Brothers Rick and Mark Santers grew up with music in the house, both playing a number of different roles in a variety of groups through school. They decided in 1980 to form their own band. While Rick had by this time already gained a reputation as one of Toronto’s hottest young guitarists, Mark was enjoying similar notoriety as a drummer. They recruited bassist Rick Lazaroff after placing an ad in a local newspaper. The three quickly became one of the hottest commodities on the scene, touring extensively for the next year and a half throughout Ontario, Quebec and the East-Central US. They found time to record demos of some songs Rick had written and entered “Time After Time” in a local radio station contest, and was featured on their compilation album later that year.
They were signed to Ready Records in 1981, releasing their debut SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES that summer. A tribute to Bon Scott, the album was 8 originals (including “Time After Time”) and a cover of the Ac/Dc classic. Backed by the success of the first single and the video for “You Turn Me On”, Santers quickly saw their stock rise and the debut climb the charts. Their stripped-down ‘melody-metal’ found particular success in small pockets across Europe – one of rock’s most lucrative markets, including France, Spain and The Netherlands. The band began a rugged schedule touring the majority of Canada and the US for the next year.
Following a short break the band found themselves back at Toronto’s Phase One Studios working on the next album. What got released was MAYDAY, in essence nothing more than just enough to wet the public’s appetite. Released in the spring of ’82, the 5 track-EP contained 3 live tracks (2 re-workings from the debut) and 2 new songs, including the single “Mistreatin’ Heart” – a heavily-charged keyboards-oriented rock number. The band hit the road again, hooking up with some of rock’s biggest road shows, including Ozzy Osbourne and Scorpions. The tour ended and after another short break, the band finished with the recording they’d stopped earlier that year, as well as working on material written while on tour. They brought in famed producer Jack Richardson (most noteable for his work with The Guess Who).
RACING TIME was in the stores in time for the Xmas rush. Along with appearances by “Mistreatin’ Heart” and “Still I Am” – the 2 studio tracks from MAYDAY, it featured some of the year’s best pop-metal, including “Winter Freeze”, the first single, the title-track and driving beat of “A Dog Without A Home” and “Mystical Eyes”. Distribution expanded to include more of Europe, Australia and the Orient. Another tour ensued including dates with Golden EarRing and Johnny Winter, and saw the band become hot property in Texas and overseas when they toured England.
Rik Emmett from Triumph took over the reigns as producer for the next album. GUITAR ALLEY hit the streets in the summer of ’84. As one would expect, the helping-hand from one of rock’s greatest axemen weighed heavily on the sound of the record. Their cover of Free’s “All Right Now” became the first single and their biggest – cracking The Top 40 in Canada, the US and several European countries. Other heavy-hitters like “Hotline”, “Hate To Love You” and the moody “Black Magic” all helped cement Santers as one of the more talented units on the rock scene, proving they had substance and weren’t just image – as so many of their American counterparts seemed to be. They found themselves on the road again, backing up some of the day’s biggest names in rock, including Blue Oyster Cult, Ratt, Accept and Mama’s Boys.
After a brief rest period, the band found themselves in Toronto’s Dandelion Studios by the summer of ’86. Brian Allen – founder of Toronto and producer of Lee Aaron and Haywire fame was brought in to assist Rick in production of some material he’d written during the last tour. But before the final sessions were done, Rick was approached by Triumph to come on tour with them, this time as an ‘extra hand’ to the trio. What was supposed to be a short North American tour doing guitars and a few keyboards turned into a 4 year gig. The time with them also led to Rick contributing to both Triumph’s SPORT OF KINGS and SURVEILLANCE lp’s. Following the departure of Rik Emmett, Triumph‘s 10th (and ultimately last) studio album EDGE OF EXCESS in ’92 featured Santers and Phil X as full-fledged members. But a year later Moore and Levine had decided to disband to pursue other projects.
But his time away from his own band only helped demand for the product grow. A 2 CD set was released in Germany, one of the band’s hotbeds – FIRST SHOT and SECOND SHOT. Back home in Toronto Rick was now free to devote more time to personal interests. He found himself taking unused material from the last few years into Dandelion Studios. His first solo disc, REVITALIZE was released in ’96 and instantly was met with rave reviews. The lead single “Do You Remember Me”, personified a rejuvenated Santers. “The Dream”, “Not Gonna Die”, “Celebration” and “Break Down The Walls” all signify a more mature style of writing as well, shifting from an outspoken to a more ‘personal’ level.
In 1999 the ultimate Santers collection was issued – a 4 CD boxset which included the first 3 releases, as well as the unreleased fourth album and several additional tracks previously unavailable. The fourth disc, entitled TOP SECRECY did see the light of day later that year as a solo disc, the same time all their material was enjoying a revitalized interest in the Orient and in Europe. 2000 also saw the release of COLD FUSION – a 14-track ‘best of’ collection which nicely packages up one of Canada’s most innovative and under-rated hard rock acts.