Slaves on Dope; ROUND TWO

What would you think if you saw a dude in line at Starbucks. His arms are filled with tattoos and he has a shaved head.

Assume he is a skinhead – type guy with an attitude? Smile politely and keep a distance due to your ignorance?

Many would …

How bad would you feel once you discovered the individual was a DJ on CHOM? How discusted would you feel inside if you found the fellow in front of you was on a National news program once a week? Then, if that was not enough – a discovery was made the man in question was part of a band that was the first to be signed by Ozzy Osbourne‘ s record label?

Go to the corner now! Come out in five minutes after you feel shame …

Meet Jason Rockman. Co – founder of the Band; Slaves on Dope.

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Along with Avrum Nadigel and Kevin Jardine, Slaves on Dope started in 1993 and won the CHOM L’espirit contest shortly thereafter. A victory which opened doors for music which was seeking a home …

Slaves on Dope were part of a new genre of music called NU Metal. A style which was not ‘in style’ in the city of Montreal at that time. Nu Metal is closely related to Rapcore – a genre of music which evolved from punk and not metal as most believe. Bands such as Korn and Limp Bizkit are considered to be leaders in the Nu Metal genre.

In 1995 – original drummer and bass player Patrick Francis and Lenny Vartanian left the band. New guys Frank Salvaggio (bass) and Robert Urbani (drums) joined Jason and Kevin in a heavier version of Slaves on Dope. A version which ended up in L.A.

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Salvaggio and Urbani took off on a six day trek to get the band’s name out there. Says Rockman; ” Following almost a year of playing out there and showcasing our music, one day we get a call from Sharon Osbourne asking us if we could meet. We became the first band to sign with Ozzy’ s record label – Divine Productions in 2000.”

That year was busy for the band. A full length album titled ‘ Inches from the Mainline’ was released. It went on to sell 70,000 albums and being a part of Ozzfest was a big reason for that.

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” My parents came to the show to watch us play.” Says Jason. ” Sharon Osbourne brought them into her private box to watch the show. Instead of being in the crowd, they were just off the right of the stage. It was pretty awesome!”

The next four years was filled with touring and craziness. Through all that – Rockman stayed sober. Something he is proud to say has been for twenty years now.

In 2004, shortly following the release of the band’s third album ‘Metafour and amid a three month tour of Europe -Rockman decided he had enough. He left the band he helped create to fulfill his family duties.

His girlfriend was three months pregnant at the time and Rockman’ s sense of duty took over.

” I just did not feel right being on the road. I wanted to be there – hands on!”

Jason returned to Montreal and worked for a transport company as well as the Sunglass Hut while his children grew. His relationship ended but his loyalty to his two children remained. The Montreal native who grew up listening to Zeppelin, the Stones and Jane’s Addiction – got a job working for CHOM, the very station which helped Slaves on Dope get discovered in the early nineties. He credits longtime DJ Tootall and his current wife for guiding him along.

Slaves on Dope returned to Jason’s itinerary in 2009 thanks to Patrick Charles.The Virgin announcer took Rockman’s demo and re- introduced Montreal to the band through a five song EP. Rockman and longtime partner -in- music Jardine were back along with new members; Sebastien Ducap ( Bass ) and Peter Tzaferis ( drums) .

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Songwriting partner Jardine had been running his studio since Slaves on Dope disbanded. That five year gap proved to be a blessing in disguise. Being back together displayed a maturity that might have been missing in the past.

Says Rockman; ” I wrote the songs and in the past – if Kevin attempted to give advice or add something, I would have snapped his head off!” He laughs. ‘ Now – we write together.”

Slaves on Dope have just released their fourth album; ‘Over the Influence’ and are hitting the road for a mini – tour to promote their new seventeen songs along with an impressive back catalogue.

” My kids are more important than music. I’ll go on the road but not for long …!” Says Rockman as he and his mates prepare to hit the pavement for three weeks.

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Apart from the album, Slaves on Dope have also recently released a digital – only ep titled ‘ Careless Coma’ and Rockman et al are looting through old concert footage to piece together a documentary.

Jason can be heard on Chom – FM every week MONDAY TO FRIDAY from 8pm til 12 am. He can also be seen every Friday at 3:20 pm on a CTV Toronto news program called ‘the blitz’ with Todd Van der Heyden. It is a pop culture panel discussion show.

Slaves on Dope can be seen and heard on their website along with MySpace and YouTube.

The next time you grab a coffee and see a guy with tatoos and a shaved head in line, you may want to ask for an autograph. After – all, how many guys do you know shook hands with Ozzy Osbourne?


Slaves on Dope – Discography

Studio Albums

One Good Turn Deserves Another (1998)
Inches from the Mainline (2000)
Metafour (2003)
Over the Influence (2012)

Demos/EPs

Sober (1994)
Klepto (1999)
Careless Coma (2011)

War Pigs , Black Sabbath Cover, appears on Japanese release of Nativity In Black II: A Tribute To Black Sabbath (2000)

Look What The Cat Dragged In , Poison Cover, appears on Show Me Your Hits: a Tribute to Poison (2000)

Go (Demo) (2002)

Drain Me (Demo) (2002)

All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) (2011)

SLAVES ON DOPE.COM

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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 …!

Just Between You and Me

 Le ‘Set – Up ‘

Toting a box of beer up a flight of stairs on a Saturday morning led to an encounter that would shape the rest of my life. Who knew?

 

Ste Anne de Bellevue – In the Summertime…

I was toiling as a waiter in a restaurant named Cajun Blues. The establishment was the ‘outcast ‘among the several bars and restaurants situated in the picturesque town of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC. The reason for the leper – like treatment? The business did not possess a terrace on the waterfront and that absence left a void in the town’s visitors as they arrived to eat.

Ste. Anne be Bellevue is a community that thrives on the promise of the summer sun. The view of the sun’s rays reflecting off waves rooted by the variations of ships and boats is an integral part of the town’s survival. The countless photo -ops are a welcome sight for the lunch and supper crowd that flock to the boardwalk. A ‘luxurious dock ‘ that lays nestled on the western – most tip of the Island of Montreal and remains an attractive location for families , lovers and loners. For some – a mixture of all three. If Mama Nature cooperates, the customers grin while money rains directly into the pocket books of the establishments’ owners. If the matriarch of green decides otherwise – the terraces are as vacant as the property owners’ gas tanks.

            Regardless of the Cajun Blues’lack of such a beautiful image, Saturday night at the eatery was jumping.  Aside from Cajun food staples such as

All Night Long …

Louisiana Mud Pie, Chicken Creole and Jambalaya – the singular item that enticed visitors to fill the clubs’ cozy atmosphere was an eclectic selection of live music.

As the stars and the moon danced high in the darkened sky – invited musicians orchestrated the pairs’ celestial moves with a catalogue of grooves both real and imagined.  Blues was on the dessert menu one evening while an additional soiree wound up crammed with the crisp sounds of a drummer – a ‘ cat ‘ as cool as a northern breeze keeping time among a trio of Jazz musicians as they delivered ‘ last  call ‘ to welcoming applause.

The subsequent week – Reggae was the ‘le soup du jour ‘. The clubs’ patrons would drain their ‘bowls ‘and in the process, fill up their palates with love and joy. Once the main course of unity was completed, the partiers made love to their drinks while the sweet sounds of Marley and Tosh provided a message of hope. The sort of memo that passed spontaneously throughout the crowd and a post – it note Mr.Marley would have permitted.

Rock – a – Bye – Muddy …

It was a unique three months for me as I spent evenings creating new friends and  mornings producing friendship with my two small children .Francesca Emerald Amanda and Owen David Randall remain the beneficiaries of a Father completed by his love for music. Not a day passed without their Dad cooing them to sleep. Lyrics penned by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Louis Armstrong became our lullabies as the virgin eyes on their softened faces closed into dreams of innocence.

These are the memories that stay firmly planted as seeds in the lawn of my soul .Landscaping created for a new generation. Seeds that will spread from my kids – to their very own.

–  Le ‘Show ‘-

        As my head ached and my ears called for silence, I carried the bottles of beer from the basement and placed the crate upon the bar. Standing there, I recalled the previous evenings’ adventures with a smile. This made my head hurt even more …

I had attended a concert by the Canadian rock band AprilWine. A friend and fellow journalist had invited me to join him. ‘ Tagging ‘  along meant the opportunity to not only see the show – a backstage visit was part of the itinerary as my friend was concocting an interview with lead songwriter and singer  – Myles Goodwyn.

The group was one of my many favorites as the suburbs of Montreal nurtured me from adolescence to teen. You Won’t Dance with Me, Oowatanite , Roller , Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game and Just Between You and Me were staples of my teen years and just a few of the hits by the legendary rock band.

April Wine – Then …

I had seen them live a handful of times between the ages of fifteen and twenty and once – I was fortunate enough to enjoy their arena show three times in one-week Toronto on Saturday, Peterborough on Wednesday and Montreal once more on the following Saturday. It was a threesome of the non – sexual type yet sensually pleasing.

The trio of shows wrought envy from the mouths of all my male fellow rock n rollers in the late seventies and for a brief moment in time – I was the coolest person amongst my peers. The boys were jealous yet the ‘chicks ‘dug me. Rock N Roll may be a vicious game but sex is the ultimate trophy to the victors!

So here I was – all these years later, with an opportunity to sing along to the tunes of my youth in the small confines of Le Spectrum .It was an exit on the highway of music I would notbe missing.

An Intimate Engagement

Wine – circa 2001

Time had passed since the days of the band selling out the Montreal Forum. The group had actually broken up for a few years in the late eighties only to re-form in the nineties. They continue touring on a smaller level as they play their music to loyal fans in Canada and the United States. The hits are no longer written by the formerly – proficient Goodwyn yet an arsenal containing songs such as Say Hello , I Like to Rock , Sign of the Gypsy Queen and Weepin Widow were more than enough to carry these former teenagers into the twi –light of their lives and career.

The show and tunes that evening were what I had come to expect from the foursome. High-octane rock performed with conviction at decibels alarming to some. Hit after hit brought grown men and women to their feet. Powerful anthems punctuated by tearful ballads lay witness to a new generation as they writhed in appreciation of the band’s efforts. The line – up consisting of Myles on guitar and vocals , Brian Greenway  on guitar , the late Jim Clench on bass and the powerful Jerry Mercer on drums – did not disappoint the most cynical concert go – er. It was a wonderful summer evening under a cloud of nostalgia.

‘ A High Roller Baby …!’

The show ended with an exclamation point. The song Roller, arguably the band’s biggest hit, was the encore and it whipped the predominant forty – something crowd into frenzy. Everyone it seemed knew the song and there was not a quiet voice in the house as the band elongated the distance of their watermark tune.

The song finished and the group exited the stage to deafening applause. The words; ‘She’s a high roller baby ‘were sung in unison as the throng of people made their way past the exits and onto the streets of downtown Montréal. The lyrics’ High roller baby ‘continued as they echoed through vacant buildings and began eking out a new found existence in a city they once owned.

It was now the time for me to get excited.

A behind – the – curtains visit was not only exciting for the privilege of meeting rock icons, the rendez- vous was also an opportunity for me to discover a few words from the men that had met my idols – the Rolling Stones.

“Going back stage is exciting. Regardless of how many times it has happened. “Annie Liebowitz

 

The entrance alone is usually long and dark followed by a door or curtain guarded closely by a security guard or personnel. A flash of a pass, a nod of a head and suddenly you have elapsed into unknown territory. You are privileged. Depending on the star or stars, thousands and sometimes millions of people are separated from you .Physically and emotionally you have obtained a realm that some may only dream of reaching in their paramount fantasies.

Once, twice or a hundred times – the heart always beats a little faster when a crowd is left behind the curtain at a Rock n Roll show.  Terrence Mann may have had the same awareness as he approached the cornfields in the movie adaptation of the novel Shoeless Joe. Field of Dreams is the name of the film and is there a better way to identify the feelings of disappearing back – stage? Not quite …

Behind the Scenes …

On this evening – a curtain in lieu of a door was my gateway to knowledge and (if lucky) – a few beers. As my partner and I navigated the maze of rooms and people, we remained on the look – out for the subject of my colleague’s interrogation. We discovered Mr.Goodwynin a concrete room conspicuous with its absence of color. He was speaking to a couple of young women as he rested alongside a table outfitted with food. My friend introduced himself and promptly thanked Myles for the opportunity given to not only him – myself as well.

Just Between Myles and Me …

Myles Goodwyn

Myles was aloof and maintained a tone of aristocracy as I extended my hand to his. Habitually, I own the ability to garner good judgment of people. I did not like Myles in the first minute of our meeting and if my children and dog were by my side – I remain confident they would have had the very same feeling. Regardless if Mr.Goodwyn had shaken my hand – my feelings would not have changed.

Arrangements between my friend and Goodwyn to disappear into an atmosphere more fitting for a one – on – one discussion were completed. The lead vocalist informed me to help myself to whatever beverages and food I discovered. Since he made no mention of the women – I assumed they were also ‘up for grabs ‘!

I  asked him where I could unearth the remaining members of the band and he pointed down the hall, toward the loud noise. The ‘ noise ‘was the sound of the many ‘back stagers ‘who seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot more than I was. The fact that I was soon to be part of their ruckus –  made the departure from my friend much more tolerable.

The 1970’s – Comfortably Numb

As I watched the two disappear, I understood – from this point forward, the evening could possibly conclude in many variations. It depended on which choices I would make in the ensuing couple of hours and just how much I wanted to re – live the late seventies. Since I do not recall much of the late seventies, I walked down the hall with an ear toward a sinful evening.  The ‘good angel ‘and the ‘bad angel ‘had quite the ‘heated discussion’ as they sat opposite one another on each of my shoulders . I entered a room and approached the walls of people …

To be continued …