Raven interview

August 27, 2013

Raven interview

Originally from Terre Haute Indiana, members of Raven played and toured with bands such as REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Dan Fogelberg etc.. George Phelps who had joined The “Carnations” met up with “Goliath” members in a studio and through a myriad of circumstances, teaming up with drummer Robert Wolff (ex “Micah”) these musicians merged into “Raven” in Louisville KY in late 1972. From this moment on, the band toured extensively through 24 states non-stop for the next 4 years before recording this material in 1976, unreleased until today.

The material was recorded in Atlanta Georgia at a studio called “The Sound Pit” Memories of going into the studio at night and working until the sun came up and feeling like I was floating on a cloud because it sounded so good (Doug- Raven’s lead singer) Soon after the recording was completed, Raven got a record deal with Capricorn records. 2 weeks later, they went bankrupt. The tapes were subsequently destroyed in a fire.

With Disco sound moving in in the mid seventies and with the bankrupcy of Capicorn records, Raven was literalylike fish out of water, and slowly but steadily what had felt like the beginning of something unique, was lost.

First Raven would like to thank Klemen Breznikar, owner and editor of Psychedelic Baby Magazine for this interview. Thank you for getting the word out on so many great music projects that would be other wise lost.

Raven Members:
G. Charlie Egy, Lead vocals and writer
George Phelps. Guitar, vocals and writer (Founder and Fearless Leader)
Doug (Funky) Mason, vocals and writer
Tim Allen, Bass, vocals
Robert Wolff, Drums (things to bang on) vocals

Raven was originally from Terre Haute Indiana. The band was formed under the name Raven in Louisville in late 1972. You toured for almost 4 years. 

Raven was originally formed form Terre Haute Indiana musicians, George Phelps, G. Charlie Egy, Doug Mason, and Tim Allen,with the exception of Robert Wolff who came to Indiana to attend ISU, but was from Hudson NY.

Doug Mason: There were so many excellent musician’s in Terre Haute, it was a great time to be musically involved and being in an agency in Champagne Ill. I got to play in shows with REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick and a band called The Guild who had as their singer Michael McDonald and Dan Fogelberg was also part of this…Not only did they come to play Terre Haute but being in the same agency we all hung out together…Looking back it was absolutely incredible…

Charlie Egy: The group formed under the direction of George Phelps, guitar player. He added Doug Mason keys, Tim Allen bass. They formed in Louisville KY, under the name The Carnations a well-known horn band in the area, in 1972. We auditioned for a booking agent from Atlanta, and we were off and running. We toured through 24 states non-stop for the next 4 years. In those days, in Terre Haute, was a hot bed of musical talent- goliath, America, Kicks, Massachusetts Assembly, Hurry, and many more bands had plenty of places to play- the town was good to musicians.

Robert Wolff: After the band Micah disbanded. I spoke with old friend George Phelps whom I had known while attending ISU in Terre Haute Indiana. George was adding musicians to a group he was part of in Louisville KY. I was in upstate NY at the time and decided to move and join the group.

George Phelps: A bit of history of the formation of Raven:

Doug, I and Charlie were in a band in Terre Haute named Goliath. We were blessed with the opportunity to have as much recording time in Louisville KY as we desired. Great experience but to no avail. I took leave of absence from the band summer of 1971 to spend a month in Maine. I was replaced and when I returned looked for a new beginning. I went to Charlie and Doug and initiated getting back together and writing material to build a band with. We call on a local bass player we had known for years, Tim Allen, jammed once together and there was that piece to the puzzle. We started working on a piece of music that was titled the Suite, 25 minutes wonderfulness.

This is where it gets complicated.

I joined a horn band in Louisville KY, named the Carnations, they had a few hits in the 50’s and 60’s. Two of the founding members had opened the studio that we had the run of with Goliath and got me this job. Coincidence I think not. In Terre Haute Dog, Timmy, Charlie and I put a horn band together to work on our original music. Then fate took control: first the band in Louisville needed a bass player, enter Timmy. Then we needed a singer and keyboard player, enter Charlie and Doug. We played everything from Chicago to Edgar Winter’s White trash…and kicked but a bit different than the band was before. We would still play concerts with the band in Terre Haute and write, it was like an alter ego. We then had the opportunity to go into the studio, with both horn sections and the drummer from Louisville and did a demo of Fallacy and Myth, the Suite, which to me are the best piece of music we ever wrote. After this session it became apparent to us that we need a more skilled drummer, the one in Terre Haute was not interested in devoting fulltime to music, so I called Robert whom had moved back to upstate NY with his band. We had jammed with Robert a bit when he was in Terre Haute and we knew he was a fit. We talked him into packing up and heading to KY. Charlie, Timmy and I had moved to Louisville to devote all attention to music, when Robert got to town we started playing as a three piece with front during the week and the horn band on weekends. It took us a while to convince Doug to move down but we finally did and about that time the Carnations broke up and we became Raven the 5 piece band. I could go on and on but that is a brief explanation of the start.

We were a band of brothers that set out to conquer the music world. We all could sing and play like demons. Live we were a spectacle. Timing was not good.

Tell us about unreleased material?

Doug: There was a lot of material that didn’t get recorded and quiet a lot was lost…

Charlie: In the archives, we have a few songs- Bathsheba, 40 days and 40 nights, sadomasochistic picnic- and I may have the long-lost demo of Onto Her Pillow.(should we mention the suite, jester 1 +2, and fallacy in myth- 1593?} I was inspired by the late sixties- everything was wide open, the only thing that mattered was being in a band, and I was in the baddest band around. The heavy English bands were a favorite- we pushed ourselves to outdo everyone in our musicianship and stage show, and when we started writing, the sky was the limit- so much creativity from these guys.

Robert: Raven was totally open for anything and everything; no one was ever restricted we never over produced each other. I believe that is the reason many bands fail. If you hire someone let them be who they are. That is why you asked them to join in the first place. I developed my drum parts for the songs the band wrote and I gave my interpretation.

What inspired the band?

Doug: There was such closeness amongst us that we inspired each other…

Having written a few of the songs on this album they were personal and reflect situations that came up during our travels…I am so proud of every song and feel fortunate to have had the privilege of playing these songs with these guy’s I call Brothers…

Charlie: George and Doug wrote much of the material, I just sat listened and began writing lyrics. Doug also added on some songs as he wrote lyrics as well. I play keys and bass so I would write some passages and work with George and Doug on completion.

Robert: I just played along with what they wrote. I had many influences, there were so many groups with great drummers. I was all over the map on who I listened to. Jazz, rock, funk, fusion. I loved it all. I remember driving and listening to Chick Corea, then ELP, Aerosmith, Billy Cobham, Hendrix…the time was great for music.

Where did you record material and what are some of the strongest memories from producing and recording this album?

Doug: The material was recorded in Atlanta Georgia at the studio called “The Sound Pit” Memories of going into the studio at night and working until the sun came up and feeling like I was floating on a cloud because it sounded so good…

Charlie: In 1976 after recording this album, we got a record deal with Capricorn records. 2 weeks later, they went bankrupt. The tapes were subsequently destroyed in a fire. I believe we recorded at the Sound Pit in Atlanta, GA

Robert: It was too perfect we had total support of our agents and manager. We were at the end of our journey. We had worked very hard and spent much time playing each song on tour for years. The songs had morphed to what you hear on the recording.

Did you play any shows?

Doug: Raven played many dates with national groups and also did some small headline performances as well.

The band split up because the Bass player fell in love and moved to North Carolina…The recording company wanted the original members and he said…No he wasn’t coming back…everyone lost the spirit and one by one we drifted apart…

Charlie: 4 years was one long tour-I think we may have taken 3 or 4 weeks off the entire time- 7 actually, when Robert joined, we needed a name- White Raven was kicked around, and we finally settled on Raven. Later, we would take to the stage to the song by the Alan Parson’s Project, so I guess we did align ourselves with good old Edgar. After the disappointment with Capricorn, disco was surging. We hung on for awhile, but we were like fish out of water- rock appeared to be dead.

Robert: Capricorn produced many fine groups. We signed with Allen Walden one of the owners. We completed the record. Perfect. The IRS came and shut them down. We were stuck where we were and couldn’t do a thing. We had a record, our manager and agent met with us and told us to go back on the road and work up a different show with more DANCE. WHAT!!!! The record was never released and never had a master mix with the changes we would have like to make. It was recorded for the most part live in the studio, there were very few dubs of any kind.

We were built for come sit and listen, you don’t dance to ELP, Yes, Genesis, and groups like this. Our material was sit and listen. The music scene was changing; Disco was moving in, live venues were shrinking. It was becoming a bad time for live music. Disappointed we all struggled and this led to members leaving in frustration.

What kind of equipment did you use?

First we had a giant PA too much to remember with sound board out front and separate mix side stage and lighting system. We filled a 22 foot truck to the ceiling and could hardly close the door.

Doug: I played a Hammon B3 , Clavichord, Minimoog, with Two Leslie speakers a board and Amp.

Tim: Tim played a Fender Bass, with a Separate board and Amp, with two Ampeg cabinets one with 10’s the other with 12 inch speakers

Robert: All Ludwig eight toms single bass, 4 cowbells, chimes, woodblooks, anything I could hit.

George: My gear was two 100 watt Hiwatt custom heads with 3 Hiwatt 4×12 cabinets. A 1973 Stratocaster with Alembic preamp, 1961 Gibson 335 and a 1972 BC Rich Seagull. I use heavy gage strings with a wound G. For pedals: a crybaby wah, dynacomp compressor and a phase 90.

Do you have any regrets?

Doug: No, I haven’t any regrets. Just wish the timing wasn’t against us. I have continued to play. Three of us (the guitar player,drummer,and myself) got together and recorded 3 of my 9 songs on a CD called “Hello” which was released November of 2009 still available on CD Baby, Amazom, itunes and many others…I am currently working on new material with George Phelps and hope to release this some time in the future.

Charlie: My biggest regret is seeing Robert leave without convincing him to stay- {Timmy had just left}- there went the best rhythm section on the east coast. My second biggest regret is not returning when the band re-formed- I was gonna be a rock-n-roll star on my own. HA! I’m very pleased for this music to see the light of day- it deserves to be heard and enjoyed. Many thanks- Charlie

Robert: I should have considered staying, with Tim leaving the group I felt like the chemistry was lost. But, when you are young you just don’t think things out. I continued to play with various groups some good some bad. I finally said I have had it in 1990. I had a son and moved into another world. I decided after about a10 year lay off to set up the kit and start to play along with the radio. How fun, not really. I went out to sit in at open Mic events in the Atlanta area but no one knew me and I was ditched and would be put off. Who’s the old guy that wants to play. Very funny. Well because of my tracks with Raven and Micah on FB I made contact with some great musicians in Europe. I spoke with Colin Tench. www.Bunchakeze.com. He invited me to record some tracks on a project with Corvus Stone. That has turned out to be a success. On November 3rd 2012, we had a debut of there new record on www.aiiradio.net. It was a total success. I only played on 5 tracks but will now play on their future projects as well. I also have completed a track for another group Murky Red also from Europe. The musicians in Raven, and Micah are also talking about doing other projects and recording new material. Rock seems to be gathering a new audience and live music considered composition rather than dance tunes seem to be resurging. Let’s hope, as I always have said music has many different flavors taste them all. I hope everyone will enjoy the soon to be released Raven recording, and look for more to come with my other projects. Raven was different and never boring, such great music should never be lost and thanks to the Internet will now take it’s place with many other great bands.

George: What happened…it was simple Disco and the fact that we were hard to harness. The last song we wrote was silver screen I think this was us starting to turn the corner for a new direction,that never came to pass.

Regrets; I do have. I have been a fairly successful business person for the past 30 years but it does not hold a candle to the feeling I would get when the 5 of us hit the stage. I should have held the band together and put a harness on us and controlled the beast. Because although I have played with many talented musicians over the years it was never even close to what the 5 of us could do. I just have to wonder what could have been, how good could we have gotten, did making money mean success or was success the magic.

Thanks to everyone who supported Raven and helped with this project and enjoys Raven music. RavenBand on Facebook. Special thanks to old friend Don Wrege who helped us put this all together.

– Klemen Breznikar

Micah interview with George, Gary, Marty & Bob

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