Iconic Canadian guitarist Rik Emmett has been a fixture of Canadian rock radio for decades whether as a solo artist or with multi-platinum band Triumph. His hit songs are considered essential Canadian listening – essentials like Lay It On The Line, Hold On and Magic Power are patriotic screams of the 70s and 80s.
We sat down with Rik for a quick chat about his upcoming Q&A session and acoustic performance in London this month at Wolf Performance Hall on Nov. 28.
You’re coming to London for an “Evening of Stories”. What do you have planned for that night?
Well I intend to leave it up to the host who is a guy named Cameron Smiley, and it’s kind of a one on one interview format. He asks questions about different things that have happened in my career and in my life and sort of sets the stage for stuff. So then later on the audience gets a chance to question and answer and I’ve got a guitar handy and if there’s a few things that lead me towards wanting to illustrate something or just play something or somebody makes a request or something that I might illustrate by playing some guitar. But yeah that’s basically the format. I’ve done this a few times before with Cameron up in Orillia and once in Brantford, so pretty comfortable pretty easy relaxed and it’s fun. The one in Orillia was kind of amazing. There was a friend of mine that had been with me in high school who sat beside me when I played violin in the orchestra and stuff, and there was a teacher that was an English teacher of mine from high school whose husband had been one of the football coaches of the football team I was on when I was only 14 years old. She brought pictures and stuff.
So I mean I don’t know if anybody in London is going to pop out of the crowd and go ‘hey remember me’, but it could happen. You never know.
I’m sure you get a million Triumph questions at shows like the upcoming one and in your forum. Do you ever get tired of talking about a band that hasn’t been active for about 25 years?
Good question because guess what’s happening right now. (laughs) Some guys are making a documentary right now and so there’s been a guy that’s been interviewing and the production company that’s doing this for a bit. They’re called Banger Films and they’re doing this thing they’ve done with Rush, Alice Cooper and Metallica. They make these things and they put them on HBO or The Movie Network, so they did and do tons of research and they ask all these questions. So it never really ever goes away. And the answer to your question is I’m human so sometimes yes it bugs me, but most of the time I’m a fairly reasonable kind of human being so I can kind of look at it and go ‘well I can understand why people have a fascination with it’.
It was a type of kind of commercial success on a fairly high level. You kind of become famous on more than one level. I was the rock star wearing spandex pants, jumping around and all of that stuff in the 70s and 80s. I also wrote in Guitar Magazine and then I had a career of my own where I made like 20 some odd albums after I left Triumph. I kept very active as a musician and a performer. I even taught college for over 20 years.
Do you think that you’ll get together again with the guys for another song?
No I doubt it. I mean it’s kind of ridiculous to say no, but I said that to myself when I left the band in 1988 and you know for a couple of decades saying no never seemed enough. And then what happened in 2006/2007. Oh jeez, we got together.
There was a thing that happened were my younger brother got cancer and was really sick and was on his way out of this life. And he’s going through that process of sort of trying to put his affairs in order and make sure that he’s leaving nothing undone or unsaid and he sits me down and says ‘you know you can’t keep carrying around that baggage about Triumph. You got to fix that.’ And I said, ‘How can you be such an asshole that you’re going to make this be about me. Don’t do this to me.’ And he said ‘if you want to make me happy I want you to see if you can fix that.’ Oh my God.
I started talking through intermediaries and there was a thing about putting us in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, so one thing led to another and we started talking about if we were going to play a gig. So we went to Sweden and played a show and then went down the Oklahoma and played a show. So all of the things that I had said no that’s never going to happen; they happened. You better never say never because you never know what’s in store or what will happen when you turn a corner. So I try not to do too much predicting, but having said all that, Gil (Moore) is not really keen on playing drums anymore. You know he really isn’t. And why would I want to force him to do something he’s not keen on. You know it was a very tough gig for him – he sang half the songs and played all the drums. Playing drums in a hard rock band is like running a marathon. You know the amount of work that you have to do is it’s ridiculous. So I don’t blame him for saying no I don’t want to do that again.”
Join Rik for tons of great stories and a little music when he stops at the state-of-the-art Wolf Performance Hall on Nov. 28 for another edition of the Artist Life Stories Series, a show being described as 50 years in Canadian music history – an intimate evening of storytelling and songs. Tickets are $30 and available at Ticketfly online.