Once upon a time, it was cool to be a full-tilt Rock and Roll band and get in a van with your mates and drive around continents plugging in goofin’ round and playing it like your life depended on it night after night putting in the hard yards – earning those Rock and Roll stripes without much fuss just doin’ it because you had to it where your heart was taking you for little reward except to find like-minded people around this globe digging what it was you were playing and the records you were writing and releasing. Well, guess what. It’s still cool and those guys who were in the trenches back then are still in the trenches fighting for their cause in the name of entertainment some Brothers fell by the wayside like The Dragons but some kept at it and still have records coming out like the recent ‘Live At The Pic’ set on Yeah Right! Records so I thought Id give CC a call and find out what it was like playing in cool rock and roll band and let him tell the story of The Spitfires. So here goes folks sit back relax and enjoy…
The original line up of the band grew up in the ‘burbs outside of Vancouver. We’d been jamming for a couple years under different names, not being very serious about anything. Being from a small town, anyone who had an instrument, or a place to jam, was someone you knew. The later members were friends we made in Vancouver.
C.C. We had a record finished and ready to release with Vancouver’s Mint Records before they suddenly dropped us. I think we were too trashy for them. I sent around the recordings (on cassette tape and in the mail!) to a bunch of labels I’d seen in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll or Flipside. Mike at Sonic Swirl in Cleveland loved it, and he had released some stuff from Jason Solyom’s other garage rock band, The Fiends. Somehow Brian at TSB in Scotland got a hold of the album too, and he released the UK/Euro version.
Was the late 90s a good time for Rock and Roll bands in your district? Who else was out at the time? That you’d meet on the road?
Yeah, it was a blast. We had a really amazing group of friends up and down the West Coast. The Dragons, Murder City Devils, Humpers, Black Halo, Catheters etc. We’d gone to NYC a few times and never really made any tight friends. In Columbus we had the New Bomb Turks, and up in Montreal and Toronto we had The Spaceshits and The Deadly Snakes. It was a fun time. People made phone calls to book tours, and connect with people. We’d drive into some new city and hope the promoter would pick up the phone. Otherwise we’d sometimes be stuck at a coin phone at some gas station. Compton was a particularly interesting gas station phone booth to wait at.
What bands were inspiring you guys at the time?
We were really into Crypt Records bands and Sympathy for the Record Industry. A lot of the “Glunk Punk” as Eric Davidson would later coin it. But we were all suburban kids, who weren’t afraid to say we liked Alice Cooper, Kiss, Aerosmith and all the other great arena rock bands of our youth.
You managed to get Junk to press the new album on Vinyl. That must have been so uncool at the time hardly anyone was pressing vinyl at the time what kinda deal were labels like Junk offering at the time was there the opportunity to hit Europe on tour?
Haha, that’s a different perspective. Over here vinyl was totally cool at that time, at least with the scene we were in. Labels like Junk, Estrus, Sympathy, Crypt, were all putting out loads of good stuff. On CD too of course, but we had been hoping to get some real vinyl out. It was actually Estrus who put out our first vinyl single, “Cut Me Some Slack”. Junk was a really good label at the time. Lou Carus, the owner, was working as an engineer with Boeing. I’m pretty sure he spent every penny he earned on his bands. He’s still a really good friend, and every time I’m in California I make sure to see him. Junk was a sub label to Nitro at the time, so we really had great press and distribution. We didn’t get to Europe until the third album though.
Who decided on the third album title? I guess you were firing on all cylinders at the time? You also added a second guitarist. What was the reason for that? and by the time you made it back into the studio, you were back to a four-piece for the ‘Aim Low’ album.
I think that “Three” was a band decision? We love classic rock, and that seemed like a cool classic rock kind of thing to do. And yeah, we were on fire at that time. We did add Dave Paterson for that album, who was a lot of fun and a great player, but he only lasted a year. We replaced him with Jay Millette from the Black Halos, because Rich had just quit their band and moved to L.A.. “Aim Low” was a few years after the band had actually broken up. Jay Millette wasn’t in the band by then, he had moved to Toronto. It was actually a 5-piece recording with Marcel LaFluer and Deano on guitars. Deano, the last of the originals besides me and Solyom, was still in the band but he quit after the recording. That’s when Graham Tuson joined. We recorded a few songs with that line-up that are still in the vaults.
Did you ever get any heat from other bands called the Spitfires?
Good question. At the time that we started we had found out that “Pooch” from Flipside Magazine had a band in L.A. called the Spitfires. So I wrote him a letter and sent a demo tape. I said we’d happily chnge the name if they wanted us to. He wrote back to say, in fact, they would change their name! They became The Condors, and I’ve remained friends with Pooch to this day.
That’s funny, Marty (drummer) and I were talking about this just the other day. I’ve forgotten a lot of the stuff we did. We were a rolling disaster. I mean, we had a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t be able to tell my colleagues at work any of those stories! Haha. One of my best memories though was the U.K. tour we did in 2002. We had so much fun and so many laughs. The highlight was playing the Astoria in London with the Rezillos! We also played the Dirty Water Club which was packed and super fun.
I’m partial to “Three”. I think the production and songs are really the best we had. Howard Redekopp recorded and produced it at a really great studio (Mushroom RIP), and that made a big difference. A lot of people thought we had recorded that on Pro Tools (which people thought was lame at the time) but it’s all analogue 24 channel board to 2-inch tape.
On the Yeah right! Bandcamp page they say to hide the fire extinguisher. Care to expand?
Well, this goes back to The Dirty Water Club in London. We had set an extinguisher off on stage, and it was awesome. Looked totally cool and it was a mellow shot of water that misted the whole room. But when we did it at the Horseshoe, it ruined our career and got us banned in Toronto. The build-up to the ban in Toronto was signing on with a bigwig agent, Ralph James at the Agency Group and touring with the Headstones (and getting them back on the sauce). When our agent got us a show at the Horseshoe Tavern for Canadian Music Week we were blown away. Then we ended up being Now Magazine’s pick of the week and headlining the show with Robbie Robertson, Chad Kroeger, Brittany Murphy, etc. in attendance. Ralph was fast tracking us at the time. Then our singer shot off a chemical fire extinguisher on stage which choked the crowd and created a panic and rush to the exit. This was shortly after the Great White fire in Rhode Island, so people were on edge. Anyway, it effectively ruined our career and probably rightly so! haha.
Who’s idea was the ‘Live at the Pic’ album? just released after some 17 years, It’s a bit tasty. How well did it capture the band live? Recorded in 2003 the line up had two guitars again, did the dynamic change when the band went from 4 to 5? What memorable shows stand out and why? Was the pic a one-off show for the recording or were you recording shows most nights and this is the pic(K) sorry couldn’t resist it 🙂
The album has been sitting collecting (digital) dust for more than 17 years now! It was the pinnacle of our career I’d say. We were totally on fire, and this might be the only recording that truly captures what the band sounded like. It was recorded by Howard Redekopp before he became well known (Tegan and Sara, Mother Mother, New Pornographers). The live footage that will accompany it was shot by Danny Nowack and his crew (Hard Core Logo etc.), so there’s some Canadiana there. The video was lost in our Jason’s basement until this spring! It is, however, not just a digital release. Yeah Right! Records is releasing the vinyl LP before Xmas this year!
That was through the help of Brian at TSB records in Scotland. He hooked it up with Ian at Hidden Talent over in the UK who booked everything and set up the gear/van/driver. Unfortunately, it was The Spitfires only trip off the North American continent. Our other bands have all toured Europe, but we never quite managed. It was an incredible tour tough, and we loved it. We got as far North as Glasgow and as far South as Brighton. Met a load of great people. Mark (RIP) up in Nottingham, Baz and the Punker Bunker, Dave Kerr and the Chery Kicks up in Scotland at the time. It was so fun.
Neil Leyton tried hard to put on a few tours of these shores for bands like The Pariahs as well as his own band. How cool was the scene back where you are because of all the Canadian bands I saw him bring over they were all excellent and there has always been a really healthy underground that I’ve been aware of especially power pop and alternative rock n roll bands. Is it still a cool place for bands and shows?
Yeah, it’s a cold country, what else are we gonna do? Haha. I think there are probably a few advantages we have here like Sweden, with a good education system that supports arts and music, as well as government assistance programs to support and develop Canadian talent. Which translates into free money for wild rock and rollers to take expensive trips around the world. You’re right though, this last decade has seen a hell of a lot of great Canadian music from all genres.
What’s next for the Spitfires post-pandemic?
There’s still all that new and unreleased stuff we recorded in 2009 sitting in Jason’s basement. At this rate we’ll have a new album done by 2030 hopefully!
I really like the Dysnea Boys stuff I did while living in Berlin, but I’m in a New Wave/Power Pop trio now called Autogramm. I’m also working on an album with Rich Jones (Michael Monroe/Loyalties/Black Halos) called “Dangercans”. It’s an epic project that I hope we actually finish. Jason Solyom is drumming and mixing the record too. Jason is in a great 70’s inspired boogie rock band called La Chinga. They’ve done a bunch of touring. Jay Millette in the reformed Black Halos (who I am managing!) and recording his own solo stuff under the name Silver Receiver. Jay Solyom also has a recording studio and Graham has also been recording a bunch of new stuff. Shock, the newest Spitfire, has a band going called The Slip Ons.
Buy ‘Live At The Pic’ Here
Author: Dom Daley