Ego trip A chance to team up with the legendary Al Simmons has musicians on their wackiest behaviour

Is a side-project still a side-project if it’s been going on for 20 years?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/12/2018 (1562 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Is a side-project still a side-project if it’s been going on for 20 years?

Concert preview

Ego Spank Presents: Al Simmons
● Friday, Dec. 14, 8 p.m.
● West End Cultural Centre
● Tickets: $20, available at the WECC, Into the Music (both locations) and online at

Well, yes, if you’re Winnipeg four-piece funk and R&B group Ego Spank.

Ego Spank is made up of some of Winnipeg’s best session musicians and producers — Murray Pulver, Gilles Fournier, Marc Arnould and Daniel Roy — who have been writing “wacky songs” and playing occasional gigs together in their spare time for decades, but recently, Pulver says he and his bandmates had a desire to give more attention to the band.

“We really feel like we have a bit of a brotherhood going on, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we just get together more often?’ “ Pulver says.

So, they developed a new concert series, Ego Spank Presents, at the West End Cultural Centre and features a different guest artist performing with the band each time. The inaugural concert featured Juno Award-winning blues musician Jack Semple, and the next one, which happens Friday, Dec. 14, will see legendary Winnipeg entertainer Al Simmons take the stage.

During the show, there will be some of Ego Spank’s songs, some of the guest’s songs, and some songs that have probably never been heard before.

“Each time it’s going to have some sort of twist… It’s kind of expect the unexpected. So Al is not doing his kids stuff, it’ll be pretty off the wall… it’ll be very much Al, though,” says Pulver.

“And for somebody to play with a band they’ve never played with and for us to do the same, we’re all pretty comfortable backing people in different situations, but I think for the artist… I mean one of the other goals is to actually come up with something together as a collaborative song or to write something together. I think it just gives people an opportunity to see something they haven’t seen either artist be involved with before. There might be some stumbling, there might be some moments of genius, you take the good with the bad,” he says with a laugh.

The members of Ego Spank are used to thriving in a collaborative environment, either as session musicians or producers, but many of the artists slated to be part of this series generally work solo. Pulver says it has been a great experience so far, however, and with Simmons specifically, he’s excited for the audience to hear the new things they’ve come up with together.

“We kind of encourage them to just do whatever they feel like. And Al has just kind of run with it, he said it’s given him the opportunity to make a new prop or do a new thing he can introduce into his… like it’s kind of inspired him to come up with something he never would have, or wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do before otherwise,” says Pulver.

“So I feel like if we can keep pushing everybody’s comfort levels, I think that’s how true art is made and it just keeps people entertained too, as well as us, and that’s one of the big things, is just to sort of keep everybody vested and interested.

“If people come with an open mind I think they’ll be very entertained,” says Pulver.

The Ego Spank Presents series will continue in the new year; visit for concert announcements and ticket information.

Twitter: @NireRabel

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Erin Lebar

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Erin Lebar spends her time thinking of, and implementing, ways to improve the interaction and connection between the Free Press newsroom and its readership.

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