The interview started off with a bit of John's album being played on the air
His most recent album is entitled
THE JOHN TESH PROJECT: SAX BY THE FIRE
distributed by GTS Records
CJAD: That's just a little bit of "Desperado" from the album "Sax By The Fire" and on the line with us right now is the man who put this all together, John Tesh. Hi John.
JOHN: Hi, how are you?
CJAD: Fine and you?
JOHN: I'm doing great!
CJAD: Glad to have you on the air with us. The first question I want to ask, because I know we had a cancellation before. You've got so many things going...where do you find the time?
JOHN: Well, you know, it wasn't even a cancellation. It was a screwup on my part. It's a nice thing for you to say, but we just finished this huge project where we played with the Colorado Symphony in August and we're turning it into a PBS special, and I'm actually sitting at this moment in the recording studio that Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder record in. And we're here, because Micheal's in New York...using his studio for two or three weeks to mix this thing. And I just, all of a sudden looked up and it was like, ten o'clock at night here, and it's like "aw no, I've screwed up again. So that's what happened, but it's been great fun doing this thing and we started that right after we did "Sax By The Fire."
CJAD: You've had several albums out and a lot of the stuff you do is original music. This one is basically cover versions, correct?
JOHN: It is, and it came from my wife of all people. You know I have nine instrumental albums out and she said, "well why don't you put a saxophone on your albums?" And I said, "Well, you know, I don't know if you've noticed honey, but I don't play saxophone. I don't have a lot of them laying around the house. And if I did we would have to take a saxophone player around with us." Well, to make a long story short, her idea for an album is now number five on the Billboard Jazz charts. We do take a saxophone player with us and we play two of the songs from "Sax By The Fire" in every venue that we play. And she has an idea for about two or three other projects. So it turned out perfectly and like I said it was her vision that started the thing.
CJAD: A lot of people are also familiar with your music from various television shows that you've added your sound to. What's that like? Is that a different musical composition style as opposed to doing music for albums, or is it all the same?
JOHN: Well on TV, and even more so now then it was say ten years ago, you have to make your statement quickly. In some cases in six seconds. I don't like to do a lot of TV themes although I've done several of them, but I do have a lot of sports themes running on network television here in the States. That type of stuff I really like to do, because I've worked for CBS Sports for many, many years. Actually covering a lot of very successful Canadian downhillers back in the early 80s. Steve Podborski and Todd Brooker and Kenny Reid and all of those guys. I did a lot of music for downhill ski races, which is very fast, very powerful. And also for the Tour de France bike race, I did a couple of albums....I called Tour de France...and that type of music. That really big bombastic music is the kind I like to write.
CJAD: A lot of your music is connected with sports. Do you find that that's easy for you to do, or it's just because you were connected with sports before?
JOHN: I think it's because I've seen these events. I mean...I am...you mentioned lacrosse, with great disdain there as trying to replace hockey, [note: reference made before interview in setup] I played lacrosse in college....
CJAD: Oh it's one of our national games....
JOHN: There you go. Well, it's not here in the States, but I've played it anyway. And also I'm a runner. I've run a couple of marathons. But that didn't prepare me at all for what I saw, when I saw the Tour de France or the world figure skating championships or the Olympic Games in Barcelona. Or even the World Figure Skating Championships when they were held in Ottawa. I was there. That type of movement and that type of bigness is very translatable to musical scoring. So having seen those and then being able to go back into a studio and create music for it, and also know what the producers...I know the producers and I know what they need and what type of timing they need, it was a little easier for me to do that then most.
CJAD: Talking about some of the other hats that you wear. You came from CBS Sports. Actually you started in news, did you not?
JOHN: Yeah, I was a local newscaster in many different markets. In Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee, Raleigh, North Carolina; and then New York City...I was a street reporter, and then from there I went to sports and then while I was in New York, I got a call from ET wanting to know if I wanted to audition for that job.
CJAD: A lot of people don't make that jump from news to sports, sports to news, entertainment news....Bryant Gumbel comes to mind as someone who's done it, but usually they tend to pigeon-hole you. If you do sports, you do sports. If you do news you do news, and you've done all.
JOHN: I think it's difficult to...Bryant Gumbel has a better sports background then I do. The events I was doing were a lot of anthology events like the figure skating and tennis and all that. But not the real mainstream, you know, baseball, hockey, football, where the fans know more than the announcers. But, I will you right now that you can take any sports announcer, any live sports announcer, and they'll be better than any network anchor, hands down. Look at Al Michaels. He's brilliant and he was brilliant during the San Francisco earthquake when he had to perform for Nightline. Bryant Gumbel, same thing. There are a lot of people...Jim McKay, you know, who could do a news job easily. And he did so in.....
JOHN: The Munich Massacre, yeah. So what it does is...they throws a million things at you, and you have one thing happening in your left ear....actually it's very much like what you do in radio, where you have to hit times, where you have to do research. You have research in front of you. You have something happening in your left ear that's not the same as what's happening in your right ear. And you have to move very quickly and think on your feet. That's what has prepared those people that I mentioned, to do news. I don't think....it's difficult to go the other way, if you know what I mean. Because, if you're a newsman all of a sudden....I went the other way and it was difficult for me because I didn't have a broad base knowledge of every sport.
CJAD: How different was it going from those venues you did initially to Entertainment Tonight?
JOHN: It wasn't difficult for me as an announcer, although I had to wear nice clothes every day as opposed to what I was wearing in sports, but it was definitely...um...I had done a lot of sporting events that I was known for, and I had a little bit of a following, especially with the Tour de France people because I was announcing these races and also providing music for it. I got a lot of letter....a lot of hateful letter from people who said that I was selling out, you know, joining the entertainment world. But the first thing I did when I was at ET was I flew to France and I covered the Tour de France....for the first time ET had covered it as a news entertainment event. So the transition for me wasn't difficult personally, but it was certainly not something that I was well accepted in.
CJAD: You get to anchor the show. You get to do some reports, so there's some travelling involved. You also tour as a musician. I guess ET must be very flexible with your schedule. You still do sports sometimes, don't you?
JOHN: Yeah, they are flexible and that was part of the deal, you know, I told them, "listen, I'll take less money if you'll give me, you know, ten, eleven weeks off to do what I want to do, and leave me my weekends." They were very cooperative that way, and they're very supportive with my music. So every weekend we go out....just about every weekend...and we tour, then I take about three or four weeks out away from my family and from ET to do some sort of a tour. In the summer of 92 I was in Barcelona as a gymnastics commentator and I'll be doing the same thing in 96 with them here in Atlanta.
CJAD: When it comes to your music you say you do get to tour on the weekends. Is that something you do that rejuvenates you, because....again with your busy schedule people would say you must burn yourself out, but I'm sure that gives you energy also.
JOHN: Well, it burns you out because you're tired, but I use the explanation that when you do a TV show, you know, I did one this morning that airs tonight...you know, it spills out onto the carpet, and there's another one to replace it the next day. With a record, a recording, for better or for worse, it's there for the rest of your life. It becomes a piece of your history and hopefully of others if they end up with it in their house. And when you touch somebody in a concert, person to person, one to one, even if there is five to ten thousand people in the audience or 500, it means more to me than any television show, whether it's a news show or Entertainment Tonight or whatever.
CJAD: Is there something that you'd like to do that you haven't done, or that you'd like another crack at? I know for a little while you were doing the show with Leeza Gibbons on NBC.
JOHN: Yeah, yeah that didn't work out. And I'm sort of glad that it didn't work out. I mean, I ended up being dropped from the show because they wanted a more female oriented show. Had I been doing that, I would not have had any time at all to do music and I didn't know it was going to be that demanding. And also, I have a four month little girl at home so, I'd be getting like an hour, or two hours sleep at night. That's the most fun. As far as doing things that I haven't...I mean, this summer I did....it was a dream concert. This is the thing that's going to be airing in March. What we did was we took my songs from six or seven albums and orchestrated them, put them together...arranged them for orchestra. Went to a place called Red Rocks, Colorado, which is a beautiful two hundred and fifty million year old giant amphitheatre in Colorado, about twelve miles outside of Denver. It holds 7,000 people and we brought in, you know, more lights then they've ever had there and 14 cameras and a bunch of tape machines and we recorded a live album and a TV show. And we had Nadia Comaneci and Bart Connor, Olympic champion gymnasts, on a stage that was built in the middle of the orchestra, performing to several of these songs. We had kids involved with modern rhythmic gymnastics and we just created our own mini opening sports ceremony. It worked out great. I mean, we got rained on and all kinds of stuff happened. But that's the thing I was telling you that we were mixing right now.
CJAD: Now when I mentioned to some people around the building and elsewhere that I was having John Tesh on the air, John Tesh music fans all asked the same question. Will you ever come to town for the Jazz Festival?
JOHN: Absolutely, yeah. One of the things that I have found is that playing at jazz festivals, you end up with a lot of people who are there to enjoy music. I get people who come to my concerts out of curiosity sometimes, or they're music fans, but people at jazz festivals are the best, because they are really there for one purpose and it's to enjoy the music.
CJAD: You are known for type of music you do. The jazz music, the new age music. Have you ever thought of going into any other types, and as far as listening to music, what do you like besides what you play?
JOHN: That's a good question. I listen to a lot of different things. I mean, I'm a 60s guy, so I saw Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. I still have my Jimi Hendrix albums. I listen to them. I'm a big orchestral fan. I mean, I listen to a lot of movie music from either John Williams or Jamie Horner or any of those guys. You get a lot of ideas for melodies from those types of things. And then, you know, I like Soundgarden. I think you have to be a fan of all kinds of music.
CJAD: How about the guys you covered yesterday on ET that were playing percussion on all kinds of instruments.
CJAD: Yeah, Stomp.
JOHN: Those guys are terrific. In fact, I can't even get tickets to see them. I've been trying to get tickets for days here. These are guys...for those of you who didn't see it, these are guys who making a living beating on pots and pans and hubcaps and mufflers and whatever. Or opening up lighters, cigarette lighters and it sounds great. Didn't you enjoy it?
CJAD: Yes I did. It was great. You mentioned John Williams and the scoring he does. Would you like to score a major motion picture?
JOHN: I've done a couple of them. Ones that you probably wouldn't recognize that went right to video. There are people, first of all, who do that a lot better then I do here in Hollywood. But also, with the schedule that I have at ET, you know, a director would call me let's say....at nine o'clock in the morning and say, "listen, we have to change cues one and two for the car chase and we've got to do it right now." I wouldn't be able to do it because I'd be reading the birthdays on ET. So that could be a problem. I like having control over my schedule. Right now I do. I decide what I'm going to write or release, or record an album, and do it, then go on tour, and with the way family is....I mean, I have a wife who's an actress who also has a schedule and.....I mean, for example last night, I'm not crying, but last night I had the baby by myself all night, which for guys out there who've done that before, it can be crazy. And then she was shooting all night on a film, and so she didn't get in until six o'clock in the morning and then I jumped in the car and drove car pool for the 13-year-old stepson, and then I came home and she was asleep. So you know, if I had a schedule that was even crazier then this, the two of us would never see each other.
CJAD: We should mention Connie Selleca is your wife.
CJAD: And again she was co-executive producer on your album. It's also a family affair isn't it? Didn't your stepson work as an assistant on this album?
JOHN: Yeah, we had the recording studio in the house, so I had a lot of people coming in there and giving me advice, (laughter), which can be a pain sometimes. Most of the time it works out.
CJAD: The new album again is called "Sax By The Fire" and you say it is currently number four on the jazz chart?
JOHN: Yeah it is, who knew? (laughter)
CJAD: Congratulations. You say you're in studio now. What are you working on?
JOHN: We're working on mixing the Live At Redrocks with the Colorado Symphony. If you can imagine an 80 piece orchestra with 120 microphones on stage, in the middle of wind and rain and everything else, it takes a lot of work to get it in shape so that it's actually listenable. But, it's something I've always wanted to do. To have an orchestra play my tunes, and so it's fun being in here. Plus I got a chance to watch Stevie Wonder work for a couple of hours the other night, who's also in here.
CJAD: Well, you're very busy and I thank you for the time you've taken to speak with us. We want to play another tune before we get to the news at the bottom of the hour, so thank you for being with us John.
JOHN: It's my pleasure. I'll see you soon!