ex-Journey, Vinnie Vincent Invasion singer Robert Fleischman talks about the Journey, the Invasion and The Sky
Vocalist Robert Fleischman has moved on from his work with Journey and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion to front an exciting new rock band. It’s appropriately called “THE SKY” (since Robert wrote the classic Journey track “Wheel in the Sky”) and Robert is very excited to have the new material available on iTunes and continue to create signature melodies both onstage and in the studio. Having said that, we were not about to pass up a chance to interview the singer of two of the bands we grew up on and not work in a few questions ABOUT those bands and Robert’s history. He obliged recently and told us the background behind some of those classic Journey songs, his association with the always controversial Vinnie Vincent and much more. Read on…
LRI: We should start at the beginning. How did you wind up being the first singer of rock LEGENDS Journey?
Robert Fleischman: I was living in Redondo Beach, California when I got a phone call from a booking agency in Chicago, they told me they had 3 bands that needed a lead singer, and would I be interested in coming out to play and choose a band I would like to be in, so I went to Chicago to check out the bands and choose one.
I stayed with them for about a year, until one day I received a phone call from a concert promoter from Colorado named Barry Fey. Apparently a mutual friend played him a tape of me, During our conversation he asked me if I would be interested in doing a showcase for CBS Records, I said yes and flew to Colorado, I had little over a week to put together a band and find all the musicians, plus writing as many songs I could till the showcase. The day of the show case it started snowing, CBS executives from New York and Los Angeles finally made it, I did the showcase a week later I had a meeting with all the executives of CBS in Los Angeles.
The CBS execs told me they had a band called Journey who were a jazz rock fusion band and asked if I would be interested in writing and being the lead vocalist for the band. I knew nothing about them, but my brother knew who they were and said they were great musicians, so a couple days later I went to San Francisco and was picked up by their manager Herbie Herbert,who took me to S.I.R. rehearsal studios where the band was setup in this huge sound stage. I was introduced to everyone, we played for a couple hours, and the rest is history
LRI: You toured for a stretch with Journey in the late 70s and wrote several iconic songs including Wheel in the Sky and Anytime. Realizing it was a lifetime ago, do you recall any of the lyrical or musical birthing processes of those seminal tracks?
RF: Sure, I wrote “Anytime” with Gregg Rollie. After rehearsals one day at his home,
He had a beautiful white piano there, he started playing what was to be “Anytime” and I started singing the melody. Soon the lyrics started coming, we grabbed a piece of paper and wrote it in 15 minutes, Later, Gregg told me he had written the music with some friends of his, so if you look at the music credits there is a whole list of people on it. ”Wheel in The Sky” happened differently, everyone in the band was giving me lyrics, asking me if I could do anything with them, one day Ross Valory came in with a poem that his wife wrote. I wasn’t having much luck with everyone else lyrical ideas so I felt very obligated to make something happen, I didn’t care for the poem but there was a line in it, “the wheels in my mind keep on turning”, so I changed it to “wheel in the sky keeps on turning, don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow” and wrote the rest of the lyrics, never got to finish the song the way that I envisioned it though. I wanted the song to have a bridge in it, which I wrote, just before the solo…
LRI: You maintained good relationships with the JOURNEY guys over the years and were invited to the Rock Walk of Fame ceremony. How close of friends were you guys during those early years and how much of an effect has the band or your experience blessed you over the years?
RF: I would like to say we are close, we spent a lot of time traveling together,
creating music together and recording. When they would come in to Los Angeles I’d always go to see them play, out of all of them I stayed more in touch with Ross. We talk on the phone or text. The Hollywood Walk of Fame gathering was very, very nice.
It was definitely a family reunion, and I was deeply touched to be asked to participate, after the ceremony the band was going to play at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. During the sound check, Neal (Schon, guitarist) told me he wanted me to come up and sing “Wheel in the Sky”, and later that night they introduced me and I went on stage to sing it. That was the first time I had been on stage in a long time, I realized how much I missed it, and soon after I had the bug and had to put together my own band… THE SKY
LRI: What projects were you involved with prior to hooking up with Vinnie and the Warrior guys? We talked to Gary and Hirsh who were in Warrior and they had their own past in NEW ENGLAND.
RF: Before Vinnie I was with Journey of course, then I was on Arista Records and did album called “Perfect Stranger”. You can also find (Journey song) “All For You” on my solo album. I toured opening for Van Halen, Boston and Sammy Hagar. I was later in a band called Channel on Epic Records, we recorded the album in London England. I came back to LA. and then became a staff writer for Almo/Irving publishing, a part of A&M Records for 3 years. Then the V!
LRI: What were your first impressions of Vinnie Vincent or the music upon hearing the WARRIOR demos?
RF: I thought Vinnie Vincent wrote some really great rock and roll. Obviously, he’s a monster on guitar….. but then there is the self-destructive side which eclipses everything that makes him great.
LRI: You are one of a select group of people to have worked with Vinnie on a couple different projects and have not had quite the same toxic experiences that others had. Did you feel at least somewhat able to be artistic or do your thing while working with one of my favorite, yet obviously difficult players?
RF: Artistically speaking, I never had any problems doing my vocals with him, except when we were mixing the album. The engineer would be working for hours and hours and Vinnie would sneak in and push the guitar faders up and screw up the mix and drive the engineer crazy! Then he push the guitars down and sure enough, Vinnie would sneak in and do it again. He did that on practically every mix, which was one of the many reasons it took so long to make the album.
LRI: The Invasion was OVER THE TOP even for the 80s. Insane and borderline creeper sexual lyrics…check. Crazy, schizophrenic guitar leads that defy logic and in some cases good taste…check. Way,way out-there obsession with glam styling to the point of distraction…CHECK! Having said all that,I bought into every bit of it hook,line and sinker and consider the first album a cult classic. Vinnie and Dana look completely at ease in their visual element and with the lyrics but were YOU?
RF: No I had no interest looking like a drag queen, I hate those pictures of me on that album,the stylist poofed my hair up I look like a fuckin poodle with three inflatable drag queens and that stupid riding crop!!!
LRI: (laughs) What did you make of all the revisionist history as applied to the story of the Invasion. I had read press about how enamored Vinnie was with you as a writer and singer at the time and then seem to remember reading subsequent stories about how they always wanted Mark Slaughter and then simply used him to wear the tights and pull the Milli Vanilli thing on the “BOYZ GONNA ROCK” video. Thankfully the band got their own sound for the second album but that was awkward at best. Did you always get the feeling the Invasion lineup or “concept” was under constant revision in Vinnie’s mind?
RF: I don’t make ANYTHING out of that bands history….it’s like a dirty glass of water, nothing is very honest about it, you have some guy lip synching to my voice for starters! When Vinnie first came to me we were going to be a BAND, then he made a deal as a solo artist with the demos we did with me singing on them, so I told him to piss off !! Then the record company, Chrysalis, told him to get me back. I said no for a long time but then my son Austin was going to be born so I said I would do it for a shit load of money and did. There are many other incidents that happened which I won’t go into, but suffice to say, if it weren’t for me being so nice, there wouldn’t have been an Invasion album. That album kicks all the other albums that followed…in the balls !!! You’re right, it is still one of the most over the top albums to this day, PLAY IT LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
LRI: Your new band is aptly titled “THE SKY” and I was wondering how you went about forming the band and how much fun it is to still be in the studio creating after all these years?
RF: Like I said earlier after receiving the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, I really wanted to put a band together. My friend Andre LaBelle called me who played drums on some tracks with Vinnie, so I told him I wanted to put a band together and he said “I wanna be in the band and I wanna play drums”. He said he knew some great musicians in Richmond Virginia. So I went there and the band sounded great! Everyone got along and we spent a week there, then went back to L.A. Two months later we all got together in Vegas for a weeks worth of rehearsals and everyone went their separate ways. So then I had to make a decision of whether or not to move. So I packed up the family and moved to Richmond, Virginia from L.A. we rented the second floor of a big building as a rehearsal space and I wrote 25 songs. I picked 11 songs, recorded them and mixed them and am happy to say that the album is now out on Itunes worldwide or you can go to www.theskyofficial.com as a link to itunes
I think this is the best rock record I’ve written. I’ve recorded solo albums and worked with other bands but I am happy sticking to THE SKY as my main project. I’m writing the new album now and this summer we are doing some shows. I can’t wait!
LRI: Thanks for talking to us Robert! It really takes a lot to trust a journalist who has an autographed pink Vinyl 45 sampler of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion prominently displayed on his office wall….any last plugs or words to our readers?
RF: Yes, first thank you for the interview, and a big thank you to everyone for all your support through the years, I hope you’ll go to Itunes and download THE SKY… and hit me up on facebook and come out to the shows!! THANK YOU !!! Peace and Love!