Interview: Rik Emmett (Triumph, solo) – 2023

- Advertisement -

HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: November 2023. We had the great pleasure to talk again with Rik Emmett almost 2 years after our previous conversation. He is most known as the lead guitarist and vocalist of Triumph and has also been an acclaimed solo artist. Rik just released his autobiography: “Lay It On The Line: A Backstage Pass to Rock Star Adventure, Conflict and TRIUMPH”. Read below the very interesting things he told us:


Obviously, you spent a lot of time thinking about the structure of the book because it’s not an ordinary rock ‘n’ roll autobiography. It’s also a very good self-help book and a useful study on music industry. Did you have trouble putting your thoughts in order?

- Advertisement -

Certainly, there was a lot of editing that I had to do. I think that what you perceive in terms of the book having different components and perspectives to it, is because I spent so many years as a teacher. I was teaching things like music business and helping to mentor college students in terms of building their own creative kinds of approaches. Naturally, when I was entering into the book, I had all those things, the materials from those years of teaching to be able to draw upon and of course I also had all of the stuff that was interaction with members of my forum, of my website. That was a lot of stuff that I was able to choose to work. People were asking questions about my wife, the life of a musician, the life of being a rock star and all that kind of stuff. So, I had all those answers to probing questions that I have been able to choose to edit and use in terms of building the book. Certainly, there was a lot of writing that I still did, you know, trying to shape the ideas, but it was much more a process of editing.


You stated that many friends of yours, your wife, lawyers, even a member of the parliament read some particular chapters of the book because you didn’t want to get into trouble. How much did you struggle with self-censorship while writing this book?

I struggled a bit. You know, I wouldn’t want to blow it out of proportion and make it seem like it was a life and death kind of struggle. I don’t think it would be out of the ordinary for any person: You wouldn’t want to hurt people that you care about. The Triumph chapter required many reads by my friends. I think my biggest problem is that I often am too transparent. I’m too honest. I think my kids would say: “You know, dad, you don’t have to say those things in public. You don’t have to go that far”. That becomes an issue that I have to figure out how I have to rein myself in and say: “I don’t need to go this far, I don’t need to say this much”. So, it was a bit of a struggle, but it’s more against my nature than it was necessarily against the idea of: “A person writing a memoir”. I don’t think that was necessarily the case and I think it was more just Rik being Rik.


- Advertisement -

In the book you write that MTV killed guitar solos. How much did it affect you as a professional musician?

Certainly, it contributed to the fact that the world was changing and that was changing more rapidly than it had changed in the past. I mean, I find it interesting, you and I, are having a conversation right here and The Beatles are having a song (ed: “Now and Then”) that is heading to #1, especially in England and stuff, there is this revitalisation and Paul McCartney has always been able to figure out how to make the whole idea of marketing, publicity and promotion; how you get all those clues in motions, so that the viral nature of something starts to happen. He has been able to do that decade after decade after decade. I do think that there are some people that are in positions where they can be the exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, through the ‘80s MTV accelerated the idea of what would become viral, what might become successful, what might get out to certain formats of radio, what might be able to sell concert tickets. Triumph initially benefited from that and then as MTV grew in its strength and its market impact, Triumph no longer was able to make that happen. So, by the second half of the ‘80s MTV had changed.

Your original question was about guitar solos and as a musician, I think that a large part of what used to be considered music for the general population has changed, which is to say, for example, in my youth and then even in my prime years as a musician, classical music and jazz music was maybe was maybe -I don’t know- like 10%, 15%, 20% of the music buy in public. Both jazz and classical combined now, are less than 3% of the marketplace globally. So, the rise of rap and hip hop really did change the nature of what most folks, just ordinary people, perceive as music. For a guy like me who is a musician who cared about playing an instrument and the intensity and the focus that it required to do that kind of thing, that hasn’t disappeared, that still exists, but it has become a specialised kind of demographic. The idea of the world divided into demographic slices has become a much more pronounced and impactful thing in the marketplace. I am not necessarily categorising myself as a classical or jazz musician, it’s just that those things mattered to me as I was making pop music. I care about a wider range of what kinds of serious things could enter into the idea of songwriting. I think songwriting has become much more computerised and… I don’t want to put anybody down. It’s just a different kind of world when it comes to that stuff now and I think MTV contributed to the beginnings of that. So, that’s my answer.


- Advertisement -

You consider the Day on the Green concert at Oakland Coliseum in 1983 one of the best concerts in your career. What are you memories from that show?

First of all, I think from the point of view of Triumph, we were now establishing ourselves as a major band in American West Coast. We already had a certain amount of radio support in Los Angeles, but by Day on the Green we were then able to establish a really strong relationship with a production company called “Winterland”, which was Bill Graham and Bill Graham’s people. So, from a business point of view, it solidified us in that San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland kind of area and of course I worked for Guitar Player magazine and they were based out of there. It was just a solidifying thing for the band from a concert/ticket point of view. We moved from being maybe a band that could play a small venue to being a band that would play much larger ones. That helped us in West Coast. In a small way, it was contributing to the fact that from a radio perspective Triumph was starting to become something important, so that later on in our career when we played at US Festival and we got some gigs where we opened for Journey on big stadium shows, those things made us climbing the ladder towards being able to doing our own shows and selling our own hard-tickets in big arenas.


In 1968 you watched The Guess Who perform at the Canadian National Exhibition and many years later you got to play “Lookin’ out for #1” with Randy Bachman (guitar, vocals) onstage. Was it a bit surreal to share the stage with Randy Bachman?

You know, those kinds of things happen when the invitation is sitting there or the opportunity and then, agents and managers massage these things into reality, the promoter of the show, all those kinds of things. So, here are all the artists that were going to play at this charity thing and I suggested: “Hey, Randy Bachman is going to be there, is there any chance that I play ‘Lookin’ out for #1’ with him, like sit and do this thing?” Then, the word came back: “Yeah, you can do this”. So, it’s very thrilling. You don’t necessarily think about the impact of it in the moment, because first of all, you just have the nerves of trying to make it happen, like: “I have to figure out what I am going to play” and “here I am sitting with the guy that I ‘ve got to play the thing”. It’s only later when you look back on your life and you think: “Hey, you know, that was a moment when things came full circle where this guy that I had seen when I was a teenager and now I got to play with him”. He was kind of a role model, in the sense that he didn’t just play rock guitar in a rock hero kind of way; he had a little jazz that snuck in there, which is a part of Randy Bachman’s playing that I really-really like. Those songs like “Lookin’ out for #1”, “Undun” and those kinds of things. So, it was later on, especially when you are sitting writing a memoir and you go: “OK, what are the big moments in my life? I guess that was certainly one of them, wasn’t it?”


Was it an interesting experience for you to meet Chet Atkins?

Oh, amazing! You know, of course he was vice president of RCA Records, where we were signed on RCA, at the time. So, not only he was a politically important kind of guy in that Nashville setting, but he was one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived. So, you were meeting one of the greatest living guitarists and you are sitting with him and you are having a conversation and he’s  wonderful, humble, modest man and you are realising: “Oh, this is a guy that I should model myself after this, I should try to become the kind of person that I’m seeing here and I am experiencing first hand. What a tremendous lucky thing it is that I am signed at RCA Records and so the RCA local promo guy is able to get me into the office to meet him!” He said: “Yeah, I can set that up” and I said: “Oh! What an incredible, amazing thing this is gonna be!” So, it was a big moment. I mean, it was one day, it was one morning in my life, it didn’t last probably more than 30 or 40 minutes, but for me it becomes like one of those things that you think: “That is a moment that I’ll carry with me on in all my life”. I’m sitting here talking with you, I’m sitting in my studio and I have a picture on the wall of me and Chet, sitting and talking on the couch and I put that in my book because I thought: “This is one of the biggest moments in my life”. So, I want to share that with people.


Were you frustrated that critics didn’t like Triumph?

It was always a thing of people not necessarily recognising the substance that I was trying and hoping to put into what the band was. People would judge it in a superficial way because we were a band that had a big show, a lot of lights and production. So from my musical point of view they were people that were interested in things like Elvis Costello kinds of bands or The Sex Pistols or The Clash, that kind of stuff. Triumph was not gonna be ever a band like that. A lot of music critics for daily music papers, they intended to be people that were from that school. So, that’s the kind of stuff that they really liked to write about and promote. So, we were never ever gonna be that media darling kind of a band and it was frustrating. It was like: “Well, that’s the way the world is”. I think it is a very interesting thing what happened very recently with Jann Wenner, the guy that run Rolling Stone magazine. In his image, it was very much a hands-on editorial thing that he projected and now it’s come to light that he was a very discriminating kind of person: He discriminated against women and people of colour. This becomes quite obvious now, later in life in when he writing his memoir. So, these things come out and when I write my memoir, I guess, there are things about me that come out. People would say: “Uh, I’m not sure I like this about the guy” or they would say: “Oh, there is some good insight here into the guy”. But I think that pointed to the fact that there was a whole game of what is going to be promoted in a strong way in certain kinds of rock ‘n’ roll music media and there was still at the bottom of it, a very prejudicial, very discriminatory point of view that was being exercised. So, when you are inside it and you see it and you recognise it, it was frustrating at certain levels, but also it’s just reality, it’s human nature that people are gonna decide what they like and now they are gonna try to figure out ways to promote the things that they do like and then attack and discredit things that they don’t. It’s just human beings being human (laughs).


Baseball is not popular in Greece, so I read about Ty Cobb and his record (.366 – the highest batting average ever, so he failed more than six times out of ten) for the first time in your “Reinvention” poetry book and I found your example very helpful. How important is it for everyone to admit his or her imperfections?

I think one of the big points while writing a memoir is that you learn about yourself and things start to clarify. I turn 70 years of age, I think one of the things that I learned about myself is that I really do believe that humility and modesty and incredibly important in the way that we go about living our lives and interacting with other human beings. The more people get full of themselves and believe that they become self-righteous, I think they cross the line from virtue over into vice. It starts to become something where this works against the social network, the culture, the integrity of political systems, the integrity of legal systems; all of the things that are important to the way society gets along with itself and evolves. I think humility and modesty are incredibly important to that. It’s a very simple thing, really. There is a guy named Robert Fulghum and he wrote a book called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” and I do think it’s kind of truth. If you gonna be kind to others, if you gonna follow that Christian ethic of the golden rule you have to have a certain of humility and modesty. So, when I see politicians like Donald Trump, I think that works against the way that the world can become a better place. He works against that: He is making the world a worse place, but that’s just my opinion.


 Is there any rock autobiography that you really enjoyed reading?

I enjoyed Springsteen’s (ed: “Born to Run” -2016), because I felt like he really did write it himself and there was no ghostwriter. You know, there might have been ghost editing, but certainly I felt like that was a very real kind of guy that was not afraid to speak his own truth and talk about himself and I appreciated that. There are a few others that I like, but I would say that was one of the many reasons when I read it was, I said: “OK, so you have to be this honest” (laughs).


You are re-releasing “Then Again” (2012) solo album. How did you come up with the idea to perform the classic Triumph songs acoustically on stage?

I didn’t come up with it, it was always constantly presented to me by promoters who wanted to put me an audience, so they would buy my tickets. The people that wanted to come and see me, they wanted to hear those songs, the evergreen songs that never die. People want to hear them. I am gonna go into a swindling on New Year’s Day this year and I am gonna play some Triumph songs with a band in a New Year’s show and they are gonna have a string quartet and chorus and I had to rewrite the arrangements for “Hold On”, “Magic Power” and “Lay It on the Line”. I had to lower the keys because I can’t sing them in the original keys anymore. I am gonna play them on acoustic guitar instead of an electric. They got a whole different kind of a treatment, and this is 40, 50 years after I made them. That never goes away. There is an interest that comes back from the world sort of saying to me: “Hey Rik, would you like to sing the song for us? Would you like to come and do a show and do this?” Dave Dunlop and I, we are playing together for years. I got to the point where it wasn’t realistic to be dragging a band around anymore and having a rhythm section with a drummer and a bass player and having to have a backline of the amplifiers, it was just a lot easier for two guys (ed: Rik and Dave Dunlop) with acoustic guitars to go out and play gigs and I could still make a decent paycheck doing it. So, that form of presentation, those songs, the idea of “Then Again” it was like: “Well, this is the way we did it” and then at a certain point after playing the songs, Dave was the one that said: “Hey, do you want to come to my studio and record these songs and then we ‘ll have some we can sell at the merch table at all the gigs?” and then I went: “Well, that sounds like a great idea!” So, that’s what we did.


 Are you satisfied with the end result of “Triumph: Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine” documentary?

Yeah. I thought it was well done. Banger (ed: production company) did an incredible job of having to take 40-45 years of stuff and compress it into a 90-minute broadcast window. I thought that was almost an impossible task, but they did a pretty good job. I don’t think it told me whole story, so that was why I wanted to make sure that there was a Triumph chapter in my memoir, but I hasten to add: There are 16 chapters in the book and there is only one Triumph chapter. So, it wasn’t a major thing of my life. I mean, it was a major thing in terms of the way the world perceived me and the way the thing that opened the doors for me to other parts of my life, but I felt that teaching was much more important to me, certainly my family was always way more important to me than Triumph was. Triumph was almost like a means to an end. In a sense, I joined Triumph so I can get a weekly paycheck, so that I can move out and live with my girlfriend, who became my wife, who I ‘ve been married to now for 47 years. So, that was a way more important thing to me in terms of my life than Triumph was. Everything in perspective, right, that was why I felt like I had to have my own memoir. After the documentary had come out, I thought: “Well, I definitely think I should write a memoir”, because I want people to know who I am, not necessarily just know this guy that was in a band called Triumph.


Would you like to share with us what Steve Perry (vocals) told you when Triumph opened for Journey in 1983?

Yeah.  We just had a conversation backstage. He was complimenting me of having a really high voice. In truth, it’s funny that on the Internet there are now people who are doing reaction videos; it’s a thing that exists: People do reaction videos. So, there are people that are vocal coaches or they teach singing, they watch videos of Triumph and they say: “How can this guy be singing like this? How can he hit these high notes? This is impossible!” It was what I did, it was the voice that I had, so professionally I would go out on concert stages and I would sing the way that I sing because I could. Then, Steve Perry who is one of my favourite vocalists, he was complimenting me on how high I would sing, because my voice was able to hit these high notes. He said: “I like those high E’s that you are hitting in that song! Oh, my God!” You had to do that night after night. The thing is of course, and this needs mentioning, in Journey shows Steve Perry was the lead vocalist. He’s got to sing every single song all night and that’s a heavy load. When I was in Triumph, Gil Moore (drums) sang half the songs. So, I only had to carry half the show and I would get a chance to rest. For a full song, I would be running around and playing guitar. While Gil had been singing, I didn’t have to. I think that thing prolonged my career, as a guy that could sing really high and it made it, so from night to night I was able to find those kinds of vocals in my throat, but not every night (laughs). It was hard, it wasn’t easy.


Alex Lifeson and Rik Emmett

I love “The Ghost of Shadow Town” from your “RES9” (2016) album and I have played it on my radio show too. Please tell us everything we should know about this great song.

The reason that I wrote it, was because I was angry about Donald Trump and the way that politics was going in the world and I started to think about evil; what is the way that exploits the negative aspects in life. So, the metaphor became that evil spirit kind of thing and of course blues is a style of music where you can really go in a hurry. It’s easy to find that in the style of playing and the chord progressions that you can create. The other thing about that song: When I played the guitar parts, Dave Dunlop was instrumental in this because he was helping produce the record in the studio and he said: “I don’t want to overthink this, I just want to go out and just play it. Just rip this. Just rip it right out of your soul. Don’t think too much about it”. So, that’s what I did. I think in my career I had songs like this on albums from time to time, over the course of my life, but that was a pretty definitive one. I felt that it really captured something… Yeah, I was disappointed that that “RES9” album didn’t do better in terms of how many people know about it and heard about it. In the end, it only sold about 11 or 12 or 13 thousand albums around the world, which is too bad, but that’s the world tend to is. It moves on from guys that are in their 60’s making rock records. I felt like that was a good record. I felt that “The Ghost of Shadow Town” in particular was a thing that was really capturing what was in my soul and my spirit and there is so anger there, there is no question (laughs). That was part of the juice that was in that track.


The rock ‘n’ roll myth says that you almost got into a fight with Bon Scott when AC/DC opened for Triumph in St. Louis. What really happened?

I’ve told the story plenty of times. His girlfriend, she was a backstage kind of girl, she was backstage in Dallas at a Triumph show and I had talked to her and she had met Bon, a week later or whatever, hopped up on him on the road and then she told him that I said that I felt that his band was bad and shady and lousy. So, when we did the show together in St. Louis, we were on the same bill, he tracked me down and he was a little bit too drunk (laughs). It was weird, he cut his foot on a bottle. He had all his foot taped up but there was blood sipping; he was wearing flip flops, like little sandals. He was angry, he wanted to beat me up for not liking his band and I said: “Oh Bon, it’s not true. This is just something that somebody has put into your ear”. He was in our dressing room and I just pull a beer out of the beer thing and I brought it to him: “Have a beer, man. Relax”. Fortunately, Malcolm (ed: Young –rhythm guitar) came into the room and then said: “Hey, come on, Bon” and “sorry, guys. I should have a sort of leash on him” and he let him away. So, it didn’t come to fisticuffs, but Bon was looking for a fight. Of course, Gil Moore, the drummer from Triumph, was in the room too. I don’t think he (ed: Bon Scott) was outmanned or outgunned. It didn’t escalate. It was just an ugly threat that was hanging in the air and then it had all taken away and everything was fine. That’s the truth of it.


Did you have a good time jamming for two nights with Ted Nugent and Sammy Hagar (Van Halen, Montrose, Chickenfoot –vocals) in Texas?

Oh, it was fun. The story of course is that the first night in Dallas, Sammy did a thing halfway through the jam session where he started to run around the stage like crazy and Ted would chase after him and I was the third guy thinking: “Hey, what’s going on here? What’s happening?” So, I had to chase them after they started to go and run around. So, then the next night, in Houston when it was just about to come to that point where Sammy was going to take off, I took off first and then they had to chase me. I felt: “We are now chasing each other around the stage”. After, Ted came to me, we were on an elevator going up to the dressing room in the executive suites of the Astrodome and he leaned over to me and he said (ed: he mimics Ted Nugent’s voice) : “Hey man, you stole my move!” and I thought: “Oh-oh, he is mad at me” and then he said: “That was awesome! That was great!” So, I realised that I had made friends with Ted.  So, it was good, yeah. I really respect those guys. They had that kind of rock ‘n’ roll mentality, attitude and physicality in the way they made their music that and they kept doing that. They still do it! Sammy is out playing gigs and he’s still singing the things that he sang and he doesn’t change the keys (laughs). Man, he rips it! Good for him. Wow! I’m very impressed!


How much has your approach on guitar changed over the years?

I play a lot of stuff with a more jazz approach. When I was younger, I used to pick a lot. I play a lot more fingerstyle. I started getting acrylic nails put on my right hand in the ‘90s and I’ve never stopped that. So, that’s become more a part of the way that I play. The music that I’m working on right now, I‘ve got an album coming out called “Ten Telecaster Tails”. We haven’t started recording the masters yet, we are doing the demos, but it’s all written. I’ve got a new guitar, it’s a Telecaster style guitar. It’s mostly sitting down, playing fingerstyle pieces; it’s a lot more R&B and jazz in what I’m doing than rock. But I’m a rock player at heart, so I do take those kinds of liberties with the stuff that I write. When I write things it’s going to have that stuff. I always put classical guitar pieces on rock records, now it’s more a question of putting a little more rock into classical pieces. That’s what I do. I think it’s just evolution, you know. I’m starting to have a little bit of issues with arthritis, so I have to be conscientious about that and I have to work around it a little bit, but you know, it can be done. I mean, look at Keith Richards.


By the way, have you ever thought while writing a song: What would Ritchie Blackmore -for example- do at this moment?

Well, I have never met Ritchie Blackmore, I don’t know. I think that’s unlikely. I’m not sure what he does right now. I’m not sure that I am going to do much more collaboration in my life. I think that it’s hard enough for me to figure out things on my own and work in my own little studio and do my own little things. As I’m getting older, I don’t want to necessarily have the guitar and the making of music and chasing of career-oriented things in the music business dominate my life as much. I think this whole idea of writing: Like writing a poetry book, writing a memoir, that can be something that creatively in this chapter of my life that I can do a little bit more of. So, as that then translates itself into “what about your music?”, I think my music is going to become a little bit more introspective and poetic in nature. So, it is probably gonna be more solo than it would ever be collaborating with someone else. But, I don’t know, that’s how I feel today. I might have a different answer to the question tomorrow.


In hindsight, do you think that Eddie Van Halen ultimately made guitar playing a sport; a competition? Afterwards everybody was trying to play as fast as they could!

Yeah, but I wouldn’t blame Eddie Van Halen for that because I just think that was a part and parcel of a kind of zeitgeist that existed and I think you can blame as easily -I don’t know- Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, Paul Gilbert , they guy that run Shrapnel Records, I think his name is Mike Varney. He gave a very high profile to guys that were shredders. So, shredding became this thing and certainly Eddie was the king of them all, but it was more because Eddie was the best musician of the bunch. Eddie was the one that had the most talent. Eddie could sit down on a keyboard and write a riff, playing on a keyboard that would become a big hit. He had that kind of talent and ability. So, I think it’s unfair to say that he ruined it for everybody, I don’t think he did. That tendency for musicians to start to pursue an acrobatic, virtuoso kind of thing, you can go back and you can find guys like Paganini, classically, that’s what he did. He sort of turned it into a show. That has always existed.

There is a scene in the movie “Amadeus” (1984), where it showed a little boy who had become almost like a trained monkey, going around the courts of Europe, playing for the crowned heads, doing power tricks playing piano, so later in life he is drunk and he is doing things like he is in a party and he can play these parts backwards, upside down and everybody in the party is laughing and saying: “This is hilarious!”, ”this is fantastic!” and “what a great trick!” So, that’s always been around. No, I have a deep respect and affection for Eddie Van Halen and his playing and also for Randy Rhoads. I saw him playing once in England. That rock band: Him, Rudy Sarzo (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums), it was one of the best rock bands I’ve ever seen. They were unbelievably tight and Randy Rhoads was an exceptional guitar player. So, it was just raising the bar of what could be done on records that actually got into the hit parade. I mean, I saw Eddie live 3 or 4 times in my life and I don’t think there are very many people on the planet that can do what he did with the musicality that he possessed. It was a product of the times. Yes, he played extremely loud. Yes, it was a show off kind of thing, but everybody did. I did it, too (laughs). You had to have a guitar solo in the middle of the show where you did show off stuff and it was what everybody did. Had Eddie lived longer, he would have probably been making music and recording things, where he would have matured and changed and he wouldn’t have this reputation as this virtuoso kind of guy, because his reputation would have mellowed with the music that is making as an older person. But he left us too soon.


Earlier this year Jeff Beck passed away. Would you like to tell us a few words about his influence on you?

I think of him as one of the greatest guitarists. I mean, the guys that influenced me the most: There was Beck, Clapton, Page, Hendrix. Those were the guys. Mike Bloomfield (ed: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan) a little bit. In the basement bands and the garage bands that I played in, Jeff Beck songs were some of the first ones we learned: “I Ain’t Superstitious” out of “Truth” (1968). When he was in The Yardbirds, I learned the “The Nazz Are Blue”. We used to play that in one of the first bands that I was in. That riff (ed: he mimics it fantastically!) He was probably channeling something that was -I don’t know- an Elmore James lick or Muddy Waters lick, whatever. That was what all those guys were doing. But Beck was the guy that evolved and kept becoming a better and better guitar player in his technique. Eventually, he got into the point when there was no one on the Planet Earth that played guitar the way Jeff Beck did. He was one of a kind and his technique on a Stratocaster was beyond world, it was cosmic. The first time that I heard “Where Were You” (ed: from “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop” -1989), especially those kinds of ballads, he took a theme where guitar players had learned how to play, certain kind of a motif style in slow blues: Jimmy Page had “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and Jeff Beck had few of those slow blues kinds of things. Again, he was able to transform that, so that when “Blow By Blow” (1975) came out, he had “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”. He had taken that thing to a whole new level where it was blues but it wasn’t, it was that kind of fusion, a jazzier kind of approach with chord changes that were outside of the norm. He liked that and he didn’t want to make it too messy. He would never have a rhythm guitar player, he had keyboards so the chords could be spelled in a certain kind of way. He would find these notes where he was making his guitar sing. He used his guitar so that it would be like a voice for him. It’s very interesting: He could play fingerstyle jazz, and there are little clips that you could find on Youtube where you can see he plays a little bit chords and he is doing something, but he would never do it on his records. When he was making his records, his guitar was going to be something that was expressing itself like a lead vocal, not in a conventional chords kind of way.


Some people say that the current decline of album as a format because of the streaming services is actually a return to the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll when singles were more important. What’s your opinion?

I think the music business has always been about delivering formats, delivering platforms. It reinvents itself in order to make money from a new delivery format. So, the rise of mp3’s and the rise of digital filesharing made it so that all of the rules had gone out of the window. But of course you had mega corporations that were manufacturing chip that would go into phones and computers and they were just finding a new way of merging the music business into their business models. They are now the delivery format: You had to have this kind of phone, you had to have this kind of computer. Now, we have a world where there is all these formats that you see: Vinyl records, CD’s, filesharing and streaming, but the truth of the matter is, I had a conversation with a guy yesterday and he was talking about having a Bluetooth speaker that is the size of a wallet and how the sound out of it is remarkable; it’s really-really good. I was in a session a week ago because I’ve got a compilation album coming out and I was approving the masters that had been cut on vinyl and the guy was playing it to me, mixed in (ed: Dolby) Atmos, which was like a 5-channel way of being able to mix a record.

So, technology keeps moving and it always will and delivery format will keep changing. When I listened to the Atmos mix, I thought: “Well, it doesn’t really speak to me. I’m perfectly happy with stereo”, like I’m perfectly happy having two speakers and being able to organise the music in a way that all of my life this is the way that I understood it to be. I don’t need to be able to hear a bird chirping behind my head in order for it to seem like it’s a valid musical experience. But when I was a kid I was happy to listen to a shitty AM radio in mono and feel like: “Oh God, this is the universe!” This is music. I will take music in a shitty barn over no music (laughs). I guess, I want to have music. So, I will take music in any form that is coming and I will be able to find the value in it and it will matter to me. Sometimes, I hear a song blown in the wind from the neighbour’s yard, two houses over and I listen to that music and I can go: “Oh my God, this is great. Wow! Listen to that melody! Isn’t that fantastic?” So, I don’t necessarily need $8.000 headphones in order to be able to love music. So, I don’t know. I don’t feel like technology ever mattered too much to me. The things about music that mattered to me are the ways that it comes to the air and then generates emotion, the way that it feels. That’s what matters to me. So, delivery platforms and technology, yeah, it’s the means, absolutely, you got to have it, but it’s not the end thing for me. I don’t really care about delivery formats that much.


Thank you very much, Mr. Emmett. The interview will be online next week.

Excellent. Thank you, Thodoris. I appreciate it very much.


No, you are one of the most intelligent persons I have ever talked with. I’ve talked with many great Canadian artists. All of you are very clever guys: Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd producer), Randy Bachman , Pat Travers. One of my heroes is from Montreal, Frank Marino  (Mahogany Rush), do you know him?

Yes, fantastic!


You know, he was lambasted in the ‘70s by the press as “Hendrix clone”, etc.

Yeah, I know. But I saw him once, we played a show in England and he was on the bill (ed: Heavy Metal Holocaust, Port Vale Stadium, 1st August 1981) and the guitar sounds that he got were just incredible. He wasn’t’ a Hendrix clone, he was like a Hendrix student who had then become his own master and he had taken it even further than Hendrix had ever gone. Because I saw Hendrix a couple of times in my life, you know, when I was a kid and Frank sort of raised the game. The sounds that he got on the stage when we were playing in this heavy metal thing in England, yeah, he got great sounds.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr. Rik Emmett for his time. I should also thank Mrs. Claire Pokorchak for her valuable help.

Buy “Lay It on the Line” autobiography here

Official Rik Emmett website:

Official Rik Emmet Facebook page:

More Interviews