Tommy Grasley AKA TOMMYGUN
This one’s going out to all you Hamilton hounds.
This is rock music in its purest form. Raw, relentless, tight but with an improvisational sound, wrapped in originality and then spit out as a perfected masterpiece ready for the masses.
Tommy Grasley is the gut punch you needed to realize that real rock stars still exist.
Songs like “The Hounds of Hamilton,” “Go Go Go,” to moderns like “Frayed” are prepped and ready for the charts as well as fans that crave what has been long lost...gripping Canadian rock.
This man makes hits, plain and simple.
In songs like “Evelyn” the experience of TOMMYGUNN’s music somehow manages to take the visceral heaviness found normally in grunge and infuses it with a classic rock energy. The result is a formula mixed by a mad scientist and then guzzled down by his lab rat before being mass produced and set on the people.
Both of Tommy Grasley AKA TOMMYGUNN’s albums are an undertow that pulls you down into deep waters no matter how hard you struggle, it’s simply too powerful to resist.
In a 2014 interview on barbershoppodcast.com, while drinking an Old Milwaukee with his guitar on his lap, Ludger Bourassa explains what drew him to TOMMYGUNN, “I like that it was fresh sounding you know what I mean? It was not a rip off of this or that, it was TOMMYGUNN music. A rock sound with a bit of darkness to it.”
The 2020 album “I Believe In Love” is by far the more experimental compared to 2013’s “Unleash The Hounds.” In the new album the journey begins and ends like a spaghetti western fever dream that sandwiches a multitude of risk taking tracks between. Power rock takes the lead and melts into hard rock that pushes the limits of metal by the 9th track “Jct 66,” a track co-produced and co-written by Mike King, about Grasley’s friend Jefferey Carl Thompson who’s life was tragically lost.
The album changes its mood like a teenager but not in an a disorganized way, instead the song collection is placed with meticulous intricacy and maintains a balanced experience of classic and hard rock elements.
The new album is an experience that needs to be defined by the individual instead of categorized into preexisting genres. This is a twist on rock. A barrage of attitude and meaning that erupts into a beautiful storm with a relatable message of peace and love in a time where it is needed most.
I had the opportunity to talk with Grasley about his life and music, the result does not disappoint.
It was one o’clock in the afternoon when I phoned rock royalty TOMMYGUNN at his home in Toronto, Canada. Calm, concise, humble and kind, he let me bounce every question I could think of off him no matter how personal.
With a father like Sonny Del Rio of “Crowbar” fame, and a cousin like Rod Stewart, you have music in your blood and seem destined to be a musician. In another life what do you think you would have been?
“Well, music’s always been a part of me, I don’t know about another life, but there was a time where I worked as a class A welder to provide stability for my children.”
Once his two children grew up Tommy sunk deep back into his destined craft, quit drinking and made music the orbit of his existence. At fifty years young he met his beautiful wife in 2014, writer/ producer Amy Goldberg (thetrustrise.com) now known as an inspirational growth strategist, author, and inspirational speaker. Grasley sent his future love, song after song while enduring rejection after rejection until he found the soft spot in her heart, the music video for “The Hounds Of Hamilton.” A true rock romance.
You listed your influences six years ago as Led Zeppelin, Crowbar, Tom Wilson, Jack Pedler and Teenage Head. With newer Hamilton bands like The Arkells hitting it big, have your influences changed?
“My life journey is what influences me. I write about my experiences.”
That’s one of the things I like best about TOMMYGUNN, his music is truly his own, no close sound, no confusion, no gimmicks just timeless rock n’ roll.
You sing about Evelyn Dick the murderer in the first album’s heaviest song, what made you want to create a song about such an event?
“Well, the music came first. I had this great dark sound that deserved something special. To be honest I almost didn’t write about her. It was between Evelyn Dick’s story and the other was Jon Rallo, but I ended up choosing Evelyn.”
What is your most memorable performance?
“The best is yet to come.”
Other than being so down to Earth, it’s Tommy’s optimism and outlook that I like best about him.
The positive outlook in the new album comes at a strange time as 2020 is full of strain on society. If you could sum up the message of the entire new album without using the word “love” how would you describe the new albums message?
“Inspirational.” He then admitted his wife who had overheard the question had the better answer of “impactful.”
Have you ever bombed?
“Yea,” he chuckled thinking back with almost fondness.“It was a Beatles tribute night at some bar in Hamilton and I rehearsed and rehearsed and practised and practised, but when I got up there it all went wrong. I was OK for a bit but then I kept on forgetting the words.” I could hear his smile through the phone, “It was embarrassing.”
In my opinion any musician that hasn’t bombed, simply hasn’t been playing long enough or is refusing to take chances with their art.
What do you enjoy more, the process of making an album or the experience of sharing and performing the finished product?
“I love the process. I love producing.
My process takes a lot longer because I build it from the ground up. I also love to perform, be it music or just joking around being a funny guy, I just like to perform. I love both parts of the craft.”
In the song “No Justice Justus!!!” off of “Unleash The Hounds” you put a spotlight on global suffering and seem to have a skepticism of the criminal justice system?
“I’ve always been skeptical. That song is special to me because it speaks to the suffering of the girls in Mexico, the ones in Juarez.”
In the song that feels the weight of the world, Tommy’s son plays the drums while his father wails on the saxophone causing three generations of musicians to converge onto the same artistic highway.
What’s next for TOMMYGUNN?
“Actually, I’m prepped and ready to go for my new album. I was planning on recording in the fall until all this craziness happened” (COVID-19).
Grasley plans on releasing the next album out of Los Angeles, one of his favourite American cities and then touring across Canada.
With music like TOMMYGUNN circulating around the world, the respect and admiration for Canadian music is on the rise. There is an uncountable number of creative pockets in this country where musical talent is birthed and for the meantime Hamilton, Ontario will remain one of the most important incubators of rock n’ roll.
Oskee Wee Wee!