I got my love of music from my parents. My father is a lifelong jazz fanatic with a wide range of tastes, and knowledge of different artists and idioms, and my mother loves classical and traditional music.
I was drawn to drumming at age eight, partly because my neighbour was a drummer, but mostly because I just had an affinity for it. It makes me feel good. I got my first kit at age 10 and started playing in school bands. I took drum lessons and also started playing the guitar, toying with song writing and singing.
I started drumming with real bands once I got out of high school, in the early ’80s. I eventually found my way on to the Queen Street circuit in Toronto, playing with a Simple Minds/Gang of Four influenced band, called Vital Sines, and then joining several other bands including Whitenoise, the Garbagemen, Groovy Religion, and the Plasterscene Replicas. Most of these bands released independent records.
In ’88, I joined my first major label act, Andrew Cash. I played on his second album called Boomtown, and toured extensively with him through Europe, Canada and the US. While with Andrew I continued to play with other artists, including Colin Linden, Malcolm Burn (who produced Diamond Mine), Andy Curran and Change of Heart, among others. In December ’91, I got a call from Jim Cuddy to audition for Blue Rodeo. I recorded Lost Together with them and became a fully-fledged member shortly after. Playing with Blue Rodeo has been one of the great experiences of my life, not just because they are one of the few Canadian bands to sustain a respectable degree of success for several years, but because there is genuine honesty and integrity in the music, and in spite of hundreds of arguments, ego clashes and hissy fits, there is a lot of love in the band.
While playing with Blue Rodeo I continued to guest with other bands, including my twin brother John’s project Starvin’ Hungry, Big Sugar, Mary Jane Lamond, Blurtonia, Lonnie James and many others. In 1997, I finally got the nerve to record my own songs, and made a CD which finally came out in 1999 called Turning Blue by The Swallows. I played most of the instruments myself, with guest appearances from Blurtonia’s Ian Blurton and cellist/vocalist Anne Bourne, who many Blue Rodeo fans will remember from the 5 Days in July album and tour.
Subsequent to finishing the first CD, The Swallows have become a real band with John Borra on bass and backing vocals, Randy Curnew on drums, Clive MacNutt on guitar, and myself on guitar and vocals.
– Glenn Milchem
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