Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Light Within The Blackness

This is the second year in a row Switch To Black has competed in the Best In Vancouver competition.  This year though they made it to the finals. Upon hearing the band's debut EP, I was impressed with their sound. The big question always remains, does their live performance do their album justice? When we witnessed their show at Studio Records, our fears were put to rest as they just BLEW away the show. 

Opening bands always face the huge problem of having to perform early which means a lot of their fans don't make it out to the venue in time to catch their set. Switch To Black didn't have this problem at all. Studio Records was busy front to back from the time they started their set, by the time they finished their set it was PACKED. Their enormous sound filled the venue from the first note. Their ferocity up on that stage drew everyones eyes front and centre. There entire set was full of dynamics, punch, and a sense of fun that a lot of bands just can't bring to the stage. From a producers perspective you can tell that Switch To Black knows their music to the point where its just second nature. Which really allows them to put their entire brain towards performance. 

I strongly believe in a few years, this will be one of Vancouver strongest bands if they continue down the path they are crafting right now. We managed to capture a segment of their performance above. Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for new material from Switch To Black. Check out their Facebook page HERE.

I give them 4/5 hammers. Keep rocking guys!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dust Off Those Cards, Bring Out The Aces!

There are those certain genres that sometimes you forget about. The ones that don't hit the airwaves as much as they should. Jazz, Black Metal, Disco, and even Ska are genres that don't see the light of day enough. Then there is Rockabilly. There was a time it was the most popular music out there. There are whole venues, festivals, and societies dedicated to the Rockabilly lifestyle. The greats such as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis were all influenced and popularized Rockabilly music. It is one of the funniest genres to listen and to dance to!

The Dusty Aces are bringing Rockabilly back to Vancouver. You can see a lot of the "older" bands play in random bars across the city, but these boys are taking it to a whole new level. The look is fantastic, their suit and tie really shows that they are taking this seriously as well as playing in the genre. Their fast paced tunes catch your ear right away. The singer's quirky smile just warms your heart as his guitar lines shred their way into your soul. Speaking of shredding, the guitar solos are just  out of this world! The thick bouncing bass lines allowed for the music to have the classic Rockabilly feel but also pushed the songs forward with a great driving force. The drums kept things ever changing as new beats and layers were constantly introduced. When the band went full blast, their sound was huge!

At times they seemed to fall out of sync with each other, maybe it was the mix in the monitors, but at times their stops and starts just didn't line up. The whole set was pretty loose and raw, so with some tightening up they will not only have the speed but the precision to take their set to the next level. They had some great covers in their repertoire which filled out their set. 

Be sure to check these guys out at one of their upcoming gigs. These guys have the sound that can fill a small bar, but also a huge casino or festival stage. Their Facebook link is HERE.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Who Is The Best In Vancouver?

Rednyne Productions and The Live Agency are proud to present the 2015 Best In Vancouver Finals november 21st at Studio Records. 

Your top 4 bands are: Kaslo, Carousel Scene, Switch To Black & On The Run.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. 19+ to enter.
Doors at 7:30PM, 8:00PM show.

Molson Canadian Draft and Bottles are only $5.25 for all of The Best In Vancouver concert dates.

Top Prize Fully recorded and produced single at The Beat Lab, produced by Tommy Mac of the band Hedley. Professional Image consultation, also a promo and media shoot by Branston Photography. Full consultation and development with LCE Music. Optional 5 show agency deal with The Live Agency.

Second prize: A Song Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Nimbus School Of Recording & Media. Optional 5 show agency deal with The Live Agency.

Third Prize: Fully produced song with Danny Craig Productions. full Website by Artropolis Media. Optional 5 Show Agency deal with The Live Agency.

We would like to thank our partners:

Nimbus School of Recording and Media:

The Beat Lab Studio`s:

LCE Music:

Branston Photography:

Artropolis Media:

Studio Records

Danny Craig Productions

The Live Agency

Hammer Records interviewed all the bands, as well as Kevin the creator of the Best In Vancouver competition. Check out the interviews for the bands as follow:

Kevin (Rednyne/The Live Agency/Studio Records): Best In Vancouver: Top 4 Announced!

Best In Vancouver Top 4: On The Run

On The Run made the top 4 in the Best In Vancouver competition. An awesome feat for a relatively new band. Had a chat with Dan about the bands strategies for the upcoming show!

James: How did it feel to make top 4?
On The Run: We are stoked to be apart of the competition let alone make the finals.Studio has a great feel to it!

James: How are you going to make the finals different from your last show?
On The Run: We are switching up our set a little bit but I won't say to much. You gotta come out to see!

James: What was your favourite moment during your show in the Best In Vancouver competition?
On The Run: Seeing our friends and family dance to your music.

James: What is your favourite aspect about winning the Best In Vancouver competition?
On The Run: The chance to get into the studio and record some new tracks!

Check them out on Nov 21st at Studio Records. Details HERE.

Best In Vancouver Top 4: Carousel Scene

Carousel Scene is quickly making a scene! Making their name known and establishing themselves in the Vancouver music scene. Be sure to check out the video above to hear them rocking out in a Van! We had a few words about their feelings of being in the top 4.
James: How did it feel to make top 4? Carousel Scene: Humbling. It is an amazing feeling to know that the judges rated our music and performance high enough to beat the other 27 bands, but most importantly, because of the amount of support we've been getting from friends from the very start and new fans alike!
James: How are you going to make the finals different from your last show? C.S: We will put our previous BIV performance to shame with our finals appearance; we will be showcasing a bit of our new direction and we plan on making ourselves a very difficult act to follow (if we don't luck out with the draw).
James: What was your favourite moment during your show in the Best In Vancouver competition? C.S: You know that exact moment where you realize that the whole venue is locked in and paying 100% attention to your band on stage? That one.
James: What is your favourite aspect about winning the Best In Vancouver? C.S We've hardly won anything yet, but for us in the band who basically breathe, eat and sh*t music, the recognition from fans, friends and colleagues alike is an amazing feeling.
Don't miss the finals on Nov 21st at Studio Records. Details HERE.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Heavy Metal At The JUNOs.

Hammer had a great chat with JP Wood about the new category in the JUNOs. This opens up so many possibilities and opportunities to many artists.

1) Can you explain the new category?

Starting back at the beginning, the Juno awards were founded in 1970.  Finally in 1991, with the introduction of a category called ‘Hard Rock/Metal’, both styles were recognized as legitimate genres of music by the Juno Awards.  In 1992, after one year, the term ‘Metal’ was unfortunately dropped from the award and from 1992-1996 and various nominees included Neil Young, The Odds, I Mother Earth and Alanis Morisette.  The category of ‘Hard Rock Album of the Year’ was cancelled in 1997.

Then we entered the dark times (1997-2011) where Canada’s national awards program did not recognize Metal.  Sadly, we were one of the only nations in the civilized world without a Metal category in their national music award program.  Frankly it was embarrassing.   While Metal bands like Watain are winning their national awards in Sweden (The Grammi) or Dimmu Borgir in Norway (The Spelleman) or Slayer in America (The Grammy) or Scorpions in Germany (the Echo) Canada isn’t even running a Metal category! 

Back in 2000, I personally petitioned (unsuccessfully) to reintroduce the award but to their credit, CARAS they did entertain my proposal for which I am grateful!  Flash-forward to 2011 and current Chair of the Metal committee, my friend Sean Palmerston, successfully worked with CARAS and the Junos to reintroduce a category called ‘Metal/Hard Music’.   There was much rejoicing.   Even though Metal was still mixed with various lighter music genres it was a start.   Thanks to Sean, Metal was back in the game! 

2) How did this change come to pass, why now?

It was a combination of timing and effort by a number of hard working dedicated people from across the country.  From my own involvement I was asked to be a judge for the award for the first year and by 2012 I was invited to sit on the Metal Committee. I had always pushed for a clarification of the definition of the category, which was so broad and inclusive you might have well said,  ‘If you have an electric guitar in your band you can go in this new category’.   Between 2012 and 2015 there was some controversy and dissension in the Metal community about the type of award, quality of bands, and genres of bands participating and being nominated.  I had always been fairly vocal about giving Metal it’s own category apart from genres like punk, grunge, alternative, hard rock and rock.  You would not believe some of the bands we had submitting to the Metal/Hard Music category…even a hip-hop band!   The category was so broad that the committee really had to screen out many bands that just were not appropriate for the category. We needed to tighten it up. 

Last year the committee petitioned CARAS to redefine the category to strictly Metal. Spearheaded by myself, the committee wrote and edited a long, long letter to CARAS explaining why we felt that Metal is a unique and distinct genre and should not be mixed in with those other genres, ‘just because’ they are vaguely heavy compared to other types of music. That is like saying folk and music and country music are the same because they might both have a fiddle in the band.

CARAS read the proposal and said, ‘We need more information before we make a decision’.  We sent some more info, refined the category definition and waited…and waited.   It was nail-biting but then the good news came.  I remember it clearly. It was around lunch-time on September 29th, 2015 (a Tuesday) and I was at work.  I checked my messages and when I read the good news I nearly jumped out of my seat.  A couple of my co-workers looked at me funny when I was doing my victory ‘fist-pumps’ in the lunchroom!    For the first time in 45 years (since 1970) Canada now has a strictly and exclusively Metal category called ‘Heavy Metal Album Of The Year’.  It was the culmination of several years of work, victory was ours! 

I just want summarize all this above background by saying I do not want to paint a picture CARAS or the Juno’s as adversarial or non-co-operative.  Quite the opposite!  Everyone in Toronto was supportive and encouraging.  However, as the national music industry association they have a responsibility to ensure that the Metal Committee had good accurate information and that the award was viable and sustainable. They had to make sure that we were not ‘just’ a bunch of over-enthusiastic head-bangers with no industry experience or credibility.  We could not have done it without CARAS. It is also interesting to note that last year the US split their Hard Rock/Metal category for the Grammy Award into distinct categories as well. 

3) Who will be reviewing your music?

There is a large pool of judges, men and women of all ages from across the country.  We have radio people, people who work in record stores, journalists, promoters, agents, publicists, band members, record label owners and so on.   The Metal Committee submit a pool of names of people we feel would be good, knowledgeable judges.  Then a judge selection group invites the judges. We (the metal Committee) do not know who the voting judges are and we do not get to vote.  The judges sign a confidentiality agreement and their names are only revealed after Juno week.  A big accounting firm runs the process so it is a secret ballot audited by professionals.   So to answer your question…I am not allowed to know who the judges are but I do know that they are true Metal fans!  I can tell you past judges have been cool Metal people like author Martin Popoff (Toronto), Tim Henderson of Brave Words Magazine (Toronto), Terese Fleming of the Noctis Valkyries Festival (Calgary), Geoff Waye of (St. John’s), Adrien Begrand of Decibel Magazine (Saskatoon), and dozens more.  These people know Metal! 

4) Is this reachable for any artist?

Yes!!  Any Metal band independent to bands on a major label can submit. We strongly encourage independent bands to compete and it is important to note this category is NOT based on sales or labels it is strictly based on artistic merit. 

5) Do you think more abstract genres will gain their own award given time?

Maybe but probably not for a few technical reasons.  There are literally hundreds of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres in every form of music.    How many awards can we give out and how small can the pool of competition get?  Speaking strictly in terms of Metal we could, in theory, divide it into the dozen main sub-genres (Death Metal, Black Metal, Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal, Doom Metal, Folk Metal etc, etc, etc ) and then again into 5-10 sub-sub-genres within each of those!  At what point does it become irrelevant to say, “The Award for the best French-speaking, neo-classical, symphonic, progressive, Power Metal band’ goes to…” and the pool of contenders were about six bands?    Does everyone automatically get to make the playoffs?  I’m not convinced yet. 

In the future I could theoretically see the current category split into ‘Extreme Metal’ and ‘Mainstream Metal’, maybe split along the lines clean singing, vs. harsh vocals or something but we don’t want to open that can of worms, we want to savour this current victory and prove we can do it.

One last point, there are already over 40 categories of awards…already Juno week is (naturally) seven days AND the ceremonies Saturday (non-televised) and Sunday (televised) combined run about eight hours. Can you imagine how long it would take (not to mention logistics and money) to organize and run 80, 90 or even 100 little unique categories?  It is almost prohibitive because hypothetically in the year 2032 after Day 17 of the Juno Awards Month people would start to lose interest and the meaning and prestige of the award would loose validity.  

I am NOT speaking for the committee at this point but I think my next personal realistic goal is to create a Juno Metal live band /concert showcase perhaps consisting of nominees for each city during Juno week and after that maybe try to get the Metal award presented at the live ceremony on Sunday. 

Thanks for your support!!  The deadline to submit is Friday, November 13th, 2015 and you can go to  The more bands that submit the stronger our category becomes! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Peak Performance Project Top Three: Van Damsel

After witnessing Van Damsel at Imperial we weren't surprised to hear their named announced in the top 3 of the Peak Performance Project. Their stage presence, song writing, and overall musicianship is brilliant. We had a few words with them about the competition and their thoughts on being in the Top 3.

James: How has the competition been so far?
Van Damsel: Khatsalano was one of our favourite shows of the summer. Bootcamp was unforgettable. The challenges and final report have been a lot of work, but we’ve been steadily working on them for months now. Our showcase was a lot of fun (the sound at Fortune was fantastic as always).
But ya know, after being immersed in it for the last 5 months, it feels more like a community than a competition. We’ve made some great friendships over the course of the project that we wouldn’t otherwise had the chance to. Obviously we’re being pit against 12 other bands so there is a sense of competition, but it feels more like you’re competing against yourself since you gotta up your own game to succeed – like real life.
James: How does it feel to be announced as one of the top 3?
Van Damsel: They announced us last, again (like they did for the Top 12 announcement) and just like the first time our hearts were pounding, palms sweaty…those unique but all too familiar feelings. You can believe in yourself and all the work you’ve put in, but goddamn they took our emotions through the wringer waiting it out like that.
Relief, excitement, happiness.
James: What do you think of the idea of battle of the bands and their influence on the music scene?
Van Damsel: We’ve been in a few competitions over the years – we even won our local battle of the bands in Kamloops a few years back. It’s exciting and the exposure and prizes can help bands out immensely. It’s almost a rite of passage and can give bands the confidence to keep pushing further.
James: How does the peak performance project differ than other battle of the bands? Van Damsel: It’s a professional development program. Like a battle of the bands, it puts you on the radio and on big stages and there are judges at your showcase performance, but it also teaches you SO MUCH about the music industry. They help to develop your live show, your songs, your social media, your brand, and your business.

Catch their final performance at the Commodore Ballroom on November 19th!