My ol' buddy Andres Segovia!
|...and we laughed and we laughed....
|2003 Interview with Rick Gunn of the Cats & Dogs Band|
|Question: Where were you born and raised?
RICK: I was born in Montreal. I wasn't exactly raised there...it was more like I was tolerated. I continued to exist on the island by playing guitar until the mid-80s - at which point I retired the guitar and moved to Toronto.
Question: What was your musical training?
RICK: When I was 9 or 10, my older sister wanted to play the piano. So my parents bought her a piano and started her off with lessons. When nobody was home, I banged away on the piano, amusing myself for hours on end. Don't know about anyone else, but it sounded good to me.
Then she wanted to play guitar, so they bought her one. She hid it in her closet so I wouldn't touch it. I used to sneak into her room and teach myself how to play that, too. Until it started to warp. That, apparently, was my fault. I took it to a guitarist friend down the street, whose father could fix anything. He gave it a valiant effort, but the strings were still an inch or so off the fingerboard. It was far more pleasant pushing my fingers onto the wires of the egg-slicer. Eventually, they bought me my own guitar and we became inseparable.
I was doing my best to play everything I heard on the radio. I'd stay up all night until I figured out the guitar parts. (Hmmmm...I wonder if that's where the insomnia...ahhh, never mind.)
The Beatles were a huge influence. As were Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Young Rascals and an endless list of other groups from the mid '60s. One day my friend down the street said, "You've gotta hear this new album," and he played "Are You Experienced" (Jimi Hendrix, 1967). My life changed. I got a pickup and an amp. I learned every note I could - thanks to the "16 RPM" speed on the record player. I was especially intrigued by the feedback. It spoke volumes more than any of the mechanical fingerings I could master. Thus, the emotional appreciation of "noise".
I had been exposed to the world of 'ALBUMS'. AM radio wouldn't do anymore. Unfortunately. And FM hadn't come around yet, so I relied on my older friends and the underground paper "LOGOS" for news about "the scene" in those days. I went to see every band I could. Which wasn't that many because I was only 11 or 12 years old. Although, I'm still surprised at how many bands I did get to see in those early years. (Thanks, Mom!) Soon, FM radio appeared. And so did giant rubber Pterodactyls and various Dali-esque phenomena, but I think these might have been the result of a different influence. (Thanks, Owsley!)
Question: Tell us your firsts: first record you purchased/stole, first concert you attended, first time you performed in public, etc.
RICK: I really can't remember which my first album might've been, although I still have most of them. Likely Hendrix, Zappa or Yardbirds. They're really worn out! Actually, there are a few copies of some of them.
I really wanted the Beatles records, but my sister always beat me to the record store on release day.
I eventually became a great sprinter, but by then, it was too late.
The first concert I can recall, was Little Stevie Wonder. I think I was probably eight or nine. My Mom schmoozed us into a private media performance at an elementary school gym. There might have been 20 people there. I was the only kid in the room as far as I can remember. Anyway, on the stage was a chair with a big old reel-to-reel tape machine on it. A man in a suit turned it on, and then brought Stevie out onto the stage. It was karaoke. The music was on the tape and Stevie sang and played harp. The song was Fingertips. Li'l Stevie was boppin' around on the stage and he couldn't have been any older than fourteen, himself.
My first gig was in grade 7, with a couple of schoolmates, Pete W. and Dave L. We played in the talent show for the whole school. I think I vowed never to do it again. Okay, so I can't be trusted. Sue me.
Question: What music/musicians inspire you?
RICK: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Beatles, Steely Dan would be the main ones, although the list can go on for miles. They were probably the deepest, most long-term influences on me. I still listen to the early albums. Most of them have been replaced a few times, but they still continue to inspire me. Especially Jeff. He scares me sometimes, when I try to imagine where his ideas come from. Then, of course, I remember that he comes from another planet altogether, and that any human comparisons are just not valid.
Question: What other bands have you performed in, besides Cats And Dogs?
RICK: My first band was when I was in grade 7. We even wrote a few songs. Couldn't play 'em the same way twice, so we stuck them all together and created a medley. Thankfully, I can't remember it/them/whatever...something to do with a cat…and a rat…probably a bat….
Countless incarnations of high school bands, then went to Ottawa with a bassist and drummer. We hooked up with a couple of locals there and became Storm Warning. Played Allmans, Steely Dan, Skynyrd, Winter, Savoy Brown, Jeff Beck Group – the great guitar stuff of the day.
Returned to Montreal and got into an original and cover band called Straight Razor. Did pretty well with the high school and university circuits. Had a regular gig up in the Laurentians at a place called The Commons Hotel in Morin Heights. Played there on the weekends for a couple of years, while we’d hit the schools and pubs in town through the week.
After that, I ended up in a few bands, but got more calls to fill in for other guitarists.
Question: What albums/CD's have you performed on?
RICK: Throughout the '70s, I found myself in recording studios often. Somebody always had something on the go and I was getting a lot of opportunities to "go into the studio" with them. I was happy to be playing. I ended up on quite a few recording projects for other people...who promptly disappeared.
Arthur May was one. Hardcore punk from England before the Pistols arrived. I played on his demo, which he took with him to the U.S. and actually got signed based on the merit of his tapes. Rumour has it that the album he released was the original demo that I was on. Naturally, I never heard from him again.
Around that time, I had the infamous "recording deal" with a songwriting partner. We must've recorded a hundred songs. Who knows where they ended up? We had a lot of our friends join us for many of those sessions. Sass Jordan was one of the regulars. She played bass on a couple of tracks and of course, vocals. One day she and I were fooling around with old pop tunes while the others were off recording. When it was time to put a solo down on tape, I hit a flat note early into it, so I wasted the rest of the solo by quoting a David Gates song. Sass and I were killing ourselves laughing about it, when they said it was a keeper! Drove me nuts when I heard it on the radio that winter!
I also played subliminal guitars on a cd by a Montreal band called "The 39 Steps". A friend of mine engineered the sessions and he brought me into the studio late one night to discretely add some tracks. We had a lot of fun. Put down layers and layers on one song. It sounded great to us, but it wasn't really the band's sound, so we had to tone it down quite a bit. There's some pretty wild soloing buried into the fadeout. Along with another musical quote. As usual though, the best stuff never made it to the official release.
In, 2002, I played a few gigs with a slide guitarist. We recorded one of the nights at a popular blues club in Toronto. I don't think his CD did too well. Guess that's why I never heard from him again! Ahhh, well...as Bob says: "Life goes on and on and on and on and on..."
Question: How did you first meet some of the other members of Cats And Dogs?
RICK: That little town called Montreal provided an unbelievable pool of artistic talent from the late 60s and into the late 70s. I was very fortunate to not only witness it, but also to participate in it.
I met and played with a lot of people and barely survived the lifestyle. I would go out of my way to see the Wackers and later, the Dudes, play wherever possible, but ironically, it wasn't until the year 2002 when I was introduced to David Henman. He in turn, introduced me to Bob Segarini. It all goes downhill from there.
Question: Are there any amusing anecdotes or stories you want to share?
RICK: Actually, there's a story I'd forgotten about until recently.
I'm hesitant to admit this, because I'll bet there are still people who'd like to know who that long-haired boor was. It must have been around 1973...
At the time, I was desperate to absorb as much “guitar” as humanly possible. I’d been picking up a fair bit of classical chops (misplaced ‘em along the way) and was ecstatic when my buddy John called to say he’d picked up our tickets to see the greatest player of our time!
Andres Segovia had emerged from his sanctuary in Spain and was going to perform for the last time in Montreal. The venue was Place Des Arts and the acoustics were unbelievable. So, we went and sat smack dab in the center of the theatre. The lights dimmed and the only thing visible on the stage was a stool. The coughing and rustling quieted down to the point where you could literally hear a pin drop.
The Master had emerged from the wings and, carrying his classical guitar, his shoes squeaked all the way across the stage to his stool. He climbed on and proceeded to tune his guitar. The sound was so clear; you could hear the creaking of his shoes on the stool rungs.
He tuned up and then played for twenty minutes. Never said a word.
He stopped for water, which someone brought out to him. He drank, and then started to play again.
Another twenty minutes into it and the most horrific of incidents began to occur -- I don't know if it was nerves or the irony of the silence in contrast to the timeless music this man was delivering to a select group of truly privileged aficionados, but for whatever reason -- I became possessed by the dreaded giggles!!
It started out as a very quiet and controlled chirp, but in no time it evolved into a series of snorts. When John elbowed me in the ribcage, his arm sliding across the armrest and contacting my pocket with the show programme, I was absolutely appalled at the amount of noise he could make in such revered company! People turned around and sneered and shushed at me. I apologized...between snorts.
And then....... IT happened.
The music stopped.
I looked at the stage.
The old man took the guitar in his left hand and climbed down off his stool. You think the place was quiet before?
Tall and firm.
He very slowly raised his right arm until it was perpendicular to his body and out came his index finger.
It was aimed directly at me.
That's right, little old me!
Yessiree - I made my mark! The Master, Andres Segovia would not forget me. Neither would the people who’d waited years and spent thousands of dollars to travel from all over the world, just to see him in this extremely rare and possibly, final appearance. I apologized to him as everyone in the room glared at me. A few people asked me to leave. NO way - there was free coffee and those little sandwiches with the crusts cut off during the intermission.
So the old man sat down and played again and I behaved myself. Had a few words with some of the patrons over the coffee service but, hey...it made for a more memorable night than any of the stuffed shirts could've ever expected. And I got closer to the Master than anyone else in the room that night.
Hey Andres, "if I don’t see you no more in this world, I’ll see you on the next one - and don't be late"!