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With its austere vocal, swirling synthesizers, and catchy dance rhythms, their breakthrough 1982 single Nova Heart immediately separated the Spoons from CanRock bands of the day (like Loverboy, and Trooper). It was the centrepiece of their classic album Arias & Symphonies, which Chart Magazine ranks as one of the 20 Most Influential Albums of the Eighties.
Working with acclaimed English producer John Punter (Roxy Music, Japan), this band from Burlington, Ontario – singer/guitarist Gord Deppe, bassist/vocalist Sandy Horne, keyboardist Rob Pruess, and drummer Derrick Sharp—created that “big grand sound” popularized by British New Romantic stars like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD), Ultravox and Spandau Ballet.
Nova Heart became a Top 10 global hit, the Spoons received a JUNO nomination for Best New Band and appeared at the legendary 1982 Police Picnic (alongside ruling bands like The Police, Talking Heads, A Flock Of Seagulls, The English Beat, and Joan Jett).
Talkback (their follow-up album in ‘83) featured hits, Romantic Traffic, Old Emotions and Tell No Lies, but Arias is the album most consider as the Spoons trademark.
Deppe, a long-time Mississauga resident, pursued his original project Five Star Fall, and the (still ongoing) cover band The Lost Boys, and worked as the Eighties programmer for Galaxy Radio.
But the Spoons never officially broke up. And they’ve found new life with the 30th Anniversary reissue of Arias & Symphonies (featuring several previously unreleased tracks, in-depth liner notes, and old photos from the studio), and the 2012 original release, Static In Transmission. Staged at Toronto’s Revival Club on November 30, their 30th Anniversary CD release party was an overflow success. Deppe and Horne (now joined by drummer Chris McNeill, and keyboardist Casey MQ) are fielding all kinds of facebook traffic, enjoying renewed airplay of their hits, playing big festivals, concert halls, and clubs, and plotting to readdress markets across Canada and into the U.S.
Sitting down in the local Beans Café, Deppe— a hip father of three—is a bit taken aback by it all.
GL You said a few years ago, the Retro ‘80s phenomenon has gone beyond nostalgia to become a “nostalgia movement.”
Deppe I wouldn’t even call it nostalgia anymore. I think it’s just a style of music that’s here to stay. If you go to the record stores, there’s sections with ‘80s compilations—and they’re big. I think it’s just another style, a pocket like Blues or Heavy Metal. It’s just a genre that’s here forever.
GL The people get way into your shows—tons of fiftysomething couples dancing.
Deppe On our 30th anniversary night, I didn’t realize how far they got into it until afterward. There was a real communal feel there. It was like a high school reunion in a way. Those memories are a lot more important than people imagined, and we’re willing parts of it. It’s really encouraging. I think we’ve become more established as part of the Canadian music scene and moving into the decade and keeping up with our craft – the Spoons Christmas Special, whatever. Hopefully, we get some new people on the way.
GL How did you end up working with a world-class producer like John Punter on Arias & Symphonies?
Deppe John Punter happened to be in town touring with Nazareth. We’d been into Roxy Music, and Japan. I guess it was just in a car ride between gigs, somebody said, “Here’s a Canadian band, you should listen to them.” He introduced us to the 808 drum machine, which was really new at the time—that handclap sound.
GL Apparently, you had an epiphany at an OMD show in Hamilton, before the Arias sessions?
Deppe I was blown away by that show. I borrowed a keyboard from Rob and went home the next day and wrote Nova Heart, and a couple of other songs. Within the next three or four months, all of a sudden we were doing a tour with OMD. I don’t know how that happened. You couldn’t write a script better than that.
GL Rob was the keyboardist, but it was YOU who came up with that synth riff for Nova Heart?
Deppe He said to me, “That’s so simple, I’d never have played it—but it’s perfect.” And that was my mantra from then on.
GL And then suddenly you’re playing The Police Picnic? How did that happen?
Deppe Sting was instrumental. He liked us for some reason. He came and saw us play at a club called The Twilight Zone. We were then signed to A&M out of Los Angeles by the same guy who signed The Doors. A few months later, he helped put us on the Police Picnic. That was the first big show. Before that we played The Edge (night club) before 300 people. All of a sudden we were in front of 60,000.
GL You guys were pretty fashionable. But is there any cringe factor, looking back at what you wore in the '80s?
Deppe Of course. The music was great, but the clothes and hair was silly stuff. It was like 10 years of Hallowe’en. People say it was all sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. You know what it was? It was about hair gel.
GL You and Sandy dated for several years. Did that help the chemistry of the band?
Deppe It did. Sandy and I had been through several bands together before the Spoons. And Sandy has a good head for numbers. When she went to university, she took accounting. We weren’t like other bands who would ride around in limos. We worked out a payroll. She still does our books. GL
shoot location - Beans Café, Applewood Plaza
Arias & Symphonies is ranked one of the most influential albums of the '80s
Spoons performing at Roc ‘n’ Docs, Dec. 7, 2011
Gordon Deppe of the Spoons