With Coney Hatch, there’s a second time for everything.
Some 35 years after opening for Iron Maiden on their World Piece Tour, the Can-rock vets are right back where they started: Singer/guitarist Carl Dixon, bassist and vocalist Andy Curran, lead guitarist Steve Shelski and drummer Dave Ketchum are reuniting to accompany Maiden bassist Steve Harris and his band British Lion on their inaugural visit to Canada.
“Everything old is new again,” laughs Curran from his Toronto office, adding he’s just as surprised as anyone by the renewed interest. “We weren’t trying to do any of this. It all started when I picked up the phone to say hi to my buddy.”
Of course, it helps when that buddy is one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. So, as Curran and his bandmates prepare to reacquaint themselves (and their fans) with CanCon staples like Devil’s Deck, Monkey Bars, Shake It, Hey Operator and First Time For Everything, the 58-year-old musician chatted about courting Harris, playing beer-league rock and popping up like the groundhog. Here’s how it went:
How did this reunion come about?
Back in 1983 when Coney Hatch toured with Iron Maiden, I became really good pals with Steve Harris. We hit it off because we both had our tennis racquets on the road — that’s how we eliminated boredom during the day. We’ve stayed in touch ever since. He’s become one of my best friends and vice versa. So when he called me about six months ago and said, ‘I’ve got my band and we’re coming to Canada,’ I said, ‘That’s great, Steve. Where are you playing?’ I thought it was a social call. He said, ‘No, you’re missing the point. I want you to put Coney Hatch back together and come out on the road, mate.’ That’s how it started. And once word got out, we started getting cold calls. We got one from a promoter in Germany who asked us to come and play the H.E.A.T Festival. So we’re going to Germany. And we’re going to go play a show in Calgary with our pals Brighton Rock. It’s going to be fun.
Hang on a minute: Did you say tennis?
Yeah, I know. It’s not very rock ’n’ roll. People think it’s all sex and drugs and girls and parties, but the thing about relentless touring is that there’s hours and hours of downtime and travelling between dates. But I was brought up playing tennis. And I knew there would a string of indoor complexes across the U.S. So I would get into a city, look up the tennis club, phone the pro and ask if we could add a little hit. Turns out Steve Harris was doing the same thing. And when he found out — I guess somebody mentioned we were going to be late for soundcheck because I was off playing tennis — that was it: Game on.
So who’s better?
I think we’re probably neck and neck. But he’s extremely competitive. He hates losing. I’m not lying: If he’s lost, he goes out of his way to get even. At one point on one of their later tours, he flew me to Montreal so we could have a rematch. I guess I had left a bad taste in his mouth.
Are you taking the racquets out on this tour?
Well, he’s kind of messed that up because we’ve got five shows in a row. We might be able to squeeze a game in during rehearsals, but that’s it.
If you play, are you going to let him win?
I might have to. I don’t want to get the plug pulled on us or have our set cut short. (laughs)
OK, back to music. When did Coney Hatch last play together?
The last shows we played were in 2014. We were approached by a label out of Italy to do a new record. It was kind of a similar situation to this tour: When I got the call, it was like, ‘Well, we’re not really a band. We don’t have any new material.’ And the guy was a huge fan, so he said, ‘Well, go and write some new material!’ So 30 years after the band got together, we ended up doing a new record called Four. And it ended up being in the top 50 classic rock albums that year.
How difficult is it to get everybody back together?
It’s like herding cats. (laughs) Everybody has their own families and jobs and we live in different cities. But it’s going to be fun. There’s no pressure. We’re not trying to prove anything. We’re not trying to get a record deal. Now it’s just an excuse to get together with some old buds and play some loud rock ’n’ roll. The baggage that caused the breakup of the band in 1985 has passed. It’s water under the bridge. This feels closer to beer-league hockey. It’s beer-league rock ’n’ roll.
How do you feel about the songs after all these years? Do they hold up or are they like yearbook pictures?
I gotta be honest with you: One of the most popular songs that I sing is Monkey Bars. People constantly say, ‘I love that song!’ But that was one of the first songs I ever wrote — I was 18. It was a long time ago. Now, it feels a little nursery rhyme-ish to me. It was maybe not my finest moment. But then there are also songs like Devil’s Deck and Stand Up. Listening to them and relearning them really brings back the memory of making that first album and what a rocket ride we were on when we made that. But we’re also awfully proud of the newest record. I know that’s a real cliche. But some people who liked the band said it might be our best album. That was nice to hear after all the years.
Well, you didn’t try to reinvent yourselves.
Funny story about that: The head of the label in Gemany, his name was Serafino (Perugino). And because of his accent and broken English, he sounded like a mobster. So he would call up and say to me, ‘I don’t want any surprises. You understand me? I don’t want Foo Fighters. Give me Coney Hatch.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit, this sounds like a threat.’ So it was, ‘OK, sir. You want ’80s cock-rock? You got it, buddy. We got lots of that.’
Are you thinking about doing something for your 40th anniversary in 2021?
There has been talk of remixing the first record because there’s been some interest. We even went as far as speaking with Eddie Kramer, who’s worked with Led Zeppelin and Hendrix and everybody. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we can pull that off. And talk about coming full circle: After our first record that we did with Kim Mitchell producing, the record company said we should get a real name producer. So they flew in Eddie — and we didn’t choose him. We ended up choosing Max Norman, who had done Ozzy Osbourne‘s Blizzard of Oz. Years later, when I met Eddie, I said, ‘Are you going to talk to me after we didn’t choose you?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that’s OK.’
He managed to get over it, did he?
Yeah. (laughs) I don’t think he lost any sleep over missing out on a Coney Hatch album.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I had some really good years cutting my teeth with Coney. And after I left the band, I was lucky enough to do a couple of records on my own and got a Juno award. So I’ve got no regrets. It’s all been just a really good ride. And now we get together when there’s a reason. That might separate us from a lot of bands out there trying to squeeze every last drop out of the sponge. This is just a rare appearance of the Coneys — and much like the groundhog, we’ll probably go back underground for a while after this.
British Lion & Coney Hatch Canadian Tour Dates:
Nov. 1 | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | Toronto
Nov. 2 | Maxwell’s | Waterloo
Nov. 3 | Brass Monkey | Ottawa
Nov. 4 | L’Imperial | Quebec City
Nov. 5 | Théâtre Corona | Montréal