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04/19 Manitoba Metalfest (MB)
04/20 Regina (SK)

February 15th, 2012

The Queen City’s king of metal rocks on

QC, Regina (link article)

pic by Bryan Schlosser, QC

Regina’s Tim Roth has travelled the world with the band he founded, sold thousands of CDs and is viewed as a pioneer in the world of heavy metal.

But it was a conversation with his dying father that stands out as one his biggest affirmations as a musician, and as a man.

On the day before his dad’s death from cancer in 2007, Roth heard what he views as the ultimate words of encouragement.

“He said ‘make sure you continue with your music.’ I couldn’t believe he said that,” Roth said over a recent dinner break from rehearsals with his band Into Eternity.

“It was vindication for me at the end because he didn’t accept (my music) at first … my parents thought I’d just quit.

“My whole life changed when my dad died. It was the worst day of my life.”

By anyone’s standards, life on the road with a fledgling heavy metal band from Regina wasn’t glamorous. In its early days, without much idea about what organizing a tour was about, Roth and his bandmates would fill a van and set out across North America.

Showers and real beds were never guaranteed, nor was a respectable financial reward. (Three weeks without a shower is a band record).

But Roth didn’t care. As long as he was on the road and playing his songs in front of fans, he was satisfied to know the band was getting closer to success outside the Queen City.

“I would sleep in the front seat of the van and then I’d wake up because there was no heat. And then I’d start the van again until it got warm and shut it off again to save on gas,” Roth said. “We got $50 a night during that first tour. And our booking agent took half that. But it paid off because we believed in what we were doing.”

“We were taken advantage of. But it worked out for us. I should be a millionaire. But I’m not.”

The Roth family of Kenaston adopted Tim, who was born in Saskatoon on Dec. 6, 1975. They’d already adopted his older brother Jason.

Roth remembers a happy childhood, sharing life on the farm with a stay-at-home mother and at the family home in Regina. He was given his first guitar when his was eight as a way to help him pass the time. He took the instrument seriously when he was 12 and heard music that was different from the country songs that filled the family home.

“I would see these AC/DC videos and I’d see Angus Young rolling around on the ground,” said Roth.

“My parents always listened to country. I grew up on CKRM and listening to Willy Cole. But I think the melody of country music was ingrained in me.”

As a teenager, Roth’s appreciation of the guitar and heavy music grew. He learned songs by AC/DC and Black Sabbath and was attracted to bands and guitar players who played music known for their volume and speed. A turning point came when he heard the music of Yngwie Malmsteen, a Swedish heavy metal guitar player known for playing speedy solos.

“I went from AC/DC to Metallica and Megadeth and then Dream Theater. As soon as I saw Yngwie, it changed my life. I was playing all these Black Sabbath songs, which was cool. But then Yngwie came. I realized what you could do with an instrument.”

Roth said he was drawn to the technical aspect of music and preferred to challenge himself to play fast, as well as to write songs that fell outside of the traditional heavy metal.

“I’d be sitting in the house while my parents were doing the harvest. I dedicated myself at such a young age. I didn’t know I was being disciplined when I was playing eights hour a day,” said Roth.

During his teen years, he was a student at Miller Collegiate but was still immersed in his guitar and music.

“I was just so attracted to the energy of the music and the technical aspect of playing guitar. I was just a super crazy fan and I took it so far to learn an instrument. I was really moved by my music for some reason. It’s all I really had as a kid.”

Growing up with strict parents was a blessing, Roth says. Not only did it leave him with ample time to learn the guitar riffs of his music heroes, he was also steered clear of trouble.

“Even in high school, I had to be at home my 10 p.m. and on weekends until 11 p.m. I practised a lot,” said Roth. “It was either that or get into trouble. I had a lot of friends who were breaking into cars and that sort of thing.”

In the early 1990s, he started his first band called Entity. Later, he joined Pericardium and later started a new band because he wanted to have more control over the songwriting and sound of the music. While Roth loved the ultra heavy sound of the day, he also liked melody. When Into Eternity was formed in 1996, he set out to blend the two and write songs that included traditional singing with the so-called “death vocals,” a growl that essentially makes the lyrics impossible to decipher but gives the music a uniquely heavy sound.

It didn’t take long for the sound of Into Eternity to take hold in the metal community. The band signed with Century Media, which helped get the band on the road and into the studio. Slowly, despite lean years of touring as a supporting act, the band earned a reputation outside Canada.

Between 1999 and 2008, Into Eternity released five albums — Into Eternity, Dead of Dreaming, Buried in Oblivion, The Scattering of Ashes and The Incurable Tragedy.

Roth has seen more than a dozen members come through the lineup over the years, some of whom just weren’t willing to sacrifice the weeks of touring for little or no pay. But even though Into Eternity’s popularity didn’t always translate into big pay cheques for its members, Roth was content because he was doing what he loved and was also hopeful his band’s fortunes would improve.

“Obviously, to me, it wasn’t about the money. There wasn’t much of it. But to me, that was OK. I was travelling the world and somebody else was paying for the plane tickets. And I was playing my music. To me, that’s success.”

Martin Popoff, a Toronto author who’s written several books about heavy metal, believes Into Eternity has a special place on the heavy metal map.

“Into Eternity has been through a ton of lineup changes, but Tim’s always been the mastermind, great writer, positive force, propelling that band forward, and prolifically as well,” Popoff said.

“The guys have gained such a reputation as the foremost thinking man’s progressive thrash band from Canada. They built a powerful, smart catalogue of front-edge extreme metal of which they can certainly be proud.”

As Roth looks back on his band’s history, he acknowledges his naivety may have prevented him from collecting more financial rewards.

“Looking back at it, it looks stupid. We should have had a manager and a lawyer right from day one. We have made more than a million dollars for Century Media,” said Roth. “How can you get into a van with five other guys and drive across the U.S. and be expected to look after yourselves making $50 a night? That seems insane. But at the time, it seemed like a good idea.”

“I wanted to conquer the world at the time. I realize now that was crazy. We toured the world, so I guess it did work out. I does pay to dream big sometimes.”

Today, the founder of a million dollar band works as part owner of a small taxi company which he inherited from family. It takes away from band time but Into Eternity is far from dead. This winter, the band has gigs planned in Regina and Winnipeg, as well as invitations to play at music festivals in Europe. There are also plans to record a followup to 2008’s The Incurable Tragedy with a new singer.

News of a new album and plans for a tour come as a relief to fans because 2011 wasn’t kind to Into Eternity. Vocalist Stu Block, who moved to Regina from Vancouver to lead the band in 2005, was hired away by American metal band Iced Earth. While Roth admits it was hard losing Block to a much bigger band, he’s delighted to see his best friend succeed.

“As hard at it was, I couldn’t help but be happy for him — he is out doing things we all dreamt of.” Block’s wide vocal range to help shape the Into Eternity sound.

In an interview, Block credited Roth and his work with Into Eternity for helping him win the coveted Iced Earth job.

“Tim is a creator. And he’s a true artist. And there’s nobody who can do what he does. The way he plays the guitar, the way he writes a song is special.”

Block met Roth years ago after a B.C. band Block was performing with came to Regina to play a show. Roth, who was in the crowd that night, was so dazzled by Block’s voice that he invited him to audition.

“I was too nervous to go and talk to him,” Block said. “To me, he was a rock star.”

Roth brushes aside compliments, and argues he’s only done what’s come natural to him.

“I knew very early on when I was 12 or 13 that I needed to play guitar and do music. I’m 36 now and I am still doing it.

“I guess I’m in this for the long haul.”

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

1 comment to The Queen City’s king of metal rocks on

  • jay

    Really inspiring.These guys are the real rockstars not those pussies living the so called ‘born to rock’ lifestyle that the media glamorizes these days.