Rik Emmett embarks on solo career after unhappy breakup of Triumph



By Steve Newton

Following Ted Nugent is not an enviable prospect for anybody, but Terrible Ted opened for yours truly—in the journalistic sense, anyway—just last week. As guest host for Detroit rock station WRIF’s morning show, the Nuge—who had once jammed on a Zeppelin tune with Rick Emmett and Sammy Hagar at the Texas World Music Festival—put the screws to Emmett about his new album, Absolutely.

“Ted’s up to his tricks,” chuckles Emmett, calling from his Mississauga home scant hours after his chat with the Motor City Madman. “I mean he really has a verbal gift; he can really roll. Whatta guy.”

Whatta guy, indeed. But enough about Ted. We wanted to know how it felt for Emmett to be on his own after 13 long years in the Triumph fold.

“I guess I’m gonna have to get used to this whole process of paying dues all over again,” says the blond, 37-year-old rocker. “But it feels good, I guess. It’s nice to be making my own decisions about my present and future and being able to start to do some of the things that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

One of those things was recording his first solo album, which he’ll feature when he hits 86 Street next Thursday and Friday (October 11 and 12). While not a dazzling debut by any means, Absolutely reveals a wider range of musical sides to Emmett than he was able to show in the Triumph power-trio format. Fans of that band’s heavier approach may be a little turned off by Emmett’s latest project, although he claims that he’s not wimping out.

“I still have a raunchy rock ’n’ roll side,” he says. “There are ballads on the record, but there’s also songs like ‘Drive Time’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’, and there’s guitar-oriented kinds of pieces. I just think that the more raunchy side that people might attribute to me would be more of a reflection of what Triumph was as a democracy. The sort of musical mix or balance, style-wise, that you find on Absolutely is more a reflection of me. ”

Whether or not hard-core Triumph fans who bought that band’s albums by the boat-load will embrace Emmett’s new music is not a priority to him, he says.

“I didn’t leave Triumph so that I could then go off and rebuild something that anybody who liked Triumph could like again. Lemme put it to you this way: If somebody was a hard-core Triumph fan because they really liked ‘American Girls’ or ‘Little Texas Shaker’ or ‘Tear the Roof Off’—that aspect of things—that was more the songwriting and influence of [Triumph drummer] Gil Moore.

“If people were hard-core Triumph fans because they liked songs like ‘Hold On’ and ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and ‘Magic Power’, then that’s the aspect of Triumph that they’ll find in my solo career, because those were things that I contributed to the band.”

If Emmett sounds like he wants to distance himself from the Triumph reputation these days, it’s because he does. He gave his notice to the band back on Labour Day of ’88, and lawyers are now squabbling over the fortune the band accumulated over the years.

When asked if he’s still buddies with former band-mates Moore and bassist Mike Levine, Emmett answers with an abrupt “Nope.” He doesn’t go into the unhappy breakup of the band any more than that, although he does elaborate about not elaborating on the subject.

“Elaborating is a fairly dangerous thing; I think I’ll just let the chips fall and let the lawyers do what they’re gonna do. Last summer I did interviews with people from the rock press and dailies, and tried my best to answer questions about leaving Triumph as honestly as I could. Then I just had a large record review printed in the Toronto Star last week where the guy absolutely destroyed the album—which is fine—but one of the reasons that he thought my record was bad was because I was going around, as he puts it, ‘bad-mouthing’ my former band-mates. And I had not been trying to bad-mouth anybody.

“So when things like that end up coming back on you, you realize that people don’t really care in the long run who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy—everybody ends up suffering. So I guess I’ve learned my lesson. It’s best for me just to keep my mouth shut.”

Hard feelings aside, Emmett is still able to look back on various episodes from his Triumph days with some degree of fondness. He remembers the high points in the band’s long-running career.

“I guess for me the high point would have been around the Allied Forces album, or the tour for the Never Surrender album. I mean there’s isolated moments here and there—like playing the US Festival obviously would be a natural because it was such a huge event. But those kinds of things don’t necessarily hold so much importance to me as more private kinds of moments.

“Like I can remember sitting in a bar’s downstairs dressing-room area in Lockport, New York or Tonawanda or some place in the band’s early days, and there was a battle going on between the promoter of the gig—who wasn’t gonna pay the band—and the band, which wasn’t gonna go on until we got paid.

“So our road manager was off somewhere arguing with this guy and the show was getting delayed and delayed and we were sitting downstairs playing a game of Name That Tune, just coming up with all these obscure R&B songs and old pop tunes—somebody would sing them and the other guys would try and guess. Obviously that kind of thing doesn’t mean much to people outside the band, but to me those are the memories that are more important than, say, the big pay-days or the big public events.”


To hear the full audio of my 1985 interview with Rik Emmett, when he was still with Triumph, subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on 300 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

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