AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
CANADIAN SINGER/GUITARIST/SONGWRITER, AND FORMER FRONTMAN FOR POWER TRIOSANTERS IN THE EARLY '80s.
Q:When did you first start playing guitar and why?
RS: I started playing guitar when I was 8 years old. I started taking piano lessons when I was 7, and some of my friends had big brothers that played guitar so I got interested early on. The guitar, especially, had a real mystical quality about it. I was really attracted to it. So, I guess I chose the piano, but the guitar chose me.
Q: who were some of your first big influences and what did you listen to throughout the '70s??
RS: Creedence Clearwater Revival was my first big influence. John Fogerty wrote catchy, melodic, straight up toonz with that earthy, swamp/rock vibe! I was hooked. I would go around singing and playing CCR toonz day and night. I learned them inside out. Then one day I heard "Black Dog" being played in a records section at a big department store and GOD ALMIGHTY! I thought the sky had fallen. These guys were coming from some place totally different. During this time I was also being exposed to bands like Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Deep Purple, Johnny Winter, Genesis, Gentle Giant and list goes on. Once you really get started exploring music there's no stopping.
Q: Familiar with Uriah Heep at all?
RS: Yes, I have a few Heep albums in my collection.
Q: Did you have a big record collection in the 70s & 80s? (still?) Just curious, judging by some of the bands/musos you mentioned.
RS: I have all my LP's from the 70s & 80s. They range from HR to HM to progressive rock to fusion to jazz to experimental. I'm glad I still have it.
Q: what sort of bands were you in prior to forming 'Santers'?
RS: My brother Mark and I formed a number of bands that were in some way , shape or form a version of SANTERS. We had revolving bass players in the beginning and we never seemed to be able to keep another guitar player or keyboard player in the band. We could always get together and rehearse with three
guys, but never four. I remember some of the early band names were MANTIS, RAM and NIGHTHAWK.
Q: any recordings??
RS: Yes, my brother and I recorded some songs under the name NIGHTHAWK but were never released. We were constantly recording on an old 2 track 1/4" tap machine that I had, bouncing tracks back and forth in mono. We got our recording chops down this way.
Q: Got any still??
RS: I still have all our basement recordings. But they're for personal listening only. We recorded a bunch of ' 70's cover tunes some Queen, Deep Purple etc. Helped us get our recording chops down.
Q: How many years apart are you and Mark?
RS: Mark is a year younger than I am.
Q: when did Santers begin playing on the TO circuit?
RS: We started in 1979 playing local clubs in Toronto and some in Ontario cottage country. Then we got booked on a tour of Quebec.
Q: what do you recall of recording the first album? favorite memory? stories?
RS: On our return from Quebec we went straight into the studio to record our first album "Shot Down In Flames". About half of the album was written on that Quebec tour. We only had one week to record and mix the entire album so it was pretty much live off the floor. Studio time was a luxury for us, I suppose it still is for most new bands, but I remember going in to record and Mark and Rick Lazaroff coming down with a flu bug they caught on the tour. Rick Lazaroff recorded the album sitting down because he was so sick. It still amazes me how musicians can overcome illness to play music! THE SHOW MUST GO ON! is a motto we definitely lived by because if one guy couldn't play, no one got paid. So, in all the years we toured I don't think we ever canceled a show. We just went on stage - sick, if we had to.
Q: what is being played at the beginning of "Shot Down In Flames" (the song)?
RS: The swelled parts in the intro were a backwards piano chords. We flipped the tape around and I just hit those chords and let 'em hang. Then we flanged it. At the end of the song the effect was created by sending a sustained guitar feedback loop into an MXR delay and recording it onto the multi-track machine then vari-speeding it up so when we played it at normal speed it would sound like a dive bomber.
Q: Did any tracks off this album get air-play? (ie Q107)
RS: Yes. "Time After Time" got lots of airplay because it was a winning song on their Homegrown album. Q 107 also played "Caught in the Wind", "You Turn Me On" and "Shot Down In Flames". Back then they were an Album Oriented Rock station. They'd used to go four or five cuts deep into an album. I think their format has changed now though.
Q: First album was quite heavy. What influenced that direction in recording?
RS: Probably coming straight of the road doing gigs. We rocked night after night and that can't help but translate into the studio performances. Also, like I mentioned before it was recorded and mixed in one week, so you have to plan what you want to do before you go in.
Q: why the 'Mayday' ep between Lps?? Is there a full show of that 'Queensbury Arms', 1982 show still on tape?
RS: That was our record company's idea. I was a bit reluctant because I wanted to release an entire album and was more than half way done writing "Racing Time" when they approached us with the idea of releasing an EP. A lot of British bands were releasing EP's back then. They wanted four or five new songs but that meant half of "Racing Time" was going to be an EP. I agreed to donate two new songs and two live tracks to make up the EP. I'm currently collecting all the SANTERS live tapes and reviewing them to produce a SANTERS live album. That's one of my projects I want to complete in 1999.
Q: I've got an article of you guys from an old Kerrang rag I think. Did you get much response over there?
RS: The UK response was good. We toured with MAGNUM for 20 theater shows. We had a great time.
Q: On the 2nd Lp you played some keys. How much of a keyboard player are you compared to a guitar player to a singer and a songwriter? (ie> what do you consider yourself first, second, third, and fourth?)
RS: I guess I'd have to say the piano is my discipline, the guitar is my passion, my voice is my emotion, and my songwriting is my muse.
Q: How did you come to work with Jack Richardson?
RS: Our live sound engineer, Garth Richardson, Jack's son, introduced us in Vancouver. Jack and I got together and finished the album "Racing Time" which we had already recorded all the bed tracks and 90% of the overdubs. Jack and I added some extra guitar tracks, redid some lead vocal tracks and then mixed the album.
Q: "Mistreatin' Heart" became a hit locally, what do you recall of writing & recording that song?
RS: All I remember is sitting down at my desk in my room with my acoustic guitar, a pencil and paper and it really wrote itself. We recorded all the songs from "Racing Time" much like "Shot Down In Flames" - live off the floor with a few over dubs. We recorded and mixed "Racing Time" in two weeks. SANTERS were constantly touring so I would introduce any new songs I had to the guys during sound check. When we felt they were ready we'd introduce them into the live set. Before you knew it we had an album and we'd go into the studio and record it just like we played it on stage. SANTERS were never a big production band in the studio like other bands from that time period. Mainly because we never had a big budget to spend on recording. In hindsight I think that was a good thing. Our albums still stand the test of time because of their honesty. They are a true representation of a live, touring three-piece hard rock band.
Q: How did the band come to work with Rick Emmett as a producer for 'Guitar Alley'?
RS: Our manager at the time had also worked with TRIUMPH and he suggested Rik's name to us when we were considering whom to chose as a producer for "Guitar Alley". TRIUMPH also kindly lent us their stage gear for a tour of eastern Canada when our gear was stolen two days before we were to leave.
Q: why the cover of "All Right Now"??
RS: We had finished recording all the songs for "Guitar Alley" and we decided to add a cover for fun. "All Right Now" was a toon we played live from time to time and it seemed an obvious choice.
Q: Do you think 'Guitar Alley' stands up as strong as the first 2 Lps? what are your thoughts on that album? Was it a difficult album to make?
RS: "Guitar Alley" was a very different album from our first two recordings. I really let go the reins of producer and included Rik Emmett early on during pre-production - something else that was really different for us. Every album SANTERS recorded has something different in terms of how it was recorded and "Guitar Alley " was no exception. We stretched out a lot on this album so there are the inevitable growing pains when you do that. But, again, that's how one moves forward. The alternative is artistic stagnation.
Q: Were you satisfied with the album when it was done? (Reference to Martin Popoff's book)
RS: Guitar Alley was released in more countries around the world and subsequently sold the most units. Can't Shake You got us a good amount of MTV exposure and was played on over 100 US AOR stations. I was pretty happy about how people received it.
Q: Did the band record another album after this? If so, what can you tell me about it, and why was it never released?
RS: We recorded "Top Secrecy" after the "Guitar Alley" tour ended. I decided to set up my own recording studio and that's where we got together and recorded the album. I produced it myself and invited Brian Allen to join me in the studio to help with the mixes. That was when our label went out of business and after six years of touring and recording with SANTERS I guess this signaled something in me to persue some new challenges.
Q: How does Top Secrecy compare to previous Lps?
RS: Top Secrecy is probably a cross between Racing Time and Guitar Alley. It has more of the urgency of Racing Time with the Hard/Pop elements of Guitar Alley.
Q: why did the band break up?
RS: The offer to work with TRIUMPH came at the time when I was looking at taking some new directions in my career. The idea of working with another band was very appealing because I could take a back seat and let some one else drive the car for a while.
Q: what was your association with Triumph over the years?
RS: I've always had a good relationship with all the guys in TRIUMPH over the years. I've continued to write with Rik Emmett, and two of those co-writes are on my new solo album "ReViTaLiZe".
Q: did you record an album with Triumph a few years ago that was not released? (details!)
RS: No. I did work on a project with Gil as producer, but it wasn't a Triumph album.
Q: what did you do in the years following Santers?
RS: After working with TRIUMPH I started getting down to business writing my solo album "ReViTaLiZe". I also kept busy producing bands to try and keep involved with the local artistic community in Toronto. This was something I wanted to do because in SANTERS we were never home long enough to work with other artists. We were an island unto ourselves, and I wanted to allow everyone to go and work with different people to stretch our boundaries a little.
Q: why did you decide to record an acoustic album? thoughts on it?
RS: I don't really think "ReViTaLiZe" is an acoustic album per se. It has acoustic elements yes, especially in the attempt to retain the songwriting essence. I wanted to write the songs and be able to play them on acoustic guitar because that's where they started. I also wanted to produce an album where all the musicians were in tune with the 'songs' and left room for the singer/songwriter vibe to come through. Working with Jorn Anderson and Peter
Cardinali was a great experience. We met at the studio, set up and recorded the songs with no rehearsals. We listened to the songs with me singing and playing acoustic guitar and just laid them down. Then we recorded the electric guitars and Hammond B3 afterwards.
Q: what are you planning in the future?
RS: Well, with SANTERS lV - The Box Set out in Japan I'm working on putting together a promotional tour over there. All of the guys in SANTERS have gotten together recently an experimented with some new song ideas I've been working on as well. And the prospect looks good for us to get together and record a new album this year if our schedules allow. I've also just finished producing a world/pop record with a flamenco guitarist Jorge Miguel Jarzabek that's going to be released soon. The follow-up to solo album to "ReViTaLiZe's is also in the works.
Q: That's great! And if all goes well, I'll get a new Coney Hatch album someday soon too! (I'm serious!). Do you have contact with any of the CH guys much? Any of TO rockers?
RS: Not very much. I'm busy with Dandelion Records and producing artists.
Q: why has no lousy Canadian label released a Santers compilation CD in all these years??
RS: As with most labels they're very concerned with new trends. That's just a fact of life in the music business. That's why I took the SANTERS tapes to Japan and signed an agreement over there to release SANTERS lV - The Box Set. Plus I've started Dandelion Records so I can make my recordings available through the Internet.
Q: What can you tell us about SANTERS IV?
RS: SANTERS lV is a box set of four SANTERS studio albums on CD including the bands new release "Top Secrecy." Also included are the albums "Guitar Alley", "Racing Time" and "Shot Down In Flames" with unreleased bonus tracks along with their original artwork and a commemorative booklet. Q: I thought it was a real shame that no one could at least make a compilation CD here, like they did with Coney, Goddo, etc...
RS: Well, in hindsight I'm glad they didn't because now SANTERS fans have SANTERS lV - The Box Set along with Top Secrecy and bonus tracks. Most Toronto HR bands from the late '80's got caught between the Lp wind down and the CD start up in manufacturing so the fact that this Box Set took until now, in my mind gives the SANTERS discography the attention and credibility it deserves, rather than a best of compilation. "Everything comes to those who wait!"
Q: what exists in 'the vaults' (or yer basement) in regards to Santers video (I got a Massey Hall show from the '80s), live recordings, demos, etc....
RS: We didn't record much of the band on film. There's the Massey Hall show and the "Can't Shake You" and "You Turn Me On" videos. We did a few TV music shows in Hamilton CHCH TV. I think the show was called "Music Circle" where we performed some of the toonz from "Shot Down In Flames", but I think that's it. As I mentioned before, I'm piecing together the best live material for an upcoming SANTERS live album.
Q: Have you done any session work, guest appearances, or production over the years following Santers?
RS: SANTERS played on LEE AARON's debut album and I also wrote a couple of the tracks. I also played on Bob Segarini's new track "Groucho Marx" for his reissue "Gotta Have Pop" album.
Q: Favorite gigs with Santers? Biggest crowds? Biggest opening band slot?
RS: SANTERS opening across Canada for OZZY OSBORNE's "Diary Of A Madman" tour is definitely a highlight. We also toured England with a band called Magnum in support of our "Racing Time" album. Playing Massey Hall with Johnny Winter was also great fun for me because I'm such a big fan of his. Some of the other bands we performed with were Blue Oyster Cult, Golden Earring, Kim Mitchell, Accept, Rick Derringer and Triumph.
Q: Favorite guitar players (old days and current)?
RS:Jeff Beck has always been high on my list. He has the ability to move between musical genres and still leave his undeniable stamp. Of course Jimi Hendrix was completely out of control and set a very high emotional standard for the electric guitar. I'd also have to mention Johnny Winter. He's such a master of the blues and his slide playing is unmatched in my opinion. Other guitarists I love to listen to are Allan Holdsworth, David Gilmore and Jimmy Page.
Q: Thoughts on todays' music scene?
RS: I'm encouraged by the fact that many new artists are returning to making melodic statements again. There was a serious backlash from melodic music when the alternative scene broke out. Probably because the line that separated the uniqueness between how artists sounded was getting blurred. But I hear more new artists placing an importance on melody again and it's great to hear it. I think that melody has always been a big part of the SANTERS sound, and I think it always will.
Q: what are you doing outside of music? any other hobbies? All of my music projects keep me pretty busy these days.
RS: Any contact with Rick Lazaroff? Any possibility of a Santers reunion gig? Yes, were all still in contact with each other. We'll see about a reunion gig. I try never to rule anything out.
The SANTERS IV Box Set pricing will be available soon !
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