The science of rock and roll

Photo: Jill Grant

A little more than 20 years ago in the Toronto live music club scene, I met a couple of guys, Scott Cryer and Rob Macdonald at a show on Queen Street West where we shared the stage with the band I was playing in at the time.

They were looking for a new bass player, especially one who could sing, and we hit it off. Before long I was a member of Two Thirds Water. They were really tight and the songs were killer. Basically, it was a song called One more mile which sold me on those guys. They really understood pop music and their writing was on a fantastic level.

In return they said they liked my style and that I had pop sensibility which suited them well. I was really stoked because they were such a good band and it was a compliment to be asked to play with them and from that, I felt I had risen a level as a musician.

Part of the reason for this was that they had some serious chops in the local music scene. They scored a huge victory in 1990 when they won local radio station CFNY’s CASBY competition which was as prestigious an award as you could get in the local scene short of a Juno nomination. Even more impressive was that they edged out the Barenaked Ladies for the award that year. They were also good friends with a very influential band called the Rheostatics. The guitarist for the Rheostactics, Martin Tielli, was a talented visual artist, did all their album art, and was their roommate as well. Spectacular music jams until the wee hours of the morning were common in the home they rented out in Etobicoke.

Dirt Farmer back in the 2002 when we all had lots of hair!

Lastly, they had a Music guru and friend in engineer Wayne Lorenz, who was a really great guy once you got past the shock of the fact that he looked a little bit like Charles Manson. More importantly, Wayne was and still is, the studio right hand man to international music production superstar Daniel Lanois. Wayne would find time to produce and record much of the Two Thirds Water albums that came out.

The bottom line was that these guys had an amazing pedigree and I was thrilled to be part of their crew. We played a lot of live shows together and did some recording but all of us were banging up against the barrier of day job priority and life. I ended up getting married and moving out of town but I stayed in touch with the guys because we were good friends. What makes this very interesting is that in terms of day job priority, Scott was an amazing case of being a true renaissance man. He had a science background and worked for an environmental consultancy firm the whole time that we were rocking and rolling at night and writing songs and playing clubs. Scott, a licensed professional geoscientist, was quietly becoming one of the foremost figures in the field of radon gas in Canada.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no colour, smell or taste. It can’t be detected by humans and as such, you have to test a building to know what levels are. It’s nasty in that next to smoking, it is the biggest cause of lung cancer. Health Canada advise that we lose approximately 3,200 Canadians each year to radon induced lung cancer. A very insidious situation because many people are simply unaware of the danger at both the public and government level.

Scott also serves as vice-president of the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (CARST) and is actively involved with scientific and government stakeholder groups for the development of radon policy to help Canadians successfully manage radon in their buildings. To this end, Scott has appeared in a public service announcement with well-known celebrity Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes and presents at radon internationally.

Scott Cryer's day job is as one of Canada's top geoscientists, pictured here advising Mike Holmes on raydon gas.

Scott lives in Brampton with his partner Dasa and still works in the science field as well as continues to produce a prodigious amount of music via a new band that he created with Rob MacDonald called Dirt Farmer. Rob is an incredibly talented musician and writer and has worked with Scott since the 1980s! These days Scott and Rob are also recording with producer/drummer from Sweden, Christer Bjorklund. They send tracks back and forth across the Atlantic and build the songs remotely. They have produced three Dirt Farmer albums together and have never met in person!

Dirt farmer has the quintessence of pop style and subtlety that would rank them with the best in the business if it wasn’t for the fact that science demanded it’s due. I continue to write songs with Scott occasionally and was recently blown away by the release of the newly released Dirt Farmer album called Satellites.

Carry on lads.