Bent Wind interview with Marty Roth
Bent Wind, “Riverside”. Recorded in 1969, this is the most murderously bleak track on their legendary Sussex LP. Long regarded as the holy grail of Canadian heavy psych fuzz bombers, an original pressing would easily pull $5,000+ nowadays. The brilliantly absurd use of bird calls during the guitar break is a massive sonic achievement when heard in the context of a song about a guy who killed his girlfriend. – Paul Major (‘Feel The Music’)
When and where were you born? Tell me a little bit about your upbringing.
As for most of us teens at that time The Beatles, of course, were my first real influences in having a desire to play, write and sing music. In my earliest years of the 60’s I had already been such a fan of pre Beatles rock with artists like Dion and The Belmonts, Del Shannon, Everly Brothers and generally, most all of the 50’s style rock sounds. Until heavier and darker rock bands emerged I enjoyed listening to most vocal harmonizing bands like The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, etc. Once Hendrix and Jim Morrison and The Doors entered, well, I have to admit, they were closer in touch with what I was writing personally than anything being played by the more popular commercial radio stars… And their album cuts, unless you had the album itself, were only heard on a few FM stations that were daring enough to play this new underground sound later dubbed ‘heavy psych’. We didn’t know our music was anything but original rock.
Before you formed Bent Wind, what bands were you in?
We called ourselves The Roads To Ruin. Before Bent Wind, Gerry and myself would always get together and sing Beatle songs or tunes by Simon and Garfunkel because we had a natural harmony together. Eventually our boredom of doing cover songs got us writing our own material… and we loved it… much more satisfaction, especially when someone commented that they liked the songs. I only wish we could find the old reel to reel tapes we recorded on back then. The songs were barbarous.
What circumstances led you to form Bent Wind in Toronto?
Myself and another friend from schooldays were running a boutique/headshop at the corner of Sussex and Robert. We carried the usual gear that you’d find in most other headshops… things like incense, candles, love beads, drugs, etc. and never appreciating the time for what it was. And, every so often, from the open door of our shop, I’d hear a faint blur of something, close to what some might consider music. It was emanating from the basement of one of the houses beside the lane at 57 Sussex Avenue, almost a block away. As it turned out, the guitarist was Gerry Gibas, a close friend who I’d been jamming with while writing original tunes any chance we could. He dropped by the shop during their break and told me to drop over. That’s where I met Eddie Thomas Majchrowski, the drummer. His mother owned the house at 57 Sussex Avenue and all the rooms on all three floors were rented out to a mix of students, freaks, druggies and musicians. To my surprise, the bass player was Sebastian Pelaia, a classmate from high school, two years earlier. I wasn’t aware at that time that he even played an instrument. There he was standing in a corner whacking at his bass while singing, “In A Godda Da Vida, honey!”… and he’d grin.
How do you remember some early rehearsals?
The rehearsal area was a damp, poorly lit, cramped room in the basement but for me, it was like a dream come true. It would be my first time playing with a full band. Eddie just got his first drum set a couple of weeks earlier. He had never drummed before but that didn’t matter. I was borrowing a Vox Phantom guitar from a friend and Sudsy (Sebastian) was using his violin shaped bass… can’t remember if it was an ‘Echo’ or a ‘Hofner’. Gerry had a ‘58 Stratocaster that he modified and painted a dozen times and he walked around with his harmonica holder around his neck which also doubled as a pipe holder when he wasn’t blowing harp. And because myself and Gerry had already been writing songs on our own and together as a team we decided at that moment, that our band would never play cover tunes, only originals that we wrote ourselves. Somehow we knew, after our first jam, we had something special. And to this day, more than 40 years later, I have to admit that even though we were only together as a band for just over a year, these were the days I remember and cherish most from my past.
Tell me about the music scene in Toronto at the time.
Toronto, in 1969 was already winding down from an explosion of bands from the mid ‘60’s. It was almost impossible to keep up with all the new local bands playing in the clubs and coffee houses in Yorkville Village and in the downtown bars. Bands like The Ugly Ducklings, The Paupers, McKenna Mendelson Mainline, etc were popular sounds… But the list could be in the hundreds… So many good bands at the time…
What circumstances led you to record the “Sacred Cows” / “Castles Made Of Men”? It was released on Trend Records.
Trend Records was a small recording studio located in West Hill, a Toronto suburb. I believe it was a converted one room schoolhouse and I recall clearly that there were very few houses in the area at the time… wide open fields all around us. Merv Buchanan, owner of Trend followed and hunted a lot of local talent and took a lot of them under his wing to record and promote them in any way he could. It was during that time that he ‘discovered’ us while we were playing at a 12 hour Pop festival of local bands.
He was the short-haired, red head with sunglasses sitting in the first row. Advertised as 12 hours and 12 bands, we were the first to go on stage and of course, with problems behind the scenes we didn’t get to go on until 12:45 which only gave us 15 minutes of show time… So when it came time for us to leave the stage we refused and started, instead, to play our longest and loudest song, “Riverside”. After the disappointment of a short show and while packing our gear in the parking lot, I was approached by the businessman type who was sitting in the first row, Merv Buchanan.
“Would you be interested in making a record?” he asked. “Is the world round?” I asked back. And the rest is history. A week later we were in the studio recording our first single, “Sacred Cows” / “Castles Made Of Men”.
What do you remember from recording it?
Recording our first record was like a blur… it only took a couple of hours and it was all over. Trend studio used a two track Scully. We recorded all the music on one side and the vocals on the other. I believe “Sacred Cows” was recorded in three takes and “Castles Made Of Men” was recorded in one take. For some ridiculous reason, they cut the first four musical bar intro to “Castles Made Of Men” which is the reason for the slight opening glich on the record when the song starts. And if you listen carefully while the other guys in the band are singing backup, Eddie keeps making the mistake of singing, “Castles Made Of Sand”, the title of a song by Jimi Hendrix. We didn’t bother doing another take, mostly because we didn’t know any better and were happy just to be making a record. Gerry wrote “Sacred Cows” and that song was certainly never one of my favorites because I thought he wrote much better songs that could have been picked for the single. But it was “Sacred Cows” that impressed Merv when he heard us at the Pop festival and that’s what he wanted to release.
What’s the story behind Sussex album? Was there a certain creed behind the name?
Sussex Avenue in March, 1969 was just another downtown street in Toronto, running off Spadina Avenue. Most of the houses were occupied by the local hippies who were renting rooms or flats. There were so many local bands at that time, they could be heard playing within earshot of each other. It seemed that everyone on the street knew each other and some of the characters who lived on Sussex Avenue or in the general area sure left a vivid memory for me of that special place and time.
BENT WIND, the name…
Things weren’t easy for me introducing my original tunes to the band. They guys were already familiar with most of Gerry’s tunes and Gerry didn’t feel there was any need to play mine. Well, it was his band after all, or the makings of one, sort of. And, although the band didn’t have a name yet, Gerry’s flavor and guitar style were certainly distinct. This lasted for a week or two. I’m not sure if it was during a break or after a rehearsal that Gerry went back upstairs to his apartment on the first floor. I took it upon myself at that time to run through a tune of my own for Eddie and Sudsy’s benefit and who were just putting their gear away. After running through a few bars Sebastian asked what it was… I said, “It’s a song I’ve been writing about the Viet Nam war. It’s called, Hate.” Suds grabbed his bass and easily noted the intended feel. We ran over the song a few times. “Yeah! That’s it.
How did you know just what to play, Suds?” And then he’d start playing “In A Godda De Vida” again and grin. “What else you got?” “Lots, but…” I glanced up the stairs. Eddie hustled right back onto his drums when I began noodling the notes for the intro to the newest song I was working on. “It’s not finished yet… and it’s missing something. It’s called, “Castles Made Of Man”.” He tinkled the cymbals one by one accenting my musical intentions (he must have had 6 different sizes and makes of cymbals) and fell right into the melancholy groove. The song didn’t miss a beat while we watched Gerry stop halfway down the stairs to light his pipe. “What’s that?” he asked while heading for his spot in the basement.
We continued as though he hadn’t been heard. “I thought practice was over.” He looked at his watch. We usually played from 4 to 6 every day and it was almost 7 now. He slung the ‘58 strat over his shoulder and fumbled at the back of his custom special for the on switch.
He plugged in his cry-baby wah-wah and before his pipe smoke had cleared in the air, we had a completed tune. Damn. It wasn’t until I heard the wah-wah with the song that I realized that it was exactly what the tune needed and it wasn’t until the song ended that Gerry took the pipe from between his teeth and tapped it on the ashtray. I waited for the word. He stalled purposely for effect. He knew I was sweating. “I’m not sure if it needs wah or fuzz,” which was Gerry’s own way of showing his approval. I smiled. He was stuffing fresh tobacco in his pipe. I stuffed some hashish in mine. “It sounds like a bent wind’, he muttered. “What else you got?”
What do you remember from recording an producing Sussex LP?
A lot of our songs came out of jamming a few chord progressions. These are mostly the songs that Gerry and myself co-wrote. Usually, I would start playing a few chords and Gerry would mess around with some leads or try to find a cool hook line. And because it was a spontaneous jam session, there were no real words so, I would find a melody that fit the chords and fake words in a scat kind of way and by using the microphone with a lot of reverb, nobody knew the difference… after all, it sounded like words, so it must have been words… In the case of “Riverside”, well, there are only two chords to the whole song and in some parts, only one chord. The song originally was just called, “E minor /D”… “Ok, what are we playing now?” “E minor/D” “Cool” Everybody knew… Or, Gerry would start a lick and we all knew what song and when he went to a certain lead break or certain notes, we knew when to come back into the main verses… it was always a sign you had to watch for or listen for, when to make the change. “Sacred Cows”… well… truthfully, it was never my favorite song by Gerry and the other guys in the band weren’t too crazy about it either, but surprisingly to us, it was the song that was singled out by Merv Buchanan from Trend records. He loved it. That was good enough for us. The flip side of the single, “Castles Made Of Man” I wrote during a melancholy time. It was one of the few songs I’d ever written that weren’t about a real event or person etc to inspire a song. I think it just came out of desperation to write a song for the band to play. Up to that point, all the songs were Gerry’s.
Who designed the cover artwork?
Gerry always messed around with art in different forms and he drew the cover using a magic marker in just a few hours. The picture could have been anything at all… that day it was a large bird type image… no real reason. But over the years, I’ve noticed the bird still shows up in the background of some of his later works.
How many copies were pressed?
There’s still a controversy regarding the amount of records pressed. The story I remember from our manager was that Merv Buchanan, our producer, had made a deal with Quality Records, (who normally pressed minimums of 1,000 copies) to press only 300 copies but Merv would have 3 or 4 bands making records which would bring it over the 1,000 copy minimum order. We were in the basement at 57 Sussex when the LPs first arrived. I only remember seeing 6 boxes of 25 LPs. Two dozen were taken to Sam the Record Man and another two dozen were taken to A & A Records by myself and Eddie. They were taken only on consignment and were put on sale for $2.89 and if it wasn’t for kind hearted relatives we probably would still be looking for a sale. Eventually they were put in the B Miscellaneous pile at the back of the store for a dollar, where they sat for years until a few collectors took a chance and found something different that they hadn’t heard from the regular Toronto sound.
How about concerts?
Merv Buchanan ‘discovered’ us while we were performing at a 12 hour Pop Festival in North York, (north Toronto suburb at the time) with 12 other bands.
It was our 4th gig ever and we couldn’t believe that Joe, our manager had been able to get us into the festival as one of the bands. The festival was held at a church on Sheppard Avenue called, ‘St. Gabe’s’. They finally tore down the church about 10 years ago because the land became so valuable and now in the same location sits a multi-story condominium. Merv Buchanan was the straight looking, red-haired business type sitting in the first row.
He looked out of place at this festival with the short hair and sunglasses. 12 bands, 12 hours, starting at 12 noon and of course, we had to be the first band to play. In our case, bad luck… They were having technical difficulties finding power for the stage and because of someone not knowing what was what, we didn’t get started until 12:45 p.m. The festival manager told us that because of the delay, we could only play for 15 minutes in order to stay on schedule to end at midnight. Of course, we were so pissed off and when they told us our time was over we decided to ignore them and play one more song, “Riverside”, our 12 minute anthem… Complete with screaming fuzz and wah-wah and a ear-splitting bird whistle throughout the lead breaks.
(“Riverside” was shortened for the album). I have to admit, there was a lot of cursing and swearing after that gig. While packing our gear into our van out in the back parking lot and from out of nowhere, I heard, “Would you be interested in making a record?” At first, I thought I was fantasizing. Then I turned around to meet Merv Buchanan, the ‘business type’ from the first row. “Is the world round?” I replied. The rest is history.
What happened after the LP was released?
After the release of Sussex we played maybe 4 or 5 concerts and in early 1970 we went back to Trend Studios and recorded a second 45 single called, “Leroy Goes West” f/s “The Leper”. Before the record was released the band folded and the tapes of the last single ended up somewhere in the archives. To this day we’ve never found the tapes of the single but the live rehearsal of “Leroy Goes West” can be found on ‘The Lost Ryerson Tapes’.
What occupied your life after Bent Wind?
In the mid 70’s Gerry and myself got together again to form a duo called, ‘Lion’. We didn’t play originals, just stuck to the regular Beatles stuff or Simon and Garfunkel, etc. Our harmonies were natural. We didn’t have to work on them and we got call backs to the clubs 90% of the time. After the demise of ‘Lion’, well, things really changed for me in the music scene. I started another duo with my girlfriend and although we were getting regular work, the music started to bore me. It was at that time that our booking agent/manager came to us with an idea to do children’s music.
I thought he was joking at first but after a long meeting and an offer to record a children’s LP with all original material, we formed Marty Matchstick & Friends. I have to admit, the act went a lot further and faster than Lion.
I recorded a children’s LP in 1979 called, Marty Matchstick & Friends, Fun Songs For Children.
Shortly after, we received a call from ‘General Foods Ltd’ who were interested in doing an east coast tour with us and ‘Captain Kool-Aid’ and they asked me to write the new Kool-Aid jingle, which I did. Unfortunately, after we released the Kool-Aid song as a free giveaway during the tour, General Foods concluded that the song belonged to them and there would be no payment at all for my writing the song. They said the song belonged to them because it was written for them during our contracted tour. Needless to say, after a short battle of lawyers, neither of us now owns the Kool-Aid song. I believe it’s the very first ‘rap’ song. I still have a few copies floating around. We performed at ‘Ontario Place’ in the children’s theatre a couple of times in ‘80 & ‘81 and shortly after that I opened my secondhand shop in downtown Toronto.
What about your album The Fourth Line Is…“You Will”?
In 1989 after a twenty year hiatus from Bent Wind, I decided to make an attempt to put the band back together for a reunion and perhaps a recording. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the original lineup was just not going to happen. Eddie hadn’t drummed since playing with ‘Pandemonia’ in 1971 and got all nervous when I approached him with the idea. He actually looked scared and later, when I got him out to a rehearsal, he wouldn’t or couldn’t even whack the drums loud enough without cringing.
This was a far cry from the raving octopus that I remembered from ’69. And, when I approached Sudsy (Sebastian) with the idea, he just laughed. And the more I explained my ideas he laughed even louder. And when I told him that our LP had become very collectible and valuable, well, I thought I would have to pick him up off the floor… never saw Sudsy laugh hysterically before. Okay, at least I still had Gerry. But how could I tell him that I would rather he played Bass instead of lead? (I have to admit, this was my biggest blunder of trying to reform the new band). I always thought Gerry’s lead playing was less than adequate. What did I know? To me, his lead always sounded the same in each song.
My mistake was not realizing that Gerry’s lead playing was not poor. It was unique. And it was his playing style using his ‘Zonk’ fuzz box and ‘cry baby’ wah-wah pedal that gave us in that hard psych sound and finally put us into a musical genre/category. Gerry was not happy with the idea of playing bass and as expected, he quit after the first rehearsal after playing with the new drummer, John Butt and lead guitarist, Robbie California. (Robert Brockie) Well, it didn’t sound like the original band, by a longshot. And the new band, although in its earliest stages, sounded like shit. But I was determined. (That may have been another mistake). It wasn’t for the lack of musicianship from the new band. John Butt was one of my oldest and closest friends from Yorkville and high school days and was performing live in bands long before I had the nerve or ability. In my opinion, John’s band was phenomenal for their time and not appreciated. Maybe it was because they didn’t play originals but their top forty stuff sounded so much like the originals, perfected harmonies included. His rhythm guitarist was Paul Vigna, who later took the name Paul James and gained plenty of notoriety afterwards in the Canadian music scene. Robert Brockie who would play lead guitar in the new Bent Wind band was a friend of John’s. They were co-workers at the post office.
His style was opposite that of Gerry’s fuzzed out, non-stop noodeling. He played clean and very stylistic and his tastes varied from blues to reggae. After a couple of rehearsals and a couple of try-outs with other musicians, we opted for a new bass player, Bill Miller, another postie. The title of the album? Okay… This is usually how it went after someone heard I was in a band… The first line is… “What’s the name of the band?” The second line is… “Bent Wind”. The third line is… “Never heard of ‘em”. The Fourth Line Is…“You Will”.
Then there was another album…
Our 1996 release, Shadows On The Wall was a project that started one way and ended up as a totally different concept. After starting the bed tracks for some of the songs, our producer offered to add some keyboards to a couple of the tunes which would really add to the songs. We tried it and really liked what was added and before long we had instruments and vocalists that were really never part of the Bent Wind thing. We brought in friends and other musicians to be a part of the release including female backup vocalists. The album turned out great as far as production etc, but it wasn’t Bent Wind. We lost the real basement sound that we were most familiar with and after the release we realized our fans felt the same way.
What are you doing these days?
These days I don’t do much anymore in the way of playing and recording. We have the studio and the opportunity is still there but it’s not the same when you’re going to be 63… not easy to do a lot of the jumping around and screaming anymore… The screaming just comes from aches and pains now…
What keeps you going?
I’m just really happy that after so many years we have developed a following of listeners who appreciate our sound. I spend any extra time in Mexico where I did a lot of writing in the past.
Thank you for your time. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers and your fans across the globe?
Nowadays, my music tastes haven’t changed too much. I’ve reverted back to listening to groups with strong vocals and well written songs. Bands I ignored over the years are now my favorite bands… Bands like Queen and The Eagles, I can listen to them over and over. Wish I had appreciated Freddie Mercury when he was alive… he was the most amazing vocalist. And to this day, if I could have been a member of a band like The Eagles, I would have passed on Bent Wind in a heartbeat. But I was never a good vocalist or guitarist. I can admit that easily … But I do consider myself to be a decent song writer and over the past 45 years I have accumulated almost 100 original tunes. It may not be a lot of songs for the amount of time, but I wasn’t one who could just pick a topic and write… it had to come to me and sometimes it took a year between songs and sometimes I could write 3 in a month…
My bass player from The Fourth Line Is…“You Will” and partner in Psychedome Studios now plays in a band consisting of Luke Gibson, from ‘Luke And The Apostles’ and Mike Mckenna from ‘The McKenna Mendelson Mainline’. They rehearse regular in Psychedome Studios and play often around town, so the Toronto sound is still very much alive. My whole intention in music was to write songs that people would like. It really never was about the money or the fame. If it was, I would have chosen a different route. Bent Wind’s Sussex has been bootlegged and pirated numerous times around the world and although many people have capitalized on Sussex, the band itself, never made a cent. I just want to say, Thank you to all those who supported us over the years and I smoke a joint in your honour! As a matter of fact, make that two….
Marty Roth (original member) Bent Wind Aug/2011
– Klemen Breznikar