Q: How does it feel to have a catalog like yours that has lasted so long?
GP: It says that the people really, as a piece of art, liked it and became associated with it and you hope it’s not a detrimental influence. Like any art, art is in the eyes of the beholder and so no two people will look at a song the same. There will be a slightly different take on it based on the life experience of that person. When you look at a picture, two people can fall in love with it for different reasons. It means something different. A person may come up to a band and say, “yeah I really like the song, it means this, that and that.” And the band will go “no it doesn’t. The words just sounded good together and that’s why we picked them.”
Q: Much like your song “American Woman” which is extremely misunderstood.
GP: That’s about our touring experiences in the United States. It’s the country personified as a woman. Sail into the harbor in New York, what’s the first thing you see?
Q: A woman.
GP: Exactly correct. She stands for that country. So that’s what inspired it. We came from the little town of Winnipeg where we didn’t yet have those problems. We didn’t have war machines and ghetto scenes and colored lights that can hypnotize and so it was unsettling. It was disturbing because our life was a little bit more “Leave It To Beaver” where we were. What an awesome place and powerful place the United States would appear to guys from Winnipeg. It was confusing to see all the unrest and the Vietnam War and the kids that were so terrified of going over to Vietnam in their uniforms and coming back with that look in their eyes of like staring into space. We saw all of that and we went “how is this happening, where is this coming from?” We weren’t necessarily putting down the country, although it might seem like that. We were more commenting on how emotionally it affected the band.
Q: When did you first realize that you really hit it big?
GP: Well, we had our first hit in 1965, “Shakin’ All Over.” That was kind of a change for us. It went to number 19 on Billboard. And it said to us, hey, you can do this coming from Winnipeg. So it took four years. Then four years later we had “These Eyes.” So we were right. We stuck to it. We kept doing what we had been doing to get a hit like “Shaking All Over.” So it proved to us, you can do this. I guess “These Eyes” was the real confirmation that we could in fact do it.
Q: Without the pressure of record companies, without the pressure of egos, is it more fun today?
GP: With this group of people it is. With the original band, it’s amazing that we did what we did with the personalities involved. I look back and go wow, if people only knew of what the back ground was. It’s so evident because of the group of guys we have together today. If we could have had that mentality with the original band we would have still been together today. When somebody asks me why the band isn’t together it’s because of two things, ego and greed. You don’t know which one to put first. Flip flop at any time. That’s what happened to The Guess Who. When the success came it changed a lot of things. Especially for two of the members. And that would be the guys that made the most money. It got worse, instead of them going, this is like a football team. We need everybody. They started thinking we did this, you were along for the ride. Well that’s easy to say after the sound is created. “These Eyes” would not have been a hit with just piano and vocals would it? And that’s what’s forgotten. It’s like football. I always say that the quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, get big, big props but no one is going anywhere unless the lowly center snaps the ball through his crotch. How important is he? The real successful bands like The Rolling Stones that have been around forever and even a band like The Eagles, who found out later and rectified some of that, they are still around and producing. The ones that just don’t get it, about what part was played by everybody and how important it was, they’re the ones that aren’t.
Q: With the current band coming from different areas and performing just a weekend here or there, how do you guys practice?
GP: Well, when you’re playing the same twenty songs, there’s not much left to practice. However, we have done some recording of new material. We’ve now recorded three new songs written by our lead singer Derek Sharp and we rerecorded an old song from the 50’s, by Little Richard.
Q: I lament that there’s not a vehicle out there to showcase a band like yours new material.
GP: That’s the sad thing about, it’s kind of put off our ability to do new material. It would be nice if a classic rock station would say “that was American Woman by The Guess Who but now here is a piece of new music by them” and then play the new one. There just is no outlet except now we have the internet.
Q: Is the new material available on the internet right now?
GP: I think if you go to our Facebook page and if you read through it all, you know things gets buried as you get further down the line. If you look for a picture with our smiling goofy faces, it’s kind of a bust/head shot and three out of the four songs are up there for listening. You can’t download them, but they’re there for listening.
Q: Do you ever have a time when you just get tired of it all?
GP: My body is tired. I’ve had many operations and I need more now. Because you can’t play, it’s going to be 65 years in May, and hit a hard surface and not have physical damage. That’s the hard part of it. But when you’re making people happy, the drug for the true entertainer is the reaction of the crowd and making them happy. The live performance is instant gratification. The high comes right away. That’s the way I look at it. It’s fun to make people happy and make them feel good.
Q: I know you’re proud of your hits. Are there any deep cuts you like that no one would necessarily know?
GP: Oh my, that’s impossible. What I have to say about that is, I invite people to go to iTunes or whatever and download all of the albums because there is some great music that has only been played in the studio, never on stage. That’s kind of a shame because most people that were into The Guess Who were only into the hits but there is so much more inventive and musical stuff than what the hits are. So I invite everyone to go and take a listen to the lesser known albums and you’ll go that can’t be the guys that did “These Eyes.” I went back and downloaded every one of our albums and I was shocked at what we did. That’s from a guy that’s been in the band for 50 years. I went, wow did we really do that? If I can be surprised then certainly people at large can be surprised. Rediscover The Guess Who.