Daniel Carriere of Royal Tusk
talks about their latest, Royal Tusk II
Royal Tusk is a Canadian rock band out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The band features Daniel Carriere on vocals and rhythm guitar, Quinn Cyrankiewicz on lead guitar, Sandy MacKinnon on bass, and Calen Stuckel on drums. Their sound features strong guitar riffs, memorable hooks, heavy bass and drum groove, all topped off with strong lyrics and imagery from their lead singer, Daniel.
In 2011, when Sandy MacKinnon and Daniel Carriere left Ten Second Epic, they formed this band and soon evolved from Alt Rock into their current flavorful amalgum of sound. They band initially recorded an EP in Edmonton in 2014, released by the Canadian Independent label of Hidden Pony Records; with the single, Shadow of Love getting local radio airplay. Following this, in 2016 Deal Breaker was released and the singles, Fever and Curse the Weather were popular.
Their sophomore album from 2018,Tusk II, features the single, Aftermath, which has peaked at #36 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts. Royal Tusk is currently touring the U.S. with a fervor. If you get to see them, they put on an exciting show combined with tasteful rocking songs.
I have to admit, my first time ever talking to Daniel, lead singer of the band, Royal Tusk, it was a complete riot. Let me explain:
I was to have an interview with another/different band, and wound up, unbeknownst to myself or him, talking with Dan of Royal Tusk. To be clear here, we did want to speak to this band months prior, but schedules hadn't worked out. So here is what went on:
AD: Hi, How are you, and where are you?
Dan: Hi, I am at an IHOP, eating pancakes.
AD: Cool, how are they?
Dan: Very good!
AD: Well, Tarek, it is great to speak with you.
Dan: I am not Tarek.
AD: Who is this?
Dan: This is Dan.
AD: Um, Dan? Well, I uh, hm, I am Abbe from Tru Rock Revival and I just dialed into the number
they gave me, so I have no idea why I'm speaking with you, Dan. Which band?
Dan: Royal Tusk
AD: Oh, wow! Cool, love your music. Well, wow...what to do here.
Dan: We can do this if you want.
AD: Um, thing is, I'm not prepared, so, eh, I wouldn't wanna ruin it.
Dan: OK, well, how about ahead then?
AD: Yes! We have wanted to speak to you, I'd love that!
Dan: OK, well let us know.
AD: OK, and this is SO wierd. Wow. But, hey, enjoy the pancakes, ok? Have a good tour.
Dan: Will do, talk to you guys soon!
AD: Thanks for your patience and sorry this happened. Not sure how, but hey, we will make it all work out.
Nobody ever knows how, on that day, the conference calls got mixed up. The phone number was the one in the email.
It was just one of those odd things.
Dan is wild on stage, hair flying around, lanky body jumping into the air. Yet, on this day, he is chill, his voice seems a little hoarse. He is laid back, yet intent on answering things clearly. It was great to view things through his lens.
Here is the second time I spoke with Dan from Royal Tusk:
AD: So, I like the new video of Reflection a lot, it’s kick butt, it was out when?
Dan: Reflection came out maybe 2 weeks ago.
AD: I especially like when you take off those glasses. Are you one of those guys who, when you make a point, you do that, to make a point, you take your glasses off?
Dan: (laughing) Maybe? It was more like, when we were shooting the video, we tried to just do it as a performance. I was thrashing around, and realized, "I don’t play with my glasses on," so after the first chorus, I figured I’d better pop them off or I’m gonna break em.
AD: Why? Like, you’re gonna head bang against something? (laughing)
Dan: Yah, Otherwise, their gonna fly off and I won’t be able to find them, and it would make the video that much harder, so I just popped them off. And the director liked it, he just kept it. That was cool.
AD: Yah, it looks cool, sort of like you’re a lawyer in that moment. It’s cool.
Dan: (laughing) Yah, exactly.
AD: Congratulations about Aftermath being on the Billboard charts and what is it, is it number 36 right now?
Dan: Yah, at week’s end it was 36 so that’s really fucking cool. I was totally excited about that.
AD: That’s great. I love the chorus and the lyrics. I looked up Fever off your second album, DealBreaker. I wanna say, I love the chorus on it. A pretty romantic song, have you always been a writer and when did you start to write lyrics and music?
Dan: Oh absolutely. I started on the violin, my mom’s a violinist. So, I was doing Classical and stuff. At about 9 or 10 I started finding out about Rock N roll and falling in love with it. I had an acoustic guitar and started learning Beatles songs, and Led Zeppelin, and then whatever. Punk rock was happening around then. It just never stopped. So, as soon as I could play guitar I was trying to write songs. At first they were really, really bad though.
AD: Well, but, Let me ask you this, when you were in school, were you a good writer? Does it come naturally, what do you write first, the lyrics or the music?
Dan: Oh, interesting, you mean like in English class?
AD: Exactly, because you come up with imagery in a lot of things. I enjoyed that in Fever, and I could see the writer in you.
Dan: Well, thank you.
AD: You’re welcome.
Dan: I’ve actually tried many times to write in that fashion. I don’t think I'm great at it. Like when you marry a lyric to the music, it’s the music that propels me. So, when I hear something, the writing gets easier, to be honest.
AD: So, you find that you’ll have the music idea first, generally, and then you decide, “I’m gonna throw these lyrics on it?”
Dan: Exactly, the lyrics get inspired by the music. Cause whenever I ‘ve tried to have some grand point or vision, and then write a song about that, it sounds like reverse engineering, or disingenuous, or something. Because I think your best shot at getting a lyric down, is having it come about from an inspired spot. That’s the whole point. That’s what we all believe in. We are trying to do what’s honest for us, and not overthink it.
AD: What is your fastest song?
Dan: Aftermath certainly wasn’t that. The verses came really quick, but we wrote the chorus over and over to be honest.
AD: Who is the writer? How do you guys write together?
Dan: Often I’ll get a riff or a rough lyric idea, and then bring it to the guys, and then we just work on it and flesh out the whole tune. And then I may just get the guys or two, and work on it again. Sometimes – and this is really fun- a guy will bring an awesome riff to the table or a beat, and then we will use that as a starting point.
After we have a basic arrangement down, then it’s all about fine- tuning the lyrics.
It’s crazy because, what I like to do often is, when we’re just jamming a new idea, just singing along to see whatever words come out.
AD: That’s like beat or slam poetry, it’s cool. I love that.
Dan: (laughing) Yah. Usually what happens often, I read it back and it’s like, ”Oh, that’s what this means.” And then at that point we kind of write the song, and it has a theme at that point.
AD: Nice, that’s great. I love hearing about the process. It’s so much fun.
Dan: Oh, yah.
AD: Now let me get you back to Edmonton. So what was it like growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada? What’s it like as a kid, how was it for you with music and stuff?
Dan: It’s interesting because, at first, you kind of have a chip on your shoulder cause ya know, we’re not necessarily the cultural center of the universe. You see all the bands coming out of the States. You think of the States as this incredible spot. But then when you really look, Everclear is coming out of Portland, Slipknot is coming out of Iowa. And all these places are small spots when you think about it.
AD: So maybe bands should just move to these small spots?
Dan: Sometimes I think if you move to, say, LA or NY, I’ve seen it, (at least with people I know) it only helps them start following a trend, or homogenizing to what is current, and maybe not spreading out as much as they should.
AD: Yah, it’s good to be out and find your own roots in a smaller setting, not as distracted, I hear you.
Dan: Exactly. You know, the dudes and I are similar that way, we did a lot of skateboarding, and playing guitar. You gotta keep yourself busy, you know? We all met through each winter.
AD: You introduced yourself to Sandy MacKinnan in elementary school, you guys weren’t friends, but his brothers had instruments, so you were like “Hey now.” And then you asked him to be in a band with you?
Dan: That’s exactly it. I literally went to his house.
AD: How old were you?
Dan: Oh that was really young, I only knew him through a soccer team– we played on a community soccer team together. I knew that his brothers had released a cassette, and it was like the coolest thing ever. I went over to his house and they had instruments, and I was like, “Dude, let’s start a band.” We never actually jammed at that point, that was just kids dreaming. Yet, one thing led to another and we started playing music.
AD: Then you both were in, Ten Second Epic, and you had international success with that, but what prompted you, after all that time, to say, "Let’s form another band?"
Dan: Well, the prior band was a product of our surroundings and we were happy to be there at the time. But, we all got into this cause we love to play music. But personally, when you play in a group like that, there’s a certain sound required, and it left me wanting more. I grew up playing Classical music, and I played a little Jazz guitar in college. A lot of us in this band have a wide variety of tastes as far as music goes.
AD: Can you tell me what that variety is?
Dan: Oh, totally. It’s always changing but, in the bus at any one time, you can hear, Hip Hop, Japanese Yacht Rock from the 70’s. You’ll always hear some Steely Dan, that’s always gonna happen. All sorts of shit, a lot of like really heavy metal, or progressive metal, like Mastodon. Any of those kinds of bands.
AD: When you did leave Ten Second Epic, did they resent it, or did they understand it?
Dan: Everyone was kind of going and quitting at that point. I was making other kind of music anyway, the whole time, but not releasing it.
AD: Oh, like “I’ve been cheating on you guys anyway?” (laughing)
Dan: (laughing) yah.
AD: How was it when you guys moved to NY, after a few months, only, to record right?
Dan: Oh yah, we did our first EP over there, that was a lot of fun. It was crazy. We stayed there for a month. We still all live in Edmonton.
AD: Do you have any crazy stories from that time, or anything interesting to adjusting to being over there for a month?
Dan: It was a totally an inspired time, just like anytime you record. Because, you show up, you’re really excited, and you’re making something every day in the studio. Also, there’s a lot of pressure - because you spend money to make a record. So, it’s kind of like a powder keg, you know, a lot of energy going in every direction, and you just try to focus and make something incredible.
AD: Yah, absolutely the creative process, and that must’ve been a blast. To me, what I love hearing from many bands nowadays, is how bands are doing more crossover, and can’t be just defined as one style, you’re like four styles. I think it’s great and interesting.
Dan: Thank you.
AD: You’re welcome, I love it. Someone put that you’re “Stoner Groove” and I started laughing.
AD: So, if you’re in a bar, and a girl comes up to ask you what style you are, what would you say?
Dan: I would leave it at Rock cause, talking about genres, I mean. I get it, it’s a necessary conversation, but I’d be like “Well, you should check it out on Spotify.”
AD: I hate myself for asking you, but I want to get inside of your head. I like to see how you feel you’ve evolved-how it changed. I ask it once in a while because I want to know what your band thinks they are.
Dan: I get it. It’s funny when you asked about NY. We were making more Alt Rock at that point, or Indie Rock. And, it felt like a different band, because we were still moving members. Then on the last record, it was who we have now, minus one guy, and we did more of a 70’s groove “stoner” style, as you said before. Now, on this record, it is Hard Rock. We don’t scream much, because I don’t think that makes it more energetic. We want to deliver a fuckin’ tune. But that is how I can best describe it.
AD: Do you think that DealBreaker was the beginning of exploring going harder, and that now you’re carrying that into Tusk II and are enjoying it? Is that what’s going on with you guys?
Dan: Exactly, every time we played heavier music we were having a lot of fun, so, when it was time to make Tusk II it was a pretty simple decision for us.
AD: So if a keyboardist wants to join your band, that’s not happening (laughing)
Dan: We had a keyboardist in our band, we parted amicably.
AD: Yah, I know, that’s why I’m saying it. (laughing) Do you guys still have that house you share in Englewood, or not anymore?
Dan: Oh, yes, we are still rocking in Englewood.
AD: So you share a house, and you tour, and are together that much?
Dan: Well, it’s just me and Sandy from the band.
AD: So you and Sandy aren’t sick of each other, is what you’re trying to tell me. aren’t sick of each other?
Dan: Sick of each other doesn’t even like, it’s like. I’ve known this guy for so long he’s like wallpaper.
AD: (laughing a lot) Does he know you look at him that way? Are you the couch in this scenario?
Dan: (laughing) I’d be like, “Uh-huh.” It’s actually crazy, I have known him for so long, it surprises me, but I know what the joke is gonna be, before it happens, but it still cracks me up just as much.
AD: So you’re a “band couple,” It’s like a bromance, I get it.
Dan: Yah. Yah.
AD: Listen, whose the most difficult one on the bus when you are traveling? Be honest.
Dan: Probably me.
AD: Why? Do you leave shit around?
Dan: I just bitch constantly.
AD: Why are you kvetching like that, why?
Dan: It’s just a lot of pressure. Look, in my old band I played guitar, I could get wasted. I didn’t worry about my voice so much.
AD: You have to worry about your voice.
Dan: Exactly, its definitely more challenging, you’ve gotta take care of it, you’ve gotta put on a performance.
AD: What remedy do you do if you do get sick? Do you pull back or what?
Dan: I just play through it, we literally just did that. If you cannot tell right now, my voice is kind of a mess.
AD: Sounds a bit raspy but not too bad.
Dan: I’m on the upswing now.
Dan: Since we started in 2013, we’ve cancelled two shows. One was in 2015 because of my voice, and one was the San Diego tour this year, cause I was so messed up. And that really sucks. You wanna push on, but it was getting to the point where, I was just getting worse every night. When you get sick when you travel, it’s difficult.
AD: Well, yah, everyone is in such tight quarters.
Dan: I wouldn’t care if I was just playing guitar, but when you’re singing…
AD: Right, so when you guys aren’t playing music, how do you spend your time, what do you do to break it up?
Dan: Our lead guitar player has a recording studio at home, so he is often recording or producing different bands. Our drummer, Calin, records electronic music constantly.
AD: Are you writing when you are in the bus?
Dan: In the bus we don’t do much writing, we just basically b.s for hours on end, until we have created a dialect, a different language
AD: Oh, so you guys go crazy pretty much, til your tour manager makes you go into town and take a breather?
AD: The craziest gig, where was it, how was it? If the guys were sitting here right now, what would they say was the craziest gig you ever had?
Dan: Well, I’ll give you craziest good and craziest bad.
AD: OK, good, love it.
Dan: Before we had a record label in the states, We had a main support slot at summer stock, in Milwaukee for Chevelle. So, because we didn’t have visas or anything, they were gonna pay us, but we couldn’t cross the border and get paid. So we basically deferred our payment, in order to play. I mean, we drove all the way from Edmonton to do the show. I don’t know...
AD: It’s called driven.
Dan: Yah, we had driven ourselves across the country.
Dan: It was a dope, a fuckin great show. And it was really fun and reinvigorated and inspired everybody.
As far as the craziest show in a bad way. Earlier in our career, beggars can’t be choosy-you’re getting gigs wherever. We were playing some place on the coast. We didn’t know what it was, but we show up and it was like all old people.
AD: Did they like you, or throw stuff at you?
Dan: No they were like square dancing and having fun. And then for a conservation fund raiser, and there was a guy in an owl costume came out and was dancing and were like, what are we doing?
AD: Ya get on the mic and go “Everybody dance with that wise guy?”
Dan: (laughing) Yah, exactly.
AD: When did you know, like you look out and go “holy crap, this is amazing”
Dan: well, on this octane accelerator tour, we just did Texas and Dallas last night and it’s just really cool Texas in an awesome state. We are playing Houston tonight, I’m really excited. So right now we are liking places in the states and can’t wait to get back to the Midwest. We’ve always loved it, even when we’re just driving thru. This one started in Annaheim.
AD: Have you met your idols when you’re playing?
Dan: Yah, I mean, I met little Richard in the airport one time.
AD: what did you say to him?
Dan: I just remember him, he had a very soft voice. Hand and was like, “Yah man, glad to meet you.”
Dan: The other day I met Billy Corgan in a juice bar.
AD: No way! OMG, did you talk to him?
Dan: Yah, it was like 9am. Only me and my tour manager were in there, and he walked in.
AD: What does Billy Corgan order at a juice bar at 9am? I wanna know.
Dan: Yah, I didn’t even get a photo, I was too, like uh…
AD: It was a moment.
Dan: He was really nice, he was asking about the band and everything, he’s a cool guy.
AD: Which bands have you enjoyed doing these tours with?
Dan: We had a blast with Pop Evil. Really nice dudes.
AD: Yah, they are really cool. Great. Hope we get to talk to them this year. If you could create a band of either alive or dead, a legendary band, who would it be?
Dan: Ooh, that’s so tough, I’d be so nervous to play with some of those folks. Wow, that’s a really hard question.
AD: No worry, let’s move on. BTW everybody chooses Bonham for drums. It’s a thing! (laughing)
AD: Your lyrics seem to be about relationships, imagery and your lyrics come from where? You seem to not like dishonestly (laughing).
Dan: Yah, Deal Breaker- the lyrics are a lot more like love songs, I think. Yah, you know, I’d been apart from my now girlfriend for years and years. There’s a lot of longing in those songs. We have since got together, so Deal Breaker was really a love song record about searching for someone.
AD: Is this lifestyle hard, not being around much, how many months will you be home when it’s done?
Dan: Yah, it’s very difficult and Tusk II is more aggressive lyrically, dealing with violence in the media, on TV> Powerful structure and how people are degraded and held down in society. Like, Control, the documentary about pedophiles in the Catholic church. I mean, these guys never get criminally convicted. The rich and powerful are insulated and it’s degrading to all of humanity. There is this frustration you hear in Tusk II. Calling out and saying, screw you, you have power, be responsible and do something good with it. In terms of faith, I’ not against people who are religious. But if you are dealing with peoples faith, then that is sacred, so use that power to help the people who believe in you.
AD: WE see so much that it tainted out there, unfortunately. So, will you band be involved with any causes ahead?
Dan: If we can find an effective way to support a cause, we will. We are not politicians, but we do want to kill apathy.
AD: We struggle and are divided in the U.S. People worrying about socialism, then the other side about big money controlling things, but when you guys travel around, do you ever talk to people about it?
Dan: I think our job as citizens, when we travel, when we meet people in the community, our job it so learn and understand people. Also, we don’t know everything about these things. The issue is, if we shut people off, then that is counterproductive for a healthy society.
AD: I agree. After the tour, how do you adjust when you get home?
Dan: There is a refractory period, where everything changes. Usually, I just walk the dog.
AD: Ha. Cool. Well, have a great show tonight, you guys sound amazing. I genuinely cannot wait to see you live, I love the lyrics and love the songs. And, I cannot wait to hear more music out of you guys. The album is great! Also, I hear you liked pickled food, like I do. So, if you visit So. Fla you come meet up with me, and we can just get pickled shit and sit around and eat lot of it.
Dan: Sounds like a plan, you got it. Stay cool and rock on!
AD: Thank you, Dan. Keep rocking!
Abbe Davis, Music Journalist
Tru Rock Revival Magazine
Abbe has written for Fortune 500 companies. She is the also the lead singer / songwriter for her own hard rock originals band,
Sordid Fable. Abbe’s goal is to support original music and Rock and Roll forever.