I’ve been interviewing musicians for a long time; nine years in case you are wondering. Sometimes it feels like nine seconds, sometimes it feels like 90 years, depends on what day you catch me. This job is really just a form of people watching and a successful interview has as much to do with being well researched as does the circumstance in which the interview takes place. Interviewing musicians backstage while they are running between media outlets, their seats, and the bar, at the biggest celebration of Canadian music is not exactly Charlie Rose territory, but that type of in-depth conversation is not really expected at the Juno’s.
The idea is to be prepared to chat with anyone, at any moment, and just hope that if Neil Young or Robbie Robertson decide to stop by for a chat you are mentally ready and not flustered by the fact that you just spent 10 minutes reading about Melanie Fiona because she was supposed to stop by first. You have to understand that every media outlet in Canada is back there hoping to grab a sound-bite and scoop the next media outlet and all the artists want to do is celebrate with their friends and family because they just won a Juno. For our part, we were not interested in scooping anyone or adding to the mad rush of competition. We just wanted to try and find a moment out of the madness to have a conversation, as short as it might have to be, and paint our own picture of the night.
Is it ideal? No. Is it enjoyable? Meh. Is it exciting? Absolutely. There is something exciting about trying to force interesting conversations with artists for five minutes at a time, every 5-10 minutes. I’ve never experienced speed dating but I would suggest that our backstage Juno experience is exactly like speed dating and lucky for me…I’ve dated most of these people before.
What you are seeing here is the raw and unedited interviews we managed to score and even though Neil Young and Robbie Robertson did not stop by, I did see them walk by and I’m kinda glad that’s all it was because I want my first date with those dudes to be a little more romantic and special, like a first date should always be.
Highlights you ask? Me trying to cheer Sean and Bob from Great Big Sea up after losing their 12th straight Juno, Daniel Lanois’s hat and confession that there is no rhyme or reason to how he has navigated his almost perfect career, Classified making it through my three minute questions, Blue Rodeo making it through my three minutes questions and Keshia Chante’s mouth answering the question, but her eyes wondering “why in God’s name at the Juno’s is this guy asking me about Minnie Mouse?”
But my favorite moment of the night was interviewing “New Artist of the Year” winner Meaghan Smith because it was her first Juno experience and we were her first interview after she won her first Juno. It’s about as honest as it gets in this industry, she is over the moon with excitement and cannot believe that she just won a Juno and it’s written all over her face. She is giddy in the way I assume most people are after a first date with me.
Speed dating is fun,
Blue Rodeo 1
Blue Rodeo 2
Buck 65 1
Buck 65 2
Daniel Lanois 1
Daniel Lanois 2
Great Big Sea 1
Great Big Sea 2
No Mercy-The Stranglers (1984)
The Stranglers became part of the emerging 1970’s UK punk scene but they were never really strictly a punk band. As the years since punk hit the masses it has been defined a million times over and become part of the corporate landscape so much so that the original vibe of that music/time/feeling/climate has long been forgotten, however, in simple terms, when it first started to make noise all it really had to do in order to spit at people and be considered punk was: be loud, angry, fighting against something and all you really needed was to know how to play 3 chords…..so in those simple requirements, The Stranglers really didn’t fit because they were musical and all could play the shit out of their instruments. However, part of the punk scene they were lumped nonetheless and even played the first Ramones London gig in 1976. There was no doubt that their behavior fit with the punk scene as they gained a reputation for trashing dressing rooms and telling off audiences but one of my favorite Stranglers stories is when the BBC reluctantly booked them for Top of the Pops and instead of trashing the dressing room the band rounded up cleaning supplies and a vacuum and left the place cleaner than when they had arrived. Never quite a household name in North America, however, over the past 30 years the band has scored more that 20 top 40 UK hits and I’m pretty sure you’d recognize their tune “Golden Brown” that was used in the movie Snatch. One of my favorite Stranglers tracks is from their 1985 album “Aural Sculpture”: No Mercy.
9th Wonder-Digable Planets (1995)
Before The Digable Planets had a hit with the track “Rebirth of Slick” from their debut album “Reachin” in 1993, they were literally broke. Having to take the dollar bus from The Port Authority in NY to New Jersey everyday to hit the studio while at the same time apply for any job they could find to keep food on the table; the group makes a pretty strong case for the old music biz theory that “it only takes one song”. “Rebirth of Slick” was “that one” of many excellent tracks from the first album but “that one” managed to break the band fast and before they knew it, the Digable Planets went from not knowing how to pay their rent to being flown out to LA to do the show “In Living Color” which snowballed into a top 20 hit and a Grammy for best New Group. “Rebirth of Slick” is one of those songs that everyone has heard, if not back in the day then in a movie or most recently in Tide commercial. However, the success that caught the 3 members of The Digable Plants so off guard also led to their early dismantling when their 2nd album didn’t have the same mainstream success which directly led to the typical lack of support from a label who now had invested money into a group (who just had a huge hit) and that group wasn’t recouping the label’s investment fast enough. The pressure and tension of the business led to personal pressure and tension which led to the end of the band. The quick emergence and just as fast exit of this group, with the exception of “that one song” has kept them still a very much underground loved hip hop band on the topic of their records which haven’t gotten their due in the shadow of a Gold single and quick breakup. That 2nd album, Blowout Comb, was and still is one of my favorites and was the last we heard of The Digbale Planets until they made a lot of people happy in 2005 when they reunited for a world tour.
You Got Me-The Roots f/ Erykah Badu and Eve (1999)
Your homework this week, go listen to the Roots. What else can I possibly say?
Here’s an interesting story behind their Grammy winning duet “You Got Me” with Erykah Badu which was co written by Grammy award winning poet, singer and songwriter Jill Scott. Jill actually sang on the original version of the tune and this was the version that was supposed to appear on the 1999 Roots album “Things Fall Apart” but the Roots record company at the time (MCA Records) insisted they needed a higher profile name for the lead off single…… Erykah Badu got the call. Don’t get me wrong, Erykah Badu is wonder woman and a duet between her and The Roots is music worth drooling over but it does suck more than a little bit that an artist like Jill Scott couldn’t get the exposure she most certainly deserves because of a marketing decision. You can however check out the Roots performing “You Got Me” with both women in the film “Dave Chappell’s Block Party”. Another side note, Eve appears in the 2nd verse of this tune but because she’s not in the video she generally doesn’t get credited with the appearance.
A Little Love-Meaghan Smith (2008)
Sometimes the soundtrack of a movie is so good that it helps the movie and this is exactly what happened with the 2009 flick “500 Days of Summer”. The track listing was stacked with tunes from Simon and Garfunkel, The Smiths, Black Lips, Wolfmother, Feist, Hall and Oates and Regina Spektor; all names that you have heard of before I’m sure. There is one name that sticks out on the list however and that is of a Halifax singer Songwriter named Meaghan Smith who covered the Pixies tune “Here Comes your Man” (youtube it because she did a kick ass job). But let’s talk about her own original creations; she has just been nominated for best new artist at the Juno’s for her music, you can admire the animation she helps create in her music videos or check out her website and see some of her paintings that have been selling faster than Justin Bieber calendars. www.meaghansmith.com
Breaking the Chains of Love- Fitz & The Tantrums (2010)
I am a Paul Simon junkie, happy to admit as much, and up to this point he has appeared twice in the short life of Matt Tracks (“One Trick Pony” and “Getting Ready for Christmas Day”); the ONLY music to appear more than once….until now. LA based soul and funk band Fitz and the Tantrums has become the only other music that has tickled my ears so much that I had to have them back. Go check out their album “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” to cure what ails you.
Thanks for listening,
Posted: February 14th, 2011 | Category: Matt Tracks, Uncategorized | Comments: No Comments
Tags: Digable Planets, Erykah Badu, Eve, Fitz and the Tantrums, Meaghan Smith, The Pixies, the roots, The Stranglers