Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 119: Panda comp and interview with Jaap van Eik

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TDATS 119: Panda, band profile and interview with Jaap van Eik by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud

Panda was yet another great short-lived Dutch band that made some singles but no album. Even though they existed for a very short time, some notable names passed through the ranks. These included Emile den Tex (Tortilla, Turquoise, Electric Tear, solo), now a famous producer, Herman van Boeyen (Livin' Blues, Supersister, Vitesse), Rob Kruisman (Island v1, Modesty Blaise, Bintangs, Brainbox, Ekseption), Ben de Bruin (Cobra, Bintangs, Turquoise, Rob Hoeke) and Rob ten Bokum (Bintangs, Vitesse). Another was bassist Jaap van Eik, who has kindly agreed to take part in an interview about himself and Panda.

Before going further, two invaluable sources that I must thank for making searches in all things nederbeat easier are Alex Gitlin's Nederpop Enyclopedia and Erik Hessel's

Panda Discography

No Coockies / Swingin' About
Philips 6075 130
Panda's first single, a-side No Coockies is a heavy flute-tinged progressive instrumental with great guitar and a poignant central motif. B-side Swingin' About starts with a lumbering, off-center groove which makes it sound mean and nasty, Rob Kruisman's added flute and sax combines to make this a unique track that's genuinely heavy and doesn't sound quite like anything else I can think of.

Stranger / Medicine Man
Decca 6100013
Stranger begins deceptively, with a heavy Sabbathian tri-tone metal riff, but quickly morphs into a Slade-elic glam stomper with a sing-along chorus and more flashes of flute, great fun.  B-side Medicine Man is built around a similarly heavy, lumpen riff to "Swingin' About", this time with no flute and forays into blues, it's another of their best heavy tracks.

Living for Tomorrow / Blue Boy Blues
Philips 6012182
Living For Tomorrow shows another side of Panda. The lilting melody and affirming lyrics on casting away the past to look to the future makes for a perfect pop song, it would've been a hit for a famous band. B-side Blue Boy Blues returns to the bluesy glam of Stranger, with a hint of country rock. Jaap van Eik's imaginative bass-lines and Rob ten Bokum's catchy licks make for a final addictive track to end their career, albeit far too soon.

Jaap van Eik and Panda

Jaap was born in The Hague, in the western part of The Netherlands. At around the age of three his family moved to Venezuela, so along he went. When he was eleven he suffered appendicitis, for his own sake his parents decided to send him back to the old country to recover, and to get a better educational grounding. He started playing the guitar at fourteen, but switched to bass three years later; "because in those days there were always too many guitarists!". He would however return to the guitar in some bands later on, such as Trace. When asked about early inspirations, he had this to say; "As everybody in the sixties I was hugely influenced by The Ventures and The Shadows. Later it was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Little Feat and Allman Brothers, to name a few. My personal favourite was Jack Bruce, would you believe it. Also guitar players like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton."

While studying graphic design in Arnhem, Japp met pianist and fellow student, Herman Brood. Herman is a famous character in Dutch rock, who became an artist later on (wiki). Sadly he committed suicide in 2001, after years of health problems resulting from life-long heavy drug use.  At this point Jaap had already played in a Shadows covers band, with Herman and some other local guys he formed a band and started hanging out in small clubs. They were The Moans, later just "Moan". Soon they were playing further afield; "We mainly played around the city of Arnhem. When a serious fight broke out during a gig and the police had to intervene, we were expelled for a while and started to play in Germany (Arnhem is located close to the border). We played in Germany quite often, where we met loads of English bands and musicians. They were like gods to us!".

From the late ‘60s into the ‘70s, Jaap became an in-demand bass player. In his own words, he had a "tendency to use the bass as a solo instrument", which goes some way in describing his personal style. He spent time in many bands, including Cuby + Blizzards, Blues Dimension, The Motions and Solution. He also played on the Jan Akkerman ‎solo LP, “Profile”. He regards the most defining moment in his career as his time with blues rockers Cuby + Blizzards. Herman Brood had already joined, and recommended Jaap. This is where he and Herman first made names for themselves. Jaap remembers: “This was a whole new step up. They were quite famous then and played many gigs, made a few albums and toured a lot in Germany and other European countries. As a matter of fact we even went to England, where we met people like John Mayall (we did a tour with him and his band in The Netherlands afterwards) and Alexis Korner.” Jaap left Cuby in 1969 and switched around various bands and styles in the ’70s. "Blues Dimension was brief, Solution was great, we toured the UK extensively in the seventies, and I was foolish enough to turn down an offer from Jan Akkerman to join Focus! Trace was the last band I played in. That was a nice period although things became rather complicated then.”

Interview with Jaap

Me: Hi Jaap! How and where did the members of Panda meet, was it in Alkmaar? Why was the name ‘Panda' chosen?

Jaap: No, it wasn’t in Alkmaar. I once saw a young drummer who impressed me. His name was Herman van Boeyen. So when we needed someone for Blues Dimension, I suggested him. We kept in touch after that and at one point we decided to start a new band together. I lived in a place called Zwolle, he was located in Amsterdam. The name Panda was chosen because Panda was a popular figure in a comic strip, about a small panda bear.

Originally a Dutch strip written by Marten Toonder,
it was also published in German translations, 
as seen here.

Me: Is this the correct line-up for all three singles?
 Ben de Bruin (guitar)
 Emile den Tex (vocals)
 Herman van Boeyen (drums)
 Jaap van Eik (bass)
 Rob Kruisman (wind)

Jaap: No, Here's how it was. The original band was started by myself and drummer Herman van Boeyen. Only the first line-up was with Emile den Tex (vocals) and Ben de Bruin (guitar). Emile didn’t stay very long and was replaced by Rob Kruisman (Ekseption, Brainbox and Modesty Blaise etc.) for vocals, saxophone and flute. When Ben de Bruin left, we added Rob ten Bokum (Modesty Blaise) who played guitar and also flute.

So the final stable lineup was myself (bass), Herman van Boeyen (drums), Rob ten Bokum (guitar, flute) and Rob Kruisman on vocals, saxophone and flute.

(l-r) Rob Kruisman,         Jaap van Eik,    Rob ten Bokum,    Herman van Boeijen

Me: Can you describe when and where you recorded the three 45s that Panda released? Do you have any favourite Panda songs? Can you remember anything about recording them?

Jaap: I’m not quite sure who plays on which track. No Cookies was definitely with Rob and Rob, the b-side and Medicine Man were with Emile, Stranger was with Rob Kruisman and Ben de Bruin, Blue Boy Blues again was with the two Robs. I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, so I’d have to listen to the recordings.

As far as I can remember the recordings are from different sessions. Most of them were done in the Phonogram Studio in Hilversum, No Cookies was definitely recorded in The Hague with Jaap Eggermont (ex-drummer of Golden Earring - producer of Cobra seen in Vol111) producing. The other songs were produced by Tony Vos (Cuby + Blizzards, Blues Dimension) or Hans van Hemert (Q65, Inca Bullet Joe). I particularly remember the sessions for No Cookies, which in my opinion is our best track. I was a fan of Chris Squire’s bass sound [Yes], although he played a Rickenbacker and I played a Precision Bass. So Jaap Eggermont suggested I use a small amplifier turned up all the way plus a direct line to the mixing board. The sound was great. 

Me: What was the song-writing process of the band? And who was the creative leader of the band, if there was one? 

Jaap: There wasn’t a real creative leader, which was one of the problems we had. Herman van Boeyen was a strong personality with many ideas, especially when it came down to riffs, I always fiddled with sliding sounds and melodies, but most of the actual writing came from Rob Kruisman and Rob ten Bokum. That is, in the line-up with them. Also there was a lot of improvisation.  

Me: Panda's music is fantastic, all the members’ performances gel brilliantly. It’s generally got an anthemic sing-along melodic style, and heavy rockers like 'Swingin' About' and 'Medicine Man'. Can you explain your thoughts on the band’s versatility and what influenced the sound of Panda? To me, Panda has more of a 'hard rock' sound than bands you and the other members were in previously. Was this a sound that Panda was particularly aiming for?

Jaap: I’m rather surprised that you know the music at all, let alone that you like it so much. It was a great little band that never sounded the same on any gig. Also we were accomplished players, and as I said before, much inclined to improvise. Our sound was obviously influenced by bands that were popular at the time. Led Zeppelin for instance, but also an American band like Moby Grape. We wanted a lot of power, we were loud and aggressive and we played long solos!

Me: There is some great wind instrumentation like flute and clarinet (I think) on the songs 'Swingin' About', 'Living For Tomorrow' and 'No Coockies'. Can you remember who wrote and played these parts? 

Jaap: It’s a flute. The parts were played by Rob Kruisman. I think the melody line in No Cookies was written by Rob ten Bokum.  

Me: What equipment, bass and playing techniques did you use? 

Jaap: I used a Fender Precision Bass with a 100 Watt Marshall Bass stack. I never played with a pick, but sometimes used a technique I learned in the classical guitar lessons I had when I was sixteen: instead of the fingertips of my right hand I would pluck the strings with my fingernails. 

Me: Did Panda ever play live? Do you have any memories of such that you could share? 

Jaap: Oh yeah, we did many gigs in The Netherlands, Germany and even France. I’d have to think about the memories, it’s a long time ago.  

As a rule Dutch bands tend to play a lot in Germany as that country is literally next door. With Panda we mainly played in what is called the 'Ruhr Gebiet': the area between city's like Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Essen and Duisburg. At the time there were many clubs around. About France, I happen to remember we played once or twice in the northern part of the country and traveled to Germany from there. In all the years I've been playing I met quite a few English bands on the road - Pretty Things, Hollies, The (New) Searchers, Renaissance - and also guys from Holland. Golden Earring for instance.

We once performed a gig on a balcony of a beautiful villa in the town of Arnhem [Netherlands]. It's located in a park called Sonsbeek. The particular occasion was a free festival with bands, but also other types or artists. I remember it was a lovely day then and a great surprise that I met my mother! She hated me 'wasting my time with bands', but was nevertheless there.

Sonsbeek Villa roof, free festival in Arnhem
Herman van Boeijen (drums) - 
Rob ten Bokum (guitar)
Jaap van Eik (bass) - Rob Kruisman (flute)

Me: Do you know if any Panda singles had success in the charts or TV shows? 

Jaap: The only recording that was heavily played on the radio was No Cookies. It looked like it was going to be a hit, but unfortunately that never happened. But we did appear in TV-shows. 

Me: Do you remember which TV shows you appeared on?

Jaap: In Holland we had something called the tip parade. So what happened is they selected a single and played it every hour. Usually that particular song became a hit and sold well. In our case that unfortunately did not happen. There were many pop shows on TV in those days, but I can't really remember the exact names. They were all play-back, so rather frustrating [meaning they were mimed to a backing-track]. Also we had a couple of pirate radio stations on ships, that were very popular: Radio Veronica and Radio Noordzee.

[I had not heard of the "tipparade" before, and found it hard to get a good definition, so I asked fellow tdats fb group admin (and Dutchman) Mark, and he explained: "The tipparade back then was a list of singles that had a big chance of entering the charts, the Veronica Top 40. It was broadcast on the famous Radio Veronica. I think the name is still used today though of course with downloading etc. it's very different from how it went back then. they changed it from 20 singles to 30 in 1970, so around the time Panda was active it was 30 singles. The list was printed and you could get it at your local record store. The number one on the Tipparade is called "Alarmschijf" This was the track that was played every hour on Radio Veronica."]

Me: How and why did the band end? 

Jaap: I’m not sure! I think there was no progression anymore, it was hard to survive and also, Herman van Boeyen and I had an offer from Livin’ Blues, a highly popular Dutch band with a busy schedule. So we joined them for a while.   

Me: Was Panda ever intended to be anything more than a singles band? Do you think you had the potential to last longer, be more successful and more well-known? 

Jaap: You know, back then you mostly had to prove yourself. First you made a single. If that was a success, you made another one. If that one was also well received, the record company would start thinking of an album. Of course there were exceptions, but as a rule that was how things went. Had No Cookies been a hit, the band might have stayed together and who knows what would’ve happened then. We certainly had the potential. 

Me: I've been told that it was particularly hard for rock bands to get backing from Dutch labels to record a whole album back then, and they were often encouraged to focus on writing radio-friendly pop singles, in search of a 'hit'. Because of this, many bands with great hard-rock potential like Panda made a string of singles which may have been more commercially-oriented than they would have liked, and unfortunately made no albums. What are your thoughts on the accuracy of this viewpoint? Did any of these issues affect Panda?  

Jaap: I think I just answered this question. What you state is absolutely true. When you went to a record company with a string of songs, the usual reaction was: "quite nice, but I don’t hear a hit". Every Dutch musician from the period has learned to hate that attitude. 

Pierre van der Linden,      Jaap,      Rick van der Linden
Trace c.1974
Me: Can you tell us briefly about your involvement with Trace? How did that happen, and what are your memories? Was Trace's 'symphonic prog' style something you preferred to Panda's hard rock? I'm guessing it was more challenging on a technical level.

Jaap: My involvement with Trace is quite a long story. I didn’t prefer the symphonic style to hard rock, although it was indeed rather challenging to play. Also I thought it was a great opportunity to form a trio with fantastic musicians like Rick van der Linden and Pierre van der Linden (not related by the way). In this case we had full support from the record company and could make an album right away. We had a great time, toured a lot (mainly in Germany, Scandinavia and the UK) and switched drummers just before recording the second album. Pierre went back to Focus, we replaced him with Ian Mosley [later of Marillion], who was a great drummer and also a great guy.   

Me: What else have you done since Panda, in music or otherwise, and what are you doing now? Tell us about your decision to become a journalist, and appointment as editor of Music Maker.

Jaap: Briefly, since Panda I played in many bands: Livin’ Blues, Solution, Trace for instance. Around 1976 I got a strong feeling that I’d reached a dead end and could only repeat what I’d been doing before. Also, the economic circumstances were worrying me. In the Dutch music scene we have a saying: ‘what you primarily need to be a rock musician is a girlfriend with a good job’. I was fortunate enough to have that girl friend with a good job (she was a fashion model) and did enjoy some success, but nevertheless it was getting me nowhere. I’ve always been interested in writing and journalism, so when a publishing company offered me a job as an editor I gladly accepted - with the idea of playing in a band in my free-time. When I became editor of Music Maker Magazine, I didn’t have the time anymore and also discovered that as far as playing was concerned, it was all or nothing for me. So I had to decide between music and journalism. I never regretted choosing journalism. I had a great job until 2001, when I became a freelance-writer.

Jaap van Eik
Jaap in recent times
Me: Do you have any final thoughts or stories that could give readers some more insight into the times and the band? 

Jaap: It was a tight very little band, especially after changing the line-up with Rob Kruisman and Rob Ten Bokum. The latter was a good songwriter and guitarist, the former quite a showman and apart from being the singer, also a good saxophone and flute player. Our repertoire was a mix of original material and covers. I remember we included explosive versions or The Beatles' I Wanna Hold Your Hand' and a few Stones songs. We mainly played small clubs around The Netherlands, were usually quite well received, but for some reason never got very far. Being on stage was always great fun, as we didn't rehearse that much and mainly relied on our improvisational skills. This meant that songs could go on forever if we were on the right track.

We liked to party, which sometimes annoyed our drummer Herman van Boeyen, who at one time tried to enforce a no-alcohol rule during gigs - obviously the others didn't comply. Apart from being a good drummer Herman was a funny guy. He never liked being dependent on other people and one day decided he also wanted to be a singer. The problem was, his voice wasn't that strong. So we said to him: 'Herman, that won't work, your singing is just no good'. 'Oh, I can learn that', he insisted. 'No Herman, no way', we grinned. Then Rob Kruisman said jokingly: 'You know what you should do? Gargle with whiskey, that'll do the trick'. Five minutes later he was gargling whiskey! We laughed our heads off, but a couple of years later, in another band called Vitesse, Herman proved his point: he became the drumming singer and had a couple of hits!

There's a interview with Jaap that goes into much more detail about his life and career here at the DPRP (Dutch Progressive Rock Page) (link). A couple of years ago he wrote a book about Focus called "Focus: Wereldsucces, Ego's en Machtsstrijd".


Thanks very much to Jaap, and I hope you enjoy Panda's brief but brilliant set of tunes as much as I do. If you haven't already seen it, check out a similar interview I did with Rob Vunderink about his old band, Cobra. Till next time, Rich.

© Richard Sheppard / / Panda / Jaap van Eik

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stonehouse and Stonehouse Creek. Interview with singer Jim Smith, pt.1

"Stonehouse Creek" is one of the best albums I have come across while looking out for bands in all things TDATS. Recently tracking down an original copy has encouraged me in my attempts at finding out more about this excellent obscure band. To my huge delight I was able to contact Plymouth-born Stonehouse singer James (Jim) Smith, and conduct a telephone interview. This also enabled me to get some great info on later bands of Jim's like Asgaerd.

Jodo, Universe, Stonehouse triumvirate
A 1971 UK blues rock LP  triumvirate of
Jodo, Universe & Stonehouse
Eerily reminiscent of Jodo, of whom I interviewed Rod Alexander almost exactly one year ago (link), Stonehouse also made a single, woefully under-publicised, album of brilliant British heavy blues and hard rock, in 1971. They both have ambiguous, monochrome cover art, they even share some lyrical themes. On top of these coincidences, they both have a track called "Nightmare". Fans of Leaf Hound will also find much to like in Stonehouse's earthy, honest sound, as well as those who know Universe's album, all of these LPs being from 1971, a great year indeed.

The album begins with a plaintive ode to the mysterious "Stonehouse Creek", lamenting the loss of a well-loved local beauty spot, and then kicks off proper with the good-time bluesrock vibes of "Hobo". This fully establishes the band's tight skills; Ian Snow's funky drumming, Peter Spearings's nimble blues licks, Terry Parker's adventurous bass lines and Jim Smith's versatile wide-range vocal abilities. The second track is a real highlight of the album, "Cheater", with Jim's impassioned and brooding performance matching Pete's doom-laden blues riff.

"Nightmare" opens with Terry's quirky, slightly proggy bassline, and this is the first track to include some light piano embellishment, the inclusion of which Jim will voice his minor grievances on later in the interview. Personally speaking, although piano can generally take the edge off hard rock, I like it on this album. It's well played, not over-powering, and it suits an LP which has a good-natured, fun vibe over-all.

Toward the end, "Don't Push Me" introduces some great Sabbathian, progressive riffing. "Topaz" is a compact, groovy instrumental, perfect for those that like Led Zep's "Moby Dick" but tend to reach for fast-forward at a certain point; this one is drum-solo free haha. Along with the earlier track "Ain't No Game", "Four Letter Word" delves into deeper lyrical subject matters, supporting tolerance and anti-war sentiments. The album reprises nicely with Stonehouse Creek pt2, coming back full circle to the homely pleasures of hanging about fishing on a lazy summer afternoon.

Interview with Jim Smith

Parade at British Seaman's Boys Home, Brixham
Parade at British Seaman's Boys Home, Brixham
Acquired from
Me: Hi Jim! Please tell us about your childhood and how you got into music.
Jim: I was brought up in Devonport, in quite a large family, one of ten brothers and sisters. We lived in a very poor part of town. When I was seven, me and three brothers were out playing in the street and this car turned up. We were given all these really lovely clothes to put on, nicer than we'd seen before. We were whipped of to Brixham, in Paignton, Devon.

To my surprise we were taken to an orphanage and just left there. I found out six months or so later that my mum was really ill, dying of cancer. My father was in the Navy at the time, on HMS Ark Royal, so he wasn’t in a position to look after us all. The rest of my siblings were staying with grandparents and other family. It was a naval orphanage and they had bands, so at the age of twelve I joined a naval band, as a side drummer, also playing the bugle. [The British Seaman's Boys Home (link) was open for 125 years between 1863 and 1988]

Me: Drumming was your first love?
Jim: Yes, I seemed to have a natural aptitude and picked things up and played them quite easily in the boy’s marching band.

.Me: How did that develop into playing in rock bands?
Jim: At around fifteen I had the chance to leave the orphanage, and go and live with my sister in Plymouth. I joined a little youth club come boxing club, which used to put on dances. A couple of guys there asked me if I’d like to join in getting a band together. I managed to get a cheap drum-setup, first time having been on a full size drum kit. I started picking things up from there, playing along to things like The Shadows, and it developed from there.

Me: Was one of those people Pete Spearing?
Jim: No, I met him when I was seventeen or eighteen. I played in loads of different little bands, not yet being really good at my trade. I could play a basic 4/4 but that was about it. I was never trained in music, I didn’t learn to read music. My skills developed just by studying other musicians, I used to go home and work it out bit by bit in my own time. When I was about sixteen I was playing in a band at a show, in a cinema in Devonport, Plymouth. We were supporting The Who. When you see old pictures of The Who, Roger Daltrey’s wearing like a double-breasted jacket with stripes on it. That’s what he was wearing that night.

We even went to Germany for stint to play in Hamburg and that circuit, soon after the Beatles. Another time we got a residency in the Butlins holiday camp at Minehead, Somerset. To be allowed to work there, we had to officially become Red Coats, that was a lot of fun as you can imagine!

Pete Spearing, 1971
Pete Spearing, 1971
Me: Oh great, what was the name of that band you were in then?
Jim: Believe it or not, I can't remember! Going back fifty years or so, the memories get murky. At that time it might have been “The Crusaders”, something like that. I was getting quite good on the drums, having been playing regularly in little social clubs and youth clubs. When I was about seventeen Pete Spearing [Stonehouse guitar/song-writer] approached me. By this time I had started to do some singing as well as the drums. He asked If i’d be interested in singing for a good three-piece band (drums, bass, guitar). Terry Parker [Stonehouse bass] was living in a place called Southway at the time. As you can hear on the album, he was a very accomplished bass player for a guy his age.

Me: So Stonehouse was initially Pete Spearing’s idea? Did you know Terry or Ian Snow [Stonehouse drums] before this point?
Jim: Stonehouse was Pete’s vision, it was all his material, he was such a prolific song-writer. I didn’t know Ian or Terry beforehand, no.

Van Dike club poster, 1970
Van Dike club poster, 1970
Me: What were Stonehouse’s influences? Did you model yourselves on any bands?
Jim: We didn’t want to sound like anyone else and I think we managed to achieve that, with my vocal range and how I sounded, and the way we played, I think we were really original. Personally speaking, I idolised Free. I saw them half a dozen times when they came down to Plymouth, at a club called the Van Dike. They were going on stage with 200 watt Marshal PA systems, that’s how new they were to the game as well!

Me: Paul Rogers has one of the best voices of all time. On that record he did with Queen in recent times, his voice was as good as ever.
Jim: Yeah, that was incredible. That’s the good thing about carrying on doing what you do, you should never lose it. He still has such a good vocal range.

Me: Why did you choose the name Stonehouse? Having looked it up, I see there is a place with that name in Plymouth.
Jim: Pete Spearing was born around that area. There’s a place called Stonehouse Creek, they keep boats down there. There’s a ha'penny bridge, where in the old days, seventeenth and eighteenth century, people used to pay a ha'penny to get across. It’s quite a biggish bridge, it takes two lanes of traffic now. So Pete themed one of the songs on Stonehouse bridge, and creek.

Me:  Sure, the intro and outro on the album, containing the lyric, “They’re filling in Stonehouse Creek”.
Jim: And they did fill it in! One side of it is now a car park for a university college.

Me: I guess that was quite an upsetting thing at the time, which is why Pete wrote about it?
Jim: Yes! It was well-loved, lots of people used to go fishing around there and just laze around the edges of the water, having picnics and things like that.

Me:  When Stonehouse started playing live, do you remember playing with, or meeting, any other bands that we may have heard of?
Jim: Not really no, we did a lot of one-off club nights by ourselves. Speaking again of Paul Rogers again, I did measure myself on him, not the way he sang, but the way he stood on stage, the way he used the mic stand, he used it like a crutch. I used to do that and throw it about, it was like a baton to me.

Me: Were you just playing near Plymouth? Did you travel further, to London for instance?
Jim: Yeah we went to London; I forget the names of places we played now, one may have been the The Speakeasy (link). We went down an absolute storm, did really well and got more gigs. Don’t ask me what managers approached us, as Pete dealt with all that. We had a small spot at Glastonbury one time, set up in a tent, and that went down really well too. At one time we were voted one of the top ten bands in England, alas I can’t remember where or what that was in.

Command Studio, London
Command Studio, London
Me: Do you remember much about how you got signed and how the album recording came about?
Jim: Pete arranged that after talking to a label rep at a show, who thought we had a really good sound and liked what we did. An album recording session was arranged, but we only got one day in the studio.

Me: The album cover says it was recorded at Command studios in London (link) [which hosted the likes of King Crimson, Slade, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, PFM and Roxy Music]. In a small piece I found on-line (link), that was apparently written by Pete Spearing in recent times, he said that it was recorded at Advision studios. What is correct here?
Jim: It was recorded at Command studios, in 1970. Not Advision.

Me: The engineer, Barry Ainsworth, worked with some excellent bands; ├┤awkVVind , Deep Purple - "Hush", The Strawbs, May Blitz and Sam Gopal to name a few. [There is a 1980s video interview with Barry, here] Producer Mickey Clarke worked on Raw Material's second LP, and showing the bizarrely incongruous nature of the industry at the time, Rolf Harris's "Two Little Boys". He also produced a band called Room, from Dorset, not too far from Plymouth (See Vol60). Their album, “Pre-Flight”, is another of my absolute favourites from the time, they did one album for Vertigo and broke up pretty much straight after as well. Do you know of them?
Jim: Oh really? I can’t say I know of Room, but yes it’s sad. We could have done more, If we’d had more time we could have laid more tracks down. The bass, drums and guitar tracks were laid down first, during which time I sang along in a booth, so I knew when the breaks were coming in, recording what would normally be a first-take of the vocal track. After doing that, Barry Ainsworth decided that all these first takes were good enough and we did not redo any of them.

Command Studios, London
Acquired from
Me: Do you think this was an attempt to save money on studio time?
Jim: Oh absolutely, we were only in the studio for one day. But a day is 24hrs, we were in there for just twelve hours. That was all the time they gave us, so we had to get it done. Even Pete’s guitar work, his lead work, he only did that once. Never went over it again like you’d normally do, you might want put harmony solos on it etc. We were really racing against the clock, what with the time it took to set everything up as well, there was no time at all for the band to have any extra input or say in the recording, no time to develop anything further in the studio.

Me: Who played the piano on tracks like "Hobo", "Nightmare", "Down Down" and "Stonehouse Creek"?
Jim: The piano was put in at a later date, without asking us, so I don’t even know who did it or who’s idea it was. It softened the band a little bit. I would have preferred it if they’d asked Pete to come back in to lay down some more rhythm tracks, and maybe some more harmony tracks.....but nothing.

Plymouth Amateur Rowing Club
Plymouth Amateur Rowing Club
Me: Given all these restrictions, it’s testament to all of your talents that the album sounds as good as it does. You must have been very well-practiced before going in.
Jim: Oh absolutely, we had a place on the embankment in Plymouth, it was in a boat club. They had the rowing boats downstairs in one big room and we had quite a large upstairs room. We rehearsed there four or five times a week, all our gear was left there. The band was really tight, what you hear on the album is what you would have heard if you’d seen us live, although live it would have all been a lot louder and a lot fuller. There were no mistakes at all, we just played straight through the songs.

We’d go to rehearsal and bang out all the songs you know, plus other material as well. We did a thing called the “War Suite”, written by Pete, something along the lines of “War Of The Worlds”, but this was about WWII. That was just a beautiful piece of music. If we’d got anywhere, he’d have become a really good song writer, an arranger of songs, it’s such a shame. Not that he isn’t a good song writer now, but if we’d got somewhere when we had the break back then, you know.

Me: The War Suite sounds like it must have been some kind of prog rock epic. If it was never recorded, that was a tragic loss. I imagine you would not have been able to fit it on the album.
Jim: Yeah absolutely, it was like something Meatloaf would do. We never recorded it, we used to play the whole thing through on stage, it was in seven or eight parts. There were so many ups and downs, peaks and troughs, loud and quiet bits, it was just absolutely lovely to play. Actually, a song that was on the album, “Ain’t No Game” [themed on the anti-war sentiment common at the time] could have been taken from the War Suite. I seem to remember that, but of course some things are hazy after all these years.

Pete Spearing in recent times
Pete Spearing in
more recent times
Me: Pete was the main ideas-guy in the band, but did Stonehouse have any kind of collaborative writing process?
Jim: Pete was the main guy, absolutely. We’d sit around discussing things and he’d accept and listen to any of our input, and we’d maybe add a bit here and a bit there, but basically, he was so good, it was like “if it’s not broken, why try and fix it?”, you know.

Me: How did he get that good, do you know? What was there in his past that might account for it?
Jim: I think intelligence. He’s a very intelligent man, he’s very knowledgeable. He’s read a lot, he’s word-perfect in everything he does and says and plays. He’s just good at it. Some people are good at writing, putting lyrics together, arranging songs, he has it all. He wrote all the lyrics as well.

Me: Do you have any favourite songs on the album?
Jim: I particularly like "Crazy White Folk" [Jim sings the chorus in perfect tune here] and "Ain’t No Game". I loved singing all of them, because my voice was so strong and I could reach all the notes. I still can actually, you wouldn’t believe it but my voice is still as high and as powerful as it ever was. Not bad for 68 is it, haha?

Ian Snow, 1971
Ian Snow, 1971
Me: Could you give us a brief run-down of the gear you were using when you recorded the album?
Jim: Pete had his beloved Gibson, semi-acoustic it was. A couple of years ago he had it stolen, bless him. Terry Parker always used a Fender bass, and Snowy (Ian Snow) was on a Ludwig drum kit. The PA would have been whatever was hired in at the time.

Me: Did you contribute any drums on the album? I presume not, especially with the time constraints.
Jim: No I didn’t. At the time, I was the same type of drummer as Snowy, we were on a par for drums anyway. Though there was always a bit of camaraderie between us, Snowy was very good with a single bass drum and double bass, he could do the lot really.

Me: Do you know why Nighmare has echoey, distant vocals compared to rest of the album?
Jim: Yes that's right, it does. As far as I can remember, it was the producer's idea. He though it would suit the dark nature of the song and lyrics.

Me: I have the RCA Victor press of the album. on the back of the cover is printed a track list that is incorrect, it does not correlate with the record it contains. For instance, it says that Hobo is the first from last track on side B, but in reality Hobo is the second track on side A! The other even weirder thing is that the cover says "Move Away" is track four on side A. But that song is missing from vinyl all together! As it is on all the re-issues, which themselves don't mention Move Away, and print the songs in the correct order. Do you know what happened there? What might have caused that huge typo on the original pressing's cover, and even more importantly, what happened to the song Move Away? The label on the record is correct.

Jim: Unfortunately I can't shed any light on that, sorry! I haven't owned a copy of the original for many years, I lost mine when I was lending it to friends. Also, I have no memory of the song Move Away. Not in practicing or as part of the "War Suite". The only person who might be able to explain that is Pete Spearing, as he was the main song writer. Unfortunately I have dropped out of contact with him, although he did reappear around my way about five years ago which was the last time I saw him. He moves around a lot and has lived in Australia and elsewhere.

Me: Do you remember anything about the album being released? Reading about it or hearing it?
Jim: Nothing, no. They didn’t even let us know when it was being released, to be honest. I think there was something in the Melody Maker at the time.

Terry Parker, 1971
Terry Parker, 1971
Me: Do you know if any singles were released from it? Was anything played on the radio?
Jim: No, not from the Stonehouse album. At that time I don’t think radio played that sort of stuff, as far as I know, it’s not like now when you can hear everything you could want to hear, from any time.

Me: Did you have any involvement with the various re-issues that have appeared from time to time in recent years?
Jim: Nope, none at all. Nobody has ever contacted me, the first I knew about them was from seeing a CD on sale on Amazon, which was made in Germany I think. I often wonder if anyone has made any money from them and if I have any right to royalties. The problem is, back then I did not get involved in any of those details and I have no memory of what contractual rights I had, or might still have. If any of the band members do still have legal rights over the music, it would most likely be Pete. He dealt with the business side, and wrote the songs.

Me: Is it the case, as for some other bands I have spoken to, that by the time the album was actually released, the band was already on the rocks?
Jim: Yes, that’s right. I’d like to say, we didn’t split with any bad feelings. After all these years, I can’t honestly remember why we split, we never had a huge falling out, nobody hated anyone, we all got along really well, which for a rock band is really unusual. I can speculate that the pressures for Pete were strongest, he had recently married, had a baby girl, he would have had to spend a lot of time away from home, going to London etc. We did play a few gigs up north to promote the record, to audiences of about 200-300 people, which were well-received, as were all the shows we ever played.

Me: Was it 1971 when the band split?
Jim: I don’t remember exactly when, but it was 1971. As far as I know, we never got any money at all from the label. They didn’t promote us at all either, we had to go out and find our own promoters, which didn’t happen, for reasons that I don’t quite remember.

Me: Do you have any amusing or shocking Stonehouse stories to share?
Jim: Not really, it was so long ago now. What I mainly remember is spending all our time rehearsing. We looked the part, we all had long hair, we had the right stuff on stage.....we did get chased off out of a farmhouse once, by a guy with a shotgun! We pulled up there late one night, we wanted some water for the big van we had, and he thought we was trying to rob the place, we banged on the door and the next minute this shotgun came peering through the window at us, we thought “shit!” and just ran for it, loudly expressing our apologies as we high-tailed it out of there.

We were a well behaved band, we weren’t smashing things up, we didn’t get into trouble with anybody. We just played our music. Being good musicians was all we ever wanted.


And I think anyone who hears the album will be in no doubt that they certainly achieved that! Soon after Stonehouse, Jim and Ian joined a new band based in London, called Asgaerd (see Vol99), with whom Pete was also briefly involved at one point. More on this, and another band further down in Stonehouse history called Canyon, in part 2 of the interview later.

Thanks to Jim for making these interviews possible, and thanks for reading! Follow Stonehouse at the official Facebook page.

© Richard Sheppard / / Stonehouse

Jim Smith drumming in Canyon, 2012.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 118: La Fuente del Ritmo [Latin and Chicano rock in the US]

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unzip password:  tdats

TDATS 118: La Fuente del Ritmo by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud
TDATS 118 is a collection of tracks from bands who made albums in the US, all including members who had relocated from Latin America. The biggest influence on this Latin rock trend was undoubtedly Carlos Santana! Indeed, Malo included the guitar talents of Carlos's brother, Jorge Santana.

The better-known artists here are Chango, Malo, Tierra and El Chicano, all referred to at times as "Chicano Rock". Other bands here don't fall under that convenient label, because the term Chicano specifically means Mexican-American. Chango offer some of the best cuts here, with 'Woman in Black' standing out as the closest to heavy metal. What makes all the tracks here a refreshing alternative to the usual heavy psych and rock of the times is the Latin influence, the lead guitar styles and the percussion, often with a horn section which complements the sound rather than softening it. The track from Amazonas is from the school of infamous budget / exploitation producer Leo Muller (real name David Leonard Miller) who's labels would employ studio musicians to sell popular sounds of the time to lesser-discerning music buyers. In the case of the Amazonas LP some great original music resulted.

While remaining true to the aftersabbath ethos of heavy groove and rocking-ness, this comp brings together a great collection of salsa-flavoured, funky, jazzy, brassy rock. A light-hearted and enjoyable mix just in time for the summer! If you like this one, you may want to check out my other Latin-flavoured comps; 104 (Peru), 84 (Brazil), 89 (Mexico) and 43 (general South America).  I love the good vibes of the rock from these places so there will be more....Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and others to come...

01. Strange Brew - Intro (1969)
       from album 'A Very Strange Brew'
       A California-based band, some members of which were in Yaqui (see later)
02. Malo - Peace [single version] (1972)
       from album 'Malo'
       Including Carlos Santana's brother Jorge, this album reached no. 12 in the US charts.
03. Sincerely Antique - Chaucha (1973)
       from album 'Sincerely Antique'
       Based in Miami.
04. Broth - I'm a King (1970)
       from album 'Broth'
       A band of Cubans and Puerto Ricans who made an album in New York.
05. Amazonas - Amazona (1973)
       from album 'Play Santana'
       Exploitation studio band, recorded some Santana covers, but this one is an original.
06. Abel - Searchin' For The Light (1971)
       from album 'Please World'
       Based in San Francisco. Lead by Abel Sanchez (guitar, bass, vocals). The sound quality of
       this is lacking, if you have a better rip let me know!
07. Toro - Small Folk Reservation (1975)
       from album 'Toro'
       A New York-based band, guitarist Steve Napoleoni Monge previously worked with Harvey        Averne.
08. El Chicano - Chicano Chant (1971)
       from album 'Revolución'
       One of the more prolific Chicano rock bands, based in L.A.
09. Chango - Caminando (1975)
       from album 'Chango'
       One of the more appreciated Santana-esque bands. Liner notes explain the god
       'Chango' is "the representative of unbridled sexuality".
10. Tierra - Tierra (1973)
       from album 'Tierra'
       L.A.'s Tierra supported Santana in the late '70s.
11. Macondo - Battery (1972)
       from album 'Macondo'
       From East L.A. and discovered by Sergio Mendes. Again sound quality could be better, if
       you have a better rip drop me a line.
12. Banda de Jesus - Livin' Is Funky (1972)
       from album 'Naked Lunch'
       This band came out of 'Naked Lunch', who also contributed members to Malo. This is              available as a bonus track on the 'Naked Lunch' CD from World In Sound records.
13. Yaqui - I Need A Woman (1973)
       from album 'Yaqui'
       East L.A. band on Hugh Hefner's Playboy label.
14. The Harvey Averne Barrio Band - Cucaraca Macara (1971)
       from album 'The Harvey Averne Barrio Band'
       Jewish-American New Yorker who was a name in the Latin scene. (link) Notice similarity
       to Toro's Small Folk Reservation...
15. Chango - Woman In Black (1976)
        from album 'Honey Is Sweeter Than Blood'
        For their second and final album, Chango used less Salsa, and more ROCK!!

Thanks for listening! Rich
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