TODAY’S forecast: Cloudy with a chance of Meat Loaf.
By day, John Sauder is a mild-mannered meteorologist who tracks low pressure systems for CBC News Winnipeg. By night, Sauder turns into Johnny Thunda, a bewigged, Spandex-wearing rock god who keeps the beat for ’80s cover band the Steamers.
"I sort of question whether I should talk about this at all, because I’ve always been careful to keep my television side separate from my music side," says Sauder, a drummer since he was 12 years old. "But really, there’s no getting away from it; almost every time we perform, somebody comes up to me afterwards and says, ‘I’ll never watch the weather the same way again.’" Remember how bands like Blondie and Talking Heads were referred to as new wave? Well, the Steamers are more what you’d call news wave. Besides Sauder, the nine-member troupe includes two other CBC employees, Justin Deeley (lead vocals) and Paul Pitura (guitar), as well as Bob FM’s Sabrina Carnevale on backup vocals.
"We formed the band in 2004, back when Paul and I were both working at CTV," Sauder explains. "From the start our motto has been that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we just pretend that we do."
A typical Steamers set is chock full of radio-friendly hits from the 1980s, like Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself and the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary. Any tune that hit the charts after Jan. 1, 1990 is too new for the Steamers, Sauder says.
"What we try and do is revamp, or Steamer-ize, the songs we play, usually by making them way faster," says Carnevale, who signed on as one of the Karlettes — so-named for the lead singer’s alter-ego, Hot Karl — in 2005. "Hooking up with these guys is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done in my life. Plus it means never being surprised when I get an email with the subject line: ‘Wang Chung.’" It turns out that the Steamers aren’t the only group in Winnipeg whose lineup is littered with media types. We recently sat down with a few other radio, television and print personalities to discuss their musical backgrounds, and to find out how they are able to harmonize their dual passions.
(If you want to catch the Steamers live, the group will be staging its annual Halloween show at King’s Head Pub, 120 King St., on Oct. 27.)
Citytv’s Breakfast Television, fiddle player for the Telstars
Drew Kozub learned how to play the fiddle at the age of four. He switched to guitar when he was in high school for one simple reason: girls.
"I’m not saying fiddle players don’t get a lot of girls," Kozub says. "It’s just that most of them are grandmothers."
Kozub, 25, grew up in Riverton. When he was 17, he was put in touch with the Telstars, a group of musicians in their 50s, 60s and 70s who play polka and swing music at bars and legions across the province.
"Fiddle players were few and far between, I guess, and word got around that I was available."
Last year, Kozub put on an impromptu performance for BT viewers after a story he was working on fell through at the last minute.
"The producer asked me what I was going to do so I said, ‘I’ll teach (hosts) Jeremy (John) and Pay (Chen) how to play the fiddle.’ They actually caught on pretty quick."
Now hear this: The Telstars recently put the finishing touches on their first CD. We’re Back... and On Track is a collection of country standards by the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Hank Williams.
NCI-FM, lead singer for WHY
The best piece of advice Brian Cook ever got came from a guitar player who toils for an Irish band formerly known as the Hype.
"Because of my job, I get to chat with a lot people when they stop by the station," says Cook, lead singer of the alt-rock band WHY since 1994. "One time I was talking to Edge, from U2, and I asked him if he had any words of wisdom for an aspiring artist.
"He looked at me and said, ‘Guard your enthusiasm like it was your heartbeat. Don’t ever let it go."
Cook heeds the Edge’s counsel every time he steps behind a microphone, he says — whether it’s as an opening act for groups like Danko Jones and Edgar Winter, or as a headliner in a suburban dance club.
"For me, music is where I feel most myself, whether it’s in the writing process or onstage," says Cook, adding that one of his career highlights was performing at the MTS Centre alongside Fresh I.E. "When I’m on-air I’m kind of playing a character. But when I’m up there singing my songs, that’s who I really am."
Now hear this: WHY has four full-length albums to its credit. The group’s latest single,
Weep, is available on iTunes.
Editor of The Metro, member of Interchord
Elisha Dacey’s ultimate goal is to perform at MTS Centre. But the editor of The Metro isn’t holding her breath waiting for that to happen.
"We’re not your typical concert band," Dacey says of Interchord, a five-member a cappella group that puts its own spin on contemporary pop tunes. "We’re more geared to smaller venues and private parties."
The core of Interchord has been in place for years, Dacey says.
"Most of us took jazz choir together in high school. Our original name was Jazz@8, because that was our regularly scheduled rehearsal time."
Dacey is the group’s soprano voice. She handles solos in ballads like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours and Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes.
"For the past year we’ve really been working on our repertoire. We just started gigging again, but a cappella isn’t something you can just throw together overnight," she says.
Now hear this: Interchord’s next show is at Scattered Seeds at Red River Exhibition Park on Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
CBC-Radio, lead singer for Alfa
Ismaila Alfa was concerned about two things when he signed on with CBC-Radio: 1) What would the Mother Corp’s listeners think when they discovered that Information Radio’s new traffic reporter was a rap artist?; 2) How would his fans react, when they heard him on-air, "sounding all proper and stuff?"
"What ended up happening was actually pretty neat," says the father of three. "What I found within the first year of doing the show was that more CBC listeners were coming out to see us perform. And that more and more rap fans were telling me that they heard me on the radio."
Alfa’s new job — he’s now the host of The Weekend Morning Show on Saturdays and Sundays — comes with its own set of problems. "Yeah, it can be a bit of a challenge getting up at 4 a.m. if we’re performing on a Friday or Saturday night," says Alfa, who toured Canada and the United States extensively with his former group, Frek Sho.
Now hear this: Alfa’s debut recording should be ready by March 2013. The band’s music is a mix of styles, the band’s namesake says. "This group features three elite jazz players, an indie rocker and me, a rapper who dabbles in reggae and Afro-beat," Alfa says.
"People are going to listen to different tracks and think, ‘There’s no way this is the same band.’"
Music publicist and former Citytv anchor, vocals and keyboards for Thrift Store Love
Back when Saunders was the evening anchor for Citytv, she was often reminded of that Beatles lyric from A Day in the Life, the one that goes, "I read the news today, oh boy…" "I could see the confused look on people’s faces whenever I was onstage, rocking out," Saunders says. "I think after seeing me on TV, a lot of people had this preconceived notion that I was a no-nonsense, reserved kind of person."
Saunders has played in a variety of bands through the years, including Psychedelic Fettuccine ("We did a lot of CCR covers") and Bra Bar (Saunders and her husband used to live in an apartment above a St. Boniface lingerie shop).
Nowadays, Saunders handles keyboards and backing vocals for the "retro-groove alternative-sounding" Thrift Store Love.
The married mother of two also has a side project on the go: she’s writing and recording a film soundtrack for a comedy about male synchronized swimmers, entitled Swimming the Dream.
Thrift Store Love is in the studio, working on its first disc. Saunders also recorded four albums with Thrift Store Love’s predecessor, Arbra Hill.
QX104-FM, country performer
One of the songs on Kimberley Dawn’s 2009 album, Built That Way, was actually written for a King.
Country music legend Ray St. Germain penned Thank You for Loving Me in the mid-1970s. It was one of three compositions St. Germain sold to Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
"Ray told me that Elvis agreed to put Thank You for Loving Me on his next album, but he died a few weeks after the deal went through," Kimberly Dawn says.
St. Germain eventually reacquired the publishing rights from Parker. And when Kimberley Dawn was shopping around for songs a few years ago, St. Germain said, "How about this one?"
Kimberley Dawn has won numerous accolades through the years. In 2004 she received a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Produced Album. She followed that up with Single of the Year in 2005.
"I love working in radio but if you were to ask me what my dream is, it would be to tour full-time," says the singer, who also runs a home for mentally challenged adults.
Now hear this: Kimberley Dawn is hard at work putting together a new seven-song EP. After mentioning that her latest producer is Brian Allen, former guitar player for Toronto, she breaks into a dead-on version of that band’s CanCon classic Your Daddy Don’t Know.