Interview By Lord of The Wasteland / Transcription by Claudia
Being a Prairie kid in the eighties, there was nothing more truly Canadian than digging out your vinyl copy of STAGES and playing air guitar along with Rik Emmett and Triumph. “Follow Your Heart,” “Lay It On The Line,” “Magic Power,” “Spellbound,” “Fight The Good Fight,” “A World of Fantasy,” “Never Surrender”…the list of true classics went on and on.
Triumph often lived in the shadow of fellow Canuck act, Rush, but besides being a three-piece act from Toronto, the musical similarities were slim. Rik Emmett’s power chords and virtuoso-playing dazzled audiences while drummer Gil Moore was one of those rare cases where the man behind the drum kit also shared lead vocal duties. Mike Levine, the other half of a pounding rhythm section with Moore, rounded out the lineup.
The band first tasted success with 1977’s ROCK AND ROLL MACHINE but the major hits started rolling in with 1981’s ALLIED FORCES, 1983’s NEVER SURRENDER and 1984’s THUNDER SEVEN. These three albums are landmarks in the Canadian metal and hard rock scene of the time. As a live act, Triumph was untouchable. Moore was a visionary in terms of pyrotechnics, lighting and explosives and the visuals he added to Triumph’s live show were legendary. Unfortunately, the band imploded on itself after the release of SURVEILLANCE in 1988 through a series of messy lawsuits and the trio’s internal feuding. Emmett went on to a successful solo career but after a five-year hiatus, the band returned to the fold with 1993’s EDGE OF EXCESS, released with Toronto-area musician, Phil Xenidis (AKA Phil X), filling the vacant guitarist spot. A change in musical climates could be blamed for the album’s failure to live up to the standards of the band’s other material but, more than likely, fans felt that Triumph was not truly Triumph without the lineup of Emmett, Levine and Moore.
It was recently announced that Triumph was receiving the distinction of being inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. With it came the first time that Moore and Levine would meet face-to-face with Emmett in over fifteen years. The rumor mill began swirling almost immediately of a Triumph reunion. When offered the chance to speak with Gil Moore just three days before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, that is exactly what I had to ask. Over the course of our seventy-minute chat, subjects touched on include Moore’s role as a drummer AND a lead vocalist, his ownership of the famed Metalworks Studios, touring and recording hardships and, of course, what ultimately led to the demise of one of Canada’s premier musical institutions–Triumph!
Gil Moore on stage
How are you doing today, Gil?
Excellent! Is this your last interview for today or do you still have some more coming up?
No, this is the last one actually!
I’m not a pro at this anymore (laughs).
(Laughs) What’s that saying…once you ride a bike you never forget?
Yeah, there you go! Something like that!
Obviously, the reason why we’re talking today is that Triumph is getting inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame on Saturday, so congratulations for that!
Thanks very much!
Triumph accepting their Hall of Fame award – March 10, 2007
Who exactly chooses the inductees and what is involved with getting this distinction?
You know, that’s a good question and I’m not sure I know the answer as to how it works internally at Canadian Music Week, but they run the annual conference which is one of the biggest conferences in the world now for music. They establish the Hall of Fame and they pick the inductees. They have had Gordon Lightfoot and Rush so we are following in good footsteps and we are really honored, but as to how they go about it, I’m not exactly sure.
So I’m thinking it’s like the baseball Hall of Fame where there’s a certain number of people and there’s a committee that votes on who gets in and who doesn’t?
I don’t know exactly how they do it internally.
I even looked on their website and there really wasn’t any explanation there.
We got a written invitation as individuals that we had to respond to.
So you have the option of accepting?
Yes, accepting or not accepting.
The classic lineup – Gil Moore, Rik Emmett, Mike Levine
Something that I noticed over the years was that Triumph was never really a critical favorite but you always drew large crowds and sold a lot of albums. Does getting a nomination like this make it that much sweeter as sort of a final snub to the critics of the band?
I never felt like we needed to snub critics. I’m thinking about it from the standpoint that I’ve watched critics and generally…it’s human nature. They defend the underdog and when a band is successful then they start to despise them. Not all of them by any means. There are a lot of them that are not like that at all. We have critics that have followed our whole career, that were alternatively supportive and critical and then others that supported us when we were nobodies and then when we were successful, they despised us. Some of the people that despised us the most, that stuck in my mind and that I remembered the most was one writer in Rolling Stone that called us a “Las Vegas pit band of mutant hoseheads”. That stuck with us like glue once he said that. In interviews you would always get that question “How would you describe your music?” and I responded for the next ten years—Rick and Mike did the same thing all kinds of times. We would just pull it out of the drawer and say, “We’re kind of like a Las Vegas pit band of mutant hoseheads,” and the interviewer would say, “What do you mean by that”? I just never really took that aspect of it to heart. I felt that our fans are who we play for. We don’t play for the critics, we play for the fans. The fans come out and they’re the ones that are the arbitrators of whether or not we have anything to offer and then the critics are offering an opinion as to the merits of what we do. I don’t expect them to subscribe to our philosophy of what’s right, wrong or indifferent in terms of our music. There are a lot of things about our music I can’t stand as well and I can criticize the heck out of it, but I’m really proud of a lot of things. I think that we delivered a lot of positive messages that a lot of other rock bands didn’t. If we had a niche—and I’d have to look through our fan mail to prove this—I’d say look at all these people that say we inspired them. It couldn’t have been all that bad. If we inspired these people, there must be something positive here. I get a lot of gratification from the people I talk to that were Triumph fans that say that we were helpful one way or another in their lives and I can relate to that cause I’m a fan too. I know people that I can look at and say “Well, you don’t know who I am but you don’t know how much of an influence you were on me and thanks very much”. I can relate to that feeling.
That must still mean a lot after not recording for fifteen years and still hearing that. Triumph had a lot of success in Canada obviously, as well as in the United States, but what degree of popularity did the band have outside of North America?
The problem was that we always ran out of gas after the North American tour. We always had a good fan base in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and in England. We got to England a few times. Never made it to Germany or Japan where we had promoters just pounding on us to get over there and play. We sold records and got airplay in those areas but we just never supported it like we did North America with the touring. I really think it stemmed from the fact that we had a really, really high energy, high octane, testosterone-laden show and it took a lot out of us. We played really intense tours and we put everything into it. I see bands like Iron Maiden and AC/DC, two bands I can relate to the most. They were five piece bands and they managed to keep going. They managed to do the extra forty dates a year that Triumph couldn’t do. I’m not trying to make an excuse, good for them that they could keep going and shame on us that we couldn’t. We’d always end up calling our agent two thirds of the way through the American tour saying, “Cancel Japan, cancel Europe, we’re too bushed already and we have to get through this tour.”
Even though you guys had a lot of popularity in the United States, did you always try to maintain your Canadian identity or did you ever feel compelled to distance yourselves from the stigma that seems to come along with being a Canadian musician?
I never really felt that stigma at all. I always loved playing in the United States just because the first place to really embrace us was the state of Texas, so I’ll always feel that way until the day I die. I just love Texans, love the state. I love the United States because it’s like a whole bunch of countries. I feel that in Canada, we misunderstand the Americans so much. It really kind of offends me when I listen to Canadians say, “The Americans don’t know anything about us, they’re ignorant.” I think to myself that it’s funny because the person that says this hasn’t had the experience of meeting all these people and traveling. Do that and see if you still hold the same opinion. The Canadians that I know that have actually circulated in America and have met all the different cultures and people, they usually have the opposite opinion. They say there is a lot to be embraced there. The thing about the United States and its culture that is unbelievable is how they embrace the Canadians. Triumph literally got the red carpet in America. Local communities would say, “What do you mean by saying you’re this, that and the other thing? You can’t possibly be that”, whereas we would go to into America and say that we were this, that and the other thing and they would say, “Really? Bring it on brother, bring it on.” That was the difference. I’m not really critiquing the fans here so much as I’m critiquing the media and the industry. We never had a problem with Triumph fans or local fans in Canada but we had a problem with the industry and the press embracing us. Once America embraced us, all of that changed. All of the sudden it was all okay, but we had to be validated by conquering the United States.
Are there any plans to do a career retrospective DVD of the band now that you’ve added one more chapter to Triumph’s career?
This year we’re going to release a new greatest hits collection which is going to be a new greatest hits CD and DVD combined.
Are you releasing those yourselves?
Yes. We have a label called TML which is distributed by Universal in Canada. In the United States it is distributed by a Warner Bros. subsidiary called ADA and in Europe it’s distributed by Sanctuary. That should be out later in the year.
You’ve also done two DVD’s recently—A NIGHT OF TRIUMPH LIVE: 1987 and LIVE AT THE US FESTIVAL. Has working on those sparked any new interest in the band for you personally?
I love the band. I love everything about it. It was a great experience. When you’ve played in as many bands as I have, all my bands got fired. So when you play in a band where people actually clap and like you, what’s not to like about that? Talk to any musician and the hardest thing is to get a job. Once you’ve got a job, first of all you feel like you’ve conquered the world because most musicians put together a band or some sort of act or whatever and no one even wants them at all. So the first stage of success is getting hired and people actually saying, “Yes we would like you to come back and play at our Bar Mitzvah or at Joe’s Nightclub.” To actually go beyond that and have people say, not only do we want you to come back and play but we’ll actually pay money to come and see you. If you’re a musician, you’re used to what essentially every musician is subjected to initially. You learn to play your instrument. You’re critiqued because you’re not very good. Maybe you’re being discouraged by your teacher or being told by your brother that you should give up the instrument. You learn to deal with a lot of negative reactions and when you get some positive reaction it’s like heroin. Having a band like Triumph where, from the get-go, everybody comes up and starts patting you on the back and telling you how great the band is, it’s a phenomenal experience. I don’t take all that much credit for it because I think that a lot of it is luck. If John Lennon and Paul McCartney had never met, I think Paul might have played in a bar band for the rest of his life. Same thing with John Lennon. A lot of guys can get puffed up about all the talent and everything but luck has a lot to do with this because music is style, its fashion. It’s very subjective. If you’re fortunate enough you meet the right guys and get the right combination. I don’t feel the same way about solo artists. If you start talking about your Bob Dylan’s and you say it was no accident that he wrote “Positively 4th Street”. That happened for a reason, it was no accident. When you start getting into bands then you start getting into accidents about how people meet each other and being in the right place at the right time and that sort of thing. So you have to be grateful for those circumstances and then grateful to all the fans that support you.
You mentioned that there’s going to be the greatest hits DVD and CD coming out. Is there any other “new”, for lack of a better word, Triumph material coming out? Any classic material or anything you guys plan on releasing?
We have another DVD that we want to do that’s based on a show that we played in Baltimore. It’s in the can and we’ve done some work on it, but it’s not finished yet. Not sure when that’s going to come out but that will certainly come out over the next few years. We also have a lot of what I’ll call authorized bootleg stuff, in other words our own bootleg stuff. At a certain point we’ll probably start putting that together.
After Triumph broke up you and Mike Levine [bass/keyboards] stayed in the industry and you’re operating Metalworks Studios, for anybody that doesn’t know that.
Actually, Mike went off into his own business. That’s often a common misconception. Mike has his own set of businesses and I had my own business interests but the only place that we shared any business interest was through Triumph.
The studio itself has seen some really big names go through there: Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Guns ‘n Roses and Rush…
Yes, we’ve been really fortunate. We’ve done a lot of great projects and I feel like we’ve been recognized by the Canadian Music Industry for nine years in a row as Recording Studio of The Year in Canada. We’ve been very fortunate that way and it was a lot of Triumph connections that I think helped in fostering some of the bands coming through. I have to give full credit to all of the studio staff. They’ve done a great job. We have some great engineers. Our head engineer, L. Stu Young, won the Juno last year for Engineer of The Year for his work on Prince’s album [MUSICOLOGY], which was probably one of the top three albums in the world two years ago. A lot of talent and a lot pf peoples’ heart has gone into the work that’s come out of Metalworks.
How hands on are you day-to-day with the studio and the artists that record there?
Not at all. I have a fantastic group of guys that run the place and I really can’t take any responsibility for what goes on day to day (laughs). I have an office there so I can hang out but I don’t do anything as far as running it or management or anything like that. I actually spend a lot more time right now trying to work on the school because I feel personally liable for the experience that all the kids have that come there since I have three kids of my own. The studio manager and the assistant manager do a great job. They don’t need Gil Moore. The school is newer and I feel more personally responsible for being entrusted with other peoples’ kids, so I spend more time thinking about what’s going on there and developing that.
That was actually my next question since Metalworks offers a diploma program for students. Is that something that you envisioned as having an all-in-one practical and academic environment for people looking to get into the music industry?
I don’t know how it unfolded, to be honest with you. When we were doing the movie CHICAGO and we were recording all the music cues with Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere. I was thinking, here we are, we’re doing this great work and the technical skills to do this level of project and all the logistics that goes into it and there’s no way it just disappears like an ice cube that melts and there’s nothing left. I remembered when I started and was basically begging this band saying “Can I carry your guitar case? Can I load your trailer? Can I carry the drums?”, and just desperate to get into the business and no idea how to get into it and I thought, I have to take what I know about how to make records and I have to turn it into a curriculum. A three-year program started when we started developing the initial curriculum that we launched the school with and it’s just grown since then. I feel like it’s a great opportunity to give something back. Some of the students now that have graduated and that I get to talk to, I look at them and think these guys have got their wheels on so much more so than the guys that I grew up with that were trying and could never access this kind of education and could never get brought up to speed on professional equipment. It just didn’t exist.
Are there any big-named alumni from the program that we might know?
No, you wouldn’t yet. They are too young and they’re too just out of the gate. Give it about five years and then I would say you will. Most of our graduates are in their early twenties. I find most of the guys, that when they hit the radar screen, you have to figure they’re thirty years old in most cases. That’s not always the case but if you look statistically I think that’s what you’ll find. They guys that you really know, that are really on the radar screen, like Bob Rock, who we just finished doing a project with [Our Lady Peace’s new album], he’s in his fifties.
Why did you choose to move behind the scenes after the breakup of Triumph rather than carry on with a different band?
I was never really comfortable with the whole being in the spotlight part of it. I was pretty shy. For me, being in Triumph was pretty much having to act, you know, to be somebody that I really wasn’t. I think that’s something that probably a lot of people are confronted with. Where I am very comfortable is trying to develop strategies and plans and interact with people on a creative level behind the scenes. I loved playing drums, I mean I really, really, really loved playing drums but there’s a certain showbiz personality, you know the David Lee Roth personality that’s “look at me” and I am not a “look at me” person.
Do you still play the drums at all?
When was the last time you did play?
The last time Triumph played.
Wow! So obviously that was by choice? You just chose to leave it at that?
Yeah, I have no desire. My brain just leapt forward into the new horizon and a new paradigm and to me it was like stripping off a set of clothes and putting on a new suit of clothes and just moving forward. There was no personal development left for me so I had to do something that was going to take me to my next personal shift. My own paradigm had to shift and it didn’t revolve around doing the same thing again. It had to be something new. Initially, I guess it was something that was forced upon me. My dad passed away and my mom had a stroke, so I had to devote myself for a period of time to caring for my mother. It was a very fascinating relationship to be my mother’s guardian for a period of years and I my thinking evolved and my own family was paramount in my thinking. Working with my kids and interacting with my wife was the number one thing in my life. When my mom passed on, the evolution of the business became paramount in my mind. I’m now working with my oldest daughter and she’s absolutely in love with the music industry. Metalworks has become a three-headed monster. We now have a very, very fully-developed sound and lighting company offered within the Metalworks brand called Metalworks Live Events. We’re out right now touring with Tom Cochrane and doing all his sound and lighting. We’re doing corporate shows with URS Canada and we’re doing work with Canadian Music Week actually where the Hall of Fame is being conducted and the school is just expanding in leaps and bounds. We have a whole initiative on online education that we’re planning to launch next year. We have new curriculums that we’re developing behind the scenes and we have a lot of initiatives for the students that are already on campus to improve student life and areas of retention to try and produce a higher-quality graduate. So I have challenges, not withstanding the issues with the studio, like I said, I have some great people there and it’s a very mature company, but I have a lot of challenges as to how to make things better in all these areas.
Going back to when you were still in the band, would you classify yourself as a drummer first and a singer second, or vice versa?
Definitely a drummer first. I never liked singing. What ended up happening which was really bizarre is, towards the end of the band I met another singer and he really inspired me about singing. At one stage of the game we were working on a song and I actually sang one phrase…I sang three or four notes in a row that I actually liked. Before that, everything else that ever came out of my mouth just embarrassed me. I never ever heard anything that ever came out of my mouth that I didn’t find extremely embarrassing. So while I was in the studio I would just sing as fast as possible and all I would say to the engineer is “Can I go, can I go, can I go? Are you finished? You got what you need? Can I go?” I was a really horrible singer to try and manage but I was just too embarrassed and didn’t like it. Then one day, I sang something, I guess I had been doing it for so long, that suddenly I heard the resonance or something and I thought “Jeez, I really dig that. That can’t be me?!” I listened to it back in the headphones a few times and I went, “Man, I actually like that, that’s cool!” What ended up happening was, one of our back up singers who was just fantastic, this girl named Elaine Overholt who’s just a doll, I said, “Elaine, would you teach me ‘cause I think I maybe have some talent.” She took me under her wing and started teaching me and then after that I ended up studying with an opera singer named Ed Johnson, who is absolutely incredibly inspirational. He taught me to like my own voice because he taught me what I didn’t like about it and how to get rid of what I didn’t like. Then I found singing incredibly fascinating and I still do to this day. I really, really like singing and I actually miss singing more than I miss playing drums, but it is what it is. It came along really, really late. I spent ninety-five percent of my career just hating every moment that I had to sing.
So I guess the obvious question is why did you choose to sing and not let Rik Emmett sing all of the songs?
It’s funny and it keeps coming up in these interviews. It’s funny because when we were playing, nobody ever asked me that but now everybody seems to ask me that. There’s a really simple explanation. When we stared to play…the way I learned to sing was when I was playing in a band before Triumph and we had a job for a hundred bucks at Honey Harbour. The job was going to be cancelled. It was a Friday night job and we had a singer who quit on Wednesday. On Thursday morning rehearsal, we said “Okay, either we all learn to sing or we have to cancel the gig” and that was not an option because there was a hundred bucks on the line which seemed like a million dollars. We split the songs up and I got six or seven songs. The first song I ever learned was “Sookie Sookie” by Steppenwolf. A buddy playing was a singer in another band and he came and gave my band lessons how to sing at this rehearsal and we all picked up a portion of the song and we went and played the job in Honey Harbour, and that’s how I became a singer. So then when Triumph started, I didn’t want to sing, but Mike and I made this conscious decision that we were going to be three guys, so we started rehearsing with Rik and Rik was a really good singer. And we thought okay, Rik can do all the singing, but then we realized that because of the theatrical nature of the show that we wanted to put on, if he was stuck at the mic stand at that one spike on stage all night long, we wouldn’t have the geometry that we needed with the lighting and the lasers and all that. We wouldn’t have the choreography that we wanted to produce. There were all these limitations. Not withstanding that, he has a really high range and singing all these high parts, they were really taxing so if he sang for two or three songs in a row, he was kind of wasted. We also decided that we wanted to have this incredibly fast-paced nature to what we did. We always felt the real problem with a lot of bands in that time frame where they were presenting their music and they separated all the songs with these big long gaps in between where everybody as tired basically and they were trying to get their wind. So we had this concept of a show that was more like a play where everything segued into everything. There were no gaps so that there was no possibility of the audience losing their attention. We scripted all our songs and all the theatrics to be seamless. You would go from the beginning of a performance to the end without any gaps so that really restricted the amount of “get your breath” time in what we were doing. We realized really soon that the only way it was going to work was with two singers. I started singing reluctantly just as it was a means to an end. And then finally, I think it was when we did THE SPORT OF KINGS album, that was when I actually learned to like to sing, but before that it was just all pain.
Promo ad – 1988
Interesting. After Rik left in 1988, did you and Mike ever consider disbanding or were you always determined to carry on even though Rik had left?
Yeah, we considered disbanding.
What was it that made you choose to go on?
Um…that’s a good question. I don’t know. Why the hell did we go on? [Long pause] It’s probably different for both of us. I think for Mike there was more a sense of determination, but I can’t really speak for him. For me, it was a case of Mike wanted to do it and I learned to like singing so there was one thing pulling me forward. I never stopped liking writing songs. That pulled me forward. Then there was all the people who kept insisting that we had to go forward and that sort of pulled me forward. Then I suppose the other thing was meeting Phil X. Phil’s an unbelievable guy. He’s incredibly talented and he’s a very inspirational guy to be around, so there was that. I don’t know if I’ve fully answered your question but I think that’s the best I can do. There was this momentum that was there but there was also counter-momentum because there was also this feeling that Triumph was really about Rik and Mike and Gil. It wasn’t about anybody else. No disrespect to Phil because he’s a great, great guy, but when we played with Phil, we weren’t Triumph, we were a different band. We realized that quite quickly. We said “You know what? This is a great band, maybe we could be something, but it’s not Triumph. It’s something else.”
When did you first notice things taking a downward turn with Rik in the band?
We had this producer, Ron Nevison, that came on board that the record company kind of shoved down our throat. They were omniscient and he figured out a way to make all three of us pissed off at each other.
Yeah. There were two things going on at the same time. They were putting pressure on us because they were saying, “You guys aren’t selling enough records”. It was the classic example of squeezing the golden goose. We were already laying golden eggs and they were saying “you’re not laying the eggs fast enough. So we want you to work with this guy because he’s worked with Heart and they just had a big hit single and we think he can do the same thing with you”. We were like, “We’re not Heart. We’re not a singles band”. Reluctantly we kind of caved in against our better judgment. We worked with this guy and within the first week he had Rik so miserable, he practically wanted to leave the studio. Then he actually figured out a way to have Mike Levine and I at each others’ throats. I don’t know how he managed to do that but it was incredible. This guy was just such a negative character and he was really good at pitting people. I don’t know what it was, I guess his Karma. He was just a nasty man. That was bad and then the pressure from the record company was bad and I think there was a third factor, which is probably the most underrated factor. The fact that we all really needed to take a vacation for about a year, maybe a year-and-a-half and everything would have been fine. If I look back on it and there was a person looking over the whole situation and just said “Look, you guys are all stressed out, just take a year-and-a-half off and then start over again”, everything would have been fine.
ALLIED FORCES (1981) / THUNDER SEVEN (1984)
You were doing almost and album a year for about ten years there.
Yeah, it just went on and on and on and we didn’t have a manager. Mike and I were managing the band, so management takes its toll.
How much of a power struggle existed between yourself and Rik? Was that something that was perpetuated and inflated by the media?
There was never a power struggle between us.
So it was more a media-driven thing?
To be honest with you, I hadn’t even heard of it in the media.
No, this is almost the first…well, maybe I’ve heard once or twice somebody say something along those lines but no, I’ve never even really heard it even from interviewers.
I heard that Rik insisted that there had to be a guitar instrumental on every album and that you guys fought over songs?
No, no. We encouraged that. He didn’t insist on it. It was something that we all agreed to. I loved all his guitar instrumentals. That’s bullshit.
PROGRESSIONS OF POWER (1980) / NEVER SURRENDER (1983)
Rumour was that John Sykes (Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake/Tygers of Pan Tang/Blue Murder) was going to be Rik Emmett’s replacement. Was that true?
Yeah, Mike was working on getting John Sykes in the band.
What happened with that?
I can’t remember. He had Blue Murder going and Blue Murder actually got off to a really good start and we were kind of right on top of that, so John Sykes…I personally love his guitar playing and so did Mike, so we kind of targeted him as an ideal replacement. But you know what, the bottom line is it really didn’t matter because Phil is as good a guitar player as John Sykes. Phil is unbelievable. And I think the bottom line is Triumph was Mike, Rik and Gil. When I look at other three-piece bands, going back to when I was a kid, like Cream. You take Jack Bruce out of Cream and you wouldn’t have Cream anymore. Corky Laing and Leslie West are good friends of mine and when you took Felix Pappalardi out of Mountain, that was the end of Mountain. You take Rush, who, Alex Lifeson is my buddy, but you take Alex or Geddy or Neil, take any one, you don’t have Rush anymore. The same thing could be said of Triumph. You take Rik out of Triumph, you take Mike out of Triumph, you never have a Triumph again, just Rik and I. I think either of those two guys were irreplaceable. I think maybe they could have replaced me, but they couldn’t replace either one of those two.
SURVEILLANCE (1988) / EDGE OF EXCESS (1993)
Looking back, do you regret using the Triumph name with Phil X in the band? Do you think it would have been different if you would have changed the band’s name and put out EDGE OF EXCESS in 1993?
No, I don’t feel any regrets. We were just trying to do what we thought was best. Really what happened with the band is, it was really the cusp of the implosion of the record industry. We were with a company called Polygram, an entity within an entity. We were on a label called Victory which was managed by a Polygram label group and the Polygram label group just imploded right when our record was released, so it was a business thing. It got off to a great start. We were on around 125 stations the first week. We were number one most added on all four tip sheets. We sold 67,000 records in about ten days. We got off to a fabulous start with the record, then all the people that were working on our record got fired. That just kind of took the wind out of our sails. I never felt the same about the band because to me when Mike, Rik and Gil went out, we were like the three musketeers. Then all the negative stuff happened during the break-up, I never really got over it emotionally. I just felt like “Wow, this is terrible. This guy’s my friend, he’s not my enemy. I can’t deal with the result of this” as much as I thought Phil was a wonderful guy. I don’t even know that Rik knows Phil but if Rik met Phil they would get along famously. They’d have respect for each other as musicians and they’re both good guys. Phil would probably think “How the hell did you ever get off the rails with these guys? I love Gil and I love Mike” (laughs). We weren’t bad guys to work with. It’s just one of those things. It’s hard to look back at it. I have a lot of regrets that we ever allowed that to happen and I think all three of us have to bear a lot of responsibility for that. It should never have happened, but it did. Whatever…you can only live your life once and I’m just glad that Rik is back in my life and hopefully we can build bridges for the rest of the future. I’m looking forward to going to one of his shows. I said the other day, “Tell me when you’re playing close so I can come by and watch you play”.
So obviously the two of you still speak regularly?
Yeah. Now. When Mike comes back from Jamaica, they’ll be talking, too.
Good to hear that you guys are back and things are good again.
Yeah, I mean I was in the trenches with them and life’s too short. It’s okay that we disagree over some stuff but relatively minor in the overall picture of the relationship, I think.
STAGES (1985) / THE SPORT OF KINGS (1986)
If Triumph hadn’t disbanded, do you think you’d still be recording as a band today?
No. I think I probably would have been the one to end Triumph. When my dad died, that pretty much killed things for me. I don’t know why those two things are tied together but it just changed my life. I would have been an actor from there on out. I guess if I had to be clear about that I would say…I had a great family that I grew up in and when I lost my dad, I realized what a family was all about and I realized that, touring the world, and I have the ultimate respect for Mick Jagger, but my conception of what a family is, is that it’s very, very hard to raise your kids in a hands-on way and be traveling the globe. I have friends that are businessmen that have to travel. I have some that say “I travel once a month and it’s really good. It keeps the marriage fresh and it’s a good thing”. I have other guys that have to travel more than that or the same amount and say “I hate traveling. It kills me”. I think the guy that can travel once a month is a lot better balanced and more natural if you want to have a family. It depends on if you like having a family. So when people don’t want a family…I know marriage statistics are down. Personally, I like being married. I like being with my children. My children are everything to me and playing in a rock band is not something that you do, touring in a rock band, and have children. It doesn’t allow you to focus on your children. I just feel that the music industry was really good to Gil Moore. That I got to do what I loved and use whatever talents I have to be able to stay in this industry but stay close to my children and my wife and keep my family as my focus. If there was some magical way to keep your family as your focus and still be able to travel the world and do what you need to be a touring band, maybe they’ll invent that in the next millennium. You know, where you can go in a Star Trek tube and take everybody with you (laughs).
I guess the inevitable question has to be asked with the band meeting again and getting the induction into the Hall of Fame, is there any chance Triumph is going to join the reunion tour trend and maybe even record some new material together?
You know, I wouldn’t say no to anything but I would just say that Mike has his own life, Gil has his own life and Rik has his own life and for me the focus is having the three of us be able to hang out. That’s easy to do, to hang out and be friends again. To actually put the band back together and actually do a tour, it’s such an amazing mix of logistics and considerations because if we were ever to do it, we’d have to be serious about it. We wouldn’t do it and not give the fans what they deserve, so it’s not very likely (laughs). From my perspective, what it would take for me to do it is that I’d need Mike and Rik to inspire me. Maybe they feel the same way. I can’t speak for them. I don’t know that they would ever want to. I’ve envisioned it and the only way I can envision it in my own mind is…did you see the movie VACATION with Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase? So you got the woody station wagon with the dog and the kids and the ice cream melting all over the car and all that stuff. To me that would be a Triumph tour. It’s just such a change. I would have to have my kids. We’d de doing piggyback rides back stage. It would have to be… “I’m going to take you to Ringling Brother Circus, we’re only going to do it once and I’m going to show you exactly how we do the tricks with the lions and the bears and then you’re going to have this on a video tape for the rest of your life”. It would just have to be that kind of a trip for me. I don’t have a need to be in a rock band, I did that. I have a need to be with my family and I have a need to support my friends. Rik and Mike are obviously a big part of my life and I love those guys and if it ever made sense to do it, I’d try to be there for them if I can.
So we might see the Triumph world tour with tickets going for $400 a piece (laughs)?
(Laughs) Ticket prices are a joke!
I know. The Police are kicking off their tour here in Vancouver and they sold out 18,000 seats, two shows, in about fifteen minutes and the tickets were about $250 and the scalpers are getting $400 and up now for them.
It’s outrageous, but you know, as long as people are willing to pay it….
I’ve got a few questions about the history of the band, if it’s alright?
ROCK & ROLL MACHINE (1977) / JUST A GAME (1979)
You covered Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” on the ROCK AND ROLL MACHINE album in 1977. Did you ever hear from Joe Walsh and what his thoughts were on the Triumph version of the song?
Absolutely not. Isn’t that funny? You’d almost think we would have had to work hard to not hear from him because we worked with Irving Azoff, who was his manager, too.
Yeah, it’s unbelievable. Mike Levine might know something about that. I could be wrong about that. I personally never heard anything.
We mentioned the US Festival earlier. Triumph played in front of half a million people, which just blows me away.
That was my favorite gig of all time.
I could imagine.
Steve Wozniak was a very inspirational character. I’m reading his book, I WOZ, right now as we speak and if there was one thing that would make me want to play one more Triumph show, it would be if he did a 25th anniversary US Festival.
Live at the US Festival – May 1983
What was it like looking out from the stage at that many people?
It was surreal.
I could imagine.
Did you have excessive nerves or anything like that when you walked out on stage?
No. No nerves. Rik always had nerves. It didn’t matter how many people were there. Rik is very nervous when he goes on stage. But no, I’m not. Never was. I got over it. I had nerves when we first started, but I got over it and then Mike did, too. Rik never did. I felt so sorry for Rik. He was always nervous when we went on stage.
Wow. Even after all those years? That’s amazing.
Yeah. He had no reason to be nervous because he knew what he was doing. Just a personal thing, you know. I used to feel sorry for him. Backstage he’d be really agitated before we would go on. I don’t know if he’s like that now. I’ll ask him. I haven’t seen him for the last fifteen years. “Hey, Rik. Are you still nervous when you go on stage?” Now I have to say this, I could not go on stage without drinking beer. I couldn’t do it. He might joke back and say “Hey, you were nervous but the difference was you’d have two beers before we went on stage”.
Take the edge off?
I don’t know. I would actually say no. I wouldn’t say that was what it was at all. I would say the truth is, I always felt like the Gil Moore in Triumph was a different person and it involved some acting, so if I had a beer, I could put myself in the closet and be the guy that goes out there. It was just a case of putting on the costume.
So it was like a character you were playing?
Something like that. I was too shy. I was never cut out to play in a band, for crying out loud. I was never cut out to be the guy in the band. I probably would have always been the soundman or something like that. That’s probably what I was cut out to do. It was just an accident that I ended up being in the band.
With the US Festival, there were some big names there at the time, obviously.
Oh, it was awesome! The day we played you had the best line up of all time. Ozzy Osbourne, Triumph, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, Scorpions. I mean, like every one of those bands could sell out the sports arena in Los Angeles two times over. All in one day. Unbelievable!
What was the setting like backstage with so many big names and big personalities there?
Ah…the funniest thing was Judas Priest. It was like a hundred degrees in the shade and those guys are walking around in all that leather stuff. (Laughs) I was just killing myself laughing saying, “Thank God we’re not Judas Priest.” That was what was really funny. What was negative was the day before, that jackass for The Clash was bad mouthing Steve. It was a cheap publicity stunt. I don’t even remember the guys’ name, the lead guy.
Oh, Joe Strummer?
Yep. Yep, he was bad-mouthing Steve Wozniak.
What a hypocrite that guy is.
The THUNDER SEVEN album. It was produced by Eddie Kramer.
What was it like working with such a legendary producer? I mean he’s worked with KISS, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles…
It was incredible. He kicked my ass. He became a lifelong friend because he was really hard on me.
In a good way?
Oh yeah. We have some really funny anecdotes in the studio. He really kicked my ass. We’re still buddies. If he comes to Canada, he won’t record anywhere but Metalworks.
Oh yeah. We just did a major project with him two tears ago called FESTIVAL EXPRESS, which is an absolutely phenomenal movie.
That was the Janis Joplin movie wasn’t it?
Yeah. Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, The Band. It was all done in Metalworks with Eddie. Eddie’s brilliant. A lot of people don’t know that he was the sound mixer in Woodstock, too.
That’s right. I did know that, that’s right. THUNDER SEVEN I know is one of the first titles that was ever released on CD when it first came out and I understand that it didn’t really sell that well at first because people didn’t have CD players.
Yeah. I think we probably sold a lot more vinyl. It went Gold pretty fast in America; it went Platinum really fast in Canada. So it did gain momentum but I think you’re right. I think CD sales were minimal.
Was the band involved with the decision to release it on CD or was that a label decision?
I honestly can’t remember, but I bet you Mike Levine can remember.
You worked with Neal Schon from Journey on THE SPORT OF KINGS and Steve Morse from Deep Purple on SURVEILLANCE. How did you end up crossing paths with the two of them?
Neal Schon was just one of the writers on a song we did, “Just One Night”, so that’s the connection there. The other, Steve Morse, I can’t remember how we met Steve but he ended up playing on one of our records. He was friends with Rik, I would say is probably the answer. If you ask Rik he would probably know the real story. I never really had anything to do with Steve.
I also read that Triumph was a band that often didn’t like being labeled “Metal”. Is that true?
Nah, personally, I couldn’t speak for Mike and Rik, I couldn’t care less.
Would you consider Triumph to be a metal band or more of a hard rock band?
Nah, I wouldn’t consider us to necessarily be a metal band. We did our fair share of shredding, right. I suppose we were closer to being metal than anything else but we had a lot of melody, too, which typically…metal to me…it’s like when you get into it, is Deep Purple a “metal band”? I don’t consider them a metal band. I never considered Led Zeppelin a “metal band.” To me, metal is like Judas Priest. AC/DC is metal. That to me is metal. But it’s just a phrase, it’s a conception. Then when you look at how it evolved, you get into bands like Metallica. Do I consider Metallica a metal band? That’s kind of weird. I don’t consider them a metal band.
Not their latest stuff, that’s for sure.
And yet supposedly you would think they would be the quintessential metal band. I don’t know. It’s just a color, like saying red or green.
When you guys first started out in the seventies, something that kind of carried through your whole career was the endless comparisons to Rush. Did you ever get tired of hearing Rush and Triumph in the same sentence?
No, not really because I admired them. Alex [Lifeson, guitar] is my friend. Geddy [Lee, bass and vocals] is a friend, too, and so is Neil [Peart, drums]. Geddy and Neil are more acquaintances. I haven’t spent a lot of time with either one of them but I’ve met them both and they’re great guys. They’re very talented. I really hit it off with Neil when I met him. I just think he’s a wonderful guy. And Alex I’ve spent a lot of time with and he’s just a fantastic person. I have a lot of respect for their work ethic. It’s incredible. The other thing about Rush is, a lot of our success in the United States, I give Rush a lot of credit for. Because we got compared to them so intensely over and over and over again everywhere we went, I kind of feel there was a little bit…you gotta remember, they were two years before us and I think what happened is a lot of people said we like Rush, let’s give Triumph a chance. We played all the same venues. We were on exactly the same circuit so it was like this week Rush, next week Triumph. I felt like they opened doors for us, on one hand. I felt the biggest comparison was we were a three-piece band from Toronto because our music is nothing like their music and our show is nothing like their show, so that’s where the comparison ends. I like Rush. I think Rush is great. I was a Rush fan so there’s nothing wrong with it.
Since Triumph was at its peak when eight-tracks and vinyl were the recording standard, where do you see the future of music in a world of MP3’s, iPods and MySpace?
(Laughs) You don’t have time for the rest of this interview if you’re going to ask me that question because now you’re delving into an area where I’m supposed to be an expert. Oh God, how can I answer your question? I think it’s a travesty that MP3 has become accepted as delivery standard. Basically, what I’ve seen is the qualities of sound go to the lowest common denominator. People don’t realize in this generation how they’re being cheated because technology has advanced so far, so we have the technology to create the best sound we’ve ever, ever, ever heard, and yet so much of what we’re doing is creating the worst sound ever heard. And people are buying it. As much as I think the iPod thing is a phenomenon and cellphone deployment of audio files is a phenomenon, they also just kind of cater to that whole lowest common denominator, sound is crap ethic. It’s really a tragedy because when I grew up, part of it was the music and part of it was how you got to listen to it and how great it sounded, getting into the sound of music and the technology of sound and how to make things sound better. I see these kids walking around with earphones on and iPods and stuff I feel like saying, “You know you’re listening to crap and you don’t even know it”! I’m hoping there’s going to be a seismic shift. I hope it takes place in the automobile and I hope what happens is that the automobile manufacturers realize that they actually have the best 5.1 playback device that’s ever been invented and that they have a captive audience in a driver and they learn to embrace sound formats that the music industry has failed with, but the film industry’s been extremely successful with and that they end up deploying those formats and creating and entirely new interest in music based on how great you can make it sound. And I hope that happens! If it doesn’t, we have an entire generation of young people that are being cheated by thinking that MP3 is good.
It is interesting. Like I said, I’m 35 years old so I’m old enough to remember vinyl and that sort of thing and the progression to compact disc which sound wise was night and day over vinyl and then to have, like you say, cutting-edge technology of being able to record sound and then have it degraded to an MP3. It’s like going for quantity now over quality. Like 80,000 songs on an iPod. It is a shame, I agree.
Yeah, it really is a tragedy.
Do you still follow new stuff in hard rock and metal music as a fan?
Yeah sort of, only in a different way. We do albums in the studio so certain bands really catch my attention. Like this band Alexisonfire? I think these guys…it’s funny. When I look at them I go “That’s Triumph”! It’s so funny (laughs). If you could just dial the clock back into a video of Mike, Rik and Gil, even though the music is obviously a lot different now cause there’s a big time jump in between, but the ethic and the whole mindset and the esthetic of what they’re doing, it just reminds me. I’m watching these guys and it’s like a video of my youth and it kills me watching them. I think they’re phenomenal. I love Alexisonfire, so yeah. Do I go out and buy hard rock records? No, I don’t. Who do I love? I still love a lot of the classic stuff. I still love Deep Purple, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin. I love Aerosmith as a band but I see some of these new bands coming along and I go, “Man, these guys got their wheels on”. Like Alexisonfire. These guys are something to be contended with. I really think that. And I think we have a lot of great acts in Canada. Canada has more talent per square mile than any other country in the world. I really believe that.
I hear a lot of people say that Canada is lacking the presence on the international music scene these days.
No, that’s a crack of horseshit if you ask me. I think statistically it’s wrong because statistically, Canada has sold more records worldwide based on its’ population than any other country in the world pro rata. A lot of it’s been dominated by the women lately. You’ve got Celine [Dion] and Shania [Twain] up there dominating the world market for female artists. The only place I feel it’s a bit of a shame is that I think that rock bands, back to bands again, have had a really hard time breaking across the border and back to your question about Rush, that’s where I appreciated Rush. We were of the same mindset. We went to America because we figured that’s where you had to fight the battle. That was the frontier and we just found America welcomed us with open arms. I feel badly for a lot of Canadian bands that got restricted by that 49th parallel and their career began and ended in Canada and they were never able to break beyond Canada and its borders. Canada is a 4% world market. That’s a bit of a tragedy for Canadian artists when they can’t get beyond that 49th parallel.
The Tragically Hip is a perfect example. They are massive in Canada yet they’ve never seemed able to crack the American market.
Yeah, I agree with you.
There are a lot of people that may not know that you were sort of the person who developed a lot of the lighting and pyro that Triumph used in the live shows. Where did you get that background from?
Figured it out. I just had an interest in it. Always had an interest in pyro, always liked firecracker day. I just started experimenting with methane gas and propane and all sorts of stuff that was completely illegal, but I was young and too naïve to realize it. I developed our first propane torch and stuff you couldn’t do now but I was doing it back then because as kids, we didn’t know any better. You just did it.
Well, that visual excitement was a big part of the show. Do you think today’s bands have lost a lot of that visual appeal?
Yeah. Some of them have. It depends if you embraced it or not. I embraced it because I went and saw things that really appealed to me. I just embraced a lot of that ethic. I felt that Las Vegas had a lot to offer. Movies and plays had a lot to offer. There’s a whole sort of esthetic of theatre that needed to be brought to the rock stage and I felt that a lot of bands had bits and pieces of it. Some of it needed to be expanded on. Some of the bands that I saw, Jimi Hendrix for example. Phenomenal showman. He was the first guy with pyro. Everybody thinks it was KISS. Don’t get me wrong, I love KISS and I love Gene Simmons, but it wasn’t. It was Hendrix. That was the guy with the burning guitar. I just tried to pull a lot of those elements together in Triumph and Mike and Rik were in agreement, but I was kind of cast in the mad scientist role or whatever. The technician or something.
What’s your single biggest highlight and your single biggest lowlight of the years in Triumph?
Highlight was the US Festival, unquestionably. Second to that would have been the first time I heard a Triumph song on the radio, which was when I heard “Street Fighter” on CHUM FM in Toronto when I was driving on the 401. Biggest bummer was definitely Rik leaving. If we’d been able to not go through this period that we went through, it would have been okay because I would have been able to support him. But now I can support him. That’s fixed. On the minor-league side, I would say there were a couple of moments that were really tough. I remember one when we were over in England and Rik and I were both playing the Heavy Metal Holocaust with Ozzy Osbourne and Motorhead. Rik and I were both sick as dogs and we went on stage and we got two songs out of us and then half the PA system died. At that moment, I looked at Rik and we were like “What are we doing here? The PA’s crapped out, I’m sick, you’re sick. We’ve already played an American and Canadian tour. We’re completely exhausted. We can’t get food over here that we like (laughs)” You know what I mean? It was like, “Give me some penicillin and take me to McDonalds.” That was one but to be honest there were not that many lowlights. It was basically a rocket ship ride from the day we started the band. I really gotta dig deep to find anything negative.
TRIUMPH – 1976 / LIVE IN VANCOUVER 5/20/1979 (Bootleg)
Gil, it’s been 31 years since the first album came out. Is there anything you wish that you could have accomplished with Triumph that you didn’t?
Yeah. I wish that what happened was, instead of breaking up, I think what would have been appropriate was, Rik had a desire to do some solo records, so that should have happened. We should have just stayed friends. Mike should have gone off and done all this internet stuff that was obviously in his future. I should have had the chance to go back behind the screen like the Wizard of Oz and done my thing, which enabled me to spend the time I had to spend with my Mom after she had her stroke and have that part of my life play out and do what I wanted to do which was develop my young family. Which is what made me happy, and then ultimately it manifested itself in my business. And we all could have done what we wanted to do and just end it in a positive way. So hopefully we’ve recaptured that now after this separation for fifteen years and we’ll never look back, I’m hoping.
Are there any last words you’d like to say Gil?
Yeah. It’s good to have Rik back as a friend. That’s the most important thing about this Hall of Fame induction, to have the three of us as buddies again. We had a great run.
The three amigos.
Well again, congratulations Gil on the honour of the Hall of Fame induction.
Great to see you guys on friendly terms again and as a fan and a journalist, congratulations.
Thanks a million. Cheers!
***Thanks to Jen Farhood at Chipster PR for setting up the interview.