Volume 93, Issue 41
Thursday, November 11, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Kilt pulling threads from Celtic music fabric
Gazette file photo
SOMETIMES, WHEN WE GET NERVOUS, WE STICK OUR HANDS IN OUR ARMPITS AND SMELL THEM. Future superstars Kilt are destined to be over their bout of stage fright in time for an appearance at The Spoke on Friday.
By Aaron Wherry
Tony Ronalds, lead vocalist for Kilt, has the tough job of having to regularly combat harmful stereotypes and clear up misconceptions about his band.
"There's a fiddle in it, so people think [we're] Celtic," he says. "And whenever people think East Coast, they think Celtic. I'd describe us as progressive folk."
Ronalds is quick to dispel vicious rumours by setting his band apart from the Celtic music which runs rampant in his native Halifax. Kilt has a unique fun-loving personality which should make them immediately distinct from their East Coast counterparts.
"Every band has a different structure. A Kilt show is about music and having a good time," he says. "We'll play a KISS song or a Michael Jackson song and then break into two-step. People are forced to like us because we're good."
This spirit can be attributed to the same East Coast music scene Ronalds now distances himself from. "It comes from the way you were brought up. You were brought up with music and there's also the isolation," he explains. "There's no malls, the nearest movie theatre is a half-hour away and it only has one screen, so music becomes a big form of entertainment.
"Entertainment is part of the reputation of the East Coast you come here to be entertained. And everyone here wants to entertain and wants to outdo each other."
Although he traces his musical roots to his heritage, Ronalds is quick to acknowledge he was anything but a fan of the customary fiddle-laden Celtic music. "I hated fiddle music growing up," he smiles. "[Kilt fiddler] Bonny Jean MacDonald was the first one I actually listened to and had to admit I liked."
Ronalds remains unimpressed with record labels and the music business. Unlike many fame-hungry musicians, he seems perfectly content without the financial support of a big money contract. "We do this purely because we like to do it. There's been interest [from major labels], but we tell them they can distribute for us, but we won't change our music," he says. "They're all about the bottom line and if you can be happy doing what you're doing, there's no reason to change."
It would appear audiences are just as happy with Kilt as Ronalds seems to be. To illustrate this point, he recounts tales of packed houses from Halifax to Calgary. "The music scene takes care of itself. The biggest export from the East Coast is people. So wherever you go, you have a built-in audience," he explains.
His favourite story comes from a show in Ottawa, where a packed bar ran out of beer before 10 p.m.. "We [East Coasters] may have problems, but we don't hide them," Ronalds laughs.
And these boisterous audiences seem to have inspired Ronalds to push for innovative live shows. Ignoring all stereotypes and prejudices, Ronalds seeks to break down musical barriers.
"I'd love to bring a DJ in with scratching in the background, maybe an electric guitar or distortion on the fiddle. We'll entertain whoever's there. We'll have Celtic songs or pyros or sacrifices whatever it takes."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999