THE SANTERS BAND INTERVIEWS

 

2001 saw the reunion of Canadian trio SANTERS, with the release of "Cold Fusion" - a 14 track 'best of' with a few unreleased gems included as well.  A few months back I sent questions for guitarist / singer / songwriter Rick Santers, bassist Rick Lazaroff, and drummer Mark Santers to get a complete Santers retrospect. [Oh yeah, see my old interviews for another exclusive with Rick Santers!].  Anyway, here's the interviews with Rick, Rick and Mark!

For more on SANTERS check out  www.santers.com OR to check out "Cold Fusion" go to  www.bullseyecanada.com .


RICK SANTERS

 

Q: The Santers' catalogue has been released in whole and in compilations a few times previously in Europe and Japan years back, How did the whole idea and plans for Cold Fusion come along?

A: The idea for Cold Fusion came from the realization that our North American and specifically Canadian fans had not seen the SANTERS masters released domestically for a long time. And that included rock radio too. Many SANTERS fans simply weren't aware of the Japanese and European releases. So, we wanted to create a package that would appeal to our North American fans. It made sense to release the SANTERS masters to fans through a "Best Of" CD. As an added bonus we also included three tracks from our  "Top Secrecy" album that was never released here. While compiling "Cold Fusion" I also found some rare photos and some early, never before released SANTERS recordings(from the "Shot Down In Flames" sessions) that I thought would be a nice way to round out the CD.  All in all I think it's a really comprehensive CD that features many classic SANTERS tracks, plus unheard material.

 
Q: Aside from the obvious hits, how did you go about selecting tracks for "Cold Fusion" from the previous albums? Any personal faves or live faves?

A: Well, I had four albums to select from, "Shot Down In Flames", "Racing Time", "Guitar Alley" and "Top Secrecy", so to be fair I picked three tracks from each plus the two bonus tracks. Everyone seems to have their own personal faves so I referred to the songs we perform in our live set, as those always seemed to rise to the top of the list in the ears of our fans. I love all these songs they're my "babies"!

 
Q: Why did it take 12 years to finally mix and then release "Top Secrecy"?

A: Well, "Top Secrecy" was pretty much finished around the time I started working with TRIUMPH. Only two tracks, "Come and Get It" and the title track "Top Secrecy" had only rough mixes. I put final mixes for those two songs together in preparation for the SANTERS IV Box Set. The "Top Secrecy" album finally saw the light of day because of the Japanese Box Set release. And in fact it was because of "Top Secrecy" that the Box Set materialized, kind of a catch 22. I originally agreed for the first three albums to be released on CD in Japan and it was only after we started talking about bonus tracks that I sent them the "Top Secrecy" album, which they couldn't believe we had and was never released, so they insisted on having the entire album. Our Japanese label then decided to make all the CD's available together as a Box Set. Which I thought was a great idea.  It was from the success of the Box Set that our European label decided to release "Top Secrecy" in Europe because of the positive fan reaction.

 
Q: You added 2 bonus tracks - "In Foreign Skies" and "Life In My Hands". What do you recall of recording these songs?  [You are right, they do show a more progressive influence, especially In Foreign Skies which reminds me of Rush's 2112.]

A: When I first started writing songs I delved into writing very progressive material. I was very much influence by the British prog scene at the time, Yes, Genesis, and Gentle Giant. This material was fun to write because the sky was the limit. It was a way to explore a lot of styles and textures without having to restrict my songwriting parameters. Eventually, I started to focus in on a style that I felt comfortable writing and performing in and that grew into the birth of SANTERS. "In Foreign Skies" and "Life In My Hands" were both written when I was about eighteen and recorded just before the sessions began for the "Shot Down In Flames" album. Once all the "Shot Down In Flames" tracks were done I had to choose which songs would appear on the record. It was hard to pick but in the end we settled on the first half of the album with the more rock "song" format and the second half using more of the "progressive" tunes. "In Foreign Skies" and "Life In My Hands" were by far the most progressive sounding for what the album was like as a whole, and so they didn't make the album. Plus, back in the days when vinyl was king you couldn't put more than forty minutes of music on an album because you'd lose a lot of sound quality and volume level.

 
Q: Are there other tracks [outtakes] possibly still on tapes from other sessions that could be released in the future?

A: I have a lot of songs in different states of completion, and some people might even think that they should be released, but I see them as sketches. I'd rather work on new songs. That's what's inspiring me right now.

 
Q: How has the initial response been to the Cold Fusion release?

A: We've released "Cold Fusion" in select stores and to some international distributers and the response has been excellent so far. We've just signed a deal with Bullseye Records of Canada and "Cold Fusion" is scheduled to be released across the country on May 21, 2002.

 
Q: How did the first reunion gig feel? How did you think it went, and how have the show[s] since been? Is there still a good audience out there for you guys? And do you have plans for many more gigs or a tour?

A: I guess there was a certain amount of apprehension before we got together to rehearse (fear of the unknown and all), but we've always had a healthy respect for one another, as human beings and as musicians, so, in fact once we stuck the first chord together again it was smiles all around. I think the hiatus has really been a good thing for all of us. We've all continued to pursue our love of music, and the miles we've put behind us seem to have given us a cohesion that is even stronger than we had before. I think in the past the diversions of the road sometimes got in the way when we were playing together as a band. Now, it's very clear that the music's the important thing and that's super positive for me, and I think for Mark and Laz too.

The fan reaction and support to our reunion has really been fantastic. It great to talk to people who were fans in the beginning but never got a chance to see us live, and even those who saw every show we played when we came to town. It's awesome for them that we're playing together again, and some are getting a chance to see us for the first time, which they never thought would happen.  It's very gratifying to get responses like that, especially from younger fans who are really into "live" music. With the advent of "watching" music on TV as opposed to "listening" to music or grooving to a live scene, it's awesome to see the enthusiasm people have for bands who write their own songs and sing and play their own instruments - live! What a concept! We're booking more shows in Ontario right now and we're also working on supporting "Cold Fusion" in other parts of Canada as well.

 
Q: What's the status of the new album? Will it be all your own songs? Any covers? What direction, sound, etc.. can fans expect? Any song titles or stories you can give out yet?

A: I'm writing the album right now. The songs reflect a sense of fun and energy that was the cornerstone of the SANTERS sound. In fact, I want the songs on the new album to show the energy that the band puts out when we play live. We tapped into that energy on some songs in the studio on the earlier albums and that's the kind of sound I want the new SANTERS album to have.

 
Q: When will we see the new album and is there a label deal or plan ? [Got a album title yet?]

A:  A lot of it is ready to record. We've just got to get our schedules in sync and lay it down.

 
Q: Will you follow up with a tour or selected live gigs?

A: We usually start with selective live gigs, but then that can turn into a tour, so we'll see.

 
Q: Do you have any future plans to do another solo album such as 'Revitalize'?

A: Yes, definitely! I love to write songs and record them in the studio. It's something I think I'll always do until I die because it's a part of who I am and how I express myself. I also love to explore new musical ideas and avenues and that's what my solo career is all about. When I write songs I don't intentionally write SANTERS songs, I simply write songs. It's only after I let them channel themselves do I take a step back and ask myself "what kind of song is this?" And sometimes it's obvious to me that they would sound just great with Mark, Laz and myself hammering them out. The others get and deserve more of an open palette to bring them to life.

 
Q: There seems to be a real comeback of classic Canuck rock with new albums and gigs by the likes of Moxy, April Wine, Carl Dixon [great album BTW!], Helix, Trooper,   [and not to mention a 3/5ths Foot In Coldwater reunion!] .. etc... How do you see the current scene of old Canuck bands still surviving?

A: I think we all have very strong and loyal fans. That being said I think it's important to grow artistically and try to reach new fans as well. I'm very flattered when I get Emails from people who are just discovering SANTERS for the first time and say they can't believe our first albums were recorded in the '80's because they don't sound like the '80's. That's a testament to the fact that we have been, are and always will be masters of our own musical destiny. That is what's important to us as artists. Trends and styles are always changing way too quickly anyway.
 
Q: Has the rejuvenation of the older bands played any part in your decision to get the original Santers band back together, play and record again?

A: Bands rejoining isn't a few phenomenon. It's what the band does after rejoining that matters. If you said to me "Hey Rick, why don't you get SANTERS back together and just play all the old songs again?" That really wouldn't interest me on it's own. There's no challenge in that. But, writing a bunch of new material that SANTERS would do a great job recording, and releasing a new album with all the original members.... now that's exiting to me. It's a great thing when bands find it in themselves to rekindle the passion for their music, but that's a very personal commitment that a artist needs to make, to themselves and to the other band members. The SANTERS reunion is something that evolved very naturally. We've all been writing and recording with other artists and doing solo albums over the past few years and I think we've got a deeper appreciation for each other now, and that's what's motivated our getting back together.

 
Q: Tell us a bit about  www.santers.com ;  Who designed, etc. and what fans can find there?

A: I started santers.com a few years back, but it's Rick Lazaroff who has developed into a fantastic web designer who convinced me that we needed to update the SANTERS site and he wanted to do it. He runs  www.wasaga.com  and has been specializing in web design for many years. So, he and I got together and designed a web site that would give fans a place to get up to date information about the band, concert announcements, news, new music etc. It's also a place where you can listen to and buy SANTERS music.
    
Q: How do you feel about the internet's use on the music scene these days, where as in the old days you had to rely more on record companies and pr people. !?

A: The Internet is great resource tool to get fast and up to date information. I think it's very cool to check out bands and their music online and support them by buying their CD's online, especially from bands who want to remain independent from the major label thing. I think it's a great addition to live concerts, radio, TV and the press.
 
Q: What are you listening to these days? Old, new? Any current favorite albums?

A: I'm always checking out new bands and a lot of them are sitting right square in the hard rock vein, and it's nice to "hear" again. Some of the new bands that I'm listening to that weave this sense of melody and hard rock are Creed, Puddle of Mudd and Nickelback.  In my opinion there are only two types of music, good music and bad music. Good music is inspired and reflects the musicians passion. Bad music is dull and boring and predictable because it's uninspired and has another agenda to meet which is not passionate. So, it doesn't matter to me if music is so called "old" or "new" I listen for the passion, the creativity and the expression.  That's where I get a lot of my inspiration from, good music.  I think the survival of music depends upon people listening for good music with their ears... not less with their eyes.

 

MARK SANTERS
 
Q: Can you give me a few of your favorite drummers? Any big influences?

A: John Bonham, Ian Paice, Neil Peart, Tommy Aldridge, Bill Bruford, Buddy Rich, Simon Kirke, Jack DeJohnette.

 
Q: What bands did you grow up on? 

A: Beethoven, Beatles, CCR, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Deep Purple, The Guess Who,Yes, King Crimson, Rush, AC/DC

 
Q: Can you give me a Top 10 list of fave albums?

A: I can't pick a top ten because there's just too many great albums. It's like apples and oranges.

 
Q: Aside from playing with Rick prior to forming Santers, did you have any other gigs?

A: We pretty much played music together from day one so there really wasn't any other gigs.

 
Q: How did you get along playing in the same band as your brother for so long, and playing music he'd written? I take it you guys got along pretty good for brothers? No sibling rivalry? :-)

A: Our musical influences were similar growing up so as far as personalities and original music go, it was very easy to agree on just about everything, except for the odd flying beer bottle! I'd say we got along well compared to some of the stories I've heard from other bands. For instance, how could you have a fist fight with the drunken bass player at 4:00 am after a raging party and then go up on stage that night and rock? I just don't get it!

Q: Can you give me a few of your favorite drummers? Any big influences?

A: John Bonham, Ian Paice, Neil Peart, Tommy Aldridge, Bill Bruford, Buddy Rich, Simon Kirke, Jack DeJohnette.

 
Q: What bands did you grow up on? 

A: Beethoven, Beatles, CCR, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Deep Purple, The Guess Who,Yes, King Crimson, Rush, AC/DC

 
Q: Can you give me a Top 10 list of fave albums?

A:  I can't pick a top ten because there's just too many great albums. It's like apples and oranges.

 
Q: Aside from playing with Rick prior to forming Santers, did you have any other gigs?

A: We pretty much played music together from day one so there really wasn't any other gigs.

 
Q: How did you get along playing in the same band as your brother for so long, and playing music he'd written? I take it you guys got along pretty good for brothers? No sibling rivalry? :-)

A:  Our musical influences were similar growing up so as far as personalities and original music go, it was very easy to agree on just about everything, except for the odd flying beer bottle! I'd say we got along well compared to some of the stories I've heard from other bands. For instance, how could you have a fist fight with the drunken bass player at 4:00 am after a raging party and then go up on stage that night and rock? I just don't get it!

 

Q: Rick wrote all the Santers music, did you [do you] ever write at all?

A: Rick brought the ideas to the table and collectively we worked on the intro ideas, solo sections, arrangements etc. I do write and look forward to creating new songs together again.

 
Q: What are your favorite Santers tunes - be they as songs and as far As your performance goes?

A: Shot Down in Flames, Caught in the Wind, Paths of  Heart, Time after Time, Mistreatin' Heart, Backstreets, Mystical Eyes, Two Against the World, Dog without a Home, Road to Morocco, Can't Shake You, Black Magic, Baby Blue, Dreaming, Come and Get it, Top Secrecy, Leigh Ann..... just to name a few.

 
Q: Favorite album?

A:  All 4 of them! Again, it's like apples and oranges because all the albums individually represent different stages of development; be it musicianship, attitude, energy, lyric ideas etc.

 
Q: Can you give me a few personal highlights from the Santers days?

A:  Well the Ozzy Osbourne tour was definitely the highlight for us! I can still remember going up on stage at the Ottawa Civic Arena and just thinking " This is unbelievable! ". We were really flying musically at that point, you know, on our way so to speak. On the last date at the PNE Coliseum, Ozzy's crew turned on the house lights before the encore was done, I don't know if they felt threatened or if they were playing a joke, but we sure had the fans that night. The U.K. tour after the Racing Time album was special as well because the people and the attitudes were much different from those in North America. We had great responses and the fan base still exists today. I always thought our music was a little more Europe friendly. Those Brits sure do know how to how to have fun. Of course the southern states enjoyed our brand of rock also and those hot climates are great for Rock & Roll. New York state, Buffalo, Rochester......do you have a couple of weeks?

 
Q: After the Santers band split what did you do prior to joining Carl Dixon's band?

A: I worked with a female singer called Carmelle for about a year, who was a super person and a great performer. Laz and I teamed up and formed Cold Shot with Steve Shelski and later re-formed Bratt with Darlene Watters singing.   That was a fun band; played a lot of rippin' rock tunes.

 
Q: How did you hook up with Carl ? Were you in any of his pre "One" bands?

A: I was introduced to Carl Dixon through Steve when we played in Cold Shot. He put together a band called Rough And Ready and toured briefly. Then it evolved into the Carl Dixon Band. 

 
Q: How was the experience recording One compared to the Santers' stuff?

A: Carl asked me to come in and do a bunch of background vocals, which turned out great and gave me a lot of confidence.

 
Q: Any favorite tracks from that album?

A: Taste of Love, Run Reckless, More than a Memory, Love is Waiting.

 
Q: You've gigged around for years with Carl, any of his tunes or Coney tunes that particularly like playing live?

A: Hey Operator was a no brainer for me because it could have easily been a Santers tune so live that one always worked. Run Reckless was the tune that shifted the whole band into 5th gear. Devil's Deck is another.

 
Q: Any great stories from the Carl days?

A: More stories eh? Well we were always bad boys at Lu-Lu's a club I really liked. We did shows there with Bad Company, Alanna Myles, Sass Jordan, Max Webster, Steppenwolf, Nazareth just to name a few, but the '93 tour in Germany had to be the highlight. We played shows in all different types of clubs and met a lot of great people. I remember almost getting arrested in Winterthur, Switzerland with Mike Hall (guitar) and Howie Bertolo (Keys). We were walking down the street, and next thing you know the Swiss cops race up to us, jump out of the cruiser and start hassling us. They thought we had just broken in to a local business because we fit the description. Thank God I can speak German because if I didn't things could've gotten very ugly. Do you have another couple of weeks?

 
Q: How did the sessions for the new Carl Dixon album go? This album was started essentially back in 95 / 96 [I have a tape of some of the demos from him].

A: Recording Into the Future was a different approach altogether. Carl was after the Phil Spector sound and doubling the drum tracks was very challenging since a lot of the material was new to me and rehearsal time was almost nil. All of it was done with just myself and Carl engineering.

 
Q: How do you think "Into The Future" compares to "One"? What tracks and performances stand out on it for you?

A:  Apples and oranges again, both rock but in a different way.  Fave tracks- Into the Future, Hot Streak (Zeppelinish funk rock) Strange way to Live (rippin'solo section)Point of no Return, Busted and the RobinTrower classic River.

 
Q: Have you done any other session jobs or band work aside from Carl Dixon's band in the past decade?

A: I played on some tracks that made it to Emm Gryner's " Distrust it " album and various unreleased demos.

 
Q: How was it getting back together as Santers? And what are your thoughts on the new upcoming album?

A:  It was great to play the old stuff again and we all something new to the songs because we all had newer influences. The new record presents a whole lot of exciting challenges and the maturity of the musicians will shine through.

 
Q: What plans do you have as far as any possible Carl Dixon or Santers projects?

A:  I'm ready for the world tour as long as the guarantees are there and all the merchandising is in place! By the way, when will the limo driver show up at my front door to take me to the airport? 

 

RICK LAZAROFF
 
Q) Can you give me a few of your fave bass players, and biggest influences?

A: Jaco Pastorius. Jack Bruce. Miroslav Vitous. Dave Holland.

 
Q) Do you play guitar as well? [if so, how did you get on to the bass?]

A) I play guitar a bit but I wouldn't call myself a guitarist. I actually started playing drums as a kid. My father is Alex Lazaroff, well known Canadian Jazz drummer extrodinaire. I switched to bass when I was 10.

 
Q) Favorite bands growing up? Can you give me a Top 10 album list?

A) My earliest influences were the Beatles and all the Soul and R&B recordings from Motown and Stax Records. Then Hendrix and Cream. Then on to the prog bands of the seventies; Yes, King Crimson and Gentle Giant. And all through that was a steady diet of Jazz. Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk.  Top albums in no particular order. "Milestones", Miles Davis. Infinite Search, Miroslav Vitous (the best bass album ever recorded). "Close to the Edge", Yes. "Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson. "Weather Report", Weather Report's first release.

 
Q) What sort of bands were you involved in prior to Santers? Any recordings?

A) I played in Rock Bands, Blues Bands, Dance and Funk bands; I think they called it Disco. The most notable band I played for was the Snakes, a blues band featuring Fred Mandel on keys who has gone on to perform and record with Queen, Elton John and Alice Cooper.

 
Q) What do you recall of your days with a guy named Rob Seagrove ? :-)

A) Rob Seagrove? Oh yeah he was a pimp that use to work out of Montreal. No hold on. That was somebody else. I played with Rob in a cover band in the seventies. We played crappy commercial stuff but even then we were throwing in some fusion to keep ourselves amused. I remember playing Scatterbrain with him, a wild odd metre tune off Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow. Rob's a great guitar player and a nice guy. I lost touch with him when I moved a couple of times. Tell him to email me.

 
Q)What are your favorite Santers tunes from the catalogue? Anything that you're proud of as far as your own performance goes?

A) I like High Risk, Too Young to Die from Guitar Alley and am especially fond of the live tracks on the euro release of Top Secrecy. For me live is where it's at. That's how the band sounds.

 
Q) You and Mark are a very tight rhythm section, very heavy, and a huge part of the Santers sound. What can you tell me about how you guys get along musically and how things work so well there?

A) Mark's got great metre and is solid. That makes it easy for me to lock in. You can't play a game of push and pull. Others drummers have commented on how easy it is to play with me. It's just a matter of adjusting to their individual feel and if they have good metre it works quite well.

 
Q) Do you write songs at all? Have you contributed any to other projects?

A) Yes I do. Mostly instrumental stuff. I would say mostly Jazz influenced atmospheric stuff. You know, great background music for a travel show or something. I plan on doing a real self indulgent solo CD if I can ever get my home studio completed.

 
Q) Any favorite Santers' days stories and personal highlights from the old days?

A) I guess the Ozzy tour and the tour of England in support of Magnum. The shows at Massey Hall for sure. That would be my favorite venue to play.

 
Q) What did you do in the years following the break up of the Santers band? Any other bands, recordings, etc ... ?? [Details!]

A) I played in several cover bands after our split. In 1990 I recorded a Jazz  LP with the Orhan Demir Trio. It got great reviews in the U.S. from some fine publications. He's an amazing jazz guitarist from Turkey who lives in Toronto now. Hopefully I will get to do some more work with him.

 
Q: Are you involved in any musical projects at the moment and/or do you have any plans for the future aside from Santers?

A) I also play in Jazz combo playing mostly standards and hope to record some of that and hopefully do another CD with Orhan Demir and maybe finally get a solo CD completed. That would be about it.


Interview: Kevin J. Julie (Universal Wheels) '02