Kinetic Ideals, on-stage at the 101 Club, London

Life in Shadow: Kinetic Ideals and Breeding Ground

by Angélique Davies

In 1979, drummer Jonathan Davies’ musical path took a fortuitous turn. Guitarist Jean-Claude (JC) Chambers describes how their band Kinetic Ideals got its start:

Canadian post-punk band Kinetic Ideals
Canadian post-punk band Kinetic Ideals. Photo: courtesy of the band

“Back in the beginning was a seminal version of Kinetic Ideals consisting of Alan Murrell, JC Chambers, and Dwight P. They named themselves The Embryos. The central movie set for this whole adventure took place in a Mississauga music shop called Musicians Supply. The shop owner Kevin Lamb knew that we were looking for a singer and had heard that the local high school band ‘The Pinheads’ were taking a break. The Embryos swiftly adopted the very punk Sandy Savage from the Pinheads to sing with the band. We were looking for a new drummer and Sandy said, “Why don’t you give the Pinheads drummer Jon a try?

Jon was f***ing explosive Brilliance!  It was a perfect fit. Now it was time to debut this awesome new version of The Embryos. We had wrangled practice space in a church basement in exchange for agreeing to perform on one of their Youth Nights. Well, the time came and we set up in one corner of the basement by the choir change room which we used as a dressing room. As the crowd shuffled in, tables filled with pop, chips and sweets, and we soon saw that what they meant by youth were children.

Oh well, the show must go on! Sitting in the dressing room waiting to go on, Jon took it upon himself to don a choir robe, then as was his wacky nature, proceeded to stuff his mouth with cotton balls from a bag he found somewhere in the room. So we all came out, Jon in robes, Sandy in punk regalia, along with Alan and I. Jon screamed out the count off , and from the first blast of a guitar chord, children started crying and plugging their ears. The place emptied, and we were asked never to return. It was still magic for us none-the-less.

Sandy soon went her own way, and Jon, Alan and I carried on as a trio. We renamed ourselves The Offenders, and began practicing in the rec centre of Alan’s townhouse. We played covers of bands like the Ramones, Pistols, and Teenage Head. The ‘local heroes’ band at Streetsville Secondary, “Crystal Dogs” (I think) were going to do a party/show where we were practicing and we convinced them to allow us to take the stage between sets. We did, and we blew the lid off the place. That was the night a certain Mike Rullman was in the audience, fell in love with us, and said he wanted to be our lead singer.”

Mike Rullman recalls that during his last year at high school, he met Jean-Claude, Alan and Jon where some rockers he knew were partying and performing. There he spotted three young men – two wearing leather jackets and a third (Jon) sporting an ascot! During their “furious set of covers and original songs” he fell in love, and soon they were all “going steady as Kinetic Ideals.” JC recalls, “Not too much [later], after attending a Spoons concert, Mike convinced their Manager (Paul Abrahams) and keyboardist (Brett Wickens) of the Spoons to come to one of our rehearsals. They too fell in love with us, put us on several stages with the Spoons, and offered us a record deal. We were on our way!” In time they would open for such bands as the Stranglers, Gang of Four and Teardrop Explodes.

Recently I unearthed a diary I’d kept during the 80s and found an entry dated Sunday, April 18, 1982, the night Kinetic Ideals opened for The Teardrop Explodes at The Concert Hall, along with my ticket stub and two articles from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail; Jonathan Gross wrote in a headline that “John [sic] Davies carries the band with stunning tribal tom-tomming.” At age 15 I wrote about Kinetic Ideals:

“First [in 1980] they made a single [Life in Shadow/Maze of Ways]. It didn’t do so hot, but they made it.”

Kinetic Ideals’ ‘Life in Shadow’/’Maze of Ways’ 7″ single on YouTube

“[In 1981] they became known in Streetsville and played at a school there. They played at the pavilion at Square One. They played in Brampton and downtown. They played at Burnhamthorpe Library. Not enough people showed up to see how great they were; they played songs from their forthcoming EP [Reason]. Mike was absolutely terrific on stage. They made their EP. CFNY didn’t play it on All Request Saturday. I got on the radio and requested it. The next day an interview of the Kinetic Ideals was on CFNY. They had three of their songs played in that one day. Live Earl Jive plays Animalistic [which topped Toronto dance club charts in 1981] every day now. [Tonight] they opened for a group at the Concert Hall and outdid them!! All they have to do now is get on New Music and be seen by all. They’re famous. And I’m proud of them.” 

— from the Diary of Angélique Davies, 1982

Kinetic Ideals – ‘Touch Me Now’ demo tape from 1983 on YouTube

Kinetic Ideals toured Canada, the US, and eventually London, England. Mike recalls that as “the night we gig-pirated a show at the 101 club” and the night my brother was struck by a taxi while standing on the median, sustaining injuries that would cause him physical difficulties years later. Jon did not return to Canada with the others. (I suspect that he stayed with members of our family.)

Breeding Ground 'Reunion'/'Slaughter' album cover photo by A Davies
Breeding Ground ‘Reunion’/’Slaughter’ album cover photo by A Davies

In 1983 he decided to join the Toronto band Breeding Ground. JC notes, “Explosive energy, originality, and most of all unpredictability…those very characteristics intrinsic in Jon were the spark that lit Kinetic Ideals, and the elements that drew people to the band and its music.” After Jon’s departure, Kinetic Ideals acquired a drum machine that would never truly replace him.

The members of Breeding Ground included lead singer John Shirreff, guitarist Hugh Gladish, original bassist Jonathan Strayer, and original drummer Ken Jones. In 1983, Jon expressed an interest in assisting with the production of Breeding Ground’s 12” single Reunion/Slaughter (which was play-listed on Toronto radio station CFNY and at college stations across Canada). Three months before its release he’d become a member of the group, replacing Ken Jones.  Breeding Ground opened for The Stranglers at the Concert Hall in April 1983 and Echo and the Bunnymen in March 1984. I recall my brother inviting me backstage to meet the headlining band. (I still have my autographed copy of the Bunnymen’s album Crocodiles!). By 1986, Jon had left the band. Though I never knew the particulars, I understand that Jon’s departure from Breeding Ground was very sad for him, given the time they enjoyed together and their close collaboration.

Hugh Gladish expressed shock at the news of my brother’s passing in 2016.  They had kept in touch through the internet, and he had invited Jon to perhaps, one day, join Breeding Ground for a “reunion” show. Hugh wrote, “Out of our historic three drummers, he was our favourite. We got along very well and I always felt his artistic input fit our writing seamlessly.” Hugh fondly remembers a mini tour Breeding Ground did through Ontario and Quebec, where Jon’s French language skills (our mother was a Francophone) were quite helpful. Jon was “fun to be with, and I’ll remember his gentle laugh forever.”

Breeding Ground’s ‘Reunion’

Breeding Ground’s ‘Slaughter’, from the B-side of the ‘Reunion’/’Slaughter’ album

Featured image: Kinetic Ideals onstage at 101 Club, London, courtesy of Kinetic Ideals

by Angélique Davies, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Read all 4 instalments of Angélique’s story:

Life in Shadow: (published in 4 parts)

Life in Shadow: A Drummer’s Story Comes to Light (Part 1)
– published July 15, 2017
Life in Shadow: Kinetic Ideals and Breeding Ground – (Part 2)
– published July 16, 2017
Life in Shadow: Finding a New Artistic Direction: Groovy Julia (Part 3) – published July 18, 2017
Life in Shadow: A Eulogy for my Brother (Part 4) – published July 20, 2017


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