Shock — Tales from the ’80s — Opening for Megadeth in July 1986
For those Sleaze Roxx readers who still don’t know who Shock are, they were the premier unsigned heavy metal band in Canada’s nation capital city of Ottawa back in the mid to late 1980s. After five years of opening for some of the biggest heavy metal bands that would make their way to town and shopping around six different demos including the unreleased album Burning A Hole Through The Heavens, Shock called it quits frustrated with not obtaining what they thought was a proper recording deal. Fast forward 21 years and the power metal band’s co-founders Tony V and John Tennant reconnected and before long, the band was resurrected from the dead with the new line-up including guitarist Steve Monette switching to bass. Shock‘s first interview after their 21 year hiatus was with Sleaze Roxx who dubbed the group “one of the best metal bands that never released an album.” That all changed when Shock released their critically acclaimed debut album Once Denied in May 2013 twenty seven years after first forming.
Prior to taking over the reigns of the Sleaze Roxx website in July 2015, I had discussed with Monette, V and Tennant over some beers about writing a book about the group’s fascinating story from all the struggles in the mid to late ’80s in landing that elusive recording deal to releasing two very fine power metal records (Once Denied and subsequently Forewarned in November 2015) two decades later. I conducted a number of interviews with all three of them in early 2014 and started putting everything together before I had the opportunity to continue the fine work that Sleaze Roxx’s founder Skid had commenced with the Sleaze Roxx website. While manning the Sleaze Roxx website has been a labour of love for almost a year, the reality is that I now would not have time to complete the book idea which was really still in its infancy in many ways. Accordingly, rather than sit on all those interviews for an indefinite time period, Shock agreed to have snippets of what could have been contained in the book appear as a series called “Shock — Tales from the ’80s” on the Sleaze Roxx website.
Opening for Megadeth in July 1986 (John Tennant)
The Megadeth show was in July 1986. That was before the Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying album came out but it was already recorded. As often happened back then, we had a demo version of the album. We were huge fans of Megadeth so when we heard that they were coming to play at Roxannes [in Hull, Quebec, Canada] — it was like a double bill with King Diamond — the first thing we did, we called the owner of the club and asked if we could open. We had already done a couple of opening shows at that point and we asked if we could be put on the bill. He said “no” because it was a fairly small stage and I guess logistically having three bands would have been a bit of a problem. I totally understood and that was fine. The club owner actually said but “If you guys want, I’ll put your name on the guest list and you can get in for free” so it was all good.
At that time, we were all working at the time at different regular part-time day jobs. I was working at Eaton’s, which was a large retail store, in Ottawa’s only downtown mall at the time, the Rideau Centre. Tony worked at a store downtown near me. On the day of the show, I got a call from the owner of Roxannes saying that King Diamond weren’t doing the show because it was their only Canadian show and since they were coming up from the U.S., they decided they weren’t going to bother with it. So Megadeth now actually needed an opening act so, he asked if we were interested. Of course, I said “Yes!” and then it was a matter of calling the guys. There was no texting or anything like that back then. I had to locate and call the guys. I told them what was up and then it was matter of right after work — we probably cut out a little early — getting to our warehouse which was in the east end of Ottawa, loading our stuff and getting all the way over to Roxannes which was literally in another province. We got all that together and we were all really excited. Keep in mind, it was a big motivator for us since we were just such huge fans of all this stuff. It wasn’t just “Oh, we got another gig.” It was like “This is unbelievable! We get to open and probably hang out with Megadeth. This is absolutely awesome!” Most of those opening gigs, we never got paid but it was for the exposure. They would offer us a couple of drinks and that was it and you never really thought twice about it.
We eventually got over to Roxannes and there they were! Megadeth had one of their early line-ups with Gar Samuelsson on drums and Chris Poland on guitar. Roxannes was a small club and there they were! One vivid memory that I have was that Gar Samuelsson was drinking so heavily at the bar well before the gig. As a young musician, I was thinking, how is this guy going to play tonight? I did not realize that Gar was not drinking any more than he normally did and of course later on, everyone found out that he had a lot of personal demons that he dealt with.
Everywhere we went, we would have copies of our current demo with us to try to get some attention and what not. I am sure everywhere a band like Megadeth went, they were inundated with local bands asking for them to listen to demos and stuff. I ended up in Megadeth’s big Winnebago bus that they were travelling in. Dave Mustaine was listening really intently to our cassette and I was just thinking “Is this frigging for real?” At one point, one of the road crew opens the front door of the Winnebago and starts yelling someone. Mustaine yells back at him “Shut up! I am listening to something here.” and the guy left. Again, that was surreal because I was thinking “Oh my God! He is really listening to it!” I can’t remember what Mustaine eventually said after hearing our tape but he was very polite and that was that.
These days, Megadeth is such a tight well-oiled machine live but back then, they played a messy sloppy style but that was kind of the charm and character of what they were doing then and I just loved it. They were just one of the bands that we were trying to emulate. I really liked their presentation on stage and even the BC Rich instruments that they played as I played a BC Rich for a while. I loved what they were doing and how they were at that time, bringing something different to the scene. There was a real level of musicianship — perhaps not so much their lyrics although they were kind of interesting here and there — but I really liked what they were doing with the music. They used to call it “thinking man’s thrash” or something like that because it was not that hyper complicated but just a little bit different. It wasn’t all four tempos and stuff. We just thought it was so cool what they were doing. So we did the gig and we were really happy with that. Back then just like maybe now, there was so much credibility to be able drop these names and say we opened for this band and that band. That was like a kind of notch in our belts.
What was really neat was the postscript to that whole story was after the fact, a really good friend of mine, who is a merchandiser and knows a lot of these people, called me shortly after that he was working with Megadeth and they said to him that Shock was their favourite opening act on that particular tour out of all the various opening acts that they had. At the time, you know, it was kind of cool, but I always wondered if he was just pulling my leg or was it really true? But about 25 years later, I think someone sent Steve [Monette] an old Megadeth photo from around that time. The photo was of the band Megadeth playing at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on March 6, 1987 and there was Megadeth’s drummer Gar Samuelsson with one of our t-shirts that we must have given him at the show. I remember looking at that when I first saw thinking, “Hey, that is pretty cool.” But then I thought, just wait a second, maybe they did really like us because being in a band myself, I don’t wear t-shirts for bands that I don’t like, and especially if you are that level, you are not going to throw on any shirt to get a picture taken. That was definitely a highlight because we still hold that band in high regard.