Steve Hickox of The Monoxides
Interview by Andrew Daly
Formed in the late ’80s ahead of the impending alt-rock music, the teenaged members of The Monoxides found themselves early-comers to a soon-to-be burgeoning scene.
After spending the better part of the ’90s cutting their teeth, The Monoxides caught a break by signing a major label deal ahead of their debut record. And soon, the group cut Galaxy of Stooges (1997), a glorious blend of indie, alternative, and punk that garnered a steady cult following through a grassroots approach and energetic live performances.
But despite the strength of The Monoxides songsmith, worldwide success eluded them, and soon the band found themselves without a record deal. The Monoxides would rally, however, recording a stout follow-up, The Free Release of Energy (2000), before shifting tides and the rigors of life caused the band to fall silent in terms of new music.
Pushing forward to the present, The Monoxides have remained a steady live draw with a devout following. Their exuberant nature and infectious music remain, as does their will to continue. To that end, the group is proud to release its first new music in more than two decades. “Let Her Know” is one of two new songs the band has slated for release in 2023, with a new full-length album on the horizon for 2024.
In celebration of The Monoxides’ new music, Steve Hickox checked in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount his origins in music, the formation of The Monoxides, the group’s trials and tribulations, where they stand today, and what’s next as they move forward.
What first sparked your interest in music?
When I was a kid, my brother and I won Kiss’s Double Platinum in a bag of chips. My brother is six years older, so I just listened to whatever he was buying at the time, and thankfully it was good stuff! Kiss were like superheroes to little me. All these amazing posters on my walls, Kiss dolls to play with, and cool album covers to draw really made an impression on me.
What early moments shaped you as an artist, and how do those affect you today?
Being about three or four years old when I got into Kiss made me really enjoy bands that put on a theatrical show. While our show was not theatrical, our goal was always to entertain the crowd and not just stand there looking at our feet. To this day, we still give it everything we’ve got every time.
How did the band form?
Ken and I have been best friends since we were toddlers. We grew up loving music that our older siblings played, and we used to sit outside a neighbor’s window while he played bass. Eventually, I got a guitar, and he got a set of drums. We became The Monoxides immediately and just kept adding members until we became what we are today.
Can you recall the first gig?
Our first gig was at our Junior High School dance. The guidance counselor at the school said, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you,” as we were leaving. I always thought that was an awful thing for a guidance counselor to say to a group of kids doing something they loved. We were crappy but had fun, and the kids at the dance dug it.
How did you sign your first record deal?
Jeff Rogers (manager of the Crash Test Dummies and owner of Handsome Boy Records) approached us after a show in Toronto. BMG was also in on the deal. Our first EP was with Handsome Boy, and Galaxy of Stooges came out on BMG. We were just kids when it all happened, so we didn’t pay attention to much that was going on. Our manager took care of all that stuff.
What have you learned since?
I guess we’ve learned how to do a little bit of everything ourselves to keep things running. Ken is really the guy who does it all. He’s basically our manager now. He has a lot of experience on the business side of things, so it works out great for us.
Would you change anything about your early records? How have you evolved as artists?
The only thing about an early record I would change would be the recording of our first EP, Out of the Marsh. It was meant to be a demo and sounds like crap. I would love to re-record that if we could. We’ve been together so long that we have all become better players.
Derek [Robichaud] has always been amazing since the day he joined the band, but the rest of us have all grown as musicians, and I feel it shows. Years ago, I couldn’t play a solo at all. Now I do the solo on our first single in twenty years! Or is it Ace Frehley? No, it’s me doing my best Ace impression!
Tell me about the recording of your latest song.
It started during COVID. I was playing my guitar more than I ever had and came up with a bunch of riffs. I contacted Marco [Rocca], and we made a demo of one of them. We surprised the rest of the guys with it, and it lit a huge fire under us to start being creative again.
We then jammed on it a bunch, and everyone put their two cents in. We recorded it at Derek and Marco’s home studios and got Harry Hess (Harem Scarem’s lead singer) to master it. We’re very proud of it and believe it sits very well with the rest of our catalog. We are now going to keep going and make a new record next year. We are extremely excited.
What prompted the band to get back into the studio?
It was the demo Marco, and I put it together that took everyone by surprise. Derek wanted to put it out immediately, which surprised me because the demo was literally just Marco and I. Thankfully, we didn’t do that and just re-did it with everyone’s input.
What sort of gear did you have to work with in the studio?
We used all our own gear, and for software, we used Logic Pro on an iMac. I’m unsure exactly what everyone used for gear because we did our tracks separately. I used Derek’s Epiphone Flying V in his Orange Super Crush 100 through a 4×12 Marshall. For pedals, I used an Electro Harmonix OD Glove and an MXR Phase 90.
Derek is a tone wizard, so I usually go with whatever he suggests. He knows how to get exactly what I want for a sound and gets it quickly. I’ve always been a Gibson/Epiphone guy, so that’s why I use them. They just feel right, and the ones I own sound great. I have a Hiwatt Super Lead 100 and cab, but they’re both so damn heavy to lug around; I just usually use one of Derek’s when we jam.
I’m debating getting rid of the Hiwatt for a Super Crush as well. They sound great and are super light! For pedals, I’ve always been a fan of Electro Harmonix. They sound great, are built great, and are priced very reasonably. I have several of them on my board.
Tell me about your songwriting approach.
Our songs always stem from a riff written by me or Derek. I actually don’t play guitar very much, but when I sit down and do it, there is almost always a riff or two that comes out. Sometimes they come out of playing a classic song and turning into something different, and sometimes it just comes out of nowhere. The lyrics are almost always last. For us, it’s always been riffs and melodies first.
What moment or moments from the session for the most recent song stand out most to you?
I think the moment that stood out the most for me was the morning I was recording my guitar track. It was just Derek and I, and it was a beautiful sunny day. We had a lot of fun getting my sound dialed in, and it went really smoothly. It was just so fun, and it kind of blows my mind that all these years later, we still have fun and love to do this. We all do.
Which record or song is the band’s definitive statement, and why?
Like a lot of people, I want to say our new song is our definitive statement. I love the recording; I love the song. It sounds like it could be a Monoxides song that came out in ’97, ’99, or 2001. It has our ’70s influences, a catchy chorus, harmony guitar solos, and some fuzzy guitar tones. I enjoy all our stuff (except that EP I mentioned earlier), but I am really proud of this new song and how it just sounds like us once again.
Does making music in a low attention span world concern you?
There are things I don’t like, I guess, but I’ve become accustomed to it all now. I would prefer to not release singles. I’d rather gather enough songs and just make an album because that’s what I grew up listening to. I want to hold that album in my hands and obsessively read the lyrics and credits.
We kind of compromised on how we were going to approach this. Some of the guys weren’t sure an album was the way to go, and I definitely didn’t want to just release singles every time we write a song. So, we are just going to release two or three and then put out a full album that includes those tracks as well. I’m an album guy, but I’m also an Apple Music guy. So, I get both sides of it.
What’s next in all lanes?
We are going to keep writing for the new album, we’re going to keep practicing regularly, and we’re going to try to gig when it makes sense. We can only play so much in our little city because if you play too much, you’ll play to a small crowd. So, we try not to overdo it.
Hopefully, we’ll get a few shows out of town, but we’ll have to see what interest there is. Ideally, we’d love to get some shows with some of our old friends when they tour in the Maritimes. We have a lot of good friends in bands that show us a lot of love, and it means a lot after all this time.
Steve Hickox of The Monoxides: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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