Author Profile: John The Rock Doctor Kereiff

The Rock Doc is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion) :/

Canada Online News | Gonzo Online! - Out there

 Upon learning Trooper’s plans to, at last, release a new compilation (“Hits From 10 Albums) to replace those shabby copies of “Hot Shots” we all have, I started working my connections for an interview.  July 22nd, 2010, I found myself on the phone with the band’s singer, Ra McGuire.

 

The first album came out summer of ‘75, 2 or 3 weeks before I started my radio career…

It came out on Canada Day in 1975, on July 1st.

That very album, I still have that very copy, with Brian’s signature on it.

Nice!

You and Brian had been together for about 10 years before that.

Yeah, ’65; I was 15, he was 16, so we’ve been together a long time at this point.

How did it feel going in to do that first album?  You changed the band name, and had 3 days to record…

It was quite an amazing experience, mainly we played in bars and in and around Vancouver.  When Randy suggested we go down to Seattle and make that record, it was like everything was coming true, so, we actually blasted through it three days.  Got it finished and then were told that the azimuth on the recorder was aligned incorrectly.  So we pitted, did the whole thing over again in another 3 days, so it ended up taking 6 days.  So it wasn’t your Steely Dan, Michael Jackson kinda project.

(Both laughing)

It’s a great album though.  It had hits- I’ve got the new “Hits from 10 Albums” in front of me, which has “Baby, Woncha Please Come Home” and “General Hand Grenade”, which were huge hits in Canada.

It was a pretty rough and tumble, and it was a record to start out with.  ‘Cause it was just blast, just full out, there’s not a ton of finesse on that record, but it really wasn’t called for.  I think it gave everybody a real clue as to how enthusiastic we were, how ready to go we were.

One of my favorite songs on the album- I’ve always been kind of an album track kinda guy-  is ‘Eddie takes it easy’, was that about somebody, or was that just the name of the song?

Yeah, that’s about Eddie Schmoller.  We had a recurring gig in Prince Rupert, BC, an absolutely amazing little town, and a big town now.  We ended up having a crew of people that we partied with pretty much every night in these apartments where we stayed when we were there.  Eddie Schmoller was just the chillest guy, worked at the mill or something, and would come to our parties, and just sit there with his grin on his face, taking it all in.  He always kind of an inspiration to me. I was always “Mr. Get Something Done”.  Eddie was just sitting there with his grin on his face, a beer in his hand and I’ve always aspired to be more like him, rather than a get something done right away kinda guy.

Is he the inspiration for “Santa Maria” too?

“Santa Maria” took place in Prince Rupert, but that was Patty Green. a local hero there, and remains so!  He took us and bunch of locals out on his fishing boat to Tudwell Island, just off the coast..  We took some fresh salmon and a whole bunch of alcohol out to this little island, spent the day there having this excellent time.  Most of the lyrics from “Santa Maria” are actually things that Patty Green said.  He actually said as we pulled away from the dock in Rupert.  ‘Well, there’s only fear and good judgment holding us back so we might as well get going.”   (both laughing)

That’s a great line!

Yeah, I wrote it down!

Good thing you did, ‘cause you would’ve gotten drunk and forgot it!

Absolutely! Yeah!

How long after the first album was “Two For The Show”?  Within a year? 

All of our albums were almost exactly nine months apart.  It was like having babies really. We’d write the record, record it, tour it, and by the time we’d finished touring, we’d have to start the next one.  That was the nature of our contract with the record company, which I think is just awesome, actually, that we had that deadline and pressure to make more music. It worked well for us.

Without that deadline you might not have gotten anything done…

Yes, we would have just been driving around on boats, and going to parties on islands!

 “Two for the Show” was the first album with Frank (Ludwig, keyboard player).  I remember seeing you guys on that tour, at the Cominco Arena in Trail.

Great…old wooden building, with a ton of memories for me.

It was fantastic!  And, I remember when you guys came out on stage, and you were introducing Frank on that tour, and he came out playing a Gibson SG guitar as I remember…

Wow!  I can’t even remember him playing guitar… that’s bizarre!

I think it was the first and second song, then he got behind the keyboards.

Wow!  You’ve got a better memory than me!

Well, that’s open for debate, but that was a GREAT album and show.  The song “Two for the Show” is autobiographical, according to the notes in the new album, about life on the road.

It kind of was, we made it to the second album, was part of my thought process.  The whole thing is vaguely grasped at thoughts, passing in and out of my head.  But, the general thing was, OK we’ve made our first album, they’re letting us do a second one.  What happens now, right?  When that first record came out, we went from doing some bars in British Columbia to Nashville speedway in front of 20,000 people, like the next day.  It was a pretty jarring year for us.  And the ‘lady on the radio’, back then there wasn’t many female DJ’s, and one of them was Rosalie Tremblay in Windsor/Detroit.  And she was  pegged as a taste maker.  We’d been told by American record people that if she put a record on the air that meant that all the other radio stations in America would play it.  So, everybody was watching to see if she charted our record.  The problem was that the CRTC put the Canadian content regulation in almost simultaneously with our record coming out.  Since Rosalie’s station was on the Windsor side, she was officially bound to play 30% Canadian music as of a few weeks before.  So there was this giant question of whether she played ‘Baby Won’t You Please Come Home’ because she liked it or because she had to.  So, it kinda queered that whole deal.  But, she’s one of  the two ladies on the radio.  The other one is a gorgeous DJ that we met in St. Louis named “Bree”.  I’d never seen nor heard of a female DJ at that point in my career.  So that was cool!

I’ve long had huge issues with this Canadian content regulation.  I can understand its usefulness, in supporting a growing Canadian industry.  But, I hardly think its necessary now.  There’s so much great music out there, I think a song should stand on its own merit.

Canada has a long history of being self defeating when it comes to our own music. And back in the day, a band like the Guess Who had to go and get famous everywhere else before people would acknowledge them in their own country.  But now I think it’s to the point where Canadians are really proud of their own artists.  They see the musical value that is unique to Canada and no where else.  So, there was a lot wrong with it, but all told I think it probably wasn’t a bad idea.

I think it was great to get the music industry up and running, but with so many Canadian artists being famous and huge across the world, it just doesn’t seem necessary anymore.

I agree with you!

The third album “Knock ‘em Dead Kid”, you had a new bass player named Donny Underhill.  Was it the pace, was it the road that made Harry Kalensky drop out?  What was the situation?

There’s a couple of ways of approaching that, none of which I’m comfortable talking about. (pause)  Harry was a good pal, and there were several layers on which he wasn’t working out. I was really sorry to see him go.  Unfortunately, he was really sorry to have to go.  It’s a tender topic, but we moved on.

I don’t know Harry and I don’t know Donny, and I don’t know the inside politics, and quite frankly I don’t want to, because its none of my business.

(hearty laughter from Ra)

But I do like Donny’s contributions to the album.  “Knock ‘em Dead Kid”- what year was that?

Its gonna be ‘77; so ’75, ’76, yeah its gonna be ’77. 

The two big hits on that are “Pretty Lady” and “We’re Here For a Good Time, which is I guess you could say Trooper’s “Rock & Roll All Night”. 

It’s pretty much one of our two big calling cards.  It’s pretty much the one- if somebody says, “What band are you in?”  You say TROOPER, And, they say “Oh who’s that?”  Then you say You know “Here for a Good Time”. They will say “Oh yeah, yeah!”

Oh THOSE guys!   (both laughing)

Is “Pretty Lady” about anyone in particular?

Well, “Pretty Lady” was originally written in ’65 or ’66.

Oh really!  I didn’t realize…

It was one of the first songs that Smitty and I ever wrote.  We were actually working on another song to be written with the band.  We were going over the chord changes, three repeating chord cycles, and in order to work on the part we were working on, we actually got the whole band to play the song, much, much slower than the actual song.  So we ended up in that you know 3-4 and slow tempo and I started singing words over it.  And that’s where the music came from; the original lyrics was about a guy praying to the “Virgin Mary”; the statue of the “Virgin Mary”.  And so that’s where “the face of clay” comes from.  I did change a few of the words when Randy suggested I try to make it less religious and a little more like a love song.  The lyrics make a lot more sense if you think of it in those terms.

My two favorite songs on the album are “Most of the Country” and “You Look So Good”.

“Most of the Country” is actually meant to be almost a country song. The band actually had recorded it with a country style guitar and had that kind of feel.  There was a piano in studio, and Frank just started comping alternate versions of the chords and obviously it’s not a country arrangement on the piano.  I started singing and Randy had the good sense to turn the mikes on.  I still have the actual original recording of the two of us just running through that song just to see how it worked with that arrangement with piano and voice.  It’s not as polished as the final one, but it sure is heartfelt you know.  We were both so into it, it was just a coming to us as we did it.  So, Randy basically said we’ve got to get a better take of that.  We did it, like, twice more and then slowly layered the other voices and then we did strings for “Most of the Country” and “Pretty Lady”, so the song just kind of grew up out of nowhere.  So it was really the joyous thing to be able to do and the very last “Oh – oh –oh” thing I do, there’s a song by Allan Price called ‘Between Today and Yesterday’ which was a big favorite of mine and I absolutely stole that whole last piece from him.

(Both laughing heartily)

That’s one of the loneliest songs I’ve ever heard- it’s just gorgeous.

Yeah, It’s so much more suited to the lyric to have it sounding like I was actually you know standing in the door way counting taxis, right…

Stayed a little longer than you planned…

Yeah, yeah.

“You Look So Good”- just an excuse for Brian to just rip on guitar?

Well Brian and Frank, if you listen there, those widdly, widdly, widdly things, that’s piano and guitar together.  It was for sure much more music oriented than lyric oriented.  But, I always sort of liked that apologetic, I’m sorry I’m crazy about you lyric. (Both laugh) A lustful apology!

Who opens the song by saying ‘Hold on to your face’?

That’s actually Randy who did that as a complete joke, but we had a harmonizer there which was a new device which could take a voice and pitch it up or pitch it down.  So we took the recording of him doing that and it was a concern to us that we were going to go from whatever the song was before that and just crash into the introduction of “You Look So Good”, so we were trying to figure out some kind of bridging mechanism so it wouldn’t be so abrupt and frightening and instead of coming out with some musical we decided having Randy say “Hold onto your face” was the perfect way to do it.

 Let’s move on to the fourth album, ‘Thick as Thieves’…

Yeah, ‘Thick as Thieves’, is my favourite, well maybe my 2nd favourite Trooper album.

What is your first favourite?

Well, I’m thinking the “Last of the Gypsy’s” is, cause the quality of the songs, and the circumstances under which it was recorded.  We had to dig deep for that record.  And, I love it all, everything that happened on it.

And that was after a long layoff too...

Yeah, it was hard to put that back together again.  We had about 40 songs, so we had the benefit that we could choose what we thought were the best ones from that collection.

That’s a nice problem to have isn’t it?

Yeah, yeah, an embarrassment of riches!

Now ‘Thick as Thieves’- I remember telling you, we had met in the early 90’s.  We met at a club gig at Uncle Charlie’s in Kamloops.  You had done an on air at the radio station and they brought you back to see some poor writer squirreled away in a room and you chatted, signed some albums, and that was me. 

(Ra laughs)

I remember saying to you at the time when ‘Thick as Thieves’ came out, it was such a great album that if they don’t get the big world success with this album, its just not going to happen.  As you say, there are just so many great songs on this album.

Absolutely, and stuff like ‘Driving Crazy’ and ‘Roll with It’, you know the NOT hits are the ones I like the most.

Exactly!  One of my favourite songs on that album is ‘Say Goodnight’…

I was just going to say ‘Say Goodnight’, we actually picked that up and played it for a while, but you know it became the low point in the set you know.

Where everyone goes out to take a leak, stuff like that…

(laughs) You are absolutely right!  But we liked that song enough that we actually tried to revive it live, and we played it really well, but it just didn’t catch on.  You know another song and I believe it was on that record was ‘It’s No Fun Being Alone’.  It got covered by a guy in South Africa of all places.  And, I actually like his version of it too but I really, really like the lyrics of that tune and always have, it’s a really sweet, bittersweet kind of lost love.

I know exactly what you’re trying to say, the one line sums it up for me is… “Once He thought he saw her in a Spanish Cabaret/ but she was just another stand-in for the love that got away”..

YEAH!

I LOVE that song Ra!  Man, that is awesome!

That’s one of my favourites, and honestly I must have been in a pretty good lyric groove then because one of my other favourite lyrics is ‘Gambler’, which is also on that record.

Funny you should say that, I was just going to mention that, because I love the lyrics of that and the way the beat just grinds- there’s just something about that song.

Yeah, the lyrics are really appropriate to the feel of the music or feel of the music has that wobbly sound, drunk, power…

Got a swagger to it…

Yeah it’s got that messy swagger that the lyric kind of demands, you know   ‘he loses what he wants, but wins what he needs’ you know that kind of feel.

In the liner notes of ‘Hits from 10 Albums’ you say that ‘Raise a Little Hell’ was actually the first take.

It absolutely was, we played it as almost an audition.  Randy said ‘have you got any other songs?’  We said, well we’ve got this song we always close the set with and people just really seem to like it.  (chuckles)

Yeah, you’ve been playing that for quite a while haven’t you?

Here we are at our fourth album, and we haven’t pulled it out yet.  That shows how savvy we were!  We were all set up to record something else and said do you have anything else.  We said, ‘…well listen to this.’  He put it in record, and that is essentially what you got.  Obviously all the vocals and stuff are over dubs, but the basic rhythm track is what we played right there on the spot.

Is it true that Randy wanted to change it to ‘Raise a Little Howl’ ?

Uh-huh. That is absolutely was true.  I believe he was and still is a devout Mormon, and believe that he may have been concerned that OUR use of that “H” word might have reflected poorly on him in some way.  I mean we’ve got that battle of one side, and Frank Ludwig saying he didn’t want to record it because there wasn’t enough chords in it.

(incredulous) There wasn’t enough chords for him?

There wasn’t enough chords in it!

Holy cow, it’s a great song! I remember… am I wrong, or were you playing it on the ‘Two For The Show’ tour?

We were playing that in the bars before the first album.

Oh wow!

 ‘Pretty Lady’ and ‘Raise a Little Hell’ are two of the first songs that Smitty and I ever wrote.  We were playing ‘Raise a Little Hell’ in ’67 - 68’.  It’s been around a long time.

And the cool thing about ‘Raise a Little Hell’ is, it’s more than just a party anthem.  Is it the bridge where you go ‘when you feel like your ship is sinking and you’re too tired to play the game’?

Yeah, yeah – It’s kind of a take heart and don’t take no shit kind of thing, and when you put those two things together, I think that pretty much kind of covers the ground of that song.  The kind of hell that I am talking about is the ‘stand up for yourself and going forward proudly’ kind.

Now was next album ‘Flying Colours’?

(thinking) The next album was….’Flying Colours’ that’s right, yeah!

That was your first album without Randy behind the scenes.  Can you talk about why he was no longer with the band or no?

I’m trying to, umm… yes I can.  The process of making ‘Thick as Thieves’ was really, really wonderful and at that point Randy had really backed off in his roll as ‘Dad’ to us and Mr. Master of the recording studio at that point.

You mean you had really found your feet by then?

Yeah, we knew what all the knobs were, by that time we had kind of figured out the process.  We put together some tricks of our own.  We understood how to use the recording studio to make the noises that we wanted to make.  And, really felt that in that process, it was partly of Randy stepping back, like in some cases way back and leaving at 6 o’clock and us staying until 3 in the morning.

Right.

We really felt that we deserved production credit on that record.  It was important to us that our contribution to the record be acknowledged somewhere.  And, we were actually promised that co-production credit, we actually saw it on the album cover in Los Angeles when we were there…  and when the album came out it was gone.

Really!

And that was one of, you know, a couple of other things.  But, you know that was kind of symptomatic for certain, and so we came to the end of that relationship.

Howard Steele recorded ‘Flying Colours’ in Edmonton. How did that go?

Howard was the recording engineer who came in for the re-mixes of ‘Hot Shots’.

OK…

We did a re-mix of ‘Ready’, a re-mix of ‘Boys in the Bright White Sportscar’- the ‘Hot Shots’ version is quite different.  It has different guitar parts and different bass parts and whatnot on the ‘Hot Shots’ version.  So, we met Howard on that version, and he became the obvious choice for producer for the next record.  So, it was unusual- he came from Los Angeles, he had a very LA approach.  After as many albums as we had made with Randy, it was awkward to kind of swap out to this new approach.  There are some things on that record… um, ‘She’s So Sweet’, I always envisioned as a much funkier, much more, banging against the corners kind of song than the sort of homogenized, smooth out version that made it to the record with all the swirling synths and whatnot.  You know there are parts of that song that made it to the record, parts of it that I’m not, that I would have done different if I was the producer, let’s put it that way.  But, having said that you know, “Janine” was a much more rootsy and organic sounding track.  You know, but he took it and added those background vocals, and you know I didn’t even hear those background vocals until the record came out.

Really?

That’s how odd that is. And honestly I hardly recognized the song by the time it was released.  But, having said that, the song was a big hit and it reached a lot of people.  So you know, I’m… he did a good job.

And of course ‘Three Dressed up as a Nine’ is a big hit from the album.

It totally was.

One would think that was about scoring ugly chicks in a dark bar, but…

(laughs) One might get that impression…

(Both laughing)

According to your liner notes, it could be about something a little bit deeper, looking past the façade.

Well, you know it was honestly meant to mean someone was pretending to be something they weren’t, and in that particular case it was referring to a woman.  But you know that general gist of it was, I can see through, in this case the makeup, but you know in general, I can see through what you are putting on here.

Yeah, I can see who you really are.

Yeah, that’s right, you’re really not the person that you’re pretending to be.

I know for myself as a fan, that going from ‘Thick as Thieves’ to ‘Flying Colours’; I thought ‘Flying Colours’ was too slick and shiny.

Me too!

I was kind of disappointed with it, to be honest, in that respect.

Well, I mean, my, you know I don’t think any of us had issues with our musical relationship with Randy.  You know it grew and blossomed and we got stronger and stronger, and we made better music and I think you can really see that transition from the first to the fourth album.

Oh of course- oh yeah.

Everything opened up, we got more adventurous, we experimented a lot more and when we worked with Howard, he had some kind of hard and fast perimeters that he felt our music needed to fit within. And you know, coming from LA, he was representing what was going on in American music at that time, but you can’t blame him.  We really did have to put the brakes on in a whole bunch of ways that…the record really isn’t as free and open and fun as the one preceded it.

Yeah, I definitely have to agree there.  Now, next there was another album merely called, ‘Trooper’, who produced that one?

We did.  Now that’s us just saying…

…enough of that crap.

(Laughs) OK, so there’s NO Randy now, and NO Howard now, what do we do now?  We just basically went for that on our own which was interesting, because we didn’t kind of formally say who was the producer which is always a mistake I can say.  There was no bottom line to speak of, but we had a great deal of success, we had a great deal of money and we had a very expensive studio in Vancouver, in which to do whatever we wanted.

That was Mushroom, right?

Well, no it was actually the big Studio ‘A’ in Little Mountain.

Right.

So, we had a big budget and we were also in a musical change, a massive musical change, a change that I really liked.  Our first album came out right at the peak of the disco fever (both laughing) which is not the best timing for us and then we passed through that sort of synthy LA kind of thing that Howard was trying to emulate.  But, by the time we got to the second Trooper album.  You know there’d been the whole Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Stiff Records in England, you know the whole, really, really rootsie, unadorned, unsweetened, great melody, powerful grooves and that was right up our alley, but, we’d never ever made that kind of music, but we really liked it.  You can hear us kind of vacillating what we had done in the past, and what we really wished we could do which was that powerful, almost out of control but melodic music.  So, it was an interesting experiment, and it took us bloody forever to do, because we were rudderless, didn’t have somebody saying,… “Here is the place you cannot go to. (both laughing)

One of the songs on this album that I’d like to talk about is the BIG single, or NON-BIG single as the case may be, ‘Real Canadians’. Some Canadian Stations wouldn’t play it because it was too pro Canadian and other stations wouldn’t play it because they thought it was anti-Canadian.  That just seems odd…

A lot of stations thought we were making fun of Canada because (the song) is pretty funny, and a lot of people thought that it was just too much of a flag waver, and we shouldn’t be saying, ‘Hey we’re Canadians-we’re real Canadians’ which, in retrospect, was a particularly un-Canadian thing to do!

I guess given our reputation for modesty and whatnot…

Absolutely, and back in the day more so.  We kind of transgressed an unwritten law there.

Yeah because we’re talking about 1979 – 1980 here.

And that has changed so dramatically since those days and I for one am really proud of the fact that, that has changed so much.  Certainly, I really felt like the pivotal final nail in the coffin was the Olympics, honestly.  There was just this final OK, we love this country, we have the same amount of pride for this country as any American or such person has for their country you know.  It really seemed to all come together at the Olympics.  It definitely wasn’t back when that record came out.

My favourite track on the album is ‘Don’t Feel Like Dancing’, the track that opens the album.  I love the chorus line…”don’t feel like dancing, don’t feel like playing the game today”.

You know it’s kind of a bookmark, or kind of a middle ground between ‘Two For the Show’ which was kind of oh boy, oh here we go and it comes and it goes, which is kind of way off in the end of the collection, which is, you know, ‘Wow, what a trip’, you know, you stand up, you fall down, you change the rules around, you know like ‘Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ was kind of like dead centre and that whole procedure was like ‘ah geez’, there’s so much going on…

…can’t I just take five?

YEAH, yeah, ‘I just don’t know if I can do this’, and ‘Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ is a little more bitter,  like ‘come on, cut me a few minutes slack here, you know, I need a break.

Sort of a musical way of saying…are you kidding me?

Yeah, it’s a tough, tough business, and we’ve always tried to keep a really positive face through it all, but its damn hard work and every now and then it does get you kind of in a corner.

The next album was 1982’s ‘Money Talks’, the only album you did with Mike Flicker and RCA Records.  The song on the hits collection, ‘It Comes and It Goes’, you say was your favourite Trooper song?

Yeah, I’d say that and ‘Boys in a Bright White Sports Car’ are two of my favorites.

Why is that?

I was basically just talking about how I thought it as a bookmark in our career between ‘Two For the Show’ at one end and ‘It Comes and It Goes’ and the other end.  It’s a melancholy song that really, really accurately reflected in a really oblique way of how I was feeling at the time.  And, we had been through so much up to that point, and there were so few places in the music where I actually spoke about our actual journey.  That song still resonates really intensely with me, plus we did a TV show where I lip synced it and I’ve seen clips of it and I’m just about tearing up while I’m singing it and I think ‘Oh geez’ that song meant a lot to you.’  We really loved the vocal arrangement, and we spent a lot of time, there was a collection of really good singers in Seattle when we made that record.  And, I’m trying to think of the name one of the guys and he was actually famous in another band.  Um, Ian somebody, geez, that’s embarrassing…

…apparently not THAT famous… (both laugh)

Yeah, and Tommy Rap was there too.  We had some really good singers and we really spent a lot of time on that vocal arrangement.  If you strip away the music on that song and just listen to the voices, it’s really quite amazing.

One of my all time favourite ballads, not just by Trooper but by anybody, is‘Only a Fool’.

Yeah, yeah…

There one line in there that leads up to the chorus that just really sums it up for me.  I was going through some things when this record came out …’maybe is we try just a little bit harder, time and circumstance will conspire in our direction’

(Ra laughs)

I love that! 

Yeah that’s a Paul Simon moment, where you use the word that you wouldn’t normally expect to hear in a song.

(both laugh hard)

 Was that just your crack at a ballad or… I know you’ve been married for, what, 38 years or something?

Yeah, its been a long time.

Was it a song for the wife?

You know there’s nothing specifically for her.  I always, I’m uncomfortable with really blatant emotionalism, especially when it can be pegged to an actual situation.  You know every time I hear ‘Sometimes When We Touch’ I have to leave the room.

(Both laughing heartily)

 It honestly bugs me, so I have to say I have not ever specifically written a love song for my wife, but any love song is partly for her.  And always has been, of course.

 I understand from what I’ve read that ‘Money Talks’ was an uncomfortable album to make and that you guys actually took quite a break after that.

We did, we kind of just backed away from it.  It wasn’t like we made a decision or anything, but, the phone wasn’t ringing as much, and we weren’t answering it as much.  We kind of backed away and out of the biz and into our individual lives.  It was quite refreshing actually.

After, a decade or so of life on the road- you’re on the road, you’re writing, you’re recording, it must have been nice!

Well it was, and it turned out we were back on the road after a pretty short break, but the recording part, we definitely to a break from that, and the record company part and the producer part, and all the politics of business.

That was quite a few years between records, wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was.  ’93 was ‘Money Talks’ and then ’98 was ‘Last of the Gypsies’.

A couple of songs from ‘Last of the Gypsies’ made it on the compilation here, ‘Boy With a Beat’; the liner notes said it its about a drummer- care to name names?

No, Ronny wouldn’t want me to do that… (both laughing)

‘Thin White Line’ is obviously about the devils dandruff. Was that about someone in particular or just that sort of problem, the sort of thing I imagine you’d see in the music business?

You know, sex, drugs and rock & roll-; the sex and the drugs are the two things that will take you out more than anything else really.  ‘A Thin White Line’ was very specifically about a friend of ours who actually passed away, not as a direct result of cocaine, but he developed a problem with it and it pretty much ended our friendship.  I’ve always been really sad that’s how it all played out.

OK, you’re last studio album so far, and I say ‘So far’ hopefully, was ‘Ten’, with “The American Dream”. I think you said to me when I saw you in Kamloops that that line literally happened, where the record company president shook your hand while he was looking the other way.

Absolutely, it was unbelievable.  Finally meeting the president of MCA records at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, and we’re at the top of this giant building, those big plate glass windows looking out over Los Angeles, and our representative said ‘This is Ra McGuire from Trooper’, but he just reached his hand back, behind his back and said ‘Nice to meet you.’ He just shook my hand while he was looking out the window.

Oh man, that’s hard!

Yeah, harsh!

Now something I’ve been wanting to ask you, and I actually woke up at 4 o’clock this morning thinking about this…

Sorry about that!

No, no!  I was actually surprised to see the new compilation out – the hits from ’10 Albums’, not because you guys don’t deserve it, because surely you do.  But, I know this is something from reading on the website that you’ve been wanting to do for some time.  And the record company was saying, ‘It’s Trooper, who cares?’  Now was it ‘Universal’ that decided to do this, or was it you guys, or was it a little of both, how did this compilation come about?

You know I’ve been unwilling to let go of that since, God, when was it, like 2000, they actually came to us 10 years ago saying, ‘we need to do another HITS record’ because ‘Hot Shots’ is one of the best selling catalogue items we have...

It STILL sells!

They still sold SHIT loads of them!  They knew that ‘Jeanine’ & ‘Three Dressed up as a Nine’ and some other songs that they owned the rights to were hits that didn’t get on ‘Hot Shots’, so they wanted to put those two songs with a couple of other random songs, and call it ‘Hot Shots-Two’ and I thought “Oh my God, it there’s any way I can stop this? Please let me stop this now!”  That developed into a concept of the double CD set which I was much happier with, that had some 40 odd songs, and kind of roamed over our 10 albums repertoire…

So you had room for some album cuts and stuff…

…for the songs that we’ve been discussing here, yours and my favorites, which in a lot of ways I think are better songs than some of the songs that became hits.  That just kind of mysteriously and inexplicably fell apart after three or four years of me trying really hard to keep it together, and I was just really unwilling to let it go.  We were coming up to our 35th anniversary, and I actually talked to Sam Feldman who was our manager; we were the first band he ever managed, and now of course, he’s got Dianna Krahl and Nora Jones for f**k’s sake…

He’s doing OK…

(both laugh) He’s doing alright!  I called him up and asked him, “can you Kick start this in any way? Can you talk to the boss over there and get something going?” The best we could do was a single CD  and I basically had to suck it in and say alright at least we can get 17 songs, a decent overview of what we’d done, and so we went from there. I spent a really substantial amount of time at the end of last year and first part of this year putting the liner notes together, putting the package together…

Did YOU re-mix the album or did the record company?

A guy named Craig Wadell in Vancouver, of Gothic Studios, re-mastered my son’s album, and Craig and I have known each other for years and he did a phenomenal job of Connor’s record.  When he was working on that he begged me for an opportunity to re-mix ‘Hot Shots’ songs because they sound so bad.  I mean that honestly…

It sounds like a cheap quick transfer job, like there’s no meat on their bones.

Absolutely!  ‘Hot Shots’ is one of the first albums they transferred over to the digital format.  I mean, as soon as they had that opportunity and God, they just didn’t have that down.  It was just so quickly done and Craig had practically begged- he actually sent me a re-mastered version of ‘Raise a Little Hell’, just to show me what he was talking about.  When I finally got this project, Craig was the guy. He lovingly and carefully went through every song and pointed out- I mean sonically its 40% better than ‘Hot Shots’, and then he took the ‘Hot Shots’ songs and made them sound like they came from the same session as the ‘Money Talks’ songs, you know, ‘The Gypsies’ songs, the ‘10’ songs, he actually made it sound like one thing.  It’s sounds so much better, I’ve been telling people that I’d like to go across Canada with a truck load of CD’s and swap out everybody’s ‘Hot Shots’ and give them this one so that no one could listen to the ‘Hot Shots’ versions…

As soon as I got the new album, I threw it in the CD deck in my car, in our little PT Cruiser, and it sounds phenomenal.  I crank it up and it makes the hair on my legs move, I’m not kidding…

(laughs) Well, you see it’s just that care and mastering process, you can be pretty fine in your selection of what frequencies you want to either raise or lower and he’s got such a good ear, that he made it just sound like what we heard in the recording studio when we finished the mix.  We went ‘Yeah that’s it!’ that’s what we were looking for!’ It never sounded like that again, until now.

Is there any chance of the rest of the catalogue being redone and reissued?

Considering how difficult THIS was…

… not in our life time.  (both laughing)

I pretty much started that project in 2000, so … (both laughing again)

I notice on the website that the only album that’s not available on “I-Tunes” is ‘Money Talks’. Are there any plans for that to happen?

One of our biggest fans is Kevin Cahoon, and he runs one of the largest private investigator companies in the world I think.  He’s the guy that hooked up the masters for ‘It Comes and It Goes’, after all these years.  BMG didn’t even know that they owned the rights to a Trooper record, let alone that they had in their vaults somewhere a ¼” tape of that record.

Right.

It was Kevin that tracked that down, and Kevin is now continuing to work on that for them, the digital side of things, because it would be really great to have them all available on iTunes.  He’s also trying to track down the lost Edmonton Coliseum video that disappeared between Terry David Mulligan and Much Music.  He’s got people going across Canada with magnifying glasses looking for that as well.

I’ve had the ‘Money Talks’ album since it came out on vinyl, but it’s getting kind of beat up.

Well you know, some of my favourite songs (are on there) but honestly, a couple of those songs are my least favourite Trooper songs ever.  Everything you Want’, I mean I’d like that song…

…to be burned…

…taken out of the world.  Just disappeared.  Horrible, horrible song. (both laugh)

 Then, after doing a couple of radio station ID’s, I let Ra get on with his day.  We still touch base via email on occasion, and I hope the boys consider doing at least one more album. The next time Trooper plays anywhere near you, go and see them and tell Ra that John The Rock Doctor says “hi”.

Our valuable member John The Rock Doctor Kereiff has been with us since Friday, 18 March 2011.

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