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INTERVIEW: The Foreign Films

Hi, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Very well thanks!

I’m excited to have my dream project finally completed; a Triple Vinyl LP!

All of my heart and soul went into this, it’s a personal milestone for my life in music. 31 of my songs with beautiful, custom artwork.

I’m very thankful to all who contributed. It’s a labour of love.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Empire of the Night”?

As a kid I was deeply fascinated with the “golden age” of records, radio and cinema.

I think of all my songs like singles from my “imagination’s jukebox”.

It’s theatre of the mind.

Specifically with Empire of the Night.

I approached it from a cinematic point of view.

The introduction melody is inspired by 60’s films like Midnight Cowboy.

I wanted to juxtapose the bittersweet string melody with a classic rhythm section groove.. Stax/Motown mixed with a British Invasion flare.

Carl Jennings, who produced the album, came up with a fantastic bassline that drives the tune, he’s a musical wizard!

I play guitar, drums and keys on the track. We kept it very spontaneous… trying to capture the spirit of the first take whenever possible.

The extremely talented Rebecca Everett and I are doing the vocals.

I wanted to illuminate my stream of consciousness lyrics with an ethereal female voice.

Ultimately the song is one piece of a large puzzle.

Hopefully it opens the door into the rest of the triple album.

Did a particular event inspire the song?

Some of the imagery came directly from a dream. The themes of the song developed from that.

I like the idea of writing in a subconscious way, it creates a certain type of magic realism.

The theme is very archetypal; the character is lost in his own emotional darkness and memories, metaphorically searching for a beacon of light. I pictured someone drowning at sea, trying to stay afloat, their lives flashing before their eyes..love, regret, sorrow and hope.

Any plans for video?

We did an earlier version of the song with an abstract visual.

I’d love to do a full-fledged video or short film based on some of the themes. Starting to put the wheels in motion. I think it will make an exciting video!

I’ll keep you posted.

Would you consider this a conceptual record?

Yes! I feel the songs work well individually but there’s definitely an overall concept.

A short story accompanies the 3LPs

“Emily Blue and the Star on the Moon” (co-written with LA writer Bob Rich) is about a girl from Newfoundland, Canada who overcomes epic challenges.

Her journey and adventure becomes a magical Odyssey.

There’s a loose narrative that runs throughout my songs. An alchemy of realism and the surreal, the atmosphere of American Graffiti or The Shipping News meets Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of OZ. There’s a number of themes tying the album together.

I’m enjoy leaving some of it open to interpretation.

What’s the story behind the title? 

The 3LP set is a definitive collection of my music, the title feels very appropriate.

“The Record Collector” is three interconnected albums in one; Junior Astronomer’s Club, A Letter to our Future Selves and Fall of the Summer Heart.

The short novella links them together.

The title is also metaphoric; there’s a song on the first album called “The Record Collector”

It’s about a person who’s lost in the past, reliving their memories through the records they play.

Someone has has a tough time dealing with the modern world…

Like me sometimes.

Despite the theme the music is uptempo and technicolour, looking towards the future.

The guitar introduction is a direct homage to Prince and Jimi Hendrix.

Much of my music inspired by music from the 60’s and 70’s. This song incorporate some of the things I like about 80’s production.

I look at music like a Time Machine; past, present, future.

How was the writing and recording process? 

A songwriter transforms a lifetime of emotion and experience into music.

I started out playing guitar, drums and piano at a young age. I ended up as a full-time musician and producer who’s toured the world the various artists.

A few fun highlights come to mind- playing The Cavern in Liverpool, CBGB’s in New York City, Prince’s Club in Minneapolis and the National Art Gallery of Canada.

To this day these diverse experiences influence my songs.

I love the writing process, it’s part of my every day life. I adore the idea of creating something from nothing.

At the same time it allows me to take inspiration from all of the music I enjoy and create my own musical world.

The recording process was fantastic. Typically I’ll bring a song to Carl Jennings and we’ll put together a musical “sketch” based on my guitar or piano in his studio. Carl’s a spectacular bass player, his ideas often and come next, building from the ground up. At that point it’s like painting in Technicolour, the sky is the limit.

We then illuminate the rest of the arrangement based on the needs of the song. Typically I’ll play guitar, drums, keys and do the lead vocals.

I’ve always loved female vocals, I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with extremely talented women like Kori Pop and Rebecca Everett. I’m forever thankful for their magical contributions.

We’ve also had the honour of working with legendary arranger Wim Oudijk.

Some truly magical people contribute to the LPs.

There are fantastic recording studios in Hamilton. I did additional work with Michael Keire; a wonderful talent with incredible equipment!

What is it about the 70’s that you find so fascinating.

Initially the music of the 60’s had a huge impact on me. As a kid The Beatles opened my mind to a universe of music.

I soon gravitated to the sonics of 70’s albums. I love the tone, atmosphere and studio techniques of this decade.

I deeply enjoy the emotional and creative elements of live musicians; the magical chemistry between players.

So many exciting musical ideas were colliding for the first time in the 7O’s creating new genres.

Many of my favourite artists and styles emerged this time.

Art Rock, New Wave,  Disco, Funk, Reggae, Hard Rock, Power Pop, Punk, Singer-Songwriter;

so much exciting diversity. David Bowie to Stevie Wonder. Kate Bush and Nick Drake to Pink Floyd, Neil Young and Big… I could go on.

Cinema in the 1970s was also incredible, a creative high water mark!

There’s many absolutely wonderful modern artists, I’m always deeply inspired by fresh, new ideas. At the end of the day, art/music from the 70’s has a special place in my heart.

What role does the West Coast play in your writing?

Certain areas and artists capture the Zeitgeist of the moment. Whether it’s New York, Memphis, Liverpool or Hamilton Ontario ????

I’m inspired by the West Coast studio musicians “The Wrecking Crew” they played on so many great records.

For example, growing up Good Vibrations (the Beach Boys) was first my first vinyl single; The complex vocals instrumentation and structure fascinated me.

The Pet Sounds album was an early influence.

As a kid older cousins played Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” continuously.

I love the sonic texture of that album, it sounds very west Coast.

West Coast Jazz also has a certain soft-focus quality I enjoy, Chet Baker’s beautiful melodies for example.

I’m not suggesting my music’s directly sounds like this;

In spirit, subconsciously, all the music we love subtly informs the songs.

Lyrically ocean imagery is a theme in many of my songs..

Pacific and Atlantic. The ideal of the west coast in literature and film is also interesting to me.

My song Empire of the Night was written on the West Coast of Canada.

What aspect of love and loss did you get to explore on this album?

I’m extremely lucky because I love my family and the people I work with.

Music literally becomes the soundtrack of your life.

Unfortunately the brilliant Wim Oudijk passed away days after he finished his last musical contribution to the LP “She Reveals Her Heart”

Carl was literally going to meet him That Day in Amsterdam when we got the sad news. It was an incredible pleasure to work with such a genius.

My Mother in law, who I love a great deal, also lost the fight to a long illness. It was devastating.

Thankfully music has the power to help heal the heart. When you’re working on a project that lasts five years it becomes the musical time capsule.

It’s literally a record of life lived during that time period.

Very bittersweet. Ultimately songs help illuminate the memory of these wonderful people and light the way forward.

Planning to hit the road? 

Over the years I’ve done some pretty extensive touring. During the recording I focused my energy into the studio.

I’m feeling the urge to get back out on the road.

I have a feeling these songs would be really exciting and challenging to play live. I love the energy between the band and an audience!

I plan to announce shows this fall.

What else is next in the Foreign Films’ world?

We had a blast filming a television show that will be airing and available very shortly. Each episode features an artist from our city Hamilton Canada  “Songs from the Hammer”.

I’m doing a number of videos for the album over the next few months.

I’m also excited to get back on the road and play live as much as possible!

The feedback to the new album has been truly heartwarming, I’m looking forward to bringing the songs to life on stage!!

Stream The Record Collector via Spotify or on Bandcamp.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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