Jay Semko Composes Soundtrack For TV Show ‘Dust Up’

Here’s a clip of singer-songwriter, Northern Pikes co-founder, and TV/film composer Jay Semko hard at work with fellow musician Randy Woods on the soundtrack to History Television’s Dust Up. The show follows the stories of a group of daredevil crop dusters on the Canadian Prairies.

Appropriately, Jay Semko himself hails from the Canadian Prairies, specifically Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the place where he got his start playing bass, singing, and writing songs for ’80s hitmakers The Northern Pikes. Later, he would make a name for himself as the composer of soundtrack music for the popular TV show Due South, among other projects for film and TV.

But, this is his newest soundtracking project. Thanks to the people at Paperny Films who sponsored this special edition post here on the Delete Bin, I talked to Jay about what interested him in the show, how he views the role of music in the storytelling process, and how his work as a film and TV composer dovetails with his work as a rock and roots songwriter and performer.

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Northern Pikes Play ‘Let’s Pretend’

Listen to this song by Saskatchewan power-pop jangle merchants Northern Pikes, with their not entirely removed from early REM Canadian radio hit “Let’s Pretend” as taken from the band’s 1988 album Secrets of the Alibi.  And Happy Canada Day, everyone!

The Northern Pikes allied themselves with post-punk and with college radio that drew from 60s British Invasion sounds, as well as roots rock overtones as well.  And they formed in the Canadian Prairies, with simple expectations of rock bands playing smaller venues placed upon them.  This meant that they had to learn how to play Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes too, in between ones by Elvis Costello & the Attractions, and Squeeze. As such, the range of this band was wide, stylistically speaking.  The result was a solid career in Canada, with a record deal with Virgin Canada.

Like a number of Canadian bands, they had the advantage of drawing from three singers and songwriters, all with a talent for classic pop-rock songwriting.  And “Let’s Pretend” is one their best, a song about having one’s innocence crushed, and about the cruelty of the world that runs contrary to how many of us feel things should be.  From the peace between religions, to the stability of loving familes, to the ongoing career of the Beatles, this is a song about disappointment – that an ideal world is often vastly removed from the one we find ourselves in.

The Northern Pikes had a number of hit songs on Canadian radio  in the late 80s and early 90s (‘Teenland’,  ‘Wait For Me’, ‘She Ain’t Pretty’, ‘Girl With A Problem’, and others).  They served as opening act to a number of high-profile acts of the time (Duran Duran, David Bowie, Robert Palmer), and achieved international exposure. But like many bands from this country, the American market was seemingly unmoved by them.  As such, after their final album Neptune in 1991, and a live album the following year, they split.

But, you may recgonize the lead vocals on this track from bass player, singer, and songwriter Jay Semko . He wrote and performed the theme to Due South, a cop series about a mountie working in Chicago.   Under all of that, the show is really about the cultural differences and barriers between Canadians and Americans.  Considering the troubles Northern Pikes had breaking through to our neighbours to the south, this is kind of appropriate.

More recently, the band has come together to work on a number of projects together which have, to date, not been released.  For more information on this, and other Pikes-related info, check out thePikes.com.

And of course for more music, head on down to the Northern Pikes site.