When David Dedrick (vocals, guitar) and Derek Winter (guitar) formed Rifkin in 2008, they had hoped to build and better their previous experiences in punk. In about five years, their previous band, Year’s End, had only released an EP and a single full length before falling apart and the pair had higher hopes for Rifkin. But after releasing their debut, “Party. Just Party. Dirty Party", and an eponymous CDEP in 2009, Rifkin seemed to drift away from the local stage and by 2011 disappeared making long time fans wonder what was going on. But now with a solid line up in place, Rifkin returns, reassembled, rejuvenated and with a new recording, “Deadbeats”.
“I had grown up on the mid-nineties punk rock sound, becoming immersed in the local scene long before I picked up a guitar,” recalls Dedrick. “At 15 Derek and I started jamming. I'm 27 now and have yet to lose the desire to play this style of music. I haven't felt this way in a long, long time, and after all the bullshit, drama, and alcohol, I feel like we've finally grown up and are ready to show what kind of band we really are. Until now, I felt we needed better songs, more practice, and a better attitude collectively. We had lost two members in a relatively short amount of time, and needed to figure out where everyone stood. The band never stopped, just focused on becoming better musicians, better songwriters to re-establish Rifkin in 2012. I wasn't concerned with playing shows; we needed to focus on writing. In my opinion, more bands need to do this.”
Dedrick, Winter, Tyler Vieira (bass) and Brent Wirth (drums) Rifkin returns with their new collection of songs recorded at Tapehead Studios in Stoney Creek. Deadbeats harkens back to their high school inspirations like Green Day and Blink 182 but focus on a tightly knit weave of pop with their punk and metal in the vein of The Bouncing Souls, Face to Face, or NOFX.
“It’s just enough pop, rock, and punk,” offers Dedrick. “The record was about everything we were going through. Parallels between all of us, all of the bands we've been in, how we're getting older in a dying scene. It wasn't 1995-1999 anymore, it was 2011 and we weren't getting any younger. All of the songs touch on this theme, growing older, but still keeping our love of music alive.
“I've always gravitated to straightforward songwriters more akin to Mike Ness, Greg Graffin, Fat Mike, and Trevor Keith - intelligent, down to earth, from the heart, and overall genuine,” he adds. “To me, punk rock is more a state of mind than a sound. Rifkin is not a band worried about pleasing any particular genre. Punk for sure, but whatever that even means is up to us. That's the beauty of punk. Write from the heart, from your own perspective, and don't be concerned with fitting in with any current trend, or scene. Just be honest with who you are and what you set out to do.”
Tentatively set to start working with Monster Truck's Jeremy Widerman on recording songs for a new CDEP later this year, Rifkin connect their future with their past for their CD release party this weekend.
“We're hoping this release gets us some attention in the punk community,” notes Dedrick. “I think we're realistic in the sense that simply releasing a record is only a small fraction of getting your band out there. While we're pretty happy with how this turned out, we've learned so much over the last year that we're dying to get back in the studio and show the punk scene what we're capable of.
“This release is the end result of all the bullshit that comes with being in a band, and coming out clean on the other side,” he adds. “This is our new beginning, without forgetting our past. The release show features a lot of our friends in other bands and we're thrilled that all of our bands are still going strong. Our live show is about having that sense of community that anyone coming to the show should feel at home. No light show, no disco balls, just a band singing their hearts out and hoping that you sing along. To us, playing live is always more important. You simply can't capture that raw energy on record.”
Rifkin plays this Friday June 29 at the Casbah with the Victim Party, the Penske File, June & July, as well as Betties and the Gents. Doors open at 8pm and cover is $10.
Click on www.rifkinrock.com
Radio Free Universe’s Six
The story that brought singer George Panagopoulos to Hamilton has many twists and turns, some good some bad but with an end almost mystical result. The native Torontonian and his band, King Clancy, signed to the DreamWorks label nearly a decade ago but upon moving to Los Angeles had that all fall apart amidst corporate greed, political upheaval with business betrayal and lover’s treachery. The devil might be in the details but Panagopoulous focuses more on a forward-looking spiritual journey.
When he came back to Canada, Panagopoulos felt a force pulling him to Hamilton and for the last seven years, he’s made music in a city he believes is far richer in what makes music real. While King Clancy began to develop a name for themselves locally about three years ago, the stars had something else planned and for Panagopoulous everything happens for a reason.
“It just felt like I could write music here,” recalls Panagopoulos. “It’s hard to explain but it was the energy I found here. Then, about two and a half years ago, King Clancy started getting more successful again and the drummer just didn’t want to do what we’d already gone through. The guitarist couldn’t do it without the drummer. I’m one of these spiritual dudes, I believe everything happens for a reason, and I woke up one night and knew I had to play with Marcus [McNamee]. It was something about him, his energy. We got together and started writing tons of songs. Then, I went to go buy a tie for a wedding and wouldn’t you know the guy [Andrew Clewer] selling me the tie was a drummer. And our bass player [David Miller] just walked into the studio, he liked what we were doing and was looking for a band. I didn’t go looking for this it just happened. All of the guys are born under a different elemental sign, water, earth, fire and air. I’ve heard about this through conversations I’ve had with some old crazy people, that I don’t want to get into here. We’re four of the most different people we’ve ever met but when we all just shut up and play, I’ve never been in a band like this.
“That’s where the band name came from – it’s three things I want to be a part of; be on the radio, a free man and I want to feel the universe at all times,” he adds. “It’s a special time for me right now. I’ve only felt this kind of strong energy when I first came to Hamilton, when I got off a plane in Greece once and when my baby girl was born. When I play with these guys, I feel that special energy. Something happens when the four of us are in a room, call it what you want, but some other thing is happening that gives us the music easily. There was no planning for anything, it’s all just happened.”
Destiny, providence or fortune – call it what you want but it’s that kind of spirituality that guides everything for Panagopoulos. It’s infused into the lyrics of his new band’s debut recording entitled Six. Radio Free Universe is moody hard rock riffs, ripping pages from the likes of Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age but it’s the vocals that really resonate. While Panagopoulos comes off as an affable average guy off stage, he definitely comes off more shaman, like a younger Chris Cornell, on stage. Call it a resignation to the powers of the cosmos or a rock and roll revelation but when Radio Free Universe plays, it’s best just to be a part of the moment and let destiny have its way.
“It’s all about the live performance,” offers Panagopoulos. “Something happens when we play, I can’t explain it. What I love about Hamilton is that it’s a tough city. If people like you here then you have a chance. It’s made us work harder, it’s made us rehearse more, it’s made us better.
“When we play, it’s like church,” he adds. “I don’t go to church, I sing. I don’t believe in anything but all I know is when I’m on stage, I feel something bigger than me. When the music is playing and you float away from yourself and something takes over - for forty-five minutes I get to be a superhero.”
Radio Free Universe plays this Friday June 29 at This Ain’t Hollywood with Harbinger, Sad Guru and Between Fait.
Click on radiofreeuniverse.net
AGH Design Annex Unplugged
Annette Paiement, the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Manager of Film, Performance and Special Events, has spent the last few years mixing music and art from her particular vantage at the AGH. With a new satellite location now opening on James Street North, Paiement offers a new music series.
“We were offered by the landlord a couple of times, would we consider moving into James Street North and we felt it was important to be a part of what’s going on there,” explains Paiement on the new AGH Design Annex.“The James North District has become very vibrant and we saw a need in Hamilton to focus on local design in an area that hasn’t been focused on. So we sought out an opportunity to have a doorway from the James North Corridor into our downtown area, to hopefully, continue engaging people and bringing them into the gallery eventually, if they haven’t found the gallery on their own.
“It’s 5000 square feet that we have in what was an old furniture shop back in the day,” she adds. “We saw an opportunity to look at design, and furniture being one of those things, to feature Canadian design and designers. The front of the store will be an area where we showcase designers and one of a kind designs. We’ve sectioned it off so there is a back area because we wanted the space to be accessible to the James Street North crowd. We’ve set up an area where we’ll have art installations, different then what you might see at the AGH, as well as live music.”
Kae Sun came to Hamilton to study at McMaster University and released an album and CDEP while here. He’s since been turning heads in Toronto. Christopher Charles has released his full length while in Hamilton but recently made waves on Canada’s Got Talent as a semi-finalist with some reggae music. And Word Mason has released two albums and worked at McMaster’s 93.3 CFMU for three years. The trio of performers accents Paiement’s goal to celebrate Hamilton’s diversity and creativity through music. The scheduling is also by design. The AGH Design Annex is destined to be an integral part of the burgeoning art scene’s regular activities but a particular focus will be to entice more people to come more often to James Street North.
“I chose the third Friday of the month to have the Annex Unplugged shows not compete with what’s on the street already,” explains Paiement. “It’s just another night on James Street North that people have to come and engage in an artistic endeavour.
“There was also a demographic I was trying to attract to the stage as well,” adds Paiement. “We wanted to infuse a wide range of demographics. It appeals to an all ages crowd and I like putting together things that might not necessarily be typical. This is another way of creating a different type of programming but not veering too far from what I have been trying to do.”
Upcoming AGH Annex Unplugged performances include Samantha Martin and Terra Lightfoot (Friday, August 17) and Louis Samão, Evaristo and Michael St. George (Friday, October 19). Paiement and company officially open the Design Annex July 7 but fans can get a sneak peak of some of the newest art and music at Annex Unplugged this weekend.
“We’re putting up an installation up for the opening and for Supercrawl and the space should be quite active with art, music and people,” offers Paiement. “We’re having the space available to showcase artists, offering it to be rented by people looking to do their own artistic endeavours. It’s just an exciting time and I hope the Design Annex adds to that. What was going on in the arts scene on James, we felt that was really important. The space was being used by the arts community previously but it seemed just like it needed someone to call it home.”
The AGH Annex Unplugged happens this Friday June 29 at the AGH Design Annex (118 James St. N.). Doors open at 7:30pm and tickets are $18 for AGH Members, $20 for students and seniors or $22 for general admission.
Click on artgalleryofhamilton.com