Better Late Than Never: Acid Test Returns After 25 Year Layoff

Twenty-five years after the release of their major label debut Drop, propelled by a desire to rekindle a fulfilling musical partnership and motivated by the lingering feeling they had some unfinished business to take care of, Toronto band Acid Test is back for round two.

In the early part of the 90’s, the group was signed to the Sire record label by none other than Seymour Stein, the man responsible for bringing The Ramones, Talking Heads and countless others to the world. Acid Test subsequently toured throughout Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., sharing the stage with Nine Inch Nails and The Sugarcubes, among others.

The band’s rise was pre-emptively cut short when business considerations led to them finding themselves back on the indie scene, eventually disbanding with each member going their separate ways in 1994.

Guitarist Steve Fall and bassist-vocalist Lucy Di Santo later formed the bands ON and Innerstate, while keyboardist Atom Percy went on to be a sideman for the likes of Bif Naked and Econoline Crush, as well as building a career as a producer after moving to B.C about a decade ago.

The death of former Acid Test member Mike Harland (DJ Jus’ Rite) in 2012, shortly after the band decided to start writing again, acted as a catalyst for not only the reunion but also the group’s new EP, named Jus’ Rite in his honour after his DJ moniker.

In advance of the band’s album release show in Toronto on April 28, we had the opportunity to chat with Acid Test member Steve Fall about the group’s past, present and where they are headed:

Let’s start with the history of Acid Test. What originally sent the band its separate ways and when?

Acid Test had just completed the first warm-up leg of the Downward Spiral Tour with Nine Inch Nails in California and Nevada. There was more dates coming, but we opted to rest on Gabriola Island in BC, where we rented a friend’s home while she was on vacation. We ended up recording a new track, “Ressurrection” at Mushroom Sound in Vancouver and submitted for the rest of the tour with Nine Inch Nails. Unfortunately, there was a misguided belief at the booking agent level that we weren’t able to continue the NIN tour, which, coupled with having Sire, created a bit of bad blood amongst band members. We arrived at a point where it was clear that we needed a break from touring and each other. We decided to tour our way back from BC to Toronto and then take a break. Two and a half decades later, here we are.

I met you and Lucy when you were part of ON in late 1997. It might have seemed unfathomable at the time, but, deep down, did you feel as though there was some unfinished business with respect to Acid Test?

I think we each felt that Acid Test would be resurrected one day, we just weren’t sure when that would happen. We all kept in touch with one another. Our DJ, Jus’ Rite (Mike Harland) was always pushing us to write together. It was just a matter of making it happen. Unfortunately, we lost Mike right at the time he was successful at pulling us back together in 2012.

It’s interesting what getting older will do in the respect that inter-band conflicts and challenges that once seemed insurmountable – not insinuating Acid Test faced any such challenges – don’t seem as significant as time goes on. Confronting your own mortality is terrifying, but it can also be empowering.

Confronting Mike’s death with music to heal was empowering, which ultimately made writing a natural extension of the grieving process. The first riff I had was “Sugar Bowl,” which I wrote the day Mike died. It literally just poured out of me.

How easily did the songs on Jus’ Rite come together given the fact the band is literally spread at various points throughout the country?

Prior to meeting up with Lucy a few days before pre-production, we were writing demos on our cell phones and sending the ideas to Adam whom would cut everything up in Pro Tools and create rough arrangements. He would then send them back to us and Lucy would write vocals and bass parts with any existing vocal ideas Adam and I would present to her. Once we got into the studio, all the songs evolved with Adam producing the band with arrangements. We spent three days in pre-production together and then three days of recording. Overall, the sessions were like driving a bike. Everything came so naturally. The chemistry was still there. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

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