“I had forgotten why I got into the music business in the first place” says Zack Werner, former musician, producer, entertainment lawyer, manager, record company owner, meaner than mean judge on the hit show Canadian Idol and now member of the kick-ass country band Haymaker. “After wearing so many hats in the business I had lost my lust for music. I certainly didn’t get into this thing to get my musical yaya’s out humiliating yodeling 16 year olds” he says.
Haymaker was born out of mutual tragedy like a phoenix rising from the ashes. 10 years ago Werner lost his father to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Putting his celebrity to good use he became the national spokesperson for the Walks For ALS in 2006. He was contacted online by music manager Bennett Helfrich who was living in Medicine Hat, Alberta and who’s father was to pass away shortly thereafter from the terrible illness. The two struck up an immediate bond over music, family and common adversity. Bennett was working with several musicians in the Hat and Zack after listening to their demos made the insane proposal that he come to the Hat and do some “writing sessions” with Bennett’s buddies. Zack had a vision of taking the roots rock sounds and storytelling tradition of the artists he had grown up loving and turning them into a new kinda country. “I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I just wanted to take all the pretention away and write songs that told great stories and made people wanna drink beer and not give a crap for a while…more than one way to drown your sorrows and music is the best one I know of”
Werner, Jay Hill, Aaron “Justice” Simpson and Steve Kambeitz all crammed into Hill’s basement studio for some marathon writing sessions. Everything had to work on acoustic guitar first and all the guys took turns singing leads and harmonizing their brains out. They looked to the sounds of The Band, The Eagles, Thoroughgood and Neil Young for inspiration. At the same time they were always aware of the country flavour of these artists and wanted to take that and push it to the front in Haymaker. After a year of writing, Haymaker went to Edmonton to record with Bill Kennedy (a long time friend of Zack’s from his L.A. days and producer/engineer/mixer of Megadeth, NIN, Traveling Wilburies, Alice Cooper). Over two grinding weeks they recorded “old school” looking for divine inspiration live off the floor (with the aid of no small quantity of booze etc.). Nothing had to be perfect it just had to rock and feel good. The recording sessions turned into full blown parties. “We became a real band in a hurry” says Hill “and the sound of Haymaker kind of invented itself”. The album “Wrong Place, Right Time” shows off the vocals of all its members. Simpson (straight from his gig at the tire plant) rocks the hell out of “Go For A Ride”, the first single from the album. It’s a song that defines a “Medicine Hat Trick”…getting drunk, rocking out and kickin some ass…oh and cruising muscle car style. Kambeitz adds two songs of his own to the mix with a soaring voice and honest hurting poetic lyrics. Zack takes the total rocker vibe true to his roots and adds his growl and scream to the hardest trax on the record especially “Did It” a tale of slow suicide through bulimia. With Hill throwing in his voice, the guys create a great ball of harmonies even touching on the Beach Boys for inspiration on the futurist track “Cyber Space”.
The whole essence of Haymaker is to go out and rock the town live. “I missed that more than anything” says Werner. With the additions of Mark Steiner on drums and the powerhouse Greg Cox out of Calgary Alberta on bass/guitar, Haymaker has already made its debut playing unplugged during Junofest and even busking in front of The Palace in Calgary right before a Cult show.
“That’s taken it to the streets and having no fears” Werner says. “The last thing I’m afraid of is being judged cuz I made this record for the people who are going to dig it not those that want to shoot their mouths off about how I suck blah blah blah.”
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