Brando's Feature: Interview with Dan Matovina

This page last updated on June 1, 1998
An interview with Dan Matovina, author of "Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger" and the producer of the much acclaimed CD by Peter William Ham "7 Park Avenue".
From the ask and you shall receive department
By now, if you folks haven't figured it out already, you all know I am a big fan of Pete Ham's 7 Park Avenue. I can't describe how I felt when I first heard of it's potential release and how satisfied I am with the product itself. In an effort to shed more light on the makings of this release, I conjured up the nerve to ask the producer of the disc, Dan Matovina, for an interview regarding the making of the compact disc. Dan was receptive to the idea, and we communicated several times through email and phone conversations this spring. The result of those communications is what follows. I hope you all enjoy the interview and learn a little something extra about the making of 7 Park Avenue that will make you appreciate the compact disc even more (if that is possible). I also want to publicly thank Dan Matovina for his cooperation in helping to create this little slice of Badfinger (Pete Ham) "Apple" pie.

1. How did you discover the Pete Ham tapes?
A - I was in Swansea, South Wales, interviewing John Ham, Pete's brother, and he mentioned he had some old tapes of Pete's around the store which he owned and operated. We were on the top floor and he pointed over to a box with a few tapes in it. He offered to let me hear a few if I could dig up a tape machine to play them on. I contacted one of Pete's old friends from the Man band and he had an old Sound-On-Sound tape machine. I borrowed it and listened to some of the tapes. I found there was a general mix of Pete solo demos, Iveys demos, and Tom Evans demos. Just before leaving, John let me know he had found a huge old chest with more tapes back in the attic at his home. I only had a cursory look at these.

2. What was the condition of the tapes?
A - Generally bad. Some had been left exposed to the elements. Some were fused together. The tape splices were either dried out or gooey and often came off when I played them. Some were unplayable.

3. What was it like to hear them for the first time?
A - Very exciting. Every time I heard something really exceptional it was mind-blowing, because as a huge fan, you always want more music if it exists, and Badfinger fans had pretty much given up on hearing any more music other than what was already out there.

4. When did it dawn on you that there might be a market for these demos?
A - My first thought as I heard Pete's solo demos was, 'There are some great songs here. This material needs to be copyrighted and protected.' Also, I thought it should be archived somehow, for the future legacy of Pete Ham.

5. Was it difficult convincing the Ham family that there was a market for these demos?
A - Well, as I had been going through them, I started to get the feeling there may be enough quality here for a Pete Ham demos CD, besides a publishing catalog. I told John Ham there really was a lot of good songs here and I was willing to catalog and salvage these tapes at my own expense. I asked John about the background of the tapes. He said when Pete died he got Pete's possessions, which included the tapes, and brought them home. At some point he made a cursory listen to a few, but it was too painful to keep listening. Now, almost twenty years later, they were decaying, and he said he was about to throw them all out, as no one had shown any interest in them over the years. John is not a part of Pete's estate, Pete's daughter, Petera, gets everything legally inherited, so I suggested I go to her lawyers, the Ham estate lawyers, who were in Swansea, and acknowledge these tapes existence, so I could offer to salvage them for the estate's future. He thought that was a great idea, so I did that and signed some documents for John and the Ham lawyers. I left the tapes with them and said I'd be back on a later trip to England to transfer them to analog and digital formats. When I got back to the U.S., Mike Gibbins called me and said a friend in Swansea had called and told him John had mentioned about me getting the tapes and Mike said he had always wanted to get those tapes, but never had. He said he wanted them now. I was in an awkward position, as I had already turned them over to the Ham estate. Mike kind of pressed me that he expected to get them from me somehow in the future. I didn't say much at the time. I probably should have discussed it more with Mike, but he seemed quite angry, so I let it go. Mike told me he had told John in the past he was going to get those from him some day, but John will tell you now, he has no such memory of this ever occurring. It may have happened, but memories fade. I still think I did the right thing at the time, because my thought was, anything in there that is Badfinger or Iveys was group-owned anyway, and basically, the Ham estate simply now had physical possession of these tapes. I knew the group stuff was legally Badfinger material. My immediate goal was to save these tapes from deterioration and destruction. Mike had told me he threw a bunch of his tapes away in a landfill at some point in the 70's or 80's, and that certainly alarmed me. He seemed to have very little interest in the past.

I came back to England months later and spent weeks transferring all the salvageable material I could at Bob Jackson's home studio. I took advantage of the situation and put some of the songs additionally onto a Fostex quarter-inch 8-track, and had Bob Jackson and Ron Griffiths do some overdubs, in the case a Pete Ham demos CD would ever come into being.

6. How did you shop the idea of a Pete CD? What other labels were offered the CD?
A - I made cassette tapes of five to six snippets-of-songs and shopped the idea of a Pete demos CD to about twelve labels. All of them made an offer except for Rhino, who turned it down, surprisingly. They felt they had other more lucrative projects targeted for release at the time, but they greatly respected the material.

7. How was it determined what songs would be used for the disc?
A - I wanted it to come off like an album format that stood up for repeated listens in its continuity. I didn't want it to become tedious and dilute what had come before. There was easily material enough for two CD's worth of good quality music. I always thought at least two would come out, so I didn't fill up 72 minutes. I did try to use what I felt were generally the best tracks, in case another one never did come out. My own take on what I accomplished is a B+ job. I have my own nitpicks now, which I keep to myself.

8 - When overdubs were made, what input did you have?
A - It was purely my production decisions. My goal was to try and present the demo in the best light I could, while retaining the essential integrity of the original performance. Any overdub I did needed to enhance the song and Pete's performance, or it was scrapped. I had to factor variable sound qualities, balances as they were, and the era in which they were recorded. Some of the songs were obvious rock songs suited for bass and drums. I always recorded the drums on one track, to retain the demo quality, and tried to get sounds that worked with the original demo. The frequency range and distortion varied greatly on the tapes. "Leaving On A Midnight Train" seemed like it was going to be impossible to use, but it came out acceptable, and I was very happy to salvage a pretty good song. A lot of EQing was done, massive amounts on some songs.

9 - How were Ron and Bob to work with?
A - Great! Ron received a tape of some songs from me and came down to Bob's for one long day to do bass overdubs. He was amazing. For just capturing the feel of the song and complimenting it, he had amazing intuitiveness. As far as Bob Jackson, I would assign Bob a part and an instrument, and after his day job he would practice in his room before coming into the studio to do the part. He was patient and thorough; a great musician.

10 - How did John, Petera, Anne, and Bev react towards hearing these songs and the possible release of them?
A - John and his family were very emotional upon hearing Catherine Cares. They were very proud of the CD, as was Anne, but these things do open old wounds, and they all find it tough at times to deal with hearing Pete's voice. Beverley was very happy, she told me Pete would have loved to know more of his music was getting released. Petera Ham really liked the CD. She enjoys having her friends discover her dad's music.

11 - How did Ryko react towards the release?
A - Excited. The people I dealt with there were always very polite and enthusiastic. I was ultimately disappointed in the amount of promotion they did. They only did a few ads and hit on a few radio stations. There were absolutely no promotional items created, other than the standard 8 1/2 by 11 picture and one-sheet. They rationalized it, but it wasn't what I was told would happen when I first got their interest. Also, upon its release, Ryko was changing the nature of their distribution arm and the CD suffered greatly in its first six to eight weeks out, as many stores did not have it.

12 - Was there consideration for an alternate cover?
A - One of the things I negotiated in the Ryko deal was that I had final say on the artwork of the CD. This was somehow overlooked and the package was designed very close to the time it needed to be done for production. I had given Ryko the photos and the concept. I had also assigned the liner note writer and edited his notes. The front cover concept I had ended up pretty much as it eventually came out, but they had originally put Pete's face in a box with his name in huge letters at the top. It was a nineties graphics-program look and it would have become dated in my opinion. I insisted they change that. It slipped out on the promotion material.

Brando delivers: The original artwork for 7 Park Avenue. The Rykodisc Pete Ham page had the original artwork displayed for a week back in March 1997, I copied the cover and present it to the world for all to share, click on any picture to view a large comparison photo of both covers.

Ryko Original Artwork Actual Artwork Ryko Original Artwork Actual Artwork

Now, back to the interview
Dan continuing with question #12
Also I had them touch up other aspects. I wasn't totally happy that I had to compromise on some things I didn't like, but being the last minute, there wasn't much time to turn the situation into a big hassle. All in all, they did a very nice job, and people seem to like the packaging. A lyrics is misprinted and that was definitely my fault, a line in "Just Look Inside The Cover." I'd forgotten to update an old computer file. I discovered this just after the sleeves were produced.

13 - With regards to some of the Brando guestbook entries regarding taking the demos further to a "Free As A Bird" production, could it have been done at a reasonable cost?
A - "Free as A Bird" works in concept as a tribute to John Lennon. It's been greatly debated as to whether it works as a record. Some of the overdubbed sounds on it are very modern and don't mesh very well with the original recording. Whether you like it or not is a matter of opinion. What's undeniable is that a great amount of money was spent by The Beatles to create it. My goal again with the Pete demos was to retain each demo's integrity as the focus, especially the vocal performance, and to augment only in order to enhance what was already there. The budget came purely out of my pocket and I will probably never make it back. It would have costs thousands upon thousands of dollars to try a "Free as A Bird" approach on even one song. I didn't want to do it aesthetically, nor could I have afforded to do it, nor would a label have paid for it. Also, Badfinger are not The Stones or The Beatles. Very, very few acts would spend a ton of money trying to make a masterpiece out of a rudimentary mono demo. In fact, none of the labels I approached wanted to put up a recording budget. Ryko's advance was for basically for mastering. They liked what I had done and thought it was just fine for release.

14. Any songs in particular that you feel could have been singles in their time or even today?
A - The most commercial melodies to me are "Catherine Cares" and "Sille Veb", but their lyrics aren't too commercial. "Hand In Hand," maybe in the late sixties it would've had a chance, but not today.

15. How do you feel about the overwhelmingly positive reviews this CD has gotten?
A - Very, very proud for Pete's sake and not surprised at all. People like his music when given the chance to hear it. I'm easily my own hardest critic, so I have my nitpicks on my job of putting it together, but generally I'm quite pleased.

16 - How did the Japanese version of the Pete Ham CD come about with five bonus tracks?
A - Just after the master of the 7 Park Avenue CD was delivered to Rykodisc in the U.S., I was contacted by Ryko's International director who told me the Japanese company who distributes Ryko product in Japan was interested in some bonus tracks for their country's domestic issue of the CD. Because of the tax laws in Japan, the domestic CD's there are now more costly than imports. I know it sounds strange, but its true. So Japanese companies are often looking for some way to entice their consumers further. They would've been happy with one or two bonus tracks, but I realized immediately that many hardcore Badfinger fans elsewhere would want to buy this, and I felt getting such a small amount of tracks for the price would not be a good deal for them. So I consulted with the Ham estate and ultimately offered five cassette demos of Pete's. There is a lot of Pete material to choose from and I used things that probably would not have made it on to a Volume Two of Pete demos. Because the Japanese CD came out almost simultaneous to the U.S. and U.K. versions, some fans perceived this release as getting shafted, but it really was an opportunity that came about to allow more material to get out, and people should be grateful. But it was a public relations snafu for Ryko on some level because of the timing, and I don't know if they will allow for it in the future because some people complained.

17 - Is there enough quality material for a volume 2?
A - Easily. Rykodisc has an option for release of that for three years, as of March 1997. Time will tell if they want to do it. Fans can encourage them through the Rykodisc website or writing directly to A&R. I wouldn't bother them with phone calls. They'll only get screened.

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