The Birth of Canadian Indie: Montreal

Episode three of my series The Birth of Canadian Indie is on this week’s CBC Radio 3 podcast. Putting together the Montreal episode was a much different experience than the previous two in the series. Unlike Halifax and Toronto, I didn’t know that much about the Montreal music scene before I started my research.

I knew of bands like the Gruesomes and Deja Voodoo, of course. And later in the 90s I was a big Me Mom and Morgentaler fan (in fact I think I still have a giant, oversized Me Mom and Morgentaler concert tee somewhere in a box in my crawlspace). But I wasn’t sure what tied any of these bands together. Once I figured it out, though, it seemed so obvious. Montreal bands, as is evidenced today by the Arcade Fire and the Dears, hold nothing back. As Murray Lightburn of the Dears said, Montreal bands like to turn the dial to 11.

An interview with longtime concert promoter Daniel Webster gave me a great starting point for this episode. And it felt like a special privilege to talk to Gerard Van Herk of the legendary Deja Voodoo. Here’s what he had to say about his city:

“There’s a lot more arts in Montreal, period. You get all these places across Canada that say our postal code has the most artists per capita! But it’s not true, it’s Montreal that has the most artists. There’s more government support for the arts. Not our art, I mean at no point did the Quebec government say “wow it would be great to give money to a sludgeabilly band but it was OK to be an artist. There were tons and tons of people working 10-20 hour a week day jobs so that they could be a musician or performance artist or whatever, so that just sort of encouraged a culture of wonkiness or whatever that became popular and that’s always been around. It’s very OK to be wonky in Montreal.”

All in all, putting together the Montreal episode was very educational. And, as with the previous two, the whole experience was enormously fun.

The episode is on a Montreal-themed Radio 3 podcast, or you can stream it right here on my site.

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