Canada 150

Canuck KISS Destroys Brass Monkey

Canuck KISS Destroys Brass Monkey

Photos by Andre Gagne


When I was ten I wanted to coat my face in makeup, slip on some black leather and spit up a geyser of blood. Hey, we all gotta’ have goals, right? Mine was pretty simple: I wanted to become a member of KISS, rock and roll all night and party every day. Outside of a couple of Halloween costumes, the closest I got to clutching this dream was a Bluesfest front row spot so close the pyro singed my eyebrows view of the band back in 2009.

Thankfully, there are others who never gave up. Guys, for example, like Mike Moodrey who go the extra mile on the fandom highway where all signs read: “If you can’t join ‘em, become ‘em”. As the lead guitarist to Canada’s KISS tribute band DESTOYER, he’s pumping power chords, he’s rocking 7” heels, he’s the Space Man and he’s probably the closest thing to an Ace Frehley guitar solo you’ll get outside of the real deal and on Saturday night they were there to bring the Psycho Circus to The Brass Monkey.

If you can get him to put down his guitar for a couple minutes, Moodrey will tell you that, like the real band, DESTROYER isn’t all glitz, glitter and glamour. Becoming KISS isn’t something you do over night. It takes work. Though probably not envisioning the lighting tattoo, silver makeup and behemoth boots when he was three, he started singing early and has been playing guitar for close to three decades. He was rocking out to CCR, Zeppelin and Elvis before KISS was even a band.

The years have hazed over the memory of when he first heard KISS. Doesn’t matter. He still remembers the solos and when you have to bring crazy, crazy, crazy nights to hundreds of frenzied fans for 23 years that’s more than enough. DESTROYER Canada hails from Windsor and along with Moodrey’s Spaceman there’s the group’s founding father Moe Rotondi as the Demon, Chad Walls as the Catman and Ian Kurz as the Starchild.

“DESTROYER was, has and always will be the brain child of our founder Moe Rotondi. Like KISS, there have been member changes over time, but his passion, dedication and hard work has allowed the band to continue successfully for almost 24 years,” says Moodrey before the band fires the first blast of charged up rock thunder over the crowd at The Monkey.

Clearly, the KISS Army was in full force with the expected screaming women, devil horn forking dudes and at least one guy dressed like he could become a fifth member quicker than you could yell “Lick It Up”. By song two, Rotondi was already drenched in sweat from his toes to the tip of his madly flicking tongue. When you can’t soar over the crowd on wires, blast explosives and blaze out fireballs you rely on what you have: the music and the moves.

With dozens of tribute bands out there include the all female PRISS, the all little people Minikiss and the all child KIDS, DESTROYER isn’t the first and most certainly won’t be the last foursome to pay homage to the flamboyant 70s rock icons.

However, the measure of a good tribute band shouldn’t be how well you dress the part but how well you embody the roll. Moodrey says DESTROYER takes this very seriously and they always aim to leave every inch of themselves in their performance.

“We really try hard to make sure we bring 110% effort to every single show! Our choreography, our movements, our individual portrayals are extremely important to us and it shines through in our performance.”

The 2 hours spent getting into the makeup and gear is one thing, but performing in it all is a nightly endurance course. Moodrey tells Ottawa Life that just playing in his boots takes an effort especially considering he’s not content staying in one place. His Ace roams the crowd. Then there’s the makeup running into their eyes, the 50 lbs of amour, the hair getting stuck to their faces and having to contort their bodies in unusual poses to mimic the original band’s legendary shows.

“Not to mention, of course, being exhausted after 4 hours (performing) and then having to pack all our gear away at 3am. I could probably write a novel on some of the perils we've encountered.”

The effort pays off when the crowd goes wild and at a DESTROYER show, at least the one at The Brass Monkey, that’s going to happen about six seconds before the band even makes it to the stage. Just glimpsing them is enough to ignite fans. The alcohol helps, too.

Moodrey says that everybody comes to a KISS tribute show for different reasons. For some it’s the blood spitting, others it’s the smoking guitar or being able to sing along to every classic tune. Then there’s the spandex. The women loooove the spandex.

“Girls are crazy, I’ll leave it at that,” laughs Moodrey as he recalls some of the wilder moments in DESTROYER’S performance history.

Not every tribute band gets to meet their heroes but DESTROYER did, sans makeup, back in 2013 before performing a charity gig for Aboutface. Despite portraying the band at hundreds upon hundreds of shows, maybe knowing their act more than KISS itself, the four Canucks instantly became gushing fans. Their admiration totally plays out in their concerts.

Seriously, if you can’t see the original this is pretty damn close.

“Detroit Rock City”, “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Love Gun”, there didn’t seem to be a song DESTROYER didn’t know how to play to perfection. Sure, they may not have had the fire and aerial theatrics but with a drum kit, bass and two guitars they had all they needed.

They had rock and roll!