I recently interviewed Edgar Breau, leader of 70s proto-punk band Simply Saucer, for an article for music-news.com. The article can be viewed HERE!
What initiated Simply Saucer and influenced its style of music?
My school chum, Paul Colilli and I were avid record collectors, Paul leaning more to the progressive side (Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, van der graff Generator, Roxy Music) and I was a devotee of the Velvet Underground, Stooges, Syd Barrett, Moby Grape, Kinks as well as English folk acts like Pentangle, Dando Shaft, Third Ear Band, many others. We were both reading Melody Maker as well as American mags like Fusion, Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone purchasing records non stop based on reviews. We met David Byers who turned us on to Dutch bands like Savage Rose, Wally Tax and the Outsiders, Supersister. The three of us were experimenting with composition and improvisation and with the addition of Ping Romany on electronics, who’s influences ran the gamut from Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sun Ra, Eno, Lucian Berio to Hawkwind’s audio generators the band was born. The bass player, Kevin Christoff came later and added his solid professional skills to the mix. Kevin’s influences ranged from Cream’s Jack Bruce to Paul Mcartney and Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine)
How did you get to hear the music that influenced you? Any particular radio shows, record outlets etc?
Toronto ON had two huge record outlets, Sam the Record Man and A&A’s with large import record bins. As well there were mail order catalogues with offerings like Syd Barrett’s Madcap Laughs and Kevin Ayer’s Joy of a Toy. There were good fm radio stations playing the latest underground music.
We’re there many literary influences on the lyrical content?
Looking back I’d have to say sci fi/fantasy writers like William Hope Hodgson, the writer of Voyage to Arcturus (name escapes me), H.P. Lovecraft, Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Kerouac, and certain arcane occult writers like Louis Claude de St Martin as well as fairy stories American classics by F. Scott Fitzgerald many others…surrealism, Warhol, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Tolkien, Lewis, Charles Williams, Kenneth Grahame, Wayne McGuire writer for Boston’s Fusion Magazine, old sci fi films, Marvel Comics, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, detective stories,
Was there a music scene in Hamilton or the surrounding area that you were a part of or was the band a sort of anomaly?
We weren’t part of the scene here really, the band began very uncompromisingly performing long improvised pieces. Initially when we played there was shock on the part of the audiences and a couple of times we were escorted unceremoniously from the stage. Later on the improvised pieces became bookended by the song structures I began to write.
Simply Saucer is often described as “proto-punk”. Did you believe at the time you were innovating a new genre of music?
Our keyboard player at the time who went on to become a professor at Laurentia University, Dean of Italian Studies in medieval philosophy, culture and theology, Paul Colilli speaks of our mission in those early days as ‘deconstructing music, exploring the creative process in a revolutionary manner’
I’ve never felt punk adequately described the music of early Simply Saucer..underground in the sense of the counter cultural English bands like the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind, that whole underground English scene which was eclectic and welcoming towards many different genres. The early band was much more eclectic than Cyborgs Revisited has led critics to believe, incl alt country and pop songs.
Do you regret not being recognised more widely during the 70s?
Yes of course but staying in Hamilton ON was our fateful decision. Hamilton has since become a musical mecca getting more and more international attention. In my early 20’s not ‘making it’ was catastrophic given the commitment to the band I’d made and having the band disappear without a trace in 1979 led to a kind of lost decade trying to find myself..The music we recorded in ’74-75 was in the possession of our ex manager who had moved to Montreal and was working in Saudi Arabia for a time..
What kind of reaction did your performances usually receive from audiences in the mid-70s?
We could empty out an arena or have people forming in a conga line, have our brake lines cut after shows..we had a devoted following though I must say it wasn’t large but fanatical
Is there material from the 70s that is yet to be released?
Yes a fair bit of lo fi rarities set to be released this year in vinyl format as an EP and an LP by a Chicago label..I was a fairly prolific songwriter, still am
Artists like Sonic Youth, and more recently Ty Segall, have recognised Simply Saucer as an inspiration to their music. Are you proud of the growing amount of musicians who recognise you as an influence?
Yes it is gratifying, there’s a documentary film in the works called Low Profile: The Simply Saucer Story by Greg Bennett, we were recently in the Top 100 Canadian albums best seller coffee table book by CBC journalist Bob Mersereau finishing number 36 (for a recording released belatedly 15 years later, Cyborgs Revisited), there’s a biography of the band in the offing and opportunities to gig here and in the U.S. We are still going strong and have a new LP in the works, some of which was recorded in Jim Diamond’s Detroit studios…As well the original members have recorded ambient music together..My second solo CD Patches of Blue garnered excellent reviews..So yes Ty Segal’s version of Bullet Proof Nothing was very cool..his record company sent me a box full of his Lp’s and singles.
What current bands are channeling the same sort of musical ethic as Simply Saucer?
We were an influence on later generation Detroit bands like Rocket 455
Did you expect the Cyborgs Revisited album to attract as much acclaim as it did upon its release?
I wasn’t sure really but the acclaim began immediately and just snowballed through the years
What other artists have cited you as an influence that you know of?
Sadies, Ty Segall, Sonic Youth.