The night of February 15th unleashed the grand opening of the Carparelli Sound Lounge on Chatham Street, complete with catered food, good drinks, good people and an intimate acoustic night featuring Windsor’s Mic Lordz and the Sauce Funky who opened for legendary Canadian rock outfit – I Mother Earth. Though the headlining act featured half of the band – singer Brian Byrne and guitarist Jagori Tanna – their set comprised many of their well-known singles (such as Summertime in the Void, Levitate, Another Sunday), and renditions of their more experimental tracks (Passenger, God Rocket). Luckily, I was able to catch Jag Tanna for a conversation after their first-ever acoustic set.
John: So, this was the band’s first acoustic night? Even as a duo, I find that hard to believe.
Jag: Brian’s been out playing acoustic for a while now and he’s been egging me to come out and do it, and I would never do it. I never play acoustic. So, I said ‘Okay, let’s give it a go’.
JH: Are we going to be seeing more of these performances?
JT: Oh definitely, we have some things coming up with the full band, stripped down, acoustic – bizarre presentations of the music.
JH: It seems like the perfect way to get back into the swing of the band.
JT: Well, we’re full tilt now. We’ve been on tour and playing shows for a full year now. As musicians, as a unit, we’re playing better now than we have in our entire lives.
JH: With the reunion, there has to be some solace in knowing everyone in the group can easily get back on the same page musically.
JT: When we took this hiatus for eight years, everyone grew in their own way as opposed as together. We’ve been a band since 1989 and all of your growth happens together and that’s not always good. Sometimes you need to get out and find a new influence or new inspirations – whatever you want to call it. I just wanted to sit on the sofa.
When we got back together I found one guy would be playing better, then I noticed my own playing improved. For better or worse, at least it was different. Then when we all get back in that room, we find we are playing really tight. It’s been great.
JH: Looking back on the 1990’s, Canada had a great alternative rock scene. Yourselves, along with Our Lady Peace, Sloan, Most, The Tea Party were pivotal to the identity of modern Canadian rock. How have you seen it change since that time?
JT: When you see how many combined records we were selling with bands like Moist, Sloan, OLP, that shows there’s a healthy scene – a great rock scene! But now, my concern about the music industry is that – MuchMusic doesn’t exist anymore, it’s a write-off. With any musician and any label, it’s not in the conversation anymore, and that’s really sad because they were the only ones who held the license to play your band’s video. So there’s something really wrong with that. And what it does is, is that it removes the middle class of bands. Either you have the bands who make absolutely nothing and work day jobs or you have the guys that sell eight billion records. With those guys in the middle – it’s where all the excitement happens, that’s where the scene comes out and becomes healthy. But now, it’s been gutted and there are no avenues except giving it away for free on YouTube.
JH: Having a change-up in a band’s lineup is never easy. What was it like after Brian joined the group?
JT: Well, his first show with us was in front of 35, 000 people at the Somersault festival. And we had to convince all those people that this young guy was going to be the voice of the band. Right before we went on, we looked at him and asked ‘are you ready?’. He nervously said ‘Yeah, I guess’. But sure enough, he put it all out and was climbing the rafters during the set. The band became a totally different animal after that.
JH: Well every band has its own way of introducing a new member into the unit. You obviously know King Crimson?
JT: I love King Crimson!
JH: Well, when Bill Bruford joined the band –
JT: — that’s my favourite time of the band!
JH: (laughs) Instead of a set list, Robert Fripp gave Bruford a list of books to read.
JT: I guess that’s better than saying “eat this and go on stage”, right?
JH: You actually have mutual acquaintance with Robert Fripp. Both of you have worked with producer David Bottrill.
JT: Yeah, David did some mixing on Blue Green Orange then we roped him into producing Quicksilver Meat Dreams.
JH: Every producer leaves their mark on an album, sound-wise. Listening to Meat Dreams, there are parts there that are reminiscent of Tool’s Lateralus. What was his process like?
JT: When it comes to recording, David has a great understanding of many layers. When I’m in the studio, I’m thinking of a million parts, and I need someone there who isn’t afraid to take on those million parts one at a time. David understood and wanted to sort it out. Some days I would send him home and have him return the next day with a new perspective. I’m horrible to work with – back then anyways. I’m better now, but back then I had tunnel vision and my focus was different and they put up with me a lot.”
JH: Meat Dreams really set itself apart from the previous albums. It’s very futuristic and sounds like it belongs in a spaceship. Also, people pick up a concept album vibe from it.
JT: We don’t come out and say ‘we have a concept’. We’ve always hated that. But lyrically and sonically there is a concept from beginning to end on that record that nobody has ever picked up on.
JH: Your brother (Christian, drummer) writes the lyrics. What are your thoughts on it?
JT: I remember telling him to dig deeper and enter a new cloud of thought at the time. The key was in (the final track) Passenger. ‘When I woke…’ – so he is waking from a dream, rooting from the first track 0157:H7 (named after an advanced for of e.Coli known to cause comatose states). Otherwise, it’s all up to interpretations. But Christian tells us it’s about a series of dreams he had about various meats.
JH: Do you see the new material to be similar to Meat Dreams or reverting back to Scenery & Fish?
JT: I want to do another Meat Dreams. I’m working on a song that’s 26 minutes long. I have stuff so weird and in bizarre time signatures that I don’t think that people are ready for yet. The die-hards are but I want to give it to them in a bigger way. The next step is to write another song. I refuse to put us back into that cycle again of forcing the songs out – it’s not healthy. So, would I like another song right this second? Sure. But, it will happen when it happens.
By: John Hurst