Bob Rock resurrects the Payola$ with Paul Hyde and sets up a helluva three-night benefit for B.C.’s Children’s Hospital


By Steve Newton

When the time comes to interview Bob Rock about the recent resurrection of the Payola$, the prospect is particularly appealing. Rumour has it that the big-time Vancouver producer (the Cult, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe) is to work with Metallica again soon, and I’m thinkin’ that hobnobbing with the kings of metal down at Little Mountain Sound while getting the scoop on Rock’s reunion with Paul Hyde wouldn’t be a bad way to spend the afternoon.

No such luck, though, because Rock isn’t scheduled to produce Metallica until January. In the meantime he and Hyde are in Hawaii, where the two tunesmiths—former Juno co-winners for composer of the year—are writing their first songs in eight years. Not surprisingly, Rock sounds happy when he rings in from paradise, eager to chat about the developments that led to the reunion of one of Vancouver’s most influential punk-era acts.

“I was actually here in Maui last year,” he says, “and my mother gave me all the Payola$ albums on cassette for Christmas. There’s not great radio on Maui, and I just kept playin’ them, and I thought, ‘These are great songs!’. So I phoned Paul and I said, ‘Have you listened to any of our stuff lately?’ We got to talkin’ about the idea of putting out a Greatest Misses CD, which would include all the Payola$ songs that the record company—those brilliant people that were guiding our career at the time—wouldn’t let us put on our albums.

“Then we just thought, ‘Why don’t we go play?’. We don’t have a record company, we have no management—Bruce [Allen] manages me, but the Payola$ don’t have a manager—so if we played these songs, it would just be for the fun of it rather than business and careers and shit. So that’s what we did, and we had a blast.”

Besides founders Rock and Hyde, the version of Payola$ that’s been ripping up local clubs of late includes bassist Alex “A-Train” Boynton, keyboardist-vocalist Richard Sera, and former Loverboy drummer Matt Frenette, who takes over the skins from longtime Payola$ member Chris Taylor, now a cameraman for Shane Lunny Productions. (Taylor was also the drummer for Rockhead, the melodic ’70s-inspired hard-rock group that Rock put together in 1992, but which broke up in the summer of ’93 after releasing and touring behind its eponymous debut CD.)

“I think Chris is pretty much doing the video thing full-time,” says Rock, “and at this point he couldn’t blow off another career or job to play. So we got Matt, and he and A-Train together are just brutal. Paul and I can be as sloppy as we ever were and get away with it.”

Anyone who’s seen the latest Payola$ in action can attest to the vibrant vibe rolling offstage. It helps that the group has such great old tunes as “Soldier” and “In a Place Like This” to get its rejuvenating message across with. Then, of course, there’s that classic Canuck-rock gem “Eyes of a Stranger”, which helped the band claim four Junos back in 1983.

“That was nice in a way,” says Rock of the one-time trophy shower, “because it finally kind of legitimized my musical career for my mom and dad. I know that sounds bizarre, but seein’ that on TV, they just kinda went, ‘Well, I guess he’s not a bum after all.’

“But what pissed me off is that I was workin’ that night, so I couldn’t go, and Paul [accepted] four Junos that night. He didn’t mention me once. He didn’t even thank me or anything. He just said, ‘Where’s the beer?’ I thought that was really nice of him.”

Although the Payola$ hit Juno pay dirt in ’83, their career petered out just two years later following the release of the lightly rocking, David Foster–produced Here’s the World for Ya.

“The band had already fallen apart at that point,” recalls Rock. “At that point we didn’t admit it, but…David had to come in and try and keep us going. It was basically like, ‘Okay, let’s get the American producer to write songs with them.’ I mean, at that point we were so confused that we had to do it, but that was just the ultimate bad thing to do.”

Although he has some regrets about how the Payola$’ career ended in the mid-’80s, Rock says he’s very proud of what the band accomplished on the songwriting front. Anyone else with fond memories of the group in its heyday can rekindle them at the Town Pump next Tuesday through Thursday (December 13 to 15) when the Payola$ perform as part of a three-night benefit for B.C.’s Children’s Hospital.

More than 15 other local acts will take part in the event, which Rock decided to organize after his six-year-old son Jonathan was treated at the hospital for a stroke last year. When the illness struck, certain of Rock’s wealthy friends and associates—from Jon Bon Jovi to the then-president of Elektra Records—offered private jets to whisk the ailing youngster to wherever the best medical aid in the world could be found. All the offers were turned down, though, as Rock ended up “basically living at the hospital for two weeks” while various local doctors did their thing.

“I got my lawyer to look into where Jonathan should go,” says Rock, “and everybody said the same thing—that we were already in the best place he could possibly be. And being the eternal pessimist in a lotta cases, I was just shocked to find that we had five of the best neurologists from around the world that lived in Vancouver, and they were helping my son get better. I never needed that kinda help in my life, and when they helped so incredibly, I had to do something. I did it last year on a personal level, and then I thought it would be great if I could do a little more.”

The Christmas Medicine Ball, as the benefit is being billed, was originally planned as a one-night affair, but at Bruce Allen’s urging—and with support from CFOX and the powers that be at the Pump—it quickly turned into a three-nighter. At press time, the long list of performers included Ginger, Rymes with Orange, Daytona, the Blue Shadows, Loverboy, and the Payola$ (Tuesday); the Odds, Art Bergmann, Damn the Diva, Rose Chronicles, and members of Spirit of the West (Wednesday); and D.O.A., Econoline Crush, Copyright, Age of Electric, Colin James, David Gogo, members of Skid Row, and the Payola$ again (Thursday).

“Some great people are along now,” says Rock, “just a real assortment. And there’s a couple of surprise guests that shall remain nameless until they arrive. Everybody’s doin’ it gratis, and we’re gonna be able to give [the hospital] a really good chunk of money if it all works.”

Surprise guests, eh? Hmmm. Maybe there’ll be some hobnobbing with Metallica after all. Even without those Bay Area string bashers, you can’t complain about the talent that’s been lined up—or the cause they’ve come together to support. And there’s no denying Bob Rock is entitled to the Swell Guy of the Week prize, even if he’s uncomfortable with the do-gooder role.

“I kinda feel funny doing this,” he admits. “It’s not really my bag, and there’s so many charities and so many great causes. But if you can’t invest in your kids—and kids in general—then we’re all fucked anyway, right?”


To hear the full audio of my interviews with Bob Rock from 1992 and 2002 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 300 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

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Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, 1992
Popa Chubby, 1995
Jerome Godboo of the Phantoms, 1990
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Matt Minglewood, 1985
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Aldo Nova, 1983
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Tom Morello, 2011
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David Lee Roth, 2003
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John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
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J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
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Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
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Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
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Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
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Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
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Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
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Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
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James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
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Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
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Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
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Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
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Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
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…with hundreds more to come

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