Vertigo: A new project for one of the voice's of AOR.

Joseph Williams talks in detail about the new Vertigo project and the songs contained within. Throw in a little Toto and some Beautiful Music. Read on...

Joseph, great to catch up with you!
Yeah, It's a pleasure. I'm sorry I missed you last night as well, things have been getting quite busy around here, so…

You bet.
Which is not a bad thing. A lot of stuff going on in the world of television.

Absolutely. I saw a resume for you, it seems you are quite in demand in that area.
Well I don't know about in demand, but I take everything that comes my way. It's hard for me to say no, that's for certain.

What exactly do you do as far as TV work?
Well it's underscoring. Doing the musical score for different television series. I've been doing that for about 8 years.

As well as some smaller features. I started out doing that about 12 years ago, and then I kind of fell into television and enjoyed it. You know from time to time things creep up, the work to do, new show, that kind of thing. This year I'm basically assisting and sort of co-writing on a series, an American series here with the television composer by the name of Snuffy Walden, he's pretty well know in these parts.

And that's about it, and then, you know, singing when I can do it.

Yeah, now the TV work is instrumental right?
Yeah, it's the dramatic underscoring.

So do you miss singing on a full time basis?
I wouldn't say that I necessarily miss it. About 2 or 3 times a year I miss being able to be on the road. I enjoyed that. I don't think I would be happy on the road, you know, all the time though. It was OK when I was a bit younger but now with home and kids and everything and the amount of travel that's necessary, I don't think I could do it for instance as many months out of the year as the Toto guys do.

Yeah, exactly, I'm not sure how they do it actually. In fact they're probably one of the few people that actually do it these days.
Well you know there's a few out there, but in terms of their world touring they really are quite busy. They're all over the globe. One of my good friends, a guy by the name of Jason Scheff - the bass player for Chicago. His bread and butter job, as they say, is making records but mostly on the road, the tours with Chicago. So for a good 7 or 8 months out of the year, he's gone. He's on the road. It's a lot of fun. I mean its hard work, it can be a lot of fun but the travel, the traveling part of it doesn't agree with me. I like to travel every once in a while but I don't really miss that aspect of it. I certainly miss being up on stage and performing.

Do you do that at all these days?
Well, you know, occasionally something will come up and I will. It's been a while. I mean the last time I really performed in a real show kind of situation was…Do you know who Jay Graydon is?

Yes indeed.
Jay put together a little band

You did an album with Jay didn't you?
Yeah, we did an album and then toured twice with that album. And that was pretty much the last time I really did the full blown concert touring and shows and stuff. And then a lot of recording and I do a lot of singing on commercials and things like that here in Los Angeles. But I haven't done a great deal of touring. I'm hoping that for instance with this Vertigo record that there might be enough, just enough of a success with it so that we can afford to be able to do some shows.

I'm sure Frontiers would love to see you out on the road. Or doing at least a few shows in Europe to support it.
Of course, absolutely. And I would love to do it if we can work out a way to do it that's cost effective and can work. Actually I take that back…in terms of the last time I really played live. My manager and co-producer on a lot of these projects is a guy by the name of Joey Carbone.
I'm sure you've heard that name.

Yes indeed.
From time to time, he and I will go off to Japan and do some club dates and stuff like that. The last one we did was about a year and a half ago.
And that's kind of a simple, you know, low budget, just a few instruments and myself kind of thing to do. There's still a pretty decent market over there for '80s melodic rock. That kind of thing.
And there are a few clubs over there that support artists who are still doing that kind of music. So I go over there from time to time with no particular project to support. Just kind of go over for half fun, half work.

Yeah, sure. It's been six years since your last solo album.
Did you intend it to be such a big gap or sort of did you just become busy elsewhere? I know there's not a lot of money in the making solo records for anyone, maybe that was an influence over you?

Well it's definitely not a money thing.
I mean the records that I made in the past that brought in enough and were a blast to make. I kind of fell into this world of film composing and television composing. And it can be very rewarding and very lucrative. It also can dry up sometimes. It's a feast or famine kind of a world.

But you know I spent a lot of time building a studio so that I could write for films and stuff and I found that I really enjoyed it. And then I started getting work and then one thing came after another, after another, after another and especially in television you can get quite busy really fast. And the commitments and the deadlines can be very, very intense. So it's not that I didn't want to do another album, it's just that the time never became available. And also during that 6 year stretch I don't think I wrote more than 2 or 3 songs.

Yeah, this is true. But I have hours and hours of instrumental music for the underscoring I have been doing. You know, so Joey and I are always looking for opportunities to make records or work on projects such as the Vertigo thing, that kind of thing. And you know the first one that came along, that seemed to make sense that seemed like something that the fans, the old Toto fans from when I was in the group would enjoy was this project so we jumped on it.

How did it come along? How did Frontiers talk to you about it or pitch it to you because it's a great record? I really do like it!
Well thanks. I appreciate it. It definitely harkens back to a mid-80s, late 80s kind of music. It was a lot of fun to make. On this particular project I think the way it happened was that Serafino, who I guess either owns the company contacted Joey in the hopes of doing another solo album actually. And there was a lot of discussion over many, many months over how we could do this or how it would come about and after talking about it for a while I had become extremely busy with television. I was doing 2 or 3 shows at about the same time, during that period of time. And I couldn't commit to taking the time that I feel is necessary to write an album's worth of songs.

So I proposed to them, or Joey proposed that if Serafino would be interested, that they could collect a group of songs from writers that they knew, Joey had written some songs and run them by me and of course Serafino and try and pick a batch of tunes that we could record on a record. And that would eliminate the time constraint in terms of the song writing. It's not that I don't ever want to write songs again, at that time I was so busy with TV I just didn't have time to do that. So they agreed to put a package of some songs together. I think we listened to about 30 or 40 tunes.

And then we talked about actually making this record. And there were some budget concerns in terms of how Joey and I would go about making a record. The same way that we did for Three or I'm Alive. And the idea came up that Serafino would use his friend Fabrizio to actually cut the tracks. And I liked that idea, however to me it didn't seem like…for it to be a solo album, really technically a solo album of mine, I feel like I want to be involved in every aspect of it.

Yeah, OK that's a good point.
So we decided on this particular project to give the project a name and say that it features me.

Excellent idea. I think some people will be interested in the reasoning behind the project name, you have explained it perfectly.
This way it just felt a little bit more comfortable for me. Fabrizio recorded all of the songs, produced all of the tracks instrumentally from top to bottom without really any of my involvement. I just kept working on what I was doing. And he delivered to me the tracks and I brought them to my studio and over about a month and a half, did all the vocals alone. On my own. That was how it happened.
We fixed a few things over at Fabrizio's studio but that was pretty much how it happened.

Yeah, yeah, OK. It's a very good sounding record. I must compliment you on how good it does sound.
Well thank you, I appreciate it.

I think it's great. And it's great to hear you singing with a much harder edge than possibly you've ever sung before.
Well, certainly it's very similar to the old Toto days. It was nice to be able to do the vocals alone, in my own studio in sort of a comfortable setting. So that I could really just let loose. And I could do as many takes as I wanted to without having anybody to sort of direct. It was just easier that way to direct myself. That was really the very first time I had ever done a project that way. There was literally no one else involved in the recording of the vocals.

Could you see yourself doing something like this again?
Oh absolutely. I would be ready to jump into another project immediately if we collected the right songs. And I would also probably put…feel it necessary at this point to contribute a few songs of my own too. It felt good to be singing like that again.
To be honest with you I hadn't really done it in a long time and wasn't very comfortable doing it after the Toto days. I hurt my voice considerably during that period of time, on that last tour.
It's not that it was gone for any length of time, but it was not as comfortable and easy for me to get it to that kind of edgy… screaming is what I call it. So this was a chance to that. I started to do that… to be very honest with you, when I finished all the vocals at my house on this project, I went to Fabrizio's studio for two days and replaced and fixed a few things on a few songs that actually needed a little bit more screaming. And the end result is what you hear on the record. I took it as far as I could and then Serafino and Fabrizio felt that they could push me a little bit and it was a good idea. I think the results were very good.

Yeah, definitely…very good indeed.
Are there any songs that you sort of were handed to consider that you thought there's absolutely no way? I mean these are 12 songs that you've picked out, those the ones that really appeal to you are they?
I think we listened to about 30 things and to be honest with you, most of them were not very good. I think I listened to maybe 15 or 16 songs first and I think out of those there were like 2 that I liked. And then I listened to another 10, I think there were like 3 or 4 out of that batch and then on and on like that until we agreed on a set of songs. I wasn't just me either, Serafino needed to agree on the songs, Joey needed to agree on the songs. But I trust Joey's judgment completely. And he, of course, every time they would send me a batch of songs to listen to, Joey would throw one of his in there.

Right, excellent.
And without telling me so I didn't know whose…
It just so happened that a couple of the ones that he wrote I really liked. 'More Than Enough' being my favorite one of his compositions.

Yes, excellent song.
And you know, to be really, perfectly honest, I think the last one on my list was 'Love is Blind'. But it seemed to fit the whole concept of the record so in the end I agreed that that could be on there. But I really loved 'Sara' when I first heard it. The song 'Sara' on the Vertigo record. I really feel in love with that song right off the bat. And I loved the song 'I Want to be Wanted'.

Yeah, that's a great song isn't it?
I had a great time with that song.

Yeah, that's a very good album.
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. There were a few others that I really liked. The song titled 'Vertigo' was very odd to me.

It is a little bit …, it's probably the most left of center track on there isn't it?
It's very strange, you know, lyrically, I looked at the lyrics when they sent it over and it made absolutely no sense. It reminded me a little bit of early David Paich because a lot of his lyrics, if you take a look at 'Hold the Line', the lyrics don't really make any sense. But they sound good on your mouth, you know what I mean?
They sound good on your tongue. And they feel good to sing with the particular notes and stuff and I thought that 'Vertigo' was one of those things. It was more about the sound of the syllables than it was the meaning of the words. And you know, kind of a strange verse. When it kicks into that chorus section that it has in the song I just fell in love with it. I love that.

It's one that pushes your vocals a little bit further isn't it?
It is but surprisingly that one was not difficult to do. That one seemed to suit me quite well.

What track did you find the hardest to do?
Well let's see, I wish I had a list of the tracks in front of me, I can't remember all of the names.

I'll tell you a couple of my favorites and that is 'Never Let You Go' and 'Straight to Your Heart'.
Yeah, you know, 'Straight to Your Heart' was probably one of the more difficult ones. And 'More Than Enough' took a bit of massaging to get good. I did a vocal from top to bottom, worked on that one for about a week and got it to where I really loved it, but then we went back in to Fabrizio's studio and redid a few of the verses. Mainly for just a little bit more, just pushing it a little bit further. The verses I had done originally were very technically right on but were a little safe sounding. If you can follow me.

Yeah, exactly.
And then on that same day we added some of the blowing over the end and during the choruses which seemed to really help the sound.
If this gives you any insight at all, the song called 'Sara', it was instantly suited to my voice and to my vocal chords or I don't know how else to put it. That song was… I probably did that song in less than a day.

Really! I've got the album that song is from actually, he's a very good singer.
Yeah, he's a great singer. All those very long tones sung with no vibrato, just very loud. On the original album it's not as loud I think as I did it but all those very long tones with no real shake to them and everything, I love doing that stuff. So that song was really easy and comfortable to do.

You have another record sort of recorded but unreleased at this stage isn't it, a covers of some musical tunes from soundtrack themes. Due out in Japan wasn't it?
Well the only record I'm aware of that was never released was the thing that Joey and I did that was a piano-vocal record.

That's the one. “Beautiful Music”.

Yeah, what happened with that?
Well it's never been released and the…did you ever hear it?

No, I'd love to.
It's completely different from this latest thing. The idea with that record was to record an album's worth of material that could be used specifically in Japan and marketed as something that people could play for instance at their wedding. This was the idea behind it or at least one of the concepts that the record guy, the executive over there had. Kos Gori was his name. And so we like the idea, we wanted to do something that was low budget, that wasn't going to take a lot of time and a lot of instrumentation, there wasn't a lot of money. What I wanted to do, I wanted to do a cover album of all Elvis Presley tunes.

Oh really!
Yeah, that was my idea from the beginning.

So they didn't agree to that. They didn't want it to be all Elvis but came up with the idea of picking love songs, or songs that people have grown to love over the years and things that people generally play at their weddings or birthday parties or whatever, that kind of thing. And I purposely picked songs that could be sung in an extremely low range. It's a nice sort of change of pace for me, to go against what I normally do and sing very low. My speaking voice is a lot lower than my singing voice.

Most high singers from the rock bands of the '70s and '80s, not all, but a lot of them, Bobby Kimball, Jon Anderson, guys like that. They all speak - they all talk to you like this (speaks in high voice). They all have these really high voices so you know when they sing it's not really that far of a jump from where they're talking.

Right (laughs).
Which is precisely why I hurt my voice so badly when I was doing Toto. I was singing really out of my range on those tours. And it wasn't really the Bobby Kimball stuff it was, do you remember Fergie Frederikson?

Very much so.
It was the Fergie songs that killed me.

Yeah, you came in right after that album didn't you?
I came in after that album. On the first tour on the Fahrenheit tour we didn't do any of the Isolation songs. But on the Seventh One tour we added a few of the songs off of Isolation and a few more other Kimball songs. And the songs off of The Seventh One were also very high we worked a long time in the studio to get them. So vocally that tour was just really, really difficult. So anyway the idea with this love record was to do something that I could sing really down low. Just for fun. And so it's all songs like that. It's all…'I Can't Help Falling In Love With You' sort of sung more like the Elvis version than anything else just with the piano accompaniment, that's the whole record. It's neat. It's a nice change of pace, definitely different.

I saw it as due for release in Japan but I never saw it released so I wondered what happened.
As far as I know the record company, whatever their deal was with this internet company or whatever it was fell through to my knowledge. But to be honest with you I don't really know. But we were always a bit disappointed that it never came out.

Yeah. Still, I'd love to hear it. Is there still a chance that it will come out?
I don't see why not. I mean they paid us to do it. I mean normally its kind of bad business not to at least put it out there and try to make your money back.

So I mean from that standpoint, if it were me, you know I would try to find a home for it somewhere. But …, or maybe, perhaps after a few years they'll just release it back to us, we can sell it ourselves on the internet or something.

Sure, yeah, OK.
I mean it's not going to be a real high… in high demand kind of a record because it's not what people know me for, that's for sure.

And it's a very specific kind of themed album. Based on a concept that we talked about with these people. It's a strange bird, that album.

Yeah, OK.
But for people who have been kind enough to collect my work over the years it certainly would be something I'd love for them to have.

Yeah, well I'm a fan from Fahrenheit so I was most keen to get a hold of it, but alas not.
Well I'll tell you the truth, Joey nor myself, we don't even have it.

I assume that there's a copy of the master here somewhere that maybe Joey knows about but I have no copies. I don't even think they ever made a CD package for it.
So one of those kind of lost projects that will either be put out or resurface once I die or something.

(laughs) Great, great, excellent! Do you talk to the Toto guys anymore?
I talk to Steve Porcaro very often.

Yeah, you did a CD single with him didn't you? One song?
I did the CD single for he and his brother Mike…and Steve. But Steve is also film composing and doing television and stuff. So he and I are kind of, you know, in the same circles still. Of the five guys that I worked with when I first joined that band, I thing I've remained closest with him. But I still talk to Luke, we had an email conversation over about three days about a week and a half ago, or actually maybe two weeks ago. Right before they left for their latest run out there. And I wish I could say that I talk with Dave more because he and I were very good friends when I was in the group but we kind of just haven't really stayed in touch, but I'm still friendly and on good terms with all of them. Oddly enough, years after I left the group I got very close to Bobby Kimball, working on those acapella records. Do you know about those?

The West Coast All Stars?

Right, yes.
So we put that, Joey and I put that project together and Ross, the rest of they guys in. It was really Joey's idea and Bill Champlin and I were going to kind of run the whole thing and do all the arrangements and that kind of thing. We had Champlin and Jason and Bobby and myself on the first one. And I had a chance to really get very close…, a nice, good, close relationship with Kimball. Which is kind of strange. Most people wouldn't have maybe thought of that. But we got very close and we did a couple of promotional tours and a few little club dates in Japan behind those records. And then in '99 we did a little short tour together with Toto, the release of the 20th anniversary record.

That's right, yeah.
So we did a short little run in and around Scandinavia and Germany and northern Europe there and performed some of those songs that were on that record that were never released and that was fun. I think the audience enjoyed seeing two guys up there to sing. You know, two lead singers, it was a strange show.

It would have been, yeah.
It was, but it was a lot of fun, it really was. It was a lot of fun and that little tour was the catalyst that got Bobby back in the group. So it worked out great for everybody.

He's a good guy.
He's a great guy. Just wonderful, sweat human being. He's just an incredible singer. I mean your hair literally flies behind you when he's singing in front of you. He's got one of the loudest voices I've ever heard in my life. When we were doing the acapella record, you know, the four of us would stand around the microphone and do these harmony parts, and you know, Bill and Jason and myself would be clustered around the microphone and Bobby would have to stand in the back of the room just to get the blend right.

That's funny!
He's really an amazing talent, that guy. And of course years before I even joined the group I was a fan of theirs as well and Kimball was one of my heroes. When I was 17, 18 years old. It was fun mimicking him on the road.

Is there anything else you've got, sort of planned at the moment? Slip back into the film music at the moment?
I'm slipping back into that because, mainly because over the last eight or so years it's been, what I would call my bread and butter. But I'm a little more excited about doing these kind of records after this Vertigo record because I'm very happy with the way it came out. And I'm thinking that if it does a decent amount of sales, at the very least, I think, the fans, like as I said are kind enough to collect my records, will maybe want to buy it. And maybe give Frontiers a reason to be interested in doing another one. I would love to work with them again. This project was…I can't even tell you how easy it was.

That's great.
In terms of the people, and you know, Serafino and his company and Fabrizio Grossi, all these people, it was just absolutely a breeze. And so I would be very, very interested and excited to do another one of these and perhaps collect some more, maybe half an album's worth of songs from outside writers that would in my opinion be even better than the ones on this record. And then add a few of my own.

That's great! That's great! I think they'd really love to hear that. And so you might do a Joseph William's album as well?
Well the other possibility is that if this thing really works and they want to do another record, you know, perhaps the next one will be titled that way instead of a project thing. But who knows, I mean maybe we'll just take the idea of this Vertigo thing and make a few albums, who knows.

Yeah, I'd love to hear a follow up, for sure.
I mean in a way, I do consider this record a kind of a follow up, although technically it's not really, sort of, numbered as a fourth Joseph William's album, but it is. You know, I mean we put the project together, we picked the songs, I did all of the singing. I just didn't feel comfortable making it technically a Joseph William's album without really having a hand in producing all of the tracks.

I think that's a great explanation.
So that's kind of my explanation for that but you know I'm hoping that if they, if Frontiers wants to make another record that maybe I can find more time to be a little bit more involved in actually cutting the tracks. But I loved doing it this way; don't get me wrong, I really did. It was really a pleasure to just have, you know, great tracks delivered to me, for me to work on, on my own in my studio. You know, take my time and over dub and fix, double and harmonies and stuff with nobody breathing down my neck. I loved doing it that way.

Yeah, well I think you're very pleased with the results and I think the feedback you'll get will be very positive.
Well, one can only hope.

Yeah. Absolutely. Well that's about all I had for you Joseph.
OK. May I ask where you are right now?

Yeah, I'm in Australia.
Wow, I want to go. The one place I haven't been, I'm dying to be.

You should come down here.
I would love to come down.

I've got a couple of good friends that are major Toto fans, certainly. They'll be thoroughly looking forward to this record.
You were able to get an advanced copy of it so that you could be armed with questions?

(I had) more fun doing this than I've had in a long time so it was great.

Fantastic! I think you can tell on the record too.
Well thank you. I appreciate it.

Excellent! All right Joseph, thanks for your time.
It's my pleasure.

Anything else I can do, check out the site and just drop me a line.
I appreciate that very much. And same here….

Thanks for your time Joseph.
My pleasure.