Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 17th 2010 12:53PM by Steve Stav
The old adage of the apple not falling far from the tree is a very apt description for musician Simon Collins. He's the spitting image of his father, and their singing voices can be uncannily similar. However, Phil Collins's oldest son has made his own music, his own way. Starting with his first drum kit at age six, Collins has explored a wide range of musical genres, often intertwining them on his recordings. The 33-year-old English-Canadian will be bringing his full backing band with him to SXSW. Collins recently spoke to Spinner from his home in Vancouver.
I've read that you're working on new material. How would you describe your sound these days?
I'm a huge progressive rock fan. I think some people think of prog rock as '70s music, but it's really progressed beyond that. But my sound does have a modern pop sensibility; it's hard to veer away from that. I like to write nice melodies and hooks. I think we're just working towards a fresh, modern "progressive rock" direction, with some ambient and psychedelic elements.
Apart from the obvious, what are some of your musical influences?
Growing up, you tend to adopt your parents' taste in music. Luckily, my parents had great taste in music! But early on, I also liked alternative rock, punk. When electronica broke, that was big for me -- Prodigy, Underworld, Left Field. I started DJ'ing, spinning trance and other stuff, music coming out of Israel, Germany, India. There's a pretty wide spectrum of influences there, influences that have been injected in one way or another into [my music's] production.
You just finished five nights at the Las Vegas House of Blues. What did you learn from the experience?
I recorded my last album there. Vegas is a very exciting place to be. The biggest thing was to be able to lock down a place for five days, to iron out some wrinkles and get tighter as a band. It's a mixed bag, as far as the audience goes -- it's not a dedicated fan base that's come to see you. They're people that have walked off the strip to be entertained, immediately. So you get into an "entertainer" role. It makes you work even harder, to get and keep their interest.
You'll be representing Canada at SXSW. Is the Great White North's music scene still a tight community, and how has being Canadian helped your career in terms of support?
I'm extremely proud to represent Canada. It's definitely a tight scene, or a number of tight scenes. I've never belonged to any particular scene, but I've worked with a lot of great musicians here. There's so much undiscovered talent in Canada. With [music video channels] MuchEast and MuchWest, a lot of local artists are featured. There's a deep respect for grassroots music here, kind of a mainstream support for independent music. And there's a lot of ways -- including government programs -- for artists to find funding for videos and albums.
You spent a lot of time with your father as a kid, and went with him on tours. Music aside, what are some important life-lessons that your dad imparted that stay with you today?
Wow. Well, my dad is very giving, very compassionate. He has a huge heart. If anything, he taught me about understanding and compassion. He has a lot of friends who he helps, no matter how far away they are. I wrote 'Unconditional' as a nod and wink to some of the friends and family who stayed by my side through the darkest few years of my life. My dad was definitely one of those people. He's also a really funny man. We have the same sense of humor -- when we hang out, it's all 'Fawlty Towers' and 'Monty Python.' We're also both into history. He's a got a huge collection of stuff from the Alamo. We rarely talk about music. When we get together, it's almost the last thing we want to talk about. We'll give each other a demo or something and say, "Let me know what you think," and leave it at that. We'd much rather have family time.
'Unconditional' has been a breakthrough hit for you. As you're working on new songs, has there been any internal pressure to top it?
Not really. There's always an underlying pressure to improve yourself, your lyrics. There's always a nervous energy, an anxiety with performing that you feed off of, but nothing like you're talking about, for me. I think I've just gotten started. I've learned so much over the last few records. I feel that the next ten years will be the best, most creative, most powerful years of my career.
Who are you hoping to see at SXSW? Any extracurricular activities planned for the trip?
I've never been to Austin. I'm a SXSW rookie. But there's some guys in the band who've been there before. To be honest, I haven't seen who's playing yet -- it's a long list.
Fantasy three-way drum battle between Simon Collins, Zak Starkey and Jason Bonham: Who would come out on top?
You're actually asking me to answer that? Here's the thing: Over the past 15 years, I branched out into a bunch of different areas of music. My first album didn't even have live drumming, all programmed. I did a bit of drumming on the second album. On 'U-Catastrophe,' I said, "I've got to play drums on the whole album." And my dad and I had a drum battle for the CD ('The Big Bang'). I really wanted to embrace the drums. The drums were my first passion, before songwriting or singing. If you had asked me five or ten years ago, I would have said I probably couldn't keep up. But now I'm getting my chops back, so hopefully I'd be some fierce competition for those guys.
Steve Stav is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.