Monday, March 06, 2017

An Interview With Don Pyle of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet & Show # 656

At some point in the mid-90s, I have a memory of watching television. It was later at night and the show, which had a strange and edgy comedy style was on CBC television. This show was The Kids In The Hall. Aside from the KITH comedy stylings, I remember experiencing the music on this show. I later found out that an instrumental rock band did the music for this show from Canada called Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. The theme song of this show was another story. “Having An Average Weekend” has its own effect within the context of the show. It has a nostalgic feeling. It tapped into a sense of boredom and a sense of excitement, despite being recorded in 1985 way before the KITH TV show. Perhaps it was the style of bass playing on the song or the way the guitar weaved in-between the drums and bass. Whatever it was, it worked well.

Shadowy Men On A Shadow Planet got their start in Calgary. The band had its origins in punk. Both bassist Reid Diamond and guitarist Brian Connelly were in a band called Buick McKane. They reconnected with future drummer Don Pyle after moving to Toronto and played briefly in his Toronto punk act, Crash Kills Five. This band split in 1981 after releasing the What Do You Do At Night? EP. It’s also interesting to note that Don was the singer in this band and when Pyle, Diamond and Connelly started playing together as a band, Don hadn’t really played drums before. Regardless, the band started playing as an instrumental rock band after their intended singer stopped playing with them. With neither member wanting to take the lead vocal role, the band adapted, continuing as a three-piece and started playing instrumentally. Their sound is often hard to describe since they combined multiple styles at once to keep things interesting. However, in the process the chemistry of the band created something unplanned and totally unique.

The band adopted a DIY aesthetic and released several singles and EPs starting with 1985’s appropriately titled, Love Without Words EP. The band was also featured on numerous compilation albums, which in part helped them connect to a burgeoning underground network of independent music during the mid-80s/early 90s time period. The band toured extensively in North America and were one of the first Canadian bands to record for BBC DJ John Peel’s radio program. Their first album, Savvy Show Stoppers was itself a compilation album. Compiled of early singles from the band, it was originally released in 1988 by Glass Records in the UK. The band’s next album, Dim The Lights Chill The Ham was released in 1991 via Cargo Records. This was the band’s first proper album (since Savvy Show Stoppers was a collection of earlier singles). It was produced by Coyote Shivers and showed the Shadowy Men stepping out from the shadow cast by reviewers claiming that they were just a surf band. This album brought forth, a collection of quirky song titles and a potent mixture of styles.

In 1993, the band released Sport Fishin’: The Lure of the Bait, The Luck of the Bait, an album recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago. This would wind up being the last full-length album from Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet.  This album found the band beefing up their production, with a heavier sound and combining elements of surf, jazz, rock and western-styled music, in addition to their other influences. The band split in 1996 and the various members went on to perform in other groups/projects. Among them were Atomic 7 and Phonocomb (a band that also featured Dallas Good of The Sadies). In 2001, bassist Reid Diamond passed away after a battle with cancer. In 2012, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet reunited to celebrate the reissue of their 1988 album, Savvy Show Stoppers. Dallas Good filled in for Reid Diamond on bass. The band continues to play live sporadically. Yep Roc Records re-issued all three of Shadowy Men On A Shadow Planet’s albums in 2016, which followed the 2016 box set, Oh, I Guess We’re A Fucking Surf Band After All…

What Wave magazine featured an early article on the band in 1986: “Their trebly, over reverbed riffs may be borrowed from early 60's surf bands, but the delivery certainly is not. No, the songs are aggressive, just meat on the bones delivery that is influenced by the late 70's punk movement.” Regardless of how you want to describe them, this instrumental rock band is still being talked about more than thirty years after their formation. Their music is still like a great late night TV discovery. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet found clarity among fans in the static waves of the mid 80s/early 90s and today still find themselves drifting through the digital waves of modern music with that same sense of nostalgia, excitement and chemistry that made us love them in the first place.

Check out my interview with Don Pyle here:

An Instrumental Playlist:

1. La Luz - Phantom Feelings
2. The Gories - Nautiloid Reef (Live on CJAM 1989)
3. The Challengers - Red River Rock


4. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Tired Of Waking Up Tired
5. The Ramblin' Ambassadors - Standoff At Calf Robe Bridge
6. Stories From Shamehill - Kahuna Haha
7. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Egypt Texas
8. The Tsunamibots - Robots Improving Robots
9. Toxic Mutants - Surf Machine

10. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Big Saxophone Lie
11. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Big Baby


12. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Three Piece Suit
13. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Hunter S. Thompson's Younger Brother


14. Phono-comb - The Crass and The Switchblade
19. The Sadies - Clam Chowder
16. The Pistolrays - Long Way From Silver City
17. Minutemen - Cohesion
18. The 427's - Tijuana Sunset
19. The Cramps - I’m Cramped (Original Mix)
20. The Rumblers - Boss
21. The Bell Peppers - Doin’ The Moon Freak

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 25.

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