HALF HUMAN HALF LIVE
EDGAR BREAU liner notes – Half Human, Half Live
In a cornfield, just outside of Mount Hope, Ontario, on a crisp November evening around eight PM I stumbled upon the ruins of the Saucer Mothership: a twisted, hulking mass of rusted out metal, covered in moss and lichen, half buried in a crater on the north east side of a farm property long abandoned and devoid of human habitation. A lone crow, black and ominous in the dying light hastily departed at the sound of my footsteps and I stood silently gazing at the wreckage. Strewn and scattered about every which way were pieces of my former life and I seemed to hear voices echoing from the remote past calling to me in wordless reproach. Hope was buried there, skinned alive by relentless fate. I left my youth behind in that field of cosmic fire, bore the wounds in my own flesh from the crash that had interrupted our lives and cast us on other paths down the corridors of hoary time.
I stepped gingerly around the broken wine bottles avoiding the shards of glass and rusty spikes of sinister steel. I sifted through old heaps of tattered fanzines: Terrapin, Trouser Press, The Pig Paper, Bomp, Black To Comm, Fusion, Crawdaddy, perused the Aquarian Journals of Wayne McGuire, reading again the columns that had so influenced me, providing a counterpoint to the prevailing attack on the classics of Western culture fashionable in some quarters. There was found a stirring defense of Shakespeare against the Maoists and other totalitarian reductionists and a passionate championing of Wolfram von Eschenbach's epic Parsifal, the supernatural detective stories of Charles Williams, John Fahey's groundbreaking guitar compositions, Funhouse by the Stooges, Coltrane, Sun Ra, the Velvet Underground, the American avatar Mel Lyman, Dorothy L. Sayers and the Inklings, Elvin Jones.... Later on in the eighties, I would discover the Last Essays of my mentor, the great French novelist, revolutionary/Royalist unaligned flamethrower George Bernanos, the Chestebelloc and Distrubutism, the films of Robert Bresson, Dostoevsky shining a piercing light into the "dark night of my soul" during my days of reclusivity.
As I continued to search, I came across an old Rolling Stone review of the third Velvets by Lester Bangs, "from Heroin to Jesus," my battered copy of Theresa of Lisieux's "Diary of a Soul", esoteric writings of Louis Claude de St. Martin and Arthur E. Waite, Andrew Lang's Violet book of fairy stories, David Lindsay's sci-fi cult classic, A Voyage to Arcturus, fading copies of the Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange, old movie posters "Angry Red Planet", broken 45's by the Ugly Ducklings, "Little Johnny Jewel" on Ork, a poster of Patti, a slim crucifix taken from the coffin of Ernie Hildreth, the wino/bum/hobo who had befriended me on Kenilworth Street and whose landlord and sidekick was the legendary Steel City boxing champion, Jackie Callura. Memories of David Byers rushing back from Buffalo in the summer of '72 with a copy of Can's Tago Mago and fainting a couple of minutes into it at the sheer wonder of it. I saw the ghostly images of former band mates doing the graveyard shuffle. The lonely cry of a train whistle, eerie and transcendent, pierced the curtain of night that surrounded me.I strained my eyes and there, in a heap of rubble, was my battered old
portable schoolboy record player, perfect for the Eddie Cochran compilation I so treasured. He was "something' else" and so were the Kinks. I wore out my silver vinyl copy of Lightning' Hopkins King of the Delta Blues on that rough hewn contraption along with the Shangri-La’s, the Third Ear Band, the Seeds and countless others.I had grown up aware of my vocation. Words and music would be my calling. I carried poetry with me when I hitchhiked out to Vancouver B.C. fresh out of high school in ‘71; furtively reading Kerouac in the back seat
of a car, or scribbling poems while my sidekick John chatted with the drivers. I recall us riding in a hearse at one point, on a winding dirt road, sharing whiskey with a couple of weather-beaten old prairie farmhands diggin' the vast panorama of wheaten fields that stretched forever onward. Later on I had my "Winnipeg experience" in the hippie park outside the parliament buildings all under the watchful eye of the famous Golden Boy atop the Manitoba legislative building. John met his Ojibway princess Ingrid there and I communed with the western beatnik hillbillies, wild-eyed prophets, and flower children clothed in technicolour coats.
Well, as I recall, after a crazy quilt work day of Coleridge visioning, I hitchhiked 350 miles back east in a kind of blessed stupor leaving behind the Jesus freaks, con men, drug dealers, crazed poets and Ukrainian earth mothers and most of all John himself, in a most untimely way considering that our epic journey was conceived by devil John in a Kesey and the Merry Pranksters frame of mind. Somehow or other we hooked up again for the trip back to the Steel City and I immediately set about forming the band which would come to be known as Simply Saucer. The images derived from my trip to the west coast had commingled with my east coast Acadian ancestry as seen through the prism of the "old steel town" and it's hard core working class authenticity, joining with the sounds living inside of me, giving the music an organic quasi authentic geo-Canuck spatial quality discernible to some who would confess it to me only years later.Back in Mount Hope I unearthed the remains of my blonde '67 telecaster, which I had traded in for the black tele deluxe which got stolen by renegade members of an east end gang on the day of our gig at McMaster University in the Downstairs John pub in '75. Later on a couple of them paid me a little visit, tire irons stuffed down their jeans, intent on teaching me a lesson for my unfortunate decision to go to the cops over the theft.
I escaped unscathed, feigning mental illness (wasn't hard in those days) and turning them on to “The Black Angel's Death Song” for good measure... I guess my guardian angel was hovering over me, as she was when the twelve-inch machete was being pressed against my throat by equipment thieves threatening to kill me in '78 at the notorious "house"...and that wasn't the first time THAT had happened.Anyhow, before you start thinking I'm about to write my memoirs, lemme get back to that scene of desolation and the odd looking canister I now found staring me in the face. It was about six inches in diameter and oh about thirty five and a quarter inches long by my practiced estimate (I trained as a cabinetmaker). There wasn't any apparent way to open it, sealed as it was on both ends. Engraved in black ink around the middle of it was an image of a robot monkey holding a scroll. I tucked it under my arm and as the darkness was now rolling across the field like a coal wind I decided to head for home and return at a more favorable time for exploration.
Well it took me just short of ten minutes workin' with a hacksaw to recover the contents of the canister and lo and behold the tattered score of the psyche symphony “Clearly Invisible” lay about in bits and pieces. My God what a thrill it was to discover the composition I had agonized over, and given stillbirth to so many years ago, hunched over my guitar on a rickety chair in that seedy dump I called home. It has been reconstituted, revisioned and rearranged for this recording by my capable and sympathetic musical friends in the studios of Catherine North.
Somehow Lady Fortune had been looking' "with scornin', pityin' eyes" (Yeats) at her weary poet son and after a lifetime or so of concealment decided to unfurl the banner once again of Hamilton's own Simply Saucer. Finding a crew capable of flying the disabled spacecraft would not be easy. The perennial core of the band consisting of bass player Kevin Christoff, with his patented punk/prog voicings influenced by the likes of Hugh Hopper and Jack Bruce, and myself on vocals and guitar was intact.
The new musicians would arrive surreptiously under mysterious circumstances and begin outfitting the ship for relaunch. These be, Joseph Csontos, there at the beginning of Hammer Punk Rock History, the wiry dude with attitude wearing the Charlie Parker t-shirt reeking of COOL, with a mind sharp like a razor, a human dynamo on the drum kit, long ago initiated into the Saucer brotherhood, ask him about it all. Then came Winterman, Daniel that is, slim and gothic on the atmospheric guitar, propelling the band with his sonic undulations on the Theremin, and sound paintings on his crayoned love guitar. He is a veteran of head phone over tone, Battleship Ethel, Make Joy Cry and Vampire Sex Chain. Steve Foster would arrive one day like a loaded gun, brimming with firepower, a veteran of the underground scene having lived the Hammer rock experience in his own flesh, an aficionado of garage, punk, roots rock; his guitar slashing like a propeller, powering the spaceship into supersonic heights. In many capacities, from soundman to tour manager, studio guru to onstage guitar gunslinger, he's worked with Canadian rock 'n' roll legends throughout his formative years, from Junkhouse to Teenage Head, Daniel Lanois, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, the Thomas brothers Ian and Dave...countless others. Played with Stoked, Crawlin' Kingsnakes and now with the Saucer.
Anyhow we've recorded these songs at Catherine North Studios under the direction of the Foster brothers, Duke and Steve, along with Dan Achen. I'm rather grateful for this opportunity and say to our beloved fans, "Thank you for hanging in there. These songs are for you. Blessings one and all. SAUCER CONTRA MUNDEM."
Edgar Breau, November 2007
Recording Notes – Stephen Foster
The recording of Half Human Half Live really began the night drummer Joe Csontos called me and asked if Simply Saucer could rehearse at Napier Park Studio, my home studio in Dundas Ontario. Joe and I have been friends and band mates for many years. When they first started jamming again, I wasn’t involved I didn’t even hear the initial rehearsals with guitarist Steve ‘Sparky’ Sparks at my place, it seemed I was always working or something. After their first reunion show at the Corktown Tavern, the band decided to continue on, however Sparky would not. Enter Mike Daly on guitar, and enter me as an engineer.
I spoke with Joe about recording their upcoming official reunion show and, after a couple of discussions with Edgar and Kevin, Simply Saucer decided to go ahead with the idea. In December 2006 I recorded the band live at Casbah in Hamilton using Protools and my Laptop and was able to capture a solid 16 track recording of Simply Saucer live. (Chris Bell was the house engineer that night and did a great job mixing the live show and helping me split the signal from the house snake.) This spawned the idea of a new Saucer album based around the live recording and possibly some additional studio tracks. Enter my associates Duke Foster (my brother) and Dan Achen. We all work together out of Catherine North Recording in Hamilton.
I pitched the idea of doing the studio tracks at Catherine North to Edgar because it is an old church and it’s got a great live vibe to it. I really wanted to keep the live vibe dominant even on the studio tracks because I felt this was how Simply Saucer sounded best. Fortunately for me, Mike Daly found himself too busy to continue on with Saucer, so I offered to cover on guitar for two shows at Ciao Edie in Toronto, after which I officially joined the band.Now that I was playing with the band, my role as a producer/ engineer changed drastically - I needed help. Playing with the band was great from a producer’s point of view; I could get a little more inside the music and have a hand in arranging and writing. Engineering wise, if it weren’t for the engineering talents of Duke (Derek) Foster, Dan Achen, Mary Smith, Derek Conant, Ryan Mcilwiane and Triston Miller this record would never have been made. Thanks to all! We rehearsed and recorded all of the studio tracks at Napier Park Studio. This is where playing with the band and producing had its advantages. We rehearsed, rearranged and recorded for three weeks before heading to Catherine North to record the tracks in earnest. After pouring over the live recording from the Casbah, the band decided that we should record a second live show in a more controlled environment. Fortunately, Catherine North Recording is in an old church and we also have a stage.
After a short tour of Central Ontario and Quebec we put together a solid set for the show and enlisted a live audience of about 60 people. As I was playing with the band that night, the engineering duties were handled by my brother Duke and Triston. Not only did we come away with a better live recording than the Casbah show, but all our friends and fans had a blast. We recorded the band directly to Protools using a split and used a small PA to reinforce the band in the room. Mics were placed throughout the room to capture some of the room vibe and audience.As far as my approach to this album in the studio was concerned, most of the bed tracks were recorded live off the floor with some overdubs - mainly guitar, keys, and vocals. Duke made the majority of the choices as far as preamps and mic pairings were concerned (many of which were also used on the live recording) and was a huge help with a number of production ideas of his own. We used a variety of vintage pre amps (Neve, API, MCI, Tubetech) and mics (Neuman, AKG, Sony) and laid the tracks down on ProTools HD.
The most acoustic track on the album, “Dandelion Kingdom,” was recorded by Duke. He had us set up in the round in the centre of the church and using a minimum of mics Duke captured a beautiful live acoustic recording that made the most of the ambience of the church (and birds in the garden, Edgar had Duke record the birds before we could continue recording the track).
Producer/Engineer Dan Achen engineered for the recording of “Almost Ready Betty” and employed a few techniques of his own. My engineering moments were usually during pre-production and the overdubs and usually with a guitar hanging over my shoulder.
Stephen Foster, December 2007
SIMPLY SAUCER is Edgar Breau – lead vocals, Gibson Les Paul Standard w/50' neck and Laskin acoustic guitar Kevin Christoff – Fender Precision bass, stand-up bass, vocals Joesph Csontos – Premier drums Stephen Foster – 1972 Les Paul Signature, 1967 JTM Marshall "plexi" half stack, and a circa 1880 BS&L five string banjo Daniel Winterman – Fender Jazzmaster guitar; Moog Theremin; Roland and Ernie Ball effects; Moog and Korg analogue synthesizers; upright piano.
Recorded at Catherine North Studios, Hamilton, Ontario and Napier Park Studio Dundas, Ontario Produced By: Steve Foster Assistant Producer: Duke Foster Engineered By: Duke and Steve Foster, except "Almost Ready Betty," engineered by Dan Achen Assistants: Mary Smith, Ryan Mcilwaine , Triston Miller, Derek Conant Mixed by Duke Foster Mastered by: Joe Lambert at Trutone Mastering Labs, NYC
Cover artwork by J.D. King http://www.jdkingillustration.com Packaging design and layout by Daniel Winterman
Edgar Breau would like to thank my lady, Fran Dalziel, for help, encouragement and all the comforts of home, my numerous Breau kin, especially Ingrid, Heidi, Luke, Claire and Monica, my co-conspirator, Bruce Mowat, for his steadfast championing of the band, Sean Palmerston, Greg Bennett, Heather Morgan, Chris Stigliano, Imants Krumins, Rick Bissel, Gary Pig, Steve Park, Don Cramer, Ping, Rob Sikora, Sonic Unyon Records (Tim and Mark), Lou Molinaro, Ric Taylor, Bob Bryden, WFMU, Bob Mersereau, James Tennant, Mike Daley, Wayne Deadder, Duke Foster and finally Richard Citroen, who told me to take this thing on the road and run with it. Ernie Hildreth R.I.P.
KC would like to express his appreciation to the following people: Derek Christoff, my other half in Blind Owl. Steve Raine and George Petko of Back Pages, Dave Eckebrecht and Pete Day of Old Gnus and Rick Nesbitt of yesterday and today. Thanks out to Sparky, to Doug Murphy for pointing me in the right direction and to Don Cramer, my old RU partner, for being just that. That beat goes on man! J.O.L. MBE (ret'd); "J'ai Guru Deva". To all at Catherine North and at Sonic Unyon for making this recording happen. Thanks to Gary Pig and a very special thanks to Bruce Mowat for his belief in Simply Saucer and for his efforts in bringing this music out way back in the day. Without that effort arguably none of this would be happening. It would just be a fantasy pool; a barroom toast to glory days. Thanks Bruce. Finally to Cheryl for her ever present and never ending support for me thoughout this long strange trip. I couldn't and wouldn't do it without you. And of course he thanks his fellow travelers on the rebuilt Mothership. Over and out.
Joe Csontos would like to thank: Barbara Dow, my lovely wife and two amazing kids Christopher and Michael for the love, support and understanding. Kudos to B.F. Mowat, shout outs to pretty much all of the Hamilton music scene -past and present- both players and supporters. All the techies deserve dollops of praise for this record and all of our recent shows. A big thumping endorsement to Michael Stewart for his help and hardware. Plus Joe Csontos ONLY plays Premier Drums! And Sabian Cymbals
Steve Foster would like to thank Sarah and Ainsley, Roy, Carol and Duke Foster, Dan Achen, Dave Rave, The Crawlin' Kingsnakes, IATSE 129, Teenage Head, The Shakers, Florida Razors, Trouble Boys, Forgotten Rebels and anyone else who ever picked up an instrument in the city of Hamilton, Ontario.
Daniel Winterman greatly acknowledges the understanding, support and assistance of the following people: Joe and Bruce [for getting me in on this]; Edgar and Kevin [for keeping me on-board the Saucer]; everyone who helped out in the studio and at gigs, especially Steve, Duke, and Dan; Fordo [for sharing gear at the start of this adventure]; the Sonic Unyon team [for their continued interest in this project]; the fine people at the Duke [for being such fine people]; and naturally, my family, Bryna and Jonah [and Nova], and Mom & Dad. Shout-outs to Ronan and Marley.
All songs words and music by Edgar Breau except ‘Clearly Invisible’ words Edgar Breau music Breau, Christoff, Csontos, Foster, Winterman ‘Mole Machine’ music Breau, Christoff, Laplante, deMerchant
EXIT PLEXIT 3:310:00/3:31
TAKIN' YOU DOWN 3:310:00/3:31
ALMOST READY BETTY 3:050:00/3:05
CLEARLY INVISIBLE 10:440:00/10:44
DANDELION KINGDOM 3:540:00/3:54
LOW PROFILE 4:410:00/4:41
MOLE MACHINE 4:150:00/4:15
I TAKE IT 4:030:00/4:03
GET MY THRILLS 4:520:00/4:52
I CAN CHANGE MY MIND 3:290:00/3:29
ILLEGAL BODIES 7:010:00/7:01