Interview with Fergie Frederiksen (Toto/Le Roux)

MER: Your new album, Happiness Is The Road has just been released. It’s a real treat for Melodic Rock fans. You must be thrilled with how it’s turned out …

FF: I am pleased with it. I had my questions as to how it would be received and what people would think of my vocal performances, but the producer Dennis Ward was fantastic and he helped me to make a really great record that I’m very proud of.

MER: How did the idea for the album first come together?

FF: Serafino from Frontiers Records contacted me and asked if I’d like to do an album of songs that he had picked for me to sing. I thought about it and thought about it some more since I’d never done that before. I do respect Serafino; he has a great ear for Melodic Rock. He sent me 15 or 16 songs and most of them were really good. Most of what you hear on the album were those songs that Serafino brought to me. It was a good idea and I really enjoyed doing it.

MER: You’ve worked with a great team of songwriters including Survivor’s Jim Peterik and Mark Baker, who wrote for Signal, and Joe Vana who you worked with on his Mecca project. Did Serafino suggest all of these writers or did you have some input?

FF: Serafino is so in tune with what’s going on that a lot of people keep him abreast of what they are writing and I’m sure he has a pretty good audio file of songs that we’ve never heard. He chose some great songs for me.

MER: Was it a bit like the old Tin Pan Alley days where a team of writers would write songs with particular singers in mind who would then come along and record them?

FF: It was like that and I don’t know if I’ll do another one like it, but it was a fun experience. A great singer should be able to get behind a song. It was a great challenge for me and I look at it as a victory for me.

MER: Did this take some of the pressure off you when making the album as you could concentrate purely on your singing?

FF: Yeah, I think so. It was like being an actor and putting yourself in the position of the person writing it and thinking what the song is about. It was an interesting take on things and the songs were just great songs and that made it really enjoyable for me.

MER: You’ve just released a new video for “Follow Your Heart “. There’s a real positive message in there. Are these the words of encouragement from a father to his son?

FF: Oh, yeah. Cody, my son, and I have had those talks before. When you get the phone call from your son or daughter and you know something isn’t right, you just know you have to see them face to face. I took a chance on that. It’s a ballad and there’s thousands of ballads out there, but my friend Ricky Phillips said that the conversation at the start of the video hooked him as it felt so real. He thought it was a great video and I’m pleased with that.

MER: Are you watching a clip of the new Jimi Jamison/Bobby Kimball album on your laptop in that video?

FF: I took a little risk including that clip of Bobby and Jimi at the start where they sing “Why don’t you just talk to me?”, and it just fit in with the theme of the video. I hope I don’t get sued or anything!!

MER: Over the years you’ve worked with some incredible song writers from Pat Leonard in Trillion, who went on to write huge hits with Madonna, to Survivor’s Jim Peterik and also Steve Lukather and David Paich of Toto. What did you learn about song writing from working with these guys?

FF: Those guys are so proficient at their instruments. They spent a lot of time when they were kids learning to play. They were born with the gift, but they worked hard at it and it is a neat feeling being in the presence of those guys and creating with them as it’s just so natural for them. A whole wide variety of ideas just open up from the vibe that’s given off from those people. It’s an amazing experience.

MER: Dennis Ward of Pink Cream 69 produced the album. What did he bring to the overall project?

FF: Dennis is such a genius at capturing the vibe of things. The greatest example of his work is on “Follow Your Heart” when the second verse kicks in. Dennis eliminated the pre-chorus at the end of the guitar solo and in doing so he set up that big change from the verse to the chorus. There’s just a separation there. Dennis is just so good at piecing and painting, getting those colors and filling them in and he knows how to omit those things that just don’t need to be there and he knows when to add something when it’s needed too.

MER: The album comes during a very difficult time for you with various health issues. How are you doing at the moment?

FF: I’m beating the odds, that’s for sure. My liver has been affected by the cancer, but as of now there’s no cancer left in my liver that they can find. However, I have a blood clot in my vein that leads from my liver to my heart and there’s an obstruction in there that they think is a tumor. They can’t get to that and the catheter that they use to drop off the chemo-balls will not fit through where it needs to go to get to the vein — and if they did get in and they dropped the chemo-balls, then the question is how’s my heart going to react to that?

MER: Hepatitis C is a serious condition. You help to raise awareness through the American Liver Foundation. What can people do to limit their risk of infection?

FF: Don’t do any intravenous drugs. It’s strictly spread by blood contact. Some people say it can be spread by sex and there’s an outside chance of that, but it’s mainly spread through the blood. Back in the day you could exchange blood through a straw by putting cocaine up your nose or shooting drugs or stuff like that. If you have any doubt whatsoever, go and get a simple blood test. It is a manageable condition and the chances are if you have it you’ll die of something else before you die of Hep.C. If you got a blood transfusion before the mid ’80s, you were at risk from that, so get yourself checked out if you are in any doubt.

MER: Is this curable or does the virus continue to reside in the body and flare up from time to time?

FF: They do say that the Interferon antiviral treatment that I took can control it. There’s so many different types of Hepatitis C out there. It depends on the type you get. The monster one is Genome Type 1 and treatment for that can take over a year. I had Type 3a, which requires a six-month treatment and there’s an 85% chance of curing it with my type. They don’t actually say “cure”, they tend to say the virus is non-existent in your system. Genotype 1, which is the most prevalent type in The States, is not nearly so easy to clear from your system. It’s tough but the treatment does work. It’s not a death sentence, just like cancer isn’t either — you do have a great chance of making a recovery. I could have just rolled up a bunch of joints, sat on the couch and said “Screw it!”, but I remained positive. You have a choice and there is hope. I hope that one day they’ll be able to find a way to attack this in my vein, but that may sit there my whole life. The person that controls that is the Lord and whatever is his will is his will. You just need to fight it and educate yourself and you always have a chance.

MER: The Trillion album you performed on is now considered one of the finest Pomp Rock albums of all time. What are your thoughts on looking back on that period of your life?

FF: That was a great experience and I really enjoyed working with them. Trillion are doing another album right now. Pat contributed a couple of ideas and Frank, Bill and Thom Griffin are all working together. In fact that’s Bill, the drummer from Trillion, in my new video sitting in the coffee shop!! I’m probably going to sing a song on it, so I’ll be involved a little bit.

MER: Pat went on to become a huge songwriter for Madonna. Are you still in touch?

FF: I talk to Pat about once every two or three months, so yes, we’re in touch. He’s working on his own stuff at the moment … he’s a busy guy.

MER: You also had a short spell in Angel too. Did you record anything when you were in the band?

FF: We recorded a few demos, but I’m not aware of any of them getting an official release. I was in Angel with Punky, Barry, Ricky Phillips and Gregg Guiffria probably about a year and a half. We recorded stuff and almost got a record deal, but it didn’t quite happen. Then the Le Roux thing came up and I left for them.

MER: You almost ended up in Survivor. How close were you to joining them?

FF: Jim Peterik did sort of offer me the Survivor job in the beginning, but I couldn’t take it as I was signed at the time. I did help Jim and Frankie find some of the members. We hung out together for a couple of days and we got Marc and Stephan in and they joined the band. We had a fun couple of nights … we had a blast. Jimi Jamison is back with them now and I’m really interested to see what they do. Jimi is a great singer and Frankie is playing really great at the moment.

MER: It’s a good time for Jimi to re-join Survivor … in some parts of the world, Melodic Rock is going through some kind of a renaissance at the moment.

FF: I think Foreigner and Journey have set the pace for everyone. Styx also seems to do pretty well. For a band like Survivor, with as many hits as they have, it’ll be fantastic and the crowds will love them. It’s all up to Frankie and Jimi to put it together and make it work for themselves, and I hope it works out for them.

MER: Arguably, one of the highlights of your career was when you joined Le Roux for their So Fired Up album. That was such a strong album. Why was there no follow up?

FF: RCA, at the time, was having a clear-out and accountants had taken over the label. There was Le Roux and Bow Wow Wow, who were a really cool band, and a couple of other bands too and the label decided to clean house and we just happened to be one of them.

MER: You have appeared with Le Roux at various points over the intervening years. Do you have any plans to perform with them in the future?

FF: I just played with those guys a few weeks ago in Louisiana, and that was a lot of fun.

MER: What about any new recordings?

FF: I talked to Serafino about that, and Jimmy Odum and the band about it, and they’re all up for it. They are just finishing something off at the moment in their Louisiana style. I said to them it’d be kind of cool to do a Melodic Rock album with me again, and they all sounded excited. We’re trying to figure out how to put that together, but with budgets being the way they are, we’ll have to see how it goes.

MER: You then joined Toto who had just made the multi-platinum Toto IV album. How did you end up in Toto?

FF: I was in Frankfurt recording with Ricky Phillips and Tim Pierce and I got a phone call from the studio and someone asked if I’d like to try out for Toto — and I just went “Who the hell is this?” I just thought it was a joke, but they were serious. I finished the recording I was doing and went over and played four songs with them and got the job.

MER: Did you feel under a lot of pressure bearing in mind Toto IV had yielded some huge hit singles?

FF: I don’t think so. I think the reason I was hired for Isolation was that they were trying for a heavier Rock sound so they could possibly sell out auditoriums, and I was a maniac on stage doing flips and the like. I think they were looking at me for that. I think that half way through the tour they were probably thinking that they should go back to what they were doing as it wasn’t quite working out. There was nothing I could do about it as I’m not and R&B singer and never will be. I left under distressed terms, which is a shame, but I don’t have anything bad at all to say about those guys. They were great people. I miss Jeff a lot and I’m worried about Mike, but I’m pleased that Steve’s doing better these days. I spent a while with them and I’m going to hold those friendships dear for a long time.

MER: You co-wrote four of the songs on the album: “Angel Don’t Cry”, “Isolation”, “Change of Heart”, and “Mr. Friendly”. Was a lot of material already written when you arrived?

FF: Probably half was already written and the other half was written when I arrived. I co-wrote “Endless” too, but didn’t get credit … Ha!! I spent time writing with them and it was a lot of fun. I’m very proud of my work on that album.

MER:”Stranger In Town” was a hit single from the album. Rumor has it that you didn’t sing at all on that one. Can you set the record straight on that?

FF: That’s definitely me singing the high part on that one.

MER: How do you look back on your time in Toto?

FF: Isolation was such an interesting part of my life. As far as singing the songs on that album, I was allowed to take a certain amount of license with them — just like my current album — but the one thing Isolation offered up was working with the greatest band in the world. It was a good ride for me, as short as it was, which was unfortunate, but it taught me a lot and I have a lot of great memories.

MER: You seemed quite quiet after Toto. What did you do between leaving Toto and releasing your Frederiksen/Phillips album in 1995?

FF: I had a restaurant business for a while. My Dad once said never get good at something you don’t like to do. I got good at the restaurant business and limousine business, but didn’t enjoy either of them. I got back into music with the Frederiksen/Phillips album.

MER: This album featured one of your best songs: “Captured”. That’s a huge epic of a song. Can you tell fans about how you wrote that one?

FF: That song was re-written by Alan White from Yes. He laid the drum track down and said to us to build the song around the drums and we thought, “OK!” Alan White was brilliant on that.

MER: Prior to your new album you worked with Tommy Denander on the Frederiksen/Denander album Baptism Of Fire. Tommy is a great writer, musician, and producer and is in great demand. What was it like working with Tommy?

FF: Tommy and I have a real close friendship. There’s a bit of a distance between us and we haven’t had time to play live together, and that’s the one thing that keeps drawing us back as we want to do that. Working with Tommy is great as he has endless ideas … he’s a master of his craft and he’s a great guy. I look forward to playing with him any time I can. He plays his ass off!!

MER: Over the years you’ve written and recorded many songs. There’s also the Abandoned Shame project with Ricky Phillips, amongst others. Do you think you’ll be able to release these demos and rare recordings one day?

FF: You know what, there’s a possibility of that. I’ll check with Ricky Phillips. He has so many songs that he’s written over the years and he’s been stashing the songs away. He’s really busy with Styx at the moment, so he’s hoping for the two months off that he needs to sort through them. His work ethic is amazing, like Jim Peterik and Tommy Denander. They are so talented as they’ve worked so hard to get there.

MER: Do you have any plans to put a touring band together?

FF: I am going to put a band together to tour and I will be coming over to the UK next year. It’s part of my bucket list. I’m working really hard to put a tour together. I’m trying to figure out how to make it work. I’d love to come over. Firefest Festival is over in England, and I’d love to do that.

MER: Now that you have your album finally out, what do you have lined up next? Do you have another album planned, another project you’re involved with, or do you just want some time off?

FF: No time off for me just yet. At the moment we’re trying to put the UK and European tour together for February and March. I’ve had a conversation with Serafino and he’s talked about us doing another record. Everything I do now will be on 10. I want to get the things done that I want to do while I’m feeling well.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.