Arts News

Rock school’s not out for the summer

WHO'S NEXT? Canadian School of Rock frontman Brian Hotton channels his inner Pete Townshend.

In a crowded Leaside Starbucks buzzing with urbanites and bohemian wannabes, Brian Hotton stands out like Gene Simmons at an opera recital.

His long locks pulled back in a ponytail, and a faded leather jacket à la Johnny Ramone, Hotton looks like rock and roll incarnate.

It’s no wonder he wants to start his own Canadian School of Rock to teach kids Pete Townshend’s trademark windmill or John (Bonzo) Bonham’s powerful drumming style — he wants to snare kids’ attention and awaken their musicians within.

Young rockers who want to play like Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen have to be prepared for a little blood, sweat and tears, Hotton said.

“It’s not your video game (Guitar Hero),” he said. “All the glamour can be there, but you’re going to have to work for it.”

In discussing discipline and dedication, Hotton flashed back to New Brunswick circa 1975.

His band, Soldier Blue, was snowed in for three weeks while on tour Down East, he recalled. Concerts filled the nights, but with empty days, cabin fever was increasing its tempo.

Hotton’s remedy — his guitar, Yes album Fragile, and the music for “Mood For A Day”, Yes guitarist Steve Howe’s opus.

“So I spent … five, six, eight hours a day for about three weeks and when I came out of (New Brunswick), I played that song in my sleep,” he said. “To this day, it is the only song I can close my eyes, look away, and … pretty much hit it 90 to 95 percent of the time, because I drilled it so far into me.

“That song saved my life.”

His desire to open the school was sparked by his kids and their friends, Hotton said. Just hearing the banging on the drums and the guitar gently weeping struck a chord inside him.

“I noticed after eight, nine or 10 minutes they were starting to make a little bit of sense,” he said. “I’m going: ‘Wait a minute. If it only took this kid 10 minutes to make sense of something they’ve never played before, … if I can get (them) in rooms and start to give them proper instruction, then they can really carry on.’

“They’ll realize they’re making musical sense and go, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this too.’ ”

Hotton said he’s looking forward to a Rockstar Summer Camp and welcoming — with a little help from his friends — his School of Rock freshman class in the fall at Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave.

And, he said, he is optimistic everyone can share in the mystique that surrounds the rock and roll genre.

“Here you are walking with your guitar, that feels pretty cool,” he said. “You feel pretty good about that, and hey, didn’t that chick just check you out because of your guitar?

“It’s possible. These things can happen.”

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