|published:||2014, April 12|
|in:||Ear of Newt|
|article:||A man named Stick leads Red Deer transplants Mad Duck on the hard-rock trail|
Country superstar k.d. lang did hard time in the schools of Red Deer, Alberta, but the town hasn't exactly spawned a host of well-known recording artists. However, if a singer-guitarist by the name of Stick has anything to say about it, his band will put the wee burgh on the music map. The driving force behind local hard-rock act Mad Duck, Stick has been struggling to make a name for his band ever since he moved to Vancouver in 1983.
"It was kinda tough at first," says Stick. "There wasn't much for original, heavy acts to do. The Metro was doin' the Golden Apple Rock Awards once a year, and that's about it. We came in second in that one year, and then Larry Gillstrom started these metal nights, and that's when it really started rollin'."
The metal-oriented showcase nights staged at Club Soda by Gillstrom's management-promotion company, Timeless Productions, proved a much-needed shot in the arm for swarms of local bands, five of which will be joining Mad Duck in the 3rd Annual Westcoast Rocker's Ball next Wednesday (August 28) at 86 Street.
With a line-up that includes 1991 Demo-Listen Derby winners Fake It Big Time, Anthem, Cast of Nastys, Love Junction, and Axis, the show bodes well for fans of screamin' guitars and wailin' vocals. In Mad Duck's case, their brand of Marshall-powered noise was influenced by some of the louder bands of the '70s.
"I like to say it's a cross between Rush and AC/DC," says Stick of his band's sound, "because it's simple, but once in a while it's progressive. Then I liken it to Goddo, because of the vocals. Then some people say it's like Styx. I don't mind comparisons, as long as we don't sound like any one band, ya know."
As well as recording a four-song cassette at Coquitlam's Gotham Studios with producer Raymond Arthur Harvey, Mad Duck has gigged at all the original music venues in Vancouver—and still heads back to Red Deer once in a while to play the historic Windsor Hotel, or "Zoo", as Stick calls it.
The band has also nabbed opening spots for touring groups like Foghat, the Killer Dwarfs, and Steve Stevens. And then there's the night they shared a bloody bill with the guts 'n' gore band Gwar, which performs phoney decapitations and dismemberments on stage.
"They scared the shit out of us," chuckles Stick, "but we lived!"
When Mad Duck plays 86 Street next week, the line-up will feature original members Terry Cave on guitar and Dale Salive on drums, as well as former Kick Axe bassist Victor Langen. Langen is taking over the spot left vacant by original bassist Mark Hermery, who took off for the Okanagan this summer with hopes of starting a jet-ski rental business. A long-time pal of the Ducks, Stick says Langen is fitting in quite nicely.
Whether or not Mad Duck will ever be able to earn itself a gold album like the one Langen has on his wall for Kick Axe's Vices album, it won't be for lack of trying. While the band's look and sound are worlds apart from the slick, glam-oriented style that made tattooed millionaires of so many L.A. rockers, Stick says he has a plan for the band's next recording project.
"We're gonna concentrate more on the commercial side, tryin' to get the record companies to bite this time. 'Cause last time we did our favourite songs, like 'Illusionary Wealth', and that was not what they were lookin' for at all."
A gregarious, outgoing type, the man called Stick (real name Brock Armstrong) prefers to let his Gibson SG do the talking on-stage—just like his all-time hero, Angus Young. He also resembles the thin Aussie rocker physically, so maybe that's why they call him Stick.
"That had something to do with it," he says. "They gave me that name when they used to knock me into the lockers in junior high. They hated me because I was president of the school, so they'd go, 'You're nuttin' but a stick'—whack! They'd knock the wind out of me and make my eyes roll up in the back of my head. But it just strengthened my resolve to make that name famous."
Originally published in Georgia Straight on August 22, 1991