By Keith Sharp
Every time Bill Henderson turns on his television set and hears Queen’s “Your My Best Friend” used as a Pet Smart commercial or Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” utilized to plug Trojan Condoms, his throat tightens and his stomach knots up.
As the driving force behind classic rock band Chilliwack, Henderson is a highly respected singer/songwriter whose writing credits include such radio standards as “Lonesome Mary”, “Crazy Talk”, “California” “Fly At Night” and “My Girl ( Gone, Gone Gone). The Salt Spring Island B.C resident has also worked both sides of the fence, having also served as President of SOCAN and as a director for CARAS, so when he hears classic rock gems being used in frivolous advertising pitches it strikes against every creative principle he has as a songwriter.
“I can’t even listen to the radio anymore, because of the, advertising, I can’t stand it, I have to turn it off, sell, sell, sell,” bemoans the Chilliwack lead vocalist/guitarist when pressed to express his feelings on the current state of Canada’s music nation. “I take music personally; I really feel it, that’s why I’m a musician so when I hear a classic song being used to pitch some product or service, my reaction is `fuck this shit”.
“I understand that everybody is trying to make a buck,” continued Henderson, warming to the topic. “The music industry certainly isn’t the same animal it was in my heyday, it’s harder to make a living but when you allow your music to be used to peddle shit, you’re selling out and I for one am tired of it.”
Henderson takes his anti-advertising stand further when his band is performing live, especially during the summer festival circuit. “ We’re on stage at some festival gig and I look behind me and there’s some huge banner advertising god knows what and I’m thinking, `we are “them” and we are saying the product they sponsor is great and we are supporting them – which is totally wrong.
“Now I do recognize that the sponsors have to make money somehow and we may be one of twenty odd bands on the schedule, but I always ask my agent to find out who the advertisers are and where they are being placed because I don’t want their advertisements on stage or under the stage unless it’s something I am comfortable with. I like to think I am a musician with principles.”
Henderson is encouraged by the continued trend of classic rock music’s exposure in major movies like Gladiators Of The Galaxy which introduced hits like 10 CC’s “I’m Not In Love”, The Raspberries “Go All The Way” and even Blue Suede’s “Hooked On A Feeling” to a new and impressionable audience
”Anytime you use music in a constructive way to make money, that’s good, it’s a positive reinforcement. I’m also a big fan of You Tube, to be able to access all those classic performers is amazing, I never had this resource growing up.”
Recapping 2015, Henderson acknowledges the amazing success of the likes of The Weeknd, Drake and Justin Bieber but is the first to admit he’d rather listen to Adele than most other Top Ten artists.
“I do get the Top Ten sent to me each week on email and to be honest with you, for the most part, I don’t like what I’m hearing,” Henderson admits. “Maybe it’s because I’m from another culture, I’m not in this culture that much. The whole business of trying to appeal to young people means you have to be in their scene. I think it’s really cool that they are developing their own scene. I hear a direction that they have developed and I’ve heard it building but it’s hard to describe what that sound is exactly but it is something that differentiates them from the music of the Eighties and Nineties. I don’t listen to music like a reviewer, I don’t listen like a critic, I don’t listen like a record company. I tried in my heyday because I was trying to make a living in this business but I hear sounds as a musician and I try to relate on this level.”
Henderson recognizes that today’s music industry has changed rapidly since his band’s peak in the early 80’s, that the loss of many record companies means there are few filters in place to promote new releases and that anyone who can download Pro Tools can record and release their own record via a computer or even an I Phone.
“In our day, it cost like $100,000 to record an album but now people can make some pretty amazing records on their own,” admitted Henderson. “But do they know where to place the vocal microphone?”
“What is missing here are the top notch engineers and producers who have years of experience in recording studios. Guys who were second engineers to the Beatles who graduated to produce their own records,” allowed Henderson. “Think of a guy like Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith), who was taught by Bob Clearmountain and is now one of rock music’s top producers. These are the guys who know how to make a great recording.
Henderson has been involved in many successful recording projects himself over the years, primarily with Chilliwack which first came to fruition in 1970. Still active on the concert circuit, the band now comprising of Henderson, brother Ed (guitar) bassist Doug Edwards and drummer Jerry Adolphe, still perform select dates in theatres and on the summer festival circuit.
“We do it because we love it,” declares Henderson. “We do about 20 to 25 dates a year, usually the gig P.A’s are good so we just travel with our guitars and hop on a plane, and the money is good too, all the guys are paid well so that makes it worthwhile. We do pretty well the same set every night, with maybe just the odd exception, but we make sure we play all the songs our fans have come to expect and I make sure we throw our heart into every performance.”
A member of the Order of Canada since 2015 and an inductee into British Columbia’s Music Hall of Fame since 1994, Henderson is also known for hooking up with Shari Ulrich and Roy (Bim) Forbes to record two albums as UHF and recently joined forces with producer Bruce Rudell to record over 100 traditional Haida native songs which were released as a five CD set in an effort to capture their cultural heritage.
Chilliwack did record one new track last summer “Take Back This Land”(“Which would be perfect to play in Ottawa on Canada Day – if they’d have us” ) and will be heading east to play at Haverock Revival Festival on July 8&9 near Peterborough Ontario.
“The great thing about touring these days,” concludes Henderson. “Is that fans still love our music and there is no in-fighting within the band. We are all grown up so we just don’t go there. It’s stupid to do that so we don’t do it.”
By Keith Sharp