Back in the ‘Wack Vol. 10: Hydra hasn’t had a bad response yet



By Steve Newton

Christmas Eve is traditionally a time for taking in the congenial aura of well-lit trees and jingling yuletide melodies, but sights and sounds of quite another sort had patrons of Casanova’s cabaret in jolly spirits last Friday night. The upbeat, racy rhythms of one of Chilliwack’s most popular area rock bands, Hydra, drew thunderous approval and demands of two encores from an excited crowd of hometown revellers.

Considering the affection shown the band, which rivalled that usually bestowed on even the most established Vancouver bar bands to play here, it would appear the Chilliwack lads who make up Hydra have won the encouragement of their townsfolk. The fact that Friday’s concert was a voluntary one, for which they received no payment, would lead one to believe they most certainly deserve it.

Along with another up and coming Chilliwack group, Dog Skin Suit, Hydra is attempting to break into the Vancouver club scene and get that much needed exposure that leads to recording deals and more profitable engagments.

“We’re just on the verge of doing club gigs,” says Chris Mawhinney, the band’s lead guitarist and a devoted player for 16 years. Mawhinney’s first interests in music surfaced at the tender age of eight, when he first started to sing. “I could sing almost every Beatles song,” he recalls of his days in Toronto before moving out to the Fraser Valley.

Mawhinney’s first Chilliwack band was The Jack Band, which he played in with local drummer Ray Stewart. The band did a lot of Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh tunes, according to Mawhinney, and played at the old Answer and Cultus Lake cabarets. His next group, Special Guest, included Chilliwack music teacher and performer Jeff Bowman, as well as bassist Richard Todd and singer Laurie Paul, now members of Dog Skin Suit. Says Mawhinney, “Jeff was the jazzy, clean player, and I was the raunchy rocker.” Special Guest played a lot of shows at the now defunct Good Times Cabaret, last known as Andrea’s Fault.

The owner of three top-of-the-line electric guitars, as well as a violin handmade by his grandfather, Mawhinney points to the late Jimi Hendrix as his strongest guitar playing influence. Like his mentor, Mawhinney favors using the tremelo arm of his Fender Stratocaster to bend and twist the heavy chords and lead solos that are an integral part of the Hydra sound. Along with Mawhinney, the other members of the band include singer/rhythm guitarist Brent Lauze of Abbotsford, keyboardist Rob Lee of Sardis, and Chilliwack residents Scotty Vye and Jeff Nuttall on bass and drums respectively.

Nuttall, a native of Manchester, England, used to play drums in the Sardis Senior Secondary School band and the Chilliwack Legion Pipe Band, before joining forces with four other local musicians and forming Blue Sahara about a year ago. That band became Hydra in its present configuration when Vye, the latest addition to the group, joined just last month.

Vye, affectionately known as “Scotty Bad” by his fellow bandmembers, admits that the band has a lot of potential, but also that it takes “a lot of work and a lot of time” before they’ll reach the point they’re striving for. He is confident about the group, though. “Everybody sings,” says Vye, “and singing is the most important thing. “

“Everybody has a Beatles heart,” he declares, adding that John Lennon had the biggest effect on him of any of the Fab Four. Vye, along with keyboardist Lee, also plays in another local group called Joker, a dance band that plays to audiences of all ages and has developed quite a following in the valley as a wedding and party attraction. With the help of lighting technician Dwayne Lajoie and soundmen “Sweet Pete” Dix and Sandy (“Soundy”) Keith, Hydra has played to packed houses at Fraser Valley College and the Forester’s Hall, and also performed at the Chilliwack Senior Secondary Christmas prom.

According to Vye, all the members of Hydra are decidated to the group’s cause and are willing to practice very long hours, even four to six a day. The band is currently working on their original material, with Lee, Nuttall and Mawhinney being the main songwriters, but for the time being versions of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and Steppenwolf ‘s “Born to be Wild” are their most impressive concert selections. And, says Nuttall, “we haven’t had a bad response yet.” 

Leave a Reply