After releasing 3 albums in the ’80s Canada’s Coney Hatch went through a few years of changes, break ups before occasional reunions began. In 2013 the band consisting of the same 4 players from the first two albums – Andy Curran [bass/vocals], Dave Ketchum [drums] , Steve Shelski [guitar], and Carl Dixon [guitar/vocals] recorded “Four“, for Frontiers Records. Since then the band has done a number of shows, even a few overseas, and after Sean Kelly took over for Shelski on lead guitar – the band are set to release their first lvie album. The new album was recorded at a show played on October 3 last year at the restored and re-opened legendary El Mocambo, in Toronto. Andy Curran recorded a number of post-Coney Hatch albums before taking leave as a performer in the early 2000s to join Anthem Records as their A & R guy, working with a number of bands, most notably Rush. More recently Curran has gotten back to wanting to make music and re-release stuff from his past. Here’s a conversation with Andy about the upcoming Coney Hatch Live album, what’s in the vaults, as well as a few other projects and reissues such as Caramel, that Andy is working on.
*Check out the links below for more information
Let’s start with the live album, that is the main thing coming out soon, correct!?.
Really, the whole idea behind the live thing was actually, Coney played a show in Germany and (I’m trying to think of when that was, it’s a bit of a blur], maybe a year and a half ago, and Carl didn’t tell anybody in the band that he had arranged for somebody to come and record the show, and sometimes that works good because nobody gets the ‘red light fever’ and they aren’t intimidated by knowing that we’re going to record the show. So anyway, we finished the show and Carl says to us ‘oh by the way, I had somebody record us there with a pro-tools rig’ and stuff like that. So we came home from Germany and we listened to that show, and there was a few little rough bits in there, and we thought ‘ok, maybe we can go in and tidy it up’ and get our friend Vic Florencia, who’s a longtime friend of the band and was involved in Coney Hatch 4 to mix the record. It was always our plan – because Coney Hatch had never released a live record, to put that Live in Germany show out. and, ya know – the way that we designed our setlist, it was kind of like a really good coverage of all the records, you know – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and even Coney Hatch 4, so we thought Ok, for any Coney Hatch fans out there this is the nicest way to sort of do a mini ‘best of’ , you’re going to get everything in our set list, right. And when were back and Carl was listening to it, he said ‘oh man we forgot to play ‘Hey Operator’, and I said ‘well that’s a bit of an oversight’, that’s one of our biggest songs, and we were joking around about it, and while we were just getting ready to mix that Michael Wekerle – who is the new owner of the El Mocambo, and a very big Coney Hatch fan, he used to come to the Gas Works and see us, he said ‘Hey I’d like to do a live-stream show with you guys and we’ve got a recording studio in there, and I’d like to film and record it’. So we thought ‘ok, well here’s our chance to get ‘Hey Operator’, but it was also a chance to get some video out of Coney playing live because in Germany we didn’t have that luxury. so all of a sudden we get invited to play the El Mocambo and we thought ‘what the heck we’ll record that one too!’, So we went from 0 live records to having 2 live records. and Michael Wekerle, said ‘maybe we can bundle some tickets’, so if somebody wants to buy a ticket to the show or if they’re going to buy a live-stream, and we can send them a vinyl record of the show. and so we sort of thought ‘hey that’s pretty cool, we’ll take some pre-orders, and just do some limited edition Coney Hatch Live records.’ So that’s what we did, and we just finished pressing that now, and I just approved the vinyl test pressings of it, and the artwork’s being done. The cool thing about that is for the people that were pre-ordered on that – everyone is going to sign and number those copies and there’ll be some available on the Coney Hatch merchandising website as well – the merch-store. we’re just trying to figure out Kev, what we’re going to do with the Germany show, but we fast-tracked the El Mocambo and we finished it off. so that hopefully, we were just talking about how Co-Vid put a dent in everybody’s life, we’re a little bit on back order in terms of when the actual vinyl will be ready, but I am hearing probably by the end of this month we’ll have all of the vinyl printed and we’re doing it like old-school bootleg style. Once those records are pressed we’re going to get together with our merch company and we’re basically going to sign all the copies and number them and they’ll go out in to the mail and everybody who pre-ordered them will get ‘live Coney Hatch – live at the El Mocambo. And we’re really happy with the mix, Vic Florencia did a fantastic job, and Doug Mc Clement who was originally down at the El Mocambo back in the day, ya know when The Cars played there, and George Thorogood, and Stevie Ray Vaughn – Doug McClement was behind the mixing consul then, and Doug was in charge of recording that show down at the El Mocambo, and Vic Florencia mixed it, So it’s cool to have Doug McClement involved in it too, because it’s it’s almost like it’s come full-circle for him.
How’s the packaging look?
So, I was speaking about bootleg… one of my favorite bootlegs that I personally own is The Cars : Live at The El Mocombo. So we kinda took this old approach back ..and Kev, maybe you remember this…when I was a teenager and wanting to be in bands and stuff I had Circus magazines and Cream, and stuff, and sometimes you could go in those back pages and order ‘Led Zeppelin : Live at Madison Square Garden‘, and when you got the packaging it was very sparse, there’d be a picture of the band, maybe sometimes a rubber stamp on it, or just a black and white photo and when you’d open it up there’d be an insert with the song titles and where it was recorded. And we really took a page out of the old bootlegs and we looked at The Cars : Live at the El Mocombo, and we’ve kind of done a Coney Hatch spin on that. So it is still feeling very much like an exclusive bootleg, it’s a limited edition. but everything’s very black and white and bootleg feeling, we wanted to keep it authentic.
I liked the poster that went up for the El Mocombo show, the 4 shots of you guys, I thought that looked like it would make a perfect cover.
It’s very similar to that, but if you could sort of picture a black and white version, and I think in keeping with the fact that we’ve done it so limited, that this thing – there’s not going to be a lot of copies of this floating around out there, so we wanted to try to keep it feeling like a little bit bootlegged, ya know,
There’s a couple of new songs on the live album, correct!?
Oh, I’m glad you brought that up. When we were recording Coney Hatch 4, there was a couple of days when Dave Ketchum and myself were in the studio waiting for Shelski and Dixon to show up and so not wanting to waste any time I said to Dave ‘hey if I sort of teach you the bones of this song, why don’t we record bass and drums on it’. So when we finished Coney Hatch 4 there was 2 bed tracks that we had completed that just had bass and drums on them. So during Co-Vid we had a discussion with Sean Kelly, myself, and Carl ‘why don’t we try and finish these 2 tracks off?’, so we did. So part of our thinking is that there will be 2 new Coney Hatch songs that will be part of it – like we’re talking about maybe bundling Coney Hatch Live in Germany, with Live at the El Mocombo, and we’ll be adding those 2 new tracks. But they’re finished now and we’re just mixing them.
Regarding the older stuff – there’s lots of radio shows out there , things like that. Would you guys ever be able to get access to issuing that sort of stuff?
It’s funny that you mention that because it was mostly our guy, Greg Campbell at Merch in Motion and Rock Paper Merchandising, that said to me ‘do you and Carl have old demos? do you have old live recordings?’, Maybe we should go in the studio and master those things and sparkle them up and everything. and I know for a fact that I’ve got a copy of Coney Hatch Live at the Cleveland Agora, it was one of our very first shows that we ever did in the US. We drove down to Cleveland and we played a show at 11 in the morning, at the Agora. So we were talking about releasing that. And we did a couple of reunion shows, there was some at Rock n Roll Heaven, so there is some discussion about doing maybe a Coney Hatch ‘deluxe’ version that has some demos and old live recordings, like live at the Cleveland Agora, or something like that.
I’ve got the Cleveland one, and there’s a few other’s out there..
Those are moments in time; they’re definitely cool recordings. But I’ll tell you, you know the quality of what we were able to get in Germany and at the El Mocambo – they’re light years above those recordings that you’re talking about, but those are very authentic and very much a snapshot in time like that Cleveland Agora, that was just when “Devil’s Deck” was being played on MTV and we were just starting our rocket ride. So it was a nice snapshot in time.
Now when you mention old demos, do you guys have anything – like I think on that Cleveland show you did “Car Stairs”, which I don’t think is on anything else.
Well, believe it or not – Carl and I are a bit of pack-rats, and we have all kinds of songs that Coney Hatch demoed which never made any albums, and we jokingly. … like, Carl sent me a version of a song called “Your Kind Of Love” and that was a song that was supposed to be for the Outa Hand record, and Carl said to me ‘hey I think it sounds great – what do you think Andy?’ , and I said ‘well now I know why we didn’t put it on our album, it’s not the greatest song in the world’ – but for the sake of a collector we’re thinking we might put some of those old songs on there.
Did you guys do anything in the studio before Carl was in the band ?
You know, there is like 1 demo that’s sort of floating around between the band with our original guitarist/vocalist Paul Van Remortel, before Carl joined, we did a 4 song demo, and I’m pretty sure Kev, that we would probably never release that because the songwriting was not great. So there was one set of demos just before Carl joined the band.
“Car Stairs” never made it to any demos or anything!?
No, …well actually, we might’ve demoed it with Kim Mitchell. We did a demo session with Kim that I remember lasted… we literally went in there and Kim said “I want you guys to record every single song that you’ve ever written”. So it was one of those things where we started at like 4 o’clock in the afternoon and we were still in there at like 3 or 4 in the morning, and some of those songs sounded pretty rough, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “Car Stairs” is in there somewhere.
I know you guys did demos with James LaBrie when you had him in singing briefly, as well.
It’s funny, there are some demos. At that point Steve and I were the only original members of the band, and Paul Marangoni was the drummer, and we had John McGoldrick …, his nickname was ‘La-foot’ – the keyboard player. And those demos…I don’t know if James LaBrie – or Kevin – as his name was back then, would be too happy with us if we put those demos out. Those were his first recordings.
That’s exactly why you should put them out. I interviewed him years ago and asked him about that.
You know, it’s tough, but I guess if there were fans out there that wanted to have everything, again as a moment in time, and that last line up, and I want to be respectful to everybody in that last line up, because after Kevin left we had Phil Naro come in to the band for a little while too. And the songwriting had just strayed so far from the original Coney Hatch record, and that was one of the reasons that prompted me to start my own band, and put together what I call the ‘No Tattoos‘ band, because it was just like ‘oh my God’ – Coney Hatch was just not where I wanted it to be. So that was when Steve joined Larry Gowan and we kinda packed it in at that point. Ya know, we were trying to find a suitable replacement for Carl Dixon and we had Kevin LaBrie, and Phil Naro was great, but we just never really jelled.
You didn’t do anything with Phil in the studio, eh?
We did. yeah, we did about 3 or 4 songs with Phil in the studio, and those ones I haven’t been able to locate, but yeah I think we did about 3 or 4 songs with Phil.
Well, might be something to just put everything out there in a limited edition, and if anybody’s keen enough to buy it..
Just give them everything – the whole kitchen sink!? ….There was a British guitar player – Steve Hillage, and he put out a trilogy box set, and there was like 23 CDs in it or something, everything that he ever did. So, I guess if there was the definitive, we like to call them ‘Coneheads’, who wanted everything, I guess that’d be a good collector’s item for them.
Can you touch briefly on how Steve dropped out a few years ago and you got Sean in, and that change sort of affected everything?
It was one of those things, where, when we did Coney Hatch 4 – that was a really tough record to make only because it was like herding cats because all 4 of us – everybody has their own lives now – Dave lives up in Thunder Bay, and Steve was doing a lot of music for television, and Carl had his solo thing going, and I was working full-time at Anthem, so it was a very difficult record to make, and to be honest with you we never really planned to do a lot of touring after that, so when we finished recording Coney Hatch 4 we tried to do some dates, with Steve and his workload, it just became really obvious that it was very tough for Steve to manage his schedule and his career around doing the Coney Hatch shows too. So that’s when Carl suggested maybe we get Sean Kelly in because he had played some shows with Carl’s solo band and at that time Sean was like a full-time touring gun-for-hire musician, so his availability was never an issue and scheduling him in there. And, you know he’s much younger than the rest of us, and if you talk to Sean he will tell you he was a very big Coney Hatch fan, and he grew up listening to Coney and when he was learning the material for the shows he said ‘I want to do Steve right – I want to learn a lot of these solos note for note’. And a lot of times he’d say to us ‘yeah, that’s a crappy set list, your fans are going to want to hear this, and I know because I am one of the fans’. So, it was an interesting perspective to have A – somebody in the band who was younger than us, and B – someone who was a very big fan of the band, as well. It worked out well.
As a fan, I like that the set list is never the same, and when you go out and do those rare shows it’s not the same dozen songs.
We have been trying to change it up a little bit too, and I think I’m a big proponent in that, because I’ve said to the boys in the band many times, ya know ‘I don’t think we should be playing the same set list as we did the last time we played in Toronto’, so we do our best to try to change things up a little bit.
You guys have done some covers over the years, like you usually throw in an AC/DC song . Is there any of that stuff around?
You know, other than “Marseille”, the Angel City song that we play, and that made it on to Coney Hatch 4, I don’t recall us ever going in to the studio to record like “Sin City” or anything, and the last time around we played a Tom Petty song I think it was “You Wreck Me”, because I’m a big Tom Petty fan, but I don’t think we were ever ended up recording those.
Now, after Coney you did the solo album, and the Caramel album – which is being reissued right now!?
To segue in to some of the stuff I’m doing that’s non Coney Hatch, after I left Coney there was the No Tattoos album on Alert; then I did Soho 69, then after that is when I put together the Caramel project, and Caramel was probably the most high profile record deal that I’d ever signed in my career, and that with Geffen – worldwide. And so the record came out, I’m going to say 1997, and there was a little mini-bidding war, and we had lots of radio play in the US, and the honeymoon was over really quickly because Geffen ended up getting sort of dismantled and bought by Universal Records and the guys who signed us – they ended up all losing their jobs, so after this sort of high profile signing we ended up being homeless and without a label. But it was the A & R guy who was kind enough to call me and say ‘Hey Andy I’m going to give you your master tapes back.’ So, believe it or not I’ve had the Caramel masters in my possession for quite some time. and a lot of my friends and co-workers and people who know that band say ‘hey Andy, how come I can’t get it on Spotify or Apple or Amazon?’ So I finally got off my ass during Co-Vid and I really went in to my archives and I found all of the Caramel stuff and then the record after that – which started out being called Drug Plan, but ended up changing the name to Leisureworld, I kinda had almost 2 records there. So basically, my wife and my daughters and my friends were encouraging me to get that stuff up on Spotify and Apple and Amazon – so that’s what I’ve done. So last month on February 9th, which happened to be my dad’s birthday – in honor of my dad, I worked with a company out of Nashville called Symphonic , and we put the Caramel record out, so it’s available on all digital formats and we also put the video for “Lucy” up on the official Youtube page, and next week the Leisure World / Drug Plan record will go up. And that one, I have to tell you, man – out of everything that I’ve ever worked on in my life I’m the most proud of that record, the Leisureworld / Drug Plan. It is one of my favorite ones I’ve ever recorded. And you were talking about cover tunes and demos, stuff like that – when I was assembling it I realized that there was basically 19 songs that I could put up, And next week there’ll actually be 2 cover songs, a cover of “Hello Dolly” – the old Broadway classic. And we ended up recording that for Bride of Chuckie, and it was supposed to be in the movie, and at the 11th hour it ended up on the cutting room floor, so I thought ‘it’s not going to do any good sitting in my home studio, so I thought put that up with it’, and also we did a version of “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” – which was one of the first songs I ever had a 45 record of. So, there’s a couple of cover tunes in there and a couple of songs that never made it to the actual CD when it was released at the time. You know, I’m very very proud of that. I’m talking to Alert Records right now with maybe following that up with the Andy Curran solo record, with “License To Love” and “No Tattoos”, with some of the live tracks and the demos too. I’m just really purging all of the music that I’ve written, and trying, and at least have the satisfaction of getting it up on these platforms, for people who heard it back in the day and for people who’ve maybe never heard it are like ‘What the Hell? where was all this stuff? why did you sit on it, Andy?’ So I am kind of proud that it will start eventually to see the light of day.
I’ve had the solo album for years, but for some reason I never got it on vinyl, and looking on Discogs I see it’s not easy to find or overly cheap.
Tom Barry, who’s the president of Alert Records he and I were talking that last year was the 30th anniversary for that record and we sort of missed the boat. So we’re talking about doing a 40th anniversary of that, the Andy Curran record, and just adding some extra songs and maybe remastering it and adding some demos to it; kinda like what you and I were talking abut with the Coney Hatch stuff. let’s just put a bunch of really cool things out that there that were recorded during that time period. I hope that happens, that probably won’t be til April or May, but on the 11th of March I’m pretty excited because that’s when the Leisureworld / Drug Plan record will be available.
Do you have any desire to get back in and do a follow up solo album?
It’s interesting you said that dude because there was a stage in my career that I would say around the early 2000s, where my head-space was ‘ok Andy you’ve got 2 young daughters, you’re not really touring, you’re still writing all the time, why don’t you just continue to write and maybe put a band together with a younger lead singer and mentor him and stuff’. So I put together this project called ‘Daredevils Incorporated’, and I worked with an engineer named Alf Annibalini, and Alf was a good friend of mine. We recorded 11 songs, and this was like very heavy heavy stuff – it was like if you could picture Coney Hatch was much more rough and rugged around the edges. Anyway, we found a young singer, from Kitchener – Jessie Germain, and Jessie ended up singing on the record. Ironically when we finished the record he said ‘hey man I’m just getting married, and I just got offered a job at Hydro, so I think I’m going to take it, thanks anyway, but I don’t want to be in a band anymore’, So Alf said – ‘dude – there’s your next record, you just go in and finish it off’. So to answer your question – Yes I do have that as part of my plan. and the material that I had recorded for the Daredevils Incorporated. My plans are to finish that off and just do all the vocals myself. And work with Simon Brierley, he played all the guitars on it and Randy Cooke played drums. So it’s my plan for my next solo record, to finish that off.
That’d be long overdue. You know Carl did album every so many years and you kind of disappeared for a while.
I know, I kind of got busy with the day job. You know – be careful what you wish for, and I flipped to the other side of the desk and ended up getting a job at Anthem Records, as their A & R guy, and just like a real ‘pinch-me’ moment working with Rush for 15 years, as part of their management and A & R, and when I did that I put down the pen on a lot of my writing and it went to the back-burner. it wasn’t like it stopped Kevin, I kept writing, I just didn’t know what I was writing for, but it’s part of my genetic make-up, part of my DNA. If I’m not mucking around in the studio, it doesn’t feel right. But there’s no shortage of material. But you’re absolutely right – I disappeared for a while, and that was intentional, I wanted to focus on my career. I was part of the management team with Big Wreck, The Tea Party, and Steve Page, and The Reason, and also Molly Johnson – there was a lot of stuff going on and there was just not enough time in the day to have a recording / touring career. So I put it on the back burner, but a lot of that stuff is going to see the light of day.
One thing I like to ask about is album artwork. [I think i talked to the guy who did the first Coney album]. So I just wanted to get a quick thought on the album covers and what kind of input you guys had?
Well, the gentleman you’re referring to, I still keep in touch with is Martin Springett, and Martin did the album artwork for the first Coney Hatch record with the face and he walls and everything. My parents, both of them grew up in England and they’re parents were Irish, and I always have sort of a kinship with Brits, so I hit if off with with him, he’s from England. He was introduced to us when we were recording the first record. He had done some of the graphic arts for that adult fantasy magazine called done Heavy Metal, and you’d remember that there was a Heavy Metal movie, right!? So, we hit it off, and ended up doing the artwork. He knew what Colney Hatch was, it was a psychiatric hospital in London, England, and he kinda drew this face as the walls of this psychiatric hospital. So, I’ve kept in touch with him and I’ve been asking him to see if he’d be interested in working with us again. and the concept that I gave him was that if you were to walk through the mouth of the first Coney Hatch record – what would it look like on the other side of those walls, right? So I have ideas of sort of him maybe being involved in our next project. Martin’s a really good guy and you can find his artwork, he’s got a Facebook page – Martin Springett. And he’s a musician as well, and he’s done a lot of covers for books and artwork for his own records.
The Art and Music of Martin Springett | artist, musician, writer
The 2nd album Outta Hand was inspired by some young ladies that we were partying with and got to hang with us backstage and we had a bunch of beers going, and we said ‘would you like to drink with us tonight? – there’s a backstage party’, and they said ‘Yeah’, and we basically didn’t have any openers to open these beers to give these girls, and one of them said ‘i don’t need one’ and opened it with her teeth’. so we always remembered that and thought ‘this is rough and tumble, she doesn’t even want an opener’, right.
And the 3rd album cover was actually done by my brother Mike Curran. We originally had a photo shoot that we did with Dimo Safari, and he hired a young female model who was sliding down the banister of this long stair case, and it was supposed to be a cheeky play on the word ‘friction’, and the label was very concerned that it was maybe similar to Spinal Tap, you know – having a girl on all fours. So it wasn’t the most appropriate cover to have for a record, so we ended up booking a room and my brother Mike took a grinder out started grinding, and putting it off of heavy metal belts and stuff like that. And that was the artwork for the Friction record.
There’s a guy who has a really great company called Laundry Design, and he’s a Hamilton guy and he designed the cover for Coney Hatch 4. And the premise behind that was he spent some time in Las Vegas, driving around, and he actually found an old scrapyard that was filled with these letters from neon signs and he photographed all of them and basically made a font out of these letters from this graveyard filled with all these neon signs. I love that kind of stuff, I love working with these graphic artists and things. And I would be thrilled if Martin Springett would work with us again, because that would bring back the original artist on the first Coney Hatch record, ya know.
That Friction cover you mentioned – with the girl on it, that came out in Australia.
Yes, it’s just that the Canadian record company and the US record company were not excited about that one at all. They did not like the idea. And I think we ended up putting it on the inside sleeve or something.
The only thing I didn’t like about ‘4’ was that there was no vinyl option. Was that a Frontiers decision?
That was a Frontiers decision; they did not want to do vinyl. We’re thinking about … I do believe Kevin, that we kept the rights to do that record on vinyl, if we choose to do so. So that may happen still.
Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the first album. Are you guys planning on doing anything with that?
I guess we’re going to have to obviously talk to Anthem Records about that. There’s no plan at the moment, to be honest with you.
Is there talk of doing another Coney album?
Not at the moment… not for lack of, well if Sean Kelly was on this interview he’d be like ‘oh yeah – we’re doing it!’ He’s so enthusiastic about it. But I think for the short term Kevin we’ll just stick with the 2 new studio tracks.
Links & Further reading:
Universal Wheels – Andy Curran (travellersintime.com) [My interview with Andy from 2000]