Published Sep 05, 2008One of the many, and well loved, members of everybodys favourite collective of musical misfits, Broken Social Scene, Jason Collett is heading out solo on Exclaim!s Wood, Wires & Whisky Tour. With his new album, Heres To Being Here, as well as a few new band members, in tow, this Jack or should I say Jason? of all trades will be crossing our fair country extensively for the first time in his lengthy career. As if singer, songwriter, collective member, husband and father werent enough roles for him, Collett recently decided to take on one more seemingly fitting title: band manager. Dr. Zeus, to be exact. The newly monikered Collett sat down to chat over a cup of tea, explaining, among other things, his new alias and his music.
Youre about to head out on another long tour. How do you prepare for that?
Well, we rehearse a little bit. Theres not really a lot of preparing. Its more a case of we get excited about going out. This is going to be our very first comprehensive Canadian tour. Weve focused more on the UK and the U.S. in the past. Weve played the west coast as we were going down or coming up but we havent been out east nearly enough and weve been wanting to do it. Were really looking forward to doing it. In the past when weve played Montreal or Ottawa even there are people from places like Halifax that come to see us. Its kind of mind blowing. And I love the east coast; I like the character. Were all looking forward to going out.
Why havent you been there yet?
Its just been the way its gone. The market is vast in the U.S. and here it just takes a lot of time and energy covering that ground. And everybody knows that its a geographical problem. Its become less of a problem in the last couple years and I think also less of a problem when youre playing small towns. Thats something Ive had to bug my agent to do because its often frowned upon. You play the big cities of course, but I believe theres something to be said for small towns. Even when we were in Europe we played some towns that were a little off the beaten path and its been really rewarding for the band because its a little more of a special event. If you live in Toronto, New York or L.A. youre swamped with great bands to see every night of the week, so [playing small towns] has become more rewarding for us as well. We like to go off the beaten path a little bit.
Is the dynamic of the show you play different in a small town as opposed to a big city?
I think its just more immediately reciprocated. We played in Zagreb and a place in Poland and I was like, "what? Dont get be wrong, I really want to go to these places but why are we going? Its not like were going to sell records in these places. Nobody has the money for it. But they were such rewarding shows. In Zagreb it was a sold out venue and everybody was singing along to every word of every song. Thats never happened before. Clearly nobody had bought the record they all downloaded it but it was such a rewarding experience. I kind of got the impression that they knew a band was coming and they just went and learned all the songs. I think the kick that I get is the excitement of the audience. When you come to Toronto or New York or L.A. its just not special anymore.
How have things been going since your bands line-up has changed a bit?
You know, its a blessing and a curse. The difficulty is to start over again with rehearsing but the great thing about it is it gives you the opportunity to not get settled or staid. It keeps it fresh because everybody brings their energy to the mix. Right now were going out with our good friend Carlin [Nicholson], who has done sound for us before, and Carlin has his own band, the 6ixty8ights, and he grew up with some of the other fellows in the band who all come from Barrie. Hes come out with us before, so hes no stranger to the band. Weve been bugging him to come out with us for a long time, so Im glad he finally caved in. The other thing is, hes a part of this other band, Zeus, thats going to be opening up a bunch of the shows. And the other half of Zeus is Mike OBrien, who also plays in my band. Its a little incestuous but I really like that because nobodys a stranger to us. Theyre all songwriters and theyre all producers, and I really like the energy of that right now as well. I think were in the best spot that we have been in about three years.
With the new energies brought by different people have you changed the way you play your songs?
Yeah, a little bit. We sort of typically end up jamming out on anything and coming up with different endings, maybe two or three different endings to the songs, so that we can keep things fresh. I like to play with songs and none of the guys are afraid of that. Theyre up for taking chances. And then there are little surprises for you and you can see it on the audiences faces. Those are the moments that I love, not regurgitating some hollow shtick.
Can we expect something similar to what you do from Zeus?
Its very Beatles-esque. More of an early Beatles, like Rubber Soul. And played much like I think they wouldve played in the Hamburg days: really gritty but really sweet melodies. Theyre a real tour-de-force. Im really excited about them. Im managing them actually, which is something Ive never done before. Im just really excited about the band and I really want to see something happen with it. Ive just sort of jumped in with both feet. My official title is Dr. Zeus. Ive always liked the idea of having a pseudonym, but I dont think I ever really had the balls to come up with one, so I just went with my own name. But I think as a manager I should have a pseudonym, so Im going by Dr. Zeus.
Youre on the Wood, Wire & Whisky Tour, so that kind of leads you to think of a certain type of music. Do you see yourself fitting into any specific genre?
A lot of people put me into that genre or sound but to me I just play rocknroll music. And the broadness of that genre is what Im most comfortable with. It embodies all of the original influences. Like so many other people, Im not very comfortable with being put into a set sort of thing, but I do understand that people need to place me somewhere. Im alright with it as long as the doors and windows are left open, or else you go stale.
So when youre writing do you think of what kind of record you might like to make?
Heres the thing: if Ive learned anything about being in the studio its that if you go in with too many preconceived notions you can really clip your wings. Its the spontaneous things that are always going to be the special moments. If youve got tunnel vision going in youre just going to limit yourself. And I think its also the spontaneous moments that transcend the whole nature of a recording, especially now that we work mostly in a digital field, as opposed to using older analogue techniques. You have to find a way of morphing things and weirding them out on your own because of that technology. I think a lot of that is just throwing a little bit of chance to the wind and not having too big of a plan.
What kind of spontaneous moments happened on this record?
The first one was when we went to Marty Kinacks studio just north of the city in a little mini-barn. It was the middle of winter and Howie Beck and I went up with Marty the night before we were starting just to set things up before the band got there because that kind of thing takes a bit of time and I wanted everything to be ready when they came so there wouldnt be a lot of twiddling with thumbs. So we got everything set up fairly quickly and then we started drinking and smoking and just hanging out, and we started jamming, just the three of us. I had this song called "Charlyn, Angel of Kensington and I wasnt sure how we were going to play it. Howie just started playing and I got into it, so we recorded that without intention. Instead of taking the time to have the band recreate that, we just used it as the backing. So its that kind of stuff.
I heard that your newest record had some poetic influences.
Not so much. Well, the title of it is from Emily Hainess father, who is a poet. Emily had given me an anthology of his poetry for my birthday when the record was just finishing being made and I didnt have a title yet. I did one of those things where I picked up the book, and I hadnt read any of it yet, and I just randomly flipped to a page and thought, "maybe Ill get a title out of this. And one of the first things I read was "Heres to being here. It resonated with me. Its just about being in the moment, more or less. But I ended up closing the book and thinking that it happened too quickly and then flipping to another section of the book. That line was the title of another poem. Reading it a second time kind of sealed the deal.