Michael Riesenbeck is a Dutch musician who has been active for thirty years, mostly in the hard rock, melodic rock and AOR scene. In 1987, he played the drums in a hard rock cover band called Fingers Crossed. After Dawn he started the band Alibi (Dutch melodic hard rock). His debut album “Shouting Silence” was released more than ten years ago. His preference for AOR and Toto was then already heard and that with this second solo album – simply called “II”. Michael can also be heard as session musician/producer on AOR albums by for instance Phil Vincent and The Lec Zorn Project.
In 1997 he started Fanfields , a Toto Tribute album. Currently he is very busy in the studio realizing Fanfields 2. A much bigger project and more (fan)musicians involved. Before he knew, the crowdfunding was realized. Time for an interview!
In 1997, I remember it very well, the start of FanFields and now you are working on Part 2. How did the first project start?
MR: The first Fanfields idea started at the Toto mailing list in 1997. With the arrival of MP3 and more internet bandwidth the idea was launched to record individual instruments and then combine them into full songs. Just for fun, really. That idea then turned into an idea to record Toto tribute songs with musicians/bands in various countries. So I started up a line up with some friends, we recorded about 8 songs. In various other countries several others also recorded, amongst others some of the guys that eventually would became famous as “Work of Art. I kind of became the producer for the project, took up the coordination, etc. The album sold out and several years later we did another release, with a remastered version. That sold out too. So the last couple of years I’ve been getting a lot of requests for yet another release and was asked a lot about a Fanfields 2. In 2015 the time seemed right to start up the project, basically triggered by the death of Mike Porcaro.
What made the first tribute so special are the songs. You would expect the big hits, but that was not really the case. How did you choose the songs?
MR: Well, one thing was clear from the start, and that was that no-one wanted to do the hits. So instead we choose the deep cuts, the album tracks, the live favorites and even one unreleased song. We decided to do the songs ‘our way’, so with a personal interpretation. it was a pure, honest album, I think. Just musicians paying tribute to our hero’s
The songs Endless, I’ll Supply The Love and Secret Love was played by members who became Work of Art. Now another Work of Art member is on the list.
MR: Yes, we are so happy to have the amazing Herman Furin on drums on Fanfields 2. Lars (Säfsund) and Robert (Säll) did not have time this time around, but Herman was very happy and eager to join. So we assembled some excellent line ups for him. And a nice thing for Herman is that he not only again proves to be one of the best drummers around, but he is also a giant of a producer.
I don’t know what the songlist will be on Part 2, maybe it is better not knowing. Was it hard to choose the songs?
MR: Fanfields 2 is a totally different beast. Fanfields 1 was 1 CD, 12 songs. Fanfields 2 will be a 3 and 4 CD version (3 cd’s with new songs + reissue of the remastered version of Fanfields 1). It’s a project with more than 80 musicians, all with their own favorite Toto songs. So, what we did was set up line ups with musicians that had the same favorite songs. We had some complete bands which applied too and they got to do some of their favorite songs as well as songs we assigned and felt fitted the band. We tried to prevent using the big hits or songs from Fanfields 1, but still a few songs appear on both vol. 1 and vol. 2. We also tried to get a balanced set up over all Toto periods. And because this one is dedicated to the memory of Jeff, Mike and Fergie, we tried to find out which songs were their own personal favorites. So we have Jeff’s and Mike’s personal favorites and we have just about all songs off of Isolation on Fanfields 2 as a tribute to Fergie.
How many songs will be recorded?
MR: More than 40. This covers the 3 CD set as well as the digital bonus tracks the crowd funders will get.
Back then internet wasn’t big, now it much easier to find fans/musicians involved to this project (75+) , including Chris Trujillo & Sam Porcaro. Christian Tolle who played with Steve Lukather. Peter Friestedt who played with Joseph Williams, to name a few.
MR: Yeah, we got a lot of friends from the band on Fanfields 2. It’s so special for us that Chris and Sam play on the album. Sam plays on his dad’s most favorite Toto songs. So a lot of emotion there. It’s surreal, almost. I too am playing on a song together with Sam Porcaro! Overall there were so many people interested, that we even had to turn down musicians. It was my role to make sure the musicians in the line ups fit, by taste, but also by playing level. This isn’t a ‘professional’ musicians only project, there are lot of different playing levels and playing styles on this album. But, you know that to be able to actually play Toto music, you will need to have a certain base level, so all players are solid. But this is not a commercial release, nor was Fanfields 1. The profits go to charity!
You have a lot of musicians involved all around the globe. Who decided to play with who? Or was it just a natural process?
MR: Some musicians applied as full bands, so that was easy. Some musicians told us their preference for other band members. Overall for the musicians that applied individually we mainly looked at preference for certain songs, playing level and experience and we build the line ups around those songs. Then, if there was another song to assign, we would ask the musicians in a line up, if they would be interested in doing that song as well. By working this way, most of the musicians ended up on multiple songs, often even in multiple line ups. And like with ‘real’ bands musicians leave or get replaced, which means more work for us, but eventually it all worked out great. During the VIP day in February we had a sneak preview of unfinished songs by various line ups, and our VIP guests loved the diversity and the renditions and playing a lot!
You were thinking to do a Part 2 quite some time, and now Part 2 is taking off. I see a lot photos of the recordings in several studios. I have a lot of FB friends who join this project and they are working very hard. Can you tell how far the project is? What is (carefully) the release date?
MR: We’re well away, but we did have some challenges. This is a mega project, so at times it takes all of my project management skills to keep the boat floating. But a lot of work is done, yet a lot of work still needs to be done, but I hope we’ll be able to release in 2016. But, we decided that the quality of the recordings, performances, artwork, etc needs to be top notch, so if we have no other way than to postphone in order to achieve that, we will do that.
I must say that the artwork/drawings of Jeffrey, Michael and Fergie are really great. We lost a lot of heroes lately and Fanfields shows how big their music is.
MR: Thank you. Lee Hopson did the drawings. He did some amazing drawings of Jeff before and I asked him to make a trilogy of drawings of our three hero’s together and smiling. He did a wonderful job. His drawings are almost like pictures. It really gave the project a ‘face’ so to say. For the CD inlay artwork we have some great idea’s too. But it’s a lot of info that needs to go into the booklet. The crowd funders will also get a digital DVD with additional info, unique photo’s of Toto and of the recording sessions for Fanfields 2, video’s from a lot of the participants, etc.
Fanfields 2 can be ordered on www.indiegogo.com, it started as crowdfunding. It was realized in a few months. Isn’t that crazy?
MR: Yes, it’s bizar! It was a LOT of hard work though. I think I’ve sent about 6000 emails and messages to everyone I know. Contacted many web sites to get the word out. But in the end all the hard work paid off. Did cost me a bunch of ‘unfriending’ on Facebook, but everything for the good cause!
On the site you can read what is not only a Tribute to Toto, it is a nonprofit project. What will happen to the money?
MR: Making an album is expensive, especially if the number of copies is relatively low. And then we have this 3 and 4 CD versions. This is why we needed the funding via the crowd funding on Indiegogo. Eventually when the album is ready and all perks are delivered, the resulting money will go to three good causes: ALS foundation, Liver Cancer Foundation and Mike Porcaro Sweet Relief Musicians fund. None of the musicians, engineers, studio’s, etc is asking to be paid anything for their work on the album. It’s even so that we cannot give away a copy to all participants because of the high costs, so most of them actually purchased their own copy as well! Talk about dedication! You know what I really like about the project? In the project many people who are in the same line ups and who were complete strangers before we started, have become close friends. Musicians travel to each other’s countries to work together! Several musicians even recorded ‘guide’ parts, so the line ups could continue the recordings, without being in the actual line up themselves! Since many of the musicians in the project have their own careers, collaborations for those projects are also started up. This is a very nice side effect of this project.
Final question: Why Toto?
MR: The best band ever! We all grew up listening to Toto. The music, the lyrics, it all has so much depth. The musicians and the band were instrumental in the musical upbringing of most of the musicians on the project. Besides paying tribute to Toto this is also a great way to show the rest of the world the ‘other’ Toto. Most people only know Hold The Line, Africa and Rosanna, but they’re missing so much! So many styles and layers in their music. One other thing which is important: from the start we had a strict “no carbon copy” policy. Like on Fanfields 1 we wanted to release Toto songs done ‘our’ way. This means that although you can obviously recognize the original songs, there will be something of a personal approach in it as well. What I mean by that, is that we all try to give the songs a personal touch. So there is no copying going on. Some songs have different arrangements, intro’s, outtro’s, bridges, solo’s, etc. So we all stay true to the original, but still add something of our own. That is also more fun for the guys in Toto 🙂 They are really looking forward to be hearing the upcoming album, so there will be some interesting things to listen to, even for them. They loved the previous album and I think this one will be even more cool.
To the fans who haven’t pre-ordered this album yet, please visit the website here!