Winnipeg rocker with local roots returns to Papertown
November 23, 2018
By Vince Clark
Local Blues Rockers Wreckin’ so played to a packed house at the Papertown Motor Inn in Powerview on November 17th. The show was opened by Wreckin’ So lead guitarist Ronnie Ladobruk playing some fantastic covers, including a stirring rendition of Purple Rain by Prince. The band then hit the stage and performed two hour-long sets, featuring all their hits, some phenomenal covers, such as Pride & Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and even some never before heard new material for their upcoming second album. The dance floor was packed all night long as people danced and sang along.
During the week prior to the show, I had the pleasure of sitting down for lunch with lead singer Brent Alarie to discuss the origins of the band, and how he became the man he is today.
“When I was young, I used to steal my dads guitar all the time to play it.” He said. His dad was very particular about things, and thus Brent would take it and play it when his dad wasn’t around, then carefully place it back where he found it. “I thought I was being so smart about it” he quipped. “Then one day, when I was about 12, my dad comes into my room with the guitar in hand and says “Since you play this all the time, you might as well have it” I still don’t know how he knew.”
For the next twenty-five some years Alarie kept his musical interests somewhat a secret and it wasn’t until around 2011 that he unleashed his skills on an audience. All it took was a little personal inspiration and some encouragement. “A good friend, Mark, heard me sing at a bonfire after a few wobbly pops and he said you have to come to the jams.” The jams were jam nights at the Army & Navy in Selkirk where local musicians could perform live before an intimate audience. “I finally got the courage to go up and I played with my back to the audience. After about three or four jams I got up enough courage to sing my first song and I was trembling and shaking and sweating like crazy. I did “Country Roads” by John Denver and the crowd went nuts, so I figured maybe I have something here.”
Alarie’s baptism by fire into the performing quickly blossomed into a sudden ascent within the music scene.
“I started hosting my own jams at a nightclub in the city and starting meeting people. I started writing music and it started to flow. I wrote a song that got accepted into Manitoba Song Fest. I recruited some other musicians and we entered the song called “Wreckin’ Ball Blues”. After I rounded up the guys, we practised on Saturday night and we were on Shaw TV live Sunday and we nailed it!”
The group started doing shows known as the Wrecking Crew but after a short while they ended up going their own ways leaving Alarie and drummer Paul Pommer to carry on. It wasn’t long until the small set-back turned into a new opportunity.
“So Paul and I are jamming in my garage and I said I guess this is it, just you and me and he says “I reckon so.” I said “There it is! Wreckin’ So. That’s what we are!” and the new band was made.
The band released an EP in 2014 entitled Hillbilly Blues, which featured tracks such as Hitchhike to Freedom and Still Smokin’. Pommer left and was replaced by Clint Chaboyer in 2015. They released their first studio album, entitled “ Keep Talkin’ ”, on June 29th, 2016. The album was met with critical acclaim.
Wreckin’ so has since gone on to open for legendary acts such as Blue Oyster Cult, Nazareth and Harlequin. They also got to open for Three Days Grace and Buckcherry after winning a battle of the bands contest. “It’s been crazy” Alarie said.
Aside from the band, Alarie has a passion project known as Highway 59 guitars. “It all started as a form of therapy for me.” He said. Brent has chronic lyme disease, which causes joint pain and chronic fatigue. “Some days I couldn’t do much of anything, but the doctors say its best to get some form of activity in, even on the bad days, so I began building guitars.” Alarie cites a musician known as Seasick Steve for one of his first guitar creating endeavours, a one stringed instrument called a Diddley Bow. “I was at home one day when a buddy texted me and said “You have to check out this guy.” And told me to look up “Seasick Steve – Diddley Bow” on Youtube.” Alarie instantly fell in love with the instrument and decided to make one of his own. “My buddy had an old collapsed barn and I went fishing through it. That board is about 100 years old. All the parts except for the liquid wrench jar and the electronics and screws are from the barn.”
After building the Diddley Bow, Alarie went on to build a guitar out of a hubcap from a 1963 Mercury Meteor. “I rummaged until I found some parts. I put a telecaster pickup in there, so it has some real twangy raunchy grit. The rest is hardware. There is some Harley Davidson parts on there. I built it all by hand. I built it on the tailgate of a truck because you can’t use a machine shop, you have to do it like you would have a hundred years ago.”. One day, someone offered to buy one of his creations, and this was when he realized he could make a business out of it. To this day, he still regularly makes guitars in his free time. “It’s as therapeutic as ever” he said.
Wreckin’ So will be going back into the studio soon and are aiming to release their next album in the spring of 2019.