…my life changed when I was 14. it was the year I discovered the drums….
After getting my first pick (drums) instead of my second (trumpet) for an instrument in music class, I was hooked from the start.
My teacher encouraged me and he would sit behind the kit after class. He would blow us kids away with jazzy improvised drum solos. Between classes one day, I saw a couple of the older kids, a bass player and a drummer, jam effortlessly with each other. They were riffing without having any idea of what the other would do next and I said to myself I want to do THAT.
and so it went…
It was one thing to hammer away on a borrowed drum kit from the high school in the basement day and night, but it was another completely to have gangs of kids come by the house with their increasingly louder and louder equipment when we, (my brother and I) started to form bands. The folk-rock band was fine for a while, pop punk was cool, ok, but shit hit the fan when I got in my first ‘screaming band’. I’ll never forget my mother coming down the stairs, staring me in the eye, and saying very calmly ‘Luke; rehearsal’s over.’ My parents were always supportive though, they had been the ones to take me to George’s Guitar shop to buy my first proper drum kit. Again my dear music teacher played a part, meeting us at the store (on his time off) to help me select a more professional kit.
I had been getting into playing guitar and bass by this point too, with my brother, cousin and I switching instruments when our families got together. We would jam the latest Nirvana, Green Day, U2, Cranberries, or Weezer song, often to the amazement of our cousins. The first time I ever witnessed someone singing harmonies in front of my eyes was when my cousin Jesse played acoustic guitar and sang The Cranberries’ “Ode to my Family”, along with my brother singing lead. I felt something at that different at that moment that I hadn’t felt up to that point in my young life, and it was FANTASTIC.
Cut to the bands.
There was the metal 3-piece, two guitars and drums, that’s it. We were called ‘Shovel’ when our guitarist noticed that I had been using a shovel as a makeshift cymbal stand.We played the annual holiday concert in front of the whole school and when we finished our allotted one song the older kids were cheering and going nuts a bit. Instant status upgrade when you’re in 9th grade. Probably even got my first real girlfriend because of it too, a girl a year older no less, when she saw the band play in the gym. Shovel played battle-of-the-bands and church basement shows and put out one tape, recorded by ourselves at our guitarist’s parents’ house. The lead guitarist hand-drew the cover and as a joke, purposely included spelling mistakes in the credits to be more ‘punk’.
Next I started a band called Money Penny with a friend of mine from school who had a mutual love of punk bands, specifically the West Coast Canadian band Gob. For anyone under 30 Money Penny was James Bond’s assistant. Yes! Rad band name! Now we just need to learn how to play our instruments! We would play house parties at the guitar players’ house and then trash his basement afterwards when everyone left to go to the bar. Punk!
Around this time I was playing drums in the pit band for our school’s presentation of Leader of the Pack. One night at a performance two members of the coolest most successful local band were in the audience. They asked me to try out for their band which was called “Henry’s Volunteer”. I was on cloud nine when the rehearsal went well and they asked me to officially join. We got along well and played very fast, very catchy punk. I learned a lot about being in a band around this time as these guys had been doing it longer then I had. A few highlights from playing with this band was getting the chance to open for SoCal ska-punk legends Goldfinger and Gob. Yes, that Gob. My 17 year old mind was officially blown. We recorded a 3 song demo-tape at a local studio, and when I heard our music coming through those mixing speakers I was hooked.
After a year or two playing a tonne of awesome gigs at skateparks and clubs with that band, it came time to make the decision that all young musicians dread. To go to university or to not…
So off I went like the good lad..
At university in Hamilton I was having a great time and barely passing my classes. My parents had bought me a set of congas to take to the dorm because they knew I wouldn’t be able to have a drum kit. I would jam with my good friend Gary from school who had a djembe and could kill it. We would play talent nights at the university residence.
Around this time the singer from Henry’s was starting a reggae band called dodger. He asked me to play guitar in this band and be up front and sing. This sounded really fun so I said, sure. We recorded a five song demo and started passing it around local shows. We played the Raven (RIP) downtown Hamilton and contacted the campus radio station and got air time. We played the Reverb (RIP) in Toronto about a hundred times to no one. But one of these times an engineer who worked at a recording studio was in the audience. We recorded a three song demo with him at a real studio and felt like rockstars for 3 days or so. Fast forward a few years and a few demos and we had amassed a loyal local following. One night at a gig in Burlington I was handed a business card of a Juno award winning producer. A few phone calls and emails later we were recording in a bigger studio with an awesome producer. We sounded better than ever and also got some opportunities through some of this producers’ connections to play some bigger shows, and even get some radio play on mainstream radio. But something was missing..
It was also around this time that I had an opportunity to go work in the music department at an university. It was easily the coolest “day-job” I had had up to that point and it allowed me to learn, grow and network with some awesome people and musicians. I had been working there for a while when a friend of mine who was faculty at the university asked me to record and mix his record. This was a break because not only did I record his record, but he referred me to some of his students and proteges. There was an SSL mixing console in the studio there too, and with the help and support of another faculty member, I was able to get my grubby paws on it long enough to figure out how to record music with it. I recorded some jazz combos, some classical music, and a funk-soul band. The school also allowed me to take Digital Media classes (for free), and paid for me to take Pro Tools and Logic Audio training downtown Toronto.
…I was never the main writer for dodger and had been fine playing someone else’s songs for years. But as I grew and developed I had an itch to contribute more musically and lyrically. It was because of this need that along with Clint, a close friend of mine and an awesome singer and lyricist, formed The New Enemy.
The New Enemy was heavier and more political, two things that got me fired up and turned on. We recorded a 6 song EP, and felt like we had an outlet for some of these feelings and frustrations that were boiling over as we moved through adulthood. We got along great and had a howl writing, rehearsing, playing shows, and being a general nuisance for the status quo. When Chris joined in as the drummer and Christian joined as bassist our lineup was solidified. This band got me more interested in producing, as I was recording demos and getting more and more interested in the recording process and editing and mixing music.
My brother Mike had a few demos written and mentioned to me that it would be cool if I recorded him and added some music to his songs. Muldoon Who was born.
Muldoon Who is a good antidote to The New Enemy in the way that the songs are more mellow and melodic. It was as if the other side of our psyche was allowed to join the party. I have been a fan of Mike and his songs since we were kids and believed that the world should hear them. This was the inspiration for starting Beats in Key Music. A fan of the music, a close connection to the artist, and a belief that the world should hear the material. The New Enemy was releasing EPs and playing shows and Muldoon Who was recording and releasing singles and this material needed a home base. I had the name Beats in Key for a while from a song I cowrote with friends years ago. Something about combining ‘Beats’ which are percussive, with ‘in Key’ which implies melody or harmony, had appeal. The last thing we needed was a third artist because any label/production company worth its salt needs at least three artists. Plus three is lucky, plus. plus, plus.. I knew exactly who to ask..
Her name was Galyn ‘Nilla’ Esme and she was the most talented, soulful MC around (female or otherwise). We met in school when I used to host an acoustic singer songwriter night at a pub in Hamilton. She would come in and drop freestyle verses over some acoustic riffing and people watching would occasionally burst into flame. She had recorded an album, some of which she had produced herself. I had always been a big fan and asked her if she would like to be a part of this little website I was putting together. Thankfully she was stoked on the idea and said yes. Since then Nilla has recorded 2 more EPs and 3 singles that have been released in Canada and the UK. She now has a new full length record out and is better than ever.
It was because some of this knowledge and experience that we were able to record a New Enemy full length album and 2 more EPs, 7 more Muldoon Who singles, and work with dozens of talented young artists in the Toronto area. Over the years, the music has allowed us to continue on this path, to explore and create. It challenges us, guides us, and allows to actively participate in engaging the public, and each other. I’ll end this with a heartfelt thank you to our families, the bands, artists, and fans we’ve been lucky enough to work with and play for since day one. We’ll keep doing this as long as you do.