Published Nov 27, 2007While he isnt leading his gay folk church orchestra on stage or in the studio, the Hidden Cameras ringleader Joel Gibb spends his time in Berlin, a city known for its fruitful merit in the arts. Launching an eastern tour of Canada at the end of November and into December, Exclaim! managed to get a hold of Gibb on his neighbours phone to discuss his 2007 and what we can expect from him in 2008.
Hello. Thats much better.
I was in a plant shop when you first called and there were these two giant parrots fighting, so I had to jump for cover. I was buying a little plant that hopefully wont die when Im gone for a month back to Canada.
So tell me what youve been up to over in Europe?
The past month Ive been living, recording a little bit at my friends studio, working on demoing stuff, but I dont know if some of the stuff is what Id put out on record its basically made from keyboards and guitars. I can imagine having other instruments on it, but its mostly keyboard music.
Will the album be keyboard music?
Some of it, but from the stuff that were going to mix when I come back in December that will comprise of the beginning of the record - well likely mix half of it some of its super orchestral and other songs are completely different, so its a little bit more diverse than any past record. And last week I was in London recording Jamie, our violin player who lives there, I was looking for a church to record in but that didnt work out, so I used my friends studio apartment that has tall ceilings. It wasnt really the exact sound I was looking for but we did some good stuff. And when I went to Brighton for the first time, I met Verity from Electrelane, and we recorded a song we did in Sweden in August. We did that Arthur Russell EP release party and she brought the chords to "You Can Make Me Feel Bad and we just performed what we did in Stockholm, and recorded it in Peacehaven, which is a town next to Brighton.
Im coming back to home and were touring east Canada, were going to play Corner Brook and St. Johns, Newfoundland, whichll be a first for us. Were very excited. Were also just finishing plans to play the Great Hall in Hart House at U of T, its the best room in Hart House. Well be playing Toronto Thursday, December 13 for an AIDS benefit. I dont know who else is going to play, but were excited.
So, what do you get from working over in Berlin that you dont here in Toronto?
Its just a new space, a new city, a new perspective, an alternate place to live.
Are there fewer distractions for you?
Yes, very much so. Totally. Everything resigns to emailing and I have friends in Berlin, but Torontos a small place in a way but its easy to get distracted. I also just like being in a new city. I never really lived in a new city before and I always wanted to. Its a good learning experience.
Have you laid down any roots there? Is it somewhere you see yourself returning to each year?
Yeah, I have a visa, a bank account and Ive registered with the police. I have a lot of stuff thats accumulating. But Torontos always a place Im always in because the bands there and we record there, my familys there. I spent a great deal of time in Canada this year, I came back four times. So, I dont feel like Ive left Toronto at all. I just feel like I live in two cities.
You mentioned the new album. Is there a date youve set for release or an idea of when youre looking to release it?
Not really. I want to finish it before I can think about that. Theres so much lead up time to releasing a record that I think its silly to put a date and then work towards that. Im really enjoying this down time. I cant wait to have a nice winter, hibernating reading Dostoevsky and working on art.
Have you been keeping up with your art?
Yeah, this week is my art week. Im trying to finish a piece, and my show from New York last January is being remounted at this gallery in New York, which Ive never heard of but its supposed to be this renowned punk rock venue. It starts pretty soon. Im also in a group show in New York at the Heskin Gallery, which is pretty cool. It makes me want to get another show together.
Tell me about the gig you played for German footballer Mehmet Scholl in front of 100,000 or so people.
Basically our booker Thomas Lechner lives in Munich and he was able to help produce the show in a way. He got together a choir of local musicians and we also know a violinist there through Thomas who played with us, and this percussionist Michael Gambacurta who played on Mississauga Goddam and lives in Frankfurt came, so it was a really big band. Since we were playing in a football stadium, they dont really do a 40-track soundboard mix, so we had to do playback for the first time, like lip-syncing, which was a lot of fun.
So it was like being on Top of the Pops?
I guess so, yeah. But we played this party in a really nice hall with a great sound system the day before and recorded two songs, so its more like time delay rather than actually playing to the record we were playing to the exact band. He bought us all lederhosen to perform in with the promise that we didnt wear underwear. Hes a pretty cool soccer player. I dont know any other professional soccer players but I would say he was probably the coolest.
What was the reaction like from the crowd?
Its hard to say because soccer fans are not the most I thought it would be a very excited crowd, but they were very dull the entire game. They didnt really respond to anything, and just sat there observing. I guess the cheap seats where you have to stand are a little more energetic, but it was a pretty sedate audience. Munichs not really a crazy town.
Did you hang out with Mehmet Scholl afterwards?
Oh yeah, the party just went on and on. At a certain point, there was this other band that played, Sportfreunde Stiller, whore the biggest band in Germany, but theyre kind of like Green Day except they dont look like punks, more like indie kids he was singing their songs while they were performing acoustically. The Prime Minister of Bavaria was there, hes a real asshole, but I didnt know what he looked like, but apparently he was there.
Would you say it was a bizarre experience?
Yeah. But I embrace those bizarre experiences.
Are you still wearing the lederhosen?
I have them. I wore them out once in Berlin and everybody looked at me like I had Ebola or something because its only really a Bavarian thing. People dont like Bavarians in Berlin, which is why I kind of liked wearing the lederhosen.
Lets talk Arthur Russell. How did you get involved with the Four Songs by Arthur Russell EP?
Jens Lekman produced it and put it together. I went to Gothenburg and recorded a song acoustically, and then El Perro Del Mar came in and put vocals on it, and Jens did some piano. It was just a nice time in Gothenburg. And now we have another cover that me and Verity did, so hopefully we can put together a seven-inch and maybe Jens can do another Arthur Russell song.
What made you decide to put out the EP on Evil Evil in Canada?
Um just to put a release out [Laughs]. Its nice to put out things with your friends, which was the point of it. I intend to put more stuff out.
Youve signed to Arts & Crafts for America. How is that treating you?
Yeah, theyre nice. I love working with them.
I guess Rough Trade wasnt working out in the U.S.?
I dont know what they even put out in the last three years in America.
Theyve kind of been floundering and going from one distributor to another.
I dont even know. But you cant put a record out with a company thats not doing anything.
Anyways, back to Arthur. Were you a fan before the EP?
Im a recent fan, but I like Jenss idea. I think Arthurs songs are underappreciated as just songs not as electronic/experimental music. Hes a good songwriter, yknow. To me hes a modern folk singer. He wrote classic songs that are very unassuming. Jens was telling me that he got some unreleased stuff from Audika thats country music, and Matt Wolf is making the film and was talking about them saying, "Those were his footstompers. Id love to hear a footstomper by Arthur Russell. I think theyll release it. He recorded quite a lot of material, like thats all he did was just record.
Have you seen the documentary?
Ive seen part of it. Matt, in the end, just emailed me saying hes taking out the part where he filmed us performing Arthurs songs; its gonna be left as a mini-film on the DVD because I think its detracted from the story of his life. Thats fine.
Youre touring the east coast starting next week. What made you decide to do such a short eastern tour?
There was an idea lets go to Newfoundland! And that was it [Laughs]. Ive never been to Newfoundland, weve never played there and everybody in the band was like, "Yeah, I want to go to Newfoundland. We didnt release a record this year, so this was our little project to end the year off. Get together and play some shows.
How many people will you be taking with you?
Eleven, so well fill the van up.
Will you be playing a lot of new material?
Thats the purpose, were going to learn a bunch of new songs and play them. Im stoked for St. Johns.
But what about poor Corner Brook?
Im stoked for that too. Theyre both equally unknown and exciting for us.