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Light Freedom Revival

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with John Vehadija of Light Freedom Revival from  2017
How did this project come together?
I’ve been a songwriter on and off for about ten years now and late 2015 I came up with a demo version of "Form Hope" with lyrics which ended up being close to my heart. So I kept hearing this voice in my head, “John, you have to get this song produced!” After failing to find a good producer with the right sound for me locally. I got in touch with Billy Sherwood, and we agreed to begin work on my first larger scale record. Half of the songs on the album are newly written and half are older rearranged songs which you might have heard at some point online.
Can you catch readers up on who is part of this?
Aside from me and Billy, Oliver Wakeman (keys), and Eric Gillette from Neal Morse Band (lead guitar), were kind enough to join the project, as well as Marisa Frantz a very talented girl from Eugene, Oregon, helped me with the harmony vocals. I went through a lot of trials and errors with some local musicians trying to find the right sound, but I’m happy I didn't settle and thankfully, these great, world renowned musicians, were all available to play on the album.
If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I would probably be a movie maker. I’m just now getting into learning about cameras. Parallel to the music, as part of my life’s work, I’m finishing up on a historical fiction/spiritual novel, with a unique story which I would like very much to see one day translated on the big screen, but that’s a far, far away dream.
How did the name of the group originate?
Previously I worked under the name "INYTH" which was not an acronym but a self-defined concept word meaning "Radiance of Divinity," But now I felt that would be too vague, so I wanted a clear name which would reflect positivity and the spirit of freedom from the 70s. And also for short, LFR I thought it would work great. The light I am talking about so passionately (which by the way Jon Anderson does not solely own) it’s something to be shared by everybody. It’s the light of truth, the light of conscious realization, the third eye light activation which allows you to see soul structures and the connections between people, the connections between lifetimes. I realized I deserve my own voice to express that. There is a block in positive imagination on this planet, and I’m on a mission to describe the energetic blueprint we as a civilization use to manifest our experience. Hope that made some sense…
Who would you see as your musical influences?
I’m in my early 30s right now, and I do realize that I grew up like some weird prog kid listening on repeat to classics like Yes, Genesis, Asia, Jon Anderson solo records, as well as the 90s prog bands like the Flower Kings and Transatlantic. I also have a huge respect for Cat Stevens, Roger Hodgson, Bod Dylan, people who used music as a vehicle to send a positive message hoping the world will listen and take action. Moreover, from a production point of view, I really dig MGMT, Matchbox 20, Mika. So, you see, I seem to have three major music influences, like the intersection between three musical rivers. Light Freedom Revival is cleverly (or uncleverly) located at the centre of gravity between the prog, folk, and pop trinity. 
What’s ahead for you?
Billy and I agreed we had achieved a good sound and song balance for my first record. Originally I had planned a final 12-minutes song for the CD, but by the end of production it seemed out of place. So, hopefully that will see the light of day soon as a separate release. Right now, I’m slowly beginning to write new, more extended compositions for the next record. Since I had no idea when I started the album that I was going to connect with Oliver and Eric, I’m hoping the next songs will have more room to individually showcase their talents. I’m not sure yet who’s going to be on the next album, but I would love to keep the same lineup. In other news, I’m also practicing a separate acoustic set I will take on the road through Canada, probably with some guest musicians along the way.
I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
I would describe it to be "Positive Imagination Music," as a conscious artistic choice, officially in the art rock/neo prog genre. For me, making music is like alchemy, the sum of the elements has to be greater then its individual parts in order for it to mean something, or else it’s not worth doing. These days I have trouble listening to a lot of new prog albums because somewhere along the way, it seems almost like they’ve traded their soul creativity for technological complexity. It’s become genetically dead music, and I’m not interested in that. I realized many musicians have some sort of subconscious agreement with their fans, to use pain, darkness and death as source of inspiration, as the only way to create something of value, of real substance, not realizing that what they are doing instead is damaging the living energetic field of the world we live in. One thing I learned from Jon Anderson is that you have to push your soul out through the song, and while I don’t have his voice, I definitely have a similar intention.  So, for this record I wanted to go back to the basics. I wanted to be an honest songwriter type record as a foundation upon which I can Improve through the years in terms of complexity of composition.
Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
It would be my pleasure, in the not too distant future, to work in some professional manner with Steve Howe, Mike Portnoy, Tom Brislin, Jay Schellen, Katie Melua, Roine Stolt, Thomas Bodin and Sam Coulson.
Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Tough question, given that in just a few hours after the album was released, I saw it was already available for free all over the world on sharing sites and got thousands of downloads. That was definitely a punch in the stomach, but I’ve made peace with it now, because I realized a lot of the downloads happen in countries where people couldn’t have afforded to buy the CD anyway. Also a lot of people just download automatically things without even listening to the whole thing. So, I hope if someone respects the music, they will buy it because I think it’s a great package. However, what I don't agree with is people downloading it, and dismissing it too fast for no good reason, without even listening to it, or putting no effort to understanding the purpose of the album, simply hating it because it doesn't have a 20-minute long song or something superficial. If I buy a motorcycle and judge it that it’s not a car, that’s just an unfair comparison, it’s an error in thought. But everyone is entitled to their opinion and I am not making music for critics. 
In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
If people pay to see you live, they deserve some sort of memory from the experience. I’d like to believe the quality of the YouTube videos is too low to threaten an official DVD/Blu-Ray release, so I hope the fan recordings would just serve as a promotional vehicle. And I think if the artists would have the new shows available in soundboard quality in a timely manner to the fans, it would make the trading less meaningful.
If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
I think just by choosing the name of the project "Light Freedom Revival," on some level I’ve already began a crusade against music channeled from fear and darkness. On some death metal forums I have been kind of trashed for having the audacity to create such weak and uninspired "light" music. It’s quite strange that in 2017, after all of this time, bands like Venom and Mayhem still exist. I believe that on a quantum scale we are very powerful beings and are given energetic tools we are not aware of. So if you could use ESP and see what entities our DNA generates when creating satanic music, it would be like flooding the planet with dark plasma shadow entities. However, I think that Creation is self-aware and overall positive, otherwise we would all be dead by now, so I believe in a new age of music beyond the conflict.  One of the reasons I wanted Marisa to sing with me background lead was to support the message with her clear voice, to create a healing merged frequency from a balance male and female perspective for a hopefully more organic sound, to calm down the hate against the intention of the album, which I predicted would be coming.
If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
It would probably have to be a musical ensemble of like ten or twelve people who would trade solos and share lead vocals, kind of like the Yes Union line up, or Transatlantic merged with Nightwish, something like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with Paul O’Neil. It would be great to create one giant show mega experience! It would be a true Light Freedom Revival Open Universe Event, and definitely cost a fortune to put together!
If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
That’s easy. Pretty much any "Cruise to the Edge" bill would do. Just to see so much talent and like minded people gathered at once, I would be happy with that…
What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
The last CD would be Steve Hackett - The Night Siren, and new stuff I’ve just discovered  are Damian Wilson - Build For Fighting, Unified Past - Shifting the Equilibrium, and Amy MacDonald - Under Stars.
Have you read any good books lately?
I think it was Steve Jobs’ biography, and I was intrigued by his capacity to create a reality bending field around him. He was someone who could get impossible things done with… wait for it… positive imagination of what’s possible, and I hope to reflect his attitude in the future.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Last concert I truly cared for was Anderson Ponty Band in Toronto, and I almost didn’t get in, because we couldn’t remember which name the tickets were left under.  But it was great fun, and I was pleasantly surprised how great of a guitar player Jamie Glaser is, and I’ve been working with him on and off ever since…
Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
To work on the next songs, I got an acoustic Taylor 814ce DLX, a Korg Pa4X 76 Arranger  and off course, the TC Helicon Voice Live 2 which is great for vocal tuning, harmonies and layering - very cool piece of tech!
Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?
Scorpions, Taylor Swift, and just because I grew up with him Dieter Bohlen… Hmm, did you say just one?
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Not sure I had one yet, unless you label the lyrics on this new album being in the style of Jon Anderson but turned to 11.
If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Gabriel Macht, Kate Beckinsale and Taylor Swift…I believe that’s my soul family and I could pitch them my movie idea
What would be on the menu?
Caesar salad, sirloin steak, cream brûlée for dessert or whatever else the ladies would like
Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Everyone dreams of their perfect world, yet too many fall into the illusion that we are headed towards an automatically controlled dystopian society, as if there is no meaning for our existence, no divine plan where we, as a planet are going towards. To me, that’s a very childish, lost in space attitude. What if there exist advanced technologies which can control the birth of universes? What if we’re all headed for a very big surprise?
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 3 at

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