Text by Bruce “Mole” Mowat, with new intro by Robert Barry Francos
Live images by RBF; album covers from the Internet
Interview © 1988; RBF intro © 2010 by FFanzeen
The following article/interview with Canadian rocker and Hamilton, Ontario legend Dave Rave was originally published in FFanzeen magazine, issue #15, in 1988. It was taken from a May 1987 CFMU-FM broadcast in Hamilton, Ontario. I’ve seen him play a number of times now, and he’s a blast, whether he’s doing his rock stuff, his softer material with Lauren Agnelli, or when he shows his jazz side with Mark McCarron. For a while, back starting in 1985, Dave had replaced lead singer Frankie “Venom” Kerr (d. 2008: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztWlilC-e70&feature=related) in Teenage Head, until Frankie eventually came back. Dave has had many bands and projects over the years, and is still heavily recording and touring. I recommend picking up both of his collected works from Bullseye Records of Canada, Dave Rave Anthology I and II. All Web links are, obviously, added in for this revision.– RBF, 2010
[Teenage Head at Tramps, in New York]
Teenage Head is Canada’s best-known and potentially its best ever rock’n’roll band. In the past couple of years there has been a personnel shake-up. This is a conversation with Dave “Rave” DesRoches, the new lead singer for “The ‘Head.”
FFanzeen: Can’t Stop Shakin’ is the first record that establishes yourself as the new lead singer of Teenage Head.
Dave “Rave” DesRoches: That’s right. The way Shake Some Action identified new Flamin’ Groovies’ Chris Wilson into the band after Roy Loney left.
FF: Yeah, it’s sorta the same situation. So Roy Loney leaves and does his thing and the middle part of the band, George (Alexander, bass) and Cyril (Jordan, guitar) carry on with the new lead singer. Except that Teenage Head have a longer history.
Dave: I guess so.
FF: You go back to the first gig [Hillview Street Dance – BM]. And that was in ’74, right?
Dave: Yeah. ’75. About that time period.
FF: And it was warm out.
Dave: It was very warm out. It was a nice night. I remember that really well. It was a nice period of time, too.
FF: And naïve at the time, too. Young and naïve.
Dave: Very naïve.
FF: And you grew up in the same neighborhood – Westdale High School. But you went separate paths from Teenage Head.
Dave: Yeah, well, you see, I was interested in doing original material more and, at that time, in 1975, the band I was trying to put together wasn’t exactly welcome in the bars. Not that its any more welcome in ’87, but the band I was trying to put together then was similar to I guess what would be a pop equivalent – Squeeze or Crowded House. Not to that extreme, but more rock’n’roll than those bands. But it was more of a pop style of band. And at that point, Deep Purple and Doobie Brothers were “in” in the bars. If you didn’t know “Machine Head” and “Captain and Me,” you couldn’t play in the bars. It’s like that today; if you don’t know U2 and Led Zeppelin, you can’t play.
FF: Both yourself and the Head during the past 12 years pursued original material anyway.
Dave: Yeah. Pardon me, I should correct myself there. Teenage Head were going through quite a unique thing, too, at this time. They were doing New York Dolls, the Dictators, and Aerosmith, and more in the Glam rock vein until the Ramones came along. And I think that’s when that sound sorta got into Teenage Head, too.
FF: But you maintained ties throughout that period. On every Teenage Head album, you or Rick Andrews (The Shakers), or a combination of the two, have always materialized.
Dave: And a reason why, again, was because it was our neighborhood. Number two is that you had to be a fool – and there were a lot of fools, too – not to realize how good Teenage Head were, though maybe at the time, people were saying, “Oh well, they don’t sound like King Crimson,” or “They’re not jazz-rock,” or they’re not this rock. I knew, instinctively, when I heard them play, that there was something there that was magic. Oodles of magic. And I could tell because of the old Al Kooper theory: if Al Kooper walked out of a concert, you know it’s a good gig. No, I knew from the very first gig, the way people reacted so violently against the band, that this was a good band.
FF: When you had only an association with the ‘Head, doing backing vocals and that, what would they ask, specifically, you to do on the record? I mean, did you stick with vocals or would you contribute other things as well?
Dave: To be honest with you, I guess they knew I could play guitar, and also know a little bit about music and was pretty flexible. Maybe I was one of the few musicians that could sing harmony that they knew so I contributed a bit with the vocals. I contributed a bit on rhythm patters with Gord (“Lazy Legs” Lewis, guitar) and played some rhythm guitar. We’re all from the same background. I knew what they were doing.
FF: That was it for, what, a good four or five albums?
Dave: Really. And I think Frank (Venom, vocals) felt comfortable with me singing with him ‘cause we had a certain pitch that was similar. I could blend with his voice very easily. Sometimes it almost sounded like double-tracking. It was very easy to do. So I guess they trusted me. They knew I had studio experience. But on the whole, I think it was just to be there, and have some fun and drink some beers with the boys, and that was really the main thing.
FF: What is your background? Where did your interests original lie?
Dave: Well, my own background, I think, arrived right from when I was very young, and it was just listening to the radio – AM radio. I can remember listening to the radio and my first knowledge is around ’62-’63. A lot of my cousins were quite older than me. My sister is five years older than me. She was a perfect Beat Generation Baby Boomer. So when the Beatles, the Stones, the Herman’s Hermits, Animals (arrived), she was right into all of it. I, being five years younger, being six or seven, was perfectly influenced. I loved it, y’know? It just sounded so alive to me. So I originate from there and, as I grew older, I got into everything my sister would get into. Then, finally, by 1971, I guess, Alice Cooper and Glam, just like everybody else. So my background might be able to stretch back a little bit further than a lot of my peers because a loft of them maybe wouldn’t have had the older ones in the family that I did. So my background comes from AM radio. Bubblegum, pop music; I really like that. And that’s still where I come from, to be honest with you.
FF: Right. In the mid-‘70s, you chose to go along with what was left of the coffeehouse circuit.
Dave: Because that was where we could do our original material and our own stuff was harmony, ‘cause I performed with Rick Andrews. I think he came into the picture in ’72, and we started writing in ’73. It seemed an acoustic guitar was easier to bring into a place than a full band. We could still practice with the band on the weekend but we could go into an acoustic situation very easily, maybe make about $100 or $50 or something like that. We could always do that, where a band wasn’t feasible. That’s why we stuck with the acoustic thing. ‘Cause the ‘Head, in those early years, scraped along.
FF: Oh, yeah
Dave: Well, there were a few gigs. I t wasn’t until 1977, really – that’s when they started to get a chance to play because all of a sudden a new attitude came through. You could feel it coming. Still, in ’76, the place Duffy’s was a big deal and that was still Top-40, really. Max Webster was one of the original bands – Canadian bands – around the (Hamilton) area. But there wasn’t anybody around saying, “Oh, wow, here are another Talking Heads-type band.” So, really, the ground had to be broken somewhere.
FF: Okay, now the Shakers. That developed basically from you and Rick, and for a long time it was a folk duo.
FF: Then you did the single of “Out the Door.”
FF: Now, at that particular time – this is the fall of ’79 – you cut this first single. Was this an off-the-cuff thing?
[Dave Rave, New York, 2007] Dave: Yeah, it really was. We knew we had to record. I had done backup singing up to that point at Grant Avenue (Studio) doing commercials and singing on friends’ albums. Teenage Head, in ’77, did “Picture My Face,” and started doing their very first album (self-titled) and the demos. We sorta looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we do something.” We actually planned “Till I’m Gone” as the A-side, and for the B-side, we said, “Let’s do ‘Out the Door’,” a song we had just written. We were really just getting into (the Dave Edmunds album) Get It at the time. Get It really killed us; it was such a great album. Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe together; we finally found the picture that we could fit into. And the Flamin’ Groovies’ Shake Some Action, those two combinations made sense to us. Harmony rock’n’roll was back in. It wasn’t just a screaming singer.
FF: So “Out the Door” is a very flippant sort of thing.
Dave: Yeah. It was going to be “Poison Ivy” originally. The production of it was sorta like Trouble Boys and “Here Comes the Weekend” [a Hamilton band and from Get It, respectively: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_ADCbFOaAQ – Ed.]. That was really our whole idea. Then suddenly we realized we didn’t have a lead guitar player at the time, and Gord Lewis was perfect for this tune ‘cause of the rhythm. So I called up Gord and, of course, Gord said yes, he’d love to do it. We also met Bill Billon and Dan Lanois [who later went on to produced Peter Gabriel, Eno, U2, etc. – BM; http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/Pop_Encyclopedia/L/Lanois_Daniel.html - RBF] at that session, so in a lot of ways it was a real meeting point. Like, I knew Danny before from other sessions, but that’s when we really started working together as a team.
FF: You knew Danny when he was doing a lot of the Woodshed productions.
Dave: That is not a well known thing. All the ‘70s Woodshed stuff with the Dave Essig stuff [ www.davidessig.com/production.html - RBF] and the whole local folk scene, all that engineering was done with Danny up in Ancaster (Studio) before Grant Avenue. That’s how I got to know him. We were always doing commercials and very jazzy things, professional sounding things, or very acoustic things. I said, “Danny, would you like to do some rock’n’roll?” And he said he’d love to do it. We got him in and it was really fun. I mean, real easy.
FF: I don’t think people realize the importance of the Shakers because if (Dave) Edmunds and (Nick) Lowe were the first harmonized rock’n’roll stuff to re-emerge, the Shakers were certainly the only equivalent I can think of in Canada.
Dave: I honestly don’t think there’s anyone else. I guess in the States a few groups, but not really that many. And I’m a bit proud of that, because I think what we tried to do was take Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe/John Lennon & McCartney, and early Everly Brothers, and just made it 1970s/’80s. Then, musically, the sound of the late ‘70s and the early ‘80s, which is the rhythm guitars playing a lot of eights and the drums playing very fast, with what I call the “bean-beat.” That’s the wrong word for it, but I call it that: when you do a lot of “bennies” – the “bennies beat.” That, to me, is the ultimate of that sound. That’s pretty well what we were doin’.
FF: Just a bit of history on the Shakers. You’re pretty well a two-year phenomenon – ’80-’81. The classic Shakers lineup: yourself, Tim Gibbons [now in The Trouble Boys], Rick and Claude [DesRoches, Dave’s cousin – BM]. Now, with Tim, how does he figure into this?
Dave: Well, from the folk days when I met him. He was playing acoustic guitar. I knew he played pretty good; he was really good at finger picking acoustic. He was learning the Coburn style of picking. Then I ran into him in Toronto, where he moved. He’d always liked rock’n’roll of course, on the other side, but I didn’t meet him in that vein. I think I met him in ’79 again. I hadn’t seen him for a year or two. Then when it came to the point where we needed a guitar player, I asked Timmy. I thought he was perfect, and y’know, he was. I’m really glad that we ran into each other. It was a good music combination. He added himself to our sweetness, I think.
FF: He, of course, did the In Time album, and he did the Rock’n’Roll EP?
FF: He did “Mustang Ford.”
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
FF: He also showed up on the Shake Some Action7-inch?
Dave: Yeah. And our last record he played on was “Do Anything,” which was our single in ’82 – the very last session we did with Dan Lanois, which “California” was on the other side. So then Tim, with the Trouble Boys, started his new direction.
FF: That’s his solo spot. But it was an amicable split, though.
Dave: Yeah. I knew he’d eventually want to do his own thing ‘cause, knowing Tim, he’s that kinda guy. He doesn’t stay in one place too long. I was hopin’ he’d stay longer but I realized, y’know, when somebody has their mind made up, what kin ya do? It had to be amicable. We’re all living in the same town. We’re not hiding in mansions or anything like that. I knew where he lived and he knew where I lived. And if I was going to go to downtown Hamilton, I was going to see him, so I’d better keep it cool. And he didn’t really want to fight.
FF: He shows up a lot on the later records you’d do with the ‘Head.
Dave: Tim’s a good spirit. And he knows rock’n’roll. He knows what he’s talkin’ about. He’s instinctive. And I always enjoy having him around. I always enjoy his energy and what de does. It’s always a little “magic in the night” when he’s in there. He’s one of the few guys I can sit with, besides Rick or the guys in my band now, like Gord, that I can actually trust. When I say, “What do you think, Tim?” he’s gonna tell me an honest opinion. And that’s why I think he’s as good as he is, and that’s why I enjoy having him in the projects.
FF: Basically, the Shakers’ problems after that was finding a replacement guitarist.
[Dave Rave with long-time singing partner, Lauren Agnelli, in New York, 2007] Dave: We were somewhat inexperienced at the time, and so young. I think that instead of going, “Oh well, Tim left, let’s grab somebody,” we fretted. We got all worried and instead of just grabbing some rookie, which we should have done and just let him play, we got all excited and said, “We gotta go find somebody da-da-da-da-da…” We ended up with two guitar players, who were excellent, and I got nothing bad to say against them, but they were just the wrong guys for us. We went through Bill Dillon and John Lewis, and I think when we actually found Dan Gibbons, I thought we found the right guy, but it was too late. I think by that time everybody’s heart had gone out of it. Rick was gettin’ tired of it, y’know, and Claude had lost his spirit, and I’d lost the sprit myself, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Now, retrospectively, I think that if we had gotten Dan right after Tim, wow, it would have been a good move.
FF: And you could have just scratched out Tim on the cover and just put Dan Gibbons on it.
[Dave Rave and Mark MacCarron fronting Vancouver's Bedsit Poets in New York, 2007] Dave: Yeah, but Dan did help out and he’s a great guy, and I’m glad he’s playing with Tommy [Wilson – of Florida Razors – BM; jam.canoe.ca/Music/Pop_Encyclopedia/F/Florida_Razors.html] now. It’s ironic that him and Jon Lewis are playing together in the same band with Tommy, ‘cause I worked with both of ‘em.
FF: Alright, then you became the official fifth member of the ‘Head.
Dave: In ’83.
FF: What led that on? Was it a conscious thing or something you just fell into?
Dave: Again, it seems like a lot of the stuff that happens to us is unconscious. The band was starting to break up. Gord had asked me – to be honest with you, it was Jack (Morrow) that asked me, their manager, to play with them on a few dates. And so I said sure, why not. They asked me to go to Nashville with them. And that was sorta the beginning. I kinda rehearsed with them, played with them and went to Nashville with them. We did that show with Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, ‘n Greg Kihn, and it was really a lot of fun. We drank a whole keg of Miller beer. We all hit it off real well. I knew the material. I didn’t need to rehearse much; and I knew the backgrounds from the studio sessions, of course, so it was just natural.
FF: So it was a year of doing that before you got the phono credits.
Dave: I guess it was endless partying that did it. Jack called me up and said, “We’re playing the 31st. Can you play? We’re doing a live album,” and I said, being as I am, “Sure, why not.” And it was again, so much fun they asked me to do the Western Tour, and then again, when they decided to make the album, they said, “Well, do you want your picture on it?” So there I was, y’know, and that’s really how it happened. It just continued from there till now, here I am.
FF: At that time, the band was breaking. Was that a matter of loss of sprit?
Dave: Well, when I originally joined in ’83, the band obviously had taken some kicking in terms of press, though not that bad. I guess they were in a mid-life crisis. And, after being through my crisis, I was relieved to play with some guys again. So, in reality, that just sorta sparked off initially a lot of fun and the band was really getting good. I was thinking, the unit was really starting to pull together and we were getting some new tunes. But we had one more obstacle which was mainly the management problem, which was an unfortunate thing because that was really a problem. It was only then the spirit started sinking, and that was about ’85. Around the Trouble in the Jungle period.
FF: What was the problem with the management?
Dave: Well, basically the typical management problem anyone goes through. You’re young when you first start the business; you just wanna play music, it’s great, y’know, you’re 19-20, and you think, well, this guy must be doing the right thing. And then you suddenly start realizing, maybe he was the wrong guy, at the moment. So I think that’s what it was, y’know, a bit of naïveté. And once you realize that, it’s a fight.
FF: It even sounds on Trouble in the Jungle that Nick and Frank would rather be somewhere else. You could almost hear that, in a sense.
Dave: It’s an unfortunate thing.
FF: There was also a beer strike at that time.
Dave: I think that was more important. And the (Maple) Leafs didn’t did do that good in the playoffs [laughs]. It was a combination of all three.
FF: That’s why the original Teenage Head broke up.
Dave: I think that’s the real reason. That’s when the sprit was dying. I could feel it myself. I was really havin’ a good time, but I could feel the spirit deaden in ’85. And then Nick quit in June, which was the first crack in the wall. We started hearing rumblings after that that Frank wanted to leave. Of course, he’d already done the album so Frank stuck with us and continued on, and then, history, right?! We started the new thing with me singing.
FF: Before we do that, some of the highlights of Trouble in the Jungle. One is the re-cut of the Bobby Fuller song, “Let Her Dance.” Was that your idea?
Dave: Actually, the reason that tune came in was we had gotten a Phil Seymour album. That was one of the tunes when we’d always play the tape, we’d all start singing, so I think when we were on the bus one day, traveling somewhere in Regina or someplace like that, we had the acoustics out. That tune and “Get Down” were the two tunes we worked out. Then we made it part of our show.
FF: So, Nick left. Was he dispirited?
[Gary Pig Gold, Dave Rave, Shane Faubert, IPO showcase in New York, 2007] Dave: Well, I think (so). Any band around 10 years or longer, it happens, especially being on the road. This is a road band. It wasn’t pampered like some bands; they get these contracts and sit in the studio. Every record was earned by the band. So I think it was the years of wear, of strain. The band had worked so hard that I could see the crack about to happen. But I don’t think it was anything that any other band wouldn’t go through. I know we went through it in two years in the Shakers. Teenage Head took eight-nine years to do it. I don’t think it was anything personal. It’s like the break-up with a girlfriend. At the time it’s very serious and you‘re saying all these bad words about each other, but a month later you realize it was just the strain that made me say that. I don’t really feel that way about that person. And that’s how I feel now. I think that’s how everybody feels about each member. I saw Nick just about Christmas time and it was great. I really liked seeing him.
FF: He’s basically retired to installing coffins or something like that?
Dave: [Laughs] I think something like that, but bless ‘im. He’s a sweet guy; a fun person to be with. I’m glad he’s doin’ something he likes and he’s getting’ on with his life.
FF: And Frank’s in the Dice. And before that Blue Angel. Well, at least he’s not getting bored.
Dave: No, no.
FF: Okay, now you took the group and totally restructured it.
Dave: Yeah, that’s true. Jack [Pedler – ex-Buxton Kastle: look that up, you pop archivists! – BM; www.youtube.com/watch?v=GegO8LsrDB8] joined the band in August (’86), that’s when his new real band – this is the most real band, I think, since the first incarnation of Teenage Head, after Steve Parks left.
FF: Alright, give us a little bit of background on “Can’t Stop Shakin’.”
Dave: Yeah, Basically, Rick and I wrote this tune. We wrote it when we were still a partnership. This is about ’83; I sorta had it sittin’ around. The only reason it came into existence is Brian Eno’s brother Roger Eno. I met him at Grant Avenue. It seemed we had a little reunion of the Shakers at a club; we were doin’ acoustic. Danny started playin’ some drums. Roger was there; we all got drunk. We wanted to play a song that was very easy to do. I remembered “Can’t Stop Shakin’.” Rick was there. We did a version of it. Tim played guitar. Roger Eno some keyboards. It was on this digital machine. I think we even used Joycelin, Danny’s sister, of Martha & the Muffins, on bass. Then we did another version of it with the Trouble Boys, which was really fun. And then when we realized we needed some new material, I brought out these tunes and we used them. We also did a version of “She Rips My Lips,” with the Trouble Boys.
FF: The future?
Dave: Right now, our main goal is to promote this new record we’ve made, then to get the new album out with all the full material, like 10 songs, to really show the cross-section of the band. I think on this new record, we’ve touched a few new bases that we’ve never been before, musically, and we’ve gone back to some of the very roots of the very first thing we’ve done. Some of the loose potato-sorta rock’n’roll.
[Dave Rave and Shane Faubert, IPO in New York, 2007]
Partial Dave Rave discography: