Published May 14, 2010Chad VanGaalen is the closest thing Canada has to a musical mad scientist. Working out of his basement with an array of analog equipment and mangled electronics, his surreal pop rock songs have previously resulted in three celebrated albums (two of which have been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize), as well as an LP of instrumental experiments released under the moniker Black Mold.
Speaking with Exclaim! on the phone from his home in Calgary, the prolific songwriter reveals that he has completed not one but three new albums, as well as two more for his Black Mold project.
"There's an electro record, there's a rock record and then there's a pretty much straight-up folk record," VanGaalen explains. "I'm not sure if they're going to come out as the individual albums or if I'm just going to throw them together onto one record and then put the rest of the stuff out as bonus material later. I'm just trying to figure out if each one of those records is strong enough on its own."
If VanGaalen does decide to combine the three albums into one single release, he says that it will be his most eclectic album yet. The folk collection was recorded using "a bunch of mixed traditional folk instruments, like autoharps and balalaikas," he says. And as for the rock and electronic material, VanGaalen muses, "The rock songs are a little bit more rockin'... I don't know if there's as much spacey weirdness. I think that there was a lot of circuit-bent stuff on the last record, and I don't know, maybe I OD-ed on it there for a while... The electro stuff on it is a little bit more minimal and purely electro. It seems like a lot of the genres have crystalized into exactly what they're supposed to be."
None of the albums have titles yet and VanGaalen is unsure of when he will release his new material, although he speculates that it will either be in the fall or in the early months of 2011. Like his previous albums, the release - or releases - will come out via Flemish Eye in Canada and Sub Pop in the U.S..
As for the Black Mold albums, he says, "I've been focusing on just drones lately. There could be a house record as well. I was imagining putting out that as a free download and the drones as the actual record."
Along with his own work, VanGaalen has also found the time to produce the new record by his Flemish Eye label-mates Women. Although the recording process, which Women's Chris Reimer recently talked about with Exclaim!, included many false starts and failed experiments, VanGaalen enthuses, "I think we got a crazy, crazy record out of it," adding that the styles found on the finished product range "from rock'n'roll to just disgusting noise."
VanGaalen has also been creating new animations, and is hoping to release a series of short films based around his friends' dream testimonials within the next year. He has even taken to building sculptures in his backyard, although he has no plans to release these to the public. "The kid Adam next door has been climbing the tree and giving me tips. He's my only real viewer," VanGaalen jokes.
As if this weren't enough to keep him busy, VanGaalen and his wife recently welcomed a new baby, Charlotte Sophia Bagg VanGaalen. This means that the songwriter's touring schedule will be restricted in the coming months, and he has currently only booked three dates: Fort Macleod, AB's South Country Fair (July 16), Sackville, NB's SappyFest (July 30-August 1) and a show with Avi Buffalo in NYC on July 30.
Nevertheless, let's just hope that we hear some of the new material soon. After all, as VanGaalen himself admits, "There's going to be a whole new pile of songs by [next year], so I don't want to have all these songs stagnating in the meantime."