(Almost) 20 Questions with Andy Curran

Andy Curran has been a mainstay on the Canadian rock scene for almost 40 years. Starting out in 1982, the Juno award winner has carved out a stellar career with Coney Hatch, solo releases, Leaisureworld, Caramel and others. He has recently released his self-titled solo album, Leisureworld and Caramel on all digital platforms and is currently rockin’ with Rush’s Alex Lifeson in Envy Of None.

Andy was kind enough to answer a few questions for Let’s Rock.

1. Coney Hatch was a big part of the 80s Canadian scene. Your first album was produced by Kim Mitchell. What did it mean to the band to have Kim produce?

If it wasn’t for Kim Mitchell, Coney Hatch would never have even got a start. It was the lightning strike that every artist or band prays for. Kim took us under his wing, spent time mentoring us and produced a demo that eventually got us our record deal. He’s an incredible talent and still a close friend .

2. What was the rock scene like in ‘82 when the first album was released?

The scene in ’82 was vibrant and alive. There were dozens of venues to play in Toronto and we spent a ton of time touring in clubs and as an opening act all over North America…I barely saw my family, and coming home to my own bed was a treat!!

3. Which Canadian artists were you listening to back then?

A few of my big Canadian influences were Rush (saw them so many times at Maple Leaf Gardens and Massey Hall). I also really loved Goddo, April Wine, The Madcats, Teenage Head and Streetheart were also a big fav. I especially loved Spider (Sineave), their bassist 

4. Coney Hatch opened for some pretty serious legends including Priest, Maiden, Cheap Trick and Rush. What did you learn from touring with these artists?

There was a huge learning curve and we had to immediately step up our game the minute we were on those big stages. The level of consistency, performing to a “large” audience  was something that all of the acts had and was a big eye opener . It really taught us to work an audience and make them feel like part of the moment . In a lot of cases, the fans did not even want an opening act and when the lights go down and you have 15,000- 18,000 screaming fans the adrenaline rush was incredible. You really had to earn your place on those stages and we learned quickly that  standing in the same spot and shoe gazing wasn’t going to cut it!

5. Was it tough for Canadian artists to make it in the States?

Yes and no. Its always been tough for Canadian acts to even get a record deal or a shot outside of Canada. The timing of MTV was a massive plus for us and our videos were being played in regular rotation on MTV, which spilled on to US rock radio, so we had a great lift off because of that . Rush , Triumph , Loverboy and Bryan Adams were really paving the way already and Coney was able to follow in the wake of those acts. If you didn’t have any radio action back then, it was almost impossible to get noticed

6. Speaking of Rush, you recorded some tunes with Alex Lifeson and are now in a band called Envy of None with him. How did this come about and what are the plans for the near future?

While I was working at SRO Anthem, I obviously became close friends with many of the artists on the label and management roster. Alex was no exception and the friendship started with tennis and golf games spilling in to getting invited as the opening act for some Canadian “Roll the Bones” tour dates. He and I always spoke about music we loved and listened to and then one day out of the blue the line was crossed and Alex asked if I would play bass on a few songs he had written and wasn’t happy with his bass parts. My reply was ….”don’t you know any other bassists..like a guy whose initials are “GL”..Anyway we both laughed and I was incredibly honoured at the request. I’m still pinching myself that it actually happened. So that led to me telling him about Maiah Wynne, a young female singer songwriter that my friend Alf Annibalini and I were collaborating with. I played him a few songs and he really loved her voice so I asked if he had any guitar ideas if he would think about being part of this. One song turned into two and today we have 10 songs pretty much completed. It’s a side project for him but he has been a driving force behind finishing this and getting it released so people can hear it. I’m very proud of what we’ve all done. It’s very trippy, dark, heavy and pop / industrial vibes all smashed into a blender!! We’re having a lot of fun and the cherry on top is seeing Alex get creative after a very dark chapter for him after the loss of his friend Neil (Peart, Rush’s drummer who passed away January 7, 2020). 

7. How’s the music biz these days? It’s obviously changed so much since you first started recording.

Man, has it ever changed. The digital streaming world has all the labels focused on that part of the biz and sadly its become extremely tough for any new artist to get visibility. The landscape is extremely saturated and with recording gear being so affordable now, it means that literally anyone can record and release music which is both good and bad because, as I said it’s extremely crowded out there and fans have so many ways and places to get music. So it then becomes a matter of “how do I get exposure and visibility and get my music noticed and my head above the pack?” I always remember Rush’s manager and my friend Ray Daniels saying ”Nothing can get in the way of a hit song” So you really have to have the goods otherwise you’ll be the best kept secret with a family & friends  “rent a crowd” as your fan base.  Not to sound negative, but its such a mountain to climb these days and the live music scene has shrunk significantly over the decades.

8. Before we get into the new digital releases, I want to talk about your formative years with music. What was your “Ah, I have to do this for a living” moment?

That’s a great question and I remember it vividly…Maple Leaf Gardens , September 6, 1973 . I bought floor seats to see The Edgar Winter Winter Group and the surprise special guest opening act was Bad Company. I was a big fan of both bands and that show completely blew my mind to the point where at that moment I said “I want to do exactly what these guys do and get up on that stage one day” It was huge defining moment . Clear as a bell I can recall the song Frankenstein with a massive mirror ball and clouds of pot smoke filling the air!! To eventually get to play Maple Leaf Gardens twice in one year was equally as mind blowing. I always tell young artists, you have to see yourself there or you will never grab hold of your dream. That goes for anyone wanting to set their goals…see it and believe it.

9. Why did you choose bass as your primary instrument and who influenced you to play?

I was given a bass guitar by my sisters boyfriend when I was 16 or 17 years old because he knew I was a music freak. I always wanted to be a guitarist, but the bass landed in my hands so I went for it. I spent many of my pre-band years in my bedroom with head phones learning to play along with Paul McCartney & the Wings, Geddy Lee of Rush, Kansas, Stanley Clarke, Dale Peters from The James Gang, Chris Squire of Yes, Spider from Streetheart, Mars Cowling from Pat Travers ..all of these guys are amazing bassists in their own right and I soaked it up like a sponge !  I had a bass teacher for a few years, Scott McLeod, who encouraged me to listen to funk and disco just for the basslines and I loved songs like “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” . There’s still some controversy if Eddie Watkins was the bassist on that song, but (there are) some wicked funk bassists out there too, so I listened to all of them .Once metal music became a big part of my listening guys like, Phil Lynott, Pete Way , Steve Harris and Lemmy also were inspirations for a completely  new aggressive style.

10. Onto the digital releases…the self titled album, Caramel and Leisureworld. What the hell took you so long? Haha.  These are great albums that are hard to find.  It’s so nice to have them available.

Thanks for saying that and I’m extremely proud of those records…especially Leisureworld, which I think might be the best music I’ve ever made. Both those bands had great starts and the labels eventually went bankrupt or were gobbled up by a larger label and there were no CDs or records anywhere.  I eventually got the master tapes back and was able to re release them. Covid forced me to purge and clean up my studio and my brothers and friends were busting my chops saying, “Curran why can’t I find the song “PIG” on Spotify??” 🙂 well now you can!!

11. The first album we should talk about was your first solo release in 1992.  3 top ten singles, and a Juno award for most promising male vocalist. That’s a pretty solid debut. What do you remember about the recording and touring for this album?

That was such a good confidence boost for me after going through the chapter with Coney Hatch & Friction and being told there was only room for one lead vocalist…and it wasn’t me! The chapter was exciting and scary because it was just me calling the shots after being in a band for so many years. Tom Berry gave me pretty much full control so I assembled a bunch of friends and great musicians to make the record. Kim Mitchell got me started with pre-production, but Glen Milchem and Simon Brierley were both such a big part of the sound of that record and touring. Another example of all the stars aligning, a lot of video play on Much Music spilling into lots of radio play and we toured 18 months straight off that record. Nice memory winning a Juno award…totally unexpected and if all goes well I’ll be releasing an anniversary version with some live tracks and out takes …fingers crossed 

12. Then came Caramel. A top ten hit with Lucy in the States. You signed with Geffen Records. What did that mean to you and your career?  

That was also a massive shot in the arm to me when Geffen signed us to deal for the world. I literally spent 2-3 years at the Sony studios in Canada recording that record. They heard every single note and I was right under their noses and they did nothing. So having Geffen pick it up caused a giant shit storm with someone asleep at the wheel there. That part was fun and I was sorry Gary Furniss at the publishing company got snagged up in that . The radio success was growing and we had 2 more songs ready to go and keep the train rolling and then the honeymoon was over and Universal gobbled up Geffen and all of the team there were let go and a ton of bands dropped. I was a casualty, but still view that chapter as a massive confidence booster that I was still in the game! Bittersweet ending to the Geffen deal though

13.  Leisureworld was another huge success with another top ten hit in the States for I’m Dead.  Tell us about that album and is there a Canadian band that Randy Cooke hasn’t drummed in?

Too funny about Randy. He’s easily one of country’s best exports . What an incredible talent and also one of the funniest guys I know. He can play ANYTHING.

Yeah, similar to the Geffen chapter sadly, the honeymoon ended quick with Artist Direct basically going bankrupt and folding up shop when we were on a rocket ride. We were invited to go on tour with Godsmack and the label couldn’t help with tour support etc so were were left in limbo. As I said, Super proud of that record despite its short shelf life…now extended thanks to Apple, Spotify and Amazon . The other rewarding part of that album was it was recorded 100% independently; no label, no management just me and my band Simon, Randy and Virginia…we did exactly what we wanted to all the way through to mixing, mastering artwork and landed a big deal. (It) taught me to have faith to keep going on despite all the odds. Vic Florencia was a hero behind the console getting sounds and mixing. He’s the bomb.

14.  Did you watch the Stanley Cup Finals? Finally, a Canadian team in the Finals, and as an Ottawa fan, at least it wasn’t the Leafs.

Well its no secret I’m a life long, die hard Chicago Blackhawks fan and when they didn’t make the playoffs, I was quietly hoping the Leafs would make our city proud…not to be, so I was even more quiet about cheering on the Habs. They had a great run and some awesome young players on that team. 

15.  When you first picked up a bass, was it ever even on the radar that you might someday play and work with Canadian rock royalty like Kim Mitchell and Alex Lifeson?

Too be honest, no, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d collaborate with either. Its such an honour that I don’t take lightly .

16. Does it ever sink in that you’re still going strong after 40 years in the music business? How’s the ride been so far?

I don’t really dwell on it to be honest. I still feel 16 years old in my stupid man brain. No slowing down for me. Its part of my DNA. The ride has seriously been a roller coaster. Some massive highs and some real low points where I thought my goose was cooked, but my parents always taught me to be persistent and never give up. It’s a huge part of the puzzle. You really have to believe in yourself and stick to your guns. I’ve enjoyed the ride and had to re-invent my self multiple times. I’ve been told I’m a rock n roll cockroach! Just when you think I’m dead, I crawl back from under the floorboard . I guess you could say I’m a survivor.

Coney Hatch Discography

Coney Hatch (1982)

Outa Hand (1983)

Friction (1985)

Best of Three (1992)

Four (2013)

www.coneyhatch.com

Andy Curran Discography

Andy Curran (1990)

w/Soho 69 – Scatterbrain (1993)

w/ Caramel – Caramel (1998)

w/ Drug Plan – Drug Plan (1999)

w/ Leisureworld -Double Wide Double High (2003)

www.andycurranmusic.com

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