Tom Cochrane talks Red Rider, soft porn, and South Africa before opening for Van Halen in 1986

cochrane-1

we are…two wild and crazy guys!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 10, 1986

By Steve Newton

Nowadays, Tom Cochrane is flying high on the charts with “Boy Inside the Man”, the first single off the new album Tom Cochrane and Red Rider. The Toronto rocker will be playing songs from that record at B.C. Place October 23, when his band warms up for the new Van Halen. He’s come a long way from the days when, trying to break into the entertainment biz, he composed, produced, and played nearly all the instruments for the soundtrack to Xaviera (The Happy Hooker) Hollander’s My Pleasure is My Business.

“Yeah,” Cochrane sighs, reclining in a big easychair at Capitol Records’ Vancouver office. “There are some things in all of our lives that we have to try to live down. But it wasn’t as crazy as it sounds. A lot of people have this vision of Tom bein’ this jaded king of the porno soundtracks. You’ve got to get the picture on that. I was young and naive and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a good way of getting into the movie business.’ I guess a lot of people go through the same thing, especially if they want to get into acting. But that movie was really a comedy, and it was soft porn if anything. I mean Al Waxman from Cagney and Lacey directed it.”

Now before all you hardcore Red Rider fans run out and try to find the soundtrack LP or videocassette of Hollander’s epic, let’s just say that it’s not that easy to find. Still, a copy of the video turned up in Wales when Cochrane was recording the new LP at Rockfield Studios.

“The guys brought it back from the video rental place and stuck it on,” snickers Tom. “I saw it one night and almost….croaked.”

Considering the fine sounds that Cochrane has come up with since forming Red Rider in 1978, one can easily forgive him the odd musical blunder early on. All of the previous Red Rider LPs–Don’t Fight It, As Far as Siam, Neruda, and Breaking Curfew–contained some excellent tunes, of which the biggest hits were “White Hot”, “Lunatic Fringe”, “Power”, and “Can’t Turn Back”.And from the sound of the new album, the hits are still coming. As well as “Boy Inside the Man”, there’s Cochrane’s winning touch all over such tunes as “Love Under Fire”, “The Untouchable One”, “Lasting Song”, and “River of Stone”. It’s not too likely that the name alteration–from Red Rider to Tom Cochrane and Red Rider–will signal the band’s last gasp, as it did with the Payola$ when they changed their title to Paul Hyde and the Payolas.

And from the sound of the new album, the hits are still coming. As well as “Boy Inside the Man”, there’s Cochrane’s winning touch all over such tunes as “Love Under Fire”, “The Untouchable One”, “Lasting Song”, and “River of Stone”. It’s not too likely that the name alteration–from Red Rider to Tom Cochrane and Red Rider–will signal the band’s last gasp, as it did with the Payola$ when they changed their title to Paul Hyde and the Payolas.

“I think that people like to relate to somebody in particular when it comes to the songs,” says Cochrane of the name change. The design of the new LP follows that idea, with Tom’s face staring out from the front cover in living black and white. And it’s really only fitting, since Cochrane has always been the musical mainman of the group. He wrote seven of the album’s 10 tunes on his own, and the other three along with guitarist Ken Greer. Vancouver keyboard whiz John Webster rounds out the core of the band, which is joined by such folk as former Streetheart bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve and drummer Jorn Anderson, ex of Rough Trade and the Silver Tractors.

One of the more hard-hitting songs that Cochrane has penned for the new record is called “Ashes to Diamonds”, and deals with the recent crackdown on the press in South Africa. The inspiration for the song came from a friend of his who had a videotape showing kids being beaten by South African police, and was going to smuggle it out of the country, He decided to leave it at the airport because security was so tight.

“He felt discretion was the better part of valour at that point,” says Tom. “Freedom of speech is a very precious commodity, but it’s something that can slip away at any time without us knowing about it. ‘Ashes to Diamonds’ comments on that.”

When he’s not writing or singing his own songs, Tom Cochrane likes listening to Steely Dan and John Coltrane. The last record he bought was Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole & the Commotions and “another copy of The Byrds’ Greatest Hits“. He’s also been lending an ear to Vancouver’s own Grapes of Wrath. He remixed two songs, “Misunderstanding” and “Love Comes Around”, for the re-release of their September Bowl of Green album. “I tried to make them sound a little more conducive to the radio.”

Before heading off back to Toronto to begin rehearsals for a tour of the midwest U.S., Cochrane had a pat on the back for Vancouver’s original music scene. “I think the whole street scene in Vancouver is really exciting. The Grapes are part of that, and Skinny Puppy. And you can thank people like Terry McBride [of Nettwerk Records] for working as hard as he does trying to bring that music to life.

“It’s so easy to be corporate in his day and age,” Cochrane adds. “To take the well-defined route.”

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