The Music in
In Toronto, during the mid 1970s, several local musicians formed a progressive rock group called Act III. One member of the group was Rik Emmett, who left that band to join the band,Triumph. This led to the breakup of Act III. Other members formed Zon. Emmett says that one of the songs he performed with Act III was "The Blinding Light Show", a tune which he later recorded with Triumph.
Later, Emmett left Triumph in 1988 to pursue a solo career. His first solo album, ABSOLUTELY, was released in 1990 and became a moderate hit across the United States and Canada, thanks to the hits "When a Heart Breaks," "Big Lie" and "Saved by Love." He is also a writer for Guitar Player magazine, and teaches songwriting and music business at Humber College in Toronto. For a time during the 1980s, Emmett contributed cartoons to Hit Parade magazine, satirizing the music industry.
Due to a production error by Gil Moore and Mike Levine on Triumph's first album, Emmett changed the spelling of his first name to "Rik" rather than have the album recalled or cause confusion with fans.
Although he is best known as a rock guitarist, his playing style incorporates Rock, Blues,Jazz, Classical, Bluegrass, and Flamenco techniques. Similarly, his songwriting and discography demonstrate his ability to employ and blend multiple genres. In April 2005, he won the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Guitarist of the Year.
Emmett is also a proficient singer, splitting lead vocal duties of Triumph with Gil Moore. However, most of the songs garnering radio play were those of Emmett as he tended to write and sing in a more commercial style, while Moore's songwriting and singing were in a heavier Metal style. Emmett's voice also has a noticeable resemblance to Geddy Lee (of RUSH), leading to the band's sound itself often being compared to RUSH.
In 2007, Emmett joined former Triumph bandmates Gil Moore and Mike Levine for their induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. On Sunday April 6, 2008 at The 2008 JUNO Awards, Triumph was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). As a result of positive audience response to their dual guitar work in live shows, Emmett and guitarist Dave Dunlop formed the duo Strung-Out Troubadours. In 2007, they won 'Album of the Year' and 'Group/Duo of the Year' at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, where they were the most heavily nominated act. Both were also nominated for 'Best Guitarist.' Emmett's 2018 tour with Dunlop may prove to be his last, citing an interest in retirement, or at least an extended break.
As of January 2019, Emmett is on hiatus from touring.
By Kreig Marks, May 2023
KM: Hi Rik. Thanks for taking some time to speak with me. You've got a lot of fans here in the United States and I'm sure they'll be thrilled to hear from you.
RE: Thanks Kreig. It's nice to speak with you, as well.
KM: Let's get this thing going. In 2019, you decided you had enough of touring and since then you've devoted a lot of time to writing and recording and production. Do you miss touring?
RE: I don't miss the constant hustle, the preparation, the traveling. Don't get me wrong, I've been fortunate in this lifetime. I've had the opportunity to travel to many countries and to see a lot of the world; things that most people don't get to experience. So in that capacity, I'm very fortunate. If I wasn't in this profession, I'd probably never have had the opportunity to see and experience what I have. There are times I miss it, I won't lie. But, I'm not getting any younger. You know, we're only given a certain number of days to be in this life and I want to enjoy as many years as I have left with family and friends. I'm still writing and recording, and I'll do some shows now and then with Dave. (Dave Dunlop, singer/songwriter/guitarist and good friend of Rik's).
KM: I've seen a lot of video of you and Dave performing. You both look like you're really having a blast when you are performing.
RE: We are. It's a lot of fun to be up on the stage, doing songs in a different style, a different format. Everything is obviously dialed down because it's just the two of us, not a huge production like it was with Triumph.
KM: I was going to leave this question until the end but I'll ask now. There were some rumors that before the whole COVID pandemic, there would be a Triumph Reunion of some sort, maybe a one-off, maybe a few shows, maybe a tour. Is that the truth?
RE: You know, there was some talk, but I think that's really all it was. Gil (Gil Moore, drummer for Triumph) isn't into it. He was into us doing a few one-off's a few years back to promote our Greatest Hits re-issue and the documentary, Rock n Roll Machine. And, that's fine. You know, we had our time, we did our thing, we put out a lot of albums, did a lot of shows, tours. But, that was then. Now, my projects are small and I'm having a good time doing what I'm doing.
KM: So, we can finally put the Triumph Reunion Tour to rest?
RE: Yeah, I think so.
KM: Do you keep in touch with Gil and Mike (Mike Levine, bassist and keyboardist for Triumph)
RE: We talk on occasion. They've got their things going. I've got mine. But we still talk on occasion. There's a long history between the three of us. We're all still friends but our goals are different now, and there's nothing wrong with that.
KM: Let's take a step way back for a minute. You started playing guitar when you were about 14 or 15?
RE: Yeah, that's about right. I tried other things, different sports, but I tore my knee up pretty bad in high school, and knew from that moment that I wasn't going to be a professional athlete. I wasn't the biggest kid on the team by any means. LOL. I loved music and the guitar called out to me. It was definitely a lot safer than hockey or some other sports. LOL.
KM: Ha. Who were you listening to as a kid? Who were some of your idols or influences?
RE: I didn't really idolize anyone but I listened to the Beatles like all the other kids my age. I really loved Clapton, the Yardbirds, Richie Blackmore. Then, once I heard Hendrix and saw what he was doing, I started getting away from just strumming chords and began learning my way around the entire neck of the guitar and working on my vocal skills. I learned that there was a lot more to the guitar than just strumming chords.
KM: no doubt. Listening to your songs now, your new songs, there seems to be a more blues and jazz direction. Have you always been a fan of jazz and the blues?
RE: Oh most definitely. Jazz and Blues are the basis, the backbone for all Rock music.
KM: So now, the shows you and Dave do, it's definitely a different atmosphere from the big stadium shows you've done in the past with Triumph.
RE: Yeah, it's definitely a different environment for sure. We're not playing to 10,000 people. It's more intimate but we have a lot of fun with it. It's kinda like the old MTV Story Teller type thing. Dave's an extremely talented musician and has a great sense of humor and we not only play to the audience, at times we're playing with them, if you get that. It's a lot of fun. It's not boring.
KM: Yeah, I get what you're saying. I'm not saying it looks boring. It's just that some of your fans who go to see this show may not realize it's not going to be a "Triumph" show but a more laid back show, with more of a living room feel to it. Do you think a lot of the people going to this show are or were expecting more of a high energy rock show?
RE: I don't think so. I've been doing this a while now and most of the people who knew Triumph and had attended a Triumph concert probably know that the shows I do with Dave are not Triumph, even though we do some Triumph songs, 'Hold On', 'Magic Power' and 'Lay it on the Line.' And, since we don't go out and do 50, 60 or 100 shows like I used to do with Gil and Steve, it doesn't get boring.
KM: When you were performing with Triumph, it was boring?
RE: Well, let me explain that. When you're on the road as much as we were, doing the same songs night after night, knowing how the show was going to go even before you hit the stage, because we'd done it so many times, sometimes I'd be up there doing my thing and I'm there, I'm playing the songs, singing, interacting with Gil and Steve and the fans. But, sometimes, even though I'm doing my thing, my job, my mind would be somewhere else. I'd be singing "Magic Power" or one of the other songs, knowing all the chords, the notes, the words, and I'm there doing it, but I might be thinking about what I'm going to have for dinner after the show, or wondering if I put the Do Not Disturb card on my door at the hotel we are staying at. LOL.
KM: LOL! So, let me get this straight, you're on stage, loud music, loud audience, pyrotechnics, the works. You're there doing your thing, not missing a note, not missing a word, but you're wondering if the maid is going to go into your hotel room and clean up your stuff?
RE: Yeah, something like that. LOL. Happens all the time. Well, not so much now but back then, yeah, happened all the time. Not just with me but Gil and Steve would have the same thoughts. Not necessarily about the hotel thing but other things on their minds. I know a lot of other people in the industry who would say the same thing. With you, I know that you're also quite the fitness trainer and kinesiologist. That's a big word man! Kineeeeeeesiollllllogist! I like that. I actually had to look that one up. But, in your other profession, away from Tru Rock, I dare you to tell me that your mind has never wandered while you're working with a client. And, you've probably done this for such a long time and at such a high level that you could work with your client, and at the same time, go over your grocery list in your head and your client would never know the difference.
KM: Guilty! LOL!!
RE: See what I mean? It's not that I'm up there doing my thing and I'm bored and I'm not saying that what you do is boring to you, but, man, you and I are professionals with what we do and it's gonna happen from time to time. And, if we're good enough at what we do, no one will ever know what's really going on in our heads as long as we don't mess up! LOL
KM: So true, really. So, where does Rik Emmett go from here? Family life. You and Jeannette Ann have now been married close to 50 years!
RE: Uh, yeah. Well, not yet but, yeah, getting close. Almost 47 years now.
KM: That's amazing. How have both of you managed to balance a marriage and the Rock 'n Roll lifestyle?
RE: Lots of love, communication, respect and we try to keep things fun and fresh. It takes work like anything in life that's worthwhile. Smartest thing I've ever done in my life was marrying this woman.
KM: Good to hear that, very cool. Now, I have to ask ya this, do you still have the Gibson SG Double neck?
RE: Oh yeah. That's the only double I've got these days. But, yeah, I've got it. Don't play it that much these days but it's here and not going anywhere.
KM: Do you ever get nostalgic and go through YouTube and check out some of the Triumph videos from back in the day?
RE: Uh, not really. Well, I did when we were putting together the documentary, but it's not something I really do.
KM: What stands out as one of the most memorable performances you've done?
RE: Without a doubt, the US Festival. I've never seen so many people in my life, all crammed into one stadium. And, being on the same ticket with all those other amazing bands: Van Halen, Ozzy, Judas Priest, Scorpions, well, it was a thrill.
KM: What a Festival! Wow! Proudest moment in your musical career?
RE: When we (Gil and Steve and I) were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. That was a huge honor.
KM: No doubt, I'm sure. What's next?
RE: Well, I'm always writing, always looking for new things to do. I will definitely do some shows in the future with Dave. I'm finished with the tours though. A few shows here and there is always fun. I enjoy the freedom now, being able to spend quality time with my wife and family, and catch up with friends.
KM: So, we shouldn't hold our breath for a Triumph reunion?
RE: No, don't do that. I don't want you to pass out.
KM: LOL! Rik, this has been very cool. Thank you for the time and good luck on all your new adventures.
RE: Thanks, Kreig. This has been cool.
Photos courtesy of RikEmmett.com
Kreig Marks, Publisher / Founder TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and promoting musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.