We said to JR Mascis you can’t bring four amps, can you just bring two? There was a bit of a thing, but he came with two and then at the show he snuck a third one on. (Laughs..) It was really funny, like a little kid… “Oh sorry, I can’t play with less than three”.
Incendiary interview Kevin Drew
Sitting at the Banks Hotel whilst I fumble with my laptop, Kevin Drew walks over and suddenly its interview time. We begin to chat, but after nearly 10 minutes of juicy rolling conversational goodness, my voice recording software crashes. With no way to recreate the magic, I try again and we continue talking... and here is the basic run down...
Spirit If... is the newest release from Toronto's indie pop collective Broken Social Scene under the creative focus of front man Kevin Drew.
Kevin briefly explains the idea behind part one of what might be a series of at least two and could be up to fifteen solo albums. I get the idea however that this new format of album making is possibly an attempt to save the band from a formal split due to too many creative differences. Part two of the series is already in the making... the next one will be featuring band member, co-founder and friend Brendan Fanning.
We also discuss the brief five-year history and amazingly rapid successful growth of record label Arts & Crafts beginning with Broken Social Scene. The label now includes Stars, Metric, The Dears, Apostle of Hustle, The Hidden Cameras, The Stills, The American Analog Set and Feist. "This has been the year of Feist!" explains Kevin, "Everyone basically has had a fantastic year, Emily Haines also put out a solo album and Stars has a new album out and we've got ours which is out next week."
We talk about the many complexities of being in a band with so many members who are also in other bands, including the boring stuff of having to work out tour schedules, for instance... He explains that the wonderful thing about having this collective has allowed them to just pool additional friends and musicians, in that they can always find people to join up and come and play with them. I also ask if there is a bootleg culture surrounding BSS, due to this changing line up at gigs. We then compare our bootleg guilty pleasures as high school youngsters. His was U2 mine was Nirvana. I reminisce about my friend's obsession with collecting Grateful Dead bootlegs; after all it is like the appeal of baseball and baseball cards. It's all about the stats, non?
We also talk about the about the last time they played Amsterdam, and Billy Idol had just finished a sold out rock-a-thon in the main hall. Kevin tells me, "It was cool, all of Billy's people and kids and stuff were running around back stage. They were all really nice to us. That was a great show, we had a great time!"
I show him a video on my camera of what I woke up to this morning... construction work. Pile drivers driving pine tree logs into the sand ground below...
KD: So did your apartment shake?
IN: Yeah it felt like an earthquake, but I wouldn't know, I've never been in one.
KD: And this doesn't that split the wood?
IN: No, pine itself is really supple... but I think they also soak the wood.
KD: Great camera.
IN: Thanks, it's new, Panasonic Lumix with a little Lecia lens, it's great and I really like it. So, what cereal are you eating on your site (while watching porn)?
KD: (Laughs) Honey Nut Cheerios.
IN: I'm sort of pissed off that my equipment broke down! I am really sorry... (Nervously fumbling) I don't want you to have to re-answer questions.
KD: That's okay, start from the middle and we'll go back to the beginning and we can make it a metaphor.
IN: What was like to work with Jay Mascis?
(He leans in to my computer... I am using a music record audio program to record the interview since my iPod mic went missing. He seems to be sort of avoiding the question.)
KD: So are you going to put like a delay on my voice for this part?
IN: Yeah, I could. No, this is all just so I can transcribe the interview word for word for our readers. But this conversation I will probably edit out.
KD: What?! This is the interview, this is the best part!
IN: Yeah well... maybe. So do you use recording equipment at home, do you use one of these (computers)?
KD: I use Garage Band. When I made the record it was all computers, it was all Logic. But at home I just use Garage Band. I think you must have it in your computer as well. It took over the 4 track. Actually a lot of the B-sides were Garage Band stuff. I love it; it's like making Guided By Voices records. Everyone can be in a Guided By Voices band. They should just call the program GBV Band instead of Garage Band. In fact, GBV should be suing them I think, for stealing their fidelity. I thought that was a patented sound.
IN: Who records that stuff anyways... imagine getting that gig, hey can you come and record some 4-4 guitar riffs?
KD: I don't know, but I know you are probably not a smoker, but I am going to smoke anyways.
IN: No, go ahead, it's true, I am not a smoker. What are those cigarettes you got there?
KD: They're Canadian, that's why they got a man dying on the pack.
IN: OH! Let me see it! I want to see it! (Super excited I grab the pack of ciggies)
Whoa, he's really dying... Oh look he's flat lining. This is a sweet pack though, it's not even a sticker anymore, and they printed that on. In Canada they've been doing that for years now right?
KD: They have and now you can't say light anymore or mild. These use to be called Belmont Mild, but the government stepped in and said you can't do that anymore.
IN: They say that people with two first names are auspicious, like Ron Jeremy, I tried to think of some others, but he was the one that stuck. Alice Cooper? Chris Martin?
KD: Cooper could be a first name, I knew a Cooper growing up. Drew was my dad's last name. My mom's last name is McCarthy. So my full name is Kevin Thomas McCarthy Drew.
IN: Wow, you get four names... now that has got to be something!
KD: Yep. Heritage. Okay, what do you want me to do, what do you want me to say for you...
IN: Talk about J again! Please! Talk about his hair, how beautiful is his silver flowing hair!?!
KD: J Mascis, it's magician-like, his hair... he's like a wizard.
IN: It's the loudest band I've ever seen in my life. I don't think I could even think or hear three days after.
KD: I know, we told him to turn down when he played with us, and apparently we were the first ones in history. We said you can't bring four amps, can you just bring two? There was a bit of a thing, but he came with two and then at the show he snuck a third one on. (Laughs) It was really funny, like a little kid... "Oh sorry, I can't play with less than three". It was a lot of fun meeting and becoming good friends in the last few years, his crew and band are always in good spirits when we see them and obviously that video was something that doesn't happen that often and was spontaneous. (We were talking about Back Down on the Cause, a song whose video that features J Mascis). Somehow at the end of their show I asked if Lou would come and he was into it. And Murph was like, "I'll be there, is there going to be some ladies? Will there be some drinks?" And I just called it in, okay, we need ladies, we need drinks. It was filled with all these people, some people I didn't really know. I think it was just the idea of tequila and passion that kept that shoot going. We must have heard that song about thirty two times. And I made people dance and dance and dance and fortunately everyone had a really good time. Being such a big fan when I was young if was definitely an honour to have that happening in my thirtieth year.
IN: (Pulling out a signed CD from Broken Social Scene). This was from the Billy Idol show at the Paradiso. I think you signed it... is that you? You wrote Nadine is...
KD: Nadine is a lovely ear gift? (Laugh) Yeah she was our merchandise girl.
IN: I think it says Nadine is lovely, thanks for your ears? I don't always do that stuff... but it can be fun, it's a good excuse to talk to the band.
KD: We like that stuff, its okay, and we really like meeting the people and all that. Got to hang out with the people, it's important.
(We discuss the other contents of my purse... I had some Twinkies from work in my bag. We discuss artificial flavouring.)
IN: Hey, what's your favourite kitchen tool?
KD: The Masher. I like to make the mash, the garlic mash, with some steak and asparagus. Cook the garlic on the cue and then put tons of butter, some sugar and some milk... yummy. I don't cook a lot obviously, but I do like my garlic mash steak. Garlic mash chicken and garlic mash pork.
IN: Mash with anything.
KD: Yeah, just not with the Cheerios, no mash for breakfast.
IN: One song that really stood out in my mind from Spirit If... was Safety Bricks, I really liked that song, is there a single off Spirit If...?
KD: Back Down On the Cause, I think is and Lucky Ones, but I think Safety Bricks is a single.
IN: It's a nice one, I like it.
KD: Thank you. If you play it together with Past and Present and Feel it All they are kind of the same songs. That's maybe why you like it?
IN: Yeah, maybe. It's familiar. Like a warm blanket. Okay, you have to sign this and I want to take a photo of you before we go. One final question. Do you have any funny stories about the making of this record?
KD: No, sadly! This record was made pretty much during the hours of day care because the producers both have kids; it was done very non rock ‘n' roll-ish. Just very straight up and honest and it was fun to record again, just for the sake of recording and for the fact that we got to spend all this time together, fooling around with the record button, which is the only way to make a record I think.
Words & Photo: Zoe E. Gottehrer