Urs Wiesendanger – Real Me (Interview in English)

Urs Wiesendanger – Real Me (Interview in English)

Interview with Urs Wiesendanger by Uwe Reith (DEC 28, 2013)

Hi Urs, your album „THE REAL ME“ contains an interesting mix of ballads, West Coast/Smooth Jazz and even Reggae elements plus a couple of short tracks such as „Intro“, „Move (Interlude)“ and „Move Move On“. All summed up, it sounds a little like an R & B/Smooth Jazz radio show in itself. Can you tell us something about the thread when the album production began?
„This album came into being over the course of many years in several stages. Therefore, I honestly hadn’t spun a thread. At that particular time, albums like „Q’s Jule Joint“ by Quincy Jones and sure enough, some soul/R&B-drenched productions had influenced me quite a bit. The title „Move“ was originally a complete song that I had incorporated, on a musical whim, as interludes in some passages of the album. I recently stumbled across the full version in my archive quite accidentally.“

You are a top musician, producer, arranger, drummer and keyboardist in your own right. The making of your productions ranks at the highest level. When and why would you yet call in people like John JR Robinson, Jeff Lorber and Robbie Buchanan? Is it all about special styles & sounds (Fender Rhodes and chord progressions) or do you possibly want to control your productions from a bird’s perspective?
„Thanks for the words of appreciation! – Sure enough, each of the musicians listed by you, Jeff Lorber, Robbie Buchanan, John Robinson, have a personal „signature“ as to their performance that can neither be copied nor replaced. Sometimes it might happen that one can get slightly tired of his own playing. Thus, some fresh input that you can get is most highly welcome. Of course, I can „hear“ at a very early stage of the production process which musicians will fit well. The musical vision of the entire work is one of the qualities that a producer should have. Beyond that, each of these top-notch studio musicians are bringing in their own special sound. Here I could mention the distinctive Fender Rhodes parts by Robbie Buchanan which can be heard on countless albums by Luis Miguel, just to name one of many artists that Robbie has worked with.“

Was your early collaboration with Jeff Lorber, in retrospect, a major influence on the success of THE REAL ME? The song ‚J & U‘ seems to be the musical answer of how perfectly both of you complement each other.
„Jeff and I met for the first time in 1994 in L.A.. After that, he visited me in Switzerland and we started working on a few tracks for „The Real Me“ album. At that time, I had just written and recorded the track „Nowhere“. Jeff loved that song so much that we decided to cut it a few months later at „JHL“ studios along with John JR Robinson, Nathan East, and Michael Landau for Jeff’s CD „State Of Grace“. Regrettably, it didn’t make it on the album but the version which can be heard on „The Real Me“, is the original version which I had introduced to Jeff back then. Lorber had an enormous musical influence on me and let me work thereafter for various artists like himself (Midnight), Dave Koz (The Dance) & Chris Camozzi (Slow Burn).“

Two super talents such as Jeff Pescetto and Mark Antony are immortalized on „SEPERATE WAYS“ and „SOMETHING SPECIAL“ as lead singers. How did this connection come about? And by what criteria did you choose what might be beneficial for the song?
„The song „Separate Ways“ was written by myself as a 16 year old kid „for“ James Ingram. Of course, that was just a wish of mine back then that James would record my song someday. So I had my original demo from 1985 on a cassette and decided to record it with Jeff Pescetto for „The Real Me“. I knew Jeff’s vocals pretty well from various productions where he had appeared as a guest singer. I contacted him with Jeff Lorber’s help since both Jeffs had also collaborated on a lot of projects together. Mark Antony was one of the singers of the English soul band INCOGNITO. This contact came about very spontaneously because I was working on an album of an artist LEME. Mark had performed almost all of the lead vocals. Actually, we had finished some recording sessions much earlier than planned. So I said to him quite spontaneously, „Hey Mark, I got a song that could be just perfect for you“. He loved my idea right away and on that given night, we had his vocals on tape!“

Another incredibly magical duet ballad is called „ANOTHER CHANCE FOR LOVE“ with Warren Wiebe & Jeri Lynne. Is it a true story that a very special celebrity had almost been a part of this song?
„Yes, that’s right, Uwe! Originally this duet should have been recorded with Vonda Shepard. By then, I had visited Vonda in in a studio in L. A. . But being that she was extremely busy with her own new album production at the time, there wasn’t enough time left to join us at Conway Studios. Warren had then proposed Jeri Lynne as a duet partner and I am very grateful to him.“

Rod Temperton is best-known to the Michael Jackson fanbase. What prompted the decision to involve artist Thierry Condor for recording one of Rod’s songs „Turn Out The Lamplight“?
„Turn Out The Lamplight“ has always been one of my favorites from Rod Temperton. When I met Thierry Condor for the first time, I immediately knew that only he would be on the run for that track. That particular recording session is one of the most memorable that I had with Thierry. The vocal flowed „literally „out of him. If I remember correctly it was even a first take! Simply magical!“

A very unexpected variety is a Reggae track called „RAGGA REAL“. How this came about?
„This song was written and produced by a good musician friend of mine Balthasar Zimmermann and myself. We just wanted to get away a little bit from the West Coast area to give the album a refreshing element. This song was pretty long in the waiting loop until I met rapper in a Zurich club, „King Tall Man“ whom I had invited along with his colleagues for a studio session.“

Many fans will be interested in how contacts came about from Switzerland to appraised musicians in America. How important have these contacts been for your career planning and global establishment?
„Grab the phone and call them! Truth be told, it took a little bit more than that. It was just very important to be confident about my work. With a decent portion of self-confidence, I set out to approach them. It took a few attempts at first and the rest followed.“

Did big names like Buchanan, Lorber, JR, Wiebe, Pescetto, Mark Antony, also unlock doors to the benefit of your own reputation (Swiss Idol, DJ Bobo, Lorber albums)? Tell us, under what circumstances your first global musical foray started.
„Somehow, it had opened some doors or rather „ears“. Apparently, the willingness of being perceived and recognized by people from the music business had grown. Finally, it is „you“ who determines the direction and how to approach people. My opinion is that as long as you have something to offer, there will be enough opportunities. With a budget of 20 grand for „The Real Me“ I had travelled to L.A. which seemed to be sufficient for the production I was seeking. Don’t forget, that is already 18 years ago. Indeed the monetary value has changed immensely.“

One question/two answers: can you give us some insight from the perspective of 1995 and then from 2014 just how international credits of first-league studio musicians had an impact on record sales?
„Meanwhile it has no effect! – Alas! There are few fans reading liner notes in the booklets nowadays! The glory days of purchasing CDs from new artists on the basis of „who has played on this one“ are definitely over. Eventually it’s all about music itself which has still remained. It’s a pity that studio musicians, like us, get much less exposure like in the earlier days. Back then one was forced to make a lot more musical decisions in advance. Nobody could afford to shelve decisions as to whether musical parts would fit or not which was beneficial for the sake of music. Today with this huge „track count“ of digital technology (up to 200 tracks and more), you can always discard everything and start all over again whenever you want. In many cases some immense benefits are obvious. But making important decisions keeps you more focused and target-oriented about the production Until 6 months ago, I had worked at Studio B at the Powerplay Studios in Switzerland which I had rented. There, I did all my productions the past ten years. Today, although I am still at Powerplay, I am in „Studio D“ which is just a midi studio.“

Were any charts of „THE REAL ME“ fleshed out? Do you have to offer any files or sheet music in advance? How far do you give them plenty of rope?
„Just the horn parts are fleshed out and possibly a melody line for a soloist. Otherwise there are chord charts in existence. The challenge is tracking down suitable musicians for the corresponding song. Most parts are worked out very much on my demos. But, it is also very important leaving enough space for the musicians‘ interpretations, something that I’m striving for at the end of the day!“

Like on Thierry Condor’s CD ‚Stuff Like That ‚ and your solo album ‚Somebody New‘ a certain mixture of American and Swiss musicians like Chris Muzik, Thierry, Claudio Cervino, Tomy Geiger or Janet Dawkins is eye-catching! How do you develop an idea or empathy if different musical cultures will be fitting together? As to „THE REAL ME“ this formula has worked out great.
„As you said, these are hand-picked Swiss top musicians. There might be some kind of difference in terms of routine of the A- player in L. A.. But musically, the Swiss guys aren’t living in the shadow of L.A. cats at all.“

Janet Dawkins has a great soulful voice (4 U And …). Are you going to work with her again?
„Janet Dawkins and I have written numerous songs together. She has an incredible voice that is one of a kind like Thierry’s! Among others, we have written the song „Somebody New“ and are still sharing the same musical preferences to this day. „4 U And …“ was composed by me in Paris around 1996. Later on she added her lyrics to the tune. I will definitely work together with her again in the future.“

Why can especially Swiss and Scandinavians realize this particular style of Smooth Jazz or West Coast Jazz? Many musicians from Scandinavia are either classically trained or coming from Christian families. Your opinion?
„Sweden has an incredible scene. But I can’t answer that question with all the will in the world.“

How much has the market changed in your opinion? What would you change in the case of releasing „THE REAL ME“ nowadays?
„The market is changing almost monthly! But styles remain. West Coast will always have its special vibe even if sounds are slightly more modern. For „The Real Me Vol. 2 “ I wouldn’t change anything in terms of the producer/singer concept. However, I would focus myself a little more during the production process which could probably lead to the aforementioned golden thread.“

Who usually buys your CDs. Are they liner note geeks or even Smooth Jazz fans who don’t care about the credits in the booklet?
„:))) I just think music fans who really dig West Coast/Smooth Jazz and appreciate awesome singers while being fatally-attracted romantics like me! :)“

I can constantly listen to the album in one go because it features some characteristics that have been etched in the music fans‘ mind. I’m going to throw out a couple of keywords such as:
– Sounds of Rhodes, Moog Bass, DX7 , Linn drum machines ……
– GRP influences, top-notch productions (Prisca)
– Patti Austin/Diane Schuur -like vocals on „Best Friend“ by Michelle Anderle or „Ventura Blvd“ by Janet.
– Here and there some CCM influences like Amy Grant, Harlan Rogers, Phil Keaggy, Koinonia, Hadley Hockensmith)
What had left a mark on you in particular and where are your sources to seek?
„Wow! Many kind words here! – Thank you! So if I may call year dates it would be the L.A. studio scene from 1981 to 1999. Ranging from „Give Me The Night“, „20/20″ (George Benson), all of Quincy Jones‘ albums at that time, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Walter Afanasieff, David Foster and the list goes on and on. As to the music of which I’m actually producing 90 % nowadays (DJ Bobo, Ruth Mixter, Julia Star, etc.), I am very much oriented towards MTV and radio as well as the U.S. and UK charts.“

Some music fans might consider the former studio scenery as something very ‚romantic‘. The delusion about it being surrounded by all these stars and studio cats doesn’t obviously take some shady sides of pressure and competition into account. How do you see this situation today with some kind of long-term experience and what have you learned that you didn’t know then?
„It is like at home! We all put our pants on the same way and are happy when we are allowed to participate in great music! Sure enough, the pressure among studio musicians in the United States is huge! They are playing mostly on superstar albums which can turn out to be very complex. The whole machinery behind it is „20 hectares“ bigger so to speak and much more vulnerable in comparison to ours. But basically, it is also all about music behind the studio walls!“

Was „THE REAL ME“ in retrospect the fulfillment of your own dreams?
„In many ways, yes! Having met all these cats personally and working with them was a very inspiring experience! I have learned so much and had to work hard, but most – I had a blast!“

What can we expect in the future from you? With whom would you love to collaborate with whom you haven’t worked with yet?
„At this point, I don’t want to disclose too much. But Joe Pizzulo, James Ingram and Deborah Cox are great singers! ;-)“

Thank you very much for the interview, Urs.

(Uwe Reith)

Tracklisting: 

1. Intro
Urs Wiesendanger & Janet Dawkins
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Rhodes – Robbie Buchanan
Drums – John JR Robinson
Bass – Wolfgang Zwieauer
Guitars – Claudio Cervino & Chris Muzik
Percussions – Balthasar Zimmermann
Additional Keyboards – Robbie Buchanan
Backing Vocals – Janet Dawkins, Thierry Condor, Sabina Stokes

2. California
Urs Wiesendanger & Andrew Koller
Vocals – Greg Galli
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Claudio Cervino
Percussions – Balthasar Zimmermann
Backing Vocals – Jasmine Meguide

3. Separate Ways
Urs Wiesendanger & Sergio Fertitta
Vocals – Jeff Pescetto
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Rhodes & Synth. Bass – Robbie Buchanan
Drums – John JR Robinson
Guitars – Claudio Cervino
Additional Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Backing Vocals – Thierry Condor

4. 4 U and…
Urs Wiesendanger & Janet Dawkins
Vocals – Janet Dawkins
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Claudio Cervino
Backing Vocals – Janet Dawkins

5. Nowhere
Urs Wiesendanger
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Sopran Sax – Thomi Geiger

6. Something Special
Urs Wiesendanger & Sergio Fertitta
Vocals – Mark Antony
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Claudio Cervino
Baking Vocals – Janet Dawkins

7. Move
Urs Wiesendanger
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Claudio Cervino

8. Prisca
Urs Wiesendanger
Sax – Warren Hill
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Additional Keyboards – Robbie Buchanan
Guitars – Claudio Cervino

9. Move On
Urs Wiesendanger
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Claudio Cervino

10. Waiting
Urs Wiesendanger & Sergio Fertitta
Vocals – Thierry Condor
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Drums – John JR Robinson
Rhodes – Robbie Buchanan
Bass – Wolfgang Zwieauer
Strings arranged & performed by Wolfgang Drechsler

11. Ragga Real
Urs Wiesendanger
Vocals – King Tall Man & Lee Sye
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger & Balthasar Zimmermann

12. Mr. Jones
Urs Wiesendanger
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Bass – Wolfgang Zwieauer

13. Another Chance For Love
Urs Wiesendanger & Andrew Koller
Vocals – Jeri Lynne & Warren Wiebe
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Rhodes – Robbie Buchanan
Bass – Wolfgang Zwieauer
Guitars – Chris Muzik
Sax – Eric Marienthal
Strings arranged & performed by Wolfgang Drechsler

14. Turn Out The Lamplight
Rod Temperton
Vocals – Thierry Condor
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Percussions – Balthasar Zimmermann
Guitars – Claudio Cervino
Backing Vocals – Sabina Stokes

15. J&U
Urs Wiesendanger & Jeff Lorber
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Chris Muzik
Piano Sound – Jeff Lorber

16. Ventura Blvd.
Urs Wiesendanger & Janet Dawkins
Drum-Programming & Keyboards – Urs Wiesendanger
Sax – Thomi Geiger
Backing Vocals – Janet Dawkins

17. Best Friend
Urs Wiesendanger & Michelle Anderle
Vocals – Michelle Anderle
Grand Piano & Strings – Urs Wiesendanger
Guitars – Claudio Cervino
Bass – Paul Buchmeier
Drums – Daniel Stern

Recordet at: Fast Peak, Conway Hollywood CA, Devonshire CA, JHL Pacific Palisades CA and Bunny Hop CA

Mixed by Urs Wiesendanger at Fast Peak Recordings
Production Coordination: Prisca Oswald

All Songs Produced by Urs Wiesendanger
„Ragga Real“ Produced by Urs Wiesendanger & Balthasar Zimmerman
Executive Producers: Nick & Robin Heizmann for NiRo Sounds

(c) 2015 NiRo Sounds

[www.niromusic.com]


Links zu den Urs Wiesendanger Interviews & Rezensionen:

[Somebody New] in Deutsch
[The Real Me] in Deutsch
[The Real Me] in English
[I Will] in Deutsch

 

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