Fabulon’s Marty Higgs says things are looking better for Vancouver’s alternative music scene

Fabulon with vocalist Darren Simcoe


By Steve Newton

If you’re looking for an interesting band to check out this weekend, let me suggest Fabulon, who play the Town Pump till Saturday.

The group is made up of singer Brian King, drummer Rick Eden, keyboardist Randy Paar, bassist David “Bud” Omstead, and guitarist Marty Higgs.

Higgs has been a fixture on the local music scene for quite some time–he actually played bass on the Payola$‘ original version of “China Boys”, along with Bob Rock, Paul Hyde, and drummer Ian Tiles (now with Herald Nix).

“Actually it wasn’t even a band back then,” chuckles Higgs at the recollection, “it was more of a project. That was like the very, very first single.”

Marty has kept his Payola$ connection over the years, working as their guitar technician, and accompanying them on tour. Right now he’s doing the guitars for former Tygers of Pan Tang and Thin Lizzy guitar hero John Sykes. The latter’s current band, Whitesnake, is in town recording a new album, and Higgs was recommended for the job.

In the two or so years that Fabulon has been together, they’ve been fronted by three different vocalists.

“Well that’s the focal point,” explains Higgs, “and it just took us a while to get the right guy.” The “right guy” now (and probably for some time to come) is Brian King, formerly with the mainly Top 40 club act Billboard Heroes. According to Higgs, King was ready for the move to a more creative project.

Fabulon with vocalist Brian King

“I think Brian ran out screaming, as to say. He basically was pretty fed up with the whole club scene. And he was probably wanting to do a lot of original stuff with his old band.”

Last year, when Darren Simcoe was singing for Fabulon, they released a 12-inch single, “Life On an Island”, b/w “Young Hearts Burning”. It was the first (and so far only) release on Luv A Fair Records. Produced at North Van’s 264 Studios, and engineered by Al Rodger, the tunes were quite a hit locally. “Young Hearts Burning” went to #2 on the CiTR Radio chart, and “Life On an Island” hit #14 on Dancepool‘s dance club chart, right behind Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys”.

The record was also among the five local releases nominated for Best Independent Release of the Year at this year’s 5th annual Tribute to West Coast Music. I was right up there with Ferron’s Shadows On a Dime, Connie Kaldor’s Moonlight Grocery, Doug & the SlugsPopaganda, and Poisoned’s self-titled EP.

Did the nomination surprise Marty?

“In a way it did, yeah. When I read over what we were up against, I think one release was Connie Kaldor, who I wasn’t even aware of up until that point. Then I went out and got the record and checked it out–and I thought it was alright!”

Their acceptance by the fickle folks at CiTR would lead some to believe that Fabulon are an “alternative” band. And in a way they are.

“I think that we’re caught up in between there,” says Higgs. “I think that if you come and see the show, there’s definitely a few songs that you could not play on AM radio. Or FM, for that matter.”

Marty is enthusiastic about Vancouver’s original, “alternative’ music scene. He feels there are plenty of bands that deserve recognition.

“Oh there’s tons of them,” he says. “Rhythm Mission is one of ’em. Bamff is another one. They’ve only done a few shows–a few people that were involved with the early U-Jerks are involved there. A guy by the name of Alex Varty I think is gonna be gettin’ in there too. Alex is another one of my favourite people around. He’s great. He plays jazz, fusion…you name it.”

Fabulon don’t play much around town, that’s why this weekend’s dates at the Pump are of particular interest. Higgs explains the group’s situation.

“We’re still basically a showcase-type band, and it’s hard to work until you hit that plateau where you’ve got a viable product and you’re either signed or, you know, out there.

“But we’re rapidly growing right now. Every week we’re changing. And I think the local club scene is actually changing over more to the situation that we’re involved in–there are more and more venues that allow you to expose yourself in this town than before.

“And I believe that Fabulon are not alone. I think there’s a lot of bands out there that are just like us–in the same situation, and not working as much as they’d like to. But, you know, things are looking better!”

To read more of my interviews with Vancouver rockers since the early ’80s go here.

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