Triumph is one of Canada’s fastest rising rock bands. Only 2 and a half years after its first concert, the group seems to be doing everything right.
Triumph is blazing a trail across Canada this summer in preparation for an assault on the United States in the fall. Its second album, Rock and Roll Machine, has already sold 100,000 copies and the first one is selling briskly in the wake of the concert appearances.
The group is made of three Torontonians, drummer-vocalist Gil Moore, lead guitarist and singer Rik Emmett and bass player Mike Levine, the group’s spokesman, who is candid in discussing the business of music.
“It’s unfortunate that it has become a huge business run by accountants and lawyers,” he says, “It probably was more fun in the days of Hendrix and Woodstock when guys would be playing for $35,000 or $40,000 one night and the next week they’d be in a bar in Atlanta.
“Then it was a young, haphazard scene. People made $1 million and went bankrupt a year later. Now it’s so sophisticated and everybody watches the money very very closely.”
It becomes evident that Levine, in describing the kind of band Triumph is, is reciting the cardinal rules to follow if you want to make it in rock’n'roll.
Rule No.1: Get you priorities straight. It’s fine to start a band with some friends but make sure you pick them like business partners and remember that the music you play had to be tailored for strict commercial appeal.
“We’d decided we were going to take the hard-rock route for a couple of reasons,” Levine says. “First, a hard-rock trio is a democracy in which the majority always rules. Four guys and you end up with a split over some dumb thing. Second, we thought we could probably have longevity with this kind of music formula.”
Which leads to Rule No.2: Know the audience you’re trying to reach. Triumph aims hard and heavy at the 14-to 20 year-old fan with a thundering sound and sense-attacking array of effects that rock critics have declaring passÃ© for years.
“Nothing ever dies in the business,” says Levine. “Those critics who word the straight press grew up with Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. They’ve seen it all and at the end of the day they just want to go home to the wife and kids and listen to Fleetwood Mac.
“But there’s a whole new group out there and for them it’s still a real buzz to go on a hockey arena and have a good time.”
Next comes Rule No. 3: Be prepared to invest heavily in the business if you want a big return. “We have about $350,000 invested in Triumph right now,” Levine says. And how did they come by the cash?
“We have a very understanding bank. We sat down with the lawyers and the accountants and went to our bank as a professional operation. They decided we were a together business and they took us on as a business risk, just like you buy a car or a house, only bigger.”
Triumph travels with a road crew of 10 to handle the lighting, sound and staging, leaving the accountants and managers at home during its gruelling string of one-night stands.