By John P. McLaughlin

It was, says guitarist Scotty Hall, Phil Robertson’s time, his drumming time. As in the internal, multi-rhythmic clock that regulates the very best of those who like to slam wooden sticks on stretched membranes. For Hall, it was a perfect sync.

“It’s how you know when you’re really playing with someone rather than just listening to them. It was, man, this guy here’s time is exactly the same way I am. There was just kind of a magic there I’d never felt.”

Phil Robertson concurs. That magic, that attuned sharing of just how something should sound, is a rare, rare thing and precious when it’s found. “We just have this real affinity, intuitively we just like the same things musically. If there’s some passage that happens, if he doesn’t like it I probably wouldn’t either. And vice versa.”

Scotty Hall first met Phil Robertson when Hall auditioned as the new guitar guy for the Vancouver, B.C. based 80s rock band, Idle Eyes. That immediate simpatico got him hired and as the gig reeled itself out over the next couple of years the two made a pact that, when it was all over, one day they’d get together and do a project of their own.

By the end of the 80s the gig did end and the two went separate ways, although not quite as disparate as the roads they’d come from.

Scotty Hall is, as the name implies, Scottish, born in Aberdeen though raised in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond since age 10. But he was still over there in ’63 – in fact had relatives in Liverpool – when the Beatles first flattened the U.K. young like a pop music A-bomb. He pretty much came to the Americas the same time they did.

But the guitar bug really bit after he saw the Woodstock movie in 1970. In those days it was difficult to see musicians playing outside live venues. Videos didn’t exist and Ed Sullivan only had one rocker on a week, if you were lucky, just after the unicyclist plate twirler. That Woodstock movie was a big deal and Hall was mesmerized by the likes of Carlos Santana, Alvin Lee of Ten Years After, the Who’s Pete Townsend and, of course, the Zeus of rock guitar gods, Jimi.

Then and there he made his pact with music, practiced fiendishly, worked through a bunch of bands, culminating with the Idle Eyes job. But most of his career, 20 years of it, has been devoted to session work. He likes it, it lets him keep his chops up and when it’s done, it’s done. He can leave it behind and has the wherewithal to go play what he wants.

Phil Robertson feels much the same. He’s a Toronto boy raised in a Salvation Army family, albeit a progressive Salvation Army family. They didn’t shun dancing.

Still, after he’d worked through playing brass, tuba and trumpet in the church and school bands, at 14 he developed a big affinity for drums. No way his pastor dad was going to allow a drum kit in the house so he’d ride his bike to the church, set their drums up, practice, put the drums away and ride home again. A little work intensive but that’s how you learn.

He moved to Vancouver in the latter 70s and got a job drumming at a little studio in a seedier part of town. Most of the jobs were for custom, indie albums, usually either gospel or singer/songwriter projects, usually pretty bad. “Some of them were just horrible,” says Robertson, “but it was really good experience. That’s when I first got studio experience and got serious.”

Following the Idle Eyes years Robertson too went on to session work around Vancouver for a couple of decades, occasionally running into Scotty Hall when the two would make noises about getting together, doing that joint project. “Procrastination,” as poet Edward Young once wrote, “is the thief of time.”

In 2004 Hall and Robertson were brought together with the idea of reuniting Idle Eyes. They could take it on the road! Play all the old tunes! No! they said.

“So me and Phil kinda ran outside,” says Hall. “And then we brought it up again, that fusion thing that we’ve been talking about for years. And somehow I knew that we really had it that night, it’s weird. I said, ‘okay, I’ll see you on Wednesday’. And I saw him.”

They got together at Robertson’s home studio and slowly, painstakingly began putting an album together. After so many years of playing from charts, giving the clients what they think they want, the MO here was to keep it loose, spontaneous and improvisational.

After two years’ work the result is a wonderfully evolved and intricate rock/jazz/blues fusion album of 10 cuts featuring some really eye popping playing. And it’s going over amazingly well. Local rock station CFMI is drawing from it daily.

Vancouver Sun writer John Mackie led off a piece on Rez with “Scotty Hall might be the best guitarist you’ve never heard of”.

“Rez has a sense of roots, a sense of experimentation and a sense of humour,” wrote Tom Harrison of the Vancouver Province. From the same paper, John P. McLaughlin wrote: “Slap a Stratocaster in his (Hall’s) hands, plug it into something meaningful and he turns into a fierce, fire breathing wizard who’d have Jeff Beck snapping his neck in double takes.” “The finest guitar-based instrumental rock CD ever to come out of Vancouver”, said the Georgia Straight. Finally, the North Carolina based Guitar Nine Records web site are all over Rez with review lines like “Rez’ self-titled album is loaded to the rafters with … house rockin’ axe work” and “truly does sound great cranked to 11, Hall backs his stellar, whammy-lovin’ groove with the excellent percussion work of Phil Robertson.” An Idle eyes reunion, huh? I don’t think so.