Along with Rush, Triumph was one of the first HUGE hard rock bands to come out of Canada in the late '70s. Catching everybody's ear with a cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way", the band developed into a unit that was just born for the stage along with the radio. Drummer Gil Moore, guitarist Rik Emmett and bassist/keyboardist Mike Levine had it all. They were charismatic, had great songs and one mother of a stage show. They were recently inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and I caught up with Gil Moore to look back at the band's career.
antiMusic: Hi Gil, how are you doing?
Gil: I'm great, thanks Morley. How are you?
antiMusic: Great thank you. I can't tell you how much of a pleasure and thrill is for me. I spent the late '70s and '80s immersed in Triumph and saw every show in Ottawa. I was managing a record store when Progressions of Power and Allied Forces came out and that was just so much fun to be able to play your records all day. Beyond that, Rock N Roll Machine, the record, is just a classic piece of music and you guys were magic live.
Gil: I appreciate that very much.
antiMusic: Congratulations on being inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. When did you find out and what was your reaction?
Gil: Thanks Morley. I guess it was about a month ago and you know, obviously I was really flattered that we were considered. And it's really gratifying to know that our music meant something to everybody in the industry as well people in the public so I'm very happy about it.
antiMusic: Did you call the other guys right away?
Gil: No actually, I guess what happened is they were contacted individually, like we all got letters and then we spoke after the fact. It provoked getting together with Rik. Which was great because we now have a really great, new-found relationship again with Rik so I was very happy about that.
antiMusic: Some people look back on their musical past with pride and others just can't relate to it any more. Seeing as you haven't been actively involved in the recording/playing (your own stuff that is) side for a long time, how do you view your catalogue of work at this point?
Gil: Ah, you know, I just see a long-running movie in my mind of these three guys, that starts in this bowling alley in Mississauga and (laughs) you know, with delusions of grandeur in their minds and all the effort that went into wanting to launch our vision and then seeing the journey through all the nooks and crannies of the United States and the rest of North America. And feeling great about the results. It's funny, you know. Musically, it's the little cornerstone things that happen along the way with different songs. I mean the first song being on CHUM-FM (influential radio station in Toronto in the '60s and '70s) which was "Street Fighter". The very first time I ever heard Triumph on the radio, that was a really big thrill.
antiMusic: No kidding.
Gil: But then again later on there are different things, you know. Having songs in the market even be #1 as opposed to...you know, we never had a lot of hit singles. Our albums sold well, but we weren't a hit singles band. But we had singles that were #1 regionally, in areas and so on. So those are little achievements that are interesting to look back on.
antiMusic: Die-hards of the band know all this but for casual fans or people who are just discovering you, how did you guys meet and how did the fan come together?
Gil: Well, Mike and I were playing in a part-time band and, you know, we were both sorta disillusioned with the fact that we could never seem to be successful with our bands. I mean, we loved it, but like a lot of bands, you try, try, try and just kick on doors and nothing opens. And Mike had actually been working for a record company for a while, so he started to learn a little more about how things worked. And I had a little sound company that I had started so we were both you know still playing but we were also on the business side of the business. And one day we were sitting around saying "Wouldn't it be cool to start a band, knowing what we know now and get guys who were really serious about making it." And you know, a lot of the guys that we played with had had what we considered to be very part-time attitudes. So we were determined not to work with that type of guy. Get someone, real eye of the tiger type. And then we whittled it down to the concept of a three piece band. Then we went out looking for a guitar player, You know we tried a few guys out. We rehearsed with a couple and nothing really jelled, and then, fortunately we got a tip and we heard of Rik. And we went and found Rik and pitched him with the idea of what we wanted to do. And he liked it and he joined the band and we started to rehearse. And that was it. We found him at the Hollywood Tavern and that's how it really started.
antiMusic: Right from the get-go, it seemed like you guys were very aware of the positive aspects of a full-on stage show. Were you all on the same page early on with how to present things?
Gil: Yeah, yeah. Even Rik's band, when we went to see him, they had a pretty good stage show. It was kinda odd that that was the case. But he wasn't just the guitar player that we wanted. He also had this, a little bit of a theatrical bent to the band he was playing in. and we always intended from day one that Triumph was going to have a lot of theatre.
antiMusic: How did the show evolve from the beginning cuz by the end the light show, the blinding light show, and everything was just amazing, but I'm sure it didn't start that way from the first show?
Gil: We started with a lot of home made stuff because we didn't have, you know, we didn't have all sorts of money that you need to put on great productions. But we had the advantage of the fact that I had the sound company as miniscule as it was. I still had a lot of equipment, so we were able to start out with an oversized p.a. system which was sort of like step #1, and Mike and I went to the musicians' credit union and we borrowed a bunch of money. Probably that was the only place we could've got a loan. I don't think the bank in a million years could have loaned money to a rock band to buy lighting equipment. But we went to the musician's credit union, and we were able to borrow $10,000 dollars which was, back, then I don't know, like a hundred thousand today. And so we promptly went out and spent it on a whole bunch of fancy lights. And that's really how it started. We owned our own stuff and eventually of course, when the scope of things grew, and it was pretty soon actually, it was just a few years, we started to work with production companies. And we were fortunate enough to find some of the best people, I think, in the industry in North America. We worked with a company called DB Sound out of Chicago and Harry Weiss who was their president; he became our front of house sound man. And he was just incredible. So we always had great sound our whole career once we hooked up with DB. And we were lucky as well with lighting. We ended up with a company…they don't exist anymore…but they were called Lighting and Sound Design, and they had, I thought the most advanced lighting equipment and the best designers and so on. And a laser company called Laser Media in California which they were way ahead of their time too. So I felt like we had this cooperative of people that were really cutting edge on the production side and they really bought into the idea that we wanted to have a show that was really, I don't know, ahead of the curve a little bit as far as theater and so on, and it turns out that, you know, that was maybe the case. That was one of the things that really helped and as we called it we used to rate a lot of the production aspects of what we did with a thing called NGE which was Net Gasp Effect, (laughs). We always rated things in terms of units of NGE.
antiMusic: Like I said, I saw every Triumph show in Ottawa,… all the ones at the Civic Centre and Lansdowne Park. The ones with Harlequin opening, who I really liked as well were especially great. Seeing as how live shows were a big part of your band, did you personally really enjoy them, or were they just a means to an end of getting the record in people's hands.
Gil: No, I really enjoyed it. I don't know where I got my interest in it. But I was always experimenting with pyro stuff at home, in the backyard. And I knew a few people in the lighting industry, that you know, had a lot of experience with Vegas style shows and so on. And I was always just fascinated by it. And later on that changed when I got into recording studios and so on, and I became fascinated with music sound effects, and you know, that whole aspect of the sound landscape. But for live shows I was just always knocked out with the idea of being able to have you know, a real sense of theatre that a lot of the early rock bands didn't have. You know when you looked at, you know, when the Beatles and the Stones first came over and you know, had these little tiny p.a. systems that you couldn't hear and a couple of Christmas tree bulbs to light them up. Our era was very exciting because technology had improved tremendously and you had all sorts of speakers and lights and different effects and so on that you could bring into play with rock bands. And there were a lot of the bands that started out with like Alice Cooper's first tours and everything. They were very theatrical. You know KISS was the same way, you know. Kiss in '74 - '75 , I mean they were doing things that were really exciting. We've all seen it now. You've seen it so many times that it's kind of like, "Oh yeah, well, I've seen it." But the first few times like in the late '70s and early '80s, I mean it was…nobody had ever seen it. So I think that was kinda a great era for live performance. Now you go out and see all the country bands, and (laughs) they've got these big shows, you know. It's not just for the Stones now or U2 or whatever, it's Rascal Flatts.
antiMusic: Unlike The Guess Who or other bands, it seemed like you developed a big following in your home country right away, although obviously in size it couldn't compare to the States. You guys always played at least the major cities in Canada on each tour. Was it important for you to keep your profile in Canada or was it just a matter of you'd play for any audience willing to see you.
Gil: No I think there's a bit of pride that goes along with your own country. After all this is where you're bumping into people. You live here. And we never became...we, you know, never moved to Los Angeles and did that whole deal. You know, we just stayed. Rik still lives around the corner from me here in Mississauga, and you know, I still live in the same neighborhood. Mike still lives in the same neighborhood. So, you know, we always wanted to do well in Canada. We're Canadians. We love Canada. Love the music scene up here. It was very important to us.
antiMusic: For some reason, Texas went nuts for you early on. Did you kinda nurture that market or did they just out of the blue take to you?
Gil: They somehow out of the blue just took to us. You know, we got airplay down there somehow. It started at one station in San Antonio. Then it kinda spread from there and when we went down for whatever reason, it was just, you know, one of those things you can't describe. The fans…I know from bombing enough times when my early bands, I know what it's like to not be liked (laughs). It's a very distinct feeling, you play, and people start yawning, kinda looking the other way, mingling amongst themselves and then they generally just kinda walk out towards the exits. (laughs) So when you get the opposite reaction, it's just like, a polar opposite. It's like a magnetic field, you can feel everybody, you know, and you get this really intense feedback from the audience and everybody getting really fascinated by what's going on, on stage. It's electrifying. So you know that's what happens. There's no mistaking it. It's like gravity; it only goes one way. There either heading for the exits or they're not. And this was an amazing experience down there and to see these people that were at this point…we've got these three guys from Toronto who've never really been anywhere. Well I shouldn't really say that about Mike because Mike was a bit of a world traveler. But Rik and I weren't. And you go three thousand miles away and here are all those people from different climate, first of all. (laughs) It's really a big shock when you're a hockey-playing kid from Toronto and you go down to the flat plains of Texas with the sun beaming down on you, and these people are just electrified with what you're doing. So it's really exciting just to think that they're that far away. Of course later on, that seems silly to say that but you know when you're first starting out, that's a big deal.
antiMusic: Absolutely, and you'd be how old at that point...early 20s?
Gil: Yeah, early 20s. So you know, it's a lot. And we weren't…there was no Internet. It wasn't as sophisticated then as it is now. Now you can throw your head up on YouTube and everybody knows who you are five minutes later. I mean, this was before MTV, before MuchMusic.
antiMusic: I know the US Festival happened later on which was big but you also played the Texas Jam and the California Jam 2, did you not?
Gil: We never played California Jam 2. No the confusion there is that the promoters of Canada Jam were the same company as Cal Jam. So Canada Jam and Cal Jam were part of the same era and the same people: Lenny Stogel put the show on. So we played Canada Jam. But the US Festival. That festival was certainly the most significant event we'd ever played.
antiMusic: How many people did you play for?
Gil: Well first of all there was two US Festivals so the one I'm refereeing to was '83 and it was the day --- it was a multi-day show --- so the day we were there, the reports that I heard were between 350 thousand and half a million. Most of the press reports are half a million. Steven comes out in his book actually saying that they lost a lot of money because a lot of people got in for free. So in that sense, it was similar to Woodstock and they lost control of the gate. It was UN-believable. Like I have aerial photography of the whole thing and there might be a way to figure it out. I don't know if they'll ever figure it out exactly how many people were there. But it was just an absolute sea of people, it was like a city.
antiMusic: Great from both aspects…from the crowd aspect and it must of have been cool to catch up with some of your other friends in other bands that you probably toured with along the way
Gil: Yeah, it was quite an amazing bill. Like the day that we toured, every band on the bill was in their own right an arena headliner in the Los Angeles area. So between Van Halen and Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne, Triumph and Judas Priest. I mean any one of these band could do very well on their own, but they were all on one bill, all on one day. They called it Heavy Metal Sunday and it was quite an amazing line-up.
antiMusic: Of course you wrote half the songs but you also split vocals with Rik. Was this the case from the very first practice or how did this go over? I mean vocalists and guitarists are always pretty protective of their territory. Now you're dealing with a vocalist/guitarist in the same person. I know there were obvious differences with Rik later on with regards to direction, but was splitting the vocals ever a point of contention?
Gil: No. It was actually the other way around. This kind of you take it. No you take it. We started out, we realized to have a three piece band, to do what we wanted to do theatrically, Rik needed to have a lot of mobility. He needed to be able to get around the stage, because we had a lot of ideas for lighting cues and so on where he was going to need to be a long ways away from …he couldn't be on a spike in front of a mic in other words. So it was kind of a necessity that I sang and I didn't really like singing, so it really wasn't something that I wanted to do. It was something I was kinda forced to do. So we didn't have…we had ways of dividing up songs and it was just, it was just like kinda water, it just naturally migrated you know. This song goes to you. I'll do this one and you know there were never any problems that way.
antiMusic: Was it hard for you to do both at the same time.
Gil: Yeah, really hard.
antiMusic: at that time, you can probably could count on one hand the number of drummers who also sang. Henley and Donnie Brewer and Phil Collins.
Gil: Yeah, there were hardly any. You know I've always said, it's kinda like being an electrician and a plumber on the same construction site; eventually you're going to have your hand in the fuse box and you're going to touch the drain and you're going to electrocute yourself. (laughs) And I did a few times. (laughs)
antiMusic: How did the Metalworks Studio happen and tell us a bit about how it's evolved from its early days to what you're doing now?
Gil: When originally Metalworks was started when I went to Mike and Rik and said "Can I have a little bit of money to build some sort of rehearsal space where we could record ourselves?" And you know, they said okay. And six months later or so, I got carried away and I went back and said: "Can I have like a whole pile of money to go build something nice?" And they said okay. And then I came back and said: "Gee can I have an even bigger pile of money to build something world class?" So we sort of in very very short order went from being a rehearsal hall with a tape recorder in it to having a 48 track which at the time was state of the art, and a great big fancy console, and so we built it up. I guess it was very very quick. And we used it to do our recording. And then when we weren't there, one of our guys from our crew they would lease it out to some other bands. And we had some really great records that were made there in the early days. A lot of Haywire's hits, pretty much all of them were recorded at Metalworks in the very early days. Same thing with Tom Cochrane, same thing with Platinum Blonde, their big records…there were a lot of bands like that. It was a good studio, a really good studio when it was finally finished. And it stayed like that for a very long time. And then when we split up in '88, Mike and Rik sorta pointed at me in a meeting and said "You've gotta take it because you're the only one who knows how it works." (laughs) So that's how I ended up deciding that's what I sorta wanted to devote my life to…getting on the other side of the business. So Metalworks then went into a big expansion phase which ended up with where we are now. We have six studios plus we have a graphics department and a video department. And we've actually have morphed into three companies: we have a school. We have a fully separate private vocation school with 200 students that are studying music recording and entertainment business management and live production. We have another division that's a live production company where we do sound and lighting and staging and video. We're actually out doing the Tom Cochrane's tour that's starting in a day or so with that company. So Metalworks now is kinda three separate companies that all operate under the Metalworks banner.
antiMusic: You've been in this part of the industry for quite a while now. Can you ever foresee the day when you might pick up the sticks again, whether it be for Triumph or another band?
Gil: I can't see doing it unless it was to do with Triumph. I played drums ever since I was very young. And you know, it was a great ride with Triumph and the day we walked off stage I just kinda put the sticks away and went okay, that was then, that was that part of my life and I'm so excited every day, you know doing what I'm doing now, I can't wait to get to work every day and you know, I work with my oldest daughter when she's not at university, she's here. She works beside me. So that's a real thrill to work with her. My feeling when I was with Triumph was always I loved it. I loved every minute of it, but the travel was really taxing because I grew up in a close family and the idea of not being around when my kids were growing up was not appealing to me at all. I wanted to have a family. Be close to them. So it was through Metalworks that I could do that and still stay in the business and still be in contact with everybody that I knew and in the field that I loved but be able to raise a family and be close to them.
antiMusic: How are you planning on celebrating after the ceremony either with the band or personally.
Gil: (laughs) Well, I don't know. My kids are all going to be with me and you know, it's going to be great to be there with Mike and Rik and their families too. And there's an after-party at the Hard Rock that Q107 are throwing for us. So we're going to go from the ceremony to the after-party and it should be good.
antiMusic: I know it's hard to narrow it down, but do you have a favorite Triumph song? "Follow Your Heart"?
Gil: (long pause) I think "Fight the Good Fight" is probably my favourite Triumph song, you know. It just was one that I just, I don't know…part of it comes from, liking the way, I played it. (laughs) It's the simplest way I can put it. I just like playing it. It's a fun song to play. And I like the lyrics that Rik wrote but there's a lot of Triumph songs that I really like. You mentioned "Follow Your Heart", and I like that song too. But while most of my favourite songs are Triumph songs, a lot of my favourite songs are also somebody else's. I think that's natural. We're all fans of somebody.
antiMusic: I could talk to you all day, I mean literally. Once again this is a real thrill, Gil. Thank you for taking the time. And congratulations once again on the induction.
Gil: Well thanks very much Morley. And I thank you very much for taking the time to interview me.
Morley and antiMUSIC thank Gil Moore for taking time out to speak with us.