I recently had the excellent fortune to catch up with Rob Wade, percussion pilot for new Vancouver band, Touch The Sun, and we discussed the band’s upcoming debut album, presently in the final stages of preparation…
The band is a BC-born project that started approximately four years ago, with drummer Rob Wade, guitarist/vocalist Alex Roque, guitarist Cam Jarvis, and former Annihilator bassist, Russ Bergquist. The band worked to craft an album’s worth of songs for their spectacular debut. During the recording process, Bergquist was brought in to record all the bass tracks and complete the core of the line-up.
(Note: the two covers featured in this interview will not be on the album.)
Touch the Sun is a band poised for success. It’s about time we bring back the music legacy Vancouver once held as the recording capital of North America, through the 90s and early 2000s. Mike Fraser and Mimi Northcott are, of course, still there holding down the fort… Maybe these dudes are the harbinger of good things to come.
Hard working career musicians, with a dedication to their craft; the talent is there, the experience is there, the chemistry is there. These guys have it.
Gonzo has followed drummer Rob Wade’s career for the better part of a decade now. From his percussion mastery with Kill-Rhythm, and Flybanger – a band that was pleasantly rewarded when their single,”Blind World”, was used on the Dracula 2000 movie soundtrack, to early success with JAR – a previous incarnation of the Flybanger.
Gonzo: Many young people dream to be musicians or are driven by the creative spirit. The majority want to take the lead role, as frontman; second on the list: guitar slayer… What drives a man to want to play drums? More specifically, what drove you? What is it about percussion that has kept you dedicated to the art your entire career thus far?
Rob: Honestly, it was easier to take on drums because I had a natural inclination to bash things as a kid: anything I could find, anywhere around the house. So, I built a drum kit out of ice cream buckets on a little wooden rack I made. Carved some sticks from a woodpile and learned my first Kiss record at about five years old. From that point on, I just stuck with it. Got my first real kit before I was ten, and that was it. I didn’t have the patience to learn guitar, or the desire to be a singer. However, I do play some guitar and piano to help me when I’m writing.
Gonzo: What are the top three high points of your career?
Rob: There are many, but I guess signing a record deal was cool at the time. The feeling that I get to do this for a living now is always nice, even though it’s a little tougher to make a go of it these days… And a recent stint on the 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise was pretty cool!
Gonzo: Do you do some of the writing, or collaborating, as far as song and composition go?
Rob: Yes. I co-wrote the material on our record with my singer/guitar player, Alex Roque, at my home. I have a studio where I can write and assemble tracks, and then demo it all.
Gonzo: Putting a band together is a tough business – finding the right fit, in terms of skill and personality. What is most important: talent, experience, band chemistry, work ethic? Or, do you ultimately look for a balance of all four elements?
Rob: A balance of all of them for sure. A band is a business on and off the stage. And if you’re wanting to take your band seriously as a career, it has to fire on all cylinders, or it won’t work. Unless you’re just in it to jam with people of all skill levels….And there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it’s not about business in that case.
Gonzo: Has Touch The Sun, got industry support from key players, given your experience in the industry? Or are you working to forge new in-roads?
Rob: You know, honestly, we have many contacts. Some of them are supportive, and will listen to you and what you’re up to, and some won’t give you the time of day unless you’re doing something cool. And in reality, you can’t get all up in arms if
someone you worked with becomes very successful and can no longer help you. It’s just the way it goes. So we’re just doing something really cool and moving forward.
Gonzo: Main influences for the band overall?
Rob: Well we just did a few classic rock covers for The Police (Synchronicity II) and Cheap Trick (Dream Police). So we have that influential element to the band. But we’re all metalheads too, and you can hear that in our music as well.
Gonzo: Were there times during your career that you considered giving up the drums professionally? If so what kept you in it?
Rob: When my old band lost its record deal in 2002, the band ultimately folded in 2004. I didn’t play for about a year after that. But, I met the next person I would work with at a Music West show (when that was still around) and got right back on the drums. Next thing you know, I’m playing a few projects and still loving it.
Gonzo: What is the song-writing process for Touch The Sun? What direction do you take in terms of subject matter – I mean, it’s tough to write a song these days that appeals to the general audience. Is there always a message or story? Or, do you sometimes take the Ronnie James Dio, or Nickelback approach – or, for that matter, pick any tune from the pop charts these days – that are pretty much a bunch of catchy words or phrases thrown together in cadence with the tune, thus focusing more on beat and rhythm?
Rob: Our process and approach is tailor-made for us. We’re fairly in tune with how a song is supposed to travel. Listening to music all these years has really helped build a vocabulary that we can apply to our songwriting. So we use a method that works for us.
The theme or story will create itself sometimes from just one lyrical phrase alone. Our rule, when it comes to the subject matter of a TTS song, is that has to be genuine and not cheesy, or Alex won’t sing it (laughs). We trust our ears to make sure our material make sense!
Gonzo: Do you have a marketing plan moving forward, to keep relevant, and keep in the eyes and ears of the listening public? I think presently it takes more time and effort to build the groundswell necessary for exponential growth, thus pro-bands are developing market plans for up to two years in advance while courting representation.
Rob: We plan to put our record out in early 2018. We are building a team of people to help us with the release. We’re in talks with a marketing firm that looks pretty promising. Our ultimate goal is definitely for people to hear Touch The Sun on and off the stage. I have stopped worrying about time.
Gonzo: In brief, what is the musical/professional background of each member of Touch The Sun.
Rob: We’ve all been doing this for a long time. I played in Jar/Flybanger (Columbia Records) and did a bunch of touring with those projects. It was pretty much the same for Alex in his band Gladyss Patches (Nfocus Records/EMI); Russ played and toured in the mighty Annihilator and Dusk Machine (Massacre Records). And the three of us have played in other groups together, which made the slide into TTS very easy lol.
Gonzo: What is your perspective on the Vancouver music scene right now? Personally, I feel it is seriously time for the pendulum swing back this way a little, a return to the Rock/Metal/Grunge roots that kept us swimming through the 90s. Vancouver has an amazing musical history – in particular, with studios like Little Mountain Sound, and Mushroom Studios. We need, collectively, as an industry, to build on this – keep it alive and growing. Your thoughts?
Rob: I haven’t paid much attention to the Vancouver scene for some time. Chalk it up to laziness maybe. But once radio here in Vancouver turned its back on local music, everything changed. The support from radio helped bands break to next levels. Jar, Nickelback, Noise Therapy, Default etc. That support is gone and now it’s tougher. I haven’t recorded in a big studio in quite a while. Hey if someone wanted to pay those big bucks and record us then cool. But there’s just too many options to do it at home now. And that’s where I’m at today. Music seems to be a cyclical thing. Here’s hoping it comes around again, with Rock and Metal back on top.