Tales of Rock – The Best Band You Never Heard – Killer Dwarfs

Killer Dwarfs (stylized as KiLLeR DWaRfS) are a Canadian heavy metal band who formed in late 1981 in OshawaOntario, and who enjoyed moderate success in their native Canada in the 1980s. Known for their offbeat sense of humor (all band members adopted the surname “Dwarf”), they were nominated for two Juno Awards during their career. Though not British, they were sometimes compared to NWOBHM acts such as Iron Maiden and Saxon.[1]

Before The Killer Dwarfs formed, the band consisted of Darrell Millar, Bryce Trewin, and Ange Fodero, and the band was called Sphinx. After Sphinx, Russ Graham came into the picture, and then they became The Killer Dwarfs. The original lineup consisted of Russ Graham (vocals), and Darrell Millar (drums), along with Bryce Trewin (guitar) and Ange Fodero (bass). Their self-titled 1983 debut album was nominated for a Juno Award and radio stations in the US, particularly in Texas, started to play their album.

Trewin and Fodero left the band shortly afterward and were replaced by guitarist Mike Hall and bassist Ron Mayer. This classic lineup released the band’s breakthrough 1986 album, Stand Tall, followed by Big Deal in 1988 and Dirty Weapons in 1990. The band received much recognition in Canada and the United States during the ’80s, and their videos were in regular rotation at MuchMusic and on the MTV program Headbanger’s Ball. Gerry Finn replaced Hall in 1992, and the album Method to the Madness was released later that year.[2]

The band toured for several years but then parted ways. During the mid-to-late 1990s, the band members pursued other projects. Graham formed a band called PennyBlack, and Hall and Finn both became members of the legendary Canadian metal band Helix. Millar went on to drum for the southern rock band Laidlaw, before forming his own Bon Scott era AC/DC tribute band Autobon, which went on to become Automan.ca, where Millar recorded original material. Mayer became a businessman and moved to the U.S. In 2001, however, the lineup of Graham, Millar, Hall, and Mayer reunited to tour across North America. Recordings from these shows make up the live album Reunion of Scribes: Live 2001. The band again went on hiatus until 2013, when Graham, Millar, Finn, and Mayer released a previously recorded album Start @ One that was recorded in 1993 but never released. Also in 2013, Graham released Wireless, in which he sings acoustic versions of popular Killer Dwarfs songs with guest musicians.

On May 26, 2014, the band was returning home after concluding a US tour at the Rocklahoma festival in Pryor, OK. While passing through a construction zone along Interstate 70 in Indiana, the band’s pickup truck, driven by Fenton, struck two other vehicles and crashed into a ditch. Graham was airlifted to a hospital in Terre Haute where he received 24 stitches to close a gash on the left side of his forehead. The rest of the band walked away with cuts and bruises. In a radio interview a month later, Graham said he was healing well, but the area around the gash was still completely numb.

On January 5, 2018, it was announced that Killer Dwarfs had signed to Megadeth bassist David Ellefson‘s EMP Label Group, who would release a live album, NO GUFF, on April 13, as well as reissuing the band’s independently released START@ONE and vocalist Graham’s solo debut Wireless, plus new 2019 studio LPS from Killer Dwarfs and Russ Dwarf.[3]

 

 

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Tales of Rock – The Best Band You Never Heard – Sheavy

Formation and name change[edit]

Sheavy formed in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada in 1993, and originally performed under the name Green Machine. In 1994, the band discovered there was another band in the United States with the same name, so a decision was made to rename the band Sheavy. The band’s repertoire originally consisted of a sampling of Kyuss covers and an assortment of originals that would eventually make their way onto the Reproduction E.P.Slaves To Fashion, and ultimately Blue Sky Mind. A three-song 7″ vinyl record was recorded in early 1995 at Jolly Roger Studios in St. John’s. The band regularly performed in and around St. John’s for the first few years at small clubs and venues such as The Loft, Sam Shades; Junctions and the LSPU Hall.

Record deal[edit]

The band recorded and mixed their debut album Blue Sky Mind over a single weekend during the summer of 1995. Later that summer, the band’s bass player Paul Gruchy amicably left the band to focus on completing his university studies. There were about 1000 copies of the album released early in 1996, at which time Keith Foley also stepped in to complete the Sheavy line-up as the band’s bassist. Although the audio quality of Blue Sky Mind was low, the original master tapes later revealed a much-higher audio quality existed. On the strength and popularity of the recording, however, Rise Above Records in the U.K. signed the band to a three-album deal. The band now had more resources available and were better prepared for work on the second studio album.

The Electric Sleep[edit]

The Electric Sleep was recorded in St. John’s in the summer of 1997. Recording Engineer Don Ellis helped the band capture the simple, powerful sound they’d been searching for. The result was an album one British reviewer deemed “the best Black Sabbath album in 25 years.” Black Sabbath comparisons were nothing new for the band, but for every review filled with praise another came along that maintained they were little more than clones. The album’s doomy title track could even be found on the web described as a lost Sabbath track. After a short tour of the U.K. and an invitation to play the Dynamo Open Air Festival in the Netherlands, the band headed back to the studio.

Sheavy lineups
1993(as Green Machine)
1994–1995
1996–2004
2004–2005
2005–2008
2008–2009
2009–2012
2012–Present
  • Steve Hennessey – vocals
  • Evan Chaulker – guitar
  • Jason Williams – drums
  • Glenn Tizzard – bass

Celestial Hi-Fi[edit]

Recorded in the summer of 1999, in the workshop of Ren Squires’ parents home, Celestial Hi-Fi, showcased the diversity of the Sheavy sound. The delicate nuances of “Persona” gave way to the doom of “Tales From The Afterburner,” while tracks like “What’s Up Mr. Zero” and “Strange Gods Strange Altars” illustrated the band’s ability to throw hooks into the mix. Reviews of the album were generally positive.

Synchronized[edit]

In October 2001, the band converged on Keith’s new home in EdmontonAlberta to write and rehearse for what would become the Synchronized sessions. Recorded in November 2001, with former Black Sabbath Producer/Engineer Mike Butcher at the helm, Synchronized once again saw the band diversify its sound with the addition of synthesizer, piano and drum loops. Despite, and perhaps because of the addition of Butcher, the album has been described as the band’s least Sabbath-like release and nothing less than a sincere tribute to ’70s rock. Written largely in the studio due to time constraints, the album’s rock-solid production showcased a raw power unseen on the Sheavy’s previous releases.

In September 2004, the band reunited in St. John’s to begin writing songs for a new album. Due to a number of outside obligations, consummate band leader and drummer Ren Squires stepped quietly out of the spotlight. Kevin Dominic, a long-time friend of the band, was brought in to keep the rock n’ roll machine running. By November the band emerged with 11 new tracks. Over the next month, with the help of friend and Producer Rick Hollett, the band tracked Republic? above a Duckworth Street club called The Republic. Billy Anderson mixed Republic? in San Francisco, California, and the album was released on Rise Above Records in 2005.

In 2006, the band travelled to Europe for a two-week tour, which included a number of countries and festivals.

The Machine That Won the War[edit]

On March 3, 2007, Sheavy filmed a live performance at the Holy Heart of Mary High School auditorium in their hometown of St. John’s. This performance was released as a DVD that accompanied the CD. The band recorded the studio album via analog instead of digital, and vocalist Steve Hennessey acted as the producer. The CD booklet features panels of artwork by a number of Newfoundland musicians and friends connected to the band, including two panels by Sheavy’s original bassist Paul Gruchy. Each panel is directly inspired by, and corresponds to each track on the album.

Following that release, both Tommy Boland and Kevin Dominic amicably parted ways with the band. Evan Chaulker, who had previously toured with Sheavy, was brought in on guitar, and Jason Williams joined the band on drums.

The Golden Age of Daredevils/Disfigurine – Present[edit]

In April 2009, original guitarist Dan Moore resigned from the band and announced his decision to the band’s Facebook fan group – both via email. The band enlisted guitarist Chris White on guitar and premiered the new guitarist and new material at local St. John’s venue Distortion in October 2009. Recording began on a forthcoming album, Disfigurine, roughly around the same period. Prior to its completion, though, the band took up the RPM challenge, which invites musicians to record a whole album of music, 10 songs or 35 minutes. The end result was an album entitled ‘The Golden Age of Daredevils’ which was released in late May 2010 and included songs written by the new lineup as well as material written by Dan Moore prior to his departure. The album ‘Disfigurine’ was later released in August 2010. Featuring a more metal style and some of the longest songs the band had ever written, Disfigurine pointed to a number of stylistic changes for the band.

The band played a handful of shows in the St. John’s area between late 2010 and 2012 but song writing continued at a steady pace. Citing personal and family commitments bassist Keith Foley and guitarist Chris White parted ways with the band in the spring of 2012. In order to keep the song writing process rolling Steve asked local St. John’s guitar players Barry Peters and Glenn Tizzard (bass) to get together to jam and write. While Tizzard was able to join the band on a full-time basis, Peters helped to write and record but was unable to fully come on board due to out of province work commitments.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Demos/EPs[edit]

  • The Reproduction E.P. Cassette (1994)
  • Slaves to Fashion Cassette (1995)
  • Untitled 3-song 7″ EP (1995 Mag Wheel Records)
  • Born Too Late split CD with Church of Misery (1997 Game Two Records)

Compilations appearances[edit]

Video[edit]

  • Republic? at the Masonic Temple DVD (2005)

Live at Holy Heart bonus DVD in the deluxe “Machine that won the war”

 

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Tales of Rock – Rush – This Elegant Band That Is Like No Other

My baby sister Jill, loves Rush. They once played two nights near where she went to college and she went both nights! That’s dedication. She said she stood on her chair the entire show and sang every lyric right back to Geddy Lee. Rush is to her as Aerosmith is to me.

Here’s some cool facts about this legendary band from Canada.

Rush have fans in high places. Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan is an outspoken “fanboy,” and he even interviewed the band for a radio segment. Country star Tim McGraw called himself a “big Rush fan” during an interview with Larry King. On a grander stage, hip-hop/pop/R&B mega-producer Pharrell Williams subtly rocked a ‘Test for Echo’ t-shirt during an episode of ‘The Voice.’

Neil Peart is rightly regarded as one of the greatest rock drummers in history. In addition to his famously massive kit, he also plays a seemingly endless list of auxiliary percussion instruments. On 1977’s ‘A Farewell to Kings’ alone, he is credited with “drums, orchestra bells, wind chimes, bell tree, vibraslap, triangle, tubular bells, and temple blocks”; on the following year’s ‘Hemispheres,’ he added gong, cowbells, wind chimes, crotales, and timpani.

“Alex Lifeson” has a nice ring to it – by design. The guitarist was born Aleksandar Zivojinovic to Serbian immigrant parents, but he used his surname’s English equivalent for the stage, fearing it would be too difficult for others to pronounce. Bassist Geddy Lee, the son of two Polish Holocaust survivors, changed his name from Gary Lee Weinrib. But how did her get the name “Geddy”? His mother had such a thick Yiddish accent, that when she would call his name (Gary) it always came out as “Geddy” so they boys started to refer to him as Geddy. (I love that bit!)

Rush have rarely taken a break since their 1974 self-titled debut. True, the trio have slowed down considerably in recent years, but their early amount of work is staggering, releasing 18 studio and live albums (from ‘Rush’ to 1993’s ‘Counterparts’) in a 20-year span.

Peart isn’t just the band’s primary lyricist. He’s also an author, with six books published since 1996 that have chronicled his travels as a touring musician and motorcyclist. His most recent, ‘Far and Near: On Days Like These,’ was released in October 2014.

Terry Brown co-produced every Rush album from 1975’s ‘Fly By Night’ to 1982’s ‘Signals.’ But that fruitful partnership was ruined largely by one song, the reggae-tinged bass monster ‘Digital Man.’ The trio were aiming to push their music in new – often more commercially accessible – directions, but Brown was reluctant to leave the prog epics behind.

Though Rush is from Toronto, the band’s first true success came when DJ Donna Halper played the band’s hard-hitting ‘Working Man’ on Cleveland’s WMMS. It became a fixture on local radio, propelling Rush to a record deal (and LP re-release) with American label Mercury and high-profile opening slots for Uriah Heep and Kiss.

Rush was christened by an unlikely source: Bill Rutsey, the brother of the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey. “The band was excited, but they had a big problem,” author Bill Banasiewicz explains in his 1988 biography ‘Rush Visions.’ “While they had been dreaming of playing, they had neglected to come up with a name for their group. So a few days before the gig they sat around in John’s basement trying to come up with an appropriate moniker. They weren’t having much luck when John’s older brother Bill piped up, ‘Why don’t you call the band Rush?’, and Rush it was.”

Rush rank alongside Cream and ELP as one of rock’s greatest power trios, but they’ve recruited a number of outside studio collaborators over the years. The first of these guests was Hugh Syme, who played keyboards on several albums beginning with ‘2112.’ Syme is more famous for his visual art: he’s designed all of Rush’s album covers since 1975’s ‘Caress of Steel.’

YYZ,’ Rush’s Grammy-nominated instrumental showcase, was named after the identification code for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The song’s drilling intro riff is based on the visual pattern for those three letters, rendered into Morse code. It’s the most lovably nerdy moment from prog’s nerdiest band.

 

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