The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon (June 19) that actor James…
- Posted on May 17th 2011 4:00PM by Melissa Auf der Maur
Courtesy of the National Parks Project
In honour of the disc, Spinner recruited various musicians who participated in the expedition to share their experiences making music in the depths of Canada's wilderness. Our third report comes courtesy of Quebec native Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins) who visited Gros Morne National Park.
When i was contacted to participate in a Canadian film and music project in Newfoundland, I thought I was dreaming. It was a perfect opportunity to commune with a landscape I've always felt connected to in my distant Celtic roots, collaborate with new musicians and filmmakers and support the celebration of our country's most valuable asset: mother nature.
The additional appeal was that the director attached to the project, Sturla Gunnarsson, was very familiar with Newfoundland, as he had shot a viking film there once. Yes, you heard me right, a viking film. Whether you know me as a bass player or a Montrealer, you should know I LOVE VIKINGS. You should also know by now, that Newfoundland was discovered and even settled by vikings, before any others. We did not get a chance to go up to L'anse aux Meadows to see the unearthed viking ruins, but i felt it near.
The trip was phenomenal and a highlight in my creative adventures in recent years. I had not been camping in a very long time, so was in much need to be in nature and it was a bonus to sleep on the dramatic coast of Newfoundland with the sound of waves just over the hill.
It was an interesting filmic creative dynamic between the film directed by Sturla, which was pretty much an experimental art film, and the "making of" the music film conducted by the Discovery Channel for the TV version of the National Parks Project.
On one side, we were supposed to connect with nature and our instruments, and on the other side, we needed to intellectualize the experience to the TV cameras. Very split down the middle as far as creative mood, but rather entertaining because all the different crews and teams were great to work with.
Musically speaking, I was very curious how it would turn out, as the three of us musicians are very different stylistically from the other. I was the bass player and "heavy" rock component of the trio -- while [Montreal improv impresario] Sam [Shalabi] represented the eastern "ancient instrument" element and Jamie [Fleming of Toronto band Catl] was the Americana blues roots of it. So you have an electric bass plugged into a solar battery-powered mini Vox amp, an acoustic guitar with slide and a lute! That is a unique combination for any collaboration, especially between people who are playing together for the first time on cold windy cliffs, sand dunes and remote volcanic islands in an unknown land.
I am very happy with the results, it was incredibly easy in fact to connect and blend with each other, possibly because we are so different. The result is a slightly psychedelic piece of music.
In between playing our instruments, we were brought on expeditions to be "screeched in" by the natives, a ritual involving a drunken fisherman shouting at you, making you do shots of Maritime rum and resulting in a diploma-type document. We took two extremely bumpy and precarious boat rides into deep waters. One involved running out of gas and the other needing to board a deflating dingy boat to bring us into shore because the reefs would scratch the big boat.
Part of Sturla's vision, was DAWN and DUSK shoots only -- which was hard on the system but easy on the eyes. It was incredible to see these epic coastal, stormy skies turn purple, black and gold. This further enhanced the fact that we were sitting on and laying eyes on the most ancient rock formations on this continent. It was an honor to experience Newfoundland and a Canadian National Park in this way. I can say with certainty that I will be back there soon.