Ottawa high school friends Ross Rheaume and David Smith first formed a duo in 1980. They relocated to Toronto where they became staples on the club scene after they took on stage names, Rheaume now going by Roman and Smith adopting the name Grey. They soon became regulars on the New York club scene as well.
Their mix of electronics, new wave and pop earned them a deal with NY-based indie label Relativity Records. With Grey assuming mainly the vocals and keyboards and Roman handling keyboards and bass, they started working with producers Brian Ainsworth and Michael McCarty. On McCarty’s recommendations, guitarist Don Zablotny (formerly of Larry Evoy’s band, who played with Edward Bear, Rendezvous, The Features) was brought in. Randy Lippai on 12 string guitar and John Lechasseur on drums were also used to finish out the recordings at Toronto’s United Media and Evolution Sound.
They released a 2-song EP in the summer of ’82. Reaction was respectable in Europe’s dance clubs to various mixes of “Look Me In The Eyes” even cracking the Top 10 on some charts, as well as “She Waits.” Ironically, the band’s success in some markets was actually by accident. “The company never meant to distribute “Look Me In The Eyes” in Italy, but apparently it was accidentally shipped there,” Smith recalled, adding while laughing, “Some DJ started playing it in clubs, and it ended up going to number one in quite a few Italian cities.”
This prompted several on-again, off-again mini tours over the next couple of years, with the backing band of Zablotny, Lechasseur (now going under the pseudo-name Jean Baptiste) and Peter Hamilton on keyboards. A second EP was released in 1984 during this time, which featured “Body Shock” and “Shakedown.” But the band found themselves without a record deal amidst accusations of non-paymnet from the label. “Food for Thought Records was the parent company out of London, and they seemed to have a hard time forwarding our money to us,” Smith remembered. To make matters worse, when the legal hassles culminated, the band was in the middle of a tour. They ended up without royalty cheques, paycheques from the road or the recordings masters, and minus their gear.
It was over the next few years the band regrouped, Along with a few outside projects, Grey and Roman wrote some new material, and reassembled the new ensemble. After meeting with Brian Allen of Rose and Toronto fame after he’d joined the Attic Records exec team, they scored a deal with the label in 1988, and headed back to the studios. Recorded at Manta Sound Studios, Terry Brown (Rush, Klaatu, Rough Trade, Max Webster, Domenic Troiano and a thousand others), was producer, with Allen assisting on the mixes.
EDGE OF THE SHADOW hit the shelves later the same year, with the lead-off “Shangri-La” and “IBU” both finding their way to various 7″ and 12″ singles, showing the band Top 10 album success in various pockets around Europe. Other noteable tracks included “Minutes To Midnight,” “Justine” and “Ain’t It A Shame,” all breathing heavy on the electronica/dance craze of the era. The band embarked on a series of dates in North America, opening for the likes of America, , , Haywire and Joe Cocker. “Shangri-La” also found its way to the “Max Headroom” soundtrack in ’89.
But before long the musical landscape was changing, and Attic dropped the group from its roster while they were on the road. Again they found themselves borrowing money to finish out the tour. Disillusioned, the members drifted off to other projects. Zablotny would go on to work with Scotty Alexander, among others. A number of their hits made their way back into the spotlight before long, as dance and disco compilations began popping up, featuring the band’s biggest hits.