In the 1980s, one band was synonymous with Prince Edward Island rock: Charlottetown’s Haywire. The follow-up to their 1986 platinum-selling debut Bad Boys, Don’t Just Stand There produced three radio singles: “Black and Blue,” “Thinkin’ About the Years” and the sultry, synth-driven glam rock hit “Dance Desire” – which went on to win an award at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo. The band has received lifetime achievement awards from Music P.E.I. and the East Coast Music Awards, and after a long hiatus recently began playing select festivals. Co-founder and keyboardist David Rashed spoke to us from Charlottetown.
What was the scene like for original hard rock bands in Charlottetown when you started?
It was fantastic. A lot of surrounding towns had little night clubs – or curling clubs, even. We played all over the island every weekend. We had put the band together from three local bands and the focus was to get a group that could tour and go to the next level. We started doing original music very early on.
Your first album was a success. Did this put pressure on you to write the follow-up?
I’m sure you’ve heard this from a lot of groups, but we came off tour, took a couple of months off just to kind of focus, then the record company started asking for a new record. So instead of just writing at your leisure, you have a deadline. We had only a few months to pull it together. There was a little more pressure, but we rose to the challenge.
What was the original spark for “Dance Desire”?
It’s a funny story. We’re in our spot we’re renting, a regular day working on stuff. Marvin [Birt] had to run to the washroom. I was just messing around with different patches and I started on this riff. He yelled out of the washroom, “Remember that!” When he came out, he picked up his guitar and we wrote the song around that riff. It was done in a few hours.
What was your approach to incorporating keys into rock music? The ‘80s were a good time for that, unlike today!
My first love was a guitar, and I was originally the guitar player. I think it’s thanks to Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose,” and the first chord with the keyboard. We played covers at that time, so we learned it, and I could play some keyboards, so I did it. But all the keyboards coming on the scene, it became more of my passion over the years. I’ve tried to approach keyboards from a guitar point of view. Maybe that’s bipolar in some ways!
Were the lyrics co-written as well? How did that work?
Writing lyrics is collaborative, [between] Marvin, Paul and myself. Originally the song was called “Chase the Fire” actually, but that didn’t sound good. Marvin is the main melody writer and a lot of the times he’ll just mumble the same words on every song, at the conception, like place holders. We revisit it later with the singer, and try to focus on what it’s about.
Looking back at all your songs, what does “Dance Desire” represent to you now?
“Dance Desire” was the song showed that the band could write. We were always a performing band, but it showed that there was something more there, the band was growing, the writing was growing, and there are always new and interesting things to hear from us.