BY MARK WEBER
Platinum selling Canadian rockers Big Wreck are set to release their fifth full-length studio album Grace Street next month and will be heading out on a national tour, making a stop in Red Deer Feb. 3rd at the Memorial Centre.
Their first collaboration with co-producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Grace Street is described as the, “Epitome of sonic diversity, from the grooving One Good Piece of Me to the epic seven-minute instrumental Skybunk Marché, resulting in a trip that lead singer/guitarist Ian Thornley feels no previous Big Wreck album has taken a listener on before.”
Indeed. Frontman Thornley said he still searching for material that wields an unmistakable impact.
“You want to be brought to tears or have the hair on your neck stand up, and if the search for that takes you to new territory then so be it. You have to follow. It’s like chasing a high, and Garth feels that just as much as we do.”
Rounding out the band are Chuck Keeping (drums), Dave McMillan (bass), Paulo Neta (guitar) and Brian Doherty (guitar).
As to his own vision for Grace Street, Thornley describes it as a bit of a changing process as the production unfolds.
“Before you actually start putting things together, you always have one vision but that conversation sort of grows, morphs and evolves through the course of making the album,” he said. “I think the one thing that stayed true through the initial course of those conversations between Garth and myself was we wanted every song on the album to sound like its own journey,” he explains.
“There is a common thread that goes through the record. But it does feel like you are on a journey from island to island – it doesn’t feel like you’ve landed on one continent that is the album.”
Thornley said that the recording process was indeed intricate, right down to how drums were microphoned for certain songs. “The instrumentation and the arrangements were tailored to each individual song,” he said. “That helps me with the journey from beginning to end – every single songs opens up in a different way. Nothing gets boring. Nothing gets stagnant.
“We also both wanted it to feel like records used to feel – like there were human beings making noises.” To that end, there was little in the way of editing or ‘fixing’ things – what you hear is a rich, wonderfully authentic, ‘live-off-the-floor’ sound.
“We would rehearse a bit more, and then go in and capture the ‘live’ performance for the basic tracks. That’s key – there’s a certain energy that you capture when you record that way, and it can’t be duplicated any other way. You can hear the ‘glue’ between the notes.”
Thornley, who was born and raised in Toronto, had a rather early introduction to music – both his parents were artistic in several forms, and there were always tunes playing in the house. Thornley started early with piano, and eventually discovered guitar in his teens.
“My mother was very musical, very talented with a wonderful ear. She was a wonderful singer as well. My father is an artist, a writer – he’s always been at the top of his creative game whatever he’s doing,” explain Thornley.
“I started playing piano at four or five, and took to it pretty quickly. I would hear things on the radio or TV and would run over to the keyboard and pick them out. I developed that part of it pretty quickly.
“I didn’t start with the guitar until I was about 16,” he said, adding that when he later went off to college, guitar was by that time his primary instrument.
“And I certainly never would have found singing. All the way through college it just not my thing. I just started singing because we couldn’t find a singer!”
Meanwhile, the extensive touring trek also hit markets including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Detroit, New York, Boston and more before wrapping in Fredericton.
Formed in the early 1990s while all members were attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Big Wreck saw early success when their debut, 1997’s In Loving Memory Of….
That disc garnered three Top 10 singles (The Oaf, That Song and Blown Wide Open), and a double platinum certification.
“You’re never really looking forward too far,” he recalls of those early days of the guys finding gigs and also carving out their own musical niche. “We were thinking about getting a gig. After that, it was, ‘we’ve got to get more gigs’. Then it was we have to get more songs – we have to get better. We have to get signed. So the goal was to get signed and to make a record.”
The band members went their separate way after the release of their sophomore project The Pleasure and the Greed, but reunited in 2012 with the release of Albatross, which debuted at number five on the Top 200 SoundScan chart in Canada and hit number 25 on the U.S. Billboard Heatseekers chart.
The title-track from Albatross earned Big Wreck the status of being the first Canadian band to hit number one on the Canadian Rock Radio chart in over a year, a position they went on to maintain for six weeks.
Albatross also received a 2013 Juno Award nomination for Rock Album of the Year and earned the band another three Top 10 Canadian Rock Radio singles.
Their 2014 follow-up Ghosts debuted at number five on the Canadian Albums Chart and four on the U.S. Billboard Heatseekers chart and was Big Wreck’s second Juno nominated album for Rock Album of the Year in 2015.
For Thornley, every step of the way has brought a fulfilling means of not only making a living but also staying true to his own creative vision.
”There was never any question that I was going to be doing music for the rest of my life. There’s nothing else I could really do.”
Tickets are available at www.blackknightinn.ca.