The Northern Pikes were formed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in January 1984. Over the next two years the band recorded and released the independent EPs The Northern Pikes (1984) and Scene In North America (1985) with producer and pal Mitch Barnett. Both were recorded and mixed at Studio West located near Pike Lake, SK.
The original lineup was spawned from the ashes of three local groups, “The Idols”, “Doris Daye” and “17 Envelope”, and consisted of Jay Semko (Vocals, Guitar), Merl Bryck (Vocals, Guitar), Bryan Potvin (Guitars) and Glen Hollingshead (Bass), who left the band in 1985. At this point Jay moved back to playing bass & numerous drummers came and went until June of 1986, when Don Schmid (The Idols) 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 finally 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 18, 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 release, entitled Big Blue Sky.
The album hit the streets in June of ‘87 and featured the hit singles “Teenland”, “Things I Do For Money” and “Dancing In A Danceclub”, 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 the singles “Wait For Me”, “Hopes Go Astray” and “Let’s Pretend” 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 Go Astray” written by Bryan.
The Pikes third album Snow In June saw the blossoming of Bryan as a singer and writer, most notably for the wildly popular hit single “She Ain’t Pretty”. In addition the album featured other smash hits, “Girl With A Problem”, “Kiss Me You Fool” and “Dream Away”, 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, and it became their biggest selling album to date.
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 onstage addition for the Snow In June tour. Also featured were two duets with Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, one of which, “Worlds Away”, made its way onto an episode of the TV series “Due South”. The album featured the singles “Twister”, “Believe” and “Everything”.
The spring of 1993 saw the last tour of the decade 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.
After 10 years of intense road life & non stop travelling, 8 Juno award nominations, 4 Gold records & 1 Double Platinum record, the band elected to go on an indefinite hiatus. The Pikes played their final concert on July 2, 1993 in Fort Frances, Ontario.
In October the final recording was made when Jay, Bryan & Ross got together at Don’s home studio in Saskatoon to record the theme song for the TV series “Due South”.
Six long years later……
All original members Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin, Merl Bryck and Don Schmid reunited in December 1999 to assemble a greatest hits package for Virgin Records.
That meeting saw the release of a collection of old favourites and buried treasures, entitled “Hits and Assorted Secrets”. It also led to a hugely successful Canadian tour in early 2000, some of which was recorded and resulted in The Northern Pikes “Live 2000”, an album’s worth of tunes recorded at various shows in Ontario and Quebec.
This in turn led to the decision to record a new studio album in Toronto during the fall of 2000.
“Truest Inspiration” was released in 2001, The Pikes first studio album in 8 years. The song “Beautiful Music” from that album became a hit in Japan and The Pikes embarked on a short but intensive tour in the land of the rising sun in late June 2003, including a Canada Day concert at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
Shortly before the Japanese tour the guys began work on their 6th studio album “It’s A Good Life”, which was released in March 2003.
The album was a hit with Pikes fans everywhere, and the band continued touring into the second decade of the new millennium, with all of the members pursuing various recording and film projects in addition to their work with the Pikes. In 2007 Virgin/EMI released another “Best Of” album from the band, entitled “Platinum” from the album series of the same name.
Along the way, Merl Bryck made the decision to curtail his touring schedule, and long-time sideman and musician extraordinaire Ross Nykiforuk joined the band on keyboards as the fourth member onstage from 2006-2011.
On September 30, 2012 The Northern Pikes were inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame in Regina, Saskatchewan as the highlight of the 2012 Western Canadian Music Awards.
Longtime friend (and fellow Hall of Fame member) John Donnelly introduced Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin, Merl Bryck & Don Schmid, and the group performed at the induction ceremony, much to the delight of the audience. A statement from the Pikes about their induction into the Hall of Fame: “This is a great honour and we have our fans to thank for this. So we want to extend the deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who ever bought a Pikes record or a concert ticket and supported us on this amazing journey over the years. This is very much your award as well.”
Since 2012 Jay, Bryan & Don, still experiencing the passion and joy of performance, have continued touring as a Trio.
The legacy of the Northern Pikes continues, with the band rocking every venue they perform at, garnering glowing live reviews and entertaining their beloved audiences with their timeless songs and genuine love of the stage.