Interview With James Lowe Of The Electric Prunes (July, 2012)

The Electric Prunes were one of the great rock bands to come from the West Coast during the back half of the 1960s. Their first two albums, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) and Underground, both come highly recommended for their trailblazing sense of psychedelic experimentation which they layered on top of well-crafted pop songs. There’s also the archival live album, Stockholm ‘67, which showed a much tougher side of the band’s sound and is one of the better quality live recordings to come from that era. Buy them all. Now. After a long hiatus, the band reconvened in 1999 and have been releasing new music and playing shows ever since.

I recently interviewed their lead singer James Lowe via email…enjoy:

Midnight To Six: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

James Lowe: Everything from Perez Prado to Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard, Nervous Norvus, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Gene Vincent and Gene Krupa. My parents liked music and on Friday nights we would go to the record store and each pick something.

MTS: How did you come to play the autoharp? Did the rest of the band have any apprehensions about using it in a rock context?

JL: I played it in school a little like most young kids. We (The Electric Prunes) decided to add it to a few songs. John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful) played it as well, so it wasn’t totally alien to rock. We were looking for something different and used to tremolo it through an amp. I wasn’t that good at it.

MTS: What kind of music were you playing when the band first got together and was called The Sanctions and then Jim and The Lords? Were there any songs from that era that made it into The Electric Prunes?

JL: There is a CD (called And Then Came The Electric Prunes). First came The Sanctions, then Jim and the Lords, then The Electric Prunes. It is a direct to disc recording of us struggling to learn how to play in 1965. It tells it all. We just wanted to try something of our own instead of bar fare. “Little Olive” came out of this period and was the B-side of “Ain’t It Hard?”

MTS: When Stones engineer David Hassinger decided to take the band under his wing did you guys think “This is it…we’re gonna be huge”? Did he have any interesting stories about working with The Rolling Stones?

JL: Not exactly. Dave was kind of a wet blanket so he could easily kill any enthusiasm you had. I liked him. He made us learn everyone else’s material and didn’t smile much. We played a party at Annette Tucker’s house and he came and said we could meet at Leon Russell’s house to do some test recording together. He was the guy who supposedly knew how to make a hit so we trusted him. He had us down to RCA when “the boys” came in to record a couple of times. He gave us equipment they would leave when they finished recording at RCA. I remember a nice Firebird and some old amps. It was cool.

MTS:  The Electric Prunes rarely played in your hometown of Los Angeles. Even if you weren’t playing there, did you spend a lot of time taking in the Sunset Strip scene? Were you close with any of the local bands?

JL: Not much. We purposely avoided most of that. We wanted to try and come up with a different approach and the more you hang out, the more you rip each other off. None of us had been in other bands. We would go see Love at Bido Lido’s sometimes. We knew other bands we just didn’t hang down there much.

MTS: Instead of battling it out on the L.A. club scene you had a slot on a national tour with The Beach Boys during the period between Pet Sounds and Smile. Were they playing a lot of their newer stuff at these shows, or was the set still heavily dominated by the surf-era hits?

JL: We had “Too Much To Dream” on the charts, they had “Good Vibrations“. Their show was based on their history ( “Little Surfer Girl“, “In My Room“, “Sloop John B“…etc.) and all their hits. I would bet no one in the audience heard of Pet Sounds or Smile then. That tour seemed to be focused on chart hits. All the acts were radio play bands.

MTS: Did it seem like there was a lot of interpersonal tension in their band at the time?

JL: No. Brian (Wilson) wasn’t there, and Bruce (Johnston) was still being introduced into the live thing. We had some laughs. I thought it was funny that everyone calmed down when the wives came to some out-of-town gigs.

MTS: I read somewhere that you played a week of shows with Bo Diddley at one point. What do you remember about Bo’s live show at the time?

JL: It was at the Troubador in LA. Bo is Bo and always has been. He was my favorite from “Say Man”. They just shook it up. He was very kind to us. It was out first gig after signing with a manager to earn us some money and we played under the name Glass Menagerie to back up Dick Glass on a live recording there. The carrot was that we got to play with Bo!

MTS: I was reading through the liner notes of the Stockholm ’67 CD, which detail the events of the band’s 1967 European tour. It sounds like you guys had a ton of fun there, and were treated better than at home. Did you have any thoughts of relocating, or at least touring more heavily there?

JL: They had experience with treating rock as a business. In America it was still a fad and there was no real “scene”. You got shit in the South for your hair, no one listened to lyrics or knew anything about the bands. In Europe they knew everything about you and there were these big guys to load the equipment. Since our sound was California-based there were no ideas of relocating even though it was a very cool place with music oozing out of every portal.

MTS: How exactly did you lose control of the Electric Prunes during the two albums that were made with David Axelrod and then the album by The New Improved Electric Prunes which featured no actual Electric Prunes? Have you ever met any of the guys who played in The New Improved Electric Prunes?

JL: I quit the band after the Mass (album) and all the promises faded and we were being shoved around like meat. The rest of the band quit a few months later, I think. We had an agreement that Dave could use the name to finish things off with Reprise. We knew they (Reprise) had acted in good faith and he maintained they needed to get their money back on the act. I didn’t know about the records you mention; but I did get a note from Dave’s wife saying they would be continuing using the name, as agreed. I don’t know if I met those guys. I went down and saw Mark and the guys after I quit when Kenny Loggins joined the band at a presentation at PJ’s.

MTS: After The Electric Prunes disbanded, you began to get involved in production work. Were you still playing in bands at that time?

JL: No. I never played in bands anyway. I was interested in engineering and producing. Bands seemed like having to please too many people and incorporate too many personalities into the mix. I much preferred the solo feel of the studio.

MTS: You were an Associate Producer on Ananda Shankar’s debut album. Was he reluctant to take on popular songs like “Jumping Jack Flash” or “Light My Fire”? I actually really like his version of “Jumping Jack Flash” from that album.

JL: No. Ananda liked it. Actually, I can’t imagine him being reluctant about anything. He was a cool guy. Paul Lewinson and Alex Hassilev actually walked Ananda into it with arrangements that suited the sitar. I even got Mark Tulin to play bass on that record. There is something magnetic about it. Simple and pulsing. And you could dance to it!

MTS: When punk rock arrived in the mid-70s were you drawn to it at all?

JL: I liked Iggy Pop and the peanut butter slathering. I thought rock could use some real theater at that point. I was working with Sparks and Todd Rundgren around that time so I went the other way.

MTS: What were you doing during the 1980s and 1990s before resuming Electric Prunes activity in 1999?

JL: I had a TV commercial production company and made small commercials and corporate films. I also wrote, produced and directed a series of children’s shows, The Cliffwood Ave. Kids and Tony the Pony. I also directed a few Winnie the Pooh shows for Disney. I enjoyed working with kids. TV was honest and kinder than rock (and you got paid).

MTS:  I saw The Electric Prunes play at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival at Randall’s Island, NY in 2004. What do you remember about that day? Was the scene backstage really chaotic once the rotating stage broke down and everyone had to shorten their set?

JL: I had used rotating platforms for car commercials and warned them they liked to go on the fritz a lot before we ever got to NY. I was ignored and it didn’t last but a few acts. It was chaos because the hurricane was coming and they were afraid if it hit when people were there it could be a disaster. We were supposed to do 20 minutes, then 10, then 5, then just as we were taking the stage they said, “two songs, no more or we pull the plug, we are behind …”. I actually liked the urgency.  I liked seeing all the acts together and Bruce Springsteen came up and said hello so it was worth the trip east!

(Jay Dean and Mark Tullin onstage at Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival 2004)

MTS: You covered Love’s “7 and 7 Is” on 2001’s comeback album Artifact. Were they friends back in the 1960s?

JL: We did that song for a “Get Arthur out of jail” concert that never happened. They asked us to do a Love song live. We had recorded learning the song for the concert so we thought we might as well use it, and it ended up on Artifact. I had met Arthur at Bido’s a few times but I knew Brian (MacLean) better. We ended up together at a festival in Canterbury Kent, UK after they released Arthur a year later.

MTS: You just released Return To Stockholm, a live album recorded back in 2004. Have you gotten more interested in playing live since the band got back together in 1999 or do you still favor the recording studio like you did in the 1960s?

JL: There is something about live performance that is scary. You never know what it will be like. I just happened to stumble on the Return To Stockholm gig after Kevin Wallbank the tour manager suggested I listen to it. It was kind of garage-y aggressive sounding. Now that it’s in the box and out there I am glad I did. It is good to hear Mark (Tulin – recently deceased) sing “Rosy“. I still love recording and Mark and I were planning one more studio album. We have all the tracks I just haven’t wanted to do much with them yet. It is kind of like admitting it is over if I finish it.

MTS: I was sorry to hear about Mark Tullin’s passing in 2011. It sounds like you’re planning to continue on as a band. What’s the plan going forward?

JL: We do want to play some more live gigs. This version of band has been playing together for a few years. Steve Kara (lead guitar), Jay Dean (2nd lead), Walter Garces (drums). We are ready. With an obscure band like ours you have to go where you can get someone to come to the gigs. That is pretty hard at times, what with all the soft sofas available. We still dream …. many from our era have lost that capacity. Mark and I had done some studio recordings with Billy Corgan and I think a couple of those cuts will come out at some point? We will also finish up this last studio album when the time is right.

MTS: What do the recordings you made with Billy Corgan sound like?

JL: I think people would hear the cuts and know it’s us. Billy played some guitar on a version of “Pushin’ Too Hard” we did for Sky Saxon’s memorial album and I thought he was right in sync. He listens, and that is the key. Billy also played with us in Hollywood live for Sky’s memorial.

MTS: Finally, how much did you have to dream last night?

JL: More than my share. I have been very lucky in life; varied experiences, chances beyond chances, reuniting an obscure entity and getting to make some more music, hell it is a dream! Love and conflict; but what’s a good dream without a few nightmares?

Interview with Pete Kember (AKA Sonic Boom) (2005)

Pete Kember is probably best known for his work in the legendary psychedelic outfit Spacemen 3 but for the past 15 years he has been releasing his own solo work (both under the name Sonic Boom and Spectrum) and he has headed up Experimental Audio Research, a loose conglomeration of musicians who at one time or another have included My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, God’s Kevin Martin and AMM’s Eddie Prevost. While his solo work has retained some similarities to his origins in Spacemen 3, he has increasingly moved further away from that sound and more towards avant-garde composition.

What are you working on at the moment? I’m just finishing up an LP for Important Records by E.A.R.- which is unnamed as yet, plus a remix for 4AD’s MAGNETOPHONE, plus some remixes for USA’s DECEMBER SOUND & also my new SPECTRUM LP. I’m pretty much constantly working on something or other. I’ve also been working on the final prototype of my effects pedal, a remake with extra features of the treble/bass booster, fuzz tone, & repeat percussion that I use on my VOX guitar – the pedal is called the SONIC STARSTREAMER. We’ve been tweaking & adding features for a little while, but it’s sounding amazing, people seem very impressed with it. I do that with my partner in crime STEVE THOMAS. I believe there are pics and some info at On top of this I’m working on a Peter Zinovieff CD of his pioneering computer electronic music from the 60’s & 70’s. That’s been in the pipeline a while, but hopefully everyone will find it worth the wait – that’s for SPACEAGE Recordings.

Are you planning to tour anytime soon? I’m doing a few odd shows in France, and possibly the UK with E.A.R. in December – plus I’ve been DJ’ing quite a lot to promote my SPACELINES compilation LP of rare great grooves of soul punk from the 30’s to the 90’s. That’s fun. I don’t expect to tour with Spectrum until late this or early next year.

Is there a different type of audience at a Sonic Boom/Spectrum show vs. an E.A.R. show? Sure. There’s some overlap, but the two projects appear to appeal to a slightly different crowd. I dunno. It’s not easy to define, but there is a difference as you’d reasonably expect with the variance in material. I happen to equally love Meta-Electronic stuff as well as more traditional song-based formats.

Have you ever had anything really funny happen to you on tour? Any Spinal Tap moments? Sure. There’s always something going on. I’m not sure a lot of it would be funny except to bands. Mixerman pretty much out-Tapped Spinal Tap in his ‘Daily Adventures of Mixerman’ diaries that I read last year – very funny reading.

As a connoisseur of both drugs and music, what’s your favorite album to listen to high? Haha. That’s funny. Possibly ‘ DEAN WAREHAM & BRITTA PHILLIPS’ ‘Sonic Souvenirs’ EP on Jetset Records. That’s a really nice record to get high to – full of great feelings & words. I could list dozens of good recommendations. Depends on the drug. Anyone from JJ CALE to 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS. THE STONES, THE STOOGES, THE WHO, ELECTRIC PRUNES , JIM DICKINSON – plus I like to listen to electronic stuff a lot.

Do you hear your influence in a lot of today’s bands? Like BRMC or BRIAN JONESTOWN? Sure. I dont always hear it in the bands who ARE influenced by it, I guess that’s the best really, where they’ve latched onto the ethos of the band & what we were trying to do musically & socially. Often I think people just appreciate the sensibility of it. We always set out to show that soul was more important than chops & I think we succeeded to a fair degree. It is surprising how many bands seemed to have dug what we were up to.

Spacemen 3’s back catalogue has been released on a lot of different labels in a lot of forms (I’ve seen three or four versions of Playing With Fire on CD), plus there have been a lot of cd’s of live/demo material which seem semi-legitimate. What’s the deal with that? Well, over time – say PLAYING WITH FIRE: Original release on FIRE in UK, BOMP in USA. Then it was re-issued in USA & UK by TAANG! & SPACEAGE as the old license deals expired. The SPACEAGE version has a full bonus CD with extra stuff. Pretty much all the demos have been released too – people were asking for it. SPACEMEN 3 were a band who would do very different versions of songs at different periods/times & people like to hear that. I’m the same way with the VELVET UNDERGROUND. No one has to buy any of this stuff – it’s just there if you do…….

I saw a video for “Big City” on TV a few days ago and was surprised that you guys had even made videos. Were there ever any commercial hopes for the band? Sure, we did videos for REVOLUTION, HYPNOTISED & BIG CITY. Towards the end there were commercial reasons for doing them. In reality we were as capable as many others of doing stuff that might be considered potentially commercial.

What did you think of the Spacemen 3 Tribute Album? Charming, to be considered even worth the effort. It was interesting too, but those tribute LP’s rarely work out as great LP’s – as evidenced by SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRIES ‘How Many Bands Does It Take To Screw Up A Blondie Tribute LP.’ I liked LOW’s version & I liked MOGWAI’s slightly unrecognizable version of HONEY.

Gotta ask…..any chance of a reunion? Reunions suck on the whole. Reforming is different, but as to playing SPACEMEN 3 material with former members, WILL CARRUTHERS often tours as part of SPECTRUM as well as doing his own highly underrated FREE LOVE BABIES. I’ll always play some SPACEMEN material. I’d like to think that JASON might consider working on stuff in the future, but there are far from likely signs of that at present.

Is there anything you want to talk about or get off your chest? Not especially. I guess, given the privilege of space here, I would like people to remember that every time they ‘burn’ a copy of any in-print CD they slowly but very surely strangle the artists/bands they love & use as a soundtrack to their life’s highs, lows & heavenly blows. I’ve heard all the excuses about ‘promoting’ the band, etc… but it’s all rubbish to kid yourself it’s OK to do this sorta thing. I won’t accept gifts of burns of this or that LP. I’ll listen to it, then buy it if I like it etc. That hurts no-one, promotes the bands & enables your favorite artists to produce more stuff for YOU – their audience. The Madonna’s of this world equally are hit, but halving a £15,000 income is far more than halving her £1,000,000 income. CD BURNING IS DESTROYING THE ‘INDEPENDENT’ MUSIC INDUSTRY.

Interview with Yuki Chikudate from Asobi Seksu (2006)

With the release of their sophomore album “Citrus” Asobi Seksu have found themselves on the receiving end of almost universal praise for their cool mix of pop songwriting and atmospheric sounds. The following interview was conducted with lead singer Yuki via email.

Now that Citrus has been released, many reviews (including my own) have said that it’s far more consistent than the first album. Was that a conscious goal you had when writing and recording, or did it just turn out that way?

Yes, it was definitely a conscious goal. We were very aware of our inconsistencies with the first record. With this album we were able to take the time and effort to create an album as a whole, with a story arc that makes sense from beginning to end. We had to weed out a bunch of songs to get there and we grappled with the song order for months!

There have been a lot of atmospheric/shoegaze bands from NY in the past few years, whereas there really wasn’t any for a very long time. Do you have any idea why this is?

We haven’t been aware of any revival. We just knew that we wanted to be a loud, in your face, take it or leave it type of band. It has been James goal to create this kind of sound since he was in high school. This has been manifested in many ways, since he’s into different kinds of noise. He has been in bands that sounded like The Melvins, Mogwai, as well as Spiritualized and Flying Saucer Attack. I think once I came into the picture his pop sensibilities came into play. James has always been experimenting with noise, not just a shoegaze sound, and I think that he’s worked very hard to create his current guitar sound.

Do you have a favorite place to play in NY?

We love playing Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom.

Who are some of your favorite up and coming NY bands?

Calla, Daylights for the Birds

Would you arm-wrestle Kazu from Blonde Redhead over the right to be crowned best Japanese female singer of an NY indie-rock band?

No way! I can’t touch her! PLUS, she’s got friends in high places like one of our heroes, John Lurie! Have you seen him? He’s like 7 feet tall. He would easily crush me if he had to…to defend her honor.

Did making a video for “Walk On The Moon” open up any doors for the band? I’ve never seen it, except for the Internet – did any of the video networks play it? I think so. It has become our theme song, so to speak. I think MTVU played it a bunch. We were not cool enough for MTV2.

Speaking of “Walk On The Moon”, was that written about a specific situation? Yes and no. As I was writing the lyrics, I think I subconsciously channeled the 16-year old me.

How you decide whether to do a certain song in English or in Japanese? We flip a coin. Do a raffle. Rock paper scissors.

Do you guys work jobs outside of the band or does this pay the bills? Uhhh, we have day jobs.

Is there anything else you want to say? We would like to not have day jobs!!

Interview with Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre (2005)

Anton Newcombe has built up quite a large reputation. Some people think he’s a genius. Some people think he’s a maniac. Some people think both. He’s been through fights, arrests, drug addictions, high profile feuds, and somewhere in it all he has managed to stay a prolific writer and performer. He’s released more than ten albums over the past decade. They are all available as a free download on his website and they are all worth checking out:

What are you working on at the moment?

Our next album We Are The Radio. I like it. I’m working with this great female singer, Sarabeth Tuceck. She has a great voice so I’m pretty excited.

What ever happened to the live album, the album of re-recordings of old songs, and the BJM tribute album you were talking about on your website a while back? The covers project became a website. I started posting live shows on our MP3 page and umm…Greg Shaw died.

Out of all the projects that ex-BJM band members have done (Outcrowd, BRMC, Smallstone, Daydream Nation….etc) has anything really impressed or disappointed you? You missed the Warlocks…just kidding. I had fun touring with BRMC. I don’t know, I’m kind of into my own work. It’s like I only have so much free time, I can listen to what other people are up to or I can work on my own art.

Are there any unknown/unsigned bands that you’re into at the moment? A Place To Bury Strangers.

Who holds the record for the shortest membership in BJM, and why was it so short? People have played “a show”. Just because we play music together doesn’t mean you are in my band. People like to name drop it like it’s going to change the fact that their music is weak.

The last time I saw you guys live in New York, Sune Rose Wagner from The Raveonettes was playing bass. How did that happen? I love him and we like each others’ work. He said he wanted to play with us and so he did. They are a great band. Great people and I wish the best for them.

Do you think you could ever be a sideman in someone else’s band? I sit in or play on a lot of projects. I’m playing drums on the first Warlocks album. I’m on 13 Tales, so you know.

Sitars were a big part of your sound for a while but you haven’t used them on recent records. Is there any reason why? Have you ever played live with sitars? Well, I’m not into gimmicks. I just work in different mediums. And yes we have played them live.

When you recorded Thank God For Mental Illness for $17.36, what was it that you spent $17.36 on? A beer and the tape.

You’ve seem to have a knack for being able to play a lot of different instruments. Have there been any instruments that you’ve tried to learn but just suck at? I have a hard time with the violin.

How’s your beat-boxing? I could make the Fat Boys skinny. Just kidding.

Lately you’ve been doing a lot of DJ’ing. How did you get into that and what are some of your favorite records to play? I hate how pretentious people are with music. I wanted to start a trend in DJ culture where you have four or five DJ’s going song for song and feeding into it. We play all kinds of junk.

After your experiences on TVT are you still interested in being signed to a large record company? If the fit was right why not?

Beatles or Stones? MBV or Ride? All of them.

Is there anything you want to talk about or get off your chest? Just that Leo Strauss was a fucking evil devil and our government and the people that support it are human vomit.

Unsung: Simply Saucer

If the name Simply Saucer is new to you, you should immediately check out Cyborgs Revisited, a collection of their 70’s recordings, including a brilliant six-song EP recorded  by Bob and Daniel Lanois in Hamilton, Ontario, as well as other demos, a two-song single, and several live recordings, including three songs recorded on the roof of a mall on a Saturday afternoon in 1975. I can only imagine what the unsuspecting shopper’s reactions were to aggressive psych-punk songs like”Nazi Apocalypse” and “Illegal Bodies”! The album displays a combination of well-chosen influences ranging from The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, to Hawkwind and krautrock, along with a taste for avant-garde electronics and lead singer Edgar Breau’s keen sense of songwriting which shouldn’t get lost in the pysch-punk melee.

Here’s a taste of the good stuff:

I recently interviewed Edgar Breau  via email, to find out more about what it was like breaking ground and being the first proto-punk band in the city, and about all the ups and downs that come along with that distinction. We also spoke about his life since Simply Saucer called it a day in 1979. You can keep up with Breau’s acitivities over at  Enjoy!

1. What was Hamilton, Ontario like for you as a young music fan, pre-Saucer? Did you get to see a lot of good local bands and bigger touring acts live? Do any concert experiences from that period stand out in your memory?

It was a very rough part of the city where the steel mills were located. My friends were all avid record collectors listening to the Kinks, Velvet Underground, Pretty Things, Yardbirds, Byrds, Moby Grape, Terry Riley, Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Seeds; later on Can and Faust. I had very broad tastes aside from the cult bands and in my collection. I had Lightnin Hopkins and English folk like Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Dando Shaft, Nick Drake and jazz records like Coltrane, Ornette Coleman; English jazz-fusion like Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Nucleus as well as Canadian artists like Kensington Market, The Paupers, Ugly Ducklings, Gordon Lightfoot and American songwriters like Tim Hardin, Dylan, Fred Neil etc. etc. etc.; so it wasn’t musically such a large leap for me to play more folk-oriented music and eventually I became a disciple, shall we say, of John Fahey who influenced my own guitar playing a great deal. Our concert experiences mainly took place in Toronto where we could see many acts like the Stooges (Raw Power-era), Soft Machine, Hawkwind, Lou Reed (the Velvets played there as well in an outdoor fest). Actually the Exploding Plastic Inevitable Andy Warhol-era VU played Macmaster University in Hamilton in the sixties, but I missed that. We did attend many concerts here in town. At a local arena I saw Quicksilver Messenger Service, Dr. John, the Band and The Jefferson Airplane played here as well. Locally, Crowbar were a popular band, blues rock, soul bands and some prog bands were playing, but NO BAND played the kind of music we began to play.

2. In the book “Treat Me Like Dirt”, you touch briefly on a hitchhiking trip you took across Canada as being a really formative experience for you. I find that really interesting since hitchhiking is kind of a thing of the past, yet it used to be a pretty common thing for adventurous young people to do. What were some of the things that happened on that trip?

I had read Kerouac in high school as well as the Electric Kool Aid Acid test, and my hitchhikin’ buddy did as well, so were decided to thumb to Vancouver. There were a lot of kids doing this at the time and so the government set up shelters where you could crash for the night and get cheap food and coffee. We panhandled in Vancouver, stayed at a Men’s Shelter in Kamloops, let’s say “indulged” in some psychedelic offerings of LSD-25, slept at the side of the highway, met a lot of ‘freaks’ and characters on the road, drove in a hearse in Saskatchewan with a couple of 80-year old farmers drinking whiskey, got stranded in WAWA (everyone did) and finally ended up in Winnipeg where we met a couple of hippie chicks, hung out in the park right next to the Manitoba legislature and had some weird experiences there, my friend John met his future Ojibway wife, I had a ‘bad trip’. I guess it was in essence the usual stuff that went on in those days.

3. The book also talks about you being a huge record collector that loved cult bands like The Stooges, Syd Barrett, Hawkwind, VU…etc. How does someone in early-70’s Hamilton even hear about someone like Hawkwind? Are you still a big music collector?

Well we read all the magazines at the time: Fusion, Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, New Musical Express, and for me a lot of it came from record reviews. Wayne McGuire wrote the Aquarian Journal I think for Fusion, which I believe came out of Boston, and he turned me on to John Fahey and later Mel Lyman, who for a time I was interested in. His tastes went from Fahey to the Velvet Underground and Coltrane, and that influenced my own record collecting. I’m not as big a music collector right now but I still check musicians out live. A lot of my time is spent working on my own music and guitar playing. I’m a prolific songwriter and have a large back catalogue, including unreleased Simply Saucer material, some of which we recorded in Detroit in the summer for a forthcoming vinyl EP. David Byers, an original member, was from Holland and turned us on to Dutch bands like Group 1856 and Wally Tax and the Outsiders, Super Sister, and of course Savage Rose who he loved. I have the complete collection in vinyl including many rarities. There were a group of us who had record spinoffs in which we drank a lot of cheap wine and would play our latest record finds and rate them. David wanted us to go in a more N.Y. Dolls, Roxy Music direction with costumes and make up, the whole bit, and he eventually left to form his own band. I was hanging with him tonight we are still good friends.

4. I read that you were a member of the Syd Barrett Appreciation Society. This might sound strange, but what did membership entail?

Well it gave me access to penpals, one of whom was Craig Bell out of Cleveland who told me about his bands the Saucer, Mirrors,  and later on Rocket from the Tombs, who morphed into Pere Ubu. He knew all the cool Cleveland musicians and eventually came up here one afternoon looking for me, but unfortunately I was out of town that day. We corresponded for a while. There was also a magazine called Terrapin with news about Syd, and a membership card which I carried around with me in my wallet for many years. I believe I was the first Canadian member.

5. In the liner notes of the 2003 reissue of Cyborgs Revisited, Bruce “Mole” Mowat mentions trying track down someone named Wally Lay who recorded a 1973 rehearsal by the early six-man configuration of Simply Saucer, which would be the only recording of that line-up. Any luck finding him in the 8 years since?

No, it’s one of those great Simply Saucer mysteries where he went and whether he still has the tapes. I’m still in touch with the two early members of the band who left: David Byers went on to form The Shangs, and Paul Colilli is the Dean of Studies for Italian medieval philosophy, culture and culture and theology at Laurentia University in Sudbury Ontario . David, Paul and I along with Simply Saucer bassist Kevin Christoff and present members Dan Wintermans and Steve Foster recorded about 3 hours of improvised music in February 2010 in the spirit of that original 6-piece configuration and we are planning to release a 45-minute ambient Simply Saucer CD on my own Flying Inn Recordings label in the new year.

6. Saucer were the first real underground band to come from Ontario, and then when more underground bands finally sprouted there who were more aligned with what became codified as punk, you guys didn’t really click with any of them musically or personality-wise. Were there any bands around in those days that you did look at as friends and peers, or were you really just sort of out there on your own? Did you crave having a scene of local bands that you could relate to or did you enjoy being a total outsider?

No, we didn’t hang out much with other bands, especially in ’73-75 when there were no other bands around here doing what we were. Eventually we made forays into the Toronto punk and new wave scene where we became better known. I think the cult-artist thing was always an appeal as so many of our musical heroes were just that; but eventually we tried to break out of that and altered the sound of the band somewhat, frustrated with our lack of commercial success.

7. The stories about Simply Saucer’s live shows make it sound like you were usually met with either repulsion or indifference from your crowds, yet you kept at it for about six years on and off. There must have been some really good shows in there, right? Did it ever feel like you were starting to cultivate a fan base?

We did have a local following and there were great shows that people still talk about. Gary Topp the Toronto promoter who put us on a bill with Pere Ubu still maintains we blew them off the stage…lol. We played another show with them here recently. We could have built on the fan base and had some really good reviews for the single but we had failed to get a release for what later became Cyborgs Revisited and no one knew about it at the time other than the original members of the band. There was a lot of substance abuse goin’ on and wild living, it was very communal in a Pink Fairies sort of way, and no management, no business acumen, with a front man (myself) who was very driven and ambitious but introverted and mainly preoccupied with the artistic end of things.

8. Speaking of Simply Saucer shows, I love the story about how you once played a high-school prom. That just sounds like a bad idea from the start, given the nature of your music. Was it at least a good paying gig at the time? Did any of those kids become fans of the band?

That was the early band when we had a manager who told the principal of the high school that Simply Saucer were perfect for the occasion. The principal of the school freaked out after our first set and begged us to turn down and play nice – and so we thoughtlessly and selfishly cranked up our amps louder. I do recall a conga line forming when we played “Electro Rock” which was very bizarre. So we had made fans by the end of the night -and the money was good.

9. Did you ever have thoughts of taking the band somewhere like L.A., Detroit, or New York where there was already an established scene that might accept you?

That’s the $64,000 question. Yes, we did talk about it and in retrospect that’s exactly what the band needed to do. Personally I think London in ’74 would have been ideal for us: a scene, sympathetic, VU-influenced, hip. I could have developed properly. I was a first rate songwriter; not to boast but I was very confident of my abilities and frustrated here.

10. That six song recording that you guys did with Bob and Daniel Lanois is really an amazing collection of songs. I know you guys sent it out to labels in hopes of getting signed, but when label interest didn’t materialize, did you ever consider putting it out yourselves independently?

Our manager went to all the major Canadian labels and we got rejected and felt rejected. After that he wanted to rebuild the band around me with a different supporting cast and offered me a personal management contract which would have allowed him to hire and fire musicians, but I wouldn’t sign it and he left with the tapes of our Master Sound studio recordings and I didn’t get them back until years later.

11. In the decade between Simply Saucer breaking up in 1979 and when Cyborgs Revisited was first released on vinyl in 1989 did you feel a tremendous sense of frustration that you had been part of something really musically vital, but without anything in the public record to show for it? With of course the exception of a two song single (“She’s A Dog”/”I Can Change My Mind”) that wasn’t really representative of the band…

The band completely crashed and burned with members’ addictions out of hand. One eventually ended up in jail (but doing very well now and successful in another career). We fell into complete obscurity and I had a “lost decade” identity crisis. I can recall looking at bands on MTV or MUCH MUSIC with videos being called “innovative” or “edgy” and thinking, “Shit, I’ve been there and done that and much scarier than that.” I ended up burying my past, refusing to acknowledge it, avoiding musical friends, and trying to live as if it never happened. I did have a high-end Laskin acoustic guitar and began seriously learning how to play it, and continued to write songs throughout my ‘reclusive’ period, being a family man, exploring more the world of books and ideas, theology and philosophy, distributism. I toyed with the idea of going back to the land, living more simply, bread-making, cheese-making, home-schooling – totally removed from the former bohemian lifestyle; and that in itself was a new discovery for me, living in a regular home. I wrote all of Cyborgs Revisited in a dingy storefront, sleeping on a on- inch piece of foam with no bath, shower, stove, furniture…etc. Just constant street-life shuffling by.

12. I recently received a CD to review from Ty Segall and he does a pretty good cover of “Bullet Proof Nothing”. Have you heard it (the album is called Singles 2007-2010)? Have there been many Simply Saucer covers?

I have heard and it’s a good version. An English band from Blackpool called  Earthling Society covered “I Take It”. Have you heard of them? Great band, and a great version of the song.

13. The music you’ve made since Saucer broke up has been a lot quieter and closer to folk music. Was that a reaction against punk, or were your tastes just changing?

No, my tastes didn’t change. I had always loved the musical-hall stylings of Ray Davies and ditties of Syd Barrett and New Orleans-inspired Randy Newman songs as well as the more folkie Velvet Undreground songs and John Cale’s solo offerings, and just went in that direction. I had written a lot of material for Simply Saucer as well that was not in the psych/punk mode from the beginning, so it was a natural progression for me. Also the John Fahey influence began for me around ’77 ’78 in the band’s later years and as I said I had a guitar made by Grit Laskin who later on became a famous luthier whose instruments are now in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

14. Can you tell me a little bit about some of your experiences with The Third Kind? I found a few videos of them on Youtube but not much other information. The clips I saw remind me a little of The Feelies’ music from that period.

The Third Kind was myself and Simply Saucer bassist Kevin Christoff, original member David Byers and Kevin’s brother Derek. David and I were both writing for the band and it lasted for about a year or so. We never played out. David had toured the south listening to a lot of southern white gospel quartet music, and wrote a piece on Martha Carson for a music mag. We were both going in a more rootsy direction, with harmonies but still kinda punk and psych as well. David’s an excellent songwriter and does the graphic design for my recording and we have launched our own label to release our back catalogues and new music.

15. What are you currently working on and what do you have planned for the future?

In a week I’ll have my own new CD, Patches of Blue back from the manufacturer. It’s a collection of 12 songs with Simply Saucer bassist Kevin Christoff on it, as well as some great local musicians include Bill Dillon a guitar player who has recorded with Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan and many others, and keyboard Ed Roth who goes back to the Toronto Yorkville sixties sound and early underground scene including Ugly Ducklings, and session singer Colinna Phillips from there as well. Fiddle player Joe Clark from West Virginia, who played in the Carter Family fields as a child and is a monster musician, Mike Trebilcock from Canadian power-pop band The Killjoys. Anyhow, it’s a  roots record of soul-pop, jazz-pop, Acadian music…the whole gamut.

Simply Saucer recorded a 5 song EP in Detroit in the summer at Jim Diamond’s studio (he produced the early White Stripes stuff). The songs on it are “Baby Nova”, “Reckless Agitation”, “Low Profile”, “Dance the Mutation”, and “I Take It”. None of these have ever been recorded in a studio prior to this. Motown legend Mckinley Jackson sat in on the B3 and Fender Rhodes piano. It’s a very raw rockin set of songs and it’s coming out on Eleganza Records.