HYDRA interview

On our website, Road To Jacksonville, some times ago, we talked about Hydra cds. You were Hydra leader, and I've heard you did enjoy what we said about your group. That's why we'd like to ask you some questions to remind to our friends and website users what was this wonderful and fabulous rock group of the seventies…

RTJ : Can you tell us, for our audience and readers, what was Hydra career. Can you tell us about the history of the group, the great moments and the way the musicians loved to play ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : First I must say that I was not the leader, but one of four equal voices in our band. Also, I would like to say thank you to John Molet for his review which I found most interesting and accurate in many ways. In response to the third album, Orville had left the band by then and we had been under constant pressure from both Capricorn and lastly Polydor to make our music more commercial. I recently came across an article by Steve Morse from the eighties regarding Capricorn trying to pressure groups to sound a certain way or to change their direction which is certainly what Capricorn did with us. They wanted a commercial success which we were not ever meant to be. Our whole focus was on our music which in the earlier days was a lot more diverse that it was by the third album. That being said, let me get on to your questions.
Hydra as a group existed from around 1968-1978. We gained regional success around '71 or '72 playing mostly in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and the Carolinas. As the 70's progressed we started playing further from home, going as far west as Texas and as far North as New York and much of the mid-west as well. We were well received in most markets, although I think we really made more fans when we played clubs for more than a night at a time because the people got to know us and realized the intensity level that we played at nightly. It was a lot of fun.

RTJ : What were your main musical influences ? Which groups had some influence on Hydra ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : We had diverse influences. All of us were very fond of the Beatles. Wayne had a background in both R&B, Soul, and even some country. I was influenced early on by the music of Elvis Presley (Scotty Moore, great guitar), Ricky Nelson (James Burton, again- great guitar), Chet Atkins, and The Beatles. Steve listened to a lot of R&B drummers as well as Jazz and most of the other influences that we all shared, as did Orville.

RTJ : Did you feel you were a Southern band, or only a rock group ? Were where you from, what was the country you came from ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : We definitely were a southern band, but I think that our music was not so much what you would consider Southern Rock. Despite our musical differences, we were and remain friends with many of the Southern Rock Bands that are still in existence. I recently played a guitar festival that the drummer from "38 Special" also played, as well as Charlie Daniels, Harmonica Player. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, Wayne was from Smyrna, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, Steve was from a small town 60 miles east of Atlanta called Madison, Georgia, and Orville was originally from a small town in Florida, but grew up in Norcross, Georgia, another suburb of Atlanta.

RTJ : What do you think about the name " Southern Rock ", what does this means to you ? What is the influence of the " Southern Rock " on music today ?
Do you think it always has a main influence on it ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : Southern Rock- Originally this term was used to indicate any musical group from the South eastern US. In the early half of the 70's it became associated with bands like Lynard Skynard, Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Wet Willie, etc. In a lot of the music that I hear today on the US, I don't really sense a lot of influence from Southern music, although their are some stations that play music of the 70's-80's and you will occasionally hear those tunes then. I think it was more influential in the 70's than now

RTJ : You were a band with a lot of Southern Music fans. What did miss to the group to be an international rock music top band ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : I think the reason Hydra did not achieve international status was due mainly to being manipulated by our management and our record companies. Had we been left to follow our own instincts musically, I think we would have finally made it across the Atlantic. I have heard from several fans in England that said we had a large following around Leeds and also in the end of the 70's we seemed to have achieved a degree of success in Japan. We regret that we never were able to take our music over seas. It would have been a pleasure.

RTJ : I think you used to be on tour with other southern music bands. Which one were your best friends, and did you have good souvenirs of such tours ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : We never had an actual tour. But rather played sporadic dates with a lot of people. We played several one nighters with Z Z Top, Billy Gibbons has always been most gracious, and certain a premier American guitarist. We played a lot with Lynard Skynard and although we have not seen them through the years we were good friends with them and hold them in high regard. I should also mention Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker, Grinderswitch, and Charlie Daniels. Our longest outing with another group was a 10-day mini tour with the English Band "Trapize". We still hear from Glenn Hughs occasionally.

RTJ : What are you doing today ? Are you still in the world of music, or have you totally changed your way of life ? Do you still play music ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : I have always been and always will be a guitarist. For the past 14 years, I have pared down my playing schedule to accommodate home life. I am married and have 2 children. A daughter, 14 (Ali); and a son, 9 (Julian). I have an older son as well by my first marriage, Spencer JR (30 yrs.) and a step son, John (31). I play regularly at the Anglican church we attend and usually one or two dates a month with The Roosters (Myself, Steve Pace, Guy Goodman, Debra Reece, and Rex Patton, very loud 60's and 70's oriented stuff) and also with various society bands. I also, am a Union Stage Technical with Local #927 I.A.T.S.E. This is mainly at Atlanta's historic Fox Theatre doing Broadway shows, Ballet, and other things.

RTJ : What do you think about the groups of the " new " generation, like Alligator Stew, Catawompus,
Eat a Peach or Laidlaw ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick
: I am sadly out of the loop as far as the new generation Southern Bands go. I think the North Mississippi Allstars are great although perhaps they are more Blues than Southern. I would be very happy for someone to make me aware of some of the new generation bands especially some of the French Bands that I have heard of. I am still surprised that Southern music has such a wide sway overseas.

RTJ : What do you think about the fact that big groups, like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, 38 Special, Molly Hatchet, are still alive and well ? Do you think they are still in Southern music, or do you think they have changed their music style,
maybe to be still alive today ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : I think its wonderful that there is still a cluster of original bands from the 70's still playing. I think the Allman Brothers have been more successful at keeping things alive and moving. I have not really heard any of the rest of the folks playing so many years but i have heard many people comment that its a lot like going to an oldies concert that's why i appreciate the Allmans doing what they are doing.

RTJ : Did you play in other bands than Hydra, since the end of this group ? What kind of music played these bands ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick: After Hydra I took three years off and only played at home and taught guitar. In 1980 I realized that I had to play again but musically everything had changed. My choices were Punk, Disco, or Country, and I chose the latter of the three because I felt more at home with the music. I played with a few generic local country acts and then played for 15 years with Atlanta singer/songwriter Ron Kimble. We did a lot of what was termed outlaw country. I played a few Blues bands and for 6 months in '97 got to play with Donnie McCormick and Eric Quincy Tate. We were good friends in the 70's but I never got to play with him until '97. He's still alive and kicking, very true to what they always did. I did 6 years with the Jazz/Swing band "League of Decency". At present, the Roosters are my main connection to meaningful playing as i get to play with my brother Steve Pace who is magnificent. Guy and Rex were in the local band "Cruiseamatics" and Debra sang with Randall Bramlett for 11 years. We are very loud and obnoxious which is all great fun.

RTJ : Were you filmed when you played with Hydra ? Is there somewhere a movie, a TV show, a documentary about Hydra ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : The only filmed documents of the band that I know of are 1- a few episodes of early 70's Atlanta Music Program for television called "Now Explosion" when we're still playing cover songs, and one performance in 1975 at the New Filmore East in NY City on the bill with Roy Buchannon, and The Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Jazz Orchestra. This tape is currently lost but we're still looking.

RTJ : Have you any regret about your career, about Hydra, about the way you played music ? About Hydra albums,
which ones do you prefer and why ?

Spencer Kirkpatrick : My main regret about our career was that we never embraced the business end of it as we were all consumed with the playing/song writing/and lifestyle. We were young and foolish but that was the way the cards fell. That is why i am so appreciative and humbled by the fact that in 2004 someone is asking all of these questions. It makes me feel like we still matter (Thank you again). Although there are only three I view them almost as one work. The first album we had a lot of regrets about the production on it. The second album, was a step up with Johnny Sandlin producing (Allman Brothers, Cowboy), and the third album really sounding almost like we did live. I guess I have favourite songs from the three, but I do view them as one cohesive work.

RTJ : At the end, as it is a tradition on Road to Jacksonville, we ask this particular question : If you have to finish your life on a desert island where you can choose and take five cds, which one would you choose ? (and why ?)

Spencer Kirkpatrick
: I think somewhere in the outer Hebrides, with the following CDs: a compilation of Brazilian music (Joabim, etc), the overview of Renaissance music by Anthony Rooley's consort of music, Rubber Soul, The Humbler by Danny Gatton and anything by Mary Black.

RTJ : Maybe I've forgotten something about Hydra. If you want don't hesitate to tell us and give us any information about Hydra.

Spencer Kirkpatrick : Regarding Hydra, there is a website called www.messyoptics.com which has a few pictures of Hydra from 71/72. On behalf of Wayne, Steve, Orville, and myself, many thanks for remembering us. I wish that we could be what we were and come to your home and so what we did but that is wishful thinking. If anyone wishes to contact any of us, I would be happy to forward correspondence to all respective parties and will respond as quickly as time allows.


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