Picture by Gil Katerynych
Hi Steve, I would like start off by saying thank you for writing music with such intelligent and meaningful messages. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me.
Some of your intellectual influences are Chomsky, Hunter S. Thompson, and Malcolm X. Will you expand on how they have influenced your writing?
I became interested in Malcolm X at around age 10 when I read his autobiography (written by Alex Haley). I was fascinated by his ideas and found myself resonating with a lot of them given the circumstances. Many people point out his extremist views in some respects – very true, though at the time with the KKK activity and police brutality happening, desperate times call for desperate measures, and public speaking is definitely not the most violent measure you can choose. I think I was very shocked as well, since I hadn’t been brought up with these kinds of dualistic ideas and racism confused and deeply upset me from a young age. I still haven’t wrapped my mind around the concept.
Noam Chomsky came later on in my early 20’s when I was expanding my political consciousness – I went through a stage where I read every political book I could find. This lasted a few years until I must have overdone it and I haven’t revisited since. I’m slowly but surely re-approaching, and will probably do so with Chomsky’s articles and blogs. He’s always passionate and always informed. He can also probably win an argument with anyone under the Sun.
Hunter Thompson? I find the man inspiring. He lived the way he wanted to, for better or worse, and I think there’s something to be said for that. His writing is brilliant, and you really feel as if you get to know him the more you read. His personality comes out, and you either love him or hate him. I’m sure “the squares” don’t appreciate a lot of his attitudes, but he constantly inspires me and makes me laugh.
What are some of your musical influences?
I could make a list hundreds long but I’d say my core influences would be Dead Can Dance, Pink Floyd, Tool, Public Enemy, Skinny Puppy, Nirvana, The Doors, Tom Waits, The Beatles, Alice In Chains, Guns n’ Roses, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Nine Inch Nails…ok, this is starting to get lengthy.
Please tell me about any influences you may have had in regards to film? I noticed you have a song called “Ultraviolence” with your band Post Death Soundtrack. Will you tell me a little about the song and how the film inspired you?
I’m a fan of good film. My favorite film is probably Taxi Driver, and that had some influence on The Unravelling’s “13 Arcane Hymns” album. For “Ultraviolence”, I took some inspiration from A Clockwork Orange in the sense that the song is lyrically nonsensical and quirky. It does something unusual for me, which is playing a character who expresses delusional ideas and fantasizes about violence. The narrator in the song kidnaps a do-gooder politician, proceeds to show him the violent decisions he must make if he continues to move up in the political world. Once the intimidation is over, they shake hands and go on their way. The idea of being held against your will to watch propaganda films is explored in A Clockwork Orange, and the term “Ultraviolence” is used in the context of random government violence. That’s the most I’ll try to explain the song though, because it even makes me slightly uncomfortable!
When did you start writing music?
I started writing music at age 15. Soon after, I began recording albums on 4 tracks, 8 tracks and on and on. None of them were good and I’m glad they’re not heavily distributed, but they helped me move forward and gain confidence slowly but surely.
Who are your earliest influences?
My very earliest influences were probably Public Enemy and Guns n’ Roses. Both were bands that I wasn’t really “supposed” to listen to because of the language and themes, and this made both bands that much more appealing in my eyes! They were really bands that you could open up the album, read the lyrics, and find lots of surprising and shocking things. That has stuck with me to this day – the importance of lyrics and uncensored self-expression.
How did you form your bands?
Post Death Soundtrack formed as a duo way back in 2005 when me and Kenneth Buck started recording electronic music. We released “Music As Weaponry” in 2008 when we realized the music had potential, and connected with Jon Ireson and Colin Everall soon after to bring the project live. We ended up becoming best friends with both of them and the project legitimately became a 4-piece. It’s a rare occurrence for this to happen. Post Death Soundtrack is like a tribe. We take each other’s health and happiness very seriously, and no one messes with the tribe, so to speak. The music is secondary to the friendship.
The Unravelling was formed when Gus contacted me via email through the Inner Surge website (my former band), after the band had split. I liked his demos and we started recording on the weekends. As the recordings got polished and we enlisted the help of Casey Lewis for the mastering (and drums), this became “13 Arcane Hymns”. We’re now playing live with Scott Taylor, Bryan Sandau and Randy Burton.
How is Calgary treating you? What is the music scene like?
The scene has improved for me in particular. I used to feel like an outsider on the scene, and still do when it comes to the hipster types, but my work with The Unravelling and Post Death Soundtrack has definitely created more interest, and I appreciate it. Good things seem to be happening, and it inspires me to do more.
Do you plan on touring any time soon? Will you visit Toronto?
Yes, I definitely hope to tour and visit Toronto. I’m not sure the logistics at the moment but I’ll put it out there.
Tell me how you have reached this sense of enlightenment you explore in your songs. How was this found? Or is this something you explore in song?
I’ve had an intensive interest in spirituality from a very young age, and it’s always seemed to be a big part of how I express myself in music. I seem to feel more comfortable tackling abstract philosophical concepts in my writing rather than writing more straight forward relationship based poems. I’m definitely taking effort to set aside more time for meditation lately, as it’s an important part of my life and something I don’t want to neglect.
I originally found meditation through reading about it, and after this it took many attempts and multiple methods to find something that worked for me. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that because thoughts passed through their mind, nothing happened. You have to be determined and continue. I can’t really suggest a good starting point because everyone is different. Just visit a book store that carries books on the subject and feel it out.
How has the music industry been treating you? How do you navigate your place in the scene?
Things have been getting better. The Unravelling has been getting a lot of good reviews, and it’s helped get the ball rolling. People seem to want to cover you once you’re covered in a bunch of other places. It’s taken a lot of work, but we’re on the grid now.
Tell me about your projects and your up and coming albums. What can we expect to hear? What do you have lingering for us in regards to video and album production?
The Unravelling will be releasing our music video for “Move Forward Until You Are Dead” in January 2011. We shot the video with Doug Cook and he did an amazing job. I’m very proud that the message of the song came through. We’ll also be working on some new material – no word at the moment what that will turn into.
Post Death Soundtrack is working on new material for a new full length, and this is exciting for all of us. We’re also in the middle of a remix campaign, where we’re encouraging fans and producers to re-imagine our material, in particular the tracks “Our Time Is Now” and “Ultraviolence”. All of the remixes get posted to our Remix section on our new website, which will be launched very shortly. It’s kind of a digital band, so there will most likely be all kinds of new mp3’s released over the next year, as well as potentially another music video.
Truck’s album “Passengers” came out recently and I sang on 3 tracks for the album. It was an honour to sing alongside some of Calgary’s best heavy vocalists for this release; Sean from Divinity, Greg from Phantom Limb, Jerrod from Autobody, Rod from Surface Atlantis & Wes from Brimstone Rise.
I’m also about halfway through a solo release, and I’m not sure how it will be released at the moment. Some songs are available as free downloads online. It’s been a chance to get some of my acoustic material out.
I’ve also been working on a project with an excellent musician named Ben McMullan. He writes very complex electronic music with the approach of a composer. We’ve completed 4 tracks thus far and will start posting some of the material soon.
Other than this, I try to stay balanced and live a normal life! Thanks for the interview, Deeanna! Much love and respect from the West.
Picture by Gil Katerynych