The Guess Who

An interview with The Guess Who's drummer Garry Peterson
by Tommy Rage
August 2018

The Guess Who's new album The Future IS What It Used To Be

The Guess Who's new album The Future IS What It Used To Be

No matter how many times your hits from the 70’s have been covered by other bands, at some point, you may think about hanging it up; and drift off into obscurity. Not so for The Guess Who. The Canadian classic rock band which formed in 1965, releases their new album: The Future IS What It Used To Be on September 14th. Founding drummer Garry Peterson, Will E (guitar, harp), Leonard Shaw (keyboards, flute, sax), Rudy Sarzo (bass), and Derek Sharp (lead vocals, guitar, piano) are joined by special guests: Tommy Shaw (Styx) vocals, Brent Fitz (Gene Simmons) percussion, Jim Kale (Guess Who founding member) and Michael Devin (Whitesnake) on bass for this new release. Available now on Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify, the band’s first single “Playin’ on the Radio”, combines the melodies of yesteryear with a young classic rock feel. Moving away from their low tone rock-blues hits of the 70’s, the new single, “Playin’ on the Radio” starts with a simple surf-rock nostalgic groove. Accompaniment from all five of the band’s musicians fills the song with snazzy guitars, up-beat tambourine & shakers, along with the obligatory keyboards. Derek Sharp, along with his band of backing vocalists, build the song as a complete work, parting the harmonies with his high octave vocals. The song is reminiscent of their early works from the 70’s, “Star Baby” and the bands 1965 cover of “Shakin’ All Over”. When asked if the band intended to capture some of the earlier sounds of the original The Guess Who, founding drummer Garry Peterson shares, “We all grew up listening to our heroes who influenced us like the Beatles, the Stones and the Beach Boys. They happen to be the same influences for the original members of The Guess Who. Naturally, when we do new material, it sounds quite a bit like the older material, as the musical building blocks are all the same. We are adding to the legacy and we try not to stray outside the line of what The Guess Who was. However, it is 50 years later [laughter]. It’s never going to be where we sound exactly like the old band, but our new album pays homage to all of the groups we grew up hearing. We are even influenced by our own stuff.”

All ten tracks on The Future IS What It Used To Be are full of energetic jubilation mixed with fun pop-rock stylings. Songs like “Give It A Try”, “Talks All The Time”, and “Baby Come Around” blend harmonies with the band’s full set of keyboards, flute, and sax. This ‘full band’ type feel may be a result of various lineup changes throughout the years. Current lead singer Derek Sharp (2008–2018) has a higher vocal range than former front-man Burton Cummings and Sharp doesn’t hold back on songs “When We Were Young” and “Runnin’ Blind”. Asked about how it feels to play with a new group of younger musicians, including Sharp and former Quiet Riot & Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, observes Peterson, “I don’t really think about them being young or me being older than them. When we get on stage or rehearsing, they are an inspiration to my music career. It’s not the original band, Randy Bachman left the band in 1969 by his own validity, and Burton Cummings left to go onto his solo career. Every time I look at Rudy and think about all his musical accomplishments, I get re-energized back to 40 years ago. If you talk to Rudy about this band, he says that ‘this is the movie soundtrack of my life.’ He says that he grew up listening to this band. There is a great honor to keep the music alive and to everyone who has been in this band. It took everyone to make that.” 

The mixing of original band members with the added enthusiasm of the younger members lead to a fun and easygoing song writing process, explains Peterson, “The first song on the album called ‘When We Were Young’ was written by everyone in the band, like American Woman was. We were doing a sound- check and I was behind my drums. I start playing a warm-up groove and Jim (Kale) started playing along and it was just a jam which we recorded on a cell phone and the song came from that.”  With such a nostalgic type effort, Peterson was thrilled to be able to record this album in ways similar to older The Guess Who albums. “We recorded this album on an old console (Neve). When we went into Blackbird Studio in Nashville, it’s an analog studio, which is what we recorded on in the old days. So, when I went into that studio, I was choked up with tears, as I never thought that at 72, that I would get a chance to record in the same way as we did way back then. It was very special for me to get to use the old gear. When I stepped into the studio, it was like stepping back in time.” 

Peterson’s time traveling adventure set aside, songs like “In America”, “Good Girl” and “Long Day” have an older pop-rock quality about them; and Peterson took personal pride in helping develop the songs and The Future IS What It Used To Be overall design. “It’s kind of a nostalgic trip back into that golden era of pop music that we were a part of. I know a lot of younger people are fascinated with that. With the advent of the internet, you can get all our older albums on-line. This album, you can get a red vinyl version of it too. I had a vision for the album cover. The front and back, look like the ones we used to get in the 60’s & 70’s, the covers showed the bands actually playing. It’s kind of reminiscent of those older albums. I’m really proud of everything on this album, with the music and the packaging. It’s one of the first albums where I really like all the cuts.”

Relaxing in his home in North Carolina, Peterson shares his enthusiasm for heading out on The Guess Who’s fall tour. “Will E. (guitar) produced this album; he also produced the new Styx album. Tommy Shaw is a good friend of the band and it was great to work with him, and we have talked about doing a tour with Styx in Canada as well.” All of the classics from The Guess Who catalog are a part of their up-coming tour. Classics like “No Sugar Tonight”, “These Eyes”, and “No Time” highlight the Guess Who set-list. When asked his opinion when he hears a cover of a Guess Who song, Peterson smiles, “We get a thrill and honor when someone decides to do one of our songs. With ‘American Woman’, there aren’t a lot of ways you can change that; and have people recognize it. I thought Lenny Kravitz did a great job with it and it was great to play it with him in Toronto in 1999.”

The Guess Who release their latest album The Future IS What It Used To Be on September 14th.     
The first single “Playin’ on the Radio” is available now on Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify.

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CD: The Future IS What It Used To Be Record Label: Cleopatra Records
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