Interview and Review by Joseph Timmons
IndiePulse Music Journalist
Since 1969 the accomplished and multi-talented music artist Les Fradkin has been creating and producing music with the zeal of immense reverence to the craft. Now, many years later he and his wife Loretta show no signs of slowing down, in fact they seem to find more material and have fascinated fans both old and new with songs that touch the heart, uplifting and spiritually moving, their albums are always in fashion and show no signs of limitation.
IndiePulse Music Magazine has had the joy and honor to speak with Les Fradkin about his music, his life and all things from his humble beginnings to his present vision of music and performing with the vigor of a master.
IPM: How long have you been performing, tell our readers about your background and history in music”
Les: I was discovered by John Hammond (who discovered Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen) and Tony Orlando (Lead Singer of Dawn) who signed me at age 18 to recording and publishing deals with CBS in New York City in 1969.
I moved over to MGM in 1970 where I recorded for MGM/Sunflower Records. I composed a major worldwide hit “Song of A Thousand Voices” which was recorded by Mireille Mathieu (France), Kerouac’s (Spain), Roberto Jordan (Mexico) Saskia & Serge (Netherlands), Fearless Fradkin (U. S.) and California (U. S.).
I produced The Left Banke for Bell Records in 1972 and signed a long-term recording agreement for my band California to Laurie Records in 1973. I Starred on Broadway in Beatlemania from 1977-1979 portraying George Harrison in the Original Cast. I Wrote and produced over 50 national TV commercials and composed music for several TV Soap Operas, most notably, “One Life to Live”. In 2005, I was inducted into the Television Music Producer Hall of Fame.
I own with my wife Loretta, our RRO Entertainment Record Label and Independent Music Publishing- Fradkin 2000 Music. My Solo Hit record of “Under the Covers” reached the Top 50 Media Base Activator Chart (2022) with over 2 million streams and as California, “Perfect World” with a Top 70 Media Base Chart (2022) with over 545,000 streams.
For more detailed history, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Fradkin?wprov=sfti1
IPM: What have been your inspirations in music and how have your personal experiences shaped your creative process?
LES: We try to have our own individual approach to what we’re doing and we do not try to copy anyone else. As a matter of fact, our age demographic runs from 18 years old to 65 years old. We are not specifically influenced by anyone in the current music scene. I have an extensive classically trained background, with a college degree in Baroque Music which gives me a definite edge as a Composer of Pop Rock and Baroque Pop.
Loretta is a trained church choir singer, and of course we both admire many of the acts we grew up with listening to back in the 60s, the 70’s and the 80’s. My various collaborations with my best friend, Michael Brown of The Left Banke, have always proved inspiring. I admired and worked with Producers such as John Hammond, Phil Spector and Mickie Most who taught me the essence of what makes a hit record. In fact, we approach every song as a potential hit single and our entire Production approach flows from that premise.
IPM: I understand you perform with your spouse, for some artists this has not been an easy road, but it seems to me the secret to your success, how has the bond between two helped shape your music?
LES: Actually, my relationship with Loretta is, indeed, a major reason for our success. Loretta and I eat and sleep together and produce our records and we always have done so! And at the moment we don’t have other distractions that we are dealing with. We devote our time exclusively from the standpoint of music business to our music holdings which includes a catalog of over 300 Publishing Copyrights, and almost 200 master recordings. That’s a full-time job for us.
As far as explaining how our past factors into this, I have a background of 50 years of production experience dating back to MGM Records in New York City and California. Loretta was a very successful businesswoman. Her instincts to separate fiction from fact and keep our collective focus are amazing. We always have mutual respect for our collective vision. And while It’s true that I generally play all the instruments on the recordings, her knack for being able to step back and critique what we do is always impressive and inspiring. And she does that without being internally competitive. Our mutual success is always paramount in her mind.
IPM: The covers of your albums are like pictures from a family photo album, full of love and appreciation, and a humble homage to a mutual love for what you do, do you share in the creative process, or do you feel that each one of you have a specific part of creativity and then merge them together?
LES: We have our own plan and agenda which suits our way of interacting and working. Since we are not beholden to major labels at this time, we do things the way we think they should be done. We resist writing about sadness, darkness and negativity. As a result, you get our California album of up optimism, and positivity. As to the creative process, we interact with each other all the time, particularly with the songwriting and Production. No decision is made without both of us in agreement. And we believe in presenting our visual image as we really are, not hidden behind so-called Rock and roll paraphernalia.
IPM: As you know, it is said that “if you are in the music business, it is not for the money”, and you definitely fall under the Indie Music scene, in all its sincerity and love for music, can you tell me of your musical experiences that have changed from when you started to how things are now?
LES: We always treat our Music endeavors as a business, not just for the love of Music. You can’t last 50 years in the Music Industry without business sense. Part of that sense is having a feel for change and adapting to the changes without sacrificing your essence.
In the 70’s and early 80s, they were only 40 or 50 artists at most 100 who were competing against one another for chart position, sales, and touring. And unlike today, they all had to be with major labels in order to get visible in anyway whatsoever. Now, of course, there are hundreds of thousands of artists worldwide armed with laptops, phones, and iPads and software and you can use machines to play the instruments for you – something I never ever do or endorse because I can actually play many instruments from top to bottom and every track we do. Of course, you can record entire recordings without even leaving your home. And Fans seem satisfied to stream music rather than own it.
As far as similarities, nothing replaces hearing a great song produced well, and sung well. That is the very definition of a commercial hit record, and all of our efforts are directed in that direction. As for the music business, it’s now driven by machines, not by people.
IPM: With the modern music scene dependent on music streaming and online solutions like Bandcamp, has this had a positive impact on your ability to reach listeners, and do you still rely on CD sales at shows or in stores?
LES: Online streaming has its pros and cons. The compensation is extremely poor as opposed to many years ago. The exposure can be quite good, due to everyone having mobile phones and computers. Bandcamp has been very helpful. And we do not rely on CD sales although we distribute several CD titles at Amazon. Our overall catalog does very well, and I learned early in this business that the ownership of the intellectual property is where the money is.
One of our greatest advantages now is that we really don’t have to hire any other musicians to record the music, although on our new album, a couple of examples of that still endure because those songs were cut 40 and 50 years ago. We do our own graphics, we take most of our own photographs, we film most of our own videos. While we occasionally collaborate with other creative individuals, we’re not dependent on them for the continuation of our success.
IPM: I understand that you travel extensively, do you have an international following?
LES: Yes, we do. Apart from the fact that we absolutely love to travel anywhere, and everywhere that we can in the world, it can be said that I am quite well known in France for having composed Mireille Mathieu’s hit “La Chansons des Souvenirs”.
And in the UK, California has enjoyed 4 consecutive #1 Indie Radio hits. Plus, our song “Paris” made #2 in the Netherlands in 2020. Of course, the California band enjoyed previous hits in the 70’s and 80’s in the US, UK and South Africa.
IPM: As a well-seasoned performer, with the success you have experienced, do you see yourself creating more new music and performing, if so, do you see yourself ever “retiring” from live performances or recording new albums?
LES: We continue to enjoy recording and producing our material.
As for live performance, the music we record is way too complex and difficult to re-create in a live setting. It would make tens of thousands of dollars and 15 to 20 A- List musicians in order to rehearse, travel and walk on stage to be paid to perform. That doesn’t even factor the various harmony singers we would need to re-create the multiple harmony parts that you hear routinely on our releases. That is not a practical situation for live performance in this day and age. We encourage our fans to continue to watch us on YouTube as they have so generously done thus far worldwide.
IPM: Other Than Bandcamp, do you have any other social media links like Facebook or Instagram / Twitter?
LES: Yes, you can find more at the following locations:
IPM: What’s next for you musically, any tours or events upcoming?
LES: No touring. We do have a brand new single “I Can Make It Last Forever”. It features guest appearances from all the original members of the Left Banke.
For those interested in the deeper story of how the California group began, and how this single became reality, read this blog:
IndiePulse Review of “California Loves You” by California ™ – feat. Les Fradkin
“California Loves You” by California ™ – feat. Les Fradkin is yet another magical release by this accomplished group and the duo of Les Fradkin and his wife Loretta. The most recent album of 7 popular works available on their Bandcamp Page.
California ™ – feat. Les Fradkin, in my opinion, have really done very well in this production, wonderfully mixed and balanced so each aspect of the music is completely perfect, serenely magical vocals an each song a beautiful homage to joy.
Starting with “Sing Along with California” which is an upbeat and happy song, listening to it is truly uplifting, fresh and vibrant. The 2nd track, “Through the Looking Glass” and “Take A Chance” reminds me of early rock from the generation of love and flower power.
“Arrow Thru Your Heart” is powerful and is beat heavy. The song “Come To Me”, “Willin” and “Ivy, Ivy” are simply sublime, and keeps with the spiritually wholesome and love drenched tone of the album. “Island” and “Christmas Vacation” takes you to a Caribbean musical festival, with an infectious beat and brings you to a celebratory feeling, while “Perfect World” is just a great 80’s beat love song that makes you want to dance.
The song Everything is “Gonna Be Alright”, though a slower track is comforting and relaxes the listener, removing the days stress and then blends to a segway perfectly fitting to the final track “We Still Love You”, sorry to gush, but this is a spectacular album by masterful artists that know how to make life better.
Artist Note: California ™- feat. Les Fredkin’s recent album of Vocal performances was released this past January of 2023which includes 6 past hit singles and 6 brand new never before released songs. Produced by Les Fradkin & Loretta Pieper Fradkin for (P) 2023 RRO Entertainment. Recorded in MOTU Digital Performer and Logic Pro X “Singalong with California” and “We Still Love You” are 16 Track Analog Recordings with new DAW Overdubs “Come to Me” is a TEAC 8 Track Historical Demo Recording. All Tracks Mastered in Logic Pro X. Thanks to: Bob Shade at hallmarkguitars.com, Harvey Starr at Starrlabs.com, Marcus Resch at Mellotron.com
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