Veteran music fans that have been paying attention for decades will remember Dopamine Flood, the Progressive Minstrels, and Hut Museum as bands that regularly played some 30 years ago. Now members of those bands join together to create the Hammersmiths and their new collection of songs dubbed Synesthesia is being released this weekend.
“I loved playing with Dopamine Flood — we won some battle of the bands and did some recordings but I like to say Jimmy quit and Jody got married and the whole thing went downhill," recalls singer Ray Maurice on his band Dopamine Flood’s run back in the early ’90s referencing an old Bryan Adams song. “We got caught up in playing a lot of the grunge — the Pearl Jams, Soundgardens and stuff that was happening back then. We put out a cassette and I put in a one litre water bottle with a label that said, ‘Thirsty for new talent’ and sent it off to Warner Music Canada. We actually got a call back but by that time the band had already broken up. But getting your foot in the door at that time — it was cool to say the least.”
Reminiscing about the music from nearly three decades ago is like looking through an old year book for Maurice but after a couple of failed attempts at starting up a new band, real life concerns happened. Maurice would go into carpentry and start a family and all but walk away from the music of his youth. Until recently...
“I met my wife and fell in love and started a family,” says Maurice. “I gave up the dream of purring out a record or even having a band but the itch came back. We had moved to Parry Sound for eight years but we moved back to Hamilton. In October, I had a close call where it was touch and go — I didn’t have a life scare but my family did because I was in a coma. I had all of these tubes going in and out of me and I was wondering if I’d ever be able to talk or sing again. I vowed, if I get out of there, I’m going to record something. After that, I knew if it was the last thing I did, I had to put out some music. Now it’s not about having a dream, I just want to do it for fun.
Maurice re–connected with some old high school friends and started a new band a couple of decades after his last band fell apart but this time with a new perspective.
“Guitarist Dave Evans (formerly of Progressive Minstrels) and I had been friends for a long time and we started jamming again, nothing serious, but I always had him in my back pocket as someone I really loved playing with,” says Maurice. “I reconnected with Paul Symons (formerly of Hut Museum) and he hadn’t played drums in about fifteen years but he was up for it. We asked our old friend Robin Aube (formerly of Progressive Minstrels) to help out and play bass. Robin has a few projects of his own going on and I knew he wouldn’t be able to commit to this band, too. Waiting in the wings was John White, who works with my wife, He’s from the UK but he was looking to play and when he walked in with a five string bass, I knew he knew his way around the fret board. That happened about 18 months ago. Our first gig was almost a year ago at It’s Your Festival in Gage Park and man, did we have fun.”
The Hammersmiths had developed lots of new material — some of the songs are new but some of the new tunes are some thirty years in the making — and decided to cut the record Maurice just had to finish even if he’s not 20 years old anymore.
“You don’t want to just jam in the basement for ten years — you’ve got to get out there and put out a recording,” says Maurice. “I call the music rebel rock because it’s got some protest underlays to it while others just talk about dealing with life or feelings. If one person connects with one of the songs, that’s great. So we went to Boxo Studios with Kevin Barber. Gary Greenland did a fabulous job mixing the album and we're very happy with what we were able to come out with. We’re not looking for fame and fortune — we're looking forward to just put it out there, play some stages and see what happens.”
Rather than dubbing cassettes at home, Synesthesia is a product of the modern world — being released in a digital USB format designed by Maurice and offering a new generation of music fans something tangible to take home after a Hammersmiths gig.
“When people hear music or certain noises it brings images, colours or patterns into their heads — that’s synesthesia and I loved the idea of that,” says Maurice on the album title. “When you listen to music it can take you away for a little while and I loved that concept. When you open up the USB, it’s got artwork, photos, lyrics, album credits, both mp3 and wav format versions of the songs so you can download the songs and put them in your playlists. Everything was pretty much done on my laptop so it’s got the same feeling as when I was doing this three decades ago.”
Hamilton music history buffs could be interested but Maurice and company hope everyone checks out the Hammersmiths and with the release party this weekend, Maurice assures his musical attention is as passionate as when he started, if not more.
“I’ve got way more piss and vinegar — and confidence,” says Maurice. “I believe in what we’re doing and we really want to put on a show. If you’re an artist, you’ve got to keep honing your craft. You can pretend to give it all up, but it just sits there in the back of your head. I’m not looking for glory or anything like that but I like the songs and I vowed to myself I’m going to see it through to the end and do it as best as I can. I’ll be doing this until I can’t be doing it anymore.” V
The Hammersmiths album release party happens Friday June 21 at the Casbah with with DJ John Copple and Bruno Marras. Tickets are $10 or $20 for admission and the album package. Click on thehammersmiths.bandcamp.com