Here’s a Q&A I did with Top Chef judge Gail Simmons about her book, Talking With My Mouth Full.
I wrote a little feature about Canada’s Carly Rae Jepsen for Rollingstone.com. She recently signed onto Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun’s label, Schoolboy Records and her single “Call Me Maybe” is dangerously catchy. Jepsen is definitely a force to watch out for this year.
I talked to Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers about music, anxiety and tacos. Except tacos didn’t make it into the final piece. All you need to know is that he likes to binge eat them as much as I do.
I recently interviewed Joel Plaskett about his ten-week recording extravaganza for his new record, Scrappy Happiness. This man is more ambitious than I am!
For my last assignment as the Arts & Life intern at the National Post, I interviewed author Anne Rice about her new book, The Wolf Gift.
- Published February 24, on The National Post (Print and online)
To celebrate the 100th episode of the popular Black Cab Sessions, I interviewed co-creator Chris Pattinson about the history of the series, discovering new music and meeting RL Boyce.
- Published February 28, on The Line of Best Fit
It’s hard to imagine how Grimes mastermind Claire Boucher found the time to record her new full-length, ‘Visions,’ what with her heavy tour schedule sending her crisscrossing the globe.
So when it came to hit the studio, the Montrealer did it the only way she knew how to.
"It’s kind of crazy but I just locked myself in my room for about a month and didn’t leave," Boucher tells Spinner. "I didn’t tell anyone I was in Montreal and people just thought I was on tour."
Boucher is no stranger to working 16-hour stints, often with no food or communication with the outside world. But with ‘Visions’ — which drops January 31 — she took things to a whole new intense level.
"I was really on edge the whole time because I could only work at night so I covered all my windows," admits Boucher.
"And you can go crazy when you don’t talk to people. I would lose track of how many hours I’d be doing things; the whole record has a sense of urgency or something."
So does this new disc carry the same sensibilities that’s put her on the radar for breakout electronic acts?
"This one is way more intentional," Boucher says. "I knew exactly what I wanted to do — and I did it. With the other records, it was more experimental and less coherent because I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t think anyone would listen to them."
But people have — including Lykke Li. In fact, the Swedish indie sensation invited Grimes to hop on her tour after discovering Boucher’s self-produced synth-pop. Their time on the road together pushed Grimes’ sound, according to Boucher, who had to pump up her tunes to fit the feel-good vibe of Li’s concerts.
"I think that’s one reason why it’s more pop," she says. "You want to play a dance party so you want to amp it up .. So this record is definitely more appealing than my other albums."
"I don’t know if that’s selling out or not," Boucher adds of playing up the pop angle. "I don’t think I’m selling out."
After sharing the marquee with a star like Lykke Li, Boucher walked away with a new appreciation of her craft and a new perspective on her repertoire.
"It can be really cool or really deflating to control that many people," she says of live shows. "Like to have them totally consume your set with talking if you’re not doing a good enough job. So we’d turn up the vocals so people would respond more, and I stopped playing the slower songs on that tour… You start playing the more intense songs because it would get their attention. And that pushes you artistically in a certain direction."
Fans will hear Grimes’ evolution on ‘Visions’ and, if they’re lucky, another disc might surface that showcases the full spectrum of her artistic whims.
"I want to make an a cappella record to release for free," she says. "Just make music using vocals and put it out alongside the new record."
- Published October 25, on Spinner
Ohbijou have looked to their hometown of Toronto for inspiration since their 2006 debut, but it was time to become a little more worldly for ‘Metal Meets.’
"It’s something we’ve never explored before, that desire to expedite my cultural background," singer Casey Mecija, a first-generation Canadian of Filipino decent, tells Spinner.
This new outlook was inspired both by Mecija’s work as a coordinator at a Filipino arts center and with her recent sociology and equity studies at the University of Toronto — and, of course, the band’s recent globetrotting.
"I’m glad that it impacted our writing," she says. "It added more depth to our record."
After touring Asia for the first time last year with Ohbijou in support of 2009’s ‘Beacons,’ Mecija and sister/bandmate Jenny have an even stronger desire to visit their parent’s homeland. “Jenny hasn’t been and I haven’t been since I was a baby,” says Mecija, who laments the fact they never actually it made it to the country on that jaunt.
There are plans to hit the Philippines this time around, though, as Mecija is proud to showcase the band’s most adventurous release yet.
'Metal Meets' has a “bolder and more ethereal” quality, a shift which comes from enlisting the production wizardry of Besnard Lakes frontman Jace Lasek. “We were coming up with a lot of atmospheric sounds and just thought of Jace because, obviously, the Besnard Lakes is this tripped-out, amazing, electronically-resonant band,” Mecija says. “We had never met him but as soon as we did there was instant chemistry.”
The end result was just what the band needed — a grander sound, fuelled by Lasek’s production cues. “He knows how to get really good sounds out of his studio. He was so easy to work with, he just took what we had and added more. If we could hang out with him every day, we would.”
Though working with Lasek meant heading to Montreal to bunker down in his Breakglass Studios, Mecija and her Ohbijou bandmates are still tapped into Toronto’s tight-knit music scene, a community which has fostered the careers of Austra, Timber Timbre and Diamond Rings.
"It’s really exciting to see what our friends are accomplishing," Mecija says.
- Published October 14, on Spinner
Andrew W.K. does it all. Between hosting a kids television show, writing an advice column for a Japanese magazine, giving lectures at universities about partying, and owning his own nightclub, he barely has time to squeeze in his primary job as a musician.
Not everyone feels Andrew W.K. came about his empire organically, though. Certain naysayers have attacked his credibility, accusing him of being a product of the bigwigs who supposedly created Lady Gaga.
"It hurt my ego," the rocker tells Spinner of discovering the websites offering up "the truth about Andrew W.K." "It’s a dangerous game whether you take it seriously or listen too closely to people’s opinions."
"These facts are true about me, I am from the same group of people behind Lady Gaga — Universal Music Group — but that doesn’t mean that we’re part of some conspiracy," he adds. "That’s where it gets frustrating, because basic information gets skewed."
"I do love Lady Gaga, though," he says, "I think she’s fantastic."
Perhaps W.K. will speak to the “conspiracy” to his forthcoming book, which will become the focus of his creative energy once he puts the follow-up to 2006’s ‘Close Calls With Brick Walls’ to bed. While he’s eager to jump into the literary world, for the meantime, he’s busy “taking each song one at a time and trying to get it to the ceiling of physical pleasure through music.”
"I’ve been working with a book agent for years now but I just really wanted to do the album before the book," he says.
And if his hilarious tweets are any indication of the man’s skills as a wordsmith, well, this book is going to be a best-seller.
"I love the computer and the Internet, and have since we started Andrew W.K. The computer is an extraordinarily powerful tool and designed perfectly for what we’re trying to do."
W.K. admits that his amusing tweets instructing fans to “shower with sunglasses on because it’ll be a much more intense experience,” among other outrageous suggestions, are as much for himself as they are for all the tweeters out there.
"Ultimately, I’m trying to cheer myself up," he admits. "A lot of the Andrew W.K. experience was to try to help me fight depression and my dark side when I was younger, especially as a teenager, so a lot of it is self-help, hoping that other people can get something out of it, too."
- Published October 13, on Spinner