Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Rik Emmett is one of those guys that came along at an odd point in my path of musical discovery. I knew more about his solo work (because that's where I encountered his music initially) and less about his glory days as the singer/guitarist for Canadian arena rockers Triumph in the '70s and '80s.
This year's release of Triumph: Greatest Hits Remixed did a lot to further flesh out the music of Triumph for me beyond the hits and one of these days, I'll dig into their catalog releases that I inherited on vinyl a year or so ago. For now, with Emmett back on the road for a fresh set of dates with songwriting partner Dave Dunlop (as part of a duo originally known as the Strung-Out Troubadours and now, simply shortened to a new nickname of "The Troubs"), I figured I'd take the opportunity to lock in an interview with Emmett and chat about a few things. Talking with Emmett really made me excited about the upcoming Cleveland date at The Winchester on Saturday, September 25th (there are two shows at 7pm and 10pm) and I think we covered some really interesting ground.
I'm really stoked that you're coming back to Cleveland and obviously you've got a lot of history with the city. Is there a particular Cleveland-related memory that comes to mind when you think about the city?
Oh geez. I think we played that city one time if I recall correctly, it was around New Year's Eve and we opened for Alice Cooper on a Triumph show [our historians have been unable to come up with specific details on a pairing of Cooper and Triumph, but we did dig up evidence of a Triumph headlining performance on New Year's Eve of 1984 at the Richfield Coliseum, thanks to some help from ATV friend Scott Banham]. Of course back in the day Triumph never really ever opened for anybody because we always wanted to have big flash pots, flame throwers and all the rest of that kind of nonsense. But this was a thing where Jules Belkin had sort of said "look, you want to get in good with us, come here and be part of this big New Year's thing." I seem to recall we were out at the Richfield Coliseum - we seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere - you'd drive forever and forever. I remember that gig and there was an Agora show at some point and now of course I'm getting older and so my memory is a lot shorter, the Alzheimer's is kicking in so now I only really remember the Winchester which is where I'm playing [laughs].
It's interesting to hear you mention Jules Belkin, because it was definitely unique for the time that there were certain promoters in certain cities that made it happen for bands that were trying to break out at the time. Watching Phil Collins of Genesis thank the Belkins from the stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions earlier this year makes it clear how much of an impact the Belkins had on a lot of bands and musicians.
Oh yeah. I guess if you grow up and you only live and stay in one market you might be thinking that your market is kind of unusual or unique. But every market has people that sort of own it and run it - it's their territory and their turf. The Belkin thing - if you weren't in with them, you weren't going to be able to succeed. I guess you guys in Cleveland, you get to see a little bit of that when you see the turf protection stuff going on around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and all of that stuff about the roots of rock and roll in Cleveland with Freed and the folks that had that impact on radio in the early days. Every market you would travel to there were certain key people that you had to kind of end up on their good side one way or another or they were going to be getting a little piece of the action somehow one way or the other. In Toronto, where I grew up, there was a guy named Michael Cohl, and of course now he globally runs that Rolling Stones franchise. But he was the Jules Belkin of Toronto for a while.more