Thrush Hermit Redux; an Interview With Joel Plaskett

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As if Joel Plaskett didn’t have enough on his plate lately.

Coming off his first cross-Canada theatre tour with his dad in tow, promoting a self-produced triple album and running back and forth between the East Coast Music Awards and the Juno ceremonies would be enough for most singer-songwriters, but not this guy. Plaskett recently took a break from his one-way rise to the top of Canadian pop for a glance back to his earlier days.

Hot on the heels of his wonderful and mostly acoustic solo album Three, it’s perhaps easy to forget that Plaskett was once at the forefront of the Canadian grunge scene, travelling the country with a raucous little outfit called Thrush Hermit. And now, with more than a decade of water under the bridge, Plaskett has found time to plug in and rock out, old school, by taking his old mates out on the road for a nostalgic kick at the can.

“This is Hermit material,” enthused the singer/guitarist before they set off on the road. “We’re all really looking forward to going back to ’93 and blasting out stuff that sounded shamelessly like Sloan…and just turning up the fuzz and going bananas, you know?”

“Time to go and rock it up again!”

Joel Plaskett

While Thrush Hermit released two albums and a handful of EPs over their career, things began to unravel in 1999 after the release of their last and arguably best album Clayton Park. With the principal songwriters mired in artistic differences, drummer Cliff Gibb left Thrush Hermit, forcing the band to scramble for a replacement for what would prove to be their last tour. Soon Thrush Hermit was unceremoniously dropped from their label, marking the final chapter for the East Coast rawkers.

“Ian (McGettigan), Rob (Benvie) and I had grown up together playing music and had been playing together since we were 14 years old, and (now) we were 25,” explains Plaskett. “We were all still great friends but we’d had a lot of time on the road.”

Fast-forward almost a dozen years and, sparking from a transcontinental missive, it was finally time to do it all again. All original members, one last time.

“Rob had dropped us all an e-mail from India last summer, saying ‘Hey man, I’m on the other side of the world and feeling nostalgic and I’d love to plug in the amps and play again for some kind of short little tour,’ and I think we all responded with, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’

“I think part of our attachment has to do with the memories that we share as much as the records,” says Plaskett. “We value the music we made together but as much a part of that is the fact that we had these collective experiences as young men travelling together.

“Time to go and rock it up again!”

Set to coincide with the reunion tour, they band recently released a comprehensive eight-disc box set titled Thrush Hermit: The Complete Recordings. Aside from containing the entire recorded history of the band, the collection includes a pair of live DVDs and plenty of B-sides and unreleased gems plus a smattering of material from the band members’ earlier groups.

For those keeping track this will make a total of 11 discs released by Plaskett recently, and he followed up the Thrush Hermit reunion with an acoustic tour supporting The Barenaked Ladies, with Peter Elkas from The Joel Plaskett Emergency in tow. Fans can only wait to see what he will be up to next.

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