By Keith Sharp
Kiss bassist Gene Simmons may continue to sermonize that rock music is dead but Hamilton ‘s Monster Truck guitarist Jeremy Widerman has a succinct response to Mr. Simmons. “If you really feel that way, stop making your millions of dollars on ticket sales and merchandise, pull Kiss off the road and give some younger band a chance.”
With the band’s third studio album, `True Rockers’ about to drop Sept 14th, (on Dine Alone Records) the record’s title suggests a no-holds-barred selection of 11 straight ahead rock tracks that will maintain Monster Truck’s status as an avowed rock band in it’s purest sense.
“Everybody is concerned about the success or exposure they’re going to have when they pursue this musical genre we are in,” noted Widerman on the phone from Toronto. “But all you have to do is spend seven hours on a plane going to Europe and you find out pretty quickly that they support our brand of music. We’ve always received a lot of success and we’ve always made friends with more people in the industry over there and picked up more major festivals.”
One of the first tours Monster Truck executed when they released their debut 2013 `Furiosity’ album was a European tour opening for Vista Chino and following further excursions they will be traveling over again in November and December to accompany Kentucky label mates Black Stone Cherry on a club tour that will culminate December 14th at London England’s famed Wembley Arena.
“We don’t mind traveling,” enthused Widerman. “It’s just the business end of things that’s a problem, the cost of airfare and relocating the band over there, that is the biggest headache.”
In launching `True Rockers’, Monster Truck go for the jugular with a title track `True Rocker’ which features Mr Twisted Sister himself, Dee Snider, singing a key vocal segment.
“Dee heard us for the first time in a Toronto café when he was in this town performing in Rock Of Ages and he’s been a big fan of ours ever since,” Widerman raved. “It fills us with enthusiasm and positive momentum to have someone of his calibre enthused about the band. He certainly comes from a long line of reputable rockers.”
With other high octane tracks like “Thunderstruck”, “Devil Don’t Care”, “Denim Danger” and a tasty instrumental in “The Howlin’”, Monster Truck was able to attract two talented producers; established knob twister, Gavin Brown but also a relatively untested producer in Dan Weller.
Brown is noted for previous work with Three Days Grace, The Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies and band members Widerman, lead vocalist/bassist Jon Harvey, keyboardist Brandon Bliss and drummer Steve Kiely responded positively to his up-tempo direction. “It was his general attitude which sold us,” explained Widerman. “We bought into what he was saying 100%”.
During the band’s last tour in late 2017 in support of their `Sitting Heavy’ release, Monster Truck were asked by the CBC if they would agree to cut a track which would be used as the intro to the network’s Hockey Night In Canada broadcast and that’s where they first came Into touch with Dan Weller who laid down their cover of The Bay City Rollers’ hit “Saturday Night”
“Dan didn’t have the same pedigree of producer that we’ve had in the past but considering we only had a 12-hour window to record that track, we had an amazing time with him,” reflected Widerman. “It was one of those situations where you take a song that is not in your comfort zone and you make it your own. Dan succeeded in getting that result.”
As a result of that one session, Monster Truck made a choice to work with Weller on other album tracks. “It was a choice made purely on gut instinct,” Widerman explained. “We took a leap of faith with him and somehow he brought something to the table that we might not have got otherwise.”
And what was the band’s reaction to them appealing to a whole new audience who either remembered that late 70’s hit by the Scottish teenyboppers or a younger set who had no idea who the Bay City Rollers were?
“To be honest, we hated that initial selection but the CBC were adamant that we record it,” confessed Widerman. “We begged them to let us do another song, we wanted to record Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Saturday Night Special. We fought that decision on two separate e-mail threads – but it turned out better than we thought.”
Don’t expect “Saturday Night” to show up on any Monster Truck set list anytime soon though as they push ahead with their hard rock mandate. Winners of the 2013 Juno Breakout Band award, and nominees for the 2014 Rock Album Juno for “Furiosity”, Monster Truck have set a steady course that is well summarized on “Evolution” the band’s latest single hit.
Having emerged from Hamilton (2011) at the same time that Saskatoon’s Sheepdogs were also breaking new ground with their more bluesy rock sound, Monster Truck are determined to stay focused in building on their hard rock roots.
“Anyone pushing the narrative that rock music is passé isn’t paying attention,” concluded Widerman. “You just have to look at Europe or The UK. Hard rock over there has constantly flourished. It’s where our fan support continues to grow.”