Simultaneously with the recording of Damage, my wife and I came into possession of a most wonderful grand piano, which we continue to store for a friend. Although my piano talent is limited to a few basic chords, our new instrument inspired me. Over the span of the first few days, I created my new Rock & Roll Oratorio, The Ballad of Copernicus Road.
We very much hope you enjoy the album, which Dave Draves, our collaborators and myself are hoping to at some point soon stage in a theatre near you.
One day, as the story goes and completely out of the blue, I was sitting at this piano humming a melody when I came upon the idea of writing songs to make fun of the Bible. The idea quickly morphed into a different concept, which was to write songs based on the Ten Commandments with a view towards turning them around on their head.
In and around that time I had taken to reading religious texts. I was struck by how violent, misogynistic, repugnant and archaic these texts were, none more so than the grandfather of them all, the Old Testament. Within the space of two or three days, the entire album was written and given the modest working title of ‘The Opus’.
We finished recording Damage in late 2010, and immediately started working on ‘The Opus’ in January of 2011. I brought the songs to Dave and the whole album with the exception of "Where Are You" was laid out. I sang the dummy vocal to the whole album, which hopefully will never see the light of day, and then we started to stack instruments on top. Peter Von Althen and Stuart Watkins came in and did the drums and bass. Over the next two years we sporadically got together for sessions and many rewarding and entertaining days followed watching Dave work his magic with a group of wonderful musicians, including Jim Bryson and Jack Pelletier on guitar, Fred Guignon on dobro and other dobro like instruments, Dave Draves himself on piano and organ, Brian Sanderson on all kinds of horns and the lovely duo of Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh and Sonia Matousova on violin and cello.
The album was pretty much 90% complete by the end of 2013, but then momentum was lost as life got in the way of completion. Occasionally, we would touch a few things up and do a little bit of mixing, but things dragged on. One of the things that stopped us our tracks was the fact that the first song on the album as originally written simply did not work.
One day in late 2016, after another session trying to fix the tune, I went home and sat at the same grand piano still sitting in our living room and using the same lyrics as in the original song, breathed new life into the song. Peter Von Althen came back in to do some drums, and Jack Pelletier and Chris Page came and pounded out some electric guitar to add to Dave’s piano and bass. We then invited D.D. Butters and Rebecca Noelle from the PepTides back to add some background vocals; finally, after my son Daniel came in to add some ukulele, the album was done.
As I draft this little history, we are in the process of mixing and mastering our creation as well as getting the art done. We also enlisted the assistance of Anthony Seck, who has helped us produce the trailer. The hope is that with this trailer, we could garner some interest in the project with a view towards staging it in a local theatre, hopefully sometime in 2018.
As slow and as sporadic as it has been, the making of this album was a great pleasure and we could not be any more pleased with how it sounds. One and all, the people who came in to play and sing on this album displayed a combination of good humor, great attitude as well as obviously incredible talent and professionalism. I thank you one and all.
Jeff Meleras is a seasoned multi-instrumentalist (guitar, kazoo and six piano chords) and an excellent vocalist with a two-octave range in the tradition of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
He was born to a Parisian father and Brooklyn mother and raised in Montreal. His parents met when she took a trip to Paris to escape the American hustle and bustle and one of his mother’s many nice young New York suitors asked his English-speaking Parisian friend to help her find her way around the city.
Well, some friend that turned out to be, though you'll be hard pressed to find a nicer man than Jeff's father. The pair were engaged after only six days and are still going strong 55 years later. Jeff has a brother and sister who live in Montreal and is happy to report that he is part of a very close-knit family.
Jeff married his law school sweetheart, Laura, and together they have two boys who have both happily and sadly left the nest to pursue university studies. The eldest, Daniel, is a wonderful guitar and ukulele player, and is presently studying physics at Concordia University in Montreal, where he is being spoiled by his Montreal family and having a wonderful time. Jeff’s younger son, Jacob, is a talented musician studying bassoon and composition at Laurier University. He has a wonderful voice and sang the album's fifth song in the summer of 2011, when he was just 12 years old.
Laura and Jeff could not be prouder of their two wonderful sons.
Jeff is also a diehard baseball fan and still dreams of the day when the Montreal Expos will return and assume their rightful place in major league baseball. He still hasn't forgiven Claude Brochu and whoever else was responsible for the depletion of the wonderful 1994 Expos team and for the ultimate demise of the organization. Jeff would actually consider giving up one of his testicles or one of his unimportant toes for this to actually happen.
Jeff was also a decent, yet overrated (by himself) baseball player. He played for the University of Vermont several decades ago, which at the time was quite a subpar Division 1 baseball school, and he also played for the French National Baseball Team as a 16 year old. He and his brother once combined for a four inning 37 hitter in a mercy rule game against the Italian National Baseball team. Jeff still recalls being comforted by the Italian American pros that congratulated him on the number of strikes he threw. One of these strikes left an Italian bat at record speed and must have travelled at least 500 feet.
Jeff’s love of music started at a relatively young age. He fondly recalls his first real purchase of a rock and roll album, Some Girls. As an 11 year old, he would dance around his living room, blasting that album and singing all the words out loud. He vividly recalls the day his mother came in yelling at him as he was belting out the slightly racist and misogynistic lines in the song giving rise to the title of the album. Although only 11, debate thus ensued about freedom of expression and artistic license.
From there, Jeff moved onto Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Neil Young for the next half decade hardly listened to anything else.
Jeff received his first guitar when he was 13, and is just a little better now than he was within two months of learning his first few chords. Instead of practicing scales and figuring out where everything went on the guitar, he immediately started strumming chords and inventing melodies and lyrics. Some of these became songs, and he can still remember the first song he ever wrote, although surprisingly, it never made an appearance on any of his albums.
As Jeff made his way through school, first studying at the University of Vermont and then at the University of Ottawa Law School, he continued to strum the guitar on his own and write a number of songs, which accumulated on cassette tapes. A long time lost, he'd very much like to know where some of those cassette tapes are now, as there are more than likely a few hidden gems that he has completely forgotten. Eventually, after having children, and as they were growing, Jeff joined a group of friends in Ottawa to form a band called Ted’s Head, information on which you will find nowhere on the internet. Jeff named this band Ted’s Head after Ted Williams, whose family is still fighting over his remains. Ted’s head is apparently cryogenically frozen until such time that modern science can bring him back to life.
The band eventually became Off the Floor and recorded a fabulous record that was neither pressed nor mastered. Numerous contributors from the band wrote songs and the CD was recorded by the very talented local producer/engineer Jason Jaknunas, who runs Metropolitan Studios. Jeff sang some of the songs for this band, but was hardly ever allowed to pick up his guitar. The band broke up just as the CD was being finished.
From there, Jeff recorded his first solo album, Songs from the Couch, with Jason Jaknunas. It was a real good experience, which gave him the recording bug. He decided to record his second album live off the floor and for this purpose rented a lovely cottage in Quebec. With food, guitars, microphones and thirty-eight bottles of wine in hand, he and several talented musicians recorded The Cottage Sessions. It featured multiple return players from the first album, and it is noteworthy that due mostly to Jeff's tutelage some of the Cottage Sessions players have gone on to achieve great things locally and outside of Ottawa. The drummer, Matt Sobb, now drums for the excellent Monkey Junk. Pierre Chretien, who also co-produced The Cottage Sessions, leads the uber-talented collective Souljazz Orchestra. Rounding out the band was local bluesman and harp player extraordinaire Al Wood, the great guitar player and song writer Jack Pelletier, who also co-produced the album from the Jupiter Ray Project and the Battle of Ontario, and Chris “Jarhead” Breitner on bass, who has pretty much played with everyone in Ottawa.
It was a wonderful experience.
From there, Jeff moved to Little Bullhorn Studios run by a local luminary, Dave Draves, where he recorded his third solo album, Sell the Farm, a collection of tales of lost love and humanity's fleeting existence. Once again, Jack Pelletier was an instrumental collaborator who produced the album along with Dave Draves. Other very talented local musicians, including Michael Ball, Fred Guignon and Peter Von Althen also appeared on this album.
To strip things down, Jeff then recorded in 2011 his last solo effort called Damage. This album was recorded entirely with Jack Pelletier and Dave Draves and no other collaborators. It is mostly an acoustic guitar and piano driven album, which also contains songs of the apocalypse, and songs about lost love etc.
In addition to having completed Copernicus, Jeff has numerous songs in the tank to choose from and hopes to record another album in the foreseeable future.