The seriously rockin’ Last Wild Sons can’t compete with the Beat Farmers’ comical escapades


By Steve Newton

The scene is the roughly furnished, graffiti-blasted band room in the basement of the Town Pump. The characters are several members of local blues-rockers the Last Wild Sons and sundry friends and relatives who saunter in and out, taking care not to bump their heads on the ceiling’s low-hanging pipes while eyeing with equal care the band’s frosty cache of beer. The topic of the moment is the group’s bassist, Ken Wilson, who is not on time for the interview. The other members are playfully ragging his absence.

“We’d just be tellin’ him to shut up if he was here,” chuckles singer/guitarist Gene Murphy. “Actually, this is about the time that we put duct tape over his mouth,” adds Murphy’s brother Darren, who also handles vocals and guitar.

The Murphy bros’ good-natured slagging of their fellow bandmate brings to mind the family-style badgering of another rootsy West Coast act—the Beat Farmers—so it’s not surprising that the Last Wild Sons fit in quite nicely when it came time to tour the Prairies with Country Dick Montana and his band of merry jokesters.

But one might wonder if the prospect of warming up the crowd for the King of Sleaze was a daunting one at first.

“Not really,” says Gene, “because that’s the exact crowd that likes our music. I think when we first started we were a little bit intimidated…”—“You were”, jibes Darren—“…because they’re a really good band and everything. I think we’re more of a serious band, in a sense. Obviously we can’t compete with them on the comical escapades.”

Backstage foolery notwithstanding, the Last Wild Sons are indeed quite serious on-stage and could even stand to loosen up a tad performance-wise—go a little Beat Farmer crazy, perhaps. But, while their live demeanour could be more energized, one can’t complain about their songs, which are fine little blues-rock gems moulded in the rugged down-to-earth style of George Thorogood. The band has compiled eight of the tunes on a cassette they recorded at Profile Studios with producer/engineer Cecil English.

“What we were lookin’ for when we first put this band together was a hard edge,” says Gene, “and Cecil works for a lot of hard-core-type bands, so he knows how to get that kinda sound. And the atmosphere at Profile is really good—I think that’s important.”

“And it’s got good equipment,” pipes in drummer Al Black. “They’re pretty up to date. Plus, it really works out because they finance. Not too many people finance.”

Like countless other band members in Vancouver and its environs, the Last Wild Sons are day-jobbers who earn their right to rock by night. Their immediate goal is to go full-time into music, though.

“It would be great if we could make enough just doing music right now to live comfortably,” says Gene. “We don’t have to be eating three meals a day or anything, but it would be nice to be able to do what we want to do. Day jobs are something you have to do, but it’s a hard road, because the work takes its toll on you and holds you back all the time.”

As Murphy speaks, it’s getting close to show time, and tonight his band is opening for BTO at one of the Juno week’s Labatt’s Canada Live gigs. It’s probably the band’s highest-profile gig so far, although they’ve also opened for the Blasters, the Cowboy Junkies, and Junior Wells. Steve Earle is also mentioned in their bio list of opening shows, but that’s somewhat of a trick entry.

“If you look at the wording in there, it’s pretty sneaky,” confesses Gene. “It says we ‘shared the bill’ with him. And we did share the bill with him—until the show got cancelled about two days before it was to happen.”

As showtime approaches—and the beer cans dwindle—I wonder aloud if there’s a downside to playing in a band that’s part family. “Can I answer that question?” blurts out Black. “Damn right it is. Oh yeah. Sometimes these guys just can’t agree, just ’cause they’re brothers.”

“Well,” counters Gene, “is it tougher having me and Darren in the band, or Ken?” Black ponders the idea…but not for long. “Well, let’s not even talk about Ken,” he says. “He’s not even here. I’m quite happy right now…oh, shit…”

Wilson finally barges in, thumping his instrument on the floor and cursing loudly with a British accent. But the band’s let’s-gang-up-on-the-bassist approach has become infectious, and yours truly can’t help but go with the flow. So at first sight of the hapless bassist the tape recorder is flicked off.

Sorry dude, interview’s over.

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