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Anonymous & J. Rider interview with Ron Matelic

April 22, 2013

Anonymous & J. Rider interview with Ron Matelic

There is a big hype surrounding “Inside the
Shadow” LP. It all began with The Sir Winston the Commons in the 60s. One
of the Indianapolis garage rock bands, that were not a typical band of the 60s
with a single out called “Not the Spirit of India”. Out of the Commons, a few
years later there was another group formed – Anonymous, which is to this day
probably the best private press record. It contains absolutely everything and
its a late catcher of hippie spirit. This one is one of my favourite LP’s in
general. Here is the complete interview I did with Ron Matelic. We talked about all
three bands and he also took his time to talk about his songwriting.
It’s a great pleasure to finally talk to
you, Ron. Let’s start this interview with questions about your childhood and
teen years. Where did you grow up and what are some memories from listening to
your favourite music at the times?

I was born, raised and still reside in
Indianapolis, Indiana. Having an older sister, I was exposed to 50s rock and
roll when it was current. I liked Elvis, Everly Brothers,  Buddy Holly and doo wop. I have always been
drawn to good harmony and melodic lines. But I was probably more attracted to
electric guitar and combo instrumental type music. ‘Tequila’ by the Champs may
have been my first 45 record purchase. Later on, I listened to the Ventures,
and then a lot of ‘hot rod’ and surf instrumentals.
Your first band was called Sir Winston
& The Commons and you released Come Back Again / We’re Gonna Love and Not
the Spirit of India / One Last Chance. The first single was from 1965 on Soma
Records and the other one is from 1966 released on a label called Nauseating
Butterfly. Am I correct?

Actually our first name was The Illusions
and then it changed to The Suspicions. Sir Winston was our first booking
agent’s idea because of the British invasion, and he even tried to say we were
from England, but that was really short lived since we knew so many people that
were at the shows.  After we had been
together for a while, we booked a recording session in Chicago at Columbia
records and recorded 5 or 6 songs. “We’re Gonna Love”, “Come Back Again” and
“One Last Chance” are 3 of those.  I
don’t remember where or when we did Not the Spirit of India, but there were
probably other songs as well.
John Medvescek and you knew each other
from the very early age and you decided to form the band. What was the local scene
in your town? I mean which bands had an impact on you?

There weren’t many local dances or bands
early on. Our favorite was a band called the Katalinas. They did mainly
instrumentals with a few vocals like most of the bands. We sort of copied what
they did in having the bass drum head painted in fluorescent paint and shining
a black light on it. I still think that looks cool.
Later you were joined by Gary Crawford.
Tell me about this very early beginning  You did a lot of covers, right?
We started with songs by the Ventures and
sax instrumentals like Honky Tonk and Harlem Nocturne and progressively did
more and more surf instrumentals as they were becoming more prevalent. I think
one of our first vocal attempts was Buddy Holly’s ‘It’s So Easy’.
First you were into surf sound and then
into British Invasion stuff…
Yes, Dick Dale was my first guitar hero;
he’s still at it and still sounds great. I also liked the harmony of the early
Beach Boy tunes, but when the Beatles hit, everything opened up. All of a
sudden there was a world full of music and it was all good. The thing I liked
most about the British groups was that they all sounded different from one
another, so it was an exciting experience to enjoy all the diversity. Plus they
were all so talented. I was always in awe of their musical expertise and vocal
ability.
Can you tell me about your recordings. How
did you get signed up and what can you tell me about song “Not the Spirit of
India”. What did you have in mind. The song is quite a progressive in terms of
times. Very early Indian influences…
We were never signed by anyone. Our second
agent at the time had SOMA press the first record, but there wasn’t any
distribution or promotion. Herb Crawford, our other guitarist, handled the “Not
the Sprit of India” record from the label to the pressings.  He and I co-wrote the song. I developed the
music and he did the lyrics. There was an electric India vibe that was around
at the time. The influence may have, in part, come from Paul Butterfield Blues
Band’s “East-West”.
You went also to California and toured
there. Would you like to share any memories from that?
We actually never did any real touring. We
played a few one nighters and a concert or two and landed about a six week gig
at the Galaxy Club which was two doors down from the Whiskey a Go-Go on Sunset
Boulevard in Los Angeles. We played 5 hours a night, 6 nights a week. It was
okay but not very interesting or profitable. I was beginning to lose my
enthusiasm.
Do you know any other bands that were
good from your area, perhaps?
As mentioned before The Katalinas were good
and my favorite, but that was before and in the early days of our band. At the
time of Sir Winston, there were several bands that shared the local scene. The
Boys Next Door, The Dawn Five, Sounds Unlimited, and The Idle Few are some that
I remember.
What happened next?
After California, we were reduced to a 3
piece group doing sort of a Cream/Hendrix type thing. It was fairly lucrative
for a while, but became musically limiting in my mind.  We eventually decided to call it quits.
You were in a few bands before forming
Anonymous like Cock Robin and Ghandharvis. Cock Robin recorded some material,
but the recordings are lost. Are you sure and may I ask if you are still in
contact with John Medvescek. You were both in these bands, right?
I saw a previous booking agent a few years
ago who arranged for the Cock Robin recording, and he maintained that the tapes
were lost after he went through a divorce. 
John is still my best friend, although we don’t see much of each other.
He is a captain at an Indianapolis fire house, and has always been the best and
my favorite drummer.

How did Anonymous formed and who were the
original members? Did this lineup last? Had you still lived at the same place
when the band was formed?
I joined a band in 1972 called Madison Zane
formed by Sir Winston keyboard and sax player Joe Stout. It was basically a
cover band. Marsha Ervin, whose last name at that time was Bailey, was a friend
that I used to sing with at get togethers. She was also in that band. Glenn
Weaver was the bassist and we shared a lot of musical interests. I was familiar
with Fleetwood Mac but he got me to listen to the Buckingham/Nicks album which
is an exceptional LP.  He was a very
melodic and aware bassist. After we both left that group we would have jam
sessions on Sunday afternoons with John Medvescek and developed the material
that ended up on Inside the Shadow.
What can you tell me about the material
on the LP. Was this only your work? Did you have any concept in mind?
There was no intentional concept; just a
list of songs. There is additional recorded material as J. Rider and Ron
Matelic & Friends.  I also have a
stockpile of yet to be recorded songs.
Where did you record this LP and what
are perhaps some memories from it? What gear did you guys use?
It was recorded in a garage-turned-studio
in a residential area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
We had rehearsed well before going and did
all the instrumental tracks on a Saturday. We went back a few weeks later and
added the vocals. John used his Ludwig drums, Glenn Weaver had a Guild hollow
body bass, but I don’t recall his amp. I used my Gibson SG,  Rickenbacker 370-12 string and Martin D-35
acoustic, and a borrowed Fender Twin Reverb amp. The effect used was an
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone phase shifter.

I know this can be a bit odd question, but
since I always ask musicians to comment each song I’m also asking you. It’s
always interesting to read musicians opinions on their songs, what was in their
mind when they were made.

I also like how a song originates. Here is
a transcription of thoughts I came up with when the album was being released
for online download.
A1         
Who’s Been Foolin’?    
I at first thought that the melody of the
verse was something I heard on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, but I never could
pinpoint it so I kept writing the song with the help of Glenn Weaver. My
favorite part of the song is the second “… who’s been foolin’…”  in the last verse. I always have liked subtle
variations in a song’s arrangement or melody — something I learned from the
Beatles to whom I attribute most of my song writing interest.
A2         
J Rider               
 I
first came up with the opening guitar lick on my acoustic guitar, but I knew
that it was meant for the Rickenbacker 12 string. I’m not sure how the rest of
the song fell together but I always attribute it to some McGuinn vibes. It’s
one of those fun songs to play. (Thanks, Roger! (Jim))
A3         
Up to You                       
This is a song written to my wife. The
“her” in the “I see her…” verse   
refers to my daughter, Sarah, who at that time was our only child.
A4         
Shadow Lay                    
This rendition was the second incarnation
of this song. When I first wrote it, it had a Lennon,  “Glass Onion” groove. In a third version
later on, it was changed to a smooth, mellow jazz arrangement. I like the way
the instrumental accents vary at the start of each verse.  I think the “you” of the song is really me.
B1         
Pick Up and Run            
Another song built totally around the 12
string, ala “So You Want to Be a Rock & Roll Star”.  I spent a lot of time listening to the Byrds,
but I was also hung up on changing the time signatures in a song, like this
song’s bridge.
B2         
We Got More
B3         
Sweet Lilac                     
I
think this is the only time I took someone else’s words and put them to music.
My friend, Becky, handed me these lyrics one day and these songs are the
result. I did have to change a few of the words for the song’s meter, and I
also came up with the reference to “Shadow Lay” in “Sweet Lilac”. The Yeah,
Yeah, Yeah in “We Got More”  is sort of a
theft from the Mamas & Papas.
B4         
Baby Come Risin’
This is a conglomeration of ideas that have
some origin in “Layla” and a couple of McCartney songs. The instrumental
section in the middle came from  those
Sunday afternoon practices, when we just let loose
This was released on A Major Label
Records formed by Jim Spencer. You knew him, that’s why he gave you this
opportunity. Tell me about your friendship with Jim?
Jim lived a few blocks down the street from
me in the early years and I’m not sure how we originally got together
musically. He’d invite me over and he would play me his songs and I would play
mine and we wrote a few together. He would come up with lyrics very quickly and
I always admired that ability. He also had a great voice and sense of
musicality. He eventually moved to Milwaukee and married; but he would stay in contact
when he’d visit his mother in Indianapolis and we would again share our recent
songs. He is the sole reason the Anonymous album exists.
Do you know how many copies were
pressed?
I don’t remember the exact number of the
original pressing—several hundred I guess; but there was also a second pressing
where the back cover of the first pressing became the front cover of the
second.  

Tell us the story of a short lived band
called J. Rider, which had the same members with an addition of another guitarist,
Justin Garriot. You played some local shows with them and recorded some
material…

Yes, we played a few places, but this town
has never been one for promoting original music to any extent. You have to be a
real trooper to try and sustain your originality.
Only through our good friends Norm Welch
who was able to sponsor the recordings and the engineer Mike Petrow were we
able to record what we did.
Were this recordings recorded in the same
studio as Anonymous LP?
No, it was recorded in a local Indianapolis
studio that at time was called Neon Cornfield.
Again I have to ask you to comment each
song a bit.
A1         
One Sided Lover             
Built solely around the guitar lick, this
was a fun “power” song to play live. I don’t know where the lyrics stem from
but my lyrics are for another discussion.
A2         
Kiss of Your Soul
I think I just mainly liked the irony of
the title and Justin’s slide guitar is pretty cool. During this period, I also
liked varying from standard 4/4 time which made it a little more fun and
interesting to play
           
A3         
We Got More   
This is what I thought would be a
commercial song. I now wished I had done something else since this song was
already on the Anonymous album, but Marsha sure sings it a lot better than I
did.
B1         
High Roller        
I could here the melody line to “She was a
(boom boom) hi-igh roller”  in my head
and wrote the whole song around that one line. 
It then continued to evolve with more guitar parts and those great
sounding drums. I think there are some Stephen Stills influences on this one.
It’s one of my favorites.
B2         
Pike River          
A nice flowing song that was inspired by
McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre”. This is one of those songs that came together
very quickly with seemingly little effort. 
Only a few are like that. I especially like Greg’s bass part and John’s
intricate cymbal work on this recording.
B3         
Sunday’s Hero
 This
is an old song written in the late sixties without the fast instrumental intro
or outro. I don’t remember too much about writing the original version which consisted
of the entire vocal part.  At some point
I came up with the guitar parts and matched them with this song.
Anonymous never played at any local
gigs?
Not as Anonymous, but as J. Rider. We
played for a short while and Glenn left the band and was replaced by Gregg
Reynolds and we played for maybe a few months longer with five people. Marsh
became pregnant and left and then Justin left, but John, Gregg and I continued
to play for a while. We abandoned the original music and went commercial.
Why the name Anonymous and why J Rider?
“Anonymous” was just a name I came up for the
album since we were not an official band at the time of the recordings. I
always hated trying to think of band names that didn’t invoke some preconceived
notion of what the band was like. J. Rider is like a person’s name with no
connotations.
Who did the cover artwork for Anonymous and
who for J Rider and what does it represent?
The front cover of Anonymous was a drawing
by J. Heitzman, whose brother Tom was a drummer friend of Glenn Weaver. The
picture hung in Tom’s apartment, I believe, and Glenn recommended it. The back
cover art was by K. Gehrke, I assume a friend of Jim Spencer. The second
pressing of Inside the Shadow used this back cover as the front cover. J. Rider
art was by Greg Day, who was selected by Stan Denski. Stan put together that
album on his OR Records label after he released the first re-release of
Anonymous.
What happened in the 80s, 90s to this days?
Pretty much the normal life of marriage, working
a day job and raising kids.
What currently occupies your life?
Job,
marriage, kids, grandkids – trying to get to retirement.
Are you still in contact with other
members?
I
see or talk to John and Gregg from time to time. Marsha lives out of state and
Justin lives in China as of the last time we conversed.
Any regrets if you look back?
I
wish I would have been more ambitious in seeking to play my original music.
I would like to thank you for taking
your time. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?

There is another vinyl release of Inside
the Shadow scheduled to be released on the Machu Picchu label. 
I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has
shown any interest in my music, and I hope to produce some additional material
in the near future. Spread the word and stayed tuned.
Interview made by Klemen
Breznikar/2013
© Copyright
http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
3 Comments
  1. kingcrimson1973

    This album is amazing. Anyhow the first track, the reference to seeing it on DKRC , it's KIss and the song is "Black Diamond" the intro. Just interesting because I Heard that as well. cheers

  2. kingcrimson1973

    And I think they were on the ABC show too, but this album actually has a real westcoast sound like Al Manfredi or such.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5zm4pvqotM

  3. Anonymous

    Awesome

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