Trooper Ready to Raise a Little Hell at Grey Cup Fest

After 40 years on the road, Trooper knows what works best for them, and while they haven't put out new material in quite some time, that's perfectly fine with them. Evolving with the times, the "Raise A Little Hell" hit-makers keep bringing the heat on tour, and have made a point of interacting with fans on social media. We caught up with Trooper's Ra McGuire ahead of their November 25 appearance at TD Place for the 105th Grey Cup Festival to talk about their work with Archives Canada, why they've quit making records and what they're working on these days if music is out of the picture.

Ottawa Life: What was it like to work on the Trooper Archive with Archives Canada?

Ra McGuire: The Library and Archives Canada project took almost ten years, from the time it was suggested to when we received confirmation that it was all done! It was a really interesting project because every detail you include adds overall value to the collection. As someone who always enjoyed collecting and organizing, it was hard not to get too anal about it. As you can imagine, it’s a huge honour to have the Trooper stuff included with the Canadian cultural and historic treasures they house at the Gatineau Preservation Centre.

You guys have been connecting with fans online since the 90s so what's been the biggest change you've found as the technology has evolved?

When we went online in the nineties, the focus was on the band’s website, the expectation being that it was the best place to reach fans who were interested. Since those days the website has become less and less important. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram now reach a larger audience and, because of the way they’re networked, offer a better chance at reaching more people. They’re also WAY more immediate and current . Doing things like posting a photo of the crowd after every show completes a giant circle for us. All three SM outlets create a much closer connection between us and the folks who have an interest in the band.

Have any interesting fan reactions or live moments come out of it?

Our Facebook (and, to a lesser degree, Twitter and Instagram) has completely changed the way we interact with our fans and exist in the world. Most of the big fun we have on the road these days comes as a direct result of connections made there. One of the many Facebook-enabled highlights is our ability to arrange cameo performances with local artists. The recent guest appearance by Jonah Rocks in Grand Forks, for instance, could never have happened otherwise.

How have your views on the US changed since "American Dream" was released in the 90's?

American Dream was written about our US touring days and was meant to express the disconnect I felt down there, as a Canadian. Canada is a very different place. We stopped playing the song live after 9/11, in case it sounded like a diss, which it isn’t. We started playing it again on Canada Day, since the differences in our two countries have been amplified lately.

Has it been interesting to see fans get into different songs from your discography over the years and what songs later popularity has surprised you?

It’s endlessly rewarding to learn from fans what songs they love and why. As I’ve often said, once the songs are released, they belong to those people and not us anymore. I am particularly proud of Thin White Line, a song about drug use and friendship that was not a big hit, but seems to have had a bigger impact than I expected.

What new bands are you checking out these days?

At the beginning of the year I listened to the new J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar records almost exclusively. In the Summer I did a deep dive into the Stax-Volt catalogue, reliving my youth. I love James Blake (The Color in Anything) and saw him when he came to Vancouver. I’m a little embarrassed to say I also love the latest 21 Pilots record. Rag ’n’ Bone Man is really good, Elliot Sumner is cool, Anderson Paak (after watching the tiny desk concert), especially “Come Down”. I saw AP at the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer. I’m writing a lot these days so I frequently listen to things like A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Goldmund in the background.

What keeps the shows fun for you as a band after over 40 years of touring?

We keep the set pretty loose so there’s no particular routine from show to show. I like to connect with local artists or other artists on the bill to come up and do something with us. Every night is different, and since we’re not promoting a new record or trying to juice a new career, there’s not a lot of pressure – so we can confidently get pretty far out on a performance limb without worrying too much about it.

Your last album came out in 1991 but you're still going strong 20 years later, so what's keeping you from hitting the studio again?

Nobody needs a new record by a seventies pop/rock band.

I've heard you're writing something just about every day as is, so what are you writing for with this material?

I’m working on a novel. I’m about 50K words in. It’s about a reclusive former rock star who is forced out of his Airstream hide-out because of a traumatic event. He attempts to uncover a number of hidden truths, with varying degrees of success. I have never had this much fun with a creative project!