|The Northern Pikes began their career in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in early 1984. Over the next two years the band recorded and released the independent EPs The Northern Pikes and Scene In North America (1985) with producer and pal Mitch Barnett. Both were recorded and mixed at Studio West in Saskatoon.
The original lineup was spawned from the ashes of three local groups, "The Idols", "Doris Daye" and " 17 Envelope", and consisted of Jay Semko, Merl Bryck, Bryan Potvin and Glen Hollingshead, who left the band in 1985. Numerous drummers came and went until June of 1986, when Don Schmid joined to make it a permanent quartet. With the help of friend and local booking agent Robert Hodgins, the band cut its teeth on the prairie bar circuit. The combination of exciting live performances, well-received indie albums and the continuous stream of demos caught the ear of Doug Chappell, President of Virgin Records, Canada, and with the help of managers Fraser Hill and Ed Smeall, The Pikes signed to the label on December 19, 1986.
In January of 1987 the band began sessions at Metal Works Studio in Toronto with producers Rick Hutt and Fraser Hill, and finished mixing at McClear Place Studios for what would become its first Virgin album Big Blue Sky. It was released in June of '87 and featured the singles "Teenland" and "Things I Do For Money", introducing the band to a wider audience and expanding the touring range to all parts of Canada and the USA.
Spring of 1988 saw The Pikes at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY., and later in Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec for the recording and mixing of Secrets of the Alibi. The sophomore album had a more "live off the floor" feel, and the heavy airplay of single "Wait For Me" and "Hopes Go Astray" kept the band on the road virtually non-stop across the continent until the summer of '89.
Up to this point, the primary singers and songwriters were Jay and Merl, with the exception of some group compositions and "Hopes" written by Bryan. The Pikes third album Snow In June saw the blossoming of Bryan as a singer and writer, most notably for the hit single "She Ain't Pretty". In addition the album featured other hits, "Girl With A Problem" and "Kiss Me You Fool", and featured a star-studded cast of additional musicians - Garth Hudson, Crystal Taliefero, John Sebastian and Stan Szelest, as well as mixes by acclaimed engineers Bob Clearmountain and Hugh Padgham. Recording again in Bearsville and mixing at A&M Studios in Los Angeles, the Pikes spent almost six months working on the album, considered by many to be their finest.
After almost two years of touring to support Snow In June, the band began work on Neptune in July of '92 at A&M Studios in LA with Rob Jaczko as co-producer. Subsequent sessions continued at Metal Works in Toronto and Blue Jay Studio in Boston. From start to finish the album took exactly two months to record, mix and master, the fastest turnaround since their indie days.
Released in November, Neptune featured the keyboard work of Ross Nykiforuk, also a native of Saskatoon and an on-stage addition for the Snow In June tour. Also featured were two duets with Margo Timmins of "Cowboy Junkies", one of which made its way onto an episode of the TV series "Due South". The album featured the singles "Twister", "Believe" and "Everything", and in December saw the band fly from one end of Canada to the other on a whirlwind tour promoting the record.
The spring of '93 saw the last tour for The Pikes, and the fifth and final album Gig, recorded live during concerts in Montreal and Toronto. It featured 13 songs and showcased the raw energy the band always exhibited onstage.
The Northern Pikes played their final concert on July 2, 1993 in Fort Frances, Ontario. Their unofficial final recording session took place July 9, '93 in Don's "Fresh Vibe North" studio where Jay, Bryan, Don and Ross laid down the original tracks for the theme song to "Due South" written by Jay and Bryan.
The Pikes are back! All original members, Don Schmid, Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin and Merl Bryck, reunited in December 1999 to assemble a greatest hits package, and haven't looked back since. That meeting saw the release of a collection of old favorites and buried treasures, entitled Hits and Assorted Secrets. It also led to a hugely successful Canadian tour in early 2000, and the decision to record a new studio album, their first in eight years, which is due out in April 2001. In the meantime, the Pikes have recorded The Northern Pikes Live, an album's worth of tunes recorded at various shows in Ontario and Quebec on their recent Canadian tour.
The Northern Pikes' music, poignant lyrics and vocal harmonizing still sound as fresh and innovative today as it did when they first appeared on the scene in the 80s. The first time around, The Northern Pikes released two independent albums, five albums for Virgin Records with worldwide distribution and an astounding seven Juno nominations. This time, the sky's the limit.