In an attempt to get back to a harder edged sound, Canadian rockers April Wine lured guitarist Brian Greenway away from his part-time forklift job and added him to the group in 1977 during the recording of First Glance. Since then, he’s been a mainstay with the Canadian Music Hall of Famers, who are celebrating 50 years as a band this year.
The 11-time Juno nominees are headed to London Music Hall on Oct. 11 for a celebration of all things April Wine. The current lineup consists of Greenway on guitar, Myles Goodwyn on vocals, guitar, Richard Lanthier on bass and newest member drummer Roy Nichol (who also tours with a Journey tribute band called Raised On Radio).
We had a chance to chat with Brian about some of those memories of the last 50 years.
Can you believe 50 years of April Wine this year? Most marriages don’t last that long. So what are you guys up to for your 50th? Are you doing anything special?
We’re all getting married. No, nothing special. We’re just doing our normal year, and of course announcing it on stage. I mean, what can you do for 50 years other than keep doing it?
I don’t know what special things you could do. I mean, you have t-shirts, you have hats and you have stickers. You announce it on stage and thank the people for supporting us for that long.
We thought about it and said, “What can you do?”
I mean, we could have a big bash, but how does that work? Or you could put out an album, we didn’t do that. But that’s the problem these days. There would have been a 50th year album, but who’s going to play it? I mean, radio plays our old songs. Which at one point were new, so they played them then.
It’s strange how they’re not playing the newer stuff, but they keep playing the older stuff.
Hey, you’ve been part of April Wine for so long, I didn’t realize that you weren’t there at the beginning. So, how did it all happen?
I missed it by seven years. I was asked to join them. A fellow I played with in two other bands, was doing the bass player at that point, the late Steve Lang. And I remember seeing him at a music hall and he said, “Oh, has Myles talked to you yet?” And I said, “No, why would Myles talk to me?” He says, “Oh, you’ll find out.” Yeah with a big smile on his face. It was nothing bad.
And I had actually auditioned. Well, I had a meeting with Myles in 1973 when they were looking for a guitar player, but I didn’t make the cut then.
So I was asked to come back, well, four years later right? I was brought in. And I knew everybody, except Myles. I didn’t know Myles that well, but I knew the rest of them quite well from playing in different bands and doing shows with them while I was in other bands. So I was quite delighted. But I was asked to join, and you know, “Okay well you’re going to join for the summer tour and if it works out you’ll be a permanent member.” So I was on probation for three or four months.
50 years is a long time to be playing music, you know, not many bands hit that mark. So what keeps you and April Wine going?
Short memory. The fans, the dates, making a living of it, paying the bills, because we could make a living doing it. The love of the job, the love of playing an instrument, the love of traveling, the love of playing for your fans. Making it sound like the first night, every night.
At your age, most people are starting to, retire and settle down. Does performing keep you young and agile?
Oh yes it does. I mean the word “play” is our job description, right? We play music. We don’t work music. So when we go to work, we play. And so therefore it’s not a job, so there’s nothing to retire from.
From a music standpoint, it seems like the band got heavier when you joined. Or at least it seemed that way.
It might’ve. That was my style, I guess I was a little heavier. Myles was approaching that direction, but also at the same time the albums leading up to when I joined we were a little lighter as well. And when I joined, the group took a harder edge in the music. So if that was because of me, I’ll take credit for it. But I think it was just the way it worked out.
My husband saw you guys on the Attitude Tour, and he said that still to this day, it’s the loudest club show he’d ever seen. Are you guys still, you know, are you still as loud and hard as that day?
No, we got so many complaints about the volume. What it turned out to be was the sound man just mixing it. When he left, things quieted down.
Also Jerry, when he left the band things quieted down too, because he was sort of half deaf. So he would have these giant monitors so he could hear himself on stage. So the louder he became, the louder we had to become. And the louder we became on stage, the louder that the mix had to be out front.
It was like a domino effect. But now we try to keep quiet, and there are decibel level laws now in places and codes. So we don’t get over, you know 100, 105 decibels.
It was outrageously loud. I remember playing California in that Attitude Tour, and we weren’t asked back to places. We cut the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. It was just, we were too loud. I mean I go see a band that’s too loud, and I don’t enjoy it. It’s just it’s not music anymore, it’s just sonic noise.
Since we’re talking harder, this year is the 40th anniversary of Harder … Faster. What do you remember about recording that album?
Oh, that was so much fun in 1979. Because we were up in the studio in Warren Heights. We had it for three months. It was on a private lake, we had a nice house to live in, very beautiful. We had a cook to cook for us, we went out to nice restaurants every night for dinner. It was just perfect, you know. And we made just perfect use of it by drinking every night at dinner and not going back to work and waking up hungover. Not getting music done. Yeah. Yeah. It was a lot of fun. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a session.
You play music, you’ve been doing it for years, but what do you do for hobbies and relaxation? I know you walk your dogs.
I have a little acoustic solo act together. I go out and play so I can keep my chops up in front of people, because nothing like playing in front of people to make that happen. You play in your basement by yourself, and you know it just… You’ve got to keep your chops up. And then I have a five-piece blues band that I have called The Blues Bus. And we go out and do that when I’m home. I just like to keep playing.
I know Harder … Faster has one of your songs on it. I was hoping you could tell me about it? It’s the song Before the Dawn.
Before the Dawn, boy I wrote that song in 20 minutes sitting on the floor of my townhouse in Pointe-Claire, where I had a townhouse at one place. And I don’t know where it came from. I just remember sitting in the hallway in between rooms with my guitar, and all of a sudden it was like I was a conduit for it. And I’ve heard that other times, from other writers, and suddenly this song comes out of you and you don’t know where it came from.
Yeah, there’re words and everything. I said, “I wish I could write a bunch more like that.
I saw a really weird CD many years ago. It was a dual album with Great White. I was wondering what is the weirdest place you’ve ever seen April Wine’s, music, image, or logo appear?
Oh, well there was a stripper in Vancouver and her name was April Wine. That’s her stage name she was using. And she was also using our logo. And she would pose naked on her pictures, her promo pictures on our albums. And you would see every now and then someone would send us, “Oh I see you’re playing at this strip club?” Because you see the logo and April Wine was appearing there. But it wasn’t us, it was her. So we had to send her a cease and desist notice. So that was probably the weirdest thing. And actually she came out to a show with her husband and met us, and she was quite proud of the fact she was using our name. And we said, “No, you can’t do that.” And so that’s probably the weirdest thing.
There’s lots of history with April Wine, but what are some of your favorite memories?
Doing the tours with Rush and Styx, and we were so lucky to be opening for them across the United States. And with Nazareth, 1978 in Germany with King Crimson, and Neil Young, and Jethro Tull in Munich and Frankfurt for Labor Day weekend playing in front of like 125,000/135,000 people in these places.
Just meeting Brian May in Germany, hanging out with him one night at a place called the Sugar Shack.
Just the people you meet, the places you see, and realize that everybody’s the same. We just have different languages.
Those are great memories..
You’re headed to London this month. Is there anything special or memorable that happened at any gigs in the city that you’ve had?
Yes, in fact in 2005 we played there with Deep Purple at the O’Keefe Center, I think that’s what it was called back then. And this was our third show with them in the space of three days. Myles and I were invited up for the encore to jam with them on Smoke On The Water. So that was quite something being on stage with Don Airey, and Steve Morse, and Roger Glover, Ian Paice and Ian Gillan playing Smoke On The Water. Because every guitar player, that’s one of the first songs they kind of learn, you know. And to be playing it with the real guys was quite an honor. I have it on film actually, someone filmed it for me that night, and it’s a nice memory to have.