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Carl Newman of The New Pornographers: “We’re a supergroup; that’s just the way it is”

new pornographers

WITH their new album Brill Bruisers, The New Pornographers are keen to celebrate their return after a four year absence, says frontman and songwriter Carl Newman.

“With this record, I just wanted to make a rock and roll record, or what I thought was a rock and roll record,” he says. “It was fun to do because it was the first record [on which] we ever used a vocoder and we’d never used arpeggiators very much; it was fun to try all those things. It happened that all the songs I was writing lent themselves to that kind of arrangement, so it all worked out. It’s scary and exciting to know that a lot of people are going to be hearing it, but I feel confident in it.”

Four years may seem like a long time between albums, but Newman hasn’t been idle.

“I put out a solo album in there, so that took up some time,” he says. “I also had a kid; I’ve got a two-and-a-half year-old son. Kids take up a lot of time, and time just flies, you know? Sometimes you don’t even notice that it’s been four years between albums. I knew my solo record should be a lot more subdued. I wanted it to be a lot more singer-songwriter; a lot more personal.”

The Canadian eight-piece – featuring Neko Case and Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar, among others – are often labelled a supergroup; something Newman doesn’t take too seriously.

“It’s definitely a bit of fun,” he says. “People called us a supergroup when we began, and we weren’t a supergroup. Now I look at us and I think ‘sure, we’re a supergroup’. Why not, you know? I don’t fight it; I’ve just accepted it. Now, I think if we’re a supergroup, we’re a supergroup; that’s just the way it is.”

With eight members involved in their own separate projects, Newman admits it can be hard to bring them all together come tour time, but the end result is worth it.

“It’s an endless hassle,” he says. “It always has been, but it’s just the way it is. There’s nothing we can do about it. Its the weird part of our band. It’s our greatest strength and our greatest weakness, you know? [Touring] is fun to come back to. When we played a few songs recently it made me think ‘wow, we’re a good band’. I forgot we’re a good band. We’ve done about four of the new songs live, and that’s been very cool. In this day and age you don’t want to play all of your songs too early because then they all end up on the Internet. The new songs feel like they belong in our set; they don’t feel weird. [They went down] well, which is always a good sign. Sometimes when you play new songs people are looking at each other like ‘when are they going to stop playing new songs and play the old songs?’. But I feel like they fit in very seamlessly.”

So, will Australia be featuring on the Pornographers’ tour schedule any time soon?

“We want to [visit] but it won’t be until next year,” he says. “We’ll have to figure it out. It’s hard; there’s not enough time in the world to play everywhere you want to play, but I think well definitely get there next year. We’ve always loved playing in Australia, so I’m looking forward to it. The most exciting thing that ever happened was the first time we played in Sydney in 2006, and Dave Faulkner from the Hoodoo Gurus was at our show in Sydney. We met him and I remember we were really excited because we were massive Hoodoo Gurus fans. That really jumped out as an exciting thing to have happen the first time we went to Australia – to have one of our favorite Australian musicians be there.”

BRILL BRUISERS IS OUT NOW.

For Beat

Record review: Old Man Luedecke – Tender Is The Night (2013, LP)

This fifth album from Chris ‘Old Man’ Luedecke is rooted firmly in the traditional folk and country genres the Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player has made his trademark. Recorded in four days in Nashville, Tender Is The Night sees Luedecke packing literary references ranging from Herman Melville to F. Scott Fitzgerald and the New Testament into thirteen songs, while switching moods between jauntily upbeat (as on ‘Tortoise and the Hare’) and the melancholia of the title track. Grammy-winner Tim O’Brien not only produces but adds tasteful mandolin and violin touches throughout, allowing Luedecke to explore new musical and lyrical territory. “I’m angry and bathed in fire,” he sings on ‘Long Suffering Jesus’, but when harsh words are accompanied with such playful banjo lines it’s hard to react to these songs with anything but a tapping foot and a smile. Forget Mumford; this is banjo music the way it should be.

Interview: ill.Gates

ill gates

Canada-born, California-based EDM legend Ill.Gates will be at Island Vibe Festival later in the month for what promises to be one seriously bass-heavy party. From headlining festivals, to working with some of the best in the business and teaching up-and-comers, Gates has it covered.

What is the scene like for bass-heavy music in San Francisco right now?

San Francisco has an incredible scene for bass music. Period. Or maybe even exclamation mark. Yeah… I’ll go with exclamation mark! It’s awesome. People there are very forward-thinking and always want to hear whatever’s new and innovative. There are massive events and street festivals all the time and the people do not tolerate unoriginal music or poor sound systems. We are also lucky enough to have the American branch of PK Sound based in SF, so you can often find their sound systems bumping at special events.

The only thing you can complain about really is that the fetishism of new original music and high quality sound systems kind of ruins travel to much of the rest of the world. Trends move very fast, so whatever is new to the rest of the world is already old news in the Bay. Definitely a first world problem.

How do you keep up to speed on new technology and software as it emerges?

It has gotten to the point that many of the companies and innovators simply contact me directly as their gear is being developed and/ or send me demo units. I read a lot about new stuff online as well. Blogs like djtechtools.com are excellent sources of reviews and there’s always the ableton forum as well.

What’s your favourite piece of DJ equipment that you own?

I’d have to say my MIDI Fighters are the most fun. I love Ableton Push for melodic performances, but the MIDI Fighter just slays it. It’s like an MPC made of arcade buttons, and then suddenly all those hours logged on ‘Street Fighter II’ at the arcade are musically useful. Go order one now. Trust me.

Another string to your bow is the role of musical educator. What form does this take?

Lately it’s nearly all online. Since I signed on with Circle (agency) I have been gigging more than ever before so it is very difficult to financially justify the time it takes to do a workshop. When I have a workshop online it can eventually generate the residual income to justify it to my management but grinding it out doing physical workshops doesn’t really make sense any more.

I am, however, treating this Australian visit as more of a vacation than a business venture so I will take the time to teach for the love of it when I’m there.

What is the biggest misconception about DJing that you would like to see change?

I would like to see audiences appreciating actual live electronic music more. People like Mad Zach, Araab Musik, Sibot, Shake Beats, AmpLive etc. are absolutely epic when it comes to finger drumming live. It’s amazing. To make a whole song happen ACTUALLY LIVE with no quantise or looping or anything to fall back on is magic. Audiences don’t really understand that it actually takes years of practice to be able to truly do it live.

I’d like to see more appreciation for the art and craft of finger drumming, and I’d like to see more people doing it. DJing is great, but being able to actually play instruments live on a stage is pretty amazing too.

Do you have any plans for releasing new material any time soon?

I’m basically doing one track at a time these days because nobody has the attention span for a whole release any more. I’m planning to keep going like that, and then put out mixtapes of all the favourites every now and then. That seems to be the format people are responding to. You can get a new release every month or so at illgates.com or on my soundcloud. Bon appetit!

What drives you to continually find new sounds and styles?

Hack artists ruin every subgenre as soon as it gets popular, so if you like the feeling that music gives you then there is no other option but to constantly seek out new sounds and forms of expressing yourself. Music saved my life. Literally. I owe it to the world to return the favour. I’ve also got absolutely nothing else on my resume so I’d better give this thing my all if I want to support myself.

There really is something to be said for music as a full time profession. If you’ve got no safety net at all you really have to hustle to stay relevant. Artists and trends come and go so fast these days that it’s adapt or die.

You’ve played some huge festivals like Burning Man and Shambala, but what can fans expect from your show at Island Vibe?

I love Jamaican music. Love it. I have all kinds of remixes, dub versions, etc in my back pocket I’ve been dying to bust out for ages and I see Island Vibe as my best chance for it. In my previous trips to Australia I typically stayed away from playing tracks with vocals (Aussies tend to think it ‘commercial’, lol) so I’ll have a chance to explore some new territory this time around. I can’t wait!

And finally, what are your plans for dealing with the Queensland heat? Beer or water?

Coopers Pale Ale, obviously… cheers!

Ill.Gates plays Island Vibe October 25-27. He also plays the joint IV After Party/ Earth Frequency Launch Party at the Hi-Fi November 2.