They traveled a wide and wild path through the Canadian musical landscape in the 1980s and 1990s, topping the charts on campuses across the country with their 1986 debut album Less Art, More Pop! by uprooting tracks from punk, pop and country and then scattering them in songs ranging from irony to heart in hand. Edmonton’s Jr. Gone Wild, featuring key songwriter Mike McDonald as the constant among a rotating ensemble of nearly 30 musicians over time, had existed for a dozen years when they broke up in 1995, but their impact was indelible, leaving fans jonesing for nearly two decades.
Then, after an Edmonton promoter asked McDonald to name his award for a meeting (“I named a number that I found outrageous and he said, ‘OK'”), which led McDonald to “Undergo the torture of putting this thing back in place.” The group reformed with original members Dave “Dove” Brown, Steve Loree and Larry Shelast.
“We got back together in 2013 and had to rehearse a lot,” McDonald says from his Edmonton home. “Finally, the first new song we got was Fool’s Errand. Dove had said, ‘I would have done a lot more just screaming in heaven.’
“And I said, ‘That’s a really good line, Dove. I steal it. At that time, the record store I owned (Permanent Records) was down so there was a lot of frustration about it so it really spoke to me because I wanted to cry out to heaven myself .
“So I wrote that and it surprised us because it wasn’t in the game plan at all, new songs, especially the ones that worked really well.”
So began the journey of Still Got the Jacket, Jr. Gone Wild’s first album since 1995, which will be released on November 12 in collaboration with (weewerk) and Stony Plain. During pre-production, Shelast died of a heart attack, nearly derailing the project. McDonald’s nephew Quinton Herbert stepped in to fill the drummer’s throne, even though he was not born when their latest album, Simple Little Wish, was released.
“He’s my nephew, and he’s been listening to my music since he was born, and at one point he became a drummer. He already knew all of our songs; we didn’t have to teach them to him. He saved us six months of work.
“But he’s also a kid in his twenties with a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. We were in the dumps because we had just lost Larry, and Quinton kind of got us out of there. He raised us when we were downstairs. He’s not a technician like Larry was, he looks more like a punk rock Ringo Starr, but Steve and I look great on me, and he and Dove get along really well.
Still Got the Jacket contains 16 songs, and although McDonald’s no longer writes a plethora of songs to choose from (“I didn’t have the time or the energy; I have a job and a family. wasn’t expecting Jr. Gone Wild to come back into my life; there was no time so I just had to put it in “), the band’s classic sound remains intact, albeit with updated themes like Cool for My Kids (Good Lookin ‘for My wife) and Old and Ugly. There are also covers of Fly at Night by Chilliwack and Southern Cross by The Beat Farmers, who used to do shows with Jr. Gone Wild.
This brings us to the subject of covers, in particular the exquisite version of McDonald’s Slept All Afternoon by Canadian artist Carolyn Mark.
“I like it better than our version. I wrote it, so I’m pretty close to it and the Jr. Gone Wild way of doing it, but Carolyn made a few different vocals choices. You see what I mean, she does it differently (and brought out something) that I didn’t know was there. So as a writer I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know my song could do that! Well done, Carolyn, that’s great! ‘ She made a beautiful and sad version of it.
It’s one of the greatest Canadian songs, which makes you wonder how McDonald’s managed to turn their backs on it, and on the music, for so many years. A talented writer working in retail seems to waste. “Well, you have to kill the ego a little bit to survive.
“The point is, Jr. Gone Wild had broken up for 18 years and had had a few kids (now 17 and 20) and moved on. I had joined the world of work, which was incredibly difficult to do after 20 years living Riley’s life.
“When the band got together and we’re doing so well at shows – and I’m getting paid pretty well these days with the band – it’s really hard to go back to 9 to 5 and shut it down and to be a retailer. , because my customers in my store don’t know who Jr. Gone Wild is. They are not punks and they did not go to college in the 80s.
But Still Got the Jacket could still convert those ignorant customers. Recorded at Loree’s studio in Nanton, the tunes showcase a seasoning acquired over decades. The band recorded in several passages, which led to one of the highlights of the recording.
“Steve had the bed pieces and he did his guitar pieces when he was alone, so he didn’t have anyone to interfere with his muse. When you have three or four people in a room, something is going to be interrupted, don’t is this not ?
“Steel pedal, six electric strings, he stacked them. It’s textured, right? They call him Colourman. He got to sit in the songs, you can tell by listening to what he did, he was serving the songs 100%, but also using his own thing to do it.
Listening to the new tracks and previous albums, it’s surprising to think that none of this would have existed without a chance meeting of two high school students in downtown Edmonton while watching street entertainers. McDonald would later learn that the person playing the saxophone was Paul MacKenzie of The Real MacKenzies, and that Jerry Jerry (and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra) was dancing on this show with a girl named Eden.
“There was a crowd around and I was standing next to this kid, and it was Ken Chinn (who as Mr. Chi Pig then led another legendary band, SNFU). He just started talking to me, told me he went to Vic Comp. I said I was going to O’Leary, and that’s kind of where I met him.
“I was friends with Ken Chinn years ago before there was a Jr. Gone Wild and before there was an SNFU. He was one of the first people I met on the punk scene. He was always exposing me to new music, and he was the first one – it’s kinda ironic I guess, because he continued with SNFU to be hardcore legends – this is the guy who got me. brought the Rank and File album which is the record this kind of gave me permission to pursue my artistic ideas.
“Yes, it was Ken Chinn who led me to the American alternative country music of the time. Weird, eh?
Jr. Gone Wild will perform two album release concerts on November 21 at Iron wood.