Published Jan 01, 2006Judging by Jim Guthrie's music, video games have a useful purpose. Unlike the rest of us, who use them to temporarily stave off boredom, when the Royal City guitarist and general sonic technician turns to his Playstation, it's more often to write songs. Guthrie started out on his own as a pillar of the 90s music scene in Guelph, ON before moving to Toronto with the rest of Royal City two years ago. The unique practice of Playstation composition began around the time of his first solo album, A Thousand Songs, recently re-reissued on Three Gut. His creative breakthrough has continued on his new album, Morning Noon Night, where six of the 12 songs are based around samples created on the Playstation's MTV Music Generator program.
"That game came along just at the right time, when I couldn't get out and play with people too much," Guthrie says. "It turned out to be an amazing tool in terms of working out all the melodies I was hearing. And it was really cheap too. Right now I'm actually trying to stockpile a lot of older machines so I can have a console. The older big ones have a low noise output that they don't make anymore. It does have a dorky sound, but the real challenge I see is trying to milk something natural out of it. I can see myself working with it for a long time."
Despite the other half of the album being full band performances with the rest of Guthrie's frequent collaborators, Morning Noon Night maintains a surprisingly consistent emotional tone throughout. Snatches of Beatles and Flaming Lips-like arrangements butt heads with darker folkie numbers of the sort that Royal City fans will be accustomed to. Yet, it's a sound that Guthrie perfected on his four-track long before joining Royal City; that band's critical success is only helping to raise awareness of Guthrie's own talents.
"This album is a lot like my last album, in that I'm still catching up with my favourite stuff I've done over the past three years," he says. "I've had to steal all these moments for myself because of the other things I've been doing. It's kind of like ripping pages out of my diary and putting them all together in a poetic way. I am the kind of person who could put out a record every eight months in a perfect world. I'm just always experimenting, and for every eight things I'll try on my four-track, I'll get one good song."
Guthrie's reliance on the Playstation is partially a result of not having a full-time band at the moment, something he hopes to rectify soon. He notes that Royal City will record again, once principle songwriter Aaron Riches gets settled after his recent marriage to Melissa of the Danielson Famile, but until then Guthrie will continue to tinker on his own, as he has always done. Although he does try to keep certain aspects of his creative process secret, he downplays the notion that he is always holed up somewhere playing with toys, as some media outlets have suggested. "I did some shows with just the Playstation, and that wasn't the easiest thing, so I'd like to have a band again, especially if I'm going to do shows for this album," he says. "I put all of me into my music, and that's something that I want to be able to protect. If that leads to people in the media calling me reclusive, then I'm okay with that."