southern metal in Saskatoon
by Lorena Kelly
July 31, 2009"I heard a guy play one lick and my mind was made up," states Patrick. That defining moment would eventually bring about the formation of Saskatoon's RipperTrain.
The foursome consists of Patrick O'Handley (vocals and lead guitar), Guy "Ike" Perrin (guitar and vocals), Sean "Henry" Richard (bass and vocals) and Ben "Slim" Wanner (drums and vocals). It wasn't an easy road to forming the band, however; songwriter Patrick had to search high and low for players with the right combination of musicianship and personality. "I'd been playing in and out of bands for a long time," he says. "It probably took about three years to find these guys. Some (prospective members) just wanted to make a couple of bucks on the weekend. Or we didn't like their girlfriend," he laughs. He finally ended his search in March of 2001 after locating players who were committed to a serious project, focusing on original material and lots of live performances.
O'Handley got his start in his hometown of Kenaston, after hearing a neighbour down the block ripping out rock riffs on an electric guitar. "I don't know if he was even any good," he chuckles, "but it didn't matter." Inspired to start playing himself, he began by teaching himself the classic rock found on his parents' albums, and progressed to singing and writing his own music. The vocal style he would develop - reminiscent of Bon Scott or the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson - sets the tone of the band's music.
It seems the members of the band were all destined for creativity in some way. Guy comes from a very musical family - with a drummer father, singer/guitarist mother, and sisters who play piano and sing. (Guy played in numerous bands, and met Patrick when he joined Pat's band 67 Ride.) Sean had creative roots in drama and poetry before discovering music, and moved through various bands before accepting a slot in RipperTrain. And Ben's father, a professional sculptor, helped Ben to shape his approach to his craft.
The RipperTrain sound is something they call "southern metal". Or, as one interviewer put it, "thick, meaty bass lines, catchy hooks and manly vocals." It's all about creating music that appeals on a live level - songs you can dance to, sing along to, and party to. The band members agree that performances are a primary motivation. "I need to be on stage, or have something exciting going on. I love traveling. I feed off of entertaining people," says Ben. They're also proud of the cover material that's incorporated into their shows, saying that by learning covers in different styles, it expands their technique.
Rehearsing and performing for about a year, the band hooked up with Miles Yohnke and 5 Star Productions for management. "We heard about Miles through posters, going to shows, etc, and I'd personally known him for a while," says Patrick. "He handles our bookings and publicity. It's hard to be in the band and also sell yourself. He also helped us organize and record the album. We had known a bit about the business side of things, but we are a lot more aware of it all now."
Fourteen of Patrick's original songs were road-tested before making it onto their first album, Roxvil Station House. "First, we wanted to make sure we built our songs and practiced a lot before we played a show - we wanted to come out strong, and that way gather a solid following. We played for about a year before going into the studio. It (the album) was something that we knew was coming - being an original band. Touring made us feel more like a real band, and gave us more confidence. Then the songs were ready." Their travels would take them through western Canada, Ontario and the Yukon.
Their approach to recording their debut album would be to keep it real. "We would say it captures us live. We didn't mess around much in the studio, as far as experimenting. Everything on it is how it's done in a show." Although Patrick is the singer, songwriter and leader of the band, the other three have input when it comes to decision-making, material, and so on. "I probably have the most experience, so I end up making some of the decisions; but I respect everyone's opinion and what they have to bring to the table," Patrick notes.
Released in March of 2003, the album is doing well, with healthy sales and support from local rock radio. Key tracks Hard and Faded and Tumble On Line demonstrate an accessible rock style that incorporates elements of classic rock, blues and metal, yet without sounding stale.
Plenty of live dates are planned for the upcoming year, including a three week tour in Ontario this fall. The driver for further album sales will be performances, with distribution to follow in markets where demand dictates. Media/interviews will be aligned with performances, in conjunction with the album going to area radio stations.
"The one thing that we do have is a realness. We play, we practice, we take it seriously. If that's your thing, come check us out."
As far as career choices go, the members of RipperTrain have no regrets. "Learn by yourself. Everybody's gotta to find their own style. You just gotta go out and do it. It's not like becoming an accountant - there's no set way to do things. That's the thing about art...you really have to find it in yourself, and figure it out yourself."
So what does the future hold for RipperTrain? Lots of playing, adding new tunes to their repertoire, and continuing to work on progressing musically, or, as they put it, "You have to keep your water from getting stagnant."