If there was an all-star team (like that cartoon about Bo Jackson, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan solving crimes) of individual musical brilliance, that would be the gentlemen of RUSH. Over the course of their 40-year career, Geddy Lee (bass, vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitar) and Neil Peart (drums) almost constantly graced the magazine covers of their respective instruments. When musicians cite their influences, these three gents usually come up at some point in the conversation.
But these Great White North (born and raised in Toronto) boys were A BAND. One of the most popular (over 40 million albums sold does the trick) and most influential (The Foo Fighters inducting them into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame takes care of that) Canadian artists EVER. Time to get to the heart of these prog-rock deities and their story.
The band started in Toronto's Willowdale neighbourhood with Alex, bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones and drummer John Rutsey. The "RUSH" handle was suggested by Rutsey's brother Bill, who came up with the name while the band was - wait for it - 'rushing' (HAH!) around to get ready for their first gig at a local coffee shop call The Coff-In, located in the basement of an Anglican church (?). That lineup was short-lived, however, and within a couple of weeks, and just before their second performance, Jeff Jones left the band and was replaced by Geddy, who had gone to school with Alex.
It was only when John Rutsey left and Neil Peart came into the fold, that RUSH became the three-headed prog-rock monster of Rock. Yes, Neil knows his way around a drum kit, but his mind-expanding lyrics were the glue that truly made this trio tick. In many ways, they were the jumping-off point for everything else the band did. Whether it was fantasy worlds, political issues or the human condition, prog-rock's Holy Trinity made it work, and sometimes it even may or may not have involved moustaches, double-necked guitars and double-necked basses...
For awhile, RUSH recorded almost an album a year, but quite possibly their true strength was playing live. Their tours seemed to never end at times, which made recording so many albums in their earlier years even more amazing. One of the best-sounding live acts, they released eleven(!!) live albums over the course of their career, and they probably have enough material in the can to put out ten more.
But two things that might have got them over the top into true legend status: 1) An entire Paul Rudd movie based around them. 2) A collaboration with Bob & Doug McKenzie. They've just completed their final major tour, but that doesn't mean they're done for good. The Holy Trinity will get back together again, whether to record, play a few killer shows, or simply to talk about the good times over great food and a case of wine.
This week's entry is a band renowned the world over, but even some of their fans may not know they're as Canadian as The Beachcombers, Casey and Finnegan, and Jim Carrey (Whaaa?!? Him too?!? The conspiracy continues...): Montreal's Arcade Fire.
When asked about the rumour that the band's name refers to a fire in an arcade, frontman Win Butler replied: "It's not a rumour, it's based on a story that someone told me. It's not an actual event, but one that I took to be real. I would say that it's probably something that the kid made up, but at the time I believed him."
They've done their own thing right from the start, with their own sound and style. They're the epitome of what every band wants: creative control from the start, with fans loving what you do and not bending to anyone else's whims.
You can pick out any one of at least 10 different musical influences in each song, but they all come together to make the signature Arcade Fire sound. They could record Dolly Parton's Jolene and The Prodigy's Firestarter on the same album and the songs would become Arcade classics. Two of rock's most revered Davids, Mssrs. Byrne (Talking Heads) and Bowie, professed their love for these Canucks.
Not too shabby.
They've made the unrefined, elementary-school art of papier-mâché into a viable rock n' roll prop...
...and they even inspired a former Spider Man/Best Actor Oscar nominee to dress in drag for one of their videos:
Arcade Fire is, well, on fire (heh heh) at the moment. The world, as the saying goes, is their oyster. And you know what they'd do with that oyster? They would turn it into an eccentric-yet-anthemic gem of a tune that could only come from them.
Who doesn't love an underdog? A smalltown bunch of guys done good? What about the Rudy of progressive metal bands? Who do we mean? V-O-I-V-O-D! What does that spell? VOIVOD!!
The origins of this legendary cult band begin in Jonquière, Quebec, a suburb of Saguenay, a city which happens to be approximately 5 hours drive north east of Montreal.
In his early tweens, After surviving a near fatal car accident when he was five years old, drummer/founding member Michel "Away" Langevin began to have nightmares, and then drawing them (!) This self-therapy seemed to have guided his early visions of the yet-to-exist VOIVOD. From this he started to draw pictures from TV and began to create his own characters. He created an early, rough version of the 'Voivod' character when he was about nine or ten while spending most of time in his room reading books about science fiction, particularly J.R. Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings".
While reading Bram Stoker's 'Dracula,' Michel came upon the word 'Voivod', a kind of Eastern/Central European lord or prince. He was inspired to create a "post-nuclear" vampire who lived in a land of constant war called 'Morgoth' and also came up with an early type of the "new-age 'Voivod/Korgull' machine. This reverse engineering of forming a band finally led to learning to play drums and finding others who would help bring his concept to life.
VOIVOD officially formed in 1981 when guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour had been searching for several musicians to start a band with. He found Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault, who agreed to play bass. There was a slight issue however, as Blacky didn't know how to play bass at the time. Blacky then hired (Away), who had been a friend from high school as their drummer. But Blacky's and Away's respective skill levels needed a bit of seasoning, so after about a year awayof honing their craft, they reformed, and aside from a few band member changes, they've been going ever since.
Rock heavyweights like Metallica, Dave Grohl and Soundgarden have cited the guys from Jonquière as major influences. Their stew of NWOBHM/punk/prog-rock/early Pink Floyd psychedelia has stood the test of time, and even their earliest works sound fresh and relevant today. A big part of this is their lyrics about themes such as science fiction, post-apocalyptic visions and Reagan (substitute in Trump?)-era Cold War politics.
See? VOIVOD's story could be Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week! Only it would be the only Hallmark involving near-fatal car crashes, rural Québec towns, heavy metal and post-nuclear vampires. Tomayto-tomahto.
On July 1st, it is Canada's birthday - the 150th to be exact, and over the next month, this space will be all bands from the Great White North and how they came about their handles.
That being said, let's get this over with: Nickelback is from the little town of Hanna, Alberta, and their name is from the five cents change that bassist Mike Kroeger gave customers when he worked at Starbucks, saying, "Here's your nickel back".
Good. Let's never speak of that ever again.
Cape Breton-via-Toronto band Alvvays is a buzz-band made good. Lead singer Molly Rankin (progeny of the first family of Canadian Celtic music, the Rankin Family band) picked the name Alvvays because she liked that it had a "shred of sentiment and nostalgia." The unique spelling of the name was to get around the little issue of there already being a band named Always signed to their label, Sony.
They've already carved out a nice little niche in the indie pop game, appearing at South By Southwest in 2015...
...then making the true big-time, playing the legendary Glastonbury Festival the same year. Playing upon King Arthur's burial ground is nothing to sneeze at.
The officially unofficial blog of Faux Rawk. Everything you read is true, although some of what you read is 100% false. Whoa... trippy, man.