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INTERVIEW: GARRY PETERSON of THE GUESS WHO – August 2018

| 14 August 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “The Guess Who is responsible for countless rock classics, which still retain a major presence on rock radio – “American Woman,” “No Time,” “These Eyes,” etc. The band is set to return on September 14th with their latest album, The Future IS What It Used To Be, released via Cleopatra Records (available in CD, Vinyl, and Digital formats). The band is Garry Peterson (Drums, Vocals), D# (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano), Will E. (Guitar, Harp, Vocals), Leonard Shaw (Keyboards, Flute, Sax, Vocals), and Rudy Sarzo (Bass, Vocals). The album’s first single, ‘Playin’ on the Radio’, will be released on July 17th. It can be heard on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services. Also featured on the album are several special guests including, Tommy Shaw (Styx) on vocals, Brent Fitz (Slash, Gene Simmons) percussion, Jim Kale (Guess Who founding member) and Michael Devin (Whitesnake) on bass guitar.” We get original member and drummer Garry Peterson to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Garry, thank you for taking time out for us.

Garry: Well, you know, I’ve always said that we’re a band of radio and press, and I think when you don’t want to talk to those people that help put you up on stage, you need to hang up the spikes.

Toddstar: That’s so true. There’s exciting news in the world of the Guess Who: a new album, The Future IS What It Used To Be.

Garry: Yes. I’m actually looking at the vinyl right now. It’s out in a limited edition red vinyl. It’s kind of a baby of mine in a way, ’cause I had maybe more hand in this album as far as the total package, rather than any of the other ones in the history of the band. As far as what the concept we were trying to achieve on this album. I’m starting to get a little bit of feedback, we are, as a band from different places. And it’s been kind of positive. So, I’m happy about that.

Toddstar: Why after 23 years did you guys decide now is the time?

Garry: Because the yellow brick road opened up. In other words, I think we saw the path with the current band that we have, and I think the idea of doing this hit everybody all at once. It just felt right.

Toddstar: What is it about this album that makes you excited, other than the fact that it’s new material that you guys can really bring to your fans?

Garry:That’s perhaps number one, is the fact that when you’re in a band, and I’ve been in the band 56, almost 57 years, playing relatively the same music, night after night, after night. It’s such great classic music. If it wasn’t at least good music I think I’d have gone out of my mind. Can you imagine a painter only being allowed to do 10 paintings in his life, and then that’s it? You can’t do anymore. There’s a creative juice running through all musicians that I’ve ever known. And in this band it’s been stifled for 30 or 40 years, maybe more for some of us. And we have to get the right group of people, musical wise and writing wise, and thinking wise, and a group of guys that got along. That’s a tough trick in the world of pop music. Maybe it took that long. And again the concept is to take people that grew up with the band back to a certain era, that is no longer in existence. And then take younger people, some were barely born or not born, and kind of long for that magical era of rock and roll and pop music, that we were part of. So with this package, from the album artwork down to the music, we’re trying to give people a chance to go to that era.

Toddstar: What about this album do you think your fans might not grab the first time they listen to it, once it’s released September 14?

Garry: I’m not sure how they will react. Some will be very resistant. The die hard fans want the original band back together, doing it, which is not a possibility. And even if it was, there’s two members of the band that were arguably great contributors to the legacy that are dead. And then again, 50 years later, the original band… we don’t even know what we would sound like, or whether we had enough creative writing done. Because if you look at the members that are still out there that are not in the band, the original members, what have they produced since the Guess Who? I don’t mean that in a mean-spirited way. But after all, we’re 50 years from the last album. The only two people that were on the last album from the original band in 1975 were Burton Cummings and myself. So anything we would do today would be just as much of a crap shoot as what this band is doing, if you follow what I’m saying. And I don’t know what fans would expect from this band. But I’ve heard many comments that are quite positive towards the material and the sound of this album. And to be honest, I think I’m a fairly good judge, ’cause I played on every album, and it’s the first album out of all of the albums that I like every song. That didn’t happen an awful lot in the old days. Out of 10 songs I might like four or five. On this album, when I’m playing I realize, “Oh this is my favorite song.” Then I’ll go on. I’ll say, “No, no. This is… ” that’s pretty good for a guy that was part of recording the album. I think it’s a very pop commercial album. It’s interesting. The lyrics sound good to me, are interesting. And the playing is great. If people are looking to the Guess Who today sounding like everything else that’s on the radio, either towards country or rap, that’s not what they’re gonna hear. They’re gonna hear on this album all the influences that influenced the original members of the band. And also, coincidentally, influenced all the members we have now. Because the guys in the band were definitely fans of the band and came to see the band at various times in concert when they were younger. So there is a commonality there.

Toddstar: With a current track “Playing On The Radio” out there now as a single, what song or two do you think will hold up the best, song for song, against anything in the Guest Who catalog?

Garry: I think that’s one, right there, because it’s a great writing. And I mean there’s two ways to look at it. Is your measure of success how successful it is as a hit or if it becomes a hit? There’s no way of knowing that today. Is it fair to compare it that way? Are you talking about comparing it musically? I think musically, every song on the album compares to what we did in the old band. I mean if you look at the legacy of the band and how many hits it has, it’s kind of not fair at this point to measure that against the old. Because the old has had 50 years of airplay. I mean how can you do that? And at this point in our careers, if we could have a recording career of 10 years, which is really what the Guess Who had from 1965 to 1975, if we could do that with this band, then we could make a true comparison. I think if you listen to the album, you’ll hear, like I said, the influences that we were influenced by. The Beatles, The Stones, Chuck Berry, Elton John, The Eagles. That becomes part of your DNA as a band, as your own band. You have those building blocks of how you learned to play, make, and write this kind of music. That will be evident on the album. If you listen to the album, there’s the tight harmonies that were very reminiscent of the Guess Who, and very pop oriented hooks in the songs. Somebody just wrote a critique of the album. They said on several plays you want to hear it over and over again. And it’s the kind of album you want to learn the lyrics, so you can sing along with it. That’s to me, a very great compliment to the actual music that was written.

Toddstar: What was it like to get in the studio and record this, and know that at one point, Jim Kale was gonna join you?

Garry: You know, Jim is kind of retired from the band. I shouldn’t say kinda. He is; that was his choice. I think we all have thresholds of what we want to do in our lives. He was in the point where he still loved to play, but he didn’t want to travel, didn’t want to be away from his dog and things that were important in his ordinary life. So it was great to have him play on the one cut, which is called “Long Day.” However, we actually had played that song on stage for a couple of years prior to actually recording it, so he was not unfamiliar with some of these songs. It’s just that we hadn’t really recorded them yet. But it was a wonderful experience. I have a history with Jim from 1962 to 1975. It’s kind of a great thing that he’s able to be on the album.

Toddstar: Well you guys were able to lock in once again as that rhythm section that anchored a lot of the classic Guess Who stuff. So to be able to bring the new generation and be able to lock in that same rhythm sound had to be fun.

Garry: Well and it’s not unprecedented, because the songs “Clap for the Wolf Man” and “Star Baby,” and from that era, that was Bill Wallace on bass. So it’s something I had gone through before playing with someone else. I think the quality of people that we have – Michael Devin from White Snake is on a lot of the album of the new album, and of course Rudy Sarzo, who is really the new bass player of the band right now – these are all wonderfully talented people. And also, really fine, fine human beings, which is just as important as far as I’m concerned. It was a change for me, but music is music, is music. And when you have great players who are passionate about what they do and how they do it, there’s no problem there. In fact, it’s inspirational in a way, because these people come from very successful careers of their own. My attitude is always, “Great. Someone new I can learn from.” You know? We’re always learning. Hopefully we’re always learning. I still do that. I listen a lot to our old records, and even the new record now, over and over. And I analyze the progression of the band. How it progressed from young, crazy, we can do anything kids, to more experienced, seasoned performers and studio musicians, and especially myself. I often was sad the band broke up in 1975 because I was just learning how to be a rock drummer then.

Toddstar: Well that said, you guys have this album coming out in September. and the first single “Playing On The Radio” is out. But what’s next? Can we start looking for tour dates in the near future? What’s next for you guys?

Garry: We tour all the time. It’s really not a set “Well, we’re going out for the Let’s Make Money tour, or we’re going out for the It’s Springtime Now tour.” We play just about every month when someone wants to book us; that’s just what we do right now. You used to tour before to promote a record in our day. Now, you use a record to promote, to get a tour. So we’ll see. I mean it’s going to depend on how successful this record is, where we go. It would be great to get on a major tour with another act. We’ve often talked… there’s a connection between us and Styx, and Tommy Shaw in particular, ’cause he sang on four cuts of our album. It would be great to do a tour with them, for instance. I know we’ve always wanted to do a tour with perhaps somebody like Three Dog Night and maybe another act. I don’t know really what’s on the horizon. However, we are already talking about new material. And there is, amongst the writers of the band, that we have now, there is a plethora of material. For instance there’s a ballad on the album called “Haunted.” Well, we had three candidates for that spot. So that means there’s another two waiting.  That says to me, hopefully, this record is popular enough and makes enough of an impact that we get to go and do it all over again. You know? Because let’s face it. As I said, you get better as you do it. And with the band, it’s in relatively an infancy stage. I’m surprised to say that at 73 years old. But that’s what it feels like to me. I think that enthusiasm is on the grooves of this record. You can hear that from the band. It’s happy doing it. It’s believable in other words, although it’s music that’s not relatively popular today, it’s of an era that is still very popular via classic music. It remains to be seen. I really can’t answer your question yet. We hope it goes that way, that it gives us more opportunity to create more new music, that people will want to listen to. That’s as simple as you can put it, really.

Toddstar: We’re glad you got this out. We dig the single “Playing On The Radio.” Can’t wait to get my hands on the whole album. And hopefully we’ll see you on the road soon here in Detroit.

Garry: Yes. I hope so. Like I said, there’s plenty more of that music that’s on this album if the fans like it. We’re ready to produce more at any moment. And thanks so much to all our fans in Detroit, and you in particular, for having me. It’s an honor to be doing this interview with you. We look forward to seeing Detroit, our crowds again. They’re some of the best in the world.

Toddstar: Awesome. Well thank you again for your time, Gary, and we’ll talk to you when you swing through Detroit.

Garry: Thanks, Todd. The band would love to meet you.

Toddstar: Awesome. We’ll make something happen as soon as you come through, Gary.

Garry: All right. Bye-bye.

THE GUESS WHO LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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