Toronto rockers Clean Slate kickstart their career with a boost from producer Alex Lifeson


By Steve Newton

If you were in a young Canadian band about to make its first record, who would you like to see behind the controls in the producer’s chair?

How about Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, who–with 14 years experience making his own band’s vinyl–would certainly know a thing or two. Heck, you could even–nonchalantly of course–ask him if he wanted to play on a couple of tunes.

That might be pushing it, though, as Clean Slate vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Link explains.

“Right from the start Alex said, ‘This is your record, and you guys have to do it. I refuse to play on it, so don’t even ask me.’ And that thought had crossed our minds, though nobody seriously proposed it.

“But I think it was a good thing that he insisted on not playing; he just had a good role of coaxing things out of us. He’d feel the groove of it and go, ‘Okay, try this and this and this.’ ”

Lifeson produced Clean Slate’s self-titled five-song EP, which wasn’t any real surprise, since both acts are on the same record label (Anthem) and under the same management team (SRO). Lifeson’s name certainly added a lot of prestige to the band’s first effort, though from the winning sound of their first single, “Survivor”, they might have what it takes all by themselves.

Patrons of the Metro this weekend will be hearing the new EP’s songs, as well as about 10 other originals, mixed in with Beatles and Stones covers. Those local rock fans who take a liking to Clean Slate during the band’s only Vancouver dates can anticipate a full-size album in January, although Link says it’s unlikely Lifeson will be twiddling the knobs next time.

With an average age of 23, Toronto’s Clean Slate has been together in its present formation for 2 1/2 years. Link and lead guitarist Robbie Breton have been together for eight years, and were joined by bassist Mike Zingrone before coming across drummer James Andrews. They say their biggest influences are the Stones, Lennon, the Who, and Jimmy Page (“except for his new record”). And they’re not one of those bands that take themselves too seriously.

“When we started this band we were very naive and very young,” says Link, “and we set out to change the world. But of course we’ve grown up now, and we’ve realized that it should just be blown up instead.”

“And we’re going to do that sonically,” chips in Andrews.


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