Part A: The Interview
An Interview with Brighton Rock's Gerry McGhee
The very first article I wrote for the Decibel Geek was a "Hoser Heavy Metal" spotlight on Brighton Rock. Growing up in Hamilton Ontario, Brighton Rock burst onto the music scene in the mid 80's. They had everything they needed to play with the big boys of the era, a great look, killer songs and the musicianship to blow most bands off any stage. They released three albums between 86 and 91 and toured extensively.
I was lucky enough to catch many Brighton Rock shows over the years. Every time, I witnessed a flawless live reproduction of their melodic metal song catalogue. Whether they were playing a packed rock club like Dallas (in Hamilton) or a huge stadium like Kingswood Music Theatre where they opened for Triumph, the guys always looked like they were having a blast on-stage. It always puzzled me how this band never seemed to break through to the upper echelon of rock stardom joining the ranks of the Bon Jovis and the Motley Crues.
In 1992 they disbanded but remained in touch and reformed for a few shows in 2001. Since then they seem to get together every few years when the urge to play strikes, a good cause or the right gig presents itself. Next week they are off to the UK to play the Firefest show and as a nice little warm up gig they rolled into the Rockpile here in Toronto.
Before the show, singer Gerry McGhee sat down with fellow Decibel Geek writer Rich "The Meister" Dillon and myself as the band were busy setting up for the show. Gerry took us back and shared some great stories with us, now make sure you have a few minutes as Gerry was feeling quite talkative and gave us an in depth look at some of the history of Brighton Rock from the inside...
DBG: I was 15 when I first heard about the band. My step Mom worked with Mark's (Drummer Mark Cavarzan) Aunt who gave her the EP to bring home for me. So take us back, how did Brighton Rock come to be?
So we got together and they were a bit leery of me thinking I was this heavy Judas Priest metal man kinda thing but Frase's songs had great melodies. So Frase and I basically wrote Young Wild and Free and we went into the rehearsal hall, rehearsed it. We had one drummer change. Joe left and we got a guy named Paul Kersey who was from Max Webster, he was basically there to tutor us because we were young bucks and eager to do everything so he kind of restrained us and then what we did was go out on the road to get our chops together. We went out on the road as Heart Attack and toured mostly Quebec, Ontario and the East Coast then came back and started cutting some demos.
By this time Honeymoon Suite were really starting to roll so the manager really had an open door policy at Warner. So they heard our demos, we didn't even shop them to anyone else, they heard the demos and said yeah we'll sign the band. So the whole EP thing was really their design. They first switched up the name and they wanted to kind of have this underground kind of thing where it looked like they "discovered us" just like Queensryche had done the same thing.
Gerry: Well I am a big Queen fan so I immediately associate it with the song but actually the label came up with the name Brighton Rock and they said, just say it's after the Graham Green book.
DBG: I was wondering if it had anything to do with the candy since you are from the UK, that was what my Mom asked when I came home with the albums when I was younger.
Gerry: Actually when the first album came out, it was delivered with a Brighton Rock candy. And so they signed us to a deal and then we shopped for a producer. Michael Wagener who king of the hill at that time said yeah I wanna do the band and he came up. Now what we were doing was totally different than what he was involved with in the LA scene, I mean we were rehearsing in a buddies basement (actually our lighting guy).
So when we went to record in Toronto, which Michael really wanted to do everything in LA because he knew the studios, we were sleeping in the studio. We actually had beds in the studio when we weren't recording. He actually fed us because we had no money at all. We were kinda pissed at our manager for letting it get that way, I think he spent over three grand on feeding us for the entire record and then when it was done we went down to LA to mix it. A buddy of mine who worked on the record, Michael fell in love with him so much that he pulled him to LA and he went on to produce Rage Against the Machine and Alice Cooper, that was Garth Richardson. So by the end of it Michael said "I cant do another record without this guy" because Garth just has that great personality and he's Jack Richardson's son.
We always worked with Jack, before we went with any of our producers we sat with Jack because Jack was a musician and he really knew how to write a good song. So every album we would do pre-production with Jack and he was brutal. He would tear up lyric sheets in front of you and go "this is shit!", "you can do way better than that" and then he'd come to my house later and hear the new stuff I'd written and go "see that's better, I knew you could do better".
DBG: So he challenged you?
Gerry: Yeah, yeah he did, he challenged all of us.So we did Young Wild and Free and then we hit the road. We did most of Canada, we did a big chunk of the US, that got us the US deal and I think we were out about 18 months in all on that tour on that one. Then we came off to do "Take a Deep Breath" and for this album we decided to stay with Jack and let him produce the record. It's our biggest selling record that we ever did. Johnny got involved more in the band because we actually had a different keyboard player on the first album and I knew Johnny from being in Hamilton playing in other bands. Johnny is actually a guitar player/lead singer but he can play keyboards, so I am like dude, you want to join the band?, we are shooting an album cover next week! I said, c'mon do it, there's gonna be room for the guitar to come in at some point and I know you write songs, you'll get involved as a songwriter. Which he did he wrote songs for the second album and even in the third record, although he didn't play on it there's a few songs that Johnny wrote with us because we basically went to LA to start the demos for that record.
DBG: No sleeping in the studio for that one?
Gerry: No thank god, well we fired the manager. Well honest to god when we finished Take a Deep Breath he told Stevie and Mark to go get jobs. We'd finished the record and he said Frase and McGhee are the guys that are needed, you guys go get jobs. And after all the touring we did, some nights we were getting paid some nights $20,000 for a show and we were each getting $25 dollars a day. So on a maximum week we were getting $125 each and we had a gold record.
And Frase and I signed a worldwide publishing deal and we were cleaning out stuff at the managers house down in LA and one of the articles he had was "Brighton Rock signs six figure EMI screen gems publishing deal for the US". Me and Frase never saw fucking penny of that, it was a quarter million dollars.
So we fired him and we took it over ourselves, made Love Machine and we finally made money on Love Machine. On the album we made money, on the tour we made money and on the merch we made money but it was finally too much. Because most of it fell to me. What happened is we basically did what Queen did, we signed a production deal that was a very bad deal for the band, great deal for the manager.
DBG: That sucks that your working hard, sleeping in the studio putting out great music and your not making any money from it and people that don't have much to do with it are making the money.
Gerry: And we toured our asses off, we would go 14-20 nights in a row because we just loved playing.
Gerry: Oh yeah, yeah. When we were doing our contracts because I had a brother in law who was a CGA that I trusted completely, he told me "Don't sign this this is a very bad deal" and I took that to the guys I said I am not signing, it's a bad deal. And its like "your gonna fuck it up" Let's just get our records out, get through the three records and hopefully we'll be in a position where we can really start to make the money. Basically that's how it was done you sell yourself for the first three records if your lucky enough to get three records and then you hope your in a good position.
Because as soon as our contract was up for negotiation, we were up for a Juno for most promising new group and we fired him the week of the Juno's. We went in to his office, he said its time to sign the new contract and we gave Johnny the honours cause he hated him. He says "Your fucking fired we are never signing with you again" and we took everything on our own.
Love Machine, we had control of the videos, we made the record we wanted to make. Unfortunately Johnny wasn't involved, that's just one of those things, it's unfortunate but sometimes when your young and in a band like we were sometimes chicks get involved and I've learned that in every band I have ever been, never get between a guy and his chick cause you never win. It was unfortunate but John had to part for that record and it really wasn't the same after that. Johnny's got that thing about him, he's a rocker.
And we were really at the best point ever in the music industry because it really was Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll. We fucking partied hard, we played hard. I remember Johnny Dee (Honeymoon Suite) walking in on us once, we were touring with them. We were touring Young Wild and Free and we were in a Cadillac with a towel on the front of it with the BR painted on it. Five of us are in the Cadillac driving ourselves to these shows in Chicoutimi, Trois Rivieres. They're in this big fucking tour bus, we get a night off and its -30. We were so far north at one point you can see Labrador and we were fucking happy because we were getting to play all the arenas. So we went to this club, I think it was in Chicoutemi and we're in this little room backstage and had Jack Daniels and all this booze on the table. Johnny Dee sticks his head in the door and goes "You Guys are BAD!" and he leaves. C'mon man we're a rock band! What do you think we were here for? We just did a great show, it was time to fucking party right?
So we jammed and on the spot made up some lyrics and melodies and it wasn't the best way to go about this kind of thing. So they went with some guy out of Boston and broke up.
So then I stayed there, i had a lawyer there who told me, I want you to go see this band, they are called Off White. So I go down and this is the fucking worst area of Los Angeles, I mean you don't want to be anywhere near there at night. Its all sweat shops and there's this one big building and in there Phish is rehearsing, Megadeth is rehearsing. I get there and I see this band and it's this black guitar player named Reggie Boyd (jr) and the bass player actually plays with Martina McBride and their fucking stuff was just out of this world, it was like Led Zeppelin meets James Brown and this guy was just phenomenal on guitar. So I sang with them and we wrote some tunes and they said OK the gig is yours.
I then moved to LA. They had a producer, they had money behind them. The guy who owned the LA Clippers was backing them so we were getting ready to really get rolling. We wrote 9 songs and then I came back for a break because my family was back here and Reggie's aorta exploded. He survived but he was done for like two years. So I was back and at that point I just said "fuck it, I'm done". I had my kids, my oldest was about to start school, I had a house here and I didn't want to leave again. It was time to call it a day, you know? So that was the end of it.
Of course music was changing too, Pearl Jam was breaking, Alice in Chains, Nirvana so everything was shifting.
Gerry: Yeah and we lost all our support because we didn't have a Manager sitting pounding on things on Love Machine. They wouldn't release it in the US and we had Giant Records agree to release it but Warner Canada wouldn't let them do it. They had a new A & R guy and they were going in a different direction. The UK didn't want to release it and got nominated for best Hard Rock Record that year at the Juno's and it was like "guys we are just fucked"
DBG: How do you get nominated for Best Hard Rock Record and yet nobody wants to release it? It just doesn't make sense?
Gerry: I know, its the politics involved, I mean put it this way, there is very little difference between Bon Jovi and Brighton Rock it's just the button gets pushed. When the button gets pushed everything flows your way, the money comes in and they had a great Manager. Doc McGee is a powerful Manager and Doug Thaler was there in those days. Def Leppard had Cliff Burnstein with Metallica and Tesla. You had to have it done through the States.
DBG: That's how I have always felt, there were so many great bands here in Canada that just never seemed to get the push south of the border.
Gerry: Canadian labels have no power. We always said we would go Canada, Europe and then down to America. Take a Deep Breath and even Young Wild and Free we were outselling Honeymoon's albums yet they were doing tours opening for Styx. We went down to New York, played four shows, they all sold out, Take A Deep Breath was at 30 000 units sold, we wanted to go back and the record company wouldn't give us any tour support. So that fizzled away. I mean we even asked to be released. On Love Machine we went the label and said release us. They said no, we'll give you whatever you need. We gave them the record and they didn't support it.
So with no support or any tours to join we did it ourselves and criss-crossed the country as much as we could. I mean Love Machine did respectable but it was our least selling album of the three.
DBG: Yet that was the one you made money on?
Gerry: Well we did all of eastern Canada on Triumph's Sport of Kings Tour, We did Joan Jett through the US. With her we did a bunch of shows in the southern States, really great shows. We played shows with Boston, we played with a shit load of bands but nothing really full tours. We never got the tours that Honeymoon got, I mean we were between the cracks and partly because of the singles they had us release. They wouldn't release Young Wild and Free but they wanted We Came To Rock and I mean We Came to Rock is a great song but it wasn't what that album was all about. It was about Assault Attack and Barricade fuckin Rock n Roll Kid. Then they did the same with Take a Deep Breath, to me that album is Rebels, Power Overload, Shooting For Love, the Kick ass tunes and they went with One More Try. I mean we were so sick of ballads, don't get me wrong they are great songs and I am glad we wrote them but people would come to see us with expectations and go "Is this the band?" because they always seemed to wrap us in cellophane you know?
I got in shit once at Much Music on the Love Machine tour when I said "This album doesn't have a condom on so open up" I said it's full throttle Rock n Roll, in your face this is what we sound like live, We're a rock band not a pop band you know, so we never really fit into their blocks.
So it ran it's course, it did it's thing and now we are to the point where we get together once in a while and we do a show and have some laughs and its great.
DBG: You still enjoy it when you get together?
Gerry: Oh yeah it really feels like we never left.
DBG: Good enough to do it more regularly
Gerry: We talk about it. I mean even with facebook when we announced this show, we were asked to Ottawa, we were asked to do Montreal and Quebec City. There is a guy that is driving 18 hours from Northern Quebec tonight because he's never seen us. Three girls from Quebec City, they flew in for tonight and there is a couple driving up from Georgia to see us tonight, you know what I mean. Its great and we would love to do it if we could make it work time wise.
DBG: The last time I saw you guys play was at the Carl Dixon Benefit show. How did you get involved with that show.
Gerry: Well Carl's a buddy. Carl and Andy (from Coney Hatch) actually did a bunch of the background vocals on Love Machine. Carl and I have kept in touch, Andy and I too, the Dwarf guys there was really no competition with all these guys we all dug each others music and we were all different enough and we would go to each other's shows. We even talked about putting together a tour, it was going to be Brighton, Soho 69, Killer Dwarfs and Helix and they couldn't get any promoters to bite on it. But anyway when the accident happened to Carl, Andy called and said Carl has lost his gig so I said Fuck Yeah we'll be there and then he spoke with Russ Dwarf and then Brian from Helix. That's how that all got together and it was a great show.
DBG: Now we heard that tonight is being billed as sort of a farewell show...
Gerry: No, not at all, if we were ending this thing for good we would have to do Montreal and Ottawa and Halifax and PEI, oh no we would have to hit a bunch of places Winnipeg was great for us. Gee, if this was the last goodbye we would have to do a run of at least ten shows or more. I mean we leave it open, who knows if maybe even we decide to put together a new album.
|Mugshots with Brighton Rock and Wally|
DBG: Now at the Decibel Geek podcast we are all massive Kiss geeks and you guys got to work with Toby Wright (who produced Carnival of Souls) what was he like to work with?
Gerry: Wow Toby Wright, what we loved about him was he was an in your face engineer that he totally captured our live sound. It was our Manager that hooked us up with Toby and after we fired our Manager he assumed we wouldn't be needing him. I called him up and said "you finishing this thing or what?" and he said "I didn't think you'd want me to". I said fucking right we do. So we did pre-production with Jack, worked on the songs and then Toby came up and we recorded it here and then mixed it in LA. It was Metalworks Studio live off the floor, well the version of Cocaine was actually the demo from LA. We wanted to piss off our manager, we had been down in LA for a month and hitting it pretty hard so .the manager was coming down to check on the progress and I said let's fuck with him and record "Cocaine". Someone ran out and got the cassette of the song so I could read the lyrics off the liner notes, we set up a Shure 57 mic in the booth with Toby and that was one take. That's the version that made the album, the only thing added was the background vocals.
So when he got down there he wanted to hear what we had accomplished and we played him Cocaine and he went fucking nuts! "You been down here all this time! Do you know how much this costs?" All of our gear had been flown down and we were staying at the Oakwoods on Hollywood Blvd. We were at the Rainbow every night, Frase is running out with David Lee Roth, Slash was there, Lemmy from Motorhead and Don Dokken was there. We were having a great time and we sent that version of Cocaine to Doug Thaler when we were looking for a new manager and he was like "Fuck me this is awesome!" send me your record contract. I sent it to him, he called me back and said I love the band but with this contract your fucked, there's nothing I can do.
Gerry: No, oh fuck Christie Night (DJ from local radio station HTZ FM) was great at that. I remember coming home (we were on the Love Machine Tour) when the Motley rumour started and I was getting messages from everyone. Some of the Toronto Blue Jays called me, Duane Ward and Andy Curran phoned me "DUDE CONGRATZ ON THE CRUE GIG BRO!" and then! Rob Halford leaves Judas Priest, Christie Night mentions my name on the air and suddenly I am the new singer in Judas Priest! Fuck Me, my phone is ringing off the hook "Gerry your in Judas? I am like NO I don't know anyone in Judas! (laughing)
DBG: Ok Gerry last question for you name for me the one song you wish you wrote?
Gerry: Thats really tough man......I would say "In My Time Of Dying" Led Zeppelin
Part B: The Concert
Wally and I arrived at The Rockpile around 4:30pm for our loosely planned interview with guitarist Greg Fraser from Brighton Rock. Outside the doors we were met by promoter Art Wilson-Iafantaisie and he took us inside. The band was performing the sound checks and we sat down to enjoy the stigma of being there early and watching the rehearsal while we waited for Greg to chat with us. Art’s wife gave us some press/media passes for the event and we sat at a table excited for the interview and the show later that night. Greg was busy with the sound check but they were not ready to do the vocals yet, so Greg suggested that we chat with lead singer Gerry McGhee for a few minutes. We went into a lounge room off to the side where we could hear a little better and we had the pleasure of talking to Gerry for about 45 minutes with Johnny Rogers (keyboardist/guitarist) popping in and out a couple of times. Finally they were ready for Gerry to do the vocal check and Wally and I settled in to watch the warm-up tunes. If what we were hearing was any indication and let me tell you it sure was, we were in for an amazing show tonight. The guys sounded clear and tight and obviously haven’t lost a step in the four years since they've played a show. The sound check went quite late as we were treated to full songs like Nightstalker and Bulletproof. By the time they were ready, sounding good and warmed up it was getting late and Greg and the rest of the band needed to head back to the nearby hotel to grab a shower and be back in time to see some of the opening acts and mingle with the crowd a bit.
The Bourbon Daisy Blues Revue was the first band up. They came on around 8pm and they were quite good with a female lead singer. After the second song, she thanked the crowd for coming out to not only their first show, but also their second rehearsal!! What?? They sounded pretty good for only being the second time they've played together!!
I had never seen the Rockpile this busy this early in the night of a concert and the place was alive with Brighton Rock fans and also press such as Much Music (the Canadian MTV) and Drew Masters (publisher/editor of M.E.A.T. Magazine, a heavy metal/hard rock magazine popular in Toronto in the 90’s.
After that Earth Dog treated us to a more alternative set and did quite a good job opening with a Nirvana track and also sliding in some Green Day among others.
Phantom Trace was next on the stage and they have a great stage presence and powered through their set. Again a female lead singer and I’ll have to watch out for a CD if they have one. Check them out on facebook in the meantime. They are comprised of Monique Richardson on vocals, Anthony Cugliari handling the guitar, Brian MacDonald on bass and Marc MacPhearson. behind the kit. The drummer was also a member of The Bourbon Daisy Blues Revue and I recognised him in his second stage appearance that night, but I also recognised the guitarist from Bourbon Daisy on stage and the bassist as well. Stated in their press kit, “guitarist Anthony Cugliari picked up a pen one day and started to write down his thoughts…next thing he knew…These Chains came to life. Influenced by Zeppelin, AC/DC and Guns ‘n Roses and inspired by the trials and tribulations of life and a passion for playing and creating music, Phantom Trace was born”. Here’s a link of a song posted on their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=452978188078362 filmed and posted by concert attendee Scott McWhinnie and another one also: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=452961571413357
The place was jam packed by this time and Wally and I decided to make our way toward the stage and stake our claim for front row spots for the rest of the show. Parking ourselves dead centre stage, we settled in to wait for the next band to come on. We started the trend and seeing us move in and stake our claim, several other patrons began to inch closer down in front of the stage.
The next band on the bill was Paris Black. They came out and as the guitarist and bassist took up their positions and instruments I focussed in on the drummer. Squinting, blinking rapidly and shaking my head, I looked again. Yes, it was the drummer from Bourbon Daisy and Phantom Trace, playing his third set with his third band of the night! He's a busy boy and clearly loves to play. Vocalist Paris Black sauntered on stage a few minutes after the others, looking a lot like Sebastian Bach at a quick glance. They sounded great as well and amongst his own compositions Paris Black performed an awesome cover of fellow Canadian artist Corey Hart's I Wear My Sunglasses at Night and I swear that song has never sounded so good! He closed out his set with Billy Idol's Rebel Yell and again it was a great rendition.
By this time the crowd was pretty thick behind us as, just like vultures, they moved in for the kill. The anticipation and excitement for Brighton Rock could literally be felt in the air, almost tasted even.
Mark, Greg, Johnny, Stevie stormed the stage as the crowd erupted with cheers and screams. The thundering drums at the opening of Unleash the Rage pounded out and Gerry’s voice could be heard as he started the song off to the side of the stage and then bounded out to centre court. And Unleash the Rage is exactly what the guys did for the next 90 minutes or so, blistering through fifteen of their best tunes encompassing all three albums. Young, Wild & Free from the first release of the same title preceded the all out rocker Barricade. The guys all looked happy to be on stage together for the first time in four years. Stevie Skreebs especially was all smiles as they worked into the radio friendly Hangin’ High ‘N’ Dry followed by Outlaw. The Rebels with a Cause had us all doing the Hollywood Shuffle by now and pressure seemed to mount from behind me as the crowd pushed closer to the stage. A double shot of the popular singles released by the band We Came to Rock and Can’t Wait for the Night both from the first record
were next up on the set list and the crowd sang along with every word. Take a Deep Breath was the band’s most commercially successful album spawning the single One More Try and it was cool to hear the shouts from a young lady directly behind me “Ya Dad!!” as they delivered it flawlessly. “My all time favourite BR song” was all the introduction from Gerry that Nightstalker needed and I couldn't agree more, such a killer tune! Then it was time to get the Led out as they ripped through the Zeppelin scorcher The Immigrant Song. They wrapped up with Jack is Back and the crowd was deafening with applause, screams and cheers as they left the stage for a short break. Upon returning to the stage for the encores, Gerry invited the whole audience to come and see the band next week at the sold-out Firefest in the UK, but “don’t worry if you can’t make it as I've just been told that we’re gonna be back here at The Rockpile in May!!” With that said Greg assaulted us with the opening riff to Bulletproof and then hit us again with Power Overload two rocking tracks to leave us rabid and wanting more.
Brighton Rock was finished for the night, but the show was not over by any means. There was still one more band to come, Kara & The Sixfivers. Brighton Rock planned this on purpose so that after their show they would have a chance to mingle and meet and party with some of their fans. "If you’re the last band on, no-one’s here when you get changed and get out and the bar is closing too! We want to party too and watch some of our friends play", Greg told Wally and I later on. And he really did mean friends as the guitarist from Kara & The Sixfivers is none other than Derek Mcgowan from Greg and Stevie’s new project Fraze Gang. Read Decibel Geek Wallygator’s article and CD review of Fraze Gang here: http://dbgeekshow.blogspot.ca/2012/09/fraze-gang2-in-your-face-rock.html Unfortunately Kara & The Sixfivers did not get the attention from me that they deserved. They sounded great, but Wally and I were embroiled in conversation with Greg Fraser and hearing the story of the texas mickey, but I’ll leave the details there for another day. All in all Brighton Rock rocked the sold-out Rockpile Bar & Nightclub thanks to promoter Art Wilson-Iafantaisie and I’m so stoked to see them again when they return in May! Good luck at Firefest boys, knock ‘em dead in the
|The Meister mauled by Brighton Rock!|