Interview with Terry Jacks of The Poppy Family

This interview was done for Stage Door, a publication (as far as I recall) focusing on the Vancouver arts and entertainment scene. It was published on May 7, 1970.

MQ: How long have you been involved in the Vancouver music scene?

TERRY JACKS: About six years in writing, recording and producing.

MQ: What are some of the major changes that have occurred since you've been involved?

TJ: Well, right now you've got about five or six recording studios in Vancouver, and they’re all competing with each other. There’s very few groups recording in this city, and therefore all the studios are struggling to make a buck. There’s more recording studios than there are recording groups. If some of them would get together and combine, you might end up with better products from the studios, and they’d make more money.

MQ: What use have you made of the local studios?

TJ: We do our recording at R & D Studios where we get a good basic sound. That’s where “Which Way You Goin', Billy?" was done. I like working there, and I’d just as soon support Canadian studios, because pretty soon we’ll be doing a lot of recording, but not in the States.

MQ: How do you think groups such as those in Vancouver should deal with record companies?

TJ: I think it's important that a group, rather than sign a contract with a big record company, should go out and record a record and then lease that record to a company. Then if they got a hit, they're a proven product. If you have a proven record in Canada, it'll probably do the same in the States, since the markets are similar. Then, after the group has proven themselves, they can ask for advance money, special privileges, all sorts of things. I'd like to get some groups that I'd like to do a single or an album with, and then arrange some deals where I don't sign them up to a company. It'd be a one-record release and they'd get so much per record. Then if they get a proven hit, they'd be in a position to barter for a good contract. Any group can get a contract nowadays. Contracts mean nothing, until you've proven yourself as a group.

MQ: What do you think about the CRTC proposals on 30 percent Canadian content?

TJ: It's a drag, saying that radio and TV have to show and play 30 percent Canadian content. Canada can't support that right now. There's a lot of good talent in Canada, but it can't support 30 percent. Since we're only one-tenth the size of the States, it would be all right if 10 percent was the figure, but 30 percent is no good. What such a figure will do is bring out a lot of garbage. I'm a Canadian artist, yet I'm against 30 percent because there'll be a lot of bad material produced to get the total up to that figure. I think if a product is good, whether it's Canadian or not, it should be played. The disc jockeys should be able to listen to a record and decide whether or not they want to play it without being forced. Since more and more good Canadian material is being produced, we might eventually end up with 50 percent Canadian content. But right now, we just can't support 30 percent.

MQ: What about the Maple Leaf System* on the other hand?

TJ: Well, it's giving Canadians a better look at Canadian talent. Disc jockeys and people in the music industry would once be down on a Canadian record before they'd even play it. However, the MLS forced these people to really get into the records. In that way it was good. The MLS has probably been very influential in the way American disc jockeys are looking at Canadian talent now. Four years ago, if you said you were Canadian in the States, they would have said you were ten years behind. Now they listen to you.

MQ: What's coming up in the way of new releases from the Poppy Family?

TJ: Our last Canadian one was "That's Where I Went Wrong" and it was number one in a lot of cities. I don't know whether that's going to be our second release in the States. I've got another up-tempo number called "You Lost Your Game," which could be our second U.S. release. Right now "Which Way You Goin', Billy?" is doing very well in the States and "That's Where I Went Wrong" hasn't been released there yet. Now that we're known in the States, the record company doesn't want us to put out another Canadian record because some disc jockey might send a copy to the States in advance of its release there and mess things up. So for the next six months it looks like we aren't going to have a Canadian single. I've got another release, though, called "I'm Gonna Capture You," which is getting some good action in the East. I put it out under my own name, because it's a little off the line of what we're doing as The Poppy Family.

MQ: Do you look upon yourselves as a Canadian group?

TJ: Definitely. We intend to stay up here, even though we could be making a lot more money living in Nashville or Los Angeles. We can make good money in Canada, though. We could make more in the States, but, we want to be very choosy about what we do in the States.

MQ: Which do you prefer doing -- American or Canadian TV?

TJ: Well, the way the shows are produced and the way the sound is done, American TV is generally much better, because they've got better equipment and fresher ideas. Even though there are some good producers and good people in it, TV in Canada leaves a lot to be desired.

MQ: What about your plans for the future?

TJ: I'd like to spend more time in Vancouver producing, writing, and looking after my music publishing company, Gone Fishin' Music. We don't want to do so much touring —- we've been doing too many one-nighters. This summer when we get back from Japan, I'd like to do some producing of other groups, and then in the fall we’ll get back to playing again. We've got some major TV shows lined up in the States in the future as well.

* The Maple Leaf System (MLS) was created in 1969. The idea was that 12 radio stations from across Canada would review Canadian content singles every week and then select ones to be given regular airplay and promotion. The system fell apart when the stations didn't follow through and actually play the records.