Old friends and former bandmates find an excuse to “ignore reality…” and play together again to celebrate their late friend and bandmate Mike Robillard
The late musician and creative force Mike Robillard is fondly remembered by friends as a loyal, honest, funny, creative person who always encouraged the best in others.
Longtime friend and former bandmate Bill Cowen was close to Robillard.
“For those who knew Mike well, we can honestly say that Mike wasn’t always the easiest person to open up to. He had an annoying habit of deeply dissecting every aspect of what was being said. Because of that,” Cowen laughs.
“But the best thing about getting into these conversations was that they were never idle chatter. He actually cared about the meaning of things and why we do the things we do. It was on.”
Cowen became friends with Robillard as locker mates in high school and remained close until Robillard’s death last year.
“He was interested in you and what you were interested in. Plus, he always encouraged you to understand what value there was in those ideas,” Cowen said. He points out that it was this quality that endeared Robillard to so many people.
“From the moment you met him, it was clear that he believed in you and wanted the best for you. It made me feel like it’s okay to take things seriously, and sometimes it’s okay not to take anything seriously.”
Cowen and Robillard joined Scott Kaija and others to form the band 4 Really Nice Guys in the early 1990s.
“I was a quiet, shy kid, and one night I became part of a large group sitting at Horton’s on the hill,” Kaija says.
“I was sitting in the corner and Mike turned around and introduced himself. He started asking me questions about myself and showed genuine interest in my answers. Confident charisma here There was a guy there who was eager to get to know me, who was clumsy, and we hit it off right away because of our shared interests in music and art, and our similar senses of humour.”
That friendship quickly turned into a musical partnership that lasted across two bands.
“Even when we weren’t playing or writing together, he was always very supportive and interested in the musical projects I was working on. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help him too. Maybe you felt that way.”
In the early 1990s, Robillard, with support from Cowen, Kaija, and others, began building an art scene in the Sault, encouraging like-minded people to advance original art.
Robillard said he “ignore reality…”
Gatherings, live shows, and recordings took place under that moniker.
The name Shrug was also used as a way to encourage people to write original music.
“He didn’t do it because there was no original music being made in Sault Ste. Marie at the time, and there was too much and we needed an outlet,” Cowen says.
“It was a generational thing. At the time, ‘Centennial Lanes’ had just finished its run as the perfect venue for all-ages shows, and Mike decided he needed another venue. . Of course, this soon evolved into a much grander vision that included professional development for aspiring musicians, recording, production and promotional services, backline rentals, and more. Full color gamut. ”
Cowen felt privileged to have witnessed Robillard’s endless ideas scribbled on pages of paper spread out across the living room floor.
“Mike, of course, couldn’t do it all himself, so he thoroughly encouraged his friends and fellow musicians to get involved,” says Cowen.
“Mike was at the center of the wheel. Years later, we realized that what he was actually doing was single-handedly inventing what we now call ‘cultural entrepreneurship’ or ‘community social innovation.’ It became clear to me. However, at that time we didn’t have the words to express it. So Mike decided to simply call it his ‘production company.’ ”
Concerts were held in locations such as the Purple Lantern Restaurant, the Princess Theater, the Windsor Park Ballroom, or someone’s home basement.
Shrug also produced a compilation cassette called. excerpt It was released on cassette in 1992 and featured five bands each performing three songs.
Cowen had plans to establish “Ignoring Reality…” as a non-profit organization, but when Robillard accepted a career as a bassist and moved to Toronto to try out the “big city” scene, Point out that the dream is over. ‘
In Toronto, Robillard and Kaija played together in the band Scissors for Erica, playing some of the most respected rock and roll clubs Canada has produced.
After his stay in the state capital, Robillard returned to the Sault and began a number of activities, including Spiderback with local musicians Dwayne Slack and Craig West.
Fast forward to 2023, and Cowen, Kaija, West, Slack, and other friends and former bandmates will be joining forces for a special featuring three of the bassist’s former bands: For Really Nice Guys, Scissors for Erica, and Spiderback. They decided to celebrate Robillard’s accomplishments with a concert.
They chose November 2nd as the date. It’s Mike Robillard’s birthday.
“Mike’s DNA is reflected in both of the bands I was in with him,” Kaija says.
“‘4 Really Nice Guys and Scissors For Erica’ couldn’t be more different in terms of process and musical style, but I still have a strong connection with him on both of them. In fact, there’s a song called Scissors For Erica. The name he gave it was “Mike-ism.” ”
For the four Really Nice Guys, much of their music was Kaija and Robillard bouncing ideas back and forth.
“The ideas always seemed like a good fit,” Kaija says.
“I could change styles and things, but it always worked out. With Scissors, it was a more personal songwriting effort, but with him supporting my ideas, I was able to make the final I was able to write a complete song and try singing it myself. My first attempts didn’t always work and the learning curve was painful, but I couldn’t have gotten through it without his cheerleading. I guess.”
Robillard’s former bandmates are determined to remember his creativity.
“We want to honor the lasting impact Mike Robillard had on our individual and collective lives,” Kaija says.
“For me, I’ve been a recording artist for over 30 years. I’ve toured other countries. I’ve written and sung songs. I’ve come up with album art concepts and executed them. Honestly. I can’t imagine doing this without Mike’s influence and support, and I know everyone else has a similar story. We are coming together again to pay tribute to our great artist and friend.”
So, for one night only, three of Robillard’s former bands are reuniting to pay tribute to this truly wonderful man who spent 30 years writing original songs with many great bands, musicians, and friends. We decided to get together.
“There’s going to be music, there’s going to be laughter, there’s going to probably be a little crying, and there’s going to be emotional nostalgia all over the place,” says Cowen.
“Whether you’re a friend of Mike’s, a fan of his music, or just interested in the local music scene, we encourage you to consider attending the show.”
Additionally, Friends of Robillard are raising funds to sponsor a memorial bench through the SSM City Memorial Bench Program.
When Robillard died, the program was temporarily discontinued.
It opened again this spring.
“We jumped at it as a way to physically remember Mike in the city he loved. We thought it would be a place where he could sit and think about things, preferably with a good view of the city.” Cowen says. The paperwork has been completed, but he is still collecting the deposit.
“One of Mike’s favorite art forms was sculpture, and since the bench is essentially a functional sculpture, we thought this would be a perfect fit. We all know he appreciated what he did. We strongly believe that his legacy will be honored by the creation of a space where people can come together to reflect on future plans, invent new ones, or just simply hang out and enjoy themselves. , you’ll be glad of that. The view.”
“The thing about Mike is that he may have been original, but he wasn’t ‘original,'” Cowen says.
“I truly believe that there is a Mike in every generation, and we need the right environment to encourage and support those who play that role, no matter when it happens. Mike is an out-of-the-box thinker. and a catalyst for creative inspiration. Mike has a positive impact on the entire scene because he inspires others to act for themselves, create art that comes naturally, and inspires the community. Because it encourages us to find places to see, hear, and experience within.”
Robillard was an important part of the lives of “a small group of his generation.”
“It’s important to remember how we were inspired by him,” says Cowen.
“His ability to say, ‘Yes, that’s great, please do more,’ is an inspiration because it encourages others to say the same when we are in a position to do so.” That was exponential, a fact evident by the response of those who came together to make this event possible, and for all who will gather on November 2, a sense of appreciation for what is possible. I’m sure it’s clear as always in his presence.”
Finally, for those who knew Robillard well, what will truly be missed was his friendship.
“Mike is always with me when I’m walking down Queen Street or having a conversation with someone about history, art, or music,” Cowen says.
“When I play guitar, he’s with me. I hear him laughing at me, so I know he’s there. I hear my friends talk about him, and I hear him in the studio. You know he’s there when you hear them looking forward to going back and working on a project or two, or a new one, or finishing an old one. At that moment, they too. I’m thinking of Mike and I know he has that special smile he always has.”
For Cowen, remembering Robillard is easy because his memories are everywhere.
“That’s why we look forward to sitting on the bench, remembering his mantra: ‘Ignore reality…'”
To read more tributes from Robillard’s bandmates and friends, please visit: Shrug Facebook page.
listen to the track 4 Really nice guysyou can buy scissors for Erica and Spiderback online.
Donations may be made to the memorial bench. GoFundMe page. Funds raised beyond bench sponsorship will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Tickets for the November 2nd event can be purchased online Or see us in person at Case’s Music.
Ignoring reality…celebrating the musical life of Mike Robillard
4 Featuring performances by Really Nice Guys, Scissors for Erica, and Spiderback
Thursday, Nov. 2 at Loprops.