Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning The Exclaim! Questionnaire
What are you up to?
I’ve got a bunch of recordings with my friend Bernard who used to be in Change of Heart, my friend Damion [Richardson], and Ian Blurton is helping with that. We did this thing called Cookie Duster a long time ago and we kind of sort of released some music (2001’s self-titled on album Maple Music) but it’s a bunch of music we’re working on. And we’re hopefully trying to make a Broken Social Scene record this fall. I’d love to be able to hear that.

What are your current fixations?
Our new little chihuahua, Santana. Trying to fix the front garden. I got an Ahmad Jamal record; a 1970s one he did on Impulse! Records. We went on a little road trip and I bought that record and one of the Soul Jazz reggae comps Studio One Rub A Dub and I never really buy CDs, I buy vinyl, but because we rented a car, I kinda needed to be able to pop it in. It was fun to go CD shopping though. Fitzcarraldo, the Werner Herzog movie, and the documentary, the making of Fitzcarraldo (Burden of Dreams), that’s a current as of the last few weeks sort of fixation. It’s a crazy mid-‘70s film with Klaus Kinski. When we were at All Tomorrow’s Parties, they had a TV channel, so if you got tired of seeing bands you could flick on the TV channel. I watched Night on Earth — it’s got its moments, mainly the Roberto Benini moment, classic, sort of. [ATP] had the making of Fitzcarraldo on, so I saw the documentary first and thought, "Oh my god I’ve got to see this movie” and it did not disappoint.

Why do you live where you do?
When I moved out of my parents house, I had been couch surfing on and off at this house since 1992 — from ’92 to ’95 — and my then-roommates Richard Switzer, who used to run a label called Sound King Records and Chris Tully. The room came available, and I never really envisioned myself going to house hunt, and then in 2005 when I’d finally saved up enough sheckles, I made an offer to the landlord, so that’s basically why I live where I live. It’s a nice house, it’s a heritage home built in 1881 and it’s featured prominently in the album artwork for Something For All of Us.

What’s something you consider a mind-altering work of art?
John Coltrane’s "My Favorite Things,” one of the 20-minute versions. There was a particular night on opium when it was particularly mind-altering.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
There have been a few. Maybe for just sheer epic-ness, Lollapalooza 2006, because it felt like we reached the peak with what we had been doing with that current band, with Feist and Emily [Haines] and Amy and Evan and Jimmy and everyone. It was sort of a real coming together that day and we just had so much support from the crowd. It was a real epic one with the whole "Chili Peppers suck” chanting and all that, it was a real ego boost I’d say that for those reasons. It felt like a real sort of, you start a band and have dreams of playing the big stages and that was a real culmination of the years of work I guess.

What have been your career highs and lows?
Career highs, being able to release a record like Feel Good Lost and see it be used in a movie like Half Nelson. When we were doing that, we were just sort of starting out. I think for me and for Kevin too, it was very special, we realized right off the bat that we had something. Maybe I thought I had to convince him a little more. There were a couple tracks where we were joking like "yeah this is going to be where the guy is all cracked out” and sure enough, years later, it’s like "here’s where the guy’s all cracked out.” It’s such an innocent little recording and to be able to get it out to that sort of mass.

A career low, I’d say a three-night stand at I think it was Sandy’s Grape Escape in Saskatoon during the hHead days, I think that might have been the tour of ’93, yeah that was not a good one. I’ve had some okay shows in Saskatoon and it’s not a particular slight, but I think those three days were definitely "okay, this is not what I signed on for.”

What’s the meanest thing ever said to you before during or after a gig?
Maybe back in the hHead days, "you guys aren’t as good as the Doughboys”.

What should everyone shut up about?
So many things, to pick just one… Well, the price of real estate in this city, the salaries of athletes, how hot it is out.

What traits do you most like and dislike about yourself?
I like that I’m usually open to most suggestions. You can seek the hidden meaning. I dislike the inability to make snap decisions at certain crucial times.

What advice should you have taken but did not?
Learn a trade. I’m fucking useless when it comes to most handyman things. But I can cook. I signed up for home ec instead of shop class.

What would make you kick someone out of your band or bed and have you?
When it just doesn’t feel right. Have you? Yes.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of a whole lot of other places than Toronto I’d like to live. It’s a big country; there are so many beautiful little spots. It’s a good place to operate in my line of work, here in Toronto.

What’s the first CD, LP or eight-track you ever bought with your own money?
Triumph’s Rock and Roll Machine and Genesis’s Duke on the same day.

What was your most memorable day job?
I worked at Scotia Bank at King and Bay on the 18th floor in the file room. I was a mail guy, not like a basement mail guy but like an executive floor mail guy so it’s a slightly different tier. Good naps, I was able to squeeze in three a day. Can’t expect me to wake up at quarter to 7 without taking a couple naps.

How do you spoil yourself?
Chocolate croissants, watching soccer.

If you weren’t playing music what would you be doing?
Spending more time in the kitchen, the garden and probably, hopefully an aspiring soccer commentator.

What do you fear most?
Uncertainty.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Do I get in trouble if I don’t say my girlfriend? That new Nigeria records compilation, volume two.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Nothing too strange, meeting Conan O’Brien. But stranger though, if I can be the celebrity, I guess playing a show in Florida, and having someone give me their phone number and playing a show in Philadelphia five days later and seeing her in the front row. That sort of freaked me out a little bit. And then there was a note waiting for me at the bus. That did freak me out a bit.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest living or dead and what would you serve them?
James Joyce, being Irish, and I’d serve him up a proper Irish stew, probably better than any he had while he was living.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
I think she’s quite happy with what I’m doing. She really likes the new record too. She’s A-Ok with the whole music thing. Traveling a little less maybe, getting a little more rest.

What song would you like to have played at your funeral? What’s the opening cut to the latest Wilco record, Sky Blue Sky? That one.

Life is busy for Brendan Canning, one half of the founding creative force of the Toronto, and increasingly global, musical institution that is Broken Social Scene, but he takes it with the good natured nonchalance of a man who’s found some contentment in life. Canning has logged nearly 20 years in the trenches of the Canadian music scene, working through most of the ‘90s as a member of hHead before joining By Divine Right for 1997’s All Hail Dischordia. In 2001, he struck up a fruitful creative partnership with Kevin Drew and they recorded Feel Good Lost with the help of a collection of friends, and the results are still shaping musical history. Often seen as a background genius, Canning has finally been given the spotlight for the second BSS Presents release, Something For All Of Us.

Any questions about his degree of influence on BSS’s signature sound are quite easily answered. His melodic bass pulse is still driving, modest and tasteful and generous helpings of psychedelic idiosyncrasies in the production aid that epic feeling BSS thrives on. More than anything though, Something brings sharp focus to Canning’s beautiful approach to sophisticated pop songwriting. In lieu of a stack of big name guests, Canning plays it closer to the heart with a handful of BSS familiars and a few friends. This smaller ensemble will be in tow for an extensive list of summer festivals and shows from New York to Chicago to Whistler to Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. And what are Canning’s primary concerns before he goes off jet setting around the globe as an international rock star? "I’m just trying to make soccer games for my team, team Pangea, and have the band learn songs from my new record.”