From Toronto’s Air Canada Centre to the “dark cabarets in Northern Russia,” Ken Tizzard has performed at diverse venues in his more than 15 years in the music industry. He’s received Juno nominations, MuchMusic Awards, six gold and platinum records. He’s licensed songs to TV shows like CSI and Fashion Television. He’s even appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Despite the fact that he’s spent many years on the road and lives in Ontario, the musician/ songwriter says St. John’s will always be home.
“It’s where my roots are, the place of firsts for most everything,” he writes in an email interview from his home in Campbellford.
Tizzard is excited he’ll be in St. John’s again for a few days to play a couple of gigs with his band Ken Tizzard With Bad Intent (KTBI), featuring Kent Grant on bass and Dave Fischer, drums.
Bad Intent will play tunes from their new album “The Goodness Of Bad Intent,” a blend of rock, punk, country and folk, which they describe as “A pedal steel rock and roll experience.”
The album is a combination of new material from Tizzard and some original old-tune rehashing.
Tizzard left St. John’s at 18 to move to Toronto on the advice “of a fellow from EMI Records.”
“At that time a lot of my friends were exploring the big city, so I took a chance.”
No doubt it’s worked out well for him, but he says he still misses Newfoundland, where he’d spent much of his teenage years in the early ’80s playing with the band WAFUT (What A F**kin Ugly Truck).
“We were a punk band,” he explains.
A bass player in previous band lives, Tizzard more recently turned his attention to playing pedal steel guitar. In addition to talent, the instrument requires dexterity of the feet, knees, hands, eyes and ears — not easy, especially for a vocalist.
“I like to say to people that pedal steel guitar is like playing chess with a guitar,” he says, acknowledging it takes a lot of mental and physical energy, which makes it difficult to interact with the audience.
“These days I play pedal steel as much as I can and mix it up with some acoustic and electric guitars depending on the venue.”
He discovered the instrument out of necessity, while writing a musical based on Oscar Wilde’s, “The Selfish Giant” for performance at the Westben Theatre, Campbellford.
“I was working with a classical composer and I was hearing these long, soaring melody lines. I could not get the sound from a guitar and my search led me to pedal steel …from there, learning the instrument drew me into an almost all consuming love of the instrument. Slowly it worked its way into KTBI and before long, it was my main instrument.”
Tizzard, who writes constantly, has a large collection of original material.
“When KTBI decided to record, I had a bit of a ‘reset’ attitude. I loved the sound of what we were doing and thought some of my older material would be done good by this band.”
Bit of a blur
Tizzard started out playing bass with the Watchmen, a few years after he moved to Toronto. They began writing songs collectively.
“When “In The Trees” came out it started a trip that lasted over 10 years,” he says.
The popular Canadian band began touring the world and making records and videos.
Tizzard can’t quite remember the details about how some of the songs got licensed to television.
“When you are working with commercial record companies, managers, agents and lawyers things just sort of happen that you hear about. There’s always a lot of background noise and you tend to tune in and monitor from a distance. I am pretty sure “Holiday” (from The Watchmen album Slomotion) was used on an early CSI show.
“It was quite a time,” he continues. “Towards the end I was spending a lot of time with my buddy Ian Thornley. He was writing a new Big Wreck album and I was working on new Watchmen material.”
When they both decided it
was time for something new,
they put together Thornley, a band that lasted five years, during which time they appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2004).
“It was another one of those surreal experiences that kinda came out of nowhere and then it was done.
“We had just returned from a bunch of U.S. touring and a lot was happening with the new record,” (“Come Again,” certified gold in Canada).
The band was taking a few days off. It was Tizzard’s birthday and he was looking forward to the time at home. Then Thornley called to ask if he could make it to the airport in the morning.
“I was surprised and excited, but it never seemed real. The next day we were there, then Jay was in the dressing room chatting, then we played (“So Far So Good”) and then we got on a plane. It didn’t really hit me until I was shopping for groceries the day after and people kept stopping to ask about it.”
After five years with Thornley, Tizzard felt he needed a break, “to spend some time with my kids and work on some new and different music.”
The new and different became a solo bass record, “Quiet Storey House” and later a folk record, “Lost In Awe” which put him back on the road.
“I enjoyed touring with an acoustic guitar and a bunch of harmonicas. However, it got lonely and I wanted to start another band, combining the folk, country and rock elements of what I had been doing. This led to the new band, KTBI and the new record (The Goodness of Bad Intent).”
KTBI will play three shows in
St. John’s in two venues over two nights.
“I’ve added an early show at the Ship Inn on Saturday, Dec. 1, for family and friends who cannot be out too late,” he says.
Friday night sees the band at the Fat Cat, Saturday at the Ship, both at 10 p.m., with the earlier Saturday show at the Ship starting at 8. Guests at all three gigs will be Tizzard’s “good friends” Sean Panting and Dust Radio.