andrew kruse-ross | the return of thor | oct. 2018
Vancouver's master of muscle rock returns to Green Bay's Phat Headz on October 12 and this time the former Mr. USA and Mr. Canada titleholder says he comes bearing gifts.
“Well, I guess we're getting close to the Christmas season and we'll have some stocking stuffers for you and launch the new record there in Green Bay," says Jon Mikl-Thor, the Clark Kent behind the Thor character.
The new album, called “Christmas in Valhalla," coincides with Cleopatra Records' other Christmas release, William Shatner's “Shatner Claus – the Christmas Album."
This isn't the first time Thor has bestowed his blessings upon Titletown.
His first visit to Green Bay in October of last year — his very first in a music and film career that spans nearly five decades — was a gift to last Green Bay for centuries.
Despite his rocking Green Bay's east side to its very foundation during that visit, he, in his infinite wisdom, decided it best to leave Green Bay standing — another gift to be sure.
It's difficult to understand the motivations of the gods and Thor is no exception. But if one was to speculate, it is perhaps true he left Green Bay intact in 2017 only so that he might destroy us beneath the full heft of his mighty hammer when he returns to the stage at Phat Headz this October.
“It's going to be a party, man; we're going to have a good time," says Thor.
North Americans get a unique vantage where Thor is concerned. Scandinavians leave the fjords by the thousands to attend a Thor show on the European festival circuit. The contributions of an early metal and glitter rock pioneer that has kept company with the likes of Lemmy Kilmister and Ozzy Osbourne isn't soon forgotten abroad.
Thor recalls a 2018 show in Finland as “probably the biggest stage I've ever appeared on," performing that night in front of 20,000 people.
Thor was even honored with a lifetime achievement award this year for his contributions to metal music while on tour in Sweden.
According to Thor, even bandmates John Leibel and Ted Jedlicki are acquiring celebrity status while overseas, but that may not have much to do with their proximity to the legendary Thor.
As Leibel tells it, while in Finland, he and Jedlicki, disguised as Canadians in an attempt to stay under the radar — both for reasons of diplomacy and language — were killing time in Pori, Finland's “smallest dive bar" when their bartender discovered the duo to be Americans, thanks to a slip up by Jedlicki.
When asked by his Finnish bartender where in American he was from, Leibel recalls, “I go, 'Well, I'm from Minnesota,' and he goes, 'You're from Minnesota? … Mikko Koivu! Great hockey player for Minnesota Wild grew up here! Mikko Koivu number one. You guys no pay, you no pay!'"
Hockey owes much to Thor after all. Both an entrepreneur and hockey historian, not to mention a Vancouver native, Thor preserved a piece of hockey history when he legally obtained the logos for both the Vancouver Millionaires and Vancouver Maroons hockey teams — the predecessors to today's Vancouver Canucks. He held those rights for 33 years, selling them over to the Canucks' organization in 2010.
Most recently, during this summer's NHL draft, his hockey reproductions were selected by the Dallas Stars' organization to appear in Texas Hockey History Center.
But let's get back to music, shall we?
Perhaps it's the fact that Thor charted hits in the UK in the mid-'80s with singles “Let the Blood Run Red" and “Thunder on the Tundra" that keeps his popularity overseas significantly richer than here in the U.S. (How “Thunder on the Tundra" isn't in the permanent Lambeau Field music rotation during Packer home games is an affront to both music and humanity.) But it's perhaps more likely that a thriving culture of rock and metal music is at the forefront of many Scandinavian lifestyles. Whatever the case, Thor's popularity in the states is on the rise.
The 2015 hit documentary “I Am Thor" has played a role in introducing Thor to new U.S. audiences. That film, which documents Thor's return to the music industry that nearly cost him his life, was a runaway hit and currently holds an enthusiastic 88 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The success of that film has prompted the creation of a sequel, “Return of the Thunderhawk." The trailer for that film recently received a positive reception with Hollywood audiences and production is ongoing. According to Thor, footage from the upcoming visit to Wisconsin may even be considered for the film's final cut.
Whether “Return of the Thunderhawk" launches Thor to the next level with U.S. audiences or not, you won't catch Thor or his band turning in uninspired concert sets. We are talking about a man that used to bend steel bars with his teeth and let cinder blocks be crushed with a sledgehammer across his chest during shows. Thor gives no less than 100 percent and his band follows suit, regardless of venue size.
“I come from the old school where even in the beginning of my career if I had one person in the audience I'd give them 100 percent just as I would if I were performing in front of a full house," says Thor.
Adds Leibel, “When we go out on the road as Thor's backing band, we're always looking to get a strong level of consistency … No matter what, you're going to see a show!"
Where the band also follows Thor's lead is in interacting with fans when offstage. Contrary to the Thor persona created on stage — one that defeats monsters and performs feats of superhuman strength — when not on stage, Thor is perhaps one of the kindest souls one could hope to meet. And he's not shy in expressing his appreciation with the fans that keep him in the entertainment business that he so loves.
“Love is the most powerful force in the universe; it's mightier than the hammer, it's mightier than thunder and lightning, mightier than anything."
Thor's kindness should come as no surprise. After all, we mentioned he's bringing gifts, right?
Catch Thor in action on Oct. 12 at Phat Headz for the “Christmas in Valhalla" CD release show. In support are motor-charged thrashers Deathwish, fresh off their Japanese tour and full-bore rock trio Alleyway from Oshkosh. Tickets are $13 in advance or $15 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Green Bay Exclusive Company and Rock N' Roll Land.
For more on Thor visit ThorCentral.net or visit THOR.Official.Page at Facebook.