IF The Harpoonist hadn't loved the taste of Jamaican Pizza Jerk, he may have never met the Axe Murderer.
Satiated by curry goat and the diced broccoli slices offered by the Commercial Drive pizzeria, singer and harmonica player Shawn Hall pledged to help the restaurant.
"I don't know why he wanted to do this, but he loves Jamaican food and he walked into the restaurant and said, 'I'm going to record a jingle for you guys,'" Matthew Rogers remembers. "I think he was trying to break his way into the jingle business."
The proprietors were befuddled but Hall took his appetite and enthusiasm into a recording studio anyway.
The jingle needed a reggae guitar and as luck would have it, Rogers got the call.
Over four or five years, the two played in several bands before deciding to start their own blues duo, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.
The group is currently preparing for an Aug. 26 show in Squamish.
Taking their name from the Kris Kristofferson song (harpoonist for Hall's harmonica and axe murderer for Rogers' guitar), the duo are attempting to give a voice to their own experience while carrying on the tradition of the heavy riffs and sex-steeped soul at the core of the bluesbased rock of the last halfcentury.
With similar musical tastes, Rogers and Hall became friends collaborating on numerous projects. Rogers added bass lines to Corduroy Kid, Hall's electro-soul group, and they each ended up in a band with Rogers' brother.
In one of their more ignominious moments, the duo took a studio job dictating a Spanish language computer manual.
"It was probably the most horrible gig that either of us had done. I speak a tiny bit of Spanish and Shawn speaks no Spanish," Rogers says.
After recording the instructions and surviving, it was clear the two musicians got along.
"Personality-wise, we knew that it would work," Rogers says.
Asked how he knew Hall was someone he could be in a band with and not want to strangle, Rogers laughs.
"Sometimes I do want to strangle him, but he's just a very kind-hearted, giving person. We're probably two of the most opposite people you could find. I'm very ordered, I'm the one who keeps things on time . . . Shawn's very notstructured but he has a very intuitive feel about what he does."
The group is bonded by the differences in their musical tastes.
"Having him as a musical friend opened up my world to all these artists I hadn't listened to," Rogers says, detailing Hall's love for funk and soul music. "We bonded over just hearing things that the other hadn't heard."
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer is currently touring in support of their third album, Checkered Past.
"In particular Shawn, but myself as well, had gone through some tough times in our past," Rogers says, talking about the breakups and addiction that weave their way through the album. "We had a really positive, good drive up to Banff and we kind of decided, 'Those are things that are being left behind for us.'"
Musically, the album is slightly more polished than their previous work.
"We wanted to spend a bit more time producing it," Rogers says. "We felt we had some cross-over potential to be a blues band that is on radio. We spent a lot of time listening to old blues stuff but we also listened to a lot of the guys who are bringing the blues back like The Black Keys and The White Stripes."
Their music has been favourably compared to those bands, but the duo's sound is fuller and heavier than many of their contemporaries. The group also produces a groove that makes some songs, like album-closer "Burning Bridges," sound faster than they are.
The Led Zeppelin style is readily apparent in their sound, and by default the band owes a great debt to American blues songwriter Willie Dixon.
"Led Zeppelin IV was the first tape I ever bought and that was a huge influence for me that really sparked the creative energy and caused me to really want to start playing music in general," Rogers explains. "I grew up listening to a lot of my parents' records, just because I had no money and that's what was around. So a lot of old blues recordings like B.B. Kings, and Albert King, all the Kings."
Dixon provided songs for Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Etta James, and a myriad of artists who were drawn to the power and humour of his version of Chicago blues.
"Someone at our last show, was like, 'Hey, I was watching your set. Great set, but I realized you guys played like six Willie Dixon songs in a row,'" Rogers says.
Checkered Past includes the group's cover of "Mellow Down Easy," a blues track made famous by Little Walter and written by Dixon.
The muscular blues sound inspires the physical nature of the group's live performances.
"I've developed a whole new set of muscles in my legs that I didn't think I had. . . . We occasionally need to play three sets a night and we just feel battered, but I think that's also what we like about it is the physical aspect. We can't go into any show halfassed."
Talking about the show, Rogers is fairly removed from the wildness of their concerts.
"Right now Shawn's playing badminton with his one-and-a-half-year-old. My family's still asleep. I'm just drinking coffee chatting with you," he says.
With Rogers and Hall raising young children, recording has become a little complicated.
"Finding the time where it's just Shawn and I together able to work on tunes has been a bit of a challenge," Rogers says. "Hopefully, within the next year we'll be recording again."
Discussing the band's summer tour with the North Shore News, Rogers says each interview invariably begins with an explanation of the name. The violence of their sobriquet can sometimes be misleading, attracting a few young men in black T-shirts looking for a sound worthy of headbanging. But whatever the reasons for coming to the concert, Rogers is happy to win people over to their sound.
"We haven't had any metalheads come to our show that have left disappointed," he says, discussing the group's energy and drive. "I think that's what's been resonating with people, too, is that we're just two people just giving it as much as we can."
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