My mantra has always been, “music is my lifeblood.” So, it’s always great fun to discover new music to keep that feeling alive. What’s even more fun is sharing these musical gems with others. Not everyone has the same taste in music, but every once in a while, a recommendation turns into a found treasure.
That said, my latest find is a track called “Gratification” composed by Paul Manchin and David Bottrill. Paul handles the vocals, while David wears many hats: track master, producer, mixer, and player of all instruments. As if that isn’t enough, David has worked with Peter Gabriel, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Rush.
This song seduces the listener from the opening bars. The intro to “Gratification” sounds very much like a faster-paced intro to David Bowie’s “Lazarus.” That alone got my attention and kept me glued to the audio. Then, once the curious sound of Paul’s digitized voice, along with the opening lyrics kicked in, there was no going back for me.
Haven’t heard of Canadian band Church of Trees? Well, keep reading and get ready to thank me.
The band currently consists of core members Bernard Frazer (vocals, synths, programming), Stella Panacci (vocals), Heather Brazeau (vocals), and Bob Prendergast (guitar). Frequent contributors are Rob Preuss of Spoons/Honeymoon Suite (piano, synths, programming, bass, remixes), and Rob Stuart of EDF/SLAVE To The SQUAREWAVE (synths, remixes).
Being a late-in-life Numan fan (roughly the past 25 years), this track both delighted me and piqued my curiosity about the band. Fortunately, David Marsden is a big fan also; so, David’s avid listeners have been delighted by hearing several outstanding Church of Trees songs taken from their successful EP and album releases since 2017 (Primitive Creatures, The Dark & The Light, New Bold Dawn, PAUSE, and Pish Posh). All Church of Trees albums are co-produced by Frazer and Blinker the Star’s Jordon Zadorozny.
Which all leads up to the purpose of this post: A new Church of Trees single – “Progression/Rob Stuart Numanoid Mix”—is slated for release on April 8, 2023. The track is from the forthcoming Church of Trees Album Courage, scheduled to drop on May 5. Mark your calendars, folks—you do not want to miss out on either event. Here’s why:
“Progression” is a very suitably named song. It progresses (see what I did there?) from a very Laurie Anderson-esque intro into the best Numan-influenced industrial/synth recording you’ve ever heard via Rob Stuart’s gorgeous, swelling electronic melodies. His synths are lush, multi-layered, and everything a synth-lover like me could want in a track. Lead vocals are calming, emotive, and beautifully executed by Bernard Frazer, who also amazingly provides harmonic, excellently delivered back-up vocals to complete this magnificent work.
It’s one of those tracks where the more you listen to it, the more it speaks volumes to you.
Watch this space for more information about the release of the Church of Trees LP Courage. In the meantime, get ready to be enchanted by its first released track “Progression/Rob Stuart Numanoid Mix” on April 8, 2023. On that date, get on over to churchoftrees.bandcamp.com for your copy—it will leave you in breathless anticipation of what’s yet to come from Courage.
What happens when you combine the masterful electronic creativity of two incredibly gifted musicians? An explosion of sound that rivals the force of a detonated H-bomb. Don’t believe me? Keep reading…
Last year (2020) brought out the innovative acuity of many as a sheer survival mechanism when confronted by COVID. People like me became the ultimate benefactors of music, visual art, and the written word that flowed forth freely like the Mississippi River as an endless balm for our collective suffering. COVID may have halted live mass performances, but it did NOT stifle the imagination, artistry, and ingenuity that continued to give birth to innovative expressionism beyond our wildest dreams.
One such venture that has yielded a wealth of fantastic digital music that defies adequate description is the pairing of musical geniuses Rob Stuart (Electronic Dream Factory and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave) and Brian Dickson (Colony Three). The result is a brilliant collection of electronica titled Boӧtes Void that’s a computer-generated music fan’s dream. Put me at the very top of that list.
Boӧtes Void consists of twelve tracks of moody, ecstatic, in-your-face music. Each track weaves a riveting story without words. It’s such a compelling collection that once the last song fades, it leaves one’s soul thirsting for more.
But enough of my humble opinion. It’s best to get insight on the thoughts and creative process that went into Boӧtes Void directly from the masterminds’ own mouths. I had the honor of posing a few questions to Rob and Brian to better understand how such a classic collection came to life and am happy to share the results with you.
MissParker:First, I’ve got to say that you two creating music together is an incredible confluence of electronic mastery. I’ve interviewed you both in the past regarding your own musical accomplishments, but never dreamed you’d combine your efforts to produce such a wonderful album. What prompted you two to get together?
Rob Stuart: I honestly can’t remember how this project came about. I defer to Brian for this one.
Brian Dickson: I defer to Rob on this…oh never mind…(laughs).
When Rob and I met it was pretty clear we had a lot in common musically, and we often shared hilarious stories about our past attempts at collaborations. Born from that was this concept we both agreed to, which was a “no rules” approach, which has worked out really well for the both of us and I think for the music, as well.
MissParker: The burning question that has to be asked—where did the album title originate from and what does it mean?
Rob Stuart: The album title was very last minute. So much so, that Brian and I did not have time to actually discuss it. I had read something or seen a video discussing something about The Boötes Void (or the Great Nothing) which is an enormous, approximately spherical region of space at nearly 330 million light years in diameter, containing very few galaxies. It is located in the vicinity of the constellation Boötes, hence its name. I thought it was something that fit our music perfectly.
Brian Dickson: Rob clearly put a lot of thought into the title, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I thought the title was about a lack of footwear (laughs). As it turns out, it was a very “fitting” title given our “style.”
MissParker: I have to admit—I was drawn in from the opening notes of Monolith, the first track on Boӧtes Void. I think I even smiled. It starts out so mellow and builds to an intoxicating crescendo. What inspired that track? Did it have anything to do with the monolith recently discovered in Utah?
Rob Stuart: I would love to say yes because that would be so cool but unfortunately not. The twelve tracks of the album were written month by month beginning in January 2020. Our only “rules” for this project were to compose, record, and produce a track with accompanying video each month resulting with a final album release at the end of the year.
Brian Dickson: Like Rob, I’d love to tell you that it was that thought out. This track started with a very short 8-second 4 track seed and grew into the final version after being passed back-and-forth a few times. As it was our first track, we were still working out the “how are we going to work together” on the songs and accompanying videos. I think my best memory of this song was that after it was completed, we both agreed that we were on to something.
MissParker: The overall mood of the album rises and falls from ecstatic highs to depressing lows. What sort of consideration goes into deciding the order of the tracks?
Rob Stuart: That’s an interesting question as that is something I usually agonize over when I release a SLAVE album. However, since this album was evolving from month to month we chose to sequence the songs in the order they were written.
Brian Dickson: Once the 12 tracks were completed, we did a few experimental changes on the track ordering, but we always ended-up back at the original. It wasn’t purposeful at the time, but now when I listen through the whole album, I’m glad we landed on keeping the order as it was created.
MissParker: I’ve maintained that lyrics are important to me. Obviously, lyrics don’t factor in at all with Boӧtes Void, yet it paints such vivid mental imagery. When writing electronic tracks, do you have a particular vision in mind that you’re transforming aurally?
Rob Stuart: I’ve always equated music with painting. The instruments are my choice of brush, the sounds are my colors, the canvas my bass and drums. When I write this type of music, the voice and words are replaced by color and tone. Even without someone singing lyrics I think the consideration for a human element is always there.
Brian Dickson: Like Rob I have also visualized music, but more so as a soundtrack to some imagery or a movie scene. A scene can be full of action, or sad, or contemplative, and that really helps drive a given sound and structure to a track.
MissParker: I’m so curious about the track “Ateoate’s Revenge.” I take it to be a play on “808.” If that’s so, and it’s not a trade secret, can you share what that means?
Rob Stuart: Bang on! That’s a track that Brian initially wrote and titled. It took me a while to figure out what the title meant. Duh!! In fact, I love the name so much I have convinced Brian and a couple of other synth friends to use this as the name of a new synth collaboration project we have started for this year. Stay tuned as there will be an “Ateoate’s Revenge” album release hopefully by the fall of 2021. BTW, it should be noted that Brian also put together the amazing video for this tune.
Brian Dickson: Yeah, I was trying to be clever with that name. The original track was something I created back in the mid-90s with an actual TR-808 (that I regretfully sold to pay the bills….sigh!)
I was so amazed with how Rob literally turned the original version inside-out and created this much better final track.
MissParker:It seems the overarching theme is space. Electronica naturally fits in with otherworldly motifs, and rightfully so. Do you see this genre of music defining more grounded concerns like love, life, loss, or even the political landscape?
Rob Stuart: Over time electronica has become more associated with space and otherworldly motifs but when I think back to the early days of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and many others, they were tackling politics with electronic soundtracks like The Sorcerer and Thief. Vangelis handled love, life, and loss masterfully in Bladerunner. I am still inspired by these great works today.
Brian Dickson: I’ve always viewed electronica as something that transcends history, race, and politics. I remember that when I was much younger, places like China, France, or Germany were so foreign to me. All of that changed when I listened to the fans cheering to the music of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Concerts in China or Tangerine Dream in Berlin and realized there were people all over the world with not only the same musical tastes, but also that deep-down we are all the same.
MissParker:The track “Machine Language” takes us through what sounds like a spirited conversation between members of non-human intelligence. Do your machines sometimes appear to have minds of their own?
Rob Stuart: Sometimes, yes! That’s usually because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a self-taught studio engineer and the way I’ve learned is by trial and error. So it’s no surprise I’ve hit the wrong button and the machine appeared to take on a mind of its own. On the brighter side, sometimes it can turn into a pleasant surprise and something cool will come of it. That’s always a bonus!
Brian Dickson: As a huge fan of sci-fi, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of AI, but more on the cautionary side. When my gear does something unexpected, I try and turn it into a “happy accident.” Most of the time though, as HAL famously said it best…“It has always been due to human error.”
MissParker:Did you collaborate on all of the tracks, or was it more of a merging of the minds—Rob wrote some and Brian wrote the others?
Rob Stuart: Even though we were never in the same room at the same time due to COVID-19, this was a collaboration in the truest sense. Both of us shared old music riffs, partial songs ideas, 8 bar loops, or came up with something new and if anything inspired one of us, we would get to work on it. Then we would ping pong the track back and forth until we felt that it was finished while having constant discussions. The process was always very respectful and free of ego.
Brian Dickson: Rob’s response captures it perfectly! I’ll add that we both remain pleasantly surprised at how it all went so smoothly, only because we are so used to having full autonomy and control over our own tracks. I think what really helped was that Rob and I decided early on that honesty was key. If that fails, we just default to blatant sarcasm.
MissParker: In a traditional group, some members play guitars, others play keyboards, still others may play brass, and of course, there’s a drummer or two. When you put two electronic masterminds together, how do you split up the music duties?
Rob Stuart: There was never really any discussion about those duties. The relationship between Brian and I was so respectful that we kind of knew what to do and what not to do with each track. It may sound corny but usually the music would dictate what was needed and we both respected that need intuitively.
Brian Dickson: Rob and I wear all the hats in our other music, so we didn’t really land on playing specific instruments. Instead, we’d just add what we thought a track needed, either in the addition of new instruments or the composure of the song.
MissParker:Is Boӧtes Void considered a soundtrack, in that when taken together, all of the tracks combine to tell a single, complex story? Or is it more of a short story collection?
Rob Stuart: I’d love to say that it’s some super, clever, complex story but I’m just not that well thought out.
Brian Dickson: It’s a super, clever, complex story.
MissParker: I’ve asked each of you separately at one time or another about your musical influences. This time, just focusing on making Boӧtes Void, who or what can you cite as your influences for this project?
Rob Stuart: My usual favorites such as Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Brian Eno, Underworld, Global Communication, The Future Sound of London, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Harold Budd (RIP), John Foxx, Biosphere, Synergy, etc.
Brian Dickson: Ditto on Rob’s list. I also watched a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Electronica-related videos about his more recent collaborations with John Carpenter, Vincent Clarke, Yello, and others.
MissParker: We have the privilege of hearing Kim Stuart’s angelic voice on Slow Motion. It’s a beautiful, moving experience. Was the song made with her contribution in mind, or did you decide another layer was needed while in production and Kim provided it? Either way, it’s brilliant.
Rob Stuart: Brian had written this beautiful piece of music but didn’t know how to finish it. He sent it over to me and I instantly knew what to do with it as soon as I heard it. As I was working on it I was messing around with some voice samples when Kim came into the studio and said, “let me try something on it,” which I thought was a great idea. She did two or three improvised takes and I picked the bits that I thought fit best. It did turn out rather lovely!
Brian Dickson: I am totally amazed with Kim’s vocals on this track. I’ll never forget when I first heard the new version with Kim’s vocals, I exclaimed “It’s Perfect!” out loud; It reminded me of hearing Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky.” With Rob’s brilliant engineering of the vocals and final track it was the perfect match-up, and I’d say this track turned out to be one of my favorites.
MissParker: I hope to hear more from Kim in future releases. In fact, I hope to hear more from you both, Rob and Brian, whether individually, or collectively. Any plans in the works for upcoming collaborative or singular projects?
Rob Stuart: Since Kim is in the house while I’m working in the studio, she ends up being on a ton of different songs by default, sometimes not getting credit for her contribution; however, with the success of the “Feels Like Heaven” cover with E.D.F, we’ve decided to pair up and try doing a full album of similar songs. We are currently working on our next song and will hopefully have something to release by the end of the year.
Brian Dickson: Rob and I have talked about continuing with our collaboration, and we’re looking to feature other artists in upcoming tracks. As with what Rob is doing with E.D.F., I’m also continuing my journey with Colony Three, with this year being focused on the release of several singles that will culminate to an end-of-year album…not sure where I got that idea from (laughs).
MissParker: Thank you both for agreeing to talk with me and sharing your thoughts about working together to make Boӧtes Void.
Rob Stuart: Thank you so much for being a voice for independent music and for asking such intelligent and thoughtful questions about our music and process.
Brian Dickson: This interview was an amazing experience, Sandy. Thank you for everything that you do in supporting us and our music; it means so much and encourages us all to keep at it!
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: One of the best things (and there are so many) about being introduced to David Marsden’s live radio show 14 years ago, and then more recently (2014) to his free-form stream NYTheSpirit.com, is getting to know some incredible music acts and artists that I never would have been exposed to otherwise.
George Rondina is part of this treasure trove of talent. Three of his songs recorded under the moniker Imagination Machine that David has played on his live weekend show have absolutely torn me up: A Northern Evening, Dancing on a Highwire, and True (May the Road Rise). These hauntingly lovely songs are the perfect blend of an internal, aural, emotional journey highlighted by Rondina’s expressive and unique voice. Personally, music is an escape that makes the real world tolerable by pushing it aside and providing a safe haven in which to curl up and fantasize about what life should be. George Rondina’s music is that and so much more—it envelopes the listener within a protective bubble that promises salvation rather than mere isolation.
It’s my pleasure to share this interview with you and to hopefully pull more listeners into the ethereal world of Imagination Machine. Given the reality that we are forced to deal with every day, I believe this is an alternative that many will willingly embrace once its magic has touched the soul.
MissParker: I’ve done some research about you online and am amazed at your accomplishments, most notably the Toronto recording studio known as Number 9 Audio Group. Before I ask you to expand on that a bit, I also read that you were part of several bands back in the late 70s. What can you share about that experience?
George Rondina: I’d like to say, thank you for having me and for the very kind and generous introduction. I started out as a musician and was in a couple of different bands in high school. Once graduated, the musical journey really kicked in and the 3 bands I was in toured Ontario and Quebec.
It was fun for the first few years, but living out of a suitcase in some not-so-swank hotels took its toll after about 5 years and I started to think of something I could do that would garner a bit more of a normal life. After much thought, Number 9 Sound Studios ( Number 9 Audio Group ) was born.
MissParker: So, getting back to Number 9 Audio Group—the name is intriguing, by the way—where did the name come from (I have a guess) and what prompted you to switch from performing to producing?
George Rondina: Ah, so the name Number 9 of course was a culmination of things—John Lennon’s infatuation with the number 9 and numerology, as he was born on the 9th day of the month, and so was I. In 1981, for lack of a better name, Number 9 it was.
We ran the studio in tandem, with playing live on weekends, at first. When my first born came along, the rest of the band approached me about touring full time. I was happy playing weekends and running the studio through the week. It was a very hard decision, but I chose to keep the studio going, as I had no interest in going back on the road at the time and I knew it would have been very hard on my family. So that’s when the switch happened.
MissParker: The “who’s who” list of artists you’ve worked with at the studio is impressive, to say the least. Of the people you’ve worked with, who left the biggest impression and why?
George Rondina: Wow, that’s a tough one, as many of the bands like “The Barenaked Ladies” weren’t famous when we first recorded them. There are a few that I enjoyed meeting a lot, like David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears. David recorded 4 albums at Number 9 and we became quite good friends. Jim McCarty from the Yardbirds and Renaissance would be another. A real gentleman. The work we did with the Stones, Van Morrison, and Will Smith was either rental work or location recording—mostly arm’s length—never got to meet them directly. After almost 40 years there’ve been a lot of great experiences, that’s for sure.
MissParker: Who haven’t you worked with that would be high up on your wish list?
George Rondina: We could be here all night (laugh) . Of the living: Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend and The Who (whom I have met but haven’t worked with), Pink Floyd, particularly David Gilmour, Genesis…The list is endless.
MissParker: I’m curious about your connection with David Marsden. How did you first meet up with him and how long have you known him?
George Rondina: I’ve known David from his radio shows since the 70s, but he’s only known me since about 2017-18, when I released A Northern Evening and he was kind enough to add it to his playlist.
MissParker: I fantasize about having been a part of the music world, but life seems to have had other plans for me. So I’m always curious—what got you interested in music and which instruments were the first you learned to play?
George Rondina: Feb. 9th 1964 The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show. That night, I decided that music is what I wanted to do. I was just a young kid. I tried guitar but just couldn’t get the hang of it, where piano came much more naturally for me. Then came the other keyboards and synthesizers, which I have a nice little collection of my favourites now. The only other thing for me was singing. I started in choirs at an early age.
MissParker: Who were your early musical influences?
George Rondina: Well of course, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, and the whole late 60s-70s scene. Later: Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, ELP, David Bowie, Tom Petty—the list could go on almost forever.
MissParker: Even though you’re a musician first and foremost, what planted the Imagination Machine seed?
George Rondina: I’d been writing songs all my life but pushed aside recording them to focus on the studio, raising my kids, and making ends meet. Later in life, which started around 2016, I recorded a Christmas song for a charity to help kids with depression issues. The song was called Shine On. After I finished recording that song, I decided that it was time to start on an album.
MissParker: To me, you have the perfect blend of synths and instrumentation to enhance your vocals on the gorgeous track “A Northern Evening.” The first time I heard David play it, I about fell out of my chair while grabbing my phone to Shazam this amazing song I was listening to. What inspired you to write that song?
George Rondina: It was a long time ago. I wrote the majority of A Northern Evening when I was in my 20s, and adding parts and lyrics in 2016-17 when I recorded it. By the way, I’m very encouraged and grateful by your kind words.
It was an experience I had while in Northern Ontario on a crisp, clear winter’s night while snowmobiling. We reached a peak and gazed into a sky full of stars with northern lights and shooting stars. It was an epiphany for me. I guess the belief that there is something more was confirmed that night and soon after came the lyrics and the song.
MissParker: I absolutely adore “Dancing on a Highwire.” What’s the back story to that song?
George Rondina: That’s a little sad I guess. My father suddenly passed away at 56 when I was 21. Literally died in my arms. The only death I’d experienced before that of someone that was close was my grandmother ( my Dad’s mother) the year before. I went into a bit of a dark place and was searching for something. Not to get too deep into the experience, Highwire is really just about the fragility of life and how we all have the courage to carry on even through the darkest of times.
MissParker: Rooting around YouTube I’ve come across some other Imagination Machine gems that are both playful and lovely. Do you have any other songs in the works?
George Rondina: The other Imagination Machine Songs are Muskoka Trees, Blue Room, and I just recently finished a song called Still In The Silence. Going in the studio this week to start another new song.
MissParker: Please share how we can purchase your music and also be informed of any future releases.
George Rondina: It’s pretty well a one-man show right now. I don’t have a website or FaceBook page just yet for Imagination Machine. The other thing is since I started Imagination Machine there is a children’s group using the same name, so it may evolve into George Rondina and The Imagination Machine .
I think tuning into Dave Marsden’s NYtheSpirit.com is a good way to hear what is going on with Imagination Machine or my personal Facebook page. The songs are all available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and more. You can download from iTunes and Bandcamp, which is always preferred by the artist.
And, before we end, I think it’s very important I acknowledge the musicians, engineers and studios that played a huge part in making our songs presentable 🙂. They are: George Koller, Vito Rezza, Graham Walker, Larry Bodner, Chase Sanborn, Reg Schwager, Ciceal Levy and Amoy Levy, Caroline Akwe, John Madill, Aaron Fund Salem, Arron Davis, Bridget Hunt, Carolyn Blackwell, Winona Zelenka, John Switzer, Samuel Bisson, Alex Toskov and Veronica Lee, Loretto Reid, Eric St-Laurent, Anne Lindsay, Bernie Cisternas, Brian Mcloughlin, Alex Lang, Number 9 Audio Group, Alex Gordon, Abbey Road Studios Mastering, Lacquer Channel Mastering, and Noah Mintz.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s been a pleasure.
It was truly a pleasure to learn more about this inspiring music maker and producer. Follow the links below to sample some of his incredible work. And, if you like what you hear, be sure to support George Rondina and Imagination Machine using the links he gave us above.
I’ve had the enormous pleasure of being introduced to the delightful electronic music of Brian Dickson, a.k.a. Colony Three. I was asked to review a collection of 10 tracks titled Ergosphere. Wikipedia defines the word ergosphere as “…a region located outside a rotating black hole’s outer event horizon. Its name was proposed by Remo Ruffini and John Archibald Wheeler during the Les Houches lectures in 1971 and is derived from the Greek word ergon, which means ‘work.’”
This listening experience allowed me to take a remarkable journey that I look forward to revisiting time and time again; I know that I will hear more and experience different sensations with each opportunity.
The first five tracks lull us as listeners into a sense of peace and well-being—a journey that is both pleasant and without a hint of danger. Suddenly, with the opening strains of “Bad Gram,” the mood changes and we are thrust into a metropolis of sights and sounds that are both confusing and terrifying. As the music gathers steam, we are subjected to the aural awakening of the “fight or flight” instinct.
“Random Sparks” brings us back to a safe haven, giving us hope that there will be no other dangerous interludes until we reach the conclusion of our travels. But, just as suddenly as we feel that sense of calm, we are reminded by the dire melodies in “Collider” that the dangers we face are still all too real.
In the end, the pace of the excursion slows down, the dangers melt away, and again we begin to feel that perhaps this odyssey will have a positive completion after all. “Winds of Elysium Planitia” puts me in mind of The Man Who Fell To Earth when we are given glimpses of Thomas Jerome Newton’s suffering family back on his native planet. The final track, similar in scope by looking back on the previous tracks, evoke feelings of both relief and sadness—relief that the trip is over and we are still breathing, and sadness, because of a nagging feeling that the world will somehow be forever different.
I am so pleased to have had a chance to interview Brian Dickson to provide some first-hand insight into the origins of this lush collection’s creation. I hope you will enjoy reading what I learned about this man and what he has to say about his exquisite music.
MissParker: I can sit here and list all of the influences that I hear in this brilliant music—from Brian Eno to Gary Numan to Underworld to Jean-Michel Jarre…but my opinions would be irrelevant. Let’s hear it from you–who are your influences and why? BD: I’d say my biggest influencers are Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre. In the early 80s I lived in a very remote northern town so my exposure to music was mostly through the one local radio station that played top 40 pop and country music. One day, I was digging through my older brother’s stuff and came across a cassette of Force Majeure, and listening to it was a life-changing epiphany. I’d never had an emotional response to music until hearing this. It wasn’t the harsh “bleeps & bloops” synthesizers that I’d heard in so many b-movies and radio shows, but instead an incredible audio landscape that took me on a fantastical journey. I became obsessed with finding more music like this and pretty much anything that pushed boundaries.
Thanks to radio shows like CBC’s “Brave New Waves” with Brent Bambury and CFNY (under the tenure of David Marsden), a whole new world of musical influence was made possible. Listening to bootleg cassette copies of CFNY played a large part in me moving to Toronto.
MissParker: I’m terrified of flying, but I do it out of necessity. Listening to “Approach” made me smile because it actually reminds me of the airplane’s approach to the runway for a landing. What is the true meaning behind that song? BD: First, I love hearing about how you interpreted this song as it was always a dream of mine to create something that sparks the listeners’ imagination.
Certain sounds or songs create a type of visualization for me. When composing, I often start with a single sound and build on it, twisting and overlaying a few other sounds. At some point a scene forms in my mind and I often end up naming the track whatever was in this imaginary scene. In this case I had come up with the album name “Ergosphere” and thought it fitting that this song would be the approach into the Ergosphere and beyond.
MissParker: “Indifference Waves” has a lovely build-up to the brief spoken word segment. It puts me in mind of Gary Numan when he was
(c) Brian Dickson
experimenting with techno in the 90s and ended up keeping it as his signature sound. Then it takes off into a fabulous confluence of electronics and raw drumbeat. I love that combination. What inspired it? BD: “Indifference Waves” was born of a sample from a 1964 episode of Danger Man in which John Drake (played by the outstanding Patrick McGoohan) finds himself in a surreal village called Colony Three. Many speculate that this episode was the precursor to the iconic science-fiction series The Prisoner which finds McGoohan imprisoned in a mysterious village where everyone is known only as a number.
“Indifference” describes my interpretation of The Prisoner, which is the importance of questioning the status quo. I’m finding that naming the songs is almost as much fun as making them!
MissParker: There seem to be very brief, if any, breaks between most of the tracks. Was this collection meant to flow like a single soundtrack, or are the songs meant to stand on their own? BD: Some of Ergosphere was composed with no gaps between the tracks, but I’ve found that some streaming platforms or audio playback software inject small breaks between songs. Spotify seems to play the album “gapless” while others are hit and miss. I’ve noted that artists like Jean-Michel Jarre now release large single track “continuous play” version of their albums to avoid this issue. I personally love continuous play albums as they seem keep the listener’s imagination and mood flowing throughout.
MissParker: I played a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre in the late 90s early 00s when I was a corporate trainer. I used his music specifically to soothe my classes while they were testing on the stuff that I’d taught them. I hear some of his influence in “Flight to Tadoule.” What is your take on Jarre’s music? Did he inspire you to create your own version of electronica and how? BD: Jean Michel-Jarre is influential on almost everything I produce. In my opinion, Jarre has found the precise balance of classical composure and technology. His bold approach to musical and performance experimentation is inspirational. I was fortunate enough to go to Jarre’s amazing 2017 performance in Toronto and it was better than I could’ve ever imagined.
Jarre inspired me to start simple and build on it. If I ever got the chance to speak with Jarre, I always imagine that his advice would be “There’s no wrong way to do it.” Sometimes when working on a track I will literally ask myself, “What would Jarre do at this point?” which always seems to get me past the block.
MissParker: “Clearwater” has a remarkable intro that flows seamlessly from the close of “Flight to Tadoule.” It reminds me of a DJ making the perfect segue between songs during a radio broadcast. Were the two songs created in tandem purposely? BD: Unbeknownst to everyone (until now) “Clearwater” and “Flight to Tadoule” were composed in memory of my mother and father. My mother lived her final years in Clearwater, a scenic town in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Her last years there were the happiest of her life and it was always a pleasure to see her so happy there. One of my fondest memories of my father was when he took me on a flight in a Cessna to a very remote northern community called Tadoule Lake. I felt it fitting to have these songs sound very different on their own but also be somewhat connected.
MissParker: Up until “Bad Gram,” the songs seem to have a laid back and dreamy quality to them. Then all of a sudden we’re thrown into a random foot chase with pursuers hot on our heels. The urgency carries over into “Influence,” although not as intense. What brings on this change of mood? BD: I really enjoy your interpretation of “Bad Gram,” and I think I hit the mark on this one! As the song was being composed, I started imagining a scene from a Michael Mann movie, like some of the amazing instrumentals that Jan Hammer had done for Miami Vice. After the lulling jazz-bar sounds of “Daydream on Pacific Avenue” I wanted to create an unexpected spike of adrenaline for the listener to snap them back to the rest of the album.
MissParker: I mentioned in the introduction how some of this collection reminded me of David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” My only complaint about the film is that 45 years later, the soundtrack (which Bowie did NOT compose) presents as a bit “cheesy.” Your music on Ergosphere, however, is as timeless as space itself. That said, did you have a “movie” playing in your head when you created these tracks? BD: That is another really big compliment on many levels! I didn’t set out with a movie in mind for the overall album, and I think the timeless aspect is a result of a personal preference I have for simplicity in both the composure and instruments being used. My good friend Rob Stuart (of SLAVE to the SQUAREwave) and I discuss this philosophy at length, that so many of the timeless classics were created using equipment that was greatly limited by today’s standards. I believe these limits are what ultimately demanded the most creativity and best performances from the artists at the time. I used to think that because I had a 16-track recorder, I needed to make use of them all. (Maybe to get my money’s worth?) Now, my studio has the ability to mix and record over 1,000 tracks, but I generally use 10 tracks for most songs, which encourages me to focus on melody and dynamics.
(c) Brian Dickson
MissParker: Is all of the writing and production solely yours, or do you have people that you collaborate with? BD: For my first album, I made a conscious decision to go it alone as I ultimately wanted to own the outcome and find my own groove, so to speak. I did the writing and recording over the course of a few months. While the composing and recording was the fun and easy part, I was really struggling when it came time to master the album. Mastering is the final step in the process where the entire album is stitched-together and balanced for harmonics and volume levels. I’m thankful for being able to lean on Rob Stuart for advice during this journey as he has decades of experience in music composure and production. These great conversations turned have led to Rob and I collaborating on some new tracks.
It’s early days but we are both really excited about the outcomes and are looking forward to sharing them.
MissParker: Do you perform live? If so, where can people have the pleasure of being enveloped by your music in a live performance? BD: I haven’t spent the time yet to research live performance in this genre…I’ve simply been having too much fun creating the music! I think my gateway into live performance would be through that previously mentioned collaboration. It would be the experience of a lifetime no matter what the venue.
Missparker: Where can people sample and ultimately purchase your music? BD: For the latest information about Colony Three and to sample new music in the making, visit:
About 10 years ago, I was a novice listener of David Marsden’s live broadcast over the internet from a station out of Oshawa, ON Canada. His style and selection of music (mostly alternative 80s and current off-the-beaten-track tunes) had grabbed me from the first show I tuned into (thanks to a recommendation from fellow music blogger RalphD). One night, I distinctly remember being stopped dead in my tracks when a song came up that I had never heard before. I quickly shot off an email to Ralph asking, “WHO is that?” Ralph’s answer came back with an oddly-named group—SLAVE to the SQUAREwave—and a brief history of who, what, when…
The song at the time was “Sinners of Saint Avenue,” and from that moment on, I became a die-hard “Squarehead.” The melody, the lyrics, the singing…up until that point I had firmly believed that there wasn’t a singer out there that even came close to my longtime idol David Bowie. Well, holy cow, was I wrong! Here was Colin Troy McPhail, backed by the incredible musical talent of Rob Stuart, delivering the range, the pitch, the drop-dead gorgeous passion of Bowie, but with his own distinctive and personal flair. Thank goodness for me that RalphD was himself a huge “Squarehead” and happily pointed me in the direction of finding out more about S2TSW.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to feature SLAVE to the SQUAREwave (Colin and Rob Stuart) several times here on Rave and Roll blog. Rob even interviewed me last March for his “The Mixtape Show” DJ slot on NYTheSpirit.com. This, however, is my first opportunity to interview Colin, the angelic and passionate vocal genius of S2TSW. If you’ve never had the privilege of listening to SLAVE, please give yourself that treat. They release their new album Jigsaw on November 10, 2017. It will be available worldwide on all streaming and music websites with an album release party in the works.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall under their indomitable spell and become a Squarehead, too.
(NOTE: At the end of this interview, Colin and Rob have provided a free download of the ambient remix of “Starrs,” a beautiful and moving track. This particular mix is not available on the album Jigsaw that releases on November 10, 2017).
Missparker: SLAVE to the SQUAREwave’s core musicians are you and Rob Stuart. How did you guys meet up and how long have you been making music together?
Colin: Rob and I met nearly 20 years ago at a rave in Oakville Ontario. He was playing his EDF (Electronic Dream Factory) music, and I was performing a project called Smokin Jehovah. We got talking and discovered that we lived close by to one another. We met up and jammed out some of our own music ideas and began a lifelong friendship through music.
Missparker: As someone who can’t hold a tune in a bucket (me), but is blessed with good ears, I am in awe of your tremendous gift of singing. I’ve mentioned to anyone who’ll listen that you remind me so much of David Bowie in style, range, and expression. Do you consider him an influence? Is there anyone else who has inspired you vocally?
Colin: Of course, Bowie is God (laughs). He is by far the greatest artist that has lived. But musically I’ve been influenced by what I call the Davids—Bowie, Byrne, Gahan, Sylvian, and Lee Roth—all my Davids have been musical influences lyrically, musically, and of course, showmanship.
Missparker: I have to say, after viewing a number of SLAVE videos on YouTube, I feel like I’ve missed out big time on your live performances. You seem to morph into all kinds of different and interesting personas. Are they inner characters that you allow to escape onstage? Do they have names?
Colin: (laughs) HAHA, good question…hmmm…The Characters are mostly influenced by the songs themselves. So performing live, the characters just add to the ability to make the songs visual, as well as lyrical. Live, it’s so much fun—hmmm…I’ve never thought of names—maybe I should (laughs)!
Missparker: I have to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my preview of Jigsaw. I’m full of questions, but I’ll try to contain myself and keep it to a bearable number! First, where did the name Jigsaw come from? And the delightfully fun intro “Debauchery”—does it have a particular significance?
Colin: This past year and a half has been a personal nightmare—from losing a job and getting transferred to a different job, which has been frustrating—to having my car stolen—to losing a great relationship (at least I thought was)—to losing my dear sister to cancer this past summer. Jigsaw is about the pieces I’ve lost and trying to put some kind of puzzle back in order.
Debauchery is an ode to musical theatre like Cabaret or Chicago. Just a fun sexy, sassy little number to introduce your ears with.
Missparker: No pun intended, but “The Coldest Night of the Year,” along with “Starrs,” absolutely give me chills. They are gorgeous: instrumentally, lyrically, and stylistically thanks in large part to your poignant delivery. What can you share about the source of the emotion behind the lyrics?
Colin: “The Coldest Night” was written around New Year’s Eve of this past year. I was in a long distance relationship and because of the lack of physical intimacy, I just was overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness. Eventually we ended it a few months later.
“Starrs” is about my dear sister who died of cancer in August. Her middle name was Starr. We knew she was beginning to fade and her time was coming soon. Rob came up with this beautiful track—I was floored by its musicality—probably the toughest song lyrics to write. We finished the song before she passed away. It’s about seeing her again beyond death’s door. I never played it to her. She never got to hear that song. It was too painful for me to have her hear what I wrote—because it was about the inevitable.
Missparker: I’m so sorry for your loss. The pain that you went through is so evident in the music and lyrics. David Marsden has been playing “Starrs” as a teaser of sorts over the past few weeks. I remember thinking, “If the rest of the album is half as good as this, it’s going to be brilliant.” Well…it’s MUCH more than half as good, so “brilliant” is an understatement. Do you have a favorite track, and what makes it that?
Colin: “Here Comes My Man.” It’s a hilarious true story of a grindr hookup gone bad.
Missparker: “Honest” has an earnest rhythm driving it from behind, almost reminiscent of island music. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this influence in S2TSW’s music. Is there a specific source that it comes from?
Colin: I love drop beats. Both Rob and I love ska music. Rob had a much more musical influence on that track. I had the acoustic melodies and rhythm, but he brought in the drop beats. It’s his genius not mine (laughs).
Missparker: My ears perked up at the opening seconds of “Something That I Said.” Did I catch a sample of the sample (twice removed) from Eno and Byrne’s “Mea Culpa?” What’s the story behind this song?
Colin: I think you did. My God, good set of ears, my dear! The song is about offending and being offended by people’s stupidity (laughs). It’s such a simple Talking Heads-like rhythm. Gonna be so much fun to perform live!
Missparker: And speaking of funk, “Something I Said” is one of several funk-laden songs on this (“Fink Fank Fonk,” “White Kids on Funkk,” etc.) that sound like you and Rob had a blast composing. Are there any musicians/bands that you can point to as funk-influential?
Colin: To me FUNK is the best music. It always lifts me up, and great to dance to. I think Nile Rogers is an absolute genius. It’s about James Brown, George Clinton, Prince…I don’t know where to start. Funk is the biggest musical influence of my life.
Missparker: “Ascension” is a powerful song. It hints at a deep hurt and a request for a prayer that is both haunting and scary…almost as if you’re asking for help to avoid doing something you’ll regret. It’s well-known that music is a creative way to tame the demons plaguing one’s inner self. Personally, writing and photography are my avenues of sorting out what I can’t adequately express. David Bowie once said that his music was his way of avoiding madness. Do you find a similar comfort writing and singing lyrics—a catharsis of sorts?
Colin: Oh wow. You hit the nail on the head. It’s about knowing you’re about to do something wrong, but do it anyway—kind of masochistic. If you listen specifically to one lyric it’s very, very masochistic. Music has been and always will be my therapist. I think every writer has demons and the best way to deal with is through writing about it.
Missparker: “Get Out Of My House” is a fun, beat-driven, chair-dancing tune. It’s another teaser that David Marsden has been sticking in our ears over the past few months. I love the whimsical video Rob put together for it. The story goes that you guys created this song from opposite ends of Canada, which is phenomenal. How important a part does technology play in music-making these days, and how has it changed the landscape of creating and producing music over the years?
Colin: Actually, 3 or 4 songs were written while I was in Vancouver with a now ex-partner. Rob and I bounced a whack of musical ideas from Toronto to Vancouver at the time. We share the same software, so I would record and send him the track. He would make his adjustments and inputs and return them to me. Back and forth.
Technology is amazing these days. It allows a lot of freedom, if you use it properly (laughs). It has totally changed music production, both in a good way and a bad way. Good in the sense that it doesn’t have to cost a mortgage to record anymore. Bad in the sense that today’s music sounds thin to me, at times. There is a lack of warmth in today’s sound because of over compression. But, that may be because my ears are getting old!
As a special gift to all listeners, Rob and Colin have provided a free download of the full ambient mix version of “Starrs.” This version is not available on the album that will release on November 10. Press the graphic below to download your copy.
Many thanks to Colin for his candid and heartfelt answers. To learn more about SLAVE to the SQUAREwave and listen to the fabulous music described here, be sure to check out the following sites:
Get Out Of My House (Video edit)–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave
David Marsden/NYTheSpirit.com Interview with Colin and Rob
Big Change (extended mix 2017)–SLAVE to the SQUAREwave
Excellent music never dies; sometimes it just goes away for a while. And, like a treasured loved one, its return evokes strong emotions of joy, relief, and a reconnection with the universe. That’s what’s happening here, folks. And, I am delighted to be the bearer of the fantastic news.
Rob Stuart first graced Rave and Roll’s pages exclusively as a featured artist back in November 2009. Earlier that year, I had published an article about his Toronto-based band SLAVE to the SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their then-latest smashing release, The Money Shot. Earlier this year (Feb. 2014, to be exact), I was privileged to announce Slave’s return with a jaw-dropping, in-your-face collection of tunes called Asphalt, Sex & Rock ‘N’ Roll. Now, I am thrilled to deliver the trifecta: Rob Stuart’s long-awaited re-emergence featuring an entire catalog of synthesizer-driven musical goodness from his band, Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F).
Rob agreed to be interviewed so that I can share with you all a little bit about the beginnings of E.D.F., its evolution, the inspiration for the music, and the reason for the decision to re-release the catalog.
When did E.D.F. make its debut in the world?
EDF studios circa 1983
Originally E.D.F was and still is the name of my home recording studio. I stole the name from a small British synthesizer company called Electronic Dream Plant which built a very cool monophonic synthesizer called “The Wasp.” My earliest recollection of my first home studio was back in 1981. I decided very early on in my “music career” that rather than pay other people to record in their studios, that I would just build my own and teach myself how to record, engineer and mix.
I was only sixteen back then and gear was incredibly expensive, so my first studio was nothing fancy. I would work three summer jobs to save up enough money to buy studio gear. I still remember purchasing the first real synth I ever owned, a Korg MS-20 for $595.00 at Steve’s Music Store in Toronto. I was so proud walking home with that synth tucked under my arm that day. It was once I started writing original music when I decided Electronic Dream Factory would also serve as a good band name.
Who were the original band members?
Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)
There have been many incarnations of the “band”version of E.D.F. Version 1.0 is me alone as a solo artist . Long time friend/musician/ artist, Greg Fraser was the first person to become an official member. Our first full-length self-titled album was just Greg and myself. Version 2.0 included Rob Tennant, who was the live drummer.
We soon added Maxx on guitar. Version 3.0 included Emerich Donath on stick bass and Rude Van Steenes on electronic percussion and vocals. I knew Rude back from the Vis-A-Vis days as I was an original member of that band .
EDF Version 3.0
Why synthesizers and electronica vs. guitars and…?
I’ve always been a synthesizer nut. Ever since I first heard early synth-based music like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Throbbing Gristle, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gary Numan, John Foxx, and early Human League, I knew I wanted to get into synthesizers.
First of all, they looked so cool and they could make sounds that you’d never heard before. That was really the appeal to me. I would spend hours messing around with my MS-20, plugging in cables, twiddling all the knobs, to come up with unique and different sounds. I’ve never been a person who is comfortable jamming in a rehearsal studio or in a band situation, which is why I don’t really consider myself a musician. I still don’t play that well, but writing, recording, and producing came fairly naturally to me. Writing music always was and still is a personal journey for me, so when MIDI came along it allowed me to create all parts of the music by myself, which I thrived on.
Having said that, I’ve always been a guitar fan, so when I couldn’t fake a guitar part by myself or find the right guitar sample I’d have to bring in a guitar player. Of course nothing can replace the thundering sound and look of a live guitar player on stage. That’s where Maxx came in. He was a cool-looking dude with a great head of hair and a killer guitar sound which added to the live element and gave the studio recordings a little extra grit.
Was E.D.F. mainly a studio band, stage band, or both?
I’ve always been a studio guy, but you have no choice but to play live if you want to promote your product seriously. It’s a great feeling playing your own music live with 3 or 4 other people on stage with the lights, smoke, and (hopefully) crowds of people in the audience grooving to your tunes; however, I also derive immense pleasure spending hours in my studio just writing or playing music by myself.
That’s were the “other” side of E.D.F comes from, as I also record and release ambient, chill out, new age music which I never intend to play live. Our finest moment was playing at Pine Knob in Detroit, Michigan in front of 10, 000 people for a big end-of-summer music festival.
What or who inspired the music?
The “who” is endless. See all the bands named earlier. Inspiration can come from anything, really. It could be a unique industrial sample, synth patch, drum and bass groove or simply a nice chord progression. It’s piecing all of those elements together that makes it fun and challenging.
Did E.D.F. originally get the airplay it deserved, and if so, by whom?
The first E.D.F release was actually a cassette-only; but, believe it or not, we used to get airplay on the radio. CFNY 102.1 in Toronto was the first station to play our music. That station was a huge supporter of local independent music, led of course by the one and only David Marsden who still plays my music to this day on his new station http://www.nythespirit.com. With open-minded people like David and the good folk at CFNY, the song “So, What of Tomorrow” ended up being a winner on a CFNY talent search contest and was released on a compilation CD, which to us at the time was unbelievable.
Other places that would play our music would be University radio stations like CIUT (University of Toronto), CKMS-FM in Waterloo, and CKLN (Ryerson University) who were always great supporters of ours. Local DJs like Ronno Box and Craig Beesack would play us at clubs like Catch 22 and local promoter Billy X was also an early supporter of E.D.F
What’s it like to translate a concept in your head into music that you share with the rest of the world?
It’s fun at first, but it can quickly become frustrating when the business aspect kicks in. I won’t even talk about the music business these days as no one has a clue what’s going on; but back in the early 90s there were still labels you could shop your product around to. For our first album we had some interest from TVT Records which had just signed Nine Inch Nails. For the second album, “Drama Dream” we signed a deal with a label in Montreal, which went bad. For the album “Number 3” I had a distribution deal with Toronto’s The Record Peddler. Financially that was probably the most success I had with an EDF album as they managed to get distribution deals in quite a few different territories worldwide.
What made you decide to resurrect EDF?
One word: “Tunecore.”
Tunecore is a great service that distributes your music around the world to digital music stores and streaming stations. It’s really cheap and allows you to keep 100% of the earnings. They really do get the music out all over the world! E.D.F had a pretty strong following in its heyday, especially in Europe.
As I mentioned above, the album “Number 3” was released and distributed internationally by The Record Peddler. I used to get royalty cheques from airplay I received from places like Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and many other countries. Over the past few years I decided to post some old E.D.F videos on YouTube and found that people were actually looking for the old releases. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-master and re-release the whole collection in a new package.
Hence “Industrial Catalogue:” All four E.D.F albums in one, 64 songs in total, reasonably priced at $8.99. I did the same with my ambient/chillout/down-tempo E.D.F music, as well. Four albums in one package under the title ˜Noise Control” with 60 Songs in total.
Are there plans for live shows, and if so, where?
At this point, definitely not. SLAVE to the SQUAREwave takes up all of my spare time with live performances and recording. The last time E.D.F played live was at a rave in the middle of a farmer’s field in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto. This was actually where I met Colin Troy from S2TSW, as we were both playing at the rave that night. I was performing my more “techno” E.D.F material while Colin was doing his Smokin’ Jehovah project, which was a mix of middle eastern music and house. Really cool stuff. We chatted through the night about our love for Bowie, Roxy Music, and electronic dance music. We became instant friends and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave was born.
Do you have any examples of E.D.F. music online that people can preview?
Here’s some of my ambient/chill-out music taken from “Noise Control”:
Will the entire catalog be available for purchase? Where?
“Industrial Catalogue” is available via Amazonmp3.
“Noise Control (Vols 1 to 4)” is available via Amazonmp3.
Both albums are also on Spotify, Rdio, Shazam, iTunes, Google play, Wimp, Deezer, beats music and many, many more on-line stores.
Can folks buy single tracks?
Yup! Single tracks are the standard 99 cents.
Will this inspire you to go back into the studio and create new E.D.F. tracks?
E.D.F has never really stopped. It’s just come in many different shapes and forms over the past 32 years and will continue to evolve. I’m getting more and more into the chill-out/ambient stuff as I get older, so you can most likely expect some more music in that vein.
I’m considering releasing some music by a duo group I was in back in the mid 80s called “silent GREEN.” It was an ambient project where the music was ad-libbed and recorded live. I played synthesizer while Bruce Bentley played “ambient” guitar. Bruce and I also had a synthpop band called “Ear Candy,” which was another CFNY-supported band. Tragically, Bruce passed away last year, so I’m thinking of releasing it in his memory. Some of that music is pretty magical.
Thanks so much!
Thanks for your support. I love what you do. You don’t know how important things like this are to a band/artist. You’re really doing a great thing here and it is most appreciated. XOXO
After a long hiatus full of whispered rumors hinting at disbanding, retirement, everything Slave to the SQUAREwave fans absolutely did NOT want to hear, something very exciting has happened—a new album release and a hot party at the Hard Rock in Toronto on February 28, 2014 hosted by David Marsden. That sound you hear is the collective thud of gob-smacked jaws hitting the floor—hallelujah and praise the music gods!
The album—Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll—where to start? These Slave-starved ears were ecstatic with the long-awaited product of a flawless, long-standing, and highly successful collaboration between Rob Stuart and Colin Troy. If ever a duo were destined to create beautiful music together, this is it, folks. The result of long hours in the studio is a perfect, fun-filled collection of music that will both kick your ass and caress your soul.
What should you expect? Here’s my humble attempt to describe the pleasure trip this album delivers to its listeners. Strap yourself in, slide your headset on, and prepare to rumble—this is way better than the best road trip you’ve ever had in the mightiest muscle car.
If asked to describe the opening track Middle Finger in one word, “funkalicious” is the closest adjective that does it any justice. It’s a combination of Max Headroom (without the stutter) meets the Funkateers that is the perfect warm-up for what’s in store along this welcome journey. Alive and Electric (Dedicated to Jodi) presents swelling synths and superb harmonies; it’s a truly pleasing blend of keys and strings that picks up speed and takes on a life of its own.
Next up is Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a play on words rife with fast cars, a thrumming beat, and tough-guy lyrics. Who could ask for anything more? Then, wafting through the headset is a slightly off-kilter intro to The Big South that lures the listener into a poetic bop-fest of beat-driven goodness.
Not for the faint of heart, Zombie charges off the starting line in a sheer frenzy. Anyone who can sit still while listening to the exceptional synths and snarling vocals of this party-in-your-ear track needs to check for a pulse because they just may well be a zombie. Then, when you think you have a handle on what’s feeding into your brain, the Dr. Who-esque intro of Poor Man’s Fight draws you smack-dab into the middle of the fray, while trippy, fun lyrics bind you up and hold you captive.
Who wouldn’t wish for a Seven Day Saturday Night? Here it is handed to you on a silver platter—the penultimate weekend escape, complete with kick-ass strings that transport you straight into the party-hearty environment that you crave. From there, the bass-heavy opening of Bump promises—and delivers—heart-stopping percussive goodness.
Early Stone Roses anyone? Montreal is another foray into trippy melodies, sexy organ, and seductive piano. After the shameless seduction has left you breathless, you are thrown in front of a revving engine like a beast out of control. Amazing Grace threatens to spin out wildly; miraculously, traction holds you firmly to the road and catapults you along the autobahn of life and love.
The next track begs for Peace of Mind, but the direct and driven message is that it’s truly an elusive goal. To emphasize that point, Time is Running Out presents a frantic and breathless illustration that time for us is, indeed, running out. Perhaps we should stop and smell the roses?
Casino is a perfectly crafted analogy of love won and lost the hard way. Better luck the next time, baby. You see, everybody gets a little lucky sometimes. Destined to be a favorite, Alive and Electric (Rob’s Analog Electromix) would be ideally at home on any Ultravox collection. The vocals form a faultless partnership with synths that reach down into the soul and infuse a shot of divine life-sustaining energy.
Zombie (Sonix Mix) is a less-frenetic reprise of the un-dead anthem; a different spin on a great, rollicking song. Likewise, Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mad Flowers Mix) gives one last and different listen to what makes this collection a no-holds-barred masterpiece.
Slave to the SQUAREwave delivers raw, unbridled musical joy with each and every collaborative piece that they create. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience truly artistic genius at its very best, while Rob and Colin still have the passion to make it happen. And, if you are lucky enough to be in the greater Toronto area whenever the sun, moon and stars align in perfect combination, be sure to see the dynamic duo Rob Stuart and Colin Troy, along with supporting band members Doug Lea and Craig Moffitt, for a live performance. It’s definitely on my bucket list.
A very limited supply of 200 Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll CDs will be available at the release gig at the Hard Rock Café (279 Yonge St, Toronto ON) gig on Feb 28, 2014. After that, an “Expanded Edition” will be added, which includes these outstanding bonus tracks: “India”, “Stereo Orthophonic High Fidelity Victrolis (SOHFV),” and “Alive & Electric (Kernel Chiptune Mix).” Also, for the first time, S2TSW are making The Money Shot (another absolute personal fave) available with all bonus tracks. Both albums are for sale starting Feb. 28, 2014 at the locations shown below.
Time to meet a wonderful current artist who would have been vital in my favorite musical decade, as he is today. Tim Langan has a very full and impressive musical resume. He gave me the opportunity recently to get to know him and I’d like to share the experience with you. Be sure to take the time to check out Tim’s music on YouTube, as well as the various websites posted at the end of the interview.
Tell us about who or what (or both!) has influenced your music.
From the time I was very young, I have known that I wanted to be a musician. My very early experiences in grade 1 involved singing the National Anthem first thing in the morning.
My mother likes to recount a story of being called in to the school by the principle and being told that I had a very good voice and they were recommending that I be sent to a choir school, as they felt that I had a sense for music inside me. She and my father decided that I was a little bit too young to be travelling downtown on the subway every day for school, so they decided instead to get me involved in piano lessons.
What is your first significant musical memory?
The singing of the National Anthem was one of the very first things that I remember about my discoveries in music; however, there were a few other things that were to come that also stick out in my mind.
I was the youngest in my family. My 3 older brothers liked music a lot. They were between 11 and 16 years older than me. I remember for my eleventh birthday getting 2 vinyl records. One was Elton John’s Greatest Hits and the other was Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run. I was hooked. I also enjoyed sports as a kid and used to spend hours hitting a tennis ball against our garage door. My brother had a Volkswagen beetle with an 8-track player in it and I remember specifically listening to Jeff Beck’s “Wired” over and over again while smashing the tennis ball off of the garage door. I must have listened to that album 1000 times as a kid and still enjoy giving it a listen today.
How soon after that did you decide that’s what you wanted to do?
I have almost always had a sense of wanting to be a musician from a very, very young age. It has always seemed like the natural and obvious thing for me to do.
In fact, I have tried to make it “go away” on several occasions, but it just won’t seem to leave me alone.
What was your first group/band and what part did you play?
My first performance with a band was in grade 8 when I performed with 2 friends at our grade school. We played 3 songs together. I believe we opened with Elton John’s “Rocket Man” with myself playing piano with drum and guitar accompaniment. Then I switched over to bass guitar duties and we performed Edgar Winter’s “Free Ride” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” – I don’t recall whether any of us wanted to actually sing these songs, so we may have played them as instrumentals. I find it amusing that this still seems to be a trend for me in my own writing, as the vast majority of the music that I am involved with, somehow seems to bypass the urge to add vocal to the song.
The name of this band was “Jupiter” and my next door neighbor, who was 4 years older than us wanted to be our manager and went out and bought us matching bracelets that had “Jupiter” engraved on them. We used to joke, what could be stupider than calling a band Jupiter?
The drummer in that first group was my lifelong friend Sascha Tukatsch, whom I have had the privilege to write and record with on so many projects over the years, including our high school band, which started as Reign, which would later be released on CD under the name “The Harrison Fjord”
Do you prefer to perform in the studio or live? Why?
I love both. The studio offers the very unique experience of capturing your ideas and how you were feeling at that exact moment for the rest of time. That is very special indeed.
The live experience is also very special, because there is a nervous energy and adrenaline that is created from performing in front of people, with the pressure of wanting to perform perfectly and put on the best show possible for all of the people who have come out to see you play.
What inspires you to write your best music?
This is a difficult question to answer. Inspiration is taken from so many potential sources. Music is also very subjective, so who can really say what is “best?”
My own compositions are so varied in style from one to the next that I have a hard time trying to define what it is that grabs me or guides me in a certain direction. Usually, I am just a conduit that the music flows through. Most of the music that I write happens very quickly, indeed. People, places and events are most often secondary to the writing process. In peak writing times, I just sit down and compose and usually at the end of the day/night I have a finished piece of music, whether it is a short pop ditty or a full orchestral score.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended and what made it so special?
Concerts are a wonderful experience for me. I usually do not attend massive venues, as most of the musicians that I tend to be inspired to watch, are lesser known, virtuoso types of players.
While I have been to may rock shows in large venues, like Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Queen, Aerosmith and Rush in the late 1970’s, it is the acts that perform in the smaller venues that I truly cherish.
Performances by Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin & Paco DeLucia with Steve Morse as the opening act, The Pat Metheny Group, Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Return To Forever, Yes, Uzeb, King Crimson, Joe Satriani, Youssou N’Dour, Level 42, Adrian Belew, Marillion, Hugh Marsh, Manteca, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Alain Caron, David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Steve Vai, Victor Wooten, Dream Theater, King’s X, Michael Manring, Fishbone, UK, Zappa Plays Zappa, Tommy Emmanuel, and Porcupine Tree are stand outs in my mind over the years; but probably one of the greatest shows that I ever saw was Andreas Vollenweider and friends on Oct 16, 1989. My reasons for liking this show specifically over all of the others is musicality. The inspiration that I drew from all of these shows is incalculable, but this one Andreas Vollenweider show was indeed something very special.
If you had a “do-over,” what would you do differently?
While I do read and write music, perhaps I would have tried to go to a “music” school to acquire a piece of paper with my name on it, although, I guess it is never too late?
What’s coming up next?
I have been quite busy this year adding my musical voice to many different recording projects. I have recently finished playing bass for a guitarist, singer, songwriter, named John Jamieson. I am hopeful that this CD will be completed and ready for release by the fall.
Also, I have recently re-connected with a guitar player friend of mine that I worked with about 20 years ago. Her name is Irene MacKenzie and she is very talented indeed. Irene called me, asking if I would record with her and her son MacKenzie Coburn on a piece of music that she wrote for her Mother, who had passed away from pancreatic cancer 20 years ago, shortly before MacKenzie was born. I had always enjoyed working with Irene and given the music that she and her son were jamming on, I immediately agreed. We initially sent a bunch of ideas back and forth through the sky drive in a common email account over the internet and when we were ready, I drove out to their home studio to record my bass and keyboard parts on the CD.
We are currently in mixing and mastering for this debut CD and I am very anxious to get this one out. The CD will be released under the name “The Green Rain Project” and the disc will be entitled “ToRUTH” – Irene and I have talked a great length at working on many more CD’s together, as the music for this CD came together very quickly.
Another project that I have been recording and performing live with is “Lisa Smith’s Powerhaus” – I had been asked to join this band after they had released their debut CD “Maze Of Souls” and we have been working to put the finishing touches on the band’s second CD – “612” – I am hopeful that this disc will be completed and released later this year. I am confident that this disc will be well received by fans and critics alike, as I feel the writing is very strong within the rock genre.
I have also been recording and performing with The David Bacha Band. This has been quite a long term project for me and I am hopeful that 2013 will be the year that we finally get this one to the market. We shall keep our fingers crossed.
Lastly, I continue to write and record at my home studio, as this is just something that I have to do to maintain my sanity.
I have my entire musical catalog, (11 CD’s) which does not include the 5 CD’s that I was commissioned to do for a friend’s record company, that I am trying to get remastered and up for sale online. It would be a major achievement for me to get all of these up to CD Baby and iTunes this year, I remain vigilant in trying to complete this task.
What advice can you give to aspiring musicians?
Follow your dreams, work your butt off to be the very best you can be and don’t stop doing what you love for any reason.
Where can people listen to and purchase your music?
While some projects are currently available for purchase online (try Google to search out the band names) some are available through CD Baby or iTunes – (The Harrison Fjord – Machine Tree / Splub – Splub )
Most of my catalog is not currently available for purchase, although I am trying to rectify this problem.
Should you wish to check out a lot of my music and several of the bands that I have played with and currently am playing and recording with, I have over 100 videos, slideshows and music posted at my youtube channel, which can be found at:
Short-lived, yet talented–that’s what we’re all about here at Rave and Roll. Frozen Ghost, a Canadian 80s new wave band founded by Arnold Lanni (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Wolf Hassel (bass, vocals), is no exception, with one slight twist. Lanni and Hassel were also previously members of another short-lived and talented band called Sheriff. The 80s was a decade of band-hopping and “six degrees of separation,” and Frozen Ghost fits right in with that scenario.
To make matters more interesting, Frozen Ghost and Sheriff became rock chart competitors. Lanni, who owned the rights to Sheriff’s name, benefited from both bands’ royalties, so it turned out to be a successful business venture for him. Unfortunately, this somehow watered down the drive to make Frozen Ghost a musical force, and they ended up disbanding in 1993 after a long-awaited and mediocre album release.
Check out the band’s first two album releases: Frozen Ghost (1987) and Nice Place to Visit (1988) to experience the essence of what Lanni and Hassel had to offer before the musical waters were muddied. This is Canadian 80s at its finest, and another example of how regional music was criminally underrated and under-promoted here in the states.
Frozen Ghost ~ Round and Round ~ via YouTube user frozenghostsongs:
Frozen Ghost ~ Should I See ~ via YouTube user kurdtss:
Frozen Ghost ~ End of the Line ~ via YouTube user frozenghostsongs: