Kevin Winter, Getty Images T.I. and Lil Wayne are teaming up once again, only this…
- Posted on Nov 18th 2011 1:00PM by Jenny Charlesworth
Canvas Media | Mercury
The tribute disc entitled 'Have Not Been the Same -- Vol. 1: Too Cool to Live, Too Smart to Die,' available via online store Zunior, pairs a new generation of artists like Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and Great Lake Swimmers with classic CanRock tunes by Grapes of Wrath, Rheostatics and others.
Spinner spoke to 'Have Not Been the Same' co-author Michael Barclay about compiling the covers project, why proceeds from its sale are going towards Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and how his failure to rope in Diamond Rings for the comp is his "saddest missed opportunity."
How did this compilation come together?
It happened because I knew that a lot of the music in the book appealed only to history geeks and people who grew up during that generation -- and that's only because some of it has fallen out of print, and because Canadians in general aren't very good at celebrating music that wasn't massively successful on a commercial level. And I knew that a lot of my favourite musicians of the last 10 years -- many of whom have become very successful, nationally and internationally -- were fans of the book and of the music in it. A tribute album made a lot of sense.
What do the current crop of Canadian musicians have in common with the predecessors that they cover?
They're all stubborn. That didn't occur to me until just now, but a lot of these artists (from both generations) have defiantly chosen their own path when it would have been so easy for them to just do something more palatable -- which is the opposite of the instinct that so many of our most successful Canadian musicians of the last 30 years have had. These artists have a lot of integrity. Even an artist like Men Without Hats: most people only know about a couple of goofy Top 10 hits, but that band were known to be difficult players in the world of major labels and the Grammys, and huge supporters of all genres in their local Montreal community, helping out people like Voivod, the Nils, Three O'Clock Train and more. In that sense I see a lot of similarities with Arcade Fire, for example, in approaching the mainstream on their own terms -- and saying "no" a lot -- while directing their energy to helping out their friends.
What was the best reaction or comment you got from an artist about the song they're covering and/or how the original artist inspired them?
I asked every artist to write a blurb for the liner notes. Some people wrote a few lines, but some people really went to town and wrote mini-essays. Mathias Kom of the Burning Hell waxes eloquently about the absurdity of Men Without Hats, and Selina Martin dissects the lyrical and musical meaning behind the Tragically Hip's 'Grace, Too.' Geoff Berner talks about why Art Bergmann was so inspiring as a Canadian, never mind as a punk rocker. And Neil Haverty of Bruce Peninsula tells a great story about having his mind blown by the Rheostatics, and how the song he covers -- 'Shaved Head,' about a cancer patient -- held greater resonance for him after beating leukemia in the last year.
Any other anecdotes from the process?
There were several artists who were interested but just didn't have time, and offered very sincere regrets. But the saddest missed opportunity for me was Matters, the band formerly called the D'Urbervilles, best known for being John O'Regan's rock band before he started Diamond Rings. I had convinced them cover Martha and the Muffins' 'Danseparc' -- which I think is one of the most underrated Canadian singles ever, and perfect for John's voice and the band's sound -- but they broke up right before they went into the studio.
Why CAMH as a beneficiary?
Because addiction and mental health are issues that many musicians know all too well. Even if they don't suffer themselves, they undoubtedly have made music with someone who has. CAMH is the leading research hospital in the country, and I'm impressed by the approach they're taking to their current renovations, which aims to grant patients' more independence and integration with the surrounding community, with a larger goal of ending the stigma surrounding these issues. Also, in the current political climate -- where our federal government is building more prisons and trying to politicize and undermine effective harm-reduction programs like InSite in Vancouver -- I think it's more important than ever to highlight these issues.