Power Pop Classic Turns 30
An Interview with Van Temple of The Producers

By Donnie Thompson

The Producers’ self-titled debut album is considered a gem among power pop aficionados. With instant radio classics such as “What’s He Got” and “What She Does To Me” this evaluation is right on the money. Thirty years later the record has lost none of its infectious, buoyant and fresh appeal.

The roots of the band go back to the start of 1980 when Kyle Henderson of the band Whiteface joined forces with an Atlanta combo called Cartoon. The new group featuring Van Temple on guitar, Wayne Famous on Keyboards, Bryan Holmes on Drums and Kyle on bass dubbed themselves The Producers.

Through Kyle’s Whiteface connection they employed manager Hugh Rogers who felt he could score a major label contract for the group quickly. Hugh called Michael Ostin (son of music tycoon Mo Ostin) to come hear The Producers play. He was impressed enough to try to get the band signed to Warner. The deal didn’t work out and soon the band found themselves auditioning for producer Tom Werman, known for his records with Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, and Molly Hatchet. The band and producer were happy with each other and a deal was secured with the CBS distributed label Portrait Records.

In November the band packed up a couple of old vans and headed to the studio known as The Record Plant in Los Angeles to record the album. Van Temple talks about the making of this power pop classic.

Here is what he had to say…

EC: Did you ever think while you were recording it, that people would still be listening to this album thirty years later?

Van Temple: No I didn’t. I had no idea how long our stuff would last. We hit regionally but not on a national level.

EC: How were the song writing duties split among the band members?

Van Temple: Everyone pretty much had an equal say so in the songs. I would say maybe sixty percent Kyle and myself and forty percent by Wayne and Bryan. Kyle would just come over to my apartment and we would sit on the couch with an unplugged electric and an unplugged bass guitar. We would just write songs left and right. Kyle’s a really good lyricist. Sometimes I’d come up with good lyrics but sometimes I really have to struggle with them. I’m more about melodies and things like that. Kyle could come up with lyrics quickly. It worked out really well.

(Van begins to read the tracks from the back of the LP jacket) “Here’s To You” was the first song we ever worked on. I think that I had done the chords on that. “What's He Got,” Bryan came up with that title and he also came up with the title “I love Lucy.” I think I came up with the majority of the music for those.

“Who Do You Think You Are,” that was mainly Kyle with me writing some of the music to that. “Life Of Crime” was another one of Bryan’s titles. I think that was probably twenty-five percent everybody working on that. “Certain Kind Of Girl,” I had written all the changes for that. Maybe I had the title for it, and I wrote some of the lyrics and Kyle finished it. “Sensations,” I think I had some Who influence in there. I don’t think it necessarily shows up, but I do remember thinking about The Who when I wrote that.

“You Go Your Way,” that was pretty much mine right there. “Body Language,” I think that was twenty-five percent everybody. “Sensations,” that was pretty much me on that one. “Boys Say When / Girls Say Why,” I think that was my title. The music was mine and Kyle helped with that. “What She Does To Me,” that’s mostly my song with Kyle helping out on some of the lyrics. “The End,” that one was musically Wayne’s. Everyone had some influence on the songs. We would just bash them out. We’d work on them and they would morph into final versions.

EC: Was there a real Diana like in the song “What She Does To Me?”

Van Temple: There is an actual person, Dana, Bryan’s wife, and it got changed to Diana. “What She Does To Me” was my title but “Diana” was Dana, who was Bryan’s girlfriend at that time.

EC: Did you work well with Tom Werman?

Van Temple: I’m totally happy with Tom Werman. That guy signed us. He had seen Kyle in Whiteface, the group Kyle was in before us, so he was already familiar with Kyle. We were down in Florida playing some chain of clubs and our manager called us and said “after tonight I want you to drive up to New York. We’re going to audition for Tom Werman.” We did the audition in a studio rental place and did about eleven or twelve songs. After the third song Tom leaned over to our manager and said “I want to sign them.”

What Tom Werman did was so good. This band had three personalities that were really strong and there was me. I wasn't a leader. So Kyle, Wayne and Bryan did most of the fighting about stuff. When they would start getting into these arguments Tom would just tell everyone to shut up. He was producing the record and we were going to do what he wanted us to do. That was one of the main things that I remember about him. He took control and knew exactly what he was doing. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I’m glad he was our producer.

EC: Who developed the image for the band and the artwork?

Van Temple: The image was created at the record company. They came up with the clapboard logo for The Producers. They did a really good job on it. Those are real directors chairs. They’re like twenty feet high. We went to a place on Melrose Avenue called Let It Rock and we bought those suits there. I guess that’s kind of a Beatles influence, having suits that are similar. I guess they’re kind of like uniforms.

Bob Seidemann did the cover. He’s the guy that did the original Blind Faith album cover with the girl.

EC: Tell us about filming the music videos for the album.

Van Temple: We had two videos off that album and they were done at a university in New York City. We got up on a stage and lip-synched about fourteen or fifteen entire takes of “Certain Kind Of Girl” and “What’s He Got.” It shows us jumping out of those director’s chairs and when we did that they had to put sandbags and mattresses around them to keep them weighed down. If these things had fallen over we would have busted our heads.

EC: What was the first Producers song you heard on the radio?

Van Temple: “What She Does To Me.” Some people felt “What’s He Got” should be the first one, and a program director at 94-Q thought that it was a little too “punky.” I remember him saying that.

EC: Were there certain cities besides Atlanta where the Record did well?

Van Temple: New Orleans turned out to be the most die-hard city we ever played. We got a lot of play there. Those crazy Cajuns love us. They’re real loyal to their bands. We did really well in Virginia Beach too. There were some other places. We toured most of the fifty states, never went to Europe. We played Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic three or four times. The first time we played there it was like The Beatles. They brought us to the concert in separate police cars with the sirens on.

The Producers released a second album on Portrait Records “You Make The Heat” in 1982 and enjoyed heavy exposure from MTV. Two years later Kyle left the band and was replaced by Tim Smith. In 1985, no longer with CBS/Portrait, The Producers released the album “Run For Your Life” on their own Marathon Records. In 1988 the band recorded their last album “Coelacanth” for MCA Records which was canceled shortly before release. Thankfully the album was finally issued in 2001 by One Way Records. In 1991 Tim Smith left The Producers to join Jellyfish and Kyle returned to the band. Since then the members of The Producers have followed their own individual careers, still reuniting on occasion to bring some of their power pop magic to live audiences in the Southeast.