12.31.2014

Blue Hawaii - Agor Edits (free download)




Blue Hawaii is Alex 'Agor' Cowan and Raphaelle Standell and Agor Edits is one of those late year gift releases that catches your attention as a worthy addition to any Top 10 Electronic Releases of 2014 list.  In the spirit of the international touring they've done this year Cowan's made available a series of edits of older material that bridges their recorded and live experiences.
It’s the end of the year, so to commemorate the global underground touring we did— to all the people who were interested in coming to and putting on a Blue Hawaii show in Bangkok or Vilnius— we decided to put together a free mixtape of edits — somewhere between the dreamy record and the banging live show....In 2015, Ra will focus on her other band, BRAIDS, who have just completed a beautiful, deeply emotional, new record which I am very excited to see come into the world. I will use what I’ve learnt this year DJing and roaming the earth to produce more music this winter — planning on releasing material in a similar vein to this mixtape and hitting SXSW this March as DJ Blue Hawaii.. holding down the fort until Ra and I can record another album… something 4 y’all to look forward to! —;) Agor (the boy in Blue Hawaii)

12.25.2014

Tony Trischka performs Of A Winter's Night Live at Levon Helm's Barn (stream)


Banjo legend Tony Trischka has recorded a live album in Levon Helm's legendary Barn over the holiday season.  Playing a combination of songs from his own catalog, like Of A Winter's Night and Christmas Night, along with a variety of traditional seasonal ballads.  The music ranges from Appallachian and Ozark Shape Note Singing to Sacred Harp music to a splendid version of Tim Eriksen's Remember The Poor.

Trischka was joined by an ensemble that included his son Sean playing drums on Levon's old kit, the fiddles of Zoe Darrow and John Mailander, Tim Eriksen and Molly tuttle (guitars) and Jared Engel (bass).  Trischka told The Bluegrass Situation:

"'Breaking up Christmas' was a blast because all of us are playing at the same time and it had that Zen old-time feel to it, where you'd like to play it for two hours without stopping. It felt like the stars aligned that night and it was just a very special evening for all of us in the band."


12.20.2014

12.16.2014

Duane Allman's Three Les Paul's played at final Allman Brothers Band show

Guitar World is reporting on a remarkable turn that took place at the Allman Brothers Band's historic final show at New York's Beacon Theater.  The A Bros. have been playing a run of shows every March at the storied venue enough times to coin the expression Peakin' At The Beacon.  But at their final performance careful behind the scenes preparations took place to reunite the three primary Les Paul guitars Duane Allman played on his key recordings in his short lifetime on stage in the hands of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. Longtime drummer Butch Trucks (Derek's uncle) later marvelled at the sight of seeing and hearing Duane's hallmark guitar being played during an undoubtedly beautiful rendition of Dreams.

The first a 1957 Goldtop was played "on the band's first two albums as well as most of the Derek and Dominos Layla sessions".   The Goldtop has been on display at the Allman Brothers' Big House Museum in Macon, Georgia.  The other two Les Paul's have been on display at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on loan from Duane's daughter Galadrielle.

"The guitars’ histories are long and varied. In September 1970, Duane traded the goldtop for the cherry burst after swapping the pickups between the instruments. The cherry burst became his primary guitar, heard on At Fillmore East. In June 1971, guitar dealer Kurt Linhof sold Duane the dark burst, which became his main guitar until his death on October 29, 1971.
 According to Galadrielle’s moving memoir, Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane     Allman, her mother Donna took the cherryburst from Duane’s apartment after his death and soon lent it to a musician friend—who had introduced Duane and Donna. She asked him to return it when her daughter was 21.
Gregg had the darkburst, but the band’s road manager Twiggs Lyndon was worried about its fate. A classic car aficionado, Lyndon traded Gregg a 1939 Ford Opera coupe for the guitar, determined to hold it for Galadrielle until she was “old enough not to give it to the first guitar player she dated.”



12.14.2014

D'angelo releases Sugah Daddy first single in 15 years from forthcoming D'angelo And The Vanguard Black Messiah




So far this is all that is out in the public domain.  It's taken ?uestlove a decade plus and the artist currently known as D'Angelo to put out even a note of this material.  Word came literally from influential Hip Hop producer's like 9th Wonder (formerly of Little Brother), who didn't actually have the record in hand but retweeted a photo to show that it actually existed somewhere.


The Hold Steady - Horseshoe Tavern setlist last night (12.13.14)

Ask Her For Adderall
Sequestered In Memphis
Rock Problems
Magazines
Navy Sheets
Continuous Thunder (Japandroids Cover)
Stuck Between Stations
The Swish
Chips Ahoy!
Lord, I'm Discouraged
Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
Don't Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young Cover)
Joke About Jamaica
Massive Nights
You Can Make Him Like You
Southtown Girls
Slapped Actress




encore:


Cuts Like A Knife (Bryan Adams Cover)
Young Lions (Constantines Cover)
Citrus
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Stay Positive
How a Resurrection Really Feels
Killer Parties

The Hold Steady- Horseshoe Tavern setlist/ complete Boys and Girls in America (12.12.14)

The Hold Steady
Horseshoe Tavern 67th Birthday Celebration
12.12.14

On With The Business 
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You
Runner's High
The Only Thing
The Sweet Part of the City
Stuck Between Stations
Chips Ahoy!
Hot Soft Light
Same Kooks
First Night
Party Pit
You Can Make Him Like You
Massive Nights
Citrus
Chillout Tent
Southtown Girls
Girls Like Status


encore:


Young Lions (Constantines cover)
Constructive Summer
Sequestered in Memphis
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Stay Positive
Killer Parties


The Hold Steady - Horseshoe Tavern setlist (12.11.14)

The Hold Steady
Horseshoe Tavern 67th Birthday Celebration
12.12.14

I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You 
Big Cig
Wait Awhile
Spinners
The Ambassador
The Weekenders
Hornets! Hornets!
Cattle and the Creeping Things
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Banging Camp
Charlemagne in Sweatpants
Stevie Nix
Multitude of Casualties
Don't Let Me Explode
Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
Crucifixion Cruise
How a Resurrection Really Feels


encore:


Continuous Thunder (Japandroids cover)
Stuck Between Stations
Sequestered In Memphis
Massive Nights
Stay Positive

The Hold Steady - Horseshoe Tavern setlist (12.10.14)

The Hold Steady
Horseshoe Tavern 67th Birthday Celebration
12.10.14

I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You
On With The Business
Big Cig
Rainbow (Saddle Shoes)
Spinners
The Ambassador
The Weekenders
Charlemagne In Sweatpants
Positive Jam
The Swish
Barfruit Blues
Most People are DJ's
Certain Songs
Knuckles
Hostile, Mass
Sketchy Metal
Sweet Payne
Killer Parties
encore: 


Don't Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young Cover)
Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
Chips Ahoy!
Stuck Between Stations
Stay Positive

The Hold Steady - 4 night residency Horseshoe Tavern (Dec.10-13)

photo Jake Senger
It's been an open question whether The Hold Steady were still a going live and recording concern after the departure of multi-instrumentalist (harpsichordist/ accordion etc.) Franz Nicolay in 2010.  Nicolay brought a depth of musicality to the group and was the perfect visual foil to Craig Finn's clever kid theatrics.  Though the departure was described as amicable by both sides (THS wanted to focus on THS and Nicolay wanted to focus on everything from Vaudevillian schtick to whatever else he keeps busy with these days).

2010's release Heaven Is Whenever was mostly filler nearly no killer.   The word is still out on 2014's White Teeth but nobody's sending them postcards.  Initially and now permanently Nicolay was replaced by (former Lucero guitarist Steve Selvidge).  In 2012-2013 the group was on hiatus recording only The Bear and the Maiden Fair for Game of Thrones.

At the time Nicolay left the band he viewed his work with The Hold Steady as a closed book, and likely still does. Notably of all the songs they played during their four night stand- including complete run throughs of their landmark albums Stay Positive and Boys and Girls In America as well as Canadian covers by Neil Young (Don't Let It Bring You Down) and the Constantines (Young Lions)- one of their greatest hoodrat tales One For The Cutters with its disctinctive harpsichord wail was suspiciously absent.

Torn Hawk - Let's Cry and Do Pushups At The Same Time (Guitar Solos, VHS Video Mulching and Nostalgia without Irony)

We always get Com Truise and Torn Hawk mixed up in our mind.  They have absolutely nothing in common musically, Com makes godawful electronic music that sounds like one long Casio keyboard solo complete with drum beat.   Torn Hawk's music is much much more. The only thing they have in common is the pun of their names evoking the nostalgia present in their music:  Tom Cruise and Tony Hawk.

A handful of Electronic artists are making things harder not easier on themselves these days (Andy Stott could be included on that list for deciding to collect and learn how to make music with analogue rather than digital equipment).   Hawk for his part plays guitar on most of Let's Cry and Do Pushups At The Same Time.  In fact the finer points on the album are guitar driven like the opener I'm Flexible, Afterprom and Because of M.A.S.K. (which sounds like it could be a Torn Hawk remix off of Pink Floyd's Endless River).   In an eery way Torn Hawk's newest album (though electronic) is tilling over similar nostalgiac ground, while reinventing it, not unlike The War On Drugs did with this years phenomenal Lost In The Dream.  The Showpiece on Pushups is Acceptance Speech which carries itself with the sort of exultant feeling that might accompany an acceptance speech (or not your acceptance speech, but one you saw in a movie once and longed for that recognition ever since).


This is Torn Hawk's second LP this year following Through Force Of Will and a slew of varied releases put out on L.I.E.S., Not Not Fun, Rush Hour's 'No Label', 1080p, as well as several other labels including his own Valcrond Video imprint.   Hawk, born Luke Wyatt, grew up in Charlottesburg, Virginia where his "stepmom owned an independent movie theater, for many years... (which cultivated) the atmosphere of film literacy".  Wyatt has developed a parallel practice to his music production which he calls Video Mulching.




In addition to working with VHS to come up with his visual productions the process has informed his musical process as well: 


"Besides aesthetics, I began to work with tape for my music because I was tired of so many choices in editing music on a computer. When I bounced a mix to tape, those decisions became locked in. When working with video, I like sending images I have honed in Photoshop, for example, to VHS, because it provides a sort of anti-sheen and flatness that smears your decisions. The key word is "inevitable"—beyond individual images, cultivating inevitability is about creating a sense around the edits and the sequence that there was no other way to assemble things. That this was something preordained that had always existed."

12.12.2014

christ. - curio. volume1. (barely worth a listen)


This release smacks of cash grab and sounds like it too.  Fortunately it doesn't pretend to be anything more.  Christ. said as much about the old tracks. "I'm not expecting a Mobo or a Mercury Prize.  Some of this stuff was recorded on 4-track using a single timbral synth and a drum machine.  Some was recorded onto a Sanyo Midi hifi system.  Largely I'm publishing this because a lot of people have been asking about 'early stuff'.  The title says it all really. Curio.  I hope you enjoy it anyway."

Have a listen for yourself.  Unless you're a really big fan of christ.'s work there are countless more engaging Electronic LP's, EP's and compilations that have come out in the past year.

Cuthead - Total Sellout review

Cuthead's Total Sellout is handily one of the best Electronic releases of 2014.  While Caribou and Aphex Twin have been (for the most part rightly) getting all the love there have been so many brilliant Electronic releases that rival those of more established artists.

Like Aphex Twin, who surprised then turned the world on its ear with the unanticipated Syro, Cuthead has pulled together an album of mostly old material and culled it down to play like one conceptually succinct sounding LP.

Cuthead is associated with the Dresden based Hip Hop collective Kunst:stoff Breakz (who threw crazy parties in the woods at changing locations and (had) altercations with local authorities). Cuthead is now associated with the Uncanny Valley label.

"The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability. Examples can be found in the fields of robotics[1] and 3D computer animation, Electronic Music among others."
Total Sellout whittled down 51 tracks from his two download only albums Murdoc and City Slicker as well as a Cuthead EP from the Kunst:stoff Breaks period.  All the tracks were produced between the years of 2006-2010.  Some of the choicer cuts on the album include Scissorhands (which is built around an Electric Light Orchestra sample), and Rhythmus '78.   Kingston Loudness War Champion 2009, Logic and Iron Lung all drop serious Left Field bass that would be at home in any Gaslamp Killer DJ set.  The closer hidden track with Alibi rapping in German is tight as a drum as well.






12.11.2014

Detroit vs. Everybody Remix (16 Minutes feat. Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Trick Trick,Marv Won prod. Statik Selektah)


The original version of Detroit Vs. Everybody was on an Eminem compilation of no particular distinction (Shady XM).  The original featured Shady, Dej Loaf, Royce da 5'9", Big Sean and the more-played-out-by-the-moment Danny Brown (and it hurts us to say that- we loved Danny Brown!).  And rarely use exclamation points for emphasis.

The Remix which clocks in at a whopping and not entirely enthralling sixteen minutes.  Dej Loaf appears on this one too along with Trick Trick, two thirds of Random Axe (Guilty Simpson and Black Milk), Detroit Che, Boldy James, Sino, Payroll, Hydro, Big Gov, Kid Vishis, Big Herk, Calicoe, Diezel, Icewear Vezzo,Big Herk and Marv Won.   All the rappers are Detroit natives or connected with the D - a handful (Diezel, Marv Won, Guilty) having previously appeared together on Trick Trick's second gangster album The Villain.



12.10.2014

The Barr Brothers - Live @ La Tulipe 04.22.2010 (live download)

photo Scott McGuigan
Back in 2010 The Barr Brothers weren't yet cresting the wave of popularity spurred by their near-perfect sophomore release and relentless touring in support of it.

In venues ranging from concert halls to synagogues and all manner of intimate quasi-improvised settings The Barr Brothers have been bringing this collection of songs right back and forth between those United States and across the pond and back.  The third leg of their exhausting tour wraps up with a string of dates in rural Quebec.

Here's a free live recording of a beautiful performance at La Tulipe in Montreal from March 22, 2010

12.05.2014

Northern Heads celebrates 60,000 visitors


Northern Heads began as northernheads.com (a very lo-fi website, essentially a proto-blog covering largely Canadian improvisational 'jam' based music) from 2001-2005.   The website was founded by Canadian Luke Bowden and American Abe Robins and might best be described as jambands.com meets The Onion on ketamine.  

After some dark and hairy times Northern Heads was revived by Luke Bowden as a blog at first primarily focused on Detroit Hip Hop.  The notion behind this limited focus at the outset was that there are countless general interest blogs and music blogs out there and the world of music is so vast that once one starts down a path (say Blues from the 1920's) you could literally spend a lifetime trying to understand that little niche.  From an initial focus on the preternatural J Dilla, his protege Black Milk and many in his camp including Elzhi, Guilty Simpson, Sean Price and (Hybrid-era) Danny Brown the scope of coverage has grown.

Gradually the focus of the blog dilated to include its namesake the Grateful Dead, Phish and the immortal Prince - but more importantly progressive improvisational groups such as The Slip (now The Barr Brothers) as well as a variety of Electronic musicians influenced by a deep musicality (The Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus etc.).   Swinging to the other end of the spectrum my other area of specialization is Roots and Americana music with a fervent interest in Canadian groups with spine and spirit such as The Golden Dogs and their kin Zeus

As a freelance music writer I have always operated on the margins of Canada's nepotistic and clingy world of music journalism.  As a rule I do not feature any music which I am not deeply passionate about- setting a standard of requisite craftsmanship rarely present in the glut of releases pumped out on a daily basis.  Put plainly I listen to all the shit so that you don't have to.

As the New Year approaches we'll be highlighting the best of 2014's releases as well as highlighting long form interviews from the past year originally published on No Depression (the Roots music authority since 1995).  Thanks for reading and coming back - if you don't currently follow the blog please consider following it in the future.  I promise to bring you more music, more diverse music and insights, and more frequent updates over the coming year.

sincerely,

Luke C. Bowden

Carlin Nicholson interview (Classic Zeus)

Zeus appeared on the Canadian music scene around 2009 with a handful of recordings that became their debut Sounds Like Zeus EP.   Recorded in an informal clubhouse fashion, at their own jerry rigged Ill Eagle Studios, the name of the band originated from a take or song that just had that certain something: Zeus Juice.  Sounds Like Zeus, which contained a cover of Genesis' "That's All",  gained the group a reputation for a proggish, harmony driven sound that pointed back to certain eddies and currents of sound that haven't been fully explored since the sixties and seventies.  Initially Zeus were frequently compared to The Band for a variety of half-relevant and half-irrelevant reasons.  They are a group of young men from Southern Ontario who have made a name for themselves playing Rock & Roll and Blue-Eyed Soul.  They were initially known as Jason Collett's backing band, some members had been in his previous backing group Paso Mino as well, until striking out on their own.

They have also looked back to their roots when musical trends have pushed forward to the future ,just as The Band stepped away from the vogue of psychedelia.  From there, the comparison all but falls apart.  Except that history is likely to view Zeus (the band) in a favourable light as well.  Unabashed about their rear-view tendencies Zeus followed Sounds Like Zeus with a full length Say Us (2010) which placed them in the Canadian consciousness and on the radio dial as one of the most exciting live or recorded bands to come along in some time.  Touring in support of Say Us, 2011's Busting Visions and now 2014's Classic Zeus, the band have built pockets of devoted fanbases throughout the United States and Europe on the strength of their tireless work ethic, stage show, and gifted songwriting chops.  Having weathered the indignities and inedibility of acclaim, the time between Busting Visions and Classic Zeus almost broke the band up.  The sound on the new record  reflects the end of this turmoil -- it is both redemptive and hopeful -- a mending of fences (if indeed they needed mending) and a more mature, sedate offering from songwriters coming into the fullness of their creative gifts. In the days between their release of Classic Zeus (Sept. 2 on Arts and Crafts) and departing on their Family Affair Tour (with The Golden Dogs and Taylor Knox) co-founder Carlin Nicholson took some time to talk about growing up in Southern Ontario, their community of collaborators and the dynamics of working in a group with multiple songwriters.

Luke C. Bowden: I just wanted to start off with basic biography, like born and raised kind of a thing.

Carlin Nicholson: Sure man, born and raised in Innisfil, Ontario. It's a little town, population not posted.  It's called Big Bay's Point and I was raised there my whole life. My grandfather built a small cottage and when my dad got back from Spain and picked up my mom, he decided he would live there.  And then in 1990, my dad, he built a monstrosity of a house that stayed in plywood for over twenty years and it was called the Plywood Palace.

It's better than a Mortgage Mansion.

Yeah absolutely, and what he did was he cut the cottage in half put it on a flatbed, put it in the backyard, and that became our first jam space which we called simply the Back House.  We sowed all of our musical seeds back there -- Mike O'Brien, myself another band with my brother Liam that we used to play in called the 68's.

What years were the 68's active because I think there's a lot of references to that group but also some confusion?

What is it 2014 now? Zeus' first record came out in 2009.  So the 68's were probably active from 1997-2005.  Before that I was in a band called Seven Ten Split that Mike was in as well.  And actually Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas was the 68's first drummer, and that line-up was me, my brother Liam, Mike O'Brien, and Afie on drums.

The way I understand it Afie, Rob, and Mike went on to be in Paso Mino -- frequently backing Jason Collett -- did you work front of house for Paso Mino and tour with them as well?
Many times, I went out with Jason and did sound for him; I did sound for Paso Mino whenever they're in town.  I'll still do sound for my friends; I did sound for The Golden Dogs as recently as six months ago.

Yeah, the first time I met you, you were on the cover of Now magazine and Exclaim! magazine and you were working sound for Kevin Breit and Sisters Euclid at the Rivoli.

Exactly, Dude. It's a good job. I mean, it's a hell of way to make a living but you can keep yourself in it.

You've mentioned a number of the bands you've been in.  The one band you mentioned was The Golden Dogs, which obviously you and Neil overlapped. There's a pretty tight bond between Zeus and the Golden Dogs. To me Dave Azzolini is a really singular figure in contemporary Canadian music.  Maybe that's just me, but I mean a lot of people think The Golden Dogs are one of the best live bands in Canada. I guess what I wonder is what did you learn as a band leader or as a songwriter from Dave Azzolini in your tenure as a Golden Dog?

I learned a lot of actual musical technical skills from Dave right out of the gate. I played bass and keyboards in the 68's, the band I was in at the time, and it's pretty much the same role that I play now in Zeus. So for me to go in and play guitar for them was a totally different thing and I kind of jumped at the opportunity because, like you say, they're so wicked. I was, like, this is amazing. I wanted to see more of Ontario and more of the country.  I didn't tour the country with them but I did a lot of shows in Ontario with the band for a little more than a year in 2008. It was amazing. Dave's amazing. I mean, I've always kind of been natural to a leader position in the 68's at least and it was to me it's like someone's got to be the leader. Even if they don't want to be and didn't necessarily ever want to be but there are so many things that need to get done. It's not so much just the things that need to get done but it's the things that need to get spoken up about. So, all a good leader really is in a group that like, a diplomatic band situation, is somebody who is good at starting conversations about what needs to be talked about and things that need to get done. I played that role. Dave leads in a similar way but I found him to be an insane driving force. He had a really good way of getting people jacked up.  The way he is on stage, it's pretty damn intense. I don't know how I'd fare in this day and age I don't know if I'd be able to hack it. At the time, I remember being blown away, thinking to myself, wow, this is really cool, I like the way Dave operates. And Jess too. They're a two-headed, insane, golden machine, full of rock and full of spirit. Both of them are unbreakable, that's the word I'd use for both of them.

Their day is coming. 

Their new record is amazing. I mixed it myself at the Sloan space.

We'll get into that in one second but first I want to get into Classic Zeus. I don't want to put words in your mouth but I'm going to put some words in mine. There's feelings that Classic Zeus gives me across the board. Themes like redemption, healing, catharsis, salvation, love and loss. All of those. More. I wonder before we talk about the songs you brought to the table, was there a thematic idea behind this record? Was there anything in this record that you were emulating in other reocrds that you admired?

Kind of. I think this album has a lot of different sounds. I think that's how we approached recording a lot of these tunes like the time we spent on them and the ways we carved them out in the end, kind of thing.  In a strange way it came from, in some part, the cover EP that we did.

The supplemental to Busting Visions (Deluxe Edition 2013)?

Yeah, we did it in between these two, like we recorded five songs in November.

You need to incorporate those songs into your stage show by the way because it would be so awesome sauce and I don't understand why we don't get to hear (Flaming Lips) Fight Test, (Big Star) Ballad of el Goodo, and (R. Kelly) Ignition (Remix) - that's an encore for sure.

Yeah, Neil did that for an encore with Afie on drums for the Bonfire Ball tour. It was awesome. It killed every night. We played the Stone Temple Pilots one (Vazoline) one time in Thunder Bay and I'm tellin' you, there was some puzzled looks coming out of the crowd. But, it's fun. We throw them in every once in a while. We're thinking of maybe tossing in You're the Inspiration by Chicago because we just played that at Mike's wedding. Neil just goes hand-held on it, it's just incredible.

We gotta get into Classic Zeus. I've got the record out in front of me. White cover, pastel pictures of yourselves.  You probably imagined this record like a two-sided LP, right? It seems like there's a side A and side B. So, what's going on on side A and what's going on on side B?

I guess it's mostly musically. When we picked the songs that were going to go in the order they're going to go in it's always with the flow in mind in terms of musicality and tempo and all that. It's just whatever flows and whatever feels good. I don't think we ever put a lot of thought about what the songs are about to be honest.  We don't really talk to each other about what our songs are about.

We never ever really do. It's very rare. Every once in a while someone will be like, what line are you singing there? The person will tell them and they'd be like, huh, cool. We don't really talk about it you know. Each song means a lot to a guy but to be frank with you too, when I write a song I write the lyrics and music all in one go. It usually comes out in about 20 minutes or a half an hour. Maybe I write a bit and come back to it in a hour and finish it. I don't put a lot of thought into it. I look over the lyrics and quite often I'll contradict tenses and so I'll correct those but for the most part, I write the lyrics. Like, when I'm writing the song, I'll sort of sing nonsense lyrics and just sounds of what sort of syllables I want to hear and often I'll make up words.

Neil described that earlier as the Paul McCartney thing. Like Bonnieview worked well for that progression.

Yeah, McCartney always tells his scrambled eggs story for Yesterday. I don't necessarily have that.  Mine is a little more cryptic than that. There'll be a theme that I constantly come back to in the lyric, something like, 'whenever I'm gone', something like that. You'll just keep coming back to that for a hook. Then I'll basically go through my demo and even though I'm not really singing anything, some are words, some aren't words, but I'll just take, basically, like the syllables mostly at the beginning and endings of the lines and retain those and make words for them and once I start to get that down then I start to see what the song is actually about. Sometimes, I'll have an idea for what I want to write a song about but nine times out of ten, the song is written from whatever syllables or whatever catch phrase I've kept, the one singular catch phrase that I kept coming back to when I was writing it, it'll often be about that. I'll look at that and I'll say, oh, okay, that's what this song is about.
I had an exercise once a long time back when I took an old album that I recorded, it was a 68's album -this was after we'd done another one- and I went through it with a book and I actually analyzed each song like a psychiatrist might to find out what I was going through at the time.  That's how detached I actually am from my own thing but it was really interesting because I found out a lot about what was going on in my life at that time and I found out what the songs were actually about and this was years after. So I've got this similar thing going on there you now, you take a song like Everybody's Got One I had the chorus to that one in the demo it's something like 'everybody's got one/ everybody wants one'.

But they want two.

Yeah but they want two.  And that's the... it's got a bit of a double meaning as well they want to or they want two as in two is better than one.  I still don't really know or care whether it was one or the other people can take it as they will and I haven't decided I think I wrote two in the lyrics, did I?

No no it's two in the lyrics.

'Don't you want two everybody's got one' yeah so its kind of like in a way its like don't you want to?

I think people get the entendre I hear what you're saying.  Everybody's got an Iphone don't you want two?

For sure exactly.  When I wrote the lyrics and sent them into the label for them to print them I decided on that and who knows why.   Then you come back to it later and finish up the lyrics and that one obviously has a lot of just sort of thoughts and feelings in it: "Rock & Roll is everywhere stick to what you know/ I believe in what I feel and what I want is real".    That kind of stuff is very much a feeling of being on the road with the boys and sort of 'this is what I'm good at and I'm 33 years old so let's hope it works'.

Yeah but its funny because Neil and I were just talking about the mysticism in Dave Gahan's songwriting for instance...  he also told me what a huge Michael Jackson fan you were which came as a little bit of a surprise.

Oh yeah!

But there's something mystic about 'Rock & Roll is everything' or 'everywhere' right.

Mmm hmm

It doesn't surprise me to be honest to hear you say that Classic Zeus is like a series of cascading choruses that the independent songwriters didn't necessarily talk too much about what the emotional meaning of the song was, ya know?

We kind of got lucky that there was a through point.

And what was the through point?

I think you kind of pinpointed it earlier I mean you got Take Your Past And Throw It On The Fire basically saying whatevers gone wrong fuck it let's just be together and do this right.  And then you've got Straight Through The Light  that talks about 'after all that we've been through I see know reflection of me in you maybe all this... whatever the words are (sings) 'maybe all this time I've done all my cryin'' or something like that.   It's basically like a little bit of whining a little bit of questioning as to we've done all this I still don't see where the hell we're going. 'I don't see you in me'.  So there's a bit of a whine going on there I guess.  What's my other one First One In, last one out.

Just for clarity's sake let's go through what are the Carlin tunes on this record?

Straight Through The Light, First One In, Come Home and Everybody's Got One

Then by subtraction Mike's tunes are?

Throw It On The Fire, Miss My Friends, Old Enough To Know and then Neil's are the rest.

That's a pretty equitable balance between multiple songwriters.  Everybody's playing to their strengths.  I presume when I see your live show that whoever's taking the lead vocal wrote the tune.  I do notice in the liner notes it does say:  'All songs were written and performed by Zeus' with additional musical contributions by... Is that sort of... This is a tough question but obviously you guys get compared to The Band a lot and obviously things went real sour there. 

Yeah

But there was really only one songwriter in that group and I think the debate has always been around should arrangers in a band that workshops songs over time - like Don't Do It sounded a million times different from when they started it to when they ended it. You know what I'm trying to say?

Yeah yeah for sure.

So it's that Lennon/McCartney thing.  Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields, McCartney wrote Dear Prudence but they both wrote everything.

They both wrote everything yeah.

So we're touching on two of your biggest influences I would think The Beatles and The Band.  Is part of the logic of attributing the songwriting credits to everyone a way to be truly democratic and leaderless as a band?

I think in a way.   Its also just cleaner and I think that it establishes a solid unity in the group.  I mean all our royalties are split so for us I guess its just a strong incentive of unity and a really good team.  Its an interesting thing because as you can tell our band doesn't necessarily work that way.  We definitely.... say Mike came out with a tune he went to record it with somebody else it wouldn't sound like a Zeus tune.  So in that sense the only way to get the songs to sound like a Zeus song is to record it with Zeus.  So if I was to take any of my songs and record them with anyone else they would sound like my song but it wouldn't sound like Zeus so there is something there that is unreplaceable in terms of how the final product comes out.  In terms of the actual song being written its kind of like a three fold answer; sometimes a guy will come in with a complete picture, Neil comes in with a complete picture often I sometimes do as well; I sometimes deliberately don't finish a song because I want to finish it with the guys; Mike is probably third on the list in terms of that, often he'll come in with a full song but often it will be carved into something different, sometimes he'll come in with just a little bit.  In the beginning Mike and I used to really work on songs a lot together and we would just have a couple little snippets - we still write together a lot but it's like when you have three songwriters and you release an album every two years and every guy gets you know four songs maximum, maybe three maybe two and a half.  Do the math.

Its healthy competition. 

For sure!

It works out for the listener.

We don't even think of it that way to be honest.  There was a time when we were really democratic.  If you look at our other albums its exactly right down the middle.  Everybody has the exact amount of songs the same as the other guy.  And that's how we set out to do it in the beginning.  For this record we really just recorded 30 songs something like that.  We just took the songs that were the right songs to make an amazing 11 track album, which is another unique thing about this record.

That makes sense because you've obviously got some songs in your back pocket like Refusal To Die and Hot Under The Collar (7" A side, 2010).

Oh 100% and there's a song of mine called Lion's Pride that didn't make it on.

And that's an instant Zeus classic kind of a thing?

Oh dude I've got a tune... Mike's got a tune... it's been trying to get on a record for like three records.   Lion's Pride's a pretty frigging rocking tune and to be fair that tune and Permanent Scar and Fever Of The Time were the three songs that actually started this band. Cause it was- Mike was working in Paso Mino but that was kind of on hiatus and he was working with Feist a little and all that kind of stuff.  And the 68's were on hiatus and Mike and I started recording songs together and in amongst that first batch of tunes was How Does It Feel?, Permanent Scar, Fever Of The Time and Lion's Pride.  Those four tunes and they were recorded with Dave Azzolini and Taylor Knox.  So those were kind of the first and Zeus' first show, as you may remember, was Taylor, Dave, Mike and Me and Neil was in the crowd waving his lighter around piss drunk listening to River By The Garden during like the solo outro type thing and he was just loving it.  That was our very first show, at the Rivoli, opening up for Pete Elkas.

Who's on the new record.

Who's on the new record but he actually recorded that song back in the Say Us (2009) sessions if you can believe it or not.

What is the track that he's on?  There's a vocal I don't recognize on one song.

That's the one First One In there's all these harmonies, these super-sick three part harmonies that are in the background and in the chorus.  [Sings]: "The first one in, you don't have to tell me now/ last one out".

I thought it was Afie at first to be honest.

Yeah it kind of sounds like an Afie part but yeah that's Neil/Mike/Pete singing backup for First One In.

I wanted to talk for a second about this Classic Zeus, it's obviously a bit of a play on words.  You've just talked about really how on this outing in a way you've returned to the 'classic' Zeus line-up which is to say what became the original Zeus recordings had a looser quality to their birth and obviously Taylor Knox and Dave Azzolini and Jessica Grassia played on all those tracks.  So was this sort of a conscious thing to bring them back into the fold on this recording or was it just the right people in the right place, that kind of a deal?

That's the kind of a deal exactly.  Basically Ill Eagle (Studios) is a rotating door of musicians within our circle of friends you know you've got like you say: Taylor Knox, The Golden Dogs, Wax Atlantic, Jason Collett whoever happens to be around.

Let's spin out the Ill Eagle Family for a second is there anybody else we're missing?

Yep probably.  Let's see whose kicking it in the Ill Eagle family.  There's William Delray he used to have a band called Sex & Moving Parts, he's kind of changing his band name all the time.  Then there's just a butt whack of people that are friends that are recording, I've kind of stayed busy recording albums without drifting out of my friends circle for fucking six years and that's just the way it is.  Every time I turn around somebody else has a record that they want to do or they want to record something or they want something mixed.  It's an awesome beautiful thing and I remember stopping at the three year mark and thinking to myself I've been doing almost back to back albums whether it be performing for them, recording for them, mixing for them, producing for them, whatever kind of thing for this long and I haven't even put out a Craigslist ad [laughs]. Everyone's just... there's people around... There's people around that need help and want help and I'm glad to be a part of a lot of what I've done.  Ill Eagle's a really special place and in part I should touch back on what we were talking about before - Permanent Scar, Fever Of The Times and Lion's Pride.

That was a time when we had a really big circle, we had Paso Mino who was added to that list, the 68's were always busy and it was really frustrating to me that we weren't all working as a team.  Everybody, everybody was working hard at their own thing but there was this wall, not necessarily of secrecy, I don't know if it was that people were too timid or not wanting to come forward or too possessive of their own art or any of that bullshit.  But when Mike and I set out to do those recordings, I may have even said the words to myself 'fuck this let's just go in and get busy'.  Then Mike and I would just go into the studio every day single day with no agenda and who cares.  We would decide what we were going to record, let's say we had an ipod with one of those split earphone jacks and we used to both just listen to my demos and his demos and we'd decide what should we record today.  It was a real carefree time, it was a beautiful time to make music but a lot of it was spurred from a basic frustration that we weren't all working together.  Now we are and it's a wonderful and beautiful thing.  And here we are in 2014 we're going to play at Lee's Palace on the 27th of September it's going to be Taylor Knox, The Golden Dogs and Zeus.  Now we're doing it you know?  Now we're keying in onto it and we have been for a while but at that time I was very very frustrated.  You can't come out and tell the other bands you know 'this is wrong, we're not doing this right guys, we're all trying for the same thing here, we're all going to make each other better'.  That's what people miss sometimes.  For any bands out there that have other bands around them I gotta say 'they will only make you better don't be worried that your little precious song is not gonna turn out the way you want it to'.  You'll always have final say.  You need to surround yourself with the right people and you need to love those people and as long as you respect them musically then they will give you what you need to get better.  Your songs will be better, they will be enriched by the people you respect and love and ultimately you will come out with something you love more in the long run.  Absolutely.

I've heard you in different interviews or in person trying to cultivate a vision for Ill Eagle as a kind of Motown North which would make you into a de facto Funk Brothers or Booker T. and the MG's or whatever.

Sure.

Is that sort of where you see this phase or the next phase of your career is helping other artists to cultivate their vision for what they want to produce and being a bit of a hit factory?

It's possible.  I definitely don't think it's a hit factory.

I don't mean in the traditional sense.
 
I know what you mean... [hesitates] I think there's a lot of people who come to an album, or record enough songs that it could be a great record and they don't really know where to go with it.  So you know I don't think we're like god's gift to recording albums or anything.  Quite honestly when I listen to albums I find to be super slick and basically perfect sounding records, not necessarily to my ears but to industry standards quote unquote.

Are there any from this year you'd be willing to mention?  To my ears Jenny Lewis' (The Voyager) and The War On Drugs (Lost In The Dream) are both 'super slick'. 

But there's a good kind of slick too.  It's hard to explain.  For me... I think people come to me to mix their records and to record their songs because of what they've heard obviously, the stuff already that I've done.  I think they come to it because all of those frequencies that get eliminated in the process of making something sound perfect I don't really know how to eliminate to be honest.  [Laughs] I just put the songs together to how they sound good to my ears and that's pretty much the end of it.  I don't really know... I know some tricks but I don't know a lot of the tricks that other dudes use to make songs sound perfect.  I believe that the way that it's recorded at the time is ultimately how it's gonna come out in the end. You can do some work to it to make it go one way or the other- I kind of think it should be relatively continuous to how you recorded it.  So I've just been getting better and better and you learn something every day.  I learn from all types... I love the group.  I love the unity.  I think that strength in numbers is the way to go in terms of bands linking up with other bands.  Hands in Teeth that's another band that I recorded recently.  I just love it.  I love every time another... ohhh... Jay McCarrol what's his band called (Brave Shores). Look it up they got a nice record deal on their hands. I don't know that we're any kind of hit factory, we're not pulling any magic tricks but whatever.  We're just recording tunes in I think a traditional way which I think is what draws people to us and our song sensibilities again they're not magic tricks they're simple and I think we're honest about how we feel.  We push for ideas that we feel strongly about.  Nobody wants a yes man in this studio especally Paul McCartney.

I appreciate you've taken as much time.  Two more questions, the first maybe a little bit pointed.  The influences that are consistently tied to Zeus are the 3 B's: The Band, The Beach Boys and the Big Star.

And the Bee Gees.

Yeah, and I know you're a big fan of the Superfriendz and Matt Murphy (Superfriendz, Flashing Lights, Lil' Orton Hoggett, Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico) is obviously an iconic figure in Canadian Rock. 

Huge.

And also Dr. Dog is also an American, I would think Zeus counterpart.

Yep.

I was a little surprised to learn, not so surprised to learn, that you're a big Michael Jackson fan.  Neil was saying how he's a big Depeche Mode and Junior Boys fan.  I guess for the sake of your listeners people would be interested in hearing how diverse your listening tastes are. What are maybe some of the non-analog references in your music?

You mean like not old bands?

I mean old or new.  What bands are you not embarassed to say are influences?

I'm not embarassed to admit any.  I'm a huge fan of all the following bands: ABBA, AC/DC, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Rick Astley, Whitney Houston, Madonna... let's see what else do we got... Let's go down the list Elvis, Johnny Cash. I should really just be going over my ipod... I love St. Vincent, I love Beck, Beck is huge influence for Mike and me.  Really big.  Nirvana was always one of my biggest musical crushes.  I liked Pearl Jam a lot back in the 'hood.  I was listening to New Kids On The Block at the same time that I was listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Loved the New Kids.

Step One, we can have lots of fun.  Step two, there's so much we can do.

Step Two... The song Tonight was killer for me it fucking blew my mind and now I look back and I realize he's just ripping off George Martin and Paul McCartney in the hugest way.  I look back and all those little horns [sings horn parts] I look back now and it's a joke it's a complete rip off of the Beatles.  But you know what?  I was into the New Kids before I was into The Beatles. So I didn't know any better.

Carlin you've been incredibly generous with your time but I did have one last kind of pointed question.  Zeus is a multiple songwriter band, and it strikes me as a very democratic band, but every band has a business and a musical leader and I guess the question really is Carlin are you Zeus' leader?  Are you the leader of the band?  Or is it a leaderless band?

I think it's like I said before.  I think a good leader knows how to motivate the people in the group.  I don't think that there's necessarily... I mean Mike himself has said to me... because I find that the people that I'm surrounded by in our business come to me for important questions.  Come to me for  answers that they need a definitive answer on. Now.  I've always been able to make quick decisions and I'm comfortable in a leadership position.  That being said I have been doing this long enough, I've been in this sort of a position in a band that I know I need to take cues and be inspired as well- because I'm also a songwriter in the band, and also I need to feel good, emotionally I need to know that everybody is all in- balls deep.  So I learn from the guys too you know I look to Neil for leadership cues he's a very intelligent guy.

Supremely.

And he knows every bit.  He knows a correct course of action just the same as I would and where I would make a wrong decision he would make a right decision.  The difference is foresight and knowing what questions to ask.  Knowing how to get people to think of all different angles.  I try to do my best at that but there's often that its those guys that are getting me thinking about something else.  I have been in a foreman in the past in jobs back in the day so I have that weird little alarm that goes off in your mind or in your body.

You're a natural born leader.

In a sense I think I am I'm not saying I'm the best or whatever I'm just saying that I have that weird thing that a lot of these types of people have that when there's an alarm that goes off, when you feel that you're getting close to something that you know you need to deal with.  Whether it be a phone call that you need to make to somebody that you haven't talked to for too long that you know you need to talk to for something later down the road.  Whether it be like do I do this person a favor now?  Do I scratch this guy's back now would it be a good idea to do that?  Sometimes the answer's yes sometimes the answer's who gives a fuck.  But you've got to put it to the panel and you've gotta know when the conversation's over too.  So I think that every guy in Zeus is capable of making every decision that we need to make, but I don't think that it occurs to all the members in the band in the same way. Perhaps.  And in instances like this or in instances of crisis people look to me for a sounding board or just sort of an inspirational tool and I'm happy to be that.  I don't ever claim to be the leader.  I sometimes get that at shows too, 'oh who's the leader in your band?'  Who's the lead singer in your band? Well I guess technically Neil's the lead singer 'cause he does most of the songs.

The Band got that one too.

Yeah definitely all that stuff rolls off all our backs.  None of us give a crap about that.  We're all comfortable with our roles in the band.  In terms of day to day stuff, tending to artwork that needs to get done, keeping up with emails I do my best at it.  But Mike is incredible with that.  Today day before the tour him and Jason Haberman our newest member whose also incredible were out making a backdrop for the band for the stage.  The last one they made got all messed up and got rolled up in a bad way.  So there they are banging that out the day that they need it.  We did a video shoot and a photo shoot with a blimp that we filled with helium and went out to the badlands and set it out into the air.  There was Mike first guy on the scene painting the blimp getting crazy with it.  Mike is a crazy and awesome creative force, a hell of a songwriter and a very gifted artist.  I can't do that.  I can't do the art side of the thing.  I can't draw anything but I know what I want to see and Mike's incredible for that. It all depends on what the job is that's being done and we all just exercise a lot of patience ultimately knowing that when we come together and we come up with something that we're all pumped about its going to be fucking awesome.  And its going to be Zeus.

Zeus Juice.

That's right brother.

*this interview was originally published at No Depression 09/24/14


12.04.2014

Buck 65 - Neverlove interview

Buck 65 is a class act.  When he got to fulfill a childhood dream last month of throwing out a pitch in a major league stadium he did a little more than the expected.  When Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena, who'd been assigned to catch the ceremonial first pitch, came over to say hello Buck said to him: “I’m going to put a little something on it”.   In the end he threw by his own assessment  "a 4-seam fastball. It tailed and sunk a bit. It would have been a tough pitch for a right-handed batter and even more so for a lefty. It made a nice pop sound when it hit Valbuena’s glove."  The crowd seemed taken aback by this nearly pro pitch. 
But then Buck is too humble to tell anyone, although many know this about him, that he was such a good baseball player in his youth that he was scouted by the New York Yankees only to blow out his shoulder and his first chance at an international career. 

When purchasing his newest album Neverlove in Itunes the program suggests similar artists like: Tom Waits, Busdriver (who has his first strong record out in years too) and his former partner in crime Sixtoo (of Sebutones and whom you never hear of as of late).  He is the sort of artist that on one hand makes Hip Hop that his core audience can spit every line too.  Then he is also the sort of avant-garde artist who will collaborate across many genres and could be just as easily described as talking blues.  In his own words hear how the boy from Mt. Uniacke, NS made the big time in a small way.

Luke C. Bowden:  In the early days of your career you used to do a thrilling rendition of the seminal poem Casey At The Bat spliced with the drama of your provincial baseball final over a hip hop beat.   Given that you grew up in rural Nova Scotia, a stones throw from the birthplace of hockey, it seems odd that you were so drawn to the American national pastime and Hip Hop when everyone else was listening to metal or whatever.  Are there parallels to be drawn with your skill and fascination with the game of baseball and your diligent musical ethic and early almost clinical interest in Hip Hop?

Buck 65: I liked hockey when I was a kid. My brother and uncles were all fanatics. I was watching a game with them when I was a kid. Red Wings vs. Leafs. Borje Salming got a skate in the face. It's an infamous moment in hockey history. I saw it happen. Up close. I was totally horrified. It scared me off hockey forever. My small town didn't have any organized hockey, but it did have a baseball league. I signed up when I was seven years old. I took to it right away. I improved quickly. Being good at it made me love it. A kid needs that kind of thing - I did anyway. It became a total obsession - not just playing, but studying the history too. I guess I have an analytical nature. So hip hop music appealed too. Especially when I was a kid in the 80s. The music was so fun then. And with the music all being sample-based in those days, it was like a musical scavenger hunt for me. But you know, before I heard hip hop music, I really liked truck driving music. A lot of those songs were in the talking blues style. So when I first heard raps songs, to me, it was just more truck driving music!

You were born Ricardo Terfry but have gone by many alias' from Stinkin' Rich, Johnny Rockwell, Uncle Climax, Haslam, Dirk Thornton and DJ Critical (I'm sure there are others).  Our readers might be interested to know though where the name Buck 65 actually comes from?

My dad started calling me Buck the day I was born. I was named after him, but that was my mother's idea. My whole family has called me Buck my whole life. When I played baseball, my number was 65. Usually, when big league baseball players sign their autograph, they include their number. I always liked how that looked. So when I was daydreaming as a kid, I'd practice my autograph: Buck 65.

You were for the longest time an intensely local artist in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  But at the same time or shortly thereafter you became an international artist.   It's probably best if you put it in your own words but how did the agency at first of people like Kid Koala and Thom Yorke lead to opportunities as far afield as opening for the Beastie Boys to appearing on Sesame Street (The Grocery Store Rap?



Everything changed in 1999. I made an album called Man Overboard. It wasn't distributed particularly well, but it really circulated somehow. I don't know what it was about that one, but it found some friends in high places. The guys from Radiohead liked it. Aphex Twin liked it. Vincent Gallo liked it. These people started coming out of the woodwork, letting me and the world know they liked my music - the guys from Radiohead, in particular. They talked about me in interviews when they were doing press for Kid A. That was big for me. Everyone was talking about Radiohead at that time. And they were talking about me. It changed everything. I met them in Montreal on the Kid A tour and they offered to help me out. They hooked me up with their publicist and stuff like that.

You negotiated your record deal with Warner Music Canada, which lead to your commercial breakthrough on Talkin' Honky Blues (and your signature hit Wicked and Weird), to allow you to re-release all of your 'cult' albums- part of the Language Arts cycle- through which you've gained greater international renown.   As your career and interests have deviated away from hip hop (as it is now known) towards country, talking blues and avant-garde it seems you have retained that independence.  Can you introduce international readers and listeners to all of the projects that you are currently engaged in and your record releases of this past year?

Holy smokes. It's been a busy time. I have a project with a woman from Belgium named Joëlle Lê (Bike For Three!). I've been making music with my old friend Jo. He makes music under the name Jorun Bombay . We made an album about laundry (Laundromat Boogie). A singer from Nova Scotia named Jenn Grant has a new album out and it features a song called "Spades" that we recorded together. I have a few more irons in the fire. I'm putting the finishing touches on my first novel. Lots going on! As usual.

In 2008 you made the transition from turntablist to actual disc jockey when you took the helm of the CBC Radio 2 Drive slot (3:30-6:00) a position you hold to this day.  That's a lot of responsibility coming into people's offices, homes and commuting cars on a daily basis.   How has the need to appeal to a broad national audience, having access to the CBC archives and the creative license to create daily programming influenced the music you are making today?

During my time at the CBC, I've had to work with many consultants - some of the best in the radio biz. They've taught me about storytelling. They taught me about creating an arc during an hour of music. They taught me about talking to musicians. They taught me about social media. That experience, combined with having many conversations with great songwriters and being exposed to a lot of music of all kinds has had a big influence on my own songwriting and live performances. It's been a real blessing. I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Dolly Parton a few years ago. She taught me a lot.

It's no secret that your new album Neverlove - with titles like Only War, Heart of Stone, She Fades and Love Will Fuck You Up- was borne out of the intense grief of your recent divorce.  A musicologist such as yourself must surely have considered that the Divorce Album is a genre unto itself.  Could you indulge us with your list of your Top 5 Divorce Albums with perhaps a brief rationale for each.

Well, Fleetwood Mac's Rumors comes to mind right away. I'm sure that one comes to mind first for most people. D-I-V-O-R-C-E by Tammy Wynette drew up the blueprints, pretty much. George Jones recorded many of the best songs about the end of love. He's got a ton of them. But if I had to pick an album, I'd say Memories of Us. Here My Dear by Marvin Gaye is very heavy. That's been one of my favorite albums for 20 years. It's quite dark. Blood On the Tracks by Dylan is another obvious choice, I suppose. Honorable mention to 21 by Adele. It's not a divorce record, technically. But she did write it after a tough breakup. "Someone Like You" was everywhere when I was going through my divorce. I couldn't handle it! I ran out of the room every time it came on.

You are known as much for your fecund output as your exhaustive range of collaborators- many of whom seem connected to centres you have close ties to Halifax, Toronto and Paris.  As you have moved away from the more solitary pursuits of hip hop production how has collaboration with other songwriters (such as on your last outing Jenn Grant, Hannah Georgas, Gord Downie) informed your own songwriting process?  How do you sit down and write a song with someone that might more often pick up a guitar or sit down at a piano to hatch something out?

I approached collaborative songwriting in just about every imaginable way. I've sat down next to people. I've worked over the phone. I've written with people I've never met. I've had good results with each approach. It is nice to be in a room with someone. Each person I've worked with has taught me things. It was especially informative working with Gord Downie. He was so meticulous. He taught me that everything that happens in a song has to have a purpose. Everything has to serve the message. It all has to work together. Even choosing things like effects. It all has to have a purpose. I can't not work that way now.

On Neverlove you seem to have put a great deal of trust in producer Marten Tromm who has given the whole proceeding a dolorous quality.  Many of the guests from Tiger Rosa (Natalie Bergstromm) to Adaline are artist's that Tromm has worked with closely over the years.  What was your intention in terms of the overall tonal palette of the album and how does one producer work with another producer?  Do you have to step out of the way to some extent?

I mostly stepped out of the way. But I did tell the people I worked with on this record that I wanted the music to sound cold. I also wanted to evoke a sense of empty space with most of the songs. To make things cold, I used more electronics than I usually do. But even the guitars were given a cold treatment. It's hard to make a piano sound cold, but we played things in the middle of big empty room and used that natural reverb. Marten really took control in a lot of ways. I was happy to let him do that. More than anything else, I think he just tried to get me out of the house. He knew what I was going through. I had to have a few uncomfortable conversations with everyone in the studio. I had to open up about what happened and how I was feeling. I needed everyone to be on the same page. It was a bit uncomfortable at times, but it was worth it. We got the job done.

Many of the songs on Neverlove could be described as torch songs, others are clearly blowtorch songs.   Some are delivered in your talking blues style (many will not be able to call this anything other than hip hop) but a handful are noteworthy because you are just crooning or singing as on the heartfelt Superhero In My Heart.   Singing seems like a 'lonely place' for you and you are much more exposed without your turntables, antics or personaes.  Are these creative risks you needed to take or were they different ways of lancing a subterranean pain?

It's important to me to make myself uncomfortable sometimes. I think interesting things come of that. But mostly I just needed to use melody to further the feeling I was trying to convey in the lyrics. I find that in most cases, more can be said with a melody than with words. That's a big challenge for a rapper! My friend Dean who engineered the record and did some producing was great about taking me out of my comfort zone. He made me do things I didn't really want to do. But I knew deep down that he was right and that his ideas would make the songs stronger. "Superhero In My Heart" would have sounded very different if I had've had my way. Dean gets a lot of credit on that one, in particular.

The day before you released Neverlove you released an album on your old Halifax based compatriot Jorun Bombay's imprint named Laundromat Boogie (a proper 'classic' hip hop album based around a laundry day theme).   Your recent taping for CBC's Youtube channel juggled tracks from both releases to great effect.   Did Neverlove's tragic mask need a comic mask to tour with?

Kinda, yeah. I needed to lighten things up. But I also wanted to do something that sounded closer to my older stuff, to keep my old core audience happy. It makes me happy too. Working with Jo brings me back to my roots, which feels good. I just wanted people to see that I have a lot of cards to play. I'm always evolving and moving forward. But that doesn't mean where I came from isn't still very important to me. It always will be.

You're heading out on tour to first Australia, a brief stop in Paris a few stops in England then hopping to the West Coast of Canada.  Are you bringing anyone with you on the road or what guests or special surprises can fans expect on this tour?

Tiger Rosa, who sings on half the album will be with me. I figured people would want to see and meet her. She's great and she has so much emotion in her voice. I've also decided to put together a very intense and dynamic set. My goal is to play 50 songs in 75 minutes every night! I'll probably lose a few pounds on this tour. I also bought a very nice new suit. It's going to be lots of fun!