Paul Reed Interview

Paul Reed Interview (March 2015)

RIS: How did you first develop an interest in music?

PR: My parents were both very interested in music and were amateur musicians. My father had the ability to play organ and piano by ear and played a lot of “standards” on a Hammond organ that was purchased by him for therapy after he was hospitalized for an ulcer. My mother played woodwinds and was a member of an all girl band (sound familiar?) during the 30’s. They were called the “Melody Maids”. My uncle, George was a piano tuner and worked on the organ a the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah.

When the time came, my parents suggested I learn how to play the trombone. This was during the sixth grade when I was 12 or 13. That instrument is very difficult to play well and quite large for a child, so I lost interest in it and it was sold. At the time, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were very popular and I started to listen to them. I constructed a “drum set” from a hat rack, pots, pans and other items I found to be able to play along with the TJB’s music on a monaural phonograph!

This led my parents to buy me a series of more and more sophisticated drum kits and allowed me to join various bands as I attended Junior and Senior High School. I am still using the Ludwig set they purchased for me in 1971. I believe that I auditioned for “Good Question” around 1977 with that kit augmented with more cymbals and toms.

RIS: Did you have any early influences or inspirations as a drummer?

PR: As I mentioned, I was a fan of the “Tijuana Brass” and therefore their drummer, Nick Ceroli. He inspired me to play the drums at that time and I admire his playing in that group and as a big band drummer to this day. My other main influence has to be Buddy Rich. I dressed like him set my drums up like him and tried to play like him! Then, as my interest in prog rock increased, I became a huge Carl Palmer fan. My senior recital in college consisted of myself and 2 other classmates performing “Take a Pebble”. I wish I had a copy of that recording also!

RIS: What was your drum set-up in those days?

PR: I will give you some background on the drums I used on both the G Q recording sessions;

The basic kit was a 1971 Ludwig Super Classic model in white marine pearl. This was the set my parents purchased for me when I entered High School. The drum sizes are as follows, 14X22 bass drum, 9X13 mounted tom, 16X16 floor tom and an L M 401 Supra Phonic snare drum, 5X14. I augmented the kit with 6, 8, 10, and 12 inch melodic toms (single headed), 14 and 15 inch Roto Toms, a large cowbell, and Chinese blocks. The cymbal selection was as follows: 20 inch Paiste ride, 18 inch Paiste crash, 14 inch Paiste hi hats, 22 inch Zildjian China type, 20 inch A Zildjian crash,8 inch Zildjian splash and a 16 inch Zildjian crash. Hardware was mostly Ludwig including a Speed King bass drum pedal.

This set was my homage to my then idol, Carl Palmer. I tried to incorporate as many of the items he used with ELP on my meager budget. It took some time to set up, but the music demanded an elaborate array of percussion, which is one of the reasons I was chosen for this band over the garden variety rock drummer.

Today, I primarily play jazz so my original set has been returned to it’s simple arrangement. I also have a Gretsch Be Bop kit with a 14 X 18 bass drum and smaller toms. I use Bosphorus cymbals with that rig.

RIS: How did Good Question come together?

PR: “Good Question” was the brainchild of Phil Sweetland, our keyboard player. He was very influenced by “The Nice”, “Genesis”, “ELP”, “Yes” and “King Crimson”. He wrote all the music as well. He was joined by his friends, Ross Harris on bass and Mike Hamilton on guitar. Scott Kirby, a friend of Ross became the vocalist, Scott could be as flamboyant as Peter Gabriel. No one seemed to be able to fill the drum chair to Phil’s liking , so I was asked by a friend of all the current members (Nick Burton) to audition. Since I was in my Carl Palmer phase, I fit right in. Playing melodically with more of a symphonic vibe than a rock and roll vibe, I was able to complement the music in a positive way. We would rehearse in Phil’s parents garage in Corona Del Mar, Calif. several times a week working on a core set of about 8 tunes.

Some of the vocal harmonies were too high for a male voice, so I believe Mike Hamilton suggested we ask our girl (M.S.) to sing them. She was both available and willing, so off we went to a home studio in Newport Beach owned by Jerry Shirer, who later owned International Automated Media studios with Stevie Wonder. On a Tascam 8 track we produced our first demo tape which included four songs.

The Corona Del Mar High School band, 1972, featuring Mike Hamilton (guitar) and Susan Thomas (vocals, flute) among others.
The Corona Del Mar High School band, 1972, featuring Mike Hamilton (guitar) and Susan Thomas (vocals, flute) among others.

RIS: Did you know any of the other members before the band was formed?

PR: Until I was introduced by Nick Burton to the band, I had not met any of them. There was a group of people, that today one would refer to as “hipsters” that I associated with after I graduated from High School. They all lived in the Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar area of Orange County, CA. Included in this group was Marc Soden, a bass player and son of a prominent Judge. He drove a 1964 Chevy Impala low rider and had a band called “Typical Lizard”. He was a big Frank Zappa fan and wrote some very strange music. I met Mike Hamilton and Sue Thomas (M.S.) through Marc. We played some very strange gigs together, but playing songs like “Don’t I look like Heinrich Himmler When I Dance”, was a little to bizarre for me, so I stayed with “Good Question”. By the time we recorded our second demo tape at “Sun West” studios, Micki was with “The Runaways” and unavailable.

The music business was strange back then as well, and after our agent played the demo for several record labels, including RCA, he was told that progressive rock was no longer selling and punk was the new fad. After that let down, our keyboard guy, Phil, went off to college at Brown University in Boston and the rest of us all went our separate ways. Most of us still live in California, with the exception of Phil Sweetland who moved to Nashville to write reviews of country music! Ross, Scott, Mike and I communicate on Face Book but we all have lost touch with Miss Steele.

RIS: What songs did Good Question perform on their demo tape?

PR: Our demo consisted of 4 songs each time we recorded. We recorded the same 4 at both the recording sessions we did. I can remember titles for three out of the four.

1. “Ghost Town Tango” (instrumental) This piece reminded me a lot of ELP’s version of Aaron Copland’s “Hoe Down”.

2. “Free in My Mind” A simple ballad on which Sue sang the harmony with Scott.

3. “Two Worlds Beyond” This one was very ambitious, having a medieval sound with stylistic bits of “Gentle Giant” and “Genesis” woven in against a martial cadence. Again Sue is singing back-up.

4. The title of this last one alludes me now, but it was the rocker of the set. Tempo, time signature and mood changes made for a very dramatic closer with Sue again on harmonies.

The songs averaged 5 to 6 minutes in length.

RIS: What do you recall of Good Question’s gigs?

PR: As far as gigs is concerned, we played a few private parties and some dances for the public. Doing mostly covers of classic rock tunes with some prog stuff thrown in. We did more rehearsing than live playing because the music was technically difficult.

RIS: What were your first impressions of Sue Thomas?

PR: I met Sue when I first played with Marc Soden’s band “Typical Lizard”. She was quiet and unassuming yet very worldly and intelligent. We seemed to have similar interests and the same sense of humor, so we hit it off well. She lived by herself in an apartment on the Balboa Peninsula and drove her grandmother’s 1968 Thunderbird. I just remember her as quiet, introspective, mysterious and very attractive. Sue always dressed in a way one would associate with someone out of the past (think Stevie Nicks) and had a flair for the unconventional.

L to R: Susan Thomas, Sandy West, Joan Jett, 1975.
L to R: Susan Thomas, Sandy West, Joan Jett, 1975.

RIS: Would you care to expand on the similar interests you shared?

PR: We both liked British humor and were die hard “Monty Python” fans. Both of us were fans of the cinema and attended revival house showings of classics. We appreciated art and classical music, although she had a better understanding of art and I, music.

RIS: I’m intrigued by your mention of classical music. Would you care to say a little more about this, or which classical artists you and her most enjoyed?

PR: She seemed to prefer the Avant Garde such as Phillip Glass, Edgar Varese, George Crumb, etc. Where I prefer the more pedestrian composers, Mahler, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, etc.

RIS: What were your and Susan’s thoughts on prog rock?

PR: At the time, we all were fond of progressive rock in it’s various forms. Be it “PFM”, “Yes”, “Genesis”, “ELP”, “Triumvirat”, or “Gentle Giant”. Sue seemed to enjoy the the theatrical aspects of the genre. To me, she always seemed to be the type who would have been right at home during the Renaissance Period.

RIS: You mentioned Sue joining the Runaways in an earlier response. Did you have any thoughts on the Runaways at the time?

PR: I never had any interest in punk or new wave music, so I had no opinion about “The Runaways” except that I had heard from another girl bass player I also used to date later on that Kim Fowley was a creepy jerk.

RIS: What musical/artistic projects did you move onto after Good Question?

PR: For me, after “Good Question” I got involved with an Elvis tribute group and toured southern and central California until our backer’s money ran out. After that, I was involved with a Gino Vannelli want to be by the name of Jerry Dalton. We recorded two demo tapes again at Buddy King’s “Sound Castle” studio and later at “International Automated Media”. The highlight of that band was doing a showcase at Doug Weston’s “Troubadour” in Hollywood. Concurrently, I played in a college big band and was lucky enough to record an actual CD at Capitol Records. Since 1976, I have been in a trio called “The Associates”. This group played gigs all over Orange and L A counties for community dances, private parties and corporate events. I am 58 years old, living by myself in Fullerton, Ca. after being married for 24 years to Carol Lynn Reed who passed away last April.

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