AOR Heaven NEH Records Z-Roxx Loud 1 Groove Machine Destiny Hot Tracks Target Wishing Well Perris

JIM PETERIK / Mecca - Producer / Co-Writer

[After about 10 minutes of needless chit chat!] All right Jim, well….I better get going and ask a few questions.
Yes sir.

Tell me, I think I know the story, but for the record I guess… you and Joe, how did you guys hook up?
Well, I mean, that goes way back. <laughs>
You're talking about when Joe was 13, in 1983, and I was in Survivor, of course, and making records and there was this little kid that would come over on his bicycle and knock on my door - I don't know how he knew I lived there - and, I would say, “Yes?”.
The first time he says, “Well, I'm Joe and I'm a big rock fan, and I heard you're in Survivor.” Anyway, he seemed like a real nice kid, and I would let him come in and I think when he first came over I had just gotten test pressings of maybe Caught in the Game, perhaps. So here's this 13 year-old, and I'm getting my master disks and I'm sitting down to play them and he's there listening to them <laughs>. And I'm going, “What do you think?” He just kind of sat there with his mouth open, you know. But he impressed me because he always was polite and he always knew when to leave.

He wasn't one of these pesky kids, and through the years he would always come by and soon the bike had turned to an automobile, when he got his license, and we always kept in touch. Right about '89-'90, he said, “You know what? I write music,” and I go, “Yeah, yeah, sure, sure”, “and I sing,” “Yeah, yeah, well give me a tape sometime,” well, that never happened, at least not until many years later when he finally had the nerve to say, “You know, I think I'm ready to actually show you what I can do.” Well he started giving me tapes of a kind of a band called Project Voyager that he was cooking up.
He was working with Mike Aquino and a guy name Jason…let's just say Jason, I forgot Jason's last name. He's the co-writer of a couple of songs on the record.

Daroche! Yeah.

These tapes were really primitive, you know. They were just done at his little basement studio. But, I really heard a lot of good elements. He says, “What do you think, really?” And I go, “Really, I think it's OK, you know, it needs a lot of work, a lot of polish,” and just around then, Fergie came into town to write with me for his record, and Joe had showed me a riff that he had developed with Mike, and we wrote a song, the three of us, called “Sheila's Gone”.

That song, we wrote it, and demo'd it. It never made Fergie's album, but that was the first time I wrote with Joe and it worked out very nice. And right around that same time, I was doing demos for the World Stage record and there was this one song that I wrote called “To Miss Somebody”. I wrote that with Don Barnes, and I was around the piano, working it out, and Joe came over and I said, “Just for grins, take this high part.” This was the first time I really heard him sing live, you know. We're in the great room, and the echo is beautiful in this room, and he seemed a little nervous, but I taught him the part and lo-and-behold, I heard this tremendous voice come out of him.
The pitch was good, and the tone was good, and I looked at this guy and I go, “I can't believe this is you!” This is the 13 year old kid on the bicycle and he's blowing me away, you know. It was just a real amazing moment for me.
And about the next week we cut the song, “To Miss Somebody” and I knew that the song would probably be earmarked for Dennis DeYoung, but I had Joe sing the demo, which I still have a copy of, and he did a heck of a great job, and that was really the first time Joe had been professionally recorded, you know, not just in his basement studio. And I remember, I played that tape for people, and they go, “Who is this?” you know, and so I started to realize that this wasn't just me; this guy was good. And from there, I started using him on demos… there's a song that I wrote with Larry and Joe Thomas called “That's Why God Made the Radio”, which you'll hear some day, it's really pretty neat. It was meant to be for the Beach Boys.

But that never happened.

That sounds like a good hook.
It is a great hook, you'll really like the song. I'm going to do something with it; I don't know what yet. Joe sang on that and impressed everybody, so we just start… and then I put on my first World Stage show and I guess it was January of 2000, and Joe came up there with me, and of course Mike Aquino was on guitar, and of course all the other members of World Stage, and Dennis couldn't make it, so I had Joe do a solo on “To Miss Somebody” and he came out from the back line and stood out on front and just blew everybody's mind. So right around that time we started talking in the terms of a Joe Vana solo album or a Project Voyager solo album; he started talking to me about that. And I thought that was a pretty great idea, and we started scheming that and, you know, how we could get financing for it and everything else. Around that time he started talking to Fergie and he and Fergie started scheming up, “Why don't we do this record together.” The whole thing started blooming and we sat down and talked about it, and I said, you know, “I have a dream of someday recording the album of my dreams. And that means going to the best studio in the country.” And then he said… I don't remember who said it, but someone said, “You know, we could get David Hungate because he's in Nashville.”
I guess what I didn't say is, the best studio to me is this one place in Nashville called the Sound Kitchen. Especially this one room called The Big Boy Room. It's a huge room and it's got a statue of Big Boy hamburgers… Big Boy is a big hamburger chain in America.

Oh, I know Big Boy, yeah.
A big fat boy, that's their logo. Well they stole one of these statues or something, and it's in their lobby, so it's the Big Boy Room. Anyway, we just started brainstorming, “Hey, maybe we can get David Hungate,” you know, and so I said, “Well, I'll tell you what, let's just call him up,” because I had worked with David about three months earlier on “That's Why God Made the Radio”, which we cut at the Sound Kitchen. I mentioned that I was down there; I talked with David and he said, “Wow, that was a fun session,” and I said, “Would you be interested in cutting some tracks down there for this new project?” and I told him about Fergie, because he remembered Fergie.
He was never in Toto at the same time, but he remembered the album, and we started talking about drummers, and I said, “Who would you recommend for drums?” And he goes, “Wow, well the guy I'm working with down here, you're not going to believe him, his name is Shannon Forrest.”
He said, “That's my choice.” And I said, “What about this other guy,” and I mentioned another name, and he said, “Well, he's good, but Shannon's better, well not better, but Shannon's my guy, we work like a team.” And I said, “Well, could you possibly have him send me a tape of some of his work,” and Shannon did, and it was great. But I should've just taken David's word for it. If David says he's the guy, I guess I just should've believed him <laughs>.

So we just started planning and planning and had meetings with Mike Aquino and decided on a keyboard player… went through a lot of ideas on keyboard for the Mecca record, but ended up with a guy that worked with me on World Stage, Jimmy Nichols. We couldn't find anybody that was more appropriate and more in tune with what we were going for, which was kind of a blend of the '80s and now.

And he gets this wonderful… he's a great grand piano player, but he always MIDI's the piano sound with synths and bells and it's a very nice layered sound that he gets.

There's a very rich texture of that on the album.
It really is. A lot of that you heard is all in one pass. There's no overdubs.

There's some other overdubs, but very, very few. Most of that is just one pass with Jimmy with his MIDI, you know, he's got this MIDI thing that triggers all these other synthesizers at the same time. So, I called up Jimmy, booked him, and of course, the investment team was in place, and we all went down together to Nashville, and I have to mention Larry Millas, of course, who was an integral part of the production team, and we moved down to Nashville, booked the room, and we spent two very intensive days.
We cut all those basics, actually we cut 13 tracks, we're only releasing 11 [10 for Europe, Japan gets their pesky Bonus Track!].

Where are the other two Jim?
Oh, see, now you're curious <laughs>. Well, they're going to see the light of day, but we didn't have… we felt these 11 really hung together very well.

They do.
The other two, they are very good and they will be finished. But right now they're mainly in basic track form and will soon be finished… soon to be collector's items. Off the record, it may be someday where we'll finish one of those and offer it as a bonus to Japan, say, or something.

But they're both really good.

Yeah, you'll like them. They were a little bit outside the mainstream of what all these songs were, but anyway, (to make) a long story short, we cut 13 tracks in two days, which is a lot of tracks.

That's a lot of long days.
A long day… it's one thing getting through 13 tracks, but the quality of the tracks were stunning. We would get done with one magical take, and say, “OK, next,” and we'd start working up the next magical take and the spirit in the room, I mean, was amazing.
And we still found time to go have a beer at the end of the day. That's how good these sessions were. I'll never forget these sessions.
They're probably the best sessions I've ever been a part of because we were working on all 8 cylinders, you know. We had Hungate on bass, which was amazing, he brought his whole arsenal of basses; everything from the original bass he played on “Roseanna”… he brought all of his famous basses. When you talk to him, you say, “What tracks is the “Roseanna” bass on?”… He'll tell you. Of course Shannon was one of the finest drummers I've ever worked with.

Yeah. He's just like a computer with arrangements. He remembered everything. But a computer with a lot of soul and human feel. So he was like the best of both worlds; he had a computer mind, but a real soulful approach to the drums.
A lot of times a drummer can really slow down a session if he keeps forgetting what section is next, and we don't have charts; Rock and Roll bands usually don't use music charts, we've got it all in our heads.

He's just got an amazing head. All the musicians were playing together. We had Mike Aquino playing, we had David Hungate, we had Shannon Forrest, we had Joe doing scratch vocals on his, we had Fergie doing scratch vocals on his, I was directing the whole thing, Larry's back there manning the boards, Bob ??? and Frank ??? were there from Wasabi, just taking it all in. It was just this big team spirit; it's the only way we could've gotten 13 tracks in two days. I mean, some bands that I've been in, we've gotten a snare sound in two days…

Really. <laughs>
You know, a drum sound in two days. That's a bit of an exaggeration but in the old days, I remember getting a song a day. And we were happy, “Hey, we got a song today,” you know. We got 13! Which wouldn't make any difference at all, except that the quality was there.
The magic takes were there and we left Nashville feeling very good about what we had. We brought the master tapes to Chicago, well actually, this is technical stuff but, we cut it on 2” analog tape and had it transferred to Pro Tools files and… I have Pro Tools at my studio so… the rest of the project was done in Pro Tools where there's much more flexibility and you don't have all the problems of analog tape, the shedding of the iron oxide on the tape, there's just a million things better about being in Pro Tools.
Brought it back and started the overdub process, which was much more lengthy, and we had the luxury of taking our time. When Fergie felt like it was his time to come in and sing, he would do that. When Joe said, “OK, I'm having a great day, I'm going to come in and do a vocal,” we had the luxury of doing that because I do have my own studio.

So the overdub process was very leisurely. We got the basics done in two days but then the overdub process must've taken six months. That's the way we wanted it. We wanted to take our time and not make any mistakes. And then the mix process, we took our time with the mix process to make sure the mixes were holding up. We'd do a mix and we'd say, “Well, that's pretty good,” and then we'd do the next mix and it was even better, then we'd go back to the one before and tweak that and, you know, you can go overboard with that and be mixing for the rest of your life, and at a given point we just said, “No, you know what, this is great, we're done.” We mastered the record at Colossal, a really great mastering lab here and, I always say, the mastering lab puts the pixie dust on it, and pixelates it and just makes it sound like a record.

Right. You sent me the pre-master and then the post-master, and there was a difference.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It suddenly sounds more professional.

It brought out the textures evenly.
It brings out the inner textures. Fergie said the same thing. I sent Fergie a pre-master and then a post and now he's dancing. Fergie, he does it every time, he told me today; he said every time he gets an album back it's, “Oh man, I should've done this, we should've done that,” and then after a few listens he starts falling in love with it, you know. And, of course, his friends are saying, “Fergie, you're crazy, this sounds amazing.” That doesn't hurt either.

Yeah, yeah.
But now Fergie just, just loves it, you know. It's just been a really, really fun project… fun for me. I left out so much. The writing process was a lot of fun.
I wrote really with all members of the band, of the core band.
Joe Vana and I wrote a number of songs. Some that were kind of started by Joe, and I helped him. Some were started by me and he helped me, just like any really good collaboration.
A lot of times a co-writer will know what you're going for, and will go there with you, making it easier to finish the song. I always think my best songs are co-written, because there's another mind involved. If it's the right person, it's a positive. If it's someone that's not on your wavelength, it's a negative; you'd be better off finishing it yourself.
I showed Joe a song called “Mecca” and he immediately got it and said, “Wow, I love this song, let me work on this song with you.” And I had a lot of the music done but he was very helpful with the lyrical concept.
We talked about what Mecca was; he did research on the ancient city of Mecca. You know, he went to the library and found out about Mecca, and we used a lot of his research actually in the song… the part about kissing the black stone for luck, all of that stuff is Joe's research and it made it a more mysterious song. Same with “Silence of the Heart,” I showed him that song and he loved it and helped me finish it.
With Fergie, we ended up writing more of the rockers, actually, Mike Aquino is the fellow that brought us the basic music and riffs behind “Miss-Chevious”, and as he's playing this amazingly gnarly riff. I start skantin' over it and open my notebook and there was the word “Miss-Chevious”, I've had this little word tucked into my back pocket for probably 20 years.
The real pronunciation is mischievous, but everybody says mischievous, and I always thought, “I'm going to write a song called “Miss-Chevious”, and make it like this girl Miss Chevious, you know, and so I started singing Miss-Chevious over this guitar riff, and then Fergie starts chiming in with this “I hate to see her leave, but I love to see her walk away,” you know. And all these really funny lines, you know, and that song just kind of came together with the three of us.

For sure…
And the same thing with “Wishing Well”. It was the song that Fergie pretty much had the whole chorus pretty much intact, and said, “What do you think?” And I said, “It's great!” And we just sat down one day, me, Joe, and Fergie, and flushed out the story line of what this wishing well is about, and Joe helped us kind of form the story line of these two people at the wishing well.
Totally separate from each other, but each wishing for love, and finding it in each other. And that story came together and we started writing lyrics, and it's one of my favorite tracks on the record.

Yeah. It's a good track, for sure.
It's really a good solid track, and clearly a collaborative effort among the band. So a lot of collaborations between band members, which I like to see.

Yeah, me too. I think it's great. A particular favorite of mine, as you know, is “Silence of the Heart”

A wonderful ballad.
Yeah, that's a favorite of mine. Again, it almost has that kind of Sting pulsating staccato bass thing, that grabs you right off the bat. Joe's vocal, I would have to say is my favorite vocal of his on the record.

I think so too.
It's just wonderful. I don't think anybody could've sung it better. I just love to listen to that record. It does a unique thing in the chorus - this is just for the music people out there, people that play piano or study music - at the beginning of the chorus, it starts in the minor mode, and right in the middle of the chorus it goes to the major mode, you know, it changes one note of the melody. All of a sudden, halfway through the chorus, it turns from kind of bittersweet to happy, and what you're hearing is going from the minor key to the major key, and it's such a lift. It's the first time I've ever done that, and it worked so well.

Yeah, OK. That's interesting. It just has a great mood to it, that song, doesn't it. It's haunting, it grabs you...
Yeah, but listen midway through every chorus, it changes tonality; it changes from minor to major. A lot of people don't realize what they're hearing, but that's what it is.

Very clever, you see, you're the best producer on the block.
Well, it's actually in the writing, it's not in the producing.

Sorry <laughs>
<Laughs> The producing just enhances whatever you're doing. It's really an album, as a producer, or as a fan, you just put on and listen to.
I do it when I don't have to listen to it, you know. My wife, who, I mean... Karen Peterik is not one to pad anyone's ego, including my own. She's my biggest fan and my harshest critic. When I played her this record, she just could not believe it. It's in every car… we have a few cars… there's a copy in every car that she drives.
I'm blown away, because the last time she responded like this to any album, was Vital Signs.

Really? That was a big record.
That was a big record, so she's good luck when she likes something.

Yeah. That's a good omen. We've just got to get some radio to pick some of this stuff up.
Well that's going to happen, that's going to happen. I mean, it's not like the old days, certainly, but I think there's a few things on here that are very contemporary, and I think “Silence of the Heart” is one of them.

Yeah. Absolutely.
I think they could get airplay.

Absolutely. You've got that for Adult Contemporary radio and then you've got “Velocitized” for rock radio.
Exactly. I'm looking at the list of songs here. Just a couple of stories: “Close That Gap”, or course, is largely a Joe Vana song that I helped him complete, and he can tell you the story behind it, of course, better than I can, but it's definitely from personal experience what he was going through in his life at the time. It's the first song I heard him write… it wasn't totally done, but it was the first song that I heard him write that I said, “OK Joe, that's a great song. Now build from there.” That's when I knew that he could be a songwriter.
That song was a very hard song to capture. In fact, a lot of songs are made when they're cut, and other songs are made when they're mixed. This song went through a huge metamorphosis in the mix-down process.
We had a mix that I was happy with, and Joe said, “I like this, but it's not what I hear in my head. Give me just three hours in the studio with Larry, and yourself if you want to be there, and let me try a few things.” I have to say, I came in after about two hours and I loved what I heard. He did a lot of dynamic changes; he muted the drums at the top - the drums don't come in now until the first chorus. He built the song, and finally everybody's happy, and I have to give him credit for making that what it is.
That was his baby, and I wanted him to be happy with that. Just like with Fergie, his baby was “Blinded By Emotion”. He didn't write it, but he wanted to prove to himself that he could sing the song. He loved the song so much, and yet it's one of the hardest songs I've ever written to sing. I mean the range is amazing in that song if you really listen to it. The demo… this song, and I'm not afraid to say it, has been around a few years. So has “You Still Shock Me”, but a good song, it doesn't matter when you write it, it's still a good song.

Of course we updated the arrangement of it and re-cut it and all that stuff, but Fergie was determined to sing these songs. I'll tell ya, he worked his butt of on these songs and I have to say, he did an amazing job on both these, on all these songs he sang, but “Blinded By Emotion” especially, because it was such a hard, hard song to sing. The range of it is incredible.

Yeah. It does.
Everybody came to the line and gave 150% when they were in the studio. I'm really proud of everybody's performance. Everybody to the man delivered on this record.

Absolutely, and the vocals are some of Fergie's best.
I agree….”Falling Down”… there's not one track that I skip over.

No, me either. I've got to play the album from start to finish.
Yeah. It's really that kind of album. Of course a few words on “Velocitized” are something that… I love that song.

When was that written? What album was that written for?
I don't know the exact year. I want to say '93 though.
It was right around the time Survivor kind of got back together. I started doing gigs and Dave Bickler was the lead singer…oh, you know what, I take that back. It had to be late '92 because Jimi Jamison…we didn't know who our lead singer was going to be at the time, and Jimi came into town and Frankie and I had written a song called “Velocitized” and actually Jimi sang the demo of that song. Soon after that, Jimi went off and we got Dave Bickler back, and I toured with the band between '93 and '96. And Frankie and I wrote many more songs, but that song always seemed to get a reaction when I played it for people. I never forgot about that song, and when we were looking at songs for this record, I played everybody a lot of things, and that song just lit everybody up. I said, “Well, this song deserves another chance.”

Oh, I'm so glad you did.
Yeah, it's just a real… it didn't get its chance initially, you know. I know that… God, I'll tell ya, I thought so highly of that song, and nothing ever happened with it. Hopefully it'll get recognized now; I'm very proud of it. It was one of the songs that show what Frankie and I were all about. It's just the kind of songs we would write. It's a certain chemistry that he and I have… I can say “have” because those songs will live on. It's a very special thing.

Is it safe to say there's very little chance of you guys writing together again?
Well, you know, I can't say that. It's something that I really don't need to say because time will take care of it one way or another. If it's meant to happen, it will, if it's not, it won't. I never put up barriers.

That's a very… well, I think that's just a fantastic outlook. That's a great attitude isn't it?
You try to keep your mind open as you can.

Fantastic. You just thought this song fit into this project perfectly?
I did. I think it works. I think it's the harder edge of what Mecca is all about, but I think it flows well.

Yeah, it does. It's just got that great little, I don't know, it's got a great little buzz about it doesn't it?
Yeah. It really does, and Shannon really slammed that thing.

Yeah, absolutely. Fantastic.
Anything else?

That's a pretty good story, isn't it?
Well, it's pretty complete. Now, of course, we want to get it out in front of people. Let people experience it. I think people are hungry for this type of music, I really do. I'm not saying that all age groups are equally into this type of thing, but I know there's a very broad band of people, basically from the ages of 30-50, that are going to want to hear this record. And that is really where we're aiming this. I would love to see a couple of these songs in movies, and I will definitely be pitching that, because I think a few of these would be wonderful in a movie.

“Mecca” comes to mind, or “Silence of the Heart”, or “Close That Gap”, or really any of them. There's some really good potential there. We're not closing any doors to anything like that. I would like to see this thing released worldwide and really get an audience. I'd love to see a Mecca II.

Great! Great! That's what I was going to ask you.
But obviously one at a time. There was an awful lot of good energy put into this record. I think some day we'll look back on this record and go, “Wow! That was pretty cool.” I'm trying to tell everybody to appreciate this moment because these moments are hard to come by. There's so many albums out there. There's an enormous amount of product, but a lot of them are just that - they're product. They don't have the heart and soul that it takes to last.

This record really has heart and soul.
It really does, and it comes through. It's a combination of all those elements: the singing, the songs, the production, the commitment - you can sense it. You can have a budget of $500,000 and, trust me, and not have an album this good.

We did it!
…..I'm just telling you that it is possible to do an album economically.

[Time out….] I saw you and Kevin [Chalfant] at work after The Gods 2000.
Well you should be happy to know that the song we were writing in Liverpool at the dock there; we finished it and it's going to go on the record.

All right!
It's called "The Man I Want To Be".

It's exactly... in fact, we found the old tapes from us skatting right there in that little damp hallway waiting for the cab or whatever, and it was as good as we remembered it, and we just finished it. It's one of the real treats.

Fantastic. That was something else just to be there.
Well, we'll have some good stories when that album comes out.

Great. And next up a World Stage record?
Uh yeah, I think a World Stage record is definitely in the very near future, at least the planning of it. I have one track that's cut, it's called, "Night of the World Stage"

That's right.
I'm real proud of it. It's not finished but it's kind of laid down and I need to really get Mike Aquino in here and rock it up a little bit. I really don't know - there's only my voice on it right now - I don't know if this is going to be a superstar event or if this is going to be more of a... I don't know what this is going to be... what World Stage this is going to be. I do know though that I would like to be able to do more dates with the next incarnation of World Stage. So it may not be a superstar event this time around; I'm not sure exactly what shape it's going to be. I would like to be able to... it's so hard to get everybody together.
We only usually do a show or two a year, which is great. They're big events, and it's wonderful, but I would like to be able to do numerous shows.

Of course, I have a ball with the Ides of March, actually I'm going to be doing another Ides of March album too and you can definitely... I mean there's a... I don't know how much interest there is in that with your readers, but it's really going to be an exciting project because we have a concept involved, we're going to call it Show Stoppers.…you know, you can probably count memorable concerts on one or two hands - the ones that blew your mind. Take one of those concerts and pick the hottest number of the night, the one that got everybody crazy. Well I want to do an album of those songs.

You know, just great covers of songs that… we might put a few originals on, but mainly songs that have not been overdone.

You know, “Here's another oldies album” - No. Songs that are the Show Stoppers of various other bands and other performers, but putting the Ides of March flare on to it, and of course, the horns, and my vocals, and I just want to make it the best Ides of March album ever. To capture the spirit of what we do, but with some of these amazing tunes that just bring down the house. So that's the concept.

That sounds pretty cool to me.
Just go for broke. Really put out… you know, the Ides of March are… you haven't seen us live, we're just an amazingly vibrant, energetic, spirited band and I want that to come across once and for all on tape. I want to go down to the Big Boy Room in Nashville, I want to cut it all live with the exception of, we'll cut vocals but I'll probably re-do them, but I want that whole band vibe on tape, kind of what we had with Mecca, you know, where everyone is playing together and it's not like a series of overdubs where… you know what I'm saying.

Yeah, I do.
I want it to feel like the spirit that I get when I'm singing with the Ides. Aside from World Stage, I'm definitely going to be doing that also. I would like to have both projects ready by the spring of next year, so I've got a lot of work to do.

Yeah, it sounds like it.
But it's going to be fun, and just getting done with Leslie Hunt, at least the first three songs, and of course I'm working with Kelly - not Kelly Keagy, but Kelly who's my niece and we're getting very close to a record deal with her.

Well done. Thank you Jim…that's it for the Mecca portion of this conversation!!.
Great, Andrew…thanks.

Many personal thanks to Ron Higgins for transcribing this interview from tape for me. Appreciate it mate!