For my latest installment I have chosen one of the few bands of recent times that have really come to the front of the music scene. They are not your average media hype, super-band although some of the members have a pretty illustrious past and resume’s to put pretty much all of us to shame. From Journey to Asia to Vinnie Vincent these guys pack quite a pedigree.
The band are currently in the studio putting the final touches to their second album titled MAJESTIC.
Their first album has many influences that can clearly be heard in the playing and the structure of the songs from the Beatles, to Oasis, to heavy 70’s groove riffs to intricate melodies and sometimes a little Black Crowes creeps into the mix also. All in all this is an album that is contemporary, rocking, spaced out and really gels well to many different genres without sounding in the slightest but pretentious. Robert in his interview with us alludes to the organic approach to recording the album and it really shines when you listen to it. The production is not over done and the clarity of each instrument is evident with Robert’s vocals having lost nothing of their magic. It’s a world away from the past but it really works. This is A BAND. Make no mistakes. There are audio samples of all songs on the website and I strongly recommend you check it out – www.theskyofficial.com
I recently caught up with Robert to get his take on past and present :
Hey Robert – what have you been up to these past few years ?
I’m currently writing the new Sky album, we have recorded 11 new songs so far .And one of the songs has been made into a video called One Day. Which we are in the editing process putting it all together right now. We did the video with our Director friend Jerry Moore. At first we’ll have the video up on THE SKY website which is theskyofficial.com then later on YouTube. We’re all very excited about this being our first video for THE SKY
In your own words can you summarize THE SKY for those who aren’t familiar with you yet?
THE SKY was put together buy me and Andre LeBelle who played drums on one of Vinnie Vincent albums. I was trying to put the band together in Los Angeles with not much luck. Found a lot of guys who could hold a guitar and look cool but not play. Couple of days after I receive a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame with Journey. Andre called me up and I told him I was interested in putting a band together and he replied that he would love to be in the band I said I’d love to have you in the band but you live in Richmond Virginia and I’m in Los Angeles . He said he knew some great players and I should come out so I did. With my friend Mike Weeks who played guitar for me on my Look at the Dream solo album .We got together at a recording studio, in Richmond for a week and learn 4 songs after the week I went back to Los Angeles. I thought the band was great, now it was how am I gonna put this all together. After a month or so, I got everybody to fly out to Las Vegas and we rehearsed again for another week, again came back home to Los Angeles. Then I decided I was going to move to Richmond. I got there and rented a house and rented a rehearsal space which was 2000 square feet 40 foot ceiling set the band up we started rehearsing wrote 20 songs we recorded 11 for the album it was a great process for me because I could write songs at home bring it to rehearsal, the band would learn them and it was just magical. I would come in with a Black and White picture then it would turned into color because of the band. Andre LaBelle on Drums, Steve Barber on Bass, Brady Cole on Lead Guitar, Stephan Lajaunie on Rhythm Guitar, later replaced by Ryan Lake. For years I have recorded in a studio putting songs together piece by piece. When I did THE SKY it was all live it was so magical I will never record that old sterile way again. This band is the Best Rock and Roll Band I’ve ever put together.People and critics say it has a Modern Retro British Rock Sound to it, but I think it just sounds like good song writing because that’s what’s it’s all about. You can be the best musician, singer. But if you don’t have songs your Shit.
Pick 3 songs of the first album in order to introduce this band to your fans…
All I Want – If you listen to it in your car it will make you get a ticket for speeding. Because of the fast driving tempo and hypnotic rhythm and a great hook. Next thing you know you’re going 100 miles per hour and you’re seeing red lights and being pulled over.
You were working on solo releases, now you have the band. What are your goals with THE SKY and why the change of direction? How do you differentiate being in a band and being a solo artist?
Like anything you do you want it to be successful. You open up a Store or a Restaurant a Business or started a Band that’s the goal to be successful. I plan on recording SKY records until we become successful. But I can only do so much that’s where people like you, who do interview come into the game. You let people know about Bands and get your readers curious about them. So they go out of their way to find and listen to an artists music. And for being a solo art
ist you don’t have anyone to ask permission for using a certain color its your choice less weight less problems. A band is a different story I’ve been in some high drama bands and it can drain your soul. But if you’re lucky and you find the right people and your all on the same page through time it turns into a family. And that’s what makes a band successful that family feeling to it. And that’s why I like being in THE SKY
Ever had a regular day job?
I had a after school job bagging groceries for my uncle. Every Christmas I worked at my uncles Christmas tree lot. I worked in a real estate office filing papers doing errands. I did all that between the age of fifteen and seventeen. After that it was pretty much all music I played in some bar bands then later started my own bands. So I’ve been pretty blessed and lucky not having to do the 9 to 5.
Before Vinnie Vincent you had a band called Channel. What’s the story behind that one?
Channel was put together buying me and Tony Berg he was a session guitarist and producer in Hollywood who played with Bette Midler and Cher not much of a real rock and roll background but we both love the same bands and we talked about art we were just good friends. He was a great guitarist with a lot of style.
I learned a lot from him, like a song is not a song unless it has a bridge in it. And that’s true I never write a song without a bridge in it never. Tray Thompson was the bass player who also played with Cher on a few tours. One of the most melodic bass players I ever played with later became a teacher. Gary Ferguson one of my favorite drummers he played with Gary Moore, Eddie Money, Ray Charles, all kinds of sessions throughout Hollywood and England. And still playing to this day. So you can say Channel was a band of the studio musicians. We got signed to Epic Records, by Larry Hamby who happened to be a good friend of Trays, so that was are in. Tony and I cowrote all the songs on the album. We were getting set to go in and record the record in Hollywood. When the record label wanted us to go in the studio with a producer, so they introduce us to.. John: (Let’s keep his last name out of it) that’s when thing started going downhill. He smoked big fat cigars dressed in army combat fatigues with a green army hat he was like Fidel Castro he was fat and had a big beard. I asked him not to smoke cigars in the studio because it affected my voice plus I didn’t like the smell, but he continued didn’t care. And later we find out he’s a Scientologist, and started leaving Scientologist literature all over the studio which I threw out. Then the cherry on the cake is, he’s married to the daughter of L Ron Hubbard ,the father of Scientology. She was actually nice played classical piano beautifully. Later found out the reason we went to England was because John wanted to take his wife on a vacation to England.She was English and they had business to do there, Dealing with Scientology. So they got a free vacation on Channels money. Somehow he talked the record company into having us go to England to do the record. which I never wanted to do because I knew it was going to cost so much money and stress on the band but it happened .So we’re there. at a studio called Brittannia Row Studios in Islington. Which was Pink Floyd’s recording studio. Where they recorded The Wall. On our first day there we were starting to setup to record and at the studio they have this big room where they had a snooker table. I asked if anyone had ever recorded drums in this room they said no, but we can give it a try. I said let’s go for it so we set the drums up. The drums sounded great after hours of setting up the equipment and microphones we started to record. About 20 minutes later the Bobby’s come knocking on the studio door. Telling us they can hear the drums all the way down the row. And that we would have to stop so now everything is on the back burner and the studio tells us to come back in a day or two and that they would take care of the situation. They called us up 2 days later we came down to the studio and they had built a wall against the existing wall for us so the sound would not escape out into the streets. So you could say Pink Floyd built The Wall for us basically. We did our basic tracks there’s which were sounding terrific. The in house engineers we’re doing all the work basically. John sat around smoking cigars. Then John tells us we’re leaving the studio to go to Surrey to continue recording I wanted to stay where we were. We we’re getting great sounds. So we go to the studio call Jacobs Farm Studios out in the country 12 room English manor with a recording studio in it. Where YES recorded owner of a broken heart .With a Chef 24 hour food and drink breakfast lunch and dinner. And John eaten away like there’s no tomorrow. We continued working on the record doing guitar over dubs and then I started doing my vocals. After finishing lead vocals I was to start doing the background vocals John suggested that we have background girl singers. I said no it will make the record sound stupid. So the next thing you know he’s got these chicks in there singing away the day before we leave to go back to the States. And I just can’t believe it I wanted to set his ass on fire. We never mixed the album. We came back to LA and we had spent a shitload of money. Now we have to find an engineer to mix the album and we didn’t have very much money to offer, so then the record company eventually gets us an engineer. And the last project he had done was Frank Sinatra and Steely Dan. And I just can’t believe it. What the fuck does this guy know about rock and roll absolutely nothing. So I’m told they’re going to mix the record in New York. I call Tony and his wife answers the phone and I ask is he there and she says no he went to New York to mix the record. So I hang up call the label they say Tony said he knew were all the tracks were on the session and he could help the engineer. Here Tony and I wrote all the songs together. You think he would have called me or tell me is going to New York but it was all done secretly. So I just said screw this project, and basically wash my hands of it. The record came out I heard the mixes and they sounded Wimpy. My grandmother in pink underwear could mix better than they did. If I had mixed it, It would have Rocked Hard..
A huge highlight for us at the Decibel Geek Podcast is your work with Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion. You have done a spectacular interview already for the show but for the readers out there, care to share the story and put the monster to bed?
I met Vinnie through a mutual friend Adam Mitchell who wrote songs with Paul Stanley plus he wrote some hits for Linda Ronstadt. Vinnie asked Adam if he knew any lead singers and he gave him my number. One day Vinnie called and told
me what he wanted to do. I invited him over to my house in Hollywood. Next day or so the doorbell rang. I answered the door and there was Vinnie looking like any other guy in a T-shirt jeans and sneakers and a smile on his face. I made him a cup of tea and we sat in my living room. I popped in the cassette that he gave me, and out of the speakers came out the riff for, Shoot You Full Of Love, Substitute, Back on the Streets. I thought he was a great songwriter and a incredible guitarist also, so I thought –why not, this could be an incredibly good team. A couple of days later he invited me to S.I.R, which is a rehearsal studio on Sunset boulevard in Hollywood. I walked into the sound stage and there was Vinnie with a group of guys. Apparently they had been in a band with Vinnie at one time called New England. We started jamming, but we had to stop a lot because Vinnie kept breaking strings; it kinda worried me a bit while I was driving back home that night. During the week we got back together and we did some Demos at my house on my 4 Track. We wrote Invasion and Do You Wanna Make Love. Those were the first songs we wrote together; he did the music I wrote the lyrics for Do you Wanna Make Love and we share the lyrics on Invasion.
We were both happy about the collaboration. Some time later he called me and told me that KISS had asked him to join the band. I told him you should definitely do it, it will change your life. He had twins on the way he and Ann Marie were in a tiny apartment. I told him to go for it. Some time flew by and then I got a phone call. It was Vinnie on the line. He said “Robbie let’s get the band together” and I said okay. So apparently he had been in the studio recording; he told me to come down to Sandcastle Studios where he and Andy Johns producer / engineer were working. I went to the studio and did the vocals for Shoot you full Love, No Substitute, Back on the Streets. We had a lot of fun and it was great to work with Andy. He worked with The Rolling Stones on Exile on Main Street and did the second and third Led Zeppelin albums. He mixed the 3 songs and they sounded great. Some time went by and I hadn’t heard from Vinnie. Somehow I heard that he went to New York and Chrysalis Records offered him a deal–a deal without me. I didn’t work with him to push his solo career. I didn’t even hear from him; no phone call no nothing. More time went by; it was phone call from Dana Strum telling me he’s the producer for Vinnie’s new album. I told him basically to fuck off. He kept calling me and calling me, and I never did get a call from Vinnie. This is where Vinnie went wrong. I would have preferred if Vinnie had called me and we would have settled things between us instead. He should have handled his own business instead of Dana Strum handling his business. After I heard they were auditioning other singers. Chrysalis told them to get me involved in the project. Eventually we came to some sort of agreement. When it came time came to do my vocals, most all of the music was done. The first day I came in to do my vocals there was a room with I think 8 stacks of Marshalls in a circle, it looked like Stonehenge I found it a bit hilarious. It was a scene out of Spinal Tap; but that was Vinnie. My vocal booth was in the middle of the studio. I walked into it and was surprised to see that Vinnie had wallpapered the inside with Playboy centerfolds floor to ceiling . He said I thought it would get you off while you’re doing your vocals . I told him it would take a lot more then that to get me off. But thanks for breaking up your Playboy collection for me . He was very nice to me I think he was embarrassed for what he did to me. And I just played it cool. The basic tracks were done with a drum machine. We needed to find a drummer so we held an addition at S.I.R. The drummers that showed up had a half an hour I think we had close to 10 people at the audition. At the very end. Bobby Rock had come in, after his van had overheated. He had been driving through the desert and his van was on its last leg; he literally rolled into the parking lot. After which he emptied out his drums, set up, and played unbelievably. I told Vinnie “this is the guy”. Bobby went into the studio and recorded the drums. Then it was time to mix with George Tutko; who was a terrific person, very kind & easy going, as well as a great audio engineer.
George would be mixing and Vinnie would say the guitars are not loud enough. George would take a break and Vinnie would sneak the guitars up. George would come back, listen to the mix, and wondered what the hell happened. This happened with every song practically. I personally couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It drove me crazy because a lot of time and money was wasted–but it wasn’t my dime so I let it be. It was now is time to do photos for the album. I came in and was shocked that Bobby was in body paint, and Vinnie was all painted up and had on that giant wig. Then he told the stylist to do something with my hair. I ended up looking like some fucking poodle; my hair was one length before they messed with it. During the Photo Session, Vinnie’s manager came to me with a contact, as big as a phone book. He told me to sign it, but I told him I wanted to take it to my lawyer. He told me not to worry and just sign it– everything’s okay. That’s when I told him to piss off. Apparently Vinnie’s manager told the record company that I was signed to his management company which was a lie. Chrysalis found out and got really pissed at him for lying. Chrysalis wanted me to sign a contract with them without any compensation. They wanted me to absorb the debt of the making the record–who knows how much they would have to recoup. I told them “no way”. I was getting calls from the record company telling me if I didn’t sign, they would take my voice off the album. I told them to do what they had to do…I knew that they would have to spend more money re-recording the new vocalist plus the cost of re-mixing the record over again. Things were so messed up I walked away. After that I received a phone call from a friend telling me that they’re going to show the new Vinnie Vincent Invasion video on MTV. I saw the video and there was this guy lip sinking to my voice. He was also wearing the coat that I wore on the album cover plus he was wearing girls underwear over his leather pants. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing . And for the record this is the first time anyone has ever lip sync to someone’s voice before Milli Vanilli. So I sued Chrysalis and I won. It was too bad it never worked out.
How do you feel about the music you released with Vinnie Vincent?
I thought it (VVI debut album) was great album, and at that time nothing like it, and to this day. My favorite song is No Substitute.
bsp; Listen to DBG Podcast VVI specials for much more detail on these latter recordings *
When was the last time you heard from Vinnie?
I haven’t talk to Vinnie in over 20 years.
You were briefly a member of Asia. What are your memories of that time?
The way I became involved with Asia was when I was with Journey and we toured opening up for Emerson Lake and Palmer in Canada . I became friends with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer, little did I know that years later I would be in a possible band setting with Carl. In the later part of 1980, Geffen Records A&R man John Kalodner, called me to tell me about his super band that he was working on with John Wetton, Carl Palmer,Steve Howe and Geoff Downes. He wondered if I would be interested in going to England to check it out. The next day I received a cassette of the demoed songs that I would need to learn; with John Wetton’s voice on it. I thought–wow sounds really great ! I was familiar with Johns voice from King Crimson and I always thought he was a brilliant singer. The more I listened to the to the cassette, I thought that it the songs were tailor made for John and I just couldn’t really see myself doing them better . But the time came to go off to England. From Los Angeles I had a long grueling flight and a bunch of stops before I arrived in England at my hotel room. I laid down for an hour and a half; I was exhausted when someone started banging on the door. It was one of the roadies.
He said “come on let’s get going we’re off to rehearsal”. Next thing I knew I was standing in the rehearsal room with some of the greatest musicians in rock n roll. We started to work on the song Heat of the Moment. It sounded good, but in my head I could only hear John voice. We rehearsed for a week. Toward the end of that week I had to say something. I told their manager Peter that I thought John was perfect for it and they didn’t need me. The record company wanted that visual front man for the band to give it a more commercial rock n roll image, but I believe the band was strong enough just the way they had it.
A big part of your history is your connection with Journey, your first real break as we know it. How did it go for you?
I learned a lot being in Journey, definitely the first band that I ever was in with such incredible musicianship. Before I entered the picture the band was a rock jazz fusion band. A very free form style of writing music; pretty much jamming and then organizing it into a song. So when I joined the band I came in as a Pop Rock singer songwriter–which was very far from what they were. But it worked. And on the business side of the band it was very well organized, road crew, travel agent, road manager, manager and a record label to make it all work. For me it was like opening up a watch and seeing all the parts move and work.
Would you change anything with Journey?
No there is nothing I would do different. I wrote some great songs with them. As a band we all got along with each other. And still do
What were the real reasons for you parting with Journey?
The main reason I was pulled out of the band was pretty much because of management. I had a manager before I came into the band that had ties to CBS Records; it was because of him I got the gig. So later Journey’s manager ask me to leave my manager. And I found that to be a very difficult thing to do because I really liked my manager Barry Fey a lot. I couldn’t stab him in the back. So Journey’s management got pretty mad. The whole time I was with the band they had a A&R man at CBS Records telling Journey’s manager about Steve Perry and financing his demos; he told the management if they took Steve on they would give them more money for recording, radio airplay, tour support and a producer. So that’s what basically happened. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
You co-wrote some prominent songs with Journey: Any fond memories?
Winds of March
Wheel in the Sky
Neal came up with the music in the back of a station wagon with an acoustic guitar while on the road. It came together during rehearsals in San Francisco. Neal played the opening line. And I started to add lib words and melody over the music. Later wrote all the lyrics at Rolie’s house.
Journey released another song co-written with you called For You.
Another song that was written during rehearsal. We jammed a lot during rehearsals and that’s how lot of the songs came about. When I left the band I gave 3 songs to Journey and I kept.. FOR YOU…for my solo album which Neal played on.
You were there as a guest when Journey received their Star at the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. How was that for you?
Receiving the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star was one of the biggest events in my life. Because for me growing up in Los Angeles, As a kid I would watch on the news celebrities receiving the Star all the time. I never would had thought, I would be receiving such an honor in my life. Like the celebrities I once watched on TV. That day thousands of people, screaming and cheering. Spilled into the street of Hollywood Boulevard stopping traffic to see the ceremony. We were so excited, all the members of the band we’re together except Gregg Rolie I wish he had made it. We were on the news that night. It was a dream come true. A great memorable day for all of us.
I was the bands first front man lead singer songwriter. I help right there first songs to reach the Billboard charts. And gave them a new direction.
Are you still friends with the gu
ys from Journey? What do you think of their last releases with Arnel Pineda?
I’ve always gotten along with them through all the years. I see them pretty much every time they come into town. Ross and I talk and text each other from time to time, matter fact I’m going to see them tomorrow night in Norfork Virginia. I’ve met Arnel a couple times he’s a really super nice guy. So we’re all family.
As a parting thought – hit us with the top 5 albums of all time according to Robert Fleishman
1.. Beatles.. Revolver 2.. Radiohead.. OK Computer 3.. T Rex.. Electric Warrior 4.. Muddy Waters.. His best 1947 to 1955 5.. David Bowie.. Scary Monsters
A recent release with accompanying video is the teaser from the new album MAJESTIC released March this year. The song is titled One Day and starts off with a a tub thumping, melodic guitar riff that instantly grabs the attention. Roberts vocals are clear and vibrant as always. Their signature sound is there but this song doesn’t stop there. It builds and builds and with the help of some spectacular backing vocals transcends into the realms of Floyd and just takes you away on a musical journey of epic proportions.
Whoever is doing the mixing and production of this music really has a talent – the guitar tones are sublime, the vocals are crystal clear and each instrument has it’s own tonal value and voice. This is easily my song of the last age and as you can tell I simply adore it. If this is a taste of the album to come, remember where you read of this band because great things are right around the corner. The next mega-band? I bloody well hope so!