Derry Grehan of Honeymoon Suite
Oct. 24th, 2008
Interview and Live pics by Celtic Bob
The new album is really great. It’s a return to the classic Honeymoon Suite
sound of the first few albums.
I think so. It has that vibe. It wasn’t intentional but it was just the way it came out.
So it was just a natural progression from LEMON TONGUE?
Yeah. I think overall that this time around the situation was just better and just better songs. Each record you get is like a little snapshot in time to where you are at that point and I think now for the writing of this record I was going through a really creative period which is always good before a record and the songs I just think are better overall. Better songs.
You also had Tom Tremouth produce the record who also did your debut.
Exactly, and he also manages the band.
Did this play an important factor in getting back to that sound?
Yea I think it was a natural progression of things. We had the original line-up coming back together, you had Tom first managing the band then when the opportunity came up to do a record it was just a natural choice he would do it because he knows the band. He certainly knows our sound and what we do with it. It’s good like that.
Everything about CLIFTON HILL goes back to the first few albums from the old picture of Niagara Falls on the cover to the old original logo. It seems everything has gone full circle.
You took the words right out of my mouth. A lot of things have come full circle for us. I think one of our best records is THE BIG PRIZE, because its just great songs, great production and has the big melodic choruses and I kind of wanted to steal some of that thunder. That’s just the way I write. I was having allot of fun writing this record. I didn’t want to get hung up on any one song, didn’t want to beat any song to death over analyzing it. I think the best stuff I’ve written in the past has been written quickly without thinking too much. I just let it come out and I think that’s why this is reminiscent of those earlier songs ‘cause that’s the way they were written and I wanted to return to that.
In 2007 you toured with the original line-up with Ray Colburne and Gary Lalonde again. Ray is credited on the album as playing on it, what happened with Gary?
That is my next point. The original band is together as a live touring unit. The whole band ay Colburne and Gary Lalonde again. Ray is credited on the album as playing on it, what happened is not on this record. I had to make that clear, simply because the whole process of making the record, the writing and recording of it had already begun and we were well into it by the time the live scenario with the original band got back together for touring. Ray’s keyboards were done after the fact which is usually the case. After the bed tracks are done you bring the keys in for overdubs so that’s why that was done. Between scheduling and logistics is why Dave and Gary didn’t work out this time. We had a deadline and had to move ahead with the record. Hopefully if we’re lucky enough to get the chance to make another album we’d love to have the 5 of us all together.
So Gary and Dave are still in the band as a live unit?
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Its unfortunate they didn’t get on playing on the record but that was just logistics. Hopefully we’ll be together next time if there is another record.
Are you going to capture any of the shows for a possible DVD release down the road?
That’s always a possibility. We do have a DVD right now sitting on the shelf up at Warner Music which is our old label. It’s called BED OF NAILS, Its one of those DVD’s that has a lot of videos on it. There is live footage and interviews. It’s a great package but unfortunately Warner’s being the old corporate dinosaur and sitting on their asses and taking their sweet time and there’s not much we can do about it although this would be a great time to have it come out. The fans are emailing and everything else. We’re fighting that uphill battle but I think we’ll hopefully get that out. As for a live concert, that would be awesome and we’re waiting I guess for the right opportunity to come up to do that.
This would be the perfect tour to do that.
Yeah, its all falling into place. The guys are great. We didn’t play together for a long time. Its been about a year and a half now and its like we never stopped playing some nights. There’s a sound we have you know. Its a lot of fun being on stage with these guys.
I’ve seen you play down here in NL a couple times and it’s been great shows each time.
I was going to ask where am I calling. Your in Newfoundland, cool. Love Newfoundland. We try to get out there every couple of years. Always have a lot of fun.
With the new album getting such positive response from both critics and fans do you expect next year to be one of the busiest for times for the band here in North America?
I certainly hope so. Usually our busy time is Spring and Summer. I don’t like to tour much in the winter time for obvious reasons; snowstorms and shit like that. I like the fairs and festivals, when its fun to tour you know. Last couple of summers have been insane for us. We’re just flying all over the place and next summer will probably be even better.
Getting in on the big festivals and shows for the summer.
Yeah but next year we’ll have the benefit of a record that’s had some time to build. Maybe we’ll be two singles in? We’ll have some airplay which is something we haven’t had in a long time. I mean airplay of new stuff. That’s only going to add to everything being cooler.
Allot of bands are recording and selling albums independently nowadays. Did you consider this before signing with Koch?
Independently? Well we’ve been doing that for awhile. We did it with LEMON TONGUE and the last couple of releases. Smaller labels, Is that what you’re talking about?
Yes. Some bands don’t have a label and just sell it on their website, doing it themselves.
You can do that but I want a label, I need a team. Koch is actually a distributer but they are a record label as well and I’d rather have the power of a label. The more people in the mix the better. You need a network of people, a network of distribution, you need your Wal-Mart, you need your Best Buy. The more places you can get your product the better. You need iTunes, you need all that stuff.
That’s where I was going with the next one. How do you feel about mp3’s and music downloading?
There’s nothing you can do about it. I think its beneficial especially to younger newer bands getting their music out there. I think it’s great exposure, and for us I mean my revenue streams have increased as a songwriter and I’m getting and I’m getting more sources of revenue. Not that that’s really important but it just shows that getting royalties now from Sirius satellite radio, iTunes, a number of places on the internet which spreads the word and at the end of the day it gets the music out there and sold.
I find that the younger people aren’t interested in going out and buying the albums. They’re more interested in going online and downloading songs, they don’t care about packaging.
I know, that’s unfortunate. That really sucks because they’re taking money out of my pocket as a writer and that’s not right. What are you gonna do about? Hopefully they’ll pay 99 cents if they just want one song and get it off iTunes. If they’re gonna steal it and burn it off on some disc then all the power to them, there is nothing I can really do about it. But me being a fan, if I like a band I’ll go out and buy the CD because I want the artwork. I want the package.
You want the full deal.
And I support the artist too. There ya go.
I recently just picked up some titles on vinyl as well.
They’re putting out vinyl again are they?
Yeah, the 12’ vinyl is really kicking off again.
That’s cool because I actually have a record player and hooked it up a few months ago and been listening to my albums again. It’s kind of fun.
So how are your other projects going; The Dexrays and Love Junk?
Dexrays, wow you’ve done your homework haven’t you? That was just a little local thing, some friends getting together, drinking some beers. I had a lot of downtime a few years ago at home and I hate to sit around at home and not play. It’s kind of different for me, just get out locally. I live in a small city in Illinois. It is just fun for me to go out and do something totally different like that, just get my guitar and sit in with some local bands, play some cover songs…its allot of fun. The Dexrays was one, Love Junk was a trio I put together which I’d like to revive at some point but you know what? In the last 2-3 years I’ve been so busy with Honeymoon I’ve had no time to gig locally.
So it’s just on the backburner?
Yeah but its really good to do that. Got to remember I’ve been in this band for what, 25 years and done nothing but Honeymoon. So to go out and jump in a little local band and get out in a little bar and play is allot of fun. It gets me out of the house and keeps me playing ‘because I can’t go too long without playing.
Go stir crazy?
Ya you know, it’s what musicians do, go out there and play.
On the new album songs like “That’s All You Got” and “Restless”, the lyrics are such true to life. Do you write about personal experience or is it all totally fictional?
Well it’s a bit of both. Personal things in there, I wont say which ones. The personal things I’ve gone through which I’m sure everyone’s gone through but also as a songwriter. I think a songwriter has to listen to life is kind of the way I put it. I travel a lot, I fly around a lot so I’m in airports, I’m in crowded places, I watch whats going on, I watch people and I listen to people. That’s what I do. I hear people talk about whats going on and it kind of gives me some subjects to write about.
Absorb it all in.
Yeah, you watch other peoples relationships fall apart and people that you know and that you read about. There’s lots of good ideas out there.
What is the writing process like for you and Johnnie? Do you sit in a room together and write or do you come up with something like a riff or lyric and have the other finish it?
I usually start the songs. I like to get the song as far along as I can. Pretty much write the whole song or write the basic structure and a lyric to the song. Other songs I only have them half baked but what I’ll do is spend some time and demo up a bunch of things in my basement studio and Johnnie and I will pick a time. He’ll bring his ideas and I’ll bring mine, we’ll exchange tapes or whatever cd’s, take ‘em away and listen to ‘em and come back together and he’ll give me his ideas, his lyrics and we kind of work it out. One day we get finished songs.
Were there many songs that were demo’d and recorded for this album that never made the final cut?
There always is. There are probably 3, 4, 5 songs that didn’t make the grade. They just go into the catalog and I go back to them later on and maybe they’ll be on the next record.
Will they surface as a B-Side or bonus cuts on a foreign disc?
You never know. As a songwriter I am always writing. I have lots of extra stuff sitting around. I may re-write something or re-record something and send it off to another artist or use it for Honeymoon down the line as an extra track. Don’t know.
…or combine them all and say here’s all the old demo’s and unreleased b-sides?
Yeah, we’ve kind of already done that though. There’s a boxset out called FEEL IT AGAIN: THE ANTHOLOGY on a British label called Gott. Its 2 discs and there’s a whole bunch of unreleased tracks and demos an stuff on there.
A UK release?
I’ll have to search that one out.
It’s very cool, its on Gott. You’d have to get it as an import. We do sell it at our shows but its not released in Canada at the moment.
What are your immediate plans? I noticed there is only a couple of dates up on the site.
Like I was saying earlier our busiest season is spring and summer. Usually September things just drop right off and we take a few months break. What we are doing right now is promoting the new record, spending a lot of time talking to people like you, doing some TV shows and stuff like that and a few selected shows in markets that are going to be good to promote the record. There just isn’t allot of stuff right now that we want to do like smaller clubs and things unless it’s a good tool to promote the record. So there isn’t much and we’re being selective in what we’re taking right now. That’s OK, we can use some downtime right now. We’ll get busy again in the New Year. I know that.
Anything you’d like to say to the readers and fans?
That’s about it, we’ve covered it. It’s been 25 years for me and Johnnie and never thought we’d still be doing this but you know what? It’s the fans. I say this all the time; if it wasn’t for them and the radio and the people coming to our shows. That’s what’s keeping us out there and we’re having a ball.
Thanks to Eric at Koch for setting up the interview