The brother duo of drummer Christian and guitarist Jagori Tanna met vocalist Edwin at their shared rehearsal space in 1990. Edwin asked the brothers to form a band with him, and the three came together in 1991, taking on Franz Masini as a bass player. The band came up with the name IME, as in "I Am Me", but later decided the letters should stand for something. Jag Tanna ad-libbed the name I Mother Earth and has always insisted it has no special meaning. The band, represented by a professionally recorded five-song demo, played a mere thirteen shows over the next year. These were noted for their jam sessions, poetry readings, and murals painted in the background during the songs. At the end of the year, the band was in the middle of a bidding war between labels. IME ended up being signed to EMI in Canada, and Capitol for the U.S. and internationally.
I Mother Earth travelled to Los Angeles in 1992 to record its debut album with former Guns N' Roses producer Mike Clink. During these sessions, Franz Masini was fired, leaving Jag Tanna to re-record the bass parts by himself. At the completion of the album, Masini was replaced by Bruce Gordon, whose band Rocktopus was breaking up at that time. With the lineup solidified, the band underwent an intensive international tour to support its debut, Dig, in mid-1993. Considered an anomaly in the "alternative" era and often mistaken for heavy metal, the album combined traditional hard rock with grooves, extended jams, psychedelic lyrics, and the Latin-based percussion of Luis Conte and Armando Borg. Dig spawned four singles, the first three of which actually originated from IME's demo tape and were later included on the proper album. "Rain Will Fall" and "Not Quite Sonic" were released in the summer of 1993, and "So Gently We Go" and "Levitate" were released the following summer. All four garnered respectable radio and video airplay in Canada, as well as rotations in the U.S. and Europe. The latter two singles in particular charted well on Canadian rock radio. The album itself won a Juno Award in 1994 for Best Hard Rock Album, beating out IME's childhood idols Rush for the award. This cemented a long relationship between the two bands, which started with IME opening for Rush the night after the Junos. By the end of the album's run, Dig was a Gold record in Canada.
After the exhaustive touring ended, IME ended up in different studios in Toronto and Morin Heights, Quebec in 1995. In these studios, the band worked on its second album, co-produced by Jag Tanna and Paul Northfield, who was most noted for producing Rush. Daniel Mansilla replaced Borg on percussion, and became the band's permanent touring percussionist. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson also made a guest appearance on the song "Like a Girl". However, signs of dissension in the band were already showing. For the first time, Edwin revealed to the music press that he had no creative control in the band and that such a situation gave him "no reason to be (t)here". He had also spent a great deal of the sessions away from the band, recording the album Victor with Lifeson. Still, he remained with IME as the group recorded Scenery and Fish, released in mid-1996. The album, which combined IME's trademark sounds with a slightly softer, radio-friendly approach, was a critical and commercial success. In particular, the singles "One More Astronaut" and "Another Sunday" pushed the band into the commercial elite in Canada, the former cracking the Top 20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart in the U.S. Subsequent singles "Used to Be Alright" and "Raspberry" also made solid showings on radio and video. In 1997, IME was nominated for a Juno Award for Group of the Year. The album was nominated for the Best Rock Album Juno, and was a double Platinum record in Canada. The band's newfound fame also pushed sales of Dig over the Platinum record mark.
Around the end of the tour schedule for Scenery and Fish, IME shocked many fans and reporters when it announced that Edwin would be leaving. From that point on, the band mentioned that Jag Tanna wrote the majority of its music (during jams with his brother and Gordon), that Chris Tanna wrote all of the lyrics, and that Edwin had no control whatsoever. This and musical differences prompted the vocalist to leave. Citing unmanageable tension, the band and Edwin mutually agreed to part ways. The remaining members insisted that they would carry on under the I Mother Earth name, and announced they would be searching for a new lead singer. IME also publicly criticized a show by Franz Masini's new band, which was advertised as "featuring members of I Mother Earth", as a blow to its own name and image. Edwin fulfilled all his contractual obligations with the band, including the Edgefest '97 tour, and left in mid-1997. IME itself ended up in disputes with both EMI and the band's management (Capitol had inexplicably dropped the band prior), and subsequently broke ties with both.
During this time, the band went through hundreds of demo tapes, all the while maintaining the tour schedule and dealing with the aforementioned business issues. One tape, sent in by Brian Byrne, was instantly thrown in the trash until former Slik Toxik drummer Neal Busby, who was briefly in a band called Klaven with Byrne, recommended the singer. IME finally listened to the tape, and after auditioning Byrne, immediately agreed that he was their new vocalist. However, the band members waited several months to inform him before finally putting an I Mother Earth T-shirt on him in late 1997, symbolizing his membership in the band. David Usher made the news public, introducing Byrne to the crowd at a Moist concert in November that year. IME made its first public performances with Byrne on Our Lady Peace's Summersault tour in mid-1998, and was well received by the crowds through both old and new material. IME was signed to Universal in 1998.
In late 1998, IME returned to Toronto and reunited with Paul Northfield, who again shared production duties with Jag Tanna on the new sessions. These sessions were chronicled on the internet by Bruce Gordon, long considered the most fan-friendly member of the band (Gordon was known to answer fan emails dating back to the Scenery and Fish years). Armando Borg returned in the place of Conte on percussion, though Mansilla remained IME's main percussionist. Rush frontman Geddy Lee was also brought in to provide bass for the album track "Good for Sule". While the Tannas were still the main contributors, they described the creative process as more open than before. The result was Blue Green Orange, released in mid-1999. It was somewhat of a departure from earlier work, opting for more textured, spacier sounds and less of an emphasis on the band's hard-rock reputation. Still, the lead single, "Summertime in the Void", was a major rock hit in Canada and showed that the band was still commercially viable with a different singer and a change in sound. Subsequent singles "All Awake" and "When Did You Get Back from Mars?" also received solid radio and video airplay, but it was apparent that the band's commercial prime was over. The album's Gold status was seen as a disappointment by many compared to the previous albums. Tanna and Northfield won a Juno in 2000 for Best Recording Engineer, and the album was nominated for Best Album Design, but it received no musical nods.
IME came off the road and in 2001 the band members settled into their own Toronto studio, The Mother's Hip. However, this period was plagued with problems. Brian Byrne had ruptured his vocal cords and required surgery. Christian Tanna broke his forearm and was unable to play drums. After those injuries healed the band decided to scrap the entire session, which was reportedly filled with radio-friendly material, and start from the beginning. This occurred after a false story circulated in the media that the album was finished and tentatively titled Save the Last Disco. Furthermore, the band also dealt with the EMI release of Earth, Sky, and Everything in Between, an album of B-Sides and live recordings from the EMI years. The Tannas and Gordon issued a statement insisting the record was unauthorized and was nothing more than a cash grab by EMI. Edwin offered no comment on the album.
IME then went to work on the proper new album in 2002 with producer David Bottrill (alongside Jag Tanna), taking only a short break to headline the Canadian MTV Campus Invasion Tour, then releasing a song as a preview of the new material. The song "Juicy" was pressed as a promo single for the Vin Diesel movie xXx, and despite no push from the label and no video, it received rock radio airplay on its own. It was later included on The Quicksilver Meat Dream, released in early 2003. The album was an even larger departure from past works, with industrial elements replacing the Latin percussion (but not Mansilla, who still toured with the band), and a heavier, more progressive sound than ever before. However, Universal was unimpressed with the nearly finished product and demanded radio-friendly singles, so the band returned to the studio to appease the label. Lead single "Like the Sun" was another Canadian rock hit, but despite its popularity, it failed to sell the record. Due to the dismal sales and arguments with the Tannas over the direction of IME, Universal withdrew all support from the band, leaving it to fund small tours and second single "No Coma" on its own. The song failed to be officially added to rock radio, the video received very limited play, and with that the band decided to end the album's run after only seven months. The band provided the theme songs for the MuchMusic TV shows Much on Demand and MuchLOUD, but otherwise went unheard in the media for the rest of the year. Universal officially dropped IME at the end of 2003.
In November 2003, I Mother Earth performed a special show in Barrie, Ontario, entitled "Live off the Floor". Largely considered by those present as their greatest live performance, the intimate, nearly four-hour show featured the band performing in the round of the Georgian College venue, with the crowd on all sides. IME played most of its back catalogue at the show, and it was thought to be the band's final performance.
Following the band's hiatus, Brian Byrne started a solo career, releasing two albums and one EP. Bruce Gordon joined the Blue Man Group lineup and pursued numerous side projects. Jagori Tanna founded a new studio and record label, UpperLeftSide music, as well as the production company Segment X Productions. Christian Tanna organized local Toronto rock and jazz events, and was in management roles with both UpperLeftSide music and The Venue, a concert-oriented nightclub in Peterborough.
Brian Byrne stated on his Facebook page that his acoustic show in Ottawa on January 21, 2012, was slated to be his last for a while due to upcoming plans.
On January 10, 2012, a new website for the band surfaced with a countdown set to expire on January 24, 2012. Byrne later posted on his Facebook page "I guess it's official! Pretty pumped! Here's to a new year in music and fun with my best friends!" It was confirmed that the members of the band from the Byrne years were all involved.
During this period, the Tanna brothers and Byrne lived in Peterborough, ON, while Gordon continued to work full-time with the Blue Man Group production in Orlando, FL.
On January 24, 2012, the band's hiatus ended with a concert announcement and blog post on their official website. Guitarist Jag Tanna has said he would not have proceeded with the reunion if any members of the most recent lineup had indicated they wouldn't take part.
On March 21, 2012, the band released the track "We Got the Love" via SoundCloud before making it available for purchase as a digital download a week later.
On March 22, the band made its first appearance onstage together in more than eight years, when it performed a two-and-a-half hour set at the Sound Academy in Toronto. The following night, the band played an even longer set at the same venue. Both nights were sold out. The band then announced summer festival appearances in Ontario. They also headlined George Street in St. John's, Newfoundland on Canada Day, and performed a number of shows supporting Nickelback. In his blog, Jag Tanna also talked about working with Byrne to develop an intimate and interactive show where the band's songs are deconstructed and then presented in different ways.
On July 25, 2012, Jag Tanna announced in a blog posting that bassist Bruce Gordon wouldn't be a part of some upcoming shows, due to other professional and personal commitments. Chuck Dailey, bass player with the band The Salads, was enlisted as what Jag described as "the understudy." Dailey had assisted the band during rehearsals. Gordon provided him with iPhone video of some of the more difficult I Mother Earth bass parts to help him learn the material. Dailey made his live debut with the band on the same day, during a performance at Empire Rockfest in Belleville, ON. He continues to perform with the band as a touring member.
On October 5, 2012, the band appeared during Kitchener's Oktoberfest. The band participated in Rocktoberfest, a series of events that also featured guitar legend David Wilcox.
In early 2013, the band started to play shows with a new intimate and interactive concept titled "A Very Long Evening with I Mother Earth". The first set, open to VIP ticket holders, was a combination of question and answer mixed with acoustic or deconstructed versions of five or six songs. The second set, open to general admission, was a three-hour electric set featuring fan favourites and extended jams.
In 2015, the band released two new singles titled "The Devil's Engine" and "Blossom".
On March 1, 2016, the band announced that it would reunite with original vocalist Edwin for a series of shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the band's 1996 sophomore release Scenery and Fish. Vocalist Brian Byrne is currently pursuing other projects, including a radio gig at Halifax's Live 105 FM and trying out to be the new vocalist for Stone Temple Pilots.
The Scenery and Fish 20 Tour began with two sold-out shows at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on June 3 and 4, 2016, in which the band played the album Scenery and Fish in its entirety.Jagori Tanna - guitar (1991-2003, 2012–present)
Christian Tanna - drums (1991-2003, 2012–present)
Edwin - lead vocals (1991-1997, 2016–present)
Chuck Dailey - bass (2012–present)
Brian Byrne - lead vocals (1997-2003, 2012-2015)
Bruce Gordon - bass (1992-2003, 2012)
Franz Masini - bass (1991-1992)
Daniel Mansilla - percussions (1996–present)
Chuck Dailey - bass (2012-2016)
Jesse Karwat - keyboards, percussion (2016–present)
Chris Collins - keyboards (2012-2015)