The Guess Who
Almost 50 years after American Woman, they’re “gratified to know we’re getting through to new generations.”
The Guess Who have a decent claim to be the forefathers of Canadian rock. It’s nearly half a century since their classic hit single American Woman, after which their glory era ended relatively quickly, the band splitting up five years later in 1975. Since then they’ve had numerous reunions, and the new line-up have just released a new album, The Future IS What It Used To Be. Which, says drummer Garry Peterson, the sole original member remaining, shows that there’s life in the band yet.
It’s been more than two decades since your previous album, Lonely One. Why make a new record now? I would say this is the first true album we’ve done since Power In The Music in 1975. All the other records since were recorded to please those in the band at the time who wanted to be seen as contemporary, not because we believed in the songs we had. With this one we have the musicianship, the songwriting skills and the rapport to make it all work. Let’s call this the first proper Guess Who album in over forty years.
How tough is it to live in the shadow of the band’s glory-days past?
What choice do we have? Like any band with a long history, all you can hope to do is add more distinction to what you’ve already achieved.
You have Tommy Shaw from Styx guesting on the album. How did that come about?
Tommy does backing vocals on four songs, and he wanted to be involved. Will Evankovich, our guitarist, produced the last Styx album, The Mission, and also produced Tommy’s bluegrass album [2011’s The Great Divide], and they’re good friends. I think our basic rock’n’roll approach delighted him, because it’s so different to what he does with Styx.
Do today’s Guess Who appeal to a young audience as well as older fans? We are attracting teenagers, and that’s because our entire catalogue is online, so kids find it easy to check us out. It’s gratifying to know we’re getting through to new generations.
The new album seems to have a nostalgic feel. Without question. We recorded in an analog fashion, to capture the atmosphere of the sixties and seventies. We’re also still paying homage to bands like The Beatles, who inspired us in the first place. The British Invasion left a legacy that’s still at the heart of what we do. In our early days we even played loads of songs from Cliff Richard & The Shadows live. They were a huge influence.
“We were one of the biggest bands in the world in the early seventies.”
If British music means so much to the band, why have you never played live over here?
No idea. We were one of the biggest bands in the world during the early seventies, but UK promoters ignored us.
The Guess Who were always a diverse band musically.
We did experimental, challenging things throughout our albums. People who only know us for the hit singles have no idea how artistically daring we could be. Our label, RCA, encouraged us to try different things. We gave them the hits, and that allowed us freedom to be psychedelic, garage, progressive, metal, anything. MD
The Future IS What It Used To Be is out now via Cleopatra Records.