Loaded Dice – Songs in the Key of Drunk
Spearheaded by a couple of veteran musicians, Loaded Dice is one of Hamilton’s newer additions bent on bringing the party. Calgary born Matti Slick came to Hamilton back in 1989 and dreamed of a band that would follow in the footsteps of his Westdale High School comrades in the Forgotten Rebels and Teenage Head, but that band wouldn’t happen until Slick was 36 years old.
“Societal pressure after high school is to grow up, put away the guitar and get yourself a job, but when you’re a musician, there’s something that’s ingrained in you that you have to satisfy,” explains Slick. “Frank Vomit was after me to start a band and he kind of got me to pull the guitar out of the closet five years ago. I knew just the guys to back us up. That’s how my two old friends from high school Chris Tilbury and Daryl Ralph came into this. They then went on to other projects and we got a new line up with a lot younger blood. It’s a little bit refreshing to get a new perspective on the music.”
Now featuring Slick (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Frank Vomit (lead guitar, backing vocals), Eric “Mad Man” McKay (bass), Matti “Sticks” Frazer (drums), and Andrew MacDonald Stewart (bagpipes), Loaded Dice are a Celtic punk hybrid cut from the same cloth as the Real Mackenzies, Dropkick Murphys, or Mahones.
“We’re not out to reinvent the wheel, we’re a good time, drinking band and it’s that plain and simple,” offers Slick. “Whenever I write a melody, I ask myself would I want to stand in a bar with a pint in my hand and listen to that. I hesitate to pigeonhole us as punk any longer because some people say we’re Celtic. It does cross over a couple of genres, there’s no question, but perhaps that’s maybe why we’re enjoying it so much. It’s got all the drive and the balls of a punk band with the creativity of a Celtic band thrown into it.
“I think there’s a growing Celtic movement,” adds the singer. “One of the things I love about Celtic bands is they definitely escape the bar route but that’s where a band like us belongs. It’s tough to have the same effect in a concert hall as we do in a packed, sweaty bar with people swinging glasses, cheering and having a great time. That recipe is an adrenaline rush.”
While the individual members now sprawl across Southern Ontario, Slick maintains base in Hamilton like he has for the last quarter century. No doubt, it’s this city that helped inspire the lifestyle that has influenced the songs. So inspired, the album even includes an ode to this city, which could offer some insight.
“This CD wouldn’t have happened without our manager and CEO of Rockport Records, Michael Davie who is an absolute workhorse,” beams Slick. “He took a chance on some middle aged men that wanted to rekindle their rock and roll dreams again and we couldn’t extend more gratitude to him. And he’s a Hamiltonian, too. There doesn’t seem to be anything pretentious or fake about this city. It is what it is. Coming from Calgary, they say it’s one of the cleanest cities, so it was a bit of a culture shock coming to Hamilton. We knew where our money was filtering into the city from an oilrig up north but we didn’t have to wake up in the morning and smell it like we do in Hamilton. Is one better than the other or does each city have eccentric characteristics that we can love? Our song, “The Hammer” is about the mood of the song. There are cues to locations in Hamilton but it’s just an ode to our city. It’s really what you’d expect when you think about a night out in the Hammer – it ain’t pretty, and it’s full blast.”
Would Slick describe Loaded Dice in similar fashion?
“Absolutely,” Slick replies. “For Loaded Dice, the foot is off the break and it’s straight on the gas – look out Hamilton.”
Loaded Dice play this Friday May 30 at Club Absinthe with the Saints are Coming, the D*Files, Hanging Girl and Come Out Swinging. Doors are at 9pm and $10 gets you in with a copy of Songs in the Key of Drunk. Click on facebook.com/loadeddicecanada
Blow My Jets – A Musical Tribute to Frankie Venom and Teenage Head
The recent public debate over a now nixed city funded statue to honour Frankie Venom’s legacy was sad. Much of the negativity was brought forth mainly by people who probably didn’t even know of Frankie Venom [Kerr] a few years ago, never mind know him as a person or what he meant to punk or Canadian music or to Hamilton. Countless fans around the world still reference, reverentially remember, and revere Frankie Venom and Teenage Head. But local fans in particular — Hamilton fans — are adamant about showing their pride and negating the naysayers. Joe Csontos is one of those fans. He was there at the beginning of Teenage Head’s musical journey and forged his own path as drummer with the Forgotten Rebels, Simply Saucer and more.
“Frank and I grew up in the same neighborhood and even though I was a couple years younger than him, we kind of knew of each other,” recalls Csontos. “Fast forward to Dalewood Middle School and I eventually met [Teenage Head drummer and bassist] Nickie Stipanitz and Steve Mahon through a mutual friend Gary Spearin. We started hanging out and trading records and realized that we had similar tastes. When we all ending up in Westdale [High School], Steve and Nick started hanging out with [Teenage Head guitarist] Gordie Lewis. Gord, Steve and Nick ended up in my parents’ basement a couple weekends jamming as I had drums and they brought their amps and guitars. Nick was singing for the band and Frank was yet to be in the picture. Anyway those guys moved on and got Frank and Steve Park and started to play out a lot. I stayed in the basement and jammed with other people like Jim Desrosches, brother of Dave Rave, and even played a couple of gigs in Toronto in the halcyon days of punk before joining the Forgotten Rebels.
“In light of the recent discussions regarding the proposed statue of Frank in Victoria Park — I say that Teenage Head are the best rock and roll band that ever came out of Canada, bar none,” adds Csontos. “Frank was the most electrifying frontman you could ever hope to have and I think Hamilton and Canada should be grateful that we were around to witness his amazing feats of daring. Towards the end, Mike “Mope” Masney, Frank, and I would get together on Friday nights and jam with acoustic guitars playing Beatles songs. I think he was happy being a regular guy. Frank was a human being with faults and appetites that some may find unsavory but I think he was a flawed but passionate man.”
When Csontos heard of a song written in tribute to Venom by Martin Verrall, it set off a series of events that helped to culminate in a fundraising tribute concert on the eve of Frankie Venom’s birthday this weekend.
“Martin and I had worked on six or seven Velvet Underground tributes and about four years ago, whilst having a few post rehearsal beverages, Martin played me a song that he wrote for and about Frankie Venom,” recalls Csontos. “Martin told me that when he and Frank hung out that he played him the song and that he liked it. I also was blown away by the lyrical content and the dirge like quality of the melody. I asked Martin if he intended to record that song and he asked if I wanted to produce the record. I agreed to produce the record and some preliminary sessions were laid down at Napier Park Studios in Dundas 4 years ago. Like anything in life, prior commitments surfaced and the project was shelved until earlier this year when we re–recorded the bed tracks again and started layering on brass, reeds and a 12–piece choir.
“The song that Martin wrote is called “Frankie Blue”, adds Csontos. “It is a musical tribute to the essence of the man and his art. It is stretched like Dylan’s “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” with any verses and repeat choruses. I think that this homage is a grand musical tribute to the man — kitchen sink and all.”
As musical fans gathered to record, costs to produce the musical tribute accumulated and so on the eve of Frankie Venom’s June 2 birthday, these musicians come together to offer one tribute that will help fund another.
“The show is basically to raise funds to release a 12 inch vinyl single of “Frankie Blue” and a couple of other originals, “Lay Low, Ashley” and “A Different Kind Of Love” on the B–side,” explains Csontos. “Martin painted a portrait of Frankie four years ago and that will be the silkscreen cover. Mario [Pietrangeli] of Downtown Sound Recordings and I are producing this record and we realized that we didn’t have enough funds so instead of utilizing Kickstarter et al, we decided to have a fundraiser to help with starting to pay some of the production costs. Also, Mike Williams our bass player suggested that this tribute concert would bring a positive spin on Frankie and his art.”
The Dirty Nil, the Folk Sinners, the Sheanderthals, the Mike Williams Band, the Noble Savages, Mystics and the Trouble Boys all perform as well as Martin Verrall and the Frankly Blue Big Band featuring Joszef Hanson, Mike Williams, Rockin Rio, Molly Babin with Mary Kovacs, Frances Dawn Locs, Conrad Rockel and Earth Wind and Choir.
“I picked all my friend’s bands and some bands that I thought we influenced by the Teenage Head sound,” says Csontos. “If you really think about it, we all are influenced by Teenage Head, right? All Teenage Head songs covered by the performers as well as some surprise Head covers and a few special Frank songs.
“All the performers and fans will sign a slip and we will make sure everyone’s name make to the cover of the “Frankie Blue” record – we will all be executive producers,” adds Csontos. “And as part of the show on June 1 at midnight; we stop and sing a raucous version of Happy Birthday to Mr. Venom. This is a genuine tribute to a rock and roll heart and a friend best of all. Fuck the rest – Head is still the best!”
Blow My Jets – A Musical Tribute to Frankie Venom and Teenage Head happens Sunday June 1 at the Casbah. Music starts at 9pm and $10 gets you in.
Downtown Sound’s First Anniversary
Fans have seen him rock out on local stages with the High Tides or the Blue Demons but recently Mario Pietrangeli took his many years as a musician and producer into making a new studio in the James North area. This weekend, Downtown Sound celebrates their first anniversary at Barton and James Streets with a live concert with some of its clientele.
“I grew up in Hamilton and went to McMaster,” recalls Pietrangeli. “I moved to Toronto to go to law school, and had a very successful career there as a litigation lawyer but at the same time; I pursued a parallel course as a musician, songwriter and performer. I caught the recording bug in the early ‘90s and started playing around with gear and then computers, and next thing you know — well, more like a couple of decades –– I had the makings of a pro studio.
“After talking to studio owners and others, I was encouraged to enroll in the recording program at Recording Arts Canada in Toronto,” adds Pietrangeli. “I got my diploma, and then moved to Hamilton. My wife and I purchased our studio building on Barton Street, around the corner from James North, where she has a glass art studio, and I have the music studio around back.”
You wouldn’t know it from the curb but just behind the glass art store is a new well–equipped space that offers a new place to get musicians’ art recorded with Pietrangeli’s particular style.
“I initially got into recording as a way to record my own music, and then it expanded to include some friends’ bands, and then some modest paying jobs,” offers Pietrangeli. “The Blue Demons and High Tides records were recorded at my old basement space in Toronto. They sound great, but I had to work against a number of challenges, including the space itself. In the new studio, I’ve a chance to work with a wide range of local artists, from Molly Babin, to the Diamond Drapes, Mystics, Mogs and others. I’m currently working with Martin Verrall and Joe Csontos locally, as well as a number of others, both locally and from Toronto. I love the fact I’ve worked with so many different styles and genres, from surf, to roots, to rockabilly and garage, with some blues and jazz likely coming my way, too. Different styles require different approaches, both with respect to the gear, technology, and technique.
“There are an infinite number of bands and musicians in the Hamilton area, and each artist and studio finds their niche,” he adds. “I like making very honest–sounding records, in a fairly traditional style and using old–style approaches. I like the convenience of digital editing, and I have an excellent AD/DA converter and interface, but my front–end is all–analog, and we can mix in the analog realm, too. While I try to make their music sound as good as it can be, I don’t try to make the artist conform to my studio’s “sound”. I like to get a sense of what sound they’re trying to achieve. Apart from promoting the party, most of our clients have come to us largely on the basis of word of mouth.”
Spreading the word about the new studio is almost as important as simply getting together with some like–minded individuals for a party. And this weekend, Pietrangeli and Downtown Sound get recognition, the clientele show off their talents and everyone is invited to partake in the celebration.
“Hamilton’s been great — we’re loving the Barton and James North Area,” smiles Pietrangeli. “It’s been an interesting year, and I wanted to mark the occasion, both by showcasing some of the bands that have recorded with me, and by inviting other friends and community members to join the party.
“Many of the performers are people I’ve known for years; others, I’ve just met after my move back to Hamilton,” adds Pietrangeli. “I think they’ve all had good experiences with my studio, so it’s a party for them, too. I’m just happy that they could entertain at my party — they’re great artists and performers, and I’m thrilled they’ll be playing together on the same bill. Ultimately, it’s about getting some people together to celebrate along with us.” V
Downtown Sound Recording Studios first anniversary celebration happens this Friday May 30 at This Ain’t Hollywood with the Mogs, Mystics, the Blue Demons, the High Tides, Molly Babin and DJ Joe Rockhead. The pay–what–you–can event starts at 9pm. Click on downtownsoundstudio.com