BOA Interview with Richard Allen & Ted Burris
I’m really glad I can talk with you about legendary BOA! First I would like to ask you where did you grow up and what were some of your main influences?
Rich: I grew up in Royal Oak, MI and moved to Rochester in 1965 when I was 10, right when I started playing drums. I met Ted, the vocalist at a Junior high school dance and bragged my way into an audition with Anvil. I was 14 and they were all 3 to 5 years older. Anyway, I passed the audition and joined the following week.
My influences were Beatles, Cream, Deep Purple, Stones, Hendrix, Rare Earth,the Who, most of the heavier music happening at the time.
Ted: I grew up in Troy Michigan. My whole life I loved performing. I would sing to the radio even at around age 3 or 4 that I can remember. The one event that changed my life into thinking I wanted to be a musician was the Beatles performance on Ed Sullivan.
I know you started together in a band called Anvil. Did Anvil record anything?
Rich: Anvil recorded one album at the basement studio of Julian G. Skinner in Detroit. It was ancient equipment and each disk was individually cut. There are 5 copies and they sound like shit and wear out fast.
Ted: We recorded in a cheep mono studio in Detroit for our first attempt. Julian G. Skinner ran the recording equipment with the back of his twisted hands as he had several palsy. Could not speak well, and would not let us use our amplifiers. We cut 7 songs and burned them onto 8 acetate records and only used them for ourselves and a couple of friends. Those acetates would be worth quite a bit if you found them. Our copies where sold when we needed money.
Did you play any shows as Anvil and I would also like to ask you why the name Anvil?
Rich: Anvil played high school dances and parties such as local hayrides and such. It was already named when I got there so I don’t know where it came from. Played at my first Rochester high school dance at age 14, I always thought that was kind of cool.
Ted: Yes, our first show was at our own high school. Rochester senior high in Michigan. We felt the name sounded “heavy” like an anvil. We played a rock version of “Anvil Chorus” as the opening of our first show. Many cover tunes and a few of our originals.
Were you in any bands before Anvil, any releases from then perhaps?
Rich: There were no bands before Anvil that I played out with. Made a lot of noise in my parent’s living room with different sets of people trying to get a band going.
Ted: My first gig ever was with a bunch of the guys at my church that could play interments. It had no name. The two best things I can remember about it was 1. We fit all our equipment in the back of a convertible. And 2. We did our version of “time has come today” by the chambers brothers.
So around 1970/1971 Boa was born. I would like if you could share a story how did you start as Boa and why the name Boa?
Rich: The name Boa came from Bob or Ted. I was just the kid in the band so they just told me one day that we were now Boa. The name change coincided with the album release.
We recorded in a tupperware warehouse. Terrible acoustics, terrible recorders, and limited microphones, so in the end there was just one on the drums. All vocals were recorded live and we were not even capable of adding additional tracks. It always bugs me to listen to Restful Sleep, because Ted asked me to do the backing vocal that day for the first time. We didn’t have a boom mic stand so I had a straight stand between me and my snare drum, not a comfortable setup. And when the song got jamming my vocals went south. Having never rehearsed the part and not being able to hear myself very well ( no headphones), it just got worse and worse. On the original album it fades just when I begin to suck, but the CD version exposes just how bad it was. What always killed me was we knew how bad it sounded but they didn’t want to do another take.
Ted: We had all done separate projects after Anvil broke up. Bob came up with the idea to make another one with much better quality. We still used a stereo real to real recorder, and had to start all over if someone made a mistake. We needed a new name for the project and where all sitting around Bob’s bedroom drinking pop and talking. Paul said “let’s call it the one eyed boa”. After laughing ourselves sick, I said “Let’s just call it Boa, the rest can be implied and it will be our joke”. So we agreed.
Do you have any memories from some of the early sessions you had together?
Rich: I remember playing at a drive in movie in Pontiac. We were set up in front of the concession stand and played before the movie and then in between features. What a weird gig. You go get some popcorn and here’s this band blasting out. It was at this gig that our guitarist did an overdose of LSD and flipped out . He recovered but was never the same, and shortly after he left the band, playing briefly with another local blues band. He has lived in assisted housing since then.
Ted: Too many to remember. The first attempt at recording as “Anvil” was a disaster. The last thing we did was called “Kiss our ass good-by”. When the band was breaking up we recorded every song we did in the basement with a 2 track recorder. That was a lot of fun.
In march, 1971 you released LP. Did you had any single out?
Rich: There were no singles released.
I would like to talk more about the LP. What are some of the strongest memories you have from recording and producing this LP?
Bob Maledon setting up the tape recorder (“Sony TC-200”)
Rich: We did everything ourselves, the recording, pressing, packaging, marketing, which at the time was just not done. I was still in high school when the record was released and always got a kick out of signing copies in art and band class. It was a great learning experience, but more so of the things not to do when recording a record.
Ted: The stuff we used to record with was all crap. Half the instruments we used where crap. We did all the takes “live” so if you made a mistake you had to start the song all over again. When you play the Boa record on a mono record player, the singing is missing half the time.
Paul Manning in session
The LP was out on Snakefield Records. Was this your label or…please share a story about the release. Many people are confused and think that you released your LP on Archer Records. You only pressed your LP there, right?
Rich: I don’t believe I had my driver’s license yet when we recorded, so my parents would have to drop me off, which was kind of weird. I had fun doing most of the recording, and the rest of the record was not half bad. There was no real production since we recorded on 2 tracks and that was it, no mix down, no effects. This was true live garage band rock. Archer pressed the record and Snakefield was the production company of Bob and Ted.
Ted: Archer Records is where we had the album pressed out. Snakefield was our own label we made up based on a character that Paul Manning use to draw in high school named Snakefield. He was a snake that had long hair on his head, wore a vest and shirt and had a human hand attached to his tail. In his hand he had a double edged hatchet.
Brian Walton in session
How many copies were made?
Rich: I think there were only 200 original copies.
Ted: 200 only from the original pressing.
Brian Walton during BOA’s Wrong Road sessions
What can you say about the cover artwork?
Rich: The artwork is funny. It is a color picture taken on a Kodak instamatic camera. we had a yellow floral bed sheet behind us, I had a rubber snake around my neck, Ted had a fake bird on his finger, and Paul, the guitarist, was dressed as Captain Hook to disguise himself. He had already started jamming with other players and was trying to distance himself from the project.
Ted: The artwork on the cover was just a picture from a standard camera at the time with one of my mom’s bed sheets hung behind us. I still have the original plate of the picture and the bed sheet that hug behind us.
How about touring and concerts? Where did you play? Did you do any festivals?
Rich: Our gigs were mostly parties, high school dances – all the schools had live bands back then. We played about once or twice a week.
Ted: Just Jr. High and high schools and an occasional private party or hayride.
Bob Maledon on bass, Ted Burris on vocals, Richard Allen on drums, Paul James on guitar, and Brian Walton on Farfisa Compact Organ
I would love if you have some interesting stories from concerts, and you would like to share them with me?
Rich: At one point in the Anvil days, we added a brass section, and called ourselves Brass Anvil. Did a few gigs like that before we did the 5 piece Boa recordings, but the idea of a brass section stayed with me.
Ted: At the Central Jr. High gig I tore off my shirt when I was really hot and through it into the audience. (It was thrown back LOL). We almost didn’t get paid the 50 dollars that was owed to us for being “indecent”. When I met a younger brother at a club much later he said that I was the crazy guy that tore off ALL his cloths at a dance. Hmmm, Urban legend. Some of the clothing I wore was pretty interesting, there was the Scarecrow outfit (the shirt I tore off with big stitches in them) and all the cloths hand painted including the hat. And the army fatigues with a Castro hat and mirror sunglasses. And a Vest made out of pink carpeting left over from my bathroom. All of them quite stunning.
Ted Burris bringing in the Vox SuperBeatle Top
What happened next for Boa?
Rich: Boa had a falling out between me, Ted, and Bob in 72. Paul, the guitarist was gone, and Brian on keys had gone off to college I think. Ted wanted to kick Bob out and start a new band with me. I felt Bob was more valuable and went to work on a new project with him. We used the name Boa and added a brass section again, with Bob writing the parts for the horns. I brought in some old friends, Brian Pearson on bass and trombone, Randy Syracuse on sax, Loren Epler on trumpet, and some players from Livonia and Warren; Bill Singer on trumpet and flute, Paul Stanulis on keyboards, Mark Dennis on guitar, and Ed Swan on vocals. We were now a 9 piece band and did a lot of high school shows. We recorded an album’s worth of covers and original material in Ann Arbor. Again, most of it was recorded live to save money, and it sounded very budget. Distorted, songs played too fast, all the bad stuff. The lineup changed again when Ed quit on vocals. He was a very animated character performing and would jump off the P.A. cabinet and do the splits. He blew his knee out one night doing that, and walked with a cane for much of the time afterward.
Ted: Well, it has been 40 years now and believe it or not, Bob, Richard and I are thinking of making a new recording. Ted Burris; Guitars and vocals. Bob Maledon; Bass and Keyboards. And Rich Allen on Drums and vocals. Should be a lot of fun. Mostly new tracks but not sure how many yet.
What are you doing these days?
Rich: The band broke up in early 1973 I believe. I did some work with Paul, the keyboardist, in a top 40 band that made me want to puke and then toured with a 50’s band for a year and a half. After that it was all cover bands that never amounted to much for a number of years. I married in 1984 and went to school for electronics, putting music on the back burner. I played in another top 40 band and this time I hated it so much that I quit and didn’t take my drums out of their cases for a year. I have to play by the rules with my job but drumming was always mine, and I didn’t have to play any way but how I wanted. This probably worked against me as much as for me. I believe I let opportunities go by because I was unwilling to play a certain way, but fuck it. When you hear me play you can tell it’s me, and I still do the same. I play with a few different bands now, Roxius is a cover band we started over the summer, doing some great classic rock. I play with David Hamilton, one of the most talented people I have ever seen. Guitarist/vocalist/writer, this guy should have been famous years ago. And I set up a small studio in my basement and write with a guitarist who just moved to Portland, Maine. I wrote some of the best stuff of my life with him so now we have to do it long distance and burn up our frequent flier miles.
Ted: Me? I have produced about 6 albums. One of Rock, one of the Blues, one comedy album, and one comedy country album called “Tex Hardcore and the cow pokers. My stuff is available on youtube.com/tastytunes or Myspace.com/tastytunes2000.
Thanks a lot for the interview. I really appreciate it! Would you like to add something else, perhaps?
Rich: What is interesting is that playing music now means probably more to me than all those years ago in the Boa days. I listen better, and short of having the raw energy I had in my twenties, I play better than ever. I don’t have any goals of getting on a tour bus and travelling day and night to gig after gig. All I want now is to write some great tunes and play to small appreciative audiences. That’s enough for me.
Thanks for taking an interest in our old band, and good luck with your magazine. I’d love to see a copy of the article.
Ted: Thanks so much for your interest. Glad to clear the air on a few things.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2011
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