• Frank Soda

  • Frank Soda

    In the mid 60s, Frank started playing guitar, after the British Invasion. He listened to groups like The Beatles, Stones, and Animals. He soon fell in love with the raw energy of the blues, influenced by Clapton, Beck, Page, Hendrix, etc. Frank got together with friends in high school in the late 60's and went on to win the B.C. Northwest "Battle of the Bands" in 1970. The judges were a band called the "Young Flowers" from Europe, who had just finished touring with Cream. Watching them play was also a great learning experience. After high school he played in bands throughout British Columbia, with a variety of musicians including, Jack Lavin (Powder Blues).

    Around 1973, Frank met up with Thor, who needed a band to head out east to Toronto, to tour and record. Frank got together with John Lechesseur (drums), and Charles Towers (Bass, vocals), and took the train from Vancouver to Toronto. Because of the bands diminutive size, they became the Imps. Thor did a wild stage show which included having bricks broken on his chest with a sledgehammer, blowing up hot water bottles till they burst, and lots of pyro and special effects. When Kiss came to Maple Leaf Gardens, they were guests at the show as Thor presented Kiss with their Platinum album. Their stage show impressed the Imps.

    Between 1975 and 1976, the Imps began to gain a cult following. Frank began writing songs, and T.V. People soon became an anthem in the local Toronto clubs. This marked the beginning of the exploding head gear. Since the song was about getting "screwed up" or brainwashed by watching too much television, Frank decided to illustrate this by exploding a T.V. on his head. In Detroit they got the same pyro equipment that Kiss and Triumph were using. Soon the Imps live shows were known for high energy with outrageous antics. He soon added other exploding head gear such as the Moon Man, Smoking Pig, and took the audiences' picture with a gigantic camera on his head in the song "Take My Picture Please". In 1979, the Imps were voted the best bar band ("big league material"), and caught the attention of CHUM FM radio. They recorded their first album, "Live in the Tube". After touring Canada, came back to Toronto and signed a record deal with Quality records that their manager Robert Connolly had put together.

    The first album for Quality, "Soda Pop" was released in 1980. It didn't capture the energy and excitement of their live shows, and was done on a shoestring budget; but it did allow them to play to larger audiences by sharing the stage with such bands as Triumph, Max Webster, Deep Purple, Savoy Brown, Powder Blues, Ian Hunter, and Goddo. By 1981, The Imps disbanded, and thus began a list of "honorary Imps" that played with Frank. To record his second album for Quality, he teamed up with Glen Gratto (drums), who had been playing with a local band called the Madcats, and Peter Crolly (bass), who played with the Instructions and had recorded on many other album sessions. During this time he kept adding more to his live show with the introduction of two large video screens on stage. At one point of his show he would do a guitar battle with himself on the video screens, as he ran around the audience drinking beer and playing guitar with one hand. He also added his infamous "electric suit". This had hundreds of bulbs that was powered by a battery, and allowed him to run freely throughout the audience or the stage.

    It was around this time that the Moon Man prop almost proved to be fatal when it backfired at the "Gasworks" in Toronto. It burned Frank's hair and skin, and prompted a massive head shave by the whole band. It was also these dangerous experiences that had inspired the song "Skin Graft". In 1982, Frank became involved in the "Lee Aaron Project" with Rik Emmet, Buzz Shearman, and Rick Santers. He wrote and recorded the song "I Like My Rock Hard". Together with Lee Aaron, and Buzz Shearman, the "New Music" recorded a live simulcast from the Adelaide Street Theatre in Toronto. His manager had come up with this project at a short notice, and Franks' band was on holiday at the time. He managed to round up his drummer Glen Gratto, and his manager introduced him to a female bass player (Loraine), who filled in. Frank also recorded the "Adventures of Sodaman" between 1982 and 1983. This was a picture disc E.P. that was a promotional gimmick for his live show. The tracks were done in his basement with a drum machine (his first time using this technology), and included input from John Albani and featured a duet with Lee Aaron.

    Around 1984, Frank teamed up with Brian Gagnon, (Bullrush, the Hunt), who had played with drummer Glen Gratto in Bullrush. He toured "The Adventures of Sodaman", and tried to find time to write new material. Due to the touring schedule and budget of trying to keep the expensive show on the road, it was hard to do. ~ It was great playing with these guys, but after a while, Brian left to pursue producing and recording. Doug Raymond replaced him on bass. He was very energetic and could play the bass in his teeth'. He also played with bare feet at every gig. (Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers had nothing on this guy.) Later, Lawrence Gretch (formerly of Platinum Blonde) took over the drums. After a year or so, Rick Vateur who had played with Doug Raymond in a local band called Riff Raff, joined up. (Another former drummer of Riff Raff, Vito, also filled in at times.) Loui Lamana (drums) and Michael Kay (bass) also did some tours, as did Bernie Carter (bass) and Vince Stuiso (drums). On a personal note: "Playing with all these different musicians was a great experience. I formed many musical and personal relationships with them, and wish to thank them all. I have many fond memories of many experiences on the road, or in the studio with them."

    In 1985, Terry Watkinson (Max Webster) joined the band on keyboards and vocals. Terry and Frank exchanged ideas and planned on writing together. Met his wife Joyce. Frank and Joyce were married and had their first child in 1986. Terry had also recently had another child so they decided to take time off touring, and formed a duo. Terry programmed the drums, and played keyboards and left handed bass. They played songs from Max Webster that Terry wrote and sang, as well as Soda songs, and some fun cover tunes. Frank had to put everything on hold in 1987 when his father became ill and flew back to Vancouver. At this time, he decided to move back to Vancouver to help the family out. Later, he set up a cross-Canada tour with a new all female band, "The Pop Tarts". Tessa Kimmel (bass), Tiz (drums), and Cathy (guitar). Once in Vancouver the girls decided to move back to Toronto. By 1989, he teamed up with some of Vancouver's top musicians. Marc LaFrance, drums, vocals), and Mick Della-Vie, (bass,keyboards,vocals), have played or recorded with such artists as Loverboy, Aerosmith, Randy Bachman, Bryan Adams and Trooper. With this new lineup, he put his original show back on the road and toured to Toronto playing festivals with Colin James, Goddo, and Frozen Ghost. Back in Vancouver they played local clubs and opened for such acts as B.T.O., Glass Tiger, etc. Frank set up a basement studio in 1990, learning more about sequencing from friends Cory Lavigne and Terry Robotham. Having recently had his second child, Frank took time off to write. Jammed and played local clubs in the Vancouver area.

    His wife Joyce, a singer, would join him on stage. CLASSIC SODA was formed in 1992. This is a duo with his wife Joyce on vocals, keyboards and harmonica, and Frank on guitar and vocals. They cover timeless rock, blues and country classics from the 50's to the 90's, including current hits of today. CLASSIC SODA also plays as a four piece band. Adding Tom Reid on drums/vocals, (who played with Jann Arden), and Rick Zazabec on bass/vocals, who played with Frank in some of his earlier bands. ~ In 1993, Pacemaker Records began talking to Frank about releasing some of his material on CD. He wrote two new demos to include with this new release. "Frank Soda and the Imps Greatest Hits" was released in 1995. Toured to Toronto to promote it on Q107, and did some shows in Ontario. Back in Vancouver, Frank did a successful CD release party at Studebakers, which included most of his infamous stage show.

    Since 1996, Frank has divided his time between Classic Soda, (who play extensively throughout the Lower Mainland), and his original band, who play festivals and special events across Canada. He's still writing and recording original music, and is one of the most unique and entertaining acts to ever come out of Canada. In 1998, Frank was elected vice president of the Pacific Songwriters Association. This is a non profit organization helping new and established songwriters. He's presently working on new material with his hot band, and fans can expect a new release in the near future.