Le Roux - 2001 Interview with Leon Medica Jnr

In The Spotlight - Le Roux
Interview with Leon Medica Jnr
Written by: Lee Bradfield (July 2001)

The early history of this band was one of traditional delta blues and New Orleans flavoured rhythm and jazz. Little did people realise what sort of impact Le Roux would have on the melodic rock landscape in years to come. Probably none more so than band leader and bassist Leon Medica Jnr.

From the time honored ways of New Orleans musical tradition, to the searing heat of live performances accompanying some of the biggest rock acts in the business, Le Roux are indeed an enigma, a pedigree not lost on Glory Daze's Lee Bradfield, who put some searing questions to Leon. Lets find out a bit more about Le Roux, past, present, and definitely future.

Thanks for giving us some of your time Leon. Firstly, could you please tell us the significance of legendary bluesman Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown in the history of Le Roux?
Gatemouth was a great influence on the band. Some of the tempos that Gate liked were very fast. This is great for building your speed and endurance. He was also a very funny man. We toured Africa with Gate before the first Le Roux album came out. I have a lot of good memories from those days.

Your first two albums were a mixture of styles and influences, but on the third album 'Up' there was a definite turn toward melodic AOR. What factors led to this change in style?
The first two Le Roux albums sounded like what we were, a combination of New Orleans Funk, Blues, R&B, R&R and Jazz. We were from Louisiana and sounded like that. 'Up' was recorded by a different producer. He had never heard the first two albums.


Your talking about Jai Winding here, who had played on Cheap Trick's 'Dream Police' album and went on to produce 707's second disc in 1981. Did he make a significant contribution in your opinion?
Jai produced us like a Toto or other AOR sounding bands. Jai changed the sound of the band.

How did tracks like 'Let Me Be Your Fantasy' and 'Mystery' go down in concert during the 1980 tour? Did the fans accept the change in direction?
This was Jeff's (guitarist Jeff Pollard) favored Le Roux album. The songs went over good in concert. We lost a lot of fans that liked the earlier albums. We gained some fans but lost a larger fan base. We also lost our record deal with Capitol. 'Up' was our worst selling album.

'Last Safe Place' yielded your highest charting single 'Nobody Said It Was Easy' and other classics like 'Addicted', 'You Know How Those Boys Are' and the title track. Looking back, what are your feelings toward this underrated album?
I thought this album sounded like Le Roux with influences from the 'Up' period. My favored Le Roux album was the first one 'Louisiana's Le Roux' my second favored was 'Last Safe Place'. The band achieved a lot of chart action, the tours were great, and we rebuilt a strong fan base of people that liked the earlier versions of the band. Our new record company RCA were very happy.


When Jeff Pollard left to become a Christian minister, how did you link up with Fergie Frederiksen?
I hooked up with Fergie through a friend of mine Phil Ehart, the drummer in Kansas. They had auditioned Fergie for Kansas. He was their second choice. We gave him a shot and he really did a great job. He is a really great singer.

We think so too! Many AOR fanatics regard 'So Fired Up' as one of the all time classics of AOR, and rightly so. Why do you think it eluded platinum or better, despite it's consistently brilliant songs?
All of the people that I knew at RCA were fired because of a major label shakeup. The new administration did not promote this album at all. It was lost in the shuffle.

Why does the cd reissue of 'So Fired Up' not have the original album cover?
Only the BMG release in Japan has the original artwork.

The comeback studio album 'Ain't Nothin But A Gris Gris' showed that there are two sides to Le Roux, by returning to the approach of the first two albums. However, fans who were hoping for a big AOR disc in the vein of 'So Fired Up' were a little bewildered by what they heard. Now it seems there might be some very good news for fans of Le Roux's 80's albums. Please tell us more?
Jim Odom and Fergie are getting the songs together. When they have enough good songs together, we will start recording. No start date has been set.

A few months ago Le Roux shared a stage with fellow New Orleans legends Zebra. Is there a camaraderie between these two bands, and how did the lucky audience respond?
That was really a fun show. It really good seeing old friends from the old days. The show was sold out and the audience was great. We also just did a show with Kansas and Starship.

When the 'Bayou Degradable' compilation cd was released in 1996, did the strong response it got ignite the Le Roux comeback that looks set to continue?
Yes it did. I got the band to get together for one job at the House Of Blues in New Orleans. It was a sell out crowd. And a number of agents were there. The next thing I knew the phone calls were coming in for bookings. We have been doing it since, and it's still a lot of fun.

Returning to the 'Gris Gris' album, there certainly are some flowing AOR moments on there like 'Everything That I Love', 'French Quarter Moon' and 'I'll Be Over You'. Were you aware of the need to please two different audiences, and how have these tracks been received in the live setting?
No, I just recorded what I felt was right for each song. This CD was not about pleasing an audience, but just having fun in the studio.

With the release of the disc 'AOR Live' the world was confronted with the power and melody of Le Roux live in the 80's. It seems perfectly timed considering the upcoming album with Fergie Fredericksen back in the fold?
I hope so. It would be fun working with Fergie again.

It also contains previously unreleased gems like 'You Got It All', 'Can't You See It In Her Eyes' and 'Don't Stand In My Way'. How did these strong tracks elude the studio albums?
We would always cut more songs than were used for the album. At that time we would only put ten songs on an album because of the quality of cutting vinyl. Now days with CDs you can get a lot more songs on a recording.

What do you anticipate for Le Roux after the next studio album is released, perhaps a tour with Fergie back on vocals?
That would be a strong possibility. I would really like to tour Europe with Fergie.

When writing songs for Le Roux, would the lyrics come first or the melody?
Everyone in the band writes differently. And in my case all the songs come differently. Most time I get the melody first or a hook for the chorus.

Was songwriting a group effort or did individual band members present completed tracks to the band?
Both. It has always been like that. Sometimes the songs have one writer, sometimes more.

While music journalists have heaped praise on Fergie's vocals over the years, would you agree that Jeff had a distinctive power and soulfulness that's too often overlooked?
I think that Jeff Pollard is a great vocalist, writer and guitar player. Most things that he does come straight from the heart. I also like Randy Knaps the singer on 'Gris Gris'. He is a good combination of Jeff and Fergie.

Please tell us about the track 'Back In America', which appears on the Millennium edition of the 'So Fired Up' CD. How did the collaboration with Terry Brock come about, and when was the track recorded?
Towards the end of Le Roux, Phil Ehart the drummer in Kansas and my dear friend, produced the song 'Back In America' for the movie European Vacation. At this point Fergie had left the band to sing with Toto. Phil used members of Le Roux with Terry to record the song. The band was called Network. We thought it would be a cool bonus cut for the CD.

Le Roux has achieved legendary status in the realm of Melodic Rock - what do you forsee for this genre and Le Roux's role in it's future?

I think melodic rock will always be around. There were great bands, singers, musicians, and songwriters that created this genre of music. These recordings will live on. To be honest, Le Roux is a group that we all very much enjoy getting together and playing music. As long as it is fun, we will continue to play together. I would like to see a new AOR CD with Fergie and a European tour. That would be a lot of fun and I hope it can become a reality.

Thanks for your time Leon. Hopefully we will be right there if and when all of this comes to fruition!
Thanks Lee for your interest in Le Roux.

URL: www.laleroux.com

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