Windsor Salt (Revisited)

Posted: March 22, 2012 by Windsor Zene in Band/Artist, Profiles

After a record-breaking-warm winter it’s pretty hard to tell where the winter is ending and the spring is beginning. Salt of the Chief Cornerstone has recently returned to Rose City from the City of Angels and they seem to have brought the golden Californian Sun back home with them. This season starts now. This spring warmly welcomes the band Salt of the Chief Cornerstone back to Windsor.

            Salt of the Chief Cornerstone is a well-balanced experimental two-man progressive rock powerhouse band, with no vocals and no bass guitar, but more sound than a band of ten men, five times the size of the two of them. Hearing the technical guitar riffs and intricate drumbeats is like listening to your favorite song on your iPod at full volume, while experiencing turbulence during a flight landing at LAX, in a seat between a crying baby-holding mother and a man who’s cell phone won’t stop ringing, and the pilot has decided to air every radio station between Detroit and L.A. at the same time over the intercom. Only somehow they orchestrate this cacophony into a fine-tuned symphonic composition. If I had to describe the sound in one word: Loud.

The bands two members, Brandon (guitar) and Iven (drums), met in New York City, at Times Square on New Years Eve, 2002-2003, although coincidentally they both had their roots planted in Windsor, Ontario. And little did they know it at the time but this little happenstance at such a memorable time and place was to mark the start of a hard and sobering journey together to the center of all young aspiring musicians dreams.

Rewind back to my first year of high school when I initially met Iven in ninth grade music class. Although it might as well have been math class because even at that time this thirteen-year-old Middle Eastern percussionist prodigy was already timing beats to his music mathematically. Music was his language; his mother tongue. He spoke in beats. His rhythms were carefully calculated equations that none of the other kids could add up, and it would be a matter of time before he would meet any other musicians that could. People with such talent are almost as rare as cowardly lions, and for that reason, I imagine, Salt Chief has chosen to remain a duo. This pair is so tight with each other that it’s easy to forget, or fail to notice, that there are no bass or vocals. When Brandon straps on his guitar and Iven sits down behind his drum kit the sheer volume of the sonic boom alone is enough to blast the skin off of the back of any unsuspecting lion, coward or not. It might as well be rifles these guys are holding, and anything within earshot had better best beware.

I last saw them locally in December 2008 at the Coach & Horses, a going away bash so to speak, a bon voyage, and the dream was so vivid you could feel it. I remember sitting with Iven at the bar getting drunk on cheap beer and bad air while he described all my own hopes and dreams right back to me from a barstool. I had heard it all before. Hollywood. The Big Show. As a musician it was what I always wanted; what I thought everybody always wanted, only Iven was actually making this dream his reality. Freshly graduated from the University of Windsor, this young man was finally ready to set off in the direction of his life aspirations; to put his best foot forward over the line of the unknown, and cross over into the land of uncertainty. Brandon had already established contacts in the City of Angels in the past and those connections alone were all that they needed to drop everything and follow their dreams to sunny Southern California – the entertainment capital of the world.

They had followed their dreams all the way to what seemed like the end of the yellow brick road but turned out to be just another milestone. After all, now that they were where they wanted to be they still had an awfully high ladder to climb to the top of the mainstream music industry food chain. One after another they conquered club after club on the sunset strip, starting with Key Club and Cat Club before moving on to headline shows at the Viper Room, where River Phoenix passed on, and the Whisky a Go-Go, where such bands as Led Zeppelin and the Doors were discovered. Keep in mind that these two ordinary fellows I’m talking about are from Windsor. Two guys who have had such people as Glenn Danzig, Billy Corgan and Dave Lombardo in the audience… watching them! From little old, lonely old Windsor. The city of broken hopes and shattered dreams.

Now fast forward to September 2011, when Salt of the Chief Cornerstone returned back to Canada after their two year stint in Tinsel Town, and played their first homecoming show at FM Lounge, making them the only band that I have ever seen on all three levels of the old Fish Market Complex. Two years had gone by since I had last seen them, but this show felt as if it were the very next day. You would imagine that after returning from the Emerald City these men would be changed, perhaps unrecognizable even, but I was relieved to see these two comfortable guys, average men, unchanged. Salt Chief is not about image or gimmicks. No major theatrics or pyrotechnics. Aside from the illuminated drum kit Iven must have picked up in California, visually speaking, there’s not much worth mentioning. They are the kind of band that is just as good to watch with your eyes closed. They are about the music, about the sound. They don’t have to look like a typical rock band. They’re beyond that. They don’t dress-up, they have no tricks up their sleeves. They don’t have long hair or tattoos and are definitely more likely to be found shopping at Old Navy than hot topic. They still have no singer, and it’s still almost unnoticeable. Lyrics are unnecessary when the music speaks for itself. And these two boys, who claim to be influenced by silence, happen to have a hell of a lot to say. A single song alone speaks thousands more words than an average picture, and if measured in decibels than these guys are easily the wonderful wizards of Windsor.

I don’t know too many Windsorites, or any at all, who can say that they’ve ever stepped foot inside such legendary venues as the Viper Room or Whisky’s, or even been to Hollywood for that matter, let alone to actually have been the headlining act on stage at any one of these places. These are two of the most ambition driven musicians I’ve ever been lucky enough to come in contact with. They’ve worked hard. They’ve put in their time and their dues have been paid. But no matter how far we go to chase our dreams we can’t escape the grim truth: there’s no place like home. And so after two years of living by the ocean, Salt of the Chief Cornerstone set their minds on a new mission: clicking their heels together and returning back to Canada with newfound courage, passion and wisdom to “…redevelop the face of [their] business and write a new and exciting chapter in [their] legacy. Taking the time to restructure and engineer a whole new stage performance, as well as, develop new sounds while having [their] team of experts customize new and improved signature series instruments.”

The Chief Cornerstone has come back home and just in time for spring. ‘Tis the season to salt your senses. So if your plan is to go see Salt of the Chief Cornerstone in their hometown then you’ll have to catch them before 2013, when they plan to kick off a European tour. And if you do end up catching them remember to pack yourself a pair of earplugs and a bulletproof vest, and best to leave the elderly, pregnant, hearing sensitive, and those with heart conditions at home.

Spring is here,
The sun is out,
The time is right,
Just add salt.

-James Westfall

Originally published in Salt by the U of W EUSA’s, ISSN: 1911-6446

  1. zina says:

    love this piece you wrote about my brother and his best bud brandon. truly great musicians!

  2. Robert Peterson says:

    There guys are amazing!!!!

  3. Kenny Noisewater says:

    rockin piece jimmy, these guys are tight!

  4. Great piece, James.

  5. Dean Carvery says:

    Great article. Reminds me a lot of times in my old town and seeing so many people have dreams but not many living them. This is inspiring and makes it known that it is very possible to go for what you want.

  6. chris says:

    Well written, Kev. I’m gonna have to try n find some of there stuff.

  7. kimbafreeman says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on Salt James: This sounds like a hard workin and grovin duo; I look for them in local listings and check them out first good opportunity that I get~

  8. Ryan Blanchette says:

    My Brother Is Guitarist Brandon, He And Iven Are The Hardest Working Band I Know, Im So Proud Of Them Both, Ive Had The Pleasure Of Sitting In On Their Pratices,and Its Nothing Short Of Magic Hearing Them play. the salt army is growing 🙂

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