MM: (laughs) That's the compromise of doing it yourself‚ right?
DL: Right‚ every Labor Day weekend everyone is going to moe.down and we're playing somewhere. For the past three years we've always had gigs lined up for that weekend and all of my friends would go and just rave about it. So you can imagine how psyched we were to get the call to play - it was like‚ "Finally!" (laughter)
MM: So being from Canada - is it tough going back and forth across the border?
DL: The only pain is getting your work permit. Right after 9/11 we were getting our work permits for the first time. You have to apply three months in advance‚ but you have to be applying with all of your contracts. We had all of our contracts for a year and it cost $130 to apply. So since it was after 9/11 they intensified the security background checks - rightfully so - and everything got backlogged. So they said‚ "Yes‚ you can come‚ but there's no way we're going to get to your application in the next year. But if you pay us $1‚000 you can come right away."
MM: Oh man...that sucks.
DL: That happened to us twice where we had to pay $1‚000 to cross the border to work‚ and at the time that was like $1‚600 Canadian. The last one was going to be a real pain - we applied six months in advance and they said that they were at security level orange‚ or whatever code‚ and that we wouldn't be able to get our tour bus through. So our booking agent‚ Tom (Baggot) called his congressman and said‚ "If I don't get these permits I'm going to lose out on all of this money." So they approved the band‚ but they didn't approve our crew for security reasons - not that we usually have a crew‚ but we list a few people that might come help. So once we got those permits there hasn't been any problems - it's really easy at the border. But coming back into Canada is when we always get screwed over. We're not mentally disabled. (laughs) You know‚ we're not going to try to bring drugs over or anything like that. We're a band and if we can't play in the States then there's no point in being a band. There's thirty million people in Canada and there's like thirty million people in New York‚ you know? Do the math. (laughter) When we've been coming back into Canada we've gotten searched so many times. Usually when they see the pile of gear‚ they then want to check the glove compartment. Its like‚ "Oh yeah‚ we just put our M-16s and half-pound of crack in the glove compartment." This is hilarious: One time we were crossing the border and it was this really small border in Vermont‚ and the guard was like‚ "Okay guys‚ get out of the car. I want to look at some of your stuff. I want to look at the guitars and...what's in that box? Effect peddles? Good‚ I want to see those too and the snare drum." So we go into this room and one by one he's looking at everything and he's looking at my guitar and then he notices some tubes and he says‚ "Are these extras for your amp?" I say yes‚ and then he asks‚ "What kind of amp is it?" I tell him it's a Dr. Z and he's like‚ "Oh yeah?" And then at the end of it he asks me‚ "Have you ever played a Yngwie Malmsteen Strat?" I say no‚ and he goes‚ "Oh...I got one of those."
MM: (laughs) He just wanted to check out all of your gear…
DL: Yeah‚ he said he used to be in a band‚ and he just wanted to check out all of our gear. (laughs) But anyway‚ once we got the permits it's really a non-issue at the border. It can be a very daunting task for bands to get those permits because you have to be in the union and you have to have all of these contracts - it makes it nearly impossible to do unless you have an American booking agent to do it. And how do you get an American booking agent if they haven't been exposed to you? It's a tricky thing for Canadian bands.
MM: Yeah. What about the other way - bands from America trying to get into Canada?
DL: The money is worse - it's like $450 Canadian to come across to work each time. So it's all right if you're touring...actually some friends of mine in Hamilton found a loophole for bars that are licensed as a music venue - then you don't have to pay anything. It's just about...well‚ there's no screwing around at the border. The Breakfast was coming up to do a show with us in Montreal and they didn't do anything - no permits and they didn't talk to anybody. They told the customs officers that they were playing at a party and the officer went on the internet and saw that they were scheduled to play at a bar. The officer said‚ "You lied to us - we can ban you from the country for seven years. We're not going to‚ but don't lie to us."
MM: (laughs) Those have to love The Breakfast.
DL: You know those guys?
MM: Yeah‚ I've seen those guys a bunch and I really like them. They're on the road so much and I keep hearing all of these stories about them and all the problems they have on the road.
DL: Yeah‚ they tour a lot - great guys and great players. I've never felt like such a bad guitar player than after being on the road with Tim (Palmieri) for a while. (laughter)
MM: That's funny. Tim came up in another interview I did with Tommy Hamilton from Brothers Past. I think Tommy is great and his approach and style with the guitar is really interesting‚ and he's such a character - but he started telling me about the first time they played with The Breakfast in Connecticut. They opened the show for The Breakfast and he said how cool they were and how they came out and watched their set and were really digging it. And then after their set ended he's like‚ "Tim gets on stage and starts playing‚ and that kid made me look so stupid." And he said something like‚ "That kid could wipe his ass with me." (laughter) Tim has that effect on people.
DL: Yeah‚ he's such a great player.
MM: Yeah‚ he's an animal. I remember The Slip having a problem at the border too.
DL: Yeah‚ they were doing a show in Montreal‚ and they had a mix-up where the bar was supposed to be taking care of the paperwork and the bar thought their agent was taking care of them. They ended up getting across by doing the show on borrowed gear and I heard it was a hot show.
MM: Yeah‚ I had friends that brought them across in a car. They played here at the Higher Ground the night before and they drove up there and had to come all the way back. I heard they played that show on some punk rock band's gear. (laughter) But anyway‚ I've been hearing a lot about the scene really coming along up there.
DL: When we were starting out it was really about the same time the scene started here. When we first started playing in Ottawa there were no bands like us playing and now there are a couple. There are a few bands that are touring nationally‚ but still‚ it's sort of this microcosm of what going on south of the border. It's coming along though; bands are maturing - like us‚ The Jimmy Swift Band‚ Grand Theft Bus. We've all been around for a few years now and are getting better - it's starting to take off up here.
MM: Yeah‚ a lot of bands that I've talked with from down here have played in Canada and have really enjoyed it and say the audience is awesome - they're really receptive to it and really open to whatever the band is doing. One of the bands from here‚ Vorcza‚ said they love playing up there because people come to check it out and are really open to what they're doing - and they're grateful. I think that's great for bands.