Posts Tagged ‘Birth of Canadian Indie’

The Birth of Canadian Indie: Montreal

September 23rd, 2011

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.

The Birth of Canadian Indie: Edmonton

July 25th, 2011

I finally wrapped up the second episode of my CBC Radio 3 series The Birth of Canadian Indie this week. What a treat it was to put together. After starting off the series with an episode on my favourite Canadian music city of the 90s, it was a pleasure to move on to another city I’m well acquainted with: my hometown of Edmonton.

Although it’s a small prairie city, Edmonton has had a vividly creative music scene since the time I started listening to music — and long before that, by all reports. Any city that could spawn both k.d. lang and SNFU clearly something special going on.

And while I’m on the topic of k.d. lang and SNFU, the peculiar mash-up of country and punk rock that characterized much of the city’s music through the late 80s and early 90s is the focus of the Edmonton episode. An interview with the prolific and genre-defying Ford Pier gave the episode a good historical grounding. Here’s one of the many great outtakes from my interview with him:

“I always tell people it was a terrific place to grow up hearing underground music because the community that was open to it was so small that it wasn’t really possible for a long time to have just a show of hardcore bands or just a show of pop bands or whatever. Everybody had to pool together or there wasn’t going to be a show. And so on the same bill you would see Entirely Distorted and Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra and No Limbo Lasso and they would all be entirely different. And they’d bring all sorts of different influences to each other. In the case of Jr. Gone Wild, they’d play a Hank Williams song, let’s say. Or k.d. lang, when she started off, she was playing those same hall shows, and that was the sensibility that was introduced to everyone. And they weren’t hostile to it they way you would be privileged to be hostile to it if you lived in a place like Vancouver or Toronto and you had the luxury of being able to go and see only the types of bands that you knew you liked.”

Edmonton’s size and isolation led to a profoundly creative atmosphere in its arts community. As my producer Elliott — another former Edmontonian — put it: “in Edmonton, weird is king.”

This episode has been in the works for a few months but was held up while I waited for the incomparable Corb Lund to come back from vacation and share his thoughts on Edmonton’s music scene. He was well worth the wait. I couldn’t have put the episode together without him.

You can hear the episode on the CBC Radio 3 site, or you can stream it right here.

The Birth of Canadian Indie: Halifax

April 15th, 2011

I’m excited to announce that the first episode of my new series The Birth of Canadian Indie airs this week on CBC Radio 3! The series will explore the early years of so-called indie rock — back before “indie rock” was even a term — and its roots in punk and the underground.

Halifax was the obvious starting point for the series. The Halifax Pop Explosion of the early 90s saw American major labels flocking to that city to sign bands from Sloan, to Jale, to Hardship Post. It was a thrill to have an excuse to interview some of my favourite musicians of the early 90s — a formative period of my life and a time when my taste in music was evolving. It was great to have a chance to talk to Dave Ullrich, one of the two musicians responsible for Kombinator, my favourite album of the 90s. And interviewing Sloan’s Chris Murphy was great fun. I’d always heard he was outspoken and the man did not disappoint. He was both frank and very funny and he threw down the gauntlet when I asked him about the music put out by Sloan’s label murderecords.

“I feel when you look back on all of the records that came out in the early 90s and you compare what was going on on Mint and Sonic Unyon, I feel that ours was ten times better.”

He stopped short of claiming credit for the birth of indie music in Canada, though.

“I think for me to say Halifax was the beginning is going to get me a punch in the face when I go through Montreal or somewhere like that.”

Putting the episode together led me to some new music discoveries as well, the most notable of which was the enigmatic Al Tuck, a musician who missed the major label boat but remains a favourite among his fellow musicians and songwriters.

You can hear the episode on CBC Radio 3’s podcast #276, or you can stream it right here.


April 15th, 2011

The early 90s Halifax pop explosion took everyone by surprise. Music fans countrywide were amazed to hear brilliant alt pop coming from a city we’d thought was all about the jigs and reels. Haligonian musicians were taken aback, too. Of course, they already knew their music scene was hot. For them, it was the media hysteria that came as a shock. Many who were around during the commotion agree that Al Tuck said it best in his song “One Day The Warner”:

“We was just little itty bitty little people in our little tiny corner ‘til one day the Warner Brothers came through town.”

And although there were major label deals aplenty, some of those itty bitty little people were lost in the backwash of all that hype. Have a listen to the first episode of a new series called The Birth of Canadian Indie, where we hear from some of the stars of the Halifax pop explosion and dig up a few gems that never managed to catch the major label wave.

Click the link below to listen.

CBC Radio 3