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Stone Garden interview with Paul Speer

Stone Garden were from Lewiston, Idaho and released an incredible single "Oceans Inside Me / Stop My Thinking" back in 1969. They recorded some more material, which was not released for years until Rich Haupt of now legendary underground rock label Rockadelic gave them opportunity to release an LP long material, that was recorded from late '60s to 1972. Their history is also documented in our interview with guitarist, Paul Speer. 

What can you tell us about early influences?

Guitar became my passion when I was nine years old. Surf music was big at that time in the 1960s so artists like The Ventures were a big influence.

Were you or others in any bands before forming Stone Garden? 

Along with my brothers, Gary and Neal, we formed our first band in the mid 1960s and were called the Three Dimensions.  Soon after, we added a bass player and changed the name to the Knights of Sound.  We did a professional recording in 1965 of an original song, "The World is Coming to an End", and it is included in the Stone Garden albums that have been released. 

How and where did you guys meet and formed Stone Garden? How did you choose the name?

As three brothers, we comprised most of the band. We invited Dan Merrell to join us on bass. He was a neighbor and in my class at school.

The name came from a psychedelic poster our manager saw and thought it was a much hipper name than the Knights of Sound so we adopted it. I contacted the publisher of the poster to ask permission to use it as our band name.
Brother Gary graduated from high school in 1969 and went away to college.  To replace him, we recruited Russ Pratt who was and still is a terrific singer and organist.

Do you perhaps remember some early sessions you had as Stone Garden?

The most memorable was recording the original version of "Oceans Inside Me".  It was in a home studio in Clarkston, Washington and the engineer, Doug Smith, owned a lot of professional equipment. Like many records back then, it was recorded live to mono, no overdubs or multi tracking. I don't recall how many takes it took to get a master but I'm sure it wasn't very many as we knew the material well. 

How was the scene back then in your town?

The scene in Lewiston, Idaho (our home town) was really good as there were teen dances every weekend and even a teen nightclub called Casey's and we played there a lot. Casey's also brought in major acts once in a while. I remember seeing the last incarnation of the Yardbirds with Jimmy Page on guitar.

On what label did you release your single in 1969? I would like to ask you how did you get in contact with label and what can you say about songs "Oceans Inside Me / Stop My Thinking" that features this 45 single? There was 300 pressed, right?

Yes, the deal that Doug Smith (studio owner) made with us was to record two songs and press 300 45s for $300.  I know collectors have paid that much for one copy of the 45!

We mastered the songs at a studio in Spokane, Washington (I don't remember the name) and the owner offered to get it on Angelus-Bell Records of Los Angeles.  Beyond that we never had any contact with the label or shared any of the revenue from sales.
Gary wrote both songs and sang the lead vocals. We were a five piece band at the time of the recording session with John Purviance playing sax and harmonica.   

Did you do any touring? I would like if you could share some interesting concert experiences that happened to you, while playing shows...

We were attending school during most of the band's life so the touring was primarily weekends and we played constantly covering Idaho, Washington, Montana, British Columbia, Oregon, and Northern California. We were represented by a Seattle booking agency and most of the gigs were teen dances.

An interesting concert experience was performing at a teen fair in Spokane with a diverse lineup including Canned Heat and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. I remember lots of weed being smoked by the audience during Canned Heat's set.    

What happened next?

I can be blamed for the breakup of the band.  It was 1972 and I felt the group was in a rut and not going anywhere so I decided to leave and go to music school. I was the band leader and also owned the van and PA system so when I left, that was the end.
I attended music school for two years and then moved to Seattle where I got a gig with a show band that was constantly on the road. I ended up in Los Angeles for a couple of years in the mid 1970s where my passion for recording took hold. After returning to Seattle, I began transitioning from working musician to record producer and engineer.
Long story short... My first album came out in 1984 and my thirteenth was released in 2009. I have also enjoyed a successful career as a producer with some 250 albums to my credit. I was honored in 1998 with a Grammy nomination for a video album I collaborated on with Scott Rockenfield, the drummer from metal band Queensryche.

In 1998 Rockadelic released your material. Would you like to tell me where was this material recorded and if you could share the whole story about Rockadelic LP.

Rich Haupt, the owner of Rockadelic Records, got his hands on a copy of the "Oceans Inside Me" single and loved it. He tracked me down not aware that I was still in the music business and asked if I had enough material for a full length album. Fortunately, I was diligent in keeping a lot of the tapes from back then and had more than enough to work with. The songs I chose were a good representation of the incarnations of the band from 1965 to 1972.

The material that was included on the album was a mix of live, studio, and home recordings. Whenever my parents would go out of town, I would turn our living room into a studio and document our original songs. I am really glad I took time to do that! 

Incidentally, Gear Fab Records released a CD version two years after the Rockadelic LP and in 2007, Shadow Kingdom Records put out another CD with four bonus tracks not on the original LP.  

What are you doing these days and what are some of your future plans?

I'm still making records but not producing as much as when I lived in Seattle. I moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 2006 and besides composing and recording my own music, I do a lot of mixing and mastering for other artists via the internet.

As far as future plans, I expect to keep doing what I'm doing now for as long as I can.  

I would like to thank you for taking your time for this interview. Do you have anything else to share, that I perhaps didn't ask?

You're welcome. I would like to personally thank Rich Haupt from Rockadelic, Roger Maglio from Gear Fab, and Tim McGrogan from Shadow Kingdom for allowing Stone Garden's legacy to live on.  By the way, It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine is very impressive and I am grateful to be included in an interview.  Thank you, Klemen.    

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2011
© Copyright


Rockadelic Rich said...

Great to see you on this site. Your music has touched many people all over the world and it was a real honor to be involved.
All the best,

Rich Haupt

Anonymous said...

Fun interview! Can you point us to a web site where we can buy some of the music?

Heavypsychmanblog said...

Thanks Klem

This band is the Heaviest of the era as far as I'm concerned and I'm very thankful for Rich for releasing the music.

Paul Speer sells Mp3's of the Stone Garden Lp on his site. Support the guy.

Lorraine said...

Great interview, Paul. Great pictures, too. Some I haven't seen before. Thanks for sharing. I'm proud to be your sister. I can remember most of this - I was there!

Pratt said...

My dad is Russ Pratt!!!!