-From “Boize” to “Emissary” (May 1993 – July 1993)
Emissary was a bluesy heavy metal band from Montreal, Canada. Founded in June of 1993, the band was a direct continuation of Boize, whose final line-up made the decision to change the band’s name. Stephane Fania, bassist, and Robert Kourie, guitarist, had been making music together since 1986 after meeting at College Saint-Laurent in the Ville Saint-Laurent region of Montreal. Some of their early bands together include Alter-Ego (previously known as Unmarked), a new wave project active from the summer of 1987 until September of 1988; and Strike Anywhere (previously known as Leading Edge), another new wave outfit, which formed in late 1988 and dissolved in March of 1989. In April of 1989, the pair formed Boize and continued with various line-up changes all the way through the spring of 1993. By the beginning of June of 1993, Boize’s members included Steph on bass, Bob on guitar, Joe Morrone on drums and Xavier Briand (aka Rjeen) on vocals.
Joe grew up with Steph in the Saint-Leonard district of Montreal and his bands, Ruff Edge (an ACDC cover band) and Sublime Fine (a hard rock act), had played shows with Boize. Joe had also filled in for Boize one night in October of 1992, while their original drummer Scott was sick. Joe eventually, though unofficially, by his reluctance to commit himself to any band, joined Boize in May of 1993 after Scott departed.
Xavier, born Rejan Briand, had just finished a successful run as the vocalist for Sarok Saroya, a local hard rock band active since the late 1980’s, which had played many of the same concert venues as Boize. Since the breakup of Sarok Saroya, Xavier had released a solo demo tape, released under the name “Rjeen“, entitled “A Piano & A Voice“. The tape was distributed through his own imprint, Lyre Records and published through his own publishing company, RJB Publishing. It is unknown if Xavier was recommended by someone or if he saw an ad that Boize had placed in the Montreal Gazette newspaper looking for a new vocalist. Xavier joined Boize in June of 1993 as their fourth vocalist.
Initial discussions held at the band’s rehearsal space, in the basement of 5676 Jarry Street East in Saint-Leonard, with the new line-up had no intention of changing the band name from Boize to anything else. The band only planned to rework the songs that had been composed earlier that year, while Scott MacDonald was still on drums and Ian [whose last name is still missing, if you know him please get in touch!] was still on vocals and acoustic 12-string guitar. Some of these songs included “A Friend” and “Miss You” (the songs may have had different titles in early 1993). When Steph and Bob noticed how drastically different the material was becoming with Xavier, they decided that it was time for a change. Boize’s songwriting had progressed and evolved throughout its span; from 1980’s The Clash-influenced, keyboard-driven, new wave/hard rock (1989-1990), to Ozzy Osbourne-influenced glam/heavy metal (1990-1991), to darker metal influenced by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Slayer (1992-1993).
By the time that Rjeen joined, Black Sabbath had taken over as their primary influence with detuned guitars and a bluesy songwriting style. As is usually the case with new members, creativity flourished. But Xavier was already raising a family and lived in Morin-Heights, a good hours’ drive from the rehearsal space on Montreal island, and could only commit to practicing twice a week. In just over a month, the new band had completed four songs; “A Friend” and “Miss You” were re-worked with Xavier’s lyrics, and two originals were composed; “Reach In” and “Wasting Away“.
On the weekend of Friday, July 2nd and Saturday July 3rd, Jim Stabile hosted the annual two-day Concert Populaire festival at Parc Ladauversiere in Saint-Leonard. The event was sponsored by the National Bank of Canada as a benefit for LUPA, a local non-profit organization for abused women. One of the bands scheduled to play the festival had to pull out and Jim reached out to Steph on the afternoon of Thursday July 1st to ask if his new band would play the available slot on Friday night. Needing a name for the band’s first show, Steph suggested “Emissary“.
Emissary was given the headlining spot on the first night of the festival, likely due to the fact that Boize had made a name for themselves in the Montreal heavy metal scene. By the time they got on stage and set up their instruments with the festival’s gear, it was already past midnight. After opening their show with “Reach In” and following up with “A Friend“, they planned to play their newest song, “Wasting Away“, which Xavier had finished writing the lyrics for earlier that day. But before they launched into their third song, Jim walked onto the stage and told Steph that the show was over. Apparently, the neighbours had complained that Emissary was too heavy and too loud to be playing this late at night at an outdoors event, even though the concert was scheduled to last until two A.M. With a brief and unexpected “Alright, we gotta go!”, the band was off the stage. Luckily this short performance was filmed by their friend and roadie Paolo Gattola.
-Emissary moves to H.Q. Studio & records “Reach In” (July 1993 – September 1993)
Not only was their first show cut short but Emissary was in for another surprise that night. When they got back to their jam space, located only fifteen minutes away from the festival, they were shocked to find the whole street blocked off by firemen and their trucks. A dry cleaning store located across the street from their jam space building had exploded and burned down due to a gas leak. The landlord of the burnt building was one of Steph’s family friends who also owned the building where Emissary practiced. The landlord had made a deal with Steph that the band could cheaply rent out the basement of 5676 Jarry Street East, as long as they were willing to leave when he found a new tenant. The dry cleaners wanted to reopen their store in Emissary’s local and so the band was given a week to move out.
When Steph told the story to Garfield “Gralf” Lamb, one of Boize’s manager who was keeping tabs on Emissary, he offered them the opportunity to set up their practice space in his new studio. Within days Emissary moved to H.Q. Studio, located at 5122A Parc Avenue in Montreal; the actual entrance to H.Q. Studio was in the rear alley between Parc Avenue and Hutchison Street. Gralf, who earned his living as one of Montreal’s top studio technicians, had originally leased out the space in 1992 to store unused studio equipment that he had collected. Eventually, he set up this equipment and the storage space turned into a fully functional recording studio. It is unknown if any other bands used the H.Q. Studio facility prior to Emissary moving in.
A little over a month after setting up their gear at H.Q. Studio, Emissary started tracking their first demo. The band spent most of August recording three songs, “A Friend“, “Reach In” and “Miss You“, using H.Q. Studio’s one-inch tape, eight-track soundboard. Although the music for “Wasting Away” was fully written, Xavier decided to re-write the lyrics and so the song was not recorded during the session. As the band had the studio at their disposal, they felt no pressure to record their material in a hurry. The demo was engineered, mixed and produced by Steph and Bob, with a little help from Xavier. After the recording session, Steph headed to S.N.B. one afternoon to assist in the mastering by Jean-Francois Chicoine, who had also worked on Boize’s self-titled EP in early 1992.
In late August, Steph and his at the time girlfriend, Kathy Knox, designed the demo tape’s layout and a sticker. In retrospect, a few mistakes were made during the design process. To begin with Joe Morrone’s name was misspelled as “Joey Moreno”. Then, there was the legality of the publishing company and record label, which the band self-released. Back in April of 1991 the four then-members of Boize (Stephane Fania, Robert Kourie, Perry Blainey and Scott MacDonald) founded their own publishing imprint, Klink Publishing. The same four members, with the addition of Boize’s rhythm guitarist Steve Berger, also founded their own record label, U-Iliot Records, in early 1992. By the summer of 1993, Steph and Bob had acquired complete ownership of Klink Publishing and U-Iliot Records.
Initially, “Reach In” was to be registered and released through Klink Publishing, acting as both publishing company and record label. However, Xavier insisted that the demo tape be registered and released through his own publishing company, RJB Publishing, promising to handle all legalities, registration and copyrighting. In reality, RJB Publishing (as well as Lyre Records) turned out to be an unregistered company which Xavier never bothered to register officially. When used on previous releases (for Sarok Saroya and Rjeen), Xavier simply used the company’s names on the artworks and hoped to never run into legal issues. Thankfully, “Reach In” was eventually registered and copyrighted through Klink Publishing, though Steph and Bob’s company remained uncredited on the demo tape covers. Steph and Bob later went as far as to legally incorporate Emissary as a fully functional company/full-time band in September of 1994.
After having one hundred cassettes professionally pressed, Steph headed to CopieXpress on Lacordaire Boulevard in Saint-Leonard, where he had frequently photocopied Boize material. There, he had a hundred tape covers and a few stickers printed on glossy paper. In September, the demo was assembled and ready to go. Kathy Knox then shot the band’s first photo shoot, taking pictures in the alleyway behind H.Q. Studio and also outside Le 5116 Bar on Parc Avenue, a pub right next door to the studio.
Before any shows could be booked to promote the release, Joe announced his departure from the band. After debating the matter for a few months, he finally decided to leave the band due to girlfriend complications. Joe was a friend of the band before joining and he remained one after leaving. Joe went on to play with Child, I.C. Red, The Big Sleep and The Staff.
At about the same time, Gralf told the band that he was not renewing the lease of his studio’s space at the end of the month and that he would be moving his recording equipment out to another location. Steph offered to take over H.Q Studio’s lease and rented out the remaining gear from Gralf until he could afford his own equipment.
-Plans for a second demo & blueprints for an album (September 1993 – December 1993)
To find a new drummer, Steph posted an ad in the Montreal Gazette newspaper and in two local music magazines, the Montreal Mirror and Voir. Through this the band welcomed Pat [either Patrick or Patrice, whose last name is still missing, if you know him please get in touch!]. Pat was a left-handed drummer, apparently a rare find in the drumming world, originally from the Lac Saint-Jean region of Quebec. He was a true metalhead who brought to the table a much more technical approach to their songwriting, using drum triggers, double drum bass pedals and china hats. With him, some of Emissary’s most melodic material was written.
Between September and December Emissary was busy teaching the old songs to Pat and also composed half a dozen new songs. Theses included “Find“, “Let’s Pretend“, “Mister“, “Love and Fire” (which was eventually reworked into “Something to Say“) and they also finished up “Wasting Away“. While these songs originally planned to be recorded and released on a second demo in the winter of 1993-1994, discussions soon brought on the idea of writing a few more songs and doing a full-length album. And so the band agreed to focus strictly on songwriting and did not book any shows.
In late October, Xavier announced that he had an upcoming business trip to Los Angeles, California and he wanted to bring the majority of the “Reach In” demo tapes to shop around. His plan was to go door-to-door to all the major record labels and management firm representatives in the city and land Emissary a deal for their upcoming album. So he asked Steph (the band’s treasury) for additional cash from the band funds to stick around in the city a little longer. He left on Friday October 29th and wound up spending the first week of November in L.A.. But Xavier’s contacts were nonexistent and the reception for the demo was met poorly. The tapes wound up collecting dust amongst millions of other demos from unsolicited artists.
Throughout the entire process of writing the planned album, Steph demoed the new material using H.Q. Studio’s four-track recorder. During mixing sessions of these pre-production demos, Xavier began disliking Pat’s death metal-oriented drumming style. Xavier was pushing for the band to head towards a more blues-oriented style, even though all of the band members were structured and came from a metal background. Without consulting Steph nor Bob, Xavier called Pat and fired him over the phone before the year was over. This was a big set back for Emissary, as they narrowed down to a trio once again, but they agreed to continue writing the full-length album by themselves prior to finding a new drummer.
-Rjeen leaves Emissary for Mother of Pearl (January 1994)
In the new year, Steph was approached by Pierre “Peter” Soupras who showed interest in managing Emissary. The band was no longer under contract with Bill Hill Productions (which had signed Boize back in February of 1991) and Peter was successfully managing Mother of Pearl, a talented local Montreal thrash metal band gaining popularity. Peter convinced Steph to allow Mother of Pearl to share H.Q. Studio as a rehearsal space. His reasoning was that he wanted the simplicity of a single location housing the two bands that he managed, both of which could demo material at will.
Steph was however unaware that Peter had ulterior motives for bringing in a second band into Emissary’s jam space. Mother of Pearl was at the verge of winning Jailhouse Rock Cafe’s “The Grand Rock Stars Contest“, having earlier succeeded through the preliminary and semi-finals in November. An insider had already promised them the grand prize; a recording session at Metalworks Studios in Toronto and an album deal with either EMI Canada or Warner Canada. But Peter wasn’t getting along with Mother of Pearl’s singer, Mario Randisi. He convinced Mother of Pearl to move their rehearsal space from Mario’s house in Laval, Quebec to H.Q. Studio, in order to try out new vocalists without Mario finding out.
Marco Carata was the first to try out, and as far as Steph knew, he was Mother of Pearl’s vocalist (having never met Mario Randisi). Peter then secretly approached Xavier and asked him to try out for Mother of Pearl. By this time, Xavier was already growing restless of Emissary’s strict dedication to writing an album and was eager to play shows. But without a drummer (which he had himself fired), Emissary was unable to play shows, and even had they found one, Steph and Bob had their minds set on having enough material to perform a full forty-five minute set, without the need to add covers. In addition to this, Xavier was a few years older than Steph and Bob and had other commitments (a wife, two kids and a full-time job), making him unwilling to contribute more than two days a week to the band. Because of all of this, the band was limited from progressing as fast as Xavier demanded. With Peter’s promise of a generous prize package after winning the Jailhouse Rock Cafe contest, and thinking that he could then support his family with a successful new band, Xavier jumped on the opportunity to join Mother of Pearl. Oddly enough, Mother of Pearl was a pure thrash metal band, much heavier than Emissary, which confused the issue of why Xavier fired Pat in the first place.
As soon as Steph found out about this, he promptly dismissed Peter as Emissary’s short-lived manager, and Mother of Pearl, with Xavier, was asked to move out of H.Q. Studio. Ironically, the judges of “The Grand Rock Stars Contest” were unimpressed with Mother of Pearl’s new vocalist and their previously-promised vote went to another band. Outraged by the result, Peter then dropped Mother of Pearl from his management firm and promptly signed the winning band. Unfortunately, Mother of Pearl wound up breaking up shortly after. Xavier and Mother of Pearl’s bassist, Mike Smith, continued writing together but the pair eventually split up. Xavier went on to release more demos as a solo act; “Carry On” was released on cassette in 1996 under the name “Rjeen“, followed by “Les Portes de L’avenir” which was released on CD in 2001 under the name “Redj“; both on his own Lyre Records and to no success. He currently performs acoustic material and is a freelance photographer under the nickname “x^v“.
-Steph takes over vocal duties (February 1994 – Fall 1994)
Tired of being set back every time a vocalist left the band, Steph decided to step up as the band’s vocalist. He had previously handled backup vocals in Alter-Ego (1987-1988) and during Perry Blainey’s span in Boize (1989-1992), but this would be his first time fronting a band on his own, while also remaining on bass. To perfect his range he signed up for private vocal coaching lessons which spanned the course of two years.
Because Steph wanted his vocals to be fully developed before releasing anything publicly, he and Bob took their time finishing the album. That spring, Bob cut off his long hair and got a full-time job at the Montreal Casino, which had recently opened. While working there, he met his soon-to-be wife, which ultimately left him little time to dedicate to the band. On the other hand, Steph opted to venture further into the music business. One of Boize’s favourite concert venues had changed name from the Backstreet to the Cathouse (located at 382 Mayor Street in downtown Montreal) in March of 1994. Most of the venue remained identical; they kept the same decor, they still booked metal bands and Louis Adams stayed on board as the venue’s manager and in charge of bookings. Louis was good friends with Steph’s and he asked him to design the Cathouse’s brand new logo and hired him as a sound man. Steph was then given the opportunity to book any shows he wanted at the new venue.
After half a year of working at the Cathouse, Steph wound up opening his own concert venue with a full liquor license, right next door to H.Q. Studio. Club Rage, named after Steph’s favourite band at the time, Rage Against the Machine, opened in August of 1994 and was located at 5116 Parc Avenue, on the second floor, right above Le 5116 Bar. Rage Against the Machine coincidentally ended up using the same font that Steph chose to design Club Rage’s logo, on their album “The Battle of Los Angeles” five years later.
Club Rage immediately became popular for alternative rock, alternative metal, funk rock, funk metal, grunge, hard rock, ska and punk rock bands. Even the occasional hip hop shows were booked there. Eventually, it became the first venue in Montreal to host weekly goth nights with DJs. Because of Boize’s initial dilemma in finding clubs that allowed them to play strictly original material, Steph was a strong believer in original content. He pushed for bands to only play their own compositions, as opposed to many other venues of the time who enforced bands to play covers in order to attract a general public.
A very incomplete list of bands and artists that have performed at Club Rage include:
- Angry White Mob
- Awkward Progress
- Beyond the Pale
- Bitter Fly
- Blanc Bonnet
- Bleu Baroque
- Body Jar
- Claude Lamothe
- Coma Toast
- Cradle to Grave
- Cryptic Lounge
- Defense D’Afficher
- Destitute Vogue
- Doctor Hadley
- Econoline Crush
- Elastic Zebra
- Freak Nation
- Garden Bards
- Illegal Jazz Poets
- Ism Skism
- Jahzen Plutovitz
- Le Complot Venitien
- Line Three
- Marie Madeleine
- Mass Crare Rama
- Mostly Casual
- Pollen X
- Power Company
- Rev 32
- Saphires in the Mud
- Seventh Soul
- Shades of Culture
- Slaphappy 5
- So What?
- Spiral Dance
- Strange Bedfellows
- Strangely Dandelion
- Tête a Claque
- The American Devices
- The Golden Mean
- The Mother Funkers
- The Rydells
- The Sea Beggars
- The Shift
- The Snipes
- The Vendettas
- The Weedmonkeys
- Those Bloody Nigels
- Three Eyes Fiddler
- Vendetta D’Aspic
- Your Arrogance
We are currently looking for more events that took place at Club Rage. If you have information about a band that performed there, please get in touch!
In addition to booking rock and metal bands, Club Rage started hosting gothic, electronic and drum and bass nights twice a week with such DJs as Fractal Surfers, Lapsus and DJ Denard. Unfortunately, even though Steph had the Cathouse and Club Rage at his disposal, Emissary never performed at those venues.
-Emissary pre-produces “Digging Up Old Bones”, Part 1 (Fall 1994 – Spring 1995)
At around the same time that Steph opened Club Rage, Emissary had solidified a good ten songs and was ready to audition drummers. Instead of paying for a listing in newspapers and magazines, Steph designed a full page ad which he planned to post in every music store and concert venue in Montreal. He headed to CopieXpress to make photocopies and while there, got caught up in a conversation with one of the employees, who coincidentally enough happened to be a drummer.
Steph originally struck up a friendship with Alain Lacaille back in 1991, while photocopying Boize concert tickets and posters at CopieXpress. Through talking about music together, he found out that Alain had recorded at Cherry Production Studios in Saint-Leonard with one of his early bands, Landriault, where Boize had also tracked their unreleased 1990 album. In 1991, Steph invited him to a Boize concert at Sam’s Rock Bar. Alain had also played in Automne, Mamzel Rock and with Claude Bedard and in 1993, he opened a jam space on the corner of Jean-Talon Street and Boyer Street in Villeray. By the time that Club Rage came about, Steph was at CopieXpress at least twice a week to print tickets and the two had become good friends.
Alain was invited to come try out for Emissary in September or October of 1994. Although he had not been a fan of Boize’s music, he liked what Emissary was doing and was willing to commit himself fully to helping Emissary finish writing their album. Only a week after joining, Alain told Steph that he was looking for a new place to live. Steph offered him to take up a permanent residence at H.Q. Studio, which was already comfortably divided to accommodate such a situation with a closed recording room, a mixing room with a futon which served as a bedroom, a little kitchen with a stove, refrigerator and sink and two closets making up the bathroom; one with a toilet, another with a shower.
In November, the trio started recording their rehearsals using H.Q. Studio’s four-track recorder. These pre-production demos included “Find Me” (a new rendition of “A Friend“), “Mouette” (a reworked version of “Wasting Away“), “Mirror“, “Freedom” (titled after the Rage Against the Machine single of the same name, released in the summer of 1994), “F Song“, “Believe in Yourself“, “You Can Try” and “Why“. During the winter, more songs were worked on which resulted with “Violence” (a reworked version of “Mister“), “Out of Time” (a song that Steph wrote about his uncle, Pasquale Fania, dying of cancer) and “Who Gives a Damn” (a reworked version of “Mouette“).
In early 1995, Steph was hired as a sound engineer at a small recording studio in downtown Montreal. Studio L’Essence, owned and operated by Wayne Dwyer, Gary Adams and Asher Hanif, was located at 1180 Saint-Antoine West and became the go-to place for many of Montreal’s ska and funk bands throughout the mid-1990’s. Some of the bands that recorded there include Hol’Fader, Gangster Politics, The Capones and Marlowe. It has not been established if Steph worked on any of those sessions.
By the early spring of 1995, the songs “Mirror“, “F Song” and “Believe in Yourself” had already been dropped from the planned album and Emissary had written three brand new tunes; “Push“, “(88)” and one more that remained untitled. Their catalog featured enough solid songs for a full-length album for which Steph slowly wrote the lyrics. The plan was to have the album out by the end of the year.
But Alain soon wound up out of the picture. Although the exact reason hasn’t been determined, Alain remembers meeting a girl and moving out of H.Q. Studio to live with her. Bob however, remembers Alain having a habit of humming while playing. The humming was apparently picked up by the microphones during the pre-production recording sessions and became prominent and obvious during the mixing stage. Some tapes do have audible humming, but others clearly do not, making it a confusing debate.
Whatever the reason, by May of 1995 Alain was out of the band. But he was nice enough to let Emissary use his drum set to audition new drummers, until he was able to move out of the rehearsal space. Additionally, proper credits need to be given for his help in writing half of the songs that ended up on the eventually released album, “Digging Up Old Bones“. Alain went on to join Chicago blues musician Denny Ray Snyder’s touring band, the Southside Denny Band, oddly enough through a connection made by Pierre Soupras. He toured with them throughout Canada during the summer of 1995 and stayed on with the band after Denny Ray Snyder moved to Montreal later in the year. He currently plays in the Led Zeppelin tribute band Kashmir and has also spent time with the bands Garage Retro Band and Blais Entier.
-Emissary pre-produces “Digging Up Old Bones”, Part 2 (Summer 1995 – February 1996)
During the year and a half span between Rjeen’s departure and Alain leaving, Steph and Bob wrote, evolved and reworked a total of fifteen songs for Emissary’s planned album. By the summer of 1995, they were happy with ten of them; “Find Me“, “Freedom“, “You Can Try“, “Why“, “Violence“, “Out of Time“, “This Ain’t No Game” (re-titled from “Who Gives a Damn“), “Push“, “(88)” and one more that remained untitled because it was dropped before lyrics could be written. Steph then took a long summer vacation, heading south to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he wrote the majority of the lyrics for these ten songs.
Upon returning to Montreal, Steph decided that it was time to look for a new drummer and record Emissary’s long-overdue album. He moved out of Saint-Leonard and into H.Q. Studio and was now seconds away from both Club Rage and the band’s rehearsal space at all times. He brought out the ad that he originally designed back in the fall of 1994 (before Alain was unexpectedly found) and this time went ahead and distributed it to all the local music stores and concert venues. This ad was seen by Robbie “Maestro” Tucker [whom we are still trying to locate, if you know him please get in touch!]. Robbie was a technical, jazz-influenced, funk drummer who completely turned Emissary’s style around.
With him came a bloom of creativity and they decided to put the album’s recording session on hold, preferring instead to write a few more funk-influenced hard rock songs. This in turn led to the entire catalog getting reworked once again. Over the next six to eight months (there is an uncertainty as to when exactly Robbie Tucker joined the band), four of the ten songs planned for the album were dropped (“Find Me“, “Freedom“, “This Ain’t No Game” and an untitled song) and the remaining six were reworked extensively; “You Can Try” was changed almost entirely and became “I“, “(88)” changed a great deal to become “Great Expectations“, “Why” was re-titled to “Change“, “Violence” was re-titled to “Harsh Reality“, “Out of Time” was re-titled to “This Is the End“, while “Push” remained mostly unchanged.
On top of the six songs that were kept, ten brand new songs written with Robbie. These included “Crossed the Line, Can’t Find My Way“, “Had a Dream“,”Watching Me Fall“, “Try to Get Away“, “Finer Days“, “Play the Game“, “271“, “Take it Away” and two more that remained untitled, again because they were dropped before any lyrics could be written. On September 15th of 1995, Emissary’s first website went live. Hosted at “http://pages.prodigy.com/PQ/emissary”, the webpage simply featured the new band logo, designed by Steph, with the words “Coming soon”. This new website symbolized that the album was truly on its way and Emissary was going full steam ahead.
When 1996 rolled around, Emissary was ready to make the album happen and they spent most of January and early February narrowing down the songs that would be recorded for the album. Out of the sixteen songs part of their catalog at the at the time, only eleven were selected to be recorded at H.Q. Studio. This resulted with “I“, “Great Expectations“, “Change“, “Harsh Reality“, “I Don’t Want to Die” (the new title for “This Is the End“), “Push“, “Crossed the Line” (the new title for “Crossed the Line, Can’t Find My Way“), “Had a Dream“, “Trying to Run Away” (a new song combined from “Try to Get Away” and “271“), “Finer Days” and “Greed” (the new title for “Take it Away“). Both untitled songs were dropped along with “Watching Me Fall” and “Play the Game“.
These eleven songs were registered through SOCAN and copyrighted through Klink Publishing in February. Robbie was made an equal and legal partner in both Emissary and Klink Publishing, which marked the first time that Steph and Bob allowed someone new into their company since 1991. Steph then went to Italmelodie, a music store on Jean-Talon Street in Montreal, to rent a sixteen-track digital recorder in order to start tracking their new album, “Digging Up Old Bones“, at H.Q. Studio.
Shortly into the tracking of drums at H.Q. Studio that February, Emissary ran into a couple of complications. Through the use of internet, Steph found out about various other bands also named “Emissary“. After initiating conversations via email with some of them, Steph, Bob and Robbie realized that they were not the oldest band using the name and amicably opted to change their band’s name, even though the name was already registered and incorporated as a company in Canada. But the current line-up did reflect a change in style and sound and none of the songs selected for the album originated from the classic Emissary days when Rjeen was on vocals (with the exception of the breakdown at the very end of “Harsh Reality“, which originated from “Mister“).
While Steph brainstormed names on a piece of paper one day, he wrote the word “Violet“, in reference to a color that he was fond of and had used on numerous Emissary designs. After several ideas, he added the word “Breaking” above it and immediately liked the way it sounded. After the other two members agreed on it, Emissary re-baptized itself “Breaking Violet” in late February of 1996. Steph’s hand-written band name was played around with to make it resemble the Emissary logo he had drawn a few months earlier, and of course, the purple color theme remained. Although the two words were put together at random, Steph later learned that “breaking violet” meant to “break the sound barrier”, which made the band’s name even more fascinating.
-Breaking Violet records “Digging Up Old Bones” (February 1996 – October 1996)
The second problem that Emissary, now properly re-named “Breaking Violet“, ran into was internal. Robbie had a distinctive style of jazzing up songs with odd-time signatures and an off-beat drum bass. This is precisely what had originally motivated the band to compose ten new songs and hold off the album’s recording session. But now that the drums were tracked, Steph found that Robbie’s avant-garde style was clashing with his bass lines and it no longer fitted the sound that he was looking for. Robbie tried to tone down his style but things just didn’t work out and he left Breaking Violet before his drums were completed. Unfortunately, little of Emissary and Breaking Violet’s history with Robbie Tucker in the band has been found, but he deserves credit for helping write some of their best material and his influence remains on half of the songs found on “Digging Up Old Bones“.
Italmelodie’s rented sixteen-track board was returned to the store but Steph to keep it on hold as he was actively looking for a new drummer to continue the album. Meanwhile in March, the Cathouse, where Steph still occasionally worked, changed name to the Backstreet Underground, hoping to revive the club with a name that played off their more successful predecessor, the Backstreet. The new owners once again kept Louis Adams in charge of booking shows, which in turn kept Steph working there as a sound man on the odd nights when Club Rage was closed.
Through another ad to urgently find a session drummer, Steph set up a phone call with Stephane “Stan” Mayrand. At first the two spoke as strangers but after meeting up at H.Q. Studio in early April, they quickly realized that they had gone to College Mont-Saint-Louis high school together. Stan was a local drummer who had played in The Tribes in the late 1980’s and was then playing in Mange L’ours Mange, a hard rock band to some popularity in the francophone community. That day at H.Q. Studio, Steph and Bob played through their 4-track demos and provided Stan a tape to practice to.
As soon as Stan was ready, Steph returned to Italmelodie to pick up the sixteen-track board. Stan was paid $400 to play drums on the eleven-song album. This was one of Stan’s first job as a hired studio drummer and it helped establish him to later record on albums by Charly Buss, Didier Boutin, Marijo Bonheur, Christian Marquis, Jean-François Fortier, Annie Chartrand, Ma Blonde Est Une Chanteuse, CQFD, Alain Simard, Le Berth Blues Band, Les Zapartistes, Slam Corrida, John of Mark and The Box. Tracking for “Digging Up Old Bones” began for the second time in mid-April of 1996 with Stan’s drums. Immediately after this, Steph and Bob registered “Breaking Violet” as a legal company in Canada, though this time they opted not to incorporate the name as they had done for Emissary. The registration papers were filed on May 1st of 1996.
On May 14th, while Stan was at H.Q. Studio, Bob’s old friend, Paolo “Mr. Big” Gattola, snapped some pictures of the band hanging out inside and outside of the studio. These would be used in the album booklet and for the promotional press packages. Additional pictures were taken on other days when Steph, Bob and Stan were recording. By mid-May, the drums, guitars and bass were recorded. The entire album featured a single guitar track, with the occasional solo lead backed by rhythm. The band was trying to achieve that stripped down, 1990’s alternative rock sound that was fighting back against the over-layered, tripled guitar tracks-sound of the 1980’s.
On May 17th Steph rented a keyboard from Italmelodie and added a few minor touch ups to the album. Nothing to throw it off balance, effects here and there such as the windy intro on “Had a Dream“, the abstract intro on “I“, some ripple effects throughout “Change“, voice manipulation on “Push“, creaking noises throughout “Crossed the Line“, piano on “I Don’t Want to Die“, an organ outro on “Finer Days” (which also features Bob’s haunting spoken word; “This is the voice of your guitar god”, recorded through his guitar pickups) and the ambient segues throughout “Harsh Reality“. An additional song was recorded using only keyboards and vocals, “Supper’s Ready!“. The song would appear as an unlisted bonus track on album.
All of June was spent recording vocals and mixing the album. Steph designed the album’s artwork and layout throughout July, while Bob and Paolo Gattola went on a photo shoot for the album’s front cover; on July 22nd pictures were snapped of Bob’s dog, Shanny, digging up a bone in his parents’ backyard.
This time around, Klink Publishing would not only be used as their publishing company but also served as a record label. The album’s catalog number, “KL 2778973”, was in fact H.Q. Studio’s phone number (514-277-8973). For the first time, Steph bought a Universal Product Code (620953002328), as it had become a regulation to sell albums through record stores. Steph also got a brand new website designed, hosted through AOL at “http://www.users.aol.com/breakingv”.
One of the early track listing considered for the album hints to a much more driving and aggressive-sound record:
- “I Don’t Want to Die“
- “Crossed the Line“
- “Had a Dream“
- “Harsh Reality“
- “Great Expectations“
- “Trying to Run Away“
- “Finer Days“
The final track listing turned out more mellow with a progressive build up:
- “Had a Dream“
- “Great Expectations“
- “Crossed the Line“
- “I Don’t Want to Die“
- “Finer Days“
- “Trying to Run Away“
- “Harsh Reality“
- “Supper’s Ready” [unlisted]
On August 6th Steph brought the session over to S.N.B for mastering with Jean-Francois Chicoine, their third time working together. The mastering cost a total of $900, after which everything was sent over to Disque Americ in Drummondville for 1000 CDs to be pressed. “Digging Up Old Bones” wound up costing nearly $5000 to produce. Steph and Bob had to divide the costs in half, as opposed to a three-way split had Alain Lacaille or Robbie Tucker remained in the band as an equal partner.
On October 9th Steph drove down to Drummondville to pick up the boxes of CDs and pay the balance off. “Digging Up Old Bones” was finally released, exactly three years after the album was proposed during an Emissary band meeting. Steph then headed to CopieXpress to print out a few limited edition stickers, baring a purple background taken from the album’s artwork, topped by the new band logo and website link.
-Filming “Greed” & promoting “Digging Up Old Bones” (October 1996 – January 1998)
Through out the summer of 1996, Steph’s concert venue, Club Rage on Parc Avenue, transitioned from an alternative rock, hard rock, funk and ska venue with the occasional goth night, into a purely gothic, drum and bass and industrial club. Earlier that year he had met a like-minded fan, Luis “The Beast” DeMonte, a Portuguese immigrant living in Montreal. The two wanted to host bigger and better goth nights and so in October of 1996 Steph closed down Club Rage (and also stopped working at the Backstreet Underground) and together they reopened the Purple Haze nightclub at 3699B Saint-Laurent Boulevard. The Purple Haze had previously been one of the biggest and most successful hard rock, grunge and alternative rock venues in Montreal. But after grunge faded away, so too did the venue and it ultimately closed its doors in March of 1996. In May of 1996 a trip-hop and jazz lounge, the Velvet, opened in what was the first floor of the Purple Haze (the building had three floors; the top two were occupied by the Purple Haze), which then took on the address of 3699A Saint-Laurent Boulevard. But the upper (third) floor remained empty for seven months until Steph and Luis revamped the place and brought over the staff and DJs from Club Rage.
Right from the start, the most successful night of the week remained identical; Thursday nights was techno and drum and bass, hosted by Fractal Surfers. For Fridays and Saturdays Steph hired Stefan Paradis (aka DJ Engelke), founder and owner of Skull Produkt, to host an underground, industrial, gothic and EBM night entitled “Metamorphose”. Stefan Paradis was also given Tuesday nights for underground music. Other DJs to have hosted or spinned at “Metamorphose” include DJ Shadow, DJ Shatten and DJ Kaotik. In July of 1997, Steph hired DJ Mr. Black to host a dark wave, new wave and industrial night, entitled “Darkwave Nights”, on Saturdays, hoping to bring in an Anglophone crowd (as Stefan Paradis was strictly Francophone). Eventually Stefan Paradis left to DJ at Pharao’s Tomb and he was replaced by DJ Uriel, who started the “Heresy” nights on Fridays. After Fractal Surfers left, DJ Mr. Black took over Thursday nights with an 80’s theme, under the alias DJ Pez.
On October 15th of 1996, Steph started a survey for Breaking Violet at the Purple Haze. Whenever friends were in or a slow night was happening without a DJ, he put on “Digging Up Old Bones” and handed out sheets with the track listing. He asked each person to give their opinion as to which song would best fit as Breaking Violet’s first single. This survey lasted two months and in December “Greed” was selected for the first single. It had been by far the most voted song from the survey, but it made perfect sense for the band to select the song as it had been the last song written for the album and therefore their most recent one.
In January of 1997 Steph and Bob started planning their new music video. By then it had been five years since Boize filmed their video for “Get a Life” in February of 1992 at the Backstreet. “Get a Life” was released through U-Iliot Records but for “Greed” they formed a new company, a division of Klink Publishing named “Klink Productions”. Klink Productions’ budget for the new music video was $10,000.
Steph’s cousin, Marco Fania, was studying film at Concordia University and the two teamed up to make the music video happen. Marco invited a few of his classmates to collaborate on the project, including Franco Zoccali as director. Steph, Bob and Franco came up with the concept together and Franco storyboard the entire thing. By April pre-production was done. But Breaking Violet was without a drummer and Stan wasn’t able to participate. So Steph posted an ad in the Montreal Mirror which led him to Paul Jankowski. Paul had played in numerous Montreal bands including with Big Mama Thornton. Following his stint with Breaking Violet he went on to play with Mongoose, Charlie Ningiuk and The Bliminals.
“Greed” was filmed in a warehouse that the band rented in the east-end of Montreal in early May of 1997. The cast featured Steph on vocals and bass, Bob on guitar, Paul on drums, Patrice Gauthier as Mr. Greed and Jean-Francois Page as The Hangman. It was directed by Franco Zoccali, with photography by John Ashmore, art direction by Jonathan Mash, edited by Marc-André Ferguson (at Astral Tech), assistant directed by Bill Stone, assistant art direction by Chantal Allard, camera assisted by Brent Marrale, the gaffer was Serge Marcotte, Luis DeMonte handled the electrics, the grip was Nancy Baric, hair and makeup by Olivier Xavier, suspension and rigging by Louis Chamberland and Mathiew Gregoire and with production assistance by Julie Marion, Stephanie Bolduc, Pierre Gawarrere, Marco Fania, Paolo Gattola and Annie Desjardins.
By June the music video was finished and the band was ready to promote “Digging Up Old Bones” with a complete package; CDs, stickers, a music video and a website. T-shirts were planned and designed but were never made. Promo sheets were sent with CDs and VHS tapes and the band created a fictitious personality as their manager. “Larry Smith” was chosen as a name because it was about as common-sounding as it could get. It was an inside joke for the band due to so many magazines not accepting unsolicited material.
But little ended up happening from July to January. The music video was sent out to the two major music channels in Canada; Much Music (for the Anglophone crowd) and MusiquePlus (for the Francophone crowd). The CD was distributed to the local shops but Breaking Violet failed to secure a national distribution deal. The video aired a few times on both stations but it was quickly filed away in their archives by the end of the year. Even with Larry Smith “managing” the band, promotion was limited and many local magazines flat out refused to even review or give the album a chance. On top of this Bob’s dedication was quickly fading as he spent more time raising his family.
-Breaking Violet plays live & then disintegrates (February 1998 – Early 1999)
In early 1998 Steph and Bob decided to regroup, find a drummer and play some shows. No one remembers exactly how they found their next drummer but in February they started practicing with Kevin [whose last name is still missing, if you know him please get in touch!]. This new line-up started working on a brand new song, known under the working title “Sun“. This was the first new material written in over two years. They also added a cover to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” to their set list, specifically for their upcoming concert, and considered doing a metal version of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine“, but this idea fell through the cracks.
For the first time in four years, Steph took advantage of the fact that he owned a concert venue and booked Breaking Violet to play at the Purple Haze on March 6th. The first ten people to arrive were given a free “Digging Up Old Bones” CD. The concert was filmed by their usual cameraman, Paolo Gattola, but unfortunately the camera died halfway through their set, right in the middle of “Change“, and their cover of “War Pigs” was never documented. The set list for the concert was built in a much different way than either album track listings had been:
- Crossed the Line
- Had a Dream
- I Don’t Want to Die
- Trying to Run Away
- Finer Days
- War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
- Great Expectations
- Harsh Reality
In late March tensions between Steph and his business partner at the Purple Haze, Luis DeMonte, were as bad as they could possibly get. Although Luis was a fan of the gothic scene, he was doing little to help promote it. He rarely showed up at work, the few times that he did under heavy intoxication, and was financially ruining the venue. In the last week of March of 1998, Steph had had just about enough and he shut down the venue without notice, cutting his ties with Luis. A week later he reopened the Purple Haze as sole owner but this revival was short lived. By May [this month is more of a guess than an exact date] the venue had closed for good. In June the owners of the Velvet lounge took up the upper floor and it eventually reopened as Club Saphir, which became another hot spot for gothic bands and DJs throughout the early 2000’s.
Luis DeMonte ended up starting a new venue, Club Ezra, at 5116 Parc Avenue, the same location that was once Club Rage. Club Ezra opened in July/August of 1998 and though it had its occasional successful goth nights, it’s alcohol selection was poor and drugs became the main attraction. Club Ezra closed a little over a year after opening, in September/October of 2000, at which time Luis returned to Saint-Laurent Boulevard to open Club Redemption. Club Redemption became a junkie’s hot spot and in turn closed down in June of 2001, after Luis borrowed and withheld money from the performing DJs (all of whom ended up up quitting and going over to work for Club Saphir) and went on the lam hiding from drug dealers to whom he also owed money.
Breaking Violet was having it’s own problems too. Bob’s dedication was practically nonexistent and Steph was lucky to see him once a month at H.Q. Studio. Steph was pushing to book a tour and properly promote “Digging Up Old Bones“, which had by then set them back over $15,000. For the first time in two years, the band had a stable drummer who was willing to go on the road. There was even talk of a second single for “Push“. Before recording the album, Bob had promised to the band that he would commit himself fully to promoting the album and that his new family would not cause any problems. But his pledge was now falling short as he was reluctant to leave his wife and kid behind for a month to go on the road and even playing local evening shows was problematic.
The last show the band played was a benefit for AIDS and cancer at the Saint-Patrick’s Basilica in downtown Montreal [the date is still unknown but it is presumed to have been between March and May of 1998]. CTV, a local TV station, was there to report the event and even filmed Breaking Violet performing their acoustic set, airing a snippet on that night’s news. The only song performed was “I Don’t Want to Die“, played as a two-piece band with Bob on acoustic guitar and Steph on vocals.
In April of 1998, the last review of “Digging Up Old Bones” was published in Mykko Lappalainen’s sixth issue of Elysium fanzine, from Finland. By June Bob had left Breaking Violet and Steph opted out of renewing the lease at H.Q. Studio. Klink Publishing became solely owned and operated by Steph, as he continued practicing with Kevin, still under the name “Breaking Violet“. The music had totally changed; Steph was still playing bass and handling vocals but he had purchased a keyboard, which had become his primary instrument, and Kevin was mostly helping out with drum programming. A few work-in-progress demos were toyed with but nothing materialized and by early 1999 the half-finished songs were abandoned. Years later Bob started a cover band under the name “Escale“, which currently plays at weddings and local festivals. Steph took a break from the music industry for twelve years. In 2011 he reactivated Klink Publishing and U-Iliot Records to digitally distribute all the material recorded and released from 1989 to 1996. He is currently working on a new project.
-Complete Show Listing
- 1993-07-02 Concert Populaire Festival, Parc Ladauversiere (Saint-Leonard, QC)
- 1998-03-06 Purple Haze (Montreal, QC)
- 1998-??-?? Saint-Patrick’s Basilica (Montreal, QC)