In the art community, there is never a valid reason to recreate a masterpiece; originals have no equal, and interpretations are at best mere forgeries that can never measure up to the artist’s initial creative vision. Bottom line – no one wants to see Rembrandt’s Mona Lisa or Picasso’s Blue Nude re-imagined in used motor oil by artist David Maculso* (*see for vague artist reference).
In the rock community, there’s an entirely different view on artistic interpretation. If there weren’t, people would think Bob Dylan and not Jimi Hendrix when they hear “All Along the Watchtower,” or Eddie Cochrane and not The Who when “Summertime Blues” comes rocking out of a speaker. Which brings us to One in the Chamber Music, an album of newly interpreted Headstones covers recently released by four unlikely artists: Hugh Dillon, Trent Carr, Tim White and Dale Harrison….a.k.a. Headstones.
One of the most commercially-successful bands to emerge from Canada’s fertile ‘90s music scene, Headstones were anything but commercial. Forming in Kingston in 1987, Headstones were all teeth and tissue, rage and fury, an incomparable live juggernaut fueling the on-stage anarchy of singer Hugh Dillon. Grinding out songs that tackled everything from suicide to necrophilia, Dillon and company were edgy, raw and pure – inspired punk-influenced guitar-rock in an era oozing in depressing grunge. So how did the band known for spitting on its audience and annual Labour Day shows at Front 54 wind up delivering an album featuring 12 of their most beloved songs (and two new tracks) reimagined with mandolins, banjitars, glockenspiels and accordions?
“The whole thing came about as a result of our first PledgeMusic project,” says bassist Tim White, in reference to the album Love and Fury, their 2013 reunion project funded solely by fans via the on-line direct-to-fan music platform. “We offered up a private acoustic show for 20 people. Someone bought it, so we had to do it. We did 15 tunes; it was really cool and a fun night. People who attended said we should do that live, so we did.”

The band, which surprised fans by reuniting in 2011 after unceremoniously parting ways in 2003, hit the studio in Toronto, giving the acoustic treatment to 50 classic Headstones tracks to see what worked and what didn’t. “We wound up playing a lot of instruments we have never played before,” Tim fondly remembers. “Songs started taking on a life of their own. It was a really cool way to do it.”
Despite his often under-looked role in developing the meaty guitar hooks that define Headstones sound, guitarist Trent Carr says it wasn’t really much of a stretch to reinterpret the band’s classics.
“A lot of Headstones songs start off acoustically,” says Trent, who now calls Niagara his home. “So the idea of adding a mandolin wasn’t really a stretch. We were kind of rewriting them from the ground up, asking ‘how else could we do this, how can we switch the delivery, what instrumentation would work here.’ We didn’t put any rules or restrictions on ourselves.”
Of the 14 tracks on the album, Trent says “Three Angels” was “the song that wound up the closest to how we had originally wanted to record it.” On the other hand, the new rockabilly-infused take on the fan favourite “Cemetery” took some long consideration before the band agreed to finally include it.
“We really didn’t like the way it was sounding,” remembers Tim. “At one point, there was this Dick Dale (American surf rock guitarist) sound that I found on bass, but we still weren’t sure about it. Then we had a listening party for some of the tracks, and this one guy freaked out about the song. We just thought ‘maybe he’s onto something.’”
Headstones fans will be pleased to know that tracks like “Smile and Wave,” “Cubically Contained,” “When Something Stands for Nothing” and “Pinned You Down” lose none of their snarl given the more acoustic treatment of songs on One in the Chamber Music. If anything, the CD confirms Dillon’s strength and versatility as a rock vocalist – perhaps the benefit of less strenuous demands on his voice since turning to acting and starring in the hit television series Flashpoint.
One In The Chamber Music is the second project the band has funded using the PledgeMusic Model, a platform that facilitates musicians reaching out to their fanbase to pre-sell, market and distribute music projects. They join such PledgeMusic alumni as Weezer, Sevenfold, Dweezil Zappa, Buzzcocks and Tokyo Police Club in successfully developing recording projects. It’s a great crowd-sourcing model that Trent recommends as a viable way to get a record out, especially after Universal Music picked up the CD for distribution.
“We were completely prepared to do it all on our own,” says Carr. “But we truly had a great response. People pledged some very cool items. We got enough to write, record, mix and master the project. It was cool to have that kind of support from fans.” Tim wasn’t surprised when their previous record label quickly picked up the release upon its completion. “We were always the favourite band at (Universal),” said White, who spent his years away from his bandmates recording music for television, playing with Wilcox, getting married and raising his son. “We were one of the first bands signed directly to the label. And during that era, with signings like Our Lady Peace and I Mother Earth, we because a favourite of the company. We developed a great relationship with Universal. We were kind of their secret weapon.”
With the release of One in the Chamber Music, Trent knows the inevitable demand from loyal Niagara fans will be to see Headstones cocked and loaded for a summer tour. “Living in Niagara now, I meet people all the time who recognize me and their story is always the same: ‘I saw you live at Front 54.’ There’s some talk, but nothing planned yet.”