Raine Maida (of Our Lady Peace) Interview

Growing up in Canada, there now remains a short-list of bands that released music during my time there which will forever be burned into my mind. Groups like the Tragically Hip and the Headstones come to mind; but somewhere near the top of that list is Our Lady Peace. Now releasing its seventh studio album, Burn Burn, the band finds itself with a freedom that it hasn’t had in well over a decade: the freedom to take their time with a recording, record and produce it by themselves, and ultimately release it under their terms. In addition to speaking on each of these subjects, Raine Maida, lead singer and co-founder of the group, also took some time recently to elaborate on the band’s forthcoming touring plans, his thoughts on leaving Sony, and his reasoning behind not pursuing a career in mixed martial arts.

I had heard that Burn Burn is based off a quote from a book you read, could you tell me about that?

Raine Maida: It’s one of my favorite Jack Kerouac quotes. It’s really about kind of doing things against the grain. It’s tough for me to say what Kerouac was thinking, but it’s about freedom. It’s about having your own timetable, your own thought process. Being a little bit mad, you know, in that sense. And kind of going against the status quo. It’s not like this record is going against the status quo—it’s a rock and roll record—but for us there was a lot of freedom associated with this record because it’s the first time that we own it. We produced it ourselves. We didn’t really have a label when we started the record. We wanted to do something beyond all the constraints and confines that we’ve been put under being in the music business for the last 10, 11 years being with Sony.

When you’re talking about freedom, did that kind of transfer over from all the time you spent just working on your own album?

Raine Maida: Well, I think making my solo record was a great experiment in the sense of how it was made. I wasn’t going to make a solo record unless I could own it so my manager was able to get me the rights back to my solo material. There is something that burns, a synapse that happens in your brain when you have ownership. And it’s not really a tangible thing, or something you can put your finger on, but it’s very real. And it really changed the way I made that record and it really kind of altered the way we did the Our Lady Peace record. It just kind of transferred that energy. We did it in my house in my studio without any real kind of outside influence. By not having the producer it was really just a form of trusting our own instincts. And that was a really important step for us.

When you’re taking control of the album do you have control of the first single you’re putting out?

Raine Maida: We have control of everything. We ended up signing a deal with ILG which is a Warner independent label. But it’s more of partnership: we own the masters, and we make the decisions together and at the end of the day the decision’s ours. It’s a much better place for us to be. And not that I have anything bad to say against Sony, because it’s easy to knock the major labels over the last bunch of years. Except for our last record, they’ve been a really, really great choice. And I’m not a bitter guy, so I don’t really feel something negative toward Sony. It’s just times have changed and the band is at a place where we can do everything on our own, so we love it.

That’s great. That’s got to be a fantastic relief. How long were you working on the record, about two years?

Raine Maida: Years, but it was done in very small spurts. I don’t know if people know that. Like five or six 10 day sessions; it probably took about six weeks total to record but we spread it out. Not having a producer, I think it’s important to get perspective, so when we’d record a few songs, then you get away from them. And then come two months later: fresh. That way we knew what was good and what wasn’t.

Speaking of what was good and what wasn’t, did you just record the 10 songs on the album or are there a bunch of others that are just kicking around from the sessions?

Raine Maida: There’s probably five of them, we probably ended up recording 15 songs total. We worked on some other ideas, you know, the way the record was recorded everything was done live off the floor. So we’d basically write and record songs in a day, or a day in a half. So pretty much, if we weren’t feeling it and it wasn’t there in half an hour… There’s some sketches of songs, maybe another five sketches of songs, but we only finished 14 or 15.

Do you think you’ll end up releasing those at any point in time?

Raine Maida: Well, there are a couple that are for iTunes, like a deluxe package, there are two songs. “Timebomb” and another song called “The Right Stuff” that are not going to be on the record, but they’re going to be bonus tracks that people can grab off iTunes if they want.

Very cool. Before when you were talking about the change between labels, and the time you spent in between that, how much has that changed the way you approach your songs. Because a lot of the change I see it is not just in how you’re writing your songs, but how you sound, how your voice sounds…

Raine Maida: I don’t know if it’s… It’s a very organic process, so depending on what the song is for me that really kind of dictates how I sing it. This is definitely much more—the energy is a very live energy. So it feels a little more stripped down and rock to me, so it’s probably closer to our first record. Probably something that’s close to Naveed in terms of energy. Songs like “Monkey Brains” and “All You Did,” those are very up-tempo rock songs; for us anyway. So there’s definitely that passion, and I won’t say aggression, but it’s back to that.

That’s one of my favorites, “Monkey Brains.” Got a quick question for you that has nothing to do with the album, really—just something off the wall. I was watching an interview the other day of you in the Much Music studio and you mentioned that you had grown up doing some jiu-jitsu.

Raine Maida: Yeah.

Are you a fan of MMA?

Raine Maida: I am. Yeah, it’s kind of like a guilty pleasure of mine. It gets really kind of gory and violent sometimes but… I think the great fighters—I grew up doing kempo karate for many years when I was younger and I switched to jiu-jitsu with a guy who was teaching in Toronto. You see guys like Anderson Silva and George St-Pierre, the really great athletes and the guys that are really well rounded. I think they’re all amazing technicians and it’s more like a chess game with those guys. It’s something closer to what Bruce Lee maybe would have ended up doing by amalgamating all those styles.

Probably so.

Raine Maida: Yeah, I do enjoy it.

Do you still practice?

Raine Maida: I don’t as much any more, I just don’t have time. A friend of mine who is another writer, he was studying Gracie’s… Gracie has a studio like five minutes from my house here. I really wanted to get into it because he was one of my former idols. But a friend of mine who is another writer and singer studied with him, actually got pretty high up but he literally herniated two discs in his neck. And that’s just by nature of the sport, if you’re doing it three days a week, sparring and grappling and stuff, something’s going to happen. You know, all these guys get injured at some point. So my friend, the pressure when he goes to sing is just too much for his neck, so I just unfortunately can’t risk that.

Yeah… probably best to stay away from. Back to the record, are you guys planning on doing a nationwide tour or all throughout North America with this?

Raine Maida: July is pretty much Canada: festivals and stuff that we’re doing. Then August is down in the US. Probably September we’ll be going to Europe for a couple weeks and then right after that we’ll start planning more extensive tours throughout North America. I think we’ll hit probably 15-20 cities in the US in August, so that’ll be great.

Again, with the freedom on the record, do you have the freedom to take with you on the tour who you want?

Raine Maida: Oh yeah, we have 100 % control. We have a show in New York, Irving Plaza on the day on the release in July and a friend of mine from Long Island just called me today, and he just started a new band—so I just put him on the bill.

Very cool.

Raine Maida: Yeah, it’s definitely a different vibe right now. We’re in that place where we can kind of do whatever we want and we’re really grateful.

With your friends, did you bring any friends into the studio with you when you were recording the album?

Raine Maida: We didn’t. You know, we kind of really kept it to ourselves. It was something, like I said at the beginning, just having the four of us and not having any outside influence and trusting our own instincts is something really that we hadn’t done since we were making demos before we got signed. I really wanted to take care of that and not let anyone infiltrate it. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just for this record that’s what we felt we needed to do. But maybe the next record we’ll actually hire a producer. So who knows.

Despite that you said you just did little recording spurts, almost. How did you stay energetic enough to stay with it over the couple years there.

Raine Maida: I think it’s just a product of everyone was very excited about the music. Like every time we’d come together at least two out of the three songs, everyone really, really was jazzed about. That stuff’s infectious. The fact that you stay away from it for two months, come back in together, and you listen to for the first time again and it’s just… like “Monkey Brains,” I remember we hadn’t listened to it for three months. I put it up in the studio the night the guys got back into town and we all freaked out like wow, this is like one of the best things we’ve written in years. And that energy is what fuels it, and the fact that it’s made live and it’s made to play live. We recorded it live, and we knew that when it sounds this good in the studio, just the four of us playing this stuff, it’s going to translate to the road in a very powerful way. So I think everyone, it was all like let’s get this record finished ’cause I want to get out there and play it.

Patterson Hood Interview

As one of three vocalists for the Drive-By Truckers, Patterson Hood shares the role of leading one of the most well-rounded Southern rock bands on the planet. In branching out with the release of his first studio recording, Hood is now reflecting on the past decade and a half of thoughts, songs, memories and stories that he’s written and recorded with Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs). The album is a collection of tracks that date back as far as the early ’90s, and has been a work in progress for just as long. Here, Hood discusses his continual need to record, the importance of working with his father on Murdering Oscar, and the likelihood that it will take another 15 years for his next solo album to see daylight.

This is a busy time for you, with the Drive-By Truckers releasing The Fine Print and the Austin City Limits CD/DVD in addition to Murdering Oscar. How important is it to always be working on something?

Patterson Hood: I’m far too obsessive to really have much time off, I’d drive myself and everyone around me crazy. I don’t have any hobbies and don’t really vacation all that well. That said, this year has become a little ridiculous, since this was supposed to be an off year. Some of that was just a convergence of circumstance and crazy timing. Projects that have been on a back burner for a long time all coming to fruition at same time, etc. They’re all things I’m excited and happy about but I didn’t really intend on them all happening at once. In addition to those three things, Booker T.’s album came out in April (we were his backing band on it along with Neil Young) and we’re actually mixing the next “new” DBT album for a late ‘09 or early 2010 release too.

How excited are you to finally release your solo album after sitting on the songs for so long?

Patterson Hood: Very extremely, as they say.

You’ve noted the contrast between the older songs on the album and the newer ones, calling it a bit of a point/counterpoint. I think there’s something similar to that in the darkness that is expressed through some of the tracks. Does that side of the recording come from your time in Athens in the mid-’90s?

PH: Yeah. That was a turbulent but exciting period. I had just moved to Athens, GA and was really loving and embracing the music scene here. I had just come out of a really rough time in my life, but things were really looking up. My writing reflected all of that.

Are there any songs you revisited that you could still strongly identify with?

Patterson Hood: Certainly. Pretty much the ones that made the album, which was actually a fraction of the songs I wrote at that time. I was unbelievably prolific in those days, as I didn’t have anything like a career, much less a family. So other than working my crappy day job and drinking, my whole life revolved around playing guitar and writing songs. I wrote every day. I would go to work, get off, write, play and drink until the bars opened then go see a band. It was pretty idyllic for a while but one can’t spend their whole life that way.

Who joined you in recording the album?

Patterson Hood: David Barbe co-produced, played bass and pretty much partnered with me on it. Brad Morgan (DBT’s drummer) is on all of it. John Neff is on most of it. He wasn’t in DBT at that time, but his work on the album definitely directly led to his rejoining the band. Will Johnson and Scott Danbom from my favorite band, Denton, TX’s Centro-matic play and sing on most of it. Shonna and Cooley from DBT are on part of it and my dad, David Hood, plays bass on three songs. He’s a session player and has played on some amazing albums by everyone from Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to Traffic, Paul Simon and Bob Seger. Even a Willie Nelson album, but we’ve never played together on a recording before except for a quick Xmas song for a benefit album once upon a time. It was a thrill to get to record with him. I hope we get to do that again at some point.

Family is an important part of this album; it partially being crafted around the birth of your daughter in addition to giving you a chance to record with your dad. How vital was it to you to keep your close friends and family tied into the record?

Patterson Hood: That was a big part of the point on this album, but honestly at this point in my life it’s really all I want to do. DBT members are pretty much family to me. I don’t really have the patience to do it any other way anymore. Life’s too short to deal with a bunch of ass-holery.

Who did the artwork for the CD?

Patterson Hood: Wes Freed, who does the DBT albums did the front and back cover. The rest was photos, old and new. My sister, Lilla Hood, did the layout and put it all together. She’s a graphic artist and has done the last five DBT albums and we always have fun working on those projects together.

The band joining you on tour is the Screwtopians—who makes up the group?

Patterson Hood: Brad Morgan and John Neff from DBT, Will Johnson and Scott Danbom from Centro-matic and David Barbe on bass. He used to be in Sugar with Bob Mould and hasn’t toured since they broke up in late '94. That’s going to be a blast. It’s a fantastic band.

For better or worse, Murdering Oscar has taken about 15 years to take from conception to commercial release. Are you already thinking ahead to another solo record, or are you worried that it might lead to another 15 year endeavor?

Patterson Hood: I have no plans whatsoever to do another one any time soon. I very well might do some side-project, especially if it involves my dad, but it won’t be a solo album per se as much as some kind of side group thing. DBT at this point is so completely fun to work with that I don’t really have any motivation to work without them unless it’s something I do with my dad. I’m really good friends with Luther and Cody Dickinson and their dad, Jim Dickinson who is really one of my heroes. We have talked about doing a project together with my dad on bass. The five of us would make for a bad-ass band and we want to all do something at some point. Unfortunately (or actually fortunately) Luther is as busy as me, but that’s something I’d love to see happen at some not too distant point. Definitely in way less that 15 years.

Mayhem at Station 4 (St. Paul, MN)

Though Blackened Fest had already been off to a rocky start, a delay in the visa process prevented Marduk from joining the tour and the entire Boise date had been canceled, a most unfortunate notice greeted fans as they arrived at St. Paul’s Station 4. An initial glimpse at the notice suggested that three local bands had been added to the already stellar bill, but in taking a second glance the notice announced that all of the bands except Mayhem had left the tour (AND that three local bands had been added to the bill). Never before have I seen so many droopy eyed black metal fans at the same place at the same time.

The original lineup for Blackened Fest was to include Mayhem, Marduk, Cephalic Carnage, Cattle Decapitation and Withered. Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances* however, we were left with Mayhem, Anal Blast, Grand Demise of Civilization, and Deterioration. But in spite of all the confusion and frustration before the show, each band played to their fullest abilities regardless of the short notice, and the night concluded with a performance by Mayhem which conquered all.

Deterioration opened the show to a scattered turnout which roamed about the front of the stage—not helping the situation was it being an all ages event, so the majority of attendees were stuck on the other side of the partitioned venue away from the alcohol-free zone. The band ripped through its short opening set regardless, wasting no time in making friends in the crowd with its twisted wry humor in between songs. “This song is called AIDS,” growled vocalist Matt Preston. The band immediately geared up and dove into the most intense one second song I’d heard up until that point in time. Later, after playing “Take Her Breath Away with a Plastic Bag” and an ode to the deceased son of former professional wrestler Chris Benoit (“Crippler Crossface to Death”), Preston again took center stage. “This is AIDS 2.0, the New Strain” he said as the band nailed another one-second eruption.

All throughout Deterioration’s set guitarist Jim Kahmann and his brother, drummer Joe Kahmann, put on a dazzling display that wasn’t repeated during the rest of the night. Joe ravaged his massive kit, wailing away at his drums at an incredible speed as Jim continually delivered blistering, mesmerizing arpeggios. After performing “Plants That Kill People” the set began to wind down and Preston again approached the crowd with one last tightly wound explosion: “AIDS 3: Airborn.” Not to be outdone by the band’s crass approach to its songs’ themes, Deterioration’s music offered up a fitting introduction to the night as its explosiveness clearly livened up the crowd’s dampened spirits.

Following Deterioration, Grand Demise of Civilization took the stage—each member ominously perched in position as vocalist North Tomb IX throatily howled into the microphone, screeching orders that kicked off the set. The four-piece continuously hammered away at its songs, but unlike the previous band which adopted elements of grind into its sound, Grand Demise stayed consistently within the boundaries of black metal.

Continually snarling and posing for the crowd, guitarist Svart Onde later jumped in to blast out vocals on “The Cleansing Void.” All throughout the set the band rarely hesitated to take a break between songs, leaving the aural impact overwhelming as its booming sound roared almost continuously throughout its set.

The last band to take the stage prior to Mayhem was Anal Blast. While the band didn’t stand out musically amongst the night’s acts, in many ways the band’s frontman, Don “Lord Stomache” Decker, did. Formed in the mid-’90s, Anal Blast has seen extensive turnover amongst its members, a roster which includes the likes of the brilliant Joey Jordison (Slipknot, Ministry, et al.), and its performance leaned entirely too hard on dry scatological humor (Jordison’s Wikipedia page actually notes that the band was started as a joke, yet here we are some 15 years later…).

With songs like “Sacramenstral” and “Diuretic Orgasm,” Decker continually made stabs at both the crowd’s sense of humor as well as its sense of shock. And to a portion of the fans he was well received: various crowd members egging him on, laughing and beating him to his own jokes. But ultimately the shtick was empty—I guess there is a limit to the number of jokes about period blood one can find funny. Comparatively the difference between the humor of Anal Blast and Deterioration isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things; either you were in on the joke or you weren’t. But somehow, on this night, making light of a tragic murder-suicide came off as a little more engaging than a dude with a gunt belching out junior high shock rock.

And then it was time for Mayhem.

One of the disadvantages the three opening acts were faced with (aside from having to take the place of the entire undercard of a touring festival) was that they didn’t share the same historical impact as the headliners: no matter what, the iconic imagery and infamous legend that surround Mayhem give the band an unrivaled mystique. And while this is far from the same band that was well documented in Michael Moynihan’s Lords of Chaos—bassist Necrobutcher being the sole remaining member of the original lineup—it is the same band that has helped carry the black metal torch well into the new Millennium.

Iconography has always been present in the band’s live show; so much so that like much of black metal’s elite, it has adopted a sense of theater due to the intense landscape that Mayhem performs in. Prior to the band taking the stage, the setting was prepped with massive banners casting shadows over mock-shrunken heads and flesh which was canvased across the drum riser and spears which were scattered across the stage. The theatrical element of the performance failed to falter as the band opened over an hour’s worth of thrilling music with “Pagan Fears.”

As the band continued with “From the Dark Past” and “A Time to Die,” vocalist Attila Csihar (who also performs vocals on the majority of Sunn O)))’s recently adorned release, Monoliths & Dimensions) balanced between the barrier at the front of the stage and one of the many awkward poles that are abundant at the club while he dangled a double-sided noose over the crowd, acting as a maestro in directing the unruly pit’s aggression.

As the band broke for a brief introduction of its members, to which Necrobutcher and drummer Hellhammer received the greatest ovation, the crowd became increasingly intent in demanding a song which various fans had been shouting out all throughout the set. Responding by ripping into “Carnage,” the small pit went ballistic in an effort to join the band in its intensity; the song was easily the strongest moment of the overwhelming performance. Closing with the devastating “Pure Fucking Armageddon,” the crowd was quick to praise the band as it returned the salutation while leaving the stage. What was originally a night that began with fans in shock due to the circumstances that left the tour in chaos ended with a crowd that seemed just as shocked by the exhilarating performance that it had just witnessed.

* A series of unfortunate circumstances: Near the end of May Marduk announced that Mortuus, the band’s lead singer, had not received his visa (which was approved by the government’s Homeland Security Office). On June 6, mere days later, it was announced that the Boise, Idaho show had been canceled altogether by the show’s promoters. But apparently the drama had yet to even begin.

A report from Metal Injection’s Justina Villanueva was released yesterday which attempted to explain the circumstances that lead up to the festival falling apart,

“When a band drops a tour, it instantly voids the contract made between the booker and the promoter for each venue. In other words, what ever money that each band was originally supposed to get at the end of each show was changed when Marduk didn’t show up. Because Mayhem was the headliner, they believed that they deserved their full guaranteed money still. They didn’t realize that Cartel had to renegotiate contracts with the promoter every night. With an extra bus to pay for and Mayhem still requesting the majority of the earned cash to match their original guarantee, the tour manager was left with no money to work with. The drivers didn’t get paid and they weren’t driving until they did. The support bands weren’t making much money some nights, but were willing to hold out a couple days for cash. Unlike Mayhem, who wanted their full cash up front, every night… 
It painted the final picture of the kind of people Mayhem are. Yes, being in a band means you are running a business. But even in business there are ethics and responsibility. Neglecting to pay your way from show to show and abandoning your tourmates is not good business. And its not the kind of metal I support.”

Villanueva is a long-standing, well-respected member of the metal community and had been traveling with the tour since it started and I am not attempting to undermine her recollection of the events, but this is a representation of one side of the story. A story which we may never hear everyone’s side on. And to some degree it would appear, as an outsider looking in, that there is possibly some confusion between ethics with compassion; in such a situation where a band is being asked to take a financial hit instead of, or in addition to, their tourmates, that band’s ethics only come into question if Villaneuva’s suggestions are true in that Mayhem prevented the other bands from receiving their guarantees while demanding theirs.

Prior to the show the written announcement at the entry to the club empathized with fans, noting that management was “as pissed off as you are.” Refunds were being offered on pre-sale tickets and the door price for the event was lowered substantially. The team working the ticket table at the entry of the club was clearly upset prior to the show as they attempted to explain the situation to fans as they entered. And while Villaneuva’s detailing of the event comes from first hand experience, the band’s introduction to the show (as seen above) points to the tour’s agent as the main source of the collapse of the tour. As an outsider to the community, and to the tour, I have no idea what really happened, but I am very thankful that I had a chance to see the show and I am appreciative of Mayhem for taking the stage with such a high level of professionalism as which they displayed all throughout their performance.

[Update: Ryan Buege @ Mind Inversion has published some additional commentary on the event as well as some great photos and video clips.]