In the 1980s, as a member of Canada’s Brighton Rock, guitarist Greg Fraser opened for Triumph. Now Greg is a member of Storm Force with a new album, Age of Fear. He also shares thoughts on Rush’s drummer Neil Peart.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE:Congratulations on your new album, Age of Fear, from your Niagara Falls, Ontario quartet Storm Force. I am enjoying the variety. Sadly, the biggest news this month in Canadian music is the loss of Rush’s drummer Neil Peart.
GREG FRASER: Thank you for your interest in our band’s music. When I heard about the loss of Neil Peart, I couldn’t believe it. I was in total shock. I live fifteen minutes from where Neil grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario. Ever since I was a little kid, Neil was the man. Who is a more respected drummer than Neil? He never said a bad word about anybody. There were never any scandals. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. His drumming was astonishing. In most successful bands, the singer and the lead guitarist get all the accolades except when it came to Rush with Neil Peart. His playing was undeniable with how his drums could elevate a song, complex yet very tasty without overdoing it. This one hurts big time. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. A loss for words is an understatement. I have always had true respect for Neil.
GM:In our recent Goldmine podcast with Triumph’s Mike Levine, Mike said that Rush, as a Canadian rock trio, paved the way for Triumph, who you opened for when you were in the band Brighton Rock. In the U.S., Triumph’s seventh and final charting single debuted in the summer of 1986, “Somebody’s Out There” with “What Rules My Heart” on the flip side, both from their album The Sport of Kings. What a powerful, guitar driven flip side.
GF: That song has their drummer Gil Moore singing, so it’s a nice change. Triumph is one of those bands that has two lead singers, Rik Emmett and Gil Moore. You don’t see that too much. Gil’s got a unique voice and I have always been a fan of Rik’s voice too. When The Sport of Kings album was out, that was our first major area tour, supporting them. Other than playing clubs, this was the first time we were playing to 20,000 people every night in sold out arenas and I believe that was Triumph’s last tour. It was exciting for us, but it might have been a little grim for those guys. We had a great time and “What Rules My Heart” is a cool song with harmonies, guitar, and a good edge to it.
Flip side: What Rules My Heart
A side: Somebody’s Out There
Top 100 debut: August 30, 1986
Peak Position No. 27
GM:They sure entertained us with “Hold On,” “Lay it On the Line,” and “Magic Power,” which are some of featured songs on the new Triumph Classics double vinyl album.
GF: Those are awesome songs and classics for sure.
GM:Now let’s talk about Brighton Rock. “Can’t Wait for the Night” is a wonderful power ballad from your 1986 debut album Young, Wild and Free, with a Triumph song reference in that title, and I also enjoy “One More Try,” with some Starship power to it.
GF: Oh, thank you. Our bass player Stevie Skreebs and I grew up in Niagara Falls and still live here. We founded the band in the early 1980s. The one song that had interest from management companies and others was “Can’t Wait for the Night.” Our original singer left to be with his family and we ended up getting a new singer, Gerry McGhee. I knew he was a great heavy metal singer and we got him to come in to recut the vocal tracks. When he put his voice on the chorus, it took it to a whole new level. He re-wrote the verses too. They played the video all the time in Canada on Much Music, which is like a Canadian version of MTV. To this day, it is one of our staples when we play live. It put us on the map and was also our biggest selling record in the UK. “One More Try” came from our second album, Take a Deep Breath, in 1989. The song was initially written by our keyboard player along with our singer. That song is one of our biggest singles, another staple in our repetoire. It is odd that our biggest songs are ballads, with us being a more hard rock band, but it is cool to change things up, especially live. You don’t want to keep pounding people over the head. You want that nice mix that includes ballads when touring, which we did in North America and the UK.
GM:Speaking about the UK, was Khalil Turk, from Escape Music Ltd. familiar with your work with Brighton Rock, leading to your new band Storm Force being signed to the British label?
GF: Back in 2012 we got back together to do some UK shows and we tried to make a record, but everybody lives in different places now and not everyone is still a full-time musician. We ended up with ten unfinished, partial songs, but the one song that was finished was called “End of Time,” so we released it as a single. There is a record company out of Denmark called Lions Pride Music and they reached out to me after hearing that single about the possibility of doing an album. I told them that the old band couldn’t do it, but I had a new band and I would like them to keep us in mind. They asked for some songs and we sent them four songs. They liked what they heard and offered us a record deal on the spot, but then I started to hear repeatedly about Escape Music in the UK and was encouraged to check them out before I committed to Lions Pride Music. I reached out to Khalil and let him know there was another label interested but he kept getting recommended through mutual friends, and everyone praised his honesty, and that is huge in this business. I sent Khalil “Breathe,” “Age of Fear,” and a few other songs, and now we are with Khalil’s Escape Music.
GM:With “Breathe,” there are two vocalists on that song and that is a great combination. I think about when Deep Purple’s Burn album came out and we heard, for the first time, two new vocalists, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes and it seemed like that was going to be the plan for the band.
GF:Burn is a such a classic Deep Purple album. The girl who joined Patrick Gagliardi on the song is Serena Pryne and is pretty well known around the Niagara area. She had a record out with a group called The Mandevilles and they did some shows with Heart. Serena helped us to change up the record to not be one dimensional and she knocked it out of the park. It is a little moodier and a lot of people are keying in on that song.
GM:You mentioned “Age of Fear.” The guitar on this song reminds me of Triumph’s “Lay It On the Line.”
GF: Well, we’re talking about my roots. I am Canadian. If you were a young guitar player growing up here, Rush and Triumph were your favorite bands, even early BTO. We didn’t have access to YouTube or to go to a record store and sample songs. You looked at an album cover and wondered if you should give it a try. When you did accumulate a record collection, those songs became your bible, and you would play those records over and over because that is all you have.
GM:We talked about Canadian bands. When “Because of You” kicks off the album, I think of Prism due to the keyboards.
GF: Yes. I can see that like their “Armageddon,” where the introduction builds. It would make for a great concert opener too.
GM:You play a combination of acoustic and electric guitars in “Ember Rain.”
GF: Well, there you go. That’s another Triumph formula. Even Rush would do that a bit.
GM:Your electric guitar solo on “More Than You Know” is outstanding and is my favorite song on your new album.
GF: Oh, wow, OK. I appreciate hearing that. I try to keep it melodic since I am the chief songwriter for the music. I approach my solos like a vocalist would do. With a nice, delicate song, you don’t want the solo to be screaming.
GM:Speaking of melodic, “Different Roads” is melodic in a “Desperado” way.
GF: OK, well, there’s nothing wrong with that. That is a tremendous compliment. Thank you. I wrote that one on acoustic guitar. Since we already had that sound with “Ember Rain,” we wondered what it would sound like if we did “Different Roads” on a piano. I have a friend, Rein Knol, who played that part. Again, we tried to change it up so there isn’t muscle guitar on every song.
GM:There is muscle guitar on the exciting finale, “Ringside.” I felt that you let your guitar flow like Craig Chaquico from his Jefferson Starship days.
GF: Well, thank you very much. That is more of an up-tempo hard rocking song. It needs some energy.
GM:Your album Age of Fear will become available on January 25. What will be happening in Canada regarding its release?
GF: We will do some record release parties to support its release and we will build up our reputation one show at a time, as a new band. The song “Age of Fear,” is already doing well in France and we hope for success in Canada and the U.S. too. We appreciate your Goldmine coverage so much. Thank you.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, writing the In Memoriam and Fabulous Flip Sides series. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.