ik Emmett is unquestionably one of Canada’s greatest musical gifts. Born in Toronto in 1953, he took his first guitar lesson at age 12. His diverse playing styles of today could have been predicted in his childhood, with a wide array of influences, including The Beatles, Zeppelin, and Jimi, as well as blues, jazz, flamenco and classical.
Rik’s early love for jazz prompted him to enroll in Humber College’s program in ’73, only to drop out the same year. It was shortly thereafter that he joined the group Justin Paige. Less than a year later he left to form Act 3. After calling it quits with that trio the same year, he formed Triumph with Gil Moore (ex-Shearman & Peabody with Moxy‘s Buzz Shearman & Fludd / Goddo / Carpet Frogs mainman Greg Godovitz) and Mike Levine. In 1976 the three would record the first of nine studio records together in and would go on to become icons of Canadian rock, penning the classics “Hold On”, “Magic Power”, “Never Surrender”, “Rock and Roll Machine”and “Lay It On The Line”, as well as ’77’s cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way”.
Rik left Triumph to venture into solo waters in September of ’88. ABSOLUTELY was released in the spring of 1990. Backed by the tender single, “When A Heart Breaks”, it showcased his strong pop sensibility. From the uptempo lead off track “Drive Time” and “Big Lie” to the collaberation with Graham Shaw, “Smart Fast and Lucky”, if there was a doubt about his ability to survive outside Triumph, it was quickly put to rest. Rik was rewarded for his incredible debut when ABSOLUTELY was certified gold. Also noteable were the haunting solos in “The Way That You Love Me” and sheer power of “Stand and Deliver”.
IPSO FACTO hit the shelves in ’92 and grabbed you by the walls from the opening riffs of “Straight Up” . Followed by the equally powerful “Bang On” and “Rainbow Man”, one of his most electrifying tracks to date. Again he displayed his incredible diversity with the light melodies of “Let Love Conquer All” and “Heaven In Your Heart”. Ever expanding his sound, the horns and harmonies in “Dig A Little Deeper” shows why he’s one of Canada’s greatest writers of tight, listener-friendly pop. With something for everyone, both AM and FM stations ate up IPSO FACTO, pushing it gold.
His next release wouldn’t be until ’95, with SPIRAL NOTEBOOK. With the lead-off “Anything You Say”, a laid-back, well thought-out progression of pop rock is set. Backed by “Let Me Be The One” and “The Longing”, SN was one of the year’s better, but perhaps not fully respected albums of the year. Trends and fads come and go in music. And in an age when program directors found it hard to play consistently good music by known artists, Rik was bucking the trend, cranking out hit after killer track. The peak of the album may have been “Let Me Be The One” reaching number one in adult contemporaryradio. Other noteable cuts included “The Pendulum”, “The Hardest Part” and “Silent Revolutions”, again showcasing his incredible dexterity, handling different guitar styles with equal precision and grace.
He followed up with TEN INVITATIONS FROM THE MISTRESSES OF MR. E in early ’97. With flamenco and classical influences, INVITATIONS isnothing short of an instrumental masterpiece. Praised by guitarists the planet-over, the sheer brilliance of tracks like”Acadian Dance”, “Angelina’s Smile”, and “A Whisper Away” also appeal to the masses who can’t play “Smoke On The Water” the same way twice. Also on the record was the Spanish-flavoured “El Cuento del Gadjo” and “Ascending in St. Anne’s”, a reminiscence of a Toronto church, which featured Rik’s 14 year-old daughter Shannon on keyboards.
Rik showcased his true love for jazz flavours in ’97 with SWING SHIFT, released later that same year and is an incredible collection that runs the gamut of his jazz and swing influences. Included are the uptempo “Mr Bebop”, “Way Cool” and the slickly laid-out jazz instrumental “Three Clouds Across The Mountain”. THE GUITAR TRILOGY was completed in ’99 when Rik released the eagerly-anticipated RAW QUARTET. A stripped down but well crafted piece, tracks like “Crazy Woman”, “Come Clean” and “Navajo Sunrise” dig deep into his blues roots, while “Hogtown Rag” proudly displays his down-home love for what he affectionately believes is the center of the universe.
Aside from music, Rik Emmett is an accomplished cartoonist, with his famed ‘Rocktoons’ featured in Hit Parader magazine during the early 80’s, while also contributing to Guitar Player magazinemonthly, giving advice and laying out techniques to all who aspired to make it in the biz, or just better their skills. Rik also finds time to be a family man with four kids and coach little league as well. On top of that, he holds a seat on the Board of SOCAN. And though still touring, just less often, his true passion are the intimate shows put on as part of his ‘Grass Roots Tour’. In 2000, his live intimacy with his crowds was captured forthe LIVE AT BERKLEE concert earlier that year. Personal interaction with the crowd through the guitar as only Rik can provide was shown in a collection of his solo acoustic material.
He released 2 discs in 2002. THE BEST OF is part of Universal’s ’20th Century Masters Collection’ and nicely packages up Rik’s solo career, along with great live acoustic versions of “Hold On”, “Suitcase Blues”, Lay It On The Line” and “Middle Ground”. Shortly there after saw the issuing of his seventh studio album on his own, yet again displaying why he’s considered one of the best in the business. His diverse stylings make their way into every facet of the 11 tracks, uptempo moody grooves, latin sensations and jazz rhythms.
In a world where practically anyone but me can get a recording contract, it’s a testament to anyone who’s enjoyed as much success, and garnered as much international respect as Rik Emmett has. Whether solo or as part of Triumph, countless gold and platinum records usually speak for themselves, but that’s to only tell one side of the story. It takes a true star to be the type of role model, professionally and personally that he is, inspiring musicians across the world, and just simply giving alot of pleasure to even more casual listening fans.
Rock fans had a dream come true when years of speculation came to fruition in 2007, when Emmett reunited with his Triumph mates for a series of festivals in Europe. Following the successful reunion, the members again drifted off again to do their own things.
- With notes from Spud … Rick Wharton IS The Conspiracy Guy
PRESS RELEASE: June, 2002
Rik Emmett’s career has always been about pushing limitations and exploring the many facets of his own creative personality. He may be best remembered as Triumph’s dynamic front man whose explosive guitar solos and stirring vocals left a trail of adoring fans around the world. But now, with two new CD’s released this week, Rik Emmett clearly demonstrates the extraordinary breadth of his talent and the eclectic and evolving nature of his artistic pursuits.
Handiwork (Open House/EMI) is an instrumental smooth-jazz compilation comprised of 11 original compositions. Rik’s vision for this CD was simply a musical exploration of some of his favourite genres, with a nod to many of the jazz guitar legends whom he holds in high esteem. The result is a captivating album that draws you in through a mosaic of styles, from bouncy Latin rhythms, to some tongue-and-cheek bluegrass, and inevitably seduces the listener with emotionally charged, haunting melodies.
In direct juxtaposition to this newly recorded material is a brand new compilation housed in Universal Music’s 20th Century Master’s Collection. The Best of Rik Emmett is designed as a road map of Rik’s musical career. This must-have CD features live recordings from his 2000-2001 solo tour, as well as tracks taken from his first three solo albums recorded for Duke Street/MCA Records. It ends with three newly recorded, acoustic versions of some classic tunes from his late ’70’s Triumph days.
With the release of these two unique and complementary CD’s, Rik once again demonstrates that his musical capabilities are far-reaching, and continue to exceed expectations. Rik carries this sense of exploration and honesty into the day-to-day operations of his own record label, Open House. Open House’s marketing is based on a direct contact with Rik Emmett fans. It was one of the first independent music labels to embrace the sale of catalogue material in the MP3 format through their state-of-the-art web site www.rikemmett.com. This innovative web-site also allows fans to contact Rik to request concerts in their towns and to submit questions which he answers via email on the Member’s Forum, or during his live shows.
With over 25 years of music and performing behind him, Rik has many stories to tell. Whether he is asked about his editorial contributions to Guitar Player Magazine; his illustrations, the “Rocktoons”; his vast guitar collection; or his Humber College students, you will always get a straight answer. And, if you’re looking to see a real twinkle in his eye, ask Rik about his passion for baseball and the satisfaction he finds as a volunteer coach for his community’s youth baseball league.
Rik Emmett currently serves as Vice-President of the Songwriters Association of Canada. He has produced For the Love of Guitar, a 4-volume guitar instruction series and a collection of traditional Christmas carols. In 1993 Rik was honored with an induction into Q107’s Canadian Rock Hall of Fame and has won numerous awards for his impressive body of work. Rik lives in Ontario with his wife of 26 years and their 4 children.
PRESS RELEASE: July 24, 2003
With an impressive 22 CD’s to his credit, and an active live touring schedule, Canadian guitarist Rik Emmett shows no signs of slowing down. He is counted amongst the world’s finest guitarists, and has performed alongside legendary performers such as George Benson, Randy Bachman, Ed Bickert and Steve Vai. He continues to surprise critics and fans with his vast musical expression, which runs the gamut from rock to jazz to classical to folk, and will begin 2003 with an encore performance as the featured soloist with London Ontario’s Symphony Orchestra.
Rik’s musical career began in his hometown Toronto at the tender age of 12. A left-handed guitarist, Rik’s early training fortunately adopted the right-handed positioning taught through mainstream lessons (for less than a year!). Propelled by his innate instincts and passion for the craft, Rik spent many hours a day on his own, pouring through guitar theory books, and playing along to recordings by many of his favourite artists.
His dedication soon earned him a highly sought-after spot in Humber College’s newborn jazz program. In 1973, Rik joined his first pro recording band, JUSTIN PAIGE, a local glam-rock group with a steady live concert schedule. He continued to hone his craft with other progressive rock groups, until the summer of 1975, when he co-founded the hard-rock trio TRIUMPH. During their 13 year stint, Triumph enjoyed an international reputation as one of the premier touring rock acts. They recorded a total of 12 albums, each hitting or exceeding Gold status both in Canada and the United States – four of which earned platinum status in Canada.
With countless awards and accolades to his credit, in September of 1988 Rik began a highly successful solo career which to date has produced 10 albums. His first 3 solo albums were recorded for the Duke Street/MCA label, and are featured on the recently released BEST OF RIK EMMETT compilation housed in Universal Music’s 20th Century Masters Collection. Seeking the freedom to explore his eclectic musical sensibilities, Rik ventured out on an uncharted course, establishing an independent recording label. OPEN HOUSE Records was founded in 1996 and is the vehicle for productions recorded in Rik’s digital studio facility, THE REC ROOM. Open House’s marketing is based on a direct contact with Rik Emmett fans. It was also one of the first independent music labels to embrace the sale of catalogue material in the MP3 format through Rik’s state-of-the-art web site.
The first recordings from Open House took the form of a guitar trilogy, released between 1997 and 1999. INVITATIONS FROM THE MISTRESS OF MR. E., a compilation of instrumental classical pieces; SWING SHIFT a series of jazz, swing and fusion recordings; and Rik’s tribute to blues rock, RAW QUARTET, were hailed by critics. SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS (which features keyboardist Sam Reid) and LIVE AT BERKLEE were released in late 1999 and early 2000 respectively. Rik’s most recent offering, and perhaps his best work to date, is an instrumental smooth-jazz album entitled HANDIWORK. John Beaudin, of Smooth Jazz Canada sees Handiwork as “Easily the best instrumental album this year
” and goes on to say that it is simply “
too good to be ignored”.
Rik’s impressive body of creative work is not limited to his musical endeavours. He is noted for his 12 year stint as a columnist for Guitar Player Magazine, while his Rocktoons were a regular cartoon feature in Hit Parader in the early ’80’s. He has produced FOR THE LOVE OF GUITAR, a 4-volume guitar instruction series, and has recently compiled an amusing collection of lyrics, prose, poems and musings in an engaging book entitled BRIC-A-BRAC.
Through it all Rik maintains his balance through a steadfast dedication to his family and to his community. He has returned to Humber College to teach a Music Business course, enjoys a 16-year relationship with Yamaha as an endorsing clinician, and as a Vice President of the Songwriters Association of Canada Rik works diligently to pave the way for fellow singer/songwriters both in Canada and abroad. He is also serious about his baseball. Rik volunteers in his community’s youth baseball league, coaching at the minor bantam (14 year olds) level. In July 2002 Rik and his wife will celebrate 26 years of marriage, and are the proud parents of 4 teenage children.