Monster Truck's Jeremy Widerman on hockey, Don Cherry and his favorite NHL team
The Hamilton, Ontario-based band Monster Truck is one of the biggest groundswell stories in Canadian rock in the past decade. With numerous Top 10 Canadian Rock radio hits, a 2013 Juno Award for “Breakthrough Artist Of The Year”, a 2014 Juno nomination for “Rock Album Of The Year” and countless tours (e.g. Alice In Chains, Slash, Rob Zombie, Nickelback) under its belt, it is not surprising that Monster Truck's sophomore album Sittin’ Heavy debuted at #3 on the Top 200 Canadian SoundScan chart and featured a pair of Top 5 Canadian rock radio hits “Don’t Tell Me How To Live” and “For The People.”
But Sittin' Heavy also included the song "The Enforcer", which evolved into a major hockey anthem. "The Enforcer" got attention from legendary hockey commentator Don Cherry beyond being featured in the opening montage and second intermission of Canada's Hockey Night. "The Enforcer" would go on to be used as the goal song for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs.
The latest album by Monster Truck, True Rockers, was just released this week on September 14th. The album-opener "True Rocker" includes a cameo from Twisted Sister's Dee Snider. The group -- which includes Jon Harvey (vocals and bass), Jeremy Widerman (guitar and vocals), Brandon Bliss (organ and vocals) and Steve Kiely (drums and vocals) -- has lots of touring ahead for it, to say the least.
I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Jeremy Widerman about his history with the sports world and what is coming up for Monster Truck. More on all things Monster Truck can be found online at www.ilovemonstertruck.com.
Your music has been used by a few NHL teams. Do you have a favorite hockey team?
Jeremy Widerman: I do! Unfortunately, they -- Montreal Canadiens -- are currently a steaming pile of crushing embarrassment right now, and will be until their bum of a GM is fired. Montreal has always been my team, but the second I heard about the [P.K.] Subban trade I knew we were in for years of pain and here we are.
And a favorite NHL player?
Jeremy Widerman: My favorite player is Brenden Gallagher. He’s the same height as me, which is pretty small for a hockey player, and as most people know he plays like he’s 7 feet tall. I love him because he plays each game like I approach every show. He plays like it’s his last day on earth and it’s something I can relate to. Everyone wishes they had his heart and passion.
How did Don Cherry first find out about "The Enforcer”?
Jeremy Widerman: He heard it for the first time when it was used as the opening montage for Hockey Night in Canada. The opening airs at 6:30 PM, a full half-hour before the game so most people miss it, and I guess Grapes knows this and was really disappointed that it didn’t get more attention. He’s admittedly always been a huge critic of the music choices for the opening montage.
Anyway, I was at home the week after it aired and I was watching Coach's Corner and I had no idea he was gonna mention the band or anything. I just always watch Coach's Corner and I have ever since I was about 10 years old. So he starts talking about the montage from a week before and I started getting a little excited, and then he starts talking about how the music is usually never rocking enough and then he just goes full-blown Monster Truck love and then uses the last 2 minutes of his Coach's Corner to replay the montage.
At this point, I basically couldn’t believe it was real. I was almost in tears and just basically jumping up and down and calling everyone. It was one of the best moments of my life.
Have you ever had the pleasure of being in a room with Don Cherry?
Jeremy Widerman: It’s funny, we actually had met him at a Hamilton Bulldogs game a few months before the Hockey Night spot, but he was shaking hands with everyone and we really were just lucky to get a picture.
Was "The Enforcer" fully written with hockey in mind?
Jeremy Widerman: Yes. We had already had Calgary use “Righteous Smoke” as a goal song and we knew we were on to something with our style of music being used for hockey. So we knew we wanted to have another song like that on the next record. I sat down with Marv and basically told him I had an idea for a song and that I thought it should just straight up be about hockey.
He was reluctant because he thought it might be a little too obvious, and in a way, he’s right because sometimes you do want to leave some things to subtlety and imagination, but I just felt that for something like this we should just hit them over the head with it. Anyway, he came back the next day and had written all the core lyrics to "Enforcer" and I was overjoyed. I was certain he had nailed it and of course we ended up using it and it was the goal song for the [Toronto Maple] Leafs a year later.
Have you ever performed the national anthem at a sporting event?
Jeremy Widerman: No, we haven’t. That’s some heavy s**t. Can’t f**k that up or you’re done.
How did Monster Truck wind up sponsoring a peewee house league hockey league?
Jeremy Widerman: That was also a funny story. I had the idea that we should sponsor my cousin’s beer league team because it would be fun and hilarious. Then one day I started realizing how dumb it was to spend money on a bunch of fat 40-year-olds who play in E division and that the money would be better spent on kids.
Of course, there’s already a ton of money in most boys hockey from the families and whatnot, so we started taking applications from teams to try and find a team that really deserved it. We got about 10 legitimate stories and teams sending in their info and the girls’ team in Stoney Creek was kind of an obvious one.
Stoney Creek is my hometown and in addition to that, the money was gonna get split over the whole league so that each team would get a little bit of the money to help enter the teams in some extra tourney’s and get some extra ice time.
At the end of the day, the one tournament I went to was one of the best times I’ve ever had watching hockey as our team ended up going full Mighty Ducks mode on a team that was older and bigger and better and winning the whole thing in a shootout. I was climbing the boards and losing my mind. The only time I went that crazy for a hockey game before that was when Montreal won the cup in '93.
Did you grow up playing hockey?
Jeremy Widerman: I didn’t, actually. I wasn’t allowed to. “Too rough, too mean” -- my parents. To my parents' credit I was a pretty sick kid and had lots of hospital visits growing up just for problems I was born with -- heart surgery, kidney surgery, and others -- so I can understand their reluctance to allow me to play.
However, once I had some downtime a few years ago I decided to learn. I had skated a ton growing up and had also played lots of road hockey so I decided to try and put them together at the age of 34. It was pretty ugly at first but now 4 years in I’m actually not totally embarrassing. I run a musician shinny once a week and it’s a lot of fun.
Are there any sports you especially follow beyond hockey?
Jeremy Widerman: Nope. Don’t care. (laughs)
Career-wise, what is coming up for you within the next few months?
Jeremy Widerman: We are hitting Europe and the UK for a 5-week tour near the end of the year and we should be announcing a Canadian tour very soon.
Finally, Jeremy, any last words for the kids?
Jeremy Widerman: Keep your head up! Always try your hardest! I know it’s cliché but it’s a cliché for a reason...