|Arthur Lee and Love released three albums in their earliest and most memorable incarnation: Love, Da Capo, and Forever Changes. While the last-named record regularly pops up on critics’ and fans’ seemingly ubiquitous all-time greatest-favorite desert-isle classic album lists - and for good reason - the first two are usually passed over, except by devoted Love fans. Which is a shame, because the songs on those two records (excepting perhaps 'Revelation' on side two of Da Capo) are some of the most stunning and groundbreaking to emerge from 1960s West Coast rock. The acid surf and folk-rock of the first album and the heavenly slice of baroque pop on side one of Da Capo represent all that was special about mid-'60s music, before things became pretentious and cynical. Who can’t listen to a melodic song like 'Mushroom Clouds' – with its ominous warning about the threat of atomic war – without feeling warm and hopeful, especially after Arthur Lee’s tender plea to a higher power to “Help us with our problems?” Or who cannot be amazed by the organic propulsion of '7 and 7 Is,' which predated punk rock by ten years, yet blows away anything done by The Clash or Sex Pistols?
|The classic Love line-up, with Snoopy looking up from the lower left.
Four of the musicians behind those two records have died: Tjay Cantrelli, Ken Forssi, Bryan MacLean, and Arthur himself. Johnny Echols, Michael Stuart, and Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer are the only ones left. If you own the first Love album, you know who is drummer Snoopy. He’s the one who looks, well…just a little “square.” He’s slightly chubby, and he’s wearing a short-sleeved, button-down shirt, tucked into a pair of tight, beige slacks. His hair is short and neatly parted on one side. And he has a sort of sad, tentative, puppy-dog look on his face. He fits into his nickname perfectly. However, lest you think Snoopy is plodding away as an accountant in Terre Haute, you’re mistaken.
In 1994 I did an interview with Ken Forssi, the bass player in Love. When I asked Forssi about Snoopy, he told me that he and Snoopy had attended art school together in L.A., and that he’d boarded with the Pfisterer family for a while. After Forssi successfully auditioned for the bass spot in Love, replacing John Fleckenstein, he recommended his housemate as a drumming replacement for the unreliable Don Conka. Forssi described Snoopy to me as “brilliant,” someone who could speak Spanish “as good as or better than anyone in the Spanish community,” and who was “excellent on concert-type piano.” This piqued my curiosity, and for years I’d wanted to speak to Mr. Pfisterer personally - if for nothing more than to find out if he truly was as interesting as Forssi described. It wasn’t until the release of the excellent DVD documentary Love Story that I was able to track Snoopy down: He’d politely offered his email and phone number to anyone who might want to get hold of him.
Born to a Swiss father and Italian mother in Switzerland in 1946 (the Year of the Dog in the Chinese zodiac), Snoopy became acclimated to globalization early on. He spent his earliest years in Maryland, then relocated to Costa Rica where his father, an architect, was building a hospital. He moved to Los Angeles in his teen years, when rock’n roll was also entering its adolescent phase. After exiting Love in early 1967, Snoopy retreated to Central America, after which he sailed to Spain, then visited England and Japan before returning to California. For the last couple decades he’s been dividing his time between the house he built for himself in the woods of western Washington State, and any nation that suits his fancy, but primarily Costa Rica (he’s currently closing the deal on a house on the Caribbean side of that small, ecologically progressive country).
Snoopy’s stayed out of the rock press for the last 38 years. In 1971 he did a lengthy interview with the British rock magazine Zigzag, which was the last time he formally spoke about Love until the DVD and this interview. If you haven’t read the Zigzag interview and you’re a Love fan, well, you’re missing out. Snoopy holds nothing back in describing his bittersweet experience in one of the most underrated and enigmatic bands in music. We’re talking about a band where three members went to prison, another became a born-again Christian, and a guitar-playing associate (Bobby Beausolil) would later join the Manson family. Snoopy may not have been in the studio for the band’s masterpiece, Forever Changes, but he was still hanging around, and he was arguably closer to enigmatic leader Arthur Lee than any other member. My interview here touches on that relationship. It also discusses his frustrating attempts to succeed in music, his activities since leaving Love, and his unique and very personal, self-produced solo release, Humans On Mother Earth are H.(O.M.)E.
Snoopy was in Costa Rica when we spoke, but he was kind enough to call me on his nickel. He was more than accommodating, and because he truly enjoys conversation, especially over the phone, he rambled at length over any question I could throw him. Snoopy speaks quickly and forcefully. Because he enjoys talking so much, and because he’s so fiery about certain subjects, he often stammered over his words in an effort to find the right ones. In his zeal, he frequently changed thoughts mid-sentence. He was especially ardent when discussing his fervently held beliefs, many of which have found outlet in his songs. And, as I discovered during the second half of the interview, he was equally passionate when discussing Love.
An Interview With Snoopy Pfisterer
By Pete Kurtz
60sgaragebands.com (60s): Do you still have friends in Costa Rica?
Snoopy: Oh yeah, man, these are friends I had from first grade until high school. I’m a dog, you know, and dogs are loyal.
60s: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear…gods are loyal?
Snoopy: No, DOGS! I was born in 1946. WOOF WOOF! If they’ve had a friend once, even though you cross them, they’re always a friend.
60s: Well, that leads me to my next question, how did you get your nickname? When I talked to Ken Forssi, he said he thinks it was something your family did.
Snoopy: Yeah, you know the guy that wrote Peanuts, Schulz? He was a friend of the piano player that my father used to play chamber music with, outside of Washington, D.C. (in) La Plata, Maryland. That’s where I spent the first six years of my life, on a tobacco farm that came with a black family of sharecroppers. From (age) 7 to 15, I did Costa Rica, from 15 to rock ‘n’ roll I was in U. of S. So the piano player that played with my father was a woman named Gisella. She didn’t have any children, and there were two of us, Tony and myself – I’m the youngest – and she adored us. She taught us piano, and I was always asking questions, really “snoopy,” as well as lonely. Anyway, I was an extreme case, and Gisella called me “Snoopy,” and that’s where the Schulz idea came from, and then they made the comic strip. (Pauses) My family called me Snoopy. Nobody in my family called me Alban. Nobody. Everybody called me Snoopy. And when I went to school, nobody called me Snoopy, they called me Alban. So Schulz gets the credit!
60s: So, what should I call you, Snoopy or Alban?
Snoppy: Anything you’d like as long as it’s not stupid or derogatory.
60s: Okay. Fair enough. You have a house in Olympia, Washington. How did you arrive there?
Snoopy: Have you ever heard of The Simpsons, you know, Matt Groening? He went to Evergreen State College in Olympia. Well, I went there before he did. I graduated a year earlier. That school is a very experimental school, there are no grades, no requirements, no finals. Everything I didn’t like about school, they didn’t have that problem there. So I went back to school and took creative jazz musicianship, piano, improvisation…things that I wanted to do. Some of my compositions I started there. In fact, on my CD…have you listened to it? Do you remember that piano piece?
60s: 'Evergreen Piano Study?'
Snoopy: Yeah, and there’s another one, a harpsichord study. They were done in the late ‘70s when I finished school. I graduated in ’78, I think. ’78? Maybe ’77. Yeah, ’78. And then I also ended up getting into an apprenticeship with a carpenter, and I ended up building my own house in the woods. It took me 20 years to do it, it’s all my own trees. You’ll see pictures of that in the documentary. You have the documentary?
60s: Yes, I do, and that house is amazing. It took you twenty years?
Snoopy: No, I don’t think you saw the main house, actually, you saw the little one where I’m playing upstairs?
60s: Right, I saw that one.
Snoopy: That’s just the cabin. No, the main house is a whole different story. When they came down to do the (Love Story) documentary they were in there, but for some reason or another they didn’t put any of the pictures of the big house in the video. They put the one that I was staying in.
60s: So did you live in the cabin while you were building the main house?
Snoopy: No, it was more the other way around, actually, I was building the cabin…what?…I was building the cabin while I, first I…(laughs)…I just came out there to work on it every day until there was a roof on it. And then I had students move in, friends of mine, in exchange for helping me with labor, and they could stay there. I didn’t have the money to go pay somebody to build my house, so in the beginning I made lots of (indecipherable) exchange on my wonderful God’s earth paradise. And in exchange for staying there, they helped me. And then some people are paid, and then, that’s it. It had all kinds of situations.
60s: It looks like you have a real talent and aptitude for building and construction.
Snoopy: Well, having been around my father, who was an architect, I was exposed to a lot of design ideas, and I really like it.
60s: Right, I think you attended an art and industrial design school in Los Angeles too, didn’t you?
Snoopy: That’s where Kenny (Forssi) and I met; we were both studying commercial art. We were studying automotive design, in fact. We could’ve ended up in Detroit.
60s: What are you doing right now, working full-time, or making music full-time?
Snoopy: I’ve been full-time retired since I moved to Olympia. I bought my first house in California, fixed it up and sold it for twice what I paid for it. Then I went to Olympia, Washington, and I bought two houses and lived in one and rented the other one. The money I made from the other one…see I bought it cash. I saved up money and bought the first house, it was only $16,000, and I fixed it up and sold it for $35,000. I went to Olympia at that time and got two houses for that amount of money. The first one was in Sierra Madre, California, where I was doing door-to-door canvassing for central heating and air conditioning. And from there I saved the money, man, and I saved enough money – it had nothing to do with Love, I didn’t make jack with Love, you know, I’m talking fucking nothing. So I used the money from the house I rented to pay for school, believe it or not. It was a state school, and was conceived by at that time the governor, who’s name I’ve already forgot…Don Evans, or whatever…and when I went in ’77 and ’78, or ’76, it was only $200 a quarter, man, that’s it. When he was governor, he poured money into the school because he wanted to realize his dream, and then he did it.
60s: It was from Olympia that you released your only solo CD and, like Love, it draws inspiration from some exotic sources. '6/8 Bouzouki jam' sounds like it might have some sitar with the bouzouki?
Snoopy: No, it’s just bouzouki.
60s: There’s another tune, 'Truth,' that has a beautiful flute.
Snoopy: Oh yeah, that guy’s flute, I really like that guy, he played beautifully. On everything he played, he played beautifully.
60s: It’s gorgeous. It also has a mild psychedelic feel, ala Chris Wood in Traffic.
Snoopy: Oh yeah, he’s hot, man. He’s a Greek guy All the musicians are Greek. A friend of mine, I met him in Thailand, he’s a guitar player, his name is Thanasis. And Thanasis and I became real good friends, he used to be kind of a Love fan, and so we ended up becoming real good friends. We went to India together after that, actually, and then a couple years later he invited me to Greece to play percussion on his music, and I went, and then we ended up doing my CD. And he had all the musicians because he had a group, that’s how he made a living.
|Snoopy and Thanasis.
60s: Another international tune is 'Andinita (Venezuelan folk song).'
Snoopy: That’s the first song I learned on the cuatro. That instrument I play is called the cuatro, it’s got four strings, and they use it in Andean music, uh, you know the pan pipes and all that stuff, I’m sure you’ve heard that music before.
60s: It sounded like it was Peruvian influenced.
Snoopy: Yeah, well, it’s a Venezuelan song. That’s the first song I played on the cuatro, a peon, a campesino in the Andes taught me, a friend of my brother’s taught me that song, and that’s when I started to write songs on the cuatro. It’s a folklore – it’s a folk tune in the Andes that this campesino, this peon, country farm worker, a very nice guy, he taught me this song, and I played it all the time, and I know the people really liked it, and so I decided to record it.
60s: Where did you record the CD?
Snoopy: In Athens, in kind of a non-profit art center that had recording equipment.
60s: And what were the two instruments you were playing on your feet, in the Love Story DVD? You had a stick with a piece of wood on one foot, and you had a type of tambourine instrument on the other.
Snoopy: That thing on my left foot is called a shekere, it’s from Ghana. It has beads on it on the gourd. But it’s meant to be played on the hand, so I cut it off – the rest of the gourd, where you usually hold it, and I epoxy’ed a drumstick into it so that I can shove it under my foot in any kind of sandal, and then I have that carpet so it doesn’t break. If I didn’t have the carpet, that thing would break. So the carpet keeps that thing from breaking, and it also keeps the wood block from sliding away. So I took a nail – that wood block is nothing but a common wood block that drum sets have. I’m sure you’ve watched drummers, they have a wood block. That thing I put some things so that two nails stick out at 45 degrees at the bottom and I shove it into the carpet so it doesn’t slide. And so I hit that with a drumstick just like a wood block. And on the right of that I have a bell, and to the right of that I have a cymbal, which I want to use for accents – on the video I don’t think you even see me use the cymbal, do you?
60s: No, I don’t think so. Did you pick these instruments up from your friend in Greece?
Snoopy: No, I’ve been doing this for years, I was living in Nepal in the ‘90s for five years, and that’s where I had the carpet made, and where I got the cymbal and the bell from, actually, in Nepal. There’re seven cymbals that they use. And the rug I had custom made from 100 percent wool there with a design of kind of an Allah or Tibetan mosque or whatever it is, and uh, the shekere, and I though it was really good for giving just the downbeat, or the offbeat, or whatever the hell. It’s very good for keeping the pulse, the woodblock and the shekere cut through really good. No matter what I’m doing with my hands, you haven’t seen anything where I use my hands. I’m playing the cuatro, but usually I have a whole separate thing where I play the drums and sing.
60s: You seem to do a lot of traveling.
Snoopy: Every year or six months it’s someplace different.
60s: That’s fascinating; you undoubtedly pick up a lot of different cultural ideas and influences.
Snoopy: I’ve become culturally one earth. There’s only one species of humanity here, and they’re all NUTS.
|Humans On Mother Earth CD
60s: An advertisement for your CD says you’re very “spiritual.” In what way?
Snoopy: What does spiritual mean to you? Let’s start there. Then we’ll know we’re on the same page.
60s: Well, for me it’s not something that necessarily has to do with religion. It’s more a philosophy that has to do with relating to people, and relating to a God or gods, what happens to us after we’re gone…
Snoopy: After we’re gone is not of great importance, actually, I think the only thing that’s important is the present…this MINUTE. Because everything else is like somebody said a long time ago, “The past is gone and dead, the future’s unknown.” The only thing that exists is (indecipherable), and that’s why they call it the PRESENT.
60s: That sounds like a good philosophy.
Snoopy: Well, that’s all there is to it. If you’re one-hundred percent in the present, and your mind isn’t making a lot of noise, that’s what I consider gives you the capacity to be in harmony with “The One.” Whatever you want to call “The One,” love, God, whatever. But it is One. I don’t care what the Mohammedans say, or the Christians say: “It’s our God, our God, my God, my God,” it’s a bunch of shit. There’s only one God, if there is a God. And it’s One. And that God is manifest in every single thing, and every single incident, and every single thing and person on this planet. There’s no place, no thing, where that Oneness, of consciousness of God, is not. So that’s my point of spirituality.
60: On one of the songs, let’s see, 'Nose to Tail and Tale to Knows…'
Snoopy: “…And I don’t think anybody knows WHAT to tell!” (Slips into Dylanesque lyric recitation)…”First, this is in…it’s not about everyday subjects, you don’t know what to do, next time you change your mind, don’t forget to keep a dime for yourself, you can call - half the time you need to give to make a phone call for ten cents” (when I wrote it). It’s early ‘70s, highly influenced by Bob Dylan. And uh, it was meant to be a repudiation of some of his Christian fanaticism, among other things.
60s: I was going to say, your delivery is reminiscent of Dylan’s 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.'
Snoopy: Yeah, well, whatever, it’s a good tune man, I like it, it’s one of my favorite tunes. I wrote that after I’d been to India and meditated about the nonsense of the rock ‘n’ roll world, and what was the point of life, and uh, yeah, that’s when I got spiritual man, I went to India, I was with Maharishi, the Beatles’ guru. I became a teacher of transcendental meditation, like Deepak Chopra and a lot of others. I went to India after I became trained for that and searched for, to me, more authentic, deeper teachers. I spent a lot of time in Ashram.
60s: One of the lines is “Do you know the world does turn, or is that something you just learned?” I thought that was very good.
Snoopy: Do you?
60s: Well, a lot of time people react only to things they’ve learned in school, or what somebody’s told them, without sitting down and thinking about what’s really going on in the world.
Snoopy: That’s EXACTLY the problem, that’s exactly the problem. Every single person should say to themself, “What the fuck is going on here?” This is an insane world. In-SANE, from A to Z. And if you don’t recognize that, then obviously you’re going to be just a part of it, and if you’re a part of it, you’re part of the problem, and if you’re part of the problem, you’re not part of the solution.
60s: “When you give in to authority you have surrendered your last hope…”
Snoopy: “…you’ll be just another dope, holding the coke, walking down the same old line.” That talks about shooting up coke, too. But it’s not meant to be…the other part’s more important (laughs).
60s: What are some examples of “authority,” what do you think of as being “authority?” For instance police, government…
Snoopy: No, not at all, not at all man, I’m talking about the authorities that you think are authorities on any given subject. I’m talking about those authorities, any authority that you consider an authority. I’m talking about those authorities. They don’t know, necessarily, I don’t care who they are, how much you believe. That authority should be questioned, and you should know that within yourself, whatever it is that you think. If you can’t verify it within yourself, I think it’s useless information. This is a world of knowledge. Knowledge is becoming extremely over-dominant and unnecessary and confusing, and basically interfering with the capacity to exist and be.
60s: Ok, let me give you another line in one of the songs. “No matter when and where you are, here and now is all there is.” I guess that relates to what you were saying a little bit ago.
Snoopy: Believe me, I wrote those lines, again, in the early ‘70s, and not until now, not until now, 38 years later, am I beginning to work that into my experience, my changing experience. No matter when and where you are, here and now is all there is. It’s a fact, that’s all I can tell you, it’s a fact. And therefore to expend energy either backwards or forwards is just pissing away energy.
60s: There’s another song called 'Life is All,' which seems to be the most introspective song on the CD, along with 'Nose to Tail.' And you say, “Desire is the Mother of pleasure to pain.”
60s: Can you elaborate?
Snoopy: How can I be any more clearer? Desire – is - the mother - to pain. I can’t make it any more clearer. You need to meditate on what I said. Desire – is the mother – to pain. Look at it and see if it’s not true. First you desire something, you go through who knows what kind of gymnastics to get it, and then when you get it you really think you’re loving it. And then when it’s taken away from you…let’s take a woman, ok? You’re deeply in love, “this is the answer to my life, I’ve finally found her,” ok? And then she gets killed. What happens, are you in pain or what?
60s: Oh, yes.
Snoopy: Okay, so desire was not the mother to pain?
60s: Yes, but there are also other emotions than can lead to pain, or even to joy. What about the emotion love?
Snoopy: What about it? If you don’t have it, and…it’s an addiction. Anything that’s a pleasure is addictive, I don’t care what it is. If you’re addicted to something, and somebody takes it away from you, you go through some withdrawal. Okay, you’re addicted to your woman, i.e., you can call it “love” and all joy and all kind of trying to put it in heaven and rosy and any way you like. But the truth of the matter is you’re needy. People are mostly needy, they can’t be by themselves, so they try to find pleasure and fulfillment in the opposite sex. Which is very enjoyable and extremely exciting, deeply lustful, whatever the fuck. But the truth of the matter is you take that away after you’re addicted to it, and you go through serious withdrawals. Do you know how many people actually kill themselves because their mates left, or died, or fucked somebody else or something? (pauses) Okay, listen man, all I can tell you is, I can’t make it any more blacker or whiter than that. Desire is the mother to pain. And if you can’t see it, there’s nothing I can do to make it clearer.
60s: I hear where you’re coming from, but don’t you think that’s a negative take? It seems like we all have those desires, and they can also turn out to be really beautiful.
Snoopy: Nobody said you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the beauty of it… in - the - present. In the present. And in the present, there is no desire. It’s only when you look into the future that there’s desire. If you’re in the present, then you just see in the present. And then there’s no desire. Then there’s nobody gonna be putting you down for enjoying the beauty of what is happening.
60s: You’ve got two songs, 'Life is All' and 'In This World.' 'In This World' appears to be a pop version of the other.
Snoopy: Yeah, what it was, the first one, whatever it’s called, I forgot…is slow and somewhat, uh…moody…uh…I’m looking for the word…not happy.
Snoopy: Yeah, a little somber, I don’t know, it’s just not “up.” So maybe it’s hard to digest, because it is like you said, so is that negative, or what? Love – desire is the mother to pain, is that negative? I don’t know if it’s negative, to me it’s just a reflection of the way it is, that’s all. And then I didn’t like the mood that it gave, it’s just too somber, yeah. And so I always wanted to do that song in an upbeat style with the same lyrics (laughs), and I play it on the piano like that, that’s how I first got the idea, completely different, completely different from the way I play it on the guitar. And so I liked it, and this guitar player said “Let’s do it reggae,” and I said “Great, that’s good reggae.”
60s: Yeah, I prefer it to the other version, it’s really sweet.
Snoopy: It’s more digestible.
60s: Now, is that the same song that’s on the DVD, when you’re dancing?
Snoopy: Yeah, man, but I don’t know what you think of those videos, those videos, really, to me…they sabotaged my music, man, it’s terrible. In the beginning the track comes on, and it’s ok, that’s the track. Then he puts me in front of the track, and the track is way in the background, man, so how can I be playing, crude, to a song that’s not meant to sound like that, man, it’s meant to have the piano and the flute, and whatever it has! And so he puts that way in the background, and it destroys the song, as far as I’m concerned. And the other one, uh, what’d he do? Yeah, he has me singing on top of the music instead of putting the music on top and just letting me sing…you shouldn’t even play what I’m singing, you know what I’m saying? It shouldn’t have been heard. I just wanted to hear the track, man, that’s all that should be heard, the studio track. Otherwise to come off like that, man, I’m amazed that people like it, and I think a lot of people don’t like it, and I don’t blame them, I think it sounds like shit.
60s: How did these guys – they’re English I think – how did they locate you?
|Love Story documentary DVD.
Snoopy: I don’t know, but just out of curiosity, what did you think of those songs when you first saw them? Before you heard the CD, what did you think about them, what impression did you get?
60s: Well, the first song I thought was great, in fact, 'Snoopy’s Free public MessSage' is probably my favorite on the CD. It’s a cool marriage of Latin and bouncy cocktail jazz. And the ecological sentiment was honest and contemporary.
Snoopy: Yeah. I think so.
60s: And you’re dancing to the second song, wearing what looks like a folded sarong?
Snoopy: It’s a pair of eggplant-colored underwear, that’s all it is. It’s what I use for a bathing suit, because I don’t like those bathing suits that grab your crotch and look like a diaper.
60s: You looked like you’re in pretty good shape. Does the dancing help with that?
Snoopy: Oh man, I eat really good, and I do lots of exercise. I’ve been doing yoga and meditation since I left Love.
60s: You left Love in late ’66 or early ‘67. I read you were in Panama in 1971, took a ship to London, and tried to put together a blues band.
Snoopy: I first went to Spain, actually, to visit my…that’s where the boat landed, and then I hitchhiked up to Germany, because that’s where my brother was. He said he had a good friend in England, and I wanted to check out the music in England, so I went to England. Then I got into a group called Arrival, a famous group that played with Emerson, Lake and Palmer that year. And there were some blues people that I was interested in, I can’t remember their names. That’s all in that Zigzag magazine article, the details of that.
60s: Yes, I have that interview, and you said you played with Marc Bolan briefly? Are there any recordings available that you were on?
Snoopy: No, no, I didn’t record with anybody. The first recording that I did that I’m proud of is the one that you have (Humans On Mother Earth are H.(O.M.)E.).
60s: So after you were in England, you became disillusioned because you couldn’t get a band going, so you went to Japan, is that correct?
Snoopy: Correct. I had a brother there who was into macrobiotics. I was beginning to feel depression. That’s one of my first experiences with depression. And he recommended it was because of my diet…I was taken down with all this negativity…so I went over there and got into the macrobiotic diet, into the Zen Buddhism, and ended up staying in a monastery…two monasteries, for six months at a time.
60s: When I interviewed Ken Forssi, he told me Arthur contacted him at one time for a reunion. Did he ever contact you?
Snoopy: Yes he did.
60s: When was that?
Snoopy: I don’t know, man, ‘80s or something? I don’t know what it was, all I know is the first thing I said to him was, because I never made a DIME, I’m talking not a DIME, not one DIME, ok? And when he suggested such a thing, I said “Ok, Arthur, I’ll do it, if I handle the money.”
60s: And what did Arthur say to that?
Snoopy: (Deadpans) Whaddaya think.
60s: On the DVD, you describe how Arthur and the others would wait for you to mess up during live performances of 'My Little Red Book.'
Snoopy: The drumming isn’t on three and one, on the off-beat (which is) “Da Da DA da, da da DA-DA da.” On 'My Little Red Book' it’s just the opposite, it’s on the two and the four, it’s on the beat, it’s not on the off-beat. And so I confess, that not having practiced, ever (laughs), that it took me a while to get the…if I had a fucking tape recorder I’d just put a fucking tape in…I didn’t have a tape recorder, it’s not like nowadays when you have all these portable things where you can record the damn thing, or I could’ve gone home and maybe practiced it. As it was, they never wanted to rehearse with me, and so we learned it by me sitting in, and so nine times out of ten I had it right (laughs). But the one time out of ten when I had it wrong, boy, that was a big deal. It was mostly because they wouldn’t fucking RELAX, I couldn’t relax, because they were, like, you know what I’m saying? Putting me, TESTING me, man. And waiting for me to fuck up. Well, that’s what I did, you wait for me to fuck up, I’ll fuck up!
60s: On YouTube there’s a video of Love miming that song on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and it appears your gestures got it right.
Snoopy: How do I access that? Just go to “Love…?”
60s: Just go to YouTube and in the search box type in “Arthur Lee” and “Love.”
Snoopy: I’ll try that. I saw part of it in the documentary, but I’d like to see the whole thing.
60s: How about '7 And 7 Is?' There were supposedly forty takes of that song, and you and Arthur alternated during the recording?
Snoopy: Yeah, that’s about right, but I would say it was more like he did one out of four takes. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to get it, so they kept on trying me three times, then him once, then me three times (laughs).
60s: So is your take actually on the master?
Snoopy: It is. It’s the ONLY take, man, the ONLY recording you ever heard of '7 And 7 Is' is me, and that fucking bullshit thing that Arthur…at some place (he) made a comment that he played the drums on that, because he’s so attached to it, that I could, he taught me the part, it was his part, he told me note for note, “Now you go whack-a-whack-whack,” and “Now you go CHANG, chang,” he told me exactly how he wanted to play it…because of that he thinks he played it!
60s: The drums are incredible, they’re essentially the lead instrument. You don’t hear that too often.
Snoopy: You don’t, that’s a drum tune, man. It’s like 'Wipe Out,' it’s a drum tune. You know 'Wipe Out?'
60s: Oh yes, the Surfaris hit.
Snoopy: And did you know Kenny used to play with those guys? Yeah, well, that’s a drum song. ('7 And 7 Is') is a drum song like 'Wipe Out.'
60s: It’s a helluva lot more intense than 'Wipe Out,' though. I don’t know how you got that down, the drums are just so fast and furious.
Snoopy: That’s why I couldn’t do it! That’s why ARTHUR couldn’t do it! It was tough! That’s why I never played it live. That’s what we got (Michael) Stuart for, man, because Stuart could play that instinctively.
60s: Did Arthur ever confide to you about the strange lyrics in that song?
Snoopy: Well, we took acid together, and that was, uh, flash, that’s what that was. Acid flash imagery.
60s: So besides the drums on '7 And 7 Is,' did Arthur also show you the harpsichord parts on Da Capo?
Snoopy: I wouldn’t say he showed it to me, he went (hums the harpsichord break in 'She Comes in Colors'). Okay? So I did it, I’d go (deliberately screws up the harpsichord break, then laughs). And we did this in the studio, man…NO rehearsal. Here the clock is going, I don’t know how many hundred dollars an hour, and we’re rehearsing this thing in the studio.
60s: Da Capo has a distinct bossa nova and flamenco tone. Did your Spanish background have anything to do with that?
Snoopy: No, I don’t think so. I think Bryan had his own, uh, flair for that kind of music.
60s: Did Bryan play the acoustic guitar on 'The Castle?'
Snoopy: 'The Castle?' Which one is that?
60s: It’s on Da Capo, just after '7 And 7 Is.' The instrumental.
Snoopy: I don’t…what’s the melody?
60s: I believe it starts with an E minor then goes to A…
Snoopy: No, no, sing the melody for me.
60s: (Writer attempts melody)
Snoopy: Yeah, that would be John. John and Bryan. I don’t know who played what, but that sounds like John.
60s: Arthur wrote it. It wasn’t him?
Snoopy: No, anything fast was not Arthur. Arthur just played rhythm.
60s: How about 'Que Vida?' Your organ part has a sort of lounge quality to it.
Snoopy: That’s a Bach partita (an 18th-century suite). Are you talking about the one that starts 'Revelation' on the second side?
60s: No, not that one, 'Que Vida.'
Snoopy: Yeah, that’s a Hammond organ. What do you want to say? Yeah, I did…hey man, they’d say “Play yours and hold it,” so I played this and held it. Hey listen, man, I had nothing to do with the arrangement or the originality of anything on any of the two albums, except my drumming…(laughs)…uh, except my drumming was obviously limited, but I thought punchy, and gutsy, and what was required.
60s: In my interview with Forssi, though, he said you were great on concert-type piano, and the only guy in the band who could read music. Why were you dropped from Forever Changes? I would think maybe Arthur would’ve kept you on for your knowledge of music.
Snoopy: Well, I’ll tell you what the problem was, man. The problem was I could not improvise. I didn’t know the keyboard, I was only reading classical music. And there’s lots of classical musicians in that bag, you put them to improvise, and they can’t play a single thing. They’re only playing something that they’ve read. That was for me, okay, so when they started to produce a song, or improvise, I didn’t even know how to hear the chords, or what…I didn’t know the scales that I could go to, or anything. That’s why I went to Evergreen State College, one of the main reasons was the music program attracted me. To learn how to improvise. They even have a group contract called “The Creative Jazz Musician.” And I joined that specifically to learn how to improvise, and as I improvised, that’s how I came up with uh, uh, what’s the one? “Is God 1?…to(2) Take Sides?!” That one, I tell you, have you listened to the piano in it? That’s my piano masterpiece. Now, if I could’ve played like that when they were doing Da Capo, I mean Forever Changes, I would’ve had something on there. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t play like that yet.
60s: How close were you to drummer Michael Stuart?
Snoopy: Stuart and I used to live together in the same house, man, we got a house together. I moved out of Arthur’s, and he and I got a house together, about ten blocks from my mother’s house. My mother had a house in the Hollywood hills. We were living there, and Kenny lived with us, man, he lived with us, and that’s how I met him. That’s how I got in the group, we were both going to Art Center. After I left the house, after I lived with Arthur, Stuart joined the band, and Stuart and I were best buddies. So we got a house together.
60s: How close did you remain with Arthur after leaving the band?
Snoopy: Arthur and I stayed together the whole time, I even used to call his mother. His mother and I were very – she liked me a lot, man, she thought I was a really good influence on Arthur, much more grounded and, uh, she basically liked me. And Arthur talked me up, he talked me up, because she automatically liked me, and I liked her. I used to call her once in a while. I like to talk on the phone. I did the same thing with Arthur. He never called me. But when I did call him – he did call me a few times, actually. Oh, I know what it was, he wanted me to do the gigs. At one point he said “Come on, come on Snoopy, man, at least take a picture with me” (laughs) “so I can say you’re gonna be there.” I said “Fuck, if that’s what I’ve gotta go through!”
60s: I’ve got to say, the photos of you on those old Love records add something visually interesting to the band. You were kind of an everyman. I could relate to your looks more than the others’.
|Snoppy being Snoopy (lower left).
Snoopy: You’re one of the very, very few people who feel that way, I’ll tell you, man. Because every one else in the group was really pissed off at me. They couldn’t stand those pictures because of the way I looked. It really bothered them that I didn’t wear the really Byrds-like, fucking tough beads, and the, and the…you know what I’m saying? And the short-sleeved shirt, man, Bryan would nag me the fuck all the time, man, “Why do you wear that short-sleeved shirt?” It’s because it was hot, goddammit, and I don’t feel like it!
60s: You were just trying to be yourself.
Snoopy: That’s it. I wasn’t trying, I was just BEING myself. And it turns out that they looked like punks, because, actually, in art school, you couldn’t have long hair, that’s another detail. But even Kenny had long hair, he quit school, joined The Surfaris, started to grow his hair, and by the time he was in Love he had long hair. But me, I’d get fired (from Love) every few months, and when I went back to school I’d cut my hair. So when it came time to take the pictures, there I was. And they didn’t like it, man, I’ll tell you, they didn’t like it…one…bit.
60s: I can’t believe something like that would piss them off so much.
Snoopy: Because I don’t look HEP, can’t you see I don’t look HEP! You can even see it in the (Love Story DVD) interview, just listen to Arthur, he was trying to swear that he was a nice guy. Yeah! Well that’s the way they found me, man, I swear! And it’s really funny, because my parents were bohemian, man, my father was a complete fucking bohemian! Their parents were all completely traditional, all of their parents were. And it’s funny, because (laughs) I’m just the opposite, I was brought up totally hip. But I never made a trip about looking that way. If I was a little bit hipper, I would’ve had long sleeves, long hair, and I really would’ve liked to look like, believe it or not, I would’ve liked to look like that. Because that was the hep thing to do at the time.
60s: Most people talk about Forever Changes, but my favorite Love music is that baroque pop on Da Capo, and I think if I had to choose one album, it would be the first one. Love was much more of a “group” then.Well, I really appreciate that, but like I said, I had very little to do with it, except playing the drums. All the important songs I played drums on (laughs).
60s: Except 'Signed D.C.'
Snoopy: Yeah, there is no drum on 'Signed D.C.,' it’s just a tambourine that Arthur played. 'Signed D.C.' is basically Arthur solo, a hundred percent, except for the bass. I always thought that was one of his best tunes, to me that’s like a gold…it’s got so much soul, man, it has so much soul, it’s so right on.
60s: He gets a strange sound out of the harmonica, I don’t know how he does it, if he tunes it down…
Snoopy: He’s an artist, man, he used to walk around with that harmonica trying to imitate birds. He was a trip.
60s: In my interview with Forssi, he said Arthur was a genius. What do you think?
Snoopy: I would say he was a genius, but I would say he was a pompous genius. The video to me is really, really disappointing, the way it portrays Arthur. The reason for that, unfortunately, Arthur, and when he was going through changes when they made that video, he was really, uh, uh, like a peacock with his feathers up, to a saturated degree of, to me, the word is “pompous”…a pompous asshole. I have friends who can’t watch it. They say, “I’m sorry, I’ve had enough of this guy,” and they turn it off. That’s my sentiment too, man, but when we were friends, he wasn’t like that, he was just an ordinary brother, man, he wasn’t playing any pompous asshole, like a superstar, driving his fucking car with all his jewelry and fucking studded shirts, and that shit. He didn’t do that shit, man, in fact that’s not the way Love was at all. That’s stuff he took on later, that somehow, you know…I don’t know what the fuck, to lift himself up in some kind of ridiculous image.
60s: Maybe he started believing in things some critics said about him, about his being some kind of mystic genius.
Snoopy: I know, that’s true, that’s true, it’s like anybody, man, yeah, those things definitely jack your ego up. It’s impossible to be immune to it, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t digest that information in a better way.
60s: How about Bryan? I know you praised him in that old Zigzag interview, and I’ve heard his solo CDs and got a clearer picture of him, through those beautiful introspective songs.
Snoopy: To me, he’s a great songwriter. Beautiful, beautiful sense of melody.
60s: What were the high points of your stint in Love? What were your most enjoyable moments about being in the band?
Snoopy: Well Peter, I’m sorry to tell you, there’s no moments that I can remember with fondness, and with the group, except my relationship with Arthur. I’m proud of all my stuff, to be honest, I’m proud of all of it, it’s very right on, that’s all I can do, what can I say, I played within my capacity, and that’s it.
60s: Do you think Love will ever get inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame?
Snoopy: Well, those were the last words I heard from Arthur, when we were together. I went to see him in Seattle, I don’t know if you knew, but I went to see him in Seattle, and I sat in with him, and it was a disaster, and I spent the night in his hotel room, and he was really on this religious trip, it’s all about God, now, and the Lord speaks to him, and um, at that time…
60s: Was this before he received the leukemia diagnosis?
Snoopy: Yeah, it was before, it was about three years ago.
60s: So he was touring, and he stopped in Seattle on tour?
Snoopy: Correct. And somebody told me about it, and I hadn’t seen him for years, man, so I thought I’ll go check him out and see what his group sounded like, he had Baby Lemonade, and they were hot. Anyway, I stayed with him, and he was on the, on the…and I did the, I tried to sit in with him, and it was a complete failure because they couldn’t mike me. You need three to six mikes to get my setup. If you look at the cover there on MySpace, it shows a picture of me with my setup. The cuatro, the toms, my feet, the whole thing. I use a microphone on every single thing, otherwise in a fucking big place like where he was playing, man, you can’t hear anything! I can tell you flat out, I’ve never successfully been miked.
60s: And so you got to talk to Arthur afterwards in his hotel room?
Snoopy: I spent the night there, we talked all night long. He said he missed having a relationship with somebody like me, that he could relate to and talk to and share. At that time he told me that he was eligible, he was on a list of, I don’t know, to be in the Hall of Fame, and he really couldn’t understand why it hadn’t happened yet, and he really wanted it to fuckin’ happen, it was a good deal. I thought he got inducted before he died, but he didn’t?
Snoopy: Well, I’m sure he’s disappointed (laughs). But I have a feeling, yeah, I think they will be, man, look how influential we were, man. I went to this school, and they couldn’t believe I was there! Every country I’ve been to, we were, like, a MAJOR influence on their music! And they didn’t even RELEASE Love albums in Brazil! But all the major artists, believe it or not, used to listen to us!
60s: Did you know Robert Plant is a huge fan of Love? He dropped the band’s name at Led Zeppelin’s induction.
Snoopy: Yeah, I think I…do you know how to get in touch with him?
60s: I don’t know how to directly contact him. I might be able to get through to his manager or agent.
Snoopy: Well, if you could do that, I’d appreciate it, tell him to give me a call or write me an email.
60s: There must be a petition out there to get Love inducted.
Snoopy: Well, whatever. It’ll happen eventually, it doesn’t mean a damn thing to me.
60s: If you did get inducted, would you show up?
Snoopy: Oh, I would say, but I’m just saying it doesn’t mean any…I’m just…it has no value to me whatsoever, what’s the…you know, like I said, if I was one of those who wrote a major song, or a hit, or something like that, I could say, I could say…I could take some credit. But just to be a flunky, an inexperienced drummer, and a keyboard player who can’t improvise, I don’t, I don’t…I’m just…it doesn’t mean anything.
60s: But you had that great harpsichord and organ on Da Capo. That added such dimension to that record, even though you didn’t write the music or improvise.
Snoopy: It’s a small thing, man, you know how many people play the piano better than I do? They’re a fucking dime a dozen, DIME a DOZEN, that play piano WAY better than I do, completely unknown, will never be known, and so why should I be in the Hall of Fame, man, for something that…?
60s: Yeah, but technical proficiency is not the most important thing. Ken Forssi said the same thing; he admired Frank Fayad (Love bass player that followed Forssi). But I’ve listened to both, and Forssi’s bass playing resonates much more with me.
Snoopy: Yeah? What about George Suranovich, how does that resonate, have you ever heard him fly?
60s: Yeah, I’m not denying he has the flash and the technical ability, but his drumming lacks that certain je ne sais quoi. There’s a certain magic the early band had that the later band didn’t.
Snoopy: (Laughs). Yep. It’s a fact. You can’t just go out into the market and get a new group, and think it’s going to work. It’s just like you said, this was a magical union, just like Beatles, or The Stones, or The Byrds, or…or anybody. They were all a magical union. Sure.