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- Posted on Oct 31st 2009 5:30PM by Jonathan Dekel
The demure Lakeside Terrace was the setting for a roundtable discussion about 'This Book is Broken' -- Pitchfork scribe Stuart Berman's oral history of Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene -- that featured bandleaders Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, Arts&Crafts founder Jeffrey Remedios and BSS producer Dave Newfeld alongside Berman for the International Festival of Authors.
But what was promoted as a lively insight into the inner workings of one of Toronto's most acclaimed bands quickly turned into an airing of grievances -- or as moderator Ben Rayner of the 'Toronto Star' put it, "a sewing circle."
The night started with a bang, quite literally, as a car in the parking lot was set ablaze by vandals -- and continued its fiery tone as Newfeld began his evening-long diatribe about some factual issues in the book which he believed to be inaccurate.
"Whoever is the most popular person at the party, their version becomes the truth," said Newfeld, who has produced much of Broken Social Scene's released music.
Complaining that, unlike Canning and Drew, he never got to vet the book before it was published, Newfeld's points of contention included the use of the main riff on 'Almost Crimes' -- off breakthrough album 'You Forgot It In People' which Metric guitarist Jimmy Shaw claims credit for in the book -- as well as the production location for 2005's self-titled album which the book suggests was partially recorded at BSS and Do Make Say Think member Ohad Benchetrit's home studio because Newfeld was "too erratic."
"The recording of 'Almost Crimes' was a great moment that got taken away for me by this book," Newfeld stated early on in the evening. Trying to lighten up the discussion, Drew pointed out the book covered "some really good times."
"I also thought they were really good times," Newfeld conceded, "but that's why I was annoyed when I read the book."
The topic of hurt feelings and bruised egos continued through most of the evening, with Newfeld scribbling in his notebook or twisting his pen with nervous energy anytime he wasn't speaking. "I don't want you to feel like I'm putting down the work that you've done. I think you had a sensitivity to competing interests," he told Berman. "But a few people have hidden agendas and you've been duped into printing it."
Berman stoically defended his oral history methodology while conceding nothing to Newfeld's accusations, saying he, "let the people's voices speak for themselves. If there are 20 people in the room, there are 20 different truths."
While the rest of the panel mostly sat uneasily as Newfeld said his piece, Drew acknowledged the self-titled album was entirely recorded at Newfeld's studio -- however, recording sessions did occur at the same time at Ohad's which wound up on Drew's solo album 'Spirit If...' -- and noted this event was the culmination of months of back and forth between the producer and the band members.
"We were sick of talking about [these issues] on the phone," Drew conceded before expressing some of his own reluctance to promote the book, which at times portrays him as a "manipulative, sunglasses-wearing rock star."
In the end, however, Drew's self-deprecating humour defused the tension and brought the discussion to a peaceful close. In response to an audience member's closing question, he cracked "we all know Fleetwood Mac has nothing on us."