I had the chance to sit down with Terry Draper from Klaatu and have an intimate conversation with him. He was very generous with his stories and recollection of his history. It was a very long conversation, so I will break up this interview in two parts. The first part is his early years before Klaatu and how he got to be a part of the impressive progressive pop band. The second part will be about the hardships Klaatu went through and then Terry Draper’s solo career. So put on your favourite Klaatu and enjoy some of these stories.
Terry started his career with a band called JP and the five good reasons back in 1965. The band eventually morphed into another band called The Trax. They would only play songs from The Animals. This band went its merry way and The Kingdom Show band emerged. They did not seem to last very long and another band came to flourishing, called The innocence of Virgil Scott, who was in The Trax. Terry began to live in Yorkville, after being kicked out of the band. He just missed one too many rehearsals. I could feel Terry’s crushed spirit as he told this story…not. Terry began working with other musicians learning songs from a Beatles song book. This was the time John Woloschuk showed up, and they eventually started recording and came out with a song called, “I’m dreamdaying” and the B side was, “Lonely Lover”. The two of them began looking for a guitarist who has a Beatles sensibility and by no means were you to come to the audition if you were a Les Paul freak. Terry remembered a guitar player from a band called The Polychromatic Experiment and he wrote his own songs. This would be the third component of Klaatu, Dee Long. They also brought on board a keyboardist named, Jamie Bridgeman. They decided to rent a place in the Finch and Weston Rd area, which they lovingly named, The Shithouse. This place had a romantic energy of being very cold in the winter, so they had to buy space heaters for the bedroom, and then when it came time for rehearsal, they would bring in all the heaters. Eventually they would have to result by playing cover tunes to keep the money coming in to move this band forward.
This band would play places like the Oakdale tavern, which was a strip club at the time and they would be told what to play. Dee Long finally had enough and went on his merry way. He put together a band called Bloodstone that did well for the next couple of years. The band broke up and Terry moved to Buttonville with his girlfriend. Dee and John went back to work for Dee’s father working in the electronics field. John eventually starting looking for work in the music field working in a recording studio, he got rejected time and time again. He eventually walked through the doors of Toronto Sound that was being organized by the now legendary producer Terry Brown. Terry went to see the new line up, but the audition fell short because as the new band was playing, one of the speakers rattled off its shelf and hit Terry Draper in the head. This led to a hospital run and the use of John Woloschuk’s OHIP card because Terry didn’t have one at that time. They eventually made it back and Terry Brown liked what he heard, which became the demo for “California Jam” This was the first moments of the new band that would become Klaatu.
It would take another year before the band would begin recording the songs that became the first Klaatu record. Overall it took three years to complete. Some of the material was recorded straight from the floor. After that, their creativity required them to practice and create material that had to be put together piece by piece, like a great jigsaw puzzle. Their first song, “Calling Occupants on Interplanetary Craft”, was done live off the floor and then they added in some Bass and put in some guitar sounds.
How they came up with the name Klaatu, was through the movie, “When the earth stood still”. They decided on going for a very spacey album and that was how, “Calling Occupants”, was born. It was from a book called, “The Flying Saucer Reader”. It was a book written in the 1950”s, and they wanted to convey how to contact aliens through mental telepathy. The message was Calling Occupants on Interplanetary Craft, we are your friends. The band recorded the song, but it fell on deaf ears with their producer, Terry Brown, who hated the song. That did not stop Terry Brown and Klaatu to experiment with other out worldly sounds and they came up with the Pink Floyd-like song, “Little Neutrino”.
The band went on to begin to create the brilliant album, “Hope”. It was derived from the book from Iassac Asmiov on astronomy. The theory was that the size of the sun should have a certain amount of planets, and where our asteroid belt lies in our galaxy, there should be a planet. Klaatu decided to create a planet called Politzania, and wrote their next album based on this place. This album is filled with orchestration brilliance. Since Klaatu was universally based on the movie, “The day the Earth stood still”, they added a story of a violent planet that was left in ruin based on a war. All that was left was one surviving member who built a lighthouse to reignite this planet back to life. John Woloschuk got so excited that he wrote all the parts to the album. Then the band along with Doug Riley who did the orchestrated parts and brought along Ted Jones, the artist who did the album covers, to England for two weeks to lay down the tracks to this masterpiece. Apparently, the artist, Ted Jones got stuck in his hotel room for two weeks to do the art work, but, Ted did not seem to mind, because he had a chance to spend some quality time with the maid, who was dubbed, the Persian Queen. The band had three days to record with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which is a smaller affiliate of the London Orchestra. I have seen this group live at the Royal Albert Hall and they blew my mind.
What made Klaatu’s sound unique was the fact that Terry, worked at the famous Sam the record man. He worked in the 45 record department and got a hold of a lot of sound effect recordings that would be later used on some of these records. Terry went onto the thought process of the Klaatu sound. There is a moment where you can hear the drum punching out the Morse code of SOS. These guys were real deep thinkers of making their songs a real work of art.
Terry Brown was shutting down the Toronto Sound studio and Klaatu was just going into recording their third album, “Sir Army Suite”. They moved to the new studio, Sounds Interchange. It was built by a corporate company and the energy of that studio changed to a sadder place. Their mystique of being an underground Beatles reunion finally came to an end and they had to find a way to keep their fascination floating in the musical realm. They went under the synonym, “The Plastic Mosquitoes”. Klaatu went on to do an animated film called, “A Routine Day”, where they rotoscoped the film to give the band more privacy. The video and the concept was suppose to be a part of a holiday special, but never saw the light of day. Well they got back home and later down the road decided to add interviews as well as the videos to a re-mastered work that would go on the new Sir Army Suite CD. This also never got to see the light of day, because it had to go through a bunch of lawyers to get approved… good luck with that. You can read Part two of this interview next week and we will see how Terry Draper did after this turn of events…