Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Days Of Future Past
I am happy to report that Mom came through her surgery with flying colours and we await her return, with her shiny new knee, to the ABC (Arsenal Breakfast Club) at the Balmy Beach Club in the coming weeks.
This week we rewind to the April 1979 issue of The New Music Magazine, where I pick four local Toronto bands and give them some national press.
Looking back on this piece I see two of the bands featured members who were friends of mine, one band I truly thought were outstanding and another which I had no connection to in any way. You can try to figure this one out on your own. Alas, none of the bands went on to international stardom but I have no regrets about using my editorial inches trying to help some pals out. In many ways these bands were forerunners for the DIY ethic.
They Deserve A Break Today – A Few Local Bands Are Trying To Make It’ – April 1979
In garages, basements and seedy bars all over Toronto there are literally hundreds of bands playing the kind of music they believe in, whether it be New-Wave, disco, country, or rock’n’roll. All for nothing. They are busting their asses and no one is listening.
Why don’t people know about them? Well there are many reasons. Many of them are going about things all wrong. These bands are going to have to shape up or ship out. You know who you are. Other bands – the majority of them – have much more frustrating problems. They are plagued with such paradoxical problems as being too original. ‘Hey man, would you mind being less creative.’ In other words, if you can’t do immaculate covers of the STARS material you might as well forget it.
Another stumbling block on the road to fame and fortune is being unable to find places to play. Agents and club owners won’t book you because they have never heard you play before because you haven’t played any bars before because the agents and owners won’t book you because you haven’t played before. It’s a vicious circle.
These are just a few of the problem that a band might encounter when they are ready to perform, but what do you do when you are putting together a band? That, in itself, presents a whole new set of problems. You have to get money to pay for your equipment and rentals. To do this you might have to quit school and get a job, but if you have a job you won’t have much time to practice, and if you don’t practice enough you’ll never become good enough to play. Another problem is finding a place to practice that is cheap, safe and close to home. It’s a known fact that Moms don’t appreciate loud music. But the biggest problem of all is keeping everyone in the band together. It’s hard keeping the faith when you can’t keep up with the rent.
As a result of the New-Wave influence, many musicians are now rebelling against the old formulas of the music industry. They go out and make their own breaks rather than sitting around waiting discovery, often financing their own recording sessions. Bands still submit demo tapes to record companies, but if no results are forthcoming it is not uncommon to have a ‘media party’ in an attempt to interest members of the press in their music. Some even go so far as to start their own record label to put out their own material, which is then sent to various radio stations. More and more frequently this sort of initiative is being rewarded through air-play.
Well right here in Toronto we have many bands that are doing it their own way, and in the meantime are providing Toronto with some of the most interesting music it has heard on the streets for years. Four bands which have taken their careers into their own hands are Drastic Measures, VIIth Temple, Snowaxe, and E.R.W..
Drastic Measures are a four-piece semi New-Wave pop band that is led by crooner/keyboardist Tony Malone (who once starred in The Dishes).
Along with Tony are How’rd Pope on guitar, Kenneth Farr on bass, and sitting in behind the drums is D. Duffield Norris. These ‘sultans of swing’ were considered too unique to play The Gasworks. This could stem from their set-opener, The Theme From the Munsters, or their unusual renditions of Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Their educated pop-rock, deemed by them ‘ a poor man’s Genesis’, is unusual but commercial; no searing guitars, no screaming, but lots of pop melodies and intelligent lyrics.
The band soon will be getting its first record exposure on an upcoming Bomb album which was recorded on their last night at The Horseshoe. At present they are recording demo tapes at Cut-Throat Studio with Nash the Slash producing. They are going to do it on their own, with the help of their management, because they are ‘sick of waiting around.’ Give them your support, I have.
Snowaxe is a three-piece rock’n’roll outfit which has been in existence for close to eight years, Led by guitarist/vocalist Ed McDonald, Snowaxe is a good rock band. Filling out the line-up are Paul Yen/percussion and Ian Nisiomi/bass. The band has recently put out a great single on their own called All I Want to Do (on the Vortex label).
One of the major concerns of the band is helping out other bands that are in the same situation that they are, or have been, in. After eight years in the business it is possible to solve almost any problem that arises. Starting their own label was not an act of aggression against the big record companies, but rather a creation for the furthering or rock music. They play by the same rules, only on a smaller scale. After eight years, McDonald and Snowaxe are not about to quit, and, if they have to make it on their own they are well prepared. I wish them luck.
E.R.W. ‘All the disco bands say ‘get down, get down’ but when you come to see our band we want people to ‘get up’. So says local roots-reggae-rock band Earth, Roots, and Water, E.R.W.The seven-piece band consists of Scotty/lead vocal, Sheriff/lead vocal, Toni Dread/bass, Zuba/drums., Matt/guitar/vocals, K.B./keyboards, and Jerome/guitar.
The band is having trouble getting gigs because not many clubs have realized that there is a large reggae market which is being starved by the lack of live shows. This was made evident by the larger turnout the band had at the Horseshoe and the Edge. If it weren’t for the two Gary’s, who ran the Horseshoe and run the Edge, the band would have never been able to play. Their music is a happy combination of rock and reggae and their lyrics delve into the philosophies of the band. With some more appearances, reggae could be the next big thing in Toronto.
All of VIIth Temple’s material is original and highly creative in that all the lyrics are spoken through the group’s prophet, Ripped Van Winkle. The band, which consists of Don Stag/keyboards, Edge Pyramid/percussion, Nick Alexander/guitar, Tony Niceforo/bass and Eric Simpson/lead vocals/guitars, is highly progressive.
So progressive, in fact, that they are not getting any gigs. They have some straight rock numbers and a few ballads, but for the most part the band is very fresh and exciting. Loose comparisons could be made to bands like Genesis.
All of the band’s equipment has been paid for and they practice forty hours a week in their full-time practice hall. Those two major problems have been overcome, but they mean nothing if the band never gets to play. Soon they will be recording their first album on their own label, if no record company picks them up. In the meantime, the only way to see them is to watch for their posters announcing their self-produced shows. It’s a shame that no one is willing to take a chance.
Come request “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” at The Kensington Lodge any Wednesday evening.
Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59
Cam’s column appears every Thursday
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.