Chris McNeill, Gordon Deppe, Sandy Horne and Casey MQ
When Spoons lead vocalist/guitarist Gordon Deppe was asked to write the liner notes for his band’s Collectable Spoons, best of CD in 2005, he was faced with filling a five-page fold-out with historical notes and anecdotes about his band’s remarkable career.
Such was the feedback from Spoons fans about his observations that Deppe began to realize there was value in recording the band’s history. So over a period of time, he began to jot down notes and observations which have now been organized and chronicled into `Spoonfed’, `My Life with the Spoons’, a self-published book available at Manor House Publishing.
‘I found the process to be very therapeutic for me,” noted Deppe during a phone conversation to promote his debut publishing effort. “I do a lot of public speaking at colleges and I tell everyone to write their own book. Even if the book never gets published, it allows people to make some sense of their own lives. In my case, `Spoonfed’ is a time capsule of my life. My memory, like everyone else’s , is going so in 10 years’ time, I’ll be reading it and going Wow!, that guy really achieved something.”
`Spoonfed’ tells the story of three Aldershot High School students; Deppe, bassist Sandy Horne, drummer Derrick Ross, later augmented by 15-year old keyboard wiz, Rob Preuss, heavily influenced by the Britain’s budding New Romantic music movement , who released a debut record `Stick Figure Neighbourhood’ in 1981 about their Burlington Ontario home. Their synthesized electronic sound was fashioned by a promising young producer called Daniel Lanois who would later enjoy success producing the likes of U2 and Peter Gabriel.
Credibility came when radio guru David Marsden championed their record on Brampton’s trend-setting CFNY (The Edge) radio station which also sparked major interest nationally at college radio stations.
With local promoters Gary Topp and Gary Cormier booking the band in key local venues like The Edge, former Martha & The Muffins bassist, Carl Finkle acting as their manager, The Spoons were signed by an up and coming indie record company, Ready Records.
Larry Macrae, who worked for the label’s distributor, Quality Records, turned top British producer John Punter (Roxy Music, Japan) onto these young Canadian upstarts and Punter agreed to produce their 1982 follow up record, `Arias And Symphonies’ which proved to be a colossal breakthrough for the band.
Fuelled by the success of lead-off track, “Nova Heart” and the grandiose title track, `Arias And Symphonies’, set the stage for major concerts with the likes of Simple Minds and a memorable CNE Stadium performance opening for The Police during the second of their three Police Picnics, co-promoted by the two Garys in the Toronto region.
By this point, the band had been snapped up by A&M Records in Los Angeles and was doing everything right. A North American tour opening for the Culture Club was a huge success, prompting the L.A bigwigs to suggest that their next album, 1983’s Talkback” should be produced by Chic’s bassist Nile Rogers and the band’s material should be a little more dance-oriented.
“It wasn’t our idea to work with Nile Rogers, I didn’t understand what was going on at all,” confessed Deppe. “Our previous songs had been hits in Canada, we gave A&M exactly what they wanted on “Talkback, “Tell No Lies” and “Romatic Traffic” were about to be released in the States when the unthinkable happened. Jordan Harris, who had championed our cause at A&M, left the company and the new guy coming in decided to clear house and we were thrown out with the bath water.”
Anthem Records’ Ray Danniels came to the rescue, taking over direction on the band’s next two albums, their 1986 `Bridges over Borders’ (produced by Tom Treumuth) and finally, a reunion with John Punter for their 1988 `Vertigo Tango’ but with Steve Kendry (drums) and keyboardist Scott MacDonald having replaced Derrick Ross and Rob Preuss after their A&M rejection, the band realized they had lost the majority of their domestic fans.
The band’s fortunes were revived in 1994 when Ready Records decided to release a Greatest Hits package (Collectable Spoons) and John Punter was asked to remaster the record. With Universal Music on board as a distributor, The Spoons were suddenly back in the spotlight. “Radio started playing 80’s music, songs like Nova Heart, suddenly our music was back on station play lists,” enthused Deppe.
Another compilation of lost songs and other oddities titled “Unexpected Guests At A Cancelled Party” was released in 2007. Flash forward to 2010, the band celebrates its 30th anniversary with a reunion concert at Toronto’s Tattoo Rock Parlour featuring both Ross and Preuss prompting Deppe to finally release a new Spoons record, `Static In Transmission’ in 2011. With a new drummer in Chris Neill and a new keyboardist in Casey MQ, the band relaunched before 20,000 hometown Burlington fans on Canada Day 2011 and have been going strong ever since.
More recently, the band has staged 30th anniversaries for the re-release of both “Stick Figure Neighbourhood” and “Arias And Symphonies”, have been busy on the summer festival circuit and Deppe has even forged a side project, performing acoustically. “I was scared to death at first, the idea of playing with a piano and stripped down guitars but now I crave it,” he enthused.
Understanding the current wave of excitement for Electronic Dance Music, The Spoons are fashioning their own EDM set which is understandable as they always recorded extended versions of songs like “Nova Heat” before editing them down to a more radio-friendly length.
“There are so many new bands that have that 80’s drum machine sound like us,” observed Deppe. “I am not a retro person by any means but I do find we have a lot in common with these new bands and if we can fashion a set of extended versions of our standards, there’s no reason why we can’t be playing EDM festivals in the future.”
The Spoons struggled to rebound , drummer Derrick Ross was let go, keyboardist Rob Preuss followed out the door, Steve Kendry (drums) and Scott MacDonald (keyboards) were recruited as replacements and the band got another kick at the can when SRO/Anthem’s Ray Danniels signed them and appointed former Honeymoon Suite producer, Tom Truemuth to helm the band’s next record, the 1986 `Bridges Over Borders’
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