GREG FRASER INTERVIEW:
September 13, 2006
Greg Fraser is best known for his guitar work with Canadian hard rockers Brighton Rock, who enjoyed success with singles such as “Can’t Wait For The Night” and “We Came To Rock” in the 80s. After spending time on the road as a sideman with Helix, Greg realized it was time to satisfy his creative urges, and with that Fraze Gang (www.frazegang.com) was born. As both guitarist and singer, Greg recently released the debut Fraze Gang album and talked to Sleaze Roxx about his musical career and new band.
SR: You just released an album with your new band Fraze Gang, how did this project come together?
GF: Being the founder and chief songwriter for Brighton Rock I was always writing songs for the next CD to be released. Every time we had lots of free time, I was in writing mode. When the band broke up the writing mode did not stop, especially with more free time than I ever had in the previous 10 years. The creativity never dulled, and I kept writing without an outlet. I started to audition different singers to sing my stuff but it didn’t work because they couldn’t feel my stuff like I could. So I decided to take a stab at it to see the songs through with the thought that another singer would later come in and redo the vocals. So I got Skreebs from Brighton Rock and local drum legend Phil Epp to help out with the project and record 3 songs. When we heard the finished product we thought, “Wait a minute, maybe we have something here!” So we recorded 9 more songs and FRAZE GANG was born!
SR: Does that mean the Fraze Gang CD is a collection of songs you have written since the Brighton Rock break up?
GF: Not so much songs but maybe some riffs. The main riff from Blow Me Away is a riff I had when I was writing with Triumph after Brighton Rock broke up. I would have to say 75% of the Fraze Gang CD was written 6 months prior to the start of recording.
SR: How has the response to your new CD been so far and how can people order it?
GF: The CD just got released, so not to many people have heard it yet. But for the people who have heard it, the response has been amazing. The basic quotes have been “It’s about time somebody put some fun back in rock!” or things of that nature.
As for ordering the CD you can go on www.frazegang.com. It has all the purchasing info and you can listen to soundbytes of each song.
SR: How do you feel about being the vocalist now that you’ve given it a shot?
GF: I’m having a blast singing! Especially when I look out into the crowd and see people singing along with me. It’s been a phenomenal experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for FRAZE GANG.
SR: Has the band been playing live much and do you have any tour plans in the works?
GF: We have done a few charity benefits but have not had an official Fraze Gang show yet. We are hoping to have a FRAZE GANG CD release party in October to kick things off. As for touring we will have to wait to see where the CD is selling the most. So far we are selling a lot in Germany, even more than our own country of Canada which is a surprise. But once the ball starts rollin’ FRAZE GANG will be coming down the tracks!
SR: The mainstream isn’t kind to bands like yours these days. What does a melodic rock band have to do these days to be able to make a decent living with their music?
GF: There is no easy solution to making a decent living in music, what ever genre of music you do. I’m not saying my way is the right way, but what we do is have other avenues to keep it going. The guys in our band have side projects like weekend bands, acoustic duos, giving music lessons, what ever it takes to keep the dream alive. FRAZE GANG is our top priority, so we want to keep it as fresh as possible, so when we do play live we are so hungry for it that we blow the roof off the place! We want every FRAZE GANG gig to be a special event not just another gig. We do not want FRAZE GANG to be a job, we want it to be a celebration!
SR: I’ve always wondered, do bands like Brighton Rock that make a name for themselves primarily in their home country generate a healthy living, or does one have to crack other markets as well?
GF: When you start cracking other markets like the USA or Europe you basically break even because all the money is sunk back into the machine to keep it going to help establish yourself. Brighton Rock made a lot of money and a very healthy living in Canada which helped keep us going for 10 years. But you can’t keep going back to the well because it will dry up. You have to branch out into other areas or people get tired of you. So we would try never to play the same city twice in the same year to keep our fans coming back.
SR: How did Brighton Rock first come together?
GF: I replaced Johnny Dee (“Honeymoon Suite”) on guitar for a group called “Lennex.” When our manager got Honeymoon Suite a record deal Lennex had broken up and I was starting to audition singers for my new group that I was starting with my good friend Stevie Skreebs. So I kept sending our manager new songs with new singers and he suggested we try out his friend Gerry McGhee. When he sang our stuff we knew we had something strong there. We got on a local radio station’s compilation record which got the attention of Warner Records who in turn led to us getting a world wide record deal. It’s not as easy as it sounds because it was a lot of hard work especially because we were not your typical radio friendly band. We were hard rock and the first hard rock band signed to Warner Records after relentless pursuing and never backing down.
SR: What was the rock scene like in Canada when you were starting out and how does it compare to now?
GF: When I started back in the early ’80s the live scene was kicking because you could play 6 nights a week. That was the people’s main source of entertainment. There were no computers or home video games and nobody was renting movies yet because nobody had video players (Wow am I ever sounding old!). If you wanted excitement you went out to get it. Now everybody sits home. There were some killer Canadian bands I saw when I was in my late teens that should have made it but never got a shot. The music was more exiting and fun which is what FRAZE GANG is trying to bring back. That feel good attitude. Too much of today’s rock music is a downer, with people singing about how much life sucks.
If I pay money for some entertainment I want to walk away feeling good!
SR: What were some of those bands you thought were ‘killer’ in your teens?
GF: I remember seeing “Rhinegold” with Larry “Gowan” who now sings for STYX. They were amazing. They did a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody that was flawless. I was blown away. My all time fave is “Goddo”, they used to kick my ass every time. And still do, when they get back together once in a while for a show. Another was “The Hunt” that had original “Max Webster” drummer Paul Kersey playing with them. They were a killer band. “Zon” were simply amazing with a very tight dramatic show. I really thought they had a shot. John Albini who played guitar with “Lee Aaron” used to have a band called “Wrabit” that I remember seeing at a club called “The Gasworks” in Toronto. The musicianship & vocals with harmonies was simply astounding. The lead singer had the best set of pipes that I’ve ever seen. And the guitar playing was unreal. When I used to watch bands like these, to me, they were Rock Stars!
SR: Why did Brighton Rock decide to release an EP on their own to kick things off?
GF: To create a street buzz. Those 4 songs were the demos we used to get signed. We would sell them at shows much like now. From the time we started doing demos for Warner Music till the time the actual CD came out was over a year. So we were still out there playing live every night trying to spread the word of Brighton Rock and trying to survive.
SR: Once you were releasing for a major label you got to work with three of the biggest producers in rock, Michael Wagener, Jack Richardson and Toby Wright. What were each like to work with and how did each differ?
GF: Jack was an honor to work with. A true professional in every sense of the word. A living legend as far as I’m concerned. I learned a lot about songwriting from Jack’s wisdom. He could make the simplest suggestion to a song and it would really add a dynamic element to the song. Jack taught us about dynamics and how important it really is to songwriting.
As for Michael, he taught us how to really get a kick ass performance on tape. His understanding of the rock sound is what we were looking for. His attention to the sound of each instrument and how to make it pop out in the mix was great for us because that was exactly what we were looking for. We wanted the vocals to rip your face off, we wanted the guitars to scream, and that’s what Michael is all about. We had a blast recording with Michael.
Toby was like a brother to us because we could really hang with him when we weren’t recording. He was perfect to work with because, by then, we really had our shit together as far as songwriting and recording, and Toby was on the same page as us when it came time to record. He knew how to get great sounds and get the job done. We had a good laugh with Toby and it was a pleasure to work with him.
SR: What are your most memorable and most disappointing memories of recording those albums?
GF: The most memorable memory of the first record was going down to Hollywood, California to mix the CD with Michael at Amigo Studios and sharing the Studio with David Lee Roth when he was recording his first solo CD with Steve Vai & Billy Sheehan. Meeting Dave was cool. Also sharing the studio after Dave left was Ronnie James Dio and that was a thrill. Also meeting Little Richard was a buzz. Just the whole Hollywood experience was a thrill. The least memorable was having no money during recording because every last cent was tied up in the recording. We could not afford hotels so we slept at the studio with sleeping bags without the owners finding out. But even then we still had a lot of fun.
The second record was a lot of fun because by then we were making money so we could go out and have a good time when we weren’t recording to blow off some steam and jam with some other bands. And getting to watch Jack Richardson do his magic was great. I can’t remember any negative experiences making that CD or the third CD for that matter. We could always take a bad situation and make it fun somehow.
We wrote the whole 3rd CD in Hollywood so we lived on Hollywood Blvd for a month during the heyday of the Sunset Strip. All the clubs were buzzing with excitement and great bands and the streets were filled with freaks and rock stars. The lyrics from the FRAZE GANG song “Blow Me Away” were based on those crazy times. I look back upon the whole Brighton Rock experience with nothing but great memories really. We always knew how to have fun. I think when you saw us live, it showed. And now FRAZE GANG is here to keep the dream alive!
SR: Was that Sunset Strip scene intimidating for a group of Canucks? How well did you fit in?
GF: Actually it was motivating to us because 99% of every band we saw was more into their image than how good their songs were or how well they played. We could not believe how sloppy everybody played. The road crew for most of these bands looked better than us! We were a very tight band that slaved over our songs and very much paid attention to detail & dynamics. We were 100% confident in ourselves and it showed. We would crush every night. We took our playing and presentation very seriously. We did not need props or special effects. Give us 2 lights and we would kill. We were a well tuned fighting machine that could win you over every time. Don’t get me wrong, we cared about our image too, but it was always secondary. Our music and performance was top priority, just the way FRAZE GANG is now.
SR: Does it get frustrating watching bands that put more effort into looks and gimmicks then the actual music reach the top?
GF: Not if the band commits to it 100% like Kiss, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister and even Poison. They gave it there all on stage and delivered. You were entertained and are still entertained by these bands because they’re still out there keeping the party going. I’ve never left a Kiss concert thinking, “Wow, they were boring tonight.” Because they never are. It’s more then looking cool. You have to deliver the goods for 90 minutes. Looking cool will get old after the 4th song. You have to sustain the crowd’s attention. And bands like this will always come through.
SR: There was a dark ugly side to the Sunset Strip scene as well, did you or your bandmates get caught up in the drugs and alcohol?
GF: No we were lucky. We used to party past the limits of good judgment time & time again like everyone else, but we always knew how to reel it back in because we knew that this is our shot, and we’re not going to blow it. I think that’s why we lasted so long.
SR: What finally led to the breakup of the band?
GF: WOW! The music climate was changing and melodic rock was starting to get frowned upon. By the time our third CD came out the industry was so watered down with this style of music that people were getting bored with it. There had to be a changing of the guard. So instead of being one of those bands that slowly dissolves into nothing, we took an indefinite vacation! We are still great friends and once in a blue moon we do a live show, and it’s still a rush!
SR: While writing the music that became Fraze Gang, did you ever think of trying to get the original band back together and record them as Brighton Rock?
GF: Not so much the songs that appear on the Fraze Gang record because they’re written around my voice. Gerry, our singer in Brighton Rock, sings way higher than I do, so I think a lot of these songs might not suit him. There was, and still is a lot of songs that I wrote that would be perfect for BR but trying to resurrect the BR machine is not easy. We got back together a few years ago to do a show in Germany and because our schedules are so crazy now, it was hard just to get all of us in the same room just to rehearse songs we already knew, let alone getting together and learning new originals.
Recording demos and chasing after a record deal with Brighton Rock is not realistic at this point. We would basically have to start from scratch again, and none of us would want to do that again. The only way Brighton Rock would ever get back together to record a new CD is if some record company or some type of investor would step up to the plate and give us motivation! A lot of these bands from the 80s & 90s are getting back together just to live off their past. We have too much integrity for that.
SR: What was it like getting back together live and how did the A Room For Live album come about?
GF: It’s fantastic getting back together and playing those songs again. Being gone for 10 years, we were not sure what to expect with our fans or if they even cared anymore. Our first reunion show at the Caledonia Arena sold out and that was a smokin show and the fans were going nuts! Just like old times. We did an outdoor show in St Catharines that drew 5000 people which was recorded for the BR live CD and it was off the hook!
As for how the live CD came together, we were approached by Z Records out of Europe for some new BR product so we did a live CD to get the ball rolling and because the fans always asked us if we would ever do one. We went to Germany to help promote it. We’ve never played there before and were not sure what to expect but were surprised how big we are over there. People were coming from Ireland, England, France just to see us. That was crazy. So every time we do get back together we have a blast!
SR: You mentioned writing with Triumph, tell us about that.
GF: After Brighton broke up Rik Emmett left Triumph. Gil & Mike were still going to continue and put out a new CD with Gil doing all the singing. They were looking for songs and asked our singer if I had anything. I gave Gil a call and he invited me to his studio to jam with them and try writing together. I think at the time they were looking for more radio friendly type songs and my stuff was a little too hard sounding. Nothing I had was considered a hit, although they liked a lot of my riffs, especially the one that would eventually become the lead off track on the FRAZE GANG CD “Blow Me Away.” It was great writing with these legends who are so humble and down to earth.
After that I joined Helix for almost 4 years as a sideman and had a great time with those guys. After awhile I felt like I was treading water just being a hired gun and knew I had to start my own thing which eventually became FRAZE GANG.
SR: What was the mood like with the guys in Triumph regarding the breakup with Rik Emmett?
GF: The mood with Triumph when I was writing with them, as far as I could see, was a positive mood. At the time there was definitely bad blood between them and I kept my nose out of it because it was none of my business. I think (and this is a guess) they were tired of arguing with each other when it came time to writing and whose song would make the cut or not. Being in a band is all about compromise. And sometimes you get to the point where you don’t want to compromise anymore. It’s like painting a picture and someone tells you that you should use blue paint instead of red paint. So to keep harmony you switch to blue paint, but deep down you wish you would have kept it red. After a while you get tired of the constant conflict and you move on to keep your sanity. It’s too bad because Triumph wrote some really great songs that will go down in Canadian history and if they ever do get back together I’ll be front row!
SR: Did you have the chance to write with Helix, or does Brian Vollmer do everything himself?
GF: When I joined Helix it was during the “It’s A Business Doing Pleasure Tour.” Although my picture is on the CD and credited as a player I actually joined after the CD was already recorded. Brian did not use any Helix members on that CD. It does have some really cool songs on it though. It was just assumed that Mark Ribler, who co-wrote the CD and played all the guitars, would be doing the same for the next CD. So Brian and I never got a chance to really sit down and write together. I wish we could have because he has a great voice and it was a lot of fun playing with those guys.
SR: The Helix website says you left the band due to personality clashes with a bandmate. What actually happened there?
GF: When you’re on the road for long stretches sometimes you get on each others nerves. Sometimes Brian & I would not see eye to eye on things and butt heads. But I did not leave Helix because of Brian. After almost 4 years together I knew I had to make a move because my creative juices were going nuts and I had to pursue my dreams. Looking back I think I should have maybe handled things differently because after all it is his band. But that’s in the past and everything is cool between us. I just talked to Brian the other day and he was telling me about his tour with Alice Cooper and stuff. I learned a lot from Brian and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. I do miss playing some of their songs like “21st Century” and “Wild in the Streets” because they always killed live. I’m still a Helix fan!
SR: Are there any other bands you have written or toured with?
GF: No that’s about it. I have no desire to tour with anybody else as a sideman anymore. It’s fun and everything but I need to do my own thing because it is way more gratifying in the end. As for writing, I would still love to write with other people but FRAZE GANG takes up all my time. That’s not to say that I’m opposed to it, but quite frankly the opportunity hasn’t presented itself too often. I have tunnel vision with this band and sometimes I’m oblivious to anything else that is going on around me. I’m sure if the right band or singer needed some songs and was interested in my talents I would jump at the chance to see what happens as long as it does not interfere with FRAZE GANG.
SR: What would you list as being your greatest accomplishments and biggest disappointments in your musical career?
GF: The biggest disappointment was not getting Brighton Rock’s last record “Love Machine” released in the USA and not touring there to promote it. We truly thought we were going to hit with that record. We fired our manager, we asked to be released from our Canadian record company so that we could sign directly with a US company. But it didn’t happen and then the writing was on the wall.
The greatest accomplishments with Brighton Rock other than Gold Records and Juno Award nominations (Canadian Grammy Awards) was watching songs that I wrote in my bedroom, become these anthems that 20,000 people were singing along to at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto while opening for Triumph and then getting an encore. Touring with Triumph was definitely a career highlight. Playing these huge sold out arenas night after night was a dream come true.
But I must say, this FRAZE GANG CD is starting to take a life of it’s own. Without management or record company support behind us, I’m blown away how things are developing for us. We are selling all over the world with places like Japan, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and the US to name a few. We just signed a European distribution deal which is huge for us. This all based on word of mouth and the power of the internet and great sites like “Sleaze Roxx! The CD is only 8 weeks old and it has already surpassed my wildest dreams. I can’t wait to get up every morning to see what’s next for FRAZE GANG and that’s a great feeling.
SR: Any last words to you fans out there?
GF: To all you BRIGHTON ROCKERS & FRAZE GANG fans; Thanx for still rockin with us after all these years. When we first released the FRAZE GANG CD in July, we were a little nervous what the response would be like. But you guys have blown us away with your continuous support. Thank you so much for buying our CD and for all the great emails from all over the world. We truly do appreciate it. Sometimes when you’re writing music, you get frustrated and start thinking that nobody cares about this style of music anymore, and you start second guessing yourself. You have proven to us that, Kick Ass, Good Time, Rock & Roll will never die! And because of this we will never let you down and will always continue down this road. On behalf of Phil Epp & Stevie Skreebs, FRAZE GANG salutes you!
Thanks to Greg Fraser