Peter and Lea are a very talented couple that have combined their creative backrounds and abilities to produce a new interactive program for kids titled "WHAMSLAM". This production will feature a fictional family of chewing gum figures that instills traditional values in a funny and entertaining form. Peter Wolf is an Austrian born composer who at one time was a keyboard player in Frank Zappa's band. He had a string of hits in the 80's that he had written which include "We Built This City" (Jefferson Starship), "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" (Wang Chung), "These Dreams" (Heart), and many others. Lea was born in the same hospital as Peter and had an Austro-Italian upbringing. She was musically trained on the piano and became a professional model. As a team, the couple brings a lot of creative experience to their exciting new "WHAMSLAM" project. I recently inquired about the couples plans looking forward.
R.V.B. - Congratulations of your career up to this point and thanks for considering answering these questions.
P.W. - Many thanks !
R.V.B. - I understand that you and your wife Lea have been working on a new interactive educational project for children. Can you tell me the story behind how this came about and what is the premise?
P.W. - Of course. After the demise of the recording industry I turned to television and landed the score for a very successful European TV series called “Kommissar Rex”, sold into 137 countries worldwide. I also wrote several scores for motion pictures and television. But since I am not the guy to sit back and simply enjoy the fruits of his labor, I kept looking for new and exciting things to sink my teeth into. Together with my wife Lea, an Italian fashion model, sociologist and lyricist by trade, and mother of our two children age 17 and 15 months, I came up with a set of characters – a family of chewing gums – Chewey Chew, dad Mr. Chew, mom Mrs. Chew, his little sister ChewChew and their dog Chew-Barky to lead us through stories, turned into “mini-movies” on a website called : “WHAMSLAM.COM”. (music obviously always playing a big part…) This site is supposed to be an entertaining – but educational site for kids (from about 5 through 13), where parents can be sure, their kids get mindful language and solid and traditional values in a funny and entertaining form. An educational and secure “lounge – or recreation room” for kids … So far the response from everyone has been wonderful!
R.V.B. - How are the different artistic backgrounds of you and your wife adding to the creativity of "WHAMSLAM"?
P.W. - We are both coming via the entertainment business. My background is being a composer and music producer for over 30 years and with over 230 million records sold I have been very successful in this business for years. My wife and I have been working not only in music, but also as a “think tank” for television productions, live shows and later internet related ventures.
P.W. - Yes. I usually start working out ideas on piano, then translating this into the studio setting in our home studio, that – by now – has grown into a full music and video production facility.
R.V.B. - What other kind of projects other than this do you have currently going on?
P.W. - Since we are totally committed to “WHAMSLAM.COM”, we really are concentrating on this project entirely. We are doing the occasional score for film and television, but are limiting this time to a bare minimum.
R.V.B. - Do you have any routine for writing music? Like a special room or setting that you may use?
P.W. - Not really. Ideas come usually outside the “music-room” setting. When driving around in the car, going to the grocery store etc. all of a sudden the right idea will come along. I develop this on my piano, then move to the studio. That’s how it normally works. But we are used to spending a lot of time thinking about the project everyday for many hours – only then the right idea will come along!
R.V.B. - How did you enjoy your tenure with Frank Zappa and what do you feel that you contributed to the music?
P.W. - I loved Frank! Not only as probably one of the greatest bandleaders ever, but also as a human being! And a GREAT THINKER! I learned an incredible amount from the man. What I did contribute? I really do not know. I guess I was a pretty good keyboard player for the band, but after meeting with him in the late 80’s - when he just came off a terrible confrontation with his band back then - I told him to put our old band back together again, and we would all work for him for free – knowing that we all had grown so much after our stint with him and that our contributions would be so much more substantial (and we all, with some exceptions obviously, did not need the money any more). Frank laughed and jokingly answered that regardless - he did not think, he could afford us …….
R.V.B. - In the 80's you enjoyed major success as a songwriter? Were you firing on all cylinders as a writer in general during this incredibly creative time for you? You also seemed to cross genres seamlessly.
P.W. - Yes – of course I am STILL firing creatively on all cylinders! Nothing has changed! But we all go through certain peaks and valleys in our careers. And as great my time professionally was in the 80’s – that much of a disaster it was privately…..only after I met Lea – for the first time in my life – everything is in place and I am NOW creatively better and more focused than ever before.
R.V.B. - How is your approach to writing music for film different than for writing songs in general?
P.W. - When writing for film or TV I am always trying to capture a “basic mood” the film wants to convey. This mood sets the tone for an emotional setting that I need to stay true to. Only then will a film sound cohesive and “as a whole”. Songwriting is so much different. We usually start with a lyrical idea first – my wife Lea is a master of hitting the essence of an idea on the head. I then turn this idea into a “song”. She will then adapt the needed amount of lines and syllables for verses and choruses. It usually goes very fast…..
R.V.B. - How did your family upbringing in the arts help you in your career endeavors? What are your influences?
P.W. - After studying classical music first, I found my everlasting love for Jazz. I won the “European Jazz Festival” in Vienna/Austria in 1968 and have never looked back. My biggest influences are Joe Zawinul – Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Stevie Wonder. In the classical department I always adored Gustav Mahler and – of course – Mozart.
R.V.B. - What accomplishments are you proud of in your career so far?
P.W. - After many years of being way too concentrated on music alone – I finally have arrived at the place, where “seeing the whole picture” is the most important place to be. I am really proud of finally getting there …….
A few questions for Lea
R.V.B. - How has your artistic background helped you in writing music for your current projects?
L.W.M. - My Austro-Italian upbringing basically set the stage for all of my creative and artistic thinking and being. I was raised by my family in an extremely open minded and creative environment. My only rule to obey was: “there are no rules”! And to this day I sincerely believe that you can achieve anything in life – and I try to pass this on to our kids – if you only believe in yourself and try hard enough. Doubting is our biggest enemy.
R.V.B. - What instruments were you trained on and who were some of your influences?
L.W.M. - I was trained on piano at first; only after I met Peter I started to understand music as a whole. My musical influences besides my husband that I adore, include Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Dr. John, Randy Newman (mainly for lyrics) and Gyoergy Ligeti.
R.V.B. - What are some of your proud accomplishments as a model?
L.W.M. - My agency gave me the opportunity to do runway, editorials as well as commercial photo shoots working out of Milan and Rome. Same as Peter did as a Los Angeles session musician after Frank and before he turned producer – we had to adapt and improvise every day. Every new assignment meant a new challenge to be conquered.
P.W. - Do you get involved with production work on the new "WHAMSLAM" project?
L.W.M. - Yes - absolutely. Peter and I are the creative duo coming up with new ideas, stories, songs and “mini-movies” on an everyday basis. No project I have ever been involved in is as “all encompassing” and gratifying. Peter and I are very thankful for that.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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