Rob Preuss Interviewed On 40 Years Of ‘Arias & Symphonies’ And Beyond [part 1]

Rob Preuss today

Whenever someone subscribes to the blog, I get a notification telling me that so-and-so@domain.whatever will now be receiving the posts by email. This is normally of interest to me, but never so much as when I recognize the person subscribing! Early this year my eyes widened as I saw that Rob Preuss, the keyboard player during fave Canadian band Spoons imperial period, was now receiving every blog post!

Mr. Preuss eventually thought to search for Spoons on PPM and came across the single post I’d written in the early says of the blog on the “Nova Heart” single. He commented, and one thing led to another. I figured now that Rob was a reader, the time might be ripe to do that deep dive into the “Arias + Symphonies” album that has ruled my world for 40 years. Ironically, I had not written about it yet in spite of my deep ardor for the album, because I wanted to take the time to write more seriously about it than what my normal [hasty] lunch hour posts allowed. And time was always on short supply.

Well, now that Rob was reading the blog, I judged the time ripe for that deep dive, and I broached the topic of an interview since we were already communicating in the comment fields. One thing led to another, and while I had been incredibly busy with ceaseless home improvement projects all summer, which would preclude such activity for many months, I told him, let’s try for this in October. That we managed to talk last week meant that I, technically, managed to hit my target. Our conversation on all matters “Arias + Symphonies” as well as broader topics such as producers, A+M Records, and ABBA® now follows, and being two pop fans of similar vintage, we had no shortage of Venn diagram overlap points when it came to all things musical. As Rob will note with the first volley below.

ESTABLISHING BASE LINE

Rob Preuss: We must be about the same age or I’m probably older than you because I figure from the music that you write about and stuff, I’m like you… it’s our generation you know?

Post-Punk Monk: It’s our generation but I’m on the back end of it. I just turned 59 last month.

R: I just turned 57. Still, it’s our generation.

PPM: I was 19 when I bought “Arias + Symphonies.”

R: Were you? That’s the thing, right? Because when it came out, we recorded it when I was 16 and when it was released in October. I had just turned 17.

PPM: 40 years is an amazingly long time. It’s basically half a lifetime, yet it feels like yesterday.

R: Isn’t it weird? I mean, it’s over half a lifetime now. Considering you know how old I was when I did it.

rob preuss student ID card
Rob was 15 when he joined Spoons; young, but he already knew how to rock a thin tie

PPM: Yeah 40 years is an amazingly long time and yet all these songs are just under my skin because “Arias + Symphonies” is such a classic album. I’ll just butter you up right here at the beginning… it’s not only the best Canadian album, I think it’s probably in my top 10 North American albums.

R: It’s unbelievable to me. It’s an honor for you to say it, only because when I’ve looked at the things that you’ve written over the years. And I remember finding your thing about “Nova Heart” I thought, “this is super cool.” It was just sort of exciting to think, “oh yeah, there’s people who write really well and they’re writing about our music.” Which I think it was exciting because it had been so many years of course. How did you first discover it?

PPM: MTV. MTV played the “Nova Heart” video. In 1982 I just gotten up my first beta deck and cable and MTV popped up, like, three months later. So I was just like a zombie [watching these videos for hours with a finger on the record button of my first ßeta VCR]. I learned quickly since I was reading Billboard, and I knew what the weekly adds and rotations were. I learned that you recorded a few hours of MTV in the dead of night on a blank tape and it’s probably under those conditions I saw “Nova Heart.”

R: That’s amazing, because we didn’t make the video actually, until “Arias + Symphonies” was released, because at that point even by the end of ‘82 videos were still a totally new thing, right? There were a few music shows that were playing them, but there was no MTV. When did MTV actually start? ‘83? ‘82?

PPM: ‘81 in America, but [Canada’s music video channel] Much Music started in what …83? 84?

THE A+M EXPERIENCE

R: ‘84. Yeah. So I guess the thing for us that we were really lucky that because we had a distribution deal with A+M records in L.A. they were the ones that said “you guys you need to make a music video.” Because in Canada we were still sort of like “well, there’s not a lot of places to play it, but this seems to be an important thing to start doing, so let’s do it.” So, we made the video in the fall of ‘82 after “Arias” was already released and the song had already been basically up and down the charts in Canada, but I think we made it primarily to have something to play for the rest of the world.

arias release party poster

PPM: Exactly! That was the whole point of it and the beauty of music videos back then. They were an inexpensive way to give a band reach all the way around the world in foreign markets. [at least before six figure video budgets]

R: You know what’s funny about the video though too, is that we had no sense of the reach in America. Because we at that point were not really focused on America and A+M Records didn’t really know what to do with us, and I mean that’s sort of what we found out within the next year after releasing the album as well. Because we did our first Canadian tour was the fall of ‘82 and it was our first time going across to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
 
But then A+M Records booked us to do a mini tour down the West Coast. So, a guy from A+M Records came up and met us in in Vancouver and then drove us down the coast and we played some small clubs in Seattle and Portland, Oregon and we played in San Francisco and then we ended up at a gig in Los Angeles at this club called the Limelight, which at the time I think was like kind of a showcase club.

PPM: That’s amazing because A+M Records had such good taste. They licensed all of my very favorite British bands. They were able to actually wring a few hits out of them over here on the American side. I was a fan of bands like OMD and Simple Minds from early on and I had to say, “I can’t believe that this band I’ve liked is actually having hits.”

R: It’s crazy and it almost felt like we were on the bleeding edge or the cutting edge because we always felt like they didn’t quite know what to do with us. Because I remember being on the A+M lot when we went down to L.A. it was so cool to be there. They were on the old Charlie Chaplin Studios. That was their offices. The A+M lot was the whole area where Charlie Chaplin had all his film studios, and we were we were meeting them there. We met Jerry Moss and all the executives, and I remember seeing one of the guys from Supertramp walking across the courtyard and I was like “holy s—!” I think it was Roger Hodgson from Supertramp and it was just this weird thing you know? They had a new album from Janet Jackson. She had just started her solo career, and I think they had just released Bryan Adams. He was going up the charts with “Cuts Like a Knife” at that point.
 
It was but it was almost like we sort of had the feeling that we weren’t getting a lot of traction, because it’s possible that they still were a little bit unsure exactly how to market us and what to do with us. So, I think we sort of fell by the wayside, but you’re right like with all the acts that they brought in later on, certainly they knew what to do with them by that point.

PPM: I think it might have actually been Jerry Moss’ son, Ron, who was who was involved with getting like bands like OMD and Simple Minds signed. He had a real good vision on that, and I think once he was in place and had some wherewithal, things happened.

In 1983, Nile Rogers solicited his production of Spoons’ third album, “Talk Back,” after catching them live

R: The one the one really good thing that came out of our A+M deal was that they hooked us up or put us in the right place to do the tour with Culture Club. So, we opened for Culture Club on their first American tour in spring of ‘83 and that was a good chance to get in front of audiences and that’s where Nile Rogers saw us. [ed. note: Rogers was there to see about producing Culture Club and it was the opening act that won him over] Because he then came on board after he saw us in New York, and then he agreed to produce our third album [“Talk Back”]. But then we recorded the album and then they didn’t release it because they didn’t hear a [hit] song. They didn’t think they heard a single and then we went back and did a couple more songs with Nile and those songs ended up being really popular for us in Canada, but they never got released in the US.

PPM: That was the most frustrating thing for me as a fan, because I bought “Arias + Symphonies” and I thought, “all right, this group is the greatest things since sliced cheese.” I saw on MTV news that Nile Rogers was producing the new Spoons album. At the time it didn’t even have a title. I thought, “great, this is going to go over like gangbusters.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was just so annoying to me because at that point Nile Rogers was the hottest producer in the world, right? He just done “Let’s Dance.”

R: He was becoming the hottest producer! I feel that’s another thing, that we had him just before he became super, super hot right? Because he had just done “Let’s Dance,” then I think he did an album for Southside Johnny before he did us. Then he did us. Then he did INXS “Original Sin.” The one song, right? Which is still an amazing song to me. And then then we went back in the studio with him and did a couple more songs [“Tell No Lies,” “Romantic Traffic”] and by that point after that, he did Madonna and then you know… hit after hit after hit.

PPM: It’s just when I think about Spoons it seemed like things were… slightly ahead of the curve, as you say. Bleeding edge. A little bit too early. Nile Rogers? Probably six months too early.

R: I mean it definitely worked for us in Canada because we had already established ourselves and we were Canadian in the first place so that was already the advantage that we had, but certainly having Nile put us into another level in Canada, as far as opening up a new audience even though “Nova Heart” had already given us like a really good beginning anyway. But yeah, it was weird with the US. I’m glad you found us. [laughs]

gordon deppe listen to the city OST

PPM: It wasn’t too easy at first. I actually have a copy of the “Listen To The City” soundtrack.

R: Do you really?

PPM: I found a copy of that the last time I was in Toronto.

R: Oh, so you heard the extra two songs that we did with Nile as well?

PPM: Yes, and I also have the “Tell No Lies” 12” single.

R: Nice.

PPM: After at that point you left the band and Derrick Ross left the band, they changed management, and they changed labels in America. They went from A+M to Mercury.

R: Yeah, Mercury. That’s right because they had signed with Rush’s management, and they had their label, Anthem Records, which was distributed by Mercury.

PPM: But at that point you were out of this picture, and you were already moving on.

THE PUNTER EFFECT

in 1982 cassette tapes were tailor made for the Walkman® generation

R: But your love was “Arias,” which I think is the coolest thing, because like even the fact that you that you like the album as a whole, I just think is fantastic, because to me it still stands like a very unique piece of 10 songs. Definitely as we were making the album, it started to feel like there was some sort of a unified thing happening with the sound that we were creating but that was really to do with our producer John Punter and him programming the drum machines that were we were using and stuff as well.

PPM: So he was programming the drum machines? Because that’s the thing, of course, that I like about the album is that it gives it a cohesion with the drum machines and the live drumming over it. Which puts it into Ultravox territory, which is one of my favorite things.

R: Yeah, absolutely!

PPM: That’s what really grabbed me when I heard “Arias + Symphonies” was that from start to finish it’s got an arc and a flow to it that is unbelievably sound. As an album that is as glorious sounding as it is, when I listen to the arrangements and the production it’s very clear. I mean, it’s not a lot of things layered on top of one other fighting for your attention. Its clarity has got a punch to it.

R: It’s interesting what we’ve realized about it is that we didn’t play a lot of chords! Which is like a weird thing. A weird way to look at it, but Gord used to play a lot of single lines on his guitar which Sandy played on the bass that were often just like an octave below him. I mean, if you listen to “Nova Heart,” really, the verse is Gordon and Sandy both mirroring each other and then Gord added a few chords in the chorus, like some sort of shimmery chords, and my keyboard lines were always like one or two notes at a time.

I never really played more than two or three notes and I was thinking about it recently writing with some friends online about it and I thought yeah, we weren’t playing a lot of chords. My synthesizer [Roland Jupiter IV] would only play four notes at that time. Like I was fancy to even be able to play four notes, right? So I was definitely limited in what I was able to do. So I think the fact that we were overdubbing layers of like single lines kind of gave it that sort of open feeling as well.

PPM: It does have that open feeling, yet you’ve got the machine rhythms that are propelling you forward, and it’s got the live drums on top of that top of that – resulting in a headlong rush of a record.

R: That’s sort of what became exciting as we were preparing to record the album, because we had done “Nova Heart” and we did this other song “Symmetry,” which was the B-side of “Nova Heart.” We did those two separately with John in in the beginning of the year. When we decided to bring him back for the album, we were excited because we thought, “oh we’ll use the drum machine again,” and that became like the fifth member in a way, right?
 
And so you’re right. That was like the through line, that it was exciting for each song. We were like, “John’s gonna create something for us you know?” To give the song a foundation and then we were practicing and writing the songs without the drum machines, and then it wasn’t until we actually got into the studio when John just came up with the parts as we were going along. So it really was like the spur of the moment. Inspired in the moment.

PPM: That’s interesting because I was just wondering how much of this album was written beforehand and how much might have been written in the studio…did you have that luxury?

R: No, almost everything was written beforehand. Some of the songs we actually had been working on like when Gord first started working on “Nova Heart,” which was in the summer of ‘81 really. So we were all inspired by OMD and Gord had seen OMD playing in Hamilton at a very small club and we were obsessed with their albums at that point, and I remember we both kind of said “well, you know… we should sort of beef up the keyboards in the band.” So Gordon borrowed an old electric piano of mine which I had my parents buy for me when I was 11 years old, and he took this thing home.
 
And a week later or not long after, he’s going “okay I got some ideas.” So I still remember going to his house into his bedroom he had the keyboard laid on the floor beside his bed and he played me the little opening of “Nova Heart” like the beginnings of it. And then we took the keyboard into our little rehearsal studio at our rehearsal space, which was on the second floor where his dad had a small house that he used as an office, and there was a tiny, tiny room on the second floor that was used as our rehearsal space.
 
So Gord brought that keyboard in and I had my synthesizer as well and he had these few ideas. He had just the basic idea for “Nova Heart.” He had the beginnings of “No Electrons” as well,  which ended up being on “Arias,” and he had the beginnings of “Blow Away,” which was the last song on “Arias” as well. So those three songs were like the beginnings of Gord’s initial ideas on a keyboard. That was the first thing and then we sort of took it from there.

So starting in the summer of ‘81 through the next year we had written a bunch of different songs and then when it came time to do the album we sort of narrowed it down and nothing was really created in the studio except the opening song “Trade Winds.” I think Gord had the initial idea for that just right before we went into the studio and then we basically layered it and created in the studio.

PPM: I had imagined that was probably the case. A young band going in with an established producer…you’d want to have everything on paper first.

R: For sure. The record company wants to know that you’re prepared, and we definitely spent like a week; at least four or five days with John Punter in our manager’s basement, just kind of going through basic ideas for the songs and not [with things] completely set in stone but just to get an overview. Because we were pretty confident already because we had done “Nova Heart,” we had established a working relationship. We spent some days of pre-production with John for “Nova Heart” just for those two songs because we had never worked together and I think he wanted to get a sense about what we were doing as well.

spoons + john punter monktone
Spoons with producer John Punter

PPM: Was it Ready Records that brought John Punter to the table? Because they said they wanted to have a dance single and he was in Canada for the Japan tour of ’79.

R: Well it was actually it was our distributors, Quality Records! So Ready was distributed by Quality and there was somebody at Quality who knew John because John was on the road at that time doing sound for Japan and I think they gave him a demo of “Nova Heart” and so it sort of went from there.

PPM: I know some other names that you were talking about for production… having Mike Howlett or Conny Plank, of course, would have been also amazing. Mike Howlett’s production for OMD was astonishing.

R: I’m trying to remember the connection because our manager [Carl Finkle] was the bass player for Martha + The Muffins and I think Mike had produced Martha + The Muffins, right?

PPM: He had produced Martha + The Muffins, that’s true. [“Metro Music,” “Trance + Dance”] So he already had that Canadian connection.

R: Yes! I think that was our manager’s first suggestion was to go for Mike because he knew him and then we knew that he’d been doing the OMD at that point I think as well, so we were like “yes, we want somebody who’s in the world of electronics and stuff. And then when John came around I remember then listening to my Japan records and going, “holy s—! Like, this would be amazing to sound like this!” [laughs]

PPM: Well, Japan sounds like Roxy Music.

R: Yeah, right?

PPM: [laughs] They sound almost better than Roxy Music! “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” is the best Roxy Music album that Roxy Music never made! But that said, my favorite John Punter production is still “Arias + Symphonies.”

R: Amazing. I know he’s very proud of it as well. I spoke to him earlier this year, he lives in Mexico now. He’s retired. He doesn’t make any music anymore, but we talked about it and I’ve been staying in touch with some of the engineers as well, and we all sort of feel like it was a really magical sort of time. Like starting in the year with “Nova Heart” and then a few months later coming back to do the whole album together and we had an amount of confidence just because we love making the music together, you know?
 
It wasn’t like we knew we were super successful, because we were still sort of coming in as a New Wave electronic kind of a band where we were still not quite fitting in with what was being played on Pop radio, but we didn’t care. We were like, “man we’ve got a new sound and people are starting to like it!” So it gave us a sense of confidence in that way as well.

PPM: Yeah, I’m actually surprised that I saw that there was a 12 inch of “Nova Heart” over in the UK but it didn’t do anything in the UK charts of course, because they are biased against Canadian music to begin with…to their detriment.

R: Exactly. You know being in the studio that summer and working with John it was definitely like a super exciting thing, because like I said, we were confident, but we were still sort of trusting our instincts. We weren’t really thinking we’re going to make songs that are going to be flying up the charts or whatever. I think I remember even once they decided that they were going to release “Arias + Symphonies” as a single and then “Smiling in Winter” was a single, and I was thinking “they’re still not really like Hit Radio material to me, but that’s even cool. I don’t really care.” We never really cared, right?

PPM: They’re not really obvious singles. There’s a slight difference because you know, I think of everything I like as Pop music even though most of it’s not popular right? [laughs]

R: Yeah, exactly. Oh my god, the things you write about… that’s what I loved! The music that you cover in that time period to me is like the most exciting period of music and I feel like so much of the stuff that you write about are things that I was inspired by or that were just in the world when we were making the music. Even more so in our earlier days, like in the year before we did “Arias” when it came into recording our first album and being inspired. We did a show with Simple Minds and we did several shows with OMD as well, and we were just feeding off all those sounds. We did a one show with Fingerprintz… we opened for them as well.

PPM: They were a great Scottish band and they’re they’ve just recently had their stuff [a compilation] put out on CD for the first time. I waited so many years for a Fingerprintz CD I can’t tell you how long it felt. I was sure I was going to have to make these myself. And I still will do each album with bonus tracks and I’ve got everything. I just need the time to do it.
 
So you were a fan of Spoons before you joined them, and you were familiar with their single, but where did you hear it at?

R: Well, I was familiar with their single “After The Institution.” Have you heard that one?

PPM: I don’t have that one. [N.B. it’s a three-figure 7”]

R: Somebody’s uploaded it on YouTube. That was in the summer before I joined the band and I knew of them because they were a local New Wave band in my town Burlington, and it was a very small town. And I had been in bands for a few years at that point. I was in my first band when I was 10 or 11 but by the time I was 12 or 13, I was playing a battle of the bands and stuff and so I had a friend whose older brother was in the New Wave band called The Onos which was another local band. And my friend who lived two doors down, his older brother was a friend of the manager of The Spoons, so I started hearing of The Spoons and I had I heard a tape of one of their gigs and they would make posters every time they did gigs in Toronto and stuff.

And so I would see these posters and I didn’t really know of them. I had only heard a few songs on this tape and then they released this 45 in the summer of 1980, and then I got to see them open for Martha + The Muffins at a gig and I sort of knew who they were, and they sort of knew who I was because they knew I was this 14 year old kid with keyboards. And so they had sort of heard of me indirectly as well you know? So by the time it came to the end of that year and their original keyword player [Brett Wickens] left the band and then they were looking for a keyword player and they had an ad in the local paper and I called up to audition.

PPM: Well, that was the best thing that could have happened, because I finally got the album that [Brett Wickens band] Ceramic Hello put out, and I waited 30 years to find it, and they reissued it about 10 years ago I have to say that I found it very disappointing.

R: I know Brett and I actually worked on some music with him before I joined The Spoons when he was still in that band. We worked on a piece of music together and that was when he first came up with the name Ceramic Hello, so I was actually on a recording of Ceramic Hello before he released that album, but I feel like that album sounds like John Foxx. It’s like a version of “Metamatic” you know? In a way you can hear the inspiration.

PPM: Totally. I mean, John Foxx is my favorite artist but I think he’s got a long way to go to begin to match John Foxx.

R: It’s only because they use that Roland drum machine it’s the CompuRhythm, [CR-78] right? And so the fact as soon as you turn on the CompuRhythm and you’ve got those same beats going and it’s that minimalistic in a way, it sort of sounds like that. You know I was thinking about you when you were writing about Peter Saville because do you know the history of Brett that he went and worked with Peter for many years?

PPM: Oh yeah, I’m familiar with Brett and Martha Ladly being principals in Peter Saville Associates. I thought he was a much better graphic designer! [laughter]

JOINING THE SPOONS

R: It’s funny though, because like, my memories of my early days of joining The Spoons, I felt the pressure of trying to emulate what he was doing because I didn’t really know him that well at all, but he was the keyboard player for The Spoons, so for me I was like, “holy s—, I’m gonna join this band and play what he was doing!” So I felt the pressure for myself because I had never been in a band that was doing completely original music at that point. I mean, I had just turned 15. So I would listen to those early recordings and I would listen to what he was playing and I did my best to emulate what he was doing and then it was good because I sort of was able to take it from there. But I feel that by the time we came to make “Nova Heart” and “Arias,” then it became my band in that way that I was making my own contributions.

PPM: Even when I listen to tracks from “Stick Figure Neighborhood” on [the compilation] “Collectible Spoons,” it’s almost like you’re in that vein that he was playing.

S: Yeah, for sure.

PPM: Were you co-writing with the material on that record?

R: No, I didn’t co-write any songs on the first album. Several of the songs were songs that they had already done for like the year before I joined, and then one… two, maybe three or four songs were new since I joined the band because I joined the band in December of 1980.  And then we went in the studio around February-March ‘81 and in that time they had so many songs. When I first joined the band I learned so many songs, but there were probably three or four songs that that Gord started working on once I joined that we then ended up putting on the album.

PPM: So there was a little bit of growth input you were able to put in there?

R: Well, do you know what is interesting? The very first song on the album, “Conventional Beliefs,” was the first song that Gord wrote once I joined the band, and we were we were in rehearsals. We were in a friend’s basement rehearsing. Getting ready to go and start recording and Gord was still coming up with some new ideas and “Conventional Beliefs” was the first song that he wrote once I joined. So again, that was a song where I sort of felt the pressure of like, “oh my god, now I have to come up with my own keyboard parts and I have to figure out how to find my voice within this.” And I think it’s kind of cool that it’s the first song on the album. Because I’ve heard people say if you go back and you follow the recording history of a band and you start with the first song on the first record and it sort of sets in motion a sound that you can sort of follow the through line. And I feel like “Conventional Beliefs” really sets us off in that way.
 
Like I was telling you earlier about us with Gord and Sandy playing single lines, you know, very open kinds of stuff, and I was playing a single line on the synth that I was very happy to come up with on my own because before that I was trying to figure out what Brett was doing or Gordon would have suggestions for things for me to play and that was the first real song where I was like, “oh, this is this sounds like the right thing for me to play.” So it was like us finding our voices together in that way.

PPM: It’s always exciting, isn’t it? I mean, that’s what you wait for in a band!
 
I’ve been reading about the history of the band and the press materials you sent me, and I’m a lapsed Prog fan but I realized though, what I didn’t love was Progressive Rock so much as keyboards and synthesizers, and when the New Wave came along, I could very easily jump ship for this style that was more Pop oriented. So as someone who’s been playing keyboards your entire life how did you mesh with the band given their history as beginning as an ornate Genesis-like band? Were you okay with that or was it like, “do I have to wrap my head around something new?” I mean that they came from a Prog background and you were a classically trained player, and that naturally aligns with Prog.

R: Well, what’s interesting is that I definitely didn’t have a Prog background at all! The first thing I ever played on the piano was the theme from The Banana Splits when I was five, so I came from the world of growing up listening to Top 40 and Pop radio and the first pop songs I learned were like when “The Entertainer” was on the radio. You know when Marvin Hamlisch did it from [the movie] “The Sting?” And then I was learning Elton John songs and Queen songs in my first bands when I was 10 and 11. I was playing KISS songs and Fleetwood Mac and I love Gary Wright with his synthesizers, so my progression into electronic stuff was very gradual because I feel like it sort of followed the thread of popular music in terms of the introduction of electronics into the records and the recordings. It started off with pianos with Elton but then I would listen to the Elton John records and if there was a synthesizer added to a few tracks or if it was minimalistically added, but there was “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” or “Funeral For A Friend” and stuff like that was blowing my mind, right?
 
So that was my entrance into electronics, but then once it got into the New Wave… once I got into ‘78 ‘79 ‘80 I would I looked back now and I think, “well definitely guys like Greg Hawkes and The Cars and Johnny Fingers with Boomtown Rats and then of course Gary Numan as well.” Anything that was electronic at that point was then going to become an influence for me, so I started I came about it from guys who might have been influenced by some Progressive sounds, but I sort of joined them in progress. Coming from the Pop world as well.

PPM: And they got more popular oriented over time as well.

R: That’s right, but I guess maybe the Classical part of it was always there with me because I was studying Classical piano as I was playing in my bands. I was going to my piano teacher strictly for Classical music and for practicing to learn scales and harmony and all the theoretical stuff, but then I would go home and do my Pop stuff on my own, so I sort of had both at the same time.

PPM: A well-balanced musical diet.

R: Yeah, exactly.

TEENAGE COMPLICATIONS

Rob Preuss live 1983
Rob then; in concert on “Talk Back” tour ©1983 Pat Prevost

PPM: Okay, so here you are as a 15 year old kid joining a rock band. How difficult was that for you? What were the logistics? I mean the first thing I think of is, how can you play in clubs when there’s liquor in clubs? How do we get around this?  What were the difficulties, if there were any, for you to join a functioning rock band at such an early age?

R: It wasn’t too difficult at all. Partially because they weren’t doing that many gigs. I mean, the gigs were sort of few and far between, because Gordon, Sandy and Derrick were all in school. They were going to university and Sandy and Derrick were completing college courses, so by the time I joined, it was in the winter time basically and they had some gigs booked but there weren’t so many, but because I was so young, I had to join the musicians union.
 
And then I had to get a form from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario which was a Canadian thing that basically had to specifically say it was a union paper that had to be signed by the union and the Liquor Control Board saying “we know he’s underage,” and my mom had to sign it as well saying “he’s underage and we give him permission to play in the bar, but he has to be either in the dressing room or on stage.” And I had to carry this thing around with me. I had it in my wallet and I think I maybe had to show it one time in some weird sketchy club which was like already concerned about you know probably selling booze to minors or whatever, but most of the clubs we went to they didn’t ask and they didn’t really care and we sort of stuck to it because I didn’t really want to hang around at the bar or anything anyway.

PPM: That’s good that the union had an out for that.

R: It worked for me because we weren’t doing that many gigs at that point. By the time we had recorded the first album and released the first album, I was still 15. When we did “Stick Figure Neighborhood,” but we were playing colleges and universities and their licenses were a little more flexible probably and nobody ever really asked and they just sort of assumed that if I was in the band, that I was it was fine no matter what.

PPM: And colleges and universities were a completely different environment than a bar.

R: Yeah, exactly.

Next: …Nuts, Bolts, Bjorn + Benny…And Beyond!

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Rob Preuss Interviewed On 40 Years Of ‘Arias & Symphonies’ And Beyond [part 1]

  1. KeithC says:

    “oh yeah, there’s people who write really well and they’re writing about our music.”

    About sums up the Monk and this site.

    Like

  2. Taffy says:

    OMG, I saw Culture Club in (checking concert journal…) Feb 1983 with Spoons warming up, and completely forgot about that til just now. Alas I have no sharp (or even fuzzy) memory of their opening set, but i do know I loved the Arias & Symphonies album by then. Anyway, this is a great interview!

    Like

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