Sound Ceremony interview with Ron Warren Ganderton
“We bring to your attention, an invitation to the bizarre.” So goes the final song on Canadian born guitarist and songwriter Ron Warren Ganderton 1979 LP with his group Sound Ceremony. Ganderton self-released three LPs with the band while living in the United Kingdom during the 1970s and 80s. First came “Guitar Star” (1978/79), then “Sound Ceremony” (1979) and finally “Precious As England” (1981). Despite some modest distribution and frequent gigs, the band never seemed to really take off and Ganderton eventually returned to his native Vancouver (where he still resides), leaving hundreds of unsold records in the attic of his house. While these copies seem to have been lost to the ravages of time, One Kind Favor will now reissue the second Sound Ceremony LP. All of the group’s efforts are undeniably unique, but their middle record is the true brain-damaged winner of the bunch. The record surely fits somewhere into the UK punk explosion of the day, but it’s also looks back to the mid-sixties rock that Ron cut his teeth on and ahead to some sort of maniac future form of entertainment that perhaps has not been invented yet. Ganderton’s mildly “out of it” stream of consciousness lyrics show a clear lack of self-censorship and that’s really one of the albums strongest assets. He has created this character of himself as a huge rock star and a sex symbol, and who are we to deny his claims? The band chugs along amiably as Ganderton covers such terrain as his beating heart (it’s made of rock), his distaste for education (he’d prefer to teach a lesson in bed) and his electric brain (which happens to be insane). If you’ve never heard a singer do a count-off all the way up to seventeen, then now is your big chance! Features what is perhaps the greatest anti-cigarette song of all time.
I’m really happy we can talk about your music, Ron. Let’s start with your childhood. Where did you grew up and what were some of the influences?
I grew up on the west coast of Canada. Early influences were: The Animals, Kinks, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley (of course). Mostly bands with good songs. As guitar bands got more popular Led Zeppelin and Cream, were my inspiration to long guitar solos, and must say the great artists of my-town had a lot of good songs I liked.
What was the scene in your town?
As a teen who wanted to play guitar and sing and compose, playing high school dances/sockhops, and often local promoters would rent halls or other venues and 2 or 3 local bands would play. I had acquired an old van and packed gear and my own light show to the events. Having long hair and playing a guitar was a sure pull by local police coming home from gigs in a small town.
Were you in any bands before releasing your Guitar Star LP?
I played in bands since I was 16 many off them short lived. There was a West Coast Circuit. I played in mid 70`s, from Vancouver to San Francisco. At one time I was located in Toronto, where I used to hang out at local jam sessions in various clubs. I then relocated to London England.
So when and how did you start Sound Ceremony?
Sound Ceremony started as a recording project. I was writing songs and studying the art of recording at a college in London. I was recording demos and the Indie music scene was taking off. I got demos pressed up and produced the first Sound Ceremony LP, Guitar Star. It was distributed in shops such as Rough Trade, Bonaparte Records, Virgin Storesin UK and Bleaker Bobs in New York, USA.
Virgin did export with Caroline export. Pinnacle Records also did the distriburtion. Upon each album release I toured New York, LA < Vancouver meeting with record companies looking for a major deal.
Do you remember some of the early sessions?
Yes at that time early sessions involved Keith Turner on bass and Martin Chambers on drums. We were recording in South London. Then Martin Chambers joined Chrissie Hind and The Pretenders.
Bernie Rhodes manager of The Clash, Subway Sect and other bands, introduced me to Robert Ward, the drummer for Subway Sect. Robert Ward played on second Sound Ceremony album.
We tried to record a live album at Ronnie Scotts. That never got completed.
Then at Star Force Studio owned by Martin Daley who engineered our third album Precious As England, we also had 2 songs on a Starforce Studio Compilation LP. Giggle Amidst The Tears and You`re Breaking My Heart were the 2 songs used on album.
Giggle Amdist The Tears was picked up by David Knights, who managed me for 2 or 3 years. He had a label called Centridge Records. David was the original bass player in a band called Procol Harum.
Guitar Star was released in 1978 and it’s really amazing how unique sound you produced. What are some of the strongest memories from producing and releasing this LP?
Guitar Star was recorded with Keith turner on bass and engineering, on Revox tape machines. We bounced track to track on stereo machines, then equed and mixed. The edit on several songs being very very abrupt. That was my splicing techniques in learning .They were often compared to Joe Meak.
I was approached by the Joe Meak appreciation society (who recognized the similarity. Joe `S big hit was Telestrar. We reused,used 1/4 inch tape I got from a friend who worked at EMI Records in London. Not cleaning the tape properly, when I went to get masters cut they said there was some strange sounds on the recordings!
I had recorded the album on tape that had recordings of blue whales communicating.
Porky’s, the mastering studio did their best to clean up the album. The only other option was to rerecord the whole album, and that was far too expensive.
Where did you record it?
It was recorded at a college in London and was mastered at Porky`s, a very famous Oxford St. Mastering studio.
What gear did you all used?
We used Revox stereo machines and bounced. This technique was referred to as Dub recording.
What can you tell me about the label?
I used the name Celestial Sound Productions for a label name. It was a private release. We pressed up a 1000 copies.
The photos were taken and credited by a freelance photographer I knew. The layout was recommended by the sleeve design company.
Sound Ceremony is your next album from 1979. I would like if you could share the story about it.
It was recorded in London. There was a decided approach to have three guitar styles.
1. was rhythm arrangement to accompany the vocals .
2. the second was a contempery lead line with a period distortion sound, inspired from 60`s psychedelic guitar sound.
3. was and open E tuning slide guitar.
I played all the guitar parts myself using multitrack recording and an overdub technique Keith turner played bass guitar. Robert Ward now passed away played drums. There was an issue with the mastering. The studio was less 1 10Db. Master volume level. This caused a deficiency of volume reproduction and overall punch, for want of other words. Circumstantially it left me with a rather traditional psychedelic period piece. I learned to live with. This has now been corrected on the new rerelease with one Kind Favor Records. The digital mastering has slightly boosted the overall volume level. The new mastering seems to have got more distinction on guitars and vocals. Separation and tone have become slightly clearer to my ear. In the original there was also a pressing issue. The first pressing had a glitch on one track. There was 1000, several hundred got in circulation through distribution. The vast majority were sent back to factory to be remanufactured. 1000 more were pressed. The first pressing was on a red label. The second pressing was on a blue label. The label color was decided specifically to separate the two manufacturing events. A lot of to do for that Sound Ceremony release.
Since the songs from the first and second LP are really unique, I would appreciate if you could comment them…
A1 Guitar Star
The song was inspired by the movie star image. Since guitar playing had become such a celebrity status I invented the image of guitar star.
A2 Letter to Momma
All about letters I was writing to my mother explaining what I was doing in my life. Hence momma it’s all written in this letter.
A3 Concrete Rodeo
About life in the big city of pavement and concrete.
A4 Miss Vickey
About a friend in London from Dulwich south London who was going to college at the time. I did manage to get her a copy of the album. Last I saw her ,she was pushing her bike at Brixton Market.
A5 Come the Change
Is a song about the process of change, were will you start where will you be after the change who will you become what will you become.
About emotions of humans.
Various points of view of the motions of love. My love your love our love analysis.
B1 Blues Mess Your Mind
Edited with solo acoustic piano, vocals spliced edited to a full band production. Rather punk influenced contemporary 12 bar blues. Lyrics say it all.
A view of a relationship that is one sided. In hope of an understanding of love.
B3 Lonely Road
A look at life from a proscpective of travelling down a road.
B4 Booze, Drugs, and Sound
A life sentence in the music business, existing of drinking too much, doing drugs and making music.
B5 The Lady and Me
The equation of meeting a woman of class and elegance.
B6 The Devil
This is about the dark side in your mind. When imagination takes over and fear and paranoia gets out of control.
B7 I’ll Go to Hell for Your Love, My Lady
The extreme things a man does for the love of a woman.
A1 Rock Work
This analyzes the events of performing a song and the perfomance of making music. Hear the drum beat, beat, beat, beat can you hear that G 7th chord, making music.
A2 Virgins Do
The premeditated contemplation of having sex for the first time and hoping love lasts forever.
This is about having alternatice choices »when are you going to school«.
A4 Rock Heart
Having a devotion to Rock Music and hoping some can understand this deep commitment in your soul.
Questioning the values of life, with regrets spiritualizing the apology.
A6 Our Song
A totally 50-50 ownership sharing the object and the emotion.
Obsessed with the event to dance, dance through everything you have to do.
B1 Bet On Life to Win
A positive state of absolution, not 2an or 3rd. 1st to win with no doubt or second thoughts, you will win if you try. Take a shot you’ll hit it. Make a bet you win it.
B2 Tobacco Man
This analyzes every event a cigarette smoker does when manners are sacrificed and health is destroyed. Even the kiss has been spoiled.
B3 Electric Brain
Machine over man. Man verses the machine – computers, cell phones, the machine is winning.
Comparing my life with my car. The car wins. I have a life that runs like a motor.
B5 Sound After Death
Hear the sound with guitar and drums, still sound the same when you are dead or does sound reincarnate?
B6 Invitation to the Bizarre
Welcoming people to try a life with adventure and embrace the unusual. Let your life have no limitation. The unkown can be very inspirational. I have been across Canada from Vancouver to Alberta, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal. A long drive to Mazatlan Mexico in a VW van.
I heard you did a lot of touring? Where all did you tour?
Europe. When I was 21, I followed a Jimi Hendrix tour looking for a break in the music in the music business or some contacts. I`ve been to Italy in Rome Milan, Germany in Frankfort, Hamburg, Belgium in Brussels, Holland in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Denmark in Copenhagen, France in Paris and many places in between I passed through or stopped in for a break so to speak.
Your last LP was Precious as England in 1981. What happened next?
After the precious as England album I focused on singles,45`s and compilation albums.
Once Bitten album had 2 songs of Sound Ceremony, Good News for Lovers (not recorded on any other format) and Dancing with My Shadow. Starforce compilation had Giggle Amidst the Tears and You`re Breaking My Heart.
Giggle Amidst the Tears was released on Centridge Records label and as a single got a few spins on radio 1 BBC. The record plugger said it would debut about 10 am. I had the radio on . I was still in bed when the DJ said here`s a new record by Ron Warren Ganderton, Giggle Amidst the Tears, I was so excited I fell out of bed.
Vox Noveaux compilation album. I produced my self with various bands that were recording in my Celestial Sound studio London UK I had my songs: I`m in Love, Dream Girl and All My Dreams, on it.
I`m in Love and Dream Girl were new songs not released yet. All My Dreams was Virgins Do off Sound Ceremony 2nd album with the title changed. On a Summer Love Songs compilation album I released I`m in Love, a sort of blues production. Finally a CD compilation called Rainbow Theater Presents. The Rain Bow Theater CD was a fundraiser for refurbishing the Rainbow Theater in London’s Finsbury Park, where Hendrix, Cream, Humble Pie played. Everybody played the Rainbow Theater. I put Find a Way Out off Precious as England album (dedicated to royal wedding) and Dancing with My Shadow a new song on the Rainbow Theater compilation CD. Then the singles were picture sleeve You`r Breaking My Heart and Dancing with My Shadow. Picture sleeve Centridge Records label. Giggle amidst the Tears and Smothered in Love. 3rd single Find a Way Out and Shame on You.
One Kind Favor released a reissue of your second LP? How do you feel about it?
I had been at a band rehearsal. When I got home I hade an email from Nick Williams with an offer to rerelease the Sound Ceremony albums. I must say my first thought was thank you Jesus, the music gods are watching over me. The recording studio environment has changed so much. Nick is a music entrepreneur. He is credit to the music industry. I am looking forward to more joint ventures with his record company.
Where do you think you got that specific sound you had?
The sound I’ve produced on record comes simply from live experience. A good amp, usually from Marshall or Fender. I did use a HI Watt also. I’ve used Fender Strato Caster guitars. I have a Gibson SG I got in California. I got a PRS in London I use, it’s got a great sound. The distortion effect is used for sustain, with high treble setting on the am pand extreme presence. Then my Wah Wah pedal, it’s my fave guitar effect.
What are you doing these days?
These day I am going to Douglas College studying music production. Getting all my software and digital skills developed with Pro Tools, Logic Pro. The recording studio environment has changed so much and I wanted to keep up with the times. Long live Sound Ceremony!
Thanks a lot for taking your time! Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?
To all Psychedelic Baby readers, keep following Klemen’s work. Let me know you’re out there, drop a line on Facebook. Say hello. I’m interested to know where in the world you are.
Thank you Psychedelic Baby!
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2012
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