By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY — Sweaty, filthy, fist-pumping heavy metal of the classic persuasion lies at the heart of Gord Kirchin’s musical output known to all as The Exalted Piledriver – or its previous incarnate Piledriver. Hailing from Toronto, the BDSM- and ample nails-outfitted vocalist has anchored the two incarnations of his project since the mid-80s, starting off when the band was “a one-off recording project” created by a “RecordWeasel©.” Today, the band consists of four horror carnival dressed members, who play occasional one-offs, inconsistently release albums, and generally are fighting an uphill battle against the monolithic music industry. To get more insight into this seedy underbelly of ‘80s metal history, we got Ol’Piley to answer our inquiries. His salacious responses are as follows…
BeatRoute: You, the Exalted Piledriver, have been anchoring Piledriver and The Exalted Piledriver for your entire life. What inspires you to endure, pull on your BDSM costume, and keep singing?
Gord Kirchin: In short… the fans. It is a brutal skull-crushing and gut-wrenchingly stinky proposition to don that outfit, and now that it is 32 years old, it’s held together by gaffer tape, snot, and other congealed bodily semi-fluids, it reeks like a dead buffalo’s rotting duodenum! I’ve tried all manner of saddle soaps ‘n’ other leather cleaners, but the stink of fat-sweat and fecal matter simply won’t come out [laughs].
But, seriously… When I finally decided to take Piledriver from a mysterious fiction into the realm of reality, it was all because I finally got a computer and got online and saw that a record weasel had lied his face off to me, telling me it was a flop. You see, Piledriver was begun as a one-off recording project, never destined to be a real band. Producer/guitarist Leslie Howe was negotiating a contract for his commercial [pop] outfit One 2 One and in those conversations the record weasel said that he had a metal division wherein any album with decent cover art managed to sell about 20,000 copies no matter what shit was inside it… that they should do a “fake band” and make some small but quick coin. They did. It was called Metal Inquisition (1984). Leslie wrote and produced it, and I was brought in to sing on it because I had played in a bar band with Leslie previously and he knew I was perfect for the material. Then, I was told to keep it all a secret or I would ruin the masquerade. I got paid 250 [dollars] for my work on it. That’s it. I was not included in the writing or even in performance royalties. So, I basically ignored it. Saw it in the stores, but had no idea how it was doing. RecordWeasel© told me it was barely making a mark. So, I was surprised when I was tapped again to do Convict [another band made in studio by Cobra Records which released one album, 1985’s Go Ahead… Make My Day!]. Again, 250 [dollars], that’s it. But, I thought, who knows, maybe someone will hear me and I’ll somehow get a gig in a good band or something out of it, so, why not.. I was young and I was on TWO vinyl now. [Convict] DID flop, [laughs]. Then… I was hit on to do Stay Ugly , and thought, “Mehh… Why not?” 250 [dollars] for the rent, and I get to be on another vinyl… Another shot to be heard at large. Again, I was told it wasn’t doing well, so I ignored it and went on with my own path in life, being a broadcast systems installer. In 2005 when I finally got online and found out that Metal Inquisition was a huge underground hit, despite the RecordWeasel© not wanting to lift a finger nor contribute a penny in support, I decided that since there WERE a legion of fans out there, worldwide, rabid devoted fans, that I HAD to bring it to them live since no one else would or could. It’s for the fans that I get up there, bear the migraines from that spike-laden leather head clamp and give ‘er till I drop… and with a heart condition (bradycardia) sometimes that drop happens during a performance.
Sorry. But.. I DO give ‘er hard because I owe it all to the fans. It of course would have been nice to have been paid what I’m properly due, but, RecordWeasel© ripped off every band he ever worked with, so that will never happen… The love and respect from fans and bands alike are what fuels me to continue to bring it to life onstage, as best I can. Sadly, hitting 55 years old this year, and three times my former size, it’s hard on me, and with my heart I can’t be running around like a madman… But… I concentrate on trying to sing it as well as I possibly can to make up for my lack of circus-like leaps and bounds.
BR: People have asked you about why the name shift occurred from Piledriver to Exalted Piledriver before…. and I don’t want to be another asshole asking. So, instead, I’m curious about the current status of the band. You guys haven’t released new music since 2008. Will that be occurring any time soon? If so, can you give me some insight into the album? After all, Metal Manifesto was fucking awesome and people want a follow-up!
GK: First off: no asshole-ish taint received at this end! It’s a legit question! The reason for the name change was that when I finally did get online and typed in Piledriver, I found several other Piledrivers out there: a Status Quo tribute band, a Scandinavian rave-trance thing, a California hardcore one, one in the Philippines, and one in Japan. In order to delineate myself from all the usurpers of our name without dropping a shitload of legal money to try and strong-arm them all into stopping using the name, I thought I’d just grab a descriptor from the lyric, and re-christened it Exalted PIledriver so people would know this is the ‘right’ one.
I’d undergone a lineup change right after the release of Metal Manifesto, thanks to my band members being “embarrassed” so much by my health issues that they QUIT a month before a large tour of Europe. By email. Fuckers. So my friends Spewgore stepped up to help me save at least ONE festival from the tour, and quickly rallied to get a set together for our appearance at Headbanger’s Open Air in Germany. We’ve been solid ever since. We did release a live album called Night Of The Unpolished Turd  since ‘Manifesto. But, there’s that ‘but’… all family men, with jobs and lives, and I was living in Montreal, they are in Brampton. Being an old dog, I tend not to do well collaborating online as opposed to face to face, so writing has been a challenge for us. Now I haven’t helped matters by moving up to Huntsville any, but am getting a slightly bit better at this online collaboration thingy! The guys have supplied me a shitload of tunes to warble over and edit down, and demos are starting to finally leach out of the wash. You can find one called “Allegiance to None” on the Facebook page, as well as several live videos. Since the bottom has fallen out of the business at large, and I never get any respect from labels who label us a “comedy” band, telling us we’re hard to sell, I don’t really see ever releasing another album through a label ever again.
I’ve never received my due from ANY label EVER, so I thus never expect to. I’ve had a very rough time these past five years, having lost my gig due to health, and going bankrupt, then to a hair’s breadth from homelessness, I’ve not had any inkling or funds to record an album “properly” in a studio, and since everything that gets released is in a hundred torrents and websites the next day available for free, I’ll never make back the recording costs. So. I’ve decided that I will never spend another penny in a big-buck studio again. Home demos will be the only releases from this point out, I think. YouTube and Facebook will be my distributors, and I’ll never ever be deceived into thinking that I’ll be getting compensated for it, so, I will have no ill-feelings about zero returns on it [laughs]. It’ll be just us and the fans. Industry can suck it. Besides, does anyone even listen to “albums” anymore except us old dogs? Nope. At one time the idea was to call the album Humans Suck. Now it will be a song called “Humans Suck.” And other songs will follow. I’m juuuust now getting back on my feet having found employment after several years of drought. Once I get a room/apartment going (staying with some friends at the moment), and can set up a small recording rig, I’ll be getting back on the horse.
BR: In terms of the presentation of Piledriver, why do you go for such a…. distinguished costume setup? I personally think it nicely embodies the filthy simplicity of the music, which is most excellent, but I’d like to hear why from you!
GK: When I was young and impressionable… I discovered Alice Cooper at 11 years old in 1972. It warped me deliriously. Then The Tubes. Then KISS. I grew to expect that musicians would look like stars, not roadies: entertainment versus shoegazing. I can’t understand how someone can get onstage without a stage outfit or a performance that sets them apart. I need to see someone putting effort into entertaining me, and jeans and T-shirts simply don’t scream “entertainer” to me. Sorry. Nice obscure band T-shirt there, bud… But [it’s] boring as fuck, and gee thanks for not bothering to elevate yourself above the crowd.
BR: Will the Exalted Piledriver be playing Piledriver songs at your upcoming Calgary show? What type of set list are we looking at for the show? I’m personally gunning for “Sex with Satan” and “Flowers of Evil,” along with “Battle Axe” myself…
GK: OF COURSE! Why else would I bother getting onstage at ALL if I wasn’t serving up what the fans need to hear… Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly songs!
There are a few songs that I simply can’t hit the notes of anymore, so I’d rather not ruin them in your ears like some performers of my vintage do… I like to keep to the ones that sound wicked, but there are a LOT of faves in the set for sure! Yes, we’ll do a few from Manifesto, and we will be playing a new one called “Allegiance to None” and a groovy instrumental the guys came up with to give me a bit of a heart-break breather in the set… but the largesse of our set is Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly songs, no doubt.
See Piledriver on Thursday, September 15th during Calgary Metalfest at Distortion with Crystal Mess, Savage Streets, Profits of Crime, and Accostal. Tickets are $15 in advance.AB, Alberta, Calgary Metalfest, The Exalted Piledriver