Calling all True Rockers in Montreal!
When I think of a Monster Truck…I think: Larger than life…excitement…thrills…action. Unlike the Monster Trucks that go off-road, Monster Truck the band is going on the road. They will also bring thrills and excitement to the Corona Theatre on March 1st, 2019.
Montreal Rocks spoke with Jeremy Widerman, who was very candid about the struggles of a modern Rock-n-Roll band. I find that refreshing and it just makes me love them more. We spoke of being in the zone during a show and of course, the band’s love of our National Sport: Hockey.
Montreal Rocks: I’m at client’s office, and I told one of the employees who’s working late that I have to use the boardroom to record an interview with a band. He asked what band. I said Monster Truck. He said: No way! It’s my favorite band! Me and my son listen to them all the time. You have a fan here!
Jeremy: Excellent. Always can use one more of those.
MR: It is interesting that it is the type of music that you can pass on to the younger generation. I grew up listening to Rock.
Jeremy: Two points to that. First is that I was introduced to Rock-n-Roll by my father at a very young age. It was embedded in me, 5 and up. Whether it was early on, kind of softer Beach Boys and Buddy Holly, or getting into the more aggressive stuff when I was 10 or 11 years with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. It was just something that was in my household and kind of set the groundwork for where I ended up going in the future. The other thing is that we’ve been happy to hear stories like you just told where we’ve got fans that have kids who are 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 years old who are just as big a fan of the band as their parents are. It feels like you’re helping to curate a new fanbase of rock fans. In addition to the beautiful idea that you’re helping to bring families together by enjoying the same music, it’s all good stuff in that regard.
MR: If you think about it, when you look at the charts, they are all dominated by Hip-Hop. The major concerts, the ones where they get thousands of people are EDM, Hip-Hop & Pop. It’s nice to see that Rock-n-Roll is still alive and well. Do you find that rock is still relevant today, even if that culture has taken over?
Jeremy: It is. I think we’ve got a bit of an issue with trying to get people out to shows. We have a lot of fans and a lot of success with listeners of our band, but we are starting to see a dip and a struggle in getting them out to a live scenario. This is more of a North American issue than a European or U.K. issue where we are tending to have an upswing with more success than we’ve had in the past. We are starting to see a dip in Canada. I don’t know if this is just with our band or if this is a general things going on, but I do feel that people are staying in a little bit more. There are just so many options and things to do in your own living room now. Basically, all movies, all music, all TV are on demand. Sometimes, it’s hard to pry people away from that comfort and the choice to take a chance on a live performance of anybody, whether it’s a comedian, a rock-band, a DJ or a rapper.
It’s alive and well in the fact that there are still a lot of bands playing great Rock music. It’s struggling in the fact that it’s having a hard time sustaining bands in a way that is going to allow them to be around for a long time. I don’t think you will be seeing a lot of the bands that are big rock bands today, still playing shows like The Rolling Stones, AC/DC or KISS are still doing. I don’t think you will be seeing Rival Suns or Monster Truck, 40 or 50 years from now, because we aren’t garnering the kind of success that they had in their younger careers to allow themselves to be relevant 40 years from now, in addition to the fact that the world is changing at a exponentially quicker pace. It’s an interesting time, but tough.
MR: They didn’t have all the distractions they have now. They’ve got the screen right in front of them, or in their pocket when they need their music fix.
Jeremy: Yeah, and I think there’s a whole cross section of our fanbase that never intend on coming to see the show live. They are listening to it on Spotify, and we are not really seeing any revenue from that. It puts ourselves in a tough position because we’re, monetarily speaking, just getting by as a band. We make a living, but it’s constantly a struggle to make sure that we’re not overspending or that we are in a position so that everyone can make enough money to be able to not have another job. That would be impossible anyways, because we are constantly so busy, we don’t have any time to work another job. It is tough, something I don’t really have an answer for, other than we just need to write better and bigger songs so that we can get out of this situation where we are feeling that we are struggling. I still feel a lot of privilege and gratitude that we are even in this position to begin with where we make a living playing music. It’s a hard contract to reconcile sometimes.
MR: You mentioned putting out music and you have a new record that just came out: True Rockers. Two things. One is that this record is getting great reviews. People seem to be loving it. Even the guy in this office was raving about it. More than that, it’s putting the fun back in Rock-n-Roll. It’s making it entertaining and enjoyable.
Jeremy: Yeah. That was something we really focused on when we were working on the record. We had multiple discussions about how we felt that it was like that on our first full length “Furiosity’. Maybe we lost a step or two on the fun factor with “Sittin’ Heavy”, even though it was a pretty successful album for us. It was something we wanted to rectify with this album. We did take steps to ensure that mentality of fun, excitement and whimsy was still relevant and a part of this new album.
MR: What is your definition of a True Rocker?
Jeremy: Honestly, anyone who loves Rock-n-Roll music and whatever that is to them. At the end of the day, the name of the album and the general decision wasn’t as much trying to define or set a rulebook for what a true rocker is, other than the fact that we wanted to write a love letter to our fanbase, who we feel holds and waves that flag still. They are the fanbase that supports real Rock music these days. Again, like you said, having fun with the record, we didn’t want to take it too seriously. I guess there is an element of tongue-in-cheek in there. It’s whatever it means to you, if you feel that way.
MR: It’s guaranteed not to have any trombone, whatsoever, correct?
Jeremy: Holy $#!% dude, we had a guy come in and do #$@&%*! trombone parts on the album…(laughs)
MR: I know, I heard that on one of your interviews.
Jeremy: It may have stood a chance on one of the songs if the trombone player that we brought in didn’t suck so bad. He just wasn’t that good. The idea that our producer had for the song in question was possibly an OK idea.
MR: Maybe it was outside the comfort zone of the player, not something they would normally play.
Jeremy: Yeah, he was having trouble just executing on key. It was just one of those things…
MR: It either works or it doesn’t.
Jeremy: Yeah, and sometimes having things like that, that don’t work, makes it easier to see the stuff that does. You take the good with the bad. It was just one of those things that didn’t work. It helped us appreciate the things that did, that much more.
MR: One that that worked is having Dee Snider on True Rocker. That’s pretty special. What’s the story behind that collaboration? How did you guys meet?
Jeremy: He’s been a huge fan of the band for many years now. He’s a big vocal supporter on Twitter and generally spreading the good word about the band. Our singer Jon came up with the idea of having this evangelical preacher moment on that song He thought that Dee Snider would be perfect. We all immediately agreed and sent it off to him and it was a done deal right away.
MR: It brings a lot of street cred to you guys, having such an established artist from so long ago.
Jeremy: Yeah, that’s a bonus element to it. We’ve had a lot of pressure from our label and management to always get as many guests on the album as possible, just for that very reason. We’ve always been resistant to adding guests onto the record. We’ve always been big advocates of having people on the record that suit the part in questions that we have an idea for. We always try to make sure there is solid creative reasons for inviting someone to play on the record and it’s something we’ve always stuck by. It’s why we’ve always had great guest spots because we think: Hey, we want to have a really great slide guitar part in this song. So we go: Who’s a great slide guitar player? Ian Thornley. It’s a very deliberate process to bring that person onto the album and it allows that person feel useful and do a great job because they were invited in for a specific purpose. Better than just having someone in with the aimless goal of just having them on the record, which sometimes can yield questionable results. Something we have been lucky to have avoided at this point in our career.
MR: It’s a creative decision, not a marketing decision.
Jeremy: Exactly. Always, always.
MR: That give it more of a feeling of authenticity. It also lets the guest player shine, which is important.
Jeremy: Yeah. You get exactly the person that is suited for the job.
MR: What’s interesting is that you guys toured with a lot of bands: Slash, Alice in Chains, Nickelback, Deep Purple. I saw you at least two, if not more times. I remember very clearly Vista Chino. Kyuss fans are pretty intense in terms of their love of the band. They are super friendly in terms of the vibe of the audience, but you played to an audience that probably didn’t know you. They are there for the second band, but yet, you made everyone feel good, they were all having a good time. That’s a gift. You’ve been doing this, constantly, for years now. This is a headlining tour. Now you guys are the one that people are going to see.
Jeremy: Yeah. That’s a very dedicated game plan that we’ve had from the beginning. It’s nothing new or original from our end, it’s the way it’s been done for decades. We always knew, when doing those kinds of tours, that we were building to eventually be able to headline and it’s where we’re at now. It’s encouraging to know that the game plan came to fruition. There’s been situations where it didn’t work out as good as we had hoped.
Opening for Deep Purple was honestly a tough fit for us. In general, when you think of Deep Purple, you think of “Smoke on the Water”, “Fireball” and others like that. Although you are not wrong, they have done a lot of other records since then. They garnered and held a completely different fanbase that’s into Prog Rock. Even though there’s half the crowd there that’s on our page of Fireball and Smoke on the Water, you are playing to a bunch of people who like 12 minute organ solos. That’s not what we do. It wasn’t as good as a fit as we had hoped for and it ended up not being such a conversion tour of gaining new fans as it was just practicing in the arena. You never know with stuff like that. You always do your best.
I wasn’t sure opening for Nickelback was going to be the right move, and it ended up being the best move. It’s very interesting how that works. Perceptions and expectations can be so far off base sometimes, when you haven’t had the experience.
MR: How about the pressure side. What’s the different kind of pressure when you are headlining versus when you are a supporting act?
Jeremy: There is pressure both ways, obviously. When you are headlining, there is a lot more pressure. You are playing a longer show, you are playing a bigger show, a more involved show. You are playing to people that have listened to your records hundreds of times and you don’t want to let them down. When you are opening, it’s a different task. You are trying to impact people as quickly and as hard as possible so that you have the highest change to convert them into fans. We do both. We’ve gotten very good at doing both jobs. Like you said, they are both pressure related. The most common thread between both of them is the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to play well every night. It’s the most important thing and it does serve both purposes which are both different but correlated by the idea that involves us playing our best.
MR: If you are playing the same songs, night after night, you can have a temptation to go on auto pilot and let the music flow through you, but is there a way that grounds you back to those songs or the audience?
Jeremy: I have the best shows when I’m doing what you said first, when I’m just letting it flow through me and I’m not overthinking it. There’s not a lot of pressure, there’s not a lot of analytical thought going into the execution of the music and it’s more so just me living in the moment and using my muscle memory. It’s just doing what I’ve always done, living in these songs. That’s always been my best performances. It’s not something I’m able to do every night, but it is the thing that gets the best results from me personally. I’m sure everyone in the band might have a different answer, but that’s how it is for me.
MR: When you are in that flow state, you are performing, it’s going WOW…do you get a different vibe from the crowd? Do you feel them or are you in a zone?
Jeremy: Exactly. That’s when I’m doing my best. When I’m concerned about what the person in the front row is thinking or if the crowd is having a good time, I can start going down a black hole of needless and pointless thoughts that don’t end in a result of me playing better. They just end in the result of me worrying more. Like I said, the best execution is being in that zone of really just living in the song and not thinking of what else is going on, other than the music. It’s a hard place to be. I find it easier to do when I’ve had a bunch of drinks, which is problematic in its own right because you can’t be doing that.
Jeremy: Yeah, it’s not very sustainable, but it also brings me to the closest point of feeling like I’m outside my own body at that point. It’s an interesting place to be in. It’s a hard place to manifest every night.
MR: A couple of cool things I’ve seen in your career. One of your songs is used as the Toronto Maple Leafs goal song. What’s your relationship with hockey? What’s your earliest memory of hockey?
Jeremy: My earliest, really fanatical memory, where it went from just something that is on the TV to being a full blown obsession was 1993 when my family’s favourite team, the Montreal Canadian went to the Stanley Cup and won. That was when I really latched onto it, early in the playoffs. It was just luck and circumstance that Montreal went all the way through the playoffs and won the cup. That was a really important moment in my life, not just for hockey, but for me and my father. My parents had just recently got divorced, it was just me and my dad. We were bonding over watching the playoff series. It was also that I was 12 years old and I was being allowed to stay up late on a week-day night, for the first time, due to the late nature of the games. It was really an exciting time and it really forged the groundwork for all my future love for hockey. The guys all have their own stories too. It’s something that bonded us. Our love for hockey and Rock-n-Roll, combining them together. I hope to be considered, one day, as Canada’s definitive hockey band.
MR: Definitely, very Canadian. I don’t know if this might be the dirty little secret…your song plays every time the Toronto Maple Leaf score, but yet you’re a fan of the Canadian!
Jeremy: It’s well known. At the end of the day, I don’t subscribe to the rivalry. The Toronto/Montreal rivalry died when they realigned the conferences. 93 was the last chance Montreal and Toronto had could play in the Stanley Cup Finals. Now that’s an impossibility because of the conference structure. Honestly, I was always disgusted by how the team was managed. I have all these friends who love hockey so much and the Leafs have been so bad for so long that it’s finally nice that they have a team worthy of the passion and the love of the team that the fanbase in Toronto have. I’m honestly just excited for my friends and happy to see they have this new lease on life. That the Leafs are actually competitive. Even my team, Montreal is doing a lot better this year. It’s a fun time to be a hockey fan.
MR: You guys are hitting the road in February, just like a hockey team. Instead of skates, you have guitars and drum kits. You will playing West Coast to East Coats, all through February. Are you looking forward to that truly Canadian trek, hitting all the big cities?
Jeremy: Yeah. I have a hard time with tour life, sometimes. The shows are what get me through, and we are really excited to play a lot of these places. Also, for the fans that allow us to travel the world, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
MR: I think it was Keith Richards who said that you spend a third of your career travelling, a third waiting and a third playing music.
MR: We are looking forward to seeing you perform in Montreal. So happy that you guys are headlining. It’s a place where you guys will really shine and be the band that you need to be.
Get your tickets here…if you are a True Rocker: Corona Theatre