A Short Bio:
The son of an US Air Force officer, Dek Messecar is technically Canadian, but was raised in America, only returning to his native country during Summer holidays. "We lived in Oklahoma, Louisiana and all sorts of places, every year or so we would move to a different place. Finally, they came to England when I was 17, around 1963/64...".
Messecar developed an early interest in music as a child, and was taught to play the ukulele by his grandfather. "Folk music was really the big thing in America in the early Sixties. Peter Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, that was the popular music at the time. I played banjo and guitar... When I arrived in England, the folk thing hadn't arrived yet, so I ended up playing rock'n'roll".
While studying at the American High School in Bushey, Messecar met Jerry Donahue, another aspiring guitarist, and they formed a band together. "We did covers and some original material. Mostly instrumental stuff, guitar, bass and drums. I used to practise all the time, I spent that whole year playing a lot. It was sort of like the Shadows, a lot of the original stuff by Jerry sounded like the Shadows anyway...".
After leaving school, Messecar went on a long trip across Europe with a friend, while Donahue spent a year studying at a university in Germany. In 1965, the duo was active again. "We got a recording contract with Philips, we made a couple of singles under the name of Dek & Jerry. It went on for several years, with various drummers. We used to practise all the time, playing professionally, three or four nights a week, sometimes two gigs in one night. I was doing another job in my spare time".
In April 1969, Jerry Donahue joined Poet & The One-Man Band, sharing guitar duties with Albert Lee, who subsequently recommended him for ex-Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny's band Fotheringay. He later was in Fairport Convention, from 1972 to 1976. Messecar carried on for a while with a new partner, Mick Stamps, until the possibility of a career move appeared.
"I got a job with a band in a one of the Mecca ballrooms around Piccadilly Circus. They were a chain of clubs, of dancehalls. They used to be played by rock bands, but basically they played records, except when the band was on. Awful places, really, but this place was paying me more than my pub, my dayjob and everything all together. We used to do radio recordings as well. It really was destroying, I hated it. People didn't tend to stay long... I stuck there for two years (1970-72), but it seemed like twenty! It was good for me though, because actually playing five nights a week for three or four hours improves your fingers. You end up being able to play, play and play and not get tired".
While a member of that band, Messecar occasionally did auditions, answering ads in the Melody Maker. One of them was for Supertramp. "One day, Darryl Way came in the club, heard me. He was trying to form a band, I was the first person he found. Then he and I auditioned lots of guitarists, and we came up with John Etheridge, who was amazing. And then we spent a long time looking for a drummer, and found Ian Mosley".
Darryl Way's Wolf came into being in December 1972, and was the meeting point of various musical directions. "Darryl was mostly classically trained, he couldn't improvise... He used to try, but because he'd been taught to reading. I'm exactly the opposite, I can only improvise, I found it impossible to switch off the improvising... John was a complete jazz musician. All together, it really did turn into something, it was very interesting".
During the course of its 1 1/2 years of existence, Wolf worked extremely hard, recording three albums for Deram and touring Europe and the UK extensively. "We were quite busy. When the albums came out, we'd do a tour of major concert halls in Britain, the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, the Hammersmith Odeon, all of those, with record company money and backing. And then the rest of the year, we'd play universities. Bands like ours used to stay alive by playing universities, until the people there realised they could make more money from disco and rock disappeared... And then there were tours of Europe, based on clubs and smaller towns".
Wolf's music was largely instrumental, with Messecar handling the rare vocals on the first two albums, Canis Lupus (1973) and Saturation Point (1974). Subsequently, John W. Hodkinson was recruited on lead vocals for the third and final album, Night Music (1974). "After a while it became frustrating and worrying. We ran out as a steam. It hadn't become a commercial success, it didn't feel we were going anywhere. I don't think we had enough in common to carry on under these circumstances. So it folded up, and actually I think everyone was quite glad to stop".
Messecar remained out of the public eye for more than two years. "Shortly after Wolf split up, I auditioned for Stomu Yamash'ta, the Japanese percussionist. I saw an ad, and rang them up, convinced that was a very good gig. They were very nice, they said they'd let me know, but I didn't hear anything from them. Eventually, I rang them up, being quite pushy... They finally said look, we don't know how to say this, but we were really hoping that the musicians we got would be Japanese... Obviously they couldn't say that in the ad. I think in the end they didn't manage it, but they did try to get together musicians who at least looked Japanese!".
In subsequent months, Messecar didn't do much musically. "Just being around, really. I got my house in 1976 and spent a lot of time remodelling it. I remember going across to see Ian Mosley a couple of times, he was living in Holland playing with that Dutch band, Trace. I also auditioned for Peter Gabriel. He'd heard a Wolf record. His idea, which I didn't like, was to get a band together in England, rehearse it, go to Toronto to record an album, release it and then tour with that band. But then he didn't want to tour all the time, so the band would have to be able to tour on its own. I thought that was a very naive idea, the idea that this band would draw audiences, it didn't make any sense to me at all. Then his managers worked out the cost of it, and there was no way they were going to be able to do that...".
Messecar joined Caravan in February 1977, being recommended by John Etheridge, by that time guitarist with the Soft Machine. "I'd been put in touch with them, I don't really remember how. The bass player they had [Mike Wedgwood] was going to the States. I was given a few albums to listen to, to see what it was like. Then I went down and had a play with them in Canterbury, I remember that well. They rang up the next day. I became a commuter, travelling from London to Canterbury... But I really enjoyed it, I missed playing. The first thing we did was a festival in Germany. It's always better to take the new songs on the road then come back to record them, rather than record them first".
At that time, Caravan had recently signed with Arista Records and were moving to a more commercial direction, away from the progressive rock of the early days. "I didn't mind that at all. I'd got tired of the thirteen minute album tracks anyway, I wasn't devoted to one form or another. I don't find shorter songs that less of a challenge. Personally, I thought the recording of Better By Far went very well. I was new, so I was just going along with what was going on...".
The band toured extensively in support of Better By Far, and the setlist obviously included songs from Caravan's extensive back catalogue. "I once suggested to maybe do a medley of three or four of the longer tracks, the ones that everybody who came to see them would want to hear. And to my surprise they actually did it, but decided after a few times that it didn't work very well, that it didn't do justice to the individual tracks... So they used to just pick the ones they would do on this tour, then slightly different ones on the next tour, that sort of thing".
After being dropped by Arista early in 1978, Caravan ground to a halt, only to reform a year and a half later. "They went back with Terry King, he basically got it going again. But it wasn't permanent anymore, it was really just the active part, which was make the record and do a tour". In July 1980, Caravan was back in the studio to record a new album. "We rehearsed in Canterbury for three weeks, then went on tour in Europe... 28 gigs in 28 days, basically. Then we came back and went to Farmyard Studios to record the album, and finished it in a week. Later on we reformed to do a small tour and did a few more gigs. Then I began doing something else, and one day Pye rang and said, guess what, you're playing next week. And I couldn't, without letting someone down rather badly. I was designing a refrigerator or something, and it had to be done by a certain time, so I turned it down, I missed that one. Richard Sinclair did it, and I never played with Caravan again. Pye never rang again".
A little later, Messecar started his own woodwork business, which has been going ever since [as of 1997, anyway]. "That was a career change, definitely, a very different sort of job. Music is still important to me, but in a very personal way. At the moment I play with this amateur band, on Monday nights. We play the Mean Fiddler and a couple of things like that, nothing serious but it's fun to play. I don't miss any of the rest of it. I don't miss having no money and waiting around. Touring can become disheartening if you don't think you're getting somewhere. There comes a point at which you wonder what it will be like if you're still doing this in ten years... I think it didn't do me any good, all this waiting around, just killing time. I probably would have continued in music if I could have written songs that I had a lot of faith in. No matter what, I'd be starving to death or whatever. But that wasn't the case, so... I'd love it if there was a pub you could go and play in, on a Thursday night, and just play with whoever shows up. Cause it's the playing part which is fun. Or it becomes work, and it's different...".