Written by: Shawn Brown
Don’t sleep on Big Wreck. Just don’t do it.
Good heavy rock is far too difficult to find these days. Sadly, the current popular trend has sent rock bands scrambling for their acoustic guitars, stand up basses, stomp boxes, and flimsy farmer hats. The landscape of what passes for rock and roll these days is pretty …well, blah (please insert uninteresting, pedestrian, flat, passive, and/or without balls at your leisure). Flying in the face of all that is Canada’s Big (freakin’) Wreck. They first assaulted (then) alternative radio with their debut album In Loving Memory Of… in 1997. The single “The Oaf” was a significant hit, both in the U.S. and Canada. Even then, front man Ian Thornley’s trifecta of skills was on heavy display and he was already being name-checked as one of the most interesting singer/guitarists/songwriters to come along in a long time. Throwing all of that into a band that counted incendiary guitarist Brian Doherty as one of its members, Big Wreck was just too fascinating to ignore and the table seemed to be set for world domination.
Unfortunately, Big Wreck’s sophomore effort The Pleasure and the Greed slumped and soon the band splintered. Thornley returned to his hometown of Toronto, where he played as a session musician on albums by Nickelback, Sarah Harmer and Stephen Fearing before launching a new band, appropriately named Thornley. He released two well received records – Come Again and Tiny Pictures – and continued to build his reputation as one of the most mind-blowing rock performers anywhere. Now, a full decade later, Thornley mended fences with his longtime friend Doherty, he reformed Big Wreck and this year the band released the grinding and melodic Albatross.
And, just like that, Big Wreck is back and louder than ever.
Back again are the BIG rock guitars, impassioned songwriting, and a stirring and incredible voice that got us all to fall in love with Big Wreck in the first place. Albatross debuted at No. 5 on the Canadian Albums Chart – the highest peak position ever for Big Wreck or Thornley, who still has a winning knack of crafting challenging neo-prog rock tracks, encased in splendiferous melodies. The album is a stunner and worth a loud, window rolled-down, treble turned up listen. As we speak, the band is already working on another record.
CITC recently caught up with Ian Thornley to discuss the reformation of the band, his songwriting, and if he really was going to join Velvet Revolver.
Caught In The Carousel: We’re huge fans of Big Wreck here at CITC. Congrats on your outstanding new record Albatross. Can you tell us a little about your reconnection with Brian Doherty and why putting out a Big Wreck record after all this time felt like the right thing to do?
Ian Thornley: After reconnecting with Brian 2010, it was definitely the right thing to do. I can’t remember who it was that suggested it, but they had asked “Why not get Brian to play?” So I asked him, and Brian was like, “Absolutely.” The chemistry was so strong that Brian stayed on with us, and we continued playing together for bit, until we mutually agreed to officially get back together and rock as Big Wreck.
CITC: Big Wreck’s records have always featured sonically unconventional and musically challenging tracks. To what do you attribute your ability as a songwriter to both challenge and enrapture your audience?
IT: I don’t know if it’s ability as much as it is what you strive for. I’ve always been a fan of things that are not the norm, or just hearing something that is not supposed to be there, you know? Things that aren’t typical or the same as anything else. I don’t think it’s a matter of ability–abilities just follow what you really want.
CITC: Most fans first fell in love with your music via “The Oaf”. Why do you think that song connected as universally as it did?
IT: I have no idea, to be completely honest. There’s a fond energy to it that people love, and at the time it came out it was a little off the beaten path to what people were accustomed to. It might have been something different for them. It’s fun, it’s different, it’s a weird one to have connected with people.
CITC: Big Wreck has a near mythical reputation as a live band (Drop D 12 string guitar solos!). Are there any plans to tour the U.S. in the upcoming year?
IT: Nothing concrete at the moment but we would definitely love to be touring the U.S. in 2014.
CITC: You’ve sited Buddy Guy as a heavy influence on your early playing. What was it about his playing that originally struck you? Do you still hear him in your playing today?
IT: Hmm. Yeah, I think I do. I mean, I am past the point where I can pick out my licks and attribute them to people, but I think there is a vibe to some of my playing where his influence is there. I am a fan of his more soulful stuff, but he definitely has this sort of manic, out of control energy that I find kind of endearing. He’s one of the dudes, for sure.
CITC: Canada has produced some pretty important rock over the years. Are there any new, up-and-coming Canadian bands that you are blown away by?
IT: Monster Truck. They are a fantastic band, and a little off the beaten path as well.
CITC: Albatross has been on heavy rotation here at CITC. Although there have been some serious disagreements, “Wolves” was voted the favorite track. How did that song come about?
IT: Well you know, it’s actually mainly about high school and the kind of feelings that being in that environment can pull out of you. Hard to say how it came about, but its definitely a favorite of mine as well.
CITC: Honestly – Were you ever really going to join Velvet Revolver?
IT: No. They didn’t want a singer that played guitar and I wasn’t ready to give up the axe!