The Supertramp Interview

The Supertramp Interview

 The amiable members of the brilliant British band, Supertramp, are gathered here to provide us with a sneak preview of the keenly-anticipated album followup to “Crisis? What Crisis?”.  It’s more of a progress report than the standard preview trip – some of the tracks are in the final stages of completion, others require further overdubbing work.  Nonetheless, it’s the first time any media member has gained access to the Supertramp inner sanctum during the recording of this new album (the group’s fifth). We are keenly aware of the honour which has been bestowed upon us but we have maintained a diligent hold on our critical faculties.

 The new album is entitled “Even in the Quietest Moments”.  In a word, it can be fairly (but not adequately) described as superb.  The playback offers one dynamic track after another, leading up to the tour-de-force finale, a 12-minute instant rock classic entitled “Fool’s Overture” which may well be the absolute highlight of Supertramp’s recording career thus far.

 The album was initially rehearsed in a rented house in Malibu last Fall and the rhythm tracks were laid down at the Caribou Studios in Colorado.  Shortly before Christmas, the group moved back to Los Angeles and commenced overdubbing and mixing at the Record Plant.  They worked solidly for ten weeks until the album was completed on March 10.  The release of “Even in the Quietest Moments” will be accompanied by a full scale world tour which kicks off in Regina, Canada, on April 6.  After covering the Canadian and American tour circuit, Supertramp intends to plunge right into a British and European tour in the Fall.

 During the course of a most memorable evening at the Record Plant (and dinner at a strange vegetarian restaurant called the Yellow Submarine), we rapped with each of the members of Supertramp – singer-guitarist-pianist Roger Hodgson (who produced the new album without his previous co-producer Ken Scott), drummer Bob Benberg, horn player John Helliwell, bass guitarist Dougie Thomson, and vocalist-keyboards player Rick Davies.  In addition, we talked with Supertramp manager, Dave Margereson, and sound man Russel Pope.

In this exclusive interview, Supertramp elaborates on the new songs from “Even in the Quietest Moments,” the coming tour, musical interests and influences, and assorted other topics.

 I’d like to open by getting you to tell us some of the background behind the recording of your new A&M album, “Even in the Quietest Moments.”

John: We took a break last July and August after eight solid months of touring.  After that we got back together in a house at Malibu and rehearsed for about a month or two, getting all the numbers together.  We finally chose seven of these songs that seemed to fit together pretty well.  Then we went up to the Caribou Studios in Colorado in November and December, and laid down the basic rhythm tracks.  After a little Xmas break, we went into the Record Plant here in L.A. to finish off the album.  We worked on it through the end of February.

Can we get a little more specific about the seven songs on the new LP?

Rick:  The opening cut, GIVE A LITTLE BIT is one of Roger’s songs.  It’s a light-weight opener, a nice daffy song.  You might even call it commercial (chuckles).

Ben: [sic]  Roger had been working at Malibu for quite a while on this tune.  I’d hear the song in hotel rooms and places like that.  He had the song on a little tape when I first joined the band so I was quite familiar with the tune.  We tried out various drum things and it seemed right to ride it along on the snare drum…giving it something almost like a train beat.  So it’s all on the snare and bass drum, with no tom tom fills or anything.  It was something to march right through, to keep it really happy.”

Roger:  GIVE A LITTLE BIT is very simple.  The album starts out simply and builds in intensity.   This song seemed the best opener.  As I said, it’s a very simple song – give a little bit of your love to me and I’ll give a little of my love to you.”

How about LOVER BOY?

Bob:  Rick had been working on that tune for quite a while and finally came up with the long middle section.  I just heard that as a really slow, really solid sort of beat, just to give the song dynamics underneath it all, because the song itself is really powerful and it needed something really solid underneath it.”

Rick:  Well, now, this is the first time that I’ve had to provide a description of LOVER BOY.  Well I really wrote the song so I could tell interviewers what I wrote the song about.  It was inspired by advertisements in men’s magazines telling you how to pick up women.  You know, you send away for it and it’s guaranteed not to fail.  If you haven’t slept with at least five women in two weeks, you can get your money back.  It’s sort of based around that.  I mean, you just can’t stop the LOVER BOY!  It’s really an excuse to get into some big sounds – the big city noises and a big chorus.  It’s an exercise in doing something with the music.  You can’t stop the LOVER BOY because he’s guaranteed.  He’s sent away for his thing.”

How about DOWNSTREAM?

John:  It may not be called DOWNSTREAM, it may be called Took A Boat Sunday.  We’re not sure.

Rick:  It’s about the sea rather than a stream.  The actual song is old but the lyrics are new.  It’s just me and the piano.  It was done in one take, piano and voice together.  We’re going to put a lot of harmony vocals creeping up towards the end of the song.  It’s quite a step for us not to fiddle around with things for months on end.”

Bob:  It’s my favourite song on the entire album because it’s so personal and so pure.  I love it when Rick just works with piano.  What the song is saying and the way he puts it out really floors me every time I hear it.”

Roger:  DOWNSTREAM is of course a love song by Rick.  He’s just got married so the song’s probably about his wife.

And the title song, EVEN IN THE QUIETEST MOMENTS?

Bob:  QUIETEST MOMENTS is one of Roger’s pet projects I think.  It’s also been on the way for quite a while.  That track gave me a chance to knock out a pretty meaty beat through the middle section while keeping the rest of it rather gentle.  I stayed out of the way in the rest of it – just adding little things here and there.

Doug:  This is a song we first came across in Malibu.  It’s a pretty simple little acoustic song which gets into a good groove in the end.  It gives Bob and I a chance to sit on it.  It’s one of Roger’s nicest melodies.

Rick:  It has two basic parts.  It starts off in a very standard melody thing and then it notches onto a sort of one chord progression or perhaps we should call it digression.  It’s a thing where there’s hundreds of sounds coming in and going out, a whole collage thing.  You’ll have lots of fun trying to figure out what’s what.

Roger:  QUIETEST MOMENTS is another love song.  It’s kind of a dual love song – it could be to a girl or it could be to god.  I’ve left it ambiguous so that everyone can take it how they wish.  Basically it’s just about a guy who’s searching.  I’m a seeker.  I think I’ll always be a seeker.

Moving over to side two, BABAJI?

John:  BABAJI is one of the people who is supposed to help run the earth, to run this planet we’re living on.  He’s one of the big mystics.  It’s one of Roger’s songs.

Rick:  BABAJI is one of the biggest mystics we’ve ever heard of, isn’t he?  He’s supposed to be six foot three.  (laughs)

John:  He’s immortal.  There are accounts of people who’ve met him but he’s supposed to be able to travel in and out of the physical world.

Rick:  You won’t ever see him if he doesn’t want you to see him.  I mean, you should really talk to Roger about this.  It sounds highly suspicious to me.  But I don’t want to get into any controversy about it.

John:  Good Lord, no.

Rick:  You can’t see him unless he wants you to see him.  So if you haven’t seen him, it’s not because he doesn’t exist but because he doesn’t want you to see him.

Bob:  BABAJI is like Roger’s light of life.  I don’t know exactly how Roger would put it but he’s Roger’s guiding light sort of guy.  Roger came up with the different bits of time I play.  That cut took the longest to work the drums out for – it was crucial just where I played what, whether that trip should be on high hat or on the bell.  It all had to be right in the right spots.  I had to make the moves in the right place.

Roger:  BABAJI is a very high spirit ala Christ and Krishna.  He’s less known because he didn’t have a public or a mission like Christ or Krishna.  He’s kind of a back room boy.  He runs the universe and he runs everything.  He’s an unbelievable spirit or force on god.  He is god really…a manifestation of god.

Are you getting more into this particular trip?

Roger:  Yeah, I’m getting into it.  He’s had a physical form for hundreds of years.  He doesn’t have to eat or anything.  He inhabits the Himalayas with a small band of disciples.  He’s a legend in India but he’s lesser known in the West.  I don’t know, talking about him kind of lessens him somehow.  It’s weird.  It really is fascinating.

And FROM NOW ON?

Rick:  I’m just finishing off the lyrics for that tune, words hot from the brainbox.  It’s turned into a fantasy about a Mr. Average, if there is such a person, who goes off into these weird trips.  He plays mental games with himself to get away from the monotony of his work.  He pretends he’s on TV, like a pirate or running through the desert, and he just opens up a lot of avenues.  There’s a big chorus at the end saying that he’s going to live in fantasy forever, that he’s resigned to living in fantasy all the time, that he can’t really take the normal life he’s leading.  He’d sooner by lots of different characters.

Bob:  That’s another of Rick’s older songs.  I’ve always enjoyed it and I just love playing it.  It really suits my style and I had a chance to open up a little towards the end of it.  I love John’s sax trip in the tail of the tune.

John:  The music to that song is quite old.  It was one of the very first things I heard Supertramp play when I first went down to have a blow with them, and that was over three years ago.  I really liked the number then.

And the twelve-minute tour de force closing number, FOOL’S OVERTURE?

John:  We’ve been calling that tune the String Machine Epic for so long now it’s hard to get that out of our brains.  It came primarily from a few melodies that Roger had worked out on the string machine thing we use on stage to create string sounds, or sounds thereabouts.  The track is a combination of a year’s work.  We’ve been putting strings and brass instruments on to pad it out a bit.  (chuckles)  It’s going to sound really good.

Bob:  On this album, that’s the real sort of grand tune for me and for everybody in the band.  It used to be called the String Machine Epic which fits the way the song builds and grows.  It’s the epic of the album this time out.  I tried to get as much of that grand power in there as I could.

Roger:  Ooooh.  (laughs)  Well, I’d like people to make up their own minds about this one really.  I like being vague and yet saying enough to set people’s imaginations running riot.  So there’s a lot of suggestions in there about the coming holocaust, the fall of mankind, or whatever you want to call it.  It’s another searching song really.

Are you using strings on any of the tracks?

John:  “Fool’s Overture,” “Babaji” and “Lover Boy.”  Richard Houston did the string arrangements on Crime and Crisis, but he’s 7,000 miles away so we’ve been working out some things with Michel Colombier.

I understand this is the first album you’ve produced yourselves?

John:  Yeah.

Rick:  Not strictly…if you count the first two albums years and years ago, which was no advert for our producing.

John:  We co-produced the last two albums with Ken Scott.  So the time had come to go the whole hog.

Rick:  I think in a way we learned a lot from Ken and we’ve taken a lot of tips from him such as taking the same amount of trouble to get the right sounds, especially drum sounds.

John:  Plus we’ve had a great engineer in Pete Henderson.  We’re very fortunate to have someone like that.  He’s really good and he thinks the same way as we do.  He did the rhythm tracks with us at Caribou.

How long is it now since the band was last out on the concert trail?

John:  June, we finished in New Zealand last June.

Rick:  It took me about 23 hours to get home.  I went ‘round the world the wrong way.  If I’d gone the other way, it would have only taken me about 18 hours.  It was quite a plane journey.  I had pneumonia at the time.  It was really bad to get into a plane because of my ears – and we must have landed and taken off at least six times.  When I finally arrived in New York, I didn’t really have any ears left.

John:  You still haven’t got ‘em now by the sounds of things.

Let’s venture back to CRIME OF THE CENTURY.  Did you have a particular concept in mind with that album, or was it merely a collection of songs that suited one another?

Doug:  It’s hard to work out what people mean about concept albums.  With CRIME OF THE CENTURY, somewhere along the way somebody said ‘concept’ while we were making it, and from then on it took on an air of something it really wasn’t.  That trip never really related to what we were doing in the first place.  Our concept is to try and make an album as complete as we can.  We never sit down and work out some kind of overall picture of a thing.  We want to keep it complete down to the cover, every part of the thing, but we never actually project one kind of concept on one subject.

Where did the album jacket trip behind CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? originate?

Doug:  That was an idea of Rick’s.  It came from his sketchbook.

John:  It came from us going back to England last year after spending that summer in L.A.  We came back to the reality of the sinking pound and all that.  That was it.  We didn’t know there was a crisis until we got back.

So you returned to Los Angeles which is now the home base?

John:  No…well, I mean we are living here and today was terrific for this time of the year.  85 degrees which is nice.  Especially when you’ve got a motorbike like me.  I love it.  It’s a challenge.  You’ve got to zip ‘round the Cadillacs.

Manager Dave Margereson:  He’s very heavily insured.

What can we expect in the way of changes and surprises on this all-important 1977 North American tour?

John:  Glitter suits.

Doug:  Flamethrowers.

Rick:  We’ll have a huge statue of Donald Duck at the back.  No seriously, as soon as the gong goes for Crime, it will sprout bubbles.  We hope this lighter approach will go down well.

John:  Yeah, we’re playing two weeks at Disneyland.

Rick:  Which is where we got the duck, incidentally.  We couldn’t pass it up because it was going to be thrown out.  We got a few of the guys to make up the bubble thing.  It took a few months but it’s going to be all right.

For a change of pace, I’d like to point this mike towards the face of Supertramp soundman extraordinaire, Russel Pope.  To get right to the point Russel, what’s the secret of the sensational live Supertramp sound?

Russel:  Money.

Really, eh?

Russel:  Really!  In the sense that nobody else ever wants to spend that amount of money on a sound system.  Everybody else rents…they rent whatever they can get, whatever the quality is in that particular year.  There are only two companies in America which can cover everyone and if you don’t get those people you have to go down the ladder to poorer and poorer sound.  So it was better for us to buy, because to perform our trip well, they just don’t make the right stuff for rental.  We’ve slowly built up a system that’s become…

Legendary?

Russel:  A bottomless pit in terms of finances.  But a motto of ours is that it’s always better to buy.

Is the sound on the ’77 tour going to be superior to earlier Supertramp tours?

Russel:  Infinitely better.  The last one was less than perfect.  But it’s a costly business.  It’s painful.  They make it, and I spend it.  (Much laughter all around).

How about your experience at the Caribou Studios?

John:  Caribou is unlike any place we’ve ever worked in that you can go and live there.  It’s just a beautiful environment.  It’s really good and it makes you feel good.  Good air and good…you get into a good groove.

Rick:  But you have to use oxygen.

John:  Yeah, it’s 9,000 feet up and they have an oxygen tank in the studio.  The air’s a bit thin, and you get a bit out of breath at first.  Roger took the oxygen quite a bit while he was singing.  It’s really a wonderful place though.

What sort of long term ambitions does Supertramp have?

John:  Eventually we’d like to have our own studio.  Then we could go in and spend a few months on an album, without worrying about how we’re going to physically and financially do it.  That’d be a nice scene.  That’s one of our long term plans.  That of course is what Chicago’s plan was and they got Caribou.  They just pop in there now and again and make another platinum album.  Overall we have a kind of consolidating approach to the future.  Each tour we try and get that little bit more, reach a wider audience.  But we want to do it without losing our integrity along the way.

In short, you’re not clambering on top of that 24-track tape recorder over there trying to locate a commercial single?

John:  No, oh no.  If there’s something from the album that stations think is commercial, then we’ll put it out as a single.  But it wouldn’t have been made with a single in mind.  But we’re not putting down singles: singles are good for selling albums, for getting to more people, especially in the States.

I feel that with such strong songs as Dreamer, Supertramp has been unlucky not to land a big single thus far?

John:  It would have considerably helped us, that’s for sure.  Dreamer did well for us in England.  I think it went top ten and the album went right up there.

Can anyone explain why Supertramp is so phenomenally popular in Canada but that this success is not really paralleled as yet in the American market?

Rick:  I can only assume that Canadians are infinitely more intelligent than other people.

John:  The first time we went to Montreal, we really seemed to do well.  The people were into us before we’d even played there.

Rick:  I suppose also that since Canada is a small market and such a huge country, it’s easier to concentrate promotion.  Whereas America is a huge maze.  It really takes a lot of business manouvreing to make a dent in the States…so many groups and so much music every week, hundreds of albums.

John:  Also, I think that A&M Canada must be really good getting the product out and about to the people.  They must play a big part in that.

Flipping back the pages again, could you explain how the visual concept for the Crime of the Century album jacket came about?

John:  We worked in conjunction with a London photographer named Paul Wakefield.  We played him the album and he got into the lyrics and he went away and came back with some ideas.  One of them was a child’s teddy bear lying in a gutter with its stomach ripped open and real guts coming out of it.  We thought that was a little – how shall we say – nasty.  Another one was prison bars lying in a gutter.  We got the idea of having the hands behind them and the bars being a prison.  The photographer went away and came back with a few more ideas on that line.  We agreed the stars should be in space.

Rick:  Wakefield got the idea from the line ‘how they haunt me and taunt me in my cage’ from the Asylum cut.  And the stage thing came from the cover.

John:  It’s really quite a strong image.  It was good on the album cover.  Then we had the idea of putting together a bit of a movie with the bars coming right out from the center and right up to you – which in turn was even more effective.

One of the most interesting aspects of Supertramp’s career is that in addition to highest quality music-making, the band is not above providing some light comedy entertainment?

John:  The music always comes first, of course, but we like to enhance it.  The audience has to sit there for a couple of hours and they have to look at something.  So we try and make that part as compatible as possible with the music.  So far we’ve used an all black stage with side drapes and black carpets so that there’s nothing to divert attention.  The lights are all directed onto players and instruments to spotlight them at various times.  We try and get the lights to move with the music and create a mood.  On the new tour, we hope it will be like that only better.

Doug:  To try and get some perspective on ourselves, we went out to the Shepparton Film Studios before the ’76 tour and set up the whole thing, lights and all.  We wanted to watch a full rehearsal.  We went scouting around the studio and found a bunch of old Roman statues with arms and heads missing and we put them on stage.  It’s the only time you get to see the show as it is.  We had Caesar on drums and a whole band of Romans rocking on.

John:  Next time we’ll try and get some more appropriate dummies.  There shouldn’t be any shortage of dummies in Hollywood.

How do you find living in Los Angeles?

John:  Next question.  No, it’s alright.  Weather’s pretty good.  Smog’s pretty bad.  All the roads are straight and you can find your way about quite easily.

Doug:  Except if you’re going in the wrong direction and then you’re really in trouble.

John:  Everything’s square…the streets I mean.  And there’s a bit of music going on.

Rick:  John lives right over the local hot spot.

John:  Yeah, I live right above a club that doesn’t close its doors until two or three in the morning.  Loud groups.  Terrible time getting to sleep if I do go to bed before 2:00 am.  I live down by the beach.  It’s nice.  But that’s L.A., isn’t it?

Rick:  I’m getting used to it.  I quite like it now.

John:  Well, he doesn’t have to drive anywhere.  He gets everyone to chauffeur him around.  He doesn’t have that worry.  I’ve got my bike.  Rick’s been on it once.  That was enough for me.  He wobbles around all the time.  We were riding down Sunset Strip with the big cars and big rear wheels and all that business on a Friday night.  It was a bit scary.

Rick:  It’s a funny place really.  It’s like a huge suburb.  There’s just no middle to it.  I’ve been looking for the middle for the past two years.  It’s a very big place.  We went to Disneyland and it took about four hours to get there and there were houses all the way.

John:  One thing though – no matter what you want to do, you can usually do it here, regardless of what your interests are.  There’s always something available to you.  I live about 100 yards away from the Lighthouse Jazz Club which is a famous jazz haunt.  I picked my spot.  I pop in there occasionally when there’s someone good on.  I’ve got one or two old jazz albums that were recorded at the Lighthouse.  I liked it a lot in Colorado.  I wanted to move there.  Still do actually.  The Caribou Ranch is near Boulder, which is a real nice little town or city or village or whatever you want to call it.  It’s a pretty nice place.  But I would also like to be back in Maidenhead, Berkshire, by the River Thames.

So do you miss England from time to time?

John:  To a certain extent.  But one or two people who’ve been back say that it was a downer.  You go back thinking everything’s going to be great and it isn’t.  So maybe when we get to go back, our memories will be shattered.

Rick:  The scene over there seems to be getting more violent.  We had a guy in here the other night who said he’d been down to the Marquee and all these young football supporters were pushing him around.  I don’t know whether he just had one of those faces or what.

John:  Maybe it was Cup Final Day.

Rick:  He went to see the Sex Pistols.

John:  Ah, well.

Let’s delve a little, if we may, into your individual backgrounds and personal musical pursuits?

John:  I’m the sax player and I like sax players.  I first came up liking trad jazz and then sort of moved on to listening to a broader spectrum of jazz.  That’s what first influenced me to play clarinet and saxophone.  It wasn’t until I was about 20 that I started getting into R & B and rock and soul and all that.  I played in a band for a few years called the Alan Bown Set.  I backed up a lot of visiting American soul singers.  Doug came into the Alan Bown Set when it was almost in its death throes, the last year or so.  When that split up, Doug and I took various gigs working in factories and strip clubs playing music.  The Doug joined Supertramp and I went off to Germany to work.  When I got back, I got a call from Doug to come down and have a blow with Supertramp.  So that was it, that was just over three years ago.  I joined the band, we rehearsed for a long time waiting for the availability of our producer, Ken Scott.  Then we made Crime of the Century, toured, made Crisis? What Crisis?, toured and then got into this album.  That has taken up three years.

What sort of music are you into now?

John:  I still listen to a lot of jazz and could single out a few names like Weather Report.  I really like them very much – they’re a good fusion of things that I find quite valid today.  They’ve got good pedigrees, all the players.  I like it when people play their instruments well.  I like Stevie Wonder’s new album, the singer Donny Hathaway, lots of sax players like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, to name but a few.

How about your background, Rick?

Rick:  I used to be a drummer to start with so I really used to think drums were fantastic.  So in actual fact, my first influence was Gene Krupa.  I used to go see his films, watch those swing era movies on TV and I couldn’t believe it.  I took up drums, which sort of took me into the jazz side.  In much the same way as John, I got into the jazz thing.  All this time I was also picking up on piano.  I wasn’t really taught it.  I used to pick the simplest things I could – Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Bill Black – and learn them and that way I got into rock.  I was a trained musician on drums but a very primitive one on keyboards.  It’s still the same today I suppose.  So I was fortunate in that I appreciated both the jazz and rock worlds.  My favourite drummer used to be and still is Joe Morello, who played with Dave Brubeck.

 As far as the English scene was concerned, I think that Traffic represented the first time I began taking English musicians seriously.  When the Beatles first came out, they were incredibly sort of…well basic.  They were vital and all the rest of it, but still basic.  It took them a while to win me over.  But of course they have been one of the main influences on the group, and the main influence on almost all groups that came from our generation.  As musicians go, I think Stevie Winwood is the best one in England.

 Unfortunately the British scene doesn’t seem to be continuing as far as I can see at the present time.  There doesn’t seem to be any decent new sounds coming out.

The Sex Pistols?

Rick:  Yeah, they go around saying drat and rat and damn, don’t they?  I suppose people are going to say it reflects the situation and all the rest of it.  I can’t really understand it myself.

John:  We’d never really heard of them before we left England.  We just read about them in the American music papers.

Rick:  It’s not music really.  It’s four guys becoming a business concern.

How about contemporary music tastes?

Rick:  I’m not too keen on most of it.  I like Stevie Wonder.  Some disco music actually.  I like Tavares.  I just hear the occasional thing I like on the radio.

Doug, how about a little on your background?

Doug:  Roger and myself first got into the Shadows – that was the first things we listened to.  Then we got into the Beatles.  I guess the whole band comes together about Traffic, the Band, Procol Harum.  That was an interesting period in British rock.  It was probably the most productive period ever.  I don’t listen to as much jazz as the other guys.  I tend to listen to a wide range of what’s going on.  It’s hard to think of any particular bass players being strong influences.  I liked old Motown bass lines, Jamie Jamerson.  That’s a lot of different people I listen to now.  I like really simple bass players – guys who don’t play too much.  I also liked to go and see Pink Floyd – they were innovators.

Bob, as Supertramp’s only non-Pommy member, how did you become involved with the band?

Bob:  I moved from L.A. to London and I’d been there about two years playing around London with a group called Bees Make Honey.  Rick and Roger lived in a pub over the road from the Kensington, where I used to play Mondays and Wednesdays.  Rick used to drop in now and then to hear the Bees.  We also backed up a singer named Frankie Miller and did a short British tour with him supporting Supertramp.  So the relationship sort of evolved from there.  Roger and Rick came in one night and said they’d had a bit of a bust-up, and had gotten rid of their drummer.  They said they wanted to reform the group and they asked me to join.  That was just prior to the recording the Crime album.

Which drummers particularly influenced you?

Bob:  I’d say Jim Capaldi and B.J. Wilson.  Plus of course Levon Helm.  I really like the way he just marches along all the time.  I really do like The Band a lot.  I was sort of lucky to beam in on the right guys; I was lucky I chose the right ones.  I believe that’s one of the keys.  Plus I’ve worked at it.

The obvious question, of course, is to ask you to unveil the secrets of the sensational Supertramp drum sound?

Bob:  Well, from my end, it has something to do with the way I play the drums.  I’m not a very speedy drummer.  I give the sound a lot of room.  So it’s partly approach.  Then there’s the trip of getting the tuning just right.  It takes a lot of care and having a good ear for working at it.  Our sound man Russell Pope is responsible for a lot of it.  He’s got a real good ear for listening to drums, and he’s got a lot more patience to sit around in the studio for hours and get it right.  He spends countless hours just trying to get the drums together.

How do you feel the drum sound on the new album compares with say, Crime of the Century?

Bob:  Crime definitely turned a lot of people on to our drum sound.  It was a lot easier to get the right drum sound this time than it had been previously.

What music do you listen to at home?

Bob:  I still listen to most of my old favourites.  I still listen to Traffic and Procol Harum.  I sort of lost interest in Procol when Matthew Fisher left but I liked Grand Hotel a lot.  I pick up each new Band album when it comes out.  John has turned me on to Weather Report and I like a few of the albums, Mysterious Traveller being my favourite.  Stevie Wonder I like.  I listen to more of a variety of things now than I ever used to.  Richard and John have really opened me up to people like Art Blakey, Max Roach, things like that.

How then does everyone feel about the new album in an overall sense?

Bob:  From my point of view, I had a much easier time recording this album.  Plus it’s been our most enjoyable recording project thus far.  I think the Caribou location helped a lot.  All of us have really grown since Crime.  So we’ve become more comfortable with the process of recording an album, and all the painstaking time-consuming thing.

John:  I think this is the strongest thing we’ve done.

Rick:  All we can really go by are the reactions of people around the group – people from the record company and so on.  And they apparently think it’s very good.  When you’re doing it day in and day out, it’s hard to be objective.  But people seem to be getting very enthusiastic about it.

Roger:  Overall I feel pretty good.  I think it will be our best album to date.  I don’t think it will be our Sgt. Pepper but I do think it’s worked out really well.  It’s taken a long time.  We thought it was going to only take a short time to record but we were wrong.

 One of the reasons is that we took a break.  After eight months on the road, we took a break because we needed it to get our heads and bodies back into shape.  So it wasn’t easy to plunge back into performing again, without that advantage of a long tour, which means your playing is hot and your voice is trim.

 Plus we haven’t been letting anything go by this time around.  We weren’t too happy with Crisis for that reason – it was all so rushed and some things we weren’t satisfied with.  This album means more to us.  To us, it’s just a case of what can we do?  The better the album is the stronger the band, and the better the band will be in the future.