By Jennie Orton
CALGARY — When Gene Simmons famously declared (most likely from atop a pile of money and Kiss lunchboxes) that “rock is finally dead,” it started a chain reaction of dialogue on the state of rock ‘n’ roll by many who still practice it and still love it.
Though Simmons was referring to the music business and its failure to nurture the genre and all the constructs that built it, there was an underlying concern about the spirit of the genre that has been whispered about since Jim Morrison said it first back in ‘69 (take that Gene).
For drummer Kurt Dahl and his long-time friends and band mates who make up Saskatoon’s One Bad Son, the answer to Simmons’ comment isn’t that simple.
“Well he hasn’t seen our set and seen us tour the country and seen what we’ve seen every night!
“It definitely doesn’t seem like rock is dead.”
Citing bands like The Wild, Australian rock band The Lazies (who joined OBS on tour), Monster Truck, Glorious Sons, and The Sheepdogs, Dahl recognizes a large rock presence in current music.
“To me there is a great new rock scene, especially in Canada. I don’t think it will be as big as it was in the ‘golden era’ of rock where Zeppelin and the Stones and Hendrix and the Doors,” he concedes.
“Back then, rock was still a fairly new thing. Now rock and roll is a senior citizen.”
To keep rock and roll current and alive is an ongoing challenge that many bands have risen to. An emphasis on live performance has truly separated the weak from the strong, and for the band, bridging the gap between the industry people, the bands, and the fans has been a priority.
Case in point: while promoting their self-titled third album in 2012, One Bad Son battled the lack of industry support by showing up at radio stations in person to play their single “Scarecrow.” This raw style of old school promotion scored the act radio play that led to their breakthrough eight years after their formation (today, their radio-friendly hard rock songs with squealing solos and gruff vocals boast hundreds of thousands of YouTube views).
But don’t call them throwbacks: it’s more that they’re being proactive about doing their band as a business. Back in 2010, the band released an iPhone app that allowed users to make their own version of the band’s then single “Rustbucket” from their EP of the same name. It is the rolling with the winds of change that Dahl says is essential to keeping the genre alive.
“Rock kind of ends up eating itself to death,” Dahl observes.
“In the ‘80s, all that crappy hair metal kind of created the need for something cool and different like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. It self-cannibalizes, you know?”
One Bad Son has found a voice that is both new and homage, crystallized particularly well in the collaboration with Juno-winning producer Eric Ratz on their 2014 album Black Buffalo. For their effort, they garnered an opening slot on the Western Canadian leg of Def Leppard’s 2015 tour. While sharing the stage with titans like Def Leppard, Dahl says one thing emerged as a common thread.
“No matter what kind of musician you are, if you’re the real deal that’s going to shine through,” he says.
“Eventually, if it’s all smoke and mirrors, and that happens in the rock genre as well as the others, I think the public eventually sees through that.”
Staying real and staying humble is what Dahl says not only keeps One Bad Son unified but also a viable rock and roll band in a time when the meaning of that keeps changing.
“We’re prairie guys who work our asses off to get to where we are so we never take any show or any fan for granted.
“Until we write ‘Purple Haze’ or ‘Going to California,’ we’re never gonna let things go to our head.”
One Bad Son play December 5th at the Oak in Winnipeg, on December 9th in Red Deer at Bo’s Bar & Grill, in Edmonton on December 10th at Union Hall, and on December 11th in Calgary at The Nite Owl.AB, Alberta, Bo's Bar, Manitoba, MB, Nite Owl, One Bad Son, The Oak, Union Hall