Tom Cochrane talks Mad Mad World just before “Highway” hits it huge



By Steve Newton

I’ve been a fan of Tom Cochrane’s since Red Rider’s debut album, but his new tune, “Life Is a Highway”, threw me for a loop. Its bouncy sound wasn’t what I expected from the steely hero of Canadian heartland rock, and at first the tune rubbed me the wrong way. But after a couple of go-rounds I found myself humming the catchy chorus, and now the thing’s grown on me.

“You’ll have to have it cut off,” chuckles Cochrane, before admitting that the tune is different, but not that different. “Somebody was saying, ‘Tom Cochrane’s doing dance-rock now,’ and I guess in a sense it is—but the harp’s in there. It’s very Memphis, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to record down there. It’s like a Memphis soul mix, with folk-rock elements.”

Cochrane’s new album, Mad Mad World, was recorded by Memphis-based producer Joe Hardy (Steve Earle, Colin James), but many of its songs actually had their origins in Africa, where Cochrane went recently on a fact-finding tour for a famine-relief organization that he supports.

“The brunt of the songs came after my African trip,” he says. “You go over there and you think that you’re some kind of an international Dick Tracy. You’re doin’ research, and you’re gonna figure this all out, but you can’t—you come back and you’re more confused than ever.

“What I’m tryin’ to say in ‘Life’s a Highway’ is that we’re all on our individual roads, and you just deal with the people and situations that you come across as positively as you can, and then move on—do whatever good you can, but enjoy the ride. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it’s true, ’cause you’re gonna come to the end of the road someday.”

Mad Mad World signalled the end of the line for the Red Rider moniker, which Cochrane shelved when the founder of the band, Kenny Greer, left the fold. In Greer’s place, Cochrane found room for such hired guitar guns as Kim Mitchell and locals Keith Scott and David “Boots” Gogo.

“That’s the nickname that I gave him,” says Cochrane. “He came out with these big boots on and a fancy shirt, lookin’ like Jimi Hendrix revisited. But David’s got a real good attitude, and he’s goin’ places. Watch out for that kid.”

Not only did Cochrane get some heavy-duty help in the studio, but when he visits the Orpheum for a double-header on Monday and Tuesday (November 4 and 5), he’ll have a live band that includes ace singer Peter Fredette (from Mitchell’s band), keyboardist Eric Webster (Alannah Myles), young hot-shot guitarist Sil Simone, and, on a few tunes, singer Molly Johnson from the show’s opening act, Infidels (formerly Alta Moda).

Then of course there’s the awesome team of drummer Matt Frenette and bassist Spider Sinneave.

“I was a huge Streetheart fan,” says Cochrane. “I thought they had one of the best rhythm sections ever to grace this planet. So to get those two guys back together on a big stage, what more could you ask? It’s like havin’ a really great Pratt & Whitney engine runnin’.”

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