2001: WHEN PIGS FLY/PERRIS RECORDS
Around 1996 I was desperate to make some spare cash. One of my students was Rob Long, a drummer. Together with Bill Gadd & Tony Paleschi we formed a weekend cover band called “7 Year Itch”. We played bars in southern Ontario for $100 each/night; places like Tillsonburg, Wallaceburg, Ingersol, London, and Sarnia. With that money I would pay my neighbor Malcolm Pigott (who was a foreman at Bronenco Construction) to come over on Saturdays and help me renovate our house with architectural antiques. Eventually we dubbed the house “Planet Helix”.
Anyway, I’m getting off track here…
Eventually we decided to write a couple of original songs. A “couple” eventually turned into about 8, and it was Bill Gadd who suggested that we go record them at his nephew’s studio in Sarnia (I think). The songs sounded not too bad, but I told the guys that if they wanted me to stay involved and foot the bill for a decent recording then they had to do it my way or I was out. My way was to bring in Brian Doerner to drum and record at DB studios with Juno winning producer Danny Broadbeck. I know this sounds a little brutal to most people, but business is business and it wasn’t like I was changing the position of the goal posts half-way through the game. I simply stated that if I were to stay involved, then we had to give the tunes the best shot we could give them-and that meant recording in a good studio with a producer and drummer with track records and oodles of experience in the studio. In Rob’s defense, I think that drummers are the most picked on musician in the studio. And what necessarily works in a live capacity doesn’t necessarily work in the confines of a studio. Anyway, ’nuff said on how the CD came about.
There were a couple of songs that could have been, and some that did eventually make it to Helix albums, most notably “I’m a Live Frankenstein”, “King of The Hill”, and “Stumblin’ Blind”. For the song “I’m a Live Frankenstein” we enlisted Ray Lyell (from Ray Lyell & The Storm) to shoot a $500 cheapie video. (‘cos that’s all the money I had to spend!) Ray decided that because we had so little money to spend, that regardless of what we did, it was going to look low budget. So he came up with a genius plan: We would shoot a video resembling Ed Wood’s movies. Ed Wood (made famous in a movie by Johnny Depp) made these VERY bad horror movies featuring Bela Lagusi who always played the part of a vampire. Lagusi was also a heroin addict. In some of Bagusi’s movies you can see members of the film crew actually holding things in the background, and other slip-ups. Whether or not our viewers got the Ed Wood connection was debatable, but anyway, that was the game plan.
Ray needed a place to film the video so we picked out several different locations: One was a field where they buried me and I came up out of the ground and started air-guitaring with a shovel. (LOL) It was a claustrophobic scene if there ever was one. The other scenes were all filmed at the bottom of the Conestoga Dam, between Elmira & Listowel, Ontario. My cousin’s husband worked for the conservation authority which took care of the dam. Inside the dam is an elevator that goes right down into the bowels of the thing, with damp, clammy tunnels made of brick with arched ceilings. It looked like Frankenstein’s Dungeon! I then got students and friends to come fill in as extras: Archie Gamble (my drummer at the time) played the part of the bartender, Derek Cummings (who briefly worked for FM 96 in London) was the “mad scientist”, and Al Packham was the mad laboratory assistant who cuts my head off with a chain saw. For this we used two big packages of frozen hamburger. (another LOL). The band all had make-up (as did my students & friends) to make themselves look like zombies. For my make-up they applied a skull to my face. My shirt was emblazoned with HOU-STONED. Check out the vid at: <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/zbWnf89s7O8″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
The CD did well for me, although there were never any offers by anyone to hire the band. The release party in Hanover (promoted by my friend Todd Speilmarcher) drew a total of about 6 people, and 4 of them were friends of mine. Such is life…I felt more sorry for my friends Kim and Mike Tackaberry, who travelled all the way from Dutton for the show. They must have felt embarrassed for me, although they did their best to hide it. Such good friends.
But, in the end, When Pigs fly was a success because it made money for me. There are some very good songs on it, and like I said above, some ended up on future Helix CDs. I still see Tony, Bill, and Rob, although we’ve long since ceased playing. I’ve always followed the philosophy that in any life endeavor you sometimes have to just keep pushing forward. In the 90’s and 2000’s I was writing and recording music because that’s what I do. I wasn’t going to give up just because I lost the big record deal. The reason I got into the music business first and foremost was to write, record, and play live. Which goes to show you-if you follow your heart in life, refuse to give up, and continually work on your craft you will eventually win the race.