**in the comments section i've linked a lovely video interview w/ doug shot by matthew maaskant and the shomerde crew (toronto) who also helped promote the LITA CD reissue, a beautiful piece...
***pics from the Songs For The New Industrial State MOODS event here. Doug Randle, The Mutual Understanding's Laurie Bower (along w/ Tommy Ambrose, the sublime voice(s) of Industrial State), Fergus Hambleton (A Passing Fancy), a young Canadian Romantic, and The Mighty Pope (The Sheiks, Frank Motley & The Hitch-Hikers) all in one room. still tripping out over that one!@#$%???!!! PEACE
THE MAN WHO WROTE THE SONGS FOR THE NEW INDUSTRIAL STATE
By Robert Dayton
After almost forty years, a very special and unique album has been reissued. A concept album of sorts, “Songs For The New Industrial State” by Doug Randle has exactly what I look for in music: a blindingly intense personal vision, a window into the artist’s soul. This object of creative expression is also refined and quite technically crafted with catchy, warm songs that engage the listener. These orchestral soft pop gems were lushly arranged and played by top session cats. Much of the album was composed in a minor key which, with its’ bass grooves, gives it a dramatic and occasionally tentative feeling.
In the book/tract/bible “The Psychic Soviet” (Drag City, 2006,) Ian Svenonius postulates that music offers respite from time and the effects of the modern industrial age. With its’ smooth blend of instruments and male group vocals (the unique use of two male leads multi-tracked, actually) Doug Randle’s album certainly seems to do just that. Yet the lyrical themes confront exactly those concerns that one may be looking for escape from. The liner notes describe these lyrics as a “Revolt of the forty year olds”: bitter reflections on aging that seemingly go against the grain of youth culture but are still anti-establishment with statements on damage to the environment, being a company man, rampant consumerism, and cultural alienation. Originally recorded for in-house broadcast at CBC Radio, in 1971 the album was released on Kanata Records, a label that was formed as a result of new Canadian content laws for AM Radio.
Kevin Howes (aka Sipreano), an expert on rare and unusual Canadian music, found the album while crate digging over a decade ago. Kevin’s interest originally sprang from hip-hop and sample-based music. Soon, he had opened himself up completely to all kinds of music that struck a chord, to find interesting and compelling sounds that were almost completely unknown and to re-contextualize them. Kevin is now able to let the world in on this reissue that he produced for the Seattle-based label Light in the Attic.
Doug Randle was born in Calgary and moved to London, England in the 1950s where he worked as an arranger for the BBC Library, the 101 Strings Orchestra, and with arranger Wally Stott on The Goon Show and other projects (note: Wally Stott later became known for his work conducting and arranging the first three Scott Walker albums; post-op, Stott became Angela Morley and worked un-credited on the music for Star Wars, she also won three Grammys).
In 1961, Doug moved to Toronto where he worked briefly as a jingle writer and rather extensively as an arranger for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). In 1968, he wrote, arranged, and produced the two-hour historical musical comedy production Lady Emma for CBC Radio. This production was mercilessly panned by the legendary critic Nathan Cohen.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and interview Doug Randle and Kevin Howes. We drank a tea called Love tea that was very nice.
Robert Dayton: After the review of Lady Emma you were very hard on yourself.
Doug Randle: I guess so because a lot of people liked it. Nathan Cohen was the only one I know who really hated it. He was a very, very good drama critic. But, you know, a critic can really bring out the poison pen and show off some vicious language skills.
RD: It’s interesting that this one critic can set you off into writing what became Songs For the New Industrial State.
DR: Was it the one critic or was that just the tipping point? It’s never one thing. It’s only in the movies or in the novels that one sudden epiphany comes to change everything. It’s the pressures of life. In my life I always expected a high that was too high from everything. Music had to be way over-the-top. I had to be competing with everybody. I’ve got friends who are very good arrangers but they never sweated at all. One of them I was talking with one night said, “Oh, they are all clichés anyways.” I never wanted to write a cliché. I probably wrote many of them in my life. I probably tried to make them different. I had to be creative, I had to do something.
RD: You had done a lot of productions for the CBC?
DR: Yes, and they were doing some of these recordings. I had a relationship with them where the producer would say to me, “Do you have any ideas for an album?”
Kevin Howes: Did they want to hear it first?
DR: They trusted me enough. They said, “Great! Let’s do it! What do you need?”
RD: This album is a very personal album. Song For the Middle Ag-ed is about a man whose plans and dreams never quite come true and I’m wondering how you feel about this song today.
DR: I was forty years of age at the time and that was exactly how I felt. Call it a middle-aged crisis, male menopause, or whatever. Many people I know were going to be CEO of the company but they’re only middle management. Seems like a let down. I had all sorts of promise that was cut short. I know a lot of reasons for it now. I had an awful lot of fear about what I did. I had an ulcer diagnosed when I was thirty-three years of age, they say the average ulcer’s been there for about seven years, I probably had an ulcer in my mid-twenties. Everything was buried down inside. My life was falling apart.
RD: How do you feel about that now? You’ve lived another forty years!
DR: It’s fine. Eighty-one is easier than forty-one! At forty-one I was feeling hopeless and I had an alcohol problem, too, and as long as you have that, you’re not going to solve any problems. You’re just going to get through all the emotional crises by drinking. It doesn’t solve anything but it gets you through the night. Some of the other songs... with One Way Swimming, Gene Lees (Kanata co-owner and legendary jazz scribe who wrote the original liner notes) interprets that as a song about ecology, that we’re all one way swimming. He’s pretty right that way but really, what it is, is a suicide song.
RD: Of all the songs on the album it is the least overt lyrically.
DR: I’ve had people say, “I still haven’t figured out One Way Swimming.” It’s very simple, it’s a suicide song.
RD: With this album, you’re dealing with so many internal and external problems. It’s like a wake up call.
DR: My marriage was breaking up when I was doing this album and I was seeing a psychiatrist. I couldn’t get the writing done. I was in such a state. So my wife phoned him and asked if he could give me something for it. He gave me about ten days worth of Valium and that settled me down, I got the writing done. But I was sorry I’d done it because I got on the session and I could not get the tempos right at all. I’d never used drugs; booze was my poison. I saw too many guys on heroin when I was younger. I smoked pot for three months and everybody kept saying, “Well, hang in, it gets better.” It got worse, it got worse. The last time they were all having a great party down here raving about the hash. I ended up down on my hands and knees with my head buried in some tall, wet grass just trying to stop the headache and wishing I would die. That’s why I stopped smoking pot.
KH: You can’t tell by listening to the album that, as you said, you can’t get the tempos right...
DR: No, but I had to take a couple of shots at getting the tempos right.
RD: The album was recorded in three days!
DR: Yeah, well, that’s all we got. In a three-hour session we were allowed to record four tunes or fifteen minutes.
RD: Yeah, but...three days! It’s a great sounding record!
DR: These are professionals, y’know. They come in... I’m a good writer, I had written it all out. Three days, three sessions. These guys would read and be right dead-on first time through, we’d do a second to polish a couple of things then we’d do it again. The third one was usually the take. This was pretty standard.
RD: Tell me about the rather eerie song Martin Of Her Mind.
DR: My first wife and I were living out in Weston (Ontario). I was out one day but I came home and she told me what she’d seen outside the window. Now above us there was a family, which is described in the song, with a little girl aged about ten, sister of Martin. Martin was the child of the second husband, it was the second marriage for the Mother. And Martin could get away with murder. He was about two or something like that. The ten year old girl... they were always jumping on her for everything. We always got that feeling that the second husband was the meal ticket for the family. Anyways, this was on a Sunday, the little girl was in the garden and she’d been out there with a shoebox. She shoeboxed one of her dolls. She had actually dug a hole and buried the box and she was throwing a funeral ceremony. That’s what Martin of her Mind was.
The one song, Warm In the Sunshine...
DR: That’s sort of a promissory song. When I was seeing the psychiatrist, I’d typed up the lyrics. Typing them out I got all these emotions coming up because I’d written them a year, maybe two years before. That’s the one song I wrote for my first wife. “....Stay by my side and we’ll wait for it.” And that was the one that really got to me.
KH: “...There’ll come a day with a new sky in it. Forever and ever we’ll be Warm in the Sunshine. Wait for it. Wait for it...”
DR: It didn’t come true.
RD: I was going to ask you if that day ever came?
DR: Not in that sense. It came for me later when I sobered up, got facing my life. I feel badly about that. She still lives out near my daughter and I see her occasionally now. We get along okay.
RD: This album is incredible.
DR: It was picked album of the month on quite a number of stations but there was no personal follow-up so it couldn’t really be promoted. The same holds today, if we were a group going out to perform it, we could sell it as merch at the venues and all sorts of other ways.
RD: It’s a studio album.
DR: Yeah. I don’t perform. I don’t even sing as well as Leonard Cohen.
RD: Doug, were you surprised when you heard this album was going to be reissued?
DR: Yes, I was quite surprised and very pleasantly! It was very gratifying. It feels good and now it’s getting a good reception. I always felt that it was quite good work and it hadn’t gone very far, it had gone out, flopped, and lay on the rug there. To hear it now that people do like it and they agree with the sentiment behind it. On the other hand, maybe it would have been much better if the world had woken up forty years ago and really done something and changed things. I don’t see it happening in the future. People get so attached to their newer toys and upgrading this and that and the other thing. It takes this continual expansion; expansion is the only thing that anybody worries about, in spite of all the evidence that it is going to kill this planet we live on. We’re now approaching nine billion people on this planet, if we all curbed our appetites a bit, we might be able to sustain that number of people but we can’t all drive fancy cars on paved highways. It goes on and we’re like the gerbil running around in the wheel and expecting to get to some nirvana at the end of it. I guess I’m still a pessimist about the way the world is going. They talk about reducing the carbon in the atmosphere by a certain percentage by 2020 or 2050. Is anything going to be enough?
KH: You can raise awareness of these issues.
DR: They are much more in front now. Hopefully there’s going to be a generational change. There still are problems but gradually we’re becoming better and better with that. I would hope that the young generation, who are more clued in to the environmental stuff, can really make some changes because us old farts aren’t going to do it, most of us. One lesson to learn is that people were aware of this forty years ago and the changes still haven’t occurred. The album was a personal exorcism in ways for me but isn’t everything a bit of a metaphor for something else? You take the macro problems and they’re reflected in the micro selves. It’s only within ourselves that change will ever come. We have to change ourselves before we can change the world.
RD: Well, we better wrap things up!
DR: I’ve had a good diatribe!
KH: You still want people to buy the album though.
DR: As long as they’re turning the lights out when the record player’s on!
Doug is currently completing an album of songs about music, singers, musicians and songwriters, with his daughter. Songs For The New Industrial State is available on Light In The Attic records.
A listening party for the album with Doug Randle in attendance will be held at The Ossington (61 Ossington Avenue) in Toronto on Sunday April 5th, 9 PM, no cover.
Robert Dayton’s blog is at: www.robertdaytons.blogspot.com