Edmonton, Alberta’s Royal Tusk recently made a bold return with their sophomore album Tusk II, which offers a completely different listening experience as compared to the band’s previous releases. The new release features ass-kicking guitar riffs, big hooks and an amped up attitude that makes for an awesome aural journey. Their recently released “Aftermath” single covers some weightier issues and its accompanying chaotic music video reinforces that point. It’s been extremely well-received by fans who identify with the general message that both the song and video convey.
Fellow Canadian and London, Ontario-based rock group, Texas King, has also been riding high lately, thanks to the recent release of their hook-filled Circles album which has resulted in an appearance at the Juno Awards and tours down south. Rather than us coming up with the questions, though, we’ve changed up our format and decided “what would be cooler than an artist-on-artist interview”? Texas King were nice enough to ask the questions and Royal Tusk’s bassist Sandy MacKinnon and singer Daniel Carriere were equally kind to provide the answers in this special artist-on-artist interview.
Royal Tusk confront some serious issues with the music video for their latest single “Aftermath.”
Bands spend so much of their day sitting in a vehicle. What are your favorite ways to pass the time on long drives?
Sandy MacKinnon: When I’m feeling like being a shit, which I guess is more often then not, I love busting balls. I don’t care if you’re the dang Queen of England, you step foot in our short bus, you’ll get teased mercilessly. Nobody is safe!!!!! I also power down from time to time with a book, or maybe a set of headphones to blast some tunes.
The song and video for “Aftermath” tackles some pretty heavy themes. How do you feel social media has had an impact on desensitizing people?
Sandy: I think social media has now become a way for people to get the scoop on what’s going on in our world today. Where it was once just a platform to get a view into somebody’s life, whether it was vacation photos or some ding dong taking dumb ass photos of his dinner, it has morphed into a news outlet. This is a super effective way to stay in the loop, but on the contrary, when one is bombarded with catastrophic events, over and over, you start not giving as much of a shit as you should.
I know people mean well, but what can you do when the world we live in seemingly only serves up these kinds of awful stories. I don’t want to just shit all over social media, I personally enjoy using it. It has been so helpful in promoting the band, finding out about shows, and keeping in touch with the amazing people I’met around the world while touring.
Do you have any pre-show rituals? Dan, I’m curious to hear about your vocal warm-up routine.
Daniel Carriere: Vocal warmup is key. I usually do a solid thirty minutes of exercises, drink some tea, drink some Nin Jiom Chinese cough syrup, and some stretching to open the rib cage so breathing will be easier! Also, if I’m stuffed up I take some Benadryl and do a neti-pot. Also, it’s good to get your hands on the guitar for a couple of minutes. The main thing is after getting prepared, it’s time to go clear your mind so when you get up there you can perform based on your instincts.
Sandy: Well, my pre-show ritual is a little different from everyone’s in the band. About an hour before we hit the stage, I usually start doing stretches. I have spent the last ten years banging my head, and if there is one thing I’ve learned is that if you wish to have mobility in your neck the next day, you best get loose. Work it out, don’t forget about them hammies and glutes, baby. After sufficiently loosening up, I’ll usually start warming up my voice in between slugs of beer. Moments leading up to stage time I give my myself a bit of a pep talk then hit the stage like a cat shot in the ass.
Your sound seems to evolve quite a bit with each release. Do you make a conscious effort not to repeat yourselves or is it just based on who’s influencing you at that time?
Sandy: I feel like we write according to the way we are feeling at the time. However, on Tusk II, we stepped a little out of our comfort zone and really wanted to try something new. In doing so, we really came across a sound that was so natural for us. We’ve all been huge fans of big riffs and screaming guitars, so making a transition to doing what we’ve always loved, easy peasy, bud!
What’s your favourite venue to play in Canada?
Sandy: I’m going to have to say The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. We’ve done a handful of shows there, and walking out on that stage when the room is packed is electric. My hairs are standing even thinking about it. The sound is amazing, the layout is dynamite, and this may or may not be true, but I swear the floor sort of flexes, almost like its breathing. Yeah, hands down the best!!!
If you had to choose, Fender or Gibson?
Sandy: I’m at a bit of an impasse here, I use both. My two greatest stage assets are a ‘79 Tokai Hard Puncher, which is literally a Fender precision bass, it was a Japanese maker that quite literally uses Fender parts, puts them together and slaps the Tokai logo on the headstock in the classic fender font. It’s actually quite hilarious, but also not surprising when they were served a cease and desist.
My other WMD is a ‘76 Gibson Ripper. It’s an absolutely beautiful looking and sounding instrument. For the sake of actually answering this question, and not giving me a platform to talk about how sweet my bass collection is, I’m going to say that at the moment, I may be a Gibson guy. That doesn’t mean current Gibson, I’m talking the older models. Back when they were made with impeccable quality. Also, I used only Gibsons to record the newest record, so at the moment, Gibson baby.
Who can grow the best beard in Royal Tusk?
Sandy: Do you really want me to write a paragraph on how my beard is immaculately manicured, or how I can have a full thick face mane grown in about a week, one so beautiful it would make Zeus blush. When I get older, I’ll be the poster child for Just for Men beard gel. So in conclusion…. I have the best beard, bro!!!
Feel the “Fever” with this Royal Tusk music video from their previous album DealBreaker.
Touring is full of highs and lows. (Texas King vocalist) Jordan (Macdonald) joining you on stage for “Fever” was a highlight of our run together, on the flip side, what’s your worst tour memory?
Sandy: You are right about the highs and lows of being on the road. Touring certainly isn’t for everyone. I’ve had some of my greatest moments of my life and coincidentally some of my worst. I’ve been touring for so long, that I can’t really pin down one moment. I have some really shitty ones, but I’m going to keep it light. One from this tour that really stands out for me, I have this pedal I use that literally drops the tuning I’m in down however many semi-tones you want. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it sure beats making the audience wait while I downtune a bass, then bring it back up right after.
So, we were in the middle of the set, and we were burning, I have this kind of solo bass riff I do to get the song going. So I clicked ‘er on, walked to the front to get everyone going, and started playing. Something was off; while setting up I must have switched the setting to a different semi-tone. So when the guitars came in right after me, it sounded like something from the pits of hell. I was leading the charge in a totally different key then the ones my guitarists were playing, which were the correct ones.
You don’t have to be musical to know what “shitty shit” sounds like, but let me tell you, when everyone is playing in a different key, oh man, it sounds like pure hell. I had to stop and turn it back to its proper setting and got back to it. Problem is, after getting through that song, I left it on, and when the next song started, bingo, daddy was in the wrong key again. It doesn’t sound like it’s that bad, but my lord, it gives me anxiety just thinking about it.
What are some of your go-to gas station snacks?
Sandy: I don’t know, I’m going to go with cigarettes.
Being based in Alberta must have its challenges geographically but what’s the BEST part about being a band from Edmonton?
Sandy: I’m not sure what it is, and it’s probably in my head, but everywhere we go in this country, it feels like if you’re from Alberta, everyone kind of regards you as a bit of a hillbilly. I kind of use that as fuel to perpetuate our stage show. I want everyone to know that we are from Alberta, we are damn proud of it, and that we kick a supreme ass.
And hey, let’s give some props to Texas King for doing this rad interview with their just released new video for “Only One” from their debut record Circles.