When it comes the Canadian metal scene, Rapid Tears is never or at least rarely mentioned. This Toronto based outfit was one of the forerunners of the early Canadian metal movement and delievered catchy Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. Original singer Michael J Miller answered my questions.
Michael, how and when was Rapid Tears established?
That’s a great question! I came up with the name Rapid Tears when I was sixteen years old. I was from a small town and was in another band at the time. In August of 1977 a friend convinced me to go to Toronto to seek my fortune as a guitarist/songwriter. We took a trip on a bus to Toronto for a week not knowing what would happen and during that time I met Rick Nemes. Rick and I had the same sort of goals in mind and he liked my band name Rapid Tears so I decided to move to Toronto to develop Rapid Tears.
Was the line up you and Clayton Bonin on guitars/vocals, Brian Frank on vocals, Adam Sherban on bass and Rick Nemes on drums right from the start?
To put the band together was a very selective process. Rick and I starting running adds for guitarists, bassists and singers. Rick knew a few guys as well to try out that might work. Over the course of about two years through numerous auditions and attempts to work with certain people we finally came up with the winning combination. Rapid Tears was Michael J Miller guitars/vocals, Clayton Bonin guitars/vocals, Brian Frank lead singer, Adam Sherban on bass and Rick Nemes on drums. We were now working on our all original act Rapid Tears!
Did you have any musical experiences prior to Rapid Tears or was it the first band for all of you?
Yes, I had previous experience. I started studying guitar when I was nine. By the time I was fourteen I had my first real band called Touch. I was writing my own songs and we were playing gigs around town.
What were the bands that influenced you a lot?
I grew up in a home that had a lot of music playing either on the record player or TV. The band that had the biggest impact on me was The Beatles. At that time there were many other artists I heard as well but music was really evolving quickly. I think the Helter Skelter and Revolution were the first songs I heard with distorted guitars. After that there was Jimi Hendrix, The Cream, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Hence Heavy Metal was on the forefront.
Did you have the same musical taste and interest?
We all grew up on the same music though each indiviual in the band had his own favourites.
Did you have a clear vision of the musical path, that you wanted to follow?
Yes. I always just wrote what came to me and it always had the same hard raw energy.
How do you view or what do you think about that bands such as Rush, Anvil, Rapid Tears, Killer Dwarfs, Triumph, Helix etc. were the earliest Canadian ones and they put the country on the map of metal?
I’m glad that we happened when we did. It’s great to be part of that history!
What do you recall of the mid/late 70’s/early 80’s Toronto scene? How did it come into existence as a whole?
In the mid 70’s Toronto had a thriving rock bar scene that had evolved from the earlier folk & psychedelic rock scene. There were lots of clubs to play at that had a real stage, stage lights and full P.A. system with a soundman. All that made it possible for bands with a heavy sound to get out there and be heard. It was a great time for rock.
Which clubs did start opening their doors for metalheads as a whole?
There was The Gasworks, The Picadilly Tube, Larrys Hideaway, Yonge St. Station, The Nickelodeon, The Knob Hill and Rock & Roll Heaven to name a few.
Was it a healthy underground scene in Toronto at this point?
Toronto or Canada has never been a place that supported its metal scene. A band had to be really good to be allowed to play their original music. A lot of places would only book cover bands.
What can you tell us about your early rehearsals? Did you start writing originals or were you jamming mostly on covers?
From day one we were working on our original material. A few years later we started playing some cover music just to get more gigs but that didn’t last long as we had released our first album.
In 1979 you entered the Comfort Sound Studios in Toronto to record your first demo. How would you describe this material? Did it really represent what you wanted to achieve the band with?
Very interesting you would know about those early recording sessions! We recorded three impressive songs entitled Androids, Aftermath, Preparation. It was our first time in the recording studio and I think things turned out pretty good in spite of our lack of recording experience. The songs were somewhat progressive. I think we started to tailor our material towards the more straight forward after that.
Your next effort was the Operation Airlift/Tomorrow single released by your own label Guardian Records/GWR Productions. Does it mean, there weren’t any labels interest in the band at this point? Was the demo shopped and spread around to attract any labels interests by the way?
To record those songs we went into a big studio called Sounds Interchange. It was where Black Sabbath had just finished recording their album Never Say Die!. We and our management decided to release it as a 45 rpm before even shopping it.
In 1981 bassist Jon Wein joined the band. Why did you part ways with Adam Sherban?
It was Adam’s own personal decision to leave the band, we didn’t have a problem with him.
How did Jon come into the picture exactly? Was he your first choice or did you audition several bassists before you recruited him?
We had to go through the mill of auditioning a number of bass players before we came across Jon. He seemed to fit the mold best so we stuck with him.
How about his musical background? Did he easily fit in the ranks of the band?
Jon had just returned from L.A. after some recording projects. He seemed to have the experience and he certainly had the desire to join the band.
In 1981 a second single saw the light titled Headbang. Was it a better representation of the band?
Headbang was our commercial offering to the music industry. It did get the point across that we were a rocking band but most of our songs were a bit heavier.
Chameleon Records put this single on the market. Is it correct that it was a small independent label that was operated by Carlene Osborne and Ken Doidge and they were a self-contained organization dedicated to exposing and promoting Canadian talent?
The label and studio was owned by Ken Doidge and Tom Atom. Carlene was an empolyee in the administrative department. They did their best but it takes a lot of money for any label to record and promote an artist properly.
With two newer tunes Discontent Intentions and Heart Of Predestination you appeared on the label’s compilation The Circuit. Were these tracks written exclusively for this material?
Actually, those songs were recorded there as demos before we had a recording contract with Chameleon. In a sense, those demos are what is on the Circuit album and now they are actually on the new release of the Cry For Mercy EP which is released on Sonic Age Records/Cult Metal Classics from Greece.
Did it open any doors for the band? Did you manage to attract the fans’ attention to the band?
I’m not sure what sort of success the Circuit had but it did achieve getting us the contract with Chameleon Records.
Do you still remember what kind of a deal did the label offer you? Were you satisfied with the conditions of Chameleon Records?
Yes, I remember the deal. It seemed the best at the time so we just went with it.
How about Attic Record that were based also in Toronto and had Anvil, Dagger, Razor on their roster?
Looking back, I think Attic Records had made us an offer but we had already signed the deal with Chameleon Records.
Do you still remember, when did you start working on your debut album, titled Honestly?
Yes, we began recording 1981. We already had over 50 songs to choose from. We went into the studio and recorded about 15 songs. Chameleon Records chose the songs for the Honestly album. Two other songs were released on The Circuit compilation album.
Because you had a change in the membership, did it put some delay in completing the material?
Yes, when Adam split it was a drag but we fortunately found Jon Wein within a couple of months. We erased Adam’s tracks and Jon redid them.
Most of the songs were written by you and Brian Frank. Does it mean, that you had a definite idea what you wanted to achieve the band with?
Yes. I had a definite idea of what I wanted to achieve. Unfortunately, the production didn’t achieve what I was hoping for.
Didn’t have the opportunity the other guys to conduce with any ideas to the songwriting?
All the other guys had suggestions here and there and they worked very well with me.
At which point did you enter the Cottingham Sound Studios to record the material? What about the recording sessions?
We had actually been in Cottingham sound the year before recording demos but it was in 1981 the album recording began.
How happened, that two tracks, Operation Airlift and Tomorrow have been recorded two years earlier at the Sounds Interchange?
Those songs were recorded previously at the same studio Black Sabbath recorded Never Say Die!. We thought it was a good idea to put them on the album.
How do you explain that on Honestly can be found a colorful mixture of mainly fast, hard, and sometimes very riff-oriented Heavy Metal numbers?
That really was our style. We actually had many more songs in the similar style that were great as well but were never properly recorded.
On the other hand, some songs like Wonderland or Tomorrow have a delicate N.W.O.B.H.M. feeling, right?
I don’t know what that means, but yes, those two songs were a bit more commercial.
Would you say that you were very deeply rooted in the Heavy Rock/Metal of the late 70’s, since the founding of the band dates back to 1977?
Yes, I’ve always like and played heavy guitar music. That is my preference.
Do you think, did the album have everything to be noticed? Was it a strong effort around those times?
It was our first album. I wish it could have been recorded and produced better but we were all just starting out including the engineer, producer and record company. The record label didn’t have enough money to really push the album.
Were there any shows, gigs in support of the record?
Yes, there were a bunch of shows and the record actually got radio airplay which really helped.
Your last release was the Cry for Mercy EP in 1984. Did it much more represent what Rapid Tears were about?
Yes, it was done in a better studio which brought out the heaviness of the band.
Where do you see the differences and similarities compared to Honestly?
The production of Cry for Mercy is much better. We were always heavy though!
Did you offer classy Power Metal on Cry for Mercy, which is much harder than the sound of the debut?
I think it’s a matter of the production that makes it seem that way.
Great riffs, precise drums and a clearly enhanced singer refine hits like Cry for Mercy or Electric Shockwave. What are your thoughts about it?
I was much happier with that album. Still there were so many songs that were never recorded. It’s a real shame!
How do you view, that it isn’t quite as fast as the songs on the debut, but the tracks are all more powerful and in terms of quality another increase?
We had lots of new fast songs but again, the record company chose the songs. Also the budget and time factor is why it was only a four song EP.
In 1985 Rick Nemes quit and joined Lethal Presence, then Infernal Majesty. He was replaced by Steve Letterman; how did he get in the picture exactly and how much time did he spend in the band?
Funny you would know that! Steve only played one show and that was our last show. Sadly!!
Did you record any materials with him?
What were the reasons of the band’s demise? What did all of you do once Rapid Tears broke up?
I really tried to keep it together, but everyone was heading in different directions. I continued to write with Clayton. Also with Brian separately, but no one wanted to continue as Rapid Tears at that time. It was very sad for me!!
Maybe being on what seems like a relatively small label didn’t help you break through and back then that often spelled the end of a promising band…
Anyway. That is what made all the difference. I’m sure that if we had been picked up by a bigger label everything would have turned out quite different.
What were your views on the Toronto scene at this point, when younger outfits such as Sacrifice, Infernal Majesty, Lethal Presence, Massacre, Dark Legion, Death Militia, Razor, Beyond etc. started trying their wings?
It was kind of a drag having the band break up watching these other guys following in our footsteps.
Do you agree with that Anvil found its greatest popularity outside Canada, as did several of the Heavy Metal bands that followed in the 1980’s?
Toronto has always SUCKED when it comes down to supporting HEAVY METAL. The city is lame and has no respect for its own talent especially HEAVY METAL.
Rapid Tears had a one-off reunion show on September 1, 1986. Can you tell us more about it?
Actually, that was the show with Steve Letterman. One show only!
At the late 90’s you’ve been in Castle Of Pain (including former Infernal Majesty members Rick Nemes and Steve „Psychopath” Russell). How long did this outfit exist? How would you describe it musically?
It was quite heavy and dark. It would have been OK, but it turned out to be a disaster.
Why the band failed to continue? Did you have any material recorded besides the one song demo Dungeon of Doom?
That’s the only one to get released though there were two more songs in the works.
The band also appeared on Overload: A Tribute to Metallica covering King Nothing, correct?
What about Adrenalin and Touch?
Touch was my first band from my high school days. When we all finished high school the other guys went to university and I moved to Toronto to start Rapid Tears. Adrenalin was a continuation of my writing efforts. Clayton played on the album, too. That album Dedicated is an excellent album and actually got some proper record label support for a while. That band also fizzled out because of personal problems.
These days you are in your own band MJM with two Hungarian rooted musicians, Zsolt Henczely on bass and Stephany Dudas on vocals, in the ranks…
Yeah, it’s great!
So far you released four albums; can you tell us any details regarding those materials?
With so many failed attempts at making the big times which I blame most of it on band members and record labels, I decided to go solo where I didn’t have to depend on a singer that could screw things up and use my own name that nobody could change. The first MJM album Ascension is half-instrumental, I’m not thrilled with my vocals on that record. The second MJM album Valley of the Kings is a great album. Unfortunately not enough record company support! The third MJM album Instrumental is a compilation of all my guitar-oriented instrumental songs from different albums that I have written. The first song, Resurrection is actually from the Adrenalin Dedicated album. The songs Ascension, Mountain Boogie, Native Sun, Prelude, the Chase & The Dark/Meltdown are from the MJM Ascension album. The songs Medicine Ball & Backstreet are from the Valley of the Kings album. The two songs Mind Warp & Feather were bonus songs released early that are currently on MJM IV, one of my finest pieces of work! You can learn about MJM at www.mjm.global. The MJM Youtube Artist channel is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtSVmayhMuhmmmb8JCIegbQ or search Michael J Miller band on YouTube. MJM on Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/mjmrocks.
Michael, thanks a lot for the interview! What are your closing words for our readers?
Dear readers, thank you for your interest in Rapid Tears! If God willing, there will be another Rapid Tears album. If you are a musician, practice hard, learn how to write songs and how to record! Do it for the love of music but the music business might not love you back! Being in the music business without proper record company support is like trying to pull a two ton wagon up a mountain with no help. Try your hardest! Praise God! Michael J Miller, MJM