Supertramp Press Conference,
4th March 1997.
Hotel Prince de Galles, Salon Le Panache,
Avenue Georges V, Paris.
[When EMI Belgium asked me if I was interested to go to Paris to witness the launch for the new Supertramp album Some Things Never Change of course I jumped at the chance. Here's what was said during the press conference.]
"Shut up", she said. An unknown French blonde, she immediately had the attention she wanted although her approach was far from ideal, grabbed one of the many microphones. However the main reason for her blunt attitude was to inform us that the band members were on their way for the press conference. The cameras at the back of the room started rolling once Rick Davies, John Helliwell, Jack Douglas and Georges Ohayon entered the room.
EMI France boss Ohayon welcomed the united press whilst cordless microphones were held at the ready for eager journalists. Journalists from all over the globe were present and contributed questions. They know who they are and what questions they asked. I thank all of them for their contribution to this piece.
Georges Ohayon: Ladies and gentlemen good morning. I'm pleased to introduce you to Rick Davies, founding member of Supertramp; John Helliwell, original member of the band, and Jack Douglas, producer of their new album Some Things Never Change. As you know this is the first signing from Supertramp with EMI Music France and we are all very proud to be part of this project. The album will be released worldwide on 24th March. And now let the questions begin!
Q: Why did we have to wait ten years for a new album?
Rick Davies: That long huh? Well I guess we took it easy for some time, that's all. Maybe we thought we were retired but found that we still have to go out and play!
Q: How come Mark Hart from Crowded House is in the band?
Rick Davies: Mark has been with us longer than for this album. He was already present during the recording of Free As A Bird and toured with us in 1988.
John Helliwell: Mark was also with us during the 1986 tour, so on and off he's been with us for some eleven years already. He did a little stint with Crowded House ...
Q: Why do you think that France is your second largest market?
Rick Davies: What is our first largest market? Somebody said it's because we did a live album called Paris but I don't know if that's true because we already played to 3,000 a night, six consecutive nights then.
John Helliwell: It took a long time to build because the very first time we played in Paris only six people showed up. There were more people on stage than in the audience. That must have been in '75 or '76 in a place called Bataclan. I think that, when the French people like something, they stick with it; like their marriages. They stay married for a long time. They might have a mistress ...
Q: How was it to get back together again after such a long time?
Rick Davies: It was great. We played the backing tracks in the studio with the entire band there, all eight of them, which was a first and that's the way I'm gonna do it in the future. Of course there was John and Bob [Siebenberg] from the old days but then there were the newer guys and the atmosphere was so nice. The fact that we could play instead of toying around with computers and technology was very nice.
John Helliwell: We've got a great band now. We finally did it. It's an eight piece ...
Rick Davies: An octet.
John Helliwell: Oh is that what it's called? We can call it an orchestra.
Q: Is it a democratic band?
Rick Davies: I'm not the boss or anything, I just want everyone to have a good time.
John Helliwell: It ?s democratic but it ?s his band ...he owns the name Supertramp!
Q: Is the Internet a new challenge and is it a good marketing device for the band?
John Helliwell: It will be the very first time we'll be chatting on internet this afternoon so yes it is all brand new to us, very exciting, the whole world will be there at our fingertips, well two or three anyway. Neither Rick nor I can type so we have our own typists.
Rick Davies: I think it ?s a good communication thing, Internet especially if you want to get hold of lots of information.
Q: What hasn't changed in the band?
Rick Davies: Our attitude towards music hasn't changed that much, we still want to play in tune, we still want to play some songs with some melody and write a start and finish at the same time and the people we really like are that way too. We are all jazz fans and like all that stuff so that kinda never change our attitude about music.
Jack Douglas: This music actually has a verse and a chorus, there are some chord changes there, they sing in different keys, it's pretty unusual today really.
Q: You always take care with the album covers. Can you explain the meaning of this one?
Rick Davies: It's something to tie in with the title. In England people have tea at four o'clock and it doesn't matter where they are or what sort of social plane they're on they will have that tea. It so happens that this couple are having tea on the moon, we thought it would be a nice image for the title.
John Helliwell: It has some tie-ins with some previous album titles. We had Crisis? What Crisis? with a gentleman sitting at a table; Crime Of The Century with the stars, so there ?s a chronological link.
Q: Would you agree that the new album is more of a Supertramp sound than the previous Free As A Bird effort?
Rick Davies: Yes; as I said, the new album is very much played by the musicians. Free As A Bird was an experiment to try and be modern and build it up with computers and drum machines and have people come in one by one which makes you lose the band spirit a little bit. This time we have a good band energy on the tracks. Thanks a lot to Jack also for recording it very well and that ?s the way I think we'll do it in the future.
Q: How old are you?
John Helliwell: We're over a hundred between us. I'm 52 but I'm not going to tell you how old Rick is. He is older, about six months, but I'm not going to tell you his age!
Q: It's cool to be older than the President of the United States and still be rocking!
John Helliwell: He ain't rocking! He definitely ain't rocking! Just listen to his saxophone playing ...
Q: In the last ten years we've had hip-hop, Brit-pop, techno, rap ... Does that influence you?
John Helliwell: We're skateboarding through time! The older you get the more influences you have, but we no longer mind doing our own thing either. If we were twenty or so then we would probably be picking up those trends, but, as our major influences go as far [back] as forty years, we still have Beatles, jazz, Beach Boys, whatever from the past.
Jack Douglas: When the sessions were over I went into the studio and did a hiphop version of one of the songs.
Q: Regarding the forthcoming tour: will you be playing some old songs as well to please your old fans?
Rick Davies:We'll be playing a lot of old songs; well, we have to 'cause the Greatest Hits album we had sold so well. We'll also be playing to the kind of audience that comes out to hear those old songs so we'll be playing sixty or even seventy percent of old material.
John Helliwell: At the moment we think of doing ten new songs and, well, twenty old ones! We'll be playing for hours!
Q: What did you do those last ten years?
John Helliwell: Well I did some jazz playing and then I did some music college which he [points at Rick] interrupted when he asked me to play with Supertramp again. I haven't finished college which makes me one of the oldest college dropouts ... in this room.
Rick Davies: I toyed around with the idea of a solo album, but when I made a shortlist of the people I wanted to play with, it sort of resulted in Supertramp anyway. So I called around certain people to see if they would still enjoy having Supertramp around and thanks to Gilbert for signing us. It feels good to be back !
Q: "It's A Hard World" sounds very ironic to me. Are you describing the world with a former band member in this song?
Rick Davies: Oh no, no. I think that one is probably me in another twenty years or some kid starting out today. That's the way I think of it.
John Helliwell: This music business is tough. You can see it by the lines [shows his forehead]. Well, I've had a bit of make-up on so there were lines before they put it on. Look at Gilbert, look what it's done to him!
Q: All of the stuff on this album is written by Rick Davies; you sing and play on the album and you're also credited as being executive producer. In the end what's the difference between a Supertramp album and a Rick Davies solo album?
Rick Davies: It's a big difference to have Supertramp as a base what with Bob on drums, John on sax ... This being a Supertramp album, it means that we have to do promotion together, that we will tour as a band. If I should do a solo album I'd probably only be doing some club dates, so yes, there is a big difference.
Q: What happaned to Dougie [Thompson] and why is Roger [Hodgson] not taking part in this project?
Gilbert Ohayon: We don't want to talk about the past, we want to talk about this album, so ... we can talk about the dog ...
Rick Davies: [leans over as far away from the microphone as possible so no-one, except for the bat-ears of John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, can hear what he says to John Helliwell - whispers: You can talk about Dougie if you want?]
John Helliwell: Tell them about your dog!
Q: You'd rather talk about a dog than about Mr. Hodgson?
John Helliwell: I'll tell you something - Dougie Thompson does music publishing in Chicago. Roger Hodgson has just made an album and I'm on it. It's called Rites Of Passage and should be released this year but I don't know when.
Q: Was it you who chose Jack Douglas to produce the album or the other way around and, knowing Jack's previous work with Aerosmith and Alice Cooper, weren't you afraid you might end up with a very hard sounding album?
Rick Davies: Well I knew he had done John Lennon and I knew he had a sensibility to that sort of thing as well and I think it's a team effort if you go into a studio. We have to take the best out of everyone and I knew it would work.
Jack Douglas: There were a couple of times where I pushed the guitar up ...
Rick Davies: ... and I would push it down again !
Q: There's a good balance between drums and bass.
Rick Davies: We recorded it the old fashioned way so we ended up with a great sound.
Q: When you wrote the material for the new album were you thinking of the teens and twens of today or were you writing songs for people of your age?
Rick Davies: I don't think of anyone in particular, the only thing I want to do is write good songs, that's about it.
Q: The seventies are having a renaissance right now. Are you part of that renaissance?
Rick Davies: Not consciously. It ?s working in that direction for us but we're surely not jumping on that bandwagon ourselves, we're just doing what we feel like doing.
Jack Douglas: There's a certain timelessness about the album. It's not seventies, it's not nineties, it could be forties or fifties even.
Q: What can we expect visually during the forthcoming tour? Will there be dogs on stage, elderly people drinking tea?
John Helliwell: There will certainly be lots of elderly people on stage ! We will certainly continue in the Supertramp tradition of quality and because individually we are not that interesting to look at we'll be having bits of video, good lights, amazing sound as we have just a new soundsystem that's very very good! People will be coming to our gigs and for the entire duration of the concert will be going : waw, waw, waw!
Indelibly Stamped (1971)
Crime Of The Century (1974)
Crisis? What Crisis? (1975)
Even In The Quietest Moments (1977)
Breakfast In America (1979)
Famous Last Words (1982/2002)
Brother Where You Bound (1985/2002)
Free As A Bird (1987/2002)
Classics Volume 9 (1987)
Live '88 (1988)
The Very Best of Supertramp I (1990)
Fan Box Set (1991)
The Very Best of Supertramp II (1992)
The Autobiography Of Supertramp (1994)
Some Things Never Change (1997)
It Was The Best Of Times (1999)
Very Best Of Supertramp/Very Best Of Supertramp Vol 2 (1999)
Slow Motion (2002)
Inside Supertramp 1974-1978: An Independent Critical Review (2004)
Retrospectacle: The Supertramp Anthology (2005)
Live, 1997 (2006)
Concert Classics (2007)