By Paul Sambla
From the dark, secret practice room in the basement of a Scarborough dry-cleaning store, singer Richard Sabsay unveils the modest dreams he has for his hard-rock band, TANJ.
“We don’t have any delusions of grandeur. We do not expect to be a bunch of Mick Jaggers. We just want to make a reasonable living at it. Say, fill a room like Massey Hall in any North American city and a few of the major European ones.”
For the time being, TANJ will have to keep gearing up for their CD release party this Friday. Feb. 7, at the Opera House. With three four-hour practices a week, dedication is a frequent words on the lips of Sabsay and the rest of the band, Dan Dineen, Jeff Reader and drummer Mark Bell, a first-year social work student at Ryerson.
“When I first joined the band I thought it was a very aggressive, pushy band. Not a threatening thing…” Bell says, trying to explain the band, “more of a slap in the head,” bassist Dineen finishes the thought.
“We’ve gotten harder,” lead guitarist Reader pipes up. But this band if very much led by Sabsay, an articulate David Lee Roth doppelganger. When describing the new album, Wax Figures of Louis Wu — names after a literary figure and an incident when the bored band had no drummer at a practice — Sabsay becomes animated.
“The first album was politically angry, this one is more emotionally angry. I find that the best things to write about are the things that make people the angriest.”
Sabsay seems like a melancholic guy. Hey Rich, what’s your job?
“I write music for commercials.”
You’re a jingle writer.
“Yeah. But I have it in my contract that I don’t have to work on anything that’s degrading or that I find offensive.”
While his writing Swiss Chalet and Orange Crush commercials was formulaic, the heavy, grinding guitar sound for TANJ (an acronym for There Ain’t No Justice) revolves around Reaser’s soloing and Sabsay’s own power chords. Some of TANJ’s edge might come from the fact that Reader is an honest-to-goodness postal worker. “Disgruntled postal worker,” Reader says.
Despite a nine-month layoff from “frequently infrequent” live shows, TANJ is used to the independent music business. Their video “Reclaim” from their first album was played on MuchMusic, MTV and even a European music television channel.
“Toronto is a miserable market, because when you get right down to it, there are very few rock clubs. We wanted to make our club dates as good as w could, so we thought we’d make a good album and wait until everything is really, really together.”
Now, with the recent addition of Bell to the group, everything is in place. The ongoing Spinal Tap joke about drummers being the most expendable members of a group (see Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.) holds true with TANJ. In their two years of existence, they’ve had four drummers. One left because of substance abuse, one became a TV producer and another one was “eaten by wolves while fishing on Lake Simcoe.” For Bell, TANJ is part of a hectic schedule that includes full-time classes and working in a Native substance-abuse center. He’s played in all sorts of groups, from doing AC/DC covers to First Nations drumming to a ‘60s English R&B ensemble. This time he thinks he’s found a home.
“This band is really motivated and they’re great guys. It works well around my schedule and the thing is, you have to work with people who you like working with.”
See you guys at Massey Hall.