Trooper is a good name for a band that has been around for 40 years — it takes a lot of perseverance to keep soldiering on in music and still be thrilling fans.
The Vancouver band was formed in 1975 by Ramon (Ra) McGuire and Brian Smith, and are known for their classic rock hits "Raise a Little Hell," "We're Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)," and "The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car."
Trooper is the final band in this year's Whistler Presents concert series. They perform at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m.
In an email interview, McGuire talked about the band, the music and the fun they still have in the business.
Pique: Trooper engages with fans a lot on social media. Do you feel closer to people because of it?
Ra McGuire: Since I'm a total nerd, Trooper has been online since 1996! It's been so long now, I don't really remember what it's like to not be able to interact directly with our fans. Being digitally close with our fans is a lot of fun for us, and makes for opportunities we otherwise would miss.
Pique: And you can share with the rest of us moments like Fred Penner getting up on stage with you in Newfoundland last month to rock "The Cat Came Back."
RM: We first met Fred in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, when we were both playing a festival up there. He's as great a guy as you would imagine so we totally hit it off. He's also game for anything!
The first time he came onstage with us, in Winnipeg, the crowd went absolutely nuts. I don't think I know a more beloved guy. Since we were both in Marystown, Newfoundland, it was pretty much a given that he was coming up.
He also sang "Midnight Hour," "I'm a Man," and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" with us that night.
Yes, we get people up to perform with us all the time; from famous people like Fred — plus Al Harlow from Prism, and Kim Berly from The Stampeders last weekend in Saskatoon — to up-and-coming artists, like Fairgale in St. John's. Sometimes just enthusiastic audience members (get on stage). We'll pretty much try anything to make the show different and specific to that night in that town.
Pique: To have a career making music you love for such a long time... how does it make you and the rest of the band feel? How do you like to drive your career and music these days?
RM: It's a great question, really. For the last decade or so we've been finding that, if we point the whole enterprise in the direction of good vibes and shows that are engaging and fun for us, everything in Trooperland goes very well.
The more we live the life, the more people want to share it with us. It's a really positive cycle.
As far as how it makes us feel... We very often feel like we're everyone's favourite uncles coming to town for a visit. Everyone likes us before we arrive, shows us a great time while we're there, and seems to like us more by the time we leave. How can you not like that?
Pique: Rock in the 1970s and '80s holds a special place in Canadian music. You've said elsewhere that you are here 'for a good time and a long time' — very handy to have a song like that as guidance. How do you see Trooper and the music carrying through over the decades?
RM: It's pretty cool that our songs have developed a life of their own and have carried on (regardless of us) for this long. At this point those songs are our ticket to the best party in town. We sincerely hope this continues.
Pique: You have written a book about your years in music. What is a favourite story?
RM: I like the one about the time that our gear truck was broken into. It was full of about $100,000 worth of equipment. The thieves stole cookies and beer. That's it. They left everything else.
Pique: What can you tell me about the tour? Are you permanently on tour?
RM: Most of our big shows are in the summer time and most of those are outside. We have some great sunny-day songs.
We do two or three shows a week, back and forth across Canada, through the summer and less through the rest of the year.
Pique: And what do you get up to in your own time?
RM: I just enjoyed the hell out of the great summer we had in White Rock, B.C., where I live.
Pique: Who are your fans? Who are you meeting out there and what are they like?
RM: There doesn't seem to be a demographic for our fans. Last week in Vegreville I was signing autographs for 15-year-olds and 60-year-olds.
Maybe what they all have in common is a love of a good time. We have many, many fans that have seen the band more than 10 times. Several of them have been to over 100 shows. Three or four at least do some serious travelling to keep up with us!
Pique: Apart from touring, are you doing anything special for the 40th anniversary?
RM: It's funny, we haven't really put much emphasis on the 40-year thing. I had a kid tell me one night that he'd followed us since the beginning — way back in 2000. I like that perception of the band. Disconnected from a timeline.
Pique: Any new songs or albums coming our way? Do you write music much these days?
RM: We write some music and we play a few new tunes in the set but we have absolutely no plans to record anything. This is not the time for a band as old as us to be trying to interest a record-buying public in something new.
It's harder still since there probably is very little of a record-buying public left to interest.
Pique: What would you like Whistler fans to know about the show Trooper is bringing to town?
RM: The best parts of the show are usually the bits we don't know about ahead of time.
We promise to stay loose and alert to any party-making and entertaining potential. We also have three trained elephants that we bring on to perform, if things aren't going well.