MH = Mark Hershberger
CB = Chris Bond
Chris Bond was the Producer of Klaatu's "Endangered Species" album. He also played guitar on the album.
MH: Hey Chris, thanks for taking some time to chat about the old days!
CB: No problem Mark! You know, I avoided that like the plague for a long time, but, I don't mind it.
MH: Avoided the old days….or Klaatu?
CB: (Laughing) The old days! I don't like to reminisce. It's a sign of weakness.
MH: You think so?
CB: I think so!
MH: Well Chris, let's get right to it shall we?
MH: Just a little info for you. Bullseye Records of Canada has been working with a few members of Klaatu over the last few years, releasing solo material. Bullseye is beginning the process of re-releasing Klaatu's back catalogue in Canada, and are also busy gathering info for a proposed book that might be part of a Klaatu boxed set sometime in the future.
CB: You know….that's is great! It really is. Are you going to see the boys soon?
MH: Yes, I will.
CB: Good…I want you to tell them that they were one of my favorite acts that I have ever worked with. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them. John Woloschuk is a great guy. Terry and Dee…Dee's probably the most easygoing guy I ever met in my life, you know.
MH: Yeah, they are. They are great guys.
CB: It was, you know, overall……..there were problems, but, it was a pretty good experience.
MH: That's fantastic. I will relay that for you, no problem.
CB: And I…..I felt really bad for them after all the political crap that happened with them at Capitol.
MH: Right…..and that's what I get from them. Endangered Species is not their favorite of the albums they did, but the songs are still good songs…and they have always talked highly of you…your abilities, your musicianship. I think they understood that you and Rupert Perry were both sympathetic to their problems.
CB: Yeah….Rupert was……I was surprised at him distancing himself in the interview that I read that you did on the site….its, well…that's the way it goes.
MH: Yes, he didn't really want to….he just didn't want to say too much about anything. I've also talked to Bobby Columby, and he pretty much gave me nothing and he said that he wasn't really involved so….
CB: AHH! Really? Ahhh okay….
MH: I figured that you might be able to enlighten me a bit more on that.
CB: Sure! I've got nothing to lose. I retired out of that business a while ago.
MH: And what are you doing now?
CB: I've been in Information Technology for a while. Back in…about 2 years after I did Klaatu, I invented and wrote some of the code for a post production synchronization system midi-based….for some needs of my own studio, and I found that, more and more, with the people coming into the record business, and the way the record business was going, I was having a hell of a lot more fun with my computer than I was with the record business, and I gradually moved full time into information technology by the beginning of the 90's. I've been involved the last few years….knee deep in the internet, the e-commerce world and those types of initiatives.
MH: You got into the right thing at the right time.
CB: Well, there are two schools of thought on that.
MH: It's if you got out at the right time too….I guess.
CB: That's the problem!
MH: Cut the ties and run.
CB: Oh yeah! I tuned all my radio buttons to news and talk radio stations.
MH: John Woloschuk did basically the same thing.
CB: You know, knowing John, I would think that would be the only way he could get out too. He was a real musical guy.
MH: You left quite a legacy behind though. You've done some pretty impressive work.
CB: I appreciate that.
MH: Let's talk Klaatu a bit. Endangered Species is the album that you produced for them. Can you give me a little background as to how you came to be selected to produce the album?
CB: Well, it's a little fuzzy but….I was almost simultaneously approached by Bobby Columby and Frank Davies and Rupert Perry. I was one of the few people in Hollywood who said, "I get along with Rupert Perry," , "I think he's a nice guy." And, because I…well, one of the things about Rupert was that he had no time for bullshit, and, there was a guy over at Columbia years ago who was the same way and I had a great relationship with him because, when you have these meetings at these record companies, you bullshit and bullshit for 45 minutes to an hour, and "yeah, I did this and I'm doing that", and "yeah, I talked to Clive and blah blah blah…", and you get all your real business done in 5 minutes. With Rupert, the meeting only took 5 minutes. Even Clive Davis…..he'd talk about himself for a few minutes, and then you got your business done. Rupert was, to me, one of the great guys to do business with. And, I don't think "Sell Out" bothered Rupert (laughing).
MH: I was going to get to that eventually! (laughing) Do you think Rupert knew what was going on initially, with that song?
CB: You know…I mean, you call up the president of the company and say "Listen, we're doing a song called Sell Out, and I want you to say "Peddle Yourself" over the phone", do you think a man as smart as Rupert could figure that one out?
MH: One would assume so.
CB: Oh yeah. And Rupert was not a performer. Not a tremendously emotive guy. But we got a good take from him. I just didn't think Rupert took it all that seriously. I didn't take it all that seriously, in fact, the first time it seemed that it could possibly be an issue was when I read about it on a site somewhere.
CB: I mean, we are talking about 18 or 19 years later.
MH: Well, I will tell you, the Klaatu fan base is a very hard core, dedicated fan base and, even 20 years later, they like to pick everything apart as if it were Sergeant Pepper. The Klaatunion, a gathering of Klaatu fans every year, brings people from all over Canada and the US to Toronto.
CB: I think that is great! I really do.
MH: It is. It's a lot of fun, and the group has…outside of Woloschuk, who still kind of distances himself from anything Klaatu related but….Dee and Terry are very receptive to the fans. It's just a fun get together and, all these years later, this fan base is one of the reasons that Terry and Dee have come out with solo material. It has gotten them back into the studio and doing some nice work.
CB: Well, when I was working with the group, John was the main creative driving force there. I really like Endangered Species as a record. I think there are a couple really really good, successful pieces on that record. And I think there were some things that didn't work so well.
MH: Many fans will say that it is their least favorite Klaatu record, but there are many who know that, despite what happened, the record is still a good record and, it might not be the best "Klaatu" record as far as fitting in alongside the other Klaatu albums, but take it by itself and take the songs for what they are, it's a very good record.
CB: The bottom line is, it was a record that was made with a purpose. The purpose was to get a wider audience for them.
MH: When they brought you in to produce the album, were you given a directive at all? The group has done "this" in the past, and, this is album #4, we are giving them one more shot, and we need them sound a certain way? How were you directed coming into this thing?
CB: The thing was….Rupert said, "Listen, this is their last chance."
CB: And, uh…."There's a lot of good things about this group, but, they are not selling records." They call this the record "business" for a reason. And, you know, to me, I've always been able to rationalize that kind of logic by saying that "art comes from the ability to communicate, and what art is, is communication, and if you can't get to an audience, you can't communicate to an audience." Nobody is going to be listening to records 300 years from now. So it's not like you are Toulouse-Lautrec cranking them out in a sidewalk café. Believe me, not you, not me, not anyone that is going to be alive in the next 100 years is gonna [have] anything to do with what people are listening to 200 years from now, unless it's a copy of Tchaikovsky or….
MH: Coming into this situation, had you been familiar with the first 3 Klaatu albums.
CB: Yes. I didn't know everything about the first 3 albums but, I got all 3 of them before we ever met. I went over them. I, of course, knew "Interstellar uh.."….that one…
MH: Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft
CB: Calling Occupants….excuse me…um, because I knew the group who did the cover of that…the Carpenters. And Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss were also very good friends of mine. That had been the only real exposure I had to Klaatu before I had been approached. So, I had them get me all of the albums and I listened to them for awhile.
MH: And your thoughts on those 3 albums? They were 3 very different albums you know.
CB: There was no….my thoughts were that this was a really talented bunch of guys. Having known Richard Starkey for a long time, I didn't understand where the whole Beatles thing came from…because, I didn't see any connection at all. John sounds a little like John Lennon sometimes, but, and the very good vocal harmonies, maybe, was it, but I couldn't see any direct connection.
MH: Well, it was really just one song, "Sub Rosa Subway", that had a very McCartney-esque bass line and sounded very "Beatley"…but after that, there is little direct resemblance. But, as a marketing tool, it worked for the record company.
CB: Yeah well, when you look at it from a record "business" side, it was a piss poor awful mistake.
MH: It turned out that way, yes.
CB: It is, to do that kind of thing. You really want to establish your own identity, and that was the problem they had. There was no "Klaatu" sound. There were hints of it, and that was the one thing, if there ever was one thing…that I tried to get continuity with their earlier work…it was to take those elements that I heard in their earlier albums and….it's a hard word….homogenize, not homogenize so much…to bring them together so that there was a Klaatu "sound." You know, I think that if you listen to that and the other 3 albums, you can tell it's the same band that did those other 3 albums. I wanted to give them an identity. I wanted to give them an identity that was timely….at the moment. That people would be interested in going out and getting into in that particular market in that day. One of those first 3 albums, and I can't remember which one, you have me at a disadvantage, sorry …but it was like, when I heard it in 1980, it was like "Man, that is one of the best albums…of 1972!" (laughing). And that was the problem! It was obvious that they had a tremendous amount of talent. And I was being called in to work with a lot of people that didn't have a lot of talent in those days, at the same time…and I'll let you know what the Klaatu album cost me. That year, I had also been approached by Bobby Columby specifically, to do Billy Squier. Billy and I spent a few weeks together, and um….I kept saying, "Songs….where are the songs Billy?" and he kept wanting to know how I recorded drums. And I kept saying "I use microphones, ok, so where are the songs?" And, there weren't any songs. And, that was the album that came out with "Stroke Me" on it. And it went platinum and that could have been my record had I taken it and, you know, I was not impressed with the guys musicianship. And, musicianship was one of the things that was important to me.
MH: So, keeping along those lines, how about the 3 guys with Klaatu….what about their musicianship?
CB: You know, overall, I thought they were all good musicians. As good as I've seen in any of the bands….It's just that there was a problem in the direction that we were going and….one of the meetings up in Toronto when we were trying to find a bar that was still open after 10:00 p.m., I recall, the guys themselves really came to the consensus that, if we are going to do an album like this, you know, and you want to use studio players, go ahead and do it.
MH: Basically, what I have heard, is that Terry Draper didn't even play drums on the album.
CB: That's right, he didn't…but he really liked Jeff Porcaro and Ed Greene.
MH: Jeff Porcaro was on the album?
CB: As well as Ed Greene….yes.
MH: I knew about Ed Greene, and I new about Lee Sklar on bass….but…
CB: Lee played bass on a couple..at least a couple tracks.
MH: I've also hard that Tom Scott played sax….
CB: Ah…we had Tom Scott and Ernie Watts, Jim Horn and Chuck Finley….we had the A-Team!
MH: Anyone else you can think of?
CB: Gary Coleman played some percussion. Bobby Porter Hall…um….Terry did do some percussion stuff..I remember that. I know that um….Tom Hemsley did a lot of the keyboards in….as well as…Richard Key. I'm trying to remember…Clarence McDonald I know, played on 1 cut. You know, I mean, the rhythm section was basically Ed or Jeff on drums depending on the song. Lee Sklar on bass, Gary on percussion. Tom Hemsley on keys…because Tom was just great for that kind of…I hate to use it, Beatlesque sound…that kind of pop keyboard. The guy can break a Steinway with one finger. So, that was the main section.
MH: As far as the songs themselves were concerned…now, you went up to Toronto and listened to a bunch of demos I understand. According to John Woloschuk, in an interview Dave Bradley did a while ago, the band probably had 20 to 25 songs demo'd, as far as being available for you to choose from. Were you looking for a certain sound from them or just, naturally, the best songs.
CB: The way I was approaching the record…I was trying to maintain….being a classic rock fan….Beatles, Stones, whatever…and believing that an album should have a cogent relationship, if not a story…a beginning and an end. You don't just go for the best songs. That's the thing that a lot of producers do…trying to jam as many potential singles as you can in the record. I was looking for the best songs, the most accessible songs. Accessible was the big thing, you know, we were trying to get this group some success, um, but, songs that would work together. I've done that with Hall and Oates albums, other albums. There's at least two songs I can think of right now, where I have at least 15 tapes out in the garage, Hall and Oates records, that have never been released, that are great songs..but, they didn't fit the overall…the journey….that an album is supposed to take you on. From the first song to the last. One of them, actually, did get released later on a compilation of those guys, Hall and Oates, because they were so confused, but…(laughs). That was really the criteria with Klaatu. I was going for the most accessible, the best chance for success in the European and American market. Let's face it…I've got Canadian Gold Records…that means you've sold 50,000 copies. You're not gonna feed the Bulldog with that! I've even got some Swedish gold records….you'd be amazed at how little that is! (laughs)
MH: A Baker's Dozen in sales?
CB: No…no…(laughing), I think it's in the upper 80's (laughing). But no…the criteria is…it's a balancing act…the most accessible material, but stuff that is going to fit together, tell a story, make an album. And whether you like that album as one of the best of Klaatu's albums, which a couple people, believe it or not, have actually told me that, or you think it's one of the worst …it hangs together, flow wise. And that was the reason for the song choices.
MH: Now, there are 9 tracks on the album, but do you recall how many tracks were actually recorded for the album, or attempted at being recorded…and then cut down to 9?
CB: I don't remember, honestly. I was doing the Philadelphia Orchestra at the same time and something else…and it all kind of ran together. I was also doing a film near the end. But, for the first six weeks of the project, it was the only thing I was working on…and I think we only had those 9..maybe 10…maybe there was 1 or 2 tracks that ended up in the trash. I just can't tell you off the top of my head. I've got copies of the masters of everything I've ever done, and I'd have to go dig it out to tell you.
MH: Any unreleased gems in your collection that we can use for the box set?
CB: (laughing) You'd have to talk to Capitol about the 2 inch! No…no…I do remember there was some funny shit in there!
MH: Let's talk about the tracks. There are some outstanding songs on the album. "All Good Things", about Woloschuks' dog that died during the recording sessions….
CB: That's right….
MH: He said that you really enjoyed that track. Any other tracks on the album that stick out for you?
CB: "Knee Deep in Love" was going to be our signature piece. That was supposed to be, you know, that dimension of time and space, the signpost up ahead, next stop…the new Klaatu. That was supposed to be the signature song, really.
MH: It did rather well in Canada. Some of Dee Long's songs…seemed to be not what he would normally put out. Tracks like Dog Star, Hot Box City, I Can't Help It…seemed like he went a bit Hollywood…
CB: Well, "I Can't Help It" was kind of a Moody Bluesish kind of a thing. That's the way I approached that. Ahh…you actually made me listen to this record again, by the way. (Laughing) About 3 months ago when you first talked to me. I still have a machine that plays records, too!
MH: Really? Cool….(laughing)
CB: It's called a turntable (laughing). Um…."Hot Box City" and "Dog Star" were basically…Dee wanted them on the record…and I tried to get them on the record. They were not my favorite cuts on the record.
MH: According to Dee, now, he has said that he originally played all the lead guitar parts on the record, but, he says that you over-dubbed most of the leads yourself…played guitar yourself. Do you recall….
CB: Dee played on…he played on 3 or 4 songs on there….there's a couple tones there that I would never use…um…I can't tell you which ones, and one of the things about Klaatu being mysterious…there were never any credits on the records. And I always use those..I'm getting pretty old and I use those as a crutch. But, when it came down to that, whenever it was a choice as to which take was going to be used, I never, ever, laid down the law. We always went with the consensus. One of the reasons that I enjoyed working with the group so much, and the same thing is true…I mean, I did some really good things with Hall and Oates, and I did some things I don't like so much. Some of my best work was there. It's the same thing that was in common with Klaatu. With Klaatu, we formed a 4 piece band. With Hall and Oates, we were a trio. So, basically, we got into the studio, and it was like a band. If it came down to where it was a total deadlock as to what to do, I never forced anything on them. It was their call…do you like this take, do you like that take. You guys pick it. I try my damndest, either one is good enough for me. That's the job. What is your creative feeling on this?? I really, thoroughly enjoyed working with them. We did work it that way. Some of the stuff that happened when we were doing "Sell Out", you know, there was some funny stuff going on in the studio.
MH: We have a picture of the four of you guys dropping coins into a cash register….
CB: Ah….I went out and I rented this $2500 cash register…an old brass cash register. Great!
MH: I'd like to get to a comment you made to me previously, about the story of the recall of the album….
CB: Yeah…the guys name that you want to know…the real villain of this piece…is a guy named Bruce Wendell. He was the head of promotions.
MH: At Capitol.
CB: And he hated Klaatu! He hated Klaatu because they wouldn't do pictures, wouldn't do promos. And the story that I heard, was that he had an astrological chart cut for this…a natal chart cut for this album, and it didn't look good. And he was the one, basically, responsible for totally shitting that record.
MH: As I hear it, it was barely on the market before it got yanked.
CB: That was about it! Couple of weeks. Just long enough to get some really fabulous reviews on the single. And then, boom, it was gone. We got front page of Billboard!
MH: And it was yanked…all because of this one guy.
MH: And nobody anywhere in Capitol said anything about it?
CB: Nope. Did you ever deal with the record companies, man?? Let me tell you something…I dealt with the majors for 19 years…why do you think I retired? These are people that make shooting yourself in the foot the national sport!
MH: So, one guy….head of promotions…had it in for this band and just killed the whole thing.
CB: Yes. Capitol had a choice. Either fire Bruce or go with it. I mean, he was in charge of promotion. Rupert Perry had nothing to do with that. Bobby Columby just liked to sit up in his office and tell people he was a mogul. Bobby and I go way back. Bobby was the drummer for Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Before I was Hall and Oates' producer, I used to be in the band. I did the arrangements, sang back-up, and got the players. Got the old bass player and drummer from "Ten Wheel Drive". When we did the "Abandoned Luncheonette" album that had "She's Gone" on it. That tour and that record. Bobby and I met on that tour. We were playing with the "Sweats", and Bobby actually, one day, physically picked me up, lifted me, and threw me back on stage for an encore when I was refusing to go back on. The show had been so bad. We go back a long way, and I like Bobby a lot, but….Bobby was a guy that does his own thing. He was head of A & R there. So, when the head of promotion says "I'm not going to promote this thing", what are you going to do? And that's what happened. It was Bruce Wendell….and I never met the man. I have never met this man, to this day.
MH: Looks like someone else I need to track down and talk to!
CB: Yeah! I'd love to hear his side of the story. But, you know, Klaatu was just another entry into that historic log of very talented bands that needed some direction to become great successes. And, um…got screwed! They just got screwed! That's one of those things that really, um, just totally….took someone who was so totally committed to music as I was, and got me out of the business completely. I was part of….and I've seen so many projects from tremendously talented people that deserved better treatment and that got swept completely under the rug. And I've been part of….projects by people that by all rights should be living out of a shopping cart…and have had great big hits. And it's because of the politics involved in the business itself. I've spent many hours sitting in a studio with people like Ringo and Stephen Stills…talking with them about the major compromises they have had to make. It's all unfortunately, about compromise. And that killed Klaatu. They deserve a lot of credit for what they did. For what they created, and for sticking with it.
MH: Well, the guys seem to be happy in their lives now. John's got an accounting business. Dee is working with computer software development. And Terry is doing some roofing and construction. Dee and Terry still record. In fact, Terry's new project is called "Civil War and Other Love Songs".
CB: Cool! Great title!
MH: Thanks for your time Chris. Best wishes for the future.
CB: Thanks Mark! All the best to the guys from Klaatu!