TERRY DRAPER - KLAATU
Light Years Later
Interview by Ed Turner
In 1974, drummer Terry Draper joined forces with fellow Canadians John Woloschuk (bass) and Dee Long (guitar), recording demos as Klaatu, and began work on what would become the trio's debut album, 3:47, E.S.T. (1976).
Significantly, the band members kept their identities a closely-guarded secret. In fact, not until their third release, 1978's Sir Army Suit, would the three musicians' faces appear on one of their albums. Shrouded in mystery, this Beatlesque trio soon found themselves in a position most bands only dream of. In 1977, a writer for Rhode Island newspaper, Providence Journal, penned a feature story titled "Could Klaatu Be Beatles? Mystery is a Magical Tour."
While conspiracy theories surrounding the band's identity would eventually die down, Klaatu forged ahead touring and recording. As it happened, 1981's Magentalane would be their final LP, and in August of 1982, Klaatu disbanded.
With the exception of a brief reunion in 1988, and a 2005 one-off performance at KlaatuKon ( a gathering of Klaatu fans held at Toronto's Doubletree International Plaza Hotel), the former band members have since kept busy pursuing independent projects - perhaps none more so than Terry Draper, whose 2018 release, Once Upon a Memory, is the artist's 14th solo album.
Perfect Sound Forever caught up with Draper for a fascinating look at the life, and craft, of a songwriter.
PSF: What were your earliest musical experiences? I read once that you were already in your first band by the age of 14...
TD: My very first band was a year previous, 1964, but as we had no instruments, nor could we play them if we had them. The Little Things did not amount to much. With desire still intact, my first band that could play (and had instruments) and actually had paying gigs was J.P. and The Five Good Reasons. Jimmy Pitkin (J.P.) changed his name to Virgil Scott in 1968 and he's still out there 'doin' it.' We were in a few bands together besides J.P. and The Five Good Reasons, The Kingdom Showband and The Innocence of Virgil Scott in the ‘60's. Such great names! Our close friendship endures to this day.
My musical adventure actually begins much earlier when Mom, Dad & I moved in with Grandma Draper, affectionately known as 'Ma.'
Much to my delight, I had to share a bedroom with my Uncle Bill who was ten years my senior. He possessed a record player and a collection of 78's. Upon returning home from school, I would be bombarded by the likes of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard' and of course, Elvis. I was 6 years old at the time! On my 10th birthday, Uncle Bill gave me my first LP, Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits. I am still a fan of Roy. As well, my record collection consisted of many 45's... Phil Spector's 'girl groups' and The Beach Boys. When The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, it occurred to me that learning to play music and not just listen to it, could be a good idea.
PSF: What inspired you to take up the drums?
TD: Having witnessed The Beatles on Ed Sullivan as the vanguard to the 'British Invasion,' I decided to learn to play an instrument. I chose the drums... In retrospect, perhaps it was that 'primal something' or maybe it was the position's demands. By that, I refer to the responsibility of the 'drummer.' On any given night most bands live and die by his performance. Much like the game of hockey... You can win the Stanley Cup with a superb goaltender and a mediocre team. The reverse is not possible, as a rule. I played hockey up until a few years ago and yes... I was the goalie.
PSF: Musically speaking, who would you say are some of your influences?
TD: In 1967 & 68, I was playing in R&B bands while my ears were leaning towards Acid Rock and Psychedelia. Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, James Brown & Otis were the artists we were emulating. This influence pops up sparingly in my own music. Songs like "The Young Girl" from Stranded and "Get You Alone" from Window On The World lean in this direction.
Genesis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues (to name a few) are bands whose arrangements I have long admired, as well as the songs themselves. This influence can be seen in a vast amount of my work, although I tend to be more Pop - Progressive Pop, I call it. Refer to "Sunset Years" and "Family" from Light Years Later, "Stranded" from Stranded and the title track from Once Upon A Memory.
PSF: What was it like the first time you heard yourself on the radio? I would imagine that would have been during your time in Klaatu.
TD: We were driving somewhere (can't recall who with) and "California Jam" came on the radio. It was 1974 and I thought... finally!
PSF: You and John Woloschuk wrote Klaatu's "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," later covered by The Carpenters on their 1977 album, Passage. The original, released on Klaatu's debut album, 3:47 E.S.T. reached Number 62 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The Carpenters took the song to Number 32 on the same Billboard chart. What was it like the first time you heard The Carpenters' version of the song on the radio?
TD: Hearing their version was a little overwhelming. During the early ‘70's, I listened to mostly Prog Rock- ELP, Genesis, Pink Floyd and King Crimson (to name a few). This was always work for me. I would dissect their arrangements, learn their chord patterns and generally listen intently. When I wanted to enjoy music, like most people do, I would listen to Sinatra or Streisand or The Carpenters. I was always a fan of theirs! In spite of the large orchestra and the choir, their version is quite faithful to ours. Even the whimsical intro that is voiced by long-standing Carpenters' guitarist Tony Peluso worked. And of course one of the purest voices... Karen. I loved the ending that featured the fuzz guitar of Tony Peluso. It was Tony who brought Klaatu to the Carpenters' attention. When we recorded "December Dream" on the Magentalane album, I asked Dee to mimic that guitar sound and playing in the fade out in tribute to Tony and The Carpenters.
PSF: If we can briefly touch on what many - including me - consider Klaatu's masterpiece, 1977's Hope, if I understand correctly, you were immersed in Isaac Asimov at the time, who wrote about a hypothesis known as "Bode's Law." What is that, and how does it relate to the album that became Hope?
TD: "Bode's Law" was the catalyst that created the Hope album. I was reading an Isaac Asimov book on Astronomy and he talked about "Bode's Law":
The Titius-Bode's Law, is a rule which predicts the spacing of the planets in the Solar System in astronomical units. It occurred to me then that there should be a planet where the asteroid belt is located... Perhaps there was... Perhaps they destroyed themselves because they were on a course of violence and self-destruction not unlike our planet. A sole survivor takes it upon himself to create a 'lighthouse' that would guide space traffic through the remnants of his world. I suggested this as an idea for a 'concept album' to John & Dee and thus began the 2nd album, Hope.
In the song "Politzania," there is a transition from 'Classical' verse to 'Rock band' chorus. In this transition, we tried to emulate a police siren using the rhythm: "da, da, da, daaaa, daaaa, daaaa, da, da, da" which in Morse Code is "S.O.S." The same figure appears later in the song "So Said The Lighthouse Keeper." This kind of subtlety and layering was typical of the early Klaatu recordings.
PSF: In 1981, Klaatu released their final studio album, Magentalene. Then, from 1981 - '97, the music world doesn't hear from Terry Draper. 16 years will go by before the release of your first solo album, aptly titled, Light Years Later. 16 years... What had you been up to?
TD: The demise of Klaatu came in the summer of '82, after 9 months of touring across Canada in support of Magentalane. Playing ‘live' was fun... touring, not so much. It was also financially unrewarding and thus came to an end. After 5 studio albums, each one having sold less than its predecessor, I decided to leave the music business. I would not join nor form another band for 15 years (Terry & The Twilight Zone which lasted all of one month to herald the release of Light Years Later). I continued writing and recording in my home studio during this hiatus, and found that I now had the time & inclination to get a life! I restarted my construction business, built a new home, married Anna and had two sons, Alex & Adam, in the mid ‘80's.
PSF: What was it like to make that kind of change, where life takes a completely new direction - rock musician to family man?
TD: It was quite pleasant... I've always been a ‘morning' person and that made the transition smooth. Waking at 6 am is more conducive to creativity than going to bed at 6 am. At least for me.
PSF: After Klaatu disbanded, and prior to releasing your first solo album, did you keep up with contemporary music at all? Did you feel a competitive nudge, so to speak, when you would hear a new band on the radio, and think, I could do that!
TD: During the mid-80's, I worked with 2 different women, Jacqui Kroft and Helena Kameka. Jacqui and I were writing & recording music inspired by The Eurythmics and Culture Club. I was writing more rock oriented songs for Helena... a la Pat Benatar. Some of these recordings appear on Window On The World – The Lost 80's Tapes.
PSF: Beginning with Light Years Later, you released roughly one album every other year - up to and including 2004's Aria 52 - A Five Year Mission - for the next 8 years. Whereas Klaatu's entire recorded output is 5 albums, you already had 6 releases to your name by 2004, with more to come. Music, it would seem, is in your DNA.
TD: The 15 years between the demise of Klaatu and the release of Light Years Later were spent writing & recording whilst attending to the demands of family life. When I finally got around to actually releasing something, there was an abundance of material to choose from. There was also a considerable number of songs from the "K" era that were not chosen for those records.
PSF: Had you more or less put yourself on a schedule with these releases? At the very least, it would seem a very prolific time in your life as a musician...
TD: I began writing songs in 1969. During the Klaatu years ('74 through '82), I continued writing but competition with John & Dee was not easy... excellent composers both. By the time I got around to releasing Light Years Later in 1997, I had a large backlog of material. I began recording some of these older pieces while I continued writing. The album Civil War (And Other Love Songs) from 2000 contains "When I Grow Up," written in '82. "Go On," from 1977, appears on Stranded (2010). "(I'm So Happy To Be) Alive," written in ‘78, appears on When The World Was Young (2014). Even the new 2018 release, Once Upon A Memory, has the song "Myrlindale" from 1971! The entire album Window On The World – The Lost 80's Tapes is a 22-song bit of ‘house cleaning.' I'm sure that there are a few more dusky jewels hiding in the archives, waiting to be dusted off and revisited.
So... is there a schedule? Not really. I continue to write and record looking forward... and backward.
PSF: Judging by some of the album titles from your solo career - Light Years Later... Aria 52 - A Five Year Mission ... even Civil War ( And Other Love Songs)... "time" and "time periods" figure heavily into your work. I'm guessing that the nature of time, and how it impacts our lives, holds a strong fascination for you. And if we drift back a little, the first release by Klaatu was entitled 3:47 E.S.T.
TD: I am fascinated by ‘period pieces'... In film and in music.
The title song from the 2014 album When The World Was Young is a reflection about being in Klaatu. Also on that album is "The Charge of The Light Brigade," wherein I took the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson and set it to music, verbatim. "All Over Morocco" tells the tale of my travels throughout ‘Old Maroc'... a magical place that seems immune to the passage of time.
"Light Years Later" is a song about Yorkville Village... Toronto's counter-culture response to the ‘Haight-Ashbury' phenomenon in San Francisco. It was originally titled "Ten Years Later" because it was written about ten years after Yorkville lost its charm to developers. I changed the title to "Light Years Later" for its inclusion on my first album... not only for the ‘space' connotation but to represent my 15 year absence from the music business.
Civil War came about due to my fascination with the American Civil War. I did a ‘project' on this subject in grade 5 and I recall collecting Civil War bubblegum cards while my friends traded baseball cards. This obsession has continued... I have visited numerous battlefield sites from Gettysburg to Chickamauga. My most recent release, Once Upon A Memory is a collection of songs about my travels... physical and beyond. My preoccupation with time and history continues.
PSF: Once Upon A Memory is a particular favorite of mine!
TD: This project has been on my mind for many years under the working title Terry's Travelogue. Like most people, I love to travel, see the world and take photographs. I also write poetry about the places I've been to and invariably they morph into songs. This collection of 22 songs contains 11 new tunes and 11 slightly used songs from my catalogue of albums. These are songs about places I've been, places I need to see and some destinations that exist only in my imagination. At the time of its release, this album had the dubious distinction of including my most recent composition, the title track "Once Upon A Memory" and the first song ever I wrote "The Return Of Galadurn" from September 1969. PSF : Opening track " Away" certainly sets the scene for the theme of travel, but this is not just travel in the literal sense I would imagine.
TD: Not too much is literal. "Away" originally appears on Stranded, an album from 2010. I wanted to include it but it needed some TLC. I sped it up, dropped a verse, redid the vocals with Brenda Webb, added Bill Nadeau on guitar in the ‘tango added section' and the ‘airport' intro with Anna advising us of Flight #278 (our street address) bound for "Myrlindale."
"Away" is a metaphor for ‘not standing still' and ‘continuing the search.' "I haven't found what I'm searching for" is for me a constant. I want to know what's around the bend and what will tomorrow bring. Happiness in love, success and money shouldn't inhibit wonder and curiosity.
PSF: What was it that first sparked your thirst for travel?
TD: I suppose the thirst for travel first began in Grade 5 with the history book Pirates & Pathfinders of which I still have a copy. Learning about the exploits of Vasco da Gama, Drake and Magellan was powerful reading. The romance of discovery shared by these men and others like Stanley's search for Dr. Livingstone, Speke's hunt for the source of The Nile and perhaps most inspiring, Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun still intrigue me. Since those early days I have been enamored with far-off places and exotic destinations. The words ‘Timbuktu,' ‘Bali,' ‘Ankor Wat' and ‘Persia' still hold a certain allure.
My first real road trip in 1975 is documented in "Back In Acapulco." A friend & I left Toronto in my TVR Vixen and drove to the Yucatan to see Palenque and the Temple Of Inscriptions. We then headed west through Mexico City and the Sierra Madre to Acapulco. We were robbed on the beach by 3 young Mexicans at ‘broken-bottle point' and decided to head home through Guadalajara. A memorable excursion. Most recently, Anna & I drove back to Toronto from Florida the long way... along the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile, Alabama toward Baton Rouge, Louisiana and up the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee for a stroll through history on Beale Street. In the Fall of 2018, we did a 2 week whirlwind tour of Peru that included the Nazca Plains, Machu Picchu and a brief visit to Amazonia. One of my favorite pronouncements... "We've never been on this road before!"
PSF: Your 2016 release, Searching, was named "The First Great Album of 2016" by Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio, a website " covering the melodic pop scene." Having listened to the album a number of times now, I have the feeling you're leading the listener on a musical journey, hence the album title...
TD: The title certainly invokes that idea but my response is in the form of a question... How could it not be a 'musical journey'? There is a distinct 'science' involved in creating a CD 'running order.' It is different from the vinyl days of 2-sided records when you had to work with an intermission but no less important. Some songs sound better when following certain songs... it's a combination of tempos, moods, key signatures and subject matter. Certainly, we need to begin with something 'catchy' that entices the listener to continue and the last song is equally important in that you want the listener to revisit the album. From there, the running order is designed to come in waves, building to a climax of tempo and intensity (whether by subject matter or musicality) and then repeat, creating the next tsunami.
My songs tend to be of a positive nature looking at a variety of subjects from the illusive archaeological quest of "I Would Be King" to the commonality of "Mother's Day" to the controversial topic of gay rights in "Love Wins." The running order becomes all important and demands as much attention as the artwork in presenting this collection. So... Is Searching a 'musical journey'? Absolutely!
Step right up and get a ticket.
PSF: In addition to the vocals, did you play all of the instruments on Searching?
TD: I try to play most everything myself. The process of writing a song beginning with an idea or a concept or even a melody and a blank piece of paper can be quite fulfilling. And I do enjoy it. But for me, the recording and arranging the various instruments is most rewarding. If the song is the 'cake.'.. the arrangement is the 'icing.' The voicing and choice of instrumentation can often maximize a song's potential.
I usually begin with a piano to create the 'blueprint' or structure for the song... i.e. verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, etc.. Next I use a bassoon to mimic the vocal melody so that all the instruments avoid clashing or 'walking on' the the lyric. Creating the bass & drums is next and they evolve and get revisited as the arrangement unfolds. Depending on the song, the strings and horns and/or guitars are added to enhance the mood of the piece along with sound fx, percussion etc.. The lead vocal, generally is done last followed by harmonies and background vocals. All of this (except guitars, vocals and often percussion) is done with samples that I arrange and play.
Friends are called in to record as well... Bill Nadeau plays the guitars, Brenda Webb does most of the harmony vocals along with others. Occasionally, a bass player comes over or an organist but I try to do most everything.
PSF: Let's discuss Window on The World. I find the subtitle - The Lost 80's Tapes - quite intriguing. To begin with, there are 22 songs on this album! That's a prolific output by anyone's standards, and quality-wise (I've listened to the album a number of times for this interview), these are polished productions - radio friendly, as they say. Yet you didn't release the album until 2016. That's almost 30 years that they remained in the vaults. What prompted you to finally dust them off and give them a proper release?
TD: A good friend, Buzz Morrow, musician & recording engineer does the mastering for my albums. He also repairs studio equipment. When we finished Searching, Buzz asked if I had any old 1/2 inch, open reel 8 track tapes. He was repairing an old Tascam 80-8. Indeed, I did! I had a collection of recordings that I had done during the 80's on 8 track. I liked some of the songs but recording restraints forced me to use a drum machine, the Drumulator and I could not listen to them. Buzz took a dozen of these, ‘digitized' them and returned them to me so they could be uploaded into the MAC as separate tracks. This process allowed me to keep the vocals, piano, bass (and anything usable) and replace the drums and synthesized strings with quality samples. I also added background vocals and orchestration to enhance the original 8 tracks. During this period, I worked with a few women who were pursuing a more ‘Europop' sound and I was writing for them. Window On The World contains the best of my ‘post-Klaatu' work done in the ‘80's, including a few demos recovered from cassette! About 1/2 the songs are untouched.
PSF: Mojo magazine runs a monthly column titled "Last Night a Record Changed My Life." I'd like to put that same question to you... album, concert?
TD: As I reflect on the past I recall a few albums that have subverted/diverted my musical path. Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, In Search Of The Lost Chord and In The Court Of The Crimson King come to mind. All 3 of these magnificent works were life-altering , though perhaps not as influential in my personal musical growth as Peter Sarstedt's 2nd album, As Though It Were A Movie. Up to this point, most of my songwriting was storytelling. Peter's work is extremely heartfelt, honest and thought-provoking. He embraces a ‘baring of the soul' that I've tried to infuse into my own lyrics. The orchestrations are also quite compelling. Peter is best known for his huge European hit, "Where Do You Go To My Lovely."
"Last Night A Concert Changed My Life"... In the fall of 1968, I was playing drums in a ‘Rhythm & Blues' band that was looking for direction. I had recently met a young British immigrant music lover who earnestly advised me to check out 2 new bands from England. One was Jethro Tull... the other, Led Zeppelin. That winter, as luck would have it, I noticed a playbill stapled to a telephone pole... "Sunday Night - $3.00 – Led Zeppelin at The Rock Pile." I attended this concert. The next day I quit the band, moved into Yorkville Village (the Toronto version of ‘Haight-Ashbury'), put the drums aside and began learning to play the guitar on a borrowed ‘Kent' 12 string. And all this after seeing perhaps the best drummer of all time! That concert was life-altering. Not just in a physical change of habitat but in a major musical left turn. I was no longer content to play drums... I had to learn to understand how the music (melody and chord structure) could invoke such diverse emotions. The path to becoming a songwriter evinced itself that night.
PSF: Listening to your solo work, and having discussed earlier your interest in the nature of time, and the passing of time into history, I would say that the lyrics are as important as the melodies you've created to carry what you have to say. The Beatlesque aspect of your work with Klaatu, as well as your solo material, certainly places an emphasis on strong melodies, but the words matter too... Having said that, are the words and music of equal importance to your writing?
TD: I think of myself as a poet. In the early ‘60's, had I been old enough to write, I suppose I would have been a ‘beatnik.' As the decade progressed, the coffee shops gave way to Bob Dylan clones, folk trios and eventually full bands. I have fond memories of seeing The Ugly Ducklings at ‘Charlie Brown's' café in Yorkville Village (Toronto's answer to Greenwich).
Learning to write music became a vehicle for the lyrical ideas. Portraying the emotions of the prose hand-in-hand with the music is, for me, the perfect marriage and the pinnacle of audio art. In the Beatles' song "No Reply," when they sing "I nearly died" the second time, Paul changes the bass note to create a major 7th, a bittersweet moment. I still get chills just thinking about it. That's what I wanted to understand and recreate. Lennon was always my favorite Beatle. He transformed ‘Pop' music from "She Loves You" into thoughtful, introspective, soul searching songs with "In My Life" and "Nowhere Man." These icons will stand the test of time more resiliently than "Silly Love Songs"!
PSF: "Portraying the emotions of the prose hand-in-hand with the music....." Exactly. And you cited "No Reply" as an example of this, and I would agree that comes under "Exhibit A " when you're talking about combining words and melody in a way where you've got something that's greater than the sum of its parts. Another Beatles' song I would offer is "Here, There and Everywhere." McCartney sings, "Changing my life / With the wave of her hand..." and the melody changes just as he sings "wave of her hand." Brilliant. Throwing all modesty aside, where do you think you've reached that threshold in your own songwriting? What titles come to mind, the times when you felt you got it just right?
TD: There are a few songs that I feel have captured the lyric musically. "All Over Morocco" comes to mind... as well as the title track from my first album Light Years Later. The yearning and fondness for a bygone era are aptly captured in the music and the lyric. A more recent work, "Once Upon A Memory," has a ‘hand-in-glove' musicality about it... I think.
PSF: When you sit down to compose songs for an album, which comes first - the words or the music?
TD: Almost always... the words come first, or at least the title/subject matter. Once I've chosen a topic, I try to create the mood to match using different chord structures. To simplify... a sad song would use ‘minor' chords while a happy, positive song would be faster, using major chords. That said, the various parts of the song (verse, chorus, bridge etc.) can be designed to best align with the lyric. My goal is to have the listener know what I'm singing about before I open my mouth.
PSF: Eric Carmen once told an interviewer, "I had spent my youth with my head between two stereo speakers listening to the Byrds and the Beatles, and later on the Beach Boys--just trying to figure out what combinations of things--whether it was the fourths harmonies that the Byrds were singing on 'Mr. Tambourine Man'--I must have worn out ten copies of that first Byrds album listening to it over and over, and turning off the left side and turning on the right side trying to figure out why these certain combinations of instruments and echo and harmonies made that hair on your arms stand up." As any music fan knows, Carmen eventually decided to give songwriting a try himself, with some extraordinary results. Do you remember at what point you started to seriously apply yourself to songwriting?
TD: The summer of '69. I'd had enough of being the drummer (a guy that hangs around musicians. LOL) and learned to play guitar that summer. I played trombone in the high school band so I had the ability to read, and the various songbooks I acquired contained ‘pictograms' of the fingering position for guitar. I was off and running... first song I learned to play was "Norwegian Wood." My first composition was written that September, "The Return of Galadurn."
PSF: And "The Return of Galadurn," as you pointed out, eventually surfaced on Once Upon A Memory, bringing us full circle, in a sense.
TD: Full circle indeed! But we're not done yet. I've planned a vinyl retrospective, In My Garden with 2 new songs for early 2019 and a new album is 90% finished. Looking back has been delightful, Ed and I look forward to reviewing, with you the accomplishments of the next 50 years! Cheers.
See a video for "In the Garden" from Terry Draper's upcoming album:
Also see Terry Draper's website
and our Klaatu article
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