It took rock's New Wave a considerable time to establish any sort of beachhead in Winnipeg. Much of the credit for s belated acceptance in this city belongs to The Fuse, the highly entertaining young quartet whose passion for playing no-frills rock 'n' roll has earned it a large and loyal following of New Wave devotees and rock 'n' roll fans like.
The Fuse's ascension to the top of the local rockpile has been accomplished in just a few short months, an impressive achievement for four young musicians with no performing experience to speak of. During its brief existence, the group as turned a number of people on to songs by such New Wave stalwarts as Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, and has sparked a resurgence of interest in the sort of hard-driving rock 'n' roll that's been absent from the Winnipeg scene for much too long.
Armed with confidence, some excellent original songs and the personal seal of approval of none other than Elvis Costello, The Fuse definitely appears to be going places, and in a hurry. The funny thing is, none of the group's members was even aware of what the New Wave was all about when the group began to take shape last year.
"When we started the band, none of us had ever heard of the New Wave," lead guitarist and singer Jeff Hatcher (Henry to his friends), said in an interview. "I've wanted to play rock 'n' roll ever since I got my first guitar. went to the bars for years hoping to hear some rock 'n' roll, and all the bands ever played was hard rock. I could never understand why there weren't any bands into playing good old greasy rock 'n' roll."
Rock 'n' roil has been Jeff's lifeblood since he got his first guitar at age 14 and Immediately set about "learning all of the Chuck Berry licks I could."
Once he got the money together to buy a second guitar, he sold the first one to his friend David Briggs. They began practising together "wherever we could find a place to set up our amps — basements, attics, garages, you name it."
Several years and hundreds of sessions later, Jeff's younger brother Paul was recruited to play drums with the two guitarists.
Bassist Johnny Loiselle joined up shortly thereafter, at which time the aspiring musicians began rehearsing in earnest.
It was nearly a year later that the group finally made its debut. The Fuse's first couple of gigs were River Heights Community Centre dances which proved to the quartet that there really was an audience for the kind of music they wanted to play.
"The response was just great, people were dancing like crazy and really getting into the music. We knew right then that we had the right idea."
It didn't take long for the word to get around. The band quickly developed a reputation as a hard-working, no-nonsense band playing the Winnipeg social and bar circuit. The clincher came on an unforgettable November night when Elvis Costello himself dropped by the St. Vital Hotel to check out the group and wound up doing an impromptu set.
"It was an unbelievable experience." Jeff said, his face lighting up at the mere mention of the Costello gig. "Everyone was telling us that Elvis would show up after his concert but we never figured it would happen. We were really amazed when he and the band showed up."
After listening to The Fuse's second set, Costello along with drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Bruce Thomas of his band The Attractions started running through a bunch of songs they wanted to do.
"It was just sort of understood that they would do a set. Elvis wanted to do some stuff he hadn't played at the Playhouse show and wanted an extra guitar player for 'Heart Of The City'. Naturally, I volunteered."
What followed was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for both Jeff and several hundred fans as Costello took the stage for a wildly received four-song set which has already earned The Fuse Canada-wide media attention.
After the performance, The Fuse's manager Steve Warden spent several hours conversing with the King of the New Wave. "Both Elvis and Bruce (Thomas) thought the group was one of the best they've heard outside of England," Steve said. "They're both interested in doing a recording session with the band, although nothing definite has been set. They have such a busy recording and touring schedule that it's hard to say when they'll have the time to work with us."
It's easy to understand Costello's interest in The Fuse. The group's youthful enthusiasm shines through everything it plays, from covers of rock 'n' roll classics by The Who, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones to its promising original songs.
Onstage, the band is all business, playing the music it knows and loves. It's real rock 'n' roll, stripped right down to the essentials and complete with the short, concise solos and ringing dual guitars which keep people coming back for more.
The group's own songs constitute ab increasingly large part of its repertoire. It plays more than a dozen songs co-written by Jeff and David Briggs, who doubles on guitar and keyboards.
"We have a lot of confidence in our songs," Jeff said, pausing to light another Rothman's. "At most gigs, our stuff gets as much response as the old songs, which has been very encouraging."
The Fuse has taken its show on the road for the first time -- a 10-day tour Saskatchewan. It will be back in time to play a social here on New Year's Eve before beginning preparations for more dates in Western Canada.
There is a good chance the group will record an extended play early in the new year to tide over those fans already anxious to hear The Fuse's songs vinyl, "We plan to go into the studio sometime in January to get an idea what it's like to record," Jeff said. "I'd like to release a four-song EP if things work out OK."