In this two-part feature, Haywire’s Paul MacAusland shares what living the dream was really like back in the band’s heyday, plus what led him to rockin’ out and living life on ‘The Rock’
While recording and touring in the 80s and 90s might have been Haywire’s musical heyday, vocalist Paul MacAusland shared just how grand life has been, and still is, since settling into Newfoundland.
IF THE SHOE FITS
If the term haywire means erratic and out of control, then the saying; ‘if the shoe fits…’ simply doesn’t apply to at least one of the band’s founders, vocalist Paul MacAusland. Haywire’s roots were simple. A few pals – MacAusland (vocals), Marvin Birt (guitar/vocals), David Rashed (keys/vocals), Ronnie Switzer (bass/vocals) and Scott Roberts (drums) – gathered in 1981 in Charlottetown, PEI, and started making music.
The band went through many names, trying them on for size – including, MacAusland laughs at the memory, Beans & Wieners.
‘SORT OF A CRAPSHOOT’
“We were just a couple of boys from PEI,” he began, reflecting on those ‘good ol’ Haywire days.’ Did they know they’d make it big? MacAusland laughs.
“It was the same as anything. It’s sort of a crapshoot. And actually, there’s a lot of talent out there, and I’ve said this many, many times after being here in Newfoundland. It’s almost frightening how much talent there is here and in the Maritimes. We happened to walk out and actually get a record deal. That’s pretty well all I can say about it,” he said almost casually.
As the conversation continues, MacAusland offers that Haywire’s work ethic may have given them an edge over other equally talented performers.
“We were persistent. I guess we just kept pushing, pushing, pushing. We knew there was talent here in Newfoundland and talent in PEI and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They’re in the basement and they could play circles around me or sing circles around me. But, you know, for some reason, we stuck with it and had an adequate opportunity to get the (recording) deal.”
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LANDING A DEAL
That first deal was with Canadian independent label Attic Records. Their first full-length album, Bad Boys (1986), went Canadian platinum and the title track reached the Top 40. The following year, they released Don’t Just Stand There (1987), which also went platinum and contained their highest-charting hit, the hard-driving Dance Desire and “Drop the Needle” became a household term. In fact, in honour of the lad’s turn-of-phrase and musical riff talent, Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh-Wes used ‘Drop the Needle’ in his hit Let Your Backbone Slide. There was more hits, including this writer’s fav, Standin’ in Line.
“It wasn’t easy. Like I said, there was so much talent out there. But through all that, we just kept at it. That’s what we did. We just kept at it.”
Newfoundland became a favourite spot to “just keep at it,” and the old Strand Lounge in the Avalon Mall was one of the band’s haunts.
“Oh! The memories!” he teased. From bar owners and bouncers who treated the lads like gold to the shows MacAusland found himself out dancing with party-goers, those were grand times.
ROCK & ROLLING
“So many fun and funny individuals who were great, great people and just always forever tormenting and teasing and all that stuff. But yeah, the Strand was huge for us down at the Avalon Mall. It was pretty, pretty crazy in that place; all packed and rock and rolling and stuff like that.”
But it was like that no matter where they played on this island, he continued.
“Even the outskirts were rocking. Like when we played in Corner Brook or Stephenville or Gander at the Flyers Club – trying to be politically correct here, but that’s where there would be lady entertainment. So we would play a set and then the entertainment would come out and then we’d go back on. I remember on my birthday one year I actually went out and danced with the entertainment during the break. You know. Fun, crazy times,” he laughed.
Amidst all those wild and crazy times, something happened – MacAusland met a Newfoundland woman and the two began to date.
BOY MEETS GIRL
“You know, you meet all kinds of people, but I happened to meet a woman – Jeanie, well now she’s Jeanie MacAusland – so you can kind of figure out where this is going,” he added with a chuckle.
But the tale isn’t that simple. The two dated for a while, but split. Over a decade later, an email revealed MacAusland had a daughter he knew nothing about.
“We were making records and touring and all that stuff and Jeanie became pregnant – I don’t know how, I figure it must have been too much kissing or something birds and the bees. But she didn’t tell me. She wanted me to follow my dreams so she never burdened me down with the news of her becoming pregnant and having this beautiful child, Leah.”
‘SHE’S YOUR KID’
There’s a touching pause as he shared the tale. “So, after everything, the dust settled and all that stuff around the early 2000s and I end up getting an e-mail from Jeanie and I was like, ‘how are you doing?’ We chatted back and forth a bit and then she sent me pictures of her child.
And then she said, ‘do you notice any resemblance?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ And she said, ‘well, she’s your kid also.’”