True Story Pt. 2- Phat-Kat (Dirty District vol. 3 - Hosted by Brucie B. (clean version)

Perhaps this isn't self evident - but Hip Hop is the most exciting and global style of music (particularly amongst the eclectic set) because it draws on such a vast sample history but increasingly live ensembles outside of The Roots are making more vicious contributions. In any case, those who love the legendary ouevre of for instance J Dilla are largely attached to his instrumentals. This may be a function of his unfortunate youthful passing- producers typically circulate Beat Tapes which MC's then choose to MC over and a lucrative financial transaction takes place. With Dilla's passing - and his estate contested- his mother has still managed to release unheard material effectively from his beat tapes. While not a Dilla joint here is an instrumental from a track which elegantly captures the Detroit scene. The sophistication and delicacy of the light piano part tinkles elegantly. Included is the closing spoken word delivery by Phat Kat which speaks for itself. You will have to purchase Dirty District vol. 3 yourself- these gentlemen are on the grind and appreciate the exchange of currency for services rendered- they have a strict policy on 'no spots'. "You couldn't even, Detroit rap couldn't even be accepted for a long time- you know what I'm saying man it just really start getting accepted because so many so Bootylicious but it was so many but all the Hip Hop it was sweet but..."


Zeus headlines Mod Club with Matt Murphy, Danielle Duval

I don't know how much more needs to be said about Zeus at this juncture. They are an unparelleled group of young musicians whose seminal release Say Us has already earned them a place in the Canadian rock canon while their career is firmly in it's incubus. They're opportunity to headline their own show at a large venue like Mod Club (May 27th) will undoubtedly mark a considerable landmark for the band. Zeus are not simply consummate musicians but particularly co-founders Carlin Nicholson and Mike O'Brien are exceptional recording engineers and producers. This past year they produced 3 phenomenal albums from their jerry rigged studio on Toronto's East side - Ill Eagle Studios. Those albums were of course their own LP Say Us, their opener's Danielle Duval's new release (which has all the Zeus touches upon it) and The Golden Dogs impossible-to-overstate stupendous album Coat of Arms (coming out July 27 and likely at very least to shortlist them for the Polaris). In some cases - I guess if you've lived through certain chapters of Canadian music across this great nation of ours- well let's just say wikipedia or google are just not your best options to understand an artist or their significance. In the oral tradition of Canada's musical culture that I prefer- the bonding over the intricacies of performance, dynamics, influences, shared history- this writer does not mind admitting that Matt Murphy is as big of a personal hero to me as Rick Danko (who I was fortunate enough to meet as a youngster before his passing). I'm reminded because of a nostalgia for Halifax's twin bridges and brine filled air of the final words of Jack Kerouac's On The Road - from top of mind "what is the feeling of specks receding on the distance on the plain behind you - it's the too-huge world vaulting us and it's goodbye as we lean forward to the next crazy".  
Murphy who has split his time as of late between Toronto and Halifax is predominantly known to Canadians for his fictional protrayal in the film The Life And Hard Times of Guy Terrifico. While Murphy of course wrote the music for that film, is clearly an accomplished musician in the film (in fact the premise is that he is a passed over country legend himself) look for his being backed in the film by real life chums (and also Canadian legends like his straight man Dale Murray, known now for his involvement with Cuff The Duke but he was a seminal founding member of The Guthries one of the most influential roots or alt.country bands this country let alone that city ever new). Dale also bears a striking resemblance to a Springhill, NS native named Anne Murray for some reason. But if you're impression of Matt Murphy is that Guy Terrifico is his only schtick- that would be a dangerous presumption to make. If you have not lived in Halifax which safely you haven't appreciating Murphy's profound musical gift - synchronous as it is with his great humility, humour and affability- might be tricky. He is known for his work perhaps most famously with the definitive mid-90's power pop band Super Friendz (when mind you SubPop and a whole handful of people were freely handing out the accolade that Halifax was the New Seattle). The Super Friendz were (my academic fellows in that they all attended the fine University of King's College) Drew Yamada, a fantastic timekeeper and feel player and Charles Austin who became known moreso as a phenomenally influential producer. In his Ultramagnetic Studios, an odious stair climb up the multi-genre performance space the Khyber building, Austin produced and played on albums the likes of Matt Mays self-titled debut (2002)- (Mays is likewise a founding member of The Guthries also with siblings Gabe and Ruth Minnikin) Austin also produced Buck 65's last good album Talkin' Honky Blues (upon which Austin and Murray notably play). Charles also produced one of if not the finest albums by a Canadian singer songwriter written in the last fifteen years- Al Tuck's The New High Road of Song.

Tuck is a deeply revered and self-satisfied Halifax talent whom many the likes of Joel Plaskett and Pete Elkas idolize deeply. It may be, on a side note that, Al Tuck, is the single most under-rated talent and overtly influential commodity in Canadian music period. Later in Murphy's career, truly an unparalleled guitarist in every vein (rivalling for intance Afie Jurvanan aka Bahamas on a sheer chops level), had a brilliant psychedelic group The Flashing Lights with bassist Henri Sangalang, organist Gaven Dianda, and drummer Steve Pitkin. Opportunities to see them, particularly at the Khyber which was a mixed use bar/ gallery/ studio, were both rare, devastating and managed to psychically/psychedelically devastate the listener. While Murphy has experienced considerable success as a film actor his recent life has been tied up sadly with being the sole caregiver for his own by now enfeebled hero Orton Hoggett. Hoggett, an American expat draft dodger, a very private and not so much damaged but frail gentleman took a shine to the young Matt Murphy. As a result Murphy has played a handful of country rock gigs, with his mate (no relation) Chris Murphy on drums under the moniker Lil' Orton Hoggett but it is important to note that one is a human being and the other music group. If Ronnie Hawkins lived in Mortgage Mansion and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson have gone bankrupt four times over at last count you can imagine unfortunately that caring for Hoggett has dominated, at least in the last couple of years, Murphy's own creative outlets.


J Dilla's protege Black Milk

If you are not involved in the global culture of Hip Hop it is understandable if you have not heard of the producer/artist originally Jay Dee thereafter J Dilla. If however you do have at very least a passing interest in Hip Hop and are unfamiliar with J Dilla you have then just been given a great gift. Born James Dewitt Yancey- Dilla- was responsible for seminal production sounds that defined artists like Pharcyde, Common, Busta Rhymes and Slum Village of which he was a member. James Yancey died on February 10, 2006 (born February 7, 1974) of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease, and possibly lupus- he was three days past his 32nd birthday. On his birthday the instrumental record Donuts was released, it runs 43:25 and is perhaps one of the greatest examples of the use of sample based music, the use of a studio as an instrument as well as being a work of unparalleled magnitude. This is not a narrowly considered view. It is said in the oral tradition of Hip Hop that Dilla lived in a mansion full of production gear, thousands of records lining the walls but remarkably sparse of any furnishings beyond what was most basically needed. Yancey was said to prefer the acoustic effect this seemingly odd living arrangement provided. He had a yellow Hummer in the drive. The loss of J Dilla is keenly felt by those whose hearts are warmed and have been nourished by his unestimable talent. Talk which has circulated for several years now of his 'protege' Black Milk seemed initially simply too soon gone. But with phenomenal albums now firmly under his belt including Popular Demand, Tronic and Caltroit- Black Milk has safely established himself as the heir apparent to J Dilla's throne. Black Milk has also, with the help of frequent MC collaborators including Guilty Simpson and Royce Da 5'9" helped make if not define the Detroit sound of Hip Hop as simply the most exciting, dextrous and creatively ambitious American mecca for the next American art form after Jazz. Varied reports of Black Milk's showcase with his live band at the SXSW music conference in Austin, TX draw rightful attention to his deft production and MC skills but apparenly he is no slouch of an instrumentalist either, nor his crack crew of a band. Amongst the set the hyper-crack live crew of drummer Daru Jones, keyboardist AB and Milk took a masterful stab at one of the finest Hip Hop tracks kicking around the world - 'The Matrix' (originally ft. Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price and DJ Premier each of whom delivers a masterful verse over a priceless beat and hook). "You, you, you love my style cuz I'm not what ya used to" "Caught in The Matrix, is out of hand high demand gotcha" "ye, ye, your in my Danger Field like Rodney"


Samantha Martin & The Haggard

For anyone who hasn't descended the breakneck staircase of the Dakota Tavern (at Dundas and Ossington just shy of a scene-searching free for all in the two blocks south) a brief portrait should probably be painted. The Dakota is for one, as mentioned downstairs in what would be a dim basement, if it weren't for the incredibly tasteful appointments of old Bill Monroe posters smattered with a handful of the stellar New Years shows the venue has hosted over the years, Elk skulls mounted with soft incandescent lights and antique Chinese checkers boards line the walls. There is a notable lack of any fluorescent beer signage (a very conscious choice, in fact the only beer advertising adorns the taps) and wireless reception is blessedly spotty. Those who choose to frequent the Dakota Tavern are no doubt welcomed on every visit by this ambience. Those who return to this venue do so because it is known for being a music friendly room whose commitment has been from day one to program Roots music (Country Rock, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Rock & Roll, Rhythm & Blues) with an eye towards unparalleled quality control.

For every band that manages to get a gig at the Dakota, where they are assured a rapturous, patient and creatively supportive audience, there are scores fighting to get in. Add to this the sheer volume of artists from across the province indeed the nation (and further abroad) that have made their way to the Big Smoke to pursue their dreams of making music for a living and you have at least a very dense and challenging marketplace for artists to navigate. This is where the story of Samantha Martin, who manages the tavern by day, gets particularly interesting. Martin, having divided her formative years by virtue of her parents divorce between Edmonton and a small town on the Bruce Peninsula called Lion's Head, has through perspiration and aspiration at least begun to make a substantial name for herself in Toronto. Her father listened to the pantheon of country classics: Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Hank Snow, Tanya Tucker (as well as having a particular fondness for Joni Mitchell and of course The Beatles). Her mother's tastes leaned more decidedly towards the Blues and Blues driven Rock & Roll, your Janice Joplin's, CCR's, Led Zeppelin and - likely by dint of her closeness in age to her daughter- some more radio friendly fare like Sinead O'Connor, Tom Cochrane and somewhat regrettably Olivia Newton John. Anyone who has seen Samantha Martin perform, either guesting with Dakota heavyweights The Beauties or with Hot Rock (a devastating Rolling Stones revue made up of members of The Beauties and Flash Lightnin', with guests that have included Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Michael Johnson (Skydiggers), and Ron Sexsmith) would likely be unsurprised by her musical family tree.

Someone once said of Sam that 'heartbreak sounds good on you' and it would be hard to find a better description of her talent. Those lucky enough to see Martin perform onstage, her booming voice radiating out of her tiny frame, are it is safe to say struck by this incredibly talented - and really ballsy is the best word – performer. In conversation she is a precise counterpoint to the garrulous version of her performing self. With regard to her involvement in Hot Rock, she with genuine humility suggests she was the only one who could do Gimme Shelter justice (in reality Martin’s voice, stage presence and vivacity was an indispensable counterpoint to the disgustingly talented boys club). On another occasion, in one of the Dakota’s finest musical moments, Sam sat in with her buds The Beauties and Luke Doucet on a version of Lucinda Williams Fruits of My Labour – it is safe to say her presence on stage was less than perfunctory. Martin recorded an album Back Home in April of 2008 with a group of session musicians, material from that album remains a staple of her live show with arrangements that The Haggard has helped her work up. It is however on the material that The Haggard (Pete Lambert, Mikey McCallum and Greg Sweetland on drums, guitar and bass respectively) are working up collectively that the ensemble really shines. In one regard the group could be called Sam Martin & The Kensington Hillbillies (as each of her bandmates is also in that group) were The Haggard (named on a whim) not an intentional effort to distinguish between a full-fledged democratic band and a backing band.

Sam is adamant about this point and finds that her relationship with The Haggard, and the fact that few seem to ask her about them a constant point of frustration. Given the strength of the group's playing it's understable why she'd rather field questions about her bandmates. Martin goes so far as to admit that "until recently we weren't 'a band'". She traces the moment at least she felt that the group had come together as a cohesive unit to their appearance at the Mariposa Folk Festival. The Haggard were honoured to be playing an (in be-) 'tweener' slot on the mainstage sharing a bill with such luminary headliners as Daniel Lanois, Skydiggers, Luke Doucet the Dixie Flyers and inimitable local hooligans Run With The Kittens. "It was at Mariposa that I realized these three guys were in it with me come hell or high water." Each of The Haggard brings with them such a wealth of musical knowledge it would be hard to nail down their myriad influences. From Sam`s perspective McCallum on guitar, who is also a member of Dodge Fiasco, brings influences ranging from Dylan to the titular Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, Creedence Clearwater Revival and of course The Band. Bassist Sweetland, who was a member of the now defunct Tijuana Bibles, to Martin`s mind brings the "heavy Rock & Roll but is a Blues guy through and through... Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Elmore James". In conversation Sweetland singles out the Stones Bill Wyman as a bassist he admires and one whose gifts are perhaps not fully appreciated. On the topic of her drummer Pete Lambert, the oldest and clearly most sage member of the group Martin notably defers on the topic of his influences.

Talking with Lambert about his influences as a drummer proves a short course on the history of drumming in America and the U.K., to his mind there are four or five under appreciated drummers that standout as landmark players of his instrument: Al Jackson Jr., "a Stax label drummer who played on alot of Al Green`s stuff" (Jackson Jr. was a founding member of Booker T & The MG.s and knicknamed for obvious reasons "The Human Timekeeper"); Earl Palmer "a New Orleans session musician who played for Little Richard and Fats Domino...(to my mind) he's the greatest drummer of the 20th century who influenced all the British guys like John Bonham and Keith Moon" (Palmer's obituary in The Guardian read in part "his list of credits read like a Who's Who of American popular music of the last 60 years"); "James Brown`s drummers Clyde Stubblefield and John `Jabo` Starks" (two of the most sampled drummers in all of Hip Hop and R&B) as well as obviously Levon Helm (whom he readily admits was influenced by the preceding lot). "The deeper I dig in to music I realize these guys set the laws for the next generation of drummers." Lambert lived in the U.K. from '86-'94 and played with a handful of ensembles including The Trojans who he describes as a Blues, Ska, Celtic group. He was introduced to "the Roots of Modern Music" while playing with `Gaz` Mayall (British Blues legend John Mayall`s son) as well as playing in reggae bands with horn players like Rico Rogriguez (best known for playing in The Specials and on the single Rudy, Message To You). Lambert`s biggest musical blessing while living in London though was his befriending Joe Strummer who regularly invited Pete into his home. "I'd spent so much time worshipping him as a pup... the biggest thing I learned from Joe was character, bringing personality, giving your all to performance." It`s easy to see with a band like The Haggard where even a gifted musician (both instrumentally and vocally) like Sam Martin would stress that "we draw out the best parts of each other, we bring out the best in each other musically, we`re friends, we`re becoming a really tight unit."


Hot Rock (The Beauties, Flash Lightnin' w. Samantha Martin) Rolling Stones Revue

Hot Rock (featuring members of The Beauties, Flash Lightnin' w. Samantha Martin, Michael Johnson and Ron Sexmith) - The Dakota Tavern 03/24/10

After a hotly anticipated gig by Eric D. Johnson's Fruit Bats at the Horseshoe with an early show end a small crew of us realized we might still be able to catch Hot Rock at the Dakota Tavern, a Rolling Stones revue featuring members of The Beauties, Flash Lightnin’ and Samantha Martin. As it turned out we chanced into the entire second set which bounded from tastefully chosen staple to staple of the Stones repertoire. The Dakota Tavern has a dusky ambience and reputation for exceptional Roots music programming that precedes it. The Beauties and Flash Lightnin’ have both played legendary weekly residencies which were invariably three set drenching affairs for band and audience both. Both bands are possessed of the sort of chops and comraderie that flirts loosely with disaster but never veers too far from controlled chaos. They have the sort of human jukebox hatchetmen bravado that is perfect for the Rolling Stones repertoire. Whereas for instance members of The Golden Dogs, Zeus or Bahamas would be better suited to a Beatles revue as their brand of music nerdiness tends to lean towards knowing every little tricky flourish and lick in the most obscure of Beatles tunes. Basically The Beauties have the same chops with different inclinations, they could make a complete train wreck sound like a ragged symphony. And on this night somehow after a perfectly short wait at the door was ushered down the Dakota's breakneck staircase just at the start of what would prove to be an over the top second set.

Hot Rock - Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - The Dakota Tavern
Set II: Satisfaction
Honky Tonk Women
Loving Cup
Dead Flowers
Wild Horses
Tumblin' Dice
Under My Thumb
Let's Spend The Night Together
Miss You
Jumpin' Jack Flash
Gimme Shelter
Sympathy For The Devil

Hot Rock is basically a one-off revue of the Stones repertoire (it seems they've done 6 or 7 shows total wrapping up this Tues. 17 at the Dakota Tavern and Thurs. the 20 at Tatoo Rock Parlour). Those who have been fortunate enough to catch a night or more of this immense collection of musicians has been treated to not so much covers as evocations of the Stones chestnuts. Hot Rock is made up of Darin Glover from Flash Lightnin' on guitar, Darcy Yates and Chris Henry on bass and drums respectively also from Flash. The Beauties are represented by Jud Ruhl and Shawn Creamer with good mate and collaborator Samantha Martin coming in for the 'chick bits' and maintaining a precipitously unbalanced testosterone balance. On this night in particular Michael Johnson from the Skydiggers was on the keys adding a technical savvy flourish to the ensembles thundering sound. The band from the sounds of things didn't do much rehearsing outside of some Tuesday afternoon run throughs of the set that Darin Glover seemed to have pulled together. Both sets were really tastefully paced and presumably Darren on the onstage copy of the setlist made a really smart substitution in of Dead Flowers, the ode to Gram Parsons made doubly poignant by the Flying Burrito Bros. tee that Sam was wearing while wailing away- and Wild Horses. This made the run from Loving Cup, Tumblin' Dice (both off of Exile On Main Street) through Dead Flowers and Wild Horses parcticuarly poignant. These or, few of them, are not the sort of songs that the Stones play to stadiums themselves but would be definite fodder for their small unannounced club dates for their uber-fans. It's safe to expect a bit of a break from Hot Rock and The Beauties playing at the Dakota with any regularity with their brilliant self-titled release out June 1st on Six Shooter (accompanied by a handful of high profile dates including opening for Blue Rodeo at the Kee to Bala on May 24 - you can't get much more Canadiana than sharing a stage that has graced the likes of Goddo, Kim Mitchell, hell even George Clinton in the heart of cottage country). The Beauties have two other CD release shows May 28 at Call The Office in London, the 29th at the Horseshoe with big gigs at both the Broken Social Scene island festival and the pre-eminent Hillside later in the summer. Hot Rock - Tues., May 17 Dakota Tavern Hot Rock - Thurs., May 20 Tatoo Rock Parlour Samantha Martin and the Haggard - Fri., May 21 Dakota Tavern The Beauties opening for Blue Rodeo - Fri., May 21 Kee To Bala The Beauties - Fri., May 28 Call The Office, London The Beauties - Sat., May 29 Horseshoe Tavern


In The Morning (Junior Boys)

'Cause in the morning there's a million names to choose from You don't care just take one Leave a place to rest on Because you're too young' It seems like the fine purveyors of intelligent dance music in Canada such as Caribou (nee Manitoba) and Junior Boys both veered on their recent albums towards the intelligent and less to the dance (although the quality of their releases is impeccable). Word is Caribou in concert and recording is steering back to some 'club' sounds which is a long overdue development. Here's a taste of an older Junior Boys song that should be listened to on a morning that a lift of inspiration is needed, as one heads out on a jog or to face and embrace the day.


Let It Be

A popular group, originally from Liverpool UK, seen here playing with Billy Preston 'the fifth Beatle' - the only man to have his name appear alongside the other four's label credits (on in this case Let It Be and also Abbey Road). Billy of course appeared on the historic Beatles rooftop performance as well. On a personal note I saw Billy Preston perform with Canada's own The Band at one of the first concerts of my life in 1989 at what was the Ontario Place Forum. Billy was filling in for Stan Szelest a Buffalo boogie woogie player (a legend in certain circles who had recently passed). Preston was essentially filling the substantial 'rhythm piano' slot left by Richard Manuel who had taken his own life a few short years earlier in a motel room in Winter Park Florida (March 3, 1986) after a particularly depressing gig at the (no word of a lie) Cheek to Cheek Lounge.


'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' - JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound

For anyone who thinks Jeff Tweedy from Wilco is to dour or melancholic for their tastes needs to give a listen to JC Brooks take on this classic from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.


Scratch Session w/ Dj Qbert, The Gaslamp Killer, Free the Robots, and Nosaj Thing (3.01.2009)

Here the Killer is shown showcasing his not-too-shabby scratching skills (in what looks like Q Bert's home setup but could rightly be anywhere). Gaslamp Killer beyond his dexterity and hypemanship has a grand, symphonic, orchestral feel for his own sets and how they fit into the club landscape.

Gaslamp Killer - Best Backyard Party Ever


The Gaslamp Killer - Natural History Museum's First Fridays (6.5.09)

This clip while sonically and visually diverse, in this case part of the Natural History Museum's First Fridays (6.5.09), please try and disregard the sparse and painful painful dance interpretations by a couple of members of the audience, for whom ironic and post-ironic considerations don't apply. It's an interesting example where traditonally Art Galleries or Museum's are increasingly (as we've seen here in Toronto) opening their doors at odd hours in savvy fundraising moves.

The Gaslamp Killer dubstep overlord plays Wrongbar May 15

Born William Benjamin Bensussen and performing under the moniker Gaslamp Killer originally in disgust with the Gaslamp club district of San Diego he played in. He is one of if not the most visually exciting and devastatingly skilled DJ working in the genre of dubstep (if he can be described as limited to that genre touching as he does upon the Turkish pop of his heritage, psychedelia, Hip Hop and more). He is a performer that needs to be seen to be understood both to see the dexterity of his mixes (on this clip the listener will hear Jay-Z's Big Pimpin' come out of seemingly nowhere he has so well cued and masked the tracks introduction. The viewer will immediately see that his feverish enthusiasm, reflecting a deep technical and intuitive understanding of music, and penchant for conducting the audience like an orchestra is incredibly engaging. The Gaslamp Killer plays Toronto's Wrongbar May 15


If you don't know who Marco Benevento are you should. Seen here collaborating with Andew Barr (Land of Talk, The Slip, Barr Bros.) they are also frequent collaborators with brother Brad, and have been involved with projects involving or advancing member's of Phish and the Grateful Dead 's repertoire. They are unequivocally not a jamband.

Sarah Page harpist Barr Bros. interview

I first saw Sarah Page (with an accent egu) perform with musical friends and peers Brad and Andrew Barr, who I met through a deep devotion to their group The Slip, at likely the most beautiful venue in Canada the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, PQ. I had come to expect a stew of bop and post-bop sensibilities, classical modalities, indie rock idioms from the Barr Bros but Sarah's addition was a self-evident and awe striking compliment. Her grace, composure, elegance and formidable musical education were all readily apparent. She describes well in her own words how she was able to translate her classical pedigree into this ensemble that might be described amongst many other things as post-blues.

Q: The story of your meeting Brad has been well told through the composition and introduction to Sarah Through The Walls. The story as it goes is that you were neighbours in Montreal who didn't know each other and Brad heard you practising a specific piece of presumably classical music on the harp and learned it on the guitar then came over and introduced himself and played back what you'd been playing. Is that essentially the story, I'd love to know which piece you were working on (ideally for what performance or context and a particularly good performance one might track down).

A: Brad and I had met a few times before he came over that afternoon and played Sarah Through the Wall for me. He had moved in next door a couple of weeks earlier and we had met briefly in the backyard we shared. We had spoken briefly about music and each had a vague idea of what the other did. I think it was summer and I had gone outside to take a break, and, seeing me, Brad came out with his guitar to show me the piece he’d just spent the day working on. Upon first hearing it, I didn’t recognize any part of it. At the time I was practicing many hours a day for a performance of the Mozart flute and harp concerto. That’s my best guess as to what Brad may have heard. There’s something in the accompaniment and the harmonies of Sarah Through The Walls that’s very reminiscent of Mozart but the melody is all his own. To this day I can’t identify what part of the Mozart concerto Brad may have heard and I still don’t recognize that theme.

Q: In the specific composition 'Sarah Through The Walls' is there an echo of that first piece you were practising or is the interplay between you and Brad at the end of the song something you've devised originally.

A: I really don’t hear an echo of whatever part of Mozart Brad was hearing. I often take pieces apart and loop sections, change tempos, isolate one hand and even change rhythms to learn a piece of music. Brad must have been hearing an already mutilated part of the concerto that morning. When he taught it back to me, I really didn’t recognize enough to be able to quote the concerto so I approached it as a new piece and the arrangement we’ve created is entirely our own.

Q: What was your impression of this curious man Brad Barr appearing at your door with guitar in tow. Beyond the personal level as you began to perform and collaborate with him as a musician what stood out about his distinctive talent whether as a guitarist, songwriter, composer, bandleader or otherwise.

A: The first time I met Brad, what struck me most was his humility. Being accustomed to spending a lot of time with some pretty macho guitarists and musicians, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him at first. He is also so musically diverse that it’s hard to pin him down or categorize him. My first impressions of him as a musician were through Sarah Through The Walls and Ooh Belle so I was obviously struck with his virtuosity as a guitarist, songwriter, and particularly as a lyricist. I didn’t see him perform with The Slip until almost a year later and I’m still not quite sure what to make of him in that context. As a bandleader, Brad is quite easy to work with. He really helps me to explore my instrument and push it beyond its usual boundaries. There’s a lot of personal freedom and room for self-expression in that way but he also has very specific for how he wants his songs to sound so that saves a lot of guessing time.

Q: Can you tell me about your musical education from the earliest age, presumably the harp wasn't your first instrument or perhaps it was. Clearly you've invested a great deal in this incredibly difficult instrument, outside of the popular indie context what sort of ensembles do you play in and likewise what sort of composers and compositions are you called on to play with which you identify deeply (be as specific as possible)?

A: From the first time I saw Harpo Marx perform, I knew I wanted to play the harp. I often begged my parents, but as it’s such a rare and expensive instrument, that was never really an option and so I started playing the piano at the age of four. I had a teacher named Vida that I adored and I loved playing, performing and practicing. I quit after a few years though when she got married and moved home to Yugoslavia. I didn’t work well with her replacement who was too strict for me and so I stopped taking lessons. I picked up the guitar a couple of years later and started pursuing classical music the first time I heard Bach performed by Julian Bream. I was accepted into the music program at Vanier CEGEP where I met many of the musicians I still collaborate with today. In my last year, listening to a symphony in music history class one day, I heard a harp and remembered my childhood dream. I found a teacher and worked for 10 hours a day for several years to manage to learn the instrument. I studied performance at McGill and worked in orchestras for several years, all the while still playing in different contexts with friends I had made at Vanier. Moving from pursuing a classical career to a less conventional one wasn’t really a choice but a natural evolution of circumstances. The composers I’ve always felt most connected to have been Bach and Mahler. Listening to the solo instrumental music of Bach or performing a Mahler work with 200 other musicians have been the moments where I’ve been struck most acutely with the dignity of human suffering, the quietness of deep joy, the relief of surrender, and the universality of those states of being. My musical collaboration but more particularly my deep friendship with Lhasa DeSela was also an occasion where I was able to transcend the daily-ness of life. I still look back to her as a compass by which I judge the direction I’m going with music.

Q: Coming from a much more formal context you carry yourself with a grace that's suits the Barr Bros. posture - which I have always said extends to their approach to the stage, their respect for the stage prior to the first note- what parallels and what contrasts do you notice playing in concert halls and bars. Does one inform the other and vice versa?

A: I don’t feel like I have enough experience or enough distance to be able to see all the contrasts or similarities between the two contexts. It feels like two completely different situations on a musical level to me, but there’s something about the aspect of performing and being on stage in any context that feels like a continuous linear process where one thing is always contributing to the next. Everything that surrounds the moment of performance, the preparation, the emotional process, the intention, seems quite different to me but the performances themselves aren’t so far apart. Lately I’ve been enjoying performing in bars for the immediacy of the connection with the audience, but because of that experience I find I’m starting to be able to feel an audience even in seated silence better than I could before.


Dave Azzolini full interview (The Golden Dogs past and present)

The following is an in-depth interview dealing largely with The Golden Dogs forthcoming release (Coat of Arms, release date July 27), the songwriting and recording process and in the end a helpful but largely irrelevant (given The Golden Dogs stark originality) list of influences.


Q: Who are the exact personnel on Coat of Arms and who plays what instruments (presumably multiple).  

A: There's so many guests and such, but mostly it's Me, Jess, Taylor Knox, with Carlin Nicholson and Mike O'Brien. Afie (Jurvanen) came in for one solo, Rob Drake drummed on Dear Francis, Neil Quin played on a couple tracks, and a whole lot of people came in for backing vocals and group vocals.  

Q: Did Carlin (Nicholson) engineer and produce it or who is the producer?

A: The Producer cred is "Produced by The Golden Dogs with Carlin Nicholson and Mike O'Brien. Most of the arrangements were solidified in the demo process. There were a couple of tracks that we saved for the studio which Carlin & Mike had a hand in: For instance, When the Movie’s Over was sort of a hybrid song that came about when we were jamming out some new songs at our place. It started out as a jam and I started making up the verse melody with bogus words, then Carlin came up with a piano hook. Then Jess suggested that a chorus from one of my other songs would fit. So I plopped that in there, finished off the words and we recorded it pretty soon after. That doesn’t happen with me very often. I like to think about songs for awhile before I put them down on record. Lester was another one, although the arrangement was finished, Mike offered the lead guitar hook, which is an important part. Underwater Goldmine was another one. Mike developed that intro slide guitar part. Goldmine was one where me, Jess, Mike & Carlin came together and just knew where to take it. It is a pretty magical recording.

Q: When did you first start thinking or not start thinking about the album setting out to as it were to let the album come together in an organic way. If Lester was the first song unexpectedly recorded in a gap in the recording of Zeus’ album Say Us what was the first song written for instance?

A: Burst and Weapon I think – they were finished at the same time, winter of 2007. More than half of the album was written on piano, a Yamaha CP 70 electric piano – it’s Carlin’s, but we’ve had it for years now. Jess loves playing it, and if it wasn’t 200 pounds, we’d bring it on the road. Even songs that are heavy guitar arrangements like Permanent Record and Old Hat were started with the piano. Weapon was actually written on guitar first even though it's a heavily piano arranged song, that opening riff was written on guitar. Darkroom (the chorus at least) was developed at Taylor’s place on an badly out-of-tune piano and cheap old church organ with foot pedals and ridiculous drum beats. Songs like Dear Francis and As Long As You Like were sort of developed at the same time. They have a 50s girl group kind of feel. Jess was originally going to sing Dear Francis, which is why the key is so high, but when we went to do vocals, she wasn’t feeling it and insisted that I do it. I did it too…in only a couple of takes.  

Q: Over what time period would you say you were writing songs for this record and at what point did you start to work up arrangements?

 A: The seeds of some date back to the period right after we finished the last record, so late 2006. I always have bits that I record. If the songs keeps bugging me to finish it, then it gets special attention. Jess is great for remembering bits and pieces and pushing me to finish melodies that she really likes. Cheap Umbrellas was one I had started a long while back. I had sort of let it go and Jess pushed me to finish it and said that she would sing it. There's always songs like that where, say, I can't finish it all at once, but the melody keeps needling me until I have to finish it. Songs usually come in twos or threes. There are always songs that are related to each other in theme, or at least in terms of the point in my life that they were created. Burst / Weapon are two that definitely go together. Goldmine / Lester ; Dear Francis / As LongPermanent Record / Old Hat. The last song arranged was When The Movie’s Over.

Q: How would you say Coat of Arms is a product of Ill Eagle Studio, the East End vibe, the shared responsibility etc.  

A: That studio has a drum sound. Getting the drums to sound good is half the battle and they have that figured out. It's a very dry, small room sound, but that's the way I like it. The recording vibe was such that there was no real huge time pressure while we were tracking…this was good for getting the right feel on songs. One song though, Travel Time was the first song recorded at Illegal, but it ended up not having the right feel and I wanted to scrap it, but Taylor insisted we have one more crack at it, but by that time, the studio was unavailable (Danielle Duval was tracking). So we did it at Taylor's place in the west end just off Spadina. We ended up liking the track a lot better. Better performance, big drums sounds – it has a nice place on the album. The east end vibe is mostly that it's very residential where we were. Parking is easier...hahahah. Not too many distractions, very laid back. The studio was just the best place to hang out at the time. Whether working on our stuff, Zeus stuff or Danielle's stuff, or just goofing around.

Q: What is the official release date for the vinyl LP and what is the overall release date.  

A: I think it's all July 27. It's a summer release. I think most of the music industry goes on vacation in August so it'll be interesting to see how this works out.  

Q: What can you tell me about your excitement about having your own piece of vinyl, and also what does it mean to be on a label like Nevado with artists like Afie that you clearly admire?  

A: I can finally do scratching on my own piece of vinyl! Besides that, I hope it means that the real music lovers out there will dive into the new album a bit. Vinyl does have a romance about it that's undeniable. Each side of the album has it's own vibe. We think that the second side is just as good as the first side. We hope others will find that too. We spend a lot of time on album art….the whole winter actually making these specialized song signs…vinyl is a great canvas for artwork. Having something to stare out or zone out on while you’re listening to the music. It’s very important to us.  

Q: It seems slightly odd that one of the most common questions to ask an artist is their influences but you seem to remind so many people of so many different bands (The Kinks seems a common reference point for instance) that The Golden Dogs sound ends up being so rooted in pop tradition but bracingly original. Maybe by way of the bands and artists you started to introduce Jess to when you first met perhaps you could talk about who your big influences are as a songwriter, guitarist and producer. I'd imagine that by now you're so hip deep in the music that your peers are making that they are the greatest influences but if you can point to any other contemporary examples of original bands that inspire you or craftsmen whose technique you applaud that would be helpful.

A: I hope people hear this album and don't immediately think "influences". I think we really got our own thing going on this new album but obviously, rock and roll is almost sixty years old and there are going to be references that pop up in every band playing music today. Arcade Fire - Springsteen/Talking Heads/Modest Mouse; Broken Social Scene - Dinosaur Jr.; I could do this for every band almost... Radiohead - Can/Pink Floyd/ Beatles; Everly Brothers/Buddy Holly/Little Richard/60's Girl Groups; Beach Boys - Phil Spector.   It's fun to do for sure... Anyways... I digress...In terms of influences I just heard some of the new New Pornographers and was pleasantly surprised. I went right to listening to Permanent Record afterwards and felt that we fit right in with this music. Is it Prog Pop? I just think it's just Pop with definite English pop leanings. I felt like we were like the Pornographers minus the slightly faux English accents and the oblique and grandiloquent lyrics- (I looked that up, it means someone who uses big words!). Plus, perhaps we have a bit more of, say maybe, a Neil Young influence going on? Not overtly but...I don't know. A definite directness anyways. If this is a fair universe, the Golden Dogs would get a spot playing with the Pornographers. If we're talking about who we'd love to play with? I'd say Spoon, Pornos, Wilco, Walkmen, I just heard the new MGMT and thought they were doing some interesting stuff too. I thought of Burst when I heard the new MGMT album, I immediately put Burst on and felt really good about our album. Jess and I were talking about how fun it would be to do a covers album and release it on our website only. For free.

Here's the list we came up with, I think it's a pretty good list of influences too:
Harry Nilsson - Without Her  
Wilco - I'm A Wheel  
Frank Black - Headache  
Kinks - Tired of Waiting  
Hayden - Dynamite Walls (Jess sings this one great)  
Cypress Hill - Insane in the Brain (don't think we could pull it off, but it'd be fun to try)  
Modern Lovers - Hippie Johnny Elliot Smith - Independence Day  
Guided By Voices - Glad Girls  
Brian Eno - Needle in the Camel's Eye
Ween - The Mollusk (didn’t I put that on the list?)

As far as the music I started with at 12, it was all about learning every Beatle chord back then. That's what got Jess hooked too. It's the blueprint for great pop. Great for learning and having fun learning music. Beyond that, Stones, Dylan and The Who made me love Rock & Roll at that age too. That shit took me through most of my teens right there. It's not that esoteric a list but it worked. I couldn't get enough of that stuff.