Toronto’s Slik Toxik formed from the ashes of Virgin Angel in the late ’80s. After toiling on the scene for a few years (which included a name change to Portrait), frontman Nick Walsh, guitarists Kevin Gale and Rob Bruce, Frank Currell on bass, and drummer Alex Munro decided to start fresh again.
They changed their name again and Slik Toxik was born, but Currell and Munro were soon out, and Dave Mercel and Neal Busby were in. They continued on the bar circuit around southern Ontario and built up a loyal following, but it wasn’t long before Mercel was replaced on bass by Pat Howarth, ex of Cardinal Sin. They were eventually signed to a management deal by John Boyles, whose first order of business was to get the band into the studio to record a three-song demo tape with Scorpions, Marianne Faithful, and Hawkwind producer, Bob Potter.
It led to a deal with Capitol Records in ’91, who issued the four-track EP, SMOOTH AND DEADLY, later that year. The only song from the demo tape that made the cut was the song “Rachel’s Breathing,” and although the single “Big Fucking Deal” got no airplay for obvious reasons, the label execs were encouraged, and sent them back to the studios later that year.
The result was DOIN’ THE NASTY, released the following spring. The singles “Helluvatime,” “By The Fireside,” “White Lies, Black Truth” (re-worked from the original demo tape) and “Sweet Asylum” all got decent airplay on the FM rock stations, turning the album gold and placing it at a respectable #61 on the Canadian albums chart. It fuelled a North American tour that saw the band open for Black Sabbath, Kim Mitchell, Faster Pussycat, and Yngwie Malmsteen. They were also part of the Canada Day celebrations at Molson Park in Barrie, Ontario, playing on the bill with Spinal Tap and 54-40. They ended up winning the Juno for Best Rock Album of the Year in ’93, and the video for “Helluvatime” (one of four done for the album) also picked up a couple of pieces of hardware at the 1993 MuchMusicVideo Awards.
The band was also the last act to play at one of Toronto’s most popular bars ever, The Gas Works, prior to it closing, and headlined their own series of dates with Big House and Sven Gali, while working on material for a new record. But the rock & roll lifestyle and excessiveness that all too often presents itself along with it started to get the better of the band. During the ’94 Juno celebrations, Howarth stole a limousine, and ended up totalling it. In an effort to save face from the bad press the band was getting, as well as the trouble with EMI that ensued, he was replaced by new bassist Adam Headland. Howarth went on to join Brave New World, then got out of the industry all together.
They returned with IRRELEVANT in 1994, but when the label wanted to move them to one of its smaller sister labels, they instead left EMI and released it on the independent Strawberry Records instead. Attempting to keep up with the quickly changing times in heavy metal, considered several producers to find the right sound. They settled on Glenn Robinson (The Tea Party, Voivod among others).
But by this point EMI reps had all but lost faith in the band, and vice versa. Despite the slick production on tracks like the lead off “Twenty Something,” “I Wanna Gun,” and “Liquid Clam,” the times were changing – and neither the fans nor the critics got it, and the band quietly disbanded by the end of the year.
Everyone wound up staying in the business in a variety of groups over the years. Walsh and Bruce ended up forming Raised On Mars, releasing one album in ’96. From there, Walsh formed Revolver, releasing a pair of albums prior to morphing into Famous Underground. Gale meanwhile joined the group Punishment, releasing a 4 song EP, then spent some time in Infract, then CORE. Busby spent some time in the thrash metal band Solus, releasing three albums, then was hired in the mid ’00s to fill in for an ailing Jerry Mercer for April Wine‘s tours. Along with authoring a drum instruction book called “The Ultimate Guide To Rock Drums,” he’s also scored a number of songs in various b-flicks and Canadian television productions over the years.