ROOM 32 @ THE NICE ROOMS presents
Searching - The Terry Draper Interview
Date of Article: April 29th 2016
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 released a number of CDs, including Light Years Later, TerryToons, Civil War… and other love songs, Aria 52 and The Furzall Family. Throughout the ever-changing music scene, Terry 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 about his 2016 album Searching.
Thanks for taking time out to talk at The Nice Rooms Terry. First up, is it true you've been involved with bands since the age of 14?
My very first band was a year previous, 1964, but as we had no instruments, nor could we play them if we had them, The Little Things did not amount to much. With desire still intact, my first band that could play (and had instruments) and actually had paying gigs was J.P. and The Five Good Reasons. Jimmy Pitkin (J.P.) changed his name to Virgil Scott in 1968 and he's still out there 'doin' it'. We were in a few bands together besides J.P. and The Five Good Reasons.. The Kingdom Showband and The Innocence of Virgil Scott in the 60's. Such great names! Our close friendship endures to this day.
My musical adventure actually begins much earlier when Mom, Dad & I moved in with Grandma Draper, affectionately known as 'Ma'.
Much to my delight, I had to share a bedroom with my Uncle Bill who was ten years my senior. He possessed a record player and a collection of 78s. Upon returning home from school, I would be bombarded by the likes of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers ,Little Richard' and of course, Elvis. I was 6 years old at the time! On my 10th birthday, Uncle Bill gave me my first L.P. (long playing record), Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits. I am still a fan of Roy. As well, my record collection consisted of many 45's... Phil Spectre's 'girl groups' and The Beach Boys. When The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, it occurred to me that learning to play music and not just listen to it, could be a good idea.
In addition to the main vocals, do you play all the instruments on your new album Searching ?
I try to play most everything myself. The process of writing a song beginning with an idea or a concept or even a melody and a blank piece of paper can be quite fulfilling. And I do enjoy it. But for me, the recording and arranging the various instruments is most rewarding. If the song is the 'cake'... the arrangement is the 'icing'. The voicing and choice of instrumentation can often maximize a song's potential.
I usually begin with a piano to create the 'blueprint' or structure for the song... i.e. verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge etc. Next I use a bassoon to mimic the vocal melody so that all the instruments avoid clashing or 'walking on' the the lyric. Creating the bass & drums is next and they evolve and get revisited as the arrangement unfolds. Depending on the song, the strings and horns and/or guitars are added to enhance the mood of the piece along with sound fx, percussion etc. The lead vocal, generally is done last followed by harmonies and background vocals. All of this (except guitars, vocals and often percussion) is done with samples that I arrange and play.
Friends are called in to record as well... Bill Nadeau plays the guitars, Brenda Webb does most of the harmony vocals along with others. Occasionally a bass player comes over or an organist but I try to do most everything.
Bill Nadeau and Brenda Webb
Gary... You're not the first person to inquire about Searching being a 'musical journey'. The title certainly invokes that idea but my response is in the form of a question... How could it not be a 'musical journey'? There is a distinct 'science' involved in creating a CD 'running order'. It is different from the vinyl days of 2 sided records when you had to work with an intermission but no less important. Some songs sound better when following certain songs... it's a combination of tempos, moods, key signatures and subject matter. Certainly we need to begin with something 'catchy' that entices the listener to continue and the last song is equally important in that you want the listener to revisit the album. From there the running order is designed to come in waves, building to a climax of tempo and intensity (whether by subject matter or musicality) and then repeat, creating the next tsunami.
My songs tend to be of a positive nature looking at a variety of subjects from the illusive archaeological quest of I Would Be King to the commonality of Mother's Day to the controversial topic of gay rights in Love Wins. The running order becomes all important and demands as much attention as the artwork in presenting this collection. So... Is Searching a 'musical journey'? Absolutely!
Step right up and get a ticket.
The first track on Searching is All We Can Do..
All We Can Do
Is all we can do
It's all me and you
Can ever hope to do.
All we can be
Is all we can be
It's all you and me
Can ever hope to be.
There is also a bit of lyric in the intro (to the song and the 'journey') that marginalizes the fatalistic nature of this lyric by suggesting that you should strive to be the best at all your endeavors.
I met Ted Jones in 1974 during my quest to find an artist/painter to create album jackets for Klaatu. We had no intention of using our photos or even our names on the records. In our idealistic world we decided to "Let the music speak for itself". This noble notion was brought about as a consequence of being bombarded by hype with a lack of musical substance in the mid 70s' Disco/Glam Rock era.
Having been privy to the experimental, creative music of the 60s pushing the boundaries of 'Pop' music and the development of the album concept through Progressive Rock, the music and the 'artists' of the mid 70s' pale by comparison.
In retrospect we had lived through a Musical Renaissance not unlike that of the European Renaissance of the late Medieval period that included Leonardo, Michaelangelo etc. Heady times indeed. Ted did most of the covers for Klaatu, certainly the best ones and continues to create to this day much as I myself do. Our friendship has endured these many years and he allows me the use of his work. His latest creation, entitled Seaclypse inspired two of the songs from Searching. The first was Jules & Me a song about the great Jules Verne and my love of the printed word. Ted's underwater scene portrays a 'submarine-fish' reminiscent of the Nautilus from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This particular tune is a personal favourite but hardly an apt title for the Album. After much contemplation upon Ted's painting I wrote Searching. It seemed to me that the Seaclypse must be Searching for something...and so was I.
Stranded is another painting of Ted's that he calls Footprint and is the title song from that collection. Inspired by the painting, Stranded refers to the scene with its purple moons. Conversely, I had already written and recorded When The World Was Young, a song about the early days of being in Klaatu before seeing Ted's work. I said to him... "Is that me in my youth (When The World Was Young) on the bridge fishing?" Ted replied... "Of course, it is!"
Ted's work, I believe goes hand-in-hand with my music. We both afford a great attention to detail and relish in the fantastic.
The 2nd track on the album is the rather jaunty "Randy Newman-esque" Monogomous Me....
Monogomous Me: The ‘demo’ version with Terry Draper playing piano before he enlisted the talents of Lou Pomanti.
I wrote this for Anna and recorded it a few days before Valentines Day, 2013. I posted it on her Facebook page on the appropriate day. For me, it's more of a Frank Sinatra / Michael Buble thing. In fact when I decided to use it on Searching I contacted Lou Pomanti and asked him to play piano... I told him "I'm lookin' for that 'Hoagy Carmichael-noodling-the-keys' kinda playin'." Lou arranged the strings & horns on the last two Buble records. His performance is spot on!
Searching has had excellent reviews. What are your thoughts about reviews and do you read them?
The reviews for Searching have been favourable. I know this because I read them. Each review is, after all, just an opinion and we all have them but if someone has taken the time to listen to what I do, it seems reasonable for me to take the time to consider their critique and learn more about perfecting the art of writing & recording. I notice that when I play something for someone here in my studio, the song sounds different depending on the listener. I tend to 'hear' with their ears.
The next two tracks on the album are: Such A Night - I personally thought this was a poignant track - Lost opportunities and how the culture of tapping buttons has taken over the art of real conversation and true love heralding a "like without listening" culture.
Your response hit the mark, Gary… I see so many people, young and old, ‘living in their phones’. I say “Wake up and smell the roses!” and I suppose that there will be an ‘app’ for that soon enough.
I Would Be King
I am still fascinated by ancient ruins and architecture in general. What I like most about The Museum of Natural History in London is the building itself! Whenever we travel I try to include some fabulous sites… Palenque, Chichen Itza, Giza Plateau, The Acropolis etc.
Archaeology was an early calling that was overtaken by music. This song is about exploring and discovery. Imagine being Howard Carter and entering Tutankhamun’s tomb for the first time and being celebrated around the world… King for a day!
Brenda & I met in the most serendipitous circumstances… Rewind to 1967. I was playing in a an R’n’B ensemble called The Kingdom Showband. Richard Hicks, the bass player, continued playing and we would occasionally cross paths. A few years ago he called and asked me to join his latest audial adventure and he wanted me to play the drums (my first instrument) which I had not done much of over the years. He was putting together a ‘clone’ band, a tribute act. I said that I was interested and that Anna, my wife had recently received the CD of that particular artist as a Christmas gift. I listened to the songs, called Richard and exclaimed… “You have a girl that can do this stuff?”He said he did and I promptly joined An Evening With Adele. Fortuitous!
Brenda & I became great friends and she has done the backing vocals and harmonies on my recordings for the last few years. While we were doing the vocals on All For Love, the idea of a duet appeared to me. I love the way our voices blend when she harmonizes with me and I’ve never liked harmonizing with myself… it always sounds too Terry. An Evening With Adele continues to perform occasionally and not only can Brenda sing those songs but a reddish wig, tantalizing makeup, a foam undergarment and her affectation of a ‘cockney’ accent transform her into Adele. It is a delight to be the drummer in this band.
The next track, Mother'sDay is a celebration of mothers everywhere.
You've said that your Uncle Bill was pivitol in you becoming interested in music, but can I ask, how much of an influence was your own mother on your musical career?
Gary… My parents were not overly fond of my choice of a career in the music biz. They refused to procure a drum set for me, though in their defense we were not financially secure. When my grandfather passed, his will included the acquisition of that much anticipated set of blue sparkle Stewart drums (made in Japan). I was only allowed to play them when my parents weren’t home… which was frequent as they had a busy social schedule. Never-the-less, I moved out at 16. This song was written on Mother’s Day, 2015 with my wife’s mother in mind. Agnes lived with us for the last few years of her life and I loved her dearly… I called her ‘Mama’.
You've said that Jules & Me is a personal favourite track of yours from the album. It's a great track - The lyrics are sublime:"Around the World in 80 days and never leave the room." If ever there was a song that encapsulates the power of imagination and the written word then surely this is it.
Jules & Me
I’ve always enjoyed reading ever since my first visit to the ‘Bookmobile’ in grade school. The Lord of The Rings is a treasure. Because I share the same birthday with Bilbo & Frodo (September 22nd), for many years I would begin the journey with them on that day. I’ve read that trilogy perhaps, a dozen times… most recently when Peter Jackson created the movies.
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.
Like that phrase “Careful what you wish for”, this song talks about our dreams and the goals we have that never manifest themselves.
We can continue to reach for them. Some kind of ‘Eternal Optimism’.
There’s a wonderful song by Simon & Garfunkel called Old Friends on the Bookends album…
Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy…
As that milestone approaches and ‘Old Friends’ disappear, this song is an homage to missing friends… and a missing youthfulness… an empty park bench.
On the album insert there is an image next to each song's lyrics and there is a picture of a flag next to the lyrics for Love Wins..
The flag depicted in the header of Love Wins is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ’s) ‘Rainbow’ flag. Back in June, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court passed an edict allowing gay marriage. A friend of mine posted a giant heart on her Facebook page with the words “Love Wins”. I thought it to be a wonderful idea and had to sit down and think about how I actually feel about this topic.
I decided that more love on this planet was beneficial… no matter how it manifests itself. I did add the caveat… “I don’t mind when girls date girls just please leave some for me…” so that people would not confuse my ‘laissez faire’ attitude with my heterosexual existence.
..And so we come to the title track Searching..
I previously mentioned Searching as being inspired by Ted Jones’ painting, Seaclypse (the CD cover). The three movements are actually three different ‘songs’ written at different times. The intro was originally created way back in the 1980s as the intro to We’re Not Alone:
With my eyes to the skies all these years
And my head in the clouds
Made my ears wait for you to appear
I heard my voice cry aloud…
All my dreams filled with hope every night
And my nights holding true
Always hoping my dreams would take flight
Flying further with you.
A song about welcoming the extraterrestrials to Earth, it is the first song on my first solo CD, Light Years Later and written as a follow-up to Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft. It became apparent that We’re Not Alone was not in need of an intro and has been sitting around here collecting dust. (reuse, recycle, reclaim). The remainder of the lyric was done with Ted’s vision dancing in my head.
I began recording an old favourite of mine, Pied Piper by Crispian St. Peters many years ago and while I was working on my previous CD, When The World Was Young a friend suggested that I finish that song and add it. I did..Pied Piper appears as an unlisted ‘bonus track’ at the end of When The World Was Young
During the making of Searching I received a query about which ‘cover’ song I would include on this collection. I hadn’t thought about it. I decided to do a ‘medley’ of 2 songs: the John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonful) song Younger Girl (but leaning more toward The Critters' version) and The Rain, The Park and Other Things by The Cowsills.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Artie Kornfeld co-authored this tune as well as having created Pied Piper. The Rain, The Park and Other Things typifies, for me, the innocence and the freedom embraced by the ‘flower children’ of the 60s' counter-culture. It remains one of my all time favourite anthems and reminds me of the idealism and naivety of my youth.
..and so to the final track Terry. Everything Will Be Alright - Upbeat. Excellent. The perfect pop song and a perfect ending to a great album.
Everything Will Be Alright
December 8, 2011. I had been invited to play a couple of songs in the name of John Lennon (as it was the anniversary of his demise) at a ‘Food Drive’ benefit (as it was approaching the ‘Giving Season’). That night, I performed Love from his first solo album alone and then the band joined me for a rather accurate rendition of Nowhere Man (my favourite bit o’ John). After rehearsing those songs ONE MORE TIME that morning, I continued noodling at the piano… 20 minutes later Everything Will Be Alright was written; lyric & music (except for the 2 verses which I added much later). I truly believe that I ‘channeled’ a bit of Lennon that morning.
The song sounds to me like I’ve heard it before and yet it feels fresh and new. This is usually the sign of a worthwhile endeavour. I think that Everything Will Be Alright is the best song of this collection. It reflects my positive outlook on life and it goes along at a nice little toe-tapping pace. The perfect way to end an album… in my opinion. Hopefully it makes the listener return to the beginning and continue Searching.
And on the subject of Searching:.. There's The Easter egg.
I’ve always enjoyed leaving Easter eggs ( or perhaps, more accurately, little turds) for the audience. Pied Piper is an example on When The World Was Young and this album also has its unlisted ‘bonus’ track. Swami River is a Middle Eastern/East Indian, instrumental complete with sitar and tabla… a nod to The Moody Blues' In Search Of The Lost Chord era… (everybody’s searching for something).
I created the ‘tongue in cheek’ title based on my favourite Honeymooners' episode wherein Norton continuously ‘warms up’ at the piano with Swanee River much to Ralph’s consternation. I will say no more. It is a ‘must see’ for all those who appreciate art… and life.
Many Thanks for the interview Terry.