Monster Truck is a homegrown Canadian success story about a group of four guys that wanted to play real rock music, raw, uncut and in a pure form without anything fancy attached to it. Over the last ten years, they’ve gone from being a local favourite within the Hamilton bar band scene to an internationally touring tour de force. These men went from covering some of their favourite artists to opening for them on stages across the globe.
Imagine you’re jamming with your friends one minute, and a year later you’re opening for rock legends including Deep Purple, Alice in Chains, Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, and more as years have gone on. The band is currently prepping their latest album and had begun recording right before the COVID-19 lockdown.
The band members have also been busy with solo projects. Lead guitarist Jeremy Widerman started a heavy metal solo project called Beartaker which released its debut EP, Total Disgrace, in April. Lead singer Jon Harvey has tunes on the way from his new project J. Harvey & The Inner Demons and drummer Steve Kiely has a solo project in the works as well.
Recently, we connected with Harvey took some time to talk about the band’s insane touring schedule over the last seven years, posting new material on social media for his “Daily Riff” web series, opening for rock legends, recording their new record and what the future looks like for Monster Truck.
Yeah, first thing on deck was what has it been like going from being a local bar band to touring the world and sharing the stage with your brothers in the group and opening for your heroes and some of your favourite bands on the planet?
Jon Harvey: “It’s kind of crazy, man. I didn’t think it was really going to happen, but now that we’ve been doing it for like six years, we’ve been touring in the States for about six or seven years now, we go to Europe like two or three times a year. So it’s become a little bit less of a heavy experience that it used to be, but now it feels like more, ‘all in a day’s work.’ I think at this point you just have to make sure you stay there. That’s the goal. The goal now isn’t to get there anymore. The goal is more, ‘How do we stay at the level we’re at?,’ and get that and go bigger.”
Yeah, absolutely. I remember seeing you guys at Call the Office (historic rock venue in London, Ontario) opening for The Sheepdogs and interviewing you behind there. Then I remember it was just a few months later and you were headlining your own show there, and it was a few months after that I was dropping off the beer for your rider at Budweiser Gardens (in London) when you were opening for Deep Purple!
“Yeah man, it’s been a kind of crazy experience, but to be honest with you it used to be way more nuts and life used to be way more chaotic. It’s funny, my whole life has calmed down fitting to a lifestyle like this. It’s become kind of easy now whereas before it was just fucking mental. I think not a lot of us drink anymore, so I think that’s a whole big part of it too, because trying to deal with the emotions of doing all those things coupled with being hungover all the time is not a good mix.”
(Laughs) I can imagine. Especially when you’re waking up in a different country in the back of a bus in Europe somewhere every day or every other day or something like that.
“It’s easy to get caught up when it happens like that though because it’s the same every day, so it doesn’t really matter what city you’re in. It’s harder when you’re playing smaller venues where we’re doing a headlining tour where you’re like in the middle of a downtown in like, Germany, and you’re like, ‘Ok, that’s where the bus parks.’
Ok, cool, you know what I mean? You get off the bus and we’re in front of an office building and it’s like, ‘Okay, holy shit, here we go.’ But the arena stuff’s easy man, because literally every day is exactly the fuckin’ same. Because most arena bands carry their own stage so literally everything’s the same. (laughs) You just walk in, it’s all set up, play your set and decide not to be bored for the rest of the night.”
Yeah, no doubt. What was the prep for the new album like before you guys were in lockdown? Because luckily you didn’t have any tour dates booked you didn’t have shuffle your itinerary for the next two years around to accommodate everything that’s going on right now.
“Yeah, we were kind of in an ok spot. We had to cancel one German tour but that’s not a big deal, that got rescheduled, and it’ll get rescheduled again, so I’m not really worried about that. It’s good, it’s good for us. It’s kind of a funny experience because we’re not really done the record yet but we’re almost done it. Like the music’s pretty much done but I have some vocal stuff to finish, and it kind of put us in a spot too where we kind of have a perspective now.
Now all of the sudden we were like, ‘We don’t want to take any time off, we want to go away’ but now everyone’s going away. In a dumb, stupid, selfish way that kind of worked out for us in our grand scheme, but we’re still going to finish the record. I’ve got my solo thing coming out, Jer (Jeremy Widerman, lead guitarist for Monster Truck) just released a solo EP, it’s called Beartaker, you can get that on iTunes, Spotify and all that. I have my own project, J. Harvey and The Inner Demons, I’ve got two videos out right now and workin’ on other things gives you a new perspective on a Truck record.
Because I love it even more than when I did two months ago when we stopped working on it. I mean, I’m really looking forward to that record coming out because it’s exactly what we need it to do.”
How do guys think you’re going to be expanding the sound? Just so that way, it’s not just people going in with hyped expectations and they can be surprised with something new. Kind of like on the last album where you had your first guest spots with Dee Snyder (of Twisted Sister) and you weren’t the only one doing vocals other than Jeremy.
“I think a lot of this record was focused on more of going back to the old stuff actually.”
“Because with True Rockers we kind of lost the plot a little bit with it as far as like, it’s good, it’s a bunch of songs, but there’s no real theme to the whole record and it doesn’t feel like a cohesive, it feels like a third record.” (laughs)
“We tried our best. We were in the middle of fucking two and half years of insane touring, my son was born during that time and all sorts of fucking wild shit going on. And then all of a sudden they’re like, ‘Ok, go make a record.’ It obviously wasn’t as focused as it could be. But now, with this new record, I wanted to get back to what we’re supposed to be. A southern rock band that’s heavy, and good, and sings about gettin’ away and hangin’ out. No more about the crazy pressures of life, more about takin’ it easy and enjoying it.”
Yeah, for sure. It’s funny you mentioned your son being born because in the midst of that whole block of you guys being on tour so much even from the first time I heard of you guys opening for Steel Panther just up until last year. It feels like you guys never really stopped touring. So what’s it been like to chop it up, take a break, spend time with your kid, all of that kind of stuff and take a minute to breathe so everyone can recharge their batteries so they can go to being in the band again full-force?
“I think they don’t really get that. Everyone always talks about time off but I don’t know what that is really.”
(laughs) Yeah, exactly.
“Because when I come home, I don’t live with my son, so I see him three days a week, so I’m writing songs every day. People say, ‘Let me know how your time off is going,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I’ll let you know when I get some’ kind of deal. Because it’s like I’m usually writing the next record or I’m writing with other bands now, and I’m doing this mentoring program with Leon Harrison from The Lazys. I’m working on my own solo project and working with The Lazys on a couple other projects too.
It’s kind of funny everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s a break,’ but what people don’t understand is that if you don’t constantly keep producing then you don’t make any money (laughs). So maybe other people get downtime, but as far as I’m concerned I can’t really, because I’m kind of responsible for putting these songs out.”
Yeah, no doubt, and I was just going to say on top of that too, how did you get the idea for that whole Daily Riff thing? Because I know it might not seem like a big deal for some people, but I know for some people it’s kind of nice to see something in their Facebook feed other than just the news right now. To take a minute from just being stressed with how everything is at the moment.
“Totally, and I agree. I didn’t start my Facebook back until recently, but I started Daily Riff like two and a half months ago on my Instagram. I was just doing it because I needed shit to put on there and I was like, ‘I have all of these fuckin’ riffs,’ like I have hundreds of these things and I write new ones every day. So I’m like, ‘Why don’t I just put one up every single day?’ and sometimes it’s a pain in the ass because it’s like, ‘It’s 9 pm and I still haven’t put my friggin’ riff up,’ but I need a good challenge to stay motivated and stay creative. It’s like, ‘No matter what I do, I have to write at least one riff a day.”
Yeah, exactly. It’s funny because when you mentioned time off I feel like that’s how some bands, not that I’m an expert, but you see them take a year off and they come back they almost sound like a hacky garage band version of themselves because they’re not keeping their chops up. Even with doing something like Daily Riff where it’s just for fun, it’s not like you’re trying to win a Grammy, but it’s how they kind of start to get soft a little bit, you know what I mean?
“Yeah. It’s 45 (minutes) to an hour of guitar no matter what a day for me. It usually takes about fifteen minutes to come up with the riff, then I just play it for a while and then I usually have about nine takes (laughs). So it’s a little bit of work but it’s not crazy, it’s all about staying practiced. Like I sing every day, you have to sing every fuckin’ day or your voice changes. You’re not going to have the same range. It’s like anything else, exercise, right? It’s like when you workout for a week and then you don’t work out for three days, and then you don’t look as good, you know? (laughs)”
“It’s the same with your voice or your guitar or anything else. If you don’t do it every day then you’re gonna miss out because you’re not going to be in prime form when you should be.”
Yeah, for sure. The last question I had was what can fans look forward to moving forward with you guys developing side projects like J. Harvey and the Inner Demons or Beartaker and stuff like that? Like what can people expect when you guys come back as a unit to the trunk of the musical tree with the Truck?
“I think they’re just going to be excited. We’re out to get back to where we were before and not being so fucking focused on having hit songs or doing stupid shit like that. Or trying to get on these wild things or worry about radio play or anything like that. I just want to play the tunes that everyone’s used to us playing and I want Monster Truck to be what people want it to be. We don’t need to be a hundred different bands, we just need to be ourselves. I think with the side projects it allows us to be a little more focused with the Monster Truck sound. We can get our jollies out other ways, right? (laughs)
We don’t have to be like, ‘Well, Monster Truck should do a down-trodden blues song.’ Well, that doesn’t make sense because we’re fuckin’ Monster Truck, so I have my own thing. Like Jerry’s like, ‘I wanna do a metal song.’ Well, that doesn’t really work with Monster Truck. So expect a lot from us and a lot of different things, because we’re all in full-on creative mode. Steve’s got a solo project too coming out, so who knows when it’s going to happen? I think everybody’s ready to work and I think the Truck is gonna come back as a force and our first single is going to be insane.”