By 1992, Change Of Heart—the Toronto band that guitarist/singer Ian Blurton had fronted since he was a teenager—was firmly at the vanguard of the Canadian indie rock renaissance. Their peers, from Barenaked Ladies to Sloan, revered them, and the stage was set for the album that has come to be regarded as their masterpiece, Smile.
It was to be something different right from the beginning; a true collective project, with the core group augmented by a host of friends recording live in the studio over the space of four days. The 20-plus songs laid down were intended to push the limits of the still-new CD technology, and its interconnected lyrical themes lent the final product the aura of rock’s great double concept albums, from The Who’s Tommy to Husker Du’s Zen Arcade.
But since nothing was getting pressed on vinyl in the early ‘90s, Smile never got the treatment it deserved until earlier this year when Label Obscura released a 25th-anniversary double vinyl edition, remastered by the album’s original producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda, in tandem with Joao Carvalho.
It prompted Change Of Heart’s Smile-era line-up—Blurton, bassist Rob Taylor, keyboardist Bernard Maizza, and drummer Glenn Milchem—to reunite for a run of cross-Canada dates that culminates with two performances at the Rivoli in Toronto on Oct. 20. It’s been the perfect opportunity for anyone who missed Change Of Heart the first time around to experience one of the greatest bands ever to come from Canada, playing an album that has lost none of its beauty or power.
The new Smile reissue finally presents the album as it was meant to be heard. How much of a role did you play in putting it together?
You are correct. From the band's viewpoint, it was always meant to be a double gatefold LP so it's nice to see it appear in this format 25 years later, and for it to look and sound so good.
Original producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda oversaw the audio and remastered and re-edited the record with a little help from Joao Carvalho. Rob Taylor managed the art as he did the original album, and I just floated around helping out and as another set of eyes and ears while offering my two cents.
The album's lyrical themes are perhaps even more relevant today than they were in 1992. Do you have that in mind at all when you're performing these songs?
Pollution, corruption and other -tions are things that still exist so yeah they are relevant and easy to relate to 25 years later. I think Rob Taylor, who wrote most of the lyrics, is on par with some the greats, so it's an honour to sing them again. It is also enjoyable coming at the music with a fresh perspective as none of us have played these songs since we broke up so many years ago. We've slowly been expanding some of the parts.
The four-piece line-up currently on tour consisting of Rob, Glenn, and Bernard sounds incredible. Any chance you could record new material?
Awesome, thanks. We jammed our asses off to prepare for these shows as we didn't want to let ourselves down. I'm loving playing with Rob, Glenn, and Bernard. We recently re-recorded the last song we tried to record for the Smile sessions at 4 a.m. at the end of an 18-hour day that did not turn out well. It's called “Delivering (a pot of toxic waste to the doorsteps of the captains of industry),” and it'll be available on our Bandcamp page.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
I'd say selling t-shirts at Maple Leaf Gardens as a kid and seeing behind the scenes for the first time. I was able to check out peak Van Halen, a declining Kiss, and a dull Cars while on my breaks. Eventually getting to play there once was nothing short of amazing.
What's your best touring story?
It's not the best but one of the most memorable. I was working for Nashville Pussy at a bike rally, and after they played, I was standing side stage witnessing Jackyl do their chainsaw routine, which they were kind of famous for. The big finish was the singer riding a borrowed motorcycle off the stage.
We watched as he blew past us, missed the ramp and then went off the back of the stage and landed with the bike almost on top of him. The bike’s owner was pissed, of course, and the singer seemed to be okay until an ambulance showed up to take him away five minutes later.