Coney Hatch seeks the middle ground between metal and mainstream with Friction


By Steve Newton

Toronto rockers Coney Hatch have been tearing things up at Outlaws for the last few days, working hard to take their new album Friction to the party-hearty crowd that frequents that cub. And tomorrow (Saturday) night their younger fans will have a chance to see them, with local act Kradle, at an all-ages New York Theatre gig.

Even if you don’t get out and see the band at one of their local appearances, there’s a good chance they’ll show up on your TV soon, via the video for their new single “Fantasy’. The clip, shot in England, was released just last week.

“Basically it’s 50-percent live footage of the band in front of a crowd,” says guitarist Steve Shelski, “and the rest of it’s a story about having a frustrating day job, quitting, and forming a rock band. That’s like our fantasy come true.”

Coney Hatch were “discovered” in a Toronto bar by Kim Mitchell of Max Webster fame, who quickly got them signed to Anthem Records and produced their self-titled debut album. In no time the band were touring with the likes of Ted Nugent and Judas Priest and getting good radio support for the singles “Hey Operator” (later covered by Aldo Nova) and “Devil’s Deck”.

But things slowed down a little with the release of their second record, Outa Hand. Although it did receive some airplay for the tunes “Don’t Say Make Me” and “First Time For Everything”, the record just didn’t live up to the promise shown by Coney Hatch. Shelski himself agrees.

“I think our problem with the second record was that we sort of rushed into it. And we just didn’t have the tunes. We had ‘First Time For Everything’ as a single, and nothing to follow up.”

But things are looking better for the band in ’85. Friction, produced by Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Hunter) is a definite improvement over Outa Hand. The hooky, melodic hard rock the band is best at is back at the fore. And their considerable following in England has been reinforced lately by feature stories in such influential Brit music mags as Sounds and Kerrang!

Even though Kerrang! is basically a heavy metal publication, and Coney Hatch have become good friends with touring partners Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, they still don’t fit in the typical metal mold–either visually or aurally. There’s no death and destruction for these guys. And they like it that way.

“We’re trying to avoid that,” admits Shelski “We want to get into a more mainstream slot, and try to broaden our audience a bit with this record.

“But we are well-received when we open for bands like Judas Priest because we cross into a lot of areas. People who are into heavy metal can appreciate us because we’re pretty hard-driving, whereas people who are a little more into pop can appreciate our songwriting.”

Shelski certainly supplies enough energetic guitarwork on Friction to keep teenage air guitarists smiling. Strangely enough, his biggest musical inspiration was not a rock guitar hero but a jazz-based stylist.

“Lenny Breau was my ultimate favorite guitar player,” Steve claims. “I studied at Humber College in Toronto for three years, and any chance I could I’d go down and see Lenny at a local jazz club and I’d talk to him. He was a fantastic guitar player.

“But I also like a lot of other guitarists,” he adds. “I think the Scorpions do well.”

After tomorrow’s Vancouver concert Coney Hatch head off to Calgary, and do two dates opening for Triumph in Winnipeg and Regina.  With new recruit Barry (“the band’s not into his mustache”) Connors adding a fresh beat to the band, there’s a good chance Coney Hatch will make it to the upper reaches of Canada’s commercially oriented rock scene.

One thought on “Coney Hatch seeks the middle ground between metal and mainstream with Friction

  1. Absolutely loved all three of their records. Actually their second record with Don’t Say Make Me, and For Everything A Price actually got some real good airplay here in the states, which is basically been a wasteland when it comes to good hard rock and Metal, even though these were heavy times for this kind of music and some bands are getting on there. Saw them with Judas Priest and Maiden, and they held their own for sure. Even though that they were melodic they had a nice chunky bottom end and strong structures that though were more commercial, still had a coolness to them. If they wanted to they could have been a great straightforward commercial heavy metal band. I got Friction after the fact, never saw it down here which is surprising considered I hit all the cool stores, and I really dug there first two records. If I saw I would have hopped all over it. It’s excellent to, I think I prefer the one before it because of the nostalgic reasons heard him on the radio etc cranking them at parties and impressionable age of 16 to 18. Great band!!

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