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A GOOD YEAR, INDEED

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by TheManicBlogger

1 month into 2014, and its already promising to be a good, if not great year.

toniks55The Toniks, England’s greatest export since The Beatles released their new single, “Jealousy” on January 3. I have heard from reliable sources that the band has a lorry full of songs they will be heading into the studio with this year. And, if that’s not enough, their tour plans include a return trip to Southern Ontario in late summer to grace the stage at The Shores Of Erie Wine Festival, and a few gigs in the Toronto area. We hope that super producer/manager Graham joins them on this trip. Someone has to watch them, and well, to be honest, they were a handful last time around.

nursery55The weirdly wonderful The Nursery have completed recording enough songs for another album as follow up to 2013’s Carnival Nature. Along with regular gigs in the Toronto, the band has made it to New York for a few shows, and released their first video. I have been informed that the sound is an extension of previous material, as The Nursery looks forward.. At the time of this writing, the tracks are in the process of being mixed. Way cool.

ss55Toronto’s own rock demons, Social Strife have been busy recording. They already have a song out there and are working on several more. I will be joining them at the studio in a few days for an inside look at their material. Hopefully a new album comes out of this. From what I hear, the song writing just keeps improving and their live show is an epic event. I really like this band, so perhaps the Strife army can back off now…

the strays55The Creekside Strays, long a favorite I Can’t Believe My Earz, have recently worked with another London, On band, High School Sweetheart and their is a really cool tune out there. The boys have been furiously working on a new project, which will apparently include half acoustic and half plugged in. The always ambitiously daring trio are due to have their album out sometime this year. We hope.

xprime55Out of the Niagara Region, Xprime, my pick to win Canada Indie Week, have completed recording their new album. I was fortunate enough to receive advance digital downloads of the songs, however under threats of bodily harm from drummer Phil, I have not been permitted to play them or write about them.  I will say that this album is amazing. Great melodies. wonderful harmonies, and a great deal of fun.

tm55

The always entertaining Toxic Melons, have been working on an album for several months. With a truly original approach to music, head melon, Pablo has amassed a cacophony of incredibly talented musicians from around the globe to participate in this monumental event. Pop music that bites and tickles. I have been waiting a long time for this, and as they say, good things come to those who wait.

Yes, indeed, its going to be a great year.

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TOUR WITH THE TONIKS-Toronto 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2013 by TheManicBlogger

After months of anticipation and a few days of school girl giddiness, the time had come to hang out with The Toniks. All week, my wife had been informing our friends that “He thinks he’s going to hang out with The Beatles”. What can I say? Was I excited?  Like a pre-pubescent school girl with a new puppy! For 10 days all I drank were Gin & Toniks.

htI take pleasure in knowing that I had some part in bringing The Toniks’ music to Canadian ears. Actually I am proud as hell!  I had found them on the internet and contacted them. I wrote a few articles about their music and over time we became friends. When I learned that the English band were coming to play the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto to promote their new album, Rise & Shine, I arranged to meet  up with them, get an interview and catch the show.

In doing my research, I discovered that this is the 2nd incarnation of The Toniks. The 1st line-up, included Ollie Smith on drums and Jim O’Neil on keyboards. A 4 track EP was released in 2009 and 2 of the songs, ” Wonderful Then” and “Simple Things” appear on the Rise & Shine album . For the past 9 months, the current 5 members have been touring in England and recording.

We met out front of the bar and decided to conduct the interview over dinner. Jez presented me with a Rise & Shine CD and a t shirt they had made for me.  How cool is that? What a great bunch of guys. And a girl!

Colin Marshall

Colin Marshall

Finding a place to eat was challenging. In the midst of Chinatown, Mark announced he does not like Chinese food. Colin was adamant that he needed grilled chicken and veggies. So we headed out  across Queen St W until Colin found us a restaurant. We settled in, and ordered (yep, Colin got his grilled chicken and veggies). I had prepared 10 questions that I wanted to ask, however after the 1st, the interview took on a life of its own. Incredibly cool. It just naturally flowed. This band was open and honest, appreciative and humble.

Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor

The band informed me that the music industry in England has been decimated by the influence of X-Factor and Simon Cowell. It has become increasingly difficult to even get gigs if you are not an X-Factorite. Canada, they claim, is far more receptive to new bands and music than England. And while they see no changes occurring in the English industry in the foreseeable future, they have no intention of leaving. Not yet anyway. While Colin helped the server clear tables (the guy is so ADHD) Mark and Jez informed me that they are the song writers, and described their relationship with producer/manager Graham Dominy as very positive. “Graham allows us to make our music. He just helps show us how to get it to sound the way we want it to sound.” There is no plan or conscious effort in their song writing. “We don’t sit down and say, well let’s write about this topic or that topic. We just start playing and it just sort of happens”. They do believe that they write positive songs because they are positive people. “I don’t like being down”, Mark says, “so I don’t want to bring others down”. Really cool attitude. One of the most endearing qualities of  this band is that they try to view everything in a positive light.

Jess English

Jess English

It’s a tough haul being a Tonik, though. They have no major iqnrecord deal, and have to cover all expenses out of pocket. They hold down full time jobs and devote as much time as they can to their music. The 5 of them share 1 hotel room. Not so bad since they view the band as family.  “I miss not being with them”, Colin said, “but I miss not being away from them”.  But this is one smart band. They have their own publishing company, and their own record label.  They have learnt all they could about royalties, mechanical rights and return on investment. They get that this is not just music. Its business.

Jez Parish

Jez Parish

I invited my buddy, Todd Miller of Radio That Doesn’t Suck to come down and see the band. I had given him a copy of  the new album and he seemed impressed. We hung out with the band in The Horseshoe for a while, talking about the artists who had played there and our own musical experiences. We sat through 2 opening acts and listened to the band talk about how cool it was that people in Canada move up to the stage. “In London, they move way to the back. That’s just what they do”, Mark told me. It was interesting for me to see Colin’s pre-gig ritual. Drummers tend to be incredibly ritualistic. Colin reads a very special book written by and given to him by a dear friend, Danielle. He sits alone and reads his book. This was the only time I saw him sit still for any length of time.

Tom Yates

Tom Yates

When The Toniks hit the stage, Todd and I were front and centre, taking pictures and shooting video.  I watched the crowd as Scapegoat began, and  everyone was tapping their feet, or dancing, or moving in one way or another. What a great opening song! They morphed into “Wonderful Then” and when it was done, the crowd erupted in applause. I knew it!! The band relaxed, smiled and got down to having fun. Each song they played drew the audience deeper into their world. The band was tight, with spot on harmonies. The vocals rang true, cradled in an almost perfect rendition of each track. You could feel the band’s energy, and you just knew that they were having the time of their lives. I am certain they are like this every time they play.  The Toniks are as much fun to watch as they are to listen to. Not just a studio band, these guys love to entertain, to work an audience.  They closed the set with “Figure It Out“. The audience erupted in chants of  “1 more song! 1 more song!”.  “You And I” was the encore. Killer song.   Killer show!

128I can’t helping really liking this band. Not just the music, or the performance, but the people in the band. Jess, the lone girl, is gentle, quiet and oh, so English. Mark is cerebral and tends to worry and wonder, and reminds me of Ian Hunter.  Jez is animated and quite sardonic in his humor, and very much the musical director of the band. Tom is quiet in his cool. He plays in the Gilmore style of less is more:  No shredding.  Just clean, crisp solos. And Colin, well, Colin has enough energy for his band mates and then some. He is an amazingly gifted drummer who plays with the exuberance of Keith Moon’s  “beat the crap out of my kit” school, but with that same less is more style. I just refer to him as Ringo. And yet these very different personalities have come together in an insanely talented and creative band.  It seems a perfect fit. These guys belong together. They are The Toniks. Their camaraderie, well, let’s call it festive. They like playing together. They like each other. They anticipate each others moves and, at times, finish each others sentences.

148This was their first visit to Canada. They said the Canadian response to their music has been great. “Can you believe people were buying our CDs and asking us to autograph them?” They opened for The Sheepdogs last weekend and played The Horseshoe. Not bad for a first Canadian tour.  Todd Miller was so impressed that he informed them that he was putting their music into regular rotation on Radio That Doesn’t Suck. I am determined to have them return for a longer tour, playing around Southern Ontario. They loved the Horseshoe. They loved Canada. And from what I saw, Canada loved them. Awesome music. Awesome band. Awesome people.  I am proud and thrilled to call them friends.

toniks19The Toniks are:  Mark Taylor–Bass, lead vocals; Jez Parish–Guitar, background vocals; Tom Yates–Guitar; Jess English–Keyboards, background vocals; Colin Marshall–Drums.

You can purchase Rise & Shine on The Toniks website:    http://www.thetoniks.com/riseandshine.php

Very Cool The Toniks Videos:

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MY WORLD GOES POP

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My venture into popular music began with an uncle, 10 years my senior, who was entrenched in the girl groups of the early 1960s. The first songs I remember listening to were the delightfully unsophisticated  “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels, ” He’s A Rebel” by The Crystals and The Chiffons’He’s So Fine“.   I spent numerous hours ingesting  the harmonies and the melody lines of these and other pop classics.

The Ronettes

The Ronettes

And just when I thought I had heard all there was to hear, I discovered The Ronettes. They were amazing. Insanely different. Veronica Bennett, her sister Estelle and her cousin Nedra Talley created a sound so different than anything I had heard before. It was Ronnie’s (Veronica) voice that drew me in. It was Phil Spector‘s production and the now infamous Wall Of Sound that kept me there. ‘Baby I Love You” and “Be My Baby”  kept me listening over and over again. I got my own 45 of “Be My Baby”. I played it and played it. I drummed along with it on pots and pans. I knew every nuance of the song. musically and vocally. I adored Ronnie’s voice and her vocal inflections. I  still do. The power of her voice  blows me away. And so began my epic adventure with rock and roll.

I heard The Beatles many times on the radio before I saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was then that I knew I wanted to be, no, needed to be a musician. I wanted to make music. I wanted to be a Beatle.  A plot was hatched to dispose of Ringo. Why not? I was quite proficient on the pots and pans, and how much different could the drums be? I wanted to be a drummer. I asked for drums for my birthday, and I got a guitar. What the hell. I learned to play and began writing songs.

I dove in to the British Invasion, headfirst. I spent years harboring vinyl from across the ocean. Listening to The Dave Clark 5, The Hollies, whose harmonies were some of the most complex I had heard, and The Kinks, who wrote incredible pop songs and played them like a rock band,  allowed me to intercept the North American bands who were now emulating the British sound. And so, Tommy James and The Shondells, The Grass Roots,  and The Lovin’ Spoonful were added to my ever growing list of must have vinyl. The Beach Boys were added when I heard Pet Sounds. “God Only Knows” is a remarkable song . The harmonies are deep and full. Changes in tempo and time signature reflect Brian Wilson‘s genius. I was set. I was in pop paradise. In 1966-67, as The Beatles experimented with psychedelica, I did as well,  finding  gems in  Blues Image, Spirit, and a host of other insanely talented bands.

The Pretenders

The Pretenders

On my 13th birthday, I received my own drum kit. I had fallen ass backwards into Progressive Rock and was living and breathing Yes; amazing musicians, with the ability to incorporate so many different melodies, time signatures and themes into one perfectly crafted work. Yes led me to King Crimson, Flash and inevitably to Pink Floyd, who made the complex seem simple and the simple sound complete. . How cool was that?  I started a band, but I just couldn’t shake my passion for pop. My fondness for Pagliaro, 5 Man Electrical Band, and Badfinger, created the sound and direction of my musical psyche. New Wave delivered Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and The Pretenders. One of my all time favorite bands,The Pretenders were pure pop. Unforgettable melody lines, great hooks, amazingly simple yet catchy riffs permeated each song. And Chrissy Hynde looked so cool holding a guitar.

Gotta Have Pop

Gotta Have Pop

To satisfy my passion, I have always looked for new artists playing pop. Over the years I have found The Pursuit Of Happiness, The Bob Segarini Band, and Sloan. Segarini is pop genius. His ability to hear the music long before it is ever played sets him out as one of the truly great pop song writers. Once referred to as the Canadian Nick Lowe, Segarini’s Gotta Have Pop  is a classic . I have, more recently found some amazing talent out there in bands named The Creekside Strays, The Micronite Filters, The Research Turtles,  Toxic Melons and The Toniks. There are so many more that I have yet to discover. I can hardly wait! Recently a friend of mine who travels The Oregon Trail looking for new music introduced me to No Small Children. I have just started my auditory stalking of this band so any verdict at this time would be premature. He rarely steers me wrong. I will go on record as saying that they have something, and I suspect it is highly contagious as I can’t seem to stop listening. My fondness for all music lies in  melodies and harmonies. It began with the girl vocal groups and is as strong today as it ever was.

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