Interview

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By Jim Barber, Kingston This Week
Thursday, August 16, 2012 9:34:01 EDT PM

For 18 years, Rik Emmett was estranged, both personally and professionally, from the two other members of the legendary Canadian classic rock power trio Triumph.

But a melting of the icy relationship between him, Gil Moore and Mike Levine in 2006 has led to a rekindled friendship and working relationship that continues, on and off, to this day.

After the acrimonious split in 1988, Emmett went solo and released 17 albums, covering a host of musical styles and genres, in the intervening years before reconvening on stage with drummer Moore and bassist Levine for a pair of Triumph-ant reunion shows in Sweden and Oklahoma in 2008.

In the interim, Triumph was elected into the Canadian Rock, Music Industry and Juno halls of fame, released a revamped greatest hits package and a special-edition vinyl release of its most famous album, Allied Forces, last year on its 30th anniversary.

Throughout Emmett’s solo career, Triumph songs worked their way into his live stage show here and there, but in recent years, he has begun playing ‘The Music of Triumph’ shows with a full rock band, or an acoustic group, keeping his fans and Triumph fans in general hoping for a full-fledged reunion.

Emmett will be bringing his rock show to The Sound Academy in Toronto on Thursday, Aug. 23, a few days before Triumph releases a special DVD/CD package that encapsulates the band’s first reunion show at Sweden Rocks outdoor festival in the summer of 2008.

“It’s been a while getting this out, but my understanding is that there has been a lot of technical issues,” said Emmett from a cottage in the Muskokas. “The way that it had been shot by the Swedish crew, transferring the files in order to be able to edit them digitally, there was something technical that held up that transfer. And, in truth, with something like this, it’s not a priority for Gil. It’s not a priority for Mike, and it’s really their bailiwick. I don’t have anything to do with it in terms of ownership or production.

“For me, the stuff sort of disappeared into the Crab Nebula for a while and then all of sudden I got a call saying, ‘Hey, Rik, do you want to come in and check out this stuff?’

“And they brought in a guy named L. Stu Young as the remix guy, and when I heard the stuff I went, ‘Whoa, this is not how it sounded when we went onstage. This sounds amazing.’ The guy really knows what he’s doing and he made it sound big.

“When you play an outdoor stage, it’s a very weird, dry kind of environment. You play a big guitar chord and it’s not like it’s resonating and bouncing off the walls of the building because there is no building. You just kind of play it and it floats out there and it’s gone. So I am sure there was a lot of time and energy spent in tidying the sound up and cleaning it up.”

Emmett said as with any live video, it’s a time-consuming process to synch up the audio with the video, make sure there are good shots of each of the band members, and also have good crowd reaction shots.

“I think in the final analysis, the issue is one of legacy for Gil,” said Emmett. “I really think that he thinks something like this is going to stand for the rest of our lives as the ‘Triumph Reunion.’ This was a fairly large event in our lives, and is it good enough to be part of that legacy?’ ”

Emmett harkens back to another live performance that has come to be a significant part of the band’s enduring legacy — the US Festival in California in 1983. Triumph performed a set in front of a quarter of a million fans, sharing the stage on ‘Heavy Metal Day’ with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Motley Crue and Judas Priest.

“And we ended up putting that show out on DVD a few years ago, and for Mike and Gil, things like that will stand as the legacy of what Triumph was, who Triumph was,” said Emmett. “I think that also might have been holding things up because they wanted to make sure it was good, and it was right. I think the thinking was, ‘Who cares if it comes out quickly, all that matters is we get it right.’ ”

So, whenever a new Triumph product is released, the inevitable question arises — is the band going to tour again, especially in its home nation.

Emmett has been on record a number of times saying that he welcomes the chance to play Triumph songs with Moore and Levine again but that it has been those two who have resisted.

Part of the reason is that they hadn’t performed much since the early 1990s (Triumph released an album called Edge of Excess in 1993 with Toronto guitarist Phil X replacing Emmett), focusing on developing a successful production company, recording studio and recording school called Metalworks, which was originally the band’s own recording studio.

“If the carrot was big enough and golden enough, I think it would make Mike and Gil, but especially Gil, do it,” said Emmett. “And we have had inquiries. Gil has a great life, and he’s content, and he makes a lot of money and he runs that Metalworks things and it’s very fulfilling for him. He’s got a life where he loves to play golf a lot with Tom Cochrane and Alex Lifeson (of Rush) and it’s a fairly time-consuming hobby.

“So if he decided to go out on a Triumph tour, I think it would cost him some gold, and would cost him some family time, and he kind of looks at that and wonders if it’s worth it. And I don’t say that with any shred of negativity. It doesn’t matter to me if we play again. I can always find something to occupy my time and energy and make music in different ways.

“But I do like playing with the guys. It’s fun. And we go out for dinners together and we’re hanging out again and laughing and joking. The reunion shows, for me, was the real lovely bit of us being back as friends again, for Mike and Gil much less so.

“For them, they don’t need the playing of the music to return to the magic of the brotherhood thing. And, honestly, when I look back on it all now, doing the Sweden thing and the Rocklahoma thing, yes, there was the money, but I think it was pretty much Gil and Mike saying, ‘You know, I think this will close the circle for Rik. This will be the thing that will make Rik feel the happiest that this has all happened, and that Rik will feel like it has been done right.’ And so it got done and now there’s really not anything compelling them to do it.”

Emmett said both Moore and Levine would do a full-on Triumph reunion tour if they could headline bigger venues, where they could whip out all the bells and whistles of the live show that made a Triumph concert a true arena-rock spectacle and one of the most intense live experiences on the road at the time.

“If the offer was there, and it was a solid thing, and it wasn’t just speculative, then it would change the temperature of the conversation,” said Emmett. “But at this point, so much of it is just speculative.

“But if you ask me, in my guts, do I still think there are one or two gigs left in us, I would say yes there is probably the likelihood that something will come along, like maybe some big charity gig, that would get the guys to say, ‘OK, we’ll strap it on one more time.’ ”

In the meantime, Emmett is as busy as ever, releasing a new live album with his musical partner Dave Dunlop under the Strung Out Troubadours (or Troubs) banner, of acoustic Triumph material called Then Again, as well as a long-awaited solo concept album called Marco’s Secret Songbook.

Jim Barber is the editor of Kingston This Week and the Napanee Guide and a veteran music industry journalist. Contact him at jim.barber@sunmedia.ca.

Chris Clay
Mar 09, 2012

Cover album for the Troubs

The latest album by Mississauga band The Troubs started off as a challenge between the band’s two members, Rik Emmett and Dave Dunlop.

The two were kicking around ideas to help flesh out their set list and were considering what cover songs they’d like to perform live. Talk quickly turned to what songs would be interesting to play, considering the band is essentially just two men and two acoustic guitars.

“It became a bit of a game, making the list,” said Emmett. “Then we looked at it as being a challenge to come up with some songs that would be unexpected (coming from us).”

The band’s nine-track album, reCOVERy Room 9, was just recently released. It’s an album entirely of covers, from The Police’s Message in a Bottle to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Bill Joel’s Always a Woman.

One of Emmett’s favourite songs on the album is The Galaxy Song. It’s written by Monty Python’s Eric Idle and fans of the seminal comedy troupe will remember it from the movie Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

It’s an irreverent and fun song, and Emmett pushed hard to have it included on the album.

“I had to sell Dave on it because he originally didn’t want to do it at all,” said Emmett. “I told him to just trust me and that it’s going to be fun. It turned out great and the solo Dave plays on it is just brilliant.”

One of the joys of recording an album of covers, said Emmett, is it’s a way to break down people’s conceptions of the style of musician he is.

“It let me step so far out of what people think is Rik Emmett’s comfort zone,” he said. “People didn’t expect that and I think that’s very cool.”

The guitarist understands when you start covering other artists music, such as Don Henley (The Boys of Summer), The Beatles (I’ve Just Seen a Face), and John Hiatt (Have a Little Faith In Me), some people aren’t going to like it. But, for the most part, people are receptive to different takes on popular songs, he said.

Emmett, who rose to prominence with the band Triumph, and Dunlop, from the rock act Full Nine, first had a chance to play together at the National Summer Guitar Workshop in 1990. They’ve released several studio albums since the band’s inception, including their self-titled 2006 debut. In 2007, they released an album recorded Live at Hugh’s Room the previous December while the 10-track Push & Pull dropped in 2009.

The band won Album of the Year and Group/Duo Of The Year at the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards.

Copies of the album are available for purchase through rikemmett.com.

He’s also been working with Michael Shotton on a new album called Marco’s Secret Songbook. It’s a concept album that’s semi-autobiographical following a young man who leaves home to venture out into the world to experience life.

The album, which has 15 songs and includes some spoken word narration, is viewed by Emmett as somewhat of a legacy project. With little electric guitar, and mostly acoustic, plus plenty of orchestral instrumentation, Emmett holds a special place in his heart for the project.

“I think it’s a good representation of the musician I’ve been all along,” said Emmett. “It certainly has a legacy quality to it. This is how I’ve always been (as a musician) and this is what I’m leaving behind.”

Emmett is encouraging fans to keep an eye on his website for more details on when the album is going to be released.

cclay@mississauga.net

Download or order your copy today.
Limited Edition Collector’s Bundle also available!

Christmas with The Troubs – Wednesday December 21st, 4- 6pm (EST). A fun and informal behind-the-scenes radio special with Rik and Dave -strung-out and on the road through 2012- with host Spud Wharton of CHIP 101.7 FM. Listen online!

Broadcasting on 101.7 FM throughout the Ottawa Valley, Quebec, and Ottawa, you can also tune in to CHIP 101.7 FM online for the worldwide broadcast!

This episode will be the shows finest interviewing Rik and Dave about classic road stories, never heard tales, the recording of RECOVERY ROOM 9, Carol Channing, how to order wine in Buffalo, how to get lost in cab outside Chicago, how to kill David Foster, what guitars and strings The Troubs are currently using, what they’re currently listening to, Spud’s stink-eye, Dave’s head fall, and more!

Oh, and a lot of great music… of course.

Tune in Wednesday December 21st, from 4- 6pm (EST).

Rik was interviewed by Colleen Carew, WZBA 100.7 The Bay in Annapolis, Maryland, chatting about the upcoming release with Dave Dunlop and subsequent tour, baseball, football, Triumph, what makes him tick, and more!

Tune in to WZBA 100.7 The Bay for a chance to win tickets to The Troubs upcoming show at the Rams Head in Annapolis this Saturday, Sept 17th.

(Click the link below to launch the interview in a new window, or click the icon to the right of the link to stream within the current page.)

Rik Emmett on WZBA 100.7 The Bay

Rachel Kern’s decision to become a private school teacher at Saint Patrick High School was an “extremely personal decision.” It wasn’t the money or holidays that attracted her to the career. It wasn’t the prestige either.

What Kern saw in the opportunity to work at St. Pat’s was a chance to help the academically and behaviorally at-risk students to improve their high school learning experience.

She says that her role as the language arts teacher for all of St. Pat’s freshman resource students in addition to helping those same students beyond class during what could be a free period for her allows her to answer that calling.

“I went into teaching to work with at-risk kids,” said Kern. “I purposefully chose to do my student teaching at a rough alternative school in Detroit because I wanted to see what it was like to work with at-risk students. Here I get to work with students with special needs but with the added support structure of our administration and faculty.”

English and psychology teacher and head resource counselor, Joe Smailis, is vital to that structure. Smailis coordinates a team of teachers and tutors to work with students daily in the Resource Center.

He said most often those students might be in the freshman Phoenix Program, but that they help any student in the school who may be struggling for any myriad of reasons academically or behaviorally.

“The students need a lot more one-on-one attention,” said Smailis. “The more we can reduce the student to teacher ratio the better.”

No Child Left Behind

Smailis holds high praise for teachers like Kern who take extra time out of their day to help out. Because of their role and the support provided by Title IX of No Child Left Behind in teacher Mike Mitchell, the time spent in resource is a game changer for many students, especially those whose primary challenge in learning has been lack of textbooks for their classes.

“I enjoy how it isn’t a formal class setting,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell has spent his entire career in education including fourteen years as a teacher at Oak Park-River Forest High School and more than a dozen years in administration and leadership with the Chicago Board of Education, City Colleges of Chicago and Moraine Valley College.

He says St. Pat’s Resource Center atmosphere helps the teachers show the students how their time at St. Pat’s will impact them for the rest of their lives.

“I often say to them, ‘When you are 28 years old, what do you see yourself doing when you leave the house every day?’” said Mitchell. “’If you want to be an engineer, what do you think it takes to be an engineer?’”

“The academic help shows them a reason for why they are here and why they are doing what they’re doing.”

Surrounding the students with more positive influences like Kern and Mitchell is one of Smailis’ goals for the center this year. He also would like to see St. Pat’s Kids At-Risk Program grow to the extent where support for future St. Pat’s students will be guaranteed.

“They don’t have a lot of things that we take for granted—textbooks, outside reading, supplies,” said Smailis. “For some it’s even worse. Their parents can’t make tuition. We help out wherever we can.”

Benefit Concert on Sat., Aug. 27

One of the initiatives to accomplish the Resource Center’s goals is a benefit concert at the Stahl Family Theatre on Sat., Aug. 27 featuring former Triumph star, Rik Emmett. Coordinated by Alumni Board Member Ron Eberle ‘84, the event will provide a boost to the Kids At-Risk Program.

“Rik comes up against this situation in his other profession as a teacher and advisor at Toronto’s Humber College,” said Eberle, who also promoted two benefit concerts by Emmett at Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts. “He has worked with students who are musically talented, have the chops to compete, but are challenged because of limited financial means.”

When Eberle approached Emmett about helping St. Pat’s Resource Center, the decision to hold the concert was easy.

“The school has a great auditorium, and Rik is willing to do it,” said Eberle, who has been working towards a sell-out crowd by lining up interviews for Emmett on local radio stations.

Early this week, WGN-AM’s John St. Augustine hosted Emmett (Click here for podcast.). And today Loyal Loopers (97.9) can hear an interview with Emmett by WLUP-FM’s Byrd during his show from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Kern hopes the attention will bring a greater awareness to the Resource Center’s positive effect on the school’s livelihood in addition to financial support.

“There couldn’t be a better place for this funding,” said Kern. “We have more and more kids with these needs. If we ignore the fact that these academic and behavioral issues are there, then we are doing a grave injustice to the kids who need help the most.”

“As a Lasallian school, it’s an essential part of our mission to work with these students.”

Doors open for Saturday’s concert at 7 p.m. Joining Emmett on stage will be Dave Dunlop (The Strung Out Troubadours). Click here for more info or to purchase tickets. Tickets may be purchased online through Saturday evening or by calling the Box Office at (773) 286-8470.