“Take this home and listen to it.”
The request was made by my boss who really wasn’t my boss as I was an unpaid intern.
Leaving the label’s office, I studied the sleeve of the cassette.
It was five-song demo, some band named I Mother Earth.
I popped it into my Walkman and listened on the forty-five minute trek to the record store where I was working a closing shift until midnight.
It was tribal.
It was percussive.
It was riff-heavy rock that was aggressive, trippy, melodic, funky, psychedelic, hypnotic and “oh so sonic.”
I had just begun to have the opportunity to hear demos and most I couldn’t truly hear, but this one was obvious.
I heard Jane’s Addiction, The Doors, and Santana.
I was completely and totally smitten.
The next day, my buddy asked if I’d listened to the tape and – as much as an unpaid intern could make demands – I demanded we sign the band.
It was not to be.
He explained that he’d gotten the demo from a friend at Capitol, the label that had won a bidding wore between several major labels for I Mother Earth.
(who, if I recall, had only played a dozen shows and none outside of the quartet’s home in Toronto)
For the next eighteen months I pestered our Capitol rep on his weekly visit to our record store for news on I Mother Earth and when their debut release would arrive.
Finally, two years after I’d taken that demo home, Dig was released and, from the opening notes, it proved to have been worth the wait.
Not long after Dig‘s release, the band came through town for a show and the label rep took me to lunch with the band. For a band that had been so seriously courted by the major labels, the foursome were surprisingly down to earth and polite.
(hell, for any band, they were down to earth and polite)
I still remember Bruce, the bassist who looked like he was sixteen, asking the rep if he enjoyed shepherding bands around on promotional visits.
“Well, right now it’s great,” he replied. “The album is finally out and you’ve just started the tour, but, in six months or so, you’ll come back through town.”
“And?” one of them asked.
“Either the record will be massive and you’ll be assholes or, the record will have missed, you’ll blame the label – and me – and be assholes.”
(Tom, the rep was a good guy and a straight shooter)
I went to the show that night at the club which was packed to capacity and the band delivered what is still possibly the most ferocious live set that I’ve ever witnessed.
Afterwards, I hung out with the band in their dressing room, drinking free beer and knowing that I would boast years later of hanging with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.
Six months or so later, I Mother Earth did come through town again.
The album had – at least in the States – been summarily ignored.
(in their native Canada, Dig spawned several hits, gone platinum, and won a Juno)
Oh, it got a bit of attention, but the label, possessing the wisdom that could only come from middle-aged, white guys in suits, had inexplicably pushed the band as a metal act at the height of the grunge era and sentenced them to obscurity.
(well done, Capitol, well done)
I don’t know if the band had become assholes. I bumped into Edwin, the lead singer, and had a brief conversation with him.
He seemed stressed.
When the follow-up to Dig was released, it was issued in January, 1996. I knew that if the label was putting the album out in January there was no intention of promoting it.
Scenery And Fish was undeservedly headed for the cut-out bins by summer, though it was even more successful than the debut in Canada, going double platinum and scoring the band another Juno nomination.
By the time the ensuing tour ended, it was announced that Edwin was leaving I Mother Earth.
I Mother Earth put out two more albums with a new lead singer that weren’t even released south of the border and I didn’t care enough to seek them out as imports.
I had fallen hard for the band that afternoon twenty years ago when I first listened to that demo, the raw music of a band that I knew would be mammoth.
I was disappointed that the world had missed out.
It was not to be.
Here are four songs from I Mother Earth…
I Mother Earth – Not Quite Sonic
from Dig (1993)
If I recall, Not Quite Sonic was the first song on the I Mother Earth demo and the opening – slightly reminiscent of the opening to Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Welcome To The Jungle – drew me in.
And, if I recall, I rewound the tape and listened to Not Quite Sonic again before moving on to the next song.
I Mother Earth – Rain Will Fall
from Dig (1993)
I don’t believe the hyperkinetic Rain Will Fall was on the demo, so I didn’t hear it until Dig was released and, then, it quickly became a favorite.
I Mother Earth – Levitate (acoustic)
from So Gently We Go single (1993)
The version of Levitate which appeared on Dig rumbled along with a heaviness that belied its title. The stripped-down, acoustic take on the song was an interesting change of perspective and accentuated the psychedelic vibe of its lyrics.
I Mother Earth – One More Astronaut
from Scenery And Fish (1996)
Though Scenery And Fish wasn’t quite as impressive as the band’s debut, it still deserved a far better fate than it received (at least here in the States).
The surging One More Astronaut took the vantage point of the titular protagonist, a working man isolated in space lamenting the boredom and isolation, “the powdered food and piss bags.”