DBG: So Greg, what was it that attracted you to the guitar?
Greg Fraser: Oh man, probably the big cliche riff as with many guitarists but when I first heard “Smoke on the Water” that riff just jumped out at me and made me want to air guitar. So whenever I’d see someone that had a guitar, friends brothers or something, I would try to pick it up. Then when i got a little older, I got into groups like Kiss and Led Zeppelin and things like that.
I remember seeing the movie “The Song Remains the Same” at the theatre and that just reaffirmed that the guitar was my way to go, Watching Jimmy Page with the double neck and all that, playing with the bow and then with Kiss Ace Frehley with his smoking guitar and all that. I just loved the way the guitar sounds, it looks cool. I knew it was for me,
DBG: Speaking of the instrument itself, kind of a geeky “gear” question but how did you come to play the Lado? Every time I have seen you live that seems to be your axe of choice.
Greg: Well it’s a funny thing. Back in the early days of Brighton Rock we were getting offered endorsements by different companies. I got offered endorsements from Peavey but wasn’t happy at the time with what they had. If you go back to our very first video “We Came To Rock”, I was playing my go to guitar at the time which was a BC Rich Ironbird and I had a backup imitation stratocaster which I recorded the whole first album with. Anyways Stevie (Skreebs), our bass player was endorsed by Lado and I wasn’t crazy about some of their stuff. So sometimes Stevie would have to go by Lado to get a repair done or an upgrade and stuff. So I’d be with him and Joe Lado, the owner was like “when are you going to play one of my guitars?” I said “I don’t know” and he was going “pick one, pick one!”. Now the thing is, when you sign an endorsement deal you have to play that guitar. So with that in mind I told him, well I like the neck on this one and the headstock from that and Joe was like “I will build it, whatever you want” So I said if your willing to build it from scratch then let’s do it. He did and that became my number one guitar, it just sounded so much better than anything else I had and then he built me another one. So ever since then they have been my guitars.
Then when we got recording our second and third albums we could pretty much go and use whatever we wanted to try but the Lado again seemed to give me the sound that I wanted. They feel exactly the way I want them to feel because they were made for me so yeah, they continue to be my number one guitars.
DBG: So what led up to you forming Brighton Rock?
Greg: Well, when I was about nineteen there was a local band from Niagara Falls that were pretty successful in the Niagara region called Lennox and the lead guitar player was Johnny Dee. So they were doing a lot of covers but they were writing stuff to and they even went to Japan, so local guys like us were like “wow”, those guys are happening.
So Johnny left to form Honeymoon Suite and I got the gig replacing him in Lennox. We even recorded a record that was produced by Mick Rohnson who had played with David Bowie. He was Bowie’s guitar player but he produced our album. Now that album was never released, the record companies passed at it and the band kind of dissolved from there.
We had a manager that was managing Lennox and as that band broke up Honeymoon Suite was just starting to take off, they got their record deal and were starting to see some success. So I kept in touch with the manager and told him I was forming a new band and he told me so send me our songs, let me hear your stuff. We had a different singer, a friend of mine Joe Tota on drums and then we had another guy I forgot his last name, his name was Dave as our lead singer. We didn’t really have a band name yet but we recorded some songs, one of which was “Can’t Wait For The Night” and it just didn’t work out with the singer. Not on a personal level but it became too tough. He was married with a baby one the way and this was a full time job for us. To make this really work we had to be in it 24/7 and we were finding he couldn’t make rehearsals and it was always something putting a wrench in the situation, so we had to part ways.
So the hunt was on for a new singer. Our manager suggested Gerry and being in Lennox we had done shows with Gerry. He was in a heavy metal band called the Rockers doing a lot of Judas Priest and all the stuff I love, but the songwriting I was doing I didn’t want to be just heavy metal. I wanted some melody in there, something like Judas Priest meets Journey, more of a crossover thing. I don’t want strictly heavy metal so I didn’t think Gerry would like my material. So I was sort of brushing the idea off. Steve goes “just meet the guy” so we went down and met him in Niagara Falls and had a few beers together. I said to him “who are some of your favourite singers” and he says I like Steve Perry and I am like “what??” I would have never expected that. So I thought we might be on to something there and Gerry was in.
From there we re-recorded “Cant Wait For The Night” and once we heard that we were on the way. We gave it to the manager who played it for the record company and they wanted to hear more. That put us on the road and we kept sending them new songs and they kept approving it and encouraging even more. So we built up a repertoire of songs and to make a long story long, that’s pretty much how Brighton Rock was born.
DBG: Now we were talking for a few minutes before your show at the Rockpile and you shared a hilarious story about being in LA mixing the first album…
Greg: Oh yeah (laughing) we recorded the album in Toronto at Phase One studios but then we mixed it in LA at a place called Amigo Studios. This is where Van Halen did their first record and much like Phase One they have two studios, studio A and B. Now they share the same living room. kitchen and lounge area. So when you take a break or get yourself something to eat, and I would always go in the lounge waiting to see who was in the other studio. The door would open and I would be looking, you know and it would be an engineer and I would go “oh it’s just an engineer” and then this one time the door opens up and it’s Ronnie James Dio. I am like “holy shit, it’s DIO” and he’s like “hey man, you got any rolling papers?”. I am like “ahhhh no I don’t but wow, it’s a pleasure to meet you” and truly you couldn’t meet a nicer guy. We talked for close to an hour and he looked you right in the eyes and really listened to what you were saying. He was asking me stuff about Canada, and since we were on the same label we had some mutual acquaintances that we could talk about but yeah he was super cool.
DBG: That’s funny, I have interviewed a few people now that have all said the same type of thing about Dio
Greg: It’s true, I mean he even made me coffee, after a while you would forget he was a rock star. It got to the point where it was like “Ok Ronnie, well talk to you later” and then I am like wait a minute that’s Ronnie James Dio! I might never see him again and made a point of going back in and spending more time with him.
DBG: My favourite vocalist for sure.
Greg: Oh my god, are you kidding me? Just even that first album he did with Rainbow with Man On The Silver Mountain, that’s just so classic. He was so good, Ronnie was the man.
DBG: So something you might be interested in, is that the Decibel Geek Podcast is sitting down with someone from your past, Toby Wright is going to be interviewed on the show. How was Toby to work with?
Greg: Yeah, Toby did a lot of work with a guy named Ron Nevison who produced some huge albums in the 80’s, Heart, Damn Yankees, Ozzy, and Toby was his right hand man. Well Toby was trying to branch out on his own. I am not sure how we came to be involved with him, but his name came up and we were big fans of those records that he was involved with. He seemed hungry and we were close to the same age and on the same page so we were like yeah! He was great to work with, lot of fun and I can’t speak highly enough of him.
It was great too, we recorded in Toronto again and mixed it down in LA, so it gave us another excuse to go down there. From that record on he went and did Alice in Chains, and really made a name for himself.
DBG: So moving on, we now have Fraze Gang, how did this band get rolling?
Greg: Well when Brighton ended in early 92, I was always the key songwriter. Even before in Lennox I was always writing so that part never stopped. I am always writing songs even now when I pick up the guitar, I am usually trying to create something new rather than just working on leads or stuff. Anyways after Brighton I was asked to join Helix and was with them for three years. When I joined Helix, Brian (Volmer) was in the process of trying to get a solo deal. He had a record already recorded with a guitar player named Marc Ribbler. So he had wrote the record with him and Marc produced and basically made the record with Brian. He didn’t get a lot of interest in the project as a solo artist but Aquarius records told him they would be interested if he had a new Helix record. So he said, why don’t we use this record as the next Helix record? So he got the guys back and I came in to replace Paul Hackman who had passed away and we got credited as being on the album even though I never played a note on it. That record is called “It’s a Business Doing Pleasure” which is a really great album by the way, there is some really great songs on there but anyway Brian was really keen on doing another record with Marc so the songs I was writing weren’t really being considered.
By then I was really burnt out on touring and needed some time off. So I got off the road and all the time kept writing away. So after some time passed I got the itch to get back in the studio, there were a few songs I wanted to lay down so I called up Stevie (Skreebs) who lives down the road from me. I said “Stevie, you wanna come down and throw some bass down and he was like “SURE!” So I got my buddy Phil Epp to come in and do some drums. So for a while we were trying to find a singer but we weren’t finding the sound that we were looking for so I figured well I will just sing on the tunes for now and when we find a singer, we’ll just replace the vocals.
When we finished the recording, the other guys were like “I kinda like what you were doing there” so we kept it and added some more songs and the initial idea was an EP but the songs kept flowing and the next thing you know we had a full CD. So I said, let’s just put up a website and see what happens. Well, right off the bat we got some response from all over the world, people wanting to buy it and reviews started coming in, so that was kinda crazy. and then this guy named Ralph Alfonso who has this independent label called “Bongo Beat”. He used to work with Brighton Rock with Network Records and he knows a lot of people and has some pull in the industry, he says “look, if you want we can re-release this and get it out there.
In the meantime I had one more song that I wanted on the album and since we were re-releasing it, we were able to add “Jackhammer”. So the Cd was released worldwide and now we’re on to the second one Fraze Gang2, released back in August. We couldn’t be happier or more excited and we got a new guy in the band, Derek McGowin our new secret weapon. He plays guitar with me now and he can play like a mother and combined with what I’m doing and Stevie and Phil, it’s all come together.
DBG: Well I am really enjoying the new album. Funny though, how you mentioned back when forming Brighton Rock how the writing was very melodic and yet I find with Fraze Gang a heavier almost Judas Pri
est type feel to the guitars. Was this a conscious direction or just how the songs were flowing?
Greg: Well,I found that on the first Fraze Gang record there are a few more mellow tunes on that record and that was just the frame of mind I was in at the time. I have always had the mindset that the strong songs will survive. So if we write like 30 songs the strongest songs will make it on the record whether they are mellow or super heavy, you know?
When we received some reviews of the first record, the songs that seemed to get the most response was some of the heavier songs on the album. I found that interesting, usually the record companies gravitate towards the more mellow song because they feel it’s easier to sell and get played on the radio to reach a wider audience and I was always conscious of that. The record company would always say “give me three singles and we don’t care what else is on the record” type of thing. Well after the first record, we realized we aren’t going to get played on the more “popular” radio stations and quite frankly I couldn’t care less. It’s now all about the songs and when we are jamming, the heavier songs are always the most fun to play, your head banging and just going crazy. With Derek in the band some of those songs just really came alive and that’s what’s on the record.
DBG: Ok Greg, thanks for taking the time to share with the Decibel Geeks. One last question for you, What is the one song you WISH you wrote?
Greg: Oh my god! thats insane, you know I am going to have twenty answers and as soon as I tell you I am going to change my mind. Wow but off the I should say either “Stairway to Heaven” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”, you don’t get much better than that.
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