Updated: Aug 3
As a 14-year-old with my transistor radio fixed to my ear, the Guess Who were omnipresent. There was no questioning their popularity, and it was well deserved. Over time, things change and the Guess Who are still going strong because they’ve changed too.
After 50 years you don’t expect a band to sound the same. A lot of times, to be honest, it isn’t quite as good, but still nostalgic. Well, here’s an exception. The Guess Who isn’t the same band it was when it started. It isn’t even close. It has progressed to something complex, inspiring, and as relevant as any progressive rock/pop band currently releasing solid marketable new music.
It’s new album, Plein D’Amour, is a critical success and one week after its release is already headed to a second pressing. The record is loaded with reference points for me, and as I listen to each song, there are hints where I sense a Queen or Jeff Lynne influence. But it’s the Guess Who and this is Plein D’Amour and it isn’t quite like anything else and that is what makes this a great album.
Throughout their careers, the Guess Who members have showcased their versatility by blending rock, pop, blues, and even elements of psychedelia--that is the one constant. The band's distinctive sound was often characterized by powerful and soulful vocals, fiery guitar playing, and a tight rhythm section. That hasn’t changed, but the level of writing and musicianship is now, it’s 2023.
I thought the Deko community of folks out there would enjoy if I asked the band some questions in this From the Desk. As you will see, the answers are as intellectual, sincere, and creative as their music.
FROM THE DESK Q&A
When I first previewed Plein D‘Amour, I was really taken by the complexity of the writing and the kind of musicianship it takes to pull it off as well as this record does. I’m wondering if Garry ever looked up from his kit and could have guessed who he would be playing with and the type of music he would be playing at this stage in his career? This has to be cool.
GARRY PETERSON: I have had the great honor to play with so many great musicians and songwriters in the band, the Guess Who. I have said in many interviews, that I feel sometimes like it’s taken 62 years to put together this incredible caliber of singers and songwriters that are now present in the band and on the album Plein D’Amour. When we open our concerts with the song “The King,” I’m sitting there behind my drums also thinking that I never dreamed I would be playing a rock song like this live on stage. It really makes me want to play till I die. 🥁🥁🥁
There is no doubt that you all have fun together and that helps explain the excitement this new release is generating. I think you push some boundaries with this record because it is so progressive, beyond the original roots of this band. It must be hard to be tied to earlier work that has little to do with you--especially when the progression from then to now is so staggering. Could you share with us how you process that?
DEREK SHARP: It’s actually not hard at all if you choose to live in the present. The earlier work was written and/or performed by very young people at that particular moment in their lives. You can’t recreate the past, so you just keep moving forward and be grateful for those moments in time. We can only ever be the best we can be at this moment, and this is our time. The progression you speak of is really just many years of observation and practice. Honing the finer points of these skills can take years, simply due to putting in the hours to do so.
As guitar player, I really love Michael’s guitar work on this record. I can’t imagine anyone could have nailed it any better. His chops speak for themself, but I am wondering how he gets such great tone and how he approached writing the guitar parts for such complicated pieces of music?
MICHAEL STAERTOW: First of all, a majority of the guitar parts were conceptualized in the demos that Derek presented to myself and the band. So, credit where credit is due! As far as executing them in the actual recording of the album, I had an excellent base point to add my style and personality to capture the essence of intention. The tones achieved were a collaboration of myself, Derek and engineer Adam Fair. Sounds were mostly unaffected and organic. We mostly used and took advantage of the arsenal of great vintage gear available at the studio Villa Sound. But the real secret weapon was Derek's 1958 Les Paul Special through the studio's vintage Vox AC30 and Fender Deluxe amps via a 2x12 cab loaded with Celestion Greenbacks! We did sprinkle in a couple of our Black Beauty LP Customs, a SG and several others on hand for fun. But primarily that 58 Special P90 heaven! I even had Gibson Custom make me one for the live shows. An old Gibson J45, some mandolin, a bouzouki to add color and texture. Our approach was to capture the vibe and feel of the music that influenced us as we were growing up, and I think it translates to the recording and speaks for itself! Great songs, great parts, great tones, great players = Plein D'Amour!!
Now, when I ask myself, “Guess Who?” it is a very different answer. This is a blend of everything I like about progressive rock and it’s catchy too. Any group of creatives with this kind of energy, you must already know what’s next. Can you share some future ideas and plans?
BAND: We will keep moving forward on the current trajectory with intention, without compromising the joy and love of making music together.
Well, we can’t wait to see what’s next. I know there are new videos on the horizon…new music in development and a heavy touring schedule. Make sure to hop on dekoentertainment.com or any of the following streaming service links to hear for yourself.