Published May 11, 2011As previously reported, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mount Zion ringleader Efrim Manuel Menuck is following 13 albums of heavy collaboration with his first solo effort. Dubbed Plays "High Gospel," the album is due out later this month via Constellation Records, and as Menuck explains, it's an attempt to get back to humble beginnings and continue his labour of music amidst Godspeed's expansive reunion tour.
"Years ago, I used to make music by myself all the time on four-tracks or ghetto blasters. At some point I realized it had been years since I'd done that, so I got it in my head that I would," Menuck recalls in a recent Exclaim! interview. "With Godspeed starting up again and Mount Zion touring, there was a little hole between those two things and I realized there would be a long time before I'd have a chance to do it again. So I grabbed the chance, went into the studio whenever there was free time and started knitting this thing together."
But after working with large groups of accomplished collaborators for so long, working alone was an entirely different experience, Menuck explains. "There are good musicians in Mount Zion. I'll come in there with just a scrap and then as a group we'll hammer out a song together," he admits. "Because it was just me for this record, there really wasn't anyone to lean on so I was going in with the same pocket of chords and the same snippet of a melody. I just kinda had to fumble blindly in the darkness until I figured out the answers on my own."
Strangely enough, chipping away at ideas until he accomplishes a solid album effort is a process that stems from Menuck's dedication to music as hard work. "My grandfather ran a little grocery store and I look at music in the same way," he explains. "It's all intertwined. The nuts and bolts of making music I love as much as writing a song. I've always had no patience for the idea of art for art's sake, or people who somehow feel that they were brought into the world with a gift to share with everybody."
In fact, Efrim takes this idea a step further, describing his work as a sort of labour. "A lot of what has been ascribed to Godspeed as what Godspeed's politics are also involved in that nuts and bolts of being a working musician," he explains. "It's a weird kind of class consciousness that we try to bring to the table... I feel incredibly lucky and gracious to earn a living playing music, but at the same time I see it as labour."
With the music industry in its worst-ever slump, Menuck's labour is at an all-time high as he balances a solo record and constant touring with Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the Silver Mt. Zion. "It's a lot of work," he explains. "On a day-to-day level, this is how I pay my rent and this is how I've paid my rent for more than ten years now so I'm sort of used to it. This is what the life is."
Still, the work shows no signs of slowing down. Aside from the new solo record, there are plans to record new Silver Mt. Zion material and take that band out on tour in the fall. To top that off, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have not officially gone back into hiatus, adding some UK dates to take place in July. "We're just taking it one day at a time," Menuck explains.
Speaking again of his solo album, Menuck admits that Plays "High Gospel" is a worthy effort and is pleased with the way it turned out. "I think it hangs together just fine," he says. "It's got an arc to it that makes sense to me. I'm curious to know what the world makes of it. I'm proud of it -- otherwise I wouldn't have asked to put it out."
Plays "High Gospel" is due out on May 24 via Constellation Records. The album tracks "Our Lady of Parc Extension and Her Munificent Sorrows" and "Chickadees' Roar Pt. 2" can be streamed below.
EFRIM MANUEL MENUCK - Plays "High Gospel" [preview] by Constellation Records