Thirty years ago today—on March 5, 1984—local glam-metal band Kradle played Burnaby’s James Cowan Theatre with Black Knight. At the time I was the guy with the Judas Priest cap at the Georgia Straight who was covering the metal scene, and I was mightily impressed by these young lads from the 'burbs.
Looking back, they reminded me of a less sleazy Motley Crue, but just didn’t get the break they needed to move up in the music biz. Before retyping this dusty article I did a bit of research on the ‘net and was saddened to learn that lead singer Tod Larkin had drowned in a “boating-related accident” in 1989.
Here’s the admittedly amateurish Local Musicians story I did on the band in the Straight's March 2, 1984 issue.
“The problem with Vancouver,” suggests Kradle vocalist Tod Larkin, “is that everybody’s cloned into liking all these new music bands.
“Metal doesn’t get any airplay in Vancouver. I didn’t hear one advertisement for Sabbath, or one of their songs played. And I was looking forward to that gig too. A band like Black Sabbath–the fathers of heavy metal–comes into town and they can’t even sell tickets. And the [Blue Oyster] Cult can only sell 4,000! I think it sucks.”
Larkin’s frustration with the Vancouver heavy metal scene is understandable. It is virtually impossible to see heavy metal in any local venue–let alone the big arenas–while jazz, blues, folk, classical, Top 40 rock and almost all other forms are available at one club or another. Just because heavy metal is looked down upon for its aggressive image, is that any reason for its extinction?
Kradle certainly don’t think so. They gave the local HM scene a much-needed shot in the arm when they opened for Blue Oyster Cult at the Coliseum in December. It seems Aldo Nova, the scheduled opening act, never showed up. In the desperate hours before showtime, stagehand Bud Wandrei suggested his friends from New Westminster/Burnaby, Kradle. It didn’t matter that the band had only played in public six or seven times.
“When we first came out everybody was energetic and standing up,” says guitarist Harry Degen, the oldest member at 23. “And it really freaked me out, ’cause it’s hard for a band that only a few hundred people know to suddenly come out and play in front of 4,000 people. But all the people were getting into it!”
“And when I said, ‘Let’s see some hands’,” adds 20-year-old Larkin, “about three or four hundred sets of hands just shot up and started clapping. It was great.”
Along with Larkin and Degen, Kradle consists of bassist Steve Courchaine and drummer Claude Erfon, both 22, and the excitement that such a young band must have felt playing before their idols is easily imagined. Needless to say, Larkin’s most prized possession these days is a paper plate the Cult members autographed and wrote “Good Show Guys” on. The New York rockers even allowed their substitute guests use of four followspots and two rows of lights, so that Kradle’s hard rock poses and metaloid finery would be shown to their best advantage.
And to top things off, they received an appreciate review from one of Vancouver’s most respected Music Critics. Not bad results for a show they never even dreamed of putting on.
“My brother gave me my very first album,” says Tod. “Master of Reality by Black Sabbath. So Ozzy Osbourne was the first vocalist I ever heard. He’s not the bestsinger, but he’s got it in his stage presence–he blows everybody away.”
“And after Ozzy it was Ronnie James Dio–phenomenal. And Ian Gillan.”
At last year’s West Coast Music Fest at the Waterfront Cabaret, Kradle were the last band to play at a hard-rock showcase that also featured the up-and-coming K.T. Rouge and rowdy Hooligans. And the influence of Ozzy on the Kradle singer was quite evident–Larkin would lumber about the stage sans shirt and exhort the audience with black-gloved fists. His preference for howling vocalists such as Dio, Gillan, and Osbourne, is comparable to Degen’s partiality to screaming guitarists like Ritchie Blackmore, Gary Moore, and, particularly, Randy Rhoads. With his grinding wall-of-sound playing style at the forefront, Kradle are a force to be reckoned with.
“There is a lot of people who like hard rock in Vancouver,” claims Degen, “and they like a raunchy guitar. It’s not very often that it comes up on the radio.”
The group currently have a four-song demo tape recorded at the Institute of Communication Arts by Faby Delmonte and Bob Jackson, which they’re in the process of shopping to record companies. Courchaine is the band’s lyricist, and Degan puts together the music.
“I sit around the practice space most of the day and work on song ideas,” says Harry, “just anything that comes to my head I put on tape.”
So Kradle have both the sound and the look going for them. But is so much leather and studs really vital to a band like theirs?
“Not really,” discloses Degen. “Anything that looks good under the lights is essential. You have to wear something to look different onstage–you can’t look like somebody just off the street.”
“And we just look heavy metal,” adds Larkin, who agrees with Degen that the term “melodic metal” better suits the band. “People in North America don’t even know what metal’s about. Real metal is Motorhead!”