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The Raptor Trail

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with John Meyer of The Raptor Trail from 2016
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

I've been playing since I was about 16, and professionally since about 18.  I'm 52 now, so that means a long, long time.  I toured with bands up in Canada and the SE in the 80s off and on, went corporate world for most of the 90s-00s, but kept writing and playing in weekend bands for most of that time. 

I've known Gene since 1977, and he and I both started playing together in about 1980.  We met Matt when he moved down here to Macon in about '88.  I went out on the road with Matt for about a year shortly after (beginnings of Jupiter Coyote), and then Gene ended up playing drums with JC throughout the 90s into 2000.  Matt and I had been room mates and good friends as well, and we'd always threatened to do something together.  The stars finally aligned in 2014, and off we went.  Gene got his home studio started up around the same time, and it has worked out great for the three of us ever since...

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Either an undertaker or an airline pilot.  I'd have more money - that much is certain!
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
The first song Matt and I wrote from scratch together was "The Raptor Trail.”  We'd tossed around a few things, but that one actually seemed to stick fairly well.  Some of the other names we thought of weren't probably fit for human consumption!
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Wow.  You name it!  Since we were growing up in the 70s, a lot of that had a definite influence on me.  Being from the SE (and Gene and I being from Macon), the Allman Brothers Band as well as a host of other southern rock bands had a huge impact, but I was (still am) really into Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin, ELP, Yes, certainly Pink Floyd - to old soul stuff, blues stuff, to fusion stuff like the Dixie Dregs, etc. - you name it.  Even things I couldn't stand have even affected me to a degree.  If it's good - it doesn't matter what it is.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Music.  Matt's in Brevard, North Carolina, while Gene and I are in Macon, Georgia.  Gene's on the road for his job a good bit, so it's virtually impossible for us to tour.  Not only that, but we've seen all that, done all that, and been there.  As opposed to touring, we really just want to record and we're trying to put out at least two CDs per year.  We figure that's the next best thing to touring - or at least hope so. 

We have an absolute blast doing this stuff.  Nobody's holding a gun to our head saying "you've got to do this," or "You can’t have eight minute songs!"  What you hear is exactly what we want to do.  Over the years, I've written and recorded around 300 plus songs, and Matt has probably that many, as well.  Add to that - we still write, so I don't see our well of ideas running out in anybody's lifetime.

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Well - Matt plays a "guijo.”  It's a Strat body with a banjo neck, and he plays it kind of like a piano.  To add to the insanity, I tune my guitars to a non-standard open D tuning.  Between the way I tune, and the way he tunes his guijo  - we found out that "G" and "D" tunings work well together.  He uses alternate tunings on the guijo - as well as the acoustics he plays.  Add to that, I end up having to tune the bass to various and sundry tunings as well.  In short - you're rarely going to hear any of our songs with anything tuned to standard.  Why?  That's what everybody else does.

Of all the reviews we've gotten so far, we kind of chuckle.  Nobody really knows what in the hell to call it.  One guy called it something like "Progressive Southern Jam Rock" which might be the best description I've seen yet.  That being said, you're probably going to hear us pull out country, funk, and who only knows what else in the CDs to come.  Like I said - a whole “lotta” influences!

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Oh - I don't know.  Most of the ones I would have liked to play with are dead now.  I play with a band here in Macon called "Toolshed Ginger,” so I really enjoy that - but that's all local stuff.  I'd be open to about anything, really.  Between The Raptor Trail and TG, though, I'm pretty much as happy as I can be. 

Matt, Gene and I are very, very good friends.  Add to that - we never have disagreements - and we're all headstrong people to boot!  We just are seemingly in the same world musically, and we almost always like each other's ideas.  In the music world, that's extremely rare.  It's also one of the best blessings a musician could ever have, too...

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Well - I look at it like this nowadays:  If a car dealership wants to download my stuff for free, then he should give me a car.  You can take that right down the list to anything anybody does, too.  If they want to give me their services as a swap for our music, then I'm cool with it.  You don't see that happening, do you? 

We're on a pretty small scale here.  We don't have a record company, but we don't really want one at this juncture.  What little we do sell, we appreciate more than words could ever express.  When we see our albums going up on freebie sites, it frankly ticks me off.  Would they mind if I suddenly used the services of their mothers for a few weeks - free of charge?  I don't see any differences between it and somebody robbing a bank.

So far, our theory has been to take two songs off of each album and put them out for free.  We're old enough to remember the days when a band would stick out a single.  If you really liked it - you went out and bought the 45.  If you liked the two songs on it, then you would go out and buy the album!  Some of these newer bands are literally sticking entire albums out for free, and hence, devaluing music from everybody at the same time.  To me - that's just dumb as hell and self-defeating.  We aren't planning on getting rich off of this, but sure as hell appreciate it when somebody at least throws us a bone every now and then!

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
That's a little different.  If the band thinks that it's okay - then it is.  If the band doesn't approve of it, then it's not cool.  I tend to appreciate "high-fidelity" a little more than something you're going to hear off of something that was recorded off of a smart or dumb phone, but to each his own on that.  Just don't cry if you stick it up on YouTube and the band has it taken down.
MSJ:
If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Oh - I don't think I'd have any "arch nemesis.” I'm not a fan of rap at all - though I cannot deny that in some point or time in my writing career that it could have possibly influenced me in some minor way.  That being said, I don't want rappers to quit because I don't like them.  To each his own.  I certainly don't expect rap lovers to like the Raptor Trail!
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Ha!  I'd have Steve Morse and Guthrie Govan on guitars, Jaco Pastorious on bass, Rod Morgenstein on drums, Keith Emerson (RIP) on keyboards, and Glenn Hughes on vocals.  That would be too much fun.  Though opinions are like a******s, I still consider those guys at the top of their respective instruments.  I could throw together, though, about 1,000 different bands like that and be very happy.  I think just about every musician out there can do soimething his own way better than anybody else.  It might be a case of a guitarist hitting a simple G chord that sounds somehow just a little bit better than anybody else...
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
We'd be there for maybe weeks, but off the top of my head:  Pink Floyd, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple (Mk II & III), ELP, Yes (any version), the Allman Brothers (Mk I), Rush, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Foghat (Mk I), Otis Redding - and I could just about write a book as far as others, but no need in that...
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
David Gilmour - Rattle That Lock, The Winery Dogs (excellent band!), and The Arisocrats - because they are the best musical band on the planet right now.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
The 2016 World Almanac.  Still anxiously awaiting for Matt to give me his copy of S*** My Dad Says.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Junior Brown!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Several.  Off the top of my head, probably Bread and the Carpenters from the early 70s.  I know that's somewhat severe as well as being an easy-listening extreme, but they were so good at what they did. Melodically, they were absolutely fantastic.  It was imperative that you absolutely hadto be good back in those days.  The studios could only do so much...
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
This morning when I woke up.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Hmmm.  Maybe Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix and Bo Jackson.  I'm a sports freak as well.  Can't be all about music.  Then again, I really kind of like to eat alone without talking!

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Boiled Shrimp, Black Sea Bass, Raw Oysters (all fresh from Alligator Point, Florida), and 36 oz. T Bone steaks.  And liquor - lots and lots of liquor.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Buy our stuff!  Give us a chance.  There are a lot of people that still love classic rock.  We've been told by a few that our music reminds them of what some of those bands might sound like if they would have kept playing like they played like back then. 

We may be "well-experienced" and a little stubborn, but you can bet we're going to have fun and keep having fun!

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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