Trooper is here for a good time and a long time

It is a story that can describe a seemingly endless string of Canadian bands over the past few decades.

Band X makes a huge name for itself in its Canadian homeland while failing to achieve success below the 49th parallel. Of course, this doesn’t make a band any less worthy of the success bestowed upon them; but all too often, Canadians look to validate our country’s immeasurable talent by the success they receive outside of our borders.

Canadian classic rock band Trooper fits the above scenario to a “T.”

The band has logged more than two-dozen hits including We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time), Raise A Little Hell and The Boys In The Bright White Sportscar. Those songs, among many others are staples of classic rock radio here in Canada and are arguably seen as essential parts of our Canadian musical identity, delighting audiences from coast to coast for more than 35 years now.

Founding Trooper member and vocalist Ra Maguire attributes much of the group’s staying power to the fact that their songs continue to resonate with fans across multiple generations.

“I think that our continued success is a combination of songs that have worked their way into the Canadian consciousness and the fact that we are a really good band that people come back to see time after time,” Ra says from his home in Vancouver.

“There are bands who have effectively screwed their own career by only playing major cities but I believe we have retained a big part of our fan base because of the fact that we have consistently played for audiences everywhere.”

Trooper’s 10 studio albums, the first of which was released in 1975, have achieved nearly legendary status within Canada with the bulk of them attaining gold, platinum and multi-platinum status. In fact, their 1979 hits compilation Hot Shots moved more than 450,000 units during the first year of its release, making them the first Canadian band to achieve such a sales milestone.

Ra recalls that in the 1970s, the band was effectively releasing a new record every nine months, keeping the group in a seemingly endless cycle of recording, promoting and touring. Even though the band is no longer “trapped” in such a cycle, Ra insists that Trooper’s pace these days is equally hectic but focuses more on the live aspect of their career instead of the recording studio.

“We find the pace that we are keeping now to still be pretty intense, it is just not recording related,” he says. “Back in the ’70s, it was less about playing live shows and more about recording but now, the opposite almost holds true. We are definitely still running as fast as we can as a band.”

Seeing how Trooper’s show at Casino New Brunswick has reportedly sold out in advance, there can be little in the way of doubt of Trooper’s continued appeal.

The music business of today however is a vastly different beast than that of 30 years ago. In speaking with Maguire though, the enthusiasm for where the industry is currently at is palpable in his voice.

“I really think that we may be in the golden age of music now,” Ra says. “In my opinion, it is a supreme time for music and for having an interesting variety in music.

“What is complicating matters in my opinion is the fact that record companies and radio tend to flog the lowest common denominator in an obstructive way. I think that the good stuff will always rise to the top but with only four major labels now, each of them have five to 10 major projects that they put money behind every year so artists end up having no other route to go other than doing things for themselves.

“It is definitely a time of flux. It is tough to be part of a new band. My son is trying to make a living from playing music and it is definitely not the drill that it used to be. It used to be a tried and true road but that it not the case anymore.”

Fortunately, Trooper need not worry about starting over. The band continues to play 50 to 60 shows per year now and while this might be a drastic reduction from the pace the band kept in decades past, Ra is far from bitter about the reduced workload.

“We used to play six days on then have one day off and then we would do it all over again. But the reality of the situation now is that the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday shows just aren’t there anymore.

“There are not a lot of places in the country offering a stage on those nights of the week so over the past five to ten years, we have been running shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“Of course, the drill of touring has changed rather considerably in other ways too,” Ra says. “It seemed like not all that long ago, we would fly to Halifax and then drive for two weeks making our way throughout the country but now, we tend to fly in to the bulk of our shows.”

Article published in August 18, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript