did you do your first gig?
1981 in a pub at The University of Guelph. I was 14 years old. My dad
had to chaperone me that night. Our band was called Laissez Faire.
We were teenage punk rockers. Somewhere between Crass and The
Exploited. Opening up for a ZZ Top tribute band. Our lead
singer was the first guy to have a mohawk in Guelph. Maybe even all of
Southern Ontario. The week before the gig, the other guys (who were a
bit older and better than I was) enlisted the services of another guitar
player named Dale. I only knew a couple of chords so we needed someone
to fill out the sound. On the way to the show, the singer cut off my late
70's feather shag haircut and I think it was at that point that Dale did
I snuck a couple of beers backstage. We went on. Dale was so fucked up
that we unplugged him and he wandered out into the crowd. I was nervous
as shit and kept fucking up. The crowd hated us. Started shouting "punk
rock sucks" and threw beer bottles at us. There were a few fights.
On the way home my dad told me that he thought we sucked.
was your first touring act?
Well, through the 80's I played in a bunch of different bands. Early ones
sounded a lot like The Jam. Later ones were kinda REM, Replacements meets
Bob Marley. We just got as far as Southern Ontario.
real touring band was called Celtic Blue. They were kind of a celtic/punk
rock band who were looking for a mandolin player. I wanted to tour so
I learned a few chords and joined. It was an awesome time. Early twenties
touring Canada in an old school bus. I learned a lot. Saw a lot and had
a great time. Even wrote a couple of songs for the band. They broke up
under sad circumstances in the early 90's.
were signed to a major and enjoyed some success with The Morganfields
in the early 90's. What was that like?
Yes, it's true I was signed to Watch/MCA with The Morganfields. Even had
CDs out in the States and Germany.
was really the first time that I really took the helm. We got signed I
think because in the rush to sign Canada's answer to Nirvana, they mistook
our thrash/folk thing as being grunge. I always thought that there was
a lot more Hendrix, Neil Young and Zeppelin in our stuff than grunge.
out three albums. Were briefly video darlings on Much Music. Toured a
fuck of a lot. Rolled our van a couple of times. Standard Canadian rock
band story I believe.
had a great time. Learned a hell of a lot about making records / how the
business works. Realized that I don't really work in the major label world.
Kind of a square peg round hole scenario. Wish that I still owned the
rights to the records, though.
The Morganfields, you worked as a recording engineer for a few years.
Do you still do that?
I started working at Chemical Sound in Toronto as an intern and then as
an engineer in 1997. Wasn't really sure what I wanted to do and I also
wanted to learn some recording techniques for my own stuff.
up engineering or assisting on a bunch of great stuff including The Rheostatics,
Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sloan and Stephen Stanley (Lowest of the Low)
to name a few (or drop a few).
I found persuing engineering work with the mega long hours was great for
a time. However, it really did start to get in the way of my own stuff.
I still engineer my CDs in my basement studio, Moldy Floor Studios. And
will gladly work on somebody else's if I really like it.
understand your first bunch of solo tours were on a Greyhound.
After I put Balladesque out I didn't have either a band or a
car, so it made sense to bus it. Started by Greyhounding it around Ontario.
Then I would fly one way out to Vancouver and either Greyhound it or hitch
a ride with other bands back toward Ontario. You meet a lot of um... er...
interesting people that way. Runaways, ex-cons, hippies on the way to
treeplant and people with bad gas.
I enjoy both equally for very different reasons. It's very hard to achieve
the power of a band when solo (unless you're Peter Case). Yet some nights
it feels better to just play quietly.
Both have to feel fresh, though. I love it when the band feels like we're
making it up as we go along. Jay and I have been doing a duet lately.
Sort of an anti-folk/roots thing called Alun Piggins and the Dogeaters
Skiffle Group (featuring Jay Santiago on drums).
Sometimes I'll be sitting at home playing guitar to my son. I'll figure
out something like Fortunate Son and we'll end up doing it on
stage that night. That's my favourite kinda thing.
are your biggest influences?
Biggest musical influences: John Lennon, The Replacements, Jimi Hendrix,
Peter Case and Neil Young.
does it take so long for you to finish your CDs?
Curse of the independent musician. Trying to balance songwriting, recording,
finances and now being a father. However, it's still a fuck of a lot better
than sitting around a board room table with a bunch of arseholes who actually
think Avril Lavigne is punk rock. Telling you what colour to dye your
hair... that was almost a rant.
shows you've ever seen?
The Jam, 1981, Concert Hall, Toronto
Peter Case, 2006, The Boathouse, Kitchener
Paul Westerberg, 1993, Lee's Palace, Toronto
Sheep Look Up, 1989, Call The Office, London
Peace Hotel Jazz Band, 2006, Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Coldfairyland, 2006, Beijing
are you listening to now?
Well, I have my iPod on random shuffle. Hooked up to a 1964 Germade-made,
all-tube Nordmende Cabinet Stereo. It sounds absolutely amazing. All day
(whilst I look after my son) I hear a steady stream of most of the CDs
I own. I get these great iPod moments when Howling Wolf is followed
by Motorhead. Which is followed by a Bill Hicks thingy.
Then a Bjork tune. A song off of the new Killers CD
and then back to Koko Taylor singing Insane Asylum.
Toronto Star Anti-Hit List, An Alternative Top 10
#8 At War with the Elephants "Watching you Glow"
... Firmly in the mould of The Romantics' "What I Like About You"
and The Who's "I Can't Explain," this shiny lead-off track to
a new album by the Morganfields alumnus displays not only an impressive
facility for the genre but an inclination to use it to convey some distinctly
dark, non-generic musings....
UK - At War with the Elephants
... If impassioned indie troubadour is your poison then the new hemlock
is Alun Piggins...
- At War with the Elephants
... One of the sincerest souls around, Toronto, ON’s Alun Piggins
has no use for bells or whistles but lets his unadorned folk punk ring
out defiantly on At War With the Elephants...
Attack - At War with the Elephants
... At War With The Elephants is infused with a raw, reckless kind of
energy that's tempered by Piggins' introspective lyrics, which can tumble
out in a gritty, poetic stream before taking a step back to frame a particular
moment.... Piggins is the real indie deal...
- At War with the Elephants
... The title of Hardest Working Man In Show Business has been up for
grabs ever since James Brown's passing, and Alun Piggins is certainly
one artist who can lay claim....
- At War with the Elephants CD Review
... At War With The Elephants is an impressive follow-up that finds the
singer blasting back into great form...
Sudbury Star - At War with the Elephants
... Touring England, Finland, Russia and China in 2006-07 with his band
the Quitters, Piggins managed to keep his small-town cool....
Magazine - Awaken the Snakes CD Review - NNNN
... Other highlights of this exceptional album include Spark
and Bottled Up, which should convince you that the
comparisons to Dylan and REM are not unjust...
Attack - NXNE Grade: 92
... Great glammy chunks of shiny, sugary pop/rock. The ear-bleeding, finger-blistering,
bladder-busting cover of Cortez
the Killer bought us dinner, got us drunk and
took us back to its place...
16MB mp3 Cortez the Killer, 12 minutes of free music!
... Awaken The Snakes illustrates that Piggins is on his way to being
the best Canadian songwriter you’ve never heard. But you will hear
about him. Soon....
on Stage - Awaken the Snakes CD Review
... Piggins seems to have listened to all the great pop/rock tunes over
the years and has somehow managed to distil the magic ingredients into
just the right blend...
... Alun Piggins is a local singer/songwriter - and a damn'good one -
who has managed to keep his musical career going for years without ever
really joining the business...
Record - Awaken the Snakes CD Review
... His rough-hewn observations of everyday life lay the foundation for
the songs, and his passionate, spontaneous performances drive them home...
Back to Fall
... Alun proved that he still rocks a crowd like few other people, and
does it with a sense of humour that's completely contagious. You'd think
a guy who'd spent that long at working in the music business might be
bitter or jaded, but Alun comes across as enthusiastic and excited about
playing as the youngest bands out there...