Lec Zorn - 2003 Interview with Steve McAtee


Lec Zorn has been working on his fledgeling AOR career for a few years now, having cut his musical teeth on such genre giants as Shooting Star, Survivor and Asia, as well as the more progressive leanings of Kansas and Genesis.

Blending all these influences together he was inspired to write an album's worth of melodic gems and set about getting a band together to record them, incorporating the talents of among others Eli Hludzik (Dakota) and Tommy Denander (Radioactive).

While these sessions were nearing completion recently, an opportunity came up to make his live debut opening for Asia in Indianapolis on 13 July. a dream come true? It should have been, but the bad omens were stacking up before the Lec Zorn Project even hit the stage, as Lec explains the pitfalls of 'hired lead vocalist ego'.

'I was introduced to Casey in December by his manager/girlfriend. He recorded two songs with me in the studio in April and did a good job. Plus, he resides in Indianapolis and has lots of live experience with the band Kidd Comet. So I assumed that he would be a good pick for the concert. I was dead wrong - my friend and the concert's promoter Jeff Matheus noticed that several concert pages cited Casey Michels, not The Lec Zorn Project, as the opening act for Asia.'

'Some of these pages even worded the concert information as if to create the appearance that Asia was opening for Casey Michels! And on one of the pages, his girlfriend was erroneously listed as the concert's promoter! Jeff was rightfully furious and e-mailed Kim 4-5 times but received no response.'

'Then I visited Casey the night before the concert to go over the songs with him. Because he had only five songs to learn and had months to learn four of them (about a week to learn the other), I thought he would be fine. But he was terrible.'

'He didn't know about half the words and he didn't even know where to come in on some of the songs! It was obvious that he was poorly prepared. So I decided at that point I wouldn't hire him for future gigs. The next day we arrived at the venue, a coffee house. It was a nice venue, but had been double booked. A church was actually renting it for a Sunday morning service.'

'The sound check, which was supposed to begin at 12:00 p.m, didn't start until after 2:00 p.m. I originally was told that I had only 30 minutes for my set. Jeff told me it was no big deal if I went a few minutes over. But with the delay, I decided to drop 'You Keep Me in the Dark' from the set list, since that was the one Casey knew the least.'

So it was time for the show to start, with Lec feeling confident about his own preparation for the gig, but concerned about his vocalist's seeming lack of commitment to getting things right. We asked him what happened when they hit the stage.

'We ended up playing the following set, in order: Lecoverture, Long Time Coming, Play the Game Tonight, Second Chance, and Going the Distance. Casey was so poorly prepared that he wrote the lyrics to every song on the set, put them on the floor and read them during the set. And even then, he got many of the lyrics wrong.'

'And when I was talking to the audience between songs, he interrupted me a few times, sometimes with rude comments. But my guitarist, Marq Johansen was outstanding. I think you'll be very impressed with him.'

'He and I have become great friends and I expect he and I will be playing on each other's albums and in each other's concerts often over the years and maybe even collaborate on songwriting, which is something I've never done with anyone.'

'For my first concert, I think I performed pretty well. Naturally, I have some rough edges as a concert performer, but nothing that playing a few gigs won't take care of. And playing live will be much easier when I don't have to baby sit the singer.'

'By the way, Marq, Casey and I performed along to a CD of the drum, rhythm guitar and keyboard tracks from my album. I would have rather had a full band, of course, but did not have time to get one together for this gig and thought my music would sound better the way I did it rather than 'unplugged'. I hope to perform with a live band in the near future.'

'Despite Casey, the audience still gave us moderate applause, which I consider to be very encouraging. The concert drew only 45 people, but nine of them took one of the Lec Zorn flyers that I set on the merchandise table. That's 20%.'

'I can only imagine what the response would have been without an embarrassing lead singer. Anyway, I will never work with Casey again, in concert or in the studio.'

At least there were some positives to come out of this troubled evening for Lec, and we at Glory Daze would love to see his career in AOR flourish. One important factor in helping this to happen is making good friends in high places, like for instance Geoff Downes and John Payne - so I asked him how he was treated by these legends and what feedback they had about Lec's music.

'I was treated well. They're nice guys. I had met them both in 1992 also and found them to be the same way then, when I was just a fan. My wife even told me that John said during my set that the music was good but that Casey butchered the music. John also briefly borrowed my bass guitar, which I bought from Ron Verlin of Shooting Star, and seemed to have fun with it.'

'When we said goodnight a few hours later, he told me to keep the bass guitar! After the show, we went for dinner at a restaurant across the parking lot from the coffee house. There were 13 of us. It was Geoff Downes and John Payne, their two man road crew, my longtime friend Robert Landrum, me, my wife Sherri, my guitarist Marq Johansen, his wife Debbie and son James, Marq's manager Michelle Gussow, the concert's promoter Jeff Matheus and his wife Beverly. And there were 14 of us if you count Sherri's and my unborn child!'

At this point I mentioned to Lec that I'd interviewed Dakota's frontman Jerry Hludzik back in June for Glory Daze, just as a snippet of news since Jerry's son Eli had played on the Lec Zorn studio recordings. His response is worth recording here! 'Great! I'm really looking forward to reading it! I'm hoping to hear some new material from those guys soon!'

'Eli is still touring heavily with Ray's Music Exchange. They're nothing like Dakota, but they're very entertaining with their outstanding musicianship and strong improvisational skills. They do a different set every show. I hope to work with Eli again in the studio and hopefully someday in concert. The disaster with Casey makes me even more appreciative of Eli's professionalism.'

For any musician starting out, to pursue the AOR route out of love for the genre is admirable. Refusing to let incredible setbacks derail the dream is something more - it proves that sometimes the good guy really does win, even when he has to take the long road. As the release of Lec Zorn's debut album approaches, you can be sure Glory Daze will keep you right up to speed.

URL: www.leczorn.com

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