Rational Youth were a Canadian New Wave band, originally formed in 1981 in Montreal, Quebec, by synthesizer wizards Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn, both of whom idolized the German synthpop pioneers Kraftwerk.
Among the band's notable singles were "Saturdays in Silesia" and "Dancing on the Berlin Wall," from their debut album, Cold War Night Life (1982); and "In Your Eyes" and "Holiday in Bangkok," from Heredity (1985) (both tracks appeared previously on a Rational Youth mini-album from 1983).
In 1999, Rational Youth, with a new lineup of original frontman Howe and new keyboard players Jean-Claude Cutz and Dave Rout, they released their first album in fourteen years, "To The Goddess Electricity".
In 2000, a special limited edition five cd-single boxset was realesed. It contained "Rational Youth EP", "Coboliod Race", "City of Night", "Saturdays in Silesia" and "In Your Eyes", all in paper sleeves resembling the vinyl originals.
Rational Youth toured throughout Scandinavia over the next two years, and played their final concert on November 3, 2001, at the Tinitus Festival in Stockholm, Sweden.
Original members Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn came together again in 2009, at the initiative of Marc Dumouy, recording a new version of their 1982 hit "Dancing On The Berlin Wall" in honour of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. In 2010, the recording was issued by YUL Records as a CD EP In 2011, another CD EP was released, City Of Night /Cite Phosphore, being remixed versions of earlier recordings. In 2012, producer Marc Demouy was able to reunite the original Rational Youth trio of Howe, Vorn and Kevin Komoda which resulted in the 2012 release of the CD EP Coboloid Race /I Want To See The Light 30th Anniversary Edition. The release included newly discovered alternate mixes from the original 1981 sessions.
2013::Coincidentally, almost 30 years later to the day that Rational Youth were touring across Canada, Kevin Komoda found two Rational Youth live cassettes as well as a box full of Rational Youth negatives and other memorabilia. The initial idea was to release these shows on cassette only as a limited edition collector’s item, but the news of these live tapes quickly spread and sparked a renewed interest in Rational Youth. What was supposed be, and still is, a limited edition cassette release soon transformed itself into a 3 CD set with rarities, a 5 LP plus 7” box set, and now, two confirmed shows in Sweden, where the band have an enthusiastic and loyal following. Tracy Howe and Kevin Komoda are now assembling a band with the possibilities of shows in Montreal and Toronto before heading across the Atlantic in 2014. Two shows are confirmed in Sweden in 2014.
Latest releases: Rational Youth Live Winnipeg 1983, Rational Youth Live Ottawa 1983, Rational Youth Live 1983 with the Magic Box rarities disc (limited to 390 copies worldwide), And The Rational Youth 5 LP box set with bonus 7” single will be released on Vinyl-On-Demand Records in 2014.
More detailed biography: (81-99)
Version I (1980-1981) Tracy Howe (synths, vocals) Bill Vorn (synths) Mario Spezzo (synths; 1981)
Version II (1982-1983) Tracy Howe (synths, vocals) Kevin Komoda (synths; 1982-83) Denis Duran (bass; 1983) Angel Calvo (drums, percussion; 1983)
Version III (1984-1986) Tracy Howe (synths, vocals) Rick Joudrey (bass; 1985-86) Owen Tennyson (drums; 1985-86) Kevin Breit (guitars; 1985-86) Peter McGee (guitars; 1984-86)
Version IV (1998) Tracy Howe (synths, vocals) Dave Rout (synthesizers) J.C. Cutz (synthesizers)
Rational Youth is the brainchild of Tracy Howe who was a boy chorister in an Anglican church choir starting at age 8. At 13 he got an electric guitar, but joined his first band as the singer only that same year. He sang in a series of groups during his teenage years before taking up the drums with The Normals who were a three-piece punk band in Montreal around 1978 and featured members Scott Cameron on bass and Robert Labelle on guitar (Labelle would go on to join American Devices). From there came the formation of Heaven Seventeen (not to be confused with Britain's Heaven 17) who were Montreal's first self-proclaimed post-punk group - a sort of John Foxx-era Ultravox - who were one of the first generation punk conglomerations to use synths. The band's lineup was quite unstable but the most solid configuration consisted of Scott Cameron (bass, vocals), Roman Martyn (guitars), Kim Duran (guitars), Lysanne Thibodeau (keyboards), and Tracy Howe ( drums, vocals). Lysanne would be replaced by future Men Without Hats frontman Ivan Doroschuk at which time Howe stopped drumming and became their singer. In early 1980 Marc Durand was managing the band and had landed them a gig opening for XTC at the St. Denis Theatre in Montreal. While playing their set, some punks became rowdy and narrowly missed Doroschuk with a beer bottle or two and after the gig he quit the band. It was shortly after that he started Men Without Hats and took Marc Durand with him. By 1983 Heaven Seventeen had broken up and Doroschuk asked Howe to join his new band Men Without Hats as the guitar player. The band at that time was Ivan Dorochuk, his brother Stefan on bass, and Jeremie Arrobas on drums. They had all been to the same private schools together in Outremont and rehearsed at Arrobas' parents' house - a mini-mansion on Mount-Royal. His father had bought them all their musical equipment and paid for the production and manufacture of their first record, the 'Folk Of The 80's' EP. Howe did not play on that record though he is credited as such. Roman Martyn actually did all guitar parts on the EP and Howe's sole work with the band amounted to the song "Freeways", a 7" B-side. Ivan Dorochuk was primarily leading the band and his vision of the future and Howe's didn't connect, but Doroschuk did turn Howe onto the underworld of which gave Howe the idea to do electronic music, and shortly thereafter he met Bill Vorn. Rational Youth (a play-on words of the name National Youth Orchestra) was formed in Montreal in the summer of 1981 by Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn. Marc Demouy, a record importer and retailer friend of Howe's, suggested they release a record and within months Rational Youth had their first single and 12" "I Want To See The Light" (featuring third keyboardish Mario Spezzo), on Demouy's newly formed YUL Records label. Live dates followed and by their second gig they had already done an opening slot for Orchestral Maneouvres In The Dark. In the spring of 1982, came the 'Cold War Night Life' album, which would spawn two dance 12" singles "Saturdays In Silesia" and 'City Of Night'. It was at this point, with the singles getting major Canadian airplay that the live shows were not quite living up to expectations, so the duo was augmented with yet another synth player, Kevin Komoda, who managed to sneak onto the final sessions for the album. 'Cold War Night Life' would go on to sell 20,000 copies independently in Europe and Canada (most in Alberta of all places) and the limelight began shining on the band. Vorn, who merely wanted to play music and not be a rock star, left Rational Youth at the beginning of 1983 to resume communications studies at University. Howe and Komoda were left to carry on so they grabbed Denis Duran and Angel Calvo (who had drummed on the single version of "Pile Ou Face"), and went back on the road for a cross Canada tour. In the spring of 1983, Howe was signed to Capitol Records and Rational Youth was picked up as his project - the result was the 5 song EP 'Rational Youth'. On the eve of a national tour the entire band, realizing that this would be a full-time commitment, quit and Howe was stuck with a name but no band. Komoda went on to host the CBC's Brave New Waves and later formed Montreal's Pest 5000; Denis Duran is in the airline business and Angel Calvo is currently missing in action. Despite the dissolving band, Capitol Records asked Howe if he wanted to record another record and so teamed up with Klaatu guitar/production whiz and fellow labelmate Dee Long to work on the next record. They spent all of 1984 reworking mixes of tracks from the 1983 EP and writing new material. Some of Toronto's best know musicians were brought in to augment the line-up: guitarist Steve Jensen (Zappacosta), vocalist David Roberts, Karen Hendrix and John Jones (Duran Duran), drummer David Quinton (The Mods, Strange Advance), bassist Spider Sinnaeve (Streetheart), violinist Ben Mink (FM, k.d. lang) and of course Dee Long himself as producer, engineer, keybaordist and guitar player. The sessions were released as Rational Youth's next album 'Heredity' in March of 1985. It was a far cry from the synth pop of 'Cold War Night Life' and the lead off single/video "No More And No Less" was released to great critical acclaim. Howe put a new rock band together with album guitarist Peter McGee and former members of Blue Peter, Rick Joudrey (bass) and Owen Tennyson (drums), for a road tour of small venues throughout 1985 and into early 1986. On the odd occasion co-headlining with Strange Advance, The Spoons, Gowan and Images In Vogue. They even did a date opening for China Crisis. Several follow-up singles failed to sustain Rational Youth as a major league contender and Capitol Records passed on renewing Howe's option. Despite a brief appearance as 'the band' in the Montreal filmed Keifer Sutherland movie 'Crazy Moon' in 1986, Howe, effectively killed off Rational Youth and set up a domestic life and became gainfully employed at Queens Park for the Ontario Government. In February of 1996, EMI Canada released a 17-track Rational Youth compilation CD entitled 'All Our Saturdays (1981-1986)'. The disc's release has, through the efforts of fans on the Internet, brought Howe and Vorn back together again; Vorn had continued putting music, art, and technology together with his crowning achievement being interactive robotic installations with Louis-Philippe Demers. With the year-end release of 'Cold War Night Life' on CD, the duo played a synth-pop festival in Sweden in December 1997 to much critical acclaim but Vorn has been cautious in not wanting to give up his day job for the role as a 'rock star' again. Rational Youth was officially revived by Tracy Howe in 1998 with the addition of former Digital Poodle members Dave Rout & J.C. Cutz who toured Scandanavia that year followed by the recording of a new album 'To the Goddess Electricity' released in 1999.
1982 Cite Phosphore/Le Meilleur des Mondes (YUL) 1982 Saturdays In Silesia (single remix)/Pile Ou Face(YUL) 1983 In Your Eyes/The Man In Grey(Capitol) 1983 In Your Eyes (Extended)/Hot Streets (Capitol) 1985 No More And No Less/Holiday In Bangkok (Capitol) 1985 Call Me/Burn The Night Away (Capitol) 1985 Bang On/Sorry (Capitol) 1985 Malade/Freeze (Instrumental) (Capitol) 1998 3 Remixes For The New Cold War (Coboloid) 1999 Everything Is Vapour (October - Sweden)
1981 I Want To See the Light (YUL/Downstairs) 1982 City Of Night (YUL/Downstairs) 1982 Cold War Night Life (YUL/Unidisc/Downstairs) 1982 Saturdays In Silesia (YUL/Unidisc/Downstairs) (YUL/Unidisc/Downstairs) 1983 Rational Youth (Capitol) 1984 Dancing On The Berlin Wall (Rams Horn - Holland) 1985 Heredity (Capitol) 1994 Total Rational! (Rams Horn - Holland) 1996 All Our Saturdays: 1981-1986 (EMI) 1997 Cold War Night Life (EMI) 1999 To The Goddess Electricity (October - Sweden)
1985 No More And No Less 1986 Crazy Moon
1997 "Saturdays In Scandinavia '97" on 'Virtual X-Mas '97' (Energy - Sweden) 1999 song on 'Shot 99' (October - Sweden) 1999 "Saturdays In Silesia" on 'Pure Canadian: Retro 80's Volume 6' (EMI)
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