Room 55 @ THE NICE ROOMS presents
"Once Upon A Memory"
- The Terry Draper Interview
Date of Article: 29th June 2018
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Singer/songwriter, Terry Draper, is best known for his work as a member of Klaatu (a Canadian progressive rock group formed in 1973) and co-author of "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft", which was covered by The Carpenters.
Since the disbanding of Klaatu, Terry has pursued a solo career and has remained true to his love of ‘Pop’ music, Progressive Rock and the grandiose productions of the '60s & '70s.
In this exclusive article, Terry talks to Gary Radice of The Nice Rooms Webzine about his 2018 album "Once Upon A Memory".
Would it be fair or right to call "Once Upon A Memory" the final part of a trilogy of albums?
In an odd way… yes. The first of these 3, “Window On The World – The Lost 80’s Tapes” came to be because of my friend and mastering technician, Buzz Morrow. Not only is he a musician with a studio and engineering skills, he repairs audio equipment. We were finishing up the mastering of "Searching” and Buzz inquired as to whether I had any ½” tapes from the 80’s as he had recently repaired a Tascam 80-8 tape deck. I found some old tapes with songs that I liked but never released mostly because they were done with a horrible sounding drum machine, the Drumulator, and synthesized strings. Buzz ‘digitized’ these songs so that I could upload the separated tracks to the MAC and discard/replace the offending sounds. Thus began the ‘housecleaning’ of my back catalogue of unreleased and unheard tunes.
As “Window On The World” unfolded, I continued writing & recording. At some point I realized that I had more than a few songs about women that had been unsuitable for previous albums. Continuing the ‘housecleaning’ process I gathered them together along with songs about women from my previous releases and had a new album, “Remarkable Women”. I even included the song, “Amelia” from the musical, “Let’s Write A Musical About Amelia Earhart” that I’ve written with Mary MacDonald Rival.
Rounding out this triumvirate of collections is “Once Upon A Memory”. This project has been on my mind for many years under the working title “Terry’s Travelogue”. Like most people, I love to travel, see the world and take photographs. I also write poetry about the places I’ve been to and invariably they morph into songs. This collection of 22 songs contains 11 new tunes and 11 slightly used songs from my catalogue of albums. These are songs about places I’ve been, places I need to see and some destinations that exist only in my imagination. At the time of its release this album had the dubious distinction of including my most recent composition, the title track “Once Upon A Memory” and the first song ever I wrote “The Return Of Galadurn” from September, 1969.
The opening intro to the first track "Away" clearly sets the scene for the general theme of travel on the album but the travel is not just the literal sort is it?
Not too much is literal. “Away” originally appears on “Stranded”, an album from 2010. I wanted to include it but it needed some TLC. I sped it up, dropped a verse, redid the vocals with Brenda Webb, added Bill Nadeau on guitar in the ‘tango section’ and added the ‘airport’ intro with Anna advising us of Flight# 278 (our street address) bound for “Myrlindale”.
“Away” is a metaphor for ‘not standing still’ and ‘continuing the search’. "I haven't found what I'm searching for" is for me a constant. I want to know what’s around the bend and what will tomorrow bring. Happiness in love, success and money shouldn’t inhibit wonder and curiousity.
There's a line in my personal favourite track Myrlindale (written in '71 and re-recorded in 2016)
"Through the land of Make Believe I wonder when I can"
Have you ever thought about publishing a fantasy novel or a poetry anthology?
I have considered writing a novel but I found that I can usually share a story or tell a tale in 4 minutes or less. LOL. Even a short story requires more than that! The closest I have come to writing a novel is the stage musical… 90 minutes with multiple songs. I have completed 2, the aforementioned “Let’s Write A Musical About Amelia Earhart” and “Tesla Rocks”, the unembellished story of the life & times of Nikola Tesla. A 3rd is in the works… “My Uncle Sherlock”, a musical mystery told by Dr. Watson’s niece.
You capture Amsterdam brilliantly on the track "Afternoon In Amsterdam" Do the 'Broken Umbrellas' that crop up in the lyrics refer to the aftermath of the storm you experienced while over there?
When it comes to the process of writing, do you make written and mental notes about the things that inspire you all of the time?
I find myself scribbling bits of prose often… while watching TV, driving, in the middle of the night etc. Case in point: One late night I was reading with TCM on in the background televising “The Charge Of The Light Brigade”. The movie with Errol Flynn is mediocre at best but it inspired me to print out Tennyson’s original poem. Months later I found the document in a pile of papers and scribblings. Then and there I set his amazing poem to music. It appears on “When The World Was Young”.
"All Over Morocco" was originally written in '79 but the track has been enhanced since hasn't it?
It was… and recorded that summer by Klaatu as a candidate for the : “Endangered Species” album. It was not chosen.
"All Over Morocco" / Terry Draper 2000 version
I believe that the producer, Chris Bond was unable to visualize what I was hearing. Years later with the advent of playing samples and other technology I took the original recording and added sitar, tamboura, tabla, assorted ‘middle east’ percussion and shanai or shehnai to create an ‘east meets west’ effect. The transformation and true story make this a personal favourite. It appears on the album “Civil War… and other love songs” from 2000.
I'm fascinated by your use of the Esmerelda / Quasimodo theme on the track "Paris In The Spring"..
Notre Dame is a feat of engineering and architecture (I prefer it viewed from the back). “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” played by Charles Laughton is a wondrous journey and study of the human condition. By referring to my lost love in the song “Paris In Spring” as Esmerelda I become Quasimodo. I am quite comfortable in that role.
"Winter In Peru" has a harder rock feel to it than the other tracks on the album..
“Winter In Peru” was written on the drive home, at dawn, after a long recording session in Toronto during the “Sir Army Suit” sessions. We were recording in Room 2 and Black Sabbath recorded in Room 1.
Dee & I spent many an evening of debauchery with Ozzy while we were recording. This song is not about Peru… it’s a metaphor about one of it’s more popular exports at the time and the consequences of overindulgence. “Winter In Peru” was recorded a few years later for possible inclusion on Klaatu’s “Magentalane” album but “December Dream” was chosen instead. It features Dee on electric guitar and John playing Hammond organ & 12 string guitar.
Listening to "Let's Go To Mexico" "Sail Around The World" and "In The Sun" had me thinking.. Canada can be a very cold place - How much influence does the weather have on your songwriting?
Over the years I have been many things to support a life of music: a
bartender, a bar manager, a carpenter and ‘handyman’. None were more difficult
or as financially rewarding as roofing. When Klaatu dissolved in 1982 I turned
my back on the music biz (just as I believed they had turned their backs on us)
and restarted the roofing company that had paid the bills before and during the
early days of Klaatu.
When I first fell into roofing in my youth I had to work through a few Canadian winters. Back then there were no nail guns, we ‘rolled’ the nails between our fingers for speed and of course, one could not wear gloves. To this day I have an aversion to winter. If I can’t physically get away, I will do it through song!
Where or what is the "Sunnyland" that you refer to in the song of the same name?
Back in the mid 90’s when my sons, Alex & Adam were young, I wrote and recorded a 7 song cassette of sophisticated children’s songs with positive, self-esteem building themes with “Yellow Submarine” as a guide. After signing with Bullseye Records in 1997 and releasing my first album “Light Years Later” we expanded on the children’s cassette and made a 15 song CD, “TerryToons – Can You Pretend” released in 1999. A plan to re-release this album with more songs and an animated video of “Can You Pretend” never materialized.
In 2003 whilst having ‘one-of-those-days’ “Sunnyland” emerged… ‘a place that’s never grey’. Fifteen years later it found a home on “Once Upon A Memory”.
I know where it's nice today
I know a place that's never grey
It rarely rains...You could wait for hours.
And when it rains...It rains sun showers.
Come with me to Sunnyland.
Come with me to Sunnyland.
I'd never heard of The Tea Horse Road, Terry, until I looked it up having listening to the track on "Once Upon A Memory".
Ideas for songs come from the oddest places. “The Tea Horse Road” was inspired by an article in National Geographic!
The Tea Horse Road / Terry Draper (Written: 2012 / Recorded: 2013)
Is "In Germany" a case of you wearing your heart on your sleeve and writing lyrics about lost love?
In the mid '80s I was working with Jacqui Kroft writing & recording together. Her major influence, at the time was the Europop sound of The Eurythmics, among others. We had done 6 or 8 songs under the name “Nunu” (for some unknown reason) when she went on holiday to Germany. She never returned. Communication in those days was limited to telephone and airmail. How quaint! The song “In Germany” asked many of the questions that I had for her. Today she lives in England and we correspond from time to time.
Your song Waterloo was written almost exactly 200 years to the date after the Battle Of Waterloo! Was this deliberate on your part?
I knew the 200th anniversary was in June… I watched some of the proceedings. Anna & I spent 3 weeks in Europe in July and August that summer. From Paris we drove to Juno Beach in Normandy, then to Vimy Ridge on our way to visit friends in Amsterdam. We decided to spend the night in Brussells and the afternoon in Waterloo.
How much influence does History have on your songwriting?
I love the inclusion of a portion of the French Children's song The Marching song by the way!
Plainly, I enjoy history and love visiting historic sites and sharing my thoughts. The next day I mentioned to Anna that a song “At Waterloo” was manifesting itself in my head. She apprised me of a French children’s song she taught her young students about Napoleon. I included it in the recording… Children singing amidst the fury of musket & cannon-fire was juxtaposition not to be missed.
- A subtlety you may have missed… the lyrics about the English are highlighted using an English horn, the French with a French horn.
Yes, I did miss that..Great touch!
Terry, you have mentioned Anna a couple of times in your answers..
Ahhhhh, yes. Anna. We have been together since 1981 and got married in ’83. We have 2 sons, Alex & Adam. Being a teacher of music, drama and French as well as an actress and musician, Anna has been quite supportive of all my creative endeavours. We both enjoy travelling and have a need to see ‘beyond the bend’. She has been the subject of dozens of happy songs over the years and we look forward to more adventures together.
Terry and his wife Anna in Paris (2015)
I'm aware that you read 'Flash Gordon's Adventures In Mongo' before writing "The Land Of Mongo" in 1984. Did you ever get to see the 1980 film "Flash Gordon" with the Queen soundtrack and how much influence (if any at all) do films that you have seen in general have on your songwriting?
I saw “Flash” with the Queen soundtrack at the drive-in when it came out. It wasn’t memorable to me. I prefer the old B&W weekly theatre ‘cliffhangers’ of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. A long, long time ago… I was very young!
I like watching old movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and often have it on while I’m reading. One day an early James Mason movie aired with a female character named “Soleil”. I liked the sound of that and wrote “Pour Soleil” in response. Books, movies, theatre and life in general are all influential in the creative process.
Following on from the film theme in the last question comes the title to Track 15 "Travelling Between Eternities" and the line:
"We're all travelers in this world - from sweet grass to the packin' house - birth till death - we travel between the eternities."
Why did the line quoted by Robert Duval (Prentice Ritter) leave such an impression on you?
I appreciate the work of Robert Duvall and have admired him as Boo Radley in “To Kill A Mockingbird” all the way to his “Godfather” appearances. I have thought about eternity and infinity but have never considered life to be a slice in between the 2 eternities. This phrase begs the questions… “What is life?” and “Why are we here?”. Putting pen to paper is the best way for me to understand how I feel about these questions.
In the song "Pirates Of Port Royal" Jeff does a sterling job with his voice acting - You must have had fun putting it all together? :)
Jeff Naworinski is an elementary teacher, actor and co-worker with Anna. They have been in several Community Theatre plays together and Jeff does a wide range of character voices. When first I recorded “The Pirates Of Port Royal” my vocal performance as Terry left much to be desired… voicing a character is more difficult than you would think. Hand gestures and facial expressions do not get recorded in the world of audio. You must highly exaggerate your performance. I presented the song to Jeff and asked him to do one of his characters… and perhaps speak more than sing. He came over and began speaking/singing in the character of a British Lord. I said “Jeff, can you do a drunken pirate?” Much fun was had. He even did the 2nd verse sung by the ladies of Port Royal in a Monty Pythonesque female voice!
You describe the track "What lies Beyond?" as 'a frivolous adventure into space' - On one level for me, yes, the repitition of words give the track a feeling of travel and paints a picture of the beyond going on and on..
Another movie inspiration. I think it’s in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. A young lad invites a genie from a magical lamp with the words “… from beyond beyond”. That sounds awfully far away! The question “What lies beyond beyond?” has been around since my youth and this piece of music needed some lyrics and a title.
I'm wondering if, on
another level, the journey you describe isn't frivolous at all?
I addressed those questions in our discussion about “Travelling Between The Eternities”. Different views on different days of the same subject matter… sometimes serious, sometimes frivolous.
I remember interviewing you Terry about your "Searching" album back in 2016 here at The Nice Rooms. At that time you described the track "Jules And Me" as a personal favourite of yours from the album.
I wont add anything more other than to repeat here what you said about the track two years ago:
Sci-Fi and Fantasy have been staples of my literary diet forever, from Asimov to Wyndham and Jules Verne tops the list.
The “B” movies of Verne’s works from my youth were captivating… 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea... James Mason will forever be Captain Nemo...The Mysterious Island - Civil War (another of my passions) prisoners escape in a hot air balloon and get attacked by a giant chicken… Around The World in 80 Days, the list seems endless.
It seemed fitting to me to acknowledge Mr. Verne’s accomplishments in a song and if one person reads one of his books because of it, I will be delighted.
When and how did your thirst for travel start?
I suppose the thirst for travel first began in Grade 5 with the history book “Pirates & Pathfinders” of which I still have a copy. Learning about the exploits of Vasco da Gama, Drake and Magellan was powerful reading. The romance of discovery shared by these men and others like Stanley’s search for Dr. Livingstone, Speke’s hunt for the source of The Nile and perhaps most inspiring, Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun still intrigue me. Since those early days I have been enamoured with far-off places and exotic destinations. The words Timbuktu, Bali, Ankor Wat and Persia still hold a certain allure.
My first real road trip in 1975 is documented in “Back In Acapulco”. A friend & I left Toronto in my TVR Vixen (pictured) and drove to the Yucatan to see Palenque and the Temple Of Inscriptions. We then headed west through Mexico City and the Sierra Madre to Acapulco. We were robbed on the beach by 3 young Mexicans at ‘broken-bottle point’ and decided to head home through Guadahala. A memorable excursion. Most recently, Anna & I drove back to Toronto from Florida the long way… along the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile, Alabama toward Baton Rouge, Louisiana and up the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee for a stroll through history on Beale Street. One of my favourite pronouncements… “We’ve never been on this road before!”
You captured the middle eastern sound on "Turkish Delight" perfectly..How did you achieve this?
I’ve done a few songs in this ‘Middle-Eastern” mode. The “Searching” album closes with a sitar based, Moody Bluesish “Swami River”. It’s a musical departure from traditional Pop and I find it enlightening and entertaining. One of my beliefs is “If I can keep myself amused musically perhaps the audience will be amused as well”.
We were in Greece on the island Chios for our niece’s wedding in 2008. We had a lovely apartment on the beach looking east toward Turkey… quite visible on a clear day.
Whilst flipping through the limited programming on television I found a Turkish station playing authentic, traditional music for what appeared to be a ‘soap opera’. I recorded a bit on my video camera. A year or 2 later I rediscovered this audio gem and proceeded to recreate the rhythm & mood with middle eastern instruments.
“Turkish Delight” is not about a woman or the confectionary. I’m referring to the country itself that we visited… “a wondrous site”.
Could you tell the readers about the process you employed behind your first attempt at songwriting - The 1969 track "Return Of Galadurn"?
Bilbo, Frodo & I share the same birthday, September 22nd. An avid reader, I became enthralled with fantasy and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord Of The Rings” is a favourite. For many years I would begin the book on my birthday, attending Frodo’s party and then off we’d go on the adventure. It’s no surprise that a large portion of my early works are fantasy driven like “The Return Of Galadurn” and “Myrlindale”. Other songs from those formative, early years include “In The Name Of Sir Gwain”, “Light In The Dark Ages”, “Black Enchantment” and “Fleuvilia”. They have never been recorded but I look at them from time to time…
The vicious dragon, Goth conquered and banished all men from his new territory in the Sea of Grue. The men led my valiant Galadurn have returned to rightfully claim what was once theirs. I started with 2 musical themes: one for the men, a repetitive, driving melody that alluded to rowing… reminiscent of “Marche Slave” (they were Vikings, after all) and for the dragon I designed a dissonant melody with odd chords. The climax, called “Battle Field” has the 2 themes playing back and forth, interrupting one another and speeding up to end in a gigantic explosion! The aftermath is a wistful, dreamy musical interlude that fades away entitled “Mer de Paix”.
Who wins? We’ll never know.
Before we come to the final track, I have to ask you about the superb musicians who have collaborated with you and the lovely artwork that compliments the album..
It seems that most people from my generation played a musical instrument. Some of us, like myself stuck with it, persevered and became relatively proficient after many decades. Some had natural talent. I’ve been lucky enough to work with musicians from both camps and all of them are friends. Special mention goes to Bill Nadeau for his gift of countless guitar sessions and to Brenda Webb & Ray Paul for their time and vocal support.
I will take full credit for all the graphics and information supplied in the album's accompanying ‘booklet’
The choice of visual material is, to me a potent tool for enhancing the songs & stories in all my work. My son, Alex taught me to use Photoshop and I find that journey almost as rewarding as creating the tunes themselves. Thanks to Alex. A paragraph of ‘Thank Yous' would be incomplete without mentioning the discerning audience that choose to give my works a listen.
The first song, “We’re Not Alone” on my first solo album, “Light Years Later” perhaps says it best:
Imagine all the painters and the poets overlooked
If no one saw the showings and no one read the books
Oh, reception is the heart of art… It must be shared by two
No, it don’t mean a thing without you!
And so to the final track - The title track "Once Upon A Memory" - This track together with the opening track "Away" beautifully bookend this musical odyssey. Memories forever captured in music. :)
Once Upon A Memory / Terry Draper (2016)
I may have mentioned that the working title for this project (that has been in the works for years) was originally “Terry’s Travelogue”. You can’t imagine how happy I was to write “Once Upon A Memory” and have a usable title. One day I was reflecting on the good times, the bands and the antics that were perpetrated in my misspent youth. It was a carefree time without children, mortgages and other responsibilities. And The Music! I feel blessed to have spent my formative years in the '60s.
“Once Upon A Memory” is a nostalgic look back in my rearview mirror as I go hurtling into the future.
I love living in the past
I have made those Memories last
And the truth will out… I would love to do it all again.