music in my head, but I sure can't tell what
notes I hear in my head, so I have to remember song ideas that I get until I get
to a guitar or keyboard to figure out the notes! Jim's ability to do that is one
of those things that show the extreme to which he's a natural! Besides Jim and
Survivor, my biggest musical heroes are Kansas and Shooting Star. I'm also very
much into Styx, Dakota, Genesis, Asia and Vince DiCola, among others.
Who would you like to work with in the future and why?
Jim Peterik, of course! Other than that, anyone who I cited above as a musical
hero, plus David Gilmour, John Macaluso, Mike Portnoy, Beau Hill, Jeremey
Hunsicker and Josh Pincus.
What have been the highlights and lowlights so far?
The highlights have been releasing an album, getting mostly great reviews,
performing at Rock-It Fest, being on several melodic rock samplers that also
featured some major melodic rock artists, opening a gig for Asia and many ties
to Jim Peterik!
The ties to Jim
are - 1) Consecutive tracks with him on "Melodic Rock is Back Vol. 3" and the
bonus CD-R that came with pre-orders of the first MelodicRock.com sampler; 2) my
picture and profile facing Jim's picture and profile in the liner notes of the
former sampler; 3) being Jim's first MySpace friend other than Tom; 4) posting
the very first comment on Jim's MySpace page and 5) seeing Jim, by what I
believe to be mere coincidence, at Denny's at 3:00 AM the night of the
MelodicRock.com concert and being informed that he got my promotional flyer that
I placed under one of the windshield wipers of his car! I distributed about 200
flyers that night and had no idea that one of them was placed on Jim's
"Vehicle!" I hope my ties to Jim indicate that I'm destined to leave at least
25% of the musical legacy that he has!
There haven't been
a lot of low lights of my career but the two big ones are the flip sides of two
of the highlights. It was a great honor to open for Asia - here in Indianapolis
on 7/13/03 - whose debut album is my favorite album of all time. But my singer
wasn't taking it very seriously and was embarrassing. And I made the mistake of
performing to pre-recorded music. I'll never do that or hire a singer like that
Still, that show
wasn't a total washout. I think musically, my hired guitarist, Marq Johansen,
and I did pretty well, especially Marq. I look back at that gig as a
live-and-learn experience and it helped me a lot over the long term. The other
low light was performing in front of only about 50 people at Rock-It Fest.
I prepared eight
months to perform at that concert and the promoter gave the other artists and me
lofty attendance projections, ranging from 5,000-10,000. Unfortunately, it
turned out that the promoter was colossally incompetent.
The size of the
audience was a huge let down for me, but a lot of positives still came out of
that event. It induced me to make sure that I got my album out by June 16, the
date of the festival, I was honored to share the stage with so many great
melodic rockers and I made a lot of friends/contacts as a result of the
festival. I believe in always trying to make positives out of negatives, as much
How do you view the current rock scene? Have you seen a upswing in interest in
hard rock/AOR and is there a future in gigs or will it become mainly studio
based bands only?
I think the current rock scene is about as good as we could realistically hope
under the current musical climate. Without a major radio format that plays new
melodic rock, our sales are very low. Without big sales, we don't have big
budgets with which to record.
And many artists
probably don't even come up with the money to record at all. It was a big
struggle for me and I'm going to probably have to sell at least a few hundred
more copies of my album - I've sold 693 so far - to be able to afford to finish
my second album. The dozens of melodic rock albums that come out every month,
and the loyal following that melodic rock record companies and web pages have,
indicate that there are many thousands of melodic rock fans all over the world.
But sadly, about
98% of the people in the industrialized world seem to take the few dozen records
that a particular mainstream radio format plays and take it; seemingly never
wondering if there's something more. Those people are grossly impoverishing
themselves. They're missing out on so much. I don't think that there's been a
huge increase in interest in melodic rock as much as, due to the internet,
there's been a resurgence in the awareness of it. When I first got online, in
1996, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many melodic rock sites and learn
that so many melodic rock albums are still being released.
There is so much
great music that I very well might have never discovered if not for the
internet. And I probably wouldn't have sold even 5% of my album sales total
without that vast resource. I've heard of a few kids picking up on melodic rock
from their parents and getting into it, which is great, but I don't think there
will be a significant increase in the popularity of melodic rock unless a major
radio format begins that specializes in that kind of music. And I don't think
the industry wants melodic rock to make a comeback.
I think they want
the trends to stay focused on music that requires much less production and
talent. That dramatically increases the profit margin of record companies and
makes it much easier for them to find artists that fit in with the trends.
I don't think that
there will be a lot of new melodic rock artists touring unless the trends
dramatically change in their favor. Without significant airplay, it would be
very difficult to make a tour financially worthwhile. At this point, my time and
money are far more productive in the studio and I think that's the case with
almost all new melodic rockers. Sadly, the opposite is true with major melodic
rock artists from the '70s and '80s who have far more financial incentive to
keep doing oldies tours than to make new albums.
What do you do in your spare time outside of music?
Other than eat, sleep and work, my big interests include spending time with my
kids, watching sports, following world events, travelling and corresponding with
my many friends throughout the world. I'm also an aspiring screen writer.
Message for your fans...
Thanks so much for your time and interest. I appreciate it tremendously and hope
my music will mean as much to you as my favorite music means to me. Everyone's
musical tastes are different, but whenever I release a new album, please know
that it will be my absolute best effort and complete from the heart. I make
melodic rock because it's a part of me. The trends have absolutely no affect on
the music that I make. And I hope to see you at a concert soon, somewhere in the
world! Belated merry Christmas and happy new year!
Interview © 2007 Jason Ritchie.
All rights reserved.
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