WHO I BE
At 16, I started a band with some friends that became known as the “get ’em drunk and they’ll play ANYWHERE….but what was their name?” band. We had a really eclectic mix- Guess Who, Allman Bros, Uriah Heep, Santana, some blues, and a lot of endless jamming. They turned into ROXX, and got to open for J. Geils Band, and I…
Went off to Art College and tried to start several “experimental” groups, but developed a taste for Punk Rock when no-one there was interested in Electronic music. Started working in construction, and played in a Progg-ish band doing originals; DAVE LAMBERT BAND. Played one concert in a barn and folded.
Spent a few years working for bands as a roadie/sound man and got to see some of the crappier entertainment venues in Ontario. Met a former “Johnnie Green & the Greenmen’ guitarist/singer DOMINIC IENCO and wrote an album’s worth of pop tunes, farmed our multi-track demo around, but no interest. I still had all kinds of ideas for music and performing that no-one else was doing, so I moved to Toronto and subjected my ego to the major abuse of constant auditioning. Worked a day job at Roblan’s Warehouse, distributor for Sam the Record Man
and spent nights trying out for so many bands that all blur into one, loud, obnoxious roar. Didn’t have the right “look”, didn’t have the latest keyboard gear- so I bought a keyboard that was still only a prototype and had to wait 2 months for mine. It was obsolete before I even got it. Today’s computer and phone customers will find that familiar- keyboardists in the 80’s were the guinea pigs for technology, perfected the scam on us before bringing it to YOU!
Met bassist FERNANDO SEGOVIA, who worked the jazz department at Sam’s, and joined his band SEE SPOT RUN. Electro-pop/Trip-Hop with no guitar, I was able to stretch out, try new things and BE HEARD. Did several well-received gigs, unfortunately no recordings exist. FERN, Myself, and re-appeared DOMINIC did some tracks in a studio (midnight to 6 a.m. -no sleep at all that week) but those tapes vanished in a payment dispute.
At about same time ran into guitarist MARTIN WRIGHT whose punk band THE MOTIVES I used to roadie for. He was working with bassist/vocalist LAVARIOUS and seeking a keyboard and drummer. I have some demos with a crappy drum machine that I (years later) overdubbed drums on. My brother was now attending Ryerson and introduced me to TIM BURNS who was in the Television course there. Tim was the best drummer, and all-around creative musician I ever worked with. I wound up playing keys on the theme for his TV show class project, actually got to see my name on TV credits years later (stuck in a cheap hotel in the middle of nowhere). Tim played for a while with Marty, Larry, and I, but that band NTH DEGREE only lasted long enough to become the “Whoa-did-you-hear-those-guys?!!” of WHITE RABBIT STUDIO (3 flights of stairs that tested your commitment to heavy gear, past the back door of a private “men’s club” that catered to certain unknown-at-the-time fetishes). Tim went on to write the movie “HIDEOUS MUTANT FREAKS” and now lives in Hollywood. Marty, Larry and I have tried capturing the magic on record a few times, hauling our equipment to isolated northern cottages (no distractions) but nothing worth committing to vinyl happened.
Everything in Toronto started to turn rancid very rapidly that fall, and then one night, coming home from a rehearsal, I found the front door of my house kicked in, with bloody handprints and cake icing smeared everywhere. On the landing in front of my apartment was a puddle of blood 5 feet wide, more smeared on my door, and all my neighbors were gathered around the guy who was right next door to me. Whiter than any person should be, clutching his arm that had a gash right to the bone. The birthday party had gone HORRIBLY WRONG, and the sounds of sirens could be heard coming closer. My upstairs neighbor took my keys out of my stunned hands, and pushed me into my apartment saying “you don’t need to be involved here”…..discontinuity……
Back in Chatham, I started working at the Cultural Centre, maintenance by day, sound man, follow spot, and/or stage manager by night. Worked for quite a few professional Theatre Companies (Shaw Festival, National Opera Co., e.g.), Celebrities (best ever was ERNEST BORGNINE– nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, took as all out drinking afterwards. Even signed my picture of him getting eaten by rats in “Willard”!! Also of note was DAVID BROADFOOT, creator of Royal Canadian Air Farce, Canuck National Treasure, and real down-to-earth friendly guy. Can’t forget MR DRESSUP, Ernie Coombs either, always looked forward to carrying in the “Tickle Trunk” and joking around with him and his son.) VINCENT PRICE came through with a cooking show (?). Tons of bands too- THE NORTHERN PIKES, GODDO, FM (highlight was running sound for LIONA BOYD, and having her compliment me on my job- wagged my tail like a puppy!) Learned a lot of stagecraft, set design, lighting and such from my mentor/boss there, THOM McNEIL. Got involved with the local theatre group building sets, doing sound (composed a synth score for “I’LL BE BACK BEFORE MIDNIGHT” and did a quadrophonic “sensurround” soundtrack for “THE GLASS MENAGERIE” as well as many others) Acted on stage a bit too, the biggest role was playing the “Indian Chief” in “ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST” which was a lot of fun. Also did a few mixed media performances, combining my solo electronic compositions with a video show I edited together from random images.
Unfortunately the Centre was owned by the city, and politics brought our cool little arts scene to an end. An idiot drunk mayor facing uncertain polls decided slashing jobs was best way to keep his alcohol-stained comfy chair, and we were given choice of working 1/3 our normal hours, or 1/3 our hourly rate ( at the time $8 !!- that’s why I despise conservatives and their idiotic voodoo economics). Shortly thereafter my Dad’s illness made it necessary for me to take on the ROYAL BASTARDOS at the Royal Bank over the shoe store, our family business. Having to close it down after 30 years broke my Dad’s heart, and he died not long after. We were given 30 days to clear out over 120,000 shoes, and that nearly killed ME! My next adventure was cool, though – I traveled the province with trunkloads of platform and retro shoes, selling them to Hippy resale shops and trendy thrift stores. Had a booth at a Fashion show/ Rave party in Windsor one night- made fistfuls of dollars and had one hell of a good time! One of my fave regular clients was a modeling agency in Toronto- packing up after a sale once I happened to mention I was heading to a club to see James “Blood” Ulmer. Several of the models thought that sounded like a great idea (by this time I had a rep for good taste in music with them) and did I ever make an entrance! The band even stopped playing and James commented “Who’s this lucky cat? Must be rich!”!!! The shoe thing had to end though – ran out of sizes and no way to get new ones, so I followed a friend into the Moving business. For the next few years I worked for several companies, falling back into the solitary rut that is life on the road- my vices were drinking and collecting old HiFis (gutting them for the turntables, tubes, and speakers. That’s the genesis of my “Earl of Swirl” nickname)
On-and-off during this decade I had also been working with CAPTAIN DAVE COOPER At first with a mono reel-to-reel, then bouncing stereo tracks back and forth from cassette decks, we did hours of improv jams, parody songs, and original compositions you can check out at that link.
About the same time that my back gave out I received two calls; the first was from old high school friend PHIL CARON, looking for a key player for a weekend gig band. The other call was from CHRIS RUPERT, who performed solo classical guitar , and wanted to expand into a rock context with his new group. Phil and I performed for the next few years in various incarnations; a duo with him playing guitar and singing, and THE BLURKS, with brother PAUL CARON on drums, and JEFF EMERSON on lead guitar. The availability of more frequent gigs in Sarnia led us to form THE MUDSHARKS with guitarist MIKE URICH and adding more contemporary country and blues to the mix. In the meantime I was writing and rehearsing with Chris and FALLING EDGE, working on a CD that is now available through the band website.
But I still have project ideas and original material that just doesn’t fit with these groups, which I am releasing under the “EARL of SWIRL” moniker. One completed is an arrangement of SAINT-SAEN’S “Danse Macabre” utilizing toy keyboards and synths. Currently working on “MANCINI v.s. MORRICONE” where I’ll be mashing together songs like “Theme from HATARI/DAKTARI” & “The Good, The Bad, And The Baby Elephant Walk”