Ted Poley has spent the better part of his life in the the limelight. He exploded onto the scene in the 80s and made a name for himself with the top notch vocals he brought to the table as the lead vocalist for the legendary melodic rock masters Danger Danger. As time passed, musical tastes changed and there was less of a focus on the genre where he and so many others cut their teeth. However, it didn’t slow Ted Poley down one bit. In fact, it made his creative fire burn brighter than ever before. He soon found himself carving out a career as a solo artist, which lead to the release of his two critically acclaimed albums, “Collateral Damage” (2006) and “Smile” (2007). In 2016, Ted Poley returns once again with a powerful new album, “Beyond The Fade,” which features some of his most impressive work to date.
The story of “Beyond The Fade” starts after Danger Danger’s acclaimed performance at Frontiers Rock Festival in Milano in 2014, when he and the label developed the idea to work together on new music. The next step was to speak to producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Edge of Forever) and with a band that he put together, they performed at the second edition of the Frontiers Rock Festival. A few months later, Ted came back to Italy to finish the vocals on the album. With songs penned by brothers Tom and James Martin (Vega), the sound of the record is nothing else but Ted Poley at his best, with immediately recognizable hooklines, amazing guitar work, immaculate production and total ‘80s attitude! The album serves as not only a brilliant showcase of his talents but as an exciting new chapter in his amazing history as an artist.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Ted Poley to discuss his amazing career, breathing life into “Beyond The Fade,” the challenges he has faced along the way and what fans can expect for his beautifully crafted album.
You have been making music for the better part of your life. How did it first come into your world?
I was force-fed classical music on piano when I was a little kid. My first instrument was classical piano and I was raised that way because my aunt was a very famous musician in the 1930s. She was married to Jerry Arlen, who was Harold Arlen’s brother and together they wrote the music for “The Wizard of Oz.” She was very famous back in the day at The Cotton Club and wrote a lot of hit songs. Half of my family was a musical family, so that half got me early! I had this horrible classical piano teacher, who I hated, so I hated music. I gave it up but then, years later, I fell in love with the drums. I loved “The Partridge Family” on TV and the first record I ever bought was by Elton John. From there, KISS was my first concert and that was a big influence on me. Then I got into more progressive music, like Rush, Yes and Journey. I was a drummer the whole time and I sang along the way. So that is the early history!
What went into finding your creative voice early on as an artist?
I’m still looking! [laughs] You never know where you are at in your life! When you are younger, you always think you know everything but then you look back and say, “Yeesh! I knew nothing!” I like to think I am still developing as both a person and as an artist. Hopefully, you will hear that growth in the new album!
What does rock ‘n’ roll mean to you at this point in your life?
I know it sounds cliche but rock ‘n’ roll and music in general is my life and always has been my life. Music has been there for me ever since I was a little kid. I have lost everything several times because I stayed on my path, be it friends or girlfriends, because music was the most important thing to me. It has always been my life. I have always looked the way I do! I have always had long hair and loved my music when it wasn’t trendy and then when it was and then when it wasn’t all over again! I still look like a standout now because I still have my hair and still do my music, which is not the most popular thing. [laughs] It is a tough thing to do but you have to stay true to yourself and hopefully things go well.
Where do you look for inspiration these days? What keeps that creative fire burning strong?
That is a good question. Every time I think I am burnt out, like when I just finish a record, I think, “OK, I am done with the studio … ,” but then I hear another song from another writer or I come up with something that I just have to sing. I am even working on something top secret for the future! I guess I am an enthusiast in a way where it has always been my life and I don’t know what I would do without releasing new stuff or playing gigs. It is such a big part of my life it is like breathing to me!
What’s the secret to your longevity as an artist?
Yeah, stay away from the painkillers! [laughs] That is a good one! It is a very physical thing. You have to live a healthy lifestyle and stay in shape. Your instrument is your body, so you really have to watch it. I guess good genes help and you have to train. That is the main thing. Since I play a lot, that keeps me in shape as much as possible for being 54 years old! [laughs] It is a tough thing to do but I have been really working hard on it. Actually, I am a better singer now than I ever was. It is tougher and tougher now, so I have to become a better singer to do the same job I did as a much younger man.
Let’s talk about this incredible new record. Tell us about “Beyond The Fade” and how the ball got rolling?
Frontiers Records is the greatest last record label standing basically! I have had a relationship with them since the beginning. They came to me and everyone is always looking for the next Danger Danger record and if they can’t get that, they come to the guys in the band and say, “Give me something!” They said it was time for a new solo record and I said, “OK! I happen to be collecting songs that I have loved.” I always have a bunch of songs in my back pocket for the future. I was ready! I had those and I couldn’t wait to have someone put me in the studio and record them! I was very happy about that and they made me a nice offer and we got the job done! I think they are very happy with the results and I am certainly very happy! It worked out great!
What goals or aspirations did you have for this album? Was there anything you wanted to achieve this time around?
I didn’t have too many expectations and so far it has exceeded all of my expectations. The reviews have been wonderful! Usually, you work really hard on something, get all emotionally involved, you put it out and some asshole says they hate it! That is just because they hate you or you banged their girlfriend or mom at some point! [laughs] They have a hidden agenda, ya know? The Beatles could put out the greatest Beatles record of all-time and they would hate it just because it is you. [laughs] I am just so surprised because the response has been so positive! I have never really had anything come out where everyone has been so cool and really enjoyed it. It has been selling really well and it’s a success, so in a way it’s a new feeling! [laughs] I mean, I had the feeling back in the ‘80s. This isn’t on that level but it certainly beats the alternative, I will tell you that! It beats the shit out of doing the same thing, putting it out, thinking it’s great and having everybody just piss all over it! [laughs]
How does this album compare to what we heard from you in the past?
I don’t always think that my latest thing is the best thing that I have ever done but I do really think this is one of my best things! I am thrilled with it! If you have ever liked anything I have ever done, it is a sure bet you are going to like this one. If you haven’t, maybe this is a good time to come back and have a second taste! [laughs]
I love the title of the record and the meaning behind it. What can you tell us about it?
Our genre of music has come and gone, so it’s natural death is over but beyond the fade, here I am still doing my thing, sort of oblivious to the rest of what is going on! I certainly can’t turn myself into a 16-year-old dance chick, so I have to stick with what I am! I feel, beyond the fade, it is interesting what you can come up with now with no pressure. The genre is over but we still live on beyond that. The literal translation comes from something I did when I was a little kid. There was always a cool guitar lead at the end of the song and you knew there was always more because they fade it out. I always wanted to hear what was beyond the fade. I thought that was really cool, so I used to put on my headphones and as they were fading it down, I would fade it up! I would try to hear every last sound of the goodness of the guitar solo. Of course, that would always backfire as soon as the next track would start at full volume and my ears would blow up! [laughs]
Tell us a little about the songs you collected for “Beyond The Fade.”
I have been collecting a lot of these songs for years. Of course, I write a lot of songs as well. I do a lot of songs for video games and other projects, so I can write songs. In this case, it was so important that I had the best songs possible. We sorted through about 60 songs and, although I sure liked my songs, I loved some of these other songs better. I was unemotional about who wrote it. The Martin Brothers have been some of my favorite writers for years. I have had some of these songs, not as leftovers, but as songs I never got to rearrange from previous projects. We finally got to sit down and change them the way I always change them. Together, there is a certain chemistry that always comes out. I love their songs and then when I add my things, somehow it works! They are my main songwriters and I love using their stuff for my solo albums. They are never really solo albums because I have a great band of players. It isn’t just a vocal album and there are great leads, bass playing and cool keyboards. It doesn’t sound like what you would expect from just a singer. It wasn’t all about me! I let everybody do their thing and when they did it well, I had them do it even longer because I loved it!
You co-produced this album with Alessandro Del Vecchio. What does he bring to the table and what does he bring out of you creatively?
He is awesome and he is a world-class producer. He can do everything all by himself! He doesn’t need me! [laughs] In many cases, he walks singers who couldn’t care less about anything else through the process and writes through a whole record! He can do the whole thing! In my case, the thing I loved about him the most was that he said that I knew what I was talking about and he let me suggest and change things with no attitude at all. Here is this guy who has made 100 albums and when I suggested something, that is the way it went. He was really cool! If the album sucked, I would have had to take a lot of crap but in this case it sounds different than a lot of his 100 other albums because he let me have a major hand in every single part of the way it sounds. Together we had a really cool chemistry. I think part of his genius is that not only does he know what to do but he can also recognize a good idea from someone else. That can be tough because a lot of people have an ego and don’t let you touch a thing!
Looking back on bringing “Beyond The Fade” to life, what stands out as some of the challenges?
Not getting fat because I was in Italy and the food was absolutely insane! [laughs] I loved it so much! The challenge on this album was that we had 10 days to do the whole record. It was a challenge were both physical, not getting sick and showing up every day, and mental when it came to doing the song. It is always the same challenge!
I wanted to talk about the album artwork for “Beyond The Fade.” How did the imagery come about?
Thanks! That is something I hand sketched from an idea I had. With the title being “Beyond The Fade,” I wanted the album cover to be cool because when I was a kid I loved cool titles and I used to buy albums just because of the cover! There was stuff like Star Castle and Yes and stuff like that! To me, an album cover should be very cool and shouldn’t be a generic thing with a pyramid on it of something. If I see one more Egyptian cover I’m gonna puke! [laughs] I had a specific vision for the album art. Nowadays, everything is all flat-screens and iPhones and everything but when I was growing up it was radios and tube televisions. Where did all that stuff go? I wanted to create something that looked like a big junk pile on the moon of all these outdated electronics. The astronaut, having landed on the moon, is looking out onto this massive pile of discarded stuff but, for some reason, a couple of the TVs are still working. They have different images from different eras of my own career. It is just a cool concept for an album cover. To get it right, like I said, I hand sketched it. Then we had an awesome artist who rendered the entire thing. It is all original artwork and there isn’t a piece that is cut from anywhere else. It came out really cool, man! I think it is really classy looking!
“Beyond The Fade” is a great representation of both what you are doing now and have done in the past. How have you evolved as an artist along the way?
I am pretty happy with where I am. I am just me! I don’t see the evolution like other people do because it is just me. I wake up everyday and I am thankful to be alive for one and two, it’s just me! [laughs] It is tough. I think other people are your best critics. For me, I am happy with where I am at and I have the best fans in the world! I am lucky to have new music out and I am thrilled! It is a really good time for me. As far as evolution, I think you can hear it on this CD. It is what I have always been about with catchy choruses and so on. I am sort of the happy rocker — until I get pissed off! [laughs] In general, I am the happy rocker! Another thing I want to mention is that I support no-kill animal shelters, so I like to give a percentage of what I earn to those facilities. Whether you buy the CD or if you rip it for free, that is fine, the important thing is that you hear it. I know there are a lot of good people out there, so give 5 bucks to a local no-kill animal shelter. That is my thing. So, if I have evolved into a person who can make you smile, give you some good music and do something good for animals, I guess I am happy where I am at!
You have seen the music industry change dramatically over the years. To keep it positive, what is the best part of being an artist in today’s climate?
It is so cool because you can discover new music in so many ways. I can even discover stuff on YouTube. It is good for everybody. It’s not that it’s free and you aren’t getting paid, it’s about discovering cool new stuff at any hour. If you like it, you do what I do and you go out and buy it. You can discover things that you would have never been able to hear in the past. It is very exciting! Between all the free music and all the free pornography, I will tell ya, if it was like this when I was a kid, I would have never left my room! It is a little scary when I think about it because I would have never developed into anything! [laughs] I would have discovered the Holy Trinity with being able to order pizza online and sit in my room with that magical combination and never left! [laughs] It does scare me a little for the future of kids these days because everything is available at the click of a button, it’s free and it’s not always a great influence. I guess, I turned out semi-OK with all the stuff we had access to as kids!
It seems to be working out for you just fine so far, Ted!
Well, yeah! And now I can benefit from all the free music, free pornography and Domino’s delivery! I’m an adult! I have a credit card! That’s awesome!
I definitely want to take a look at what you have in the works for the future. You teased us with talk of a secret project but where do you see yourself headed musically?
I have a couple things in the works that I can’t really talk about right now. With everybody dropping dead at pretty much my age, I am just thankful for today! I don’t plan too far into the future. I don’t know, man. I think it is not so lucky to start planning too far ahead! [laughs]
What about potential new music from Danger Danger. When do you think we might see some movement there, if at all?
I don’t know. I hope for a new record and I would love to do it. Some of the guys in the band are into it and one isn’t but that is only because they care a lot and it is a lot of work and the money isn’t there so much for them. Hopefully, we will do a little lobbying and change somebody’s mind. For now, there is no for sure plans for a new studio CD but we tour all the time, we have a lot of live shows played and we look forward to seeing everybody out there. As far as new music, I am with the fans — I sure hope so! Never say never but, at the moment, I don’t have any studio time planned in that regard. [laughs] But hey, I’m available if they want! [laughs]
What can we expect from you when it comes to hitting the road with “Beyond The Fade?”
Yeah, I am always on the road. I have added one or two new songs to the set. You don’t want to bore people with too much new stuff. I have enough in there that it certainly gives you enough time to go get a beer or take a piss break during the concert! [laughs] I have added the new songs and it has been a lot of fun! It’s not too much but just enough new stuff, as I like to say!
One last question for you before I take off. You are definitely an inspiration when it comes to all you created and your passion for continuing to do the work you love.
Oh man! Thank you!
What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
Just stay true to yourself and if you have a dream believe in it and don’t let anyone take it away from you. I would also suggest that you study hard so you have something to fall back on just in case! But just shoot for the stars, man! If you fall short you can still walk the moon and that is pretty fuckin’ cool!
That is an awesome way to look at it, Ted! Thanks so much for your time and I wish you continued success!
Thank you, Jason!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.