It’s because of a guy everyone called Fern that Louis Cyr, aka Ludwig Wax, was infected by a virus commonly known as rock’n’roll. “His real name is Pierre Ferland,” says Cyr, about the person who made him want to devote his life to shaking his moneymaker, on his knees, onstage, with a Mexican wrestling mask on his head, night after night. Even if it means ending up alone, like all of his peers. In other words, becoming, one day, the singer for Nombre, and one of Québec’s most flamboyant rock singers – half acrobat, half daredevil.
Flashback to Québec City in the early ‘90s. “Fern DJ’d at Midnight on Tuesday nights,” says Cyr, “and he’d founded an amazing band called Kaopectak alongside Gourmet Délice [bass player for Secrétaires Volantes, Caféïne and Nombre, founder of Blow the Fuse Records, and now business development director for Bonsound]. They did covers of obscure punk and rock songs. Fern was a very calm dude, but on stage… WOAH! We imagine all kinds of things about rock stars, but Fern was truly the first person I saw get onstage, go into a trance, and return to their normal life after. I said to myself, ‘I want to do that, too.’”
In 1996, “in some basement in Cap-Rouge,” he recorded Fun Bomb!, the only album by Demolition, his first band. I show him the album cover from my end of the videoconference call. “Look inside!” says Cyr. “Do you see who produced the album?” And what I can clearly see is that it was produced by Stéphane Papillon, with whom Cyr recently re-united in Drogue, Québec’s new super-group, the other members of which are guitar hero Jean-Sébastien Chouinard, bassist Fred Fortin, and drummer Pierre Fortin (of Gros Mené and Galaxie).
“At the end of my Cégep, the two bands that made it to the finals of Cégeps en spectacle were Papillon’s band and Jean-Philippe’s [Dynamite Roy, guitarist for Secrétaires Volantes and Nombre, and Drogue’s lyricist]. Papillon sang ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and it was the first time I heard a Stooges song.”
Rock “funabulist,” adolescent on the loose, charismatic, and most likely a bit masochistic, as Ludwig Wax, Cyr became a Québécois Iggy Pop, never hesitating to wrap his microphone cord around his neck, to climb everywhere, to catapult himself into the crowd and to do the snake on the floor, a modus operandi he adopted right from the get-go with Demolition, and which would guide him to the third and ultimate Nombre, Vile et fantastique (2009).
“C’est-tu l’aube, c’est-tu l’aube, c’est-tu l’aube, c’est-tu l’aube ou le crépuscule ? /Un jour je me bats, y’en dix autres où je capitule” (“Is it dawn, is it dawn, is it dawn, is it dawn or is it dusk? /One day I fight, there are 10 other where I capitulate”) he howls on “L’aube ou le crepuscule,” the galvanizing first single from Drogue’s first EP.
“I consider Jean-Philippe Roy to be one of the most important songwriters of the punk rock Francophonie,” says Louis about his longtime friend, whom we could qualify as semi-retired from the rock scene. “In that song, Jean-Philippe is wondering if our feet are inside or outside of our casket. How are we supposed to react to aging? We’re all around 50 years old now.”
What’s Cyr’s attitude with regards to his own age? Let’s start with a list of injuries: Ludwig Wax has “kneecaps typical of someone who too often decided to jump really high and land on their knees like a moron,” he says. He has back problems, also linked to his stunts, and a shoulder that makes him miserable since he dislocated it during a Demolition show in Japan during a G8 Summit in 2000.
“My attitude towards aging?” He gives an unequivocal answer. accompanied by a booming laugh: “I decided join Drogue!” (Editor’s note: The line in French is “J’ai décidé de jouer dans Drogue,” a wordplay best translated as, “I decided to play with drugs.”)
Although Stéphane Papillon and Jean-Sébastien Chouinard tricked him into joining the band – he met them thinking he was only going to collaborate on a single song for Papillon’s solo album – the singer, now that he’s got the bug again, is dying to get onstage and “feel the air moving because of the amps.” As hard to believe as it is, a certain virus (more dangerous than the rock one) has meant that the members of Drogue have never all been together in the same room. That also explains why Cyr is the only band member – disguised as a human billboard(!) – featured in the video for De la poudre aux yeux, a tribute to Guy L’Écuyer’s character in André Forcier’s film Au clair de la lune (1983).
“I want to become one with the music when I’m onstage,” says Cyr. “I want to be stabbed by the sound waves of the drums, guitars, and bass. I know not everyone enjoys loud music, but I do. It makes a lot of musical styles more interesting. Whenever I listen to music or sing, I get to a point where I feel it should be even louder.”