Survivor - Part 1 - Frankie Sullivan (2006)



Part 1 - Frankie Sullivan


G'Day Frankie.
So I finally get to talk to you….we've never spoken have we?

I don't recall speaking on the phone to you Frankie. I know we've swapped e-mails back and forth and were doing so regularly there several years back.
I'm not sure that we were on the best of terms though when we stopped communicating.

Well you and I never talked did we.

That's the problem then.
I don't know if it's a problem, but it's always nice to talk to friends…sure.

Much better than e-mailing.
Absolutely, so it's cool.

Good stuff. You must be pleased to have a record to release.
Yeah…..I am….I think all of us are. But you know. I don't know if it's just about having a record, you gotta be happy. It's gotta be something…it's gotta be authentic.
I think that's more important than just releasing the music. What goes on nowadays – and it's great – we have such access to just unbelievable music these days. Think about it….it's just phenomenal.
I think that in our case….I know this is not just me talking. I tried to do the best we could do.

Ok, you've come close a couple of times in the last few years – getting a record finished. Why now…why did this come together now?
As fate would have it, it just came together, the higher powers, as God would have it…turned out to be great timing.
We had the time, we had some of the material, we had time go through the material, which was really cool, so we just went for it.

Speaking of the material….there are several tracks from the last few years that have been sitting around and a few new ones as well right?
Oh sure…Um…you know…when I went in to describe…and it's easy for me, people that know me creatively – and there's only one or two…. I had to look at this and I didn't have a choice.
It was an easy choice and its fun. I don't put up any fences up; I don't put up any rules when it comes to choosing the material. I think you throw down everything you got and I have a catalogue of about 400 songs, so obviously you have to go through that.
I threw down most of the stuff I converted to CDs and said there are no boundaries here.
It is about creatively and it's about the better song and the best song…it's not about politics, who or why or when.
It's about how do you feel about the song.
Its easy for people to say Andrew….those are words that may come out easily but I think following them – there are artists that might struggle with them.
But I had no boundaries; I just listened to everything behind me here in my home studio. I have a wall that is filled with CDs and DATs and a bunch of 2-Inch tapes.
I just started listening. I haven't listened to this stuff for 2 or 3 years.

It must be nice to have such a range of material to draw from.
Well, I think it is…it is a blessing. Like I told you – no fences, no boundaries, no rules. Let's take a look at the material and pick the best songs and go for it.

I'll get to the material on therein a moment, but to side-step quickly…it is surprising the time frame between the last Survivor album and this one. Life goes by very quickly…
Isn't that the case…you know what, when your children are in college you will look back and wonder where in heck has all this time has gone. I won't waste my words and say Andrew, enjoy it, although Andrew – enjoy it! It goes by so fast it is unbelievable.
I think that as we age, grow older…you get a better perspective. We get older and wiser and time goes even faster. All over the world, we can't do anything fast enough anymore.
We are all chasing the hands of time. What is this really all about? I'm a pretty simple guy, but mortality is part of life.

How was the bands input on this? How long have you been back with Jimi now? 5 years?
Since 2000 I think. Yeah, he's…you know, we love each other. It may have started to have something to do with business, but I just think it has to do with…we get on and no matter what happens, Jimi and I love each other, we are like brothers.

You have put the difficulties of the past behind you then?
Oh, you know…I don't even think that it crosses our minds. Jim is totally into it, he is beyond me with that, so I doubt he even thinks about it.
I am more into about being in the moment and he's more 'what can we do today?'
So when we combine them…it's a good combination.

You sound like you are in a very settled head-space.
Oh absolutely…sure. Part of being in the now is you think it, then you start to live it. I like it and Jim is more concerned with what we can do today, and I think the combination is very cool. So you don't question it.

You think Survivor can get on a bit of a roll now and perhaps go back in the studio and do another album next year?
Um…absolutely. I try not to look that far down the road, but sure we can. I think it has to do with taking it one day at a time and I think the realities of 2006 are a lot different that '82, or '85 or 2000 even.

They are indeed.
But, we all know that…you know that with the job you do. I think that the band has been on a roll. We have evolved…just finding a bass player….along came Barry. As I always tell him when I see him, it's always a pleasure. He has one of the best attitudes for being in a band.

And Marc has been with you for a long time now.
Oh, I have personally known Marc since 1975.

Oh yeah. I knew Marc a good 6 years before he joined the band. I was in that band Mariah…you may not be aware of them. We made a record in between my Junior and Senior year when I was in high school, for this label United Artists, which at one time were huge, but of course are now long since defunct. The president at the time would go on to head CBS Records for about 30 years.
It's kinda funny how things went. We made that record and we'd go out and play bars and all over Southern California, such a happening scene.
There was a band that opened for us, called The Toots…I used to watch them and their drummer was amazing.
The first night I got to jam with them was after hours….about 3am…I got to stand on stage with him and go a good look at him…the power and the vibe that emanates from him is amazing.
This was '75. This band started in '77, by the time we needed another drummer it was '80-'81. I found out that he worked for a marketing company, on the phones.
I was like, how am I going to find this guy?
I had this 800 number….you know how these companies work, hundreds of employees. I thought I'd call and see if anyone knew him.
When I called there….he answered the phone! I said I was looking for a Marc Droubay and would you be able to help me at all? He said yeah, 'you are talking to him!'

Get outta here…
Yeah, it's the absolute truth and Marc will tell you the same thing. Jim Peterik will tell you the same too.
I think a day or two later we were in rehearsals and Jim and I were writing songs like Poor Man's Son and Take You On A Saturday and Marc was just ripping on drums.
True story.

I like that a lot.
Yeah, then what was lacking was a bass player. Jim and I decided – back there in 1981 I think – roller skating was huge at the time and in the middle of the people skating was a band playing. Jim and I were hanging out and we have always had great mind-sync.
I said that's the kind of bass player we need. Jim says I've talked to him, he's open…he's going to come down and play with us tomorrow.
That was Steph (Stephan Ellis). Looking back on it, it was quite an evolution at the time…over two or three days. It was meant to be and also it was really Jim Peterik – Jim and I were so appreciative of these two musicians – Marc and Steph – that it sparked a writing spree that lead to what I still love – which was the Premonition record.

That's a real cult favourite amongst Survivor fans isn't it?
It's a great record – if I dare say so.

Absolutely you are allowed to say so. I think Survivor doesn't at times get enough credit. If you look at the first 3 or 4 records at the start of the 80s, there is barely a filler among 40 or 50 tracks you recorded.
Well that's am awfully huge compliment.

Not at all, the catalogue of material is just so strong.
Well, they way I just described to you that it came about was so inspiring to Jim and I as writers and the next couple of weeks we wrote songs like Poor Man's Son and it was rocking.
Maybe you are right – I know the point you are making. I think we've had a rich history of players playing and of materials…songs. In the end, that's what we always went back to.
It was always about the songs, but we also knew we were in a rock n roll band and the guys we are playing with have to have the vibe to deliver these songs or we are writing them in vain.

You and Jim Peterik had an amazing chemistry.
Oh, I agree with you. Let me put this on the table right away. I agree with you and that has nothing to do with ego. It has to do with our chemistry and how I and Jim and how we felt writing together.
We had a great vibe and a work ethic. The way we work – we had this work ethic back then. We worked hard – half of the business is about that – every musician works hard to gain a yard, but Jim and I had this special connection. We had this great work ethic and when we sat down to write songs we were able to close the door to the outside world and when we came out of the room we had a song that people seemed to always like.
Did we know they'd like it? Hell no, but we worked really hard.

There is a Survivor Greatest its album that I feel is about half as sort as it should be.
Ha! You're like me.

I don't think it does the band justice.
Well, that's another compliment, thank you Andrew.




I was pleased last year when BMG finally corrected that and put out the Ultimate Survivor.
Yeah, they did that didn't they?

Jeremy, who was responsible for that, is a buddy of mine.
Jeremy? He's a great young cat. I always used to tease him – I said 'what's left of the business is in your hands!'

He put together a great compilation.
As an artist he was just wonderful to work with. Terrific to work with.

And you and Jim both contributed to the liner notes – it was a great package.
I agree with you – I was very proud. I always tip my hat to people like Jeremy; it was great dealing with him. He's committed to telling a story as factual of possible. He put a lot of his gut into that project and I love him for it.

It pays a better tribute to the legacy that is Survivor.
Thank you Andrew. I agree with you. From my perspective, you wouldn't believe it. You know, I was excited, it was something great to do. He was dedicated to that and he said 'I'm a fan and I want to make it the best it can be'. He stayed on it and he delivered.

I'm not sure of the precise history of where it went wrong between you and Jim, and the writing partnership….I held out some hope that a project like that might see you guys consider working together again. Or at least, I got you talking again.
Oh yeah…sure….what is it you are asking me Andrew? You can be pretty blunt with me.

I have a couple of tough questions. Ok, so I'd like to see it happen, but I am not sure you and Jim will work together again.
Are you asking me if I'd work with Jim again?

Absolutely. Under what circumstances do you think it could happen?
I don't really think about this that much. I had to call Jim…I wanted to let him know what songs we were going to use [for Reach], get his new publishing info.

I got to tell you. It was fun. For those few days there was e-mails and phone calls and it was like we had never parted. I mean, if you are saying 'is there a possibility'….I don't know…why wouldn't there be?

If you are asking me has somebody closed the door? No, I don't think either one of us has closed the door.
Just last Thursday I got a letter from a couple of fans in Canada. They had sent me a couple of CDs from the second or third gig we played. The one thing that stood out from in this letter – he said 'the fans all know about the differences between you and Jim'.
Well…why don't they let me in on it, because I don't.

You're not sure what those differences were?
At that point in time, I had a 3 page letter and was just able to see those words and I wanted to respond to him. I was writing him back…I said to myself, how do I respond to that?

Ok, so what's your take on this? Where did it go wrong, were did the communication break down?
I don't think it ever did…my opinion. I just think there comes a point in time in any band where you know, it can be viable.
If you throw in a couple of spits of gasoline, you are going to start a fire.
We had at that point in time made a record without Marc and Steph…um…Jimmy, our singer was making a solo record, which we had no idea about.
There really is a lot I reflect on, but a lot of things that contributed to it at that time…

…that had nothing to do with Peterik and Sullivan or Sullivan and Peterik. It just simply had to do with what happens to bands.

The politics of it?
Yes, absolutely.

I understand. You have to work together again though…
You know…we were laughing about it. If you are asking me if I have bad feelings or bitterness in my heart or something like that towards Jim…

Yes, well I guess so.
Well, I absolutely do not.

I think Jim feels the same way. I've spent some time with Jim and I believe that.
In fact, I played a show about 2 months ago and Jim played the same show. We came down to a lobby call and him and I were like boom – we'd never left. Same jokes, same lines…it was fun.

You need to do that again then.
If you're asking me if I have bitterness in my heart, or hard feelings or whether I have said I'll never work with this f-ing guy again…absolutely no.

Great to hear that Frankie. Really good. I should quickly jump back to the Reach album before we get any further away from it!

So, the album – the thing that struck me about it – it's a mellower Survivor. It is a more mature, reflective, mellower Survivor this time around.
Interesting. Now, when you say mellower, what is it you mean?

Well, there are 4 or 5 ballads through the middle of the album. That struck me as an interesting move. Not as uptempo as past records.
Of course Reach is classic Survivor and Seconds Away and One More Time are tremendous ballads.

Thanks so much Andrew.

I was blown away by those, but there are 3 or 4 more tracks that follow in a similar tempo. Perhaps Survivor has mellowed in their age – sorry, not wanting to prematurely age you here.
That's ok. Um…I don't know. I don't think so. Somewhere along the line between Seconds Away and Rhythm Of Your Heart we came up with something like Gimmie The Word you know…things like that.
We still like to rock. We still like to rock.





Well, you definitely do on Reach. And Fire Makes Steel is great.
Love that song, I always have.

Was that the first pick for the album?
You know we didn't.

I think some of the demos of that era has leaked and has been dubbed as the Fire Makes Steel album.
I listened to all that stuff. What material do we want to do? There are songs obviously you can't turn your back on. Fire Makes Steel would be an obvious example. Then there are songs that I wrote with Jim like Rhythm Of Your Heart that shows off the voice of Jim Jamison, that have a good lyric and you know, it's one of those songs that only Jim Jamison can do.
You throw it down on the table and say, this is a ballad and I say we cut it. I'm very pleased with that as well.

Ok. I'm also very curious about the debut of this new vocalist in the band.
Oh God. Oh boy….oh….

What lead that to be?
Oh…well, it goes back to the fact I always sing a bridge here or there. I always did tons of singing or sang the demos that Jim and I would write.
We were like kids, you have to understand this – we never grew up. We want to hear it, so I'd say 'let me throw a rough vocal down here'.
That was part of the element and we had written this song Nevertheless. That song was written, unknowingly, for me to sing. At the time we didn't know it, but when we did the demo and subsequently, we tried or attempted to put a different vocal on it, we decided it didn't sound as good. So it was like 'ok, you're going to have to sing this one'.

So you actually tried it with Jimi on vocals.
Um…no, because Jim loved it with me singing it.

Jim's got a great instinct. He always said, 'you did a great job with this'. He loved the demo. Back in the days with Jim, Jim Peterik and I…I always have these different ideas. It ended up where I was singing the song and people liked it.
When we recorded it, I said 'ok, I'll sing it'. And it was one I had a good time with and I think it's a rock n roller.

You know, one of my favourite songs on the album is Talkin' Bout Love.
Are you kidding me? That's a huge compliment.

Well, it sounds a little different than the rest of the material – your voice takes it somewhere different, but it's classic Survivor in style.
Thank you so much. It is a song I wrote a lot of on my own. The lyric and melody I wrote on my own and again, I sang the demo - it is a song that is in my range and when it came down to the studio, Jim Jamison was the reason why I actually sang it.
He said 'Frankie, you have to sing this song, I can't sing this song'.
I said, 'you can sing the Yellow Pages, don't give me BS. What is it?' He said 'I just think you sang this song great – just sing the song.'
You know Andrew, I sing all the backgrounds on the Survivor records – its part of the sound.

Of course.
He just said, 'at the end of the day, I'd just really love to hear you sign this song.'
I said but I sing Nevertheless. He says, 'yeah, but you have all these harmonies and things that you are hiding behind. Sing this one – let it be raw.'
I just said 'does that mean you won't sing it Jim?' He said, 'I don't want to sing it. You are stuck with it.'
I just did the best I can do. For me it is a matter of capturing the vibe. I don't have the throat, the larynx or the vibe that Jim Jamison does.
And then you think about do I want to be sandwiched between two songs that Jim Jamsion sings? Not really!
You have to see that from my perspective. I call him old golden throat. Inside joke. He just has a golden throat. But at the end of the day – isn't it more about the spirit and the vibe?
I had a really good time, we did a couple of takes and we were done. There you have it.
Thanks for your compliment though.





I noticed with Jimi singing – he sounds sweet and soulful on a few tracks, but them quite raspy and raw in other places.
Um, with me, and especially when Jim's on the other side of the glass, I think he can trust me with this…it is a lot about capturing the performance rather than perfection.
Rather than 'can I understand every single syllable or word', it is more about the performance and the vibe of it.
Some of the stuff….well, it sounds a little bit….like you just said. You go, 'let's try that again', then you realize that how he sings this song. Then it is all about 'well, let me just get a great performance'. It's pretty easy to do that.
And maybe if he comes out and listens to it and maybe he wants to re-cut a couple of things then it's done.
It's really that quick. What you are speaking off – that rawness – it's capturing him in the moment. I think it's without him thinking about singing or sounding like he's singing Can't Hold Back or Search Is Over.
I think it is about the other side of Jim. It is more about his vibe.
You don't have much time. When you are producing someone that can sing that well you have to capture that performance, that's your job and that's what we did and that's what you hear.
I think there is something beautiful and I think that rawness and what he's doing in the moment and how he sounds and not being directed and not being told to sing this way….just how he feels it. I love that out of him.
He delivers it well doesn't he?

One of my favourite singers.
And one of mine.

You have touched on something there that I'm going to jump to. You have produced several other artists in recent years. You obviously enjoy that side of things?
Oh I love it.

Ok, another compliment here – you seemed to bring out the best in Eddie Money on his last studio record – Ready Eddie.
That's a huge compliment. You know what; I have to do more interviews with you Andrew. My ego…I don't like that ugly thing called ego, but it makes you feel good when some body appreciates the job you've done. That's a great compliment.
I must say that Ed is another vibe guy and it's about capturing what he does best. It's all about knowing what he doesn't do best. I have known him for a long time.
He has a great vibe and if you capture that vibe, you'll make a great Eddie Money record.
You can't turn Eddie Money into something else like a pop singer, or you'll get a lousy record.

I think Ready Eddie was universally praised by fans as one of his great records.
I didn't know that. It's so great to hear these things. I loved making that record.

It sounds like it – you and Curt Cuomo made a good team I though.
Oh yeah, we did. It was just plan old fun. And of course, I got to play the guitars and sing the backgrounds. All the same old, but I got to apply it to a different artist and it happened to be some body I happen to think, gut level, is greatly talented.

I'm a long time fan.
If you capture Ed in a performance it is one he'll sing for a lot of years to come. You know….capture him during a performance, once he's done with his jokes. If you know him, you know what I mean.

He was actually my very first ever interview when I started out. Caught me off guard, I don't think I ever have recovered and that was 8 years ago.
Oh my God, God bless you. Oh yeah….when you capture him when he's doing what Eddie does, it was a fun record to make. We had a blast.





You and Curt still in contact? As you did some other work together…
Of course we keep in contact.
We worked on the Robin McAuley record. That was to be a band at the time.
Frank Fillipetti – one of my dearest friends – an absolute genius, one of the top 3 engineers in the business. He did the Too Hot To Sleep record and he introduced me to Robin. A lively guy – we got on and started writing. Writing was fast and I found him to be committed. He would finish a song with me and [keep going] rather than let it sit until next week…
That would have been a really good band in the sense that we would have had a lot of fun and we would have had that work ethic that I was used to because he works really hard.
He is also the combination of an Eddie Money/Jim Jamison…a guy with a great voice who has this great vibe. Of course, he had been with Michael Schenker for a number of years and he said 'oh, I've finally found a guitar player'.
So great stuff…the band never came to see the light of day. I started getting phone calls about doing Survivor.

Robin released that record eventually though. I enjoyed it.
Robin and I enjoyed that. He is a great great writer. Great with lyrics and melody and he absolutely knows what he does best and won't do anything less.
Great to work with.

Jumping completely off topic to something else. The Starbucks commercial – going into that I guess you would hope that it would bring the band some publicity…did it work for you?
Yeah… You know what, it was fun…funny and anytime any one of your friends, much less your band mates can go out to their mail box and there's a cheque in it – what the heck is wrong with that?
They wanted to use the track and I told them I had a version of that Jim Jamison sings and they were 'well, we're not too sure'. I sent it to them and they couldn't tell the difference….they loved it. They said, well, now we need a band.
I sad, well, we have one!

It just evolved. I'm telling you – there's no genius behind this. There are those that want to portray themselves as such, but there isn't. These things just happen….especially in rock n roll and in music, and in commercials the same thing.
It just happened they wanted to use the song, they liked Jim singing it, the camera loves Jima n they decided lets just put the band in the video.
It was a ball. We shot hat commercial in a day and a half. All we said was 'wow, it must be really hard to be an actor'…it was fun.

And you scored an Emmy nomination for the ad! Amazing!
Yeah, I think Jamo had a great time. I think he really had a great time. These things are always in the making. We have a great thing with Starbucks.
We just played for the whole company in Vegas. This is a company that is driven by creativity. They have their own label. This is a company – that wants to see us, musicians, you and me…all do well and it's working.

The industry has to look outside the norm to sell records these days.
Yeah, they spend money and they have their Alanis Morissette acoustic record…they have some great records.

Maybe Survivor needs to do an acoustic record?
Um… know…..I wouldn't be against it. Put it that way…I would probably be all for it.

Ok, let's get Mr Peterik on the phone.
I would be all for it.

Don't we have a record coming out together, ironically on the same day?

I think it's May now [June actually], but close.
Life…you can go against it or you can roll with the changes…I think in our business you have to learn to roll with the changes or you are in really big trouble.
Hopefully I have learned to do that, which is no easy feat as you know.

Well, you are still touring successfully and you are still making records…
I love to play. Just this guitar. It used to be a tree. Now it has strings. It's a tree with strings on it and I just love it. I worship the sound these instruments make. I love how they sound. If you touch them right they make a sound like you have never heard.
Touch them right and they will sing to you.

Can I ask 2 tough questions Frankie?
Go right ahead.

Two lingering things….one was the change of singer from Dave Bickler to Jimi.

Was it hard to make the move away from Dave being that you had successfully regrouped and looked to be doing ok?
You know…..I think after talking to me for the last hour…I think you will know...on a people level it was hard. Creatively I think you also know it was not hard.
I don't want to speak so boldly here, but on a personal level if someone feels they way they feel about some body and they love that person – I think it is very difficult.
But if we're talking a switch in singers…does it mean that Jim is better? It doesn't mean any of that.
It just means that in my opinion, I have always…I make the choice to be in a band with Jim. My own…one guy, my humble opinion….there is a thing with Jim and I…I call him golden throat and I think I know how to work with that and capture that and he's amazing.
He also happens to have grown to be a great friend, so it was difficult as Dave was also a friend. But all the difficulties were on the personal side. Not the creative side
Dave was a great singer. I'm not here to say any different. Everyone knows Dave sung Eye Of The Tiger. He can sing his ass off. It's all about personal choice.

I remember getting the inside word that Jimi was going back to Survivor and I put the news online it was met with a stunned silence. No one thought past issues could be resolved.
Andrew, I have to find out about these past issues sometime.

I don't know about them!
No, it's cool….I just had to say that.

Ok, secondly…I recall getting an e-mail from Dave the day after I put this news online. He said to me that it was news to him. Obviously there was some communication problems?
No….he knew.

I don't know…I can't speak for Dave. Smart cookie and I'll never speak for him, but Dave knew.

I was talking to my good friend John Harrell the other day and he asked if I had talked to you yet.
My friend too….a great cat.

Indeed….he asked me to bring something up with you that he forgot to ask. Search the Internet Movie Database and your name comes up with two acting credits.
Is that the same Frankie Sullivan listed?!

Haha….it could be… could be.
There was a time when…I didn't aspire to acting, but I was seeing some body and I was very green at it. I did a couple of things…

Chaplin…was that one of them?

Have I uncovered a deep dark secret?
No… just….you know what, I'd love to elaborate on it, but I just can't at the moment.
I just gotta leave it where it is. I had a friend who was a friend of some one…got me in.
I tried it a couple of times. It was hard work at the time, but I enjoyed it. That's the extent of what I can tell you about it.

Frankie, that about leaves things where I wanted. Is there anything you would like to add?
Oh no Andrew…I think we've been candid…

I feel like…there's a vibe here….if it clears up some of the misunderstandings. If fans get a real feel through you about these myths…that helps, sure it helps.

Well, I haven't had much contact with you in a while, so I was a bit cautious going into this interview Frankie.
People like you don't dedicate your time to this for no reason. It's about carrying the torch, it's about people and relaying messages and hopefully they relay these messages truthfully and I happen to know from your reputation that you do.
For me it's pretty easy…what you see is what you get.

There is enough bullshit out there already. I don't want to add to it. I appreciate your time and your candor Frankie…very enjoyable.
Anytime Andrew…no problem. Its fun reminiscing isn't it.

Once again, thanks for your time.
My pleasure. Call me anytime you like. You hear rumors, give me a ring.

Will do.
I appreciate your time also.

No problem, you bet.
Bye for now.






c. 2006 / Interview By Andrew McNeice
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