Updated: Jun 27
by Scott Roos
photo by Jacqueline Schmid - Sky Blue Productions.
“We played the Gateway Music Festival in 2014. I was surprised at the level of production and professionalism and the way they ran that festival eight years ago. It's great to see. There's a lot of smart people in the industry right across the country. It's good working with them. It's a lot of fun,” recounts drummer Don Schmid in a recent conversation with NSMZ.
His band, the Northern Pikes will head to Bengough, Saskatchewan on Saturday, July 23rd. They’ll be sharing the stage with a lot of great acts that day including Chilliwack, Megan Nash, People of the Sun and The North Sound among others. Most notably, perhaps, Schmid’s band will also share the stage with fellow CanRock legends The Grapes of Wrath whose guitarist/vocalist Kevin Kane is also a member of The Northern Pikes.
“It'll be the first time since Kevin's been with us (that we will be sharing the stage with the Grapes of Wrath) . But there were other times going way back that we did share concerts together because of festivals. It's going to be an interesting thing because (at Gateway Music Festival) Kevin's going to be on double duty that day. I'm sure he'll handle it,” remarks Schmid.
Kane joined the Northern Pikes in 2017 shortly before they released their album Forest of Love (2019). He’s of similar vintage to Schmid and co, maybe a bit younger but, all in all, he’s been a great fit.
“He fits in really well, you couldn't have asked for a better guy. It seems really natural. There really hasn’t been a whole lot of adjusting,” Schmid relates.
Schmid isn’t too worried about the songs Kane has written for the Pikes ending up sounding like Grapes of Wrath songs, though. There was a decidedly fresh take when Kevin recorded with the band on Forest of Love but, on the whole, a Pikes song is a Pikes song is a Pikes song according to Schmid. Each songwriter in the band brings their own perspective to the process but, in the end, when the alchemy is applied and the finished product is unveiled, you have something that only the unique blend of the four guys in the band can bring to the table.
“What ends up happening is with bands, that's the charm. It's a combination of people. It's not just a solo artist who controls the way everything goes. Sometimes songs really take a left turn (when we get together) and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they come straight to how the guys hear them. Once everybody contributes they become a Northern Pikes song and take a life of their own after that,” explains Schmid.
In terms of what Schmid himself brings to the band, he counts his straight ahead, meat and potatoes grooves as something that’s become a key element of the Pikes sound. His playing has always, first and foremost, served the songs. It’s not surprising, then, that he counts KISS drummer Peter Criss as a key influence. A young Schmid was in his teens when KISS was just beginning their legendary run in the 70’s. Some music fans tend to dismiss KISS due to their simple song structures and basic riffage but that’s what truly made them as legendary as they were and still are.
“The drumming style that Peter uses, especially by heavy rock or metal standards, was quite simple. Actually all their stuff was pretty simple. Ace could solo quite well but the songs were quite simple in structure and arrangement, lyric content. It was part of what they were,” says Schmid.
Schmid, like so many others that witnessed KISS in the 70’s and, in part, the early to mid 80’s, was captivated by the visual aspect the band put forth. In his youth, it was the great era of rock magazines like CREEM and Circus… Hit Parader and Rolling Stone. There was no internet or google searches, so, from a visual standpoint, these rock mags helped to shape that era of rock n roll and were heavily influential to the kids who read the articles found within their pages. Once you were drawn in visually, the byproduct was that you in turn became a fan of the music as well. Criss, as a drummer, became highly influential and regarded by many young drummers of the era as did Ace Frehley to aspiring guitarists. Like Criss, then, Schmid, perhaps by osmosis, adopted a similar, simple approach to his kit.
“Jay (Semko) always used to say to me that he liked my playing because I was a simple drummer. I play songs. I wasn't really worried about trying to do little fills every so often to kind of just do them for no other reason than doing them. I'd just play through the groove. I guess in its simplest way my style fit the songs that Jay was writing. I think the simplicity of my drumming style has always been what the guys have liked,” Schmid explains.
Of course, it’s not just Criss that Schmid emulates. In his conversation with our zine, he lists Rush drummer Neil Peart as well as several 70’s era acts like Steppenwolf and Canadian acts like B.T.O., Five Man Electrical Band, Lighthouse, Trooper, and Prism. He also lists Ringo Starr, Stewart Copeland, John Bonham and Keith Moon. To Schmid, he may consider himself a “simple” drummer, but there’s still bits and pieces of drummers like Peart, Bonham, Copeland and Moon that he can latch onto.
“You know not many people can play like Keith Moon but it doesn't mean that you don’t get certain ideas from him because he has such a crazy unique style of playing. He'd play a verse of a song that sounds like a solo break and yet with The Who's tunes it seemed to fit in. It’s that sporadic drum filling kind of thing,” raves Schmid.
Not to be outdone by playing one headlining set in their home province, The Northern Pikes are also set to play Chester Fest Couch + Music Festival in Prince Albert this summer as well. They will headline the Canadian Tire Mainstage on Saturday July 9th. It will be their first time playing this event.
“It’s a great idea. It’s going to be very exciting,” says Schmid of Chester Fest.
Tickets for the both the Gate Music Festival and Chester Fest Couch + Music Festival (July 8th and 9th) are moving quickly. Physical tickets for Chester Fest can now be purchased at Canadian Tire in Prince Albert. You can grab tickets online at chesterfest.ca/tickets. For The Gateway Music Festival (July 22nd - 24th) information on where to purchase tickets can be found here: http://www.gatewayfestival.com/ticket.