Canadian rock legends Triumph are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of Classics with a very special re-issue.
The greatest hits collection was released at the end of 2019 as a double LP pressed on 180-gram silver vinyl. The new Classics contains the 11 tracks on the original album – including hits like “Lay It on the Line” and “ Hold On” – plus live recordings of “Never Surrender” and “Blinding Light Show/Moonchild.”
Triumph was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and was honoured by Canada’s Walk of Fame Canada’s Band in 2019.
Bassist Mike Levine spent a long day chatting with various media around the world, including 519.
You guys recently performed together for a big gig for your diehard fans. What did it feel like being on stage as Triumph once again?
It was pretty cool, but it wasn’t because of us, it was because of the fans that we’re there. It was a really neat event that the film company, because they’re doing a documentary, they wanted to stage something and they figured out it’s a long story. But anyway, 150 of Triumph’s most ardent fans ended up out at the studio and in the metal works complex and we were just going to do a Q and A and we figured “Ah, what the heck? Let’s surprise them and play.” And so we did, and it was crazy. It was like back in the 80s. It was really nuts. And it’s hard to believe that with only 150 fans, but it was. They were totally surprised. They had no idea we were going to play.
That’s awesome. It’s always great to surprise them, right?
Yeah. And then in the film, I hope they get that impact in the film because it’ll be really cool. I don’t think you could reproduce it, but you can get close to it because it was very emotional.
40 years ago Triumph was at the peak of it all with Just a Game and Progressions of Power albums and tours. What do you remember from that time?
Oh geez. The hard work and the amount of fun we used to have. Because without the fun, I mean, I think the reason we lasted as long as we did is that we laughed. And it didn’t matter what it was, it could have been the worst disaster in the world for us. But we’d chuckle our way through it somehow. Somebody would come up with something funny and then we’d all fall on the floor laughing. So we never let anything get in our way or get us down. And I think that was, aside from the music and the touring and all that, that was a part of our success and it’s like we liked to have fun. And our shows were fun. Our shows were not that serious. Our concerts were fun to be at.
Having a popular band back in the 70s and 80s when arena rock ruled, it’s so different from how it is now. Aside from the changes in the industry, it’s just harder now for bands to be “rock stars”. I’m sure it felt like you owned the world when you were on those big stages.
Yeah, for sure. You were there for a reason and you were up there to entertain the fans and that’s why you traveled. That’s why you went to a radio station before the gig. That’s why you did interviews with press before the gig. For that hour and a half that you were going to be on stage, that’s what you led up to. And that was really the only real fun you had. The rest was just plain hard work. The fun part was playing. Because that’s what you did. That was your life. That’s why you were there.
I don’t envy any bands in today’s world. It’s not a pretty place for music. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.
There’s an exciting new release. What makes this a great time for Classic to get re-issued?
Well, it’s the 30th anniversary, which is a good anniversary. 30 is a pretty good number, that’s when that record was issued. But when it first came out, it was what we called in the business a contractual commitment album, which means the record company can do whatever the hell they want with a greatest hits record. So as in most cases, the record company puts out the cheapest piece of product they possibly can to make the most money for themselves. And that’s what they did.
We’ve been living with that for a long time now. And we thought this is a perfect time to really upgrade the whole thing, the package, and make it look like it’s a proper greatest hits. So we went all in cooperation with our new record company, Round Hill Records and it’s on silver vinyl. It’s the best vinyl you can press on. It’s a gatefold package, lots of pictures and fun stuff with the lyrics and everything’s in it and we’re ecstatic with it. And it sounds great, speaking of vinyl, which I love the sound of vinyl now, but always does sound spectacular.
Vinyl is great and you guys put a lot of detail into this.
Yep. We have to do it in a hurry because we hadn’t thought about it. Like, “Oh yeah.” Somebody said, “This is the 30th anniversary of Classic.” We went, “Whoops, you’re right.” Let’s get on it.
So are you on audiophile yourself?
Yeah. I love listening to great music on great equipment and it doesn’t matter what it is, it could be classical music. If it sounds great, I’ll love it. I may not listen to it very often, but I’ll check it out. It’s just I’m a student of sound. That’s how I grew up. I mean, musician in the studio. So you appreciate the efforts that go into making recordings and vinyl is the best reproduction. If it’s good vinyl and it’s done properly, it’s the best reproduction process.
The two live cuts are a really nice touch. Why Blinding Lights Show/ Moonchild and Never Surrender?
That’s a good question and I don’t have a good answer. They were suggested by various people around the band. Number one I get the reasoning was important. Never Surrender was from the US festival, which was probably the biggest show that was ever done in North America of which we were part of. And we played great and that song was just smokes. So that was a good thing. And then the Blinding Light Show was the centerpiece of our concerts for, I’d say the first three years of the band, and never really ever got any airplay or whatever. But the fans loved the song. So we thought we have the live version of that from the Sweden Rock reunion show we did in 2008. So put that on too. And I think they’re both good choices personally.
Do you guys ever get together to just write or jam?
Well, Phil and I played on Rick’s last solo record. We played on a song that Rick wrote, but he asked us, “Hey, can you guys play on this? I wrote it as an old Triumph and it’d be great if you guys could play it.” And we said, “Sure, let’s do it.” So we did that. We’ve been fine since we’ve spent so much time together now in the last three months that we were talking about maybe if somebody comes up with a good song or two, we might go in the studio and mess around, if everybody’s got the time and the inclination to do so. It’s like anything, you just never know what’s going to happen.
What do you think the reasons are that you guys never reunited for more than just the occasional show?
We were planning when we reunited in 2008 for Sweden Rock and the show in Oklahoma, both shows went really well and we started talking tour and Live Nation came to us and said, “Okay, here’s what we want to do and do this amount of dates in Canada, this amount of dates in America.” And then the recession hit and we all sat down and said, “This may not be as good an idea as we thought it was anymore,” because a lot of the key markets got crushed financially. People lost their jobs and their homes and all that. And we didn’t want to go out and not have a good time so to speak. So we just put it on hold. And that recession lasted four years, in America at least. So we just kind of went, “Probably it’s not a good idea anymore.”
You’ve done the Canada Walk of Fame, you’ve done the Classics re-issue. Is there more to come?
Well there’s the documentary coming next September probably. There’s that and there’s a couple of more projects down the pipeline that I can’t talk about right now. But that’s we’ve had so much on our plate, it’s been really, really busy for us. So we’re taking a breather for at least a month over the holidays. And then there’s a bunch of stuff we have to deal with the film and, onward and still promote the Classics LP.