Age Of Electric – Back From A Really, Really Long Hiatus

As Todd Kerns circumnavigates the globe playing bass for the Slash/Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators Band, the Estevan, Saskatchewan native is occasionally asked if there is any chance of a reunion with brother John Kerns and the two Dahle brothers; Ryan and Kurt who collectively formed Age of Electric in 1989.

Well after a 17-year absence, those four members of Age of Electric will reform on Saturday August 29th at the Marquee nightclub in Calgary.  Opening act is another reforming band, Calgary’s Zuckerbaby.

“Conversations kept coming up about a reunion but it is hard to put all my other responsibilities on hold and totally focus on a reunion, but I always assumed that someday someone would step up an try to organize such an event and it turned out that I had this August free,” explained Kerns on the phone from Vancouver where he, guitarist Ryan Dahle and percussionist brother Kurt Dahle are ensconced in rehearsals as they await the arrival of bassist John Kerns before finalizing preparations for Saturday’s set. “What was clear was that we were not going to do it unless it’s all four of us. A reunion wouldn’t even be in the conversation unless all of us were available.”

A it turned out, Kerns has a month off before returning to work on the next Slash-Myles Kennedy record which will see him then touring with the band until Christmas. Guitarist/vocalist Ryan Dahle is taking time off from leading his revitalized Limblifter band which release a new record this spring titled `Pacific Milk’, Kurt Dahle has freed himself up from working on several studio assignments after leaving The New Pornographers in 2014 and bassist John Kerns also finds the time for this reunion after also coming of a series of studio sessions.

“When I asked Ryan what he wanted to play, his response was “Everything”, laughed Kerns alluding to the fact Age Of Electric only issued one 5-track Ep `Ugly’ and two studio albums; `Untitled’ and `Make A Pest A Pet’ during the mainstream phase of their time together, although they did release two little know indie records ( `Electric’ and `The Latest Plague’)  prior to releasing the Ugly Ep which vaulted them into the spotlight in 1993.

“The rest of the band and I have kept in touch over the years and Ryan and I have been writing songs off and on for the past 10 years so we do have some new material for Saturday’s set,” allowed Kerns.  “Anyone who comes to our show will already know our music. So we’ll be playing our key tracks, some classics, maybe some obscure tracks and some new material and we’re just going to dig in see what happens.”

Age Of Electric are one of those bands which could have been huge but the timing of their arrival seemed to conspire against them. Featuring no less than three  vocalists in Todd Kerns, Ryan and Kurt Dahle with bassist John Kerns plus two prolific songwriters in Todd Kerns and Ryan Dahle, this unit made a radio breakthrough with a five-song Ep titled “Ugly” in 1993 which attracted strong airplay for the title track and another song “Untitled”.

Constant national touring (often in tow with Vancouver’s Rhymes With Orange) strengthened the band’s fan base which led to the release of their `Untitled’ studio record in 1995 that not only included “Ugly” and “Untitled” but also another radio hit “Enya”.

 Yet internally, Kurt Dahle, aware that Todd Kerns was the vocal front man for most of the band’s songs, was looking for his own vocal and song writing outlet and found it when he formed an off-shoot project called Limblifter with brother Kurt and bassist Ian Somers in 1995. As this off-shoot album spawned three radio singles of it’s own; “Screwed It Up”, “Vicious” and “Tin Foil” there was strong media speculation that Age Of Electric had broken up.

However, buoyed by a recording contract with Mercury New York, the Age Of Electric members rejoined to record, `Make A Pest A Pet’ in 1996, which, fuelled by a bona fide hit single; “Remote Control” sold over 50,000 units domestically. Unfortunately, Mercury USA had replaced their president prior to the record being released and new label president Andy Goldberg cut the band adrift.

“We asked the label if we could release the record in Canada independently, and they said `knock yourself out’ so we joined forces with Universal and had our first gold record,” informed Kerns. “But after a national tour with Our Lady Peace in 1998, we all felt the band had gone full circle and we split up.”

The two Kerns brothers hooked up with a third Kerns brother, Ryan and drummer Scott McCargar to form Static In Stereo in 2002 while the two Dahle brothers released a second Limblifter record titled Bellaclava in 2000. Ryan moved on to work with Hawksley Workman in The Mounties, played in Hot Hot Heat, recorded a third Limblifter record I/O in 2004, and became involved in several studio production jobs before reforming a new-look Limlifter for their current Pacific Milk release.

Brother Kurt left Limblifter to play for The New Pornographers until 2014, and also engaged in a number of studio assignments while John Kerns hooked up with Robin Black to tour Europe and also played with Sound And Fury.

Todd Kerns has been the most successful of the four, leaving Static In Stereo, he eventually gravitated to Las Vegas where he sang lead vocals for Sin City Sinners before coming to the attention of former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, who recruited Kerns as bassist/back-up vocalist for his Slash/Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators collaboration.

“When you are bold and stupid, you think, `I’ve rolled that boulder up the mountain once, I can do it again’, but the reality is that it is difficult to do it once and not everybody gets multiple kicks at the can,” Kerns explains. “I have been lucky and looking back, who knows what could have happened if we had kept Age Of Electric together for any length of time. It might have been a good thing – but my life would certainly have turned out differently.”

In looking at the whole Age Of Electric/Limblifter situation, Kerns  sees a comparison with what happens with him and the Slash/Myles Kennedy project. “We do the Slash record and then we are free to go off and do the Myles Kennedy Alter Bridge project and I am free to record my own solo record (`Borrowed Trouble’) and then we return to the Mother Ship and do it all again.” assessed Kerns. “Had we applied that same situation to, Age of Electric, I don’t think we would have broken up. I had no problem with Ryan and Kurt releasing the first Limblifter record. Ryan is a very proficient song writer and needed another outlet to channel his creativity and I could have easily accepted the idea of them alternating between Limblifter and Age of Electric records”.

Still, the forthcoming reunion allows Age of Electric to at least put an exclamation point on the band’s career and maybe even trigger future activities together. “It all starts with Saturday’s show,” assessed Kerns. “We might feel good enough about the gig that we might want to perform future shows together or find time to record new material, it can go anywhere. The point is, we are not doing this show for financial considerations or  because we have to, so as far as what happens afterwards, all options are open”.

“The inside joke amongst the band is that we never really broke up,”concludes Kerns. “We just went away for a really, really, really long hiatus.”

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