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Producers find direction: Things more upbeat and focused for Atlanta band

by Russ Devault

After trying to go several directions at once, losing an original member and going through a "real depression," Atlanta's Producers have found a focus.

That's the guarantee from Bryan Holmes, drummer-manager for the four- man band, which will debut songs from its new album, "Run for Your Life," Wednesday, May 29, at the Moonshadow Saloon.

"We've always had what it takes as far as talent goes," Holmes says, "but people have had a hard time putting their finger on what we were or where we were headed. That's been our biggest problem, but I truly think it's been eliminated."

It was a painful process of elimination that started in 1983 with a second album, "You Make the Heat," that didn't generate the interest drawn by "The Producers," the band's 1981 debut album, and that continued through the departure last September of Kyle Henderson, bassist and vocalist since the band, then known as Cartoon, introduced itself to Atlanta on New Year's Eve 1980 at the now-defunct Uncle Tom's Tavern.

"Before Kyle left the band we were losing a lot of unity," Holmes says. "Kyle wanted to go in one direction and the rest of the band in another."

The schism was particularly noticeable during the band's live performances with the spotlight shifting from keyboardist Wayne Famous to Henderson to guitarist-vocalist Van Temple. "In the past," Holmes says, "Wayne and Kyle butted heads a lot. Kyle wanted guitar emphasisand Wayne wanted keyboard emphasis."

Now the 28-year-old Holmes, the 33-year-old Famous and the 32- year- old Temple think they have found visual and aural consistency with the addition of 21-year-old bassist Tim Smith.

"Van does all the lead vocals, so there's a focal point on stage, " Holmes says. "We've got a real focus."

And, they agree, an album that sounds much better than their second for CBS' Portrait label and is much more encouraging than what resulted when Holmes, Temple and Famous tried to record as a trio.

"When Kyle actually left the band his departure was announced last June, a lot of people said, `Well, that's it for the Producers.' They thought we wouldn't get by without Kyle who moved to Los Angeles and is working with a Christian music band, and that irked us."

So the three tried to prove they could make it as a trio. "We went into the studio and did a demo tape as a three-piece. The result gave us a real depression.

"We were a little bit forlorn and we did have some problems. We tried to like it and think it was good, but it wasn't happening at all."

They scrapped that project and shifted their energies to the matter of finding a replacement, a process that took until early this year. "We interviewed about 25 bass players before finding Tim a relative newcomer with no real band experience," Holmes says, ". . . and he' s helped the band move in a real solid direction."

It remains a pop-rock direction that Holmes calls "a natural progression from where we were" when the band had minor hits with "What's He Got?" and "What She Does to Me" from its first album. " I call it modern rock," Holmes says, "and it is a lot more keyboard- oriented than before.

"Everybody contributes to the writing, but Van is the principal writer. He does most of the lyrics and 50 to 60 percent of the music."

The Producers split with Portrait Records after Henderson's departure.

"We started our own label, Marathon, for our third album," says Holmes, who likes to downplay his role as band manager but who says he has significantly reduced recording costs while improving the group' s self-expression compared to what they were under the band's two nonplaying managers, one of whom was fired in late 1981 and the other in September of last year.

"We had the two managers and that just didn't work out," Holmes says. "The creative ideas we had just didn't get put into effect, so we decided to take things into our own hands.

"And one of the really interesting things is the money we've saved. CBSspent about $100,000 on recording costs alone on the first two albums. This one recorded locallycost us under $40,000.

"We're a lot smarter, a lot stronger than we were. I just wish I'd known half of what I do now about the business end of being a musicianwhen we signed the recording contract."

The band hopes to win a new deal with "Run for Your Life" - an apt title because the group does about 200 shows a year - once it sells enough copies of to offset production costs. "Right now," Holmes says, "we're selling it with mail-order coupons ($10, postage and handling included, from P.O. Box 940295, Atlanta, Ga., 30340), although we are talking to some local distributors about handling it.

"What we want is to get a distributor who can cover our main base - the Southeast - and we're just looking to recoup our costs. I feel we can get a major label to take it over once we do that, and a major label can distribute itbetter than we can."

Its heavy schedule of appearances (about a third of which are on college campuses and the remainder in clubs and smalls halls) and its two- year-old sponsorship by Miller Beer (worth about $25,000 annually) give the Producers financial s ecurity. But there's nothing quite like the confidence and promotion generated by a deal with a major label, and that's why the Producers have invited representatives of several companies to their Moonshadow show.

"It's going to be a festive night," says Holmes, noting that the band will not be playing copies of other folks' songs, which it did in the past despite having two albums on the market.

"We've weeded that out," Holmes says. "Now we've go three albums and we've got enough of our own material to play all night . . . but we do occasionally throw in `Hard Day's Night' as an encore song, because it's a lot of fun to play and the crowds always like it."

Briefly The Producers: Performing at the Moonshadow Saloon, 1880 Johnson Road N.E. Wednesday, May 29. Club opens at 8 p.m. Music begins about 10 p.m. No reserved seating. $5. 881-6666.

Copyright 1985, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Contents of the Demo tape: (After so many years, Alan Ozanne stumbled across a copy of the demo tape in March 2008 and sent me the track list. Thanks Alan!)
Side One

  1. Begin At The Beginning
  2. Dance On My Heart
  3. World of Dreams
  4. Table For One
  5. Renaissance

Side Two
  1. The Boat Song
  2. Rain Is Falling
  3. Found Out The Hard Way
  4. Full Circle

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 Copyright © 1997- 2007 by Paul Schulz. All rights reserved.

Created: 5/24/1998 / Changed: 3/15/2008 10:16:11 AM

I'm Paul Schulz in Columbus, Ohio and I'd like to hear your stories about The Producers. Maybe I'll put your experiences on the Fans page! schulzp@rrohio.com.
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