Mike Trebilcock – The Killjoys’ Gimme Five turns 20

Image by Bob Hatcher from Junofest 2015.


Kelly Leschasin @Letschasehim January 4, 2016

Originally released in 1996 – The Killjoys’ second album Gimme Five and the songs contained within became a fixture on Much Music and alt-rock Canadian radio that year. If you tuned in to either, you were likely to be blasted by at least a couple of its catchy tracks in heavy rotation. “Soaked,” the album’s hit single, reached #20 on the Canadian singles chart. Another single, “Rave + Drool,” appeared on the original influential Big Shiny Tunes compilation album released by Much Music. Mike Trebilcock, the Hamilton band’s songwriter/vocalist/guitarist reflects on Gimme Five as it turns 20.

Kelly Leschasin – Looking back at 1996 and the recording/release of Gimme Five, what are your strongest memories, good and bad, about that time?

Mike Trebilcock – Gimme Five was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, which was huge for us. It’s where Big Star began, and where The Replacements recorded Pleased To Meet Me. While we were there, the Gin Blossoms were mixing, and The Afghan Whigs were finishing up a record. It really is a power-pop Mecca and we felt lucky to be there. Not to mention Beale Street, Sun Records, Stax and Graceland! We also shot some memorable videos for that record. “Rave + Drool,” which brought us to the Mojave Desert to race around in borrowed cars. “Soaked,” where we pretended to be vermin, and “Look Like Me,” which was a great but little-seen claymation video where our heads were put onto various bodies by a mad-scientist.

“Rave + Drool” – a power pop monster of a lead track that kicks off Gimme Five with a punch – sounds like a song about coming to terms with your role in a turbulent friendship. What inspired this track?

I forget the exact friendship but there was a lot more youth/drinking in the days before the Killjoys, which leads to plenty of turbulence. It’s sort of an apology, but not a very good one. It was written backstage at Mel Lastman Square on New Years Eve. Freezing. I thought I had frostbite at that show for sure. Also had a clarinet thrown at us that same night, which was notable.

What is your personal favourite song from Gimme Five and why?

“Rec Room.” It was one of those rare occurrences where you dream a complete song and just wake up and write it down.

The music of Gimme Five, for me, takes me back to simpler times of high school days and puppy crushes/first relationships. How do you reflect upon the music when you hear it now? It seems very much a summer album, do you agree?

A lot of it has to do with the time it was released I think – but a lot of our own favourite music has summer written all over it. The Ramones, Sweet, Cheap Trick etc. Is (Black Flag’s) My War a summer album? For me it was.

Hindsight being 20/20, is there anything you would have done differently, creatively or otherwise, with the album? What was the recording process like? Was it a democracy?

We have very strong ideas about what we should sound like and as a band we are very much on the same page. We are firm believers in hearing the finished album before you even start recording. I think we nailed the original vision pretty well actually.

How important was Much Music to the band back in the day? 1996 seemed to be the Halcyon Days for Much Music and music videos in general.

It really was where you found new music. Very informative as well – good interviews, and relatively in-depth analysis. The visual aspect also gave a band a personality through the images they chose. The great Replacements “Bastards of Young” video comes to mind, where it was a speaker and a guy sitting around smoking. That tells you all you need to know.

I know you have been playing guitar for Simply Saucer, and I’ve read that you were working on an album with your new band, the Lo-Heels. I’d love to know more about those projects and where they’re headed.

I’ve known Edgar (Breau) from Simply Saucer for years from around Hamilton. I’ve always admired their stuff, and in fact I did the digital transfers of the bonus material for the CD release of Cyborgs Revisited. Edgar was bandless and needed a fill-in I guess, so I started playing with them and have stuck around, loving every minute of it. They are writing new stuff, which I’ll have a bit of a hand in – and they’ll be recording when the time is right.

The Lo-Heels is a project I started a few years ago actually, to record new stuff in the vein of my solo record, Shield Millions. We have a bunch of songs “in the can,” but I got distracted by co-composing the music for Night of the Living Dead Live – a cool live theatre scary/comedic version of the classic George A. Romero movie – and then arranging, performing, and writing the underscore for a Toronto production of Trey Parker’s Cannibal the Musical. The Lo-Heels shall ride again though!

What is the state of the Killjoys today? Do you still perform/record with Gene Champagne and Shelley Woods? Any plans to do any shows around the 20th anniversary of Gimme Five?

We will be doing a few select shows, and have started writing new stuff and recording again.

Unrelated to Gimme Five, I read that film from a music video you shot for “I’ve Been Good” had been held for ransom. Sounds like there was an interesting story there. How was it resolved?

Maybe the only video ever held for ransom! One of the crew members took off with the tapes – or reels – I don’t know what we shot on to be honest, and demanded 10 grand if we ever wanted to see our video alive again. I think the culprit was a bit desperate after having a car accident on the previous shoot he did, and he was having a hard time with medical bills. The production company had to pay it in the end to save face unfortunately.

Gimme five songs that you are rocking out to on your current playlist …

I still listen to full albums so here are five:

Girl Band – the latest album Holding Hands With Jamie. I think it was the song “The Last Riddler” that really hooked me. I’m pretty sure my hair blows back while listening to this band.

The Fall – Live at the Witch Trials. Can a drum sound make you feel nostalgic? This one does. Nostalgic for an SM57 (or three) somewhere in the vicinity of the kit, natural compression, and very little EQ. No FX. Really I can taste it, and I can smell the dust burning off the tubes in the guitar amps on this one. I could hug this album.

Gang of Four – Entertainment. More guitar skronk!

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly. Again the whole album, but I seriously love “King Kunta.”

Richard Lloyd – Field of Fire. This album is guitar school.

Robert Quine/Fred Maher’s Basic (espescially “Bluffer”)

Rocket From The Tombs – Black Record

I really can’t stop at five …

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