See Spot Sit … But Not For Long!

See Spot Run is the best possible name for guitarist Randy Bowen‘s music group.

Why? Does he have a pooch who nixes the idea of standing still? Does Randy spend his days observing the non – putrid pooch?

Not quite.

The Pointe Claire resident’s name should be Spot because Randy is always on the move and he would not have it any other way …

” My first cousins, my second cousins and what seemed like generations in my family were all musicians. I remember seeing a drum kit and amps for the first time – it was like ‘wow’, I gotta do this!”

‘Do this’ was exactly what Bowen did and judging by his success, the guitarist’s choice of playing music was the right one.

Channeling childhood idols such as Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Mick Ronson of David Bowie’s band, Randy – like a lot of teens, played in a couple of cover bands. It was at the age of twenty – one, playing in a band by the name Inner Germ, Bowen crossed paths with singer and bass player Chris Brodbeck.

“Chris’ band was falling apart and so was mine.” Says Bowen. ” I said to Chris why don’t we kinda merge and make a band …? Chris was more of a rock guy and I was into New Wave stuff. Somewhere in the middle – we realized a shared taste in music. I remember we played ‘Message in a Bottle’ by the Police. It was a song everybody in the band had played and we knew we were meant to be together.”

Along with Brodbeck ‘s brother Tom on drums and Paul Moore on guitar; the first incarnation of See Spot Run was born and it didn’t take long for the band to get some gigs.

” I believe our first show was at a high school, Father McDonald or something like that. We also played downtown Montreal in clubs such as Station 10. I still remember Chris and I hitchhiking to and from the city back to the West Island with our gear. It was very hot!”

See Spot Run’s first break came in the form of a two month tour opening up for a caucasian rhythm and blues singer by the name of Wayne Nicholson. The band had signed a contract with a new label; Loggerhead Records.

That cross – country jaunt was the band’s introduction to the music world. A realm which they were about to be part of – in a big way …


The Hits

The group’s second ‘coup d’etat was landing Gary Moffet as a producer. The former April Wine guitarist brought everything he had learned with April Wine to See Spot Run’s virgin songwriting. According to Bowen, Moffet saved the day if and when himself or any member of the band locked horns with Brodbeck over one of his songs.

“Chris writes everything and then he introduces what he has to the group. We then take it and play with it – add our own ideas. Sometimes we don’t agree and that was when Moffet stepped in. To arbitrate.”

Bowen continues …

“Chris and I never came close to screaming and yelling – we were never that far apart in our view. Moffet was a calming, trustworthy presence. He was just what the band needed to bring us to the next level. Moffet had already been to that ledge and he showed us how to climb.”

After a non – commercial, no hit album named Traces introduced the world to SSR, the globe suddenly became that much bigger with their second album; ‘Ten Stories High’. A record which introduced the group to the world of videos and the reality of the music business.

“We were doing a video for the song ‘Au Natural’. It was filmed in an old dance hall in Wasaga beach. A place which we returned to twice – once with the band Moist and the other time we were on tour with I Mother Earth. We would shoot some footage and wait for an hour. Shoot then wait, shoot and wait … All day we did this and it was sooooo cold! I asked myself this is fame …?” He laughs.

“TEN STORIES HIGH” may have garnered the band fame. Their third album and single ‘Weightless’, shot them to stardom …

Since those releases; See Spot Run has had 5 charting singles and 5 videos played on MuchMusic. They have crossed Canada with seven tours and appeared on multi Canadian and international television shows.

The album “Weightless” made Canadian recording history. The disc’s title track was certified by BDS as being “the highest charted independent song on the rock chart since the inception of BDS”.

   The single “Weightless” reached number nine on the rock chart, six on the Top 40 Chart and peaked at five on the all Canadian chart. The French translation of Weightless, Decoller – was number one on the Quebec charts. The follow-up single “Terrified/Terrifié” also climbed the Canadian CHR charts in both languages.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters gave See Spot Run the “Breakout Single of The Year Award” and the band was awarded the “Concert of the Year Award” by Wired Magazine shortly thereafter.

” When Chris played the beginnings of Weightless to us, I thought it was a very good song. I never thought it was going to be a huge hit. I just thought it was a little better than the rest he ( Broadbent) had written. I had no inclination of what would happen next …!?”

What happened was the band started playing with some very big names in music. Opening up for the likes of Bon Jovi and Kim Mitchell to name a few.

Another brush with greatness in Bowen’s views came when SSR was playing in Winnipeg. The group was on stage, doing their thing in a small club before a couple of hundred of people. In walks Stevie Wonders’ drummer James Allan and Dennis Davis – one of Bowie’s drummers from the seventies.

Gary Moffet

The pair joined Randy and his mates on stage which blew Bowen away. Randy, however was more impressed with what happened later.

“Following the show, those two guys joined us in the basement for some coffee. We all just sat around drinking coffee as musicians. There was no pretense, no egos from anyone’s part. Just a bunch of guys with the same vibe drinkin’ coffee. It was very cool …!”

Around that time, Chris and the band members re-located to Toronto. A city where the band is based, a city where Bowen travels to and from every week from his hometown in Quebec.

” This is my home!” Says Bowen about Pte. Claire ” Ever since Chris moved there, I drive up to Toronto where I have a place. Sometimes I feel that’s all I do … Drive, park and drive some more …!” He laughs.

SEE SPOT RUN released their third CD “Gonna Getcha” on August 28, 2007. The album is on Rocket9 Music distributed by DEP/ Universal Music. It is the band’s first record without Moffet involved as a producer.

The first single and title track, “Gonna Getcha” was selected by “Degrassi: The Next Generation” to be a feature song in their 2008 season. Leaning towards the band’s rockier side, the album is a result of collaboration between See Spot Run and producer Ed Krautner (Sum 41). Featured on the disc is drummer Josh Trager of the Sam Roberts band.

“Josh actually played with us in 2004 for less than a year before he left us to join Sam Roberts. In that time, we didn’t gig very much (one small tour) so we never had time to really gel as a band. He was already established with Sam Roberts when we asked him to come back and play on the Gonna Getcha record.” Bowen continues.” He played on seven of the twelve tracks on Gonna Getcha. Davide Direnzo played on the other five. Josh gave us as much time as he could but obviously had large commitments with Sam. It was during the recording of Gonna Getcha that Fudge and Aaron came on board. Josh played with us before Sam Roberts and came back to help us following the success of his band.

According to Bowen, that C.D; Gonna Getcha may be the last one.

“The music industry crashed right out. Nobody buys C.D’s anymore, it’s about buying a song at a time on ITunes. We won’t say for sure but one single at a time seems the way of the future!”

The group’s latest single; ‘Let it Go’ was released it 2009 and joins 2007’s ‘My IPod killed my girlfriend’ as the latest ability of the band to stay near the top of catchy alternative rock songs.

Since the days of meeting Chris in a basement, See Spot Run’s line – up has changed. Chris and Randy remain the two constants. The band’s current formation consists of Fudge on drums and Aaron Little on guitar since 2007.

Paul Moore and Tom Broadbent played on the first album Traces. They were followed by Reg Bennett on guitar and Bruce McQueen on drums for the albums Ten Stories High and Weightless. Mark Homer and Bryan Duffy then played on an album which was never released.

All the members left on their own terms for various reasons and all members, past and present – get along very well according to Bowen.

The group is also in discussion of possibly having a documentary made of their career. Talks are ongoing and a decision should be made shortly.

One of the nicest stories ever heard, will be a huge part of the documentary; as told by Mr. Brodbeck …

“We did a command performance for a young girl who’s last wish it was to see See Spot Run in concert. The young girl was from East Angus Quebec and had terminal cancer. The Child Wish Foundation contacted us in the spring while we were on tour out west and told us she only had a few months. So they sent a film crew from a local TV station to shoot us live and send it to the young girl in Quebec.
We were scheduled to return to Montreal from out west late summer so they asked if they could book a date in East Angus in the unlikely event that she might still be with us. We agreed and as the story goes she lived 4 months longer just to see her favourite band and then passed away shortly after. The entire town came to the show and their family has never forgotten. We still play East Angus once every year!”

You never know what can come from a basement meeting …

Watch My IPod killed my Girlfriend Here!


Advertisements

Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me – Part Three

The saga of April Wine commenced with great songwriting.

Something that sets Myles Goodwyn apart from most of his Canadian contemporaries except for The Guess Who, Neil Young and Rush.

Early songs such as `You Won`t Dance with Me` and `Bad Side of the Moon` led to bigger hits such as `Roller`,  Ì Like to Rock` and `Just Between You and Me`.  A legacy of linguistic and musical prowess to be left behind for generations to come.

According to Mercer, although Myles wrote the songs and the majority of lyrics – it was a group effort yet Myles always had the final word. Sometimes, it was not pretty …

” We were in the studio recording Nature of the Beast. We decided to cover the song `Sign of the Gypsy Queen`. I played the beat the way I thought it should go and Myles`vision was completely different. Usually we could come to a halfway point yet not this time. It was the only occasion I can recall when we almost came to blows! I was passionate and so was Myles! We ending up with a little of my idea and a lot of his!”

All the ideas led to a breakout album and suddenly the band was famous in Canada and the United States. They were `true`rock stars and that led to the inevitable `sex, drugs and rock n`roll` lifestyle.

Mercer was married and had two young children at home – a son and a daughter. His wife was supportive of his music yet the lifestyle was tough on the relationship. Jerry stayed true to his wife and stayed away from the groupies – the drugs did catch up to him and almost ruined him.

” I started experimenting with cocaine. A little at first and like most people that get addicted – it started to take over my life.” He shakes his head. ” The reason I stopped cocaine was because it was interfering with my abilty to play the drums. Drumming was always my passion and love – when it ( cocaine ) started to destroy that; it was time to stop!”

April Wine continued it`s rock ways but were never able to dupilcate the sucess of 1983`s Nature of the Beast album. By 1987 – the band was finished and the members went their seperate ways.

Mercer hooked up with former Offenbach members  John McGale and Breen LeBoeuf. The Buzz Band played in small local clubs in Montreal and gave fans an opportunity to witness Mercer`s drum solo close up. A drum solo which not only rests in people`s memories – a watermark moment for Mercer in the future.

Now What ?

One day, Jerry Mercer found himself above  Decarie Blvd. in Montreal. He was spiritually drained. He had an empty feeling inside and felt void. His marriage was ending, April Wine was not close to re-grouping and the Buzz Band was no longer playing very often.

” I was thinking of jumping!” States Mercer as if someone else was saying the words. ” I had all these questions in my head and there was no one with any answers for me. I really, sincerely, was just lost!”

It was then Mercer heard a voice in his head. The voice told the drummer to go and see an old friend named Bevin. An ally that Mercer had not spoken to in many years.

” I just started walking toward the last address I had for him. I did not think he would be there but the voice kept telling me to go!” 

Mercer found the house and knocked on the door. Bevin opened it up and knew right away something was wrong. He took Jerry in and after renewing acquaintances – the two spoke of life and death. Bevin convinced Jerry to join him in his Bible classes and the pair started to take  courses together.

Bevin and Mercer became closer than ever as the pair commenced recording a gospel C.D.  Bevin travelling from the city to Mercer`s home and the studio that lay in the bowels of April Wine`s ex-drummer`s home. Then, `like a shot through the soul` – Bevin was killed one day in a traffic crash on the way to Mercer`s.

” If it were not for the lessons that Bevin taught me and the ones we learned together, I would not have been able to handle his death. It was an ironic twist of fate. He saved my life and then his was taken away coming to visit me.  I do not know why – there is a reason that happened.”

Perhaps that reason was instilling strength in Mercer. Not long following Bevin`s untimely death, Mercer discoverd he had prostate cancer. A killer of many men around his age at that time. Jerry went for chemotherapy treatments and was drumming once more with the newly  re – formed April Wine.

This time it was Jimmy Clench back on bass, along with Myles and Brian. Mercer only missed one show due to his cancer.

” I played a few gigs standing up but because of the chemo, I was too tired. It was the only time in thirty years I did not play with Wine.”

When I`m Sixty – Four … ?

At sixty  years of age, Mercer and his bandmates started a new chapter in their lives. A chapter that was not filled with arena tours nor gold records. It was a section of their lives that gave the fans a chance to show their appreciation for a Canadian institution. The band – touring non-stop across Canada playing in small clubs …

An appreciation witnessed first hand on a couple of occasions …

To be Continued … 

Jerry Mercer and the Buzz Band will be playing May 18th at Calistoga Grill in Pointe Claire. Don`t miss it …!

Album Review – Roger Walls; Midnight Ride

Get in your car!

No – wait!

Run back to the house and grab Roger Wall’s new CD – Midnight Ride! For a long drive, there is nothing better for a Jazz fan to keep the toes a tappin’…

Kansas – born Roger Walls brings fifty years of experience to the disc, a half century of knowledge accumulated partly by working with some of the greats in the music industry.

Tony Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Duke Ellington are some of the people that have employed Roger at some point. Trumpet, alto and tenor sax along with anything that blows – Mr. Walls brings all this knowledge to Midnight Ride.

As Roger said recently from the stage at the House of Jazz; “What’s the point of staying in your room? It’s cabaret time!”

If Roger had stayed in his room, playing at Carnegie Hall for Ella Fitzgerald‘s 75th Birthday party – would have been a dream. Instead, with Max Roach on drums – Roger played for the legendary singer to the song; Tiscut a Tasket with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

” The song featured me playing a solo – WHAT A RUSH I FELT PLAYING WITH SUCH GREAT PLAYERS FEATURED AT CARNEGIE HALL!

Although the new CD adds an assortment of various styles, it tells a personal tale for Roger. A story told through music …

The first track – Soon come young blues; opens the first leg of ‘the drive’ with an upbeat tempo. Drummer Eloi Bertholet, a fellow ‘farm boy’ from Saskatchawan, instills the proper speed limit to get the listener’s engine revvin’. The song says; ‘ this is Jazz’ ! No more -no less and keeps a curious ear for the next track. A song inspired by a dream …

‘I said you’d be back’ is what a warden of a prison told Roger in one of his many dreams. The storyline consists of Roger escaping and the warden informing him of their soon- to- be – encounter. This instrumental track delivers a manic feel. Trumpets sounding like police cars as the underlying keyboards give chase to a criminal drum beat. Following this song; your speed limit is a little higher as it attempts to keep up with your heart rate.

The third song on the disc is a shock! By far – the catchiest tune on an over- all catchy collection of a dozen songs.

‘Slow walk ‘ combines Rap, Jazz and Funk. An unlikely trio that conjures up phrases such as ‘wtf’? If Roger’s conscience spoke to him – it surley said; ‘ what are you thinkin’ dude’? Yet it works and it works extremely well. The type of tune which places your fingers on the replay button – over and over.

The song settles into a groove quickly. A rhythm of making love to a sultry woman. Not fast – not slow, just right.

Therein lies the beauty of the song. The routine of the same rhythm is disrupted by not one – two rappers. A ‘ take your turn’ adventure in a hip hop dueling session. A female’s voice gives pleasure while the man’s presence – a perfect balance to a funk- riddled tightrope excursion.

A high wire act is something Walls has learned over the years.

Following a move to Quebec with his new wife, Roger discovered Montreal was a great place to be and discovered  a niche playing with French Stars.

“The studio scene was great – I could do 3 beer jingles (there used to be about 30 studio’s in town ), a tv show and a jazz gig in the same day .” Walls continues. ” I was the only one in town that had high chops because of my rock experience and good teachers.”

This opened the ‘ trumpet case’  so to speak and Roger soon found himself among great – if not, legendary performers. Cab Calloway – Al Martino – Paul Anka – Tom Jones – Michel Legrand – Aretha Franklin – Donna Summers – Whitney Houston – George Burns – Petula Clark – Englebert Humperdink -Dean Martin- Diana Ross – Joan Rivers – Dionne Warwick to drop a few names.

Roger recalls when the orchestra he was playing in backed up the Godfather of Soul – James Brown.

” He ( Brown) arrived 15 minutes before we were supposed to go. Nobody in the band knew a set list containing the three songs he was supposed to play. I spoke with him and we narrowed his ‘hits’ to the three. In five minutes – I scribbled the sheet music, xeroxed it and handed it to fifty guys in the band. Talk about cutting it close?”

Close is what you may want to do when you play the next song on the disc; ‘Music to Wish for Girls By’.

A song inspired by one of Wall’s conga players’ favorite songs; Music to Watch Girls By…A popular song written by Herb Albert. Roger’s version turns the track into a Latin- based rhumba and adds spice to a scene that may otherwise be melancholi as the title suggest. Music can transform dreams into possibilities …

‘I Will Wait Forever’ continues the soft section of the CD without the groove of the previous track. It is a song for the special men who fall in love with a special lady and wait forever …

Forever seems a long time ago to Roger. Starting his career in Wichita, Kansas and gaining notoriety with the Central Standard Time band. The band toured all over the States and the east coast of Canada. They made such an impact – Roger and his ex – mates were recently inducted into the Kansas City music hall of fame. Something Roger could not fathom when the band broke up in St.Paul, Minnesota.

” I hopped in my ’59 Volvo and headed to L.A. I played several of the clubs , hooking up with musicians and making a name for myself. A friend could have got me a gig with Lawrence Welk – instead I ended up in Quebec.”

Rene Simard’s company hired Roger and he also was lead trumpet for one of  Quebec’s most popular artists; Garou.  Roger travelled all around Europe, Japan and France. His stay in Japan was the inspiration behind ‘ A Pink Japanese Moon’ – another track on a Midnight Ride.

The song fulfills what Walls wanted to do.  Capture the beauty of Japan! Within a minute, the listener is transported beyond the rice fields into the land of silky screens and geisha girls. A spiritual massage given by Wall’s eloquent use of his instrument amid the sweet sounds of his backing band.

Les Murs De Paris is another track on the album which captures Roger’s memories. In France, Walls played on a t.v show entitled “Apre Mo Lise”. Various people such as Gene Krupa and Sonny Rollins would appear on the show, adding more fuel to Walls’  ‘ Wall of Sound’.

” Don’t forget – in the 1970’s, people would drive from N.Y.to Montreal to listen to Jazz. I played at hot clubs such as The Rising Sun, Rockheads Paradise and Grand Cafe. I played with the Ink Spots, the Drifters and Frankie Hubbard. I even played for Jerry Lewis at the M.S. Telethon!”

These experiences are evident on the ‘train medley’.  Roger’s hommage to Chatanooga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 65000 and Take the A Train. It commemorates all the years Walls played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. For older and more traditional Jazz fans – a pleasant trip backwards.

The final cut on the album brings us back to the start. ‘A Midnight Ride’ – inspired by Roger’s love of cars and driving. An upbeat finish to a darkened ride with the moon as a guide.

This album is not the best Jazz album nor is it the worst. It lies somewhere high above a mark. An indentation which millions of players strive to reach each year. An indentation which Roger Walls reached and passed miles ago …

Get in you car!

Don’t wait …

Roger Walls new CD “Midnight Ride”
Available at  Archambault Music ( Jazz) 500, Sainte-Catherine Est
and Itunes!

Want publicity for your band or self? Contact me keenerick@hotmail.com