Interview with Ra McGuire of Trooper

GB - With the growing popularity of classic rock, do you find there are more younger people coming out to the shows now?

RM - That may be the reason, it's really odd relative to when I was nineteen. I sure didn't want to hear a band that was as old as our band is, relative to that age group. The odd thing is often at least half the audience is between nineteen and twenty something.

GB - Do they know all the songs?

RM - They know at least the four real important ones and kinda suffer though the rest (laughing).

GB - I understand you are trying to get a re-mastered double cd set released of some of the bands best material.

RM - It's not really us trying to do it. It's all in the hands of our original record company. They bought up all the licensing from all the other labels that our songs are on. They have the cover art, they have everything ready. It's an amazingly cool package, but the contract they sent us said that it was going to come out in July 1998 so..? (shrugging his shoulders)

GB - Do you still write new material?

RM - Yea their odd songs. There had been a long period of Smitty (Brian Smith) and I not writing. My partner's son was killed in a motorcycle accident quite a few years ago and he hasn't done anything musical since so I've taken to writing these very odd songs. But as a group we haven't sat down and said lets make an album. The carrot part of it dissipates after you have made ten albums. It's a more musical process when I get around to doing it. All the guys in the band writes and are recording their own records right now with exception of my partner. There is a lot of musical stuff going on but their isn't a big push to do a Trooper album.

GB - I once read where you stated you prefer playing in clubs as compared to the big arenas, is that true?

RM - What I prefer is playing to a bunch of people who are just going for it. Most of the shows we do are like that, so it ain't so much a question of big or small as excitement level, and a lot of what we did in the big coliseums, because the stages were so big and there was such expatiations to work with the lights and staging. There would be little X 's all over the stage where you had to remember to be at a certain time. You had this big barrage of lights that have been planned to come on you . So mostly you were kind of walking through the light show for the sake of the light man rather than having any fun. It was great to see everyone screaming and clapping ,but this is ridiculous, every night we do whatever we want and that's a whole lot more fun.

GB - Did it surprise you when things started to get really big for the band in the mid to late seventies?

RM - Everybody's perception is always that at some moment you realize something happened, then you actually realize what happens. It grinds on so slowly and what you really have is a sense of responsibility that is suddenly upon you. A gold record isn't a reward, it's kind of menacing. It's up on your wall while your trying to write the next record and its going, "ok ass hole try and top this". Anything good that was happening, by the time we were doing it we sort of rehearsed for it. When we finally played the Vancouver Pacific Coliseum with our parents in the VIP box and its was sold out. That's the only time I felt like the Elvis movie. Elvis gets to go up sing one song, everyone goes crazy, then grabs Ann Margaret and takes off. We had to do the whole show, but it was still a key moment, but nothing ever took us by surprise. It was always a slow build and none of it was like "Oh boy Wow!" except maybe that one show. There is a real sense of freedom now to what we do that we kind of bought with all the success. there is a lot of places we can go with little responsibility and have a whole lot of fun and we get paid for it.

GB - With the advancements in technology in recent years, how do you feel about people downloading your music from the Internet for free?

RM - We have a whole wack of mp3's on our website and I'm fine with it. I'm torn between being a artist and being a fan which I have always been. Im happy to be able to get a mp3 whenever I can. I think it is a really good idea for the system to change in some way. I have absolutely no idea how its going to change in a way that anyone is going to make any money from it. I love the whole digital idea that you can make anything into ones and zeros. That is just going to explode unless the government or big business say, "alright you pay ten cents a minute when you go to this place or twenty cents a minute when you go to that place". But as everybody probably knows, the Internet community sees censorship as just a glitch and works around it and carries on, so if they put some kind of coding in mp3s so they don't work, they will just come out with mp4's. I think it a riot. I spend most of my free time online.

GB - How much input do you have into the website? (

RM - I did a lot of it. Its been a collaboration for years now. It's tons of fun.

GB - Do you do many of the summer rock festivals. I read the promoter didnt pay your for one a while back in Alberta?

RM - That's our summer. He is doing it again, he moved from Calgary to Edmonton and told the people in Edmonton he is sharing the experience with them. I think he got kicked right the hell out of Calgary. I know he owned the Alberta Government a whole bunch of money and made the company bankrupt and moved the whole thing over to another company he had so he could do it again this year. He didn't pay us and didn't tell us till we finished our set. We came off stage and was told, "ok you can go now". I don't know what's going on but we won't be doing that one this year. We are doing a lot of them. We did a lot last year too. This is our time. We kind of stay in a cave until the summer come and then we bring it with us.

GB - Towards the end of the seventies after doing the album then tour thing for so long, did you find yourselves just being tired and burnt out from all of it?

RM - I suppose that is what happened. We were lucky, there is a lot of bands that get ten minutes. We had a good long eight-nine year run there. Then there is bands like Flock of Seagulls that have eight or nine minutes. I guess we got to the point where we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We wanted to make cool records instead of commercial ones. When we were making the commercial records they were just ones we made. It's funny after you start getting really famous and having some success, that's when people start knocking the things that make you successful. Suddenly we were characterized as being this hit machine, like we put together some kind of equation in the basement. I really wish that were the case as I'd whip a few of them out and sell them to somebody. We just wrote songs and crossed our fingers. At some point we said, "people don't think we're cool so lets try to make a record to sound like Elvis Costello", so I think in a way we kind of "deeped" ourselves, so it was a combination of getting tired and getting weird. It happened about the same time and everyone was getting tense. The players wanted songwriting credits because me and Smitty were making more money than they were, so it was all the inevitable predicable bull shit.

GB - Are you glad you missed era where you have to make videos for every single you make?

RM - We made two or three. They were like twenty grand so you ran around trying to do everything cheaply. I don't know, that's a whole other art form. If I had to do it I'd start thinking about it and could tell you whether I thought it was a good idea or not. We just kind of went and did what the directors told us to do and that's pretty boring and stupid!

GB - How did it feel to be the first artist to have a diamond album in Canada?

RM - Great! Hot Shots was the first album to sell that many copies by a Canadian Artist, including Anne Murray or anybody like that. That is interesting, it's something a lot of people don't know. And still and all they can't take that away from us.

GB - What does the future hold for the band?

RM - The touring thing has gotten silly. We are working all the time. There has been a lot of high profile TV stuff going on last little while. There is more of that coming up. As you get older time seems to compress and years go by. It keeps us busy often. I got lots of plans but I don't seem to get to them. Maybe my eleven your old boy has a lot to do with that. Maybe I'll be producing his album in a couple of years.

Above photo: Me and Ra taken during the interview which was done in Fredericton, New Brunswick in May, 1999. Other photos taken at The Playhouse, Fredericton, May 31, 2004

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