Sean Kelly (Author of Metal on Ice)
In the meantime, Kelly has worked with such musicians as Carole Pope (formerly of Rough Trade), Coney Hatch, Honeymoon Suite and more. The versatile guitarist has also put out several classical records. Writing, recording and performing, it seems like it's all part of the same package for this guy.
Hard working, patriotic, humble, self-effacing and yes....obviously polite, you could check all of these prerequisites off the afore-mentioned rocker list for Sean Kelly. I had heard all of these things about Sean for years but after speaking to him recently, I can attest to the fact that these are not just rumours. The guy is the real red & white maple-leaf deal.
Sean's career took another interesting turn a little while back when he took his first foray into the publishing world and wrote a history of the music that he felt was ignored in other Canadian publications. It is called Metal on Ice: Tales from Canada's Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes.
Here's how Sean describes the book: "Metal on Ice is a look at the pursuit of the Canadian rock 'n roll dream as lived and experienced by a number of musicians who rose to some level of prominence during the eighties and early nineties. It is also a story of the realities of the music business, a look at the nuts and bolts of what went into making the music we have come to know and love. The artists share in their own words their experiences of climbing the rock 'n roll ladder and striving to make a mark both domestically and internationally."
The book traces Kelly's introduction to hard rock and the evolution of his becoming a musician, seamlessly pairing that with testimonies from bands on a variety of topics, some that are universal and others that uniquely Canadian. Rather than covering the complete spectrum of hard rock & heavy metal acts, he avoids spending time on the arena bands that people are already quite familiar with and instead focuses on the bands that inspired him as a teenager and that made names for themselves during the heyday of the '80s and '90s. As somebody that grew up with this music (albeit a decade or so older), I found myself nodding in agreement with every observation that Kelly wrote. In truth, you don't have to be a Canadian to really get this book but for music-loving Canucks to curl up with an extra large Tim Hortons coffee and peel through these pages, it's a truly satisfying experience.
It was a pleasure to speak with Sean about the book and to hear the enthusiasm he retains for all things musical in nature, it's quite inspiring. I've also included some excerpts from his book (with Sean's permission) to give you an idea of the stories and the style. Read on and then rush out to buy a copy of Metal on Ice or get one for the Canadian in your circles. He/she will love it.
antiMusic: To start off, when did the idea of writing this book first come to you?
Sean Well, the idea of writing a book had been kicking around me for a while. I have a former band mate from Crash Kelly, a guy called Allister Thompson who works in the book industry. At the time of the genesis of the book idea, Allister was working for Dundurn Press and he'd mentioned that he wanted to bring some music books to them. He knew from years of touring with me that I was kind of a music trivia junkie. He said, "You should really write this book. You're always talking about these bands, and you have such a passion for this music, you should write something." And to be honest, as a music junkie, somebody who reads a lot of Canadian music biographies and a lot of music biographies in general, I never saw ANYTHING about all of these bands that I grew up listening to and going to see; bands that had such a huge impact on me becoming a professional musician.
You know, I'd go to the local arena and see concerts, see thousands of people there. And these bands were gold and platinum-selling acts. But if you look in the Canadian history books, you don't see mention of Helix or Honeymoon Suite or Lee Aaron. And I thought that that was wrong. If I mention these people to other people I worked with in the industry, it was sometimes met with derision. And I would be going, "What are you talking about? These acts are as influential as any." In fact in the case of bands like Helix, and Coney Hatch, they kind of brought Canadian hard rock music outside the borders. I mean they were signing massive American record deals and touring abroad, touring with bands like KISS and Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in the states. These were pioneering acts and I just thought a lot of these bands never got their due. And I wanted to make sure their stories were told because they're fascinating stories.
antiMusic: I like the way you incorporated YOUR growth both as a music fan and as a musician into the structure of the book. Was it clear to you from the outset that you would approach it in this manner?
Sean Not necessarily. That was actually pretty organic too and that sort of came from editorial. Like I said, my friend Allister was the editor of the book and he kind of felt that it was integral to the story itself. He saw something developing there. He encouraged me to keep going with that angle. He said that for him, it was something that resonated. But it was a very organic thing. It was hard for me not to, because I'm not a writer per se. I'm a music fan who chose to write and I think there's a big difference there, so that was my voice for the book. While it wasn't a conscious decision, it was an organic outcome.
Book excerpt #1: In 1984-85 I was a member of the G&P Welding PeeWee A hockey team in my Northern Ontario home town of North Bay, Ontario. As with most young Canadian boys, there was nothing more important than my regular schedule of Tuesday night practices and Friday night games, That all changed with the music revelations pumping through the speakers of an intimidatingly large ghetto blaster, property of one Scott Dean, the toughest eleven year-old you'd ever meet.
The music from Scott's ghetto blaster would pump us up as we rocked out to the strains of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger", Billy Squier's "The Stroke" and Chilliwack's "My Girl." But one day, Scott threw on something that pushed the pedal down much, much harder and a lot heavier. It was a band called Helix and the song was "Rock You". All the familiar elements that used to exist in the background of the music I'd heard (guitars, drums, vocals) all of a sudden came screaming into the foreground. Within the first few measures of the tune's famous call and response chorus, a shift in perception happened, Music just wasn't going to be a background soundtrack for my life; it was going to be my life. I was going to learn to play guitar for real! I was gonna shout at the devil. I sure as hell wasn't gonna take it, and I was gonna rock you.
antiMusic: I was just going to ask…were you assigned an editor to help navigate the waters for you or did you have to do all of the tough sledding yourself?
Sean Well you know, Alistair was the one who brought the idea to his company, sold them on it so he was definitely involved. I took care of all of the interviews. There was no ghostwriting involved in the book. But this being my first book, he was an amazing help in terms of helping me structure, helping me think of overriding themes of flow, and of just the general structure of writing a book so it was an amazing lesson and I'm very grateful for his help.
antiMusic: How long did it take to get in contact with everybody, and what was the response when you first told them you were honoring Canadian hard rock and heavy metal?
Sean Well, interesting. Some of the people I had already worked with, people like Carl Dixon from Coney Hatch and Brian Volmer from Helix. It's funny. I'm currently playing with Lee Aaron and I'm actually working and co-writing with her on a new album. But prior to that, it was kind of this whole thing where she was re-discovering her rock roots.
I think I called at the right time. Just as I called to ask her about possibly being involved and being interviewed for the book --- there's a whole album concept that went with the book too and re-cutting one of her classic tunes --- SOCAN, the Society of Canadian Composers had just recently honoured her song "Metal Queen" as a Canadian Classic in their publication words and music, so I think the timing was right.
She was kind of moving more towards taking a look at that because she's such a diverse talent. She's gone into jazz and pop and different areas too. For someone like that, I certainly wouldn't be as arrogant as to say it helped her make the decision to come back to rock or anything like that, but I think it might have been an indicator that there were plenty of people who found value and interest in her past work. So generally speaking I think most of the artists were very happy to share their stories. And I was very honoured that they took the time.
Book excerpt 2: "That was one of the things that I think definitely set the majority of Canadian bands apart from a lot of American bands," says Daryl Gray of his pre-Helix band Tracy Kane. "We would tour 52 weeks a year and play six or seven nights a week, and sometimes a matinee on Saturday. I think in general it made us stronger performers because you were entertaining people six nights a week. From talking to a lot of our American counterparts of the eighties, they would have a gig a month and they would gear up everything for that one show and they would have a gig a month later. We were definitely playing cover material because when you're sitting in Geraldton, Ontario, they don't want to hear three hours of your originals, no matter how good they are, because they can't go out and buy it and they're not familiar with it. They want to hear stuff they are familiar with and can dance to. We would always insert two or three of our own songs in the set, strategically placed between two dance songs. If it was a dance-y type song we could just segue right into it. The people would go, 'Hey who did that last song' and we could say 'Oh it was ours.'"
antiMusic: But with time moving on and some of these people having families now, was it hard to get some of the people, some of the bands, to open up about, lets say, some of the more adventurous periods of the band.
Sean You know what? Yes. Definitely there was some reticence. I talked to Andy Frank from Sven Gali and there was some reticence in bringing up some of those stories again. But to be honest I veered away from it too. I found it a little facile to go there. I think I even said in the book, "you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know people had sex and did drugs in rock bands." I was looking at this from a different perspective, and I took some lumps for it. It wasn't the dirt. It could have been a more lurid read. But I wasn't interested in that.
And I'm really glad I stuck to my guns with that. Because I think it showed these artists in the light that I wanted them to be seen. Sure we all have skeletons in our closet. It's hard to have a career in the arts. I'm thinking about my kids, and geez, they're going to read some of the lyrics I have on albums and oh man, I'm not looking forward to the day when they discover that. (laughs) but that's life. I didn't feel any burning desire to bring that to the forefront... to me some of those experiences are a given.
And to be honest, many times those types of things are made out to be way wilder than they actually were. I mean go backstage at any given rock concert and you're going to find a lonely deli tray, six beers, a bunch of people talking and maybe nursing sore knees (laughs) or something. So it's not always as glamorous as you might think. Although I'm sure there were some times back in the day when things got a little crazy.
antiMusic: Was there anyone you had on your wish list that either you couldn't contact or you couldn't find, or else didn't want to be involved?
Sean Yeah, the big one was actually not a huge band, but it was Jan Ek from Big House. I LOVE that band. I mean they had this perfect mix of the glam rock and the little punk attitude and great, great songs. I couldn't find one person to interview. But here's the irony. I was actually doing a gig with Lee Aaron at Deerfoot Casino, and one of the house techs is Craig Beakhouse who actually wrote the song "Dollar in My Pocket", which is I think is the best hard rock song ever to come out of Canada...unbelievable tune.
So I actually met him. But we just couldn't connect. I tried to connect with him on LinkedIn. I had to track these people in all kinds of crazy ways. But I did get a chance to talk to him and I think he was very grateful for being mentioned in the book. But I still would have liked to have talked to those guys a little more. Would have liked to talked to the Sven Gali guys a little more. I actually had to track Andy Frank in China and have an overnight conversation with him.
And just to speak to that a little too, there were a lot of people that I didn't talk to for the book that I could have. There's definitely a lot more bands in there that I didn't mention. I didn't talk about Hanover Fist. I didn't talk about Thor. I didn't talk about Santers as much as…you know? There's so many different bands but I picked the bands that resonated with me and the bands that I knew about. and I made that kind of statement at the top. It wasn't an over-arching view of Canadian hard rock.
I mean, why didn't you talk about Rush? Why didn't you talk about Triumph? Well, I think in the case of those bands, that's a different book. I really do. This was very specific, a very personal book, while at the same time I wanted to highlight what these bands contributed historically. But I really was looking for the bands that didn't get a lot of paper coverage.
Book excerpt #3: "Under less than luxurious circumstances, a stiff upper lip and a good sense of humour were survival requirements", according to Killer Dwarfs frontman Russ "Dwarf" Graham. "Our motto was you've got to laugh or you're gonna cry, because it's tough out there, you know? Here's your eleven bucks for the week. I got my loaf of bread and some Cup-a-Soup. One day Darrell (drummer) comes in when were playing a gig and he got a Snack Pack from Kentucky Fried Chicken and we were like "Where the hell did you get that?" Everybody was freaking out and he was like 'Uh, I pawned the hotel vacuum cleaner.' (laughs) I mean you could not make this s*** up! But we loved music and we were young. When you're that young you can take anything, you're just pounding it out."
antiMusic: How did you do the interviews? Was it mostly phoners or some in person?
Sean Mostly phoners. Yeah, I did phoners and I would record them and then I would have them transcribed.
antiMusic: Were there any of the bands that you had preconceived notions about but kind of surprised you in the interviews, either with some of their stories or just their demeanor?
Sean No, I have to say there's something that's remarkably settling about talking with Canadian artists. (laughs) They're generally the same: friendly, affable, intelligent. It was all great. I didn't have any kind of resistance, wasn't shocked by any stories. There's this real lack of pretension and it's a cliché, but it comes from talking to Canadian artists. There's just this lack of artifice. And that's something I have encountered in musicians from other places. I won't name places or names, but you know, attitude or cockiness, a need to put on airs. I just don't notice that when I talk to Canadian musicians. So in that case, I wasn't surprised. I was relieved and happy that they met my expectations of what a Canadian musician is. (laughs)
antiMusic: Getting the interviews done is the easy and most fun part obviously. But then the real work begins. Was the editing process as difficult a task as it might seem considering you had an obvious word count limit crossing swords with what I assume was probably an overflowing bounty of great stories.
Sean Well that was it right? I think that it's choosing the bits, right? I think that's another reason it's great to have an editor because you get another perspective. You get the perspective of someone who's not looking at the individual story so much as the overall effect. So, yeah, a couple of discussions certainly about, "Oh, why did you take that out? Or, "Do we need this?" Or "Can I keep this?"
But to be honest, the parts, the way that I structured it in terms of the flow of the chapters, the juicy parts or the essential parts became self-evident even amidst the conversations. I remember thinking, "Oh yeah, that's what we need." And writing the rest of the narrative, actually I wrote a lot of that when I was on tour with Nelly Furtado. I would just sit in the back of the tour bus, or the airport or wherever we were and write. So it was actually a nice way of doing it because I already had my chapter outlines. I had my interviews. So the rest of it was just weaving narrative.
antiMusic: There are a lot of the same sentiments from your interviewees, particularly with the topic of travel across the expanse of this gigantic country of ours. A decade or so removed from the experience of some of these bands that you talk about, do you find a lot of shared events with your career?
Sean Oh, absolutely. I mean if you've toured Canada in the winter, you know what a bear it can be. And I've done it with everyone crammed into one van, gear and all, no trailer straight through to being fortunate enough to do it on a nice level with tour buses and everything. No matter what way you do it, it's such an adventure and it's something that's hard to convey to people who don't do it. I mean, even in the U.S., there's such a short distance between major cities, compared to Canada.
I toured with Gilby Clarke, and they were talking, "Wow, that's a long drive! We've got a six-hour drive here." And I'm going, "Six hours? Are you kidding? That's amazing. That's nothing." (laughs) It's definitely a unique thing and I think it's something that helps build the character of the Canadian musician. It's like what do you do to kill that time? Maybe you're singing harmonies in that van. You're definitely listening to more music. You're getting to know each other better, that's for damn sure. And it was great to see all the common elements between everybody's stories too. It's a real interesting thing.
Book excerpt #4: Canada is a bitch of a country to tour across. The vast geography and great distances between major cities make for very challenging touring conditions. Long drives under gruelling internal and external conditions can do one of two things: kill you or make you stronger.
Nick Walsh, Slik Toxik: "I remember totally slumming it. Very rarely, did we get a chance to even stay overnight in the places we played in the early days. It was brutally. We would rent a cube truck and put not just our gear in the back but also our jam space furniture to create the best makeshift tour bus money could by (laughs). There are no windows or ventilation in the back of a cube, so we took a laundry dryer tube, hooked it up to the front window and sent it back so we could have some fresh air. Sleeping on Marshall 4X12 guitar cabinets wasn't the most comfortable, though!"
Derry Greham, Honeymoon Suite: "Touring Canada, you've got leave a lot of time, especially in f***ing wintertime. What you think is a four-hour drive turns into an eight-hour drive in the winter. It's brutal and it can also be deadly, driving Sault Ste. Marie over to Winnipeg through that Trans-Canada Highway up over Lake Superior. It's treacherous. I almost got killed a couple of times sliding off the road with those trucks whizzing by. I'm lucky I'm still alive. That's the thing about Canada. It's a massive country but there are only a few cities and they are really far apart."
antiMusic: You're talking about the time spent in the van and earlier about the makeup of Canadian musicians and it makes me think of an interview I heard recently with some hockey player, I forget who it was. The interviewer was asking him why Canadian hockey players seem to be more well-mannered than others across the world. And this player was saying he thought it was because of all the travel players had to do to get to tournaments or wherever and they spent a lot more time in the car with their parents, learning manners and just spending more time talking and thinking about things.
Sean You know, that's an interesting parallel. And I think it's true. You have to consider it was a very unique thing this Canadian touring thing that happened in the late '70s and '80s where you're going out, staying at one place, playing three or four sets a night, plus a matinee on Saturdays. Just the amount of work that you put into your craft. That's another thing that I noticed, playing with Canadian musicians. You got good at what you did. And as live acts? You could put a band like Helix up against any band in the world and it would be a tough act to follow. It's practice makes perfect. And Canadian artists have a lot of chance to practice being live acts.
antiMusic: Tell us about the launch of the cd where you got a chance to play with some of these subjects in your book.
Sean That was interesting too because I work for a company called Coalition Music here in Toronto. And Coalition is a company that built its career managing acts like Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Frozen Ghost and a number of different acts. I'm actually working on artist education initiatives. I teach a high school music business course there. I work on their artist entrepreneur program, a bunch of artist education initiatives. There's a great First Nations initiative we do with the high school kids and First Nations. It's an amazing place to work.
Anyway they found out I was working on a book, and the first thing they said was, "You should do an album with it. This could be fun. Maybe we'd like to get involved in this." The Coalition has a label through Warner Music. So we brain-stormed some ideas and the idea was, why don't we re-cut some of these classic Canadian tunes but bring together the original vocalists together and ultimately we'll put together a big show too.
We ended up doing a big Pledge Music Campaign to crowd-source it. We raised the money, brought the artists into Toronto to cut vocals and to have a big media event. And then brought them back again for a big concert. It was obviously very thrilling. We had a great group of musicians cut the bed tracks, Dave Langguth on drums who had played with Nelly and Gilby Clarke, Daryl Gray from Helix on bass and I played guitar. I co-produced the record with Aaron Murray who I work with on all the Helix records.
We did a lot of it at Coalition Music, at their studios. It was a fantastic experience and at the very end it was funny, my friend Nick Walsh from Slik Toxik, he actually said...but I had thought of it too..."You really have to make a song, why don't we write like a theme song for this project?" And at that point I was so burnt out. I was like, "Dude, I don't know," and he was, 'I already started it". So he had an idea and we got together and we wrote this song. And I'm really glad we did because the song "Metal on Ice" kind of summed up the whole experience.
antiMusic: Yeah, it's a great song.
Sean We brought all the vocalists back tighter. We ended up having a great day with contest winners and Pledge Music winners who came in and got to sing background vocals on the song. It was a really special day.
antiMusic: It must have been a logistical nightmare though to get everybody all together at the same time.
Sean Well, you know that's the beauty of having a proper management company come in and handle it. Coalition was amazing. It took care of the logistics, brought people in, housed everybody in their studio. They've got an amazing facility here in Toronto that has a performance showcase room and incredible studio and they did an incredible job hosting it. So thank god we had them. I'm very grateful to the folks at Coalition for diving in.
antiMusic: You've collaborated with Helix obviously, one of the very first hard rock bands that you got into in your youth. And also shared the stage with Coney Hatch. Do you ever have your fan boy moments when you step back from the situation when you're in the middle of things and go, "Man, I was buying records from these guys, 20, 25 years ago?
Sean Always. Always. I don't take it for granted for a minute. You know, it's funny. I'm actually writing with the Honeymoon Suite guys for their new record and I got to sub in for Gary on a gig, playing bass a couple of weeks ago for a live radio concert they did. And it was such a full circle moment because the first concert I went to was Helix and Honeymoon Suite. And I realized, I get to write music and actually play with these guys. To me it's absolutely amazing. I never take it for granted. I'm very honoured.
And yeah, I'm a total fan. I think I'm more of a fan than I am a musician. I honestly believe that. I think it's just that my fandom is so strong I need to find out what's going on in the inner workings. (laughs) I'm sure that's what driven me to play guitar. At the end of the day, that's exactly what I am. I'm a fan of these artists. And I also really believe in hard rock, classic rock as a form.
You see it's not about nostalgia for me. I actually think that this music, it's much like classical music; it needs to be performed properly by people who've trained in it. And the writing…I work with a lot of pop artists. I work with current artists. I'm music director for an artist, Andee who's on Universal right now. I understand what goes into making modern pop music. I'm very much a rock and roll guitar player at the end of the day, though. And I believe in it as its own art form, regardless of what's happening commercially.
Trust me, making my own records, I've had people saying, "Hey, if you only did this, or tweaked this and made this and down-tuned your guitar," No. I'm not doing it. When it comes to me as an artist, I am very much in that power pop, classic rock, hard rock, AOR vein. I love that. To me, Bryan Adams' Reckless, the sun rises and sets on that album. I love hard rock, I love the classicism of it.
I was actually just thinking of this, in the upcoming years of my career, what I'd love to be more than anything is a curator of this stuff. I really think that it's important. I think that people need to learn about the album experience again. It's something that's been lost. Music has been devalued. And I'm not talking about downloads. I don't care if that exists. I think it's training people to get just how joyful it can be to sit down and listen to an album.
I mean you've got to remember. I mean you DO remember, that was the thing. When I teach high school I tell kids that that WAS the thing we did. We went and listened to music; THAT was the event. They're all, "What else did you do? Play video games?" No! We were listening to music! And I think that that whole culture that goes with it, the going to Records On Wheels and the independent record stores...it's so important. And I think we need it. (laughs) I really do believe we need it…as a society.
antiMusic: Absolutely, I remember being in my teens and seven or eight of us going to buy Rush's 2112 and we sat in somebody's living room just playing it like four or five times straight through in a row, just going "wow". A couple of beers, and that was our evening.
Sean Exactly. I don't teach guitar much anymore but I did for years and years. The kids still love playing electric guitar. They love congregating. They love that combination of drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals. Like I mean this is still the same. Now it's a matter of how do we collect this energy and bring it to people in a way that they can digest.
Because there's such an enormous array of stuff out there to take away their attention, right? So I'm a believer, and I actually think it's going to come back round to that, and the beauty of the Internet is that you can actually find your pockets of people. It's just that the numbers have changed. We can't inflate numbers like we used to be able to. You can't ship platinum and come back gold. (laughs)
Book excerpt #5: "Of course, as the nineties progressed, I found myself very lost....clubs like Rock 'n Roll Heaven and The Gasworks were closing down, bands that I admired like Slik Toxik and Sven Gali were being panned not only for attempts at change but for ever existing in the first place. I personally spent a lot of time trying hard to find my way in a very new reality, one in which my hopes and dreams were lame and unsure. With Nirvana came a great cleansing of the songs of overindulgence, stupidity, and rampant sexism that unfortunately informed a lot of heavy metal and hard rock. On a musical level, grunge also levelled the boom on the heavier, more virtuosic forms of heavy music like thrash. Technical proficiency on an instrument was deemed to be baroque and wasteful, and in much the same way that punk music came along to kill the progressive rock "dinosuars", so too did it feel like grunge was doing the same with my beloved heavy metal. And I was pissed. Here, I had just begun my musical journey, finally learning the ropes in the clubs, getting my look and sound together...and it all seemed to be going away. My band eventually broke up and I stumbled my way through Toronto's music scene like a stranger in a strange land."
antiMusic: Tell us about the status of one your latest ventures, called Trapper.
Sean Oh, man, I've got to tell you. That was a great joy. Emm Gryner is definitely my long lost sibling. We've decided this. It was absolutely meant that we would work together. I've always admired her solo work. She's a gifted instrumentalist, I mean she was in David Bowie's band. She just finished playing with Gowan. She's just such an amazing human being and incredible musician, and has that passion, that childlike thing that we share, that desire to do it for real. Like I mean we must have texted back four or five times today, silly things about guitars and albums and White Lion, and whatever the hell else we talk about. We're like kids when it comes to this stuff.
And with Trapper, we've just released our first single on cassette, which was just a joy. I'm actually holding it and looking at it right now. It's unbelievable how much joy I got making it and picking it up from the duplication plant, you know. It has so many good memories. And I realized, you know, sometimes with a physical product, it's the actually physical manifestation of the stuff that went into making it, right?
That's something you don't get with a download. When you used to read album liner notes, you actually got to see all the elements that went into making that from the person who did the hair, to the person who designed the album, pressed the disc, mastered it, the seven engineers on…like you SAW the effort, you saw the value. And I'm looking at this, and I'm reading the liner notes and I'm going, "Yeah, there were human beings each with years and years of experience in their various fields who where involved in making this little two-song cassette."
It's something I'm very proud of. And in that case Trapper is definitely trying to recapture moments. We're trying to recapture a whole era. There's nostalgia but there's also brand new songs being written and once again, we're both pop classicists in a way. At the end of the day, it's bringing back that pop hard rock thing where the song is king. But we still want to dress it up will all the right colors and fashion.
We're just having such a good time with it. There's no way that I can't see us getting to play in arenas somehow. I can't see this music NOT getting played in arenas. I don't know how that's going to happen, but I feel it is. (laughs) It's just such a joy. I love playing with Emm. And "Grand Bender" and a cover of "The Warrior", those are the two songs, they're released via Maplemusic.com but also going to be out on iTunes on Tuesday.
antiMusic: Nice. I love that song, "The Warrior".
Sean You know another fan boy moment was when Nick Gilder heard our version of it and was actually emailing me, asking questions, like "Why did you do this? Why did you do that? I love it." I thought, "Wow, so cool!" Ya know?
antiMusic: Yeah. What's the status of Four by Fate?
Sean Well, Four by Fate, I've cut guitars on the record. Really at the end of the day, Tod Howarth and John Regan drive that machine. I've played some great gigs with them --- Belgium with Twisted Sister --- which was amazing. It was a chance to play with some amazing musicians, great guys.
I just learned a ton from them. Their collective experience is actually mind blowing. You go to John Regan's house and you see the gold and platinum albums and you don't realize how much he's actually played on because he's such a humble guy. It's stunning. Once again, it's one of those pinch-me moments. I was one of those Frehley's Comet fans and now I get to go up and play those Frehley's Comet parts. It's a blast. I'm not sure what the status is with the recording but like I said, at the end of the day, on the recording side, that's John and Tod's baby.
antiMusic: You've got so many irons in the fire, you're writing partners with Brian Volmer. You've got Trapper...playing with Lee Aaron, Four by Fate...
Sean...working on the new Honeymoon Suite.
antiMusic: Honeymoon Suite...guesting with Carole Pope...
Sean Yeah, I've been playing with Carole for 10 years. I realized this is going to be 10 years with Carole. We actually just booked some shows for February.
antiMusic: Good. I LOVE Carole Pope.
Sean There's somebody who…I'm so grateful for the experience because there's a true artist, a visionary. And she's got the fire…
antiMusic: Yep, I love her last record.
Sean No one's telling Carole what to do and I just learned so much. She's got so much integrity and is just so talented.
antiMusic: Do things just naturally fall together in line for you or do you really start having to say no because of conflicting schedules?
Sean You know what, there's a danger; I never really wanted to seem like I'm trolling for things. I love it so much; I want to do it all. That's it. I think the fact that it's genuine and that I decided not to sleep a long time ago. (laughs) And that's okay. I mean it's catching up with me now with the little ones, but honestly, every opportunity is so special and it's something that I wanted so badly as a kid, to get to do it.
Yeah, I don't know why these things have happened the way they've happened. Even the Nelly experience which I never thought in a million years that I'd do a gig like that, but it actually opened up the world to me. I'm so grateful to her and especially the fact that she said, "Hey look it, you're a rock n roll guy. Get your leather jacket and your Les Paul. Go rock out." And I was like, really?
antiMusic: Well, it works with Rhianna and Nuno Bettencourt so why not you and Nelly?
Sean That's exactly it. And people don't realize how challenging those gigs are. I'm telling you, you've got to be on your game. And I've learned a ton from her. Every opportunity, to me it's not so much to put my thing in, it's a chance for me to learn. And if I can facilitate in someone's vision, that's very rewarding for me. And that's not for everybody. I understand that. Some people, they have a strict vision of what they want to do and they're going to stick to it. And I greatly appreciate that. But for me, I get so much pleasure out of being that facilitator.
I got to tell you, I was just working on some Lee Aaron stuff before you called and man, I'm so stoked for this record. I mean, there's another artist...people think, "Metal Queen". sure great song. Sure. Undeniable. But this new record we\re doing, I'm telling you, it's more like Big Star meets The Raspberries meets hard rock, meets T. Rex. It's so cool. And she can do it all, authentically.
antiMusic: Absolutely. I'm a huge fan, I used to see her at Carleton U in Ottawa for all her shows. And she would do Sabbath-era Dio stuff, and just kill it and all kinds of cool covers besides her songs so in terms of vocalist, you're not going to find better than her.
Sean And you know, it's cool because when she does "Metal Queen" or "Barely Alive", she owns it. We can go up and do that and then we can go up and do her jazz tune, because she owns that too. She's for real. She's the real deal. That band, and I've got to tell you, her husband on drums, John Cody, and bassist Dave Reimer who played with Bryan Adams and the Headpins and Barney Bentall, a young guy named Matt Weidenger on keyboards who actually took our Coalition course and at 21 is out playing with us now. It's unbelievable. The band's so great. I'm so happy to be a part of it.
Book excerpt #6: Lee Aaron: I was a breakout star in Europe long before Canada. I had sold over 100,000 records on a small indie label out of Belgium called Roadrunner. I remember returning after touring Europe with Bon Jovi, where I was playing soft-seaters, topping music magazine pools, and being courted by Virgin Records --- to driving across Canada with my Attic Records promo rep almost begging stations to play the new album, and they just weren't interested. In Europe, I was made to feel like a great rock artist who happened to be female. In Canada, I was a cute chick singing rock. People didn't even realize I wrote my own songs."
antiMusic: I guess just in closing, you kind of dropped hints of further work at the end of the book. Further work in the publishing world that is. Anything you can share at this time?
Sean Well you know what, nothing's that planned. There's definitely a couple of ideas I want to pursue. It's just that a book, you're looking at a two-year commitment. And right now there's just so much music happening. It's funny I was just talking to one of the guys from my classical label and we're talking about an album. There's so much music to be made right now that I think I'm going to focus in on that.
There's a lot more Canadian rock out there to be talked about. but you know it's funny when we do these gigs with Harlequin and Streetheart and all these bands in Toronto, it makes you realize just how much great music is out there. So yeah, there's more books. There's always more books to be written. There's always more songs. (but) there's only so many summers and so many springs right, so I'm just trying to get as much in as I can. (laughs) But thank god I'm lucky and I'm lucky that great people like you want to talk about it and help spread the word. It's really important. And I'm well familiar with antiMusic by the way. I read it quite a bit.
antiMusic: Oh that's great to hear.
Sean Oh yeah.
antiMusic: I can't tell you how many shared experiences we have had. I'm not a musician—but your thoughts on music in the book and even your postings on Facebook are usually exactly what I was thinking --- I saw your post other day when you were talking about Jim Mankey. I'm a huge Concrete Blonde fan and I couldn't agree more with your statements. He's so underrated. And all your comments were bang on. I agree with everything you say (laughs).
Sean You see, this is the thing. The numbers now, when we talk about the numbers game again. When people say, "Ah our album sales are just such and such…" Well, give me 500 people who passionately can discuss THAT? That's good for me. I'm good that way. To me that's what it's all about...community. And I think there's something that happens in rock concerts and discussions. It's not just about the person making the music, it's this reciprocal thing that happens with the person who can appreciate it.
Yeah man I can talk about Jim Mankey and Jeff Beck all day. To be honest, this is why I do this, it's to go find "my people". (laughs) Go find your tribe out there, right? (laughs) I get moved by this and then hopefully other people are. Yeah, that's what it's all about.
Morley and antiMusic thanks Sean for taking the time to speak with us.