Not to be confused with the electronic or the hip hop groups with the same name later, the roots of Toronto’s Hanover Fist reach back to 1982, when singer Frank Zirone’s band, Zero One, fell apart after one tour. “One of the reasons for the band’s failure to thrive was that we were just too POP for the live concert venues. With that in mind I set sights on a new and heavier project. Subsequently I completed about half a dozen very heavy songs and started a band called Z (pronounced Zee) to try the songs live,” Zirone explained.
David Bluestein, a prominent booking agent, was impressed enough with Z that he put them out as an opening act for Goddo, where the band’s heavier sound was an instant hit with the headbanging audiences. But when Z fell apart due to conflicting opinions on direction, Zirone continued to write and demo songs with the mind to build the heaviest band to ever come out of Canada. In the process of putting this project together, he auditioned, among others, guitarists Derry Grehan, ex of Steve Blimkie & The Reason and later co-founder of Honeymoon Suite, and Paul Butler from the Ottawa band, Butler.
“Paul wrote “The Maze,” which I felt was perfect for my new project. Unfortunately Paul had been beaten severely by the business and wasn’t up to another round. In the process of recording those demos with Gord Paton (the drummer from Zero-One), I got a call from Stacy Heydon. In fact, Tony Patosha (bassist from Zee) had been to see Stacy, pushing his songs and looking for a ‘deal’. As Stacy explained to me, Tony had said, “Don’t pay attention to the singer, we’re going to get someone better. Just listen to the songs.” Stacy responded, “Fuck the songs! Who’s that singer?” I turned Stacy down several times before they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Zirone said.
He spent the next four months writing in a studio called Track One in Scarborough, and after about 18 songs, Heydon started the cattle call for auditions, with each audition being recorded. Among those trying out for the roles were the likes of Gary McCraken from Max Webster and Lee Aaron‘s guitarist, Bert Bartoletti. “George and Bert were both good guitarists and good friends, although George was exceptional, but it appeared that they came exclusively as a pair. This changed later with some external pressure from Stacy on George,” Zirone said.
They came up with their name from a character in the “Heavy Metal” movie. But not long after production had begun in 1983, things were put on hold when Zirone and bassist Chris Brockway (ex of Rhinegold and Wrabit) were involved in an auto collision on the Don Valley Highway after a late night of recordings. The vehicle that hit them was stolen, and Zirone and Brockway chased down the perpetrators and caught them. But Zirone’s injuries from the incident delayed work on the album for several months. With additional work at Metalworks Studio (Triumph‘s Mike Levine’s studio) and Eel Pie Studio in Surrey, England (Pete Townsend’s studio), the final mixes were eventually done and it was now time to shop around for a label.
Although MCA was on the long list of companies initially not interested, their tune changed when Eddie Van Halen stumbled across the band’s tape. “He’d already been contracted to do the soundtrack for the movie “The Wild Life” (starring Christopher Penn) and was at MCA offices one day and experienced car problems. He borrowed the car of one of the execs in the office to go about his routine, and our album happened to be in the cassette player in the car. I guess the exec was giving it some play and deciding what to do with it and when to release it. Well, fortunately, Eddie pushed in the cassette and gave it a whirl. When he returned to bring back the car, he was buzzing about the album and wanted to know all about the band and if he could use “Metal of the Night” for the movie as part of his soundtrack,” Brockway explained.
This in turn sped up interest from MCA’s execs, and the band was signed in the summer of ’83. Their self-titled debut album was on the store shelves a few months later, with “Metal of the Night” as the lead single. Several versions of the song had been recorded, and one of the extended ones that didn’t make the album’s cut became the b-side, around the same time the video was getting decent airplay on both MuchMusic and on MTV. During the making of the video, Zirone was still visibily impaired in his neck movements, still suffering from the auto collision.
Produced by Heydon, the record itself was a slick package of melodic metal that featured several parts played by those who were auditioning for the original lineup, as well as some studio friends who came in later on, including drummers Danny Bilan from The White and Kim Hunt (ex of Island, Bond, Zon, Urgent) and his ex-Urgent bandmate Doug Baynham on bg vocals, and guitarist Dave Aplin.
But before a touring version of the group had been assembled, MCA decided to re-package the album in the summer of ’85. The band’s name was shortened to Hanover, and the record was re-released as HUNGRY EYES. Along with a different track sequence, “Don’t Let It Stop” and “Should Be Rocking” were cut, and a cover of Bryan Adams‘ “Fits Ya Good” became the single.
Aplin was now touring with Kid Wikkid (featuring Sebastian Bach prior to him joining Skid Row), then became a session player. Hunt and Brockway were on the Europan leg of a tour with Lee Aaron, then formed a short-lived project called Mach IV. Hunt then joined Moxy, and Brockway became a highly sought after studio player, and recorded the ABSOLUTELY album with Rik Emmett, then joined him on his US tour.
“I played on everything from the CFL Football theme, to every second album that came out of Phase One Recording Studios up until it closed, as well as Platinum Blonde, Kevin Connelly – just about everyone who was getting new deals or getting out of their old ones,” Brockway said. He then studied Jazz at Humber College, and after that worked as an audio tech for the CBC National News for awhile.
By this time Warren Toll was added on bass and Buffalo, NY native Mike Terrana was the new drummer. They set out on the road for four months in ’85, opening for Saxon on the North American portion of their world tour. But when MCA opted not to release another album, the band members quietly went their separate ways. Zirone resurrected a touring version of the band with some friends for a series of dates in the US, but nothing more came of it at the time.
Terrana went on to join Kuni for a couple of years, then hooked up with Bernhardt to form Beau Nasty. When that project fell apart, Bernhardt joined Rick Springfield’s touring entourage. Terrana meanwhile became a hired gun for several groups over the years, including Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Lukather after moving to LA. He then moved to The Netherlands, then Germany, working with the likes of Gamma Ray, Rage, Axel Rudi Pell, Masterplan, and ex-Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen’s band. He later moved to Tuscany, Italy and formed a solo project called Symphonia, playing rock renditions of Mozart and Beethoven. He’s also released instructional DVDs on foot technique and has a signature series of drums.