How long have you been with Portage Mutual?
I started with Portage Mutual in 1995. I was in Portage la Prairie ’til 2000. I did loss prevention before that, which would be going out and inspecting risks before we took them on — hog farms, dairy barns, wood stoves — all that kind of stuff. Then they moved me here in 2000 and I did claims for a couple of years, and then they decided I should be a marketing rep — start selling stuff. Marking rep, I guess, entails setting up goals and that kind of thing. I love it — it’s always challenging. And it’s never the same thing twice.
I understand it’s never the same thing twice with you either! You wear a kilt when you’re singing with the band? Hello?
Well, I’m Scottish by heritage. Both my mother’s and my father’s parents came over from Scotland years ago. So every once in a while… I’m probably the only guy in Brandon who is in a rock band and occasionally wears a kilt onstage, I would hazard a guess! I do it whenever it strikes me. Generally speaking, it’s one of those things where my girlfriend is not necessarily thrilled with me standing onstage in a kilt, because I don’t know what it is with a kilt, but everybody’s got to look up it.
I suppose they do! And is there any truth to the rumour that all a Scotsman wears under his kilt is his manhood?
Well, yeah, but generally I’m a little more careful than that!
Did you sing, as a kid, growing up?
I did sing in a few school production things. My mother was a music teacher, a piano teacher, and she sometimes coaxed me into the musicals, but I haven’t done one of those for years and years and years.
You must have gotten into bands before you came to Brandon, though.
Yeah — when I was teenager living in Portage, I did play in a band for a while — I was a bass player. And I’ve had a guitar pretty much since I was a young kid, and I’ve always kind of tinkered away with that kind of stuff.
But when I moved to Brandon, somebody asked me to come and out sing karaoke one night. And I said to them, ‘I don’t really sing in public.’ But they coaxed me into doing it, so I did karaoke, and I’ve had some good success in that people really enjoyed what I was doing — I won a couple of karaoke contests. Somebody mentioned that I should start a band and that was the next thing — I started a band.
Do you remember the very first song you sang in Karaoke?
It was ‘Beth’ by Kiss.
That’s one of my favourites! And the band is called ‘Nuthin’ But Trouble,’ right?
Yes. When I first started — that was 2005 — we started out to do one of the bikefests out at Shilo. The band consisted of myself and three other guys named Derek. So at that time it was called ‘Biker Mike and the Triple Ds.’ That lasted for about a minute or two. There were some issues with buying gear and having problems and members moving around. And actually I was in Mexico with Doug Kool from Look Music, and we were talking about the band. And he said, ‘I don’t know why you’re in a band. All I’ve heard so far, this band has been nothin’ but trouble.’ And I said, ‘Wow. I guess we have a name now.’ So that was the name, and it stuck.
So over the years we’ve had a number of hugely talented musicians come and go through the band.
That always seems to be the way. So tell me about your fascination with motorcycles.
Well, I’ve always been a fan of bikes since I was a kid. I never really had a bike ’til I was into my 30s. And the reason I didn’t have a bike was because my wife at the time — it was a long time ago — said her family and she really didn’t like motorcycles. So it was one of those things that I just avoided. As we came to an end in that relationship, I had just bought my first motorcycle. And when the relationship came to a complete, grinding halt, I went and bought my first Harley, because I’d always want a Harley. And I’ve never looked back since.
Do you ride with a group?
No. There are a few of the guys I hang out with that we ride every once in a while. But mostly I just head out with a few friends, and usually my girlfriend, Teresa, on the back. We just do day trips and whatnot. We get out whenever we can.
Everybody asks if I’ve been to Sturgess, and I’d love to go at some point, but — maybe I’m getting old — the crowds are getting too big — there’s just too much. Not that I’m opposed to that kind of a thing, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable.
I’ve been to Saskatoon for one of the hog rallies — that’d probably be the longest haul. But we take day trips down into the States, to North Dakota, and anywhere across Manitoba and into Saskatchewan.
So I’m always intrigued by this, and people, obviously, have a number of facets to their lives and their personalities. But it does seem diametrically opposed in a sense — the respectable businessman with the tie, and then the rock star/biker. Does it seem odd to you? Do people react weirdly if they see you in one sphere and then encounter you in another?
The people who know me that I deal with — all the brokers and whatnot they understand what I do and they understand this is part of who I am. And they’re pretty cool with all of that. But sometimes it does make people wonder, I think — I can fit in with the Premier of Manitoba at an insurance brokers’ convention or I can go out to a bike rally and hang out with whoever I might come across.
And then fronting a band, too!
Yeah — that’s an interesting little sidebar. There’s a lot of musicians in the insurance industry, though. Maybe not necessarily as heavy as we are — well, we’re not heavy, but not as heavily working as we are.
You play classic rock, mostly? At bars and clubs?
Classic rock, yes. And bars, clubs, corporate events, socials, festivals, weddings — you name it, we’ve done ’em all.
And what is it that you get out of performing, out of being on stage?
I do it just for the love of doing it.
And what do you love about doing it?
I guess just doing something that I really enjoy. Actually, the best part of what we’ve done is to see the enjoyment that people take from what we’re doing. Making people dance and have fun — that is a pretty cool experience. We were a little heavier when we started out, and kind of turned ourselves into the band that people want to go out and listen to and dance to.
Is there a moment in your seven years that really stands out as a highlight? Or a lowlight, even?
Well, we’ve played lots of lowlights! Some places where you go and you don’t have a big crowd — it’s discouraging, it’s a bit of a downer. Highlights, I guess, would be things like Rockin’ the Fields in Minnedosa on the stage. We played at the Keystone Centre for Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in the big arena. Which, we were standing on the penalty box — it wasn’t a big stage production — but there were a fair amount of people there.
Every gig’s different and they all have their pros and cons, that’s for sure.
Aspirations? Do you dream, at this point in life, about making it big? About being discovered? That kind of stuff?
You know what? I’m pretty content. One of the young guys in the band, Jherrad Cumming, he’s young enough to continue along and do this stuff. Most of us are little bit older and longer in the tooth. I’m quite content doing music that people grew up with, that they listened to, that brings them back to a place in their minds or their past that they can actually relate to. I don’t think we ever want to get into doing original stuff. As far as aspirations to being something bigger, realistically, we’ll go as far as we can, but we all have real jobs. And this is a lot of fun, but it’s never going to pay the bills. I know guys who are full-time musicians, and I know how hard they work just to keep the lights on. And it’s not a lot of fun.
I often think musicians are expected to do what they do for nothing, or next to nothing. People know you like to perform, so they expect you to do it just because you love to.
You’re absolutely right. Musicians are always underrated. Going to a social or something, you’re willing to pay a DJ $600 or $700 to play canned music, but you’re not willing to pay a band what they’re worth. And a lot of times, guys are selling themselves short. I’m very frustrated when guys will go out and do it for tips or whatever, because it makes it hard for the rest of us. We’ve honed our craft over the years and we’ve spent countless hours rehearsing — you start adding it up, it’s years and years and years. I don’t mind sitting down with a guitar and singing stuff around the campfire. But if you want me to come and entertain for your benefit, it’s a job. You don’t ask a doctor to perform an appendectomy for free because he’s your friend.
I’ve got I don’t know how many thousands of dollars tied up in a PA and a trailer, and it’s two to three hours to do a set-up because we do lights and everything else, and it’s an hour to tear down, plus you’ve got to be there beforehand. So at the end of the day it works out to probably an eight-hour day, and they figure that you’ve played for 45 minutes three times, so you’ve played for a total of two-and-a-quarter hours, so you should be making $50 or $60. Well, it doesn’t work that way.
All that said, even though we don’t make enough — I spend more on gear every year than I make, so it’s a losing proposition — but I do it for the love of it, that’s for sure.