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Sunday Old School: "The Exalted" Piledriver

Take yourself back in time almost three decades - the year was 1985, only a scant couple of years after a few record labels were issuing independent metal stateside. The commercial bands were starting to get upstaged by these new groups that had this harder and heavier sound. This little known band Thrust put out this song "Posers Will Die" which became sort of a mantra for the new movement. Listeners wanted an alternative to commercial metal, and along comes this album "Metal Inquisition" by a Canadian band named Piledriver. The album cover alone was enough to have you laughing your ass off. The vocalist was this giant dude with spikes, leather and bondage gear plastered all over his body. He was wielding a v-neck guitar like a jackhammer into some young metalhead kid's skull. But what was truly classic was the actual record itself, which contained a track listing of songs that held up to the test of time and are still listened to today. It was the perfect combination of a thrashing power metal sound.

At least seven of those tunes got airplay all over the college radio waves, especially the title track. Everybody was singing along to the lyrics "If you're not a metalhead you might as well be dead" in that song, as well as the immensely popular "Sex With Satan" (later covered by Marduk) and "Sodomize the Dead." Later two of those songs and titles got changed due to censorship on some of the import copies, but by then everyone had the real copy. The funny song titles, lyrics and the impressive and powerful pipes that mammoth singer Pile Driver possessed struck the right chord in the underground. Even Piledriver's second release "Stay Ugly," although plagued by the dreaded sophomore curse, did pretty well. "Flowers of Evil" was a supremely sinister and underrated track, and although the band's guitar sound appeared to have changed a bit frontman Pile Driver was in his prime. On the cover he was in full regalia, ready the slash the throat of some poser in a frilly shirt.

Almost twenty years went by without any news from Piledriver. Trends came and went, and some groups spanned their whole careers during this period. By 2004 we were starting to hear rumors of Piledriver regrouping, but it took a few more years to get word from Pile himself. Finally, he started the interview circuit and revealed to the fans what a strange trip it had been. He then warned everyone to sit down, brace themselves and have a drink. It turns out Piledriver had never been an actual band, but his concept. Good friend Leslie Howe thought it would be a good idea to capitalize on the thrash metal movement that was getting big, so the idea of the band was born. When they started, it was Pile and a few session musicians. He'd been in all kinds of bands around Ottawa from Fist to Convict, and decided to do this project in an eight track studio for fun. He despised hair bands and created his Pile Driver persona to pay homage to some of his most devious and shocking favorites - Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa. What started as a fun project for a 23-year old wanting to be famous actually turned into a darn good couple of records.

Pile Driver's real name is Gord Kirchin, and he had wanted to create an actual group to tour with. But, he found it incredibly difficult to locate musicians who didn't mind playing second fiddle to him and assuming stage names and costumes. Now it was all starting to make perfect sense - no wonder you only saw Pile and a cloud of smoke on the debut album. And no wonder "Stay Ugly" had a distinctly different sound to it. The guitarists on that album were none other than Dave DeFeis and Eddie Pursino of Virgin Steele. Piledriver was about to put out a third album, "Shock," with Gord Kirchin completely embracing the idea of creating an actual line-up. Suddenly though, the label dry humped the cash cow. It informed Kirchin that he'd be getting no budget to make a new album nor would they be distributing the first two. (The label even allegedly went so far as to keep all the money the fans sent in for t-shirts and musical catalogue). So Kirchin pretty much called it a day and renamed the band Dogs With Jobs along with his studio musicians. It wouldn't be the only band he played in during this interim, as he even consorted with Brian Greenway's (April Wine) cover band in Montreal.

Kirchin hated the business end of the recording industry, so he settled into anonymity and a regular job wiring TV and radio stations all over Canada. He never lost his zeal to perform, though. When he got a home PC back in the mid-nineties, he was astonished to see the support and fan base Piledriver still had. That was his epiphany to resurrect the band. He knew the two Piledriver records had sold a half million copies, even though he never saw a dime of it. Since too many bands all over the world were using the moniker Piledriver, Gord decided to rename the band Exalted Piledriver (undoubtedly from that lyric "I am the exalted, the one and only Piledriver..." from the debut). See, Pile Driver still had alot to give. He's a true personality - an imposing frontman who, in his own words, every day sees "more fodder for that hate cannon in my mouth" that he can sing about.

He's a showman in need of a troupe, so he got together a band this time. It took quite a bit, but he found three guys - guitarist Mark "Kinky Pork Cream" Kopernicky, bassist Robert "Lobo Elf Schnort" Tollefson and finally a real drummer (and not a drum machine) Kerry "Glace Frothfitter" Keough. They did not mind being the road dogs in the new Exalted Piledriver pony show. Embarking on the 2007 Auf Grosser Fahrt tour, they played a couple of European festivals and finally released that "comeback" album, "Metal Manifesto," in 2008. With such poignantly titled songs as "Unsuck My Cock" and "Last Day of the Weak," this album was fantastic. It actually lived up to the impossible, lofty expectations put on it. That killer sound was back in spades. The problem is, not too many people heard it. It didn't get the publicity it deserved and got lost in the enormous and fragmented scene we now have.

Pile Driver and the band performed at the HOA festival in 2009 and any doubts someone might have about him fronting a band were erased. Despite turning fifty last month and hearing him lament that he's getting older and out of shape, he still has it. He's the menacing, charismatic frontman who shakes his ass in tight leather pants and wears that same crazy headgear, which he says is uncomfortable as hell. He only has that one costume, since it cost alot to create it. (He has vowed in the future to retire the costume and give the Pile Driver character a more up to date look.) Except for the really high notes, when you hear his voice it is as if time stood still. Pile Driver and his "reanimated dead musicians" were still on a mission to deliver over the top, crude metal that is anti-disco, country and rap. They released a live one, "Night of the Unpolished Turd," last year on the Canadian label Sick Fuck Records, despite a couple of the musicians tendering their resignation to Ol' Piley right after that Headbanger's Open Air Tour. Gord got another backing line-up together and plays several shows every month, including the Quebec Metal Fest 10 a couple of months ago and the most recent one at the end of October in Toronto. Here's hoping he gets good label backing and a decent series of tours to get some of that elusive recognition back. If anyone deserves it, Piledriver does. Gord paid three grand out of his own money to finance that 2009 tour, so if they ever come near you, make sure to show the exalted one how revered he is.

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Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.

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1 Comment on "Sunday Old School: Piledriver"

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1. CROMCarl writes:

Acknowledgement of GREATNESS!!! Thanks Vicky!

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