- On 11 August 2010
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Interview with Dougie Thomson by freelance writer Stephen Majewski.
Q: What have you been up to for the last ten years?
Dougie Thomson: "(Laughs) When I finished the 1988 Supertramp tour--which in my opinion was a mistake for me, I shouldn't have ever done it, it was not right to be there without Rog--I took approximately two years away from the music industry altogether. The tour was a constant battle in many areas and I wanted a distinct change of scenery.
"One of my passions in life is sailing and yacht racing. I was very fortunate to be in the company of some tremendous sailors. They gave me the opportunity to travel to quite a few different places around the world and race with them. I spent maybe eighteen months just doing that."
Q: Do you still sail?
DT: "Oh, yeah. I'm just getting ready to do my eleventh year of the Chicago-to-Mackinaw race. I don't sail as much as I used to; I don't have the time."
Q: Did you ever race for the America's Cup?
DT: "No, I never raced for the America's Cup. I raced in something called the Class A Association, which was all 80-foot boats. Through the course of those years I raced for several different individuals. I had the great fortune to sail for Jim Kilroy who is a pretty famous ocean racing sailor. Sailing was a great way for me to change direction.
"In the middle of all that I was trying to decide what I wanted to do next.
I'd always had somewhat of a focus on what it takes to make a band within the music industry. That was kind of my leanings. I had a couple of sailing friends who were also in the music business. They suggested to come over and do something with them. I ended up having a joint venture with Warner/Chappell Music to develop new talent for the publishing company. That was the beginning of 1990 and I've been doing that ever since in one form or another.
Now I'm actually a consultant for Warner/Chappell Music and for Warner Brothers Records and for a management company that manages a few young bands here in Chicago."
Q: Did you ever work for Supertramp's old management company, Mismanagement?
DT: "Not directly, kind of indirectly in several ways. Dave Margereson and I have always been very close friends. I brought a friend of mine, Kenny MacPherson, into Mismanagement, and also my brother Kenny who was a partner in
Mismanagement. He was responsible for Chris de Burgh and had tremendous success. Kenny MacPherson is now senior vice president of Warner/Chappell Music. He's gone on to have a fairly illustrious career in his own right. My
brother now has his own company called KTM which he runs out of Toronto and London."
Q: How did a Scotsman who loves sailing end up living in Chicago?
DT: "By the time I had finished my Supertramp touring years, I was engaged to a young lady who's from Chicago. We got married in July 1989 and decided to move here. We actually got married in the middle of me getting ready for a world championship race."
Q: Your comments regarding the '88 tour are intriguing. What was the difference between touring without Roger in 1986 and 1988?
DT: "1986 was a different kind of thing in a way. The dynamic was different.
We weren't doing any of Roger's songs. We were exploring a new avenue for Rick Davies. We weren't crossing a line in my mind.
It was interesting to play with a bunch of other musicians, but it became apparent on that tour that it's not Supertramp without being Supertramp. To go out again in 1988, knowing that that was the perception on my part, was probably a mistake.
However, it took me quite a long time to figure that out. I certainly did not enjoy the '88 tour on many levels by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn't a pleasurable experience for me at all."
Q: Why was the '88 tour such a bad experience for you?
DT: "It was the vibe that existed in that band. There were a lot of other people involved and it wasn't the same.
It was misguided in a lot of ways.
Some of the shows were really good. There's still a pride in the standard.
It just wasn't quite right, to quote Rick Davies (laughs)."
Q: You played with Roger at a few of his recent Solo Tramp shows. How did this come about?
DT: "(Laughs) Roger and I have always been very close. We've been kind of soul mates right from day one. It was a very heart-wrenching thing for me when he was no longer a part of the band. He and I always stayed in touch. I think he'll be the first one to admit that I'm pretty good at tugging away at the strings. I always keep in touch to make sure he's doing okay. I knew he was doing his solo tour. As it happens, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to see him in Chicago because my wife was going to be out of the country for a few days. I went up to Milwaukee the day before to see him play there.
It was just great to run into him along with Ian Lloyd-Bisley and Tony Shepherd, who were real instrumental in the Supertramp years. It was great visiting with them and to reacquaint myself with Andrew, who I think is just a tremendous individual.
"The next morning they came down and had breakfast at my house.
I'm sort of on the way from Milwaukee to Chicago. We ended up playing soccer in the backyard and reminiscing. Roger said, 'Come on, why don't you play a couple of songs.' I thought, 'I haven't played in ten years. I don't even know if I remember how to do this.' So Roger brought his guitar in and we had a crack at a couple of songs. That night, I went down to the House of Blues here in Chicago and got up at the end of his set and played a couple of songs."
Q: How did it feel to be on stage with Roger?
DT: "It felt great. It was great fun. Roger's in terrific shape. He's singing so well. I think he's singing better than ever, even when he was in the band. It was tremendous just to see him. I'd never seen him as an audience member. That was a blast in itself (laughs). To get up and play with him brought back all sorts of stuff. I think he'll admit that it was a boost for him, too. It was just a good moment for both of us. It wasn't the best I ever played in my life (laughs) but certainly the enthusiasm level was there."
Q: So you haven't been playing much bass in the last ten years?
DT: "No, I hadn't played at all. I'd lost all my callouses (laughs). I don't know why. Obviously, I've sat at home and fiddled around, but not with any intensity."
Q: What songs did you play with Roger?
DT: "We played 'Hide in Your Shell,' 'The Logical Song,' and "Give a Little Bit.'"
Q: Do you miss playing in a band?
DT: "I hadn't until I spent a few minutes with Roger (laughs). It was beautiful to do what I did. I'm really enjoying what I'm doing and I don't know if I'm cut out to being 47 years old and back on the road. I'm working with a lot of people in their mid-20s and I thrive in their energy. I think they thrive in my years of experience. We have mutual respect for each other and I'm really enjoying doing that."
Q: What's your favorite Roger Hodgson song, either from his solo albums or Supertramp?
DT: "Oh, man, there's a song he does in the set right now called 'Death and a Zoo.' I think it's fantastic. I think it's the best song he's written in a long time. Let me rephrase that. It's the best song that I've heard that he's written in a long time. He may have written some other great songs that I haven't heard yet. I'm working with this young band from Chicago called Extravery and I took them to the House of Blues show. They said to me, 'Wow, that song was amazing!' I also took a bunch of people to the Minneapolis show and they all reacted to that song, too."
Q: How would you describe your relationship with Roger today?
DT: "I've nothing but love for Roger. We're kind of like brothers. We really have a great affinity for each other. It's unfortunate the way this whole thing has come down. I think he should be getting a lot more support from his past than he is. I wanted to be someone who would give him that support."
Q: When Roger left Supertramp, did you ever consider leaving with him?
DT: "When everything disintegrated it wasn't really like that. Roger and Rick kind of had a passing of the ways. Rick was adamant about keeping the band together and Roger was adamant about wanting to change the band. So it wasn't a consideration for me. Knowing Roger, I should've known better. You know, Roger changes his mind more than he changes his underwear.
It's just his nature. He said a beautiful thing the other night. We were in Minneapolis and he was trying to decide whether to wear his ear monitor. Ian said to him, 'Well, you know Roger, it's your choice.' Roger answered, 'Yeah, I know that's the problem.' (Laughs) Anyway, because of the way they parted, it wasn't an issue at that time. Rick really wanted Bob and me as the rhythm section but Roger really wanted a change. That's the way that particular moment went down. The option wasn't even available."
Q: Why didn't you play on Supertramp's last album, Some Things Never Change?
DT: "I've not had a conversation with Rick in ten years. I've had constant conversations with Bob Siebenberg. I consider Bob Siebenberg a close friend of mine. I think he would say the same. We've been very good at communicating, probably more so than anybody. Over the years, we've talked every couple weeks. It's been a lot less with John Helliwell. John's not great at keeping in touch. The fact that he moved back to England made it even more complex."
Q: Were you interested in playing with either Roger on Rites or Rick Davies on Some Things Never Change?
DT: "It wasn't something that came to mind. I wasn't asked in the first place. I wasn't really keen on Rick's situation. There's obvious political reasons for that and probably musical reasons, too. Rick knew that I was doing something else. With Roger, I couldn't have afforded to take the time out of my life to be up in Nevada City for that long on such a wing and a prayer as it was. I didn't really know where that project was. I had carved out my own lifestyle and another career for myself. I had a lot of people depending on what I do."
Q: What's your opinion of Supertramp's Some Things Never Change?
DT: "I haven't heard it."
Q: Really? Do you refuse to listen to it?
Q: Are you curious to hear it?
DT: "No, not really. I'm not out to put down Supertramp. I haven't heard the record, but I know Rick Davies as a musician would do a fantastic job. I know Bob wouldn't play if was crap. So I'm sure it was a really solid album."
Q: What about Rites of Passage?
DT: "I think it's okay. I view it as a necessary vehicle to get Roger back and working. I think it served its purpose. I'm not in love with it as a
record. For a collector, it has some interesting points to it. It deserves credit for getting him up and going."
Q: What do you think of him including some of his Supertramp songs?
DT: "(Laughs) It's what he chose to do. I can understand why he mixed the old and the new."
Q: What did you think of Supertramp calling their last tour a "reunion"?
DT: "I thought it was deceptive. I had this conversation with Bob and John. I thought it was deceptive."
Q: What did they say to you?
DT: "They agreed. To be honest, I think they were coming from a musician's standpoint. They got back together with Rick and had a really good time playing music with him. That's where their focus was. I said, 'If that's how you see it, then so be it. That's good. If you can do it for the musical aspect of it, that's cool.' They were able to shield themselves from the politics of it all, which I couldn't do and hence my distance from it."
Q: Is it fair to say Rick and you had a falling out?
DT: "No, we didn't have a falling out. As you know, Rick is managed by his wife. I don't find that an easy situation to deal with. Not everybody's aware of my feelings on that. I just didn't want to get involved in it and they didn't want me involved. So it was pretty easy (laughs).
"Supertramp, in my mind, when it was the five guys and Dave Margereson running it was a lot of fun. And not just those guys but the support system behind it. It was terrific. We had a great time. It's really hard to go back when you had such a great experience. That's just how it was. Bob and I had the best time playing together. He's said it's really difficult for him to play without me being around. I spoke to Bob when I was in Canada. He was like, 'Oh, I've got to show up one night.' I know in his heart that Bob would love to play with Roger."
Q: Why haven't you spoken to Rick in ten years?
DT: "I've tried a few times. It always seems like he was shielded by whatever he was hiding behind. I don't know."
Q: What's your opinion of the disclaimer at the Official Supertramp Web Site regarding Roger's Solo Tramp tour?
DT: "I thought it was hysterical. I mean, get real. How about a bit of camaraderie (laughs)? It's not supportive. I don't see Roger as a threat to what they're doing. I see Roger as a fantastic part of the legacy. In my mind, you should offer support."
Q: When Roger left Supertramp in 1983, he claims that Rick promised not to play his songs live. Were you aware of any such agreement?
DT: "That was my understanding, but nobody except Rick and Roger were privy to that conversation. Rick and Roger had several dialogues that no one else was privy to. Again, that's hearsay."
Q: After Roger left Supertramp in 1983, when was the first time the band played his songs live?
DT: "During rehearsals in Brazil on the '88 tour."
Q: Why did the band decide to do that?
DT: "There was a lot of pressure because people expected to hear those songs."
Q: How was that different from the '86 tour?
DT: "It wasn't even a consideration. It wasn't an issue."
Q: What made it an issue in 1988?
DT: "External pressure, I think. The fact that we were in Brazil playing in front of 130,000 people who'd never seen Supertramp.
The pressure built up."
Q: Was it a spur of the moment decision or were the pros and cons discussed?
DT: "I can't remember the way it came around, but it was definitely external pressure."
Q: What was your position?
DT: "At that time I probably thought, 'The people expect this. If there's any way this can work we should probably figure out a way to do it.' In my business sense, that's what my mind would say."
Q: Did you know how betrayed Roger would feel?
DT: "I probably should've known better. I know that it would be a terrible thing for Roger. I should have been stronger at the time and said, 'You know what, this is really not right.'"
Q: How aware were you of Roger's struggles between 1987 and 1996?
DT: "We used to talk all the time. He went through so many things. I wasn't there every day for him, but we talked."
Q: What did you think of Roger and Rick working together in the early 1990s?
DT: "My opinion of that was that it would never happen. I knew the obstacles in the way. Even though those obstacles would be swept aside for a little while, they would surface again. There would be an obstacle of some sort that would get in the way that would not have to do with the music or Rick and Roger."
Q: So you were fairly certain that an album wouldn't come from it.
DT: "Absolutely. I would have bet on it. A lot of people from the industry said to me, 'They're back together!' I said, 'Well, I wouldn't put your money on it because it's not going to happen.' I think I was pretty accurate (laughs). I was never consulted in any of that by Rick or Roger. If I'd been consulted I would have been quite happy to give my opinion."
Q: What is your life like today as a consultant?
DT: "My life's pretty hectic right now working for Warner Brothers and Warner/Chappell Music and the management company that I consult for. We have one act that's just finishing mixing a record. We have another act that I just helped get signed to Warner Brothers. We're looking for a producer for those guys. We have a third act creating a huge stir."
Q: Do you see yourself consulting for a while?
DT: "(Laughs) I'm too busy to think about how long I'm going to do it for. I'll do it as long as I enjoy it."