By David Iozzia
Robert Fleischman is a singer-songwriter who joined Journey in the late 70's and helped it evolve from a rock-fusion band to a commercial-sounding, radio-friendly, and multi-platinum arena rock band. Robert was the original lead vocalist prior to Steve Perry. He wrote and performed with Journey for almost a year. During his stint, he wrote their first hit singles, "Wheel in the Sky" and "Anytime."
After leaving Journey, Robert released his first solo album for Arista Records, 1974's "Perfect Stranger." He also formed the melodic rock band Channel, which released a self-titled debut album for Epic Records in 1984.
Robert made the big leap in 1986 from mainstream rock to metal when he joined up with guitarist Vinnie Vincent, drummer Bobby Rock, and bass guitarist Dana Strum in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.
Throughout the 90's, Robert continued writing songs and scoring music for feature film and television projects. He continues to release solo records during the 21st century. His latest is called "Look At The Dream," and we chatted on the telephone about it recently.
Dave: Hello Robert. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do this interview for my website. It's bitter cold in New Jersey with snow and ice everywhere. Where are you now and what city do you call home?
ROBERT: I live in Belmont Shores, over by the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, California.
Dave: Congratulations and best of luck on the release of your new record, "Look At The Dream." In the music industry of the 21st century, is it possible to release a record and have expectations, or do you just have to take a "wait and see" attitude?
ROBERT: It's a little bit of both because of today's technology. A musical artist is able to put out his own record and not have to kowtow to everybody else's ideas. If you can finance it and give it a little boost, it can grow and pop out of the ground, and people can take a look at it. Good things can happen. Technology also lets you re-invent yourself if you do it smart. In the past, when you were involved with record companies, you didn't have control over your own destiny. Your hands were off the wheel; you've gave your baby away and the record company did whatever they wanted to do. They say that they're going to do one thing, but then so many other people get involved. To make a record really happen, you need all of the people involved in synchronization. Every gear, big and small, have to work on the same project. When that doesn't happen, your record is yesteryear.
Dave: The title track, "Look At The Dream," is the first single. How's it been charting?
ROBERT: It's charting and things are moving unexpectedly fast; I didn't think I'd hear anything for months. The first week it was the ACQB number 3 most-added track on FM adult/contemporary radio stations.
Dave: Is it a different mix than the version of that song that appeared on "World In Your Eyes"?
ROBERT: Yes, it's a different mix. Backing vocals and a lot of other things were taken out. You can definitely hear the difference if you play them back to back. I had a bad experience doing "World In Your Eyes" for Frontier Records. At the last minute, they took the project away. They thought it sounded too contemporary and modern. They put a yesteryear spin on it. I totally abandoned that record; I told them that they can take it and never call me again.
Dave: I only have a promo copy of "Look At The Dream" and there's no liner notes. Did you write all of the material? Who are some of the musicians you used?
ROBERT: The CD packaging is really cool; it includes a 16-page booklet with all the lyrics and graphics on all of the panels. It's 100 percent me except for one song where I wrote some of the music with Josh Ramos. He was with The Storm and Hardline. I write all of my songs on acoustic guitar and then I play with a drum machine. Then I start putting on keyboards and electric guitar.
Dave: Are you planning any live shows in 2007 to support the record?
ROBERT: Nothing's scheduled. I have to get the record going first.
Dave: Music fans can link to your new website, www.robertfleischman.com, and your MySpace page, www.myspace.com/robertfleischman, to hear song samples but how would you verbally describe the musical direction of "Look At The Dream"?
ROBERT: It's pop-rock oriented. There's a mixture of songs that if you hear them individually, you wouldn't think they were on the same record. But it all seems to flow and that's what was intended. There's something for everybody on this record. I tried to "salt and pepper" the record this time.
Dave: "Look At The Dream" is available for downloading at iTunes. When will it be released to retail outlets?
ROBERT: It'll be available retail by the end of March.
Dave: Your website bio quotes you stating "Every album I've done recently has been different than the others and that is because I like to go in and record whatever I'm feeling at the moment." The bio also states that with "Look At The Dream," you've found the balance between commercial success and artistic self-interest. That being said, did you go into the studio with a pre-conceived musical direction in mind, or did it take shape and find that balance as the recording sessions proceeded?
ROBERT: It naturally took shape once I got into the studio. After seven songs were done, I sat back and asked myself what the record needed. From there, I wrote "Blue Bird" and "Come Alive," and that made the record more rock. I needed to add more pepper. I think that's my writing style; I stack one next to the other and it kind of happens. I do my homework, going in with acoustic guitar, melody, and lyrics. Then I start layering. After I stepped away and got some perspective, it looked like it would be a record that has something for everybody. I could have sequenced it a lot of different ways but it seems to flow pretty well.
Dave: In a previous interview, you offered this advice to fellow musicians: "Be ready to re-invent yourself over and over musically." With "Look At The Dream," did Robert Fleischman re-invent himself?
ROBERT: I believe I have, in the fact that I did the whole thing 100 percent me. I didn't have to listen to any record execs or A&R guys telling me what they thought. I went on my own instincts and what I've learned musically throughout the years.
Dave: I love your statements that "it's all about the writing" and "what really matters is the songs." Can songwriters self-critique themselves?
ROBERT: The process of writing is self-critiquing yourself throughout the whole thing, one little block at a time.
Dave: What I find most impressive is how you've crossed over into different styles and genres of music.
ROBERT: Well thank you Dave.
Dave: Your back catalog includes "Dreaming in Tongues," which features cello and acoustic guitar, Christian rock on "The Lord's Prayer," Electronica on "Kinetic Phenomena," and the ambient "Electric Raindrops." Obviously, you re-invented yourself on these releases, but you've shown the courage to take chances and leave yourself vulnerable. Any thoughts on what musical path you're taking next time?
ROBERT: I'm thinking about a hybrid of rave music and heavy metal. Something with a lot of energy and a flowing melody over it.
Dave: Something tells me that whatever road you take with your songwriting, your fans are going to enjoy the ride.
ROBERT: I hope so!
Dave: Stepping back to the days of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, was he over-demanding in the studio or difficult to work with?
ROBERT: No. It's really a shame how our relationship has been viewed because there were only a few wacky incidents. Vinnie's a very nice person, he's sensitive, and he's a great father.
Dave: I perceive him as a perfectionist on his instrument and wonder how that trickles down to the musicians under him. Does he hold himself to one standard, or does his band have to attain the same standard?
ROBERT: There's a little bit of "elitist" to him, but I've always found Vinnie to be generous with me. Anything shoddy was forgiven, and we worked together afterward.
Dave: Why didn't you appear on the "Boyz Are Gonna Rock" video?
ROBERT: That video, with Mark Slaughter lip-synching my voice, was like the first Milli Vanilli. On the day of doing the photograph for the stupid album cover, they wanted me to wear a wig. I refused and then a stylist did some weird thing with my hair. Vinnie's manager came up to me with a telephone book-thick legal document to sign for a management agreement. He told me to sign it and trust him, but I wanted my lawyer to review it. Then he had to go back to Chrysalis and admit he lied because he told them I was already in the bag. The shit hit the fan. I told them that my allegiance was to Vinnie and that we had our own agreement. I didn't want any ties to that manager. Once Chrysalis go involved, they threatened to take my voice off the record. I knew if they headed back into the studio with a new lead singer that Vinnie would want to re-mix it and spend more of their money. Next thing I know, I was called up by a friend who said Vinnie's video was premiering on MTV. Some guy in black pants with panties outside his pants was singing, and it was my voice coming out. If I was Elvis, I would have been shooting out the TV and everything else behind it.
Dave: The Invasion never toured after that?
ROBERT: No. I played some shows with Vinnie and it's very delicate. He plays those leads and breaks strings every other song. What do you do? Could you see yourself standing in front of a bunch of people and every other song he breaks strings and you have to stand there and tap-dance?
Dave: If there was enough demand from fans and promoters, and if Vinnie asked and your schedule allowed it, would you do a Vinnie Vincent Invasion tour?
ROBERT: I don't know; that was so long ago.
Dave: Has Vinnie talked about you handling the vocals on any future recordings?
ROBERT: I haven't heard from Vinnie in a long time. I've put out feelers but haven't gotten any response. He's pretty secluded.
Dave: Have you heard Journey's new singer, Jeff Scott Soto?
ROBERT: Not with Journey, but I heard him in Soul Sirkus. I think the new configuration, with Jeff singing and Deen Castronovo drumming, has a little more edge to it. When they come around here, I'll hear them. I wish them luck with the new record and I hope they write some really good songs. They have a chance here to really do something.
Dave: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems to have its own agenda and has been pretty subjective with the bands it inducts. Do you think Journey will someday get the recognition it deserves by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
ROBERT: That's a good question. We were really lucky to receive the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It looks like if Journey got that, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might be the next step. Maybe it softened up the situation for the Hall of Fame induction to happen.
Dave: Unless there is anything I've neglected to cover that you'd like to promote, thanks again for the interview and feel free to add some closing comments for your fans.
ROBERT: I just hope everybody responds well to the record and enjoys it. I'm not one who goes out to try to be famous. I just want to put out really good work that people like. I just try to do what I do, and if people dig it, they dig it. If they don't, they don't. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it because I'm going to write like I've always done: every day.