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]]> (MAC) Interviews Mon, 06 Feb 2017 13:53:24 +0000
BOB SIEBENBERG in Modern Drummer, December 15, 2014

Supertramp’s Bob Siebenberg

Bob Siebenberg By Jane-Magarigal

December 15, 2014
Posted in: Drummers, Feature Stories

Reflecting on the fortieth anniversary of the band’s classic "Crime of the Century" album
by Adam Budofsky

Supertramp has always been tough to categorize. Is it a pop band with a fondness for complex arrangements, a progressive-rock band with impeccable pop smarts, or something else entirely? One thing’s for sure: Difficulties categorizing the group seemed not to hurt its popularity, as a string of hit albums, including Even in the Quietest Moments (featuring the hit “Give a Little Bit”) and Breakfast in America (“The Logical Song,” “Take the Long Way Home,” “Goodbye Stranger”) kept Supertramp at the top of the charts throughout the mid and late ’70s.

The group’s breakout album, 1974’s Crime of the Century, has recently been remastered and fleshed out with a second disc containing a 1975 concert at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, mixed from the original tapes by on-the-night engineer and regular Supertramp studio guide Ken Scott, who’d previously worked with the Beatles, David Bowie, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, among many others. Modern Drummer asked drummer Bob Siebenberg—whom Supertramp followers know from album credits as Bob C. Benberg—to reminisce about the recording, which still sounds remarkably vital today.


MD: It’s difficult to avoid superlatives when discussing Crime of the Century. The songs, the sounds, the performances, and the ideas are all so strong. At the time did you feel that you were on to something special and making a leap forward as a band?

Bob: The band was brand new. [Singer-songwriters] Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson had recorded two albums previously with two different lineups, without much success. There was a real feeling of optimism in the new lineup, and we jelled right away. We knew we had an interesting cast of characters and totally believed in ourselves. This was the first record with the new lineup, and it felt like we could do something special. The ingredients were all there. We had label support and tons of enthusiasm.

MD: Your playing is always graceful, yet your parts are often unexpected. The main drum beat of “Dreamer,” including how it sort of slips in during the buildup, is not typical. The removed backbeats in the verses of “Bloody Well Right” are really cool. The floor tom and delayed-snare bit in “Hide in Your Shell,” the offbeat cymbal crashes during the dual-vocal section of “Rudy,” those big flammed fills when you enter the title track—so many cool approaches. Did you make a habit of trying significantly different ideas when you were arranging your parts in the studio or rehearsal room?

Bob: Thanks for saying so. I appreciate it. The drumbeat in “Dreamer” evolved from an idea by Roger. He always had unorthodox ideas about drums, and sometimes it would turn out really cool. These ideas would get sent through my filter and feel and come out the other end. What you mention on “Bloody Well Right” was just how I heard it. It followed the feel of the riff. And, yeah, I was always in pursuit of being creative and solid. My job was to provide a steady but interesting backbone. If it didn’t need a fill, don’t do one; the transition setups could be served by just an extra bass drum kick or flick of a stick. If it needed a fill, make it count. Make it meaningful and keep the pulse seamless.

All these examples you have chosen came pretty naturally. It’s always a process of simplifying, listening back and deciding whether it was cool or not. It starts in rehearsal. We used to tape our rehearsals on a two-track and sit and listen and find the form. Things would evolve right through the backing-track stage in the studio. Once we get in there and hear the sounds, things can change.

The “Hide in Your Shell” piece you refer to was a production idea. By that I mean it’s not what I originally started to play. Roger and Ken pulled that one out on a particularly zany night. I’m [actually] playing it pretty straight in there. It’s a cool beat that sits up and hovers and always sits back down on the 1.

MD: There’s such clarity to your stick work. Did you have rudimental training when you were coming up?

Bob: I would have to admit I’ve had no rudimental training. It’s all seat of the pants. It’s how I learned to play—listening, emulating, and feeling. I grew up playing in bands. I never lived anywhere where I could practice.

MD: More than many drummers, you really work the floor toms into your creative ideas. The fills leading into the choruses of “Asylum,” for instance, are so powerful. And the way they’re treated with reverb there makes them sound even more dramatic. One could imagine these types of moments being the result of discussions between the band and Ken Scott. Was that the case?

Bob: Well, to begin with, we were so fortunate to have Ken at the helm. There was and is no one better in the studio as a producer/engineer than Ken. And that’s not to take anything away from our good friend and producer/engineer Peter Henderson, who we worked with on several records later in our career, including Breakfast in America. But it was a different time and stage in our career with Ken. He was totally absorbed and working hard to create something that would blow people away. He set the tone for what our records had to be for the rest of our career.

In the case of “Asylum,” those were the fills I had cooked up in rehearsals and modified ever so slightly in the studio. Ken recorded them and made them sound the way they do. There was always interaction between us in the studio. We were all in this together, and we had respect for one another and were all willing to take direction. Ken included.

MD: The sound quality of Crime is as good as anything being released today, forty years later, and it seems to really benefit from a spaciousness in the mix. Do you recall any details about the recording in terms of miking or mixing?

Bob: The arrangements to these songs are very streamlined and very well thought-out. Rick and Rog were totally absorbed in the process—as we all were—but these were songs they’d been cooking up for quite a while, and they had a pretty good idea how they wanted them to come off. As for the mixing, it was an all-hands-on-deck affair. Everyone had a job to do. All pre-automation, pre-digital—totally handmade.

MD: Do you recall what gear you used on the sessions?

Bob: I had brought over my drums from Los Angeles when I moved to London in 1971. [Siebenberg, the lone American in Supertramp at the time, had previously played with the popular British pub-rock band Bees Make Honey.] I had bought them in 1965. They were champagne sparkle Ludwigs. I used a 26″ Ludwig bass drum, with two on the top, one on the floor. I had picked up a Rogers 16×18 in London. My snare drum was a wooden Gretsch.

My cymbals were pretty raggedy from years of dragging everything around, and they were all Zildjians except for the main ride, which was a Zyn I had picked up somewhere while playing in Bees Make Honey. All of them except for the hi-hats were replaced after recording the album and there were a few bucks around to hit the road.

MD: Several of the tracks on Crime have dramatic drum entrances, sometimes a couple minutes after the song begins. When you play those songs live, are you really raring to go as the tension builds up to those entrances?

Bob: Well, yes, I guess you could say that. Being on the stage with Supertramp back then was a totally focused affair. I was always listening and inside the tune. I would start playing along in my head as my spot approached, and my body would start to move as if I was already playing, and bang. So I was totally in before I actually started. It’s a great band to play in. The band was always very, very focused on the music.




crime cover


Bob Siebenberg de Supertramp

15 de diciembre 2014

Reflexionando sobre el cuadragésimo aniversario del album "El crimen del siglo", una gran fita de la banda.
por Adam Budofsky

Supertramp siempre ha sido difícil de clasificar. ¿Es una banda de pop con afición por los arreglos complejos, una banda de rock progresivo con impecables toques pop, o algo completamente distinto? Una cosa es segura: Las dificultades a la hora de categorizar su musica parecían no hacer daño a su popularidad, con una cadena de álbumes de gran éxito, incluyendo "Even in the Quietest Moments" (con el hit "Give a Little Bit") y "Breakfast in America" ("The Logical Song", " Take The Long Way Home ", "Good bye Stranger") mantuvo a Supertramp en la cima de las listas de éxitos a mediados y finales de los 70.

El álbum de su despegue, "Crime of the Century" en 1974, ha sido remasterizado de nuevo y se acompaña de un segundo disco con un concierto de 1975 en el Hammersmith Odeon de Londres, mezclado de las cintas originales por su ingeniero en aquellos tiempos Ken Scott, que había trabajado anteriormente con los Beatles, David Bowie, y Mahavishnu Orquesta, entre muchos otros. Modern Drummer conversó con el baterista Bob Siebenberg, a quien los seguidores Supertramp también conocen como Bob C. Benberg por los créditos en los discos, para rememorar aquella grabación, la cual sigue sonando en nuestros días con una vitalidad extraordinaria.


MD: Es difícil evitar superlativos cuando se habla del “Crime of the century”. Las canciones, los sonidos, interpretaciones y las ideas son tan potentes. ¿En aquel momento érais conscientes de que estábais grabando algo tan especial y dando un salto gigantesco como banda?

Bob: La banda era completamente nueva. [Los cantautores] Rick Davies y Roger Hodgson habían grabado dos discos anteriormente con dos formaciones distintas, pero sin mucho éxito. Había una verdadera sensación de optimismo en la nueva formación, y todo encajó enseguida. Sabíamos que teníamos un interesante conjunto de personalidades y creíamos totalmente en nosotros mismos. Este fue el primer disco con la nueva formación, y sentíamos que podíamos hacer algo muy especial. Los ingredientes estaban allí. Teníamos el apoyo de la discográfica y entusiasmo a raudales.

MD: Tu estilo siempre es elegante, aunque tus partes son a menudo inesperadas. El ritmo principal en "Dreamer", incluyendo la forma en que va progresando con detalles la canción, es algo atípico. Los extraños acentos y contrapuntos en los versos de "Bloody Well Right" son realmente geniales. Los los golpes de timbales y "delay" de caja en "Hide in Your Shell," los insólitos golpes de platillos durante la sección doble vocal de "Rudy", esos grandes redobles ardientes cuando entras en la canción que da titulo al álbum, tantos y tantos detalles frescos e interesantes .... ¿Tenías la costumbre de probar nuevas ideas mientras preparabas tus partes en el estudio o ensayos?

Bob: Gracias por tus halagos. Te lo agradezco de verdad. El ritmo de "Dreamer" evolucionó a partir de una idea de Roger. Él siempre tenía ideas poco ortodoxas sobre la batería, y a veces resultaban geniales. Estas ideas pasaban a través de mi filtro y se adaptaban a mi propio estilo. Lo que mencionas sobre "Bloody Well Right" fué lo que sentí al escuchar la canción. Me dejé llevar por el sentimiento del riff. Y, sí, siempre buscaba la forma de ser creativo y sólido. Mi trabajo consistía en proporcionar una estructura estable pero interesante. Si no necesitaba un relleno, no lo hacía. Las transiciones pueden resolverse también con un golpe extra de bombo, o un click de caja. Si se necesita un relleno, haz la cuenta, dale un sentido, y mantén el pulso sin fisuras.

Todos estos ejemplos que has elegido surgieron de manera bastante natural. Se trata siempre de un proceso de simplificación, a base de escuchar lo probado, y decidir si era interesante o no. Se inicia en el ensayo. Solíamos usar una simple grabadora de dos pistas y luego nos sentábamos a escuchar y encontrar la forma. Luego se evolucionaba en el estudio, a partir de las pistas que íbamos grabando. Una vez que escuchamos los sonidos, las cosas pueden cambiar.

Tu referencia a "Hide in Your Shell" fué una idea durante la producción. Quiero decir que no es lo que yo empecé a tocar originalmente. Fué una ocurrencia de Roger y Ken durante una disparatada noche en el estudio. De hecho lo que hago en esa parte es muy sencillo. Un ritmo curioso que sube y baja para volver a empezar.

MD: Se aprecia tanta claridad en tu trabajo con las baquetas. ¿Realizaste algún aprendizaje básico para empezar a tocar?

Bob: Tengo que admitir que no recibí ninguna clase. Todo ha sido a base de tocar y tocar. Es la forma en que aprendí, a base de escuchar y tocar, imitando, sintiendo. Crecí tocando en bandas. Nunca viví en un lugar donde pudiera practicar.

MD: Trabajas mucho con los timbales en tus ideas creativas, más que la mayoría de baterías. Los rellenos que conducen hacia los coros de "Asylum", por ejemplo, son tan poderosos. Y la forma en que están tratados con reverb hace que suenen aún con más dramatismo. Uno podría imaginar este tipo de momentos son el resultado de las conversaciones entre la banda y Ken Scott. ¿Fué así?

Bob: Bueno, para empezar, hay que remarcar lo muy afortunados que éramos de tener a Ken en el timón. Nunca ha habido nadie mejor que Ken en un estudio como productor/ingeniero. Y con eso no quiero quitarle meritos a nuestro buen amigo y productor/ingeniero Peter Henderson, con el que trabajamos en varios discos posteriormente en nuestra carrera, incluyendo "Breakfast in America". Pero con ken fué un momento y etapa diferente en nuestra carrera. Estaba totalmente absorto y trabajó muy duro para crear algo que impactase a la gente. Él estableció la pauta de lo que iban a ser nuestros discos el resto de nuestra carrera.

En el caso de "Asylum", esos eran los rellenos que había ido cocinando en los ensayos, y ligeramente modificados en el estudio. Ken los grabó e hizo sonar en la manera en que lo hacen. Siempre hubo interacción entre nosotros en el estudio. Estábamos todos juntos en esto, y sentíamos mucho respeto por el otro y todos estaban dispuestos a tomar siempre la mejor dirección, incluido Ken.

MD: La calidad de sonido de “Crime of the century” es tan buena como cualquier álbum actual, cuarenta años más tarde, y parece beneficiarse realmente de un extenso trabajo en las mezclas. ¿Recuerdas algún detalle acerca de la grabación en términos de microfonía o mezclas?

Bob: Los arreglos de esas canciones están eficazmente diseñados y muy bien pensados. Rick y Roger se volcaron totalmente en el proceso, como el resto, pero eran las canciones que habían estado cocinando durante bastante tiempo, y tenían una idea bastante clara de hasta dónde querían llegar. En cuanto a las mezclas, todos nos implicamos. Todo el mundo tenía algo que aportar. Eran tiempos previos a la automatización, y digitalización, todo el trabajo era totalmente artesanal.

MD: ¿Recuerdas qué equipo utilizaste en aquellas sesiones?

Bob: Llevé conmigo mi batería desde Los Angeles cuando me mudé a Londres en 1971. [Siebenberg, el único estadounidense en Supertramp en ese momento, había tocado previamente con la popular banda británica de pub-rock "Bees Make Honey"] Una Champagne Sparkle de Ludwig que había comprado en 1965. Usaba un bombo Ludwig de 26", con dos timbales en la parte superior, y otro en el suelo, un Rogers 16 × 18 que conseguí en Londres. Mi caja era una Gretsch de madera.

Los platillos estaban bastante maltrechos tras años de uso, y todos ellos eran Zildjian, excepto el ride principal, que era un Zyn que había conseguido en alguna parte mientras tocaba con "Bees Make Honey". Todos ellos, excepto los hi-hats fueron reemplazados tras la grabación del álbum, con el dinero que conseguí.

MD: Algunas canciones del “Crime of the century” tienen entradas de batería muy impactantes, a veces incluso un par de minutos después del comienzo de la canción. Cuando las interpretas en vivo, ¿ te van aumentando las ganas de empezar a tocar mientras la tensión se acumula en esas entradas?

Bob: Bueno, sí, supongo que se podría decir que es así. Estar sobre el escenario con Supertramp en esos tiempos requería total concentración. Yo siempre estaba escuchando y muy metido en la melodía. Empezaba a tocar en mi cabeza a medida que se aproximaba mi momento de entrar, y mi cuerpo empezaba a moverse como si yo ya estaviera tocando y golpeando. Así que en realidad yo ya estaba totalmente en situación antes de empezar. Es una gran banda en la que tocar, y siempre ha estado muy, muy centrada en la música.


]]> (MAC) Interviews Tue, 23 Dec 2014 16:27:40 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL in Cream, October 2012

Creammagazine   , Oct 4th, 2012

Supertramp are a band as definitive of the 1970s music scene as any other. They possessed all the key ingredients required just as the mainstream music arena really began to grow competitive. Up against the ubiquitous likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (from the more ‘serious’ side of rock) and ELO and America (the somewhat lighter side of the spectrum), Supertramp stood out thanks to a universal sound that combined genres of pop, rock and a brand of new electronica (their main competition in that department was, indeed, ELO – whose very name in full – the Electric Light Orchestra – ultimately convinced the rock fraternity that electro would eventually be the way to go in making music, at least in part).

Each member of Supertramp could proudly boast multi-instrumental skills, dabbling in brass and woodwind here, digital technology there. The band formed in the UK in 1969 and split in 1983 due to lead singer, Roger Hodgson, calling it quits to bring up kids. In 1988, the band re-formed with former members and several new ones. One key player has been John Anthony Helliwell – famous for his saxophone and keyboard contributions to hits such as Breakfast In America, The Logical Song, Dreamer, Goodbye Stranger and Take The Long Way Home.

Four of those singles were lifted from the album Breakfast In America, which to this day makes it into credible music magazine’s ‘best of’ lists. In The World Critics List, music journalist Joel Whitburn ranked Breakfast the fourth greatest album of all time. In The Guinness All Time Top 1000 Albums it was voted #207, and also made the 69th greatest British rock LP of all time in the Classic Rock industry poll. In Australia, Triple M listeners voted the album in at #43 in their ‘100 Greatest Albums of All Time’, and in France it is the biggest selling English LP of all time and the third biggest seller overall (and believe us, there is stiff competition in the music business in France).

As well as playing various instruments in the band, Helliwell serves as MC during their live gigs, one of which – recorded in Paris in 1979 – has just been released in HD on Blu-ray and DVD. Here, Helliwell chats to Cream about longevity in the music industry, the art of the remix, and delivering repeated magic on stage as he and his band does on record.

Interview by Antonino Tati.


Tell us about the release of your Blu-ray and DVD Supertramp: Live In Paris.

J.H: You have to bear in mind that this was filmed in the ancient days of the end of the ’70s so it was not recorded digitally initially, but on proper film. But it comes over very well. It’s actually good to be able to see it so clearly after all these years. Of course we’d heard the music on the live album Paris but it’s nice to see the concert in full.


This particular concert was performed and recorded in 1979, which was a phenomenal year for Supertramp, being the year your perennial album Breakfast In America came out.

J.H: Yes, we released Breakfast In America in March of that year, and we began touring in August right through to December. The live recording was done about eight months into that tour, so we were very together and knew what we were supposed to be playing. Looking back at it, it’s good to see the empathy and the tightness in the band.


You would have had a lot on your plate then. There were four hit singles from that album alone.

J.H: Yes, and that was the longest tour we’d ever done so we were very tired by the end of it, and actually took a couple of years off after that. Everyone was a bit knackered at the end of it, but it was well worth it. It was actually the last time the five of us [original members] played together. For the tour after that we had some extra musicians… In general, I think 1979 just captured a really good spirit for us as a band.


How do you compare music of that era compared to what you’re hearing on radio and on the net today?

J.H: Well I get a bit fed up with the music of today. I think there’s still a lot of good music out there, but there’s also so much more out there nowadays and I can’t listen to everything. There are some genres of music that I don’t get. My range is classical, jazz and pop, and blues and soul.


So would I be right in saying that a lot of your influence went into the bigger Supertramp hits with all that fife and brass?

J.H: The sound we made at that time was just the combination of the five of us, working together sounding quite unique. Admittedly, it was unusual to have a saxophone in a rock group back then. And certainly it was unusual to have keyboards in there. Our sound just happened to have a magic combination I think. As for influences, there was the Beatles-type background from [lead singer] Roger Hodgson and [bassplayer] Dougie Thompson, and from myself and [keyboardist] Rick Davies came a more jazzy-type sound. And then, from Bob Siebenberg – our American drummer – came a sort of surf sound.


Well the combination worked to appeal to a broad audience. Even today bands are taking samples from your records and weaving them into dance music, of all genres.

J.H: Yes, there have been a few dance versions of our songs but if you ask me, the originals are the best [laughs].


When did you tour most recently?

J.H: Well the last tour we did with the same band members that you see on the Blu-ray and DVD, was in 1983, but Supertramp have played ever since. In 2010 we toured Europe for two months, and then we toured Canada, and then back to France in 2011.  We haven’t played this year but we could possibly tour next year again. It’s up to Rick Davies when we work, but I’m always happy to.


How likely would it be that we might see you tour Australia?

J.H: I’d like to think of it as a possibility. The last few tours have been through Europe and North America. Australia is obviously quite a long way, but I’d like to come back. We were there in the ’70s, even before this video was done, actually. I think was 1976 we were in Oz.


Is there any modern music that you particularly like?

J.H: I love Muse; I think they’re really creative.


They’ve certainly got a vaudeville edge to them that I thought you’d find appealing.

J.H: Yeah, they’re a little like Queen used to be. They can go ‘pomp’ and then get back to basic rock. They’re my favourite band at the moment. Them, and Elbow.


I think we need more pomp and circumstance in music; it helps keep us entertained.

J.H: Of course. There are a lot of miserable records out there, so we need something to make us happy.


Well musicians are show-people at the end of the day, so part of the job should be to make us –the audience – happy.

J.H: That’s true, but there’s room for all types. If you want to go to a concert and think about things and be morose, you can go see Morrissey. But there’s all sorts now, and I think variety is good.


On the subject of showmanship, I believe you’re the MC of the band, telling stories on stage in between songs.

J.H: That was just because nobody else wanted to do it! It started when we were touring in 1974 for the album Crime Of The Century. It was all quite serious, that album, so it was good to just relieve the tension occasionally with a bit of a chat. I still do it, and like to keep it natural and to not think too much before I speak. Sometimes I can put my foot in my mouth, but most of the time it engenders a good spirit with the audience.


Do you feel you’ve got enough stories from life on the road to write an autobiography?

J.H: I haven’t written anything because I find it difficult to remember stuff, but Bob Siebenberg is writing an autobiography which obviously includes a lot of Supertramp, so that’s something to look forward to.


Thinking cap on now: what are your top five albums of all-time?

J.H: Let’s see… Asia by Steely Dan would have to be in there… Heavy Weather by Weather Report… Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderley with Miles Davis… Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis… and I’d also pick Glen Gould playing [Bach’s] Goldberg Variations. That’s just off the top of my head.


Nice variety. Thanks for your time, John, and we look forward to watching the Live In Paris release.

J.H: Thank you, and enjoy!


]]> (MAC) Interviews Mon, 08 Oct 2012 14:28:54 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL in Excalibur, July 2010


Exclusive Interview
By Elise Valère and Michèle Laurent
Excalibur Trilogy Journal


Photo: John Helliwell and Alan Simon got together in studio to record Excalibur III The Origins, the last part of the french composer's trilogy.

CAMOGLI, July 18th - That day we were going on a date with the "Super-tramp", gentleman and saxophonist, Sir John Anthony Helliwell himself. Our journey, the day before had, taken us after eleven hours of a long trip to a big stone house, not far from Portofino, in Sesta Godano, behind the hills of Liguria. The powerful notes of a saxophone welcomed us and as we entered the studio, we could see on a screen an elegant silhouette inclined on its instrument. Although the tiredness and the oppressive warmth, John Helliwell was working hard at about ten tunes from the last part of Alan Simon's folk rock saga. "Excalibur III The Origins" was in progress and we had the privilege to attend recording of the precious contribution of John. Alan and sound engineer Marco Canepa stayed inclined on the console, attentive and respectful in front of the performance of the famous saxophone of Supertramp. What we had the privilege to hear sounded like an eager invitation to discover very soon the last chapter of that musical trilogy. With a broad grin, John and Alan enjoyed staying together again and we could hear it!! Appointment was made and it was with pleasure and early in the morning that we met John Helliwell which gladly accepted to answer our questions.


Q: After forty years of career, you have done, lived and heard so many things, what is your opinion about the actual musical world?

John Helliwell: Today it’s very diverse because of all the new technologies, the internet… Recording is very easy. When I was younger, if you wanted to record you had to go to a studio and record. Everything is more fixed and more diverse now; but it’s nice for me because I’m at an age now where I’m kind of some retired and just do projects which I like. So I enjoy it and enjoy this musical world, it’s very very open.

Q: You have a very particular sound with your saxophone, which have been your models?

J.H.: When I first started, I started on clarinet and my model was one particularly English man who played it called Monty Sunshine; I heard him play this tune by Sidney Bechet called “Petite fleur” and I was very entranced by this. It made me think: “Oh I would love to play the clarinet”. So it interested me enough. I saved my money for two years and I bought a clarinet, which cost fifteen pounds when I was thirteen. And then later I heard some saxophone players, most notably Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and I thought maybe I would like to learn the saxophone as well; so, I was fifteen, I manage to buy my first saxophone. So those were my inspirations, and the main inspiration then and now really is jazz because for saxophonists jazz is obviously very big.

Q : What kind of jazz?

J.H.: Well the jazz I gravitated to was modern jazz – but modern jazz then, which was in the late fifties, early sixties – that’s remained my period but I really like this soul sixties jazz, acoustic, normal. But I do like fusion when using electric instruments, so I really like one of the first big or successful fusion bands with jazz and rock that was Weather Report, which I really liked too. I am a very opened person when one comes to music in general: I listen to all the guitarists, to jazz, to classical… all sorts… what I don’t listen too much is today’s pop music! Because there’s so much music, you know, I can’t listen to everything!

Q: What do you think about the actual musical industry? Have the things changed or evolved?

J.H.: Yes, I think it’s much harder to be successful as a group now; when for example Supertramp was trying to promote themselves and make good music we had a lot of really good backing from the record company which then was A&M records, and they promoted us and they helped us financially as well and to nurture the talent over a long period whereas nowadays the record companies are more interested in short returns and so there’s not a much of nurturing and it’s hard for someone to make a mark.  Although it is easy to someone to make music, a track, an album in his own home, put it out on the internet, it’s easier to disseminate but it’s not easy to have a big push with a good company.

Q: Is the definition of the word « artist » still the same?

J.H.: To me, yes! You pursue your “métier”, your area where you’re a painter, a writer, a musician; It’s very important then you take the work you’ve got and you try to better at it and some people are successful some not but it doesn’t necessary mean that there’s not good, they just do something which is not popular, people don’t like it, I mean a lot of painters, for example, never sold any paintings in their lives and then millions and millions, Van Gogh for example. He was not recognized but he must have a passion to do what he wants and you talked about my sound but I’m trying to get better all the time. I know I’m lazy sometime but I try to get my sound better, I try to play better. And now I’m trying to get my sound better and countering it against the effects of getting older and older so perhaps sometime my sound is any better but maybe it is time to retire, who knows? 


Q: What's your feeling about the public and its relation to live music today?   Do you feel that?

J.H.: When I’m in a situation where I’m performing in front of people where there is, with Supertramp or in the past with all the groups or where there are the same old ones or my small jazz group, every audience is different in a different size, they are fifty or thousand, I really enjoy the rapport with the audience. And I think the audience – artist relationship is the same, it has always been the same in my career. I think it is important to have some little connection with the audience and not to be too back from them. I believe in talking to the audience, not talking down to the audience but talking to relax them and relax you and get a good feeling. But there are some artists who don’t talk, Bob Dylan; I don’t think Bob Dylan talks to the audience. I think it would be difficult to me; I like to talk to the audience. And I think it’s important and I also think it’s important for the artists to look good too.  Whatever genre yours is, if you are a punk, look like a punk and feel smart… but I think when an audience see this artist first come onto the stage, they’ll look and will say “oh yes, they must be good” before they’ve played. If they look right… image is important but I think it must be honest.

Q: People see and hear so many things, with internet and the new technologies, they have so much choice; do you think it’s difficult for the artists to make a choice for their live performances?

J.H.: It is but the public go physically to your concert, obviously they are prepared, they want to be entertained for, we think, two hours is proudly enough, not five hours or half an hour but two hours it’s a good time for someone to sit and listen. And I think that relationship is important and obviously only people don’t cheat on stage with tapes, machines, they have to play, and they have to be able to play.

Q: How did you meet Alan and how have you been involved in the project Excalibur?

J.H.: My first communication with Alan was when Alan was with Roger Hodgson and he telephoned me to ask me if I could play on Roger Hodgson’s album, “Open the door”. And I said: “No” [laugh] And Alan said: “Oh John! You must play!” And I said: “Oh I’m sorry I’m in another country, I don’t have time”… or whatever… But later, I think, Alan called me, ‘cause he likes my playing, for his Gaia project. That was very nice, very interesting. One big concert we did was in Cannes with Billy Preston and a lot of different people, I think this is quite interesting and exciting to get all those different people, different genres and blend, sort this is an orchestra, a rock drummer, a jazz violinist… it was really good, I was really happy to be part of it. There was an interesting spectacle of me, white, saxophone player in a black suit, a dark suit, standing next to Manu Dibango, a black man in a white outfit and a white saxophone, there was me and him, he is tall and I’m not too tall and I found that was very funny…. So I enjoy working with Alan… then we did some concerts with Gaia, we did a good season in Zürich, Art on Ice, I think there were 7 concerts and then Excalibur II and now Excalibur III but the Excalibur Tour we did earlier this year was very nice. I like touring and I like the company of all the different people; we were on a bus together and travel together: it was a great experience! In the cold…!! [Editor's note: Germany, January 2010, temperature about -15°C]

Q: So Excalibur is the actuality. There will be a tour…

J.H.: There is a tour starting in January 2011 of course and I should be there in January. I may have some other commitments to do more concerts in the spring but I think I’ll be there later in the year 2011 as well so I should do it if I can.

Q: It’s an opportunity to stay with so many musicians of different style. You seem to be very comfortable with all the kind of music: progressive rock with Supertramp, jazz with Crème Anglaise and Celtic folk rock with Excalibur: how could you explain this fact to be so open minded?

J.H.: I like the diversity, now… maybe twenty years ago I didn’t have time to do all the different projects; now I have time, now I can do. I have the jazz, I play with my own group Crème Anglaise and I play with the Saxophone Orchestra and I play with Alan sometimes, I have played with Alan Parsons, just other projects… Chris de Burgh… just things I like and the people I like, some people that I know, it’s nice to go on visit them, it’s just a quiet life…

Q: And what’s the actuality of your group Crème Anglaise?

J.H.: Well, it’s a jazz group, it’s more difficult to get concerts; we play occasionally in England, we have played France, we’ve played Giverny, a little festival in Giverny, we played it twice and we played in Geneva; so we just do it occasionally. We have a CD as well which is called “Crème Anglaise”.

Q: And there will be a Supertramp’s tour…

J.H.: Oh, yes, for the first time since 2002, Supertramp will be touring again this year, 2010, all September-October, all over Europe : France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, England, Ireland… just only one date in England… but we are very happy to do it because it will be eight years since the last tour, we don’t tour very often.

Q: It’s a kind of celebration…

J.H.: Yes I thought it might have been over, because Ric Davies, who is the founder, has the name, so it’s really up to Ric to decide if he wants to tour. So I thought he retired but few months ago he called and said “Let’s do it!” [Laugh]

The Supertramp one is a quite big commitment of time, you know, but it’s truly enjoyable. I love playing. We come back to play for our favorite people: Europeans. [Laugh]

Q: Talking again about the past, what’s your best memory?

J.H.: There’s been some good memory… maybe of concerts, rather than recording, because there’s a good empathy, you know… big concerts like the Park of Sceaux in Paris in 1983, where it rained and everybody was covered and we played “It’s raining again” and just place friends crazy… that was a good one…Oh ! Just concerts … we did a very big concert, I think just because it was so big, it was the best concert we’ve done, in Sao Paulo, in Brazil. In a big stadium, 135 000 people, that’s a lot of people! But then we played in Paris too, 6 people! In a place I think called Bataclan… [Laugh]…way back in the 70’s [laugh] it’s always interesting.

Q: And maybe, to finish, your worst memory about those 40 years of music…?

J.H.: Yeah, I know what it was: I was playing in London in 1972, I think… I was playing in a club. It was a club where men went to drink champagne... And there was a band, a trio - piano, drums and saxophone only used to play; we had to play all the time from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and sometimes strippers would come and go behind the band and get changed and when they were ready to come out they would knock on the wall behind, we had to stop the tune we were playing and play another tune. That was quite interesting, that was ok but… one New Year’s eve… the pianist could not come but he said would come another pianist and he called this man for one gig but he came and he could only play in the key of C which is very restricting and he could only play boogie woogie piano what is only one style so we had to do 6 hours of music on New Year’s eve in C and in boogie woogie and it was really horrible. It’s the worst music that I have ever had to do. So I was really thankful when 3 o’clock came that night in the New Year [laugh]


]]> (MAC) Interviews Fri, 31 Dec 2010 19:02:06 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL in Pennyblackmusic, October 2010

Supertramp : Interview
Author: Lisa Torem
Published: 06/10/2010

Kate Murtagh, dressed as a waitress, holds a glass of orange juice high above her head; a stand-in for the Statue of Liberty’s flaming torch. Her friendly smile glimmers from the window of an airplane soaring over the New York City skyline. But, a further glance reveals that this modern island is made of a cardboard cereal box, silverware and condiment containers spray painted white.

The breakfast plate reveals Battery Park, the gateway to Staten Island; a historical hub for thousands of immigrants. If you’re excited, about your journey, you’re not the only one. Supertramp’s sixth album, 79’s 'Breakfast in America' ultimately sold six million copies in the US alone and over 18 million worldwide.

That comical album cover won a Grammy for Best Recording Packaging and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. It featured the Wurlitzer electric piano which was soon to be recognized as the band’s trademark sound. The theme song, was very bouncy, very British and clocked in at 2:30. The longest track, ‘Child of Vision’ was a whooping 7:25

The album included: four major hits; ‘The Logical Song’, ‘Take the Long Way Home,’ ‘Goodbye Stranger,’ and ‘Breakfast in America’.

The band is currently reissuing this groundbreaking album which will include a second disc of previously unreleased live recordings from the late seventies. Sleeve notes by MOJO editor, Phil Alexander will also be added. In addition, the band is commemorating the date of this first release, 40 years ago, with their current European ’70-10’ Tour.


Woodwind player, John Helliwell, is speaking to Pennyblackmusic from Frankfurt, Germany, where the band is half-way through their ambitious European tour. Helliwell initially joined up in 1974, and helped created the dynamic tracks of 'Crime of the Century'. Though he claims he’s being treated quite well on this leg of a very exclusive tour, Helliwell seems unaffected by the pampering, eager to reminisce and extremely affable. Ironically, even after playing arenas filled with 10,000 fans, what really motivates this man is a chance to socialize and a decent breakfast.

PB: Your line-up is pretty much the same as when Supertramp toured in 2002, except now you have Gabe Dixon on keyboards.

Yeah. We got Gabe and we’ve still got Jesse Seibenberg on percussion and vocals. They’re the two voices that can do Roger Hodgson’s songs and we’ve also got a trumpet player from ’97 back, Lee Thornburg, and we’ve also got a girl singer to help with the background vocals, Cassie Miller. Mark Hart, who has been playing with Supertramp for twenty years or so, he couldn’t make it because he’s busy with Crowded House.

PB: Lee was with Etta James and Ray Charles. Isn’t there a lot of blues and jazz influence in your line-up?

Well, there is. Yeah, our bass player, Cliff Hugo, played with Ray Charles for two years, way back. Yeah, there is a jazz influence, but we’re still playing our music. We’ve got the trumpet and sax player which is quite nice. We’re playing Supertramp music, but it’s very sophisticated in the way that we can put it across, especially with the extra vocals that we’ve got now.
We’ve got it really good on the background singing. It’s really made a difference. We’re able to do some numbers now that we couldn’t really do properly before. One example would be ‘Gone Hollywood’ from 'Breakfast in America'. We’re doing a really good version of that now. We haven’t been able to in the past. We tried it once, but – I think it was in 1983 – it didn’t work properly.

PB: Would you consider touring another Supertramp album, for example, 'Crime of the Century'?

We haven’t done a concert which specifically promoted 'Crime of the Century' since 1974 or 1975. But, it’s just included and it’s a very, big part of our oeuvre, and we do quite a few numbers, from 'Crime of the Century'.
We do ‘School’, we do ‘Dreamer’, we do ‘Rudy’ and ‘Crime of the Century’ itself. So, it’s always been a big part of our set.

PB: You dressed as Spiderman for ‘Fool’s Overture’ with a speech of Winston Churchill blaring in the background. What is the stage presentation like these days?

Ah, right. You were talking about ‘Fool’s Overture.’ Actually, a lot of members of the crew, or whatever, they would dress up as a banana or a gorilla; all sorts of things were happening in ‘Fool’s Overture.’ So our presentation. Nowadays, we don’t use those kinds of props, now.
We have bits of film; some of which we’ve been using for years and years.
There’s a film of a speeded-up train journey in ‘Rudy.’ We still use that. We also have a presentation where you go sort of flying through space and you come on the bars from ‘ Crime of the Century’. There are a few visual aids.

PB: I had read a review of your 1975 alabum ‘Crisis, What Crisis?’ in which critics had said it left a lot of room for instrumentals. How are instrumentals being received live? Are they received as well as tunes that primarily revolve around vocal lines?

Oh, yes. No, we don’t do any song that’s completely instrumental – they‘re all songs, you know. But, there are solo parts, especially there are some guitar solo parts. There’s a big solo from Rick when we do ‘Another Man’s Woman.’
There are quite a few solos in different numbers from me on the sax. There’s a little trumpet solo in some numbers, which we haven’t done for many, many years and it’s called: ‘Poor Boy.’ That’s from ‘Crisis’ and, on the original recording, that is Rick singing, playing and making a noise like a trumpet, but now we have a real trumpet; Lee Thornburg can play that.

PB: I love the combination of the keys and the sax. But, you don’t hear that much these days. It’s a great combination.

It is. I have to say that. I play the saxophone. It’s more unusual in a rock group to have a sax player. You know, Springsteen did, Roxy Music. There are quite a few that have. But, the majority of rock groups are guitar and/or keyboard oriented. It’s just another voice that you can have, you know?
One of our trademarks, I guess, just having me in the band, especially if I’m playing clarinet because that’s very unusual.

PB: That is unusual.

…in rock music. There are little bits in about six numbers, but it’s quite prominent in the song, ‘Breakfast in America,’ for example.

PB: How do you come up with the brass arrangements? Do you read charts?

No, we’re not reading charts. We just work it out at rehearsals, just play together, whether it’s in unison or harmony. We like to keep it reasonably simple. I think that’s the thing with Supertramp. We don’t really go overboard and bore people with playing things too long. We like to keep it a bit more succinct.

PB: Yet, back in the day, it was fairly common to play lengthy songs. You couldn’t get away with that on the airwaves now. I think the audience loves hearing this during the live performance where there’s the freedom to get into the number.

: Yeah, it’s good. We like to tell a story. You know.

PB: What’s your favourite song on the set list?

Of the songs. Yeah. ‘Rudy’s’ good, because I mentioned about the train journey that takes place at the end. There’s an instrumental section and that’s nice visually. There’s a song ‘From Now On’ that comes over really well. Stories? Hmmm. Interesting. I think the tunes are more observational than telling a complete story like a saga.

PB: Then, what songs give you the most latitude as a sax player?

Just physically, ‘Bloody Well Right’ does because I have a solo with Lee Thornburg at the end and also a piece again at the end where I’m playing completely on my own, so it’s completely up to me, and ‘From Now On’ is quite good. I get a nice, improvisation section there and at the end of ‘Gone Hollywood’ it’s quite good and, in between in ‘It’s Raining Again,’ I get some blowing there. I do several other numbers, too, but these seem to be the ones that are slightly lengthier.

PB: Does the band have plans to record after the tour?

There aren’t any plans at the moment. Nothing specific, but there’s talk of touring late next spring, but I’m not sure where or whether it’s going to be North America or not. I would like that. Canada is a potential place that I would like to go, but there are no plans yet. Next summer, doing some of the festivals, either in Europe or North America, would be good.
It would be good to keep this band going because it’s beginning to sound really good.

PB: You’ve got a really loyal group that keeps coming back to tour. What did you do in early 2002 when the band was not playing?

Me, personally? In 1992 I moved back to the UK, to do some studying. Then, I got involved with two Supertramp albums, etc., etc., After 2002 I carried on with my music. I have a jazz group.

PB: Crème Anglaise? I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly.

Yeah. I made a CD. There is a CD also called 'Crème Anglaise' which I’m very proud of. I play with that group, occasionally, not always with Mark Hart, who is in it, because he’s so far away, but because jazz gigs don’t pay much.
They don’t even pay enough to get him to Pasadena rather than from LA to Manchester, or wherever (Laughs).
But, I’ve also enjoyed playing in recent few years with people on the continent, too; Germany, France and Italy. I play some small jazz venues in Italy, occasionally and I’ve been playing with Alan Simon who kind of writes gigantic rock operas.

PB: 'Excalibur'?

You know about that?

PB: Yeah. That sounds fantastic.

So, I’m going to do some more in January. That was touring in Germany last January. There are some more projects with Alan Simon. Then, I work with the German drummer called Leslie Mandoki who has a group called Soulmates – where he gets together major rock performers and jazz performers, and does concerts.
So, I’m quite happy just doing what I like, really. It’s quite nice to go and play with someone like that because I don’t have the responsibility. I just go and play and get treated well and come away again.

PB: Will 'Excalibur' come to the States?

I don’t know. I have no idea. There was an 'Excalibur' ten years ago and now it’s 'Excalibur II' or 'III', but the last tour was just Germany. They’re trying to expand it. We’re doing some German dates, and if I can do it, while working with Supertramp, some dates in France and Switzerland, in the spring and then taking it from there.
But, that’s quite spectacular; 80 people on stage, including lots of dancers, orchestra, vocalists, knights in armour, two horses, aerial artists, and a German narrator. There’s so much going on in that it’s quite a lot of fun.

PB: Supertramp has worked with a number of producers; Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott. How did you decide each time which one to use?

It started off when we were doing 'Crime of the Century', For some reason, it was very difficult to get Ken Scott; he said no. Our manager persisted and got him down to where we were rehearsing and he liked the music.

He was very instrumental in getting our sound down on discs. He was very meticulous with the sounds. It was a really good relationship and we continued that in 'Crime of the Century'. For our 1977 album 'Even in the Quietest Moments' there was, I think, and I might be wrong, but I think that his manager was asking for too much money, or something, and we thought, let’s just try somebody else and, interestingly enough, we found Geoff Emerick, but when we were doing the recordings, Geoff Emerick couldn’t come. He was doing another project.

He sent Pete Henderson, who was his young assistant. We got on really well with Pete and then Geoff Emerick came for the mixing of 'Even in the Quietest Moments' in LA.
He was okay and he was there, but it was mostly Pete that we did the work with.

So, when it came time for the next album, which was 'Breakfast in America', we just went to Pete and not Geoff, just because we had this relationship with Pete Henderson.

So, we did 'Breakfast in America' and he did the live album and then he did the next album, 'Famous Last Words', so that was a good relationship. And, he was instrumental in getting the sound that I always say, it sounds good anyway, we continued our hi-fi approach, but he got the sound that sounded really good on the radio, which was very helpful for getting all those hits, and getting it out to people. So, we’ve had good relationships with him, less so with David Kirshenbaum; he worked on a couple of our albums.
We’d gotten more mature and Rick was doing more producing by then. And, then, more or less, the last few albums have been self-produced.

PB; Has that been the right decision?

Yes, it’s been alright. Things have progressed, but those two, Ken and Pete, were very much responsible for the Supertramp sound.

PB: John, there has recently been some controversy about the usage of songs during concert performances. Are you willing to talk about that?

Yeah, sure.

PB: People in a band work out material; they work very closely. What is your feeling about that?

Right. The songs that Supertramp recorded and performed in the 70s, all the songs were written by Rick and Roger. But, as in those relationships, they’ve got both the names on the song and, in fact, some were written together and some were written separately and then brought to the group to have their final, how to dress them, how to put them out. The group’s involvement was very strong, in all those songs of Rick and Rogers.

And, Roger Hodgson is not happy at the moment with the fact that Supertramp now is going out and doing some of these songs. He thinks it’s a betrayal and my take on it is this. If I were playing with Crème Anglaise or if Bob Dylan went out, or Chicago, as a group, whatever, they could play a Supertramp song.

Anyone in the world can go out and perform a Supertramp song if they want. No one can stop them and it’s quite valid if some singer, if Joni Mitchell wants to go sing, ‘Dreamer,’ or (laughs). You know what I mean?

So, anyone can play a Supertramp song. So, my point is why can’t we play? Who better to play a Supertramp song than Supertramp? We do now play Roger’s songs, although, when we first went out with the 195 album, 'Brother, Where You Bound', the first album after Roger left, then we didn’t play any of Roger Hodgson’s songs and we got a lot of criticism then from the fans. ‘Why aren’t you playing ‘Dreamer?’ Why aren’t you playing ‘The Logical Song?’ So, we put a couple in and Mark Hart sang them.

So, we’re just continuing in the tradition and we are playing, I think seven, might be six of songs at least, by Roger and we think that that’s entirely valid because it’s Supertramp going out there and the fans come to the concert and they want to hear some Supertramp numbers. So, that’s basically it.

PB: Do you see Roger, at some point, showing up on tour, and performing some songs with you or will you both maintain separate careers?

I don’t think that will happen, because before this tour ever got going, there were talks between Rick and Roger about doing a tour, which apparently were going along fine for a while and they just completely broke down and so there’s a kind of rift appeared there between Rick and Roger, and I don’t know whether it’s insurmountable or not but it doesn’t look likely that Roger will join us on this tour. He’s doing his own thing and playing in Europe at the moment. But, we haven’t seen him.

PB: After all of these years touring, can you share any of the great moments?

The great moments? I’ll tell you the great moments. There’s a breakfast gang, people who stay in bed, have their breakfast in bed. There’s a breakfast gang of about six of us. The accountant and the tour manager, Carl Verheyen, Cliff Hugo, Lee Thornburg, myself, are the ones who would get up and have breakfast, like we’ve done today, and have a hang in the breakfast room about this and that, that’s good.
Then, typically, there’ll be a little time off, go walk or something. Mid-afternoon, we set off to drive to the airport during this tour, in the highest sort of style that we’ve ever done, or any tour, and that’s by private jet.

PB: Nice.

So, we drive to the airport, which might be half an hour, get on the jet, go to the next city, which usually only takes about half an hour, drive straight to the gig, and get there a quarter of an hour before sound check time, do the sound check, which is good, and then have a small bit to eat - some fantastic food. These people that are travelling with the band and doing the food at all the concerts are called 'Eat Your Heart Out'.

PB: That says it all. It’s a good name for an album, too.

Yeah. And, then, wait an hour or two and do the show, and then, unusually, we call it “doing a runner” and it’s immediately after the very last number, the end of the encore, we just go straight to the cars; four cars, and straight to the airport and back to the city, and we’re usually back by midnight. It just depends where the show is. We’re usually back before the bar closes, have a drink and then go to bed. It’s quite a nice day normally. We don’t hassle having to get up seven in the morning to get on the bus to go to the next place, or whatever. It’s very civilized. So, that’s good.

PB: At what point during the show do you feel the energy of the audience? Is it immediate?

It’s quite good and I like it this way. It’s a two-part question. The audience alter by country. They’re very much a different character in Spain, than Germany. For example, they’re very excitable in Spain and they sing along. The Germans are a bit slower to get motivated. But, when they do, they get quite enthusiastic. They’re usually sitting down and we play in arenas, anything from 5 to 10,000; something like that, normally.

We start off with ‘You Started Laughing’ which is half-instrumental and we kind of ease into the set. And, we don’t play a sort of big hit until about a third of the way through.

So, actually, the beginning of the set is more like a classical music concert, where they clap and then they get quiet and we start the next number.

But, for the whole of the two hours, it really builds up. At the end, they’re all down at the front, clammering and clambering; “more, more,” and we do do an encore. Haven’t missed doing an encore, yet. It’s a big build-up for two hours, really, which is quite nice, and they get excited when they hear the hits. Sometimes they stand up and start to dance around. So, it’s nice because we build it.

PB: So, John, what would you have done besides having a career as a rock star?

Well, I started out 47 years ago being a computer programmer. That’s what I did for a few years before I turned professional.

PB: I remember reading that you got two job offers at the same time, which is pretty cool.

Yeah, I did. (excited). This is ancient history. I had to choose then. Well, I turned professional with one group. I had to either decide to carry on with one group or go back to programming and I chose the music.

PB: Pretty smart.

(Laughs). Well, I was just following my heart. But I did enjoy programming. I think I would have made a good postman, too.

PB: A little bit of travel there, too.


PB: Did you read that book, 'The Autobiography of a Supertramp?'

I tried. I’ve tried a couple of times. The most I’ve got is half-way through. It’s a bit boring actually.

PB: So, you’re living it instead..

Oh, yes. I’m living that life. It’s quite interesting, but it lost me about halfway. I think maybe he’s a better poet, than a prose writer. Davies.

PB: What are your favorite movies?

I just downloaded my first movie to watch on my IPAD last night.

PB: What was that?

'Some Like It Hot'.

PB: And we just lost Tony Curtis…

That’s what reminded me of that. I’ve seen it lots of times, but it’s so great. I only watched half an hour because I was really tired, but it’s really, really good. I watched it until Marilyn came and sang a song. I had to stop it.

She’s so amazing looking and Tony and Jack are so great made up as women. It’s such a fabulous film.

A great, big coffee table book that my wife bought me about 15 or 20 years ago, was all about Billy Wilder. It might be a Tashcen book. It’s a really good book all about the films and photographs. There’s a reproduction of Marilyn Monroe’s notebook in there, which is really interesting to look at.

And, my other favourite films are mostly by the Coen Brothers, 'The Big Lebowski' is one of my favourites, as is 'Fargo'. I do like a good movie.

PB: And books?

They’re not my favourite books, but I just couldn’t seem to put one series down and that’s 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'. I quite like Dickens. I used to exclusively read science fiction from age 12 to 22 or 25. I got into that. I read all sorts now a days.

PB: Will you tour with Supertramp in the years to come?

(Laughs I don’t know how much time there is left. I guess if we play again; it’s kind of up to Rick, really. He’s got the name and he sings most of the songs. It’s up to him, really. I don’t know whether we’ll go out, maybe next year. After that, I don’t know. We’re not getting any younger.

PB: It can be tiring.

No, as I’ve explained, because of the private plane, we get treated great. The only sort of tiring, not tiring, you’ve got to get yourself ready for show time, you know?

We’ve done three in a row and then a day off. That’s the most. That’s pretty good. It’s good to have a day off after you’ve done three shows, even after our fabulous way of travelling. You know, it still can be quite demanding, for different people, in different ways, for instance, Bob, the drummer…

We come off stage and we get in the car and I always travel with him and he’s absolutely soaking and I’m not. I don’t have that physical job, you know? But, mentally, I’m probably wringing wet, you know?

PB: What advice would you give to one starting out in the business; someone who wants to be like you?

You must keep practicing and you must keep trying to improve. And, if you want to succeed in a group you must make sure that everybody in the group is pulling their weight.
You can’t carry any passengers and you must get a manager who’s going to be good and you must have written contracts between you even if you’re the best of friends. Those are little bits of advice I can give.

PB: Thank you.



]]> (Miguel Angel Candela MAC) Interviews Fri, 12 Nov 2010 17:36:06 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL in Classic Rock, October 2010

Supertramp Exclusive: Hodgson Return? Never!


If anyone’s hoping for an emotional reunion between Roger Hodgson and Supertramp, then they can forget it. So says, saxophonist John Anthony Helliwell.

There are two chances, slim and none – and slim’s just left town,” laughs Helliwell, when Classic Rock asks the question. “To be honest, I’m not sure what the problem is, because it’s down to Roger and Rick (Davies). I do know they had talks about touring together. According to one party, those talks lasted 18 months. According to the other they lasted no time at all. But in the end, Roger decided to go and do his own tour, which was very good. Rick decided to put together the Supertramp 40th anniversary tour. And both parties tell you a different story as to why the whole thing failed.”

Helliwell also acknowledges that Hodgson is angry that the band are now playing six of his songs in their live set.

“I know he’s made his feelings public. But I’m not sure why he’s so upset. Firstly, anybody can play anyone’s songs live. And secondly, who better to do those songs than Supertramp? Yes, Roger wrote them, but I feel we as a band brought a unique approach which makes them stand out. The same also applies to Rick’s stuff.”

Helliwell has further revealed that there are plans for an expanded edition of 1974’s breakthrough album Crime Of The Century, although an actual release date remains unconfirmed. This follows the reissue of 1979’s Breakfast In America, now available as a two-CD set.

“I know we’re calling it the 30th anniversary re-release – we’ve just rounded it down a little,” admits Helliwell. “It’s been great revisiting the album. The extra CD has live songs from both Paris and Wembley on that 1979 tour. To be honest, when we’d finished the album we knew it was good, but we only realised how big it had become because all the venues were packed. We must have done about 120 shows from March to November in 79, which was quite hectic. Thankfully we bought ourselves some extra time for resting up by putting out the live album Paris in 1980.”

There were allegedly real tensions in the studio for Breakfast in America, between Hodgson and Davies, although Helliwell feels they’d always been there.

“I recall in 1973 we had to literally grab Roger and prevent him from going off to India. We had Crime Of The Century coming out, and the last thing we needed was Roger disappearing. But there was always friction between him and Rick, so what happened on Breakfast… was nothing new.”

Currently on the aforementioned 40th anniversary tour, with dates stretching in Europe until October 28 (they play the O2 Arena in London on Wednesday, October 6) , Helliwell is confident this will not be the last activity from the band.

We’re already talking about spring dates next year in America, and also some festivals in the summer. Possibly in Europe, maybe in America. But it’s all down to what Rick wants to do. It’s his call.

And, although, there are no plans for any new studio recordings, the band are making available live recordings of every show on the tour.

“You can buy a USB of each gig straight after it’s finished. Or you can get a CD or MP3 download online. It means I’ve got to watch what I say, because as the announcer anything idiotic I come up with will now be captured for posterity!”

Find out more at


]]> (MAC) Interviews Tue, 05 Oct 2010 12:30:51 +0000
RICK DAVIES in MorgenMagazin, August 2010

- english version follows the german one-

Morning Magazine
19th August 2010

Zur Person
Rick Davies

Der Sänger und Keyboarder wurde am 22. Juli 1944 im englischen Swindon geboren und lebt heute als US-Bürger auf Long Island (USA).
Rick Davies ist die dunklere Stimme von Supertramp, die er 1969 mit Frontmann Roger Hodgson gründete. Ihr erstes Album erschien 1970, vier Jahre später kam der große Durchbruch mit "Crime Of The Century" und Hits wie "Dreamer" und "Bloody Well Right".
Bis zum Ausstieg Hodgsons 1983 avancierten Supertramp zu einer der erfolgreichsten Rockbands. Danach ebbte das Interesse ab, die Band löste sich 1988 auf. 1997 formierte Davies das Projekt neu, das letzte Studioalbum erschien 2002.

 "15 Monate ging es hin und her"
ROCK: Interview mit Rick Davies über 40 Jahre Supertramp, Konflikte mit Ex-Sänger Roger Hodgson und neue Platten
Von Marcel Anders

Auch anlässlich des 40. Bandjubiläums müssen sich die Fans von Supertramp ihre Lieblingsband quasi zusammensetzen: Während die Hauptgruppe um Keyboarder Rick Davies am 23. September in der SAP Arena mit ihren größten Hits auftritt, war der frühere Frontmann Roger Hodgson vor kurzem solo im Weinheimer Schlosspark zu sehen. Wir sprachen mit Davies über die aktuelle Besetzung und den Dauerzwist mit dem Ex-Partner.

Herr Davies, was ist das für ein Gefühl, mit 66 Jahren erneut auf Tour zu gehen?

Rick Davies: Nun, ich muss sagen, dass diese Vorstellung Angst einflößend, aber natürlich auch sehr verlockend ist. Ich habe keine Ahnung, was passiert, aber ich und der Rest der Band haben hart trainiert, um das abzuliefern, was man von uns erwartet.

Das heißt?

Davies: Wir haben vor, die komplette Geschichte der Band auf die Bühne zu bringen. Was bedeutet, dass wir viele von unseren Hits spielen und eine Produktion auffahren, wie man sie von uns gewohnt ist. Mit vielen Filmen und aufwendigem Licht.

Wer ist 2010 überhaupt in der Band?

Davies: Natürlich haben wir immer noch John Helliwell, unseren Saxofonisten, dabei. Aber auch Bob Siebenberg, der Schlagzeug spielt - und seinen Sohn Jesse, der so etwas wie der Historiker der Band ist. Er kennt jeden einzelnen Takt und jede Note, die je auf einem Supertramp-Album veröffentlicht oder bei einem Konzert gespielt wurde. Was unglaublich ist. Und wir haben Publikumsliebling Lee Thornburg am Start, der Trompete und Tuba beisteuert und zudem noch singt. Genau wie seine Frau, Cassie, die ebenfalls eine wunderbare Sängerin ist.

Gibt es Neuzugänge?

Davies: Zum Beispiel Gabe Dixon, der aus Nashville kommt und ein umwerfender Musiker ist. Er singt, spielt Keyboards und bildet eine tolle Ergänzung zur aktuellen Besetzung. Dann sind da noch Carl Verheyen, der ja viel mit seiner eigenen Band durch Deutschland tourt, und Cliff Hugo am Bass. Was ich bisher sagen kann, ist, dass es wunderbar harmoniert.


Und warum ist Ihr Ex-Partner Roger Hodgson nicht dabei?

Davies: Ich glaube, es ist mittlerweile 27 Jahre her, dass er die Band verlassen hat. Und damals hat niemand verstanden, warum er das getan hat. Er meinte, er wolle sein eigenes Ding machen, sich selbst finden und mit anderen Leuten spielen. Und so sehr wir uns auch bemüht haben, wir konnten ihn nicht daran hindern, zu gehen. Dabei war die ursprüngliche Idee dieser Tour, es noch einmal gemeinsam zu probieren - also er, ich und die anderen. Denn wer weiß, vielleicht ist es das letzte Mal, dass es dazu kommt. Womit ich nicht sage, dass es so ist oder eben nicht. Aber wir haben lange darüber geredet und verhandelt. Ich glaube, es ging 15 Monate hin und her, bis wir den Punkt erreichten, da wir eine Entscheidung treffen und die Termine bekanntgeben mussten. Leider, und aus Gründen, die uns nie mitgeteilt wurden, hat sich Roger dagegen entschieden, an der Tour teilzunehmen.

Obwohl er in jedem Interview erklärt, genau das wäre nicht der Fall, und man habe ihn schlichtweg davon ausgeschlossen?

Davies: Was soll ich dazu sagen? Ich kann nur meine Sicht der Dinge schildern.

Gibt es eine Vereinbarung, die besagt, dass sie keine der Stücke spielen dürfen, die er für Supertramp geschrieben hat? Und wenn ja, warum halten Sie sich nicht daran?

Davies: Da müssen wir zurückgehen bis ins Jahr 1983 - und Tatsache ist, dass es ungefähr 600 Seiten an Dokumenten und Verträgen gibt, die genau das regeln. Was mich betrifft, halte ich mich an meinen Teil der Abmachung: Ich spiele die Musik von Supertramp. Und damit meine ich alles, was wir damals zusammen veröffentlicht und auf die Bühne gebracht haben - das ist für mich Supertramp-Musik.

Also haben sie keine Angst vor einem Rechtsstreit?

Davies: Nicht wirklich.

Welche Alben sind demnach Teil der Jubiläumstour - wie weit gehen sie historisch zurück?

Davies: Bis zu "Crime Of The Century", wo sich ja erstmals die wahre Stärke dieser Band gezeigt hat. Damit fangen wir an und arbeiten uns anschließend durch alle Alben, die danach kamen - also die bekanntesten Stücke, aber auch einige unserer persönlichen Favoriten.

Warum liegt der Schwerpunkt der Tour auf Deutschland - mit mehr Shows als in jedem anderen Land? Ist das hier ihre Hochburg?

Davies: Oh ja! Gerade unsere letzte Tour, die ja schon ein Weilchen zurückliegt, lief besonders gut in Deutschland. Vorher waren unsere größten Märkte eigentlich immer Frankreich und Spanien, aber aus irgendeinem Grund hat sich das mit der letzten Tour in Richtung Deutschland verschoben. Und ich muss sagen: Ich fühle mich hier wirklich sehr wohl. Ich mag diese Mentalität, von wegen: "Wenn es um 9 Uhr losgehen soll, dann geht es auch um 9 Uhr los". Und es ist sehr angenehm, hier zu touren, weil alles glatt läuft und das Publikum sehr enthusiastisch ist.

Welche Erinnerungen haben sie sonst an Deutschland? Was sind die besten Momente, die sie hier erlebt haben?

Davies: Da müssen wir weit zurückgehen - bis zu den Tagen, da wir in einem kleinen Club in München, dem "PN", gespielt haben. Das war ganz am Anfang unserer Karriere. Also quasi so etwas wie unser "Star Club".

Supertramp haben ihr letztes Album 2002 veröffentlicht. Warum haben sie danach nichts Eigenes gemacht, sprich, sich als Solist versucht?

Davies: Gute Frage. Wahrscheinlich, weil mir das gar nicht in den Sinn gekommen ist. Ich meine, ich liebe den Blues. Und ich schätze, dass ich irgendwann etwas in der Richtung machen werde. Schließlich habe ich eine Menge Arrangements und auch fertige Bluesstücke auf Halde.

Und in den letzten acht Jahren, was haben Sie da gemacht - waren sie praktisch im Vorruhestand?

Davies: Nein, ich habe sogar mehr geübt als je zuvor. Denn ich bin immer noch von der Musik fasziniert, und ich trete auch ab und zu mit ein paar lokalen Musikern auf - einfach zum Spaß und mehr in dieser Blues-Manier, die ich gerade erwähnt habe. Wobei ich immer das Ziel verfolge, noch besser zu werden und mich immer weiter zu steigern.

19. August 2010


(Software translator and brief checking)

Rick Davies

The singer and keyboard player was on 22 July 1944 born in Swindon and now lives as U.S. citizens on Long Iceland (USA). Rick Davies is the dark voice of Supertramp, which he founded in 1969 with frontman Roger Hodgson. Their first album was released in 1970, four years later the big breakthrough came with "Crime Of The Century" and hits like "Dreamer" and "Bloody Well Right." Until the Hodgson's leaving in 1983, Supertramp became one of the most successful rock bands. Then the audience's interest died down, the band broke up in 1988. Davies and the band were working in 1997 in a new project, and the last studio album was released in 2002.


"it went back and forth for 15 months"
ROCK: Interview with Rick Davies of Supertramp 40 years, conflicts with ex-singer Roger Hodgson and new things
Marcel Anders

Also on the 40th anniversary must be the fans of Supertramp assemble their favorite band quasi: while the main group on at keyboardist Rick Davies 23rd September in the SAP Arena with their biggest hits was occurring, the former frontman Roger Hodgson recently in solo Weinheimer park to see. We spoke with Davies about the current occupation and the duration of the dispute with ex-partner.


Mr Davies, how does it feel to go again on tour at 66 years of age?

Rick Davies: Well, I must say that this idea scary, but of course is also very tempting. I have no idea what will happen, but I and the rest of the band have been training hard to deliver on what is expected of us.


The name of Tour?

Davies: We plan to bring the entire history of the band on stage. Which means that we will play a lot of our hits under a big production, as we are used to do. With many films and lavish lights.


Who is in the band on this tour?

Davies: Obviously we still have John Helliwell, our saxophonist, with us. But also Bob Siebenberg, who plays the drums - and his son Jesse, who is a kind of band historian. He knows every single beat and every note that was ever published on a Supertramp album or played at a concert. What it's incredible. And we have crowd favorite Lee Thornburg on trumpet and tuba and also sings. Just like his wife, Cassie, who is also a wonderful singer.


Are there any new additions?

Davies: For example, Gabe Dixon, who comes from Nashville and a stunning musician. He sings, plays keyboards and is a great addition to the current line-up. Still Carl Verheyen, who was touring a lot with his own band through Germany, and Cliff Hugo on bass. What I can say now is that it blends beautifully.


And why is your ex-partner Roger Hodgson not taking part in the tour?

Davies: I think it's been 27 years now since he's left the band. Back then no one understood why he did that. He said, he wanted to do his own thing, find himself and play with other people. And no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't keep him from leaving. But the idea behind this tour was to try it together once again - that is him, myself and the others. Because, who knows, maybe this will be the last time it can happen. I'm not saying that it is the case or not. But we have talked it over and have been negotiating for a long time. I think it went back and forth for 15 months until we reached the point where we had to make a decision and announce the dates. Unfortunately and for reasons we were never told, Roger decided he won't join the tour.


Eventhough he keeps explaining in each single interview that just this would not be the case and he was simply excluded from the tour?

Davies: What can I say? I can only tell you about my point of view.


Is there an agreement which says that you are not allowed to play any of the pieces that he wrote for Supertramp? And if so, why don't you stick to it?

Davies: Well, we'll have to go back to 1983 - and fact is, there are about 600 pages of documents and contracts which regulate exactly that topic. As for me, I am sticking to my part of the agreement: I am playing the music of Supertramp. And by that I mean everything which we jointly published and brought to the stage back then - that for me is Supertramp-music.


So, you don't fear a lawsuit?

Davies: Not really.


What albums are thus part of the anniversary tour - how far will you go back historically?

Davies: Up to "Crime of the Century", when it was the first time the band has shown the true strength. Thus we start and then work our way through all the albums that came after that - ie the most famous pieces, but also some of our personal favorites.


Why is the focus of the tour to Germany - with more shows than any other country? Is this your stronghold?

Davies: Oh yes! Especially our last tour, which already lags for a while, things ran particularly well in Germany. Before that, our biggest markets were actually always France and Spain, but for some reason, the last tour moved to Germany. And I must say: I feel really well. I like this mentality, because of: "if it's supposed to start at 9 o'clock, it will actually start at 9 o'clock.'. And it is very pleasant to tour here because everything is running smoothly and the audience is very enthusiastic.


What other memories do you have from Germany? What are the best moments you have experienced here?

Davies: we must go back far- to the days when we played in a small club in Munich, the "PN". It was at the very beginning of our career. So quasi something like our "Star Club".


Supertramp released their last album in 2002. Why didn't you made anything from your own, did you try a solo project?

Davies: Good question. Probably because it just hasn't been a desire of mine. I mean, I love blues. And I guess I'll do something at some point in that direction. Finally, I have a lot of arrangements and Blue pieces finished and ready in the heap.


And in the last eight years, what have you been doing - were you practically in retirement?

Davies: No, I have even practiced more than ever before. I am still fascinated for  the music, and I also play from time to time with a few local musicians - just for fun and more in the blues style, which I have just mentioned. Although I always pursues the aim to become even better and I always continue improving.

Morning Magazine
19th August 2010


]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 26 Aug 2010 16:34:22 +0000
KEN SCOTT, interview


JOE CHICCARELLI: Let's talk a little bit about Supertramp. How did you get involved with them?

KEN SCOTT: I was originally contacted by A&M Records to do a mix on a track called "Land Ho" at the height of the Bowie stuff. I did it, A&M loved it, but the band was iffy about it and I don't think it was ever actually released. But A&M said, `Look, we'd like you to do an album with them.' I said, `Fine, send me demos,' and the demos were utter crap. It was like I'd get five seconds of a chorus and then it would go to another section, then it would stop and then I'd get the ending of another song, there was . . . it was completely random. I said, `This is ridiculous.' Jack Nelson, this American guy Trident brought in to manage the producers, said, `You know what? A&M are into this band, we should do it.' I said, `It's crap, I don't want to do it.' This carried on for a couple of weeks, finally, they were doing a showcase somewhere and Jack said, `Let's go along and see them and that will be our final yes or no.' I said, `Fine.' So we went down and this time was a complete turnaround. He said, `Oh, no, you were right, don't do them, they're crap.' I said, `Are you kidding? I've got to do this record. They're amazing."

The sessions started off at Trident and we put down tracks and we would take forever, I mean sometimes it took a day-and-a-half to get the snare drum down but I was looking for something and I knew what I wanted and it just took that long to get the sound that I wanted.

And then, after a week or so, we get a phone call from the A&R guy saying that Jerry Moss is in town and he wants to come by and hear some stuff. Oh, no, we're nowhere near far enough along. It was my first experience with an A&R man, not to mention the owner of the label, having not dealt with a record company at all with Bowie.

JC: So in all those records, there was no A&R involvement?

KS: Nothing! It was David, Ronno, and myself. None. We even knew what the single was. The only time was with Ziggy, where there was no single, so we had to go back in and do "Starman." Well, we kind of knew that up front, but we pushed it, but, no, absolutely, I never saw anyone from RCA.

JC: Do you think it had anything to do with there being so many great records released then?

KS: Yeah, artists did what they were meant to do: CREATE. So with Supertramp here's Jerry coming in. This was going to be my first experience dealing with a record company. I was petrified. I didn't know what to expect. He sat down, we played him some of the tracks that we had and they were bare minimum, and he got up at the end, and he said, `Thank you,' and left. We thought, `Oh, crap, that's it, it's all over.' We sort of ended the session there because we thought it's pointless to go on, he's just going to say forget it. We heard back from the A&R guy next day, `Jerry loved it, you have as much time as you want, anything you want, you got it.' So, six months later we finished the album. But that was what I'd learned from the Beatles to the nth degree, and David as well: Try everything.

I mean there were lots of tricks on those records. I was determined not to use typical percussion, for instance, as opposed to like maracas or tambourine, we had drum brushes shaking in front of the mics. You hear the wind and you get the same impression as maracas, but you just haven't heard it before. There's a musical saw on one of the numbers, and all of the sound effects. None of them were stock. We went out and recorded all of them specifically. We knew exactly what we wanted sound effect-wise: to go do it for real.

JC: The dynamics in those records are just so dramatic and that would have been in the mixing process then, no automation on the console, correct?

KS: No, once again, it was all in the mixing. Even though there were a bunch of us there at these sessions. All of the band was there `hands on' at the mixes. We all knew what it had to sound like so there were no arguments about, `Ah, the drums should be up front, the drum or the bass should be up. . . .' We knew what it had to be, so we were working as an ensemble and it was all done in mixing.

JC: Okay. I have to ask about the bass sound because it always sounded so forward and so punchy.

KS: Again, a very simple chain, probably just a DI and a UREI 1176. It's the player — that's his tone.

JC: Okay, so Ken what you're saying is that in most of these cases it's about Great Musicianship coupled with Great Production. It's Chemistry and Kismet, not trade secrets?

KS: Look, great musicians truly make my job easy. I would encourage all of us to encourage the talent in the artists and players. That's where the classics come from.

]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 14:57:36 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL Interview, April 2009 RecordCollector2009]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 14:55:20 +0000 SUPERTRAMP Entrevista, 2002 Tour


Entrevista con Supertramp
Por J. E. Gómez - INDYROCK Magazine

“La música de los 70 estaba hecha por gente sencilla y real sin alardes tecnológicos”
“Nos gusta viajar, pasear, ver ciudades y luego... hacer el concierto”
"Es fantastico que nos hayan descubierto las nuevas generaciones"
"Es muy importante que existan los sellos independientes para dar oportunidades a los jóvenes artistas"

Desde que en 1969 Supertramp se formaba en la ciudad de Ginebra, el pop-rock ha cambiado.
La evolución le ha llevado a sonidos más electrizados, tecnológicos y hacia el mestizaje.
Tres décadas después, Supertramp, la banda creada y liderada por Rick Davies, se mantiene en esquemas muy similares.

Creen que la música de los 70 era más real. No necesitaba de alardes tecnológicos.
Eran músicos de verdad, con instrumentos reales.
Los miembros de Supertramp, en la entrevista concedida a IndyRock, afirman que el concierto de Granada será un repaso por casi la totalidad de su discografía. Los viejos temas estarán mezclados con las nuevas composiciones de “Slow Motion”, un disco que aparecía tras cinco años de aparente inactividad.

- Qué aportan las nuevas tecnologías a Slow Motion?
- Creo que la única nueva tecnología que hemos utilizado ha sido ProTools, en lugar de grabarlo directamente en una cinta como siempre hacíamos. Nos hemos aprovechado del sistema informático que consigue la grabación sea
muy limpia y sencilla. Aparte de esto no hay ninguna tecnología espectacular, simplemente músicos y una grabación como las de antes, simplemente que no está grabado en un master.

-Habéis comentado que el nuevo disco hace una crítica a la música actual que está hecha de retales.... ¿Ya no existen creadores?
-No lo criticamos. No le prestamos demasiada atención a la nueva música, hay algunas cosas que nos gustan sin embargo.
Simplemente debe ser una moda de ahora. Creo que ahora hay vocalistas femeninas muy buenas.
No bailamos, así que quizá vamos un poco perdidos en cuanto a lo que se hace hoy en día. Pero no me importa demasiado ser crítico o no serlo con la música de ahora.

-¿Cómo son los conciertos de esta nueva gira?
-Hacemos 4, 5, o 6 canciones de nuestro nuevo disco, también tocamos alguna canción de cada disco de los que hemos hecho. Nuestros conciertos cubren todas las épocas y etapas de Supertramp. Así pues habrá algunas cosas nuevas pero también habrá algunas de las cosas antiguas que la gente quiere ver.
El de Granada será un show que cubrirá toda nuestra carrera.

-¿Refleja la portada del álbum la soledad del individuo en la sociedad actual?
- Si, podría ser. Pero la idea es que las cosas van demasiado rápidas, todo el mundo quiere que su Internet vaya aún más rápido, o que su teléfono móvil sea mejor...Y a veces la gente no consigue comunicarse, y tampoco aislarse de lo que imponen los medios de comunicación, de todo el bombardeo de información al que están expuestos.
Yo vivo en un sitio muy aislado y uso Internet a veces para comunicarme con gente pero no soy un gran usuario.
Porque simplemente me gusta estar tranquilo y disfrutar de la naturaleza que me rodea y también me gusta leer, lo que queda reflejado en la portada del disco. Y Rick también es como yo, Rick tampoco sabe mucho de tecnología, no creo que tenga teléfono móvil ni que sepa usar un ordenador.
Simplemente es rebajar el ritmo de vida y disfrutar más de la vida.

-La mayoria de las grandes bandas no suelen hacer giras tan largas, sin embargo Supertramp tiene una gira enorme. ¿No estáis cansados de la carretera?
- Sí, a veces nos cansamos, pero es que estamos aquí para tocar nuestra música, conocer países, conocer a gente.
Si te cuidas puedes disfrutar mucho de las giras. No vamos tanto de gira como para cansarnos o aburrirnos de ello.
Cuando lo hacemos son giras largas, pero a hace 4 años de la última, así que ya era hora de volver a ello.
Tenemos muchas ganas de volver a empezar, nos lo pasamos muy bien juntos, mis compañeros de grupo son también mis mejores amigos. Me gusta pasar tiempo con ellos, pasear con ellos por las ciudades y después hacer el concierto...

-El sonido de los 70 está cada mas más de moda y hay bandas en la actualidad que lo están potenciando...
¿Es la mejor década para la música?

-Sí, creo que la música de finales de los 60 y los 70 es insuperable.
Y una de las razones es que es gente real tocando música real.
Y no está basada en la tecnologí gente eran simplemente músicos, compositores, escritores... Expresaban una emoción que aparece en esa música porque está hecha por gente real.
Somos muy afortunados al ser un grupo bastante intemporal, todo tipo de estilos han ido y venido y nosotros somos lo que somos y la gente lo aprecia. Cuando la gente viene a vernos y nos encontramos gente joven, les fascina ver que
realmente tocamos, que somos músicos de verdad.
Somos una de las bandas que realmente toca y es una gran banda para ir a ver.

-¿Hacia dónde camina el pop-rock en el siglo XXI, hacia el mestizaje de estilos o se consolidarán los sonidos de siempre?
-Es difícil de saber, al principio la gente parecía que se estaba subiendo al tren de la música digital, baterías sintetizadas y sintetizadores... pero después se volvieron a usar baterías y pianos de verdad otra vez.
Creo que va a volverse a los músicos de verdad, a los artistas de verdad, quizá incluyendo algunos de los avances tecnológicos.
El ProTools está muy bien y todo eso pero sigue sin sonar tan cálido y profundo como el vinilo por ejemplo, pero no sé si se va a volver a la grabación analógica. Es difícil de predecir, yo deseo que los músicos sigan siendo vitales y que la música siga siendo algo expresado por una persona real.

- ¿Cómo se ve desde la óptica de un gran grupo los movimientos independientes?
- Creo que es muy importante que existan los sellos independientes para dar oportunidades a los jóvenes artistas.
La indústria musical se ha convertido en 3 o 4 empresas gigantes en las que nadie tiene una oportunidad para triunfar.
Y si nosotros hubiésemos aparecido en el clima de hoy ya nos habrían echado del sello. Nos costó 3 o 4 discos tener éxito.
Las bandas jóvenes no tienen esas oportunidades para crecer, ganarse un público y quizá cometer algún error, simplemente los echan. Así que es fundamental que tengan una oportunidad de ser escuchados.

-¿Los años y la experiencia os han hecho más sosegados en las composiciones?
- Seguramente es verdad, lo hablabamos el otro día. Creemos que tocamos mejor que nunca, tenemos un enfoque mucho más relajado, todos somos muy maduros y tranquilos, estamos en un momento de nuestras vidas en que los hijos ya han crecido, así que nos podemos concentrar muy bien.

-¿Qué se siente cuando veis frente al escenario a varias generaciones vibrando con vuestra música?
- Es fantástico, nos hace saber que aún somos un grupo vital, y que aún llegamos a la gente.
Es fantástico que nos hayan descubierto las nuevas generaciones y también es genial es que los fans del grupo hayan aguantado con nosotros tanto tiempo, que no les hayamos decepcionado.

-¿Slow Motion contiene las primeras canciones de Supertramp despúes de 5 años. En qué se diferencian del sonido Supertamp de siempre?
Este parece un poco más jazzy o bluesy, hay dos o tres canciones largas en las que Rick explora diferentes estilos de arreglos.
Siempre hemos sido fans de Traffic y ellos siempre tenían canciones instrumentales con arreglos muy interesantes.
Era algo de experimentar con todo eso. Hay un par de canciones que son el típico estilo Supertramp, como "Be In your Bonnet",
que me recuerda a la época de "Crisis, What Crisis?", por los acordes de Rick y eso. Así que creo que conservamos el estilo Supertramp y nunca lo cambiaremos porque es como somos.
Pero intentamos expandirnos con las experimentaciones que incluye Rick de vez en cuando.

-Canciones como “Tenth Avenue Breakdown”, “Broken Hearted” y “Dead Man’s Blues”, ¿pueden considerarse épicas?
- Son simplemente experimentales, es como Rick compone a veces. Pero no las consideramos épicas.
Para nosotros simplemente son nuestras canciones, dejamos libertad para cómo la gente quiera describirlas.


]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 14:39:45 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL Entrevista, Abril 2003

Entrevista exclusiva para Breakfast in Spain

Manchester, 3 Abril 2003, por MAC



 Entrevista que tuve el placer de realizar a John Helliwell en su 30 aniversario con Supertramp.
John Helliwell es el saxofonista de la banda, y también el "showman”, presentador o cara de la banda para la mayoría de los fans, especialmente en los conciertos y en las promociones donde el es siempre el portavoz, presentando al resto de la banda y divirtiendo al auditorio con su típico humor inglés, todo un gentleman.

Quiero agradecer especialmente a John por su amabilidad para esta entrevista (me pagó la comida en un restaurante italiano de Manchester, cerca de su casa), su gran sentido del humor y su maravilloso talento para la musica.


Miguel Angel Candela



GIRA 2002

MAC: Encantados de estar contigo, John.

GONZALO: Hola John, y muchas gracias por darnos la oportunidad de compartir estos grandes momentos con la web “Breakfast in Spain”.

JOHN: Es un placer.

MAC: Tú eres mi saxofonista preferido de Supertramp.

GONZALO: ¡Uno de los mejores!

JOHN: ¡Soy el mejor saxofonista de Supertramp! (RISAS)

MAC: ¿Qué opinas de la última gira? ¿Qué resumen harías de la misma?

JOHN: Ha sido una banda realmente buena, y todos los músicos han funcionado muy bien juntos.

MAC: ¿Y qué piensas sobre la acogida del público? Creo que casi todos los conciertos han estado abarrotados...

JOHN: Sí, así es. En casi todos se agotaron las entradas. Creo que nuestras mejores audiencias fueron España y Francia... Son buenos países para nosotros. Y creo que tenían ganas de oírnos, de escuchar el nuevo álbum. Tocamos muy bien y los conciertos salieron muy bien.

GONZALO, Entonces, ¿una gran acogida?

JOHN: ¡Sí!

MAC: Recuerdo que el Palau Sant Jordi de Barcelona estaba a reventar, había unas diecisiete mil personas.

JOHN: Sí, aquel concierto fue muy especial...

MAC: ¿Cuál fue el concierto de la última gira con mayor número de asistentes?

JOHN: El del Festival Paleo en Ginebra, Suiza. Hubo treinta y cinco mil personas, porque es un festival al aire libre y aquella noche había muchísima gente.
Pero lo de las diecisiete mil personas en Barcelona fue algo estupendo, y además aquella fue una noche muy especial porque... ¿Cómo se dice? Se me ha olvidado...

GONZALO: ¡"El abuelo"!

JOHN: ¡Eso es, "abuelo"! (RISAS)

MAC: Sí, John estaba en el escenario y dijo: "¡Hoy he sido abuelo!". Recuerdo que antes del concierto nos había preguntado cómo se decía en español, ¡estaba muy feliz! Todavía recuerdo su cara y su gran sonrisa...

JOHN: Me acuerdo del sitio, fue una gran noche, con buena gente...

MAC: Además del Hyde Park de Londres, ¿habéis tocado en otros lugares al aire libre?

JOHN: El Festival Paleo fue al aire libre. Y en Zurich también, el día anterior... Fue un concierto bonito, estaba al lado de un museo.
Muy bonito, todo salió muy buen, había un buen público... Y dimos algunos conciertos al aire libre en Norte América.
Paleo es un gran festival al aire libre, algo parecido al Hyde Park. Cada noche llevan algún artista de primera fila, por ejemplo una noche tocó James Brown y la noche siguiente Supertramp.

MAC: ¿Sabes decir "buenas noches, señoras y señores" en todos los idiomas?

JOHN: (RISAS) "Bonsoir tout le monde , bienvenue à une soirée avec Supertramp!"

GONZALO: Ah... Eso me resulta familiar...

JOHN: "Gutten aben meine damen und herren!"

GONZALO: ¿Y en sueco?

JOHN: Eso es un misterio para mí... Necesito un traductor. Puedo aprendérmelo antes del concierto, pero después tal vez se me olvide, como me sucedió con el portugués...

MAC: En cada concierto dedicas tu tiempo a aprender esto...

JOHN: Sí, sí... Es importante, es bueno saber algo de la ciudad en la que tocas, para hacer alguna referencia agradable...

MAC: Tuve la suerte de estar entre bastidores en algunos de los conciertos y me llamó la atención lo bien organizado que está todo...
Recuerdo una hoja con la planificación colgada en la pared: la hora del almuerzo, del montaje del escenario, de las pruebas de sonido, de las entrevistas, etc.

JOHN: Sí, es muy importante para todo el personal saber cuándo se tiene que hacer y terminar cada cosa. En ocasiones me gusta llegar al recinto a primera hora de la mañana, sobre las 9 o las 10, y observar cómo se van organizando todos los temas. Lo encuentro muy interesante.

GONZALO: Recuerdo que el mismo día que tocabais en Vigo en 1997, me preguntaste por dónde quedaba el lugar del concierto, y eso fue por la mañana temprano. Recuerdo que estabas con Carl Verheyen.

JOHN: ¡Sí, es verdad!

MAC: A veces tiene que ser muy duro estar lejos de casa... Pero también habrá cosas positivas...

JOHN: Lo más importante es tocar. Lo demás es viajar y conocer nuevos lugares,
y es duro estar lejos de la familia pero así es la vida de músico...

GONZALO: ¡A mí qué me vas a contar, John! (RISAS)

MAC: ¿Preferirías que la gira hubiese sido más larga o así fue suficiente?

JOHN: Podría haber seguido tocando un poco más... (RISAS)

GONZALO: Ya sé que te encanta estar en el escenario...

JOHN: Yo podría haber seguido tocando un poco más... pero creo que para el grupo en general fue suficiente.

MAC: Habéis dado más conciertos en Canadá que en los Estados Unidos... ¿Cuál crees que es el motivo? ¿Los promotores? ¿El público?

JOHN: Creo que fue cosa de los promotores... Nos hicieron mejores ofertas en Canadá. Y parece que todavía seguimos siendo muy populares en Canadá, pero no tanto en los Estados Unidos.

MAC: ¿En serio?

JOHN: Sí, así es.

GONZALO: ¿Piensas que pudo ocurrir lo mismo en Europa? En Alemania, Francia, España e Italia disteis muchos conciertos en cada país, y en el Reino Unido sólo cinco: dos en Escocia y tres en Inglaterra...

JOHN: Sí, es algo parecido. Aquí en Inglaterra nos consideran una banda antigua, porque no sonamos tanto en la radio como en Francia, España, Italia, Alemania u Holanda...
En Inglaterra prefieren poner en la radio a grupos nuevos, mientras que en los demás países europeos todavía somos muy populares.

MAC: ¿Sientes algo especial cuando tocas en tu país?

JOHN: Es curioso... No. Lo único diferente cuando toco aquí o en Canadá o en Estados Unidos es que hablo el idioma del público y me siento más cómodo. Me desenvuelvo mucho mejor, es mucho más fácil dirigirse a la audiencia.

MAC: Cada noche hacíais pequeños cambios en el repertorio. ¿Cuál es la razón? ¿Quién decide esos cambios?

JOHN: Siempre es algo que discutimos Rick y los demás... Y siempre intentamos superarnos, pero tocamos todo el repertorio en un país si alguna canción o algún álbum en concreto son muy populares allí. Aunque lo habitual es que intentemos superarnos.

MAC: ¡Pero en España cambiabais una o dos canciones todas las noches!

JOHN: Estábamos probando cosas... Tocamos en España al principio de la gira, y estuvimos haciendo cambios a lo largo de los ochenta y ocho conciertos de la misma.

GONZALO: Creo que a veces en algunas canciones había un poco más de libertad para los músicos a la hora de improvisar y tal vez alargar solos de guitarra, saxofón o teclados...

JOHN: Sí, así es.

MAC: Recuerdo que en España un concierto contenía veinticuatro canciones, el siguiente veintitrés, el siguiente veintidós... Bromeábamos diciendo que en los conciertos de Inglaterra, al final de la gira, sólo habría cinco canciones...

JOHN: (RISAS) Sí, debimos pensar que los conciertos eran demasiado largos. Alguien debió decir que le parecían largos, así que quitamos unas canciones, pusimos otras, hicimos cambios. Por ejemplo, al principio ‘Give a little bit’ la cantaba Mark y después lo hacía Jesse.

MAC: ¿Cuándo? ¿En los ensayos?

JOHN: No, no, ¡en los conciertos! Creo que Mark empezó a cantarla en Benidorm...

MAC: Ya entiendo. Nosotros estábamos fuera del recinto durante las pruebas de sonido, y oímos a Mark cantando la canción... Pero después en el concierto lo hizo Jesse.

JOHN ¿Y en Granada quién la cantó?

MAC: No, no, todas las noches cantaba Jesse.

JOHN: ¡Sí, tienes razón! Fue sólo durante los ensayos cuando empezó a cantarla Mark, pero al final lo hizo Jesse. Estábamos haciendo cambios...

GONZALO: ¡Creo que la versión de Jesse fue excelente!

MAC: ¿Por qué no tocasteis ‘Goldrush’? Creo que es una gran canción para tocarla en directo, tiene mucha fuerza, tal vez más que ‘Little by little’. Creo que Bob dijo en algún sitio que pensabais incluirla en la gira...

JOHN: Sí, la ensayamos muchas veces. Creo que incluso la tocamos en algún concierto... Tal vez en Canadá.
Era una de las canciones que la gente estaba esperando. Una de esas que teníamos en la reserva.

MAC: Sí, recuerdo que la tocasteis en las pruebas de sonido en Málaga.

GONZALO: Es una canción coescrita por Richard Palmer...

JOHN: Sí, es verdad.

MAC: Puedo contarte una anécdota sobre ella. Hace dos años estuve en San Diego y Roger Hodgson la tocó para nosotros, un pequeño grupo de amigos, un año antes de que se publicara el álbum ‘Slow motion’...

JOHN: ¿En serio?

MAC: ¡Sí! Y después yo le dije a Roger "¡Esa es de Rick!", pues como sabes Roger sólo toca sus propias canciones,
y él se quedó muy sorprendido y dijo "¡La letra es de Richard Palmer y la música es de Rick y mía!"

JOHN: No lo sé, yo entré en el grupo un poco después, es una canción muy antigua.

GONZALO: ¡Es una gran canción!

MAC: ¡Roger nos tocó algunas canciones nuevas muy bonitas!

JOHN: ¡Eso es estupendo!

GONZALO: Tal vez se publiquen en el próximo disco de Supertramp...

JOHN: ¡Me encantaría tocar con Roger!

MAC: Volviendo a la gira, fue una gran sorpresa contar de nuevo con ‘Asylum’. ¡Enhorabuena, fue una gran idea y disfrutamos mucho con esa canción!

GONZALO: ¡Otra canción preciosa!

JOHN: Con una gran dinámica, ¿no?

GONZALO: ¡Sí, tiene mucha fuerza!

MAC: Un hermoso contraste en el escenario: Rick tocando el piano en plan serio, gritando, casi llorando...
y tú, el tipo divertido con el teléfono, en la parte cómica. Un gran contraste.

JOHN: ¡Una gran inspiración!

MAC: Sí, pero por otro lado la mayoría de nosotros esperábamos temas como ‘Waiting so long’, ‘Gone Hollywood’ o ‘Lover boy’...

JOHN: Lo primero es que no podemos tocar todas. ‘Gone Hollywood’ es la única que nunca hemos tocado en directo...

GONZALO: Me encanta ‘Gone Hollywood’, es una de mis favoritas. ¡Me encanta tu solo!

JOHN: Y tampoco hemos tocado nunca ‘Lover boy’. Tal vez sea simplemente porque no encontramos el sonido adecuado, hubo muchas mezclas en el estudio.
Y lo mismo ocurre con ‘Gone Hollywood’. Yo siempre digo "tenemos que tocar ‘Gone Hollywood’". En la gira de 1979 lo intentamos, la ensayamos pero no quedaba bien.
Pero en cada gira que hacemos siempre digo "toquemos ‘Gone Hollywood’"...

MAC: ¿En serio? ¡Gracias, John!

JOHN: Posiblemente lo intentamos en 1979 y también en la gira de 1983, pero por alguna razón no quedaba bien.

GONZALO: ¿Qué saxo utilizaste en el solo de esa canción, John?

JOHN: Es un saxo tenor.

GONZALO: Y hay una especie de sonido de teclado por debajo del saxo, doblando el solo...

JOHN: Es un sintetizador y había una relación directa entre el saxo y él.

MAC: ¿Cómo se te ocurrió la idea de invitar a cuatro saxofonistas para que tocaran contigo en el concierto de la última gira en París?

JOHN: Por la canción ‘Over you’. En la versión de estudio contiene cinco armonías diferentes en las partes de saxo, así que era una idea. Laurent conocía a algunos de los mejores saxofonistas de París y le dije "¿puedes encontrar otros tres saxofonistas y organizarlo todo?". Recuerdo que me encontraba en Burdeos, escribí la música para todos ellos y se la mandé en una carta a Laurent.

MAC: ¿Durante la gira?

JOHN: Sí, antes de que llegásemos a París. Sólo lo hicimos una noche, fue una noche muy especial. Eran muy buenos saxofonistas.

GONZALO: ¡Y Laurent se encontraba en el paraíso! Es un gran tipo, tuve el placer de conocerle a él y a MAC en Londres, entre bastidores antes del concierto, gracias a tu invitación.

MAC: Fue un gran fin de semana, la primera vez que yo iba a Londres. La música es un buen medio para hacer buenos amigos...

GONZALO: Laurent tocará con mi grupo, Landmarq, en un concierto especial en Londres, en el Underworld de Camden Town.
Tendremos como invitados especiales a Laurent Hunziker al saxo y a Hugh McDowell, conocido por haber tocado el violonchelo con la ELO.

JOHN: Lo sé, Laurent tocará el saxo que me compró, el tenor, con el que grabé éxitos de Supertramp como ‘Crime of the century’, ‘Bloody well right’ o ‘It's raining again’. ¡Me gustaría tocar en la última canción del concierto, si no estoy ocupado con el proyecto ‘Gaia’ de Alan Simon!

GONZALO: ¡Sería fantástico!

MAC: Quisiera hacer una crítica sobre la última gira.

JOHN: De acuerdo.

MAC: Cuando la gente paga para ir a un concierto, quiere disfrutar de la música pero también ver la cara de los músicos, ver cómo tocáis, sobre todo en los grandes estadios.
¿Por qué no utilizáis un sistema de pantallas de vídeo como hacen otros artistas? ¿Es para evitar la piratería? En algunos conciertos habéis bromeado con este tema, diciendo que os estáis haciendo viejos y que no queréis que la gente os vea la cara...

JOHN: Sí, es verdad. No somos demasiado guapos. No es por razones de seguridad, es algo de lo que nunca nos hemos preocupado. Ya que cuando empezamos era algo que no existía, no teníamos esa posibilidad y nunca lo hicimos... Si acaso unas pocas veces.

MAC: ¿Pero no crees que es una buena idea que la gente pueda ver vuestra cara mientras tocáis?

JOHN: Creo que eso es algo secundario, no nos preocupa realmente. Para nosotros la música es más importante que la imagen.

MAC: Otra crítica. La pantalla gigante para proyectar vídeos, como los de ‘Rudy’ y ‘Crime of the century’, es excelente, mejor que la de la gira anterior. ¡Felicidades! ¿Pero por qué no la usáis más, con vídeos nuevos?

JOHN: Porque originalmente esas canciones eran especiales y no quisimos hacer eso, sólo quisimos hacerlo con algunas... Y con las nuevas creo que puede tratarse de una cuestión económica, porque los vídeos pueden ser muy caros. Sin embargo, en la gira anterior, en 1997, aparecía yo en la pantalla, hablando conmigo mismo, en ‘Take the long way home’...

MAC: ¿Y durante esta gira?

JOHN: Lo hicimos una vez... Y no quisimos volver a hacerlo. Sí, sé que podríamos haber incluido más películas, pero tal vez sea un tema económico.

MAC: Pero tenéis una gran pantalla que es muy cara... ¡Y es una pena que sólo la uséis para dos canciones!

GONZALO: Bueno, es verdad que la gente podría prestar más atención a la pantalla que a la música...

JOHN: Pienso que no es suficiente, pero creo que eso es mejor que utilizarla demasiado. Tu crítica es muy válida. Hay críticas buenas, eso no es malo. No somos perfectos, ¡así que la próxima vez podremos hacerlo mejor!

MAC: Finalmente quería decirte que a todo el mundo le gustó la gira y la banda. Gracias por una gira tan fantástica.

JOHN: Hemos trabajado duro, no hemos ido a pasar el rato. Nos hemos esforzado de verdad, hemos ensayado muchísimo.



MAC: ¿Cómo empezó tu pasión por el saxofón?

JOHN: Antes que al saxofón me aficioné al clarinete, y mi primera influencia fue Sidney Bechet, un intérprete americano de saxo soprano y clarinete que compuso un tema llamado ‘Petite fleur’. La versión que yo escuché era de Chris Barber y su grupo de jazz, con Monty Sunshine al clarinete, y fue una gran inspiración para mí. Después, cuando tenía 13 ó 14 años, escuché a Cannonball Adderley, un intérprete de saxofón alto, y me gustó tanto que a los 15 años acabé comprándome un saxofón, así que él fue mi principal inspiración. Con 15 años el saxofón y con 13 el clarinete.

MAC: Por entonces, en los años 60, en los comienzos del pop y el rock, el saxo no era habitual en ese tipo de música, ¿no? ¿Cómo conseguiste integrar el saxofón en el pop y en el rock? ¿Fuiste uno de los pioneros?

JOHN: Fue una inspiración directa. Por entonces a mí me gustaba el jazz, y fui a un concierto a ver a un saxofonista llamado Tubby Hayes. En el intermedio del concierto escuché otra música que venía de la planta de abajo, y me intrigó tanto que bajé a ver lo que era. Allí estaba la Graham Bond Organisation, con Dick Hechkstall-Smith al saxofón, Ginger Baker a la batería y Jack Bruce al bajo. Aquello fue toda una revelación para mí y me hizo empezar a tocar más blues, rhythm and blues y cosas así. Cuando era programador de ordenadores entré en una banda de Birmingham llamada Jugs O'Henry que hacía blues. Después entré en Alan Bown, que era una mezcla de blues, pop y rock, justo antes de que aparecieran grupos como Chicago y Blood Sweat And Tears.

MAC: Cuando era niño tuve varias melódicas, antes de conocer a Supertramp. ¿Por qué empezasteis a utilizar este instrumento en los discos del grupo?

JOHN: Me gusta la melódica, su sonido es diferente. Rick la toca muy bien, por ejemplo en ‘Put on your old brown shoes’.

GONZALO: Sí, y también en ‘It's raining again’ en directo.

JOHN: ¡Sí, también lo hacía Rick!

MAC: ¿Pero la tocabas antes de entrar en Supertramp?


MAC: Otro saxofonista, Bradford Marsalis, decía que empezó tocando el clarinete pero lo cambió por el saxofón cuando era adolescente porque ese instrumento atraía a las chicas. Me gustaría saber si estás de acuerdo con eso.

JOHN: (RISAS) Interesante... La respuesta es no. Pero yo no lo cambié por el saxofón, todavía sigo tocando el clarinete. El clarinete es menos habitual en la música rock. Cuando yo era un escolar, en 1960, escribí una redacción llamada "Cómo seré en 1970" que es un proyecto de futuro y...

MAC: Lo sé, lo he leído en tu biografía.

JOHN: Fue como una profecía, decía que cuando tuviera 25 años estaría casado y tocaría en grupos famosos y atraería a montones de fans, chicos y chicas, de todo el mundo. ¡Así que fue una especie de profecía! Eran mis planes para el futuro, pero la respuesta a tu pregunta es no.

MAC: ¿Recuerdas tu primer concierto con Supertramp?

JOHN: Sí, fue en 1973, antes de grabar ‘Crime of the century’. Creo que fue en Agosto. Tocamos en una boda, en la Isla de Jersey. Antes de la primera parte de la actuación, Bob se puso a beber, a beber... así que la primera parte del concierto no salió muy bien porque Bob estaba borracho...

MAC: ¿Puedo escribir eso?

JOHN: (RISAS) ¡Sí! ¡Es parte de la historia de Supertramp! En el intermedio de la actuación Bob estuvo bebiendo café y se le empezó a pasar la borrachera, pero justo antes de iniciar la segunda parte del concierto Dougie perdió su púa, y cuando se agachó a buscarla se golpeó la cabeza con un cañón... No perdió la consciencia pero la segunda parte del concierto fue terrible porque Bob se encontraba mejor pero Dougie cada vez estaba peor. Desde ese día Bob jamás bebe alcohol antes de una actuación. Incluso en los años 70, cuando Bob bebía mucho, jamás lo hacía antes de un concierto. Y todavía sigue sin hacerlo treinta años después.

MAC: ¿Disteis más conciertos después de aquello y antes de ‘Crime of the century’?

JOHN: Sí, tocamos en varios lugares. Es más, hicimos una gira por Inglaterra, tocando en pequeños teatros y clubes.

MAC: ¿Qué era lo que tocabais entonces?

JOHN: Las canciones del ‘Crime of the century’.

MAC: ¿Solamente? ¿No tocábais nada del ‘Indelibly stamped’?

JOHN: No, creo que no. Solamente las canciones del ‘Crime of the century’ y algunas que después aparecerían en el ‘Crisis? What crisis?’

MAC: ¿Por qué no tocabais en aquella época ningún tema de los primeros discos?

JOHN: Queríamos tocar sólo canciones nuevas.

MAC: ¿Cómo te convertiste en el "portavoz" del grupo en los conciertos?

JOHN: Porque nadie más quería serlo... (RISAS)

MAC: Curioso... Creo que fuiste el primero en casarte...

JOHN: Ya estaba casado cuando entré en Supertramp.

MAC: ¿Fue muy difícil compaginar mujer e hijos con grabaciones y giras?

JOHN: Sí, siempre es difícil. Es muy duro. No estuve presente en el nacimiento de ninguno de mis dos hijos porque me encontraba de gira con Supertramp. ¡Fue muy duro! Las dos veces fue muy duro para mí.

MAC: Has colaborado con Pink Floyd, Jean Jacques Goldman, Bob Siebenberg, Roger Hodgson... ¿Has hecho alguna cosa más?

JOHN: Sí, con Thin Lizzy, cuyo guitarrista es Scott Gorham, el cuñado de Bob. Toqué en el disco ‘Dancing in the moonlight’, allá por 1977 ó 1978. Después toque con Bob, con Roger... Y con Diana Ross también hice una sesión, no recuerdo el nombre del álbum. Y con Johnny Matthis...

MAC: Durante las épocas en las que Supertramp no tocaba, ¿recibiste ofertas de algún otro grupo?

JOHN: No, no tuve ninguna oferta. Es más, Milene Farmer, una famosa estrella del pop frances, me despidió (RISAS). Bueno, no fue Milene, sino el director artístico. Ella vino y me dijo "lo siento de verdad, pero el director artístico quiere echarte. No puedo prescindir de él porque controla todo el grupo. Lo siento porque quiero tocar contigo pero debo tenerle contento". De todas formas, estuve dos semanas en París, ensayando y de vacaciones, y me lo pasé muy bien. ¡Tal vez el tío estaba celoso, yo qué sé!

MAC: Una curiosidad personal... Como te gustan las motos y a mí también, me gustaría saber cuáles son las que has tenido a lo largo de tu vida.

JOHN: Sí, me encantan las motos. La primera que tuve fue una Honda 360 CBS, y la segunda una Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans, que todavía conservo. La compré en 1978. Después tuve una Yamaha XS 1100 y una BMW R65 LS. Buena moto. Y después, en 1983, conseguí una Ducati 900 S Mike Hailwood que todavía tengo. En Inglaterra, hace cinco o seis años, compré una BMW R 1100 RS que quiero vender. Así que si alguien quiere comprarla está a tiempo... Por favor, anunciadlo en Internet.

MAC: Tú fuiste programador de ordenadores y yo también lo soy, también coincidimos en eso. ¿Recuerdas qué lenguajes de programación usabas?

JOHN: Sí, Fortran y Cobol, hace mucho tiempo... En 1963.

MAC: Interesante... En mi trabajo todavía utilizamos el Cobol, para el ordenador central. ¿Qué recuerdas de cuando viviste en Topanga?

JOHN: Viví allí al menos quince años... Desde 1978. Me gustaba mucho porque es un sitio donde hay mucha libertad. Practiqué mucho ciclismo y motociclismo. Allí la gente es muy libre, puedes hacer lo que quieras.

MAC: ¿Por qué regresaste a Inglaterra?

JOHN: Para estudiar.

MAC: ¿Echabas de menos a la Reina?

JOHN: (RISAS) Echaba de menos la cerveza... ¡Sí, la buena cerveza!

MAC: Empezaste en un grupo inglés que tenía un batería americano. Ahora estás en un grupo americano y tú eres el único que vives en Inglaterra...

JOHN: Sí, cosas de la vida... Decidimos quedarnos a vivir en California porque en aquella época parecía un lugar muy atractivo. Ahora la mayor parte del grupo es americana. Rick ya es americano (RISAS).

GONZALO: ¿De verdad?

JOHN: Sí, ha cambiado. Yo soy el único que sigue siendo británico.

MAC: ¿Coincidiste con algún miembro de los Beatles?

JOHN: Bueno, sólo una vez, en un club de Londres llamado “Speak Easy”, en los años 60. Yo estaba allí con algunos de los colegas de Alan Bown, y John Lennon y Paul McCartney estaban sentados detrás de nosotros. Me preguntaron si podían coger una silla... "¿Está ocupada esta silla?", dijo uno de ellos. Y yo le dije "No, hombre, llévatela". Y él contestó "Gracias". Esa es toda la conversación que tuve con ellos...

MAC: ¿Tienes algún héroe musical de tu infancia al que finalmente has acabado conociendo?

JOHN: Interesante pregunta...

MAC: ¡A Gonzalo y a mí sí nos ha ocurrido!

JOHN: Ahora mismo no recuerdo... Probablemente no, porque la mayoría estaban muertos o fuera de mi alcance... No he vivido esa experiencia...

MAC: ¡Has conocido a Gonzalo! (RISAS) ¡Será famoso!

JOHN: ¡Sí! ¡Hazme la misma pregunta dentro de diez años!

MAC: Sé que mantienes el contacto con Roger, a veces habláis por teléfono. Mucha gente cree que una de las razones por las que Roger dejó Supertramp fue porque a él no le gustaba el saxofón y a ti no te gustaba la guitarra... He leído que a veces tú y Roger bromeabais sobre esto...

JOHN: Sí, sólo es una broma. Debía ser una broma porque a Roger le encanta mi forma de tocar... Creo que una de las razones por las que Roger se marchó fue porque componer y tocar con Supertramp no era suficiente, pues cuatro canciones cada dos años era muy poca cosa para él. Necesitaba dar a conocer algo más de su música.

MAC: ¿Hasta qué punto influyeron las mujeres de Rick y Roger en la separación del grupo?

JOHN: Puede que influyeran en algo, pero no creo que en mucho.

MAC: ¿La marcha de Roger fue la mejor opción?

JOHN: ¿Artísticamente hablando?

MAC: Quiero decir que tal vez podría haber permanecido en el grupo mientras grababa discos en solitario...

JOHN: Bueno, económicamente la mejor decisión habría sido que Rick y Roger siguieran juntos. Creo que habría sido estupendo que hubieran seguido trabajando juntos a la vez que hacían discos en solitario. Podríamos haber ganado más dinero, pero no puedes basar las decisiones artísticas en el dinero.

GONZALO: ¡A veces el dinero no puede comprar la felicidad!

JOHN: ¡No!

GONZALO: ¿Alguna vez habéis intentado Bob, Dougie o tú componer canciones para Supertramp?

JOHN: No, nos parecía bien que Rick y Roger se encargaran de todo el material.




MAC: Cuéntanos algo sobre el proyecto ‘Gaia’, tus próximos planes...

JOHN: Sí, me voy de excursión a Nepal con Alan, Jesse Siebenberg y Anggun. Será una semana, grabaremos un concierto acústico y haremos una pequeña gira mundial, probablemente en Agosto o Septiembre, sólo en grandes ciudades como París, Nueva York o Tokio.

MAC: ¿Coincidiste con Andrew Hodgson en las grabaciones?

JOHN: No, él grabó su parte en un estudio de Los Angeles, y yo grabé mis partes de saxo en un estudio del sur de Gales, ¡seguro que Gonzalo lo conoce!

GONZALO: ¿Por dónde queda?

JOHN: No lo recuerdo exactamente, pero aparece en los créditos del disco.

MAC: ¿Tienes algún otro proyecto especial?

JOHN: No, de momento no.

MAC: ¿Has escuchado el album “Open the door”?

JOHN: ¡Sí! ¡Bonito álbum!

MAC: ¿Hay algo que te guste de la música actual? ¿Algo que te llame la atención cuando escuchas la radio?

JOHN: Me gusta mucho Beck, y escucho sobre todo jazz y música clásica.

MAC: ¿Cuál es tu álbum favorito de Supertramp?

JOHN: ‘Crime of the century’, el primero que grabé tras entrar en el grupo. Fue muy emotivo grabarlo en esa granja de Somerset, viviendo todos juntos. Rick pasó una mala época porque su padre murió por entonces. Son recuerdos muy especiales.

MAC: Mis canciones preferidas del último álbum son ‘Over you’ y ‘Slow motion’. ¿Qué es lo que más te gusta a ti del disco?

JOHN: Creo que es muy blues, me gusta mucho el estilo antiguo que tiene.

GONZALO: A mí me parece que ‘Over you’ es la segunda parte de ‘My kind of lady’. Me recuerda mucho a esa canción veinte años después...

JOHN: Sí, es verdad.

MAC: Leí en una entrevista tuya en Vancouver en Septiembre que algunos de los solos de saxo del último álbum habían sido ideas de Rick, al contrario de lo que solía ocurrir en el pasado.

JOHN: ¡Los solos no! Tal vez algunas líneas melódicas... Siempre es una combinación de todo el grupo desarrollando ideas de Rick. Cualquiera puede sugerir lo que quiera.

GONZALO: ¿Compusiste tú el solo de saxo en ‘The logical song’?


GONZALO: ¡Un solo maravilloso!

MAC: No recuerdo que en el último álbum apareciese el clarinete... ¡Lo echo de menos!

JOHN: Sí, tienes razón... Ni siquiera me había dado cuenta... Hay algo de flauta...

GONZALO: ¿Es verdad que cuando tocabas la flauta durante la última gira imitabas a Ian Anderson levantando una pierna?

JOHN: (RISAS) ¡Sí, es verdad, lo recuerdo...!

MAC: ¿Sabes algo de Dougie?

JOHN: Trabaja para Moby, vive en Chicago y es editor musical. Le va muy bien.

MAC: La última pregunta... ¿Tendremos más Supertramp?

JOHN: ¡Eso espero! Me encantaría que hubiera una reunión de Supertramp. Quise hacerlo en el año 2000, en el trigésimo aniversario del grupo, con toda la gente que ha tocado con nosotros... Pero no pudo ser.

MAC: Espero que tus buenos deseos se hagan realidad !!! Muchas gracias por dedicarnos tu tiempo !

GONZALO: Gracias John.

JOHN: Seguimos en contaco chicos, ha sido un gran placer !

]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 14:22:21 +0000
JOHN HELLIWELL Interview, April 2003

Interview with John Helliwell for Breakfst in Spain site

Manchester, April 3rd 2003, by MAC



This is an interview made to John Helliwell in his 30th anniversary with Supertramp. John Helliwell is the saxophone player in the band, and also the “showman”, speaker or face of the group for most of the fans, specially in the live gigs, where he’s the speaker, introducing the other musicians and having fun together with the audience.
I would like to thanks John for his kindness, sense of humour and wonderful music.

Miguel Angel Candela



MAC: Nice to meet you John.

Gonzalo Carrera: Hello John, thanks a lot for giving us this great opportunity to share this great moments for breakfast in spain !!!

JAH: …. It’s a pleasure.

MAC: You are my favourite sax player within Supertramp.

GC: one of the best !!!

JAH: the best sax player in Supertramp !!! (everybody laughing......)

MAC: What’s your opinion about last tour? how would it be your review about it ?

JAH: It’s a really great band, all the musicians really geared together very well.

MAC: What do you think about the reception of the crowd ? I think most of the venues were completely full up....

JAH: Yes, it is. Most of them were sold out. Our best crowds , I think, were in Spain, France and … those are good countries for us. …. And I think they were curious to hear us, the new album… and we played so well and the gigs they went done well.

GC: great reception, them ?

JAH: yeah!

MAC: I remember the Olimpic venue in Barcelona was full, around 17.000 people.

JAH: yeah !!!, that one was very special...

MAC: What has been your largest audience in the last tour ?

JAH: It was at the Paleo Festival in Geneva (Switzerland)…. 35.000 people …. but that was because it’s an open air festival and that night there was a lot of people for us .….but 17.000 people in Barcelona was good… and that was a very special night indeed because … oh how you call it ? I forgot now....., I can’t remember...

GC: el abuelo !!! (grandfather in english)

JAH: that is the one, abuelo !!!

MAC: hahaha !!! Yes, John was in the stage and said to the audience: “hoy he sido abuelo !!!” (today I’ve been a grandfather in english language) I remember John asked it to us in the backstage before the concert, he was really happy !!! I’m still remember his face and the big smile :o)

JAH: I remember the place, it was good night, good people…

MAC: Apart of London (Hyde Park), have you played other outdoor gigs ?

JAH: The Paleo Festival was outdoor. And Zurich as well, the day before …that was a beatiful concert… it was next to a museum…very nice and it look really good … good crowd… and we did some in North America …some outdoor ones. Paleo it’s a big open air festival similar to Hyde Park, each night they have famous headliners like one night they have for instance James Brown, next night Supertramp for instance.

MAC: Do you really know how to say “Buenas noches, Señoras y Señores” (Good night Ladies and Gentlemen) in all the languages ?

JAH: ( Laughs) Bonsoir tout le monde , bienvenue une soirée avec Supertramp…. !!! (perfect french pronunciation)

GC : Ah... that sounds familiar…

JAH: Gutten aben Meine Damen und Herren (perfect german pronunciation)

GC: what about swedish!

JAH: That’s a mistery to me....I need a translator... I can learn it before I go on stage but then I might forget it like I forgot in portuguese...

MAC:… you take your time in everyplace to learn this….

JAH: yeah, yeah… it’s important , it is good to know something from the city where you play … just to make a nice reference to it …

MAC: I was lucky to be in the backstage in some of the gigs and it came to my attention how well organised is everything… I remember the “schedule” in the walls: the time for lunch, fiting up the stage, soundcheck, interviews, press, etc..

JAH: Yes, it’s very important for the crew , actually, to know when things have to be done and finished . On a few ocasions I like to arrive very early in the morning, about 9 or 10 , and watch the whole processes setting up . I find it really interesting.

GC: I remember when you played in Vigo back in 97, you asked me the day of the concert where about was the venue, and this was very early in the morning, I remember you were with Carl Verheyen.

JAH: yeah that is right !!!

MAC: It has to be very hard sometimes to be away from home … but it has positive things as well...

JAH: The main thing is the playing. The other things are the traveling and experiencing new places and it’s hard to be away from the family but that’s the life of a musician for you !!

GC: tell me about it John. I know it haha...

MAC: Would you have preferred a longest tour or it was enough?

JAH: eh.....I could do some more (Laughs )…

GC: I know that you love being on stage…

JAH: I could have done more… but I think it was enough for the band as a whole.

MAC: You performed more concerts in Canada than in the States . What do you think is the reason ? Promoters? The audience ?

JAH: I think it was … getting together with a promoter .. they gave us the best offer from the canadian ones .. and it seems like we are still quite popular in Canada… but not as popular in the States

MAC: Really ?

JAH: Yeah, it is true.

GC: Do you reckon that it happened the same thing in Europe, in Germany ,France , Spain or Italy you played at a lot of different cities in each different country, and in UK you just did 5 major concerts, 2 in Scottland and 3 in England...

JAH: yeah it’s a similar situation, here in England we are consider like an old band, because we dont get as much playing at the radio like it happened at France, Spain, Italy, Germany or Holland ..., in England they rather played some of the new bands on the radios...on the other european countries we are still very popular.

MAC: Do you have special feeling to play in your own country?

JAH: It’s interesting .… oh not. The thing that is different is when I’m playing here or at Canada or in the States I’m speaking their language and I can be more confortable. I can feel much more fluent, I think is much easy talk to them.

MAC: The band did some little changes in the setlist every night. What is the reason? Who decides the changes ?

JAH: It’s allways a discussion with usually Rick and ourselves, the rest …. And we are allways trying to improve it .. but we make all the set in a particular country if one particular tune or album is very, very popular there….. but really usually is in an effort to improve

MAC: But in Spain you were changing one or two songs from the setlist every night !!

JAH: We keep trying… Spain was at the beginning of the tour so we were… well, we were changing through all the 88 concerts of the tour.

GC: I think sometimes there were in some songs a little bit more of freedom for the musicians for improvising and maybe extending guitar, sax or keyboard solos...

JAH: yeah that’s right.

MAC: I remember in Spain … one concert was.. 24 songs… next one 23… next one 22… we were joking about thinking on a concert in England at the end of the tour with only 5 songs !! (Laughs)

JAH: Yeah, probably we did might think it was too long. Someone might say it seems long, it seems too long. It’s got a number out. A number in. That’s a change around. First of all, for example, it was Mark Hart singing Give a little bit and eventually Mark was replaced by Jesse .

MAC: When ? In the rehearsals ?

JAH: No, no..At the gigs !! Mark started singing it in Benidorm … I think so.

MAC: Yeah, I understand it know, we were outside there during the soundcheck and we did hear the song sung by Mark…. And then in the concert it was Jessie !

JAH: What about Granada ? Who was singing it ?

MAC: No, no, every night was Jessie.

JAH: oh you are right !!! that was only at the rehearses, what happened Mark started with give a little bit but them eventually jesse had a go and we though his version was better than Mark actually... Ah… we were changing.

GC: I though Jesse’s version was excellent!

MAC: Why you did not play Gold Rush ? I think it’s a good song to be played live, powerfull song, perhaps better than “Little by little”. I think Bob told somewhere that you were thinking on including it in the tour….

JAH: Yes, we rehearsed it quite a lot. We might have played somewhere though… maybe we have played it in Canada ... . I think we did it... It was one of the numbers people were waiting, you know … one of the numbers waiting on the wings.

MAC: Yes, I remember you played it in the soundcheck of Malaga !!.

GC: actually that was cowritten with Richard Palmer.

JAH: Yeah that’s right.

MAC: Well, I can tell you a funny story about it. I was in San Diego two years ago and Roger Hodgson played “Gold rush” for us, a small group of friends, one year before the album “Slow Motion”.

JAH: really ?

MAC: yeah!!! and then I told Roger “that’s Rick’s !!!”, as you know Roger just play his own songs, and Roger was really surprised and told us “The lyrics are from R. Palmer and the music is from Rick and me !!!”

JAH: I didn’t know it. I’ve joined the band time after this song, an old song.

GC: it’s a great song !!!

MAC: Roger played for us some really beautiful new songs !!!

JAH: Lovely !!

GC: maybe they will be at the next Supertramp album ????

JAH: I’d love to play with Roger !

MAC: Well, comming back to the tour, It was a big surprise to have “Asylum” back, congratulations, it was a great idea and we enjoyed it a lot !!!
GC: another beautiful song !

JAH: great dynamics isn’t it...???

GC: yeah very strong !!!

MAC: beautiful contrast at the stage, Rick playing seriously at the piano, screaming, almost crying.... and you, happy man, with the phone, in the humorous side, great contrast.

JAH: it was a great inspiration !!!

MAC: yeah, but in the opposite, most of us were waiting for numbers like “Waiting so long”, “Gone Hollywood” or “Lover Boy”.

JAH: First of all, we can’t play everything. “Gone Hollywood” is the one we have never done it live….

GC: I love Gone Hollywood, is one of my favourites, I love your solo !!!

JAH: and we have not played “Lover Boy” neither. Maybe is just we have not the right sounds for it … maybe there was a lot of overdubs at the studio... and it’s the same with “Gone Hollywood” . I allways say “We must play Gone Hollywood”. In 1979 , for the tour, we tried and rehearse it and it wasn’t right. But every tour that we do I allways say “Let’s do Gone Hollywood”….

MAC: Yeah, really ? Thanks John !!

JAH: Maybe we tried it in 79, and again in the 83 tour but it wasn’t right for some reason.

GC: wich sax did you use on your solo John? at Gone Hollywood..

JAH: well it is a tenor sax...

GC: and there is like a keyboard sound underneath the sax doubling up the solo...

JAH: it’s an octaver synth and there was a direct link between the sax and the synth...

MAC: How did it come out the idea of inviting four sax players at the Paris concert, during last tour ?

JAH: Because of the track.. “Over You”. There are five different harmonies for the sax parts on the studio, so it was just an idea . Laurent knew some of the top sax players in Paris and I was just talking to him and I just say “Can you find three other saxophone players ?” … “Laurent, can you organise it , get these people together ?” …and I wrote out the music for them in a letter to Laurent. I remember I was in Bordeaux . I wrote the music there and I sent it to him…

MAC: During the tour ?

JAH: Yeah…on tour….before we arrive to Paris. We just did it for one night, very special night. Good saxophone players they were.

GC: and Laurent was all over the moon about it !!! What a nice guy. I had the pleasure meeting Laurent and Mac the fist time in the backstage of London thanks to your invitation John.

MAC: it was a great week end, my first time in London. The music is a really good way to meet good friends ...

GC: Laurent will be playing with my band Landmarq at a special concert at london, the underworld-candem town and we will have as very special guests Laurent Hunziker on the sax and Hugh Mcdowell(cello for the Elo fame)!!!

JAH: I konw it and he will be playing the sax he bought from me the tenor one the one I recorded some of the supertramp hits like Crime of the century, Bloody well right or It’s raining again, hopefully i can make it myself too and i will play on the last number if i am not busy with the Gaia project with Alan Simon...!!!

GC: it would be fantastic !!!

MAC: I would like to make a comment or a criticism about the last tour.

JAH: that’s allrigth...

MAC: When people attends a concert and pays, they want to enjoy music but they also want to enjoy seeing musicians faces and see how you play, specially in the big venues. Why don’t you use a video screen system or something similar like other artists do ? That’s because of piracy ? In some gigs you have joked about this, saying you are getting older and you don’t want people to see your faces….

JAH: Yeah, it’s true. We are not beautiful enough. It’s not for security reasons. It’s something we have never really got into. Because when we started it wasn’t there really , we didn’t have that facility and we never really done it. … maybe we just did it a few times…

MAC: But do you think it’s a good idea for people … to see the faces when you play it?

JAH: But I think it’s a second do it to… we are not really bother about it...the music is more important than the image for us...

MAC: A second criticism. The big video screen for some projections like the ones in Rudy and Crime of the Century is excellent. Better than last tour. Congratulations… but why don’t you use it more, with new videos ?

JAH: Beucause originally those numbers were something really special and we didn’t want to do it with …. We just want to do it with few of that numbers … and now with the new numbers I think it might be a question of economics…because it can be very expensive. On the last tour although (97)....we had that situation where it was me on the screen talking … I was talking with me in Take the long way home. We did that….

MAC: And what about this tour ?

JAH: We did it once…we did not want to do it again. We have done it already. yeah I know we could have done more movies, but maybe is due to economics.

MAC: But you have a expensive big screen…and it’s a pitty… just two songs.

GC: well that is true otherwise people they pay more attention to the screen than the music.

JAH: I think that’s not enough. But I think that’s better than too much. Your criticism is very valid, they are right. They are good criticisms…. It’s good. We are not perfect. So, next time we come out we can be better !!!.

MAC: Finally I want to let you know that everybody enjoyed the tour and the band. Thanks for the fantastic tour.

JAH: We worked hard. We don’t mess about . We really tried hard. We rehearlsed a lot!



MAC: How did you start your passion for the saxophone?

JAH: First before the sax was the clarinet and and my first influence was Sidney Bechet-an American soprano saxist and clarinet player that wrote a number called “Petite Fleur” . The version I heard was by Chris Barber and his Jazzband with Monty Sunshine on clarinet, that inspired me a lot!... and then I heared Cannonball adderley, a clarinet player, I was 13 or 14, I really enjoyed this playing so I eventually bought the saxophone, so he was my main inspiration. I was 15. 15 the saxophone, 13 the clarinet.

MAC: At that time, the 60’s, at the beginnings of pop and rock, saxo was not really usual in that styles, wasn’t ? How did you manage to integrate saxophone in pop and rock ? Were you one of the pioneers ? Were you one of the first guys ?

JAH: There was a direct inspiration . At that time I was into jazz. And I went to a jazz concert to see a jazz saxophone player called Toby Hayes and in the interval I heared this other music coming from downstairs and I was intrigued and I went down to listen and playing underneath downstairs there was the “Graham Bond Organisation” with Henstall Smith on saxophone and Ginger Baker on drums and Jack Bruce on bass there was a complete revelation for me and that ‘s what made me start playing more in rythm and blues, blues and stuff like that and I join a group in Birmingham, in England when I was still a computer programmer . This group is called “Jugs O’Henry” and we played blues, and then is when I started. It wasn’t until I joined the Alan Bown wich this one was a mixture of blues, pop and rock and this was just before “Chicago” and “blood,sweat and tears. Just around this time this bands they would start coming out.

MAC: I had some melodicas (instrument) when I was a child, before knowing Supertramp. Why did you started using it in the Supertramp albums?

JAH: I like melodicas. It’s just the sound of it. It’s just another sound . Rick playes it very well. He plays it in “Put on your old brown shoes”.

GC: yeah, and in "it is raining again" as well.

JAH: yeah! that was Rick as well!

MAC: But did you play it before joining Supertramp ?

JAH: No.

MAC: Another saxophone player (Bradford Marsalis) said that he started out by playing clarinet, but he switched to the saxophone when he was a teenager because that’s what attracted the girls. I would like to know if you agree with that.


JAH: well, It’s interesting. The real answer is no. But I didn’t switch. I still keep playing the clarinet. A clarinet is more unusual in rock music. When I was at school , in 1960, I wrote an essay called “myself in 1970” which is a projection for the future and in this essay I projected myself …

MAC: I know it. I’ve read it on the biography.

JAH: it was like a profecy, I was telling on it when I would be 25 I would be married and playing in a famous bands and atraccting a lot of fans, boys and girls from all over the world, so this was like a profecy!!! it was my projection of my future.... …. But the real answer is no.

MAC: Do you remember your first concert with Supertramp ?

JAH: Yes, it was in 1973, before we made Crime of the Century. It was in August, I think. And we played in somebody’s wedding, on the island of Jersey. And then we played two halfs and before we started playing, Bob …drink, drink, drink … and so the first half it wasn’t very good because Bob was drunk.

MAC: Can I write this ??

JAH: (Laughs) Yes !!!, fine, it’s part of the Supertramp history !!! . So in the interval , between the sets, Bob drunk black coffee so Bob soberd up he was fine by them, but just before the second half started Dougie lost his plectrum, so when he bent himself for to try to find it, and he picked the plectrum, he smashed his head!!! into a cannon!!! his head on this cannon, Dougie was still conscious but the 2nd half was still really very terrible becuse Bob was feeling fine but Dougie was feeling very ill ! but since that day Bob Siebenberg never ever drinks alcohol before a performance. Even like in the seventies when Bob used to drink a lot but never ever before the show. He still keeps to that…thirty years later.

MAC: Did you play more concerts after that and before Crime of the Century ?

JAH: Yes, we played different places. Actually, we did a tour in England , playing small theaters and clubs.
MAC: What did you play then?

JAH: It was Crime of the century music.

MAC: Only this? Did you play something from Indelibly Stamped ?

JAH: No, I don’t think we didn’t play anything from Indelibly Stamped. We played only Crime of the Century and some other numbers they would come in Crisis.

MAC: So, from that time, why haven’t you played any number from the earlier albums ?

JAH: We just wanted to play new material.

MAC: How did you become the “speaker” on the shows ?

JAH: Because nobody else wanted to do it. (Laughs)

MAC: I think you were the first getting married.

JAH: I already was married when I joined Supertramp.

MAC: Was it very difficult for you to arrange wife and kids with recording and tours?

JAH: Yes, it’s allways difficult. It’s hard. The two things that happened were both births of my two sons: I wasn’t there because I was touring with Supertramp. It was hard. ! That happened on each ocassion and it was very hard for me !

MAC: You have collaborated with Pink Floyd, Jean Jacques Goldman and Bob Siebenberg, Roger Hodgson…. Have you done something more?

JAH: Yes, Thin Lizzy, whose guitarist is Scott.Gorham, Bob’s brother in law. I played on the record “Dancing in the moonlight” , around 1977-78. I played with Bob, later. Roger….and Diana Ross as well, I just did a session. I don’t remember the name of the album. And Johny Matthis …

MAC: During the time Supertramp was not playing, have you received offers from any other bands ?

JAH: No. I din’t get any offer. Actually, I was fired from Milene Farmer, very famous french pop star. Well, it was not Milene but the musical director. She came to me and said “I’m really sorry but the musical director wants to fire you” And she said “I can’t go and play without the musical director because he’s controlling all the group. I’m really sorry because I want to play with you but I have to please him” . Anyway I had two weeks of rehearlse and holidays in Paris, I enjoyed myself. I think maybe he was jealous, I dont know it !

MAC: As a personal curiousity and as I like motorcycles too I would like to know the ones you have had all over the years…

JAH: Yes, my first motorcycle was an Honda 360 CBS, my second was a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans, which I still have. I got it in 1978. Then I had a Yamaha XS 1100 and I also had a BMW R65 LS. Good bike. And then in 1983 I got a Ducati 900 S Mike Hailwood replica and I still have that one.
In England about 5 or 6 years ago I bought a BMW R 1100 RS, which I sell. If anybody wants to buy they can…. Put it out in the Internet, please.

MAC: You were computer programmer and also I am, another coincidence. Do you remember the languages you did use ?

JAH: Yes, Fortran and Cobol, long time ago….in 1963.

MAC: Interesting…We still use Cobol in my job, for the mainframe.….What do you remember about living in Topanga ?

JAH: I lived there 15 years at least. I moved there in 1978. I liked very much because it’s very free. I did a lot of cycling and motocycling. The people are free. You can do what you want.

MAC: Why did you come back to England?

JAH: To study

MAC: Did you really miss the Queen ?

JAH: (Laughs) I missed the beer...yeah, the good beer !

MAC: You started as an english band with an american drummer. Now, you are an american band and you are the only one living in England.

JAH: Yes, it’s just how life goes on. We decided to live in California because it seemed attractive at that time. Now, the majority of the band is american. Rick Davies is american now (Laughs)

GC: Really?

JAH : Yes. He has turned. I’m the only one who is british.

MAC: Did you meet some of the members from The Beatles ?

JAH: Well, only one time. In a club called “Speak easy” , in London, in the sixties. I was in there with some of the guys from Alan Bown and John Lennon and Paul McCartney were sitting behind us and they asked me if they could borrow a chair or something. “Are you using that chair?” one of them said. And I said “No man, take it, it’s ok”. And this is just the conversation I had with them. And he said “Thank you”.

MAC: is there any musical hero, in your young days that you ende up meeting years later?

JAH: interesting question (thinking about.....)

MAC: it happened to me and Gonzalo !!!

JAH: I can’t remenber now , probably not because most of them they were out of my reach or they have died ! I haven’t had that experiece....

MAC: you met gonzalo !!! (everybody laughing.....) he will be famous !

JAH: yeah!!!, asked me the same question ten years later !

MAC: I know you keep the contact with Roger, you speak on the phone sometimes. A lot of people thinks one of the reasons Roger did leave the band is because he did not like the saxophone. And you don’t like the guitar. I’ve read that you and Roger were joking about it sometimes.

JAH: Yes, it’s only a joke. It must be a joke because Roger loves my playing. I thought one of the reasons for Roger spliting was the fact him writing and playing with Supertramp was not enough, because he has so much music in him and to write 4 songs every two years or an album was not enough for him . He needed to get more music out.

MAC: Until which point Rick and Roger’s wife did influence on the split of the band?

JAH: Well..maybe there is an influence, just a bit, but not much I think.

MAC: Was Roger’s leaving the best option at that time ?

JAH: artistically ?

MAC: I mind, perhaps he could stay in the band and working in solo albums as well....

JAH: Well, financially the best decission would have been Rick and Roger staying together but at the end it could be I think it would have been great if they would have carry on doing some solo albums outside the band, and them carry on writing toghether, I think financially it would have been much more clever !, we could make more money, but you cannot make the decission of artists based on money unless it is a very commercial artis, you know.

GC: sometimes money doesn’t buy happiness !

JAH: No !

GC: John, did you ever you, Bob or Dougie apart from Rick and Roger, tried to write some songs for the band ?

JAH: no, we were just happy to leave Rick and Roger in charge of all the material.





MAC: Tell us something about the Gaia project, your next plans...

JAH: yeah I’m going to Nepal for a trekking together with Alan and Jesse Siebenberg and Anggun, just one week and an acoustic concert there it is gonna be filmed and a short world tour maybe in August - September, only big cities like Paris, New York or Tokyo.

MAC: Did you meet Andrew Hodgson at the recording ?

JAH: no, he recorded his part at the studio at Los Angeles, I recorded my sax parts at a studio in South Wales, and I am sure Gonzalo might know the studio !

GC: where about ?

JAH: I can’t remenber when in South Wales but it is inside the credits of the CD.

MAC: Some other special projects ?

JAH: no, not at the moment.

MAC: Did you hear Open the door ?

JAH: yeah ! nice album !

MAC: Is there something from the modern artists that you like ? Some music call you when you hear the radio ?

JAH: I like Beck a lot and I mainly listening to jazz and classical music.

MAC: wich one is your favourite album of Supertramp ?

JAH: Crime of the century, the first album after joining the band, it’s very emotional we were recording the album at this farmhouse down in Somerset, and we have to be living together while we were recordign the album, Rick went through a bit of a dificult time becuse his father died during this time. Special memories.

MAC: My favourite songs on the last album are Over you and Slow Motion. What really likes you about the last album ?

JAH: I think it’s very bluesy, I like a lot the kind of old fashion style it has.

GC: I think Over you is like the 2nd part of "My kind of lady"! it reminds me a lot of it.20 years later!

JAH: yes, it do.

MAC: I’ve read an interview of you in Vancouver last September that it said that some of the sax solos on the last album there would be ideas that would come from Rick, not like it used to be in the past.

JAH: not the solos ! some of the melodic lines maybe..., it is always a combination of the whole band developing Rick’s ideas. Anyone can suggest any thing.

GC: the sax solo on "The logical song" was it written by you ?

JAH: yeah.

GC: beautiful solo !

MAC: I dont remember on the last album any clarinet..

JAH: yes you are right ! I haven’t even realized myself, there is a bit of flute mind you.

GC: was it truth that on the last tour when you were playing the flute were you imitating Ian Anderson lifting up one of your legs !!!

JAH: yeah (laughing a lot) you are rigth, I remenber that !

MAC: what do you know about Dougie now ?

JAH: he is working for Moby, and he is living in Chicago he works as music publisher, doing vey well.

MAC: The last question..... Will we have more Supertramp ?

JAH: I hope so !!!!! I would love to do a Supertramp reunion. I wanted to do in 2000, the 30 Supertramp anniversary with everybody ever played ....but it didn’t work out.

MAC: Hope your wishes became true !!! Thanks a lot for your time !

GC: thank you John.

JAH: Let’s keep in touch guys, it has been a great pleasure !

]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 14:08:51 +0000
SUPERTRAMP Interview, Farewell tour 2002?


(en español, a continuación)

Tournée d'adieu pour Supertramp?

Le lundi 26 août 2002
Michel Bilodeau
Le Soleil (Canada)

La tournée One More For The Road sera-t-elle la dernière de Supertramp? Si Rick Davies, qui se produira avec son groupe le 4 septembre au Centre Molson, ne peut, pour le moment, répondre à cette question, il admet du même souffle qu'il jongle depuis un bon moment avec l'idée

«Ça fait plus de 30 ans que le groupe roule. Je ne veux pas le saborder, mais je suis prêt à passer à autre chose. Il y a d'autre avenues que le traditionnel pattern disque-tournée. J'ai besoin de temps pour réaliser des projets personnels», raconte Rick Davies en entrevue.

Lorsqu'il a fondé Supertramp avec la complicité de Roger Hodgson, au début des années 1970 (une période où la scène musicale de rock progressif était en pleine ébullition en Angleterre), il était bien loin de se douter que leur groupe vendrait des millions de disques et qu'il sillonnerait le monde pendant trois décennies.

Chose certaine, le tandem était déterminé et tenace, puisqu'après deux échecs cuisants (Supertramp, Indelibly Stamped), il ne jette pas l'éponge pour autant. Les deux compères ont bien raison puisqu'en 1974, avec une formation stabilisée, le disque Crime Of The Century propulse Supertramp à l'avant-scène grâce, notamment, aux pièces Bloody Well Right et School. Sur sa lancée, le groupe lance les disques Crisis ,What Crisis? (Sister Moonshine), Even InThe Quietest Moments (Give A Little Bit) et surtout Breakfast In America (The Logical Song) qui tient le groupe sur la route pendant un bon moment.

Le départ de Roger Hodgson en 1982 ébranle Supertramp, mais Rick Davies choisit de maintenir le cap. L'âge d'or du groupe est certes derrière lui, mais Rick Davies poursuit en réalisant notamment Brother Were You Bound et Free as a Bird. Assuré somme toute d'un public fidèle, la troupe continue à sillonner le monde régulièrement et Rick Davies a bien l'impression qu'il pourrait continuer à le faire pendant un bon moment encore. Mais cette perspective ne lui sourit pas autant qu'il y a une dizaine d'années.

«Nous venons tout juste de boucler une série de 75 concerts en Europe. Nous continuons à avoir un bon public sur ce continent. Nous avons un nom. Un nom qui continue à drainer les foules. C'est le bon côté de la chose. Mais l'autre versant, c'est qu'il faut entretenir tout cela. C'est-à-dire qu'il faut être fidèle à la traditionnelle formule disque-tournée. C'est un côté qui me plaît de moins en moins, car cela monopolise beaucoup de mon temps.»

Alors Rick Davies songe-t-il à dissoudre sa fameuse formation? Ce dernier assure qu'il n'a pas le goût de tourner définitivement la page. Il aimerait pouvoir se retrouver en studio avec ses coéquipiers, mais il souhaiterait, par contre, ne présenter que des concerts ponctuels. Les longues tournées de plusieurs mois seraient choses du passé.

«Lorsque nous aurons bouclé la présente tournée, je veux m'asseoir avec les autres pour en discuter. Pour ma part, après 30 ans, je sens le besoin d'envisager les choses autrement. J'aimerais bien que cette formule convienne à tous. Il va sûrement y avoir de longues discussions. Je pense que nous continuons à créer et écrire de bonnes pièces. Il serait intéressant de poursuivre dans cette voie sans être assujettis aux règles de l'industrie.»

Le groupe a déjà fait un pas dans cette direction puisque, contrairement à ce qui se passe en Europe, il n'est pas lié avec une maison de disques nord-américaine et son plus récent disque, Slow Motion, n'est tout bonnement pas disponible sur notre continent. Les fans peuvent cependant se le procurer lors des concerts et par l'intermédiaire du site Internet du groupe.

«Pour le moment ça nous convient parfaitement. Nous ne sommes pas parvenus à négocier une entente satisfaisante pour l'Amérique du Nord. Nous avons toujours été bien accueillis chez vous, et ce dès nos débuts. C'est aux États-Unis que c'est difficile et compliqué. Nous voulons un contrat avec des conditions qui nous semblent raisonnables. Je préfère ne pas avoir de contrat qu'un contrat qui ne me plaît pas. Le problème avec les maisons américaines, c'est qu'elles visent pour ainsi dire uniquement le marché des jeunes et qu'elles sont dirigées par des gens qui n'ont pas grand-chose à voir avec la musique. C'est géré par des avocats qui ne visent pas autre chose que les profits faramineux. Pourtant, les autres marchés peuvent être aussi rentables. C'est une vision à court terme qui ne correspond pas à mes attentes», de trancher Rick Davies.

Du même souffle, la figure de proue de Supertramp ajoute qu'il se donne plusieurs mois pour évaluer l'évolution de cette escapade en «indépendant». Si l'expérience est concluante, il songe à concrétiser quelques projets dont il rêve depuis quelques années.

«En étant maître d'oeuvre et ayant plus de temps à ma disposition, j'espère bien pouvoir travailler sur deux projets de disques qui me tiennent à coeur. Le premier sera un disque que je pourrais qualifier d'intimiste. Piano et voix. Point. L'autre serait un disque de blues. J'aimerais bien revisiter une dizaine de pièces, affirme Rick Davies. L'important, pour moi, c'est que je parvienne à y ajouter ma touche personnelle. C'est la musique qui m'a inspiré à mes débuts. C'est cette musique qui m'a donné le goût d'être musicien. Ça serait un peu une façon de boucler la boucle.»


¿La gira del adios para Supertramp? 

 Lunes 26 Agosto 2002
Michel Bilodeau
Le Soleil (Canada)

¿ La gira “One more for the road” será la última de Supertramp? Si Rick Davies, que actuará junto a su banda el 4 de Septiembre en el Centre Molson de Montreal, no puede, por el momento, contestar a esa pregunta, sí que admite que lleva un tiempo barajando la idea.

“Ya hace más de treinta años que el grupo funciona. No quiero acabar con él, pero estoy listo para hacer otras cosas. Existen otros caminos además del modelo disco-gira. Necesito tiempo para realizar proyectos personales”, cuenta Davies en la entrevista.

Cuando Rick fundó Supertramp con la complicidad de Roger Hodgson a principios de los años 70 (un período donde la escena musical del‘rock progresivo’ estaba en plena ebullición en Inglaterra), estabas lejos de imaginar que su grupo vendería millones de discos y que se recorrerían el mundo durante tres décadas.

Una cosa era cierta, el tándem era decidido y tenaz, pues después del fracaso de sus dos primeros trabajos (“Supertramp”, “Indelibly stamped”) no arrojaron la toalla. Ambos tenían razón, pues en 1974, con una formación estabilizada, el álbum “Crime of the century” les lanza al estrellato musical, incluyendo temas como “Bloody well right” y “School”.
Tras este lanzamiento publican los discos “Crisis? What crisis?” (Sister moonshine), “Even in the quietest moments” (Give a little bit) y sobre todo “Breakfast in America” (The logical song), que lleva al grupo de gira por una buena temporada.

La marcha de Roger Hodgson en 1982 sacude a Supertramp, pero Rick Davies decidió mantener la banda. La edad de oro del grupo quedaba atrás ciertamente, pero la banda continuó y publicaron “Brother where you bound” y “Free as a bird”. Asegurados con un público fiel, la banda siguió haciendo giras mundiales regularmente, y Rick Davies tenía la impresión que podrían continuar así por una larga temporada. Pero las perspectivas cambiaron durante diez años.

“Acabamos de dar setenta y cinco conciertos de gira por Europa. Seguimos teniendo una buena acogida en ese continente.

Tenemos un nombre. Un nombre que sigue atrayendo a las masas. Es el lado positivo. Pero la parte mala es que es necesario mantener todo eso. Es decir, hay que seguir fiel a la fórmula tradicional de disco-gira. Es un aspecto que me gusta cada vez menos, pues eso monopoliza la mayor parte de mi tiempo”.

Entonces ¿ está Rick pensando en disolver la famosa formación? Por el momento asegura que todavía no quiere pasar definitivamente la página. Le encantaría seguir juntándose con sus compañeros en el estudio, pero, le gustaría, por otra parte, dar sólo conciertos puntuales. Las largas giras de varios meses pasarían a ser parte del pasado.

“Una vez haya finalizado esta gira, quiero sentarme con los demás para discutirlo. Por mi parte, tras treinta años, siento la necesidad de considerar las cosas de otra manera. Me encantaría que esta fórmula le convenga a todos. Será seguramente una larga discusión. Pienso que seguiremos creando y escribiendo buenas piezas. Será interesante seguir esta vía sin estar sujetos a las reglas de la industria”.

El grupo ya ha dado un paso en esta dirección ya que, al contrario de lo que sucede en Europa, no se ha asociado con ninguna casa de discos norteamericana, y su disco más reciente, Slow Motion, simplemente no está disponible en nuestro continente. De todos modos los fans pueden conseguir el álbum en los conciertos y también a través de la página web del grupo.

“Por el momento esto nos encaja perfectamente. No hemos podido negociar un contrato satisfactorio para Norte América. Siempre hemos sido bien recibidos en vuestra casa (Canadá), desde nuestros comienzos. Pero en los Estados Unidos es difícil y complicado. Queremos un contrato con unas condiciones que nos parezcan razonables. Prefiero no tener un contrato, que tener un contrato que no me guste. El problema con las discográficas americanas, es que sólo están enfocadas al mercado de gente joven, y que están dirigidas por personas que no tienen gran cosa que ver con la música. Están gestionadas por abogados a los que no les importa otras cosa que conseguir enormes beneficios. Sin embargo, los otros mercados pueden resultar rentables también. Es una visión a corto plazo que no se corresponde con mis expectativas”, asegura Rick Davies.

Al mismo tiempo, el líder de Supertramp añade que se da a sí mismo varios meses para evaluar la evolución de esta aventura de “independencia”. Si la experiencia es positiva, piensa concretizar algunos proyectos con los que sueña desde hace años.

“Siendo mi propio gerente y con más tiempo a mi disposición, espero poder trabajar en dos proyectos de discos que me tientan el corazón. El primero será un disco que podría calificar de intimista, Piano y voz. Punto. El otro sería un disco de blues.

Me gustaría versionar una docena de piezas, afirma Rick Davies. Lo importante para mí, es que les daría mi toque personal. Es la música que me ha inspirado desde los comienzos. Es esta música que me dió el gusto por hacerme músico. Sería en cierto modo la forma de cerrar el círculo”.

Traducción: Miguel Angel Candela

]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 14:02:34 +0000
BOB SIEBENBERG Interview, 2002 Tour



There's a reason Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg was quiet and unassuming when he first moved to London in 1971:
He had to be.

To enter Great Britain, the American had to agree not to work.
Officials didn't want foreign musicians taking away jobs from U.K. citizens.

"It said right on my passport that I was not allowed to engage in any employment, paid or unpaid," Siebenberg said recently.
"So as I started to work a little bit around town and go to the BBC, I'd have to keep my mouth shut and not be an American.

"The band I was in before I joined Supertramp, I was Bob See, and then I was Bob Siebenberg in Supertramp.
It wasn't taxes or anything like that; it was just so I could stay in the country.
They're still strict in England about issuing work permits."

Rock history books and Web sites fail to mention the name game. In fact, at the All Music Guide site, the Supertramp bio list of past and present group members includes Bob Siebenberg and another alias, Bob Benberg.

No matter, Siebenberg has been there through it all for Supertramp, from the quirky pop-rock group's humble beginnings to the hugely popular "Breakfast in America" album (1979) and even in today's revamped lineup.

"It's really like we've never been away," Siebenberg said. "We didn't play for seven or eight years, then we did a tour in '97 and the one we're doing this year, and things have been great."

The group released its 11th studio album, "Slow Motion," in March, its first in five years. Joining Siebenberg, founder Rick Davies (vocals, keyboards), John Helliwell (saxophone) and Mark Hart (vocals, keyboards, guitars)
are Cliff Hugo (bass), Siebenberg's son Jesse (percussion), Lee Thornburg (trumpet) and Carl Verheyen (guitars).
Notably missing is original member Roger Hodgson (vocals, guitar).

"We had been in the studio one day, on Sept. 10, and then of course you know what happened the next day," Siebenberg said. "That put us out of action for a few days, then we went back into the studio in Los Angeles to finish it."

The album is available through its Web site and in Europe via EMI.

"We really don't have a proper record deal in North America," Siebenberg said. "I don't get real involved in the management thing, but I find it surprising myself that we don't have a deal. We have a good record deal in Europe through EMI out of Paris, and the album did well in Europe.
We just came off a tour of 73 cities in 13 countries through Europe, from March to the early part of August."

Supertramp's popularity has never faltered. Its hits remain radio staples, and last year's Gap TV ad campaign featuring a variety of artists singing "Give A Little Bit" didn't hurt.

"I was really floored to see Robbie Robertson doing one of those commercials," Siebenberg said, "because he's been one of my all-time hero guys.
I used to be in bands that played Band songs, so it was really cool to see him interpreting one of our songs."

Additionally, Supertramp's A&M back catalog - from "Crime to the Century" (1975) to "Free As a Bird" (1987) - was reissued on CD this summer, and a two-volume "The Very Best of Supertramp" is scheduled for release on Nov. 12.

"I know there are some things in the works down the line to do some kind of boxed thing with bonus tracks," Siebenberg said.
"We've got such a legacy of great material that we think really hasn't been explored properly yet. We're looking at several projects to get out there to the people.
There's also some old video that we've got laying around, like of the Paris concert and us in 1974 at Hammersmith."


]]> (MAC) Interviews Thu, 12 Aug 2010 13:49:49 +0000
DOUGIE THOMSON Interview, June 1998

Interview with Dougie Thomson by freelance writer Stephen Majewski.
June17, 1998.

Q: What have you been up to for the last ten years?

Dougie Thomson: "(Laughs) When I finished the 1988 Supertramp tour--which in my opinion was a mistake for me, I shouldn't have ever done it, it was not right to be there without Rog--I took approximately two years away from the music industry altogether. The tour was a constant battle in many areas and I wanted a distinct change of scenery.
"One of my passions in life is sailing and yacht racing. I was very fortunate to be in the company of some tremendous sailors. They gave me the opportunity to travel to quite a few different places around the world and race with them. I spent maybe eighteen months just doing that."

Q: Do you still sail?

DT: "Oh, yeah. I'm just getting ready to do my eleventh year of the Chicago-to-Mackinaw race. I don't sail as much as I used to; I don't have the time."

Q: Did you ever race for the America's Cup?

DT: "No, I never raced for the America's Cup. I raced in something called the Class A Association, which was all 80-foot boats. Through the course of those years I raced for several different individuals. I had the great fortune to sail for Jim Kilroy who is a pretty famous ocean racing sailor. Sailing was a great way for me to change direction.
"In the middle of all that I was trying to decide what I wanted to do next.
I'd always had somewhat of a focus on what it takes to make a band within the music industry. That was kind of my leanings. I had a couple of sailing friends who were also in the music business. They suggested to come over and do something with them. I ended up having a joint venture with Warner/Chappell Music to develop new talent for the publishing company. That was the beginning of 1990 and I've been doing that ever since in one form or another.
Now I'm actually a consultant for Warner/Chappell Music and for Warner Brothers Records and for a management company that manages a few young bands here in Chicago."

Q: Did you ever work for Supertramp's old management company, Mismanagement?

DT: "Not directly, kind of indirectly in several ways. Dave Margereson and I have always been very close friends. I brought a friend of mine, Kenny MacPherson, into Mismanagement, and also my brother Kenny who was a partner in
Mismanagement. He was responsible for Chris de Burgh and had tremendous success. Kenny MacPherson is now senior vice president of Warner/Chappell Music. He's gone on to have a fairly illustrious career in his own right. My
brother now has his own company called KTM which he runs out of Toronto and London."

Q: How did a Scotsman who loves sailing end up living in Chicago?

DT: "By the time I had finished my Supertramp touring years, I was engaged to a young lady who's from Chicago. We got married in July 1989 and decided to move here. We actually got married in the middle of me getting ready for a world championship race."

Q: Your comments regarding the '88 tour are intriguing. What was the difference between touring without Roger in 1986 and 1988?

DT: "1986 was a different kind of thing in a way. The dynamic was different.
We weren't doing any of Roger's songs. We were exploring a new avenue for Rick Davies. We weren't crossing a line in my mind.
It was interesting to play with a bunch of other musicians, but it became apparent on that tour that it's not Supertramp without being Supertramp. To go out again in 1988, knowing that that was the perception on my part, was probably a mistake.
However, it took me quite a long time to figure that out. I certainly did not enjoy the '88 tour on many levels by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn't a pleasurable experience for me at all."

Q: Why was the '88 tour such a bad experience for you?

DT: "It was the vibe that existed in that band. There were a lot of other people involved and it wasn't the same.
It was misguided in a lot of ways.
Some of the shows were really good. There's still a pride in the standard.
It just wasn't quite right, to quote Rick Davies (laughs)."

Q: You played with Roger at a few of his recent Solo Tramp shows. How did this come about?

DT: "(Laughs) Roger and I have always been very close. We've been kind of soul mates right from day one. It was a very heart-wrenching thing for me when he was no longer a part of the band. He and I always stayed in touch. I think he'll be the first one to admit that I'm pretty good at tugging away at the strings. I always keep in touch to make sure he's doing okay. I knew he was doing his solo tour. As it happens, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to see him in Chicago because my wife was going to be out of the country for a few days. I went up to Milwaukee the day before to see him play there.
It was just great to run into him along with Ian Lloyd-Bisley and Tony Shepherd, who were real instrumental in the Supertramp years. It was great visiting with them and to reacquaint myself with Andrew, who I think is just a tremendous individual.
"The next morning they came down and had breakfast at my house.
I'm sort of on the way from Milwaukee to Chicago. We ended up playing soccer in the backyard and reminiscing. Roger said, 'Come on, why don't you play a couple of songs.' I thought, 'I haven't played in ten years. I don't even know if I remember how to do this.' So Roger brought his guitar in and we had a crack at a couple of songs. That night, I went down to the House of Blues here in Chicago and got up at the end of his set and played a couple of songs."

Q: How did it feel to be on stage with Roger?

DT: "It felt great. It was great fun. Roger's in terrific shape. He's singing so well. I think he's singing better than ever, even when he was in the band. It was tremendous just to see him. I'd never seen him as an audience member. That was a blast in itself (laughs). To get up and play with him brought back all sorts of stuff. I think he'll admit that it was a boost for him, too. It was just a good moment for both of us. It wasn't the best I ever played in my life (laughs) but certainly the enthusiasm level was there."

Q: So you haven't been playing much bass in the last ten years?

DT: "No, I hadn't played at all. I'd lost all my callouses (laughs). I don't know why. Obviously, I've sat at home and fiddled around, but not with any intensity."

Q: What songs did you play with Roger?

DT: "We played 'Hide in Your Shell,' 'The Logical Song,' and "Give a Little Bit.'"

Q: Do you miss playing in a band?

DT: "I hadn't until I spent a few minutes with Roger (laughs). It was beautiful to do what I did. I'm really enjoying what I'm doing and I don't know if I'm cut out to being 47 years old and back on the road. I'm working with a lot of people in their mid-20s and I thrive in their energy. I think they thrive in my years of experience. We have mutual respect for each other and I'm really enjoying doing that."

Q: What's your favorite Roger Hodgson song, either from his solo albums or Supertramp?

DT: "Oh, man, there's a song he does in the set right now called 'Death and a Zoo.' I think it's fantastic. I think it's the best song he's written in a long time. Let me rephrase that. It's the best song that I've heard that he's written in a long time. He may have written some other great songs that I haven't heard yet. I'm working with this young band from Chicago called Extravery and I took them to the House of Blues show. They said to me, 'Wow, that song was amazing!' I also took a bunch of people to the Minneapolis show and they all reacted to that song, too."

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Roger today?

DT: "I've nothing but love for Roger. We're kind of like brothers. We really have a great affinity for each other. It's unfortunate the way this whole thing has come down. I think he should be getting a lot more support from his past than he is. I wanted to be someone who would give him that support."

Q: When Roger left Supertramp, did you ever consider leaving with him?

DT: "When everything disintegrated it wasn't really like that. Roger and Rick kind of had a passing of the ways. Rick was adamant about keeping the band together and Roger was adamant about wanting to change the band. So it wasn't a consideration for me. Knowing Roger, I should've known better. You know, Roger changes his mind more than he changes his underwear.
It's just his nature. He said a beautiful thing the other night. We were in Minneapolis and he was trying to decide whether to wear his ear monitor. Ian said to him, 'Well, you know Roger, it's your choice.' Roger answered, 'Yeah, I know that's the problem.' (Laughs) Anyway, because of the way they parted, it wasn't an issue at that time. Rick really wanted Bob and me as the rhythm section but Roger really wanted a change. That's the way that particular moment went down. The option wasn't even available."

Q: Why didn't you play on Supertramp's last album, Some Things Never Change?

DT: "I've not had a conversation with Rick in ten years. I've had constant conversations with Bob Siebenberg. I consider Bob Siebenberg a close friend of mine. I think he would say the same. We've been very good at communicating, probably more so than anybody. Over the years, we've talked every couple weeks. It's been a lot less with John Helliwell. John's not great at keeping in touch. The fact that he moved back to England made it even more complex."

Q: Were you interested in playing with either Roger on Rites or Rick Davies on Some Things Never Change?

DT: "It wasn't something that came to mind. I wasn't asked in the first place. I wasn't really keen on Rick's situation. There's obvious political reasons for that and probably musical reasons, too. Rick knew that I was doing something else. With Roger, I couldn't have afforded to take the time out of my life to be up in Nevada City for that long on such a wing and a prayer as it was. I didn't really know where that project was. I had carved out my own lifestyle and another career for myself. I had a lot of people depending on what I do."

Q: What's your opinion of Supertramp's Some Things Never Change?

DT: "I haven't heard it."

Q: Really? Do you refuse to listen to it?

DT: "No."

Q: Are you curious to hear it?

DT: "No, not really. I'm not out to put down Supertramp. I haven't heard the record, but I know Rick Davies as a musician would do a fantastic job. I know Bob wouldn't play if was crap. So I'm sure it was a really solid album."

Q: What about Rites of Passage?

DT: "I think it's okay. I view it as a necessary vehicle to get Roger back and working. I think it served its purpose. I'm not in love with it as a
record. For a collector, it has some interesting points to it. It deserves credit for getting him up and going."

Q: What do you think of him including some of his Supertramp songs?

DT: "(Laughs) It's what he chose to do. I can understand why he mixed the old and the new."

Q: What did you think of Supertramp calling their last tour a "reunion"?

DT: "I thought it was deceptive. I had this conversation with Bob and John. I thought it was deceptive."

Q: What did they say to you?

DT: "They agreed. To be honest, I think they were coming from a musician's standpoint. They got back together with Rick and had a really good time playing music with him. That's where their focus was. I said, 'If that's how you see it, then so be it. That's good. If you can do it for the musical aspect of it, that's cool.' They were able to shield themselves from the politics of it all, which I couldn't do and hence my distance from it."

Q: Is it fair to say Rick and you had a falling out?

DT: "No, we didn't have a falling out. As you know, Rick is managed by his wife. I don't find that an easy situation to deal with. Not everybody's aware of my feelings on that. I just didn't want to get involved in it and they didn't want me involved. So it was pretty easy (laughs).
"Supertramp, in my mind, when it was the five guys and Dave Margereson running it was a lot of fun. And not just those guys but the support system behind it. It was terrific. We had a great time. It's really hard to go back when you had such a great experience. That's just how it was. Bob and I had the best time playing together. He's said it's really difficult for him to play without me being around. I spoke to Bob when I was in Canada. He was like, 'Oh, I've got to show up one night.' I know in his heart that Bob would love to play with Roger."

Q: Why haven't you spoken to Rick in ten years?

DT: "I've tried a few times. It always seems like he was shielded by whatever he was hiding behind. I don't know."

Q: What's your opinion of the disclaimer at the Official Supertramp Web Site regarding Roger's Solo Tramp tour?

DT: "I thought it was hysterical. I mean, get real. How about a bit of camaraderie (laughs)? It's not supportive. I don't see Roger as a threat to what they're doing. I see Roger as a fantastic part of the legacy. In my mind, you should offer support."

Q: When Roger left Supertramp in 1983, he claims that Rick promised not to play his songs live. Were you aware of any such agreement?

DT: "That was my understanding, but nobody except Rick and Roger were privy to that conversation. Rick and Roger had several dialogues that no one else was privy to. Again, that's hearsay."

Q: After Roger left Supertramp in 1983, when was the first time the band played his songs live?

DT: "During rehearsals in Brazil on the '88 tour."

Q: Why did the band decide to do that?

DT: "There was a lot of pressure because people expected to hear those songs."

Q: How was that different from the '86 tour?

DT: "It wasn't even a consideration. It wasn't an issue."

Q: What made it an issue in 1988?

DT: "External pressure, I think. The fact that we were in Brazil playing in front of 130,000 people who'd never seen Supertramp.
The pressure built up."

Q: Was it a spur of the moment decision or were the pros and cons discussed?

DT: "I can't remember the way it came around, but it was definitely external pressure."

Q: What was your position?

DT: "At that time I probably thought, 'The people expect this. If there's any way this can work we should probably figure out a way to do it.' In my business sense, that's what my mind would say."

Q: Did you know how betrayed Roger would feel?

DT: "I probably should've known better. I know that it would be a terrible thing for Roger. I should have been stronger at the time and said, 'You know what, this is really not right.'"

Q: How aware were you of Roger's struggles between 1987 and 1996?

DT: "We used to talk all the time. He went through so many things. I wasn't there every day for him, but we talked."

Q: What did you think of Roger and Rick working together in the early 1990s?

DT: "My opinion of that was that it would never happen. I knew the obstacles in the way. Even though those obstacles would be swept aside for a little while, they would surface again. There would be an obstacle of some sort that would get in the way that would not have to do with the music or Rick and Roger."

Q: So you were fairly certain that an album wouldn't come from it.

DT: "Absolutely. I would have bet on it. A lot of people from the industry said to me, 'They're back together!' I said, 'Well, I wouldn't put your money on it because it's not going to happen.' I think I was pretty accurate (laughs). I was never consulted in any of that by Rick or Roger. If I'd been consulted I would have been quite happy to give my opinion."

Q: What is your life like today as a consultant?

DT: "My life's pretty hectic right now working for Warner Brothers and Warner/Chappell Music and the management company that I consult for. We have one act that's just finishing mixing a record. We have another act that I just helped get signed to Warner Brothers. We're looking for a producer for those guys. We have a third act creating a huge stir."

Q: Do you see yourself consulting for a while?

DT: "(Laughs) I'm too busy to think about how long I'm going to do it for. I'll do it as long as I enjoy it."

]]> (MAC) Interviews Wed, 11 Aug 2010 17:08:18 +0000
SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1983, The Split


Supertramp: a band in transition

September 8-14 1983
by Joanne Draus

The press release for Supertramp's latest album, ironically titled FAMOUS LAST WORDS, contains a passage that in retrospect reveals much more than it was perhaps intended to. "They have always been resolute," says the release about the band's members, "in presenting themselves as a single unit, the individuals submerging themselves in a group identity."

This resolution may have been precisely the reason for Supertramp's co-founder's decision to leave the band in pursuit of a solo career following the completion of its current world tour - at least according to the co-founder himself, Roger Hodgson.

"I never really felt like a band," says Hodgson via phone from a hotel room in Winnipeg, Canada, where the group was performing one of its tour's 56 gigs. "They always felt like a band, but I felt like a solo artist in a band, although I really do believe in musicians playing together, obviously. I just felt very restricted to a certain set of musicians."

For more than twelve years, Hodgson's recognizable vocals, guitar playing and keyboard work were featured on Supertramp's eight albums - records that contained Hodgson-penned hits like "The Logical Song," "Give A Little Bit," "Take the Long Way Home" and "It's Raining Again." Yet, for the benefit of the group as a whole, the songs were credited to both Hodgson and the band's other co-founder, Rick Davies, the later of whom wrote some of Supertramp's lesser-known album cuts. Davies, however, will write all of the band's songs following Hodgson's departure.

"For a long time," says Hodgson, "we credited the songs to both of us because it was a psychological bond to keep the band together in the public's eyes as well as in the band's eyes, really. Now I'm regretting it a little bit because people don't realize that we've always written separately, and I'm having to start again by raising my solo profile."

Hodgson's solo project, tentatively titled SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, is scheduled for release in spring of 1984 by the same record company for which Supertramp records, A&M. Hodgson says that while some of his solo material may sound similar to this work with Supertramp, due to his distinct vocal and songwriting styles, the similarities will be superficial.

He plans to experiment with sounds and instruments to create what he calls "a more spontaneous approach" to his music.

"I really am hungry to do some new things," says Hodgson. "The last Supertramp album really frustrated me a lot. I didn't think it was that great an album. It was certainly no progression from anything we'd done before. Supertramp, for me, has stopped being a vehicle in which I can grow. I found that I was stagnating, really. I'd like to have a more free-flowing thing, working with different musicians at different times on different projects."

Nevertheless, Hodgson's eagerness to develop his own career hasn't completely soured the musical and personal inter-relationships within Supertramp on its world tour. He claims, in fact, that the band's awareness of the approaching alteration is giving the tour "a real emotional twist, which makes the show very electric." Crowds are in turn flocking to see the shows, which are being publicized as the last Supertramp concerts with Hodgson. In Europe, Supertramp even broke the all time attendance record for an uninterrupted European tour, previously held by the Rolling Stones.

"I do feel very proud of what we've achieved," says Hodgson, "and I'm enjoying this tour, actually, more than any other tour I've done, which is ironic. But I just think this is going to be a vehicle for all of us to grow and expand with, musically and personally. Any divorce has a certain amount of pain to it, but basically, we all feel very positive about the decision and how it's going to affect each one of us."

The four remaining members of Supertramp -Davies, Bassist Dougie Thomson, drummer Bob Benberg and reedman John Helliwell - do indeed seem to feel positive about Hodgson's departure. Helliwell, who serves as the band's spokesman both on and off stage, claims that the group is in fact excited about the group's new configuration, which will not include a permanent replacement guitarist.

"We're all one fourth of the organization now," says Helliwell during a separate telephone interview from Chicago four days prior to Hodgson's call. "So now we have more of a say than we did when we were one fifth. We'll all be able to oversee all aspects of our careers now, from album covers to touring.

We're excited about our future, and it's good for Rog to have his own future too, because it's been getting further and further apart from the band's in the last few years.'

Supertramp's future albums, the first of which the band will begin recording following the completion of the tour, will reportedly be quite different from the band's old albums. Helliwell says that Davies' songwriting is more R&B influenced than Hodgson's, and that the band's style will compliment the songs with a 'heavier' sound.

"It'll probably take a little more listening than some of the more obvious pop type material we did. It'll take repeated listening," says Helliwell. "Roger wrote most of the numbers that became singles, and we won't have that side of Supertramp anymore. So perhaps it'll be more of an album band, or we might get lucky and have a single. Who knows?"



Supertramp Goes Out In Style

September 15th 1983
St Louis Post-Dispatch
By Louise King

Mixed emotions filled the Checkerdome amphitheatre on Wednesday night. Supertramp fans were overjoyed to see the band play here for the first time in more than eight years, but reluctant to say goodbye to lead singer/keyboard player/guitarist Roger Hodgson, who is leaving the group after 14 years to pursue a solo career.

Supertramp's current tour, the final one with its present lineup, marks the end of an era in rock music. The group went out as it came in - with style.The quintet has spared nothing in putting together its most spectacular show to date. To that end, the instrumental and vocal artistry of Hodgson, lead singer/keyboard player Rick Davies, reedman John Hilliwell, bassist Dougie Thomson and drummer Bob C. Benberg has been supplemented by two multitalented performers.

As a studio musician, Fred Mandel worked with stars like Diana Ross and Queen before joining the Supertramp tour. The Toronto native played keyboards and delivered a scorching guitar solo on "Don't Leave Me Now." Scott Paige, who hails from Los Angeles, found plenty to keep him occupied as he juggled guitar, sax, keyboard and percussion duties throughout the evening. Both contributed to the vocals as well.

The addition of Mandel and Paige had the intended effect - it filled gaps previously left in the live instrumental arrangements and freed the remaining members to concentrate on the vocal performance.The music was augmented, but never dominated by a series of splendid special effects, including three huge light tripods suspended over the stage and video clips periodically displayed on a mammoth screen above the crowd. Twice during the show members of the road crew appeared in costume to highlight a particular song.From the start, the differences that have finally brought songwriters Hodgson and Davies to a parting of the ways were obvious.

The show opened with Hodgson's "Crazy," from the 1982 release, "Famous Last Words," as the album's cover art was brought to life on the video screen.

The bright, up tempo tune is perfectly suited to Hodgson's light, spirited tenor, while Davies' funkier voice matched the moodiness of the next song, "Ain't Nobody But Me," featuring the dual saxophones of Helliwell and Paige.In the end, it was primarily Hodgson's songs that stirred the crowd.

Ovation after ovation was heaped upon the familiar "Breakfast in America," "It's Raining Again," "The Logical Song" and "Dreamer." But at no time was the emotion greater than when Hodgson, usually a non-talker on stage, shared his feeling about this final tour, and offered "Give A Little Bit" to thank everyone for the love shown him over the years.

The show had many highlights, including the audience's visual train ride via the video screen during "Rudy" and the full-length climactic performance of "Fool's Overture." The latter featured a unique blend of pretty vocals and strong rhythms, skillfully women around a tightly choreographed combination of video clips, sound and lighting effects and unusual costumes.

Only encores like "School" and "Crime of the Century" could follow it. As the crowd took its final video voyage of the evening this time to outer space, Supertramp took its final bow.


Supertramp's Hodgson to hit road

September 2nd 1983
By Jane Scott

You don't have a new challenge in your life? "Then you're not really living," believes Roger Hodgson of Supertramp.

Hodgson is creating his own challenge. He's leaving the British band at the end of this tour to so solo. The Coliseum concert Sunday September 11 is his final fling; the last time you'll see the present lineup.

Can Supertramp survive without lead singer-songwriter-keyboard player-guitarist-arranger Hodgson? Davies is the vocalist who has helped make Supertramp a double treat since 1969.

Supertramp is one of the few bands, which has two lead singers and two songwriters. They alternate, each singing his own songs.

"Yes. It will be different, but it will be exciting for them. We all feel good about it." Said Hodgson.
Says Supertramps' saxophone-clarinet player John A. Helliwell:Then, too, Rick Davies has a lot of new songs, Helliwell added.

"We don't have a replacement for Roger. He's irreplaceable. But we'll carry on without him."
Davies is the vocalist who has helped make Supertramp a double treat since 1969. Supertramp is one of the few bands, which has two lead singers and two songwriters. They alternate, each singing his own songs.

Hodgson and Helliwell were calling from separate phones in Lake Geneva, Wis.

So why is Hodgson cutting out? "I've been with Supertramp 14 years now. It's just reached the point where I can't learn any more from the group. I'm hungry to work with other musicians, join other projects, not be limited to any one grouping," he said.

"It's been building a feeling for four or five years now."

Hodgson isn't wasting much time.
He has his own company, Unicorn Productions, and a 48-track studio in Nevada City, California. He also has a backlog of about 70 songs he wants to record as soon as he can.

Hodgson will be taking his own Supertramp songs with him - crack tunes such as "The Logical Song," "Dreamer," "Hide in the Shell," "Give a Little Bit," "Breakfast in America," "Take the Long Way Home," "Crazy," and "Raining Again." Hodgson and Davies collaborated on Supertramp songs up through the 1974 "Crime of the Century" album, then wrote separately.

It's nice to have feedback from people around you, a bouncing board, but a personal statement has to be yours. And it's easier to sing a song with sincerity if you're singing your own feelings, he has found.
Davies as become stronger as an individual and as a songwriter, Hodgson said. "It will be good for him to be out from under my dominating personality.

And he's ready to take control. He has some fantastic songs ready to go," he added.

Davies has historically been the harder, more cynical side of Supertramp, Hodgson feels.

"He's got the harder voice, more intense, and very good. He wrote songs like 'Bloody Well Right,' 'Crime of the Century,' 'Goodbye, Stranger.'

There's a little more of a hard-edge to him. On the other hand, my voice is lighter. Lyrically we're pretty much the same," he said.

Ironically, Hodgson wrote the band's heaviest song, "Fools Overture," which is about the state of the world, mostly England.

There will be social commentary - "I don't like the word social, say planetary awareness - in my new songs," said Hodgson.

But he doesn't believe in dwelling on the negative.
"The world has never been so in need of hopeful feelings. They're hungry for joyful, uplifting music. I think it's a reaction to the unemotional, very machine-like, mechanical music that a lot of new music is doing today. But I think such music is a trend that will pass."

Hodgson's own music is difficult to pigeonhole, he feels.

"I do all kinds from epic pieces to pop songs. I think I'm going to make my music more spontaneous, more lyrically vital, more emotional, much more experimental," he said.

Some of his first solo album may sound a bit like Supertramp. But that is because Hodgson was the main arranger for Supertramp.

Hodgson's new project will just be called Roger Hodgson. He won't tour to support his first album, but expects to by the time the second on comes out.

"It's going slowly now. But I'll have Michael Shrieve, the old Santana drummer, on my first LP, and an old friend of mine from England, Ken Allardyce, on bass. I'll probably form my own group by the second album."

Supertramp will have two extra musicians, both sessions' men, onstage at the Coliseum. They will be Fred Mandel of Toronto on guitars and keyboards and Scott Page of Los Angeles on saxophone, guitars and percussion, Helliwell said.

Does Helliwell fell that Supertramp's sound has changed through the years?

"No, we're just ourselves. We've made our own little world of music. We don't consciously try to change. Well, perhaps it might be a little rockier than it was," he said.

Helliwell, born in Yorkshire, had been in a band called Alan Bown, which also included Robert Palmer and Jess Roden. Then he put an 'advert' in Melody Maker.

"It said 'Have sax will travel.' Supertramp called me," he said. Interesting, because Supertreamp earlier put an ad in Melody Maker. "It said 'GENUINE OPPORTUNITY' in big letters. Rick had put it in. And here's a twist. My mother (Jill) saw it and pushed me to go to the audition," said Hodgson. But then it was his mom who had hid his father's guitar when they were divorced so Hodgson could have it some day and she helped the group along in drab days.

"We've always made our own rules. We never kept the rules," Hodgson said. The band released albums when it wanted to, not because a record company insisted. (It didn't have a record company) and it headlined its first American tour in 1974.

Supertramp started out with a benefactor, a rich Swiss, who had supported another Davies band before Supertramp. "But after the sponsor was dropped, we struggled and paid our dues. We told John to keep his job at the gas station, though. One time we actually ground to a halt and split, for two days. We failed; lets knock it on the head, we said. But then along came Dougie Thomson, our bass player. He had a lot of business sense. We sold our equipment for recording equipment and made a demo," said Hodgson.

A&M records management liked what it heard on the eight-track and financed the group through the next six months. It paid off. The album, "Crime of the Century," went to No 1 in England. The band had lived together those recording months. What does "Crime of the Century" mean? "We've never really given a satisfactory answer," evaded Hodgson.

"A lot of people consider it a concept album. Actually it did fall together, but it took a long time to find the right songs and put them in order," Hodgson said.

Hodgson lives on a 240-acre plot. "I love to drive my tractor. It's a very necessary balance for me, to get out in the fresh air," he said. Hodgson's daughter, Heidi, 4, was born just 12 minutes before one of their 1979 gigs. "Nothing like that has happened again. But our excitement is getting out before an audience. And I've never been as excited before as with my new challenge," he said.


Supertramp: The End of an Era?

Jam The Music Magazine
September 1983
By David Huff

Roger Hodgson, the lead singer and principle songwriter of Supertramp, sat comfortably in his Northern California home. The band had just completed a three-month European tour that Hodgson called "one of the most enjoyable tours that we have ever done," and in a few days, he would rejoin his fellow, "Tramps" to embark on the bands' first tour of the United Stated in four years.There has been a lot of commotion stirred in the press about the Supertramp 1983 World Tour, and deservedly so. It is the last time Hodgson will ever appear on the stage with a band that he, and the other force behind Supertramp, Rick Davies, founded over a decade ago. Hodgson announced a few months ago he was retiring from the band to pursue a career as a solo artist and to work with other musicians outside of the Supertramp framework.

"Initially, I thought about doing solo projects outside of Supertramp and still be part of the band," offered Hodgson quietly, "and that could have been possible. Actually, that was my intention to do that."

"We are at a point now where Rick and myself, the two writers, the two forces within the band, where for many reasons, we kind of need to get divorced before we can be friends again. That is what I call it.
It's not working being tied to each other contractually and having to make albums rather than make albums because we want to. "I am certainly open for the future. Maybe three or tour years down the line, we will feel like working together. But, at the moment, it is pretty clear that we need to go and spread our wings."

To say that Hodgson won't be missed from the Supertramp line-up is a gross understatement. Hodgson has penned some of the classic Supertramp songs, like "Fool's Overture," "School," "Dreamer," "The Logical Song," "Give A Little Bit," "Take the Long Way Home," and "Breakfast in America," to name a few.

Because of the tremendous amount of airplay those songs have received, subsequently, Hodgson has become known as the 'voice' of Supertramp.

To set the record straight, Hodgson had actually decided to retire from Supertramp after the band's strenuous Breakfast In America tour in 1979, which he says, nearly destroyed the band mentally and physically.

"Up until Breakfast In America, there really were magical feelings when writing and recording Supertramp material," said Hodgson as he pointed in the direction of the platinum Supertramp albums that decorate the wall of his modest secluded home some 500 miles north of Los Angeles.

"We had a very close kind of family feeling for a long, long time really, up until Breakfast In America. Breakfast is really where it started diverging and everyone started looking outside the Supertramp music for their personal happiness and fulfillment.

Perhaps today's situation wouldn't have existed had Supertramp not recorded Breakfast in America?

'No, I am very, very happy that it did happen," Hodgson said quickly. "It is a great album. It wasn't really so much the album; it was the nine-month marathon tour that followed it. We did 120 shows in nine months and almost killed ourselves and killed the band as well.

It was during that tour really that the songs began to sound very, very tired and very, very old. I felt like I needed to do something else and probably should have gone and made the decision to leave straight after that tour at the end of '79. However, it wasn't the time to talk after the tour, so we took two years off and got back together again, did another album….Famous Last Words, to see if it would work again. It didn't."

The failure of..Famous Last Words to duplicate the success of Breakfast In America shouldn't be considered the final nail that was driven into the Supertramp coffin as far as Hodgson was concerned.

As he is careful to point out, even though..Famous Last Words was a traumatic experience to record, there are other albums in Supertramp's past that also proved very difficult to deal with as far as the band was concerned.

"Really, it comes down to what is happening in one's life at the time an album is recorded as to whether a project is magical or it's not," said Hodgson dutifully. "Breakfast was magical, Crime of the Century, was magical, Crisis, What Crisis, there was a lot of crisis things happening in our personal lives and it didn't go the way that we wanted it. Even in the Quietest Moments was pretty traumatic. It didn't come out exactly the way we wanted it.

"The albums that are successes really stem from having a good time making them. There are a set of circumstances that make for a chemistry that makes magic, and I think that that is the main ingredient. You can never tell when that is going to happen." Supertramp started out like so many English bands in its day, a couple of aspiring musicians who meet and find that musically they both gel together. In the early years, Davies and Hodgson had a difficult time finding the fight musicians to make the music that today is instantly recognizable around the world.

"It was very tough to find the right musicians to make Supertramp in the beginning," recalled Hodgson. "It took about five years to do and many, many auditions. We must have seen over 400 drummers, 50 bass players, and about 50 guitarists.

For the first five years, I was constantly changing from bass guitar to lead guitar just because we couldn't find whichever one at the time, and whichever one we couldn't find, I would take up that instrument."

Supertramp finally stabilized with Even in the Quietest Moments. That album spawned two tremendous single, the title song and "Fool's Overture," that brought Supertramp to the attention of the world.

"When Supertramp started out, we never had a conscious goal apart from just trying to do everything the best way that we could." Said Hodgson. "There are a lot of perfectionist in the band, myself included, so everything that we did, we tried to do the best job that we could. Other than that, probably achieving success is the thing that held us all together."

And as success held Supertramp together, at the same time it nearly destroyed them. For years, the members of Supertramp were absorbed with only their music, say Hodgson, and they had a very close family feeling. After the monumental success of Breakfast In America and the marathon tour that ensued that is when the band began looking outside the Supertramp music for their personal happiness and fulfillment.

"Money had a lot to do with the attitude change in Supertramp. In fact, it changes your attitude about a lot of things," said Hodgson. "From thinking in terms of the band, once we achieved success with Breakfast In America, we took some time off, and it was the first time that we had a chance to have a homelife and get into our own individual lives. We started thinking individually rather than as a collective band.

I think that the biggest challenge an artist can have is success, and especially financial success, because money brings with it a whole different set of challenges. It is very easy for it to consume you, not only in how you are going to spend it, but it takes a lot of looking after. Before you know it, it really does control your lifetime wise.

Financial independence is very, very difficult to master. You just don't have any time for anything else. You tend to want to buy your own house, move away from a life, the lifestyle of the people you sing to. You kind of isolate yourself and lose touch with the way people you sing to are feeling from day to day. It is very easy for you to lose your perspective and I think for us, money really did that."

…Famous Last Words was a last ditch attempt by Hodgson to regain the magical feelings the Breakfast In America tour had destroyed. Unfortunately, the magic turned into a bit of horror, and even though the album did spawn a couple of hit singles, "It's Raining Again," and "Crazy," overall, …Famous Last Words was a dismal failure for the band. "You're right, I wasn't happy with our last album," said Hodgson with a tinge of sadness in his voice. "From what I knew it would have been, it falls way short. I don't think that it is progression of anything that we have done in the past, and I don't think that it really hangs together. As far as running order goes,…Famous Last Words is a prime example of wrong sequence. You have got "Crazy," you've got "Old Brown Shoe," which is a nice transition there, and then should go somewhere else, but it doesn't. It kind of goes back to a track that probably should have opened the side, "It's Raining Again." There is no bitterness or inner band hostilities connected with what could be billed as a Farewell Tour of the original Supertramp. The band understands why he should pursue other musical avenues and do it alone he says.

"There were only a couple of times on the European tour that when I saw the reaction of the people towards our music and how they obviously love it and the band, that I got a little sad knowing that this would be the last time that I would be performing with Supertramp." Admitted Hodgson. "I am a little sad, but I am not sad for us. I just know that this is necessary to keep us, and especially myself, growing and producing music that is going to make other people happy.

Perhaps Supertramp is too challenging for me now. It is really at a point now where for freshness and new growth, I need to find other musicians to work. I have gotten as much as I can from this collection of musicians. I still have a real deep love for them and them for myself, but I feel I need to work with other musicians for my creative growth." There are a lot of people who will never understand Hodgson's decision to leave Supertramp. He is in fact irreplaceable, but life will go on for himself, and the band. "Whatever I say, people are going to draw their own conclusions," summed up Hodgson after a few seconds of thought. "But there is sense to what I am doing."
"Each goal that you try to attain in life, it's the achieving of it that is the fun part. Once you have achieved this hanging onto it for grim life, there is no happiness in that really unless it is still giving you something. If it's not, then you might as well go out and find a new mountain to climb, or a new goal to chase. I am very proud with what I have achieved with Supertramp, and I'm not trying to run away from it.


Pomp and Puddles

Daily Express
July 13 1983
By Derek Jewell

Waiting for Supertramp seems to have been a pastime of flash-rockers since time was much younger. It took them six years to break through with "Crime of the Century" in 1974. It's taken them three-and-a-half years to get on the road again.

And they were an hour late at Earls Court on Wednesday when a 17,000 trance of the million who are seeing them this time around were in ecstasy at their spectacular two-hour reincarnation. Pomp rock dead? Don't make me laugh. Pomp is alive and burning as the near-certainty that a ticket promising a support band would turn out not to deliver - unless the "support" was the piano-tuner who appeared at 8.40, and the unedifying sight of roadies swarming up rope-ladders.

Still, when Super T finally made it, they gave superb value. With seven musicians a-playing, and the heart of the band - lead singers Dick Davies and the departing Roger Hodgson, with reeds player John Helliwell - in great form, the symphonic synthesized extravaganzas and the neat, sharp, brittle quickies like "Dreamer" and "Logical Song" kept a-rolling juggernaut-fashion.

The show was framed in a splendidly pyrotechnic set - lights used with arty bombast and the film clips were diverting, if seldom inspiring, except for the sudden sight of Churchill declaiming, "We shall defend our island - we shall never surrender", during the powerful climax.

This statement was as wildly cheered as finally were Supertramp, and indication perhaps that the factions of pomp and punk are as deeply divided as they keep telling us England is; and that, in the end, pomp rules as Margaret Thatcher does.


Sick of the same old songs

The Sunday Times
July 3rd 1983

Roger Hodgson, founder member and multi-instrumentalist in millionaire band Supertramp, has admitted he is relieved to be leaving the group he launched 13 years ago. "We argued about a lot of petty thing," he reveals.

"Making our last album Famous Last Words took 16 months, which was an emotionally difficult time. We were sick of listening to the songs after four months. It was an awful strain." Hodgson says the reason he finally decided to leave Supertramp was to make records with more spontaneity.

"We had already gone our separate ways when we decided to have one more try with the last album. It didn't work. I call it a divorce. Rick (Davies) and I had learned as much as we could from each other.

We've always had a strange relationship - a deep love for each other - but we're different characters."
Hodgson, a former Stowe public schoolboy, has always been less enthusiastic about showbiz razzmatazz than the rest of Supertramp. He lives reclusively with his wife Karuna, and two children in a village near Lake Tahoe in California. "I don't know if we'll ever come back to Britain," says the Oxford-born star. "England has a better education system than America - but I won't be sending my children to public school."

Hodgson was the driving force of Supertramp's music, being responsible for much of the success of albums like Breakfast in America and Crime of the Century. Their LPs have sold 40 million copies worldwide. His first 'solo' album will be called Sleeping With the Enemy, and is due out next year.



The royal accolade that came too late…

By Moira Petty

Supertramp, the tax exile millionaire rock group, received the royal seal of approval yesterday - just a few weeks too late. Princess Diana named the 13 year-old supergroup as one of her favourite bands this week. She may not have known that earlier this month, when she was in Canada, Roger Hodgson, the man whose song writing skills have been central to Supertramp's worldwide success announced he was quitting. And without him, Supertramp will never be the same. "Being in a rock band is just like a marriage," 32-year-old Roger explained. "We began arguing about petty things." "Making our last album, Famous Last Words, took 16 months, which was an emotionally difficult time. It was an awful strain."

The price of being at the top of the rock music world took its toll and the band decided on a trial separation. "We thought we'd give it one more try and make the new album. But it didn't work. I call it a divorce." Ex-Stowe public schoolboy Roger, who lives on the edge of Lade Tahoe with his wife and two children is planning a solo album, and says he wants it to be more spontaneous than the predicable heavy rock Supertramp have been churning out.
Critics Supertramp whose line-up includes Rick Davies on keyboard, Dougie Thompson on Bass, John Helliwell on saxophone and drummer Bob Benberg, haven't always gone down with the critics, who complain they play music for pensioned off hippies. But somehow they've managed to attract a very young audience to add to the fans that have stayed with them since the Seventies. It was after leaving England for the States in 1976 that Supertramp tasted success. Their eight LPs, including best-seller albums Crime of the Century and Breakfast in America sold 60 million copies.
Split Money was also one of the reasons for the split. "When you become as big as we were, you cease to be a band. You become a business," says Roger Hodgson. "I spent more time dealing with money than enjoying it." On this sad note Hodgson bows out and though the remaining members vow to keep Supertramp afloat, it's doubtful they will manage without the man whose distinctive voice and songs made them what they are.


Faceless five who sound just right for Diana

Daily Express
July 14th 1983
By David Wigg

Four years ago the Three Degrees all-girl pop group attained royal approval when Prince Charles, their No 1 fan, invited them to his 30th birthday party at Buckingham Palace. Since then Charles, who actually prefers classical music, has shown a predilection for Status Quo and next week he will be taking Princess Diana to a charity concert in London, given by Britain's top group Duran Duran. But an off-the-cuff answer that the group Diana really prefers is Supertramp. Known as the faceless five because of their quest for anonymity, this British rock group is one of the hottest sounds around.

Admirers It is perhaps no surprise that Supertramp are the Princess of Wales's favourite. Through their reflective, contemporary rock songs they attracted a massive following of female admirers. By their own choice, little is known of the individuals other than their musical backgrounds. The group is made up of Roger Hodson from Buckingham (shortly to leave), Richard Davies from Swindon, Dougie Thomson from Glasgow, John Helliwell from Yorkshire and Bob Benberg from California. They have sold more than 60 million albums world-wide. But selling millions is no match for receiving the royal seal of approval.



Roger's last words as Supertramp split

Sunday Mail
3rd June 1983
By Clive Ranger

It looks like the end of the road for Supertramp, the American-based British band who last week played to 180,000 fans over three nights in London. Roger Hodgson, the man who wrote nearly all of the band's world-wide hits, is leaving to go solo. It is 13 years since Hodgson and his close friend Rick Davies formed Supertramp. They lived in a squat and took odd jobs to buy petrol for their broken down van. Often they couldn't even afford enough food. Then can success.

Now, after four multi-million selling albums and massive world tours that success has created a rift between Hodgson and Davies, which will never be mended. 'We've drifted apart both musically and emotionally,' says Hodgson. 'After the amazing success of the Breakfast in America album and tour, we were all shattered. It was the toughest tour we'd ever done. By the 30th show the band was tired and so was the music. We all felt there was something missing. So we decided to go our separate ways - for a time.'

They came together again to record their album Famous Last Words, but relationships were strained. And the end was in sight long before they began their current tour. The band's success and the torrent of money from record sales, royalties and mammoth tours have, admits Hodgson, created problems. 'When you become as big as we were, you cease to be a band, you become a business.

And if you don't have the organization to deal with it the money disappears as fast as it come in. I spent more time dealing with money than enjoying it.


The clash within Supertramp

By Steve Pond
Rolling Stone

Twelve years ago, Roger Hodgson answered an ad Rick Davies had placed in 'Melody Maker.' He went to an audition, played "Dear Mr. Fantasy" on his acoustic guitar, and the two hit it off. That was the start of Supertramp and of a relationship between Hodgson and Davies that has led to eight albums, several hit singles and enough frustration to nearly ruin the band.

Starting in about 1974, the songwriting partners began to drift apart: Hodgson took up yoga and moved to a small northern California town; his former roommate stayed in Los Angeles.

Last year, they suffered through one final album - appropriately entitled "…famous last words…" before deciding that Hodgson had to go. He's now recording a solo album, 'Sleeping with the Enemy,' and will play one last tour with Supertramp this summer.

After that, the band - minus Hodgson - will record 'Brother, Where You Bound?" once planned as a Davies solo record. Hodgson, who wrote such hits as "The Logical Song," "Give a Little Bit" and "It's Raining Again," recently elaborated on the rift.

What was the main problem between Rick and you?

It's always been difficult for us to communicate. It's a funny dichotomy: we understand each other very well and communicate very poorly. We were always very different, but when you're younger, single, going through similar problems and are together daily, you just feel much closer. And in the old days, we were both much more insecure musically. We needed each other. But Crime of the Century was really the last album we collaborated on; after that, the songs became more personal, and we were involved in different lifestyles.

Over about eight years I was becoming a vegetarian, trying to turn the world on to vegetarianism, getting into yoga and different philosophies. I'd be into them with all my heart and soul, and it just freaked him out. Also, I've always been the more forceful and stronger of the two, so my desired usually got their way. Rick's exploded from time to time, but mostly he bottles it up, and it's been a source of incredible frustration to him.

When did you finally decide to leave?

After the last album. All of the albums have been difficult to record, but a sense of togetherness always forced its way through. With this one, it was very difficult to make any headway, and the best songs fell by the wayside. Recording was not enjoyable; it ground to a halt several times. It told us all that something had to change.

For a long time, I'd been upsetting the apple cart by saying that we needed fresh energy in Supertramp. But ultimately, Rick and the other guys realized that they wanted to stay together, and they didn't want what I wanted. It was obvious that there was only one solution.

Now that we've separated, we're probably more open that we've ever been before.

Will you solo record sound less like Supertramp than Rick's album?

Actually, it'll probably sound more like Supertramp, because my voice is better known. Both albums will sound like Supertramp, but I hope it will be Supertramp at its best rather than at the compromise level of the last album.


Supertramp's Hodgson Neither Here nor There

The Los Angeles Times By Dennis Hunt

Roger Hodgson, a key member of the superstar pop/rock band Supertramp, is in a ticklish situation.

He's leaving the band but not until after its next tour. So for the next few months, as a lame-duck member, he has to work with Rick Davies (vocals/keyboards), Dougie Thomson (bass), Bob C. Benberg (drums) and John Helliwell (saxophones, synthesizers). At the offices of Hollywood based A&M Records one recent afternoon, Hodgson officially announced both his departure from Supertramp and plans for the international tour, which begins in Europe June 1 and includes late summer concerts in America.

Hodgson, a mild-mannered 33 year-old Englishman, was quite nervous that day. He was well aware that any unduly critical statement might irritate his colleagues and generate tension that would make it uncomfortable to tour with them.

"The media could do a lot of damage in this case," he noted. "I can see this story coming out and one of the band members calling me and saying, 'What the hell did you say that for?' I want my last days with this band to be a pleasant as possible. Though Hodgson's exit is just being officially announced now, he actually made the decision last October.

But with the group's Top 10 albums. "Famous Last Words," and Top 10 single, "It's Raining Again," in release during the Christmas season, the band and its publicist wanted to avoid all negative publicity. So they decided to keep Hodgson's departure a secret.

Why is he revealing the secret now?
His motives are primarily commercial. A few weeks ago he began recording a solo album - consisting of a few new songs and some material left off the "Famous Last Words" album - that should be released just in time for the summer tour. "A tour is the ultimate commercial tool for promoting an album," he explained. "I'm not going to do a solo tour, so the best way to publicize the album is through a Supertramp tour. The smart thing for me to do is get that album finished, put it out and talk about it with the media on tour." Hodgson is relieved that he won't have to do a solo tour just yet. The prospect of performing as the star of his own band frightens him because he's not used to it.

In Supertramp shows he's not the front man and neither is Davies. This is probably the only major band in which the chief singer/songwriters hide in the background while one of the sidemen - John Helliwell - handles the patter.

Losing Hodgson will be a blow to supertramp. Not only does he sing and play guitars and keyboards but also most important, he writes half the songs. Davies writes the other half. This impressive creative team, in high gear since Supertramp's dazzling third album, "Crime of the Century," in 1974, has finally been undone by friction. If Hodgson had followed his instincts he would have left the band years ago.

His dissatisfaction with Supertramp became acute in 1979 during the band's last tour, which promoted "Breakfast in America," the imaginative pop/rock album that transformed this into a superstar band.

"That tour didn't feel right," he recalled. "It was evident that we had gone as far as we could. I had been trying to make changes in the band for years, but I wasn't getting anywhere. There was a growing feeling that Rick and I weren't bringing out the best in each other. But we decided to give it one last shot." That last project was "Famous Last Words."

Though this album was big hit, Hodgson now apparently regrets staying with the band to work on it. "We started it in 1981, and it took about a year and a half, " Hodgson pointed out. "It was a painful process for all of us. I wanted to get some fresh musical energy into the band, either additional or different musicians, but Rick didn't want that. Things had reached the point of stagnation.

We didn't really fight. But there were those long silences. The album took so long because of all the tension."

In Hodgson's opinion, all that conflict was detrimental to "Famous Last Words" "In that atmosphere of stagnation, the only songs we could agree on were the light songs. Of course, we wanted the music to have more depth and substance, but we just couldn't do meatier songs in that kind of atmosphere.

"There were a lot of incredible songs that didn't get on the album. Rick has a 12-minute epic that's probably the best thing he's ever done. It was going to be on the album, but the whole experience was so unpleasant that he felt he didn't want to put his masterpiece on an album where the vibes were so bad during the sessions.

"We just couldn't dome together on a level where we could do something of substance. So it seemed like Supertramp was turning into a light pop band. The album turned out to be much lighter than we wanted it to be. I was disappointed in it, knowing what it could have been."

When trying to explain his conflict with Davies, Hodgson was rater vague: "I can't narrow it down to one thing. It's just that when we get into the studio it just doesn't work anymore. Rick and I have been working together over 12 years and I know I've been stifling Rick for the last 10 years. I've always been the one to get my way.
"Our writing styles are contrasting, but that was a plus. There were these two writing styles bouncing off each other, creating these interesting tensions.

There was always this sense of competition between us. It was healthy for the band for years. Then all of a sudden things weren't working. The magic was gone. The fun was gone. I don't really know what happened.

I guess we've all changed, grown apart over the years. I just know I didn't want to be in this band anymore.

]]> (MAC) Interviews Wed, 11 Aug 2010 16:55:20 +0000
SUPERTRAMP Interview, Breakfast in America, Aug 1979

 (en español a continuación)

Is There Schizophrenia In Heaven?



Excerpt from RAM magazine - August 24, 1979


Harry Doherty penetrates the dressing room of the most enigmatic phenomenon to top the world charts this year.

It’s 2 am in the car-park of the Cleveland Coliseum, and the fanbelt on Roger Hodgson’s motor home has just snapped. We’re stranded. And the baby’s crying. And Roger, singer-guitarist-pianist of Supertramp, wants to talk about the psychic powers of music.

“Rock ‘n’ roll is just touching upon what’s possible with music,” he confidently begins. “I really think of rock ‘n’ roll as being very primitive. I think of what we’re doing as being very primitive. We haven’t even begun to explore. The power of music has been forgotten. The ancients knew it, and we’re rediscovering it very slowly. Music has the power to heal, to hypnotise, to make people totally sad, happy, joyous. I’d like to find out how to do all those things.”

Rick Davies (kebyds, vcls) would probably say that’s a load of rubbish.

Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies are the contrasting personalities – the philosopher and the realist – who write, sing and play with Supertramp. Supertramp are big business in America right now. They have the rare distinction in the US of making an album that dropped from number one to two with a bullet. Their current North American tour, a massive 50-concert jaunt now winding to a close in Canada, has attracted audiences in excess of 10,000 nightly.

Supertramp are British, have released six albums (four with today’s personnel) and now reside in Los Angeles. Breakfast In America the latest in the saga, has been widely interpreted as a cynical overview of the American life-style. Supertramp themselves have conflicting views on the matter, one half admitting that it is an opinion on the US while the other denies all guilt.

It’s a mistake, says John Anthony Helliwell, the band’s mildly eccentric sax-player, to read too deeply into the lyrics. Sure, he admits, the tone does poke a finger at certain elements of the American life-style, but no more than that. Nevertheless, lines that proclaim that there are “so many creeps in Hollywood” and “you watch the television, it tells you what you should” make it hard to swallow the diplomacy.

Bob Benberg, their affable Californian-born drummer, is genuinely surprised, the thought had never struck him. “I don’t think it was meant as a big social comment,” he offers tentatively.

Bass-player Dougie Thomson, a Scot, doesn’t mind California at all. Dougie loves it. The good weather allows him the pursue activities – deep sea diving, for example – that it’s impossible to explore consistently in old Blighty.

The droll Davies, looking the worse for wear as the tour nears its end, readily confesses his dislike for the West Coast in particular. So why settle down there?

“Well,” he explains slowly, “as we live in L.A., it’s very hard to say whether or not we’ve settled down in America. I don’t think that’s a place where anybody wants to settle down, not even Americans.”

Hodgson makes light of Breakfast In America. Some of the pertinent observations contained in the album were his, but he doesn’t disguise the fact that the social freedom California affords suits his religious beliefs much more.

“I started getting into yoga and spiritual things in England, but you could say it found fertile soil in California. Yoga is considered weird in England, but in California it’s not. It’s an everyday word that people have a lot of respect for and it’s what a lot of people are into. The same as being a vegetarian. In England you’re a weirdie. So there’s that and the climate. In California, you feel that you want to be healthy, because you feel good. In England, unfortunately, you almost live your life in a raincoat.”

He emphasizes there was no deliberate concept. The fact that listeners searched for one was a hangover from the days of Crime Of The Century, the album which brought them back into the spotlight in 1974.

“It’s just a collection of songs. We chose the title because it was a fun title. It suited the fun feeling of the album.”

Hodgson and Davies are the only remaining original members of Supertramp, although it will be argued that the band’s real history didn’t begin until 1973 when the pair recruited the services of Benberg, Thompson [sic] and Helliwell in a desperate attempt to give their ailing rock career the kiss of life.

Until the band was re-shaped, Supertramp had endured an inauspicious spell. The future had originally looked bright when Rick Davies, with financial help from a mysterious Dutch financier called Sam, broke up his own group, the Joint, to form another. Out of the auditions came public schoolboy Roger Hodgson, guitarist Richard Palmer and percussionist Robert Miller. Palmer wrote the lyrics; Hodgson and Davies combined to compose the music. An album, Supertramp, the start of a long and patient affiliation with A&M Records, came out in 1970 and attracted little attention.

When the second album Indelibly Stamped was released a year later, only Hodgson and Davies remained from the original band, now joined by Frank Farrell (bass and piano), Kevin Currie (percussion) and David Winthrop (flutes and saxophones). After the failure of that album and band, Davies and Hodgson decided that drastic action was needed to put their band back on the rails. They jettisoned Farrell, Currie and Winthrop. First they found Dougie Thompson [sic] and, through him, nabbed John Helliwell. Davies had seen Benberg play with Bees Make Honey and made him an offer that he could very well have refused but, for some reason, didn’t.

A&M’s faith having been re-affirmed, the band retreated to a cottage in Somerset called Southcombe. Although they’re understandably loth [sic] to use the term, the cottage was run along the lines of a “hippy commune” in which they lived on the breadline and rehearsed the material for Crime Of The Century to perfection.

With that, Ken Scott was drafted in as their producer. His arrival, coupled with the fact that Davies and Hodgson had struck a strong vein of compositional inspiration, was to prove invaluable. He is chiefly responsible for the reputation Supertramp have accumulated as a fussy band in the studio, producing perfect stereo for your hi-fi. It’s a compliment that Davies and Hodgson accept begrudgingly.

Davies lays the credit (or the blame) for the careful production on the shoulders of both Hodgson and Scott. Hodgson, however, says that he’s not too bothered about the sound.

“There’s no real powerhouse musician in the band,” Davies explains. “Because of that, I think that we need to be fussy in the production.” But he seems particularly aggrieved that Breakfast In America took eight months to record – “a ridiculous amount of time, really.”

Roger, he says, is dominant in the production – “and he’s welcome to it. If I ever did a solo album, I’d just get the best producer I could think of and leave it to him. I skived a lot when we did Breakfast In America. It just gets boring, beyond being any fun at all. You’ll walk in and they’re playing a certain section and five hours later, they’re still on it… but I’m certainly grateful for the results. I would just add to the confusion if I hung about.”

Hodgson maintains Ken Scott is responsible for their hi-fi status. “We have a reputation now for high quality, so we can’t release bad sound-quality. It’s worthwhile, but if you left me to my own devices, I’d go home with my eight-track stereo recorder and probably put an album out on that.

“That [sic] albums that I like aren’t of very high recording quality. If you listen to all the Beatles’ stuff, it’s terrible. It was recorded abominably but, because the vibe in it is so nice, you don’t even think about it. We’re doing that slowly. There’s more of a band vibe on Breakfast In America than ever before. In a way that’s what took us so long. We almost lost that, and we spent three months finding it again.”

Another ingredient in Supertramp’s arrival is its grueling touring pattern.

When they go out on the road, it’s never a half-measure. This is not the first nine-month tour on which Supertramp have embarked, but the weight of endless one-nighters has taken its toll.

This will, in fact, be Supertramp’s last major tour – one of the few areas where Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson find themselves in total agreement.

When the subject of touring is raised, Davies wears a decidedly painful expression: “I think we’re going to have to use the time a little more creatively than just endless tours, because that will kill us in the end. We have to figure that one out.”

Dougie Thompson [sic] strategically points out Supertramp are caught up in the commercial circle of touring-the-US/recording-for-the-US/touring-the-US.

Davies is particularly desperate to crack the system, hoping that they might do condensed tours in the future.

His writing, he says, has suffered more than anything else. “The five songs that I did on Breakfast are the only things that I’ve done in three years. I can’t think straight when we’re on the road. I’m just thinking about where we’re going next.

“The problem is that three of the band are not writers. It’s up to them to find their little niches, for when the band aren’t touring. It’s down to ‘can we survive without being around each other so much?’ Can we all exist within our own little worlds and then come back together as Supertramp? It’s difficult, because John loves to tour. He loves to play more than anything else, whereas I’m ready to go home. I feel bad for him. It’s a question of being able to handle that.”

Roger, more pragmatic, doesn’t have such crises of conscience. He’s made his mind up: he’s determined to get touring before touring gets him.

“Touring agrees with me less and less now. I think this is the last one for me. It’s probably the last one for all of us. There’s more things to life. I still want to play to people, because that’s in a musician’s blood, but in a way I get as much, probably even more, playing an acoustic guitar in front of a room full of people than I do getting up there in front of 15,000 people. I get much more reward within myself.

“It’s a show. I feel like I’m part of a show. I don’t feel I’m me. But in a room full of people you know that every single subtlety will be picked up. Artistically, our show is like a play. We go out and do the same play every night, maybe slightly different depending on how you feel and how you vibe with the actors. That’s how I see us now. It’s like an experience that people come and see. That’s the biggest motivation, that people do want to see it, and I really believe that it’s one of the best rock shows that’s ever been.

“But as far as my life goes, I don’t feel that it’s expanding me musically or artistically. It’s my job, basically, at the moment. It’s something that we’ve got to do in order to earn ourselves the freedom to develop artistically, which means coming off the road.

“I’m feeling very clear about this in my mind. I don’t think we can do much more with the songs. We’ve done it. The show is as good as it can be. All we could do now with the music we’ve got and the songs and lighting is get bigger and better – and there’s no point, really, because we don’t want to get any bigger than this. By the end of this tour, it’ll be time to move on.

“Rick said something once about the Beatles; that their most creative period came when they stopped touring. That might have been coincidence. It might have been LSD. But I think there’s a great truth in that. Touring is a very unreal world. You haven’t got your feet on the ground.

“It’s funny, but although I have a great belief in the show, I won’t miss it when we stop.”

I saw Supertramp play twice in America, once in front of 15,000 partisans in Buffalo, New York State (a city which lays claim to being the first US center to adopt the band, and where the local radio station was first to champion Crime Of The Century and its single, Dreamer), and before a more critical audience of 10,000 in Cleveland, Ohio, an area never before visited by the band. I came away impressed, if not totally converted to their cause.

The band certainly place demands on their audience, playing a tiring two-and-a-half hour set which might be less than enough for the average Supertramp freak but which I found a little on the long side. They maintain that it couldn’t be trimmed down any further.

For their reputation as studio aces, Supertramp are a much more powerful proposition live. Songs that aren’t exactly bouncing with vitality on vinyl are miraculously brought to life in concert. I’m thinking particularly of Davies’ superbly soulful ballad, From Now On, and Hodgson’s forceful epic, Fool’s Overture, both of which were monumental on stage.

The soulful facet of Supertramp is not usually given prominence but I found it sometimes lurked embarrassingly behind a couple of heavy-handed arrangements. Mostly it emanates from Rick Davies’ moody, somber playing but John Helliwell’s saxophone bursts help emphasise it.

Helliwell, too, tries hard to give the band an image other than just of dedicated musos. His English cheekiness finds favour with American audiences (“My backing band and I will now play…” “Roger Hodgson will now accompany me for this next song.”)

A veteran of the early-Sixties trad jazz boom (well, he was 14 then), Helliwell’s sax playing has taken him through spells backing Jimmy Ruffin, Johnny Johnson and Arthur Conley and a period in the Alan Brown [sic] Set. Now you know where his soul style which fits perfectly into Logical Song comes from.

That inner-soul may be one reason why Supertramp have taken off with such a vengeance in the States. The band were confident that the market was there, and left England after breaking through at home with Crime Of The Century, going to live in Los Angeles and placing themselves entirely at the disposal of A&M, virtually begging to be “exploited.”

But few people anticipated the kind of impact that Breakfast In America would make. Benberg bet Rick Davies a hundred dollars that it would make top five. Davies was never happier to lose a bet.

Roger Hodgson, on the other hand, was convinced of its destiny.

“I always knew it was going to be a huge album. I knew our time had come and if it hand’t happened, the big man in the sky was playing a trick on us. I felt that it had to happen, the mere fact that we had to struggle so long for it.”

Breakfast was a very different album from its predecessors, and the band are aware of that. They had become wary of their reputation for turning out conceptual epics, and had decided to turn the tables by releasing a pop album – hence the inclusion of the title track, which had been written eight years previously by Hodgson.

“If Rick had his way,” Roger shyly digs, “it wouldn’t have been on this album either. He never liked the lyric to Breakfast. It’s so trite: ‘Take a look at my girlfriend.’ He’s much more into crafting a song. He would have been happier if I’d changed the lyric to either something funnier or more relevant. I tried, but it didn’t work out, so I was stuck with the original.

“The songs on this album were chosen because we really wanted to get a feeling of fun and warmth across. I think we felt that we had done three pretty serious albums” – (Crime Of The Century, Crisis? What Crisis? And Even In The Quietest Moments) – “and it was about time we showed the lighter side of ourselves.”

Davies does admit that he wasn’t keen on either the song or the title Breakfast In America, but came round to Roger’s way of thinking after viewing the album in a wider context.

“That title almost allows for pop songs. The actual song, Breakfast In America, doesn’t mean much. Neither do Oh Darling or Goodbye Stranger, so I saw a shape and it fitted.

“The pop side has always been a part of the group’s character. Maybe it’s been swamped a bit by the Genesis comparison, but it’s always been there. In a way, it’s easier to write minor-key opuses than a really good catchy pop song. That’s not easy at all. Roger has a stack of them a mile high, you know.”

Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson rule with a velvet fist. Their influence is unobtrusive but firm. There is an unspoken rule that the privacy of the individual must not be infringed. Supertramp is a very exclusive family.

In three days with the band, I don’t think I saw Davies and Hodgson converse once, other than to exchange courteous greetings. They’re vastly different personalities but they both write interestingly pertinent songs, with a depth of content that’s often overlooked in the rush to applaud (or criticize) the delicacy and prettiness of their music. Who can deny, though, a sympathy with the tone of Logical Song? The accuracy of that lyric is not a fluke; it is the mark of most songs by Davies and Hodgson. As far back as Crime Of The Century, Logical Song finds a predecessor in School. It was after Crime Of The Century though, that Hodgson and Davies drifted apart. The philosopher found God. The realist found reality.



breakfastbackcover breakfastcover



¿ Hay esquizofrenia en el cielo?

Extracto de RAM magazine - 24 Agosto, 1979

Harry Doherty se introduce en el camerino del fenómeno más enigmático en la actualidad que ha alcanzado el "top" de las listas mundiales este año.

Las 2 de la madrugada en el aparcamiento del Coliseum de Cleveland, y la correa del ventilador de la caravana de Roger Hodgson acaba de partirse. Nos hemos quedado tirados, y el bebé está llorando. Y Roger quiere hablar de los poderes psíquicos de la música.

"El rock and roll sólo está rozando lo que es posible conseguir con la música", asegura. "Yo creo realmente que el rock and roll está aún en un estadio muy primitivo, creo que lo que estamos haciendo es algo muy primitivo aún. Todavía no hemos comenzado a explorar. El poder de la música ha sido olvidado. En la Antigüedad lo conocían, y ahora lo estamos redescubriendo muy lentamente. La música tiene el poder de curar, de hipnotizar, de poner a la gente triste, feliz, alegre. Me gustaría descubrir cómo hacer todo eso".

Rick Davies (teclados, voces) probablemente diría que eso son todo bobadas. Roger Hodgson y Rick Davies son dos personalidades opuestas, el filósofo y el realista, que componen, cantan y tocan con Supertramp, que es ahora mismo un gran negocio en América. Su masiva gira actual por Norte América, con cincuenta conciertos ahora a punto de acabar en Canada, ha llevado a audiencias de más de diez mil personas por noche.

Supertramp es una banda británica, han publicado seis álbumes (cuatro con la formación actual) y ahora residen en Los Angeles. "Breakfast in America", el último disco de la saga, ha sido generalmente interpretado como una visión cínica del estilo de vida americano. En Supertramp tienen opiniones encontradas sobre el asunto: la mitad admiten ese punto de vista, mientras que el resto rechaza toda culpabilidad......

"Es un error", dice John Anthony Helliwell, el saxofonista -ligeramente excéntrico- del grupo, "leer en profundidad las letras de las canciones. Admite que seguramente el tono pone el dedo sobre ciertos elementos del estilo de vida americano, pero la cosa no pasa de ahí".
No obstante, frases como "demasiados pelotas en Hollywood" y "ves la televisión, que te dice lo que debes hacer" hacen que sea difícil tragar esa diplomacia.

Bob Siebenberg, su afable batería californiano, está realmente sorprendido. No se le había pasado por la cabeza. "No creo que deba entenderse como un gran comentario social", sugiere dubitativamente.

El bajista, el escocés Dougie Thompson, no le hace ascos a California en absoluto. En realidad le encanta. El buen clima le permite actividades al aire libre(como deportes náuticos) que es imposible practicar consistentemente en la vieja Inglatera.

El irónico Davies, que parece el más cansado mientras la gira se acerca a su fin, confiesa rápidamente su aversión por la Costa Oeste en particular. Entonces, ¿por qué se han instalado allí?

"Bueno", explica tranquilamente, "mientras vivamos en Los Angeles será difícil decir que nos hemos asentado en América. No creo que sea un sitio en el que nadie quiera asentarse, ni siquiera los americanos. Es una especie de limbo, una relación de amor-odio para mí.

Hodgson aporta luz sobre "Breakfast in America". Algunas de las observaciones contenidas en el álbum son suyas. Pero no puede disimular el hecho de que la libertad social en California encaja con sus creencias religiosas mucho mejor.

"Empecé a introducirme en el yoga y temas espirituales en Inglaterra, pero podría decirse que encontré un suelo más fertil en California. El yoga está considerado como algo raro en Inglaterra, pero en California no. Se puede ver que la gente lo respeta y muchas personas lo practican. Lo mismo ocurre con lo de ser vegetariano. En Inglaterra eres considerado un tipo raro. Todo esto junto con el clima. En California quieres vivir sano porque te sientes bien. En Inglaterra, desafortunadamente, pasas tu vida prácticamente dentro de un impermeable".

Roger enfatiza que el album no guarda un concepto deliberado. El hecho de que los oyentes lo busquen, proviene de los viejos tiempos del "Crime of the century", el disco que les catapultó a la fama en 1974.

"Es solo una colección de canciones. Elegimos ese título porque nos pareció divertido. Recoje los sentimientos divertidos del álbum. Hay algún comentario sobre América, pero no es premeditado".

Hodgson y Davies son los únicos miembros originales que permanecen en Supertramp, aunque podría argumentarse que la verdadera historia de la banda no comenzó hasta 1973 cuando la pareja reclutó los servicios de Siebenberg, Thompson y Helliwell en in intento desesperado de dar a su débil carrera musical un nuevo aliento.

Hasta que la banda fué reformada, Supertramp atravesó una época desafortunada. El futuro parecía brillante en los comienzos cuando Rick Davies, con la ayuda financiera de un misterioso financiero holandés llamado S.A.M, disolvió su propio grupo, The Joint, para formar otro nuevo. De las audiciones surgieron el estudiante Roger Hodgson, el guitarrista Richard Palmer y el percusionista Robert Miller. Palmer escribía las letras; Hodgson y Davies colaboraban en la composición de la música. El album "Supertramp", comienzo de una larga y paciente afiliación con A&M Records, se publicó en 1970 y provocó poca atención.

Cuando se publicó el segundo album "Indelibly Stamped" un año después, solo Hodgson y Davies permanecían de la banda original, ahora acompañados de Frank Farrell (bajo y piano), Kevin Currie (percusión) y David Winthrop (flautas y saxofones). Tras el fracaso relativo del album y la banda, Davies y Hodgson decidieron que era necesaria una acción drástica para poner la banda de nuevo sobre los raíles. Se deshicieron de Farrell, Currie y Winthrop. Primero encontraron a Dougie Thompson y, a través de el, ficharon a John Helliwell. Davies había visto a Siebenberg tocar con los Bees Make Honey y le hizo una oferta que podría haber rechazado perfectamente, pero por alguna razón no lo hizo.

La confianza de A&M se reafirmó, la banda se retiró a una granja en Somerset llamada Southcombe. Aunque ellos son comprensiblemente reacios a usar el término, la granja fué una especie de “comuna hippy” en la que vivieron con lo justo mientras prepararon el material para Crime Of The Century hasta la perfección.

Mientras, Ken Scott fué contratado como su Productor. Su llegada, junto con el hecho de la enorme armonía en la inspiración compositiva conjunta entre Davies y Hodgson, se mostró de valor incalculable. El es altamente responsable de la reputación que Supertramp ha ido acumulando como una banda cuidadosa al detalle en estudio, produciendo un perfecto estereo en tu equipo hi-fi. Es un cumplido que Davies y Hodgson aceptan de mala gana.

Davies cede los creditos (o la culpa) del cuidado en la Producción sobre los hombros de Hodgson y Scott. Hodgson, sin embargo, dice que el tampoco es demasiado exijente con el sonido.

Davies explica: "No hay ningún que destaque realmente en la banda", por eso creo que tenemos que ser bastante cuidadosos con la Producción". Pero parece particularmente afectado con que hayan tardado ocho meses en grabar el álbum. "En realidad, un período de tiempo absurdo".

Dice que Roger es dominante en la producción. "Y es bienvenido a hacerlo. Si yo hiciera un álbum en solitario, elegiría al mejor productor, me despeocuparía y le dejaría hacer. Yo me he escaqueado bastante en este album, se me hace muy aburrido, no encuentro diversión alguna en ello. Entras ahí y están trabajando con cierta parte, y cuando vuelves cinco horas después, siguen con lo mismo... pero estoy muy agradecido con el resultado. Sólo habría añadido confusión si me hubiera quedado por allí".

Hodgson asegura que Ken Scott es el responsable de su status de alta fidelidad. "Tenemos una reputación de una gran calidad, así que no podemos publicar nada con un sonido de mala calidad. Vale la pena, pero si me dejaras con mis propios medios, me iría a casa con mi grabadora estéreo de ocho pistas y haría el álbum con ello".

"Los discos que me gustan no son de una alta calidad de grabación. Si escuchas todo el material de los Beatles, es terrible. Está grabado de forma abominable, pero no llegas a pensar en ello por las buenas vibraciones que te aportan. Nosotros vamos haciendo eso poco a poco. Hay mejor feeling desde la banda en el 'Breakfast in America' que en discos anteriores. De alguna forma, por eso nos ha llevado tanto tiempo. Estuvimos a punto de perderlo y tardamos tres meses en recuperarlo".

Otro ingrediente importante en Supertramp es su modelo de largas giras. Cuando salen de gira no hacen las cosas a medias. Esta no es la primera gira de nueve meses en la que se han embarcado, pero el peso de estas giras inacabables ha cobrado su peaje. De hecho, está será la última gran gira de Supertramp, uno de los pocos asuntos en los que Rick Davies y Roger Hodgson están totalmente de acuerdo.

Cuando aparece el tema de las giras, Davies muestra una clara expresión de dolor. "Creo que tenemos que usar el tiempo de una forma un poco más creativa que en giras inacabables, porque esto va a terminar matándonos. Tenemos que asimilarlo".

Dougie Thompson señala hábilmente que Supertramp está atrapado en el círculo comercial de salir de gira mundial - grabar un disco - salir de gira mundial.

Davies está particularmente obsesionado con romper este círculo, esperando que quizás puedan hacer giras más condensadas en el futuro.

Sus composiciones, dice, han sufrido más que ninguna otra cosa. "Las cinco canciones que escribí para 'Breakfast in America' son las únicas que he compuesto en tres años. No puedo concentrarme cuando estamos de gira. Sólo puedo pensar sobre adonde vamos el día siguiente".

"El problema es que tres miembros de la banda no son compositores. Depende de ellos encontrar su pequeño nido para cuando el grupo no está de gira. Nos preguntamos ¿podremos sobrevivir sin estar juntos mucho tiempo? ¿Podremos existir en nuestros pequeños mundos y después volver a reunirnos como Supertramp?. Es difícil, porque a John le encantan las giras. Es lo que más le gusta, mientras que yo estoy listo para irme a casa. Lo siento por él. Es cuestión de ser capaz de manejar eso".

Roger, más pragmático, no tiene semejante crisis de conciencia. Ya lo ha decidido: está dispuesto a acabar con las giras antes de que las giras acaben con él.

"Salir de gira cada vez me gusta menos ahora. Creo que esta va a ser la última para mí. Probablemente será la última para todos nosotros. Hay más cosas en la vida. Todavía deseo tocar ante la gente porque eso va en la sangre del músico, pero en cierto modo prefiero tocar la guitarra acústica en una sala llena de gente que actuar ante quince mil personas. Me siento mejor recompensado, mejor conmigo mismo".

"Esto es un show. Me siento parte del show, no me siento como yo mismo. Pero en una sala llena de gente sabes que cada pequeño matiz va a ser captado. Artísticamente, nuestro show es como una representación. Salimos ahí fuera y hacemos la misma representación cada noche, tal vez variándola un poco en función de cómo nos encontramos y cómo nos compenetremos los actores. Así es como nos veo ahora. Es como una experiencia que la gente viene a ver. Esa es nuestra mayor motivación, que la gente quiera verlo, y creo de verdad que este es uno de los mejores espectáculos de rock que ha habido jamás".

"Pero hasta ahora no siento que esto me enriquezca musical o artísticamente. Se trata básicamente de mi trabajo, por el momento. Es algo que hemos tenido que hacer con el fin de ganarnos la libertad para poder desarrollarnos artísticamente, lo que significa dejar las giras".

"Lo tengo muy claro. No creo que podamos hacer mucho más con las canciones. Ya lo hemos hecho, el espectáculo es tan bueno como podría conseguirse. Todo lo que podíamos hacer con la música lo hemos hecho, y con las canciones y la iluminación solo podrámos aumentarlas, y no le veo sentido realmente, porque no queremos algo más grande que esto. Al final de esta gira será el momento de hacer un movimiento".

“Rick dijo una vez algo sobre los Beatles: que su período más creativo llegó cuando dejaron de hacer giras. Pudo ser una coincidencia, pudo ser el LSD... Pero creo que hay una gran verdad en eso. En las giras vives en un mundo irreal. No tienes los pies sobre la tierra. Es curioso, pero aunque tengo una gran confianza en el show, no lo echaré de menos cuando dejemos de hacerlo".

Vi a Supertramp dos veces tocando en América, una vez delante de quince mil fanáticos en Búfalo, estado de New York (una ciudad donde se proclaman haber sido los primeros en adoptar al grupo, y donde una emisora de radio local fue la primera en promocionar "Crime of the century" y su single "Dreamer"), y otra ante diez mil personas más críticas en Cleveland, una zona nunca visitada antes por la banda. Me quedé impresionado en ambas ocasiones, por no decir que me convertí a la causa.

Ciertamente la banda ofrece todo lo que el público les pide, con un espectáculo agotador de dos horas y media que puede no ser suficiente para un fanático de Supertramp, pero que yo encontré un poco largo. Ellos aseguran que no pueden recortarlo más.

Pese a su reputación como ases en el estudio, son un grupo mucho más potente en directo. Canciones que no destacan por su vitalidad en el vinilo, cobran vida milagrosamente en concierto. Estoy pensando particularmente en la espléndida y conmovedora balada "From now on" de Davies y en la poderosa epopeya "Fool's Overture" de Hodgson, que fueron monumentales sobre el escenario.

La faceta soul de Supertramp no suele tener predominancia, pero la he encontrado algunas veces disimulada tras un par de arreglos. Casi siempre emana del caracter sombrío de Rick Davies, pero el saxofón de John Helliwell ayuda a enfatizarlo.

Helliwell también se esfuerza en dar a la banda otra imagen distinta de la de solamente poetas entregados. Su encantador descaro inglés encuentra el favor del público americano, ejemplos: "la banda que me acompaña y yo ahora tocaremos...", "Roger Hodgson me acompañará en la siguiente canción".

Es un veterano del boom del jazz tradicional de principios de los 60 (bueno, entonces tenía 14 años), y su buen hacer le ha llevado a tocar con Jimmy Ruffin, Johnny Johnson y Arthur Conley, además de estar una época con Alan Bown Set. Ahora ya sabéis de dónde viene su estilo soul, que encaja a la perfección en "The logical song".

Este estilo puede ser una de las razones por las que Supertramp ha despegado con fuerza en los Estados Unidos. El grupo confiaba en que el mercado estaba allí, por eso dejaron Inglaterra tras triunfar con "Crime of the century", se establecieron en Los Angeles, y se pusieron a la entera disposición de A&M, para ser virtualmente "explotados".

Pero pocas personas anticiparon el tremendo impacto que tendría "Breakfast in America". Siebenberg apostó cien dólares con Rick Davies a que el álbum se colocaría en el "top five". A Davies nunca le alegró tanto perder una apuesta.

Roger Hodgson, por su parte, estaba convencido del destino del disco. "Siempre supe que iba a ser un gran álbum. Sabía que nuestra hora había llegado, y que si no hubiera sido así, es que el gran hombre del cielo nos estaría gastando una broma. Sentía que esto iba a suceder, por el mero hecho de que llevábamos mucho tiempo luchando por ello".

Breakfast es un álbum muy distinto de sus predecesores y la banda es consciente de eso. Se han vuelto cautos de su reputación produciendo epopeyas conceptuales, y han decidido cambiar las tornas publicando un álbum pop, de aquí la inclusion de la canción que da título al disco, escrita ocho años atrás por Roger Hodgson.

"Si de Rick dependiera", revela Roger tímidamente, "tampoco habría sido incluida en este álbum. Nunca le ha gustado la letra de Breakfast, demasiado intrascendente: 'échale un vistazo a mi novia...'. A él le va más darle forma a una canción. Estaría más feliz si yo cambiara la letra por otra más divertida o más relevante. Lo intenté, pero no funcionaba, así que me quedé con la original".

"Las canciones en el album fueron escogidas buscando un sentimiento de diversión y buen feeling en general. Creo que teníamos la sensación de que habíamos hecho tres álbumes muy serios (‘Crime of the century’, ‘Crisis, what crisis?’ y ‘Even in the quietest moments’) y que era la hora de mostrar nuestro lado más ligero".

Davies admite que no estaba muy entusiasmado ni con la canción ni con el título del álbum, pero se aproximó a la forma de pensar de Roger al ver el disco en un contexto más amplio.
"Ese título casi anuncia canciones pop. El tema 'Breakfast in America' no significa gran cosa. Tampoco 'Oh darling' y 'Goodbye stranger', por eso les vi la forma y encajaron.
El lado pop siempre ha sido parte del carácter del grupo. Tal vez haya estado un poco oculto por las comparaciones con Genesis, pero siempre ha estado ahí. En cierto modo, es más fácil componer obras menores que una buena canción pop pegadiza. Eso no es sencillo en absoluto. Roger tiene una pila de de ellas de una milla de alta,

Rick Davies y Roger Hodgson gobiernan con puño de terciopelo. Su influencia es discreta pero firme. Hay una norma asumida por todos de que la intimidad de los individuos del grupo no debe ser infringida. Supertramp es una familia muy exclusiva.

En tres días con el grupo, no creo haber visto a Davies y Hodgson conversar ni una vez, aparte de los saludos de cortesía. Son dos personalidades muy diferentes, pero ambos componen canciones muy interesantes, con una profundidad de contenidos que a menudo es pasada por alto bajo el ruido de los aplausos (o las criticas) sobre la delicadeza y la belleza de su música. ¿Quién puede negar,pienso, su simpatía por el mensaje de "The logical song"? La exactitud de esa letra no es casualidad, es la marca de la mayoría de las canciones de Davies y Hodgson.
Con respecto a "Crime of the century", "The logical song" tiene su precedente en "School". Fue, sin embargo, tras "Crime of the century" cuando Hodgson y Davies empezaron a distanciarse.
El filósofo encontró a Dios. El realista encontró la realidad.

(Traducido por Miguel Angel Candela)

]]> (MAC) Interviews Wed, 11 Aug 2010 16:46:10 +0000
SUPERTRAMP Interview, Even in the Quietest Moments, May 1977


The Supertramp Interview by Ritchie Yorke

Cheap Thrills magazine – May 1977

LOS ANGELES – Hot sounds are thundering out of the two monstrous studio monitor speakers. We’re in Studio C at the world-famous Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, the same studio where Stevie Wonder worked on “Songs in the Key of Life” and the Eagles painted their “Hotel California” audio scenario. Making history is a habit in these hallowed and sound-proofed walls. Tonight is no exception.

The amiable members of the brilliant British band, Supertramp, are gathered here to provide us with a sneak preview of the keenly-anticipated album followup to “Crisis? What Crisis?”. It’s more of a progress report than the standard preview trip – some of the tracks are in the final stages of completion, others require further overdubbing work. Nonetheless, it’s the first time any media member has gained access to the Supertramp inner sanctum during the recording of this new album (the group’s fifth). We are keenly aware of the honour which has been bestowed upon us but we have maintained a diligent hold on our critical faculties.

The new album is entitled “Even in the Quietest Moments”. In a word, it can be fairly (but not adequately) described as superb. The playback offers one dynamic track after another, leading up to the tour-de-force finale, a 12-minute instant rock classic entitled “Fool’s Overture” which may well be the absolute highlight of Supertramp’s recording career thus far.

The album was initially rehearsed in a rented house in Malibu last Fall and the rhythm tracks were laid down at the Caribou Studios in Colorado. Shortly before Christmas, the group moved back to Los Angeles and commenced overdubbing and mixing at the Record Plant. They worked solidly for ten weeks until the album was completed on March 10. The release of “Even in the Quietest Moments” will be accompanied by a full scale world tour which kicks off in Regina, Canada, on April 6. After covering the Canadian and American tour circuit, Supertramp intends to plunge right into a British and European tour in the Fall.

During the course of a most memorable evening at the Record Plant (and dinner at a strange vegetarian restaurant called the Yellow Submarine), we rapped with each of the members of Supertramp – singer-guitarist-pianist Roger Hodgson (who produced the new album without his previous co-producer Ken Scott), drummer Bob Benberg, horn player John Helliwell, bass guitarist Dougie Thomson, and vocalist-keyboards player Rick Davies. In addition, we talked with Supertramp manager, Dave Margereson, and sound man Russel Pope.

In this exclusive interview, Supertramp elaborates on the new songs from “Even in the Quietest Moments,” the coming tour, musical interests and influences, and assorted other topics.

I’d like to open by getting you to tell us some of the background behind the recording of your new A&M album, “Even in the Quietest Moments.”

John: We took a break last July and August after eight solid months of touring. After that we got back together in a house at Malibu and rehearsed for about a month or two, getting all the numbers together. We finally chose seven of these songs that seemed to fit together pretty well. Then we went up to the Caribou Studios in Colorado in November and December, and laid down the basic rhythm tracks. After a little Xmas break, we went into the Record Plant here in L.A. to finish off the album. We worked on it through the end of February.

Can we get a little more specific about the seven songs on the new LP?

Rick: The opening cut, GIVE A LITTLE BIT is one of Roger’s songs. It’s a light-weight opener, a nice daffy song. You might even call it commercial (chuckles).

Bob: [sic] Roger had been working at Malibu for quite a while on this tune. I’d hear the song in hotel rooms and places like that. He had the song on a little tape when I first joined the band so I was quite familiar with the tune. We tried out various drum things and it seemed right to ride it along on the snare drum…giving it something almost like a train beat. So it’s all on the snare and bass drum, with no tom tom fills or anything. It was something to march right through, to keep it really happy.”

Roger: GIVE A LITTLE BIT is very simple. The album starts out simply and builds in intensity. This song seemed the best opener. As I said, it’s a very simple song – give a little bit of your love to me and I’ll give a little of my love to you.”

How about LOVER BOY?

Bob: Rick had been working on that tune for quite a while and finally came up with the long middle section. I just heard that as a really slow, really solid sort of beat, just to give the song dynamics underneath it all, because the song itself is really powerful and it needed something really solid underneath it.”

Rick: Well, now, this is the first time that I’ve had to provide a description of LOVER BOY. Well I really wrote the song so I could tell interviewers what I wrote the song about. It was inspired by advertisements in men’s magazines telling you how to pick up women. You know, you send away for it and it’s guaranteed not to fail. If you haven’t slept with at least five women in two weeks, you can get your money back. It’s sort of based around that. I mean, you just can’t stop the LOVER BOY! It’s really an excuse to get into some big sounds – the big city noises and a big chorus. It’s an exercise in doing something with the music. You can’t stop the LOVER BOY because he’s guaranteed. He’s sent away for his thing.”


John: It may not be called DOWNSTREAM, it may be called Took A Boat Sunday. We’re not sure.

Rick: It’s about the sea rather than a stream. The actual song is old but the lyrics are new. It’s just me and the piano. It was done in one take, piano and voice together. We’re going to put a lot of harmony vocals creeping up towards the end of the song. It’s quite a step for us not to fiddle around with things for months on end.”

Bob: It’s my favourite song on the entire album because it’s so personal and so pure. I love it when Rick just works with piano. What the song is saying and the way he puts it out really floors me every time I hear it.”

Roger: DOWNSTREAM is of course a love song by Rick. He’s just got married so the song’s probably about his wife.


Bob: QUIETEST MOMENTS is one of Roger’s pet projects I think. It’s also been on the way for quite a while. That track gave me a chance to knock out a pretty meaty beat through the middle section while keeping the rest of it rather gentle. I stayed out of the way in the rest of it – just adding little things here and there.

Doug: This is a song we first came across in Malibu. It’s a pretty simple little acoustic song which gets into a good groove in the end. It gives Bob and I a chance to sit on it. It’s one of Roger’s nicest melodies.

Rick: It has two basic parts. It starts off in a very standard melody thing and then it notches onto a sort of one chord progression or perhaps we should call it digression. It’s a thing where there’s hundreds of sounds coming in and going out, a whole collage thing. You’ll have lots of fun trying to figure out what’s what.

Roger: QUIETEST MOMENTS is another love song. It’s kind of a dual love song – it could be to a girl or it could be to god. I’ve left it ambiguous so that everyone can take it how they wish. Basically it’s just about a guy who’s searching. I’m a seeker. I think I’ll always be a seeker.

Moving over to side two, BABAJI?

John: BABAJI is one of the people who is supposed to help run the earth, to run this planet we’re living on. He’s one of the big mystics. It’s one of Roger’s songs.

Rick: BABAJI is one of the biggest mystics we’ve ever heard of, isn’t he? He’s supposed to be six foot three. (laughs)

John: He’s immortal. There are accounts of people who’ve met him but he’s supposed to be able to travel in and out of the physical world.

Rick: You won’t ever see him if he doesn’t want you to see him. I mean, you should really talk to Roger about this. It sounds highly suspicious to me. But I don’t want to get into any controversy about it.

John: Good Lord, no.

Rick: You can’t see him unless he wants you to see him. So if you haven’t seen him, it’s not because he doesn’t exist but because he doesn’t want you to see him.

Bob: BABAJI is like Roger’s light of life. I don’t know exactly how Roger would put it but he’s Roger’s guiding light sort of guy. Roger came up with the different bits of time I play. That cut took the longest to work the drums out for – it was crucial just where I played what, whether that trip should be on high hat or on the bell. It all had to be right in the right spots. I had to make the moves in the right place.

Roger: BABAJI is a very high spirit ala Christ and Krishna. He’s less known because he didn’t have a public or a mission like Christ or Krishna. He’s kind of a back room boy. He runs the universe and he runs everything. He’s an unbelievable spirit or force on god. He is god really…a manifestation of god.

Are you getting more into this particular trip?

Roger: Yeah, I’m getting into it. He’s had a physical form for hundreds of years. He doesn’t have to eat or anything. He inhabits the Himalayas with a small band of disciples. He’s a legend in India but he’s lesser known in the west. I don’t know, talking about him kind of lessens him somehow. It’s weird. It really is fascinating.


Rick: I’m just finishing off the lyrics for that tune, words hot from the brainbox. It’s turned into a fantasy about a Mr. Average, if there is such a person, who goes off into these weird trips. He plays mental games with himself to get away from the monotony of his work. He pretends he’s on TV, like a pirate or running through the desert, and he just opens up a lot of avenues. There’s a big chorus at the end saying that he’s going to live in fantasy forever, that he’s resigned to living in fantasy all the time, that he can’t really take the normal life he’s leading. He’d sooner by lots of different characters.

Bob: That’s another of Rick’s older songs. I’ve always enjoyed it and I just love playing it. It really suits my style and I had a chance to open up a little towards the end of it. I love John’s sax trip in the tail of the tune.

John: The music to that song is quite old. It was one of the very first things I heard Supertramp play when I first went down to have a blow with them, and that was over three years ago. I really liked the number then.

And the twelve-minute tour de force closing number, FOOL’S OVERTURE?

John: We’ve been calling that tune the String Machine Epic for so long now it’s hard to get that out of our brains. It came primarily from a few melodies that Roger had worked out on the string machine thing we use on stage to create string sounds, or sounds thereabouts. The track is a combination of a year’s work. We’ve been putting strings and brass instruments on to pad it out a bit. (chuckles) It’s going to sound really good.

Bob: On this album, that’s the real sort of grand tune for me and for everybody in the band. It used to be called the String Machine Epic which fits the way the song builds and grows. It’s the epic of the album this time out. I tried to get as much of that grand power in there as I could.

Roger: Ooooh. (laughs) Well, I’d like people to make up their own minds about this one really. I like being vague and yet saying enough to set people’s imaginations running riot. So there’s a lot of suggestions in there about the coming holocaust, the fall of mankind, or whatever you want to call it. It’s another searching song really.

Are you using strings on any of the tracks?

John: “Fool’s Overture,” “Babaji” and “Lover Boy.” Richard Houston did the string arrangements on Crime and Crisis, but he’s 7,000 miles away so we’ve been working out some things with Michel Colombier.

I understand this is the first album you’ve produced yourselves?

John: Yeah.

Rick: Not strictly…if you count the first two albums years and years ago, which was no advert for our producing.

John: We co-produced the last two albums with Ken Scott. So the time had come to go the whole hog.

Rick: I think in a way we learned a lot from Ken and we’ve taken a lot of tips from him such as taking the same amount of trouble to get the right sounds, especially drum sounds.

John: Plus we’ve had a great engineer in Pete Henderson. We’re very fortunate to have someone like that. He’s really good and he thinks the same way as we do. He did the rhythm tracks with us at Caribou.

How long is it now since the band was last out on the concert trail?

John: June, we finished in New Zealand last June.

Rick: It took me about 23 hours to get home. I went ‘round the world the wrong way. If I’d gone the other way, it would have only taken me about 18 hours. It was quite a plane journey. I had pneumonia at the time. It was really bad to get into a plane because of my ears – and we must have landed and taken off at least six times. When I finally arrived in New York, I didn’t really have any ears left.

John: You still haven’t got ‘em now by the sounds of things.

Let’s venture back to CRIME OF THE CENTURY. Did you have a particular concept in mind with that album, or was it merely a collection of songs that suited one another?

Doug: It’s hard to work out what people mean about concept albums. With CRIME OF THE CENTURY, somewhere along the way somebody said ‘concept’ while we were making it, and from then on it took on an air of something it really wasn’t. That trip never really related to what we were doing in the first place. Our concept is to try and make an album as complete as we can. We never sit down and work out some kind of overall picture of a thing. We want to keep it complete down to the cover, every part of the thing, but we never actually project one kind of concept on one subject.

Where did the album jacket trip behind CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? originate?

Doug: That was an idea of Rick’s. It came from his sketchbook.

John: It came from us going back to England last year after spending that summer in L.A. We came back to the reality of the sinking pound and all that. That was it. We didn’t know there was a crisis until we got back.

So you returned to Los Angeles which is now the home base?

John: No…well, I mean we are living here and today was terrific for this time of the year. 85 degrees which is nice. Especially when you’ve got a motorbike like me. I love it. It’s a challenge. You’ve got to zip ‘round the Cadillacs.

Manager Dave Margereson: He’s very heavily insured.

What can we expect in the way of changes and surprises on this all-important 1977 North American tour?

John: Glitter suits.

Doug: Flamethrowers.

Rick: We’ll have a huge statue of Donald Duck at the back. No seriously, as soon as the gong goes for Crime, it will sprout bubbles. We hope this lighter approach will go down well.

John: Yeah, we’re playing two weeks at Disneyland.

Rick: Which is where we got the duck, incidentally. We couldn’t pass it up because it was going to be thrown out. We got a few of the guys to make up the bubble thing. It took a few months but it’s going to be all right.

For a change of pace, I’d like to point this mike towards the face of Supertramp soundman extraordinaire, Russel Pope. To get right to the point Russel, what’s the secret of the sensational live Supertramp sound?

Russel: Money.

Really, eh?

Russel: Really! In the sense that nobody else ever wants to spend that amount of money on a sound system. Everybody else rents…they rent whatever they can get, whatever the quality is in that particular year. There are only two companies in America which can cover everyone and if you don’t get those people you have to go down the ladder to poorer and poorer sound. So it was better for us to buy, because to perform our trip well, they just don’t make the right stuff for rental. We’ve slowly built up a system that’s become…


Russel: A bottomless pit in terms of finances. But a motto of ours is that it’s always better to buy.

Is the sound on the ’77 tour going to be superior to earlier Supertramp tours?

Russel: Infinitely better. The last one was less than perfect. But it’s a costly business. It’s painful. They make it, and I spend it. (Much laughter all around).

How about your experience at the Caribou Studios?

John: Caribou is unlike any place we’ve ever worked in that you can go and live there. It’s just a beautiful environment. It’s really good and it makes you feel good. Good air and good…you get into a good groove.

Rick: But you have to use oxygen.

John: Yeah, it’s 9,000 feet up and they have an oxygen tank in the studio. The air’s a bit thin, and you get a bit out of breath at first. Roger took the oxygen quite a bit while he was singing. It’s really a wonderful place though.

What sort of long term ambitions does Supertramp have?

John: Eventually we’d like to have our own studio. Then we could go in and spend a few months on an album, without worrying about how we’re going to physically and financially do it. That’d be a nice scene. That’s one of our long term plans. That of course is what Chicago’s plan was and they got Caribou. They just pop in there now and again and make another platinum album. Overall we have a kind of consolidating approach to the future. Each tour we try and get that little bit more, reach a wider audience. But we want to do it without losing our integrity along the way.

In short, you’re not clambering on top of that 24-track tape recorder over there trying to locate a commercial single?

John: No, oh no. If there’s something from the album that stations think is commercial, then we’ll put it out as a single. But it wouldn’t have been made with a single in mind. But we’re not putting down singles: singles are good for selling albums, for getting to more people, especially in the States.

I feel that with such strong songs as Dreamer, Supertramp has been unlucky not to land a big single thus far?

John: It would have considerably helped us, that’s for sure. Dreamer did well for us in England. I think it went top ten and the album went right up there.

Can anyone explain why Supertramp is so phenomenally popular in Canada but that this success is not really paralleled as yet in the American market?

Rick: I can only assume that Canadians are infinitely more intelligent than other people.

John: The first time we went to Montreal, we really seemed to do well. The people were into us before we’d even played there.

Rick: I suppose also that since Canada is a small market and such a huge country, it’s easier to concentrate promotion. Whereas America is a huge maze. It really takes a lot of business manouvreing to make a dent in the States…so many groups and so much music every week, hundreds of albums.

John: Also, I think that A&M Canada must be really good getting the product out and about to the people. They must play a big part in that.

Flipping back the pages again, could you explain how the visual concept for the Crime of the Century album jacket came about?

John: We worked in conjunction with a London photographer named Paul Wakefield. We played him the album and he got into the lyrics and he went away and came back with some ideas. One of them was a child’s teddy bear lying in a gutter with its stomach ripped open and real guts coming out of it. We thought that was a little – how shall we say – nasty. Another one was prison bars lying in a gutter. We got the idea of having the hands behind them and the bars being a prison. The photographer went away and came back with a few more ideas on that line. We agreed the stars should be in space.

Rick: Wakefield got the idea from the line ‘how they haunt me and taunt me in my cage’ from the Asylum cut. And the stage thing came from the cover.

John: It’s really quite a strong image. It was good on the album cover. Then we had the idea of putting together a bit of a movie with the bars coming right out from the center and right up to you – which in turn was even more effective.

One of the most interesting aspects of Supertramp’s career is that in addition to highest quality music-making, the band is not above providing some light comedy entertainment?

John: The music always comes first, of course, but we like to enhance it. The audience has to sit there for a couple of hours and they have to look at something. So we try and make that part as compatible as possible with the music. So far we’ve used an all black stage with side drapes and black carpets so that there’s nothing to divert attention. The lights are all directed onto players and instruments to spotlight them at various times. We try and get the lights to move with the music and create a mood. On the new tour, we hope it will be like that only better.

Doug: To try and get some perspective on ourselves, we went out to the Shepparton Film Studios before the ’76 tour and set up the whole thing, lights and all. We wanted to watch a full rehearsal. We went scouting around the studio and found a bunch of old Roman statues with arms and heads missing and we put them on stage. It’s the only time you get to see the show as it is. We had Caesar on drums and a whole band of Romans rocking on.

John: Next time we’ll try and get some more appropriate dummies. There shouldn’t be any shortage of dummies in Hollywood.

How do you find living in Los Angeles?

John: Next question. No, it’s alright. Weather’s pretty good. Smog’s pretty bad. All the roads are straight and you can find your way about quite easily.

Doug: Except if you’re going in the wrong direction and then you’re really in trouble.

John: Everything’s square...the streets I mean. And there’s a bit of music going on.

Rick: John lives right over the local hot spot.

John: Yeah, I live right above a club that doesn’t close its doors until two or three in the morning. Loud groups. Terrible time getting to sleep if I do go to bed before 2:00 am. I live down by the beach. It’s nice. But that’s L.A., isn’t it?

Rick: I’m getting used to it. I quite like it now.

John: Well, he doesn’t have to drive anywhere. He gets everyone to chauffeur him around. He doesn’t have that worry. I’ve got my bike. Rick’s been on it once. That was enough for me. He wobbles around all the time. We were riding down Sunset Strip with the big cars and big rear wheels and all that business on a Friday night. It was a bit scary.

Rick: It’s a funny place really. It’s like a huge suburb. There’s just no middle to it. I’ve been looking for the middle for the past two years. It’s a very big place. We went to Disneyland and it took about four hours to get there and there were houses all the way.

John: One thing though – no matter what you want to do, you can usually do it here, regardless of what your interests are. There’s always something available to you. I live about 100 yards away from the Lighthouse Jazz Club which is a famous jazz haunt. I picked my spot. I pop in there occasionally when there’s someone good on. I’ve got one or two old jazz albums that were recorded at the Lighthouse. I liked it a lot in Colorado. I wanted to move there. Still do actually. The Caribou Ranch is near Boulder, which is a real nice little town or city or village or whatever you want to call it. It’s a pretty nice place. But I would also like to be back in Maidenhead, Berkshire, by the River Thames.

So do you miss England from time to time?

John: To a certain extent. But one or two people who’ve been back say that it was a downer. You go back thinking everything’s going to be great and it isn’t. So maybe when we get to go back, our memories will be shattered.

Rick: The scene over there seems to be getting more violent. We had a guy in here the other night who said he’d been down to the Marquee and all these young football supporters were pushing him around. I don’t know whether he just had one of those faces or what.

John: Maybe it was Cup Final Day.

Rick: He went to see the Sex Pistols.

John: Ah, well.

Let’s delve a little, if we may, into your individual backgrounds and personal musical pursuits?

John: I’m the sax player and I like sax players. I first came up liking trad jazz and then sort of moved on to listening to a broader spectrum of jazz. That’s what first influenced me to play clarinet and saxophone. It wasn’t until I was about 20 that I started getting into R & B and rock and soul and all that. I played in a band for a few years called the Alan Bown Set. I backed up a lot of visiting American soul singers. Doug came into the Alan Bown Set when it was almost in its death throes, the last year or so. When that split up, Doug and I took various gigs working in factories and strip clubs playing music. The Doug joined Supertramp and I went off to Germany to work. When I got back, I got a call from Doug to come down and have a blow with Supertramp. So that was it, that was just over three years ago. I joined the band, we rehearsed for a long time waiting for the availability of our producer, Ken Scott. Then we made Crime of the Century, toured, made Crisis? What Crisis?, toured and then got into this album. That has taken up three years.

What sort of music are you into now?

John: I still listen to a lot of jazz and could single out a few names like Weather Report. I really like them very much – they’re a good fusion of things that I find quite valid today. They’ve got good pedigrees, all the players. I like it when people play their instruments well. I like Stevie Wonder’s new album, the singer Donny Hathaway, lots of sax players like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, to name but a few.

How about your background, Rick?

Rick: I used to be a drummer to start with so I really used to think drums were fantastic. So in actual fact, my first influence was Gene Krupa. I used to go see his films, watch those swing era movies on TV and I couldn’t believe it. I took up drums, which sort of took me into the jazz side. In much the same way as John, I got into the jazz thing. All this time I was also picking up on piano. I wasn’t really taught it. I used to pick the simplest things I could – Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Bill Black – and learn them and that way I got into rock. I was a trained musician on drums but a very primitive one on keyboards. It’s still the same today I suppose. So I was fortunate in that I appreciated both the jazz and rock worlds. My favourite drummer used to be and still is Joe Morello, who played with Dave Brubeck.

As far as the English scene was concerned, I think that Traffic represented the first time I began taking English musicians seriously. When the Beatles first came out, they were incredibly sort of...well basic. They were vital and all the rest of it, but still basic. It took them a while to win me over. But of course they have been one of the main influences on the group, and the main influence on almost all groups that came from our generation. As musicians go, I think Stevie Winwood is the best one in England.

Unfortunately the British scene doesn’t seem to be continuing as far as I can see at the present time. There doesn’t seem to be any decent new sounds coming out.

The Sex Pistols?

Rick: Yeah, they go around saying drat and rat and damn, don’t they? I suppose people are going to say it reflects the situation and all the rest of it. I can’t really understand it myself.

John: We’d never really heard of them before we left England. We just read about them in the American music papers.

Rick: It’s not music really. It’s four guys becoming a business concern.

How about contemporary music tastes?

Rick: I’m not too keen on most of it. I like Stevie Wonder. Some disco music actually. I like Tavares. I just hear the occasional thing I like on the radio.

Doug, how about a little on your background?

Doug: Roger and myself first got into the Shadows – that was the first things we listened to. Then we got into the Beatles. I guess the whole band comes together about Traffic, the Band, Procol Harum. That was an interesting period in British rock. It was probably the most productive period ever. I don’t listen to as much jazz as the other guys. I tend to listen to a wide range of what’s going on. It’s hard to think of any particular bass players being strong influences. I liked old Motown bass lines, Jamie Jamerson. That’s a lot of different people I listen to now. I like really simple bass players – guys who don’t play too much. I also liked to go and see Pink Floyd – they were innovators.

Bob, as Supertramp’s only non-Pommy member, how did you become involved with the band?

Bob: I moved from L.A. to London and I’d been there about two years playing around London with a group called Bees Make Honey. Rick and Roger lived in a pub over the road from the Kensington, where I used to play Mondays and Wednesdays. Rick used to drop in now and then to hear the Bees. We also backed up a singer named Frankie Miller and did a short British tour with him supporting Supertramp. So the relationship sort of evolved from there. Roger and Rick came in one night and said they’d had a bit of a bustup, and had gotten rid of their drummer. They said they wanted to reform the group and they asked me to join. That was just prior to the recording the Crime album.

Which drummers particularly influenced you?

Bob: I’d say Jim Capaldi and B.J. Wilson. Plus of course Levon Helm. I really like the way he just marches along all the time. I really do like The Band a lot. I was sort of lucky to beam in on the right guys; I was lucky I chose the right ones. I believe that’s one of the keys. Plus I’ve worked at it.

The obvious question, of course, is to ask you to unveil the secrets of the sensational Supertramp drum sound?

Bob: Well, from my end, it has something to do with the way I play the drums. I’m not a very speedy drummer. I give the sound a lot of room. So it’s partly approach. Then there’s the trip of getting the tuning just right. It takes a lot of care and having a good ear for working at it. Our sound man Russell Pope is responsible for a lot of it. He’s got a real good ear for listening to drums, and he’s got a lot more patience to sit around in the studio for hours and get it right. He spends countless hours just trying to get the drums together.

How do you feel the drum sound on the new album compares with say, Crime of the Century?

Bob: Crime definitely turned a lot of people on to our drum sound. It was a lot easier to get the right drum sound this time than it had been previously.

What music do you listen to at home?

Bob: I still listen to most of my old favourites. I still listen to Traffic and Procol Harum. I sort of lost interest in Procol when Matthew Fisher left but I liked Grand Hotel a lot. I pick up each new Band album when it comes out. John has turned me on to Weather Report and I like a few of the albums, Mysterious Traveller being my favourite. Stevie Wonder I like. I listen to more of a variety of things now than I ever used to. Richard and John have really opened me up to people like Art Blakey, Max Roach, things like that.

How then does everyone feel about the new album in an overall sense?

Bob: From my point of view, I had a much easier time recording this album. Plus it’s been our most enjoyable recording project thus far. I think the Caribou location helped a lot. All of us have really grown since Crime. So we’ve become more comfortable with the process of recording an album, and all the painstaking time-consuming thing.

John: I think this is the strongest thing we’ve done.

Rick: All we can really go by are the reactions of people around the group – people from the record company and so on. And they apparently think it’s very good. When you’re doing it day in and day out, it’s hard to be objective. But people seem to be getting very enthusiastic about it.

Roger: Overall I feel pretty good. I think it will be our best album to date. I don’t think it will be our Sgt. Pepper but I do think it’s worked out really well. It’s taken a long time. We thought it was going to only take a short time to record but we were wrong.

One of the reasons is that we took a break. After eight months on the road, we took a break because we needed it to get our heads and bodies back into shape. So it wasn’t easy to plunge back into performing again, without that advantage of a long tour, which means your playing is hot and your voice is trim.

Plus we haven’t been letting anything go by this time around. We weren’t too happy with Crisis for that reason – it was all so rushed and some things we weren’t satisfied with. This album means more to us. To us, it’s just a case of what can we do? The better the album is the stronger the band, and the better the band will be in the future.


]]> (MAC) Interviews Wed, 11 Aug 2010 16:15:47 +0000
SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1977


A Tale of Supertramp, Organic Fruit Juice

The Burlington Free Press
Friday, June 10, 1977
By Susan Green

Why is it that nothing ever happens quite normally in this state? Everything seems to be touched by some strange little twist of fate, perhaps just to remind us that we're mere specks in the great scheme of things.

The scheme of things Tuesday morning did not appear to hold much promise of an interview with Supertramp, the band that played rock music's swan song a Memorial Auditorium Monday. After a night of sheer chaos trying to hear the concert, I was too worn out to ask any intelligent questions of the three Englishmen, one Scotsman and one American who comprise Supertramp.

So, a tentative appointment was set up for the next morning with the group's publicist, who promised to round up the ban members. The publicist was unable to locate anyone, so I calmly went about my business, which, in the early afternoon, included a shopping trip to a local health foods store.

As I was bending over a barrel of brown rice, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the guitarist-vocalist-composer of Supertramp squeezing organic grapefruits at the other end of the store.

I introduced myself to Roger Hodgson, whose high-pitched, intriguing voice had so captured the imaginations of the high-school-age audience the night before. He introduced me to the bass player, Dougie Thomson, and we made arrangements for an interview after completing our purchases.

Back in the kitchen, over a few cups of red clover tea, we got down to talking about Supertramp's brand of music.

"If we come play here again, we'll bring security with us," said Hodgson, a native of Oxford, England. "It's a nice place to play. There is nothing wrong with those kids (at the concert). There was a communication breakdown".

"We've always thought that our music was kind of contrary to violence. We like to hypnotize people with the light show. They get off on the words and the music," Thomson said in a lilting Glasgow Scots accent.

I asked them about the words in "School" from their popular album "Crime of the Century." For example: "Don't do this and don't do that, What are they trying to do? Make a good boy of you, Do they know where isn't at? Don't criticize. They're old and wise, don't want the devil to, Come and put out your eyes…Maybe I'm mistaken expecting you to fight…."

Hodgson thought a moment. "There are two different types of revolutions in lyrics. One that just incites listeners to stand up and start shouting 'This is wrong. This is wrong.' Any one that suggests they become aware of what's really happening and change themselves and bring about a change. The world needs that now," he said.

"The song 'School' is putting down the educational system, which is easy for us, having been through it. Reaching the age we are (both 27) and looking back logically, it (school) didn't teach me much or what it did teach me was how not to educate a child."

Thomson added, "It's not so easy if you're in it. You obviously do get frustrated then." "There are many sides to Supertramp," Hodgson said. "There's a real boogie side, a jamming side, a jazzy side, a drama side - which really is 'Crime of the Century.' It just happens that one side took off. so people kind of labeled us into that."

Both men agreed that each band member had changed a great deal since coming to the U.S., and accordingly, their music has evolved into new realms, one of them being spiritual.

"Music itself is spiritual on all kinds of different levels," Hodgson said. "I'm a spiritual seeker. The thing that most musicians strive for - most musicians that I've idolized in the past - is success.

And then when they get there, they kind of fall apart because there's nowhere else to go. And then their writing falls to pieces. Most of the bands from the 1960s, I've seen them go that way. A lot of them either take to drugs or they take to their mansion or their car and they just divorce themselves from reality. Hopefully, if success does get a bit crazy, knowing that I'm looking for something else, will keep me sane."

What was that something else? "Well, just a meaning to my life. God has given me music.

Hopefully I can be a vehicle to learn more about myself and help other as well from what I learn," Hodgson said. We all got off on the Beatles' dream. The Beatles showed how music can change the world".

"We need some respect for each other's individuality," Thomson said.

"Rock music today seems to have a void of anything meaningful,"Hodgson said. "In the '60s, there was really hope there, because it exploded, because people were singing about things that meant something. It's a cycle. Maybe it will explode again in the '70s."

"Yeah," Thomson said. "It's become unfashionable to express yourself…to care. People tend to knock it. But basically behind all the facades, everybody's just as confused as the next one."

He feels that America is "the hub of what's happening in the world. All the problems are here and all the answers. In England, people are still walking around with blinkers on. That stubbornness to change is what's going to cripple them, whereas here people are so willing to change."

"I always wonder where songs come from,"Hodgson laughs. "If you knew how Supertramp came together seven years ago, you'd have to believe in some kind of guiding force. If that guiding force is there then there has to be a guiding force for all our music as well. All thoughts and music are extracted from the cosmos, I suppose. The music is just coming through me. I'm just a sort of transmitter. And so, the more positive and purer I make the transmitter, the better the music is going to be."

On their latest album, "Even in the Quietest Moments," there is a tune written to "Babaji," a "very high spirit a la Christ and Krishna."

"All my life," the song goes, "I felt that you were listening, Watching for ways to help me stay in tune. Lord of my dreams, although confusion, keeps trying to deceive, What is it that makes me believe in you?…Babaji, oh won't you come to me, Won't you help me face the music, Bring out so We can sing it out, Help us find it before we lose it…"

After a few hours of tea and conversation, the two rock and rollers rode off in their superterrific camper to the next town and the next show.

Was I impressed by their music and their mystery and their manners? Bloody well right I was.


Golden gift for a Dutch uncle

Daily Mirror
Saturday, July 30 1977
Pauline McLeod in Los Angeles

Supertramp have found the answer to a $64,000 question that's been bugging them for years. How to pay off a debt to their Dutch uncle.

He's known simply as Sam, a millionaire from Holland who "adopted" the two founder-members of the group, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, in the early seventies and sank a lot of money in their future.

The group split up in disharmony after making only two albums…having spent $64,000 of Sam's money with nothing in return.

It was a case of third time lucky with their next line-up.

Their records began to sell and today the group is so successful they could pay back every penny they owe…if Same would only agree to take the money!

Instead, the group dedicated their album "Crime of the Century" to him…and it's just earned a golden disc for selling 500,000 copies in America.

Supertramp moved to the States "lock, Stock and barrel" eighteen months ago and are currently preparing for the second leg of an extensive tour over there.

"We're looking forward to coming back to England in October but I think that to b certain extent we had outplayed ourselves at home," John Helliwell , who plays wind instruments with the group, told me.

"We couldn't do the usual trick of jumping on to a big name group's tour because it takes so long to set up our equipment.

"So we started off in the great land of opportunity heading and of course, at first we lost money."

Supertramp's latest album, "Even in the Quietest Moments" has also just won a gold disc in America.
John puts down the style of the new album to the 'maturing and mellowing' of Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson.

They are the group's writers.

"Roger is for ever searching," says John. He meditates regularly and Babajee - one of the tracks on the record - is supposed to be an Indian guru who lives for ever.

"Rick is totally opposite to Roger. That is why the two of them gel so perfectly in their work. Rick is very down-to-earth. He is married now and that has obviously made him a lot happier."

Supertramp are happy enough making a temporary home in America, although they do miss certain typically British pleasures. Like?

"Fish and chips and English pubs," said John, with a wistful eye on Autumn.


Personality crisis, what personality crisis?

April 9,1977
An interview by Matt Mabel.

You work hard and eventually convince your record company to give you an open cheque book to accompany you into the studio. The result is a huge hit spurned on by a nationwide tour.

A year later you repeat the cycle and become staple diet of both the album chart and disc jockeys who profess to program ‘rock’ radio. The second tour goes so well that a ‘thank’ you gig is arranged at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It sells out.

After the gig you vanish, leaving the album charts and the playlists behind. Another year later, you sit between colourfully carpeted walls at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and say "I sure hope they haven’t forgotten us in Britain".

So says Roger Hodgson after ace Record Plant engineer Geoff Emerick gives the Supertramp co-leader permission to leave the control room where the mixing of the new album, "Even In The Quietest Moments…" is almost complete.

In their own minds Supertramp haven’t ‘moved’ to L.A., according to Hodgson, who loyally sports an A&M Records t-shirt and is pretty shagged out, as the Americans would say, after two-thirds of a day of listening to playbacks.

"We live in a Supertramp bubble. We are each other’s friends so it’s like the English vibe is still there. L.A. is a totally crazy place, none of us like living here particularly. We like the weather and that’s about it".

Since they’ll be touring for nearly a year following the album’s release, there is hardly a question of living anywhere in the first place. Bette Midler cleverly dubbed the City Of Angels "The Home Of Absolutely Nothing" on this year’s Grammy Awards telecast and Supertramp fit comfortably into her definition.

"We haven’t found anywhere we want to live really, although I don’t think we want to go back to England.

"I don’t personally miss it but some of the others do. If anything I miss the subtleties of the English".

Supertramp have taken a big step on the new LP and decided to produce themselves, jettisoning the services of Ken Scott. That move comes as a reaction to their last release, ‘Crisis What Crisis’. Problems Hodgson sees in ‘Crisis have been solved on ‘Even In The Quietest Moments’.

"’Crisis’, he explains with an either-you-laugh-or-you-cry-smile, "came to mean more to us as a title than it did to other people because it was really a crisis album. We learnt how not to make an album, coming right off the road and going into the studio.

"It could have been much better that ‘Crime Of The Century’ but it wasn’t. We had a lot of bad luck in the studio. We really didn’t enjoy making it and in the end it was kind of a patch up job. A lot of people liked it but for us it missed".

Funny how they don’t tell you that before the album comes out. Still. This time around after 1976 North American tours they took a three month planning period, similar to their occupation of a Somerset farm house three years ago planning what would become their best seller, ‘Crime’.

With 40 songs in hand, the band worked arrangements of 7 and had the set pretty much in mind before they began recording at Jimmy Guercio’s Caribou studio last November.

Appropriately, working with material that sounds as if it has come more from the heart that ever before, the Tramp have captured warmer, fuller sound

"Working with Ken we became perfectionists in a way and went overboard on ‘Crisis’ and became perfectionist technically. Now we are concentrating on getting the feel of a song down. That’s why it has taken so long. Some days we don’t feel like playing. So we don’t play.

"Now the sound is not quite so clinical, it’s more live and definitely much better."

Hodgson himself, has discovered the Oberheim synthesizer since we heard from him last. "It’s an amazing instrument, we did most of the strings and a lot of other sounds with it. It gets any sound under the sun".

Two of the new tracks stand out in his mind, one of which is recorded to be the band’s best, a ten minute job called ‘Fool’s Overture’,
once had a provisional title of ‘The String Machine Epic’. It closes the album.

If you’re wondering why the ‘Overture’ is reserved for the end, then you’ll have to get into the, er, depth, of the message. The album ends with a conductor tapping his baton on his music-stand after a track dealing with The End Of Everything As We Know It.

With such honest material they are leaving themselves open to plenty of criticism, which, no doubt, by press-time has manifested itself.

The other stand out track for Hodgson is so because he sees it as ‘a hit’, is a voice approaching the Queen’s English. Not that Supertramp think product-wise, of course, but "it will help in America because you really can’t do anything here without one.

"You just write and record your songs. ‘Give A Little Bit’ is one of mine. Obviously if you play the game right it is good if you have a number that is going to be a single.

"Next year we’ll probably put out singles as singles as well. We’ve got songs that’d make great singles but wouldn’t fit so well on an album".

The tour, which begins in Canada to coincide with the album’s release, took a month’s rehearsal. Fans who have already seen the ‘Crime Of The Century Film’ time and time again will be happy to know that it will be taking back seat to a new film, shot to coincide with ‘Fool’s Overture’. There’ll be slides, too.

"The set is going to be really amazing. For a start it will be much stronger cause we’ve got three albums to pull material from. We can pick the ones we enjoy playing and the ones which are most popular.

"It’ll be great to play England again. We don’t want to lose our English identity. I dread the thought of anyone ever thinking we were an American Band.

"After the American tour we do England, then Europe, some recording, then another American tour, a bit more recording after that, then Japan, Australia, and if we last that long we’ll be happy".

So, you spend time on another album, until you are completely satisfied, you aim for the charts and the air waves, and try to remind your audience that your vanishing audience that your vanishing act can’t go on forever. Supertramp’s quietest moments have temporarily been cancelled.



Melody Maker
November 19, 1977
by David Boothroy

Any band that play 114 concerts on a tour of America and Europe spanning several months deserve full marks for endurance, if nothing else.

That Supertramp managed to give their audience at Bournemouth last week and example of their best at this, the last gig, speaks volumes - for the band themselves, the road crew and everybody else involved.

Supertramp have by now reached a stage of technical perfection that few bands ever approach.

Their sound system, which they own themselves, makes most others sound like a transistor radio.

The lighting is timed to micro-seconds and they play their music faultlessly.

Last week they even installed a private generator in case of power cuts, after suffering that way the week before at Wembley.

But at Bournemouth it was far from a purely technical masterpiece. There were monkeys dancing with bananas(!), schoolgirl Joan attacking sax-player John Helliwell ("a dream come true," he said), and a male stripper sitting beneath the parasol from the cover of "Crisis What Crisis?"

It was a night of restrained lunacy, which the audience loved, but the stage antics were never allowed to distract attention from the music. The band played many of the songs from their 1977 album, "Even In the Quietest Moments," including "Babaji," their latest singe, as well as alder material, ending up as they always do with "Fool's Overture" and "Crime of the Century," still apparently the favourite of most audiences, and certainly Bournemouth's.

Supertramp's set is not the most spontaneous you will ever see. They stick to one encore, "Crime of the Century," ending in an explosion of noise with the famous album cover of the fists gripping the iron grill filling the screen.

But if they changed the set all the time they couldn't achieve the split-second timing and precision that makes their concerts literally breathtaking. Nobody at Bournemouth seemed to think it sounded over-rehearsed or artificial, just fine music played to perfection.

If you missed them this time around, you missed something special. The band will be back in 1978; don't make the same mistake again.

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SUPERTRAMP Articles year 1976

The Albert Hall

The Guardian
February 6, 1976
By Robin Denselow

With no distinctive gimmicks, no great publicity drive, or even much of a distinctive sound – except that their music is excellent and unmistakably British – Supertramp seem to have sneaked in from nowhere to acquire the status of a respectably serious, respectably successful band.

That reputation is well deserved, as they showed with this concert at the Albert Hall, but I confess that it still surprises me slightly. The band played well, sang well, and demonstrated a range of excellent songs, certainly.

But there was only a narrow margin on all counts that separated them from countless other good British bands who are doomed to failure.

Supertramp’s main bonus was their sheer professionalism. A versatile five-piece, they were constantly swapping instruments, so on one song they could have three keyboard players and on another two of them could move across to bass and saxophone. They could swap around with their vocals and harmonies too. And with their carefully arranged material – with the songs performed as elaborate set-pieces, rather than the basis for improvisation – they kept a careful balance between their considerable store of pleasing melodies and the occasional patches of instrumental dexterity.

At times they showed an instrumental and vocal skill, and a lightness of touch that was reminiscent of 10CC – but without their cleverness or wit. Elsewhere, there were echoes of several other British bands, all blended smoothly and professionally together into a style that was far too clever and pleasing for me possibly to attack, but never with quite the originality or edge that marks out a band of truly firs-class status.

They deserved a good reception, but not quite as good.



Tramp Puts on a Super Show

The Sun, Australia
June 7 1976 Page 6
by Pat Bowering

One of rock's most accomplished groups, Supertramp, last night exerted total control over its Festival Hall audience. By blacking out the disused area of the stage, an excellent light show and the use of sheer volume, the band made sure every sense was concentrated on the stage.

And in a day still reigned by the two-minute single, the band presented complete musical statements instead of the short, basic pieces we hear over our radios.

It was a performance full of colour, movement, power and, at times sensitivity. Rick Davies was slick with his flowing-jazz keyboard runs; John Helliwell balanced his excellent woodwind playing with light, almost comical spots. And Roger Hodgson displayed his guitar excellence, a facet of the band that is not highlighted enough on record. All this powered by the superb drumming of Bob Benberg and the precise bass of Dougie Thompson.

The show was excellent and will be repeated at Festival Hall tonight.



Quiet Supertramp’s a loud sensation

Adelaide Advertiser, Australia
June 4 1976
by Ian Meikle

Supertramp is considered Britain’s quiet Sensation, but only for its low-key rise to stardom. In reality, super-duper Tramp is an indisputably loud sensation, as the thundering, capacity crowd at Apollo Stadium last night would agree. The show started simply enough as the curtains opened (yes, curtains at the Apollo Stadium) to the lone harmonica of Rick Davies as he drifted into " School." Then the four fellow Tramps edged into the act, criss-crossing through 90 minutes of music from the band’s phenomenally successful last tow albums " Crime of the Century" and "Crisis, What Crisis?"

Supertramp music is held together rather like a card house, American Bob C Benberg’s cannon-fire drumming leans against the dancing bass of Glaswegian Dougie Thomson. Atop them is clipped, terse piano of Davies and the saxophone of John Helliwell. Then delicately dangling above is the high, emotional voice and guitar Roger Hodgson.

Certainly, they were unshakable on their memorable versions of "Bloody Well Right," "Sister Moonshine," "Asylum," "Dreamer," and the highlight of the night, the swirling drama of Hodgson’s voice as he sailed through "Hide In Your Shell."

But perhaps more spectacular were the Exciting closer "Lady" and the encore "Crime of the Century," which featured a filmed backdrop of the album cover.

Supertramp is reportedly keen to reproduce its recorded work as near-perfect on stage. If that’s the criteria to judge this concert, the got damn close last night.

]]> (MAC) Interviews Wed, 11 Aug 2010 15:53:57 +0000
SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1975

Supertramp up the Chart

February 22, 1975
Pete Makowski

"Where You going then?", asked the cab driver half out of interest, half out of boredom. "Er, Wantage, near Didcot," I replied, trying to sound enthusiastic about a place I'd never heard of before.

"What for?" the cab driver asked while lighting up a 'coffin nail', and desperately trying to sustain the conversation.

"To see a group," I replied, expecting him to tell me how much his kids loved Donny Osmond and could I blag him any albums.

"You're going all the way to bleedin' Didcot just to see a bleedin' group," he exclaimed. The conversation ended. There was no point me telling him that I was on my way to see Supertramp and they didn't really have time to pop into town because they were preparing themselves for a European tour.

I was driven from Didcot to a few square miles of beautiful rural pastures known as Wantage, by Tramp's composer/guitar player and keyboards man Roger Hodgson. Three of the band, Roger, bassist Dougie Thomson and drummer Bob C. Benburg live in a house with their ladies.

Dougie was in the living room in front of a log fire busily sewing his fur coat while the music of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils gently played in the background. Very-atmospheric, eh?.

Like Wantage, everything about Supertramp is unassuming, unpretentious, unaffected. They're not the type of guys who have to say 'oh we haven't changed since our success'.

Supertramp are one of those bands that had potential vibrating from the vinyl of their masterwork 'Crime of the Century,' but I don’t think anyone expected them to achieve success quite so quickly.

From a musical point of view Tramp are complex but definitely not inaccessible. Visually they score zero, which means they're sold on the music, not bad hype. So why the success? The immediate suspicion arises when a band playing good uncommercial music become instantly appealing.

Dis is known as an enigma ja? Well not really when you consider what a state the music scene was last year. Tramp were a rare quantity. Anyway enough of these journalistic ramblings and back to the band.

Supertramp began life a few years ago but there's no point in going into their earlier career as the new and old band have little in common. Supertramp's career begins with 'Crime Of The Century ' a work that was written three years ago by Roger and keyboardsman Ric Davies.

An invigorating, intense piece of work it's only one side of the coin as far as the band are concerned.

They're already written material for a new album. "In fact," added Dougie, a man with a broad Scots' accent, "we could have recorded another album immediately after 'Crime'."

The album was produced by Bowie/Mahivishnu man Ken Scott whose superb production work became an integral part of the bad's sound. "We recorded a single a while back and mixed it ourselves," explained Roger, "but the record company weren't satisfied with our job and got Ken to re-mix.

"He did a great job and we asked him if he'd be interested producing us, we let him listen to some demos and he wasn't interested. So that was that and we began to look for another producer. Then Ken rang back and told us he had been listening to the tapes and he wanted to produce us."

The record company PR sheet to 'Crime' describes the album as a concept work which is very unfortunate as it thrusts the band into the depths of pretentiousness. "People are looking for hidden meaning in the album," said Roger, almost embarrassed, "people who have interviewed us even asked us if we committed any crimes. As far as the band are concerned the album is a concept in as much as the tracks flow into each other. "And in that sense every album's a concept."

It's fascinating how the Davies and Hodgson writing styles seem to gel, making Supertramp an entity of sound rather than various individuals under one name.

Davies has had quite an illustrious career, he even once played in a band with Gilbert O'Sullivan, on drums would you believe? "Ric's a bloody good drummer, we want to feature him in the act, " said Roger, "it would be nice to have a part with two drummers".

Talking about drummers the band's most recent acquisition Bob C. Benberg, a tall soft spoken American walked into the living room, stoked the fire and sat himself in one corner of the room. Benberg played in various bands in America "We used to play Procol Harm type material," and he joined Bees Make Honey when he came over to Britain. He saw Supertramp when the Bees were on tour backing Frankie Miller.

"It was at Birmingham Barbarella's and they were amazing. I just knew this was the type of band I wanted to be in." Benberg's drum style is unusual in the fact that he is not constantly backing the band. His drumming is sporadic and embellishes the music, rather that just keeping a continuous backdrop of rhythm.

Roger: "That's the thing about the whole band, we adapt ourselves to the music…whatever it demands. If there was a tune that just needed acoustic guitar, then we'd just use acoustic guitar.

"Our next album is going to be completely different from 'Crime', more rhythmic. That's one of the band's main elements we're exploding with rhythm."

Again, recently the band have achieved the unpredictable by releasing a single off the album 'Dreamer', which is selling very well. Apart from their 'odd' experiences at 'Top Of The Pops' the band seem to be enjoying their new found singles status.

"We've got nothing against making singles. They've just been made a dirty word by the quality of the stuff that's coming out now," said Roger. "I mean have you seen the rubbish that's in the charts now? You don't get the quality singles that were around when we were younger."

Finally talking about live performances, I asked the band if they enjoyed the touring aspect of life? "Oh yeah," said Dougie enthusiastically, "I don't think we could really survive without that aspect of the business."


Roger Hodgson

Melody Maker
January 18, 1975
by Brian Harrigan

Roger Hodgson, ex-pupil of Buckingham's Stowe School, is with Rick Davies one of the original driving forces behind - Supertramp.

It was he and Davies who penned all of the songs on "Crime Of The Century," the band's third album and first chartmaker. His musical career started at the age of 13 and progressed through school bands to Supertramp which he joined on leaving school and has been with for five years.

"It started when my parents got divorced and my mum managed to steal my dad's guitar from him without him seeing. I think if that hadn't happened I wouldn't have taken up guitar."

He started on bass but, after the first incarnation of Supertramp folded he moved to guitar. He and Davies are the only members remaining from the original Supertramp and as such they have shared the good times and the bad from the original 'euphoric days when they were 'sponsored' by a Dutch millionaire through to the despair of a fateful Norwegian tour which, according to Roger "ended in disaster."

"We were thinking of just forgetting it when fate stepped in and said 'Okay, you can have it, you can have anything you want.'

"We found Bob and he was just the drummer we were looking for, for ages. Dougie had joined by that time and he knew John and he was just unbelievable as a sax player and he fitted in well. Everything's gone well from then.

Roger considers Supertramp's material to be "the strength' of the band "It keeps all of us interested and makes fresh demands on us every time we have to do something. I think Bob's playing things now he'd never even dreamt of before.

"I've been writing song ever since I was 12 and Rick and I are still writing all the time.

"The songs on 'Crime' weren't even our favorites but we recorded them because this was something that had been planned three years before. Most of the songs had been written for that long . They seemed to suit each other for a album so we decided to put it out. The next album's going to be completely different because the songs are completely different. I don't know two of our songs that sound anything like each other."

Roger sees himself and Davies as the main writers in the band because of the bulk of material they already have and are still producing . "It's difficult for the others really to get a look in," he said. "There are so many songs waiting to be recorded it's really difficult to know what to pick."

Roger admits that he doesn't really listen to much of other people's music now. "All the people I used to like are either blowing it or not writing such good songs. I don't know whether it's me changing or the music scene changing but there's very little surprise in anything now.

"I'm a Beatles youth really and I love Traffic, too. I think they're the band we all get off on. I love the Beach Bays too, although why people keep saying we sound like them I don't know."

Roger is full of admiration for the rest of the band and feels that Tramp have a tremendous potential. "There's no weakness in the band. If any one of the band left it would b e nigh on impossible to replace them really. There are so many side to Supertramp it's unbelievable 'Crime is one side, the drama side, but there's so much humor in the band I think we'll probably get that coming out on stage eventually.



‘Lady’ and the Tramp: hot dogs!

Melody Maker
December 13, 1975
By Phil Sutcliffe

I have never known an audience that seemed so devoted to a band as the congregation at Hammersmith the other night.

Nearly every number rated an outburst of applause as if they were Sinatra on the opening bars of ‘My Way’. The reasons are quite different, though, I imagine I sensed an audience which has recognized a considerable new talent and wants everyone including the band to know that they are valued, that they must stick around for a long time and make a lot of music for us ‘cos we need it in this crisis (what crisis?)

So Supertramp are loved – and that’s a surprise. Because they are one of the coolest bands in the big-time. John Anthony Heliwell is the only one who seems to have any personal rapport with the crowd and perhaps his puppet-like mook show bizzy gestures say it for the rest of them: that’s just not their scene. Even their lighting is almost entirely on stage, i.e. no long beams from the back of the auditorium linking them and us.

And their music, delivered with supreme precision as it was, is rarely hit – you – between – the – eyes stuff so the reaction of the comparatively impartial observer is hardly one of excitement. Except of course when they played their two singles ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Lady’.

Whether or not they were purpose-built hits they really do it and were the highlights of the set to me because the sweat came busting out on my brow and that’s when this animal knows he’s enjoying himself.

However, even with the academic feel to the rest of the set, some of the new material established itself as quite outstanding lives the 20s melancholy of ‘Poor Boy’ was very appealing, Hodgson’s irate-goblin vocals on ‘The Meaning’ disturbed the appreciative calm and ‘Ain’t Nobody But Me’ saw them get them down (almost) with ramrod piano and strident guitar. I also admired a sequence of fadeout sounding the like of what I’ve never seen a live band attempt before.

Meanwhile, back in the tailpiece, Joan Armatrading, exquisitely together with the Movies, proved again that she is the best singer in Britain, of any shape, size or sex (and if someone insists she’s from St Kitts you got me because I haven’t heard any other singers from St Kitts and perchance there are better). She shiver me spine, she stand me hair on end.



Pete Makowski traces the success of Supertramp


December 27, 1975

Two years and two months, that’s how long Super tramp have been together believe it or not. Two years and two sensational albums – ‘Crime Of The Century’ and ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ – Supertramp have carved their name in a market that’s literally crying out for quality. That’s what the ‘Tramp are; a quality band who, with bands like 10cc, set themselves high standards that they continually maintain.

Supertramp are: Rick Davies (keyboard/vocals), Roger Hodgson (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Dougie Thompson (bass) John Helliwell (saxophone, various instruments) and Bob C. Benberg (drums). But Supertramp have been around for quite a while in various forms, this line-up is the culmination of years of ‘paying dues’, I caught the band towards the end of their tour, where they reflected on their past exploits which led them to join together on their musical venture.


*"The actors and jesters are here

The stage is in darkness and clear

For raising the curtain

And no one’s quite certain whose play it is."

The story really begins with Rick Davies who debuted his professional career with The Lonely Ones, a band from Folkstone formerly led by Noel Redding. "We worked in England for about six months playing should stuff," he explained, "then we went to Europe for supposedly two weeks but we got stuck there….didn’t come back for a year and a half!"

The band eventually found themselves stranded in Munich. "We were gigging at night and making film music during the day. It was good experience but Germans make the worst films in the world. We were just a cheap way for them to get music on their films. We worked for a guy called David Lluellyn, who was an unbelievable character we met over there. He used to get us all these film jobs.

"The band were broke when Dave mentioned the fact that he knew this guy in Switzerland who was a millionaire. We thought ‘sure pull the other one’, but then again it was worth a try. We were all destitute at the PN Club living on soup. We’d play at the weekends and that would give us enough money to last us through till Thursday then we had to pilfer until Saturday.

"It was on a Saturday that Dave went to see this guy and then he just didn’t get in contact for about three months, and we thought ‘that’s it, he’s gone’. Then we got a telephone call from Dave saying that the guy would be interested in seeing us. We wouldn’t believe it! We were all walking around in a dream thinking ‘this is it’".


The man Dave was referring to was none other that Same, the Dutch millionaire, to whom ‘Crime Of The Century’ is dedicated. Sam was the man responsible ‘for making it all possible’.

Rick: "He had these ideas for us to get classical themes and turn them into pop music. Of course we all went charging down to his house and when we got there we spent the first two weeks playing ping-pong. We had an attempt at getting this thing together. It was completely bizarre, this buy’s music and the pop idea on top of it. We eventually came over and signed to Robert Stigwood and ended up playing the Rasputin Club every week, that was about it."


Rick: "One morning Same phoned me up at nine o’clock in the morning and told me to have a look out of the window and I said ‘There’s nothing out there, except an old coach and he said;’ it’s yours boys’, so we got in and Andy (our singer) drove it around Finchley while we played football in the back. It’s only when we started playing the Marquee that it got to be a problem. We had to park in Oxford Street and you’d see a huge chain of people on Wardour Street carrying equipment, anyway that was taken away from us when something wasn’t pleasing Same. I went over to see what was grieving him."

It transpired that Sam didn’t feel that the group were living up to his expectations. "I knew the band wasn’t that good, but everyone was heartbroken when we had to split, we were so close." It seemed that the Dutch millionaire recognized a spark of songwriting talent developing in Davies and persuaded him to stay under his wing.

*"For we dreamed a lot

And we schemed a lot."

"I went over to Sam’s to try and write my own music, so I could get enough confidence to start something off my own back and I stayed there just writing. Of course all sorts of crazy ideas popped up from Sam, like ‘Rick Around The World In Eighty Tunes’ whereby we’d hire a few LAN drovers and go round the world.

"We’d sit in an Afghanistan village and be influenced by the music and then go onto somewhere else. It sounded fantastic but it wasn’t real at all. So I went back to London and I began auditioning for what was to become the first Supertramp."

*"If we’d known just how right we were going to be,"


Hodgson’s pale, gaunt, almost hawk like features seen either sitting behind a guitar, squeezing every ounce of emotion into each verse he sings, are a complete contrast to the cool, full-faced Davies, who only occasionally breaks his stern dead-pan features with a single grimace or offstage a burst of raucous laughter. This makes up the black and white of the Supertramp writing team.

While Hodgson walks on stage wearing kaftan and jeans, you’ll see Davies on the other side sporting a suit and shirt, looking like a latter day Irving Berlin. Both equally intense, both equally talented, both equally different. It’s hardly surprising that one of Hodgson’s mainmen is Stevie Winwood – they’re both vagabonds of the wind, eternal music makers, living in their own time, their own reality.

"When I joined Rick I had signed a contract with another guy the very same day," admitted a quiet spoken Hodgson. In fact he had been contracted by DJM to record a single under the name of Argosy.

"The single had Elton John on piano, Nigel Olsson on drums and Caleb Quaye on guitar…it also flopped…Tony Blackburn liked it."

When Hodgson first joined ‘Tramp, his main instrument was bass. "That’s my favourite instrument funnily enough, I love the bass more than any other instrument."

Davies got Richard Palmer (who had previously written some lyrics for King Crimson) on guitar and Bob Millar on drums, completing the line-up of Supertramp Mk I. Purpose?

Rick explains: "There was a huge change happening at the time I was away in Europe. That change was like Traffic, Jethro Tull, Spooky Tooth sort of nice up and coming bands, which I wasn’t away of until I went down to see Rory Gallagher and Taste at the Lyceum, only then did I reckon on the possibilities that something could happen, because I didn’t rate myself as a big pop star and I thought to get anywhere I was going to have to be like that. But with the new bands coming up, there was a new standard to live up to and that’s what we were aiming for.

"Roger, Richard and Bob were all aware of these groups, so having them in the band was sort of an education for me. It was great because Richard Palmer was going about Traffic and The Band getting into their lyrics and I had never thought about their lyrics before."

Supertramp signed to A&M and released their debut album in 1970. It was described in the liner notes of their second album as having a ‘melancholy mood’. The album vaguely indicates ‘Trams intention, without really making them clear. Not a totally memorable debut album, just interest.

Rick: "We were very green then. There was this thing about not having a producer. Bands weren’t using producers then, and we decided ‘yeah we’re not going to have a producer’. Paul McCartney’s not using a producer, why should we use one? (breaks into hysterical laughter) it was that sort of greenness" "It worked on the first one", argued Roger, "it had its own kind of magic."


Rick: "That first year, we must have played to an awful lot of people. We were doing Top Gear all the time, it was keeping us alive."

Roger: "Our first album did sell quite a lot."

Rick: "Yeah it did. It almost took off in actual fact, because we did the Croydon Greyhound where we pulled in a lot of people just once, after that Bob left and then it must crashed."

Roger: "In that first year we were put in a country house together, we didn’t mix socially and the vibes got really bad. We never made any friends because the vibes were so bad, people hated coming up to the house."


Rick: "We did that ourselves as well. The second album consisted of a different band. By that time Richard Palmer and Bob Millar had left. We got a guy called Dave Winthrop on saxophone, Kevin Currie on drums and Frank Farrel on bass."

The second album titled ‘Indelibly Stamped’ (a cover sporting a nude female body festooned with tattoos) was a much more meatier effort that it’s predecessor, developing theme upon theme in musical layers, a sound not too dissimilar to Traffic. The same feel.

Live gigs? Well that was a different story…

Rick: "It was all rock and roll really. We used to get people up on the bloody stage and it was just chaos, bopping away doing about three encores, but there was meat and potatoes behind it. No more or less people would come to the next gig."

Then came the next departure. Farrel left to pursue his own career, finally meeting up with Leo Sayer, while the very Scottish Dougie Thompson entered the scene. Like the rest of the band. Thompson is a quiet unassuming character. On stage you can see him bouncing around, pumping throbbing baselines that have become such an essential par t of Supertramps’ sound.

"I joined the Mk II Supertramp about six months before that I was playing in some weird West End strip clubs. I’d played a bit in Alan Bown’s band. That was at a weird period of that band’s existence, when they parted company with Alan and we tried to get something happening, but we didn’t really get anything sorted out at all.

"So I was just looking around for a job to get some money, and then I say this ad for Supertramp. Sometime before my brother, who’s one of our roadies now, had been to London and brought one of their album back. So I had been aware of them. I decided to go along and see what was happening. At this point they had been going through some incredible audition scenes. I remember going to the Pied Bull in Islington and there were some terrible scenes. Rick was there with his crash helmet and sleeping bag. Dave Winthrop had given up hope and had gone to play pinball. Roger and Kevin were they’re trying to get some kind of audition sorted out. So I went in, played my two minutes and left.


"Roger phoned me up a couple of days later, asking me to come down to his house, and it just kind of evolved from there. It really was a strange period for the band, with Dave Winthrop. Sometimes he just wouldn’t come to gigs, and then he’d turn up a couple of gigs later almost as if nothing had happened…very strange."

Rick: "We did one gig in Swansea when the drummer didn’t turn up. So me and Rog split the drumming duties between us, because we needed the bread, otherwise we’d starve. It didn’t go down too badly."

Doog: "Towards the tail end of the Mk II band we did some gigs with Frankie Miller."

Which leads us very neatly to the entry of Bob C. Benberg from Los Angeles, who at that time was drumming with those infamous pub rock dudes – Bees Make Honey. "That was at the time Frankie had recorded an album with the Brinsleys, in fact that introduced us to him," explained Bob. "Frankie used to hang around the Tally Ho and sometimes he’d jump onstage and join us for a couple of numbers. When it was time for him to go out and work, he took us along to back him up and we did about three gigs supporting Supertramp. One of them was at Streatham where I didn’t meet the band at all, I just recognized Doog because I had seen him playing with the Alan Bown Set at the Greyhound about three months before, and the only thing I remembered about the band apart from the saxophone player with a black sax was the bass player who moved around a bit.

"Then I remembered walking in one day and seeing this guy playing drums and thinking ‘hey he sounds pretty good’ and then 15 minutes later the drummer walked in." The guy Bob saw was Rick who began his musical life as a drummer. "A few weeks later we were at Barbarella’s, Birmingham, supporting Supertramp. We did our set, then everybody split, except the piano player and me, we stuck around and watch Supertramp, and they were pretty good. They were the first band that I had seen that I thought were nifty, and I thought I could get on playing with them. After that I was putting it around that they were pretty good. The way I put it was they were the closest thing to Traffic I’d seen, they were really punchy…

"At that time we were doing some of the second album and a lot of ‘Crime Of The Century’," added Rick, "completely different versions."

Bob: "The next time I saw them was when we were playing a gig in Barnet and I saw their drummer beaming in on me. About two weeks later Roger came up to me in The Kensington and said they were going to be doing a new album in September and the drummer was splitting and what did I think about doing sessions for them."

This was a whole different thing to the Bees.

Bob: "In the Bees I never rehearsed for one day. We never rehearsed at all. With Supertramp it was different, the complete opposite. I remember the first time we got together was at the Furniture Cave in Kings Road."

Rick: "I’d never heard such a loud drummer in my life. I couldn’t hear anything except cymbals."

"Yeah but they were pretty neat huh?’

Pretty neat indeed. Bob’s punchy, clipped drum work, along with Doog’s bass makes up an invaluable and distinguished part of Supertramp’s sound. In a way they kind of weld Davies and Hodgson together into one accessible format. Now that the rhythm section had been sorted out there was one more thing to do.


When Dave Winthrop finally stopped coming to gigs the band sat around and discussed their next move. Suddenly Doog remembered his old playing partner in the Alan Bown Set) the one Bob Benberg, referred to as the man with the black sax). John Helliwell, the band’s musician and comedian rolled into one. Doog immediately phoned John to find that his reed-blowing friend was away in Germany, still a lucrative home for out of work musicians. In fact John was playing air bases with ‘a 20 stone multi instrumentalist."

Doog: "So we bumbled around for a couple of weeks without a replacement and then John came back. So I phoned him up and asked him to come down for a blow. By this time we were working in Manfred Mann’s old studios in the Old Kent Road. So John came down."

Rick: "He had a blow, then he sat down and there was silence for about 20 seconds, and then he did his joke about the Irish man who got a pair of water skis for Christmas and spent the rest of the year looking for a lake with a slope. And everybody sat and I thought ‘who is this?’"

John Helliwell is one of those natural comedians who has a static, relaxed, lunatic atmosphere that surrounds him both off and onstage. He’s also a bloody amazing musician. As Doog once described him: "The man who’ll play anything he can get his hands on."

Helliwell can tackle almost any musical task and look completely relaxed. Supertramp’s music has a certain sense of dramatics about it. Helliwell counteracts it, stopping it from becoming anywhere near pretentious and his decorative illuminations bring it closer to becoming brilliant. He’s also an ace guy.

Take it away John: "I went home after playing with them (Supertramp) and the wife asked me what it was like, and I said ‘yeah pretty good but I think I’ll go back tomorrow’. Then I went the next day and came home and she said ‘well how do you feel about it now?’ I said ‘It’s alright but I’ll have to go again’ and it kept on going like that.

"At the same time I had to do a job during the day. So I enlisted with Manpower and the first job I got was as a petrol pump attendant. Then I got a job screwing nuts and bolts together at a factory in Maidenhead." In fact most of the band had to get jobs to keep surviving.

Bob: "John recommended me to a friend of his who was playing in a band at The Park Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge and I played with them. I had loads of solo spots y’know we’d play about five sets a night, and I had about three solo spots in each set. If that wasn’t bad enough one night when we were playing our second set, d’y’know who rolled in? Carl Radle and Jim Gordon! They sat right in front of me! I was trying to play as good as I can…. but I was really nervous."

On asking Mr Helliwell for a brief resume of his musical career, his immediate reply was, "have you got three more tapes on you?" Indicating that he’s a lad with a bit of experience behind him. I then asked for the shortened version of the John Helliwell story.

"I was with Alan Bown for about six years through all the ups and downs, and then after that when it split up I went and worked for a few strip clubs. No hang on! The first job I got before that was working in a dry cleaning factory during the day and the Celebrity Club at night. Then when I sorted out my tax problem. I left the dry cleaning job and the Celebrity Club and went on to play the Twilight Rooms where Doog was working, and then I got my big break… I joined Jimmy Johnson and the Bandwagon! Then I joined up with Arthur Conley and later on with Jimmy Ruffin. Each one was a step up. Then I went to Germany and I came back in August to join this lot. They said they were making the album in September."

Bob: "That’s what they told me."

John: "Yeah that’s what they conned me into."

Bob: "We still haven’t been paid for those sessions."

Doog: "None of us were ever asked to join the group, we came along, stayed and nobody told us to leave.


Sometime during this period (late ’73) the band severed their ties with Sam, taking them from the lap of luxury and throwing them straight into the cold, had facts of rock and roll. Especially Rick, who before had limitless time to sort himself out, although he points out: "There was almost too much wasted time, you get to rely on that beg money man, there’s no urgency, your life doesn’t depend on it. By the time we left him I thought ‘wow we could sink like a stone’!"


John: "After the rehearsal studios in the Old Kent Road, we used to rehearse under Kew Bridge. Then we got together with A&M Records who hired a cottage for us in Somerset, we managed to wangle a stay there. So we all went there with girlfriends, wives, kids and cats. We were there for about three months trying to get a producer together."

One of the choices was Ian MacDonald: "He was just the wrong person, it was a simple as that," was the conclusion the band came to after MacDonald visited them. Then came Ken Scott, already renowned for his works with Bowie and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, to name a few. "We got him to re-mix our single which was called ‘Land Ho!’ and we dug what he was doing. So eventually we signed a contract for recording on February ’74. The birth of Supertramp Mk III!


Rick: "That was really bizarre when we had that house, the big house in Holland Villas. This big house, Joe Cocker was in there and there was only supposed to be four people to pay the rent, which was astronomical, so there was 12 of us in the end. There were people in the roof all over the place. I was living in the shower.

Rick: "You should have seen the scene when the landlady came around to collect the rent. I’ve never seen anything like it. She came round about 10 in the morning, and it was like panicsville. The alarm went off, I got up, walked straight out of the door with me pullover on, it was pouring with rain and I just walked round Shepherds Bush. I didn’t have money for breakfast or anything. I ended up bumming a quid off that guy at the Cabin. I expected everyone to be out in the street when I got back. I was surprised everyone was still there. It was like a farce. People stark naked rushing from room to room as they were showing the landlady around, there were people hiding in the cupboards. They were going to check in the attic and of course there were tents in there!

The setting for the rehearsal of ‘Crime’ was a much more peaceful cottage in the country.

Doog: "We had a room in the back with the gear in it and the mixer was set up in the kitchen."

The band spent three months of solid rehearsals, and then laid down some backing tracks for Jerry Moss (the ‘M’ of A&M) to hear, "Fortunately he like them," quipped John, ‘he must have gone back to America and said let them get on with it."

I asked John if ‘Crime’ was an expensive album to produce.

"Well with A&M helping us out because we couldn’t work, it worked out that we’d have to sell three quarters of a million copies to break even, so we’ll be getting there soon enough."

It’s nearly there already."

John: "’Crisis’ was cheaper, not that much."


The first time Supertramp played together in their current format was a gig in Jersey for a Lord’s party. A friend of a friend of a friend, of a friend job. "I got so drunk I couldn’t play", revealed Bob Benberg, "so I spent the whole of the break sobering up and by that time the rest of the band got so drunk they couldn’t play!"

The first time the band played ‘Crime Of The Century’ was at an A&M gathering in the Kings Road Theatre. "There were so many thing happening backstage you just wouldn’t have believed it," said John, Rick "We never worked with a full lighting crew so when they went out we couldn’t see a thing. And I remembered on one particular number I had to open a number in complete darkness, I couldn’t see anything so I couldn’t play, which meant the lights wouldn’t go on. We really bluffed through it and hoped for the best."

Since those first gigs the band have toured Britain, Europe and the USA. It’s only been two years and two months but no one can accuse them of slacking, and they still enjoy playing ‘Crime Of The Century’.

Roger: "I’m enjoying it more this time than I did last time."

Rick: "I think it’s taken almost this long to get completely on top of it without worrying about little knobs and switches, so in a way you can go out there and relax. There’s only a couple of numbers that worry me technically.

"Once you start getting on top of it, that’s when you have to be careful that you’re not going to become complacent. When you stop thinking ‘is it going to be alright!’ and start thinking ‘this is going to be a piece of piss’ – it’s only on the last gigs that I’ve thought this is nothing, I can do this easy, but you soon get brought down to earth about it all."

I asked Rick how he felt about the press reaction, second time around.

"I expected a slightly harder time with the album," he said referring to ‘Crisis? "opposite to what I initially thought, I expected it to be good for ‘Crime’ and not for this one. But the press are funny, there’s only a few people that you’ve got confidence in as far as what they think and sooner or later they blow it for you by saying something completely silly".

‘Crisis?’ features a lot of old material (never recorded before), indicating that the band have slowed down writing wise, which is hardly surprising when you consider how hard they’ve been working.

"There hasn’t been a great spate of writing," agreed Rick, "certainly not from me, I think Rog has done a bit more."

Doog: "It seems easier for Rog as he only needs a guitar, while Rick needs to be locked away somewhere with a piano."

Rick: "We need a break, where we can get fresh ideas."

Doog: "We never stopped, and it will have been two years solid work by the time we do stop. The important thing is that the music stays good. If it needs stop and thinking about then that’s what’s going to happen!"

Supertramp are here to stay.

* Lyrics taken from ‘If Everyone Was Listening’ on ‘Crime Of The Century’ published by Delicate/Rondor Music.

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SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1974


Hard-Up Heroes with the Hilton Connection

New Musical Express
November 2, 1974
by Fred Dellar

If you'd been foolish enough to mention a new album to Supertramp just over a year ago, you'd have been greeted with looks that suggested you ran away and played with a bottle of cyanide.

Money was still something you played Monopoly with and the band was so down it seemed just a matter of announcing the split and looking for the next set of circumstances.

But, somewhere along the way they decided to make a single and mix it at Trident. There, producer Ken Scott heard the band and liked what they did. So they bent his ear towards the large amount of material they'd piled up on their homely Sony (no, they couldn't afford a Reox like everyone else) and Scott became so intrigues that he began to work up a kind of Eddie Offord-Yes relationship with the group and decided to lead them on their quest for their personal Holy Grail - an album that would gain them acceptance.

So off they all went to the Who studio to up down some basic tracks, later returning to Trident for overdubs and thence to Scorpio where they did the final mix - all of which too around five months.

"Ken's really become part of the band," claims keyboardman and founder-member Richard Davies. "But he's such a perfectionist that when he tries for a drum sound we all walk out and leave bob Benberg (the band's drummer) and him to it. If we come back a couple of hours later they'll still be working it all out".

Even the sound effects on the album - 'Crime of the Century' (reviewed last week) had to be really authentic. When he wanted the sound of children's voices, Scott went down to his daughter's school and recorded the holocaust at going-home time. Another evening he could be found recording buskers in London's West End which on another occasion he and Supertramp made their way to Paddington where, amid the train-spotter, they recorded the station announcements for a track called "Rudy".

Scott, who won a large number of plaudits for his work with Bowie, is currently involved in a project with Billy Cobham. But he's already planning another album with Supertramp. Y'see the band claim they didn't put all their best material on the new album: "We just used some of the songs that fitted okay", says guitarist Roger Hodgson, "and some of the strongest material is yet to come - we've had a lot of time in which to write during the past couple of years."

But now the band are back to earning a little bread once more and they've dedicated their album, which A & M released a couple of weeks ago, to a guy called Sam - a guy who once decided that a small portion of his million would find a worthwhile investment in the talents of Supertramp. Now there's a story.

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SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1971


Breaks are coming for Supertramp

New Musical Express
October 23, 1971
by Tony McNally

High on a mountain road in Norway lies a definite reminder that Supertramp once played there - the equipment van, which had to be left because the mountain was too steep to take it down. And that is only one of the incidents with vans for this refreshing five piece outfit. So bad has the situation been that last Wednesday the band couldn't play Liverpool with TYA (who they're on tour with) and it resulted in sax player Dave Winthrop busking to cinema queues - he did make five bob though!

At London's Coliseum on Sunday night, I say the band play for the first time, and must say was impressed by their edited set. The music is complex, with strong harmony lines, and a variety of instruments including saxes, flutes, piano, organ and guitars, I would say they draw heavily from the blues, especially for the boogies, but do have a distinct country flavour.

The band was formed around keyboard player Rick Davies two years ago with guitarist Roger Hodgson. Dave joined 18 months ago, and Frank Farrell (bass) and Kevin Currey (drums) came in earlier this year.

The band have gained quite a bit of respect in the music business, and they told me that Paul Kossoff recently invited Roger to join his band. But as things were just beginning to go for them they decided to keep together.

As they put it, the band has been through absolute rubbish and now they are starting to get breaks, one of which must surely be the TYA tour.

"At last," Rick said, "five of us think probably the same way, which is quite useful and we like the same things in music.

"Like playing with Kevin; it's very hard to find a drummer who will do very simple thins because they think of jazzy bits, and can't do the simple rhythms because of this ego thing going.

When the band was in its early stages they played a minor key type of thing, and also some very poetical type of stuff - until the guitarist left, and that changed their musical format.

Rick: "Yeah, when Richard Palmer left, thing started to change all right, and we got into this type of funky thing. It's a feel type of thing. It's going to be a little bit more intricate and a little more worked out and more arranged, but not into the ELP type of thing.


Listening to the band I got the impression that the arrangements were carefully worked out, seems that things are going to be tighter though.

"It's arranged now, but simply," Rick went on to say "but it'll go a little bit deeper. A lot is drawn from the blues, that's the sort of feel bit."

The music is put together by the band, and the album "Indelibly stamped" seems to be doing well, if for nothing else, just originality.

"On Stage," said Rick," we try to be light-hearted, enjoy the rhythms and then let it show in the music.


Listen with your heads not your ears

Record Mirror
May 15, 1971
By Kevin Corrie

I joined Supertramp about two months before we started work on the new album. I had to do three auditions (short lists and things) and the band saw 87 drummers and 93 guitarists. They didn’t find a guitarist. Eventually Roger, the bass player, played guitar, so Frank joined on bass just after we finished the album.

"We’ll be rehearsing now for a few weeks, then we got to the P.N. Club, Munich for a few weeks to break the band in to coincide with the release of the album.

"What can I say about the album… it’s right where we all are at the moment. We’re not out to impress all and sundry with our musical prowess, virtuosity,etc. We like to think people who buy the album will listen with their heads, not their ears, but we don’t mind.

"If they get something out of it what we didn’t consciously put on it, then good for them. We think it is quite a varied album with most of the out of it that we didn’t emphasis on melody and feel, both on the album and on stage.

"Most of our live gigs are colleges which means we’re only exposed to people who want to know anyway. We hope the album will find it’s way into the possession of people who wouldn’t normally associate themselves with ‘groovy’ college bands.

"The fact that Supertramp are still together is a minor miracle in itself. When the first album was being made the personnel scenes were really bad.
Vans and cars breaking down one after the other.

"Eventually the guitarist and drummer left the band. That was it. As far as people in the business were concerned. We’re now slowly convincing them they were wrong.

"We have a gas doing the album. We were in the studios all over Easter and we wrote and produced it ourselves. People don’t realize it but the studios and studio engineers all affect the way the album comes together.

"It was recorded at Olympic in Barnes, Which is a really nice studio, and the engineer Bob knew exactly what we were trying to do without anyone having to say anything. A&M are rush releasing it to get it out for early June. So we can only sit tight and hope everyone digs it.


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SUPERTRAMP Interviews year 1970

Tramp hits the road

Melody Maker
September 5, 1970
By Andrew Means

Like a thousand other relatively unknown groups, Supertramp are trying hard to make a name for themselves. But unlike most groups in a similar position, they have an excellent recommendation – their first album.

Richard Davies (organ, electric piano, vocals), Roger Hodgson (bass guitar, vocals), Richard Palmer (lead guitar and vocals) and Robert Millar (drums) have combined to produce some very tasteful material.

Latest addition to the group is David Winthrop (saxophone, flute and vocals) who was not featured on the album. The full effect of Supertramp, then, is as yet a relatively unknown quality. During a recent breakfast ritual I asked Roger and Richard Davies how the group had first started.

"I started the group off really, after my old group broke up. My manager asked me if I wanted to start again with new musicians," Richard Davies told me, in between gulps of bacon, sausages and other delicacies.

"We put an advert in, and built up the group from there. Me and Roger are the two main composers and Richard Palmer is writing lyrics at the moment. When we first started we took a wrong direction in trying to do complicated stuff, but we’ve change that now.

"The forming of the group and getting a record out has taken us about a year and we’re itching to get out on the road," Roger broke in.

Was there any particular sound or instrument which they felt would identify them?

"Ideally we’re just five guys on stage just grooving along." Said Richard Davies. "If anything the electric piano may be the distinctive thing. Also we’ve got some weird voices.

"We have very different voices," agreed Roger. "This comes out in the moods of the songs we each write. If we write a rock song Dave usually sings it. He’s got a harsh voice."

Richard explained that when either he or Roger thought of the beginning of a song, they tried to get the mood across to Richard Palmer and he wrote the lyrics.

"When we write a song we find that some line will just come into our heads subconsciously," said Roger. "Richard grabs these lines and writes lyrics around them, making them fit the mood of the song."

Richard Palmer strode in at that moment; I asked how he shaped the lyrics.

"This is contradictory because it’s not what I’m doing, but the lyrics that impress me the most are ballad lyrics about concrete people and places, rather than abstract ideas – like the Band do," he said "It’s not always possible but if you can make the words stand up on their own without the music then it’s good. The attraction of the ballad is that the song tells a story. I admire lyrics if they make sense.

"The days of the protest song as such are over. It’s much better to tell a story illustrating a point. I’m not sure that it’s the business of the rock-and-roll band to protest. It does seem to me a little bit easy to use the stage or record as a soapbox.

"Most people in the music business seem to adopt other people’s convictions without thinking it up for themselves. I try to make a personal point with my lyrics. The right thing is to try and present an attitude – just a statement of fact from which it’s evident that you are thinking in a certain way.

"The songs I admire are narrative. Protest songs are essentially negative. Jefferson Airplane, who I like a lot, have a very positive attitude. They drag you into their field of influence. Many groups don’t have the personality power to do that."

Did they feel that their album represented them fairly?

"I’m satisfied with this album in view of how long we’d been formed when we made it," said Richard Davies. "When we made it Robert had only been with us a week."

"We’ve got about twenty songs for our next album now," Roger told me. "It’s very much different from the first one emotionally."

"The last album was songs which Richard and I had written before Supertramp was formed," said Roger. "The next one is going to be songs written since the group started. Now all we’ve got to do is get the gigs. We’ve got a few University dates and this is the market we’ll be aiming for.




The Seventies Sound
Record Mirror
August 8, 1970

Roger Hodgson is the base guitarist with a new five-piece British group Supertramp, whose debut album "Supertramp" is issued by A&M are particularly enthusiastic about the band who have signed with The Chrysalis Agency and are beginning an extensive round of club and college dates throughout Britain.

"We’re very pleased at the reaction we’ve had to our initial bookings in Britain at places like the Marquee. As a group we haven’t been in existence for long, although all of the members have had a good deal of musical schooling in various groups during the past few years.

"When we originally got together earlier this year it was decided that we must spend some months together tightening up our sound before doing British gigs, so we went to the Continent and spent several weeks rehearsing solidly in Geneva. Then we spent some time as a resident band at the P.N. club in Munich. We had five half-hour shows during the week and seven shows a day at weekends. This was very good for us; it’s the type of experience that many other bands have gone through at the beginning of their careers.
For some reason, a lot of really good British outfits consider that the hard, exhausting work in German clubs is one of the best methods of tightening group sound and getting the group together as a team. We certainly found that to be true.

"Now we’re looking forward to all our British gigs and are really keen to hear the reaction to our album when it’s released. All the numbers were written by ourselves.
"As far as my personal history is concerned I’ve had a passion for playing guitar since my early schooldays – and it certainly affected my work! At school they tried to dissuade my passion for music, but in the end they let me have my own solo concert. I was 12 at the time. I played most of my own compositions but the only encore I received was the one non-original song I performed – Cliff Richard’s "Bachelor Boy."

"I left school at 18 and joined a group called People Like Us, but I was always the odd one out because I refused to force a smile on stage. Lionel Conway of Island Records heard a demo we made and asked me to leave the group and make a solo record of one of my own compositions called "Mr Boyd." It was released in America under the name Argosy and got to No. 28 in the Kansas City charts.

Up until now I’d always played lead guitar, but when I auditions for Supertramp they asked me to switch to bass and, having got used to it, I really dig it now. I also play piano and cello with the group."


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