We promised it, you got it! Age of Electric‘s Todd Kerns takes over Addicted today to give us a glimpse into his rock and roll life. Check out the first episode of his tour diary below!
Tuesday, March 13th, 2017
Las Vegas, Nevada
It is impossible to understate the surreality of discussing a band that ceased output 20 years ago, but here we are preparing for a run across Canada with those same four guys from small town Saskatchewan.
On April 1st 1989 myself, my brother John and the Dahle brothers, Kurt and Ryan, began jamming in Lanigan, Saskatchewan where my brother and I grew up. The Dahle brothers were from the Big Smoke-Regina-the Capital city. I guess we figured it’d be more affordable to rent a place to rehearse in our small town of 1500 people than in a proper city like Regina.
The Dahle brothers were always fascinated by the lack of traffic lights, fast food restaurants, convenience stores or any other ‘big’ city luxuries. They were always confused when any stranger passing on the street would greet you with a “Good morning!” or “Nice day, eh?”
Kurt would ask perplexed, “Do you know that guy?” I’d be like, “Nope.” That was just small town living. It’s something I, myself, haven’t experienced in a long time.
As we head out on our first actual cross-Canada run in 19 years, the band will officially turn 28 years old on April 1st. Albeit with a 17 year absence from 1998-2015 but that’s just a technicality. It’s also hardly a ‘Cross Canada’ tour without making it further east than Ontario. An unforgivable oversight on our part that I hope to rectify before 2018 presents itself.
I had met Kurt Dahle in Regina in ’86 or ’87. He remembers these things better than I do. I was the bass player/singer in a power trio from Lanigan called The Infants. We were a weird hybrid of new wave and hard rock. We looked like girls which either really worked or really did not work depending on the crowd we found ourselves in front of. We were playing at a place called the Tropicana and, as legend has it, Kurt and Ryan’s parents, Helge and Carole Dahle saw The Infants before either of their sons did. Carole recommended us to the boys and that’s when Kurt sought us out. Kurt and I became very fast friends. He has always been one of the most naturally musical people I have ever known. Anyone who has ever played with him will attest to that. Kurt eventually came out on the road with The Infants doing sound and roadie-ing. Mostly because I just wanted him around.
Like most the band broke up. I moved to Regina (traffic lights! Fast food restaurants! Convenience stores!) and soon thereafter Kurt and I were playing together in bands living in each other’s pockets. My little brother, John, had taken up the bass. Kurt’s younger brother, Ryan, was a talented guitar player and we all began to talk about how cool it would be to put a band together but they were both still in High School and Kurt and I were foot loose and fancy free. I was briefly pulled out to Alberta touring with a bigger band until fate returned me to the Motherland to assemble this dream line up.
By this point I was in good standing with a touring agency out of Calgary that promised to keep us busy. So all we had to do was put this thing together and get out on the road. So we did. Our first gig was in Stetler, Alberta to an almost empty bar with a falling down drunk sound technician. We did our thing struggling through a storm of feedback and audience indifference. The kind of gig that might scare a normal person away from this pirate lifestyle only served to bind us together even tighter. My parents came to that first gig, too. God bless ‘em. I’m sure they thought we’d all snap out of this fantasy soon enough. I think in many ways they still think that.
Back then we were called Electric. My father entered his name in a contest while buying guitar strings at a shop and subsequently won time at a recording studio outside of Saskatoon. Not knowing what the hell he was going to do with it, he offered it to us. With this, we recorded a 5 song self-titled cassette that we sold from the stage.
We would later record a full-length cassette and upon releasing it we decided we would need to differentiate ourselves from all the other ‘Electric’ bands we had become aware of. That was a struggle. Naming a band is never easy. We eventually tagged The Age Of’ onto the beginning of our name and it was onward and upward.
We began touring further and further beyond the prairies. We were well established in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Winnipeg was our first step away from our comfort zone but the biggest move we made was Hollywood, California. It’s hard to imagine the audacity we possessed to travel all the way down there but we did it. We played Los Angeles before we ever made it to Vancouver or Toronto. We played the Whisky A Go Go and the Roxy. We hung out at the Rainbow nightly. The Sunset Strip was still alive and well in those days. We saw everyone at the Rainbow. Lemmy especially. Even Slash sat and hung out with us. That’s a surreal bit of kismet that would play out later for me.
We watched Guns N Roses film the tag at the end of the “You Could Be Mine” video with Arnold Schwartzenegger between the Roxy and the Rainbow. This kind of thing is absolutely normal in Hollywood. Keep in mind we were four kids from Saskatchewan. We may as well have been on Mars.
Once back in Canada we started going to Vancouver. Much Music played our videos. We made our way to Toronto. To Montreal. Suddenly there was nothing we couldn’t do and nowhere we couldn’t go.
The highly successful producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue) wanted to record us so we picked up and moved to Vancouver. We 100% committed to being a recording act. We were highly focused on taking ourselves to whatever the next level presented. We recorded at Little Mountain Sound with Aerosmith next door. Bon Jovi came and went. As we were finishing Motley Crue came in.
Even with recordings by a world class producer, no one wanted to sign us. Or the ones that did we weren’t ready to commit to. We put out an independent EP of five songs called The Ugly EP.
We made a video for the song, “Ugly” and Much Music played it. A lot.
We soon went into record some new songs while on the road in Calgary. We liked it so much we decided to release it. We attached two songs from The Ugly EP and released the album with no title (self titled? More like Untitled!) in 1995. We released more videos. Untitled, Enya. Much Music played those, too.
We suddenly had management and labels interested. The exciting thing was that these industry people were from the magical land of New York City. We signed with Mercury Records out of New York.
We split off for other projects for a minute but eventually began work on what would eventually become our most successful and final album, Make A Pest A Pet. By the time we were ready to release said album the label that we had signed to was hardly recognizable. The label had a new president and he didn’t know or care about AOE. The beauty of all of this is that we, in our youthful arrogance, insisted that Canada be kept independent. We would sign with Mercury for the world except Canada. We had worked hard to build our career in Canada and, frankly, could have kept releasing independent material there and had a very comfortable career. Mercury agreed to this. I think they thought of Canada as just the equivalent of a single state in the US. Perhaps not incorrectly.
The long and short of it is that we may have lost our ‘deal’ but we were free to do whatever we liked with the record in Canada. So we did. Make A Pest A Pet came out in 1997 and would eventually go Gold. We were nominated for Best New Group for the 1998 Juno Awards. The band had been together 9 years at that point. The bizarre thing about it was that we weren’t really together anymore. We did not win the award but we received plaques signifying we had sold Gold. Then we went home and stopped being The Age Of Electric.
Being a band is a weird thing. When you are struggling and fighting to get anywhere you are as tight as a fist. You bash and punch your way through adversities in your way time and again. As ‘success’ begins to present itself that fist can loosen. Other interests present themselves. Other things quietly take priority. The next thing you know this thing you had cared for so intently is fractured and you really aren’t sure how to repair it. Left with few options one usually takes protecting oneself as the priority leaving the collective to dissipate completely.
Looking back everything seems quite silly. If only someone had been a voice of reason. If only someone had been our Yoda and said, ‘You go do this. You go do that. Then we’ll reconvene and get back to work.’ If only someone had been wise enough to have seen a bigger picture I believe we would have been working on the next AOE album by 2000/2001. Perhaps in an alternate universe somewhere this is exactly what happened.
But in this one, four boys from Saskatchewan who had been an inseparable gang went off in four different directions for 17 years. Kurt Dahle eventually toured the planet with The New Pornographers. Ryan has always been in his studio but also maintaining his Limblifter and eventually Mounties with Steve from Hot Hot Heat and Hawksley Workman. John was the first to go to Europe with Robin Black then later Sound And Fury. He and I released one album together with our youngest brother, Ryan under the moniker Static in Stereo that I am still very proud of. On my own, I released solo albums, relocated to the US and eventually wound up playing with that guy Slash from the Rainbow all those years ago.
There were a couple of years of awkwardness. Isn’t there always? But not long after Ryan and I were trading riffs as we had always done. That unique spark was still there. It always will be to be honest. That I am sure of. But geography and scheduling would keep us apart for years. We would eventually find ourselves, off and on, in his studio recording ideas. Kurt would show up and play drums. John, who by this point had relocated to Toronto, would make his way to Vancouver for holidays and in turn find himself in the studio recording bass on these songs. These songs that would go on to become The Pretty EP released only last month.
Every now and again I would get calls from promoters asking to book The Age Of Electric. I always found this fascinating. I would put it to the other guys but scheduling was such that we could never really work it out. Then one day one of those calls just kind of worked. August 29th 2015 The Age Of Electric played the Marquee in Calgary to a sold out crowd for the first time in 17 years. Since that time AOE has made its way to Regina, Saskatoon, Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto.
Be careful what you wish for!
It wasn’t long before we realized that 2017 would mark 20 years since the release of Make A Pest A Pet. To commemorate this we have released a vinyl 20th anniversary package of the album with four unreleased songs from those sessions all those years ago.
On top of that we released The Pretty EP, the sister cd of The Ugly EP, which includes four of the brand new songs we have been working on in the interim.
This is all surreally bizarre yet extremely satisfying. We are four grown men now that look back on whatever pulled us apart with a sense of confusion and wonder. Music is such a joy. It truly is a gift. I feel exceptionally blessed to be able to time travel with these three gentlemen after all these years.
In five days I will be flying from my home in Las Vegas to Vancouver to begin rehearsals for the Make A Pest A Pet 20th Anniversary Tour (MAPAP20) with some of my oldest friends and my brother. We will take this monster from Vancouver through the prairies and into Ontario. Many of these places we will be playing for the first time in 19 years now. That to me is a victory lap that isn’t about numbers or money. It is about music and it is about family. We have traversed 17 years to get back on the same page together for the right reasons.
I have often said I am as big a fan of The Age Of Electric as I am a member. I don’t know if anyone will be as excited to be at those gigs as I will be but I’ll see you there. I’ll be the guy on stage with a big smile on his face.
Your loyal and humble servant,
PS- 2019 will be the 30th anniversary of AOE. We should plan something fun 😉
There are only a few hours left in our Age of Electric concert ticket contest! Head on over to this link to learn how to win!