An interview with Gil Moore
Live at the US Festival DVD, CD
There was a time in the late 70s and early to mid 80s that two Canadian trios owned US radio Rush and Triumph. Both sold out tours from coast to coast and both had fiendishly loyal fans. Unlike the prog/jazz elements of Rush, Triumph was a workhorse metal machine. Driven by the thundering rhythm section of Gil Moore (drums/vocals) and Mike Levine (bass) along with virtuoso guitarist Rik Emmett, the three made a very BIG sound - loud enough to earn them the right to stand next to Mountain, Cream and Grand Funk Railroad.
Triumph formed in Toronto in 1975 from the ashes of several local bands. They released their self-titled debut on the then independent Attic label to relatively little fanfare save for one San Antonio, TX DJ who put the record on steady rotation. The bands only US dates for their first two years were in Texas. By 1977 RCA negotiated a deal for the three, reissued their first platter as well as their sophomore outing Rock and Roll Machine. The record boasted an irreverent cover of Joe Walshs Rocky Mountain Way which garnered broad airplay and put the band on their first real tour.
As a live act, Triumph relied heavily on the use of pyrotechnics and an intricate light show. Their fan base spread through 1979s Just A Game and 1980s Progression Of Power, but it was 1981s Allied Forces that put the band in arena contention with 38 Special, UFO and Ozzy Osborne. The record was soon certified gold and with the record-breaking sales of 1982s Never Surrender got the three invited to play the US Festivals Heavy Metal Sunday. Joining them that fateful day in May (29) would be Van Halen, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Quite Riot. Playing to a staggering audience of 500,000, they would write their own entry into Rock and Rolls history book.
Now for the first time you can see the magic as it unfolded on that beautifully clear, late-Spring afternoon. Metalworks in conjunction with Triumph are the first to issue DVD footage of that show in 5.1 surround sound. The result is simply amazing. Having matched the video frame by frame to the music, the viewer gets the most comprehensive look at not only a band at their peek but an event unparallel on US soil. VHS versions of this show have been around since 1984 however this will blow anything inferior away. The added bonus features include an All Access Pass to the bands road show - absolute must see especially when Emmett takes the viewer on a tour of his guitars.
The DVD shows the band in fine form with Emmett leading the way through Lay It On The Line and Magic Power but it is his multiple neck guitar heroics that push Rock n Roll Machine to a mind-numbing climax. Moores vocal contribution to When The Lights Go Down also gets rave praise, as does the additional interview with the band in the bonus section. To promote the DVD/CD release of this stunning show, Gil Moore, Triumphs drummer/vocalist called into our office to explain the many sordid details of this quintessential release.
The Cutting Edge: Hello Gil, great work on the US Festival DVD. Surprising to see it almost 20 years later.
Gil Moore: Actually its very exciting to see all the Triumph interest these days. Right now Im in the studio working on tracks for the next DVD. It will be a Greatest Hits type thing with both a DVD version and a CD.
TCE: For the past few year Triumph has been relatively quite.
Moore: Not for the next few years! Ha!
TCE: I have to ask the obvious, with all this renewed interest will there be a reunion tour in the works?
Moore: I dont know about that. Its probably out of the question but Im not going to predict the future. Ive given up on that.
TCE: The sound on the DVD is brilliant a real achievement for a live DVD.
Moore: The gear that we have nowadays compared to the gear we had back then has changed so much. Metalworks, (www.metalworksstudios.com) my studio here, specializes in 5.1 and DVD work as well as CDs. Weve got some pretty amazing gear. Rich, who mixed the US Festival DVD, is probably one of the best mixers in the world. Hes defiantly in that rare circle that can get amazing sound. He seems to be able to do it with great consistency. I was just listening to Allied Forces, the studio version of it in surround and its unbelievable. I was listening to the old mix that we had on the CD next to this new one in surround and it is breathtaking. All of a sudden there is this wax and polish that has been missing - as well as this depth, sound and clarity that you couldnt get on the consuls we had before. Not to mention how much better his (Rich) mixing skills are from the first time it was mixed. But, then you jack it up to 5.1 and multiply it by 2. Its stunning.
A lot of the stuff that we wrote into song were not very successful because of the limitation of the recording equipment. Were working on the lines of this one song where at the end where it says, Were taking control fading into the distance. When we wrote it, it was supposed to be kind of manic sounding like a spaceship taking off - like an echo into outer space. Now when you hear it in 5.1 it sounds psychedelic. That was what it was intended to sound like but in stereo it sounds like its drifting back into reverb. So some of the things that were written into the song before 5.1 came along play out better in surround.
For the US Festival it was awesome trying to immolate what it would have been like being in the audience. Then you have the surround experience it takes it that much further. Its a fantastic medium.
TCE: The US Festival was easily one of the most expensive productions to pull off. Van Halen demanded a million each to perform plus the extensive cameras, film crews and recording boards.
Moore: I spoke with Steve Wozniak (US Festival organizer and high-profile Microsoft executive) about other bands that might want to do what we did transfer the video to DVD. We [Metalworks] could do it for them.
TCE: One of the visual pleasures about watching this DVD is seeing how the band interacted with each other. Both you and Rik (Emmett) trading off on vocals and the sound thickness you created as a three-piece.
Moore: Rik and I split the vocals about 60% - 40%. Thats how the band started. Neither one of us could carry the show and sing all the songs. We were just to high energy so we ended up sharing it so we could get through the show. With this DVD you can see how we split it up. The audio too, works really well here. Ive noticed with a lot of the DVDs from bands - older shows like this they dont spend the time to reprocess the audio properly. They just transfer the video and slap it out there with crapy audio on it. There are a lot of bad DVDs out there. With this one we took the time and spent a lot of money on the production. Even the menus are spectacular. The bonus features are great. The Rock and Roll Machine bonus feature it almost as good as the whole DVD. Its the whole backstage experience for 45 minutes. Its got everything from Lear Jets to groupies, to pyrotechnics. The whole thing about being live on the road with the band.
TCE: How was it to relive this whole experience for you?
Moore: It was a lot of fun. The memories I have of the band, despite the break up with Rik, were positive. We were good friends for 99% of it. When I watch this, I get really good feelings. The fans were great. To this day fans are coming up to me reliving some story about seeing the band play. I feel very grateful. Most of my bands before Triumph were liked everybody elses bands. It was totally amazing to me that someone actually liked one of my bands. I mean I just got one rejection after another.
But in Triumph we took off like a rocketship. I was as surprised as anyone else. You get used to failure. I think its that way for a lot of bands. They start out with different combinations trying to find their way then you get this one combo that, for whatever reason, it goes together and all of a sudden youve got something that people like. What messed us up at the end is we started listening to the record execs who said we need outside writers and stuff. We should have stuck to our guns and kept it between Rik and I.
TCE: How did you get started with Metalworks.
Moore: I was always the tech guy in the band. Im the one that designed a lot of the lighting and pyro for the band. They just figured I was the only guy that could do anything with it so I approached them about building a studio for Triumph. We all pitched in and built it, but then when the band separated they were like, You have to take it youre the only one that knows what to do with it. It was an odd way that it unfolded. Not really by design but by circumstance. Its actually been the best thing that could happen for me. For the last 6 years in succession weve been voted the number one recording studio in Canada by the Canadian Music Awards. We now have six studios and our client base is really wide, mostly bands. We did Anne Murrays last record. We just mixed Rushs DVD, Rush in Rio. It fantastic. If youre a fan its a must.
Alex Lifeson is a very good friend of mine. All these years and we never toured with them, but Im a real big fan of the band. We sort of knew some of the bands we played with on the US Festival. Wed played with Ozzy at a stadium show in England with Motorhead. We played with Motley Crue on the American Rock Festival. We had never played with the Scorpions or Van Halen. After the show was over Rik and I took off immediately. We didnt even have time to change our clothes. We were on a flight out of LA so we went right off stage into the limo. Mike stuck around LA and he saw the rest of the show. I guess he hung out with the other bands and had a great time.
Working on this project reminded me how much fun Triumph was. Ive been focusing on my family in the years since - for as many years as I was in the band. I have all these great memories of touring with bands like Foghat who supported us for two tours. Bad Company opened for us a ton of times after Paul Rodgers left the band. Harlequin, the only real Canadian band to tour with us, opened for us in America. Sadly they got booed off stage a couple times. Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, those were our towns. People would spit on you if they didnt like your show they always loved us.
TCE: I hear an echo of the past in your voice a longing for the good old days.
Moore: I do miss going out with the band. I took the time off to be with my family and raise my kids. You cant really do that and be in a band, but if there was a way we could tour a few weeks in the Summer or figure out a way to take the family on the road. Id do it again. I loved those songs and loved to play them live. I guess thats what made doing the US Festival so good for me. It reminded me of how much fun we really did have.